Wednesday, November 28, 2007

China Refuses To Bow To US Over Iran

US Plans Space Weapons To Counter "Future Threats"

China Blocks American Warships From Entering Hong Kong

Officials from the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain are meeting in Paris this weekend to discuss Iran's nuclear energy program. The US, France, the UK, and Germany are pushing for tighter sanctions, in an effort to force Iran to stop producing enriched uranium. But China and Russia are unlikely to budge from their previous position of refusing to increase the levels of sanctions against Iran, now an economic and strategic ally of both China and Russia. Both Russia and China hold vetos in the United Nations Security Council.

The Iran nuclear issue, for both China and Russia, has become a way of slapping down the United States and embarrassing them on the international stage.

Tensions between the US and Russia, and the US and China, have been increasing in recent months, leading to warnings from Russia's President Putin that he is putting his nuclear missile forces on alert and that Russia will respond aggressively to any moves by the United States to position its 'missile defence shield' in Eastern Europe, close to Russia's borders.

Here's Putin explaining to the US why Russia is doing this :
"In violation of previous agreements, certain member countries of the NATO alliance are increasing their resources next to our borders. Russia cannot remain indifferent to this obvious muscle-flexing. One of the most important task remains raising the combat readiness of the strategic nuclear forces. They should be ready to deliver a quick and adequate reply to any aggressor."
China recently broke long-standing naval courtesies when it refused to give harbour to American war ships in Hong Kong as storms closed in. This followed an incident only a few days earlier where an American carrier group was also refused permission to enter Hong Kong harbour. The US is claiming there was a "misunderstanding", but China is yet to comment or explain its decision to block the entry of the American warships.

The Washington Post reported recently that "the growing relationship between Iran and China has begun to undermine international efforts" to put in place measures that could stop Iran from transforming its peaceful nuclear energy program into one that could produce nuclear weapons. But what it really comes down to, of course, is money, power and containment :

U.S. and European officials charged Friday that Beijing is deliberately stalling to protect its economic interests.

"China needs to play a more responsible role on Iran, needs to recognize that China is going to be very dependent in the decades ahead on Middle East oil, and, therefore, China, for its own development and its own purposes, is going to need a stable Middle East, and that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is not a prescription for stability in the Middle East," national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley told reporters Friday.

China now gets at least 14 percent of its imported oil from Iran, making it China's largest supplier and the source of as much as $7 billion worth of oil this year, according to David Kirsch, a manager at PFC Energy. Tehran in turn gets major arms systems from Beijing, including ballistic and cruise missiles and technical assistance for Tehran's indigenous missile program. Dozens of Chinese companies are also engaged in several other industries.

On the eve of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's visit to Tehran last week for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Beijing suggested that it could reject U.S.-orchestrated efforts for a new resolution. "We believe that all parties should show patience and sincerity over this issue, while any sanctions, particularly unilateral sanctions, will do no good," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

The United States last month imposed its own tough new sanctions against Iran's military, banks and industries, in part out of frustration over stalled efforts to pass a third U.N. resolution. Two earlier U.N. resolutions, passed in December and March, call for further action if Iran does not comply in 60 days with demands that it shut down its uranium enrichment, which can be used both for energy and weapons. The latest U.S. diplomacy has dragged on for six months.

But the new Tehran-Beijing relationship is likely to further delay or dilute international diplomacy, because the two powers share a strategic vision, experts say. Both are determined to find ways to contain unchallenged U.S. power and a unipolar world, said Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.

"Iran has become the engineer of China's economic growth. It may not be like Saudi Arabia is to the U.S. economy, but it's close," Berman said.

The United States knows it can keep China in check, somewhat, if it can keep Iran from growing economically, and strategically.

But Iran is far too valuable to China today, supplying as it does a vital oil flow, for China to allow the United States to do much more than will destabilise Iran. If Iran falls into war and chaos, China loses a key source of energy.

The China-Russia-Iran alliance, still vastly under-reported in western media, will not likely be broken anytime soon by UN Security Council sanctions or western propaganda campaigns.

While war on land and sea, and in the air, between China and the United States is almost impossible to conceive, perhaps we should be looking to the growing likelihood of an eventual War In Space instead :

The Pentagon is spending billions of dollars on new forms of space warfare to counter the growing risk of missile attack from rogue states and the "satellite killer" capabilities of China.

The most ambitious project in a new $459 billion (£221.5 billion) defence spending Bill is the Falcon, a reusable "hypersonic vehicle" that could fly at six times the speed of sound and deliver 12,000lb of bombs anywhere in the world within minutes.

The bombs' destructive power would be multiplied by the Earth's gravitational pull as they travelled at up to 25 times the speed of sound towards their target.

The cost of the vehicle has not been revealed, but a spokesman for the Pentagon's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) said a first test flight was scheduled for next year.

Loren Thompson, a leading defence analyst in Washington, said the focus of the project was attacking "time sensitive targets" in states such as North Korea and Iran, which have either developed nuclear weapons without international approval or are suspected of doing so.

"If we received intelligence that a strike was about to happen on South Korea, or on Israel, we would want to destroy that within minutes and not hours. But from most current US bases that is not feasible.

"With a hyper-sonic vehicle launching from the Middle East or Asia you could be over hostile territory within minutes," he said. "It's not just a question of can we destroy North Korean weapons, but can we get there quickly enough in the event of an imminent launch?"

In January this year, the United States joined a chorus of outrage amongst its allies over the news that China had successfully tested a ground based 'satellite killer' missile.

China can now also add a successful mission to the Moon to its space-based accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Most Iraqis Joined Insurgency For Money, Not For Jihad

This is probably one of the oldest and most mainstream media under-reported stories of the entire War On Iraq. Better late than never that it shows up in the pages of the Washington Post.

The story does, however, give the impression that Iraqis joining the insurgency for cash is a new development. Rubbish. From the day the Coalition of the Willing invaded and disbanded the Iraqi Army and de-Ba'athed the government agencies, Iraqis have been employed to kill or maim Americans.

Let your family starve or take $500 (enough to feed the family for months) to fight those who have invaded your country and are killing your friends and neighbours? It would appear for many unemployed and hungry Iraqis, the choice was easy :
Abu Nawall, a captured al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, said he didn't join the Sunni insurgent group here to kill Americans or to form a Muslim caliphate. He signed up for the cash.

"I was out of work and needed the money," said Abu Nawall, the nom de guerre of an unemployed metal worker who was paid as much as $1,300 a month as an insurgent. He spoke in a phone interview from an Iraqi military base where he is being detained. "How else could I support my family?"

U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations.

U.S. military officials have responded by launching a major campaign to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq's financial networks and spread propaganda that portrays its leaders as greedy thugs, an effort the officials describe as a key factor in their recent success beating down the insurgency.

"I tell a lot of my soldiers: A good way to prepare for operations in Iraq is to watch the sixth season of 'The Sopranos,' " said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces in central Iraq, referring to the hit HBO series about the mob. "You're seeing a lot of Mafioso kind of activity."

In Mosul, a northern city of 2 million people that straddles the Tigris River, U.S. officials are also spending money to buoy the Iraqi economy -- including handing out microgrants sometimes as small as several hundred dollars -- to reduce the soaring unemployment that can turn young Iraqi men into insurgents-for-hire.

Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of U.S. forces in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province, said the dismantling of insurgent financing networks is the primary reason that violent attacks here have dropped from about 18 a day last year to about eight a day now.

"We're starting to hear a lot of chatter about the insurgents running out of money," said Twitty, of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "They are not able to get money to pay people for operations."

Abu Nawall said he joined the group over the summer because his metalworking business had dried up. The 28-year-old said he was responsible for running the bureaucracy and arranging payments to the 500 or so fighters for the group in the city, who he said try to carry out as many as 30 attacks a day.

"Most of our money comes from payments we receive from places like Syria and from kidnappings," Abu Nawall said, adding that ransoms can reach $50,000 a person. But he denied U.S. claims that attacks in the city had dropped or that the group's funding had stopped. "We still have money," he said.

Much of Abu Nawall's account could not be independently verified, though he said he was speaking freely and without coercion by his detainers. His description of the insurgency's viability was in some cases significantly more upbeat than the one offered by Iraqi and U.S. officials.

But Abu Nawall and his captors agreed that Iraqis were joining the insurgency out of economic necessity. "Of course we hate the Americans and want them gone immediately," Abu Nawall said. "But the reason I and many others joined the Islamic State of Iraq is to support our families."

Abu Nawall described himself as a middle-management accountant for the insurgency, but he acknowledged killing four Iraqi police officers because he viewed them as collaborators with the U.S. military. He said he was not primarily involved in ordering violent attacks.

The Full Story Is Here

Baghdad's Security Improves - Some Days Are Completely Car Bomb Free - Some Families Returning Home To Once Deadly Neighbourhoods

Sunnis, Shiites Unite To Protect Their Neighbourhoods From Insurgents, Militias

Assassinations, Car Bombings, Insurgent Attacks Move To Northern Iraq

One Day In Iraq : A 'Quiet' Day Sees 62 Killed, 21 Wounded In Fighting, Attacks

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pakistan : More Than 90 Killed As Shiites And Sunnis Go To War

Musharraf Warns Pakistan Nukes Could Fall Into "The Wrong Hands" If January Elections Are "Chaotic"

While President Musharraf tightens the noose of his military dictatorship around the people of Pakistan's largest cities, in the tribal border lands, full scale war is now breaking out between rival Muslim sects in the northwest.

Rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims clashed Sunday in a northwestern Pakistan town where three days of sectarian violence has left 91 people _ most of them civilians _ dead, officials said. The military said it was sending forces to the area to quell the fighting.

Both sides fired mortars and other heavy weapons at each other in the town of Parachinar late Saturday and early Sunday, targeting residential areas and hitting mosques, an intelligence official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

Violence between Shiites and Sunnis is common in Parachinar, the main town in the Kurram tribal area. In April, clashes between the two sects, sparked by an attack on a Shiite mosque, left about 50 people dead.

The latest clashes in Parachinar began Friday after gunmen opened fire on a Sunni mosque and Sunnis retaliated by attacking Shiites, police said.

About 80 percent of Pakistan's 160 million people are Sunni Muslims. While most members of the sects coexist peacefully, extremists often target each other's leaders and activists. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

The military said it was deploying an unspecified number of soldiers and members of Pakistan's Frontier Constabulary paramilitary force to Parachinar, which is located in Pakistan's remote tribal areas where government authority is limited.

The military said in a statement that 80 civilians and 11 security personnel have been killed, adding that the dead had been "targeted by both sides."

Twenty-two bodies remained unclaimed at the main state-run hospital in Parachinar, a doctor there said on condition of anonymity, citing policy. More than 100 people were injured, he said.

Pakistan's President Musharraf is resisting US pressure to wind back his 'emergency rule', or martial law as it's more commonly known, but is claiming January elections will still go ahead. Martial law is needed, says Musharraf, because if the elections turn out to be "chaotic", Pakistan's nukes could fall into the hands of extremists :

Musharraf said that if elections were held in a "disturbed environment," it could bring in dangerous elements who might pose a risk to control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

"They cannot fall into the wrong hands, if we manage ourselves politically. The military is there -- as long as the military is there, nothing happens to the strategic assets, we are in charge and nobody does anything with them," he said.

Musharraf, who took power in a coup eight years ago, cited rising Islamist militancy and a hostile judiciary as reasons for declaring emergency rule. He has said a general election will be held before January 9 and he expects to step down as army chief and be sworn in as a civilian president beforehand.

He promised that political opponents would be released from house arrest "in a few days" but said he was considering all options regarding holding elections under emergency rule.

Bush & Musharraf's Close Ties Forged After 9/11 Now Liability For Both Leaders

Musharraf Rejects US Demands To End 'Emergency Rule'

Musharraf Shut Down Non-State Media, Jailed Opposition, Threatens Dissenters With Jail, But US Calls Him A Positive Force "Against Extremism"

US Secretly Aids Pakistan In Securing Its Nuclear Arsenal - But Admits It Doesn't Know Where All The Nukes Are?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Somalia : War Rages On, 80 Dead In Latest Clashes

While the attention of most of the world's media is focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and the return of military dictatorship to Pakistan, the fighting in Somalia rages on :
At least 80 Somalis have been killed in heavy fighting in Mogadishu within the past 48 hours, witnesses and doctors said Saturday, as residents continued to flee the beleaguered Somali capital.

A day after heavy shelling and gunfire claimed over 50 lives, residents said new bodies were discovered on Saturday morning in southern Mogadishu, where Ethiopian troops backing the shaky Somali government have been fighting Islamic insurgents for two days.

The fighting is some of the heaviest the war-ravaged city has seen since April. Hospitals are overflowing with patients and doctors say they lack medicine, beds and space for the wounded.

The fighting was sparked when Ethiopian troops began patrols two days ago in a southern Mogadishu neighborhood seen as a hotbed of support for the Islamic insurgents. Two Ethiopians were killed, and the mutilated body of one of the soldiers was dragged though the streets by protesting women and children. The Ethiopians subsequently fired tank shells into a civilian market.

December 2006 : Ethiopia's Prime Minister Declares War On Somali Islamists - Ethiopian Jets Strike Targets Inside Somalia

January 2007 : US Air Strikes Kill Dozens In Somalia - US Admits It Missed Most Of Its Insurgent Targets - Somali Warlords Set To Rule Again

March 2007 : US Backed Ethiopian Removal Of Islamic Courts From Power Sees Return Of Islamist Insurgency - Soldiers Bodies Burned In The Streets Of Capital

April 2, 2007 : Islamist Morars Rain Down On Mogadishu - Hundreds Killed, Thousands Flee - Combined Military Forces Of Ethiopian And Somali Governments Battle Insurgents

April 25, 2007 : Car Bombs Rock Somali Capital - War Spreads Through Ethiopia, Somalia And Eritrea

June 2007 : Mogadishu Becomes More Like Baghdad By The Day - Somalis Want To See Return Of Islamic Courts To Drive Out Ethiopian Troops And Warlords
2007 Now Deadliest Year For US Troops In Iraq And Afghanistan

From AFP :
Militants ambushed and killed six U.S. troops walking in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan — the most lethal attack in a year that has been the deadliest for the U.S. military here since the 2001 invasion.

The number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year mirror the record toll in Iraq. Both conflicts have seen an increase in troop levels this year that has put more soldiers in harm's way, including those killed Friday while returning from a meeting with village elders in Nuristan province. Militants wielding rocket propelled grenades killed the six Americans and three Afghan soldiers. Eight U.S. troops were wounded.

"They were attacked from several enemy positions at the same time," Lt. Col. David Accetta, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. military, said Saturday. "It was a complex ambush."

The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 101, according to an Associated Press count, surpassing the 93 troops killed in 2005. About 87 died last year. The toll echoes the situation in Iraq, where U.S. military deaths this year surpassed 850, also a record.

Launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the war in Afghanistan quickly ousted al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and his Taliban protectors and appeared to have been a swift military victory.

But insurgent attacks — advanced ambushes and suicide and roadside bombs — have risen sharply the last two years, and analysts say the counterinsurgency battle U.S. and NATO forces now face will take a decade or more to win.

Critics of the Bush administration say the Pentagon turned its attention away from Afghanistan during the build-up to the invasion in Iraq, leaving the military with too few resources here to back up that initial victory with an adequate security presence.

Though attacks in Iraq have dropped in recent months, U.S. troops there have also faced a rising number of suicide and roadside bombs since the 2003 invasion, known as asymmetric attacks in military circles.

U.S. forces have two combat brigades — more than 8,000 troops — in eastern Afghanistan this year, up from one last year. The U.S. has about 25,000 forces in Afghanistan today — 15,000 under NATO and 10,000 under the U.S.-led coalition.

Insurgents have launched more than 130 suicide attacks, a record number, and Afghanistan last week saw its deadliest attack since 2001, a suicide bombing in Baghlan province that killed about 75 people, including 59 students and six members of parliament.

More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died due to insurgency-related violence this year, also a record, according to an AP count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Afghanistan : 100 Slaughtered In Deadliest Day Of Terror Since 2001

NATO Air Strikes Kill 'Dozens' Of Taliban And Civilians

ABC News is reporting that some 90 people, including at least six lawmakers, have been killed in a massive suicide bombing in Northern Afghanistan. More than 50 people have been wounded :
...a suicide bomber has killed 90 people and wounded 50 including six members of a visiting group of Afghan parliamentarians in the northern Afghan town of Baghlan, the director of the local hospital said.

"The bodies of 90 people have been brought to the hospital so far and 50 people have been wounded," Baghlan hospital director Dr Khalilullah told Reuters.

Six parliamentarians, including opposition spokesman Mostafa Kazemi, were among those killed, the provincial governor said.

The hardline Islamist Taliban have killed more than 200 people in more than 130 suicide attacks so far this year in a campaign of violence aimed at convincing Afghans their government and its Western backers are incapable of providing security.

Up until this attack, more Afghan civilians had been killed by NATO air strikes and massacres than by Taliban or Al Qaeda suicide bombings.

Italy's AGI News is reporting today that "dozens" of Taliban fighters were killed yesterday during NATO airstrikes in north-western Afghanistan :
Reports were from an Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman, Zahir Azimi, who said that among the fighters eliminated there was also their commander. Eyewitnesses reported that also an undefined number of civilians were killed, including two children, and that many houses were destroyed.

Taliban Defies NATO, Captures Third District In Western Afghanistan

Taliban May Be Real Winners Of Musharraf's Second Coup Of Pakistan

Militants In Northern Afghanistan Horde Weapons To Protect Drug Routes

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pakistan Goes Under Martial Law - Musharraf Defies Bush Power Sharing Demands

Musharraf Shuts Down All Non-Government Media, Cuts Phone Lines

Military Goes On High Alert As Terror Threats Escalate

Tonight, President Musharraf locked down all of Pakistan under a state of emergency. The independent judiciary has been suspended, and all non-government media is said to be shut down. Most phone lines are believed to have been cut. India is holding emergency meetings. The Taliban has declared 'war' on Musharraf, for his allegiance to the US and the 'War On Terror'.

The Bush government has reacted to the news with growing horror :

The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency tonight, blacking out all independent news media and confronting Supreme Court justices who are deliberating on the recent vote to re-elect him.

Witnesses said that police forces had surrounded the Supreme Court building, with justices still inside. Earlier, the justices were ordered to sign a provisional constitutional order enabling the emergency decree, with the government leaving implicit that any failing to do so would be dismissed.

The declaration came in direct defiance of warnings by top American officials. The senior American military commander in the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, told General Musharraf and his top generals in a meeting here on Friday that emergency rule would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally intervened twice in the past four months to try to keep General Musharraf from imposing emergency rule, including telephoning him at 2 a.m. Pakistani time in August. Today, while traveling to Turkey for an Iraq security conference, she reinforced the message, saying, “I think it would be quite obvious that the United States wouldn’t be supportive of extra-constitutional means.”

The declaration came the day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the senior American military commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. Fallon, both warned General Musharraf not to impose emergency rule. Admiral Fallon, meeting here with General Musharraf and his top generals, said such a move would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military.

In the coming days the Supreme Court had been expected to rule on the constitutionality of General Musharraf’s re-election as president last month and of his ability to serve as both the country’s president and military leader.

Publicly, Pakistani government officials said Friday that emergency rule could be justified because of clashes in the past week between security forces and Islamic militants in the Swat Valley, in the North-West Frontier Province, and because of the increasing number of suicide attacks against military and police installations.

From the Times Of India :
Pakistani security forces have been put on high alert here and nearby Rawalpindi following reports that militants could carry out more suicide attacks in the twin cities.

The Interior Ministry alerted police in both cities about the possibility of more suicide strikes, following which security was further tightened. Elite forces and policemen deployed at key sites have been provided with bullet-proof jackets, officials said.

Musharraf Suspends Constitution

Pakistan Military Missiles Slam Into Militant Hideout In North Of Country

India More Important Than Pakistan, Says US Official

Musharraf Fires Chief Justice, Clears Supreme Court

Latest news on the crisis can be found on the PakTribune site.