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Archive for June, 2017

THE GREAT WHITE FATHER COMES TO SAUDI ARABIA by Eric Margolis https://ericmargolis.com

by Eric Margolis

May 27, 2017

 
The Great White Father came to Saudi Arabia last week to harangue some 50 Arab and African despots on the glories of Trumpism, democracy and the need to fight what the Americans call terrorism.
Having covered the Mideast for many decades, I cannot think of a more bizarre or comical spectacle. Here was Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, hosting the glad-handing US president who hates Islam and the Mideast with an irrational passion.
I was amazed to learn that Trump’s speech to the Arab and African attendees had been written by Great White Father How very bizarre.
Not only that, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also strongly pro-Israel, were with him. So too was the powerful commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, another ardent pro-Israel cabinet member with whom I spent a weekend last year. Billionaire Ross performed the traditional Saudi sword dance with skill and verve.
Listening to Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, blast Iran as the font of terrorism provided another big joke. Trump’s tirade against Tehran was delivered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy that holds no elections cuts off the heads of some 80-90 people annually, and treats women like cattle. While claiming to be the leader of the Muslim world, the Saudi royal family funds mayhem and extreme Muslim obscurantism through the region. The current wave of primitive violence by some self-professed Muslims – ISIS being the leader – was originally funded and guided by the Saudis in a covert struggle to combat revolutionary Iran. I saw this happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s recall 15 of the 18 men who attacked the US on 9/11 were Saudis.
Iran has the freest political system in the Mideast except for Israel). Iranian women have rights and political freedoms that are utterly unknown in Saudi Arabia. Iran just held a fair and open national election in which moderates won. Compare this to Saudi Arabia’s medieval Bedouin society. I was once arrested by the religious police in Jeddah just for walking down a street with an Egyptian lady.
Today, US and British equipped Saudi forces are laying waste to wretched Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation. As a result of a Saudi air, land and sea blockade, the UN now reports that famine has gripped large parts of Yemen. US and British technicians are keeping the Saudi air force flying; the US and Britain supply the bombs.
President Trump arrived with a bag of $110 billion worth of arms (some already approved by the Obama administration), and a promise of $350 billion worth in ten years. There was nothing new about this arms bazaar: for over a decade, the Saudis have bought warehouses of US arms in exchange for keeping oil prices low and fronting for US interests in the Muslim world. Most of these arms remain in storage as the Saudis don’t know how to use them.
Many of America’s most important arms makers are located in politically important US states. The Saudis were so deeply in bed with the Republicans that their former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, was known to one and all as ‘Bandar Bush.’ Saudi money and influence have flowed far and wide across the US political landscape. That’s how the Saudis get away with mass killing in Yemen, funding ISIS and ravaging Syria with hardly any peeps of protest from Congress.
By now, it’s perfectly clear that the long secret relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Emirates has finally come into the open. Israel and its rich Arab friends all hate Iran, they oppose Palestinian rights, and fear revolution in the Arab world.
The two most reactionary Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are now close allies, though they compete over who will lead the Arab world. Neither despotic regime has any right to do so. Trump lauded the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sissi who overthrew Egypt’s first ever democratically elected government (with Saudi help), gunned down hundreds of protesters, jailed and tortured thousands. Suspects in Egypt are routinely subjected to savage beatings and anal rape.
As I tried to explain in my second book, ‘American Raj,’ the brutal, corrupt regimes we westerners have imposed on the Arab world and Africa are the main cause of what we call ‘terrorism.’ So too the wars we have waged in the region to impose our will and economic exploitation. It’s blowback, pure and simple. So-called terrorism is not at all about Islam as our politicians, led by Trump of Arabia, falsely claim.
But no shoes were thrown at Trump by his audience. They were too scared of their heads being cut off by our democratic ally.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Machiavellian Plot to Provoke Saudi Arabia and Qatar into a “Blood Border” War BY VANESSA BEELEY

The Machiavellian Plot to Provoke Saudi Arabia and Qatar into a “Blood Border” War

 

 

 

banned-pic

Andrew Korybko
21st Century Wire

Experts all across the world are trying to figure out what’s really fueling the Qatari-Saudi Cold War, but the answer is simple – the US. As it’s always prone to do, Washington is masterfully playing a game of divide and conquer in the Mideast, doing the same thing to its Gulf allies as it did to its North African ones during the theater-wide “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions, except this time pitting them against one another on a state-to-state level as opposed to an intra-state one between the government and some of its citizenry.

 

The long-term purpose behind all of this is to usher in Ralph Peters’ 2006Blood Bordersblueprint for the “New Middle East”, wherein the Gulf eventually undergoes a geopolitical reengineering just like “Syraq”, Turkey, and the Balkans are slated to do as well. All in all, the fracturing of the region into a myriad of internationally recognized and de-facto statelets is expected to facilitate the prolongation of American hegemony in the broad interconnected space that the late Brzezinski described as the “Eurasian Balkans,” while simultaneously creating major complications for its Russian and especially Chinese rivals’ access to this geostrategic pivot space at the heart of Afro-Eurasia.

That’s a lot to digest all at once, so let’s break everything down piece by piece so that it’s easier to understand.

Saudi map

“Little Machiavelli”

First off, the Qatar-Saudi Cold War was sparked by the mischievous workings of what the US military once calledLittle Sparta”, the UAE (United Arab Emirates), which can nowadays be described as a “Little Machiavelli”. The Hotmail account of the Emirates’ Ambassador to the US was recently compromised and it reveals that Mr. Yousef al-Otaiba has been working overtime to destroy Qatar’s reputation in the eyes of influential American decision makers.

Abu Dhabi has been in a fierce rivalry with Doha since the turn of the century as the two ultra-rich Gulf States compete with one another to court the largest amount of foreign investment and become the ultimate “to-go” destinations in the Mideast. Moreover, the two countries are also engaged in a proxy war in Libya, where the UAE backs General Haftar’s Tobruk government whereas Qatar is behind Muslim Brotherhood factions in Tripoli.

Doha’s sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood – which is designated as a terrorist organization by GCC members the UAEally and Saudi Arabia, Gulf, Egypt, and also Syria and Russia incidentally – has long been the bane of regional distrust within the Riyadh-led “Council of Kings”, and intra-organizational tensions reached a boiling point all throughout 2014 but were finally resolved by the end of the year. During that time, Doha promised to radically downscale its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it apparently never fulfilled its promise. Even so, none of the GCC members seemed to care too much until just a few weeks ago, which means that something else must have triggered this major Gulf Crisis.

Accepting that the UAE leaks are true and that its Ambassador to the US is indeed doing all that he can to besmirch Qatar, then it’s very likely that Abu Dhabi hatched a plan to “kill many birds with one stone” earlier last month. The Emirate brokered a de-facto peace deal between the two main sides in Libya’s Civil War at the beginning of May which essentially quashed Qatar’s chances of taking over the country by proxy.

This fragile agreement was nearly sabotaged shortly thereafter by “rogue” troops from the UN-backed government who opened fire on Haftar’s forces at an airbase in southern Libya and killed 141 of them. Nearly a week later, Libyan-based terrorists slaughtered 29 Coptic Christians in Egypt and prompted Cairo to take decisive action by ordering airstrikes against their camps across the border. Taken together, and considering that Qatar is clearly on the losing side of the Libyan Civil War nowadays, the UAE may have found it convenient to pin the blame for both the Libyan and Egyptian terrorist attacks on Qatar, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Trump Riyadh
Trump in Riyadh

The Trump Factor

US President Trump visited Riyadh in the time between both attacks and urged the 50+ Muslim leader attendees todrive outthe terrorists among their ranks. Apparently, Qatari Emir al-Thani had earlier given an unpublicized speech at the event where he spoke out against the “Arab NATO’s” increasingly obvious anti-Iranian agenda, but this allegedly was supposed to have been kept under wraps in order to avoid debunking the myth of Gulf unity.

Nevertheless, the very fact that the Qatari leader would dare speak in such a non-aggressive way about Iran in front of the infamously Iranophobic American President while being hosted in Saudi Arabia of all places made him the man that the “Arab NATO” decided to pin the blame on for Wahhabi terrorism all across the Mideast. Saudi Arabia would have probably invented a ‘pretext’ had one not fortuitously come up due to none other than Qatar itself just a week later when one of its public broadcasters reported on Emir Thani’s words in what must have been interpreted by the Saudis as one of the greatest humiliations against them in recent history.

Although Qatar quickly retracted the reporting and claimed to have been the victim of “hacking”, Saudi Arabia and its allies obviously didn’t believe it because they heard the country’s leader utter those very same statements about Iran and the “Arab NATO” that Qatar now claimed were fabricated.

This gave Riyadh the public cover for moving forward with its prearranged plans to make Doha the ‘fall guy’ for all of the Mideast’s problems, likely due to the advice being whispered in King Salman and his deputy crown prince Defense Minister Mohammed Bin Salman’s ear by the UAE, obsessed as they are to undermine their Qatari rival every step of the way.

The UAE already had an ax to grind with Qatar because of Libya, Egypt as is known totally despises the peninsular country for supporting former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, and the Saudis will never forgive Emir Thani for speaking the way that he did about Iran while being hosted by the Kingdom.

From the UAE’s perspective, all the right pieces were in play for getting Saudi Arabia to marshal the GCC and its wider allies against Qatar, but Abu Dhabi – the “Little Machiavelli” that it is – ensured that Riyadh would do its bidding by making a personal appeal to the young Saudi Defense Minister.

Mohammed Bin Salman is widely regarded as the “mastermind” behind the disastrous War on Yemen which sapped so much of his Kingdom’s finances and prestige, and he’s clearly desperate for a “quick victory” which can help reclaim the carefully crafted perception among the Sunni community of Saudi hegemony in the Mideast. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that UAE Ambassador to the US or one of his fellow Emirati “deep state” allies convinced the Defense Minister that a “quick campaign” against Qatar could not only achieve just that, but it would also help reshape the historical narrative about the Mideast by blaming all of its Saudi-inflicted woes on Qatar instead.

Additionally, the timing of events is such that ego-centric Trump could also take a piece of credit for this too, as he was more than eager to do on Twitter earlier this week.

Target: Iran

All told, the “Little Machiavelli” hatched the type of plan that would have made its medieval namesake proud. The UAE was able to get regional and confessional heavyweight Saudi Arabia to take the lead (and therefore, the blame if anything goes wrong) in marshalling some of the “Arab NATO’s” countries against Qatar in order to pin the blame for years of Wahhabi terrorism in the Mideast right on its leadership’s doorstep, obviously intending to initiate a game for keeps whereby the Kingdom either turns Thani into a puppet or outright deposes of him by prompting either a Color Revolution, Hybrid War, and/or royal coup against him.

The days of an LNG-rich Qatar thumbing its nose at the rest of the GCC and subsequently pioneering a somewhat independent foreign policy by patronizing the hated Muslim Brotherhood and pragmatically interacting with Saudi archenemy Iran could become history, and the fact that this “quick victory” could also distract from the disastrous War on Yemen was too tempting of an opportunity for King Salman and his gray-cardinal-Defense-Minister-son to turn down.

That being said, there are certain risks inherent with enacting a de-facto embargo against Qatar and isolating it on the partial grounds that it’s becoming too close to Iran, and the most obvious of them is that this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy by driving Doha into Tehran’s arms.

The Islamic Republic already offered humanitarian aid to the peninsular emirate in the form of food supplies and said that it could make use of its airspace to get around the GCC’s embargo, which was clearly unacceptable for Saudi Arabia.

Just a few days later, Daesh carried out an unprecedented series of terrorist attacks against the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum, which the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blamed on its Saudi rival who promised last month to take the regional proxy battle between the two to Iran’s home turf.

Evidently, Riyadh wanted to prevent a Qatari-Iranian Strategic Partnership from forming and potentially coalescing around agas OPEC”, but the Kingdom might have unintentionally made this an accelerated fait accompli so long as Emir Thani can hold onto power and doesn’t back down.

Doha
Doha, Qatar.

The Russian Red Herring

This entire episode was interestingly interrupted by the US’ ridiculous claims that Russian hacking was behind the revived Qatari-Saudi Cold War. It’s laughable that the American “deep state” establishment (the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) feels the need to obsessively try to link everything that “goes wrong” in the world with Russia, but there might actually be a little something more to it this time around.

The author explained in his latest research article aboutRussia’s Energy Diplomacy In The Mideast: Boom Or Bust?that Russia has recently – and to the surprise of all but the most astute observers – cultivated very positive relations with its former Saudi and Qatari rivals, both of whom it ordinarily competes within their respective oil and gas energy markets, but also in Syria as well. That state of affairs might be changing, however, since the author forecasted that Russia would be able to mediate between Saudi Arabia & Qatar and Iran & Saudi Arabia so long as it continues to maintain great relations with all of them.

In fact, about the first pair of rivals, President Putin even called Emir Thani earlier this week and the Russian leader himself was besought by Turkish President Erdogan a day before that over this very same topic too. Clearly, Russia was – and still is – on track to position itself as the ultimate neutral arbitrator in this spat, seeing as how it’s not a Muslim-majority country like potential mediators Turkey or Kuwait are, nor does it have any self-interest in taking sides among either of the two Wahhabi-exporting countries.

Additionally, given that the Saudis likely didn’t plot their terrorist attack in Tehran overnight and probably put some prior planning into it which involved some degree of American complicity or another, the US might rightly have predicted that Russia could be the only country which would have any feasible chance at preventing the forthcoming spike in sectarian tensions between the two antagonistic countries from boiling over into a hot war.

Accordingly, this prompted the US to try and attribute responsibility for the Qatari-Saudi Cold War – and by extent, the preemptive Saudi-supported terrorist attack in Iran – to Russia by cleverly giving Qatar a “face-saving” way out of this mess if only Emir Thani would bite the bait and blame the whole “misunderstanding” on Russian hackers.

The Gulf leader, however, seems to be much wiser than the Americans give him credit for, knowing that he’s indeed playing a game of keeps with Saudi Arabia and that he will either be deposed or make his country strategically powerless if he backs down and capitulates in the face of the Kingdom’s unyielding pressure.

As for Saudi Arabia, it also doesn’t seem to be too eager to advance the sloppy conspiracy theory of Russian culpability, especially since Qatar didn’t take the first step in this direction. Either actor might change their positions on this matter as time goes on, or this desperate American move might soon fizzle out and be forgotten about if neither of them gives it much attention.

Provided that the current trajectory on this sub-tangent continues, then Russia could eventually play a very important role in avoiding a larger conflict, much as it did nearly 4 years ago when it came to the US’ false flag chemical weapons attack in Ghouta and the consequent run-up to war.

Saudi Arabia As The “Next Syria”

saudi vs qatar
(Photo: FarsNews)

Russia is keenly aware of the US’ plans to “balkanize” the “Eurasian Balkans”, and it knows that this would be disastrous for the emerging Multipolar World Order. On the one hand, Moscow is both unable to completely stop some of the centrifugal forces that Washington already initiated and balks at the military commitment needed to delay them, which explains for example why it’s promoting Kurdish “decentralization” in the Russian-writtendraft constitutionfor Syria as a compromise to this pro-American group’s unilateralfederalizationattempt.

On the other hand, though, this obviously doesn’t mean that Russia is indifferent to the fragmentation process at large. How this relates to the ongoing Qatari-Saudi Cold War and the Wahhabi Kingdom’s utilization of Daesh proxy terrorists against the Islamic Republic is that Moscow believes that this is the American-provoked external catalyst needed to initiate the irreversible but potentially long-term processes of state dissolution in this part of the Mideast just like what happened in North Africa and “Syraq” over the past six years. Bearing in mind that the Mideast’s two most religiously influential states are directly involved this time around, the geopolitical consequences could shatter the balance of power in Eurasia.

The author explained Iran’s structural Hybrid War vulnerabilities in his summer 2016 article aboutThe US-Saudi Plan To Prompt An Iranian Pullback From Syria”, which focused on how Daesh, the Baloch, Kurds, Arabs, and Azeris could all be leveraged within Iran’s borders as tools to undermine the state and induce desired concessions from its leadership, so the reader should review that analysis if they’re unfamiliar with these concepts.

As for Saudi Arabia, its sectarian leadership provoked serious Shiite unrest in the oil-rich Eastern Province after carrying out state-sponsored oppression against its confessional minorities. A similar scenario is slowly unfolding but isn’t yet imminent in the southwestern part of the Kingdom along the Yemeni border in Shiite-majority areas which used to be part of its neighbor prior to the 1934 Treaty of Taif that ended the Saudi-Yemeni War. It’s therefore not without cause that the majority-Shiite Houthi national liberation group regularly targets Saudi military positions in this part of the country. Finally, the last main structural vulnerability in Saudi Arabia is the royalist divisions over the crown prince and grey cardinal Mohammed Bin Salman.

The Defense Minister and aspiring king is doubly hated by some in the monarchy for the self-inflicted financial and reputational wounds to his country brought about by his decision to launch the War on Yemen, and also for his internal “reform” (in a relative sense) agenda of Vision 2030 which aspires to modernize the economy into a real-sector one and away from its oil-exporting dependency.

If his signature domestic project is carried out to its full extent, then it could initiate piecemeal socio-cultural changes which provocatively go against the hardline Wahhabi teachings of the Kingdom’s influential clerical class. Many observers were too busy (rightly) talking about Saudi Arabia’s many foreign policy follies to notice the one thing which it “did right”, and that strengthens its relations with China to the level of a de-facto strategic partnership during King Salman’s visit to the People’s Republic earlier this spring.

The author wrote about the significance behind this event and the reason why China signed over $65 billion dollars of deals with the Wahhabi Kingdom in his piece for The Duran titledWhy is China choosing to partner with Israel and Saudi Arabia?”, but the pertinent point comes down to the fact thatChina Chases Markets In The Mideast”.

What’s meant by the author’s cited article from last fall is that China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity envisions the GCC playing a pivotal role in the larger paradigm as Beijing builds factories and railroads in the region in exchange for the Kingdoms investing some of their copious cash in the People’s Republic for the ultimate win-win outcome. In fact, the successful pairing of Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 with China’s OBOR could lead to the moderation of Saudi Arabia’s sectarian-centric regional foreign policy if the influence of the clerics is diluted as a result, and this, in turn, could seriously increase the prospects for a multipolar Mideast.

The author wrote about this and even mapped out the many interlinked New Silk Road corridors which could realistically sprout from this new regional dynamic in his piece titledEurasianism: How A Better Mideast Would Lookfrom last fall, and the reader should certainly skim through it to get a clear picture of why Russia is so strongly opposing the US’ “Blood Borders” blueprint in the “Greater Mideast” and believes that even the troublesome Gulf is worth saving in terms of how it relates to the “bigger picture” of promoting multipolarity all throughout the supercontinent.

All of this, however, could be jeopardized if Qatar & Saudi Arabia and Iran & Saudi Arabia enter into an existential proxy struggle within their rival’s borders and turn the Wahhabi Kingdom – among other countries – into the “next Syria”.

Concluding Thoughts

The US is intent on destabilizing Afro-Eurasia in order to more easily control the Eastern Hemisphere by proxy, hence why it’s recently resorted to the combined approach of employing Hybrid War alongside itsLead From Behind regional strategy of local lackeys in order to bring this about.

Although all of the involved parties in the current Gulf Crisis stand to experience multilaterally beneficial gains if they can peacefully contain themselves long enough to reap tangible dividends from China’s OBOR projects, the unfortunately reality is that regional dynamics and the history of distrust between several sides means that the US can more easily manipulate them all into a Hobbesian asymmetrical conflict against one another.

The UAE, also known as “Little Machiavelli”, is playing a key role fanning the flames of conflict via its masterful intrigue because it envisions itself receiving the US’ blessing in becoming the post-fragmentation consolidating force in this part of the “Eurasian Balkans” due to its unique nature in being a collection of separate emirates. From the American perspective, the UAE could become a pivotal center of gravity after the Mideast is redrawn with “Blood Borders” (likely adjusted from the frontiers that Ralph Peters originally had in mind 11 years ago due to changed circumstances in some areas) because it could exert centripetal influence in amalgamating some of the post-Saudi Emirates left over in the wake of the Kingdom’s collapse. With this in mind, the UAE’s plans look especially cynical because it’s basically setting up the Saudis to fail in order to replace their regional role when the dust settles.

Russia and China are well aware of what’s going on, however, since they wised up a few years ago during the US’ coordinated proxy assaults against each of them in Ukraine and the South China Sea in realizing that their chief geopolitical rival will wield the weapon of Hybrid War in trying to sabotage their 21st-century competitive connectivity projects in a desperate attempt to indefinitely prolong the fading “unipolar moment”.

For this reason, both Eurasian Great Powers are especially concerned about the US’ latest efforts to manipulate the Gulf States and Iran into a self-perpetuating cycle of destabilizations against one another as it attempts to trick them into turning the “Blood Borders” blueprint into a reality. Regrettably, Saudi Arabia is much too gullible and easily guided in the direction of the US’ grand strategic interests, so it’s uncertain at this time whether the warned-about scenario can still be avoided.

Nevertheless, the US certainly thinks that Russia stands the best chance of anyone at stopping its plans, which is why it tried to destroy its recent reputational gains in the Gulf by accusing it of “hacking” Qatar and therefore instigating the whole crisis. The fact that neither Doha nor Riyadh have bit the bait, or at least not yet, leaves hope that Moscow might be able to use its positive relations with both countries and neutral status among them to mediate a peaceful solution to the first stage of this spat, and then possibly expand upon its gains to ease the aggravated tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It’s admittedly an ambitious task, and one which definitely doesn’t have any guaranteed chance of achieving even the most modest symbolic success, but it’s still Russia’s – and to an extent, also China’s – geopolitical responsibility as one of the dual engines of Eurasian integration and the emerging Multipolar World Order to at least exert its best behind-the-scenes efforts in trying before it’s too late.

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NADRAGate: The terrifying cable that should not be ignored by Waqas Ahmed

 NADRAGate: The terrifying cable that should not be ignored  

by  

Waqas Ahmed

Daily Pakistan

 

Cablegate

In 2010-11, Wikileaks released a trove of classified US govt data which consisted of communications between Washington and her embassies worldwide – this was called Cablegate. Cablegate consisted of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables – an overwhelming amount of data. In the same year (2011) Pakistani journalists published a story about one cable of particular interest: #09ISLAMABAD1642_a, classified ‘secret’ by US govt.

There was some noise about this cable back then, but the public quickly forgot it and it remained forgotten till a few days ago when Wikileaks tweeted about it and reminded us.

This particular cable details a series of meetings held in 2009 between the then Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, the President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani with US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. The purpose of these meetings, from the US side at least, was to “Offer DHS assistance to enhance Pakistan’s border security and [seek] GOP views on an arrangement under which DHS would provide the Government of Pakistan (GOP) with technology to access and analyze Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data on passengers flying to and from Pakistan, in return for DHS getting access to the data.

What is API and PNR?

Advance Passenger Information is, in simple terms, information about the passenger who is travelling overseas. Suppose you are travelling to UAE, a country that requires API from Pakistani passengers, you will need to provide the following data about yourself prior to boarding your flight:

  • Full name
  • Passport number, issuing country, and expiration date
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality

This information will be connected to your PNR, which is a unique ID identifying you as a passenger on a flight. This information will be received by your destination country so they could investigate your past criminal history (if any) before they allow you in that country. To do that, they will use your API information to search their own country’s database and check if you are clean or not. Without connecting API to the database of a host country, API is useless.

United States DHS, in the cable under discussion, wanted to provide us with such a tool which would connect API to NADRA database for the purpose of analysis, and in theory give us a heads-up if a terrorist was travelling to or from our country. United States, it seems benevolently, wanted to give us this technology for free – with only one catch: they would be able to access the data from our side. And not just the data of passengers travelling from US to Pakistan or vice versa, they would be able to access data of passengers from all countries going to and from Pakistan. To make it all useful, the API technology would have to be connected to NADRA database, therefore, in a way US would also get an interface to NADRA database.

Why was US pushing for API technology?

US was pushing Pakistan to install this technology for the obvious reason that they wanted the data. It is a good rule-of-thumb to remember that if something supposedly valuable is being given to you for free, you must be doubly suspicious.

But there was something else that was going on at that time.

At that time Pakistan was in the process of phasing out an old system provided to NADRA by an American company for a similar purpose. That system was called ‘Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES)’. NADRA aimed to phase out that system by 2011 and instead install a new indigenously made one: Integrated Border Management System (IBMS).

PISCES was installed in 1999-2002, when Lt Gen (r) Moinuddin Haider was the interior Minister under Musharraf’s govt. But listen to this: While IBMS cost us around Rs421 million to implement, PISCES was free. Why?

Here is a clue: PISCES was made by US firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Booz Allen Hamilton was Snowden’s employer for those of you who can’t recall where you heard that name. Booz Allen Hamilton was an NSA contractor and that is enough to reach the conclusion that PISCES had a backdoor that allowed US to access all Pakistani data connected to it. Moinuddin Haider rubbished, at that time, any claims that PISCES had a backdoor – but in hindsight after Snowden leaks, it is highly improbable that PISCES was clean. Another clue is that US State dept wanted to give us $42 million (free) to upgrade and maintain PISCES and abandon all attempts to make something similar on our own. Here is an Express Tribune article (which was affiliated with New York Times at that time) telling us why IBMS sucks in comparison to PISCES.

The shady dealings with PPP govt

When US was pushing API on us, we were getting rid of PISCES, and I suspect, it was because of this exact reason API was being pushed on us.

How did the PPP-led govt react to that? While the behavior of PPP govt remains highly suspect, we can see in the same cable that Rehman Malik was being very slippery in his dealings with Ms. Napolitano.

According to the cable: On API/PNR, Interior Minister Malik assured the Secretary privately that the GOP wanted to be helpful, but in the meeting with his subordinates asked for information on model agreements, legal frameworks and precedents the Ministry could use to persuade those in the GOP worried about privacy rights and possible legal challenges in the courts to API/PNR data sharing. The GOP agreed to host future DHS visitors to continue discussions on API/PNR and border security. It is obvious that while Rehman Malik was being cooperative in front of US govt, he also wanted to protect his own behind and was trying to be extremely careful.

Not only that, the PPP govt at every turn tried to get something out of the US in return and in a way put a price on the private data of Pakistani citizens. In every meeting they tried to couple PNR/API issue with: Pakistani textile exports to US, non-stop PIA flights to US, and a few hundred Pakistani students receiving scholarships in the US. Rehman Malik also tried to make excuses by saying that overreaching Pakistani judiciary would never allow such a thing.

On the other hand Napolitano was even more stubborn:
Secretary Napolitano responded that the United States now wishes to deal with non-stop flights separately from the issue of API/PNR data exchange, and explained that enhanced access to API/PNR data is of direct benefit to Pakistan as well as to the United States. Prime Minister Gilani echoed Zardari’s comments on PNR, stating that, although the Interior Ministry is considering the U.S. request, to “do the whole world” will be difficult. To Gilani’s statement that Pakistan had been promised non-stop flights in return for buying Boeing aircraft in 2004, Secretary Napolitano was clear that flights will be dealt with as a separate issue, not as an exchange.

While in all these discussions the pretext is Pakistani border security, it is obvious that both parties know exactly what is going on: That US wants Pakistani data, and Pakistan, while not unwilling to provide access to that data, wants a ‘consideration’, i.e something in return. And without any potential political blowback.

Make no mistake, at no point did Rehman Malik or Gilani or Zardari say an outright “NO”. They wanted to put some sort of price on this invaluable data, something that would protect them from political repercussions. However, it seems that these discussions did not bear any fruits at that time. We don’t know the reason – there is no cable that follows up on this one.

Enter another shadowy company: International Identity Services (IIS)

On September 6, 2011 The News published a report that NADRA was out sourcing its UK operations to a private company. This news in itself would’ve been outrageous but the details were even more so: IIS was headed by an unnamed person with a criminal history. Not only that, but NADRA officials maintained that NADRA was working with the company since 2009, when in fact IIS was created the very same year, and maybe for the very same purpose.

IIS was formed in 2009, and closed its operations in just 5 years.
IIS was formed in 2009, and closed its operations in just 5 years.

There could be two reasons for such a discrepancy: Either some officials at NADRA or Interior Ministry were planning to receive kickbacks from that company made by someone close to them, or this company was a front for NSA/CIA/GCHQ. IIS, even more suspiciously, stopped its operations in 2014 – in just 5 years and disappeared off the face of this earth.

Is NADRA data safe?

In short: NO, NADRA data is not safe. Even one outsourced company or country that can access NADRA database through any interface can potentially steal the whole database. They might not even have to steal because we have people in our government, supposedly custodians of our national interests, willing to sell such invaluable national asset such as the database of the whole populace in exchange for pennies then all bets are off. We do not know, and we may never know, how much of our data has been compromised. But one thing we know for sure is that we cannot trust our government, elected or otherwise.

One thing we see in the cable is that Rehman Malik and Co, were afraid of public outrage. When this cable first surfaced, there was little to no great public backlash. If there is no adverse reaction, future governments may get bold. Let’s make sure that there is no such misunderstanding between public representatives and the public. Wikileaks has given us another chance to consider our reactions against those who claim to represent us but actually do not. Let’s give it to them.

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed is Editor, Digital Media, at Daily Pakistan Global. You can reach him at waqas@dailypakistan.com.pk

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Trump’s Sword Dance Sets Off the War of the Wahhabis By Pepe Escobar

Trump’s Sword Dance Sets Off the War of the Wahhabis

By Pepe Escobar

June 07, 2017 

US President Donald Trump could not possibly have predicted the game-changing after-effects of his triumphal sword dance in Riyadh.

 

 

 

 

Or could he?

 

The fact is the House of Saud went amok, in a flash, going after Qatar and bombing from the inside that glorious Arab NATO project – call it NATOGCC — sworn with pomp over a glowing orb.

An excited Trump tweeted three times his approval for Riyadh going after Doha. 

Trump and NATOGCC had equaled Daesh and Iran as “terrorists”. The House of Saud went one up — and denounced Qatar for top terror financing, which equals Don Corleone hurling Mafioso accusations against Tony Soprano. 

But then, in an unexpected plot twist, Daesh, handily, graphically, underlined the cosmic stupidity of the whole charade – staging, or at least claiming to stage a terror attack against the Parliament and the Imam Khomeini shrine in Tehran.

The current Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, now “guilty” for not blaming Iran as the root of all evils in the Arab peninsula, might even be following the steps of his own father, Hamad, who invented modern Qatar and deposed himself – under Saudi pressure – in favor of his son in 2013.

We can’t forget that Bandar bin Sultan, a.k.a. Bandar Bush, notorious former top assembler/weaponizer of jihadis, and frustrated “liberator of Syria”, had famously described Qatar in the past as “300 people and a TV station”.

So what is really going on in this noxious petrodollar swamp? 

 

 

 

 

 

The Israel-UAE connection

Let’s cut to the chase and establish that this nasty inter-GCC cannibalization has nothing to do with the Global War on Terror (GWOT). 

Among massive disinformation crossfire, a trail of evidence points to a concerted strategy elaborated by the Israeli lobby (via the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, founded, among others, by nefarious casino schemer Sheldon Adelson, and very close to Bibi Netanyahu); US neocon/Ziocon/neoliberalcon elements; and the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba.

Leaked emails have shown how Otaiba – widely idolized in the Beltway because of his “largesse” – and the neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracies have discussed means of teaching Qatar a lesson for its support of Hamas, and overall non-confrontational policies towards Iran. Otaiba also happens to be close to Jared Kushner – which would explain Trump’s reaction to the anti-Qatar blitzkrieg.

Unlike Qatar, the House of Saud and the UAE are one step away from establishing diplomatic relations with Israel – the sine qua non condition imposed by Washington to insert Israel in an anti-Iran Arab NATO guided by Riyadh.

A previous row in 2014 offers additional background. Regional intel operatives confirm at the time there were military Emirati maneuvers not far from the Qatari border; London and Paris, for instance, knew all about it.

But the head of the House of Saud in charge at the time was the late King Abdullah, who was in fact an appeaser. The Head-Chopper-in-Chief now is Warrior Prince Mohamed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, an arrogant twat who’s already, miserably, losing a war on Yemen — conducted with billions of dollars in US and UK weapons — that has provoked a horrific humanitarian crisis in the poorest nation in the region. It is MBS who ordered the Saudi demonization of Qatar.

Let me out of the terror train

The “terra terra terra” shorthand, for the House of Saud, applies mostly to the accusation of Qatar supporting Shi’ite protest movements in eastern Saudi Arabia. That’s ridiculous; Doha is not involved.

And then there’s the accusation of Qatar supporting Islamists. That’s exactly what powerful Saudi donors – many linked to the monarchy – do.

Doha does support, big time, the Muslim Brotherhood – which has not much to do with al-Qaeda and/or Daesh, and is hated with a vengeance by Riyadh and its puppet al-Sisi in Cairo, who survives on Saudi handouts. What powerful Qatari donors did (up to $3 billion) was support al-Qaeda in Syria, a.k.a. Jabhat al-Nusra, which vast US neocon/neoliberalcon sectors brand as “moderate rebels”.

The Saudis, meanwhile, supported their own jihadis in Syria – and elsewhere. WikiLeaks has unequivocally proved how “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Apart from complex tribal rivalry issues, the key religious factor is that Qatar – unlike Saudi Arabia – is tolerant towards non-Salafis, or “revolutionary” Salafis like the Muslim Brotherhood, and does not try to globally export its version of Wahhabism. For all practical purposes, hardcore Saudi imams consider Qataris heretics. As if they’re almost as bad as “apostate” Shi’ites. 

The schism has translated, in practice, into a proxy war in Libya for example. Doha supports Islamic militias in Misrata as well as those faithful to the “Mufti of Qatar” Sadiq al-Ghariani. The Emirates and Egypt support Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the chief of the self-styled Libya National Army (LNA).

It’s a gas, gas, gas

Saudi intel disinformation agents are spreading that “Turkey and Qatar are the last two states run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Most probably Qatar will experience a change of regime and exit being the bankroller on behalf of Britain to support all kind of chaos in the region, and that include playing from behind the scenes with Teheran.”

Utter diversionist nonsense. The plain fact is the House of Saud is absolutely desperate. Oil price remains low, around $50 a barrel. The monster Saudi IPO on Aramco is only 12 months away. The House of Saud needs to move the markets towards a higher oil price by any means necessary – ultimatums and threats of war included.

A non-ideological US intel source goes further, stressing how “Turkey, Iran and Russia are moving closer together. The question remains who will control the Gulf States and the oil price — which was being manipulated so far to destroy Russia. The deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia is really just a minor improvement.”

So no wonder obfuscation remains the norm – with narratives taking attention away from the House of Saud and placing it on Iran, and now also Qatar.

And then there’s the key Pipelineistan angle, mixed with how Qatar as a natural gas powerhouse is immensely annoying OPEC producers Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

Qatar is the largest global exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). That’s what has allowed it to shape a foreign policy completely independent from the House of Saud. Add to it that Qatar’s fabulous gas wealth yields from the massive offshore North Field, shared with Iran (who controls what it calls South Pars). 

There’s been speculation, obviously unconfirmed by Tehran and Doha, that Iran and Qatar may have reached an agreement on sharing the rights for a gas pipeline from North Dome/South Pars to the eastern Mediterranean in Syria, as long as Doha stops supporting al-Nusra.

Were that to happen, it would signal the spectacular closure of one of the key motives for the Syrian tragedy. The Obama administration had fully approved a Qatar to Turkey – via Saudi Arabia and Syria – gas pipeline as a means of trying to undermine Gazprom. It took a lot of dead bodies and horrific destruction for Doha to realize Moscow would never allow it. 

Thus Qatar’s strategic pivot towards Russia – materialized, for instance, via Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund investing $2.7 billion in Rosneft. This may be spelling out, in the medium term, a Qatar way more amenable to the Russia-Iran-Syria connection. Considering that Qatar hosts CENTCOM and is home to Al-‘Udayd, the largest US military base in the Middle East, that certainly does not go down very well at the Pentagon. 

As far as the US game is concerned, it’s terminally naïve to believe Washington would not have provided a green light to its Saudi satrap to go after Doha.

Add to it Qatar opening the first yuan clearing center in the Middle East; that’s something that did not go down well with financial Masters of the Universe. In parallel, the much-lauded Trump $100 billion weapons deal announced in Riyadh may have been devised in exchange for the House of Saud delaying as long as possible Chinese oil payments in yuan that would bypass the petrodollar.

To weave conspiracy theories is an idle undertaking. “T.Rex” Tillerson, from his ExxonMobil days, knows the Qatari leadership quite well. And so does “Mad Dog” Mattis, former head of CENTCOM. Watch them; how they act in the follow-up will unveil at least some layers of the current shadow play – and whether the whole charade packs way more punch than mere House of Saud desperation. 

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Carrying on up the Khyber Imran Khan’s party improves services in Pakistan’s (KPK) – The Economist

The PTI now wants to see locals flocking to use public services. It has certainly made schools more appealing: the party has appointed 40,000 more teachers, rebuilt institutions blown up by the Taliban and furnished others with toilets and electricity. Teacher absenteeism has fallen. But the PTI’s claim that about 100,000 students have chosen to switch from private to public schools is based on dodgy data. There are other bones to pick. In 2013 the PTI allowed its coalition partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist group, to remove pictures in textbooks of women without a veil, among other measures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The diagnosis is less mixed when it comes to health care. The PTI has employed many more medical staff, raising the ratio of doctors per 1,000 people from 0.16 to 0.24. It has also begun, albeit far from smoothly, to roll out a comprehensive health-insurance card for poor families. All this has had an effect. The number of operations in public hospitals has doubled since 2013; inpatient cases have risen by half as much again. Such change comes despite objections from special interests that lose out from reforms. Pharmacists broke the shelves of a new drug dispensary at one Peshawar hospital, so incensed were they by its offering medicine at the wholesale price.

Yet the PTI may struggle to win a second term in 2018. One problem is excessive promises. Mr Khan, who broke into politics after a stellar career as a cricketer, pledged a “tsunami” of change. But it took his inexperienced party two years to get a handle on government, and many of its reforms so far, according to Faisal Bari of LUMS university, need much longer to get entrenched. Some of its more notable improvements are hardly photogenic. It is one thing for people gleefully to take selfies in front of a new flyover in Peshawar, another to do the same in front of new toilets in a rural girls’ school.

That Mr Khan himself appears to have lost interest in the province does not help. He aspires to national office and spends much of his time heckling the prime minister, who is under investigation for corruption. The PTI is starting to look more like the established parties. Having long mocked rapid-transit bus lanes, a favourite pork-barrel project of such parties, as a costly distraction from public-sector reform, the PTI is now building one of its own in Peshawar. It is said to be the country’s most expensive, per kilometre, yet.

 

The Economist

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Emergency treatment”

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