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Archive for category ISRAEL

Is Israel becoming a mafia state? by SIMONA WEINGLASS

 

Courtesy – Times of Israel

Is Israel becoming a mafia state?

Some 25% of the revenue of Israel’s lauded high-tech sector comes from shady or fraudulent industries; three-quarters of MKs are said to be in thrall to special interest groups

Simona Weinglass

Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, with fraudsters stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide. (Illustrative photo: iStock)

Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, with fraudsters stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide. (Illustrative photo: iStock)

The other day, I was sitting at a picnic with several friends when someone referred to Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a “mafia state.”

A Russian-born woman objected: “That is really offensive. Russia is a country of 140 million people. It is wrong to say they are all mafia.”

“I am not referring to the people,” said the first speaker. “The majority of Russians are good people. Most are victims of the regime they live under. But it is a fact that there is an overlapping corrupt elite that permeates the entire political and economic system as well as all major centers of decision-making. And this elite is connected to organized crime groups.”

With striking similarity, on a recent vacation in Washington, DC, I found myself talking to a Jewish woman who works in the US government. “I don’t understand,” she said with dismay. “In America, Jewish people are upstanding citizens. What is happening in Israel?”

The woman was referring to the massive growth of organized crime in Israel over the past ten years, as well as the fact that Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide.

Despite the fact that Israeli police recently announced that these investment scams are largely run by organized crime, which has grown to “monstrous proportions” as a consequence of little to no law enforcement for years, the Israeli government, parliament and authorities have to date proved unwilling or unable to shut them down, in part because these fraudulent industries have a powerful lobby in the Knesset.

“Most Israelis are good people,” I told the Washington woman in Israel’s defense. “It’s just the system that is broken.”

Police Superintendent Gabi Biton, left, at an August 2, 2017, Knesset panel devoted to a proposed law to ban Israel’s binary options industry. Biton told the panel that organized crime in Israel had grown to ‘monstrous proportions’ as a result of online investment fraud. (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Indeed, Israel’s democratic system has become riddled with the corruption of late. Analysts who study Israel’s high-tech sector (and who were unwilling to talk on the record for fear of angering their colleagues) told The Times of Israel last year that an estimated 25 percent of the revenue of Israel’s lauded high-tech sector comes from shady or fraudulent industries, including online gambling, binary options, forex, downloaders/injectors (companies that put malevolent software on your computer without your knowledge), and the payment, affiliate marketing and adtech companies that service these industries.

Israel’s Finance Ministry recently issued a report showing that the cost of nearly every consumer product, with the exception of education and produce, is significantly higher in Israel than the OECD average. Analysts attribute this high cost to monopolists and rent seekers who pull strings and lobby the government to block competition in industry after industry.

Meanwhile, apartment prices have risen 118% in the last ten years, for reasons economists cannot fully explain. Recently, the sale of new apartments has slowed, which a report in The Marker by Nimrod Bousso attributes to a recent crackdown on money laundering in Israeli banks ordered by the Bank of Israel’s Supervisor of the Banks. The report suggests that rampant money laundering was a significant factor in the rise of apartment prices in the first place.

The average price of a three-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv is close to $1 million (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Dr. Avichai Snir, an economist at Bar-Ilan University, published a paper on the impact of money laundering on rising apartment prices in October 2014. He used the modified cash-deposits ratio method — an approach employed by economists to assess the size of a country’s shadow economy, based on how much cash is in circulation — and calculated that between the years 2008 and 2014, Israel’s off-the-books economy soared from approximately 22% to 28% of the country’s GDP. This is an astounding jump. The first figure puts Israel in the company of countries like Italy and Spain; the second resembles economies like those of Romania and Bulgaria.

Snir has yet to calculate percentages for the years 2014 to 2017 but told The Times of Israel he intends to explore new methods of measuring money laundering that has its origins online.

On a separate but related note, a Knesset member recently told The Times of Israel that three-quarters of the 120 parliamentarians here are in thrall to special interest groups, whose lobbyists and PR flaks crowd the halls of the Knesset, and are relentlessly pressured to the point where the public interest, this MK lamented, becomes a weak voice in the back of their heads. The Times of Israel’s editor, sitting next to me as the MK in question delivered this shattering assessment of 90 colleagues was so horrified that he asked for it be repeated, to be sure he had heard correctly.

Tzvika Graiver, a lawyer for the Keep Olim in Israel Movement, told The Times of Israel recently that when he attends Knesset panels to advocate on behalf of steps that would ease life for new immigrants, he invariably finds himself seated alone amid an army of lobbyists and indifferent government bureaucrats.

For instance, in November 2016 there was a Knesset panel on the “black market” of driving instructors who demanded hefty sums of money from new immigrants before agreeing to set a date for a driver’s test. “It was our non-profit against an array of lobbyists for the driving teacher’s association, the licensing bureau and others.”

Tzvika Graiver, lawyer and advocate for new immigrants from the Keep Olim in Israel movement (Photo credit: Facebook)

Graiver actually won that battle against the driving instructors’ lobby, but his accumulated experience has left him with a feeling that the deck is stacked against the public interest in Israel’s parliament.

“Lobbyists control the Knesset; they set the agenda and they usually win,” he said. “There is no question that the majority of Knesset members today work on behalf of lobbyists and not the people.”

Earlier this year, draft legislation that would have banned all of Israel’s fraudulent online trading companies, and not just the part of the industry called “binary options,” was watered down in the course of behind-the-scenes consultations among the Israel Securities Authority, the Justice Ministry and the online trading industry itself. Anti-fraud advocates were stunned to arrive at the Reforms Committee meeting where the legislation was being debated to discover that the bill had been constricted and truncated without their knowledge, as a direct consequence of input from the very industries it was originally formulated to target.

Asked how this happened, one Israeli forex company owner told The Times of Israel, “You have no idea who you are dealing with. This is an industry that has way too much money and influence. Do not concern yourself over such things.”

Moises Naim, a Washington DC-based thinker who penned the watershed essay “Mafia States,” has delineated several stages through which a state descends into mafia statehood. The first is called “criminal penetration,” when a criminal organization is able to place “one of its own” in the state structure. The second is “criminal infiltration,” which Naim defines as “when the infection has spread throughout the state apparatus within the given country, and the linkages to external illicit networks proliferate.”

Finally, there is a stage called “criminal capture” which is defined as “the condition of dysfunctional governance in which criminal agents are so sufficiently prominent in positions of state authority that their criminal actions cannot effectively be restrained by the state. At some point, it may become part of state or substate institutional doctrine to engage in illicit activity.”

One notorious example of alleged criminal penetration occurred in Israel in 2003, when Inbal Gavrieli was elected to the Knesset for the Likud party. In a 2009 cable leaked by Wikileaks, the US ambassador to Israel wrote, “The election of Inbal Gavrieli to the Knesset in 2003 as a member of Likud raised concerns about organized crime influence in the party’s Central Committee. Gavrieli is the daughter of a suspected crime boss, and she attempted to use her parliamentary immunity to block investigations into her father’s business.”

A Rolls Royce car parked at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa port, on November 15, 2014. (Nati SHohat/Flash90)

Naim cites Russia and Venezuela as examples of countries with criminal infiltration, while Guinea-Bissau is an example of complete state capture.

It is unclear where Israel falls on this spectrum. In 2009, the US Embassy wrote of a “growing problem” of organized crime elements “penetrating the Israeli establishment and corrupting public officials.”

In his book “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life,” Len Fisher describes the problem of corruption as akin to the “Stag Hunt” scenario in game theory: A group of people set out to hunt a stag. If they all cooperate, they are likely to be successful. But if a few decide not to hunt stag but to hunt hares, which are easier to catch, for their own personal benefit, the entire enterprise fails and more and more stag hunters decide they are better off looking out only for themselves and hunting hares.

Once you have a society where most people are hunting hares, it is very difficult to evolve back to the stag hunting (non-corrupt) scenario. Even if a few hare hunters stop being selfish and decide to cooperate, the group dynamic quickly reverts back to the default of hare hunting. But not all hope is lost, because societies of stag hunters have in fact spontaneously emerged in history, and this, said Fisher, is often because many individuals change their minds about what other members of society will do and begin to trust each other.

It is clearly in Israel’s interest to enforce the rule of law and uproot criminality, among other reasons because corrupt states suffer dire economic consequences. (Russia’s economy is shrinking, despite the constant supply of income from oil.) But there appear to be too many hare hunters in today’s Israel, looking after their own interests, and not enough stag hunters. This could change if more ordinary Israelis got involved in the battle to fight corruption. While the system shows signs of being broken, most Israelis are decent people, emphatically deserving of a society in which the rule of law is enforced and criminality is relentlessly faced down and uprooted.

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Interview with an Israeli General’s Son by Jonas E. Alexis and Miko Peled in Veterans Today


Interview with an Israeli General’s Son

Miko Peled: “Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.”

By

Jonas E. Alexis

 

 

…by Jonas E. Alexis and Miko Peled

[ Editor’s Note: Dear readers, This is a fabulous start of the year interview by Jonas. His work has been superlative in that too many writers take the commentary only route, and they are now a dime a dozen.

The real work comes in showing what your commentary is based upon. That is how you establish your street cred in the internet world. With not professional journalism, Jonas just blew by that by getting out there and doing the work.

And frankly his writing now is better, more solid than the majority of mainstream journalists, as he does not shy away from the red line areas, and VT readers all know what those are… Jim W. Dean ]

*

Miko Peled is an Israeli-American activist and author of the best-selling book The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine (Charlottesville, VA: Just World Books, 2016). He grew up in a Zionist family. His father fought in the 1948 war and served as a general in the war of 1967. Peled believes that “Israel has been on a mission to destroy the Palestinian people for over six decades.” Peled wrote in the LA Times in 2012:

“Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.”[1]

Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, writes in the introduction of Peled’s The General’s Son:

“I feel immense relief, and gratitude. Someone must take responsibility for being the grown-ups of our human Universe. There must be people, in all walks of life, who decide: Enough’s enough; there are children here.

Peled’s next book, Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five, is scheduled to be released next month.

JEA: I have been following your work for quite some time, and you have been a great inspiration to many, including myself. What are the challenges that the Palestinians are actually facing in places like Gaza and the West Bank?

MP: In my opinion ,he major challenge is that Palestinians are facing an ongoing genocide by a powerful settler colonial state (Israel). Israel has received worldwide legitimacy and recognition and this is very difficult to reverse. In order for Palestinians to gain their rights, their land and their freedom this recognition and legitimization needs to be reversed.

In order to free Palestine the international community will have to get behind a serious campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, to isolate Israel so that like South Africa it can make way for a real democracy with equal rights.

JEA: What is your take on Trump’s Jerusalem decision? Will it actually lead to peace in the Middle East? Do you think Trump actually knows what he is doing?

MP: Trump may or may not know what he is doing, I am sure that he is unaware of the complexity of the issue. It was a poor decision with far reaching consequences which are yet to unfold. What is clear now is that his declaration has emboldened Israel and Palestinians have been paying a heavy price through massive arrests, countless injured and dead by Israeli forces.

Peace in the Middle East is a misleading term. The Middle East is a big place with many issues that need to be resolved. Peace in the entire region is not going to happen because of a single issue being resolved.

The issue of Jerusalem is a uniting factor and Trump’s decision has brought about condemnation by all Arab, Muslim and most European countries.

JEA: Let’s get this clear: what do you make of the anti-Semitism accusation that gets thrown in the media whenever a person criticizes the Israeli policies toward the Palestinians? Back in 2012, I corresponded with Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post and I challenged her to provide serious evidence that John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is an anti-Semite.

Our conversation revolved around a number of issues, but I finally asked her, “If an American criticizes the policies of the United States, does that mean that the person is anti-American?” “NO,” she responded. Then I proceeded to say, “Then how can Mearsheimer, who is Jewish, be an anti-Semite when he simply criticizes the incoherent policies of the Israeli government?” To this very day, she never responded to that question. What is really at stake here?

MP: It’s about legitimacy. They cannot allow criticism of Israel for fear that it will lead to the inevitable delegitimization of Israel and Zionism as a whole.

Since there is no legitimate argument to support the existence of Israel and the ongoing persecution of Palestinians by Israel they resort to name calling. Hence the term anti-Semitic is thrown freely.

This is now true for the BDS movement although the call for BDS and the demands of the BDS movement activists are all about equality, justice and freedom.

JEA: I was watching a debate between Alan Dershowitz and Cornel West on this very issue, and I was simply appalled that Dershowitz pulled out the anti-Semitism card on West! In any event, you are an activist and you often travel to Israel. Have you seen some positive changes over the years?

MP: There is no reason to expect positive changes on the ground yet. Israel is powerful and has a blank check from the US and the U.K. Israel had created a reality where it is undefeatable militarily and diplomatically. This is why the BDS movement, which is a grassroots civil society based resistance movement, is gaining ground and that is possibly the only positive change one can point to at this time.

JEA: What responses have you received from the Israel government about your activity? Do you think some officials have read your book? Do they know who you are? Have you been threatened?

MP: There has been no official response or reaction by Israel to my work whatsoever.

JEA: Let’s just hope that people will continue to rise against the genocidal regime in Israel in 2018. Let us also work toward peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

[1] Miko Peled, “Six Days in Israel, 45 Years Ago,” LA Times, June 6, 2012.

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Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and Current Challenges By Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and Current Challenges

Asif Haroon Raja

Overview

Pakistan has, since birth, been faced with one crisis after another. The tense geopolitical environment created by hostile India and unfriendly Afghanistan was the motivating factor which impelled our leaders to accord preference to security over developing institutions and strengthening the economy. Security concerns governed our foreign policy.

Pakistan joined Western pacts mainly to find an umbrella to mitigate its security concerns. But the US never became a trustworthy and sincere ally, as was the case of former the Soviet Union with India. The western pacts proved elusive when Pakistan was truncated in 1971.

India had been working upon East Bengal since 1948 with the aim of subverting the minds of Bengalis and poisoning their minds against people of West Pakistan through an orchestrated subversion plan. It wanted to disprove Two-Nation theory. India in collusion with the former-the Soviet Union and supported by several other countries hatched the gory plan of the dismemberment of Pakistan. After nine months insurgency, Indian military jumped in to cut Pakistan to size and create Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi chortled that Two-Nation theory had been sunk into the Bay of Bengal.

In the aftermath of 9/11, another international conspiracy was hatched to dismember Pakistan. This time the conspiracy was much larger in scope and more dangerous in intent. Pakistan was to be befriended and then cut into four quasi-states. In this, India is being supported by USA, Afghanistan, Britain, Israel and the West in general. The tools in use are TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF, MQM and segment of media bolstered by bloggers, foreign paid NGOs and international media. Daesh is the latest group added to their arsenal.   

The goals are to destabilize, de-Islamise, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan using covert means and psychological operations.

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan was made to fight terrorism on its soil, then accused of harboring terrorists in safe havens in FATA and aiding cross border terrorism in Afghanistan, occupied Kashmir and India, and then constantly pressed to do more. The terrorist groups in FATA, Baluchistan were funded, equipped and trained to fight and exhaust Pak security forces. MQM was funded and its militants trained in India to make Karachi lawless.

India and Afghanistan were projected as victims of terrorism and Pakistan as an incubator of terrorism. The covert war launched from Afghan soil in 2002 has incurred a loss of 60,000 fatalities, injuries to tens of thousands, destruction of property, $ 118 billion financial loss and immense social trauma.

Pakistan has come under a foreign debt of $70 billion.  

The US imposed War on Terror has heightened ethnicity, sectarianism, extremism, provincialism, political instability, economic fragility and moral degeneration of society as a whole.

As a result of these frailties, Pakistan which is a nuclear power with robust armed forces that are second to none has abundant resources and resilient manpower, it has become vulnerable to foreign coercion, manipulation, and aggression.

Of all the crisis faced by Pakistan in its 70 years history, the present one is perhaps the most dangerous, both in terms of its nature and its possible consequences. Without a doubt, Pakistan is in the vortex of grave dangers and the country today stands at the cusp of survival and disaster. The Titans that have marked Pakistan as a target are impatient to fragment it. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

Having given the background and overall geopolitical environment, I shall now discuss the five stages through which Pakistan’s foreign policy has moved forward to confront multiple challenges.

Quaid-e-Azam MA Jinnah had spelled out Pakistan’s foreign policy soon after the birth of Pakistan in these words:

 “Our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with world at large. We have no aggressive designs against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.” 

Our foreign policy is one of the friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair-play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.” 
Pakistan opened diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world except Israel owing to Palestinian dispute.  Successive regimes made concerted efforts to normalize relations with India but failed because of unresolved Kashmir dispute and India not reconciling to the existence of Pakistan. In its desire to become the unchallenged big power of South Asia, India whipped up a frenzy against all its neighbors. It applied multiple pressures on Pakistan and went to war thrice so as to force Pakistan to accept its hegemony and become its vassal state.

Pakistan in search of security and recognition

Pakistan started its journey as a nonaligned nation and remained the member of Non-Aligned Movement from 1947 till 1954. In the first 15 years of Pakistan’s life, the founding leaders remained deeply engrossed in establishing credentials of Pakistan’s statehood in the face of massive propaganda of India that Pakistan was a monstrosity. It was described as a transient phenomenon and Indian economic wizards had given six months life to Pakistan. International recognition was sought and obtained in those agonizing years. 

In its formative years, Pakistan attached importance to relations with Muslim countries and championed Muslim causes. Its efforts to build Muslim unity couldn’t make any headway. It cultivated special ties with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan joined Western pacts

Aggressive posturing of India, its expansionist designs and intentions to absorb Kashmir, together with Afghanistan’s enmity, former USSR’s heavy tilt towards India, deepening economic crisis in early 1950s, sense of isolation, and the UN and Commonwealth failing to resolve the Kashmir dispute were some of the reasons which impelled Pakistan to join the US created SEATO and Baghdad Pact/CENTO in 1954/55. Thereon, its foreign policy was governed by the US interests.

Pakistan became part of the US defensive arc stretching to Iran and Turkey to contain the spread of communism in South Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan did so despite the fact that it had no direct clash with USSR, and had to pay a heavy price for it. When Pakistan acted as a conduit in 1971 to bring China closer to the USA, it further antagonized Moscow and it decided to teach Pakistan a lesson.

Alignment with the USA however, helped Pakistan in improving its economy and defense capability phenomenally during the 10-year Ayub’s golden era.

Tilt towards China

After the Indo-Sino border clash in 1962, in the wake of Moscow, Washington and the West providing arms to India at the cost of disturbing the regional military balance, Ayub Khan started tilting towards China and Russia. This move was seen as an act of defiance by the USA and it decided to penalize him. The US discriminatory attitude was discernible in the 1965 War with India when it stopped extending economic and military assistance including the supply of spare parts, whereas Russia kept supplying arms to India.

It is believed that both ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib were cultivated to trigger agitations in both the wings to bring down Ayub regime and then pave the way for the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971.

Southwestern Asian Identity and policy of Bilateralism

After the 1971 tragedy, ZA Bhutto scrapped SEATO pact and membership of Commonwealth stating that those had proved worthless. He then tried to carve out Southwest Asian identity so as to draw economic strength and security from oil rich Arab States. This tilt towards the Gulf States brought in financial bonanza and job opportunities for Pakistan in the 1970s and also gave an opportunity to Pak military to make inroads into the GCC States. Saudi Arabia never hesitated to extend financial support to Pakistan in its testing times.

Another change in Pakistan’s foreign policy was affected by the Simla agreement in 1972 which led to the policy of bilateralism and non-alignment. Ceasefire line in Kashmir was renamed as LoC and Kashmir issue put on the back burner. India however, maintained its belligerent policy and carried out the nuclear test at Pokhran in August 1974, which impelled ZA Bhutto to go nuclear.

Afghan war (1980-1989)

Pakistan-US relations nosedived when Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq was put under sanctions in April 1979 by Carter regime on account of suspicion that it was pursuing nuclear program covertly. However, the Afghan war in the 1980s once again made Pakistan a close ally of USA and was bestowed with $3.5 billion assistance and F-16 jets.

Pakistan had to face Russo-Afghan-India nexus and Al-Zulfiqar terrorism (militant wing of PPP). The Afghan war brought Pakistan coolness in Pak-Iran relations but brought Afghanistan under Mujahideen very close to Pakistan. Both talked of providing strategic depth to each other.

Pakistan’s challenges in Post-cold war era

After the breakup of USSR in 1991 and end of Cold War era, Pakistan was faced with multiple foreign policy issues. The US abandoned Pakistan, imposed sanctions on it under Pressler Amendment and befriended India.

Pakistan was up against Indo-US-Israeli nexus geared toward destroying Kahuta plant.

The other issue was the fallout effects of the Afghan war in the form of Kalashnikov and drug cultures, the load of 3.5 million refugees, the radicalization of the society and sectarianism fomented by Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The other was the armed uprising in occupied Kashmir which forced India to pump in 750,000 security forces to quell the insurgency and to propagate that Pakistan was abetting it.

Pakistan had to bear with the domino effect of Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).

And lastly, nuclear explosions by the two arch rivals in May 1998. Pakistan’s external climbed up. These challenges made the democratic era weak and uninspiring. Despite being repeatedly betrayed, Pakistan didn’t deem it fit to diversify its foreign policy and kept its hopes alive to get into the good books of USA.

Impact of 9/11

9/11 changed the global politics and Pakistan was once again befriended by the USA and made a coalition partner to fight the global war on terror as a frontline state. Pakistan for a second time shifted all its eggs in the basket of USA.

Between 2004 and 2008, Indo-Pak relations improved as a result of the peace treaty and resumption of dialogue, giving rise to optimism that core disputes will be resolved. Euphoria died down after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 when India blamed Pakistan. Indo-Pak relations have hit rock bottom after Modi led BJP regime espousing Hindutva came to power in June 2014.

Ongoing fast changing global dynamics and ever growing strategic partnership between USA and India has impelled Pakistan policy makers to revisit the foreign policy and suitably modify it to meet the future challenges.

Pakistan’s current challenges

India has not reconciled to the existence of Pakistan and strives to reduce it to the status of a Satellite State.

India is a strategic partner of the US, Israel, Afghanistan and is the darling of the west. The trio is pursuing common objective of destroying Pakistan.

India is making concerted efforts to destabilize Pakistan through covert war, encircle Pakistan by consolidating its presence in Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs), building North-South Corridor linking Mumbai with Bandar Abbas; and connecting Chabahar with Afghanistan-CARs.

India is working hard to isolate Pakistan by tarnishing its image and spoiling its relations with Afghanistan, Iran, Gulf States and the US.

Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute but India stubbornly maintains that it is its integral part well knowing that the Kashmiris hate Indians and want freedom at all cost.

To keep Pakistan on the defensive and force it to forget Kashmir, India is playing terrorism card, Baluchistan and Sindh cards, and water terrorism to bend Pakistan on its knees.

India’s Cold Start doctrine is aimed at offsetting Pakistan’s strategic nuclear doctrine and executing it at a time when the bulk of Pak forces had got pinned down in designated restive areas.

The upturn of Pakistan’s sunk economy and its image, control over energy crisis and terrorism coupled with development works and fast progressing CPEC have increased the anxieties of India. To give vent to its frustrations, it is carrying out unprovoked firing across the LoC and working boundary in Kashmir relentlessly.

For all practical purposes, Pakistan has fallen from the grace of USA and time is not far when it will be once again be ditched and put under harsh sanctions.

Indo-US-Israel agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program, or as a minimum curtailing its minimum deterrence capability remain unchanged.

Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai remained aligned with India and hostile to Pakistan. Afghan Unity government under Ghani-Abdullah is far worse.

Pak-Iran relations are frosty and practically, Iran is more close to India and Afghanistan.

Net outcome in 2017

Pakistan foreign policy makers are faced with perpetually hostile India, near hostile Afghanistan, and the changed attitude of the US. Washington has callously whipped Pakistan under its ‘do more’ policy and is now hurling warnings. It’s heavy tilt towards India is a matter of anxiety for Pakistan.

Iran nurtures grouses on account of Pakistan’s closeness with Saudi Arabia, and for sending Gen Raheel to Riyadh to head 41-member Sunni Muslim States Alliance.

Warmth in a relationship with the GCC States has diluted because of Pakistan not agreeing to send troops to Saudi Arabia to ward off the threat from Yemen. Saudi-Qatar tiff is another challenge faced by Pakistan since it cannot afford to take sides.

Pakistan has been deliberately kept politically unstable by making it play the game of ladder and snake so that it remains economically dependent. It was pulled down whenever it grew economically strong. That is why it has been lurching from one crisis to another in its 70 years checkered history.

Pakistan can ill-afford political disharmony and disunity at this critical juncture when black clouds are hovering over its horizon.

Geopolitical realities

Pakistan is faced with multiple threats of Indo-US-Afghan covert war, India’s Cold Start Doctrine, the US Af-Pak doctrine, and Hybrid war and all these threats have now become menacing.

The threat to its security has heightened after the signing of three Indo-US defense agreements in 2016 and the US openly expressing its enmity against Pakistan and love for India.

India is getting unnerved on account of high-intensity freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir, which is slipping out of its hands and is endangering the unity of India. India has no other choice except to keep persecuting the Kashmiris ruthlessly, keep the LoC on fire and to diplomatically place Pakistan on the back foot.

Muslim Pakistan, laced with nuclear/missile power and now getting economically strong due to CPEC is unacceptable to USA, India, and Israel. The trio may go to any extent to disrupt CPEC.

Pakistan is faced with the threat of two-front war from east and west, inauspicious southwestern backyard, vulnerable seacoast, not so friendly Gulf States, together with the internal war on terror and internal war on terror

Pakistan’s viable nuclear cum missile capability deters India from waging an open war.

Nuclear factor has compelled India to resort to indirect strategy to weaken Pakistan from within through unrelenting covert war, discredit and isolate it through propaganda and diplomacy, extract its nuclear teeth clandestinely, and then apply the military instrument through Cold Start doctrine.

Having tried out all possible means short of war, the only other option left with enemies of Pakistan is to create political chaos and logjam, paralyze the government machinery and then trigger civil war as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Many are suspecting a game plan behind the current political imbroglio.

The success of $21 trillion One-Road-One-belt projects of China hinges on successful completion of CPEC. In view of China’s ambition to become leading economic power and its heavy economic stakes in CPEC, it is bound to come to the aid of Pakistan whenever its security is threatened.

Pakistan is a target and not an ally of USA. Earlier Pakistan gets out of the enchantment of USA, better it will be.

Inferences

Any expectation of goodwill and empathy from India, Afghanistan under Ghani and USA, which in pursuit of their common objectives have been inflicting tens of thousands of cuts on the body of Pakistan and its people, will be foolhardy.

The newly appointed Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in consultation with the new PM Khaqan Abbasi, CJCSC Gen Zubair Hayat, and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa need to revisit the foreign policy at the earliest to make appropriate changes after correctly identifying friends and foes and accordingly diversifying the policy to meet the upcoming challenges.

Foreign policy instead of being defensive, apologetic and reactive, should be infused with dynamism and pro-activeness.

The change in foreign policy should not be abrupt, but gradual and orderly without violent fluctuations. The change should be akin to autumn changing into winter, or winter into spring.

While maintaining a working relationship with the USA, Pakistan should draw closer to China, Russia, Central Asia, SCO, and ASEAN.

Pakistan should work hard to bring Iran in the loop of China-Russia peace-talks initiative, possibly draw in Turkey and conjointly work to restore peace in war torn Afghanistan.

Pakistan must strive to establish a friendly regime in Kabul.

Surging Afghan Taliban and not the corrupt and inept unity government in Kabul toeing Indo-US agenda should be kept in the loop.

Pakistan should continue to play a mediatory role in the Iran-Saudi ideological rivalry and in Saudi-Qatar tiff to narrow down their differences and also allay the misperceptions of Gulf States on account of Yemen crisis. It will be unwise to call back Gen Raheel and detach Pakistan from 41-member Muslim Alliance.

CPEC should be made use of as a strong magnet by our foreign policy makers to attract as many nations from Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe to ward off Indian inspired threat of isolation.

Gwadar-Chahbahar economic rivalry should be converted into an opportunity to complement each other’s strength.

Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan. Comprehensive and pragmatic Kashmir policy should be devised to keep the cause of Kashmir alive.

Conclusion. While many developing countries have raced ahead, Pakistan is still struggling and has neither become an Asian tiger or a secure country. Political parties are behaving irresponsibly and are advised to shun politics of agitation and division and promote the concept of “Unity in Diversity”. Strong and united home front is the best defense against internal and external challenges.

 

The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, defense and security analyst, columnist, author of five books. He is Director Measac Research Centre, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Editor-in-chief “Better Morrow’ magazine, editor of website group ‘The Patriots’. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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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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Pakistan’s bloopers Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan’s bloopers

Asif Haroon Raja

Inconsequential Western Pacts

In search for security in the face of India’s belligerence and dangerous designs together with Afghanistan’s hostility, Pakistan blundered to join SEATO and CENTO in 1954 and earned the hostility of Afghanistan, former Soviet Union and China. India took these western pacts as an excuse to make a U turn on Kashmir issue.

The defense pacts helped Pakistan under Ayub Khan to develop its economy and defensive capability, but the pacts were designed to contain communism and not to provide security against India or to help in resolving Kashmir dispute. These pacts proved inconsequential during the wars with India in 1965 and 1971 and played no role in preventing truncation of Pakistan in 1971.

Despite the fact that Pakistan played a key role in the China-US détente in 1971, enabling USA to withdraw its forces from Vietnam, the US always kept India above Pakistan, knowingly that India was aligned with Soviet Union.

Supply of arms by the US and western countries to India after the Indo-Sino border clash in 1962 impelled Pakistan to lean on China since arms provided by the two rival camps had tilted the military balance in favor of India. This shift irked USA.  

War against Soviets and Fallout Effects

Pakistan again blundered to let the US make FATA a launching pad and use Jihadis as proxies to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1980s in return for $3.5 billion economic/military assistance spread over 5 years. Although the Jihad directed by the ISI achieved its goal of ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan, but Pakistan had to suffer at the hands of nexus as well as that of Al-Zulfiqar throughout the 10-year war.

The Afghan Jihad gifted Pakistan with drug and Kalashnikov cultures which militarized the society and intensified sectarianism. It also bred misgivings in Pak-Iran relations.  

Instead of rewarding Pakistan for the huge price it paid to defeat a super power and for paving the way for the US to become sole super power, it was not only left high and dry by self-serving USA but also punished for pursuing nuclear program, which it had ignored till 1989, by imposing harsh sanctions in 1990. Worst was Indo-US embrace in 1991 followed by Indo-Israel alignment, giving shape to Indo-US-Israel axis, which raised the specter of Islamic bomb.

Sanctions under Jewish AIPAC inspired Pressler Amendment weakened Pakistan’s economy, multiplied its debt, impacted the democratic era (1988-1999) and handicapped Pakistan to combat fallout effects of Afghan war.

The only positive outcome of the bloody war was the completion of nuclear program under Gen Ziaul Haq, which was otherwise not possible. It raised the stature of Pakistan among the Muslim world. Fear of bomb in the basement prevented India under Rajiv Gandhi from converting Indian Exercise Brass-tacks into full-fledged war in 1986/87. Likewise, war over Kashmir in 1990/91 in the wake of armed uprising in Indian occupied Kashmir was also averted due to nuclear factor.  Benazir rather than fulfilling American agenda of rolling back nuclear program enhanced missile program.

In the First Gulf War in 1991, while Egypt got its $7 billion external debt waived off without deploying a single soldier, as a reward for legitimizing the US-NATO intervention in the Gulf, Pakistan got nothing despite deploying over 10,000 troops in Saudi Arabia because of the then Army chief’s pro-Saddam statements which annoyed Saudi Arabia and USA. 

Pakistan’s support to the Taliban from 1996 till September 2001 antagonized Northern Alliance (an amalgam of non-Pashtun Afghans under Ahmad Shah Masood) and brought them under the influence of Iran, India, West and Russia.

War on Terror after 9/11

Pakistan once again blundered after 9/11 by ditching friendly regime of Taliban in Afghanistan at the behest of Washington and befriending untrustworthy USA that had left Pakistan in a lurch during its testing times.

Pakistan learnt no lesson from the repeated betrayals and happily accepted all the demands of USA under the fond hope that this time it will not deceive and will compensate for its past wrongs by making Pakistan prosperous in return for fighting the US imposed war on terror on its soil. But the US had a fixed agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program covertly, separating Baluchistan and making Pakistan a secular state. Gen Musharraf and not Pakistan was made the darling of the west.  

Pakistan after earning the animosity of Taliban on account of its full support to the US to occupy Afghanistan also antagonized the tribesmen of FATA when the Army launched an operation in South Waziristan (SW) in 2003 at the bidding of USA to flush-out Al-Qaeda and its supporters.

Pakistani Taliban started a guerrilla war against the Army and in December 2007 formed Tehrik-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) under Baitullah Mehsud with tentacles in all the seven agencies of FATA.

The Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban believing in one ideology are in collusion and pursue shared goal of establishing Islamic Emirate. The two entities had however divided their areas of responsibility; Taliban confining their fight in Afghanistan against occupying forces and their collaborators and the TTP fighting against Pak security forces. Their partner Al-Qaeda remained operative on both sides of the divide. Haqqani network aligned with Taliban headquartered itself in North Waziristan (NW) and remained friendly toward Pakistan till their ouster in June 2014. 

The TTP was hijacked by foreign agencies in its formative years and was heavily funded, equipped and trained to fight Pak Army and to convert Swat, Bajaur, SW and NW into fortresses.

Annoyed by Musharraf regime’s decision to impose ban and freeze funds in 2002/03, Kashmir focused Jihadi groups and other militant groups veered towards TTP. By 2013, an amalgam of over 60 militant groups had come under the wings of Hakimullah led TTP in NW.

TTP leaders had pledged allegiance to Taliban supreme leader Mulla Omar in 2008 and had accepted him as Ameerul Momineen. Their pledge remained intact till mid 2014 after which many pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakar Baghdadi since they had got a wind of death of Mulla Omar in April 2013 which was intentionally kept secret.

Syria-Iraq based ISIS has made inroads in Afghanistan with the help of India and has established itself at Nangarhar and is in collusion with Khalid Omer Khurasani led Jamaat-e-Ahrar, an offshoot of TTP and with Fazlullah. The two had fled from Mohmand Agency and Swat to Afghanistan after the military operation Rah-e-Rast in 2009. Fazlullah was nominated Ameer of TTP after the death of Hakimullah in early 2014. 

Operation Zarb e Azb launched in June 2014 succeeded in pushing out all militant groups including HN from their last stronghold in NW. All the runaway TTP leaders and fighters have been given sanctuaries by NDS and RAW at Nuristan, Kunar and Nangarhar from where they are undertaking cross border terrorism inside Pakistan. HN is fighting its war from eastern Afghanistan, its traditional stronghold.  

The US, India, Afghanistan, Israel, NATO strategic partners based in Kabul since November 2001 have been constantly weaving plans and conspiracies to harm Pakistan. They have been fueling terrorism in Pakistan with the help of their paid proxies in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi and at the same time pressing Pakistan to do more.

Unable to stabilize Afghanistan after fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda for 15 years, both Kabul and Washington are blaming Pakistan for its failures. The duo wants Pakistan to fight elements of Afghan Taliban and HN, supposedly in FATA and Baluchistan, and to force them to lay down arms and sign their drafted agreement.

Field commanders of Taliban movement disfavor peace talks since they have suffered the most. After forcing USA to pullout bulk of ISAF troops in December 2014, they have gained a definite edge over the ANSF supported by a small US-NATO force and initiative is in their hands. 29 districts are in their full control and 34 districts are being contested. They don’t want to come to terms with collaborators who have plunged the country into the vortex of vices which they had eliminated during their 5-year rule. They don’t want an agreement on dictated terms and without meeting their basic demands.  The Taliban and HN feel that Pakistan is once again siding with their opponents to undermine their sacrifices. In its bid to please the US and unpopular unity government in Kabul, Pakistan is fast losing whatever goodwill Taliban have for it.

India has successfully brainwashed all segments of Afghan society and poisoned their minds against Pakistan. There is widespread hatred against Pakistan both at government and people to people levels.

Destabilized Afghanistan suit USA and India since it enables both to retain their presence and continue with their covert operations.

Entry of Russia in Afghan Affairs

After China, Russia has begun to slowly make inroads into Afghanistan. Its entry in Afghan affairs is likely to change the dynamics of Afghan imbroglio.

The newly emerging politico-economic axis of Russia-China-Central Asian Republics-Pakistan which is drawing strength from CPEC is likely to grow stronger if Iran and Turkey, both resentful of USA joins it.

There are reports that Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban to tackle the threat from the ISIS, aspiring to establish Khurasan State. Russia is also pleading the Taliban case in the UN for taking off their names from the blacklist. The Taliban have exuded confidence in the Russia-China-Pakistan grouping to pursue peace in Afghanistan.

Supply of arms to the Taliban by Russia is worrisome for Kabul and Washington. After all, Moscow has not forgotten and forgiven the perverse role of USA in its fragmentation. Provision of stingers to the Mujahidin in 1988 had forced the Soviets to hasten their exit from Afghanistan. To avenge its humiliation, Russia may be aspiring to make Afghanistan a graveyard of USA. This wish is achievable if it supplies surface to air missiles to the Taliban, enabling them to contest the airpower. If so, it will make the position of 12000 strong Resolute Support Group based in five military bases tenuous.          

Pakistan’s Responses

Pakistani leaders have been dancing to the tunes of America, myopically thinking that by abiding to its dictates, Pakistan will remain safe and so will be their power and wealth. Lure of dollars and fear of USA were other factors which made the weak-kneed and morally corrupt rulers to stick to their policy of appeasement. They made no change in this self-defeating policy despite suffering colossal human and financial losses. 

While the US has spent $1.7 trillion in Iraq war, and over $1 trillion in war in Afghanistan including $104.1 billion in its reconstruction, it grieves over $20 billion given to Pakistan in the last 15 years, 50% of which is CSF (close support fund – repayment of provisions and services provided by Pakistan). As against this meagre assistance, Pakistan has incurred an economic loss of $118 billion in fighting the war and has also suffered 60,000 fatalities.

Excessive tilt of USA towards India as exhibited by Indo-US economic, defence and civil nuclear deals, revelations made by Raymond Davis in January 2011 about American dangerous agenda, stealth raid in Abbottabad in May 2011 followed by Memo scandal in October and deadly assault on Salala in November that year, do more mantra, condition based aid and stoppage of CSF brought no change in Pakistan’s US centric foreign policy.

India’s open ended belligerence when seen in context with ever growing Indo-US collaboration culminating into 3 military agreements in 2016 and the US outright biased stance against Pakistan having a direct bearing on security of Pakistan forced our policy makers to lean more heavily upon China and to get closer to Russia.

Tiding over energy crisis, righting economic indicators, curbing terrorism and above all CPEC have helped in improving the overall economic health and image of Pakistan and instilled confidence in the rulers to confront internal and external challenges more confidently.

However, the US enchantment that was at the verge of fizzling out has been reinvigorated by Donald Trump’s telephonic chat with Nawaz Sharif. He showered heaps of praises upon him and Pakistan, referring him as a terrific guy, rating Pakistanis among the most intelligent people, amazing and exceptional. These accolades coming from the most freakish and bigoted US President astounded all and sundry. Anti-Nawaz and anti-Pakistan elements were expecting a roughshod treatment from loudmouthed Trump. His unexpected tributes and exclusion of Pakistan from the banned Muslim States has made Nawaz and his team rapturous and they are still in a state of ecstasy. Idea of getting out of the US spell has been shelved.

While the Muslim world is tense and scared, Pak leadership is relaxed and appears to be all set to once again get duped and fall into the deceptive trap and get bled. They are optimistic that the US under Trump will not betray Pakistan and will be more friendly and cooperative in addressing socio-economic and security concerns. This confidence has been further bolstered by friendly chat of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa with US Secretary Defence Mattis and US Commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson, both admiring Pakistan’s sacrifices and role in war on terror and wanting a holistic review of Pak-US relations.   

Future Challenges

The challenges faced by Pakistan are however far from over. Up to 80% success has been achieved against terrorism which had become an existential threat to the existence of Pakistan. The current government deserve credit for giving a go-ahead to intelligence driven operations in NW, Baluchistan and Karachi, and the national action plan. However, the Army, Rangers, FC and ISI deserve special applause for achieving spectacular results in all the three troubled regions.

100% results couldn’t be achieved due to safe havens provided to the runaways of TTP in Afghanistan, backing to BLA, BRA and BLF in Baluchistan by foreign agencies, and obstacles created by Sindh administration in Karachi. All random acts of terror in Pakistan emanate from Afghanistan.

On the economic front, notwithstanding upturned macro-economic indicators, bullish stock exchange, healthy foreign exchange reserves and fast-paced development works, constantly increasing debt burden is a matter of anxiety. Not so satisfactory progress on 20-point NAP needs acceleration.  

Management of western border by Pakistan is not to the liking of Kabul and India since it will curtail cross border terrorism. This process as well as return of Afghan refugees, rehabilitation of displaced persons and FATA reforms must continue without any letup. Likewise Rangers operation in Karachi must reach its logical end at the earliest.  

Success in war on terror, economic turnaround, CPEC, and Russian support have defeated India’s plan to isolate Pakistan and to get it declared a terrorist state. Although Pakistan today stands on a stronger wicket, agenda of Indo-Afghan-US nexus against Pakistan remain unchanged.

Till 2008, Russia was anti-Pakistan and pro-India. Change in regional dynamics has brought a thaw in Pak-Russia relations and the latter is now keen to develop stronger economic and defence ties with Pakistan. Russia is mindful of the Afghanistan based Daesh and wants Pakistan’s cooperation to build a firewall against the emerging threat. For this reason, Russia is taking deep interest in Afghan affairs and has cultivated ties with Taliban much to the chagrin of Kabul regime and Washington. Russo-China-Pakistan grouping aimed at restoring peace in Afghanistan and CPEC has once again enhanced the importance of Pakistan. Friendly regime in Kabul is a geostrategic necessity for Pakistan.    

Recommendations.

Pakistan policy makers will have to play their cards shrewdly and configure the foreign policy best suited to guard Pakistan’s national interests. While keeping USA and EU in good humor and engaged in mutually beneficial economic/military cooperation, but without compromising core interests and dignity, efforts should be made to further expand economic/military cooperation with Russia, draw it towards CPEC and to make Pakistan member of Eurasian Economic Union.  Besides veering Iran into CPEC, Gwadar port should augment Chahbahar port. Land, air, maritime and internal security must be strengthened to ward off external threats and treacherous designs. Focus should be on getting rid of foreign crutches and instead strengthening own economic legs by drawing full benefits from the emerging opportunities provided by CPEC so as to make Pakistan politically, economically and militarily self-reliant.

The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defense analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraja.gmail.

Additional Reading from

Geo-Strategic Significance of Pakistan

1- INTRODUCTION:

Pakistan is located at a region which has great political, economic and strategic location. It has been hub of activities of great powers for last 20 years. It has witnessed intervention of three great powers i-e Britain, USSR, and USA. Its significance was further enhanced during cold war when it becomes ally of US policy of containment of USSR and now the post cold war era has witnessed its significance particularly after the events of 9/11.

2- PAKISTAN GEOGRAPHICALLY LOCATION:

Location: Southern Asia lies between 24 and 36.75 northern latitude and between 61 and 7505 eastern longitude.
Area: 7, 96000 sq.km.
Towards north apart from the state of Kashmir is china. It shares 400 km long boarder with china.
Towards north Tajikistan though no boarder but a narrow strip as Wahkhan strip separate the two.
Towards east, Punjab-Rajasthan boarders which is 1650 km long
Towards west, Afghanistan border of 2250 km.
Towards south, Arabian sea / Indian Ocean. Coastal belt is about 700 km.
Pakistan significance is enhanced as it lies near the Persian Gulf where 65% of the world’s oil is produced.

3- STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE:

a) Proximity of great powers:

Pakistan is located at the junction of great powers. In its neighbor’s one world power Russia and the other emerging power china lies. Any alliance among world powers enhances its significance. This factor has been utilized by Pakistan after 9/11. Security and business are two main US interests in the region while Pakistan is playing a front line role in the war against terrorism. Apart from this US interest in the region to contain the growing china, nuclear Iran, terrorist Afghanistan and to benefit from the market of India. Today the political scenario of the region is tinged with preemption policy and US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran’s nuclear program, India’s geopolitical muscles (new strategic deal with US) to gain hegemony and to counter the rise of china. Which has earned all the qualities to change unipolar world into bipolar world? In all these issues, Pakistan is directly or indirectly involved especially after al-Qeada operations. The American think tank has repeatedly accepted that war against terrorism could never be won without the help of Pakistan. Pakistan has rigorously fought and an ongoing operation in Waziristan is also targeting the suspected Taliban in the bordering area.

b) Gateway to central Asia-(oil and energy game):

Central Asia is the center stage of new Great games. Western quest for resources- oil and energy resources in the central Asia. After USSR decline, new quest started which is as manifested by politics of oil. Pakistan is located very close to the oil rich Middle Eastern countries. The belt started from Iran and extended to Saudi Arabia. Thus, Pakistan can influence shipment of oil. Iran is struggling to export its surplus gas and oil to eastern countries, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkmenistan pipeline projects highlight the position.

In the energy scarce world, Pakistan is located in the hub of energy rich countries i-e Iran and Afghanistan: both are energy abundant while India and China are lacking. China finds way to Indian Ocean and Arabian sea through Karakoram highway,

c) Significance as a Transit economy:

Pakistan has the potential to develop transit economy on account is its strategic location, land locked Afghanistan now at the phase of reconstruction finds its ways through Pakistan. China with its fastest economy growth rate of 9% us developing southern provinces because its own part is 4500 km away from Sinkiang but Gwadar is 2500 km away. Moreover, Pakistan offers central Asian regions the shortest route of 2600 km as compared to Iran 4500 km or turkey 5000 km. Gwadar port with its deep waters attracts the trade ships of China, CAR and south east Asian countries., also the coastal belt of Balochistan can provide outlet to china’s western provinces to have access to middles eastern markets with the development of coastal highways and motorways.

d) Important link in the chain of Muslim countries:

If we look at the map of Muslim countries, Pakistan occupies a central location. Towards west of Iran, china extends to North Africa. Thus it can actively participate in the activities of Muslim world-economic development, transport of resources and above all combat terrorism.

e) Only Muslim country with nuclear capability:

In the region Pakistan is the only Muslim country having nuclear capability which has great influence on the political, socio-economic activities in the region and the maintenance of status quo in the region.
f) China’s link to the Middle East:

Pakistan is the only direct and shortest link between China and the Middle East. Imagine the impact of China on the Middle East, if this link is fully functional. Gwadar Port located in proximity of Arabian Gulf and Central Asian Republics provide it unique opportunity to serve both. Pakistan needs to capitalize on them through better diplomatic ties with Arab states and CARs. It is therefore anticipated that oil reserves and other resources of CARs would gradually become the focus of world attention in coming years. However, in case of “exports to and from CARs” a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is must. The port will also help in promoting trade with Gulf States possessing 63% of world’s oil reserves and will prove instrumental in promoting trans-shipment essentially of containerized cargo besides unlocking the development potential for hinterland. The most important factor that makes Gwadar Port strategically unique is the location with respect to other major ports in the region, which are all located on the other side ofthe sea. Gwadar port being towards north can easily provide services and facilities to CARs, Afghanistan and China.

g) Reduce Indian hegemony in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean:

India has a shared interests with the U.S. and NATO in the subjection of Pakistan. Pakistan would cease to be a client state of the U.S. or a manageable state, because of a likely revolution that would occur in the scenario of a broader war in the Middle East against Iran or a far larger Eurasian war involving China and Russia. Nuclear weapons in the hands of such a revolutionary government in Islamabad would be a threat to Indian national security, NATO operations in Afghanistan, and Israel. It is in the shared interests of the U.S., NATO, Israel, and India to neutralize such a strategic and tactical threat from emerging in Pakistan. This is why NATO has underpinned the objective of balkanizing Pakistan and why the U.S. has talked about taking over Pakistani nuclear facilities via the U.S. military. The subjection of Pakistan is also territorially and militarily to the advantage of New Delhi, because it would eliminate a rival and allow India to gain territory that in the view of many Indians was lost with the partition of India in 1947.

4- CONCLUSION / ANALYSIS:

Geo strategic means the importance of a country or a region as by virtue of its geographical location. Stephen Cohn describes this importance “while history has been unkind with Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest benefit.”

Pakistan is a junction of south Asia, west Asia and central Asia; a way from resource efficient countries to resource deficient countries. The world is facing energy crises and terrorism. Pakistan is a route for transportation and a front line state against terrorism. Moreover Pakistan has been traditionally ally of emerging economic giant; china. So in the vague of any change in world politics, Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance would further be enhanced.

 

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