Monday, July 30, 2007

Turkey Backs Down From Invading Iraq To Deal With Kurdish Rebels

As Bush Co. Plans PKK Intervention To Keep Turkey Out Of Iraq

Up until only a few days ago, Turkey had a reported military force of more than 200,000 troops and dozens of tanks on its northern borders, ready to cross over into Kurdish territory in Iraq to deal with the some 4000 PKK rebels who they claim have been launching terror attacks inside Turkey's borders.

American lawmakers have been briefed in the past week by a key defense aid to President Bush on plans to use US special forces to "behead" the leadership of the PKK (Kurdish) rebels hiding out in the hills of Northern Iraq, in territory they believe will eventually become part of an independent Kurdish state.

This story from the extremely well-sourced American journalist Robert Novak can be viewed as either a major exclusive on the future of the Iraq War, and efforts to stop the disorder spreading into neighbouring states, like Turkey, or as a warning to the Kurds to take action now to reign in their rebels.

It is interesting to note that this story appears in US right-wing media only days after Turkey quietly announced that, following the elections which kept the Islamist-aligned government in control, it was not seeking to invade Northern Iraq to deal with what they call the "Kurdish terrorists".

Presumably, Turkey's military leaders were told of the US special forces plans, as you would expect them to be, or were told that a significant public relations exercise was being unrolled to try and scare the Kurds into staying out of Turkey, and pulling back on their terror attacks across the border :
The morass in Iraq and deepening difficulties in Afghanistan have not deterred the Bush administration from taking on a dangerous and questionable new secret operation. At a high level, U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas and capture their leaders. Through covert activity, their goal is to forestall Turkey from invading Iraq.

While detailed operational plans are necessarily concealed, the broad outlines have been presented to selected members of Congress as required by law. U.S. Special Forces are to work with the Turkish Army to suppress the Kurds' guerrilla campaign. The Bush administration is trying to prevent opening another war front in Iraq that would have disastrous consequences. But this gamble risks major exposure and failure.

The development of an autonomous Kurdish entity inside Iraq, resulting from the decline and fall of Saddam Hussein, has alarmed the Turkish government. That led to Ankara's refusal to permit entry of U.S. combat troops through Turkey into Iraq, an eleventh hour complication for the 2003 invasion. As political power grew for the Kurds inside Iraq, the Turkish government became steadily more uneasy about the centuries-old project of a Kurdistan spreading across international boundaries -- and chewing up big pieces of Turkey.

The dormant PKK {Kurdistan Workers Party) Turkish Kurd guerrilla fighters came to life. By June, the Turkish government was demonstrating its concern by lobbing artillery shells across the border. Ankara began protesting, to both Washington and Baghdad, that PKK was using northern Iraq as a base for guerrilla operations. On July 11 in Washington, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy became the first Turkish official to claim publicly that the Iraqi Kurds have claims on Turkish territory. On July 20 (two days before his successful re-election), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a trans-border military incursion into Iraq against the Kurds.

On July 25, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK Political Council, predicted "the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan." Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq.

What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq? The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and now under secretary of defense for policy. A Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, he revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces helping the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.

Turkey couldn't have been more pronounced in its warnings to the United States over the past six months that if they didn't deal with the PKK, and turn down the heat for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, then Turkey would invade and smash the Kurdish rebels themselves.

The United States clearly got the message, and believed Turkey was sincere in its military plans.

Muslim Allies Of United States Dwindle As Turkey Rocked By The War Across The Border

The Evolution Of Turkey's Amiable Islamists

Europeans Won't Let Turkey Into EU With An Islamist Government In Power

West Could Lose Turkey If They Don't Work Out How To Deal With A Liberal-Leaning Islamist Government And Middle Class

Moderate Turkey Alienated By Iraq War - Only 9% Of Turkish People View US Favourably

Turkey Steps Back From Iraq Invasion After Poll

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Japan Re-Arms, Prepares For Future Wars

Pacifist Constitution Likely To Be Rewritten As Japan Spends Billions On American Weapons

Japan is rearming on a scale not seen since the late 1930s. At the same time, Japan is expected to soon change its Constitution, one that renounces war and only allows for troops to be used in defence of Japanese sovereignty, after deploying non-combat forces into Iraq. Rumours are beginning to sound in diplomatic circles that Japan may soon begin a propaganda campaign on its people to attempt to chase away the widespread abhorrence generations of Japanese still hold towards nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Japan is rapidly rewriting its list of what it can do, and what it cant do, as far as its military forces go. Its Defence Agency has been quietly transformed into a full ministry. Its defence budget now tops $40 billion a year, making it one of the top buyers of international arms and weapons systems.

This famously pacifist nation is becoming something else entirely.

Japan is now a key ally of the United States, and is receiving billions in declared, and undeclared, military funding. Japan plays a key role, along with Australia, in the American encirclement of China, and has all but declared it will eventually host American missiles, radar stations and more US bases as part of the Missile Defence Shield project that has seen Russia verbally threaten European states.

In June, Japan joined the United States Air Force for war games in the western Pacific. Japanese pilots dropped 500 pound live bombs on a tiny island, a first for its current generation of pilots. It's hard for Westerners to imagine how dramatic so simple a military rehearsal as this is for the Japanese.

From the International Herald Tribune :

Flying directly from Japan and practicing live-bombing runs on distant foreign targets would have been regarded as unacceptably provocative because the implicit message was clear: These fighter jets could perhaps fly to North Korea and take out some targets before returning home safely.

The incremental changes - especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States - amount to the most significant transformation in the Japanese military since World War II, one that has brought it ever closer operationally to America's military while rattling nerves throughout northeast Asia.

In a little over half a decade, the Japanese military has carried out changes considered unthinkable a few years back. In the Indian Ocean, Japanese destroyers and refueling ships are helping the U.S. military fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Japanese planes are transporting cargo and U.S. soldiers to Baghdad from Kuwait.

Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the line between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Tokyo deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States.

Unlike its older jets, the F-2s were able to fly the 2,700 kilometers, or 1,700 miles, from northern Japan to Guam without refueling - a "straight shot," as the Japanese military said with pride.

Now Japan is indicating that it is intensely interested in buying the F-22 Raptor, a U.S. stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive capabilities, like penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets, and whose export is prohibited by U.S. law.

Critics at home say the military changes under way, details of which the government has tried to hide from public view, especially for missions in Iraq, have already violated the (pacifist) Constitution and other restrictions.

"The reality has already moved ahead, so they will now talk about the need to catch up and revise the Constitution," said Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Richard Samuels, a Japan expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that revisionist politicians like Abe and Koizumi, once on the fringes of Japan's political world, have succeeded in grabbing the mainstream in a time of uncertainty. They shared the view, Samuels said, "that the statute of limitations on Japan's misbehavior during the Pacific War had expired" and that Japan should have a military like any normal country.

Their predecessors feared getting entangled in a U.S.-led war. But the new leaders feared that Japan would be abandoned by the United States unless it contributed to its wars, Samuels said.

Japan's military has become less shy in projecting its power away from home. Japan lacks the nuclear submarines, long-range missiles or large aircraft carriers that amount to real power projection.

But it is acquiring four Boeing 767 air tankers that will allow its planes to refuel in midair, as well as two aircraft carriers that will transport helicopters and, with some adjustments, planes capable of taking off vertically.

The United States has welcomed the changes while pressing for more.

"The restrictions that Japan has lived under, which I would say Japan has maintained on its own or imposed on itself, are quite unique," said a Pentagon official who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly.

"The changes that you're seeing in Japan are very unique changes in the context of those restrictions. In the context of everything else that is going on around the world, or in the context of Japan's potential to contribute to the region and the world in security areas, the changes are fairly small."

They may be small, but the money being spent is enormous. In amongst the back-and-forths on whether or not Japan should be getting involved in foreign wars and allying so closely with the United States, the simple fact is that Japan is a rich nation, and the United States is a leading manufacturer of the weapons of war.

Behind all the heartache over changing Japan's pacifist Constitution, and debates about its involvement in the US Missile Shield, there are multi-billion dollar deals being cut in the boardrooms between the Japanese government and the US military industrial complex, which remains one of the biggest employers and money-generating industries in the United States.

Right now, Japan is buying up its products to the tune of billions of dollars, generating wealth, jobs and taxes for the US government. Naturally, this makes the Bush administration, and the military industry elite of America very, very happy indeed.

Japan Now Plans To Build Its Own Stealth Fighter

Monday, July 23, 2007

China's 'War On Terror' Used As Cover For Brutal Crackdown On Uighur Muslims

The key leaders of the Western alliance of the 'War on Terror', US President Bush, Australia's Prime Minister Howard, and former British PM Blair, consistently denied the 'WoT' was actually a war on Muslims, despite the vast majority of the more than 500,000 civilian deaths in the war being primarily followers of Islam.

In China's 'War on Terror', there are no such denials. In fact, China is using the Western media brand of 'WoT' to flog the hell out of Muslim seperatists in East Turkenstan, in China's far west. Those of the 9 million Uighur Muslims who want to break their homeland away from China, or least publicly declare independence, are 'terrorists'.

The West has been uniformly silent on the crushing of dissent and the long string of executions and police actions undertaken by the Chinese authorities on Uighur Muslims. How can they object? The wide-open doctrine of the 'War on Terror' all but says a country can declare any group or people to be 'terrorists', and then deal with them as the United States deals with the 'terrorists' in Iraq and Afghanistan - executions, torture, massacres, indiscriminate and lengthy detentions without charge.

A solid report from the London Times lays out the details of China's war against the Uighur Muslims, describing the Uighur's fight for a homeland as one of history's great lost causes (excerpts) :
The dying embers of (the Uighurs) struggle flamed into protests, shootings and bombings in the 1990s, all concealed from the world until September 11, 2001, when China discovered the usefulness of the “war on terror”.

Today China is waging a propaganda and security battle to guarantee its control over Xinjiang, its name for the vast province rich in minerals and strategic supplies of oil and gas which are vital to the expanding Chinese economy.

China claims that Al-Qaeda has trained more than 1,000 members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, classified as a terrorist group by America and the United Nations.

The group took its name from the short-lived Republic of East Turkestan that was declared in Xinjiang after the second world war, then crushed by the communist revolution of 1949.

China has persuaded Pakistan and Kazakhstan to hand over captured militants for interrogation, secret trials and execution, a policy that may have fuelled the fundamentalist rage now gripping Pakistan.

Next month 1,600 Chinese troops will join exercises with Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics to cooperate against Islamic extremists.

Chinese security services have also created a pervasive apparatus of informers and deployed new units of black-clad antiterrorist police to patrol around mosques and markets in the cities of Xinjiang.

Two western intelligence officers said the Chinese consistently exaggerated Uighur terrorist links with Al-Qaeda to exploit any opportunity to strike at their home-grown opponents. Chinese information was unreliable and no western intelligence service had handed back Muslim citizens to China, they said.

One of the officers said the real concern was that Chinese repression was creating recruits for terrorism.

In recent weeks has come proof that 58 years of Chinese military occupation have crushed significant opposition but failed to win loyalty. Officials have confiscated the passports of thousands of Muslims in a crackdown to break the growing influence of militant Islam.

Police ordered the Muslims to hand in their passports and told them that the documents would be returned only for travel approved by the authorities.

The aim is to stop Chinese Muslims slipping away to join militants in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

...the clash of civilisations resounds loudest in Kashgar, 2,400 miles west of Beijing, a crossroads of religions, commerce and culture. In January, only 48 miles to the southwest, “antiterrorist” units raided a training camp in the mountains where the old Silk Road winds into Pakistan, and killed 18 men with the loss of one policeman.

The clash was hailed by the state media, which called it a blow to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. But Chinese residents said the operation was bungled, allowing militants to escape.

In 1949 the Uighurs were 90% of the population of Xinjiang. Today they account for less than half.

In Urumqi, the industrialised capital city of Xinjiang, there was evidence that repression had united Uighurs with rival Muslim sects. A red banner hung from the eaves of a 100-year-old mosque, whose lines recalled a classical Chinese temple and whose congregation were members of the Hui, a Muslim minority from central China. “All pilgrimages to Mecca must be organised by the National Islamic Organisation under the law,” it read.

All over Xinjiang, China can point to growing prosperity, cleaner water, new schools, paved roads, modern hospitals, efficient airports, cybercom-merce and huge energy plants.

The price, say Uighurs, is the slow extinction of their identity. Their children take compulsory Chinese lessons. Teaching in Uighur is banned at the main university. Their fabled literature, poetry and music are fading under the assault of karaoke culture. Their history is rewritten.

Hu Jintao Gets Official Invite To Visit Israel

China Condemns Terror Attack On Convoy Of Chinese Workers In Pakistan

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Iran & Syria Form Strategic Military Alliance

Israel Prepares For War, Demands Increase For Strikes On Iran

The leaders of Iran, Syria, Palestine and Hezbollah met in Damascus in the past few days, and firmed up new military and strategic alliances, as Israel prepares for war, and calls rise amongst NeoCons in Washington for strikes on Iran's nuclear energy facilities :
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad traveled to Damascus on Thursday along with a high-ranking political and economic delegation at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

During his visit, he met with the Syrian president, Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, and Palestinian leaders based in Syria. Iran and Syria also issued a joint communiqué reaffirming their strategic alliance.

The negotiations between the Iranian and Syrian delegations started on Thursday afternoon, presided over by Ahmadinejad and Assad.

“Iran and Syria were, are, and shall be brothers and allies,” the Iranian president said.

“Iran-Syria ties are deep, enduring, and expanding,” he added.

Time is on the side of regional countries and against their enemies, Ahmadinejad said, adding, “Today resistance is continuing with wisdom and coordination, and I feel sure that God is with regional countries and their enemies will have no choice but to recognize the rights of regional nations.”

Iran and Syria also issued a joint communiqué calling for regional unity.

In the communiqué, the two sides called on all Palestinian groups to resolve their disputes through dialogue and to maintain national unity. The two countries also expressed their support for Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland and to establish an independent Palestinian state with Beit-ul-Moqaddas as its capital.

Both states expressed their support for the Iraqi government and its efforts to maintain the country’s national unity, integrity, and independence, and for the endeavors to facilitate the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

Israel Envoy To US : Free World Is Under Attack From Iran

US Senate Vots 97-0 In Favour Of Moving Towards War On Iran

British Foreign Minister : No Evidence Of Iran Role In Iraq Violence, Attacks

Israel Stands Ready To Invade Gaza Strip

Israel Slams Iran-Syria Alliance

Iran-Syria Military Alliance Sparks Calls For Israeli National Emergency Government - "Axis Of Evil Increasing"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The World News In Brief

Turkey : The impending conflict between Turkish military and PKK (Kurdish) militants in Northern Iraq has been boiling away for months. News report today state that Turkey has begun bombarding Northern Iraq, launching attacks with warplanes on PKK held positions in the mountains of Northern Iraq, and blasting more than 250 shells into the region. A new front in Iraq War, this time pitting 'terrorists' against the military of Turkey, appears ready to break open. The Iraqi government, and the United States, would be expected to force Turkish forces back over the border if they tried to root out the PKK militants they believe are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey. The United States has been forced to repeatedly deny that it is funding and arming Kurdish militants in the north, who dream of a breakaway nation, taking in chunks of Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Another report claims the Kurdish militant leader wants more power in political circles, rather than greater independence.

Mexico :
So who is claiming responsibility for the bomb attacks that have crippled key gas pipeline in Central Mexico? No group most people have heard of. The attacks are being written off as a bit of a mystery. But energy industry experts are warning that American and Mexican officials should take the threat posed by one revolutionary group in particular very seriously. Mexico exports more than 1.4 million barrels of oil across the border into the United States every day, making its America's second largest oil supplier. Mexico has been described as "a dangerously soft target since it has more than 17,000 miles of oil pipelines and 8,235 miles of natural gas pipelines to protect."

Pakistan :
As chaos reigns across Pakistan's north west border regions, with anti-Musharraf militants launching new attacks and ambushes on soldiers, the most recent killing more than 16 troops, the United States has threatened to intervene militarily. It's just an unofficial threat at this stage. A rally supporting an opposition alternative leader to Musharraf has been hit by bombings, killing at least twelve people. Another report says the attack on Pakistani soldiers happened in Northern Waziristan, close to the border with Afghanistan, and the ambush involved bombings and militants raking the military vehicles with gunfire, leaving 17 soldiers dead.

The Philippines
: Trouble brewing. The Philippines is said to moving closer and closer to all out war between Islamist forces, Abu Sayyaf, and the government marines, dozens of whom have been killed in recent weeks in a series of spectacular, and shocking, attacks. 10 Filipino marines were beheaded by Islamists during an ambush last week in the south of the country. The Philippines government is believed to be preparing to launch an all-out military offensive against Aby Sayyaf and its supporters. More than 100,000 people have been killed during years of clashes between Muslims and Christians, with tit-for-tat revenge and retribution killings continuing a cycle of violence that rarely hits the headlines, or is mentioned by the coalition of the willing leaders when they discuss the 'War on Terror'.

Sri Lanka : Battles continue to rage between government forces and Tamil Tigers in the country's north. Government forces are trying to take back more guerrilla-controlled territory, forcing separatist Tamils into more isolated and less resourced country. Four government special forces soldiers were killed in the most recent fighting, along with one Tamil Tiger guerrilla. The most recent clashes assassinations of government officials in the north east.
The Tamils recently lost key territory in the east and have vowed to take it back from government forces. Government forces regard the seizure of previously Tamil-held territory as a great victory, worth celebrating. But the threats of Tamils to take revenge on the army and return to guerrilla warfare in the east has caused great concern in the capital Colombo, as people believe it will see a return of the car bombs and suicide attacks that made the Tamil Tigers infamous as more prolific suicide bombers than even Al Qaeda, or elements of the Iraqi resistance. More than 5000 people have been killed in the past 19 months of fighting in the north and east.

Russia :
The UK Independent has a good story on The Plot To Kill Boris Berezovsky. Russia has now booted out four British diplomats in retaliation over the UK's expelling of four Russian diplomats from London in response to Russia's refusal to cooperate in the British investigation into the murder of a former KGB, and possible double, agent by radioactive poisoning. In other news, Russia has rejected the final version of the Kosovo resolution. The resolution now faces a veto. Russia doesn't want Kosovo to be independent, and become a bastion of Islamic extremism. So does the UK and the US want that reality?

We'll have a round-up of recent Iraq-related news in the coming days.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Iran Is Still A Target Of Bush Co.

Claim : Cheney Pushing For Strikes Before 2009

Iran Follows World Trend And Tells Japan To Dump US Dollar For Oil Import Payments

The stories, and rumours, that the senior ranks of the White House are split over whether or not to go to war on Iran, to stop it developing nuclear weapons, have circulated for at least two years.

The usual scenario goes that President Bush, along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her team, oppose any moves to attack nuclear facilities in Iran, with Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defence Secretary Donald Rusmfeld, and their various teams of spin doctors and allies in the American and Israeli media, firmly for such attacks, even if Iran isn't actually building nuclear weapons.

A succession of Israeli government senior ministers, and American NeoCon agents-of-influence, are agitating for military action on Iran, claiming "time is running out."

The Cheney-Israel scenario always went that Iran's nuclear facilities would be attacked before President Bush leaves the White House in January, 2009, if they get their way.

Rumsfeld is no longer the Defence Secretary, but he is rumoured to still be working inside the Pentagon, on plans for 'pre-emptive' strikes on Iran.

The new Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, goes the tale, was bundled into the Pentagon by the allies of former president, George HW Bush, primarily to help stop the Cheney plan from reaching fruition, and to keep the War On Iraq from expanding into neighbouring states.

A widely reported story from the UK Guardian now claims that President Bush is on side with the Cheney faction to take out Iran's nuclear facilities, against the advice of Rice, and Gates, and everybody else who doesn't want a total fourth world war breaking out, knowing full well that both China and Russia have made it abundantly clear they will not tolerate any such attacks by the US, or Israel, on Iran :
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo." a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him.

"The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

Almost half of the US's 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time.

The US, France and Britain, are pushing hard in the UN for greater sanctions against Iran, supposedly to cut off its access to military equipment and nuclear-weapons friendly imports. Two Iranian institutions said to be included as targets for the new sanctions are a major bank and a "mega-engineering firm".

Russia and China don't want new sanctions, and have stated that they don't view Iran, or its nuclear energy program, as a threat to international peace, or world order.

While the US, and Israel, and allies like Australia, have legitimate concerns about Iran becoming a nuclear-armed nation, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the fact that the ramping up of anti-Iran rhetoric from US propaganda arms, primarily via think tanks and media, tends to come on the strongest every time announcements are made in the financial press about Iran's expanding gas and oil deals with countries like Turkey, Russia and China, and its efforts to help shift the global oil trade away from being pegged to the US dollar.

The latest such news, only a few days ago, was that Iran has asked Japan to pay for its oil imports in Yen, and not the US dollar. While such moves are portrayed in the media as being Iran agitating against Bush Co. and trying to stir up trouble, financial commentators often note that Iran is probably making a smart move by getting out of the US dollar-pegged oil business. :

Iran wants yen-based transactions ``for any/all of your forthcoming Iranian crude oil liftings,'' according to a letter sent to Japanese refiners that was signed by Ali A. Arshi, general manager of crude oil marketing and exports in Tehran at the National Iranian Oil Co. The request is for all shipments ``effective immediately,'' according to the letter, dated July 10 and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The yen rose on speculation for an increase in demand for the currency, the result of Japan's annual 1.24 trillion yen ($10.1 billion) of oil imports from Iran.

Central bankers in Venezuela, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates have said they will invest less of their reserves in dollar assets because of the weakening currency.

Most major economists see the US dollar hitting the ground hard in the next six to twelve months, and Iran is certainly not alone amongst the oil-exporting nations, many of whom are now planning, or actively embracing, the idea of oil trading with the Euro, or Yen, or Ruble, instead of the US dollar.

As Saddam Hussein learned, breaking away from the US Dollar when it comes to the pricing your oil exports can be extremely dangerous. The US began agitating for War On Iraq less than a year after Hussein began pricing Iraqi oil in Euros instead of US Dollars in late 2000.

By the end of June, 2003, less than three months after Hussein was deposed, the US announced on behalf of Iraq that all Iraqi oil would go back to being priced in US Dollars.

April 2006 : Seymour Hersh On 'The Iran Plans' - Bush Co.'s Vow To Keep Iran Free Of Nuclear Weapons, Through War

Oil Producing Countries Have Amassed $US500 Billion In Current Account Surpluses Since US Announced War On Iraq In Mid-2002 - Amount Equal To 2.5 Times China's Total CAS

Iran Tells Japan To Pay For $US10 Billion Per Year Oil Imports In Yen, Not US Dollar

US Goes After China For Allegedly Shipping Weapons To Iran

UN Announces Iran Will Relax Stance Against Nuclear Inspections

Claim : Iran Has Enough Missiles To Hit 600 Targets Inside Israel, If Israel-US Attacks Iran

Europe "Considers" New Sanctions Against Iran, As Iran And Turkey Finalise Plans To Pipe Natural Gas To Europe

OPEC Cuts US Dollar Holdings - Oil Producers Continue To Shun US Dollar

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pakistan : More Than 70 Police, Soldiers Killed In Revenge Attacks For Red Mosque Massacre

Peace Deal Between Tribal Pro-Taliban Leaders And Musharraf Torn Up

New Holy War Looms

The revenge attacks from Islamists in remote tribal Pakistan against the Musharraf military dictatorship were expected to be fierce, and they were.

More than 70 people, mostly Musharraf soldiers and police, were blown to pieces over the weekend, in a string of attacks and suicide bombings.

Islamists have called for a holy war against the Musharraf regime, and few serious commentators doubt that it won't become a reality. The peace agreement reached between Musharraf and pro-Taliban tribal leaders in the north west of Pakistan's remote territories has been torn up. Local leaders have now vowed to go to war on the Pakistan military.

Perversely, having a holy war declared against himself, and having suicide attacks and Islamist terrorism explode across the country, will actually work in President Musharraf's favour, at least on one key issue : he will realistically be able to delay the coming elections, as he will be able to declare his country is in a state of national emergency.

From AFP :

At least 14 people were killed Sunday in a blast at a police recruitment centre in North West Frontier Province, hours after two explosives-packed cars plowed into an army convoy in the province's Swat Valley, claiming 17 lives.

The previous day, a suicide car bomber killed 24 people in a similar attack on a paramilitary convoy in North Waziristan tribal region, launching the string of attacks that has also left scores of troops and civilians wounded.

The bloodshed came amid outrage across the mainly Muslim nation over the army's raid last week on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which has saddled President Pervez Musharraf with the worst crisis since he took power in 1999.

The army attack that killed 86, mostly militants, led Al-Qaeda's number two to call for jihad against the Pakistan government, which has sent thousands of troops into remote tribal areas to try to keep a lid on bubbling popular anger.

Pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan scrapped a controversial peace accord reached with the government last year, in which the tribal groups had promised to hunt down foreign fighters in return for security assurances.

The Taliban Shura (Taliban Council) said in pamphlets that it would refuse all dialogue and cooperation with authorities after the government had failed to meet a Sunday deadline to abandon 25 new military checkpoints.

"We had signed the agreement for the safety and protection of the lives and property of our people," the statement said. "But the government forces continued to launch attacks on the Taliban and have killed a number of people."

Militants last week had attacked police and security posts in the Swat Valley after local pro-Taliban cleric Maulvi Fazlullah in radio broadcasts urged followers to wage jihad over the mosque attack.

President Musharraf has vowed to crush all "extremists" and promised to "root them out from every corner of the country."

Exactly the kind of talk Bush Co. likes to hear, but an incredibly hard reality to bring to life. Musharraf has neither the military or police resources to "root them out" from every remote territory, mountain pass, isolated valley or city back alley in the country. Most Pakistanis support Musharraf in fighting Islamic extremists, but the pro-Taliban tribes hare believed to have deep and loyal ties to valuable and important members of the military infrastructure.

This report claims that Al Qaeda was behind the Red Mosque uprising, based on "secret Pakistani government documents" :

...leaked reports from the Government claiming that documents recovered from the mosque and the neighbouring madrassas prove conclusively that al-Qa'ida - and specifically Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri - directed the uprising, maintaining close contact with Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who died in the battle.

Intelligence officials also claimed al-Qa'ida had sent foreign fighters to assist in the rebellion, with Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Cheema saying yesterday the bodies of at least 10 such Chechens and Arabs had been recovered. But as the Government counted the cost of the suicide attacks and anti-government protests swept several cities over the storming of the mosque, it was the controversy over the real death toll that spelled trouble ahead for President Pervez Musharraf.

General Hamid Gul, a powerful former head of the ISI spying agency who is now one of the President's most trenchant critics, said yesterday the emerging accounts of women and children who were killed could lead to the military ruler's downfall. "The Government is trying to hide the number of young girls killed," he said. "As the truth comes out that young girls were gassed and burnt, riddled with bullets and killed, it'll be bad for Musharraf."

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Brigadier Cheema maintained that claims about the death toll and the killing of women and children were being "exaggerated". He said a total of 103 people had been killed.

He conceded, however, that after the operation ended, "22 charred bodies", including those of seven children, were found in the courtyard of the mosque, and that the bodies of nine females were recovered from a room of the Jamia Hafsa girls' madrassa.

Adding to General Musharraf's difficulties, tribal militants in the province linked to the Taliban and al-Qa'ida said they had given him a four-day deadline to remove Pakistani army checkpoints from the province or they would tear up the so-called "peace accord" they signed with him last year.

For all the horrors of Iraq, and the civil war and its associated terrorism and street fighting, the real 'War On Terror', as defined as being a war against Islamic extremism, is likely to consume Pakistan and Afghanistan, and all the tribal lands in between in the coming months.

US Special Forces will have to get involved, if they aren't already. Pakistan, of course, is a nation armed with nuclear weapons.

And the US government, the US military itself, along with the shared/combined intelligence resources of countries like the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China and Australia, would never let Islamic extremists get within a thousand metres of any known nuclear weapon in the world, if they can actually stop such activity, and you'd presume this would be the top priority for all the major players in the 'War on Terror'.

The risk for all nations, obviously, would simply be far too high to allow the risk to even come close to reality.

The United States is constructing a controversial new military base at the Ghakhi Pass, on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border :
Militants believe this is in preparation for an operation inside Pakistan to clamp down on them as well as to renew the hunt for bin Laden and his associates. As a result, the militants have attacked the new base in an attempt to delay its construction.

"This is a matter of life and death for the mujahideen. We will shed our blood, but we will never let this base be completed..."

A remarkable admission from a US official comes via The Times Of India. The US government is paying the Musharraf regime more than $100 million a month for 80,000 Pakistani soldiers and police to man the border with the Afghanistan, primarily to keep pro-Taliban tribal militias and fighters from entering the Afghanistan war :
The money is meant to be "reimbursements" to Pakistan "for stationing troops and moving them around, and gasoline, and bullets, and training and other costs that they incur as part of the war on terror," US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, told a Congressional panel.

"That's a lot of money," Boucher admitted before the panel about what amounts to a $ 1.2 billion per year reimbursement. "I don't know if it comes to the whole amount of their expenses, but we support their expenses, yes."
The US government is estimated to have spent more than $10 billion is such funding to the Musharraf regime in the past five years of the 'War on Terror.'

The obvious question is how much corruption is involved with such huge amounts of money for equipment, gear, weapons and "expenses". The obvious answer is plenty. And no doubt there is a vast blackmarket trade in smuggling weaponry and ammunition into Afghanistan across remote and unsecured border regions.

Bush Knows Bin Laden Is Hiding In Pakistan But Wont Send Special Forces In To Get Him

Pakistan Militants Scrap Cease Fire Deal - Al Qaeda Gives The Nod

Pakistan Now Beats Israel And Egypt As Biggest Collector Of US (Military) Aid

US Allowed To Pursue Militants Across Pakistan

Trouble Brews In The Swat Valley - A New Front Opens In Pakistan

Mujahadeen Vow To Stop Construction Of New US Military Base On Border Of Afghanistan & Pakistan

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Iraqi PM Says Americans Can Leave, Iraq Will Survive

TE Lawrence On 'Iraq' Insurgency 78 Years Ago - Not Much Has Changed

Iraq's prime minister Maliki has announced that American forces can leave his war-ravaged country any time they want, though he would prefer that they stay and keep training Iraqi police and military :
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country...

The embattled prime minister sought to show confidence at a time when congressional pressure is growing for a withdrawal and the Bush administration reported little progress had been made on the most vital of a series of political benchmarks it wants al-Maliki to carry out.

Al-Maliki said difficulty in enacting the measures was "natural" given Iraq's turmoil.

Top aides to Maliki, and numerous members of the government are furious at the latest US assessment of progress in Iraq's government, widely given a failing grade by the CIA, the majority of the US Congress, and virtually every major news organisation.

Iraqis believe the US is treating their nation like "an experiment in an American laboratory."

One aide, Hassam al-Suneid, launched a savage critique of the US military, claiming :

it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with "gangs of killers" in its campaign against al-Qaida in Iraq.

Al-Suneid's comments were a rare show of frustration toward the Americans from within al-Maliki's inner circle as the prime minister struggles to overcome deep divisions between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members of his coalition and enact the American-drawn list of benchmarks. told reporters Saturday, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want."

But he added that Iraqi forces are "still in need of more weapons and rehabilitation" to be ready in the case of a withdrawal.

On Friday, the Pentagon conceded that the Iraqi army has become more reliant on the U.S. military. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said the number of Iraqi batallions able to operate on their own without U.S. support has dropped in recent months from 10 to six, though he said the fall was in part due to attrition from stepped-up offensives.

Al-Maliki told a Baghdad press conference that his government needs "time and effort" to enact the political reforms that Washington seeks - "particularly since the political process is facing security, economic and services pressures, as well as regional and international interference."

Al-Suneid, a Shiite lawmaker close to al-Maliki, bristled at the pressure.

He criticized U.S. overtures to Sunni groups in Anbar and Diyala, encouraging former insurgents to join the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. "These are gangs of killers," he said.

"There are disagreements that the strategy that Petraeus is following might succeed in confronting al-Qaida in the early period but it will leave Iraq an armed nation, an armed society and militias," said al-Suneid.

Journalist Robert Fisk wrote in the UK Independent quotes extensively from a 1929 entry on "Guerilla" for the Encyclopedia Britannica written by TE Lawrence. He said "it contains (a) ghastly message to the American armies in Iraq" :

Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."

To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available."

Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available.

More from Lawrence on Arab/Muslim insurgencies in the land that would become Iraq :

"The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern (guerrilla) commander..."

Exchange 'printing press' for video and the internet and it's a close match to today.

"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ...In the minds of men converted to its creed. It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.

"It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic ... Granted mobility, security ... time, and doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain."

Has President Bush read this definition of an Arab/Muslim insurgency by TE Lawrence, wonders Fisk. Did Rumsfeld? What about General Petraus?

The likely answer is no, no and maybe. And even if they did it, they have already shown, numerous times, that they've learned little from history, from all the wars in the Middle East that have swallowed up generations from the West.

Pentagon Kills Off Rumsfeld's Fake-Story Generating, News Controlling Iraq War Propaganda Unit - Or So They Say

The Iraqi Parliament And US Congress Are Both On Holidays Through August - But Iraqis And Americans Will Go On Dying

Pro-Bush, Pro-Iraq War Newspaper Now Joins Call For Troop Withdrawal

US Helicopter Opens Fire During Fighting With Shiite Militias - Witnesses Say Americans Killed Two Reuters Journalists

Thursday : 97 Iraqis Killed, More Than 90 Wounded

Friday : 100 Iraqis Killed, More Than 50 Wounded

US Report Paints Bleak Picture Of Political, Social Progress By Maliki Government

Will Desperate Republicans Force Cheney, Then Bush To Resign Over Iraq War Failure? Before 2008 Elections?

18 Month Old Baghdad Baby Warns Mother About Sniper Fire - Baghdad Babies Learn To Duck Early

Roadside Bombs Built To Look Like Street Curbing Bush Says Iraq War Affecting The "Psychology Of Americans", But Refuses To Withdraw Troops

Former CIA Terror Expert Says Bush Claim That Iraqi Insurgents Will Attack Americans In The Homeland Is "Insane"

Bush Lies, Distorts Al Qaeda Strength, Links In Iraq

Friday, July 13, 2007

United States Rejects Russia's Offer To Join European 'Integrated Missile Shield'

Russia has offered to build a "global integrated missile shield" that would cover all of Europe.

This is Russia's alternative to the US National Missile Defence 'shield' that will see the US deploying missiles close to Russia's borders, in Eastern Europe, primarily the Czech Republic and Poland. Russia sees the US plans for an Eastern European-based missile shield as a threat.
During talks between presidents Bush and Putin in the US two weeks ago, Russia offered to bring the United States in on the development of the integrated European shield, and to share key technologies.

However, the United States quickly rejected Russia's offer and is pushing ahead with its original plans.

Naturally, this decision has not gone over well in Russia, or China, or Iran, or in some nations of the European Union. Refusing to even enter into a period of talks with Russia over a jointly-run and controlled global missile shield sees the United States as being unreasonable, and betrays its true intentions for its own missile shield.

Russia is expected to soon announce its own plans for a global missile shield, in conjunction with Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation (SCO) nations, including China, Iran and Pakistan. The US missile shield plan will see its missile pointed squarely at Russia, though Bush Co. continues to maintain such missile deployments should not be seen by Russia as a threat. Of course not.

Putin Set To Sign Anti-Extremism Legislation

Russia Declares Its Independence In Space

Putin : Britain Is "A Haven For Terrorists And Criminals"

Russia Proposes Its Own Global Missile Shield For Asia By 2020 : Likely To Include China, Iran, Pakistan, Other SCO Countries

Russia's Claim On Arctic Oil-Rich Region Set To Challenge The Balance Of World Power

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pakistan In Shock As Red Mosque Siege Ends With 100 Dead, Cleric Leader Killed

President Musharraf's military forces stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad at 4am, clearing the ground floor rooms, and engaging students, clerics and supporters in raging gunfire.

Some 88 hardline students, clerics and supporters of radical cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, are believed to have been killed, along with twelve commanders of Musharraf's military, according to news service PTI.

43 year old Ghazi was the younger brother of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the former head of the mosque, who was captured last week trying to escape the mosque dressed as a woman.

The standoff began last Tuesday, when more than 1800 refused to leave the mosque, after a number of students were arrested for attacking prostitutes and destroying music stories. The hardliners of the mosque were trying to establish a Taliban-like control over the local community, most of whom resisted.

Ghazi, who led the stand-off over the weekend and demanded he and his followers be allowed to walk out of the mosque and return their homes unmolested, was reportedly cornered in the basement of the complex. Surrounded by supporters, Ghazi refused to surrender, declared he wanted to die a martyr and Musharraf's military obliged.

While the radical clerics of the Red Mosque, and their followers, who wanted to live under Sharia law, did not have majority support amongst Pakistan's population, there was a popular view that the way President Musharraf would choose to end the stand off would act as a warning to all who decided to oppose, or defy, his military dictatorship.

Most Pakistanis, according to locally published polling late last week, wanted the siege to end with negotiations, or a voluntary surrender. Few wanted to have the news of a mass slaughter at a mosque, full of clerics, teachers and students, some as young as 14 years old, broadcast to the world.

From Forbes :
Pakistani troops were flushing out holdouts entrenched inside a women's religious school, taking control of the sprawling Red Mosque room by room in fighting that left about 50 militants and eight soldiers dead, the army said. State-run television said Pakistani troops had killed the head of the besieged mosque.

Commandos stormed the sprawling mosque compound before dawn. Twelve hours later, the army said the complex was 80 percent cleared of militants but it was still trying to root out well-armed defenders the government accuses of holding a number of hostages. A local relief agency said the army asked for 400 white funeral shrouds.

The extremists had been using the mosque as a base to send out radicalized students to enforce their version of Islamic morality, including abducting alleged prostitutes and trying to "re-educate" them at the mosque.

Khalid Pervez, the city's top administrator, said as many as 50 women were the first to be freed by the militants and had emerged from the complex following the escape of 26 children.

President Musharraf is unlikely to benefit from the bloodshed, and the death toll will cause him great political turmoil, and will incite unrest amongst Pakistan's millions of Islamists.

Sunday : The Siege Of The Red Mosque Heads Towards Meltdown, 20,000 Taliban Supporters Vow Revenge Against Musharraf

Little Pity In Islamabad For Mosque Militants

Musharraf May Declare State Of Emergency

Monday, July 09, 2007

Turkey Masses 140,000 Troops On Northern Iraq Border

We Don't Need Your Permission To Stop Terrorists, Turkey Tells US

Turkey's military leaders are now urging their government to allow them to stage an 'incursion' across the border into Northern Iraq, to deal with Kurdish PKK militants they claim are plotting terror attacks, and who have recently attacked and killed Turkish civilians. Meanwhile, large rallies have been held by nationalistic Turks openly denouncing the Kurds and the United States, who are claimed to be covertly backing PKK militants.

From Khaleej Times :
‘There is a great mobilisation on Iraq’s northern international border that the security services and intelligence (agencies) estimate at more than 140,000 military personnel with all sorts of equipment,’ Zebari told a news conference.

Tensions have soared along the mountainous border region following an upsurge in attacks across Turkey that Ankara has blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

Financial markets were rattled in June by reports of a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, which Turkey denied. Zebari said Iraq wanted dialogue to resolve the issue.

‘The government’s stance on this is clear. We are against any interference or breach of Iraqi sovereignty from neighbouring states,’ Zebari said.

‘We understand Turkey’s legitimate fears over the activities of the Workers Party and view this issue as negotiable. There is a joint Iraqi, American and Turkish security committee and it is the appropriate body to solve all the issues and problems between the two countries. We are ready to host the activities of this committee in Baghdad.’

From Zaman :
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül to prevent a possible Turkish military intervention into northern Iraq to hit the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) but received no firm assurance, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

"We don't seek permission from anyone, Turkey makes decisions and executes them on its own," Gül told reporters yesterday of his phone conversation with Rice on Friday. "We just remind the US that terrorist organizations in northern Iraq must be fought. The rest is up to us. This is what we told her."

The Washington Post article said a consensus among diplomats and observers in Washington a month ago held that a Turkish intervention is unlikely is now changing as disillusionment with US promises of dealing with the PKK in Iraq and electoral desperation take hold in Ankara. "A Turkish invasion that turns Kurdistan's relative calm into chaos and bloodshed would be the nail in the coffin for Bush's legacy in Iraq and for US public support for the American presence there. Making sure this does not happen should be Priority One for Bush in the weeks ahead," it stated.

Turkish military reportedly fired 25 shells into two villages, Merta Shesh and Gale Psagha, in northern Iraq on Friday. No casualties were reported. Local officials claim it was but the latest volley of shells fired by the Turkish military.

The United States has been frantically trying to calm Turkish government ministers, and military leaders, who want to strike at the PKK now. The United States recently had to deny that it was funnelling weapons and cash to PKK militants.

Turkey Faces Choice Between Democracy And Dictatorship In Coming Elections

Thousands Of Nationalists Turks Denounce Kurds, US In Rallies

Tehran Times : Turkish Government, Military Agree On Plans To Invade Iraq

Eastern Turkey : Turkish Soldiers Kill Five Kurd Rebels, Including Two Women

US Military Issues Stern Warning To Turkey On Launching Raids Into Northern Iraq

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pakistan : The Red Mosque Siege Heads Towards Meltdown

Cleric Claims 70 Killed, Musharraf Warns "Surrender Or Die"

20,000 Taliban Tribesmen Vow Revenge

Now into its seventh day, the siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, within walking distance of Pakistan President Musharraf's office and palace, has all the makings of an international incident, bound to inflame Islamist sentiment across the globe.

More than 1800 students and teachers are believed to be holed in the fortress-like mosque, in the heart of the nation's capital, surrounded by troops. But the lead cleric claims he has enough food, weapons and ammunition to stay inside, with his followers, and hostages, for at least one month.

Because President Musharraf held back from storming the mosque, he won international praise for showing restraint, until he issued a statement that said the Islamists must "surrender or die." But Musharraf knew that if he had allowed his troops to storm the mosque, it would have likely sparked an Islamic uprising against his military dictatorship.

Now some 20,000 Taliban aligned tribesmen how vowed revenge on Musharraf for laying siege to the mosque in the first place, as the stand-off looks set to spark wider conflict :
“We are ready for jihad!” cried the protesters - some of them armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers - who rallied near Khar, the main town in the troubled Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

Local pro-Taliban commanders told the gathering that there should be a holy war in return for the standoff at the Red Mosque.

The confrontation has so far left at least 24 people dead, according to the government, but the mosque's leaders say more than 400 students have been killed.

“We beg Allah to destroy Musharraf and we will seek revenge for the atrocities committed at the Red Mosque,” militant commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammed told the gathering.

Mohammed had links to a hardline madrassa, or Islamic school, that was bombed by Pakistani forces in October 2006, killing around 80 people.

Another mujahedin commander, Inayat-ur Rehman, told the tribesmen: “You must all get training for jihad because it is binding on every Muslim, just like prayers and fasting.”

Militants blew up a security vehicle in Bajaur early yesterday, killing a policeman, and kidnapped four others in a separate attack.
Yesterday, Musharraf's troops blew a hole in the wall of the mosque, supposedly to allow women and children trapped inside to escape. But when troops entered the grounds, more than 100 armed students reportedly opened fire, killing a lieutenant-colonel.

From the UK Independent :

In a statement carried yesterday by newspapers in Pakistan, the radical cleric holed inside the building, Abdul Rashid Ghazi...said that he would prefer martyrdom to surrender. "We have firm belief in God that our blood will lead to a revolution," he said.

Mr Musharraf, facing considerable political pressures unrelated to the stand-off at the mosque, is desperate to avoid not only making martyrs of Mr Ghazi, but also upsetting religious fundamentalists in the country, whose support he courts. As a result, for all the government's rhetoric, its options are limited.

"So long as there are people inside who are holding innocent children and women hostages, we have to be very careful. If we wanted to barge in guns blazing, we could have done it on day one," said the government's information minister, Tariq Azim. Speaking to Dawn TV, he added: "We will have to play this wait game. It may take a while, but I think we will succeed in the end."

Some locals are talking to friends and relatives inside the mosque complex, and reports claim that up to 250 people are not being allowed to leave, in effect they're being held hostage. Students trying to flee have been reportedly shot dead by other students.

Students as young as 14 years old have received training in the use of heavy automatic
weapons and have vowed to stand and fight should the Pakistan special forces units try to storm the mosque.

The Associated Press carried a report claiming that "the resistance" is being led by wanted terrorists and raises claims that hundreds were killed in the mosque during a recent night-time assault.

The mosque's radical clerics want to impose Taliban-style rule in Islamabad, and last week supporters outside the mosque attacked CD and DVD stores, trashing and burning.

American media, like the New York Times, claim that the mosque's mullahs mission to impose Sharia law is deeply unpopular with Islamabad residents, and they've found little support across the country :

The arrest of the leader of the mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who tried to escape in a burqa while leaving behind hundreds of his students, many of them female, has brought ridicule in the news media, which have largely supported the government. Neither the public nor the religious parties have protested the actions of the government, which has won praise for its relative restraint.

But the standoff is far from over, and several bombings in the North-West Frontier Province this week, including a suicide bombing, and gunfire as the president’s plane took off Friday, are a reminder that the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, is only the most visible bulwark of Islamist militancy that is lodged in cities and districts across Pakistan and appears to be growing.

An investigation published Friday by The News, a national daily, found that 88 seminaries belonging to various sects were giving religious education to more than 16,000 students in the capital. Moreover, the number of students here attending religious schools belonging to the Deobandi sect, an anti-Western, pro-jihadi fundamentalist school of thought that inspired the Taliban, among other movements, has doubled in the last year alone.

The newspaper cited figures for students taking exams, using information collected from unidentified government agencies. In 2006, 5,039 students from Deobandi seminaries took exams conducted by the sect’s central examination board, with about 3,000 of them coming from the two seminaries attached to the Lal Masjid.

Today those two seminaries hold 10,700 students, the report said. “The reason for this big surge in the number of students is still not known to the government,” it said.

The number of students at the Lal Masjid’s two madrasas, or religious schools — 5,039 — is not far short of the total in the whole province of Baluchistan. It also is almost equal to the number of students in the 74 schools belonging to other sects in the capital, which together have 5,400 students.

There is widespread debate inside and outside Pakistan about whether the siege of the Red Mosque is a boon or a curse for Musharraf, who maintains a majority of support, but is being pressured by international democracy advocates to hold more free and open elections. But others claim that Musharraf will lose any such election, even if the Red Mosque siege ends without further bloodshed, and Islamists may make up the majority of Pakistan's next government.

Considering Pakistan has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, an Islamist government seizing control of the military seems an unlikely scenario, when the United States and the UK have fiercely opposed Islamist rule in countries like Somalia. Should Musharraf at any stage appear to be on the verge of being deposed, American special forces would enter Pakistan and lock down all known nuclear weapons. At least, they would surely attempt to.

As the siege continues, Musharraf knows he cannot allow the clerics of the Red Mosque, and their supporters, to become martyrs, even though they are committed to this fate, if Musharraf refuses to negotiate an outcome which means they can all return, unharmed, unmolested, to their homes.

In the provinces near the Afghanistan border, Musharraf's government forces regularly clash with tribesmen who support the Taliban. In the past two days, there were at least two suicide bombings against government forces convoys.

Asia Times : Musharraf Gives Permission to NATO To Begin Hitting Targets Inside Pakistan

Tensions Ratchet Up Outside Red Mosque As Colonel Is Killed During Operation

Brainwashed Children Plead To Die As Martyrs Inside Red Mosque

Siege Cleric Claims To Have "Rations, Arms And Ammunition" To Last A Month

Movement Underway To Force President Musharraf From Power, Claims Ex-Pakistani PM

Behind The Siege Of The Red Mosque, Grumblings Of A Wider Dissent

Friday, July 06, 2007

China : US Fury Over Chinese Weapons In Iraq & Afghanistan

US Spreads Anti-Chinese Propaganda In Preparation For The Coming US-China Trade War

Australia Airs "Concern" On Behalf Of US Over China's Arms Build Up

The United States doesn't mined if the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi insurgency, pick up their explosives, guns, bullet belts, mortars and mines from American, British, German, French and Israeli arms manufacturers and dealers. But they're having an absolute shit fit now they've discovered Chinese made weapons are finding their way through the appallingly unregulated international arms trade into the hands of insurgents and militias alike. The same goes for the Taliban, militias and government forces in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon and the US State Department are fighting their early days of the coming trade with China by spreading anti-Chinese propaganda on multiple fronts. The controversy over Chinese weapons reaching anti-American insurgencies, via Iran of course, is a double shot. Both Iran and China can be, somewhat, blamed for the shocking defeat of the American military in Iraq, and the continued wearing down of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Australia is doing its bit for the the Bush Co./NeoCon anti-China propaganda mission by airing "concern" over China's upgrading of its naval and civil defence capabilities. The irony of Australia criticising China for 'arming up' is gagging.

China is a country of more than 1.2 billion people, with a booming economy, not too far on the global scale from massive Islamist uprisings, provoked in part by the actions of the United States, and China is expected to spend just over $40 billion in the next fiscal year on defence.

Australia is an isolated land mass, with no land meeting hostile borders, and a population of only 21 million people. Geographically, Australia could not be any further from the dangerous instability of the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet Australia will spend a mind-boggling $23 billion on defence in 2008, at least $26 billion in 2009, and a projected $30 billion-plus in 2010.

China is well aware that the United States is using Australia as a proxy, and vital ally, in the eventual encirclement of China, through the US missile defence shield and the deployment of war ships and submarines to create a ready-to-go blockade of the Malacca Straits, China's energy supply gateway, should the United States ever need Australia to do so.

From Financial Times :

The US has raised concerns with the Chinese government about the discovery of Chinese-made weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Richard Lawless, departing senior Pentagon official for Asia, on Friday said Washington had flagged the issue with Beijing. In recent months, the US has become increasingly alarmed that Chinese armour-piercing ammunition has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq.

A senior US official recently told the FT that Iran appeared to be providing the Chinese-made weapons. He said Washington had no evidence that Beijing was complicit, but stressed that the US would like China to “do a better job of policing these sales”. Mr Lawless said the question of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer.

The concerns about Chinese weapons follow months of allegations from US officials that Iran is helping attack US troops in Iraq, and more recently Afghanistan, by providing technology for bombs that can destroy Humvees and other heavily armoured US vehicles.

He said the Pentagon was disappointed that China had not given Admiral Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, the same kind of access that his Chinese counterpart received during a visit to the US. Adm Mullen, who has since been nominated as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ended up not visiting China.

Mr Lawless also said it was important for China to hold talks with the US about its nuclear forces. A recent Pentagon report concluded Beijing was developing a more survivable nuclear force, including submarine-launched missiles, and mobile land-based missiles.

Since Presidents Hu Jintao and George W. Bush last year discussed increasing military exchanges, China has not responded to an offer for the commander of its strategic nuclear forces to visit US Strategic Command.

“There is a great shortfall in our understanding of China’s intentions,” said Mr Lawless, referring to the overall Chinese military build-up. “When you don’t know why they are doing it, it is pretty damn threatening . . . they leave us no choice but to assume the worst.”

From Forbes :
An Australian defense paper released Thursday warned that strains between the US and China were inevitable in coming decades, identifying Taiwan as a potential regional flashpoint.

The report, released by Prime Minister John Howard, said the US and China had so far managed their relationship well but there would be tensions as power balances in the Asia Pacific region shifted.

'The (US-China) relationship is underpinned by the region's remarkable growth, the economic interdependency between the two countries, and their mutual interest in stability in the region,' it said.

'As with any international relationship there will be tensions from time to time, but we are confident that the maturing relationship will enable the two countries to resolve any differences amicably.'

The report said Australia's alliance with the US was its most important strategic relationship, predicting that the US would remain the predominant power in the region for at least a generation.

It said China had a legitimate interest in protecting it own security but said the Asian giant's military expansion was a potential source of regional instability.

'The pace and scope of its military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite (ASAT) missile tested in January 2007, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region,' it said.

The military forces of the United States and Australia wound up a massive joint training exercise on Australia's far north coast last week. The 'Talisman Saber' exercise saw more than 7000 Australian and 20,000 US troops working through a series of land and sea based defence scenarios pitting them against 'fictional' enemies.

The joint exercises were covered in detail on China's state run television and internet media.

Note : I'm having trouble embedding links in the commentary sections of the above story. Check back in a day or two if you need to see the sources and links to back up the claims made.

China Goes Hunting For Oil In Sudan

China Will Refuse Future, Harsher Sanctions Against Iran, Urges More Diplomacy
The Coming China Vs United States Trade War

China Challenges US & Europe As It Pushes Into Africa