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Gates Admits Blackwater Operating in Pakistan

Gates Admits Blackwater Operating in Pakistan

Raw Story
January 22, 2010

The Pentagon has gone into damage control mode after Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to confirm that security contractor Blackwater is operating in Pakistan.

The admission, quickly denied by Defense Department officials, has set fire to long-simmering rumors inside Pakistan about the involvement of for-profit contractors in the war against the Taliban.

Defense Department officials say Gates did not mean to suggest that Blackwater is now operating on Pakistani soil when a journalist from Pakistan’s Express TV asked him about military contractors’ activities.

In the interview, which took place Thursday, Gates was asked “about another issue that has come up and again … about the phone security companies [sic] that have been operating in Iraq, in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan. Xe International, formerly known as Blackwater or Data Corp. Under what rules are they operating here in Pakistan?”

“Well, they’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” Gates replied. “If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”

Pentagon backtracks after Gates admits Blackwater operating in PakistanThe Pentagon has gone into damage control mode after Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to confirm that security contractor Blackwater is operating in Pakistan.

The admission, quickly denied by Defense Department officials, has set fire to long-simmering rumors inside Pakistan about the involvement of for-profit contractors in the war against the Taliban.

Defense Department officials say Gates did not mean to suggest that Blackwater is now operating on Pakistani soil when a journalist from Pakistan’s Express TV asked him about military contractors’ activities.

In the interview, which took place Thursday, Gates was asked “about another issue that has come up and again … about the phone security companies [sic] that have been operating in Iraq, in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan. Xe International, formerly known as Blackwater or Data Corp. Under what rules are they operating here in Pakistan?”

“Well, they’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” Gates replied. “If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”
Story continues below…

“This appears to be a contradiction of previous statements made by the Defense Department, by Blackwater, by the Pakistani government and by the US embassy in Islamabad, all of whom claimed Blackwater was not in the country,” investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill wrote.

In November, Scahill reported that Blackwater is operating out of a covert US operating base in Karachi, where it “plan[s] targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, ‘snatch and grabs’ of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.”

In December, the UK’s Guardian reported that Blackwater guards are patrolling a CIA airbase in Baluchistan province.

Gates’ comments have sent Pakistan’s legislature into an uproar, with at least one government official denying knowledge of Gates’ remarks.

Pakistan has been rife with rumors in recent years about private security contractors operating on the country’s soil, and “about purported US plots to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and build permanent American military bases,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it.

“Mr. Gates himself may have inadvertently helped fuel a new rumor,” the Journal stated.

Defense officials tried to clarify the comment Thursday night, telling reporters that Mr. Gates had been speaking about contractor oversight more generally and that the Pentagon didn’t employ Xe [a.k.a. Blackwater] in Pakistan.

It was too late, however. By Friday morning, an array of Pakistani newspapers, television stations and radio programs reported that “Blackwater” had begun operating in Pakistan as well, citing Mr. Gates’s comments.

Whether it was a mistake or an unintentional admission, Gates’ comments are certain to complicate efforts by the US to prod Pakistan into refocusing away from its long-time rival, India, to the Taliban presence on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

To that end, the US has announced it will provide Pakistan with a dozen Shadow drones, smaller cousins of the Predator drones the US uses in air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New York Times reports.

The US has also announced a new strategy for the war effort that focuses on the “re-integration” of Taliban fighters into mainstream society. The effort will be led by Afghan President Karzai. In discussing the plans Friday, Karzai “spoke about offering money and jobs to tempt Taliban fighters to lay down their arms and return to civilian life,” according to Pakistan’s Dawn Media Group.

 



13 Afghan Protesters Killed by NATO Forces

13 Afghan Protesters Killed by NATO Forces

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O29DDWUBb5I

US Drone Fired Missile Into a ‘Crowd of Suspects,’ Killing 13 Afghans

 



Iran can be bombed says General Petraeus

Iran can be bombed says General Petraeus

Alex Spillius
London Telegraph
January 11, 2010

The US military commander for the Middle East and the Gulf region has confirmed that the United States has developed contingency plans to deal with Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Gen David Petraeus, head of Central Command or Centcom, did not elaborate on the plans, but said the military has considered the impacts of any action taken there.

Asked about the vulnerability of Iran’s nuclear installations, he told CNN: “Well, they certainly can be bombed. The level of effect would vary with who it is that carries it out, what ordnance they have, and what capability they can bring to bear.”

He added: “It would be almost literally irresponsible if Centcom were not to have been thinking about the various ‘what ifs’ and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies.”

Iran maintains its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but the United States and other Western nations fear Tehran wants to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israel has called Iran’s nuclear programme the major threat facing its nation. Gen Petraeus declined to comment about Israel’s military capabilities, according to CNN.

Iran had until the end of last year to accept a deal offered five permanent UN Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

It did not do so. Instead, Tehran gave the West until the end of January to accept its own proposal.

Petraeus said he thought there was still time for the nations to engage Iran in diplomacy, noting there is no deadline on the enactment of any US contingency plans.

But he added that “there’s a period of time, certainly, before all this might come to a head”.

 



U.S., China Are on Collision Course Over Oil

Obama’s Yemeni odyssey targets China

Asia Times
January 9, 2010

A cursory look at the map of region will show that Yemen is one of the most strategic lands adjoining waters of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. It flanks Saudi Arabia and Oman, which are vital American protectorates. In effect, Uncle Sam is “marking territory” – like a dog on a lamppost. Russia has been toying with the idea of reopening its Soviet-era base in Aden. Well, the US has pipped Moscow in the race.

The US has signaled that the odyssey doesn’t end with Yemen. It is also moving into Somalia and Kenya. With that, the US establishes its military presence in an entire unbroken stretch of real estate all along the Indian Ocean’s western rim. Chinese officials have of late spoken of their need to establish a naval base in the region. The US has now foreclosed China’s options. The only country with a coastline that is available for China to set up a naval base in the region will be Iran. All other countries have a Western military presence. (are western military puppet governments)

The American intervention in Yemen is not going to be on the pattern of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama will ensure he doesn’t receive any body bags of American servicemen serving in Yemen. That is what the American public expects from him. He will only deploy drone aircraft and special forces and “focus on providing intelligence and training to help Yemen counter al-Qaeda militants”, according to the US military. Obama’s main core objective will be to establish an enduring military presence in Yemen. This serves many purposes.

A new great game begins

First, the US move has to be viewed against the historic backdrop of the Shi’ite awakening in the region. The Shi’ites (mostly of the Zaidi group) have been traditionally suppressed in Yemen. Shi’ite uprisings have been a recurring theme in Yemen’s history. There has been a deliberate attempt to minimize the percentage of Shi’ites in Yemen, but they could be anywhere up to 45%.

More importantly, in the northern part of the country, they constitute the majority. What bothers the US and moderate Sunni Arab states – and Israel – is that the Believing Youth Organization led by Hussein Badr al-Houthi, which is entrenched in northern Yemen, is modeled after Hezbollah in Lebanon in all respects – politically, economically, socially and culturally.

Yemenis are an intelligent people and are famous in the Arabian Peninsula for their democratic temperament. The Yemeni Shi’ite empowerment on a Hezbollah-model would have far-reaching regional implications. Next-door Oman, which is a key American base, is predominantly Shi’ite. Even more sensitive is the likelihood of the dangerous idea of Shi’ite empowerment spreading to Saudi Arabia’s highly restive Shi’ite regions adjoining Yemen, which on top of it all, also happen to be the reservoir of the country’s fabulous oil wealth.

Saudi Arabia is entering a highly sensitive phase of political transition as a new generation is set to take over the leadership in Riyadh, and the palace intrigues and fault lines within the royal family are likely to get exacerbated. To put it mildly, given the vast scale of institutionalized Shi’ite persecution in Saudi Arabia by the Wahhabi establishment, Shi’ite empowerment is a veritable minefield that Riyadh is petrified about at this juncture. Its threshold of patience is wearing thin, as the recent uncharacteristic resort to military power against the north Yemeni Shi’ite communities bordering Saudi Arabia testifies.

The US faces a classic dilemma. It is all right for Obama to highlight the need of reform in Muslim societies – as he did eloquently in his Cairo speech last June. But democratization in the Yemeni context – ironically, in the Arab context – would involve Shi’ite empowerment. After the searing experience in Iraq, Washington is literally perched like a cat on a hot tin roof. It would much rather be aligned with the repressive, autocratic government of Saleh than let the genie of reform out of the bottle in the oil rich-region in which it has profound interests.

Obama has an erudite mind and he is not unaware that what Yemen desperately needs is reform, but he simply doesn’t want to think about it. The paradox he faces is that with all its imperfections, Iran happens to be the only “democratic” system operating in that entire region.

Iran’s shadow over the Yemeni Shi’ite consciousness worries the US to no end. Simply put, in the ideological struggle going on in the region, Obama finds himself with the ultra-conservative and brutally autocratic oligarchies that constitute the ruling class in the region. Conceivably, he isn’t finding it easy. If his own memoirs are to be believed, there could be times when the vague recollections of his childhood in Indonesia and his precious memories of his own mother, who from all accounts was a free-wheeling intellectual and humanist, must be stalking him in the White House corridors.

Israel moves in

But Obama is first and foremost a realist. Emotions and personal beliefs drain away and strategic considerations weigh uppermost when he works in the Oval Office. With the military presence in Yemen, the US has tightened the cordon around Iran. In the event of a military attack on Iran, Yemen could be put to use as a springboard by the Israelis. These are weighty considerations for Obama.

The fact is that no one is in control as a Yemeni authority. It is a cakewalk for the formidable Israeli intelligence to carve out a niche in Yemen – just as it did in northern Iraq under somewhat comparable circumstances.

Islamism doesn’t deter Israel at all. Saleh couldn’t have been far off the mark when he alleged last year that Israeli intelligence had been exposed as having kept links with Yemeni Islamists. The point is, Yemeni Islamists are a highly fragmented lot and no one is sure who owes what sort of allegiance to whom. Israeli intelligence operates marvelously in such twilight zones when the horizon is lacerated with the blood of the vanishing sun.

Israel will find a toehold in Yemen to be a god-sent gift insofar as it registers its presence in the Arabian Peninsula. This is a dream come true for Israel, whose effectiveness as a regional power has always been seriously handicapped by its lack of access to the Persian Gulf region. The overarching US military presence helps Israel politically to consolidate its Yemeni chapter. Without doubt, Petraeus is moving on Yemen in tandem with Israel (and Britain). But the “pro-West” Arab states with their rentier mentality have no choice except to remain as mute spectators on the sidelines.

Some among them may actually acquiesce with the Israeli security presence in the region as a safer bet than the spread of the dangerous ideas of Shi’ite empowerment emanating out of Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah. Also, at some stage, Israeli intelligence will begin to infiltrate the extremist Sunni outfits in Yemen, which are commonly known as affiliates of al-Qaeda. That is, if it hasn’t done that already. Any such link makes Israel an invaluable ally for the US in its fight against al-Qaeda. In sum, infinite possibilities exist in the paradigm that is taking shape in the Muslim world abutting into the strategic Persian Gulf.

It’s all about China

Most important, however, for US global strategies will be the massive gain of control of the port of Aden in Yemen. Britain can vouchsafe that Aden is the gateway to Asia. Control of Aden and the Malacca Strait will put the US in an unassailable position in the “great game” of the Indian Ocean. The sea lanes of the Indian Ocean are literally the jugular veins of China’s economy. By controlling them, Washington sends a strong message to Beijing that any notions by the latter that the US is a declining power in Asia would be nothing more than an extravagant indulgence in fantasy.

In the Indian Ocean region, China is increasingly coming under pressure. India is a natural ally of the US in the Indian Ocean region. Both disfavor any significant Chinese naval presence. India is mediating a rapprochement between Washington and Colombo that would help roll back Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. The US has taken a u-turn in its Myanmar policy and is engaging the regime there with the primary intent of eroding China’s influence with the military rulers. The Chinese strategy aimed at strengthening influence in Sri Lanka and Myanmar so as to open a new transportation route towards the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Africa, where it has begun contesting traditional Western economic dominance.

China is keen to whittle down its dependence on the Malacca Strait for its commerce with Europe and West Asia. The US, on the contrary, is determined that China remains vulnerable to the choke point between Indonesia and Malaysia.

An engrossing struggle is breaking out. The US is unhappy with China’s efforts to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf through the Central Asian region and Pakistan. Slowly but steadily, Washington is tightening the noose around the neck of the Pakistani elites – civilian and military – and forcing them to make a strategic choice between the US and China. This will put those elites in an unenviable dilemma. Like their Indian counterparts, they are inherently “pro-Western” (even when they are “anti-American”) and if the Chinese connection is important for Islamabad, that is primarily because it balances perceived Indian hegemony.

The existential questions with which the Pakistani elites are grappling are apparent. They are seeking answers from Obama. Can Obama maintain a balanced relationship vis-a-vis Pakistan and India? Or, will Obama lapse back to the George W Bush era strategy of building up India as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean under whose shadow Pakistan will have to learn to live?

US-India-Israel axis

On the other hand, the Indian elites are in no compromising mood. Delhi was on a roll during the Bush days. Now, after the initial misgivings about Obama’s political philosophy, Delhi is concluding that he is all but a clone of his illustrious predecessor as regards the broad contours of the US’s global strategy – of which containment of China is a core template.

The comfort level is palpably rising in Delhi with regard to the Obama presidency. Delhi takes the surge of the Israeli lobby in Washington as the litmus test for the Obama presidency. The surge suits Delhi, since the Jewish lobby was always a helpful ally in cultivating influence in the US Congress, media and the rabble-rousing think-tankers as well as successive administrations. And all this is happening at a time when the India-Israel security relationship is gaining greater momentum.

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is due to visit Delhi in the coming days. The Obama administration is reportedly adopting an increasingly accommodative attitude toward India’s longstanding quest for “dual-use” technology from the US. If so, a massive avenue of military cooperation is about to open between the two countries, which will make India a serious challenger to China’s growing military prowess. It is a win-win situation as the great Indian arms bazaar offers highly lucrative business for American companies.

Clearly, a cozy three-way US-Israel-India alliance provides the underpinning for all the maneuvering that is going on. It will have significance for the security of the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. Last year, India formalized a naval presence in Oman.

All-in-all, terrorism experts are counting the trees and missing the wood when they analyze the US foray into Yemen in the limited terms of hunting down al-Qaeda. The hard reality is that Obama, whose main plank used to be “change”, has careened away and increasingly defaults to the global strategies of the Bush era. The freshness of the Obama magic is dissipating. Traces of the “revisionism” in his foreign policy orientation are beginning to surface. We can see them already with regard to Iran, Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Israel-Palestine problem, Central Asia and towards China and Russia.

Arguably, this sort of “return of the native” by Obama was inevitable. For one thing, he is but a creature of his circumstances. As someone put it brilliantly, Obama’s presidency is like driving a train rather than a car: a train cannot be “steered”, the driver can at best set its speed, but ultimately, it must run on its tracks.

Besides, history has no instances of a declining world power meekly accepting its destiny and walking into the sunset. The US cannot give up on its global dominance without putting up a real fight. And the reality of all such momentous struggles is that they cannot be fought piece-meal. You cannot fight China without occupying Yemen.

 

Russia, China, Iran redraw energy map

Asia Times
January 9, 2010

The inauguration of the Dauletabad-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline on Wednesday connecting Iran’s northern Caspian region with Turkmenistan’s vast gas field may go unnoticed amid the Western media cacophony that it is “apocalypse now” for the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The event sends strong messages for regional security. Within the space of three weeks, Turkmenistan has committed its entire gas exports to China, Russia and Iran. It has no urgent need of the pipelines that the United States and the European Union have been advancing. Are we hearing the faint notes of a Russia-China-Iran symphony?

The 182-kilometer Turkmen-Iranian pipeline starts modestly with the pumping of 8 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas. But its annual capacity is 20bcm, and that would meet the energy requirements of Iran’s Caspian region and enable Tehran to free its own gas production in the southern fields for export. The mutual interest is perfect: Ashgabat gets an assured market next door; northern Iran can consume without fear of winter shortages; Tehran can generate more surplus for exports; Turkmenistan can seek transportation routes to the world market via Iran; and Iran can aspire to take advantage of its excellent geographical location as a hub for the Turkmen exports.

We are witnessing a new pattern of energy cooperation at the regional level that dispenses with Big Oil. Russia traditionally takes the lead. China and Iran follow the example. Russia, Iran and Turkmenistan hold respectively the world’s largest, second-largest and fourth-largest gas reserves. And China will be consumer par excellence in this century. The matter is of profound consequence to the US global strategy.

Read Full Article Here

Afghanistan: only the first move in the grand chess game for control of Central Asian resources

 



U.S. Troops in Yemen Will Strengthen al-Qaeda

U.S. Troops in Yemen Will Strengthen al-Qaeda

The Majlis
January 7, 2010


Members of Yemen’s anti-terrorism force take part in a training session on the outskirts of Sanaa on January 9. Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh says he is open to dialogue with Al-Qaeda militants, as a top official warned that dozens of foreign jihadists are grouping in a remote part of the impoverished country.

Rashad al-Alimi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister for security, warned today against direct U.S. intervention in his country, saying (عربي) it would “strengthen al-Qaeda.”

“We cannot accept any foreign troops on Yemeni territory,” he told a group of reporters in Sana’a.

Alimi’s remarks follow similar comments yesterday by Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the country’s foreign minister, who told the Associated Press “there is a lot of sensitivity about foreign troops coming to Yemeni territory.” Qirbi cited the American experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to argue that “direct intervention complicates things.”

There’s a certain amount of parsing required when reading statements like this. Yemeni officials have always been reluctant to publicly discuss American involvement in their country: In 2002, for example, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was furious that the U.S. revealed it was behind the cruise missile strike that killed Abu Ali al-Harithi.

This sensitivity is motivated partly by fear of public outrage, and partly by the government’s desire to be seen as competent and able to provide its own security.

So these comments by Qirbi and Alimi are public statements intended for public consumption. Yemeni officials will almost certainly sign off on further cruise missile attacks or drone strikes, and they might also approve limited incursions by U.S. Special Forces, as long as the government retains a degree of deniability.

Speaking of “able to provide its own security,” the new offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is proceeding as expected. The Yemeni government claims to have captured Mohammed al-Hanq, the AQAP “commander” behind recent threats against the U.S. and U.K. embassies in Sana’a. Hanq, and two other suspects, were reportedly wounded earlier this week and arrested at a hospital north of the capital.

Hanq was reportedly captured yesterday; Yemeni news sources don’t have any updates on the fighting today.

Yemen tells U.S. soldiers to keep out

 



Pakistan: Over 700 Civilians Killed in US Drone Strikes

Pakistan: Over 700 Civilians Killed in US Drone Strikes

Dawn News
January 3, 2009

PESHAWAR: Of the 44 predator strikes carried out by US drones in the tribal areas of Pakistan over the past 12 months, only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at the cost of over 700 innocent civilians.

According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day. Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

Of the five successful predator attacks carried out in 2009, the first one came on January 1, which reportedly killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders – Usama al-Kin and Sheikh Ahmed Salim – both wanted by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Kin was the chief operational commander of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and had replaced Abu Faraj Al Libi after his arrest in 2004.

The second successful drone attack was conducted on August 5 in South Waziristan that killed the most wanted fugitive chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud along with his wife.

The US State Department had announces a $5million head money for information leading to Baitullah, making him the only Pakistani fugitive with the head money separately announced by Islamabad and Washington.

 



U.S. Strike on Yemen Kills 120, Including Children

U.S. Strike on Yemen Kills 120, Including Children

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E85mb3KM2uk

Obama Orders Military Strike on Yemen