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Posts Tagged NATO

The gate of the ‘graveyard of empires’ Asad Khan Betini

The gate of the ‘graveyard of empires’

Asad Khan Betini

Fifteen years of US invasion will soon be completed and soon become the stuff of the history of this region. In Afghanistan, ‘lost and gained’ will be assessed later but the insurgency is indeed still in question. Yet another suicide attack in central Logar province killed 12 security personnel and wounded eight others, a sure sign of the dreadful hold of the insurgents. The Taliban still claim to have control of over 40 percent of the areas in Afghanistan, excluding the capital and other major cities in Afghanistan. Territories under the grip of the Taliban are declared as no go areas, leaving the whole world wondering whether the war on terror has achieved victory or a fiasco. Many observers are now vocal as to who will be up next for the ‘graveyard of empires’. 
aria09040220090401085210Hamid Karzai declined to sign any security deal with the US and left it to his successor to decide. The newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will allow 9,800 US troops and at least 2,000 NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Generally, mindsets with two opinions have lingered on in Afghanistan: one supported the invasion while the other defied it. In fact, we observe that Afghans failed to get what they expected from the US intervention since 2001. Rather, this invasion put the land in turmoil just like the former Soviet Union did. Our controversial ally, the US, and its war against the former jihadists who were once called ‘soldiers of God’, declared them terrorists following the 9/11 incident. Indeed, the ashes of war brought catastrophe to Pakistan too.
Pakistan has suffered over $ 107 billion in economic setbacks since the war broke out, leaving a bad impression on the international community. Apart from that, thousands of people have been killed due to the ‘do more’ mantra. Yet, hoping for development for Afghanistan, the Chinese government has pledged 1.5 billion Yuan ($ 245 million) in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years, as well as greater support for Kabul in the struggle against terrorism. Ghani, while bewildering his neighbours, warned all not to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan. This statement was released as soon as this aid was received in Afghanistan. 
But what plagues the mind is the fact that the warmongers are still in position. The withdrawal of US and NATO forces will leave the Afghan National Army to its own fate. 
Throughout the entire 13 years of war in Afghanistan, corruption and opium production remained a worrying issue. Observers believe that poppy cultivation has become a lucrative business for international dealers, as it was not brought to an end despite the US spending $ 7.6 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The UN’s office on drugs and crime reports: “Afghan farmers grew 209,000 hectares of opium in 2013, surpassing the previous record of 193,000 hectares in 2007.” Poppy production is a major source of revenue in Afghanistan, which produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s opium. At the start of 2018, it is expected to double. 
This is a problem that all the stakeholders avoided discussing throughout the entire Afghan war. The value of poppy cultivation and opium products produced in the country in 2013 was about three billion dollars, a 50 percent increase over the two billion dollars estimated in 2012. Reports now indicate that farmers grew 210,200 hectares of opium in 2014. 
Let us pretend Afghans will decide their own fate post-withdrawal but staggering questions of poppy cultivation and the presence of the former soldiers of God are being left unresolved. To date, $ 753.3 billion have been spent on the war in Afghanistan, including $ 89.1 billion in fiscal year 2014. Despite spending billions of dollars and the sacrifices of thousands of US and NATO soldiers, who spewed blood into the water and soil, the results are by no means comforting. The Afghans have now opened their gates for China, which has already stepped up its support to India and Pakistan. The recent Beijing Declaration has been signed between Afghanistan and China, agreeing to start 64 programmes covering issues such as trade, investment, infrastructure, disaster management and education. These projects will help Afghanistan develop and keep the peace without outside assistance. The corridor of South Asia, Afghanistan, is now in the arms of China, so the future of South Asia is now going to be in the hands of China, leading the US out the door in disgrace. 

 
 
(Asad Khan Betini is a Balochistan Based Journalist and Currently Chief Editor of Monthly Nawa-e-Qaisa Political Magazine)

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Ramifications of military adventurism in Syria

Ramifications of military adventurism in Syria

Asif Haroon Raja

Patrick J. Buchman, an American political commentator stated on March, 24, 2003, “There is a memo at the Pentagon that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off Iran.” George W. Bush also talked of axis of evil in which North Korea was the only non-Muslim country.   Joint Forces Staff College Norfolk, Virginia suggested threatening Saudi Arabia with starvation, reducing Islam to cult status and Mecca, Medina destroyed. Out of seven target countries, three have been destroyed and one divided, one is being destroyed and after its destruction it will become easier to destroy the remaining two.  Emphasis is on piecemeal destruction.

Consequent to non-resolution of Palestinian issue and the ongoing Arab Spring, the Middle Eastern countries that have remained in the iron grip of US backed authoritarian rulers for many decades are in revolt. The old order of subservience to US dictated policies has been replaced by hatred and defiance. The US for all practical purposes has lost its moral authority in the Middle East, as has been amply confirmed by Robert Fisk. Egypt which had remained a secure base of USA and CIA since the times of Anwar Sadat has become insecure in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 by the people, followed by democratically elected Muhammad Morsi and his Islamic regime in July 2013 by Egyptian military.

Lebanon which was in control of CIA and Israel is now dominated by Iran backed Hezbollah which is connected with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Hamas which was democratically elected in 2011 holds on to Gaza Strip despite being hounded by Israel. Iran refuses to roll back its nuclear program despite tough sanctions and recent regime change.  Pakistan refuses to roll back or hand over its nukes to USA in spite of massive covert war launched since 2002 and defiantly stands up to external challenges.  

Having forcibly changed Qaddafi’s regime in Syria, the US and its western allies are now fully focused towards Syria since early 2011 to bring down Assad’s regime. Billions of dollars are being pumped in in-support of the Syrian rebels to keep the civil war inflamed. In April 2012 Summit held in Turkey and attended by 70 nations, a total of $ 100 million was pledged by Saudi Arabia, Qatar Kuwait and UAE to pay salaries to rebels Free Army. The US pledged $12 million and London $800,000 including satellite communication and night vision goggles. NATO military advisers based in Syria have been providing guidance to the rebels. High salaries provided to the rebels were a bait to lure government soldiers to defect.

Almost 30-month old civil war in Syria which has cost over 100,000 lives including 40,000 civilians and resulted in displacement of seven million including two million fleeing to other countries has suddenly become explosive because of use of chemical weapons in Ghouta near Damascus on August 21 killing 1400 people including children. Syrian President Assad categorically denied the charge, but international imperial alliance forged between NATO and but Arab client states seeking perpetuation of violence within Syria has a fixed agenda of his forcible removal.   

Truculent Obama tied his hands by impulsively blurting that if Syria crosses the red line, it will face military action. He is now pumped up and wants to strike Syria irrespective of the consequences. While the US Senate has approved military action, Obama is now seeking Congress approval for strikes against Syria. Although US officials insist that US limited military intervention in Syria in which no boots will be used on ground is not aimed at regime change, but to deter Assad from reusing chemical weapons; however, the fact remains that support to Syrian rebels is being extended by the US to bring down Assad regime which is anti-US and anti-Israel and pro-Russia and install pro-US regime. This change in US-Israel-Arabs view would weaken and isolate both Iran and Hezbollah and help in attacking Iran at a later date.

British PM David Cameron, eager to emulate disgraced Tony Blair hastened to state that there was no doubt about the use of nerve gas by Syrian regime. British lawmakers however tripped him and passed a resolution that UK wouldn’t support military action. This move has raised the image of Britain but has caused a setback to both Cameron and Obama. France however, is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with USA but has now modified its stance by saying that UNSC approval is necessary. John Kerry is carrying out intense lobbying to win over allies.

Like in case of Iraq in 2003 when millions protested in Europe and in USA against intended invasion, the Europeans and Americans weary of war and suffering the impact of economic depression have once again come out on the streets, protesting against contemplated use of force in Syria. Both the US and British leaders have lost their credibility after their big lies to justify interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq and false promises of restoring peace and democracy. The people are not prepared to get duped again since the two misadventures resulted in destruction of two sovereign countries and loss of over two million lives together with displacement of millions. They now know that the dramas were enacted to serve selfish interests of the elites only. The common people had no share in the loot.

The drama of gas attack has been staged since the rebels despite being armed to teeth are not making any headway and are getting demoralized while the government forces are rapidly gaining ground. Hezbollah has helped in getting Qusayr vacated by the rebels and area north of Homs is also on the verge of falling to Syrian forces. Notwithstanding that minority Alawides under Assad rule majority Sunnis, and Assad has used excessive force against the rebels ruthlessly; he having witnessed the tragic end of Qaddafi cannot afford softness. The rebels have been no less brutal. They have been chided by Human Rights Watch for committing myriad human-rights abuses against Syrian people. They have been involved in kidnapping, detention, torture of security forces, pro-government elements and militias.    

Limited strikes by NATO, which include cruise missiles, air strikes and drones, would aim at crippling the Syrian air defence, air power, rockets and artillery sites, tanks and APCs, ammunition dumps and all such military targets which have enabled the Syrian armed forces to gain an upper edge over rebels. Such a destructive exercise had been undertaken by UK-France military against Libyan regime in support of rebels. This support will be available to Syrian rebels for their final assault on Damascus. The US thinks that US intervention will help in boosting the sagging morale of Syrian rebels. The US has become more assertive after the change of leadership in Tehran under the assumption that the new Iranian President Rouhani being moderate will not act recklessly like his predecessor.     

It is indeed ironic that loss of 100,000 lives has not evoked any sympathy in US led western world but loss of 1400 lives has made them grief stricken. On what moral grounds Obama and his hawkish team are huffing and puffing and trying to moralize Syrian regime when the US military is occupying Afghanistan since November 2001 and devastating the country and its people? Are drones used with impunity in FATA, Somalia and Yemen less lethal than chemical weapons?  Is Sarin gas deadlier than nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Agent Orange in Vietnam, or cluster bombs, daisy cutters and depleted uranium in Afghanistan, or white phosphorous in Fallujah (Iraq)?  Aren’t US and UK the biggest manufacturers of chemicals and commercializing the product in international market?

Why such a hullabaloo over poisonous chemicals when these were used by Iraq against the Kurds of Hallabjah in 1988 and against Iran’s military in the Iran-Iraq war in Fao Peninsula, or by Russia in Chechnya. The US and the West didn’t utter a word since at that time Saddam was a good boy being their ally and Chechnyans were Muslims. Where were their moral scruples when Israeli forces used white phosphorous and cluster bombs against Gazans? Why are US and Russia holding on to their stockpiles of chemical weapons when they were required to destroy them by April 2012?  What role OIC and Arab League are playing to defuse the volatile situation? Pathetic Arab League is paradoxically egging on the UN to take measures against Syria, which implies ‘sort out Assad regime’. Saudi Arabia is more worried about Shia threat and is not inclined towards peaceful resolution of the conflict. Why Saudi Arabia didn’t object when the US pitched Shias against Sunnis in Iraq? How is it so sure that Iran and not Israel will harm it?          

How does the US leadership lecture on human rights when it is the biggest violator of human rights? Blaming Syrian regime is like the pot calling the kettle black. While Syria has no record of using chemicals or other prohibited weapons, the US track record on this account is dismal. While there is little doubt that Sarin nerve gas was used at Ghouta, what is the proof that Syrian troops and not the rebels have used it? The US has no evidence to support its contention and is giving no importance to UN inspectors. There are strong suspicions that chemical weapons were provided to the rebels by their western backers in the wake of Syrian forces gaining an upper edge over the utterly demoralized rebels. Col Lawrence Wilkerson in his article appearing in Jerusalem Post suspects that Israel may be behind it.   

 
 

It is surprising that Assad is unacceptable to the US and a hotchpotch future government of rebels comprising local Sunni Syrians, al-Qaeda elements and Salafis will be acceptable. Military intervention against a sovereign state and that too without UNSC approval, whether limited in scale or full scale, is illegal and condemnable. Military action will further fuel civil war and there is likelihood that it may lead to wider conflagration with dangerous repercussions for the region which is already in a flux. Any glimmer of hope for ending the conflict peacefully will die down.

Libya stood alone to face the wrath of NATO, but Syria is not alone. Russia and Iran have high stakes in Syria and both have cautioned the US that they too have options to exercise. If Israel is important for USA, so is Syria for Russia since it is its oldest and sole reliable ally in Middle East. Apart from oil interest, Russia cannot afford to lose its strategically important deep-sea port facility in Tartars in Mediterranean Sea. Loss of Assad will be a strategic blow to Iran and will make it vulnerable. Hezbollah in Lebanon is a close ally of Syria and will not sit idle. Syrian conflict has sharpened Shia-Sunni divide, which by itself has serious ramifications for the Muslim world.

With such high stakes together with presence of so many aircraft carriers and warships of USA, Britain and Russia in Mediterranean Sea, the obtaining environment in the Middle East has made the overall situation perilous. In case of US intervention in Syria, the affected countries and their allies may wittingly or unwittingly get drawn into the Syrian inferno and may trigger a 3rd World War.

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, researcher and columnist and author of books. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

 

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Crush Your Citizens By Spying on Them

In some of Shakespeare’s plays there was ambivalence about spying on people, but in one instance there has been an obvious follow-on to modern times, when in Hamlet he has Polonius  demand of his servant Reynaldo that he should act as a spy and

Inquire me first what Danes are in Paris;

And how, and who, what means, and where they keep

What company, at what expense.

Which was a bit like the Brits’ comically amateur efforts at spying on foreign missions before and during the G20 International Summit in London in 2009, after which the intercept spooks boasted in a bizarre Power Point Presentation about

What are our Recent Successes?

Blackberry at G20

Delivered messages to analysts at the G20 in near real-time

Provided timely information to UK ministers

Enabled discovery of 20 new e-mail selectors

Gee Golly Gosh.  Oh what fun, you must have had, you pointy-headed tummy-rubbing finger-lickin’ techno-dweebs, listening to all the foreign delegates’ Blackberry transmissions, and, as your Power Point had it, “reading people’s email before/as they do.”   What were your orders?  No doubt something like

Inquire me first, what Foreigners are in London;

And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,

What company, at what expense.

The orders, barely believably, came from the British government, and it’s sad to realize that it ordered spying on its allies, because Turkey — a main target of British G20 spookery — is, after all, a longtime fellow member of Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  But that sort of association is meaningless when the Brits want, as the orders went :  “to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit” by spying on this faithful military partner which has a thousand troops in Afghanistan.

Britain, and all the other G20 members boast that their Group is “the premier forum for our international economic development that promotes open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” But how on earth can you have “open discussion” when you can’t trust the host country of the gathering?  How could you be “constructive” with Britain when you know its spooks are bugging your BlackBerry?  And what else are they finding out from your conversations that will be most useful to other spooks?

There is no loyalty and no allegiance among allies in the Brave New World of BlackBerry buggers. The old-fashioned ideas of having honorable union to join in defending freedom is ditched in the interests of knowing what an ally might think or plan — in order that these thoughts and plans can be destroyed by the friend who spies on an ally.

Britain and Turkey signed the Nato Treaty which says, with optimistic ingenuousness, that

The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations . . .
They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.

But the principles of democracy, rule of law, and all that sort of starry-eyed stuff are thrown out of the window when it’s considered necessary by the Brits to find out what is being done by Turkey.  And by who else, one wonders?  If you can spy on one Nato ally, you are probably spying on others.  Or all of them?

And you wonder about the people who do all this stuff.  What can they be like, deep down, these operatives who have cast aside all moral scruples?  What do they look like, these programmed robots who consider themselves above the laws of nations and immune to the ideals of humanity and decency?  Do they ever think, as Shakespeare had Polonius say to his son, that

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

And speaking of being false, it seems to have been forgotten that a British Cabinet Minister stated on February 26, 2004, that her country was spying on the UN Secretary General.  This barely believable admission of criminality was only a five-minute wonder, of course, but it’s no less serious for that.  The Minister, Clare Short, was being questioned by a BBC interviewer about the squalid deception leading up to the war on Iraq by America and Britain.  In the course of discussion she was asked if US and UK pressure was being brought to bear on nations and individuals to fall in with their war plans, and part of her reply was that  “The UK in this time was also getting spies on Kofi Annan’s office and getting reports from him about what was going on . . .  These things are done and in the case of Kofi’s office, it was being done for some time . . .  Well, I know — I’ve seen transcripts of Kofi Annan’s conversations.”

Then she was asked  “So in other words British spies — let’s be very clear about this in case I’m misunderstanding you — British spies have been instructed to carry out operations inside the United Nations on people like Kofi Annan?”  She answered  “Yes, absolutely.”

So Britain, which signed the United Nations Charter almost 70 years ago “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,” chose to show its concern for fundamental human rights by planting listening devices in the office of the UN Secretary General.   And Washington was in all this,  right up to its earphones.

The interview with Clare Short came after dismissal of a criminal charge against a British government employee who informed the public in 2003 that a US National Security Agency official had asked British Intelligence to tap the telephones of UN Security Council delegates during the lead-up to the war on Iraq.

The person whose conscience would not permit her to accept a national policy of criminality was Katherine Gun, and she was charged with disclosing information contrary to national security. To be sure, she wasn’t treated as brutally and despicably as the pitiable Bradley Manning, against whom the mighty United States has brought all its power to crush.  She wasn’t menaced by gigantic intimidating prison guards, or kept in solitary confinement, or subjected to a regime of endless menace that would have excited the admiration of any Nazi interrogator seeking to destroy the mind and body of a Jew or a Gypsy.  No :  she couldn’t be thrown in jail while awaiting trial, because Britain still has some citizens, thank God, who have a robust sense of decency and fair play — as well as a few most energetic newspapers. The slavering hyenas who rip at the body and mind of the vulnerable and wretched Manning wouldn’t get away with such persecution in Britain — not yet, anyway.

So after many months of waiting, Katherine Gun was brought to trial — and the case against her was dropped and she walked free.  The charges were not publicly heard, examined and judged upon, as they should be in a democracy.  Of course not — because that would have drawn the government and its pathetic little techno-dupes from the murky shadows into the light of truth and decency and open justice.   And the really funny thing — the only funny thing, in fact, about the whole farcical shambles — was the statement by the prosecution (in Britain called ‘The Crown’), about its reason for refusing to go any further.  The little puppet prosecutor told the judge that  “You will understand that consideration had been given to what is appropriate for the Crown to say. It is not appropriate to give further reasons. I am reluctant to go further than that unless the court requires I do.”  And the judge caved in.  The Regime of secrecy and deception had won yet again, and justice suffered another blow.

After Clare Short’s disclosure that Britain spies on the UN Secretary General the then prime minister of Britain, the devious liar Tony Blair,  pronounced that  “I really do regard what Clare Short has said this morning as totally irresponsible.”  And he justified his stance by declaring  “she must know, and I think everyone knows, you can’t have a situation where people start making allegations like this about our security services.”

His message was clear, and remains clear from the recent statements by James, the Happy Clapper, the director of US national intelligence who lied to the Senate about spying on American citizens and then told the world that he gave the “least untruthful” answer to Senate questions because, of course, the end justifies the means.  He knows that the intelligence industry will never be held accountable for breaking the law and spying on allies and fellow citizens — because the intelligence industry gets its orders from government.

As an anti-Obama placard had it in Berlin the other day :  “Democracy: Citizens watch government.  Tyranny: Government watches citizens.”   We now realize that tyranny is approaching, in Britain and America.  So be afraid; Be very afraid — because many of the people in power in our very own democracries intend that their fellow citizens should believe, in the words of Orwell, that  “War is Peace,  Freedom is Slavery,  Ignorance is Strength.”  And they’re getting there.

Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com

For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying

April 30, 2013

by: Morgan Marquis-Boire,  Bill Marczak, Claudio Guarnieri & John Scott-Railton

Citizen Lab is pleased to announce the release of “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying.”

Read the Report [PDF]

The report features new findings, as well as consolidating a year of our research on the commercial market for offensive computer network intrusion capabilities developed by Western companies.

Our new findings include:

  • We have identified FinFisher Command & Control servers in 11 new Countries. Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Panama, Lithuania, Macedonia, South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Austria.
  • Taken together with our previous research, we can now assert that FinFisher Command & Control servers are currently active, or have been present, in 36 countries.
Locations of FinFisher Command & Control Servers Found To Date:  Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.
  • We have also identified a FinSpy sample that appears to be specifically targeting Malay language speakers, masquerading as a document discussing Malaysia’s upcoming 2013 General Elections. Click here for a plain-language summary of our findings from Malaysia, as well as background on FinFisher.
  • We identify instances where FinSpy makes use of Mozilla’s Trademark and Code. The latest Malay-language sample masquerades as Mozilla Firefox in both file properties and in manifest. This behavior is similar to samples discussed in some of our previous reports, including a demo copy of the product, and samples targeting Bahraini activists.

Map showing installations of FinFisher worldwide

 

FinFisher’s Global Proliferation: Updated Map (Click to enlarge)

Our previous research uncovered evidence that FinFisher (commercial network intrusion malware) developed by UK-based company Gamma International was targeting activists in Bahrain. It analyzed mobile variants of the FinFisher suite.  It also exposed the use of commercial surveillance malware developed by Italy-based company Hacking Team to target a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.  Most recently, we documented the global proliferation of FinFisher command and control servers.

 

This research is one of the first extended projects to attempt to map out the operation and prevalence of commercial surveillance software.  Our work opens a window into this space, but it remains crucial that the nature and impact of the commercial surveillance market be better understood. Technical research in this field has only just begun, but it is already clear that the stakes are high. We hope this report will contribute to discussions on this issue in technical, civil society, and policy making communities.

This research represents the joint work of Morgan Marquis-Boire, Bill Marczak, Claudio Guarnieri, and John Scott-Railton.

Media Coverage

Media coverage of the “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying” report includes Associated PressThe Washington PostWiredSC MagazineCIOThreatPostRedditSlashdotTechdirtThe RegisterBoing BoingBBCIT World Canada and Ars Technica.

 

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