THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

1 2008

contents no. 1/2008

THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL

Allah’s Moths
1.

“M

OTH-EATEN TRUNCATED PAKISTAN”. THIS WAS HOW, IN 1947,

Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, baptised his new-born country, a Caesarean birth resulting from the British fleeing colonial responsibilities. It is rare for a parent to speak of his own creature with such despair. And perhaps it is no coincidence that a distinguished anglophile barrister, both in his soul and his choice of suits, Jinnah was to die only a year after this ill-fated delivery. Pakistan is still in search of an heir comparable to Quaid-i-Azam, the “great leader”. On the other hand the country intermittently co-exists with a grand godfather: the United States of America. In the Eighties, Ronald Reagan chose Pakistan as the lethal weapon to be used against a Soviet Union bogged down in Afghanistan. As instructed by the CIA, in agreement with the Saudis, the Pakistani secret services launched a multi-coloured international collection of Islamist warriors against the Red Army. It worked brilliantly. In the autumn of 2001, this time rather more reluctantly, George W. Bush resorted once again to Pakistan as the logistic platform for entering Afghanistan, for liquidating the Taleban and tracking down Osama bin Laden and his associates – among them numerous veterans of this strange anti-Soviet alliance – from the caves of Hindu Kush from where they were supposed to have unleashed the attacks of 9/11. Initially this seemed to work. Seen from the White House today, this well-tested instrument has assumed the characteristics of a boomerang, threatening to complete its trajectory hitting the thrower on the forehead. In Washington they believe that after spreading chaos throughout Afghanistan, jihadists are aiming for the “big prize”: the destabilisation of Pakistan. This would be a great coup that might lead to the most evil of scenarios: terrorists attacking the heart of America using the scraps of the Pakistani nuclear complex taken from a deliquescent regime. The director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, has spoken of the Pakistani tribal areas as a sanctuary for terrorists ready to carry out suicide missions in the United States. The American Ambassador to Islamabad, Ann W. Patterson, felt the need to evoke the “catastrophic” effects of a possible “attack against the USA launched from Pakistani territory”. While Hillary Clinton warns that if she is elected to the White House, she will place Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal under direct American control. How on earth did Bush get himself into this dead end road? And how will his successor manage to get out of this situation? 2. If they had more closely observed the weapon they were handling, perhaps the Americans would have used it more prudently. And they would also have agreed with Jinnah, because that vast territory, two and half times the size of Italy, inhabited by 165 million souls (of which three quarters survive on less than two dollars a day), set between the Central Asian mountains and the Arabian Sea, between the Persian Empire and Indian civilisation, really does seem “moth-eaten” and “truncated”. Truncated because four of its main ethnic groups – Pashtuns, Balochis, Punjabis

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and Kashmiris – live on contested borders with Afghanistan, Iran and India (coloured map 1).

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And because although self-legitimated as a homeland for Muslims from the Indian sub-continent, Pakistan only hosts a third of them, and is however also disturbed by furious sectarian conflicts with the Sunni majority opposing the Shiite minority (about 20%). And finally, because already in 1971 it suffered the traumatic amputation of its eastern wing, now Bangladesh. Moth-eaten because within its territory there exists a cross-section of geopolitical and social demands of different populations, of which a significant part ignores or rejects Urdu, the official language, that together with the Islamic culture was meant to provide an identity for that quickly – and rather bloodily – invented remnant of India resulting from partition in 1947 (coloured map 2). Also resulting in the devolution of any real power over the Pashtun tribal areas, where even the British had no illusions with regards to direct rule. The four provinces (Baluchistan, Sindh, the Punjab and the North West Frontier) and the district of the capital city Islamabad, together with the part of Kashmir ruled by Pakistan, draw a map of a pseudo-federal country, marked by separatisms and various kinds of banditry. Central power attempts to control these by ruling harshly, playing acrobatic games and using manipulation with the various local lobbies, gangs and mafias – at times known as political parties. Pakistan has remained a colony. It is just that the British have been replaced by internal colonialists; by the military elite of Punjabi stamp – the “martial race” reared ever since the Victorian era. A State within the State controlling most of the economy and supervising civilian institutions when not directly running them. All this while co-existing with the local feudal lords, who share the immense landed estates in the plains of the Indus, such as the famous Bhutto family. And also, especially during the first decades of the republic, in agreement with the mohajir, Muslim refugees from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other Indian States in which they felt endangered. Among them Jinnah himself, who came from Bombay (Mumbai), and his extreme epigone Musharraf, who was born in Delhi. The uncertain national identity is even reflected in the country’s name. “Pakistan” means “country of the pure”. Muslims of course. But it is above all a geopolitical acronym in which “P” stands for Punjab, “A” for the Afghans (meaning the Pashtuns from the North West Frontier and beyond), “K” for Kashmir, still divided but always craved for, and “S” for Sindh. The State itself, however, has a clear characteristic: a praetorian one. This is well-known by society’s most modern elements, trapped between the jihadist fanaticism created in the Deobandi madrasas and the Police State, in search of an improbable passage towards western-styled democracy, and an alternative to “opposing extremisms” – the religious and the military-dictatorial – which, fighting each other, or pretending to do so, permeate and justify one another. If not already sufficiently visible, the Islamist threat should be emphasised as happens when Musharraf and his associates need to ask their elder brother in stars and stripes for money. Because Pakistan has always exploited the income linked to its position, deriving, according to the Americans, from its being an anti-Soviet front line country yesterday and an anti-jihadist one today. 3. It is improbable that Pakistan will fall into jihadist hands. The short circuit resulting from the manipulation of religious extremism for reasons linked to neo-colonial divide et impera, is instead already perceivable. The apprentice witch doctors now dressed-up as defenders of law and order, are losing control of the jihadist instrument. More than the State being conquered by guerrillas and terrorists, the risk is a geopolitical chasm, threatening to engulf nearby Afghanistan and disrupting the extremely fragile order in Central and Southern Asia. Committed to avoiding such a catastrophe, Islamabad’s elite does not consider itself only the guarantor of national unity. It is known that so as not to curdle, the

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Pakistani ethnic-geopolitical-religious mayonnaise needs grand dreams. In addition to defending itself from internal terrorist and separatist groups, the praetorian State has always addressed matters taking into account two external factors: one regional and one pan-Islamic, attempting to integrate them in a unitary project. Let us analyse this. A) Pakistan perceives the Indian/Hindu colossus as an existential threat. Delhi has never digested partition, or Jinnah’s theory about “two nations” within the British Raj, one Islamic and one Hindu. The myth of Akhand Barat, the Great India going from the Afghan Hindu Kush to the Burmese Mouth of the Irrawaddy, remains undigested by the giant – and not only in its hyper-nationalist and Islamophobic aspects. On the other hand Islamabad treats Afghanistan with “strategic profoundness”, compared to Indian pressure, to be managed in cooperation with jihadist friends, such as Talebans of controlled origin, hence Pakistanis. The same applies to Kashmir, disputed by two post-colonial heirs, a region that Indian intelligence sees as the spear point for profoundly destabilising the enemy, while Pakistani intelligence supplies Kashmiri jihadists, encouraging them to infiltrate Indian Islamic communities so as to revive “sleeping” brothers (map 1). What matters is to prevent India from using Afghanistan and Kashmir as the arms of pliers delegated to squash Pakistan. The historical agreement with Beijing contributes to containing Indian pressure, although pervasive Chinese penetration – not only in the business sector – has resulted in increased Pakistani intolerance, to the extent that hunting down the “yellow” infidels is becoming a national sport. B) Anti-Indian geostrategies are linked to Islamic-trade ones, deeply rooted in routes traced over the centuries. Religious guidelines and commercial and financial networks, both visible and informal, tend to overlap creating a bridge between Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, between the Middle East and Southern Asia. The best defence against India is in the bond with the Near East, and especially with Saudi Arabia, with which Pakistan has established almost confederal relations, ranging from shared religious sentiments to intelligence, from trade to the atomic bazaar (the Pakistani Bomb is also to a certain extent Islamic). Former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father, liked to repeat that Pakistan’s identity owes less to the Indian sub-continent’s jungles than to the sands of the Arabian peninsula, Islam’s Holy Land. Pakistani manpower is widespread in the Gulf and beyond. Islamabad’s troops have repeatedly marched for the Saudi Arabian flag (40 thousand men deployed during the Iraq-Iran war) and in neighbouring emirates, but have been requested even in Syria and Libya. The East-South expansion route intercepts the one running from the North to the South, equally inspired by religion and trade. Before the October revolution, trade routes that from Karachi-Quetta and Lahore-Peshawar, via Afghanistan, led towards Russian Central Asia, were significantly vital. With the fall of the Soviet atheocracy, Islamabad thought of reactivating those ancient routes. This vision, blocked by Afghan instability, was reflected in projects agreed on during the Nineties with Saudi owned Delta Oil and American owned Unocal to export Turkmen gas and oil to Pakistani ports. Trade and energy included a grandiose geopolitical scheme: to cement an Islamic block aggregated around the Pakistani power-centre, enlarged to include Afghanistan (with the Amu Darja as the “natural frontier” of the “country of the pure”), the central-Asian republics of the former USSR, or at least some of them, starting with Tajikistan. All this with Saudi Arabia’s blessing in the name of the faith, and that of the United States, interested in broadening the gap between Moscow and its “close neighbour” of more or less Islamic origins. Pakistan’s ambitious plan soon evaporated for at least three reasons: it overestimated the Islamisation of the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, in

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particular that of their clannish-secular elites, which on the contrary devoted themselves to fighting the “Islamist danger” as the basis of their respective dictatorships and as a shop-window for the West, China and Russia itself; it did not believe that Moscow would not have reacted to the disintegration of its empire and that with Putin, it would have tried to regain control over its former provinces; Pakistan underestimated the confusion reigning in Washington, incapable of following a coherent strategy for this region, even after sending troops there and setting up bases justified by the “war on terror”. From being an aspiring manipulator, Pakistan has become manipulated. The fall of the Afghan protectorate, managed by “its” Talebans between 1997 and 2001, is the best example of this change. After 9/11 Musharraf found an American gun pointed at his head. “We will return you to the era of stone with our bombs”: this was the alternative provided by Colin Powell should the General-President intend to prevent the Anglo-American punitive expedition (Enduring Freedom) from using his country as a logistic platform for conquering Afghanistan. Islamabad’s military could not oppose this. They were obliged to observe the destruction of their associates in Kabul, where on the contrary Indian influence flourished, symbolised also by the very weak Karzai “presidency”. Reluctantly and half-heartedly they accompanied American campaigns against real or presumed terrorists – many of yesterday’s friends felt betrayed, and reacted using their weapons. But in the winter of 2001, after the fall of Kabul, Musharraf guaranteed the Talebans a number of escape routes crossing the theoretical Afghan-Pakistan border. The Mullah Omar himself settled easily in Quetta, where he remains, protected by the ISI, and linked with subsidiary centres in Miram Shah, Peshawar and Karachi. It is from here that over the past three years the Taleban galaxy’s counteroffensive in Afghanistan has been fomented. An insurrection in which jihadism and clan-like localism, banditry and despair all mingle, capable however of causing problems to the United States and NATO, as they cling to the Karzai puppet. By guaranteeing a refuge for the withdrawing Taleban, from which they could later resume their battle, Islamabad had respected the strategic precept according to which a number of jihadist groups should be kept as a reserve, as anti-Indian elements, since sooner or later the United States and NATO will leave and the two rivals will find themselves face to face. Hence the Pakistani regime avoided the defeat of its Afghan policies turning into a catastrophe, policies to which it had paradoxically been obliged to contribute. Hence – also thanks to large amounts of money provided by Washington – Islamabad’s military nowadays also arms, trains and finances the jihadists who blow up American soldiers and their allies fighting in the chaos that is Afghanistan. Simultaneously, Musharraf in his own way is still part of the American war on terror; he does not fight the Afghan Talebans associated with the Quetta central organisation, but rather the tribal-jihadist gangs run by Baitullah Mehsud and his ally Tahir Yuldashev, leader of the Uzbek Islamic Movement (ULM), who from the inaccessible North-West are pushing jihad into the Indus’ rural and urban basin. Although disowned by the mullah Omar and the “historical” Talebans, who accuse them of setting Muslims against Muslims, Pashtuns against Pashtuns (the dominant ethnic group among guerrillas and among the paramilitary in Islamabad, sent to face certain defeat by the regular troops of Punjabi origin), the insurgents are at the gates of Peshawar and attacking even the very centre of Karachi (coloured map 3). According to this coalition of the willing, perfunctorily grouped around the qaidist brand name, Musharraf is a corrupt traitor, a slave of the Americans, just like Mubarak or the Arab petro-monarchs. These groups may be allowed at best a truce that is certainly not without a price to be paid, such as the one announced on February 6th to reward the “indulgence” shown recently by the government.

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The paradox: while he portrays himself as the State’s protector in fighting rebel jihadist gangs, Musharraf aims at making himself indispensable both to the Americans and “his own” Talebans. This is a very acrobatic form of geopolitics, one in which there is the risk of breaking one’s neck. However, within the game of reciprocal manipulation, no one any longer really controls anyone; the Americans cannot trust the Pakistanis, who in turn are no longer capable of managing their “own” jihadists, who threaten to bring chaos to the country. The final match, the one for the “big prize”, seems imminent. 4. “Nowadays al-Qa’ida seems to have turned against Pakistan to attack its government and its people”. Defeat in the “war on terror” is carved in these words spoken by the American Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates. More than six years after the fall of Kabul – and while most of America’s troops are tied up in Iraq - Washington must strengthen its contingent in Afghanistan (another 3.200 marines will land there before the end of April) and even prepare for an emergency intervention in Pakistan since the USA fears it may fall into al-Qa’ida’s hands with all its nuclear panoply. After stepping around its edges, Bush has put his head into the Pakistani volcano – the epicentre of jihadism – and this has shaken him, to the extent of considering the hypothesis of penetrating it so as to prevent an eruption in some way. Until a year ago the Americans had followed the easier route, relying on the already tested “one-man policy”. Without wasting time on excessively detailed territorial analysis, they believed they had identified in General Musharraf, “the democratic dictator”, a Pakistani Atatürk capable of repressing jihadist extremism and sufficiently ready to cooperate on the Afghan front. Of course the Islamist faction was appearing among the military and above all within ISI, but all in all Musharraf seemed capable of containing it, and perhaps one day even opening the path for some kind of real democracy. From 2001 to today, Washington has filled the regime’s chests with over 10 billion dollars, of which only 900 million have been spent on social projects. The rest has been used for weapons – considered more useful as anti-Indian than anti-jihadist, such as F16 fighter planes – or in private accounts belonging to praetorians. In recent months this approach has started to fall to pieces. Challenged by the judiciary’s liberal fringe groups and by urban public opinion aspiring to become emancipated from the military dictatorship, and challenged by the jihadists in the very centre of power (the massacre at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, in July), as well as being accused of not having been capable of preventing the winter’s food and energy emergency which caused the price of flour to hit the ceiling, Musharraf now seems just a ghost. Even worse, he is seen as one of America’s puppets, with 84% of Pakistanis considering the presence of American soldiers in the region far more of a threat to the country’s “vital interests” than al-Qa’ida. Renouncing his uniform and handing over command of the Armed Forces to his trusted (?) colleague Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is not sufficient for bringing under control this country which has slipped into a civil war of varying intensity depending on the areas, but apparently endemic. To prevent the disintegration of Pakistan, Bush, making an effort to use his imagination, had initially tried to organise a transition from the “one-man policy” to the variant “one-man plus one-woman”: Musharraf plus Benazir Bhutto. The former exiled Premier was meant to restore the military regime’s façade with her pro-Western touch and her charisma, which however was little acknowledged beyond the Sindh domain. This was a promise that perhaps involved only a virtual democratic openness and was anyway welcomed by bombs the moment Benazir set foot in her homeland. The attack in Rawalpindi (December 27th) swept away the hypothesis of an improbable diarchy. If, as many believed, this attack was organised by ISI or perhaps

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one of its deviant branches, anarchy is even more serious and hence also the prospect of a nuclear power out of control. In any case, the murder of Benazir confirmed that American influence in Pakistan is extremely restricted, especially when compared to the political, economic and military resources invested there. If anything the opposite is true: any aspiring Pakistani leader cannot afford to appear as one of Washington’s people if he cares about his life. This also applies to Kayani, the extreme reserve card held by the USA, should Musharraf, either willingly or unwillingly, resign himself to playing golf in some pleasant foreign retreat. Because even the Americans seem persuaded that, whatever the civilian government may be, Pakistan is really destined to be led by a military man from the Punjab. Punjabi uniforms and roots remain the necessary characteristics for any leader chosen to prevent the collapse of this “truncated” and “moth-eaten” state. 5. In this strategic void, and faced with a development in the Pakistani crisis, Bush is ready for direct intervention. A dangerous game. Justifiable only with the framework of the “big prize”. In Washington they are persuaded that al-Qa’ida is about to gain possession of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and also that it is necessary to prevent jihadists and local bandits from interrupting the logistic artery that from Karachi via Quetta and Kandahar supplies US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Repeated attacks on allied convoys in Sindh and in Baluchistan, while in the North-West the insurgents challenge the demoralised contingents from Islamabad, mean that Pakistani destabilisation is putting Enduring Freedom and its weak NATO appendix at risk. According to American public opinion, losing in Afghanistan and hence also losing Pakistan would be much worse than defeat in Iraq. This is because it was in Afghanistan that the war on terror was declared and it is there that one day it must end. With a victory or with a retreat. But how should one intervene in Pakistan? For years special forces and CIA agents have been present there, at times unknown to Musharraf. Even when informed, the General prefers to keep this secret since the news would fire not only religious extremists but almost all Pakistanis who are jealous of their own territory. On the contrary, Musharraf thunders that should Americans set foot in his country, “it would be a day they would live to regret”. He swears that the atomic arsenal is super-safe and this is a message to the terrorists and to the Americans; the Bomb is ours and there will be trouble for anyone touching it. Little impressed, Bush sent the Pakistani President a message stating that he had two options: either he invites American soldiers or they will invite themselves. These are elite divisions and experts who are meant to make safe the vast atomic complex, including waste storage facilities such as the one in Dera Ismail Khan, in the contended North-West Province. A few hundred very well-chosen men. The plans are ready, all that is missing is the order from the White House. In addition to this emergency nucleus, groups of American trainers are already operational or ready to deploy and teach local soldiers – as American sources reassure with no irony – how one fights terrorists. To be even clearer, US troops have just inaugurated a new Afghan base at the Ghaki Pass, three kilometres from the borders with the turbulent Pakistani Bajaur Agency, right in the middle of tribal lands. And they have few qualms about crossing the pseudo-frontier created by the British. Washington does not seem to take into account the lesson learned in the past by emissaries from His British Majesty, who preferred to devolve to local clans the management of the tribal territories, unresponsive to all external intervention (map). Should however American infiltration of Pakistani lands become obvious and massive, it would probably result in having the opposite effect. It would regroup tribal lords and

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jihadists of all schools in a battle against the infidel invaders. And it would push the Pakistani government itself to break loose from America’s embrace, so as to avoid mutiny among its own soldiers and a general uprising.

6. After having dug two geopolitical craters in Iraq and in Afghanistan with large amounts of bombs - and risking a third far more dangerous one in Pakistan – America will perhaps one day resign itself to the English charm of indirect rule. Hence: insoluble problems should be unloaded on others. On locals, or at worst on future generations. And in fact, from Central Asia to Palestine, the West has hopelessly attempted for half a century to solve the rebus inherited from the British Empire. Having recovered from the neocon intoxication, with its revolutionary fantasies, the team chosen by the new American President might perhaps discover the virtues of Anglo-Saxon pragmatism. There are already signs of this in the Bush administration’s final phase. In reality this would mean that local groups and clans would have to fill those black holes, gently supervised by the USA. America would rely on funds rather than on soldiers, on political influence rather than on flexing its muscles. It would also

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spare its exhausted Armed Forces, and following Musharraf’s interested advice: “Stop with your obsession with democracy and human rights. (…) Look at Pakistan through Pakistani eyes”.

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A scenario that at a geopolitical level pays the price of the involvement, or to say the least the benign negligence shown by the powers interested in monitoring the Pakistani volcano. From China to Russia. All the way to India, should the cold calculation of interest prevail over the drive of Hindu extremism. And including Iran. However painful it may be for Washington to admit this, it knows that the keys to Iraqi and Afghan (de)stabilisation (and hence to a certain extent that of Pakistan) are also in Persian hands. After the cold war between American government agencies with regards to how to deal with Iran ended with a defeat for the warmongering side led by Vice-President Cheney, the United States-Iran geopolitical compromise no longer seems like an illusion. Any new balance in the Great Middle East will have to include an agreement between Persians and Americans. This exchange would concern Iran’s reintegration within the regional and global game for what it is really worth (much more than Arabs, Sunnis and Americans would like), in exchange for giving up the Bomb and subversive elements in the areas of Achaemenid-Shiite influence showing moderation, from the Lebanon to the Indian sub-continent; all this starting with cooperation in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Hence the Iran-Pakistan border would be the advance barrier set up against Deobando jihadism’s penetration to the West (coloured map 4). Furthermore, Teheran could, as during the 2001 campaign, offer the Anglo-Americans its logistic corridors towards Afghanistan, should the Pakistani ones no longer be available or even blocked, as reprisal by military forces exasperated by the creeping American invasion. We Europeans tend to consider the Pakistani match a distant affair, something the Americans should deal with, forgetting that we have thousands of men deployed on the Afghan front; also neglecting the ramifications of Islamist terrorism in the Pakistani diaspora within Europe. After the bombs in London in July 2005 and various attacks only just foiled in Great Britain and other countries, last January the Spanish Police wiped out in extremis a gang of Pakistani and Indian jihadists about to launch an attack in that country. Nor is Italy immune from danger, although we prefer to repress this idea. The eruptions of the Pakistani volcano are not very selective and the lapillii threaten to fly great distances. We too can contribute to preventing an event excessively announced in advance. The least we could do is invite our American partners to repress suicidal impulsions, that encouraging them to enter this crater, would end up by setting off the most devastating of explosions.

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IN THE HEART OF JIHAD R

THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

THE BIG ATOMIC GAME

THE BIG ATOMIC GAME

by Rahimullah YUSUFZAI

Is the United States ready to assume control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon sites in case there is a crisis? Musharraf’s difficult tour of Europe and the justifications of the president are “under siege”. Dr. A.Q. Khan, enemy of the U.S., hero for Pakistan.

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HE PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT AND

nation were alarmed by recent Western media reports that the U.S. had prepared contingency plans for seizing Islamabad’s nuclear facilities to prevent a takeover by Islamic extremists. The issue is now being vigorously debated amid assertions by Pakistani authorities that they had further boosted the fail-safe security system for the country’s atomic weapons and sites. In fact, Pakistan in recent days came under so much international pressure concerning its nuclear assets that retired army general Khalid Kidwai, head of the Strategic Plans Division that handles Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, invited foreign journalists to a rare press conference in Islamabad on January 26, 2008 to explain the new measures put in place by the government to safeguard its atomic facilities. Kidwai said 10,000 professional soldiers, led by a two-star general, guarded the nuclear weapons, fissile material and infrastructure and served as a dedicated intelligence network. He pointed out that a command and control system headed by President General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf and including top military and political leaders was in place to oversee the nuclear program and ensure its security. Such was the distrust of the Musharraf government’s capability to prevent the nuclear assets falling into the hands of militants linked to al-Qaeda and Taliban that the President was repeatedly asked this question during his recent eight-day tour of some countries in Europe. He tried to allay the fears of his European hosts at Brussels, Paris and London by claiming that there was zero per cent chance of Pakistan falling into the hands of the Islamic militants but the Western media’s coverage of his visit showed that many still doubted his claims. President Musharraf also found it difficult to convince European politicians, scholars and mediapersons about his commitment to democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. He faced tough and probing questions regarding his arbitrary decision to impose Emergency Rule in the country on November 3 last year, sack 55 top independent-minded judges of the superior courts, imprison political and human rights activists agitating his dictatorial steps and gag the free media. Highly unpopular at home and fast losing friends abroad, the embattled President also had to give repeated assurances to a sceptical world that the general elections on February 18 would be free, fair and transparent. The existence of a Pentagon contingency plan to seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in case of an Islamic militants’ threat of a takeover has raised alarm in Pakistan and deepened distrust of U.S. intentions. The issue was first discussed in an article jointly written by Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon in the New York Times last November. They wrote: “Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these (nuclear) assets, it is unlikely the U.S. would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical

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sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.” The writers also mentioned an alternate plan under which a sizable combat force, not only from the U.S. but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations would be sent to Pakistan to secure the nuclear facilities. The plan in their words runs like this: “So, if we got a large number of troops into the country, what would they do? The most likely directive would be to help Pakistan’s military and security forces hold the country’s centre – primarily the region around the capital, Islamabad, and the populous areas like Punjab province in its south.” It is worth mentioning that this is roughly the area where Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are located. The article with its Doomsday scenario was penned by independent writers associated with think-tanks, but it was obvious that not only American scholars but the U.S. government too was concerned about the increase in militants’ activities and the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan. The Bush administration’s anxiety regarding Pakistan’s stability had grown in recent months. The situation in Pakistan had political implications for U.S. efforts to stabilize neighbouring Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban had rendered large areas insecure and beyond the control of President Hamid Karzai’s government and the U.S.-led foreign forces. Another major cause of worry in Washington was the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. However, the U.S. government functionaries and scholars were aware that Pakistani authorities were averse to the idea of allowing American troops into Pakistan. As David Sanger and William Broad noted in the New York Times on November 18, 2007, a U.S.-sponsored, post-9/11 plan to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, “has been hindered by a deep suspicion among Pakistan’s military that the secret goal of the U.S. was to gather intelligence about how to locate and, if necessary, disable Pakistan’s arsenal, which is the pride of the country.” It is, therefore, not surprising that President Musharraf has been vehemently opposing the deployment of U.S. troops in Pakistan. Though he hasn’t made any mention of the need to deploy American soldiers to secure Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, it is obvious that he doesn’t want U.S. troops on Pakistan’s soil at all. One of his major arguments is that Pakistani people are opposed to any kind of American intervention. This is true primarily due to the strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan. Any unilateral U.S. military intervention in Pakistan would further inflame the anti-U.S. feelings and cause domestic upheaval. Rather than the U.S., the immediate target of popular uprising in such a scenario would be President Musharraf, who is considered by most Pakistanis as uncomfortably pro-America. 2. Since it was launched by the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on January 20, 1972, Pakistan’s nuclear program has undergone many twists and turns. It was in August 1976, that U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Pakistan and, if one were to be believe the late Mr. Bhutto, tried to dissuade him from pursuing the nuclear reprocessing plant deal that was considered crucial for the country’s nascent atomic program. In Mr. Bhutto’s words, Kissinger threatened to make a horrible example of him if he didn’t abandon the Chashma nuclear energy reprocessing plant. Kissinger, however, denied issuing the threat. He did concede telling Mr. Bhutto that, further down the road, this could create problems for Pakistan. Whatever the truth may be, it is a fact that the U.S. made efforts and used both carrots and sticks to stop Pakistan from acquiring nuclear technology. The carrots included economic assistance and the sticks came in the form of sanctions against Pakistan. Nothing worked as every Pakistani ruler was determined to pursue the nuclear program and take it to its logical conclusion. In fact, this was one of the few policy matters which remained constant despite quick change of governments in

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Pakistan. The Pakistani people too backed efforts to make the atom bomb even though it was a costly enterprise and the expenses on nuclear program affected the socio-economic development in the country. Pakistan finally carried out nuclear tests on May 28, 1998 in the desolate desert area of Chagai in Balochistan province. It was kind of tit-for-tat for the Indian nuclear tests that took place earlier on May 11 the same year in Rajasthan province. India had, in fact, carried out its first nuclear test in 1974 but had then waited all these years to conduct further tests. Pakistani nuclear scientists also claim that they too were ready to carry out small nuclear tests in the early 1980s but didn’t get permission from the government to do so. A number of Pakistani nuclear scientists including Munir Ahmad Khan, Ishfaq Ahmad Khan, Bashiruddin Mahmood, Samar Mubarakmand and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, or Dr. A.Q. Khan, as he was commonly known, were credited for carrying forward the country’s nuclear program. Some excelled in uranium enrichment, others in making centrifuges and other parts. However, it was Dr. A.Q. Khan who got fame and was hailed as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. There are stories galore as to how he and his men secretly shopped for material and equipment in Western cities while planning how to make centrifuges. It was later described as “shopping for the bomb.” He acquired scientific skills while working at the URENCO plant in Almelo, The Netherlands, and later shifted to Pakistan to work on uranium enrichment. He set up the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), later renamed as Khan Research Laboratories after him, near Islamabad as vital part of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The same Dr. A.Q. Khan was later blamed as a nuclear proliferator for selling centrifuges and other nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. President Musharraf sent him home in disgrace and, for the last few years, has kept him under house arrest. Earlier, he was made to confess his mistake on public television and took responsibility for earning a bad name for Pakistan as a result of his clandestine activities geared toward nuclear proliferation. Despite this episode, Dr. A.Q. Khan is still considered hero by most Pakistanis, who believe he agreed to become a scapegoat to protect Pakistan’s interest. It is generally believed in Pakistan that Dr. A.Q. Khan would not have sold the centrifuges or transferred any nuclear secrets without the blessings of the Pakistan government and its powerful armed forces. Recent reports about his illness once again brought him into the limelight and there was outpouring of goodwill and support for the disgraced nuclear scientist. He may be considered a rogue nuclear scientist elsewhere in the world but in Pakistan he remains a very popular man. 3. Pakistanis are also angry that their bomb is described as the “Islamic bomb” while there is never any mention of the Indian bomb as the “Hindu bomb,” or Israel’s as the “Jewish bomb.” They also point out that there is no “Christian bomb.” However, they don’t want to admit that only Pakistan was accused of nuclear proliferation and its top scientist Dr. A.Q. Khan publicly admitted having done so. Strangely enough, there is not much pride left now in the Pakistani achievement of making the nuclear bomb despite being an under-developed and politically unstable country. The euphoria that accompanied the nuclear tests in May 1998 was shortlived and is now a thing of the past. Many Pakistanis say the bomb gave them a false sense of security because it would never be used and would instead remain a burden on their fragile economy. Some of them sarcastically remark that the country has to guard the atom bomb instead of it providing them security. The fiberglass replicas of the Ras-i-Koh hill in Chagai, where the May 1998 nuclear tests were carried out, erected as a monument in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals with much fanfare have gradually turned into eyesores. These

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monuments no longer evoke pride among the people and at least one of them has already been removed. Besides Kahuta, Pakistan’s scattered nuclear facilities are located at Khushab, Sihala and Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab. There could be other smaller facilities as well as secret locations. About 10,000 people work in Pakistan’s nuclear programme and among them there are 2,000, who are employed in very sensitive installations and are subject to intense scrutiny throughout their lives. Pakistan government has admitted that two of its nuclear scientists, including Bashiruddin Mahmood, who was running an NGO working in Afghanistan, had met Osama bin Laden in Kandahar during Taliban rule and both were investigated for three months after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. but nothing dangerous was found and they were freed after removing them for their jobs. Such incidents, however, create doubts about Pakistani nuclear scientists and their intentions. 4. As stated previously, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai pointed out in his January 26 news conference, up to 10,000 soldiers are deployed to secure the nuclear facilities. These soldiers are there not only to prevent the nuclear facilities from falling into the hands of Islamic militants but also any other power, including the U.S. and India. The general made it clear that the U.S. would not be able to succeed in any operation to seize Pakistan’s nuclear assets and termed Pentagon’s contingency plans to prevent these facilities from falling into the hands of Islamic militants as “irresponsible talk.” He pointed out that Pakistani military had its own contingency plans for such an eventuality. Arguing that nobody should take on an established nuclear power, he felt it was serious business and it was irresponsible on the part of those who talk about seizing another country’s nuclear assets. General Kidwai also disclosed that the U.S. after 9/11 gave around $ 10 million to Pakistan to enhance the physical security of its nuclear assets and for training purposes. Though the U.S. and Pakistan profess to be close allies in the war on terror, it is obvious that they have differences on certain issues. The U.S.’ insistence that it wants to send troops to Pakistan to carry out operations against Islamic militants and Islamabad’s refusal to allow American soldiers on its soil is one such contentious issue. President Musharraf’s statement that any U.S. troops’ incursion into Pakistan would be considered an invasion also explains the seriousness of the situation and the growing divergence in the view of Pakistan and U.S. government. Finally, there are the U.S. concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into the hands of militants and Islamabad’s tough stance that no such threat existed. It appears that the U.S. and Pakistan are drifting apart and one reason for this is failure of their respective armies to defeat Taliban insurgents in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Matters could come to a head if the general elections in Pakistan on February 18 are rigged by President Musharraf’s regime or power is not transferred to the winners. The U.S. could use such a situation to force Musharraf to accept its demands concerning deployment of American troops in Pakistan to tackle Islamic militants. The same troops, in case of need, could be then used to secure the country’s nuclear assets. Or President Musharraf could lose U.S. support and opposition parties in Pakistan could step up efforts to remove him from power.

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THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

THE MASKS OF THE ISI

THE MASKS OF THE ISI

by B. RAMAN

Pakistan’s ISI has always served the current jihadists wherever possible. Futile pressure from the Americans. Three priorities: Annex Kashmir, control Afghanistan and maintain the national nuclear program.

1.

T

HE INTELLIGENCE BUREAU (IB) OF

undivided India, which was created by the British colonial rulers, to collect domestic political intelligence was largely a police organization. It had no responsibility for the collection of foreign intelligence. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, its personnel, assets and records were divided between India and Pakistan. Most of the Muslim police officers serving in the IB of undivided India chose to join the IB of Pakistan. Others stayed behind in the IB of India. Independent India placed its IB under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs and expanded its charter to make it responsible for the collection of internal as well as foreign intelligence. This position continued till September 21, 1968, when the Government of India bifurcated the IB and converted its foreign intelligence division into an independent organization called the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). The R&AW too was initially a largely police organization with a small number of military officers taken on deputation to handle military intelligence. Since then, the predominance of police officers has been reduced and more officers unconnected with the police have been inducted into the R&AW. It is a largely civilian organization with a small number of military officers. The Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior, was initially a largely police organization and was given the responsibility for the collection of internal and external intelligence. However, following complaints from the Army about the poor performance of the IB and its police officers during the first Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48 over Kashmir, the Government of Pakistan created a new organization called the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and made it responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence. The ISI was placed under the control of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and its personnel were taken from the three wings of the armed forces. Initially, the ISI had no responsibility for the collection of internal intelligence, which continued to be collected by the police officers of the IB. This position started changing after the Army started meddling in politics in the late 1950s. Field Marshal Ayub Khan (President during 1958-69), who distrusted the police officers of the IB, made the ISI responsible for the collection of internal intelligence to also having a bearing on national security. He also created in the ISI a Covert Action Division to provide assistance to the tribal insurgents in India’s North-East. The internal intelligence role of the ISI was further strengthened under the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto (1971-77) and then under the late Gen. Zia ul Haq (1977-88), who overthrew Bhutto and seized power in 1977. Both Bhutto and Zia used the Political Division of the ISI for the collection of intelligence about their political opponents and the ethnic and linguistic minorities. While the police officers of the IB continued to perform their internal intelligence collection role, the reports of the ISI were given greater credence than those of the IB. Under Z.A. Bhutto and Zia, the role of the Covert Action Division of the ISI was

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expanded and strengthened in order to enable it to assist Sikh and Kashmiri separatists in India and radical elements in the Indian Muslim community. The assistance was in the form of funds, training and supply of arms, ammunition and explosives. Z.A. Bhutto also ordered the creation of a new division in the ISI to assist the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in the clandestine procurement of nuclear technology and equipment from abroad. This division played an active role in helping Pakistan acquire military nuclear capability. Thus, when Zia overthrew Bhutto and seized power in 1977, the ISI had three important roles---collection of internal and external intelligence, covert action in India and clandestine procurement of nuclear technology and equipment. The internal political intelligence division of the ISI came under considerable criticism after the death of Zia in a plane crash in August 1988. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto won the elections held thereafter. The ISI, then headed by Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, strongly opposed her taking over as the Prime Minister. It alleged that she was in touch with India when she was living in political exile in the UK and hence projected her as a security risk. Under U.S. pressure, the Army and the ISI agreed to her becoming the Prime Minister on the condition that she would not have anything to do with the nuclear programme. Even after she had assumed office, the ISI kept disseminating reports alleging that she was an Indian agent. The ISI’s animosity to her increased when she abolished the internal political intelligence division and ordered the Covert Action Division to stop supporting the Sikh separatists of India. However, she gave it a free hand in Jammu and Kashmir. The ISI’s animosity to her resulted in her dismissal by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in August 1990 and started fresh elections. During the elections, the ISI, with money allegedly donated by a private bank, assisted the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Mr. Nawaz Sharif and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in their election campaign and worked against the candidates of the PPP. The two parties won the majority of seats. After taking over as the Prime Minister, Nawaz ordered the re-establishment of the internal political intelligence division of the ISI. He also made Brig. Imtiaz, who used to head the Political Division of the ISI before 1988, the Director of the IB. Thus, started the process of the militarization of the IB. This has continued since then and acquired momentum under President Pervez Musharraf. 2. Since 1990, there have been allegations that the Political Division of the ISI has been interfering in the conduct of the general elections in order to get candidates critical of the Army defeated through rigging and other means. These allegations have gained force under Musharraf. In 2002, he was accused of misusing the ISI for ensuring the victory of the Pakistan Muslim League faction headed by Mr. Shujjat Hussain, which supported him. In the run-up to the forthcoming elections on February 18, 2008, there have been similar allegations of the misuse of the ISI by him to influence the results. Today, the ISI is supposed to report to the Prime Minister, but de facto it generally reports to the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and keeps the Prime Minister in the dark about its activities. There were, however, three instances when the heads of the ISI were more loyal to the Prime Minister than to the COAS and this created tensions in the relations between the Prime Minister and the COAS. The first instance was during the first tenure of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister (1988 to 1990). To reduce the powers of the ISI, to reorganise the intelligence community and to enhance the powers of the police officers in the IB, she discontinued the practice of appointing a serving Lt. Gen, recommended by the COAS, as the Director-General (DG), ISI, and, instead appointed Maj. Gen. Shamsur Rahman Kallue, a retired officer close to her father, as the DG in replacement of Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul in

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1989 and entrusted him with the task of winding up the internal intelligence collection role of the ISI and civilianising the IB and the ISI. Writing in The Nation of July 31, 1997, Brig. A.R. Siddiqui, who had served as the Press Relations Officer in the army headquarters in the 1970s, said that this action of hers marked the beginning of her trouble with Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the then COAS, which ultimately led to her dismissal in August 1990. Gen. Beg stopped inviting Kallue to the Corps Commanders conferences and transferred the responsibility for covert action in India from the ISI to the Army intelligence directorate working under the Chief of the General Staff (CGS). The second instance was during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif (1990-93) as the Prime Minister. He appointed as the DG, ISI, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer, though he was not recommended by Gen. Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS, for the post. This created friction in the relations between Nawaz Sharif and his COAS, who excluded the ISI chief from all important Army conferences. The third instance was during the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif (1997-99) when his action in appointing Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, an engineer, as the DG, ISI, over-riding the objection of Musharraf led to friction between the two. These instances would show that whenever an elected leadership was in power, the COAS saw to it that the elected Prime Minister did not have effective control over the ISI and that the ISI was marginalised if its head showed any loyalty to the elected Prime Minister. In the 1990s, there was a controversy in Pakistan as to who really controlled the ISI and when was its internal Political Division set up. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the ISI's Political Division accepting a donation of 140 million rupees from a bank for use against PPP candidates during the 1990 elections. Testifying before the Supreme Court on June 16,1997, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg claimed that though the ISI was manned by serving military officers and was part of the Ministry of Defence, it reported to the Prime Minister and not to the COAS and that its internal Political Division was actually set up by the late Z.A. Bhutto in 1975. Many Pakistani analysts challenged this and said that the ISI, though de jure under the Prime Minister, had always been controlled de facto by the COAS and that its internal Political Division had been in existence at least since the days of Ayub Khan, if not earlier. After the elections of 2002, Musharraf kept the ISI directly under his control and did not allow the elected Prime Minister to have any responsibility for supervising its work. 3. During the 1980s, the Covert Action Division of the ISI was used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the U.S. for recruiting, training and arming not only Afghan Mujahedeen, but also fundamentalist elements of Pakistan for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Saudi intelligence agency recruited over 6,000 Arabs in West Asia and North Africa and sent them to the ISI for being trained, armed and infiltrated into Afghanistan. All the funds and arms and ammunition from the CIA and all the funds from the Saudi intelligence for use against the Soviet troops were channelled through the ISI. Among the Arabs brought in and trained were Osama bin Laden and his supporters. The ISI’s links with bin Laden and his operatives thus started from the 1980s with the knowledge and approval of the CIA. The withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988-89, which was due to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen, Pakistani jihadis and the Arabs under bin Laden, strengthened the reputation of the ISI. During the same period, the ISI helped Dr. A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, in the clandestine procurement and transport of nuclear equipment for the Kahuta Uranium Enrichment plant, which

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enabled Pakistan to acquire military nuclear capability with the technology given by China and the equipment procured by the ISI. The U.S. closed its eyes to the nuclear procurement activities of the ISI because of the CIA’s dependence on it for the jihad against the Soviet troops. Differences started appearing between the CIA and the ISI in 1990. These were due to the CIA’s unhappiness over the non-co-operation of the ISI in its efforts to buy back from the Afghan Mujahideen the unused shoulder-fired Stinger missiles supplied to them for use against Soviet aircraft. The CIA’s concerns over the ISI were enhanced by reports of Pakistani assistance to Iran in the nuclear field starting from 1988 and Pakistani contacts with China and North Korea in the nuclear and missile fields. In 1993, the Clinton Administration forced Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, to remove from the ISI, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, the then Director-General, and some of his officers because they were seen as non-cooperative in its efforts to buy back the Stingers. Nasir was a Deobandi fundamentalist, who belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat, a Pakistani organization to preach Islam, which was assisting the jihadi organizations in their recruitment drive in Pakistan and abroad. In 1994, during the second tenure of Benazir as the Prime Minister, the ISI and Maj. Gen. Naseerullah Babar, her Interior Minister, acted jointly in encouraging the formation of the Taliban in order to restore law and order in Afghanistan, which had collapsed after the Afghan Mujahideen came to power in April 1992. By September 1996, the Taliban, with the ISI’s help, succeeded in capturing power in Kabul and extending its control over all the Pashtun areas. Initially, the CIA closed its eyes to it because UNOCAL, the U.S. oil company, was interested in the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan and was facing difficulty in going ahead with this project due to the break-down of law and order. The U.S. interest in seeking the assistance of the Taliban for the UNOCAL project disappeared after the UNOCAL itself abandoned it as not feasible. In 1996, Osama bin Laden and his advisers shifted from the Sudan to Afghanistan when the Taliban had not yet captured power in Kabul. In 1996, after capturing power in Kabul, the Taliban welcomed the presence of bin Laden and encouraged him to shift from Jalalabad to Kandahar. He was permitted to start his training infrastructure in Afghan territory. Alarm bells started ringing in the U.S. over the developing nexus between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the role played by the ISI in training the Taliban and reports of the resumption of the contacts of bin Laden with his old friends in Pakistan in the ISI as well as in Pakistani fundamentalist organizations. The U.S. concerns over these developments increased after bin Laden formed, in 1998, his International Islamic Front (IIF) for jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People and Al-Qaeda organized explosions near the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam on August 7, 1998. The U.S. Cruise missile attacks on Al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghan territory on August 20, 1998, were not effective. From then on, there was increasing pressure by Washington on the Government of Nawaz Sharif to either pressure the Taliban to hand over bin Laden to the CIA or to permit the U.S. Special Forces to mount a special operation from Pakistani territory to kill or capture bin Laden. Nawaz did not do either as he was afraid of the repercussions in Pakistan if he collaborated with the U.S. against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. 4. After overthrowing Nawaz Sharif and seizing power in October, 1999, Musharraf appointed Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, a close friend of his, as the DG of the ISI. The U.S. was unhappy over what it viewed as non-cooperation by the ISI in its efforts to have bin Laden killed or captured. Before it started its military strikes on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghan territory on October 7, 2001, it pressured Musharraf to

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replace Lt. Gen. Ahmed as the DG of the ISI. Musharraf appointed Lt. Gen. Ehsan-ul-Haq as the DG. He was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, who has since taken over as the COAS from Musharraf. The present DG is Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj. Kiyani tried to keep the ISI out of political controversies. In recent months, it is the IB which is becoming increasingly controversial after Musharraf appointed Brig. Ijaz Shah, a close personal friend of his, as its Director and inducted a number of retired army officers into it. Before her assassination, Benazir used to complain that the threat to her security mainly came from Ijaz Shah, Lt. Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul and Chaudhury Pervez Elahi, former Chief Minister of Punjab, all the three of them Zia loyalists. She did not make any complaint against the ISI. However, since her assassination, there have been allegations by her party members that junior officials of the ISI might have also been involved in her assassination in addition to those named by her when she was alive. 5. The ISI has always had three operational priorities. Firstly, the annexation of Kashmir through covert action; secondly, acquiring strategic depth in Afghanistan through a Government which would be favourable to Pakistani interests; and thirdly, to help the Government in its clandestine nuclear and missile procurement efforts. These priorities have not changed. That is why it has refrained from taking action against the Pakistani jihadi organizations, which are active in India and against the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, which is operating against the U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While pretending to extend unconditional co-operation to the U.S. in its so-called war against terrorism, Musharraf has kept the co-operation confined to action against Al-Qaeda operatives based in Pakistani territory. Even the co-operation against Al-Qaeda is restricted to action against Al-Qaeda sleeper cells operating from non-tribal areas. He has not taken any effective action against Al-Qaeda sanctuaries in the FATA or against the leadership of the Neo Taliban, headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, its Amir, operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan. Nor has he acted against the terrorist infrastructure directed against India. In December, 2003, Musharraf escaped two attempts to assassinate him at Rawalpindi allegedly mounted by Al-Qaeda and pro-Al-Qaeda elements with the complicity of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force. The failure of the ISI to detect this conspiracy led to fears that there are elements in the ISI, which are opposed to co-operation with the U.S. and perhaps even against Al-Qaeda. Dr. Aamir Liaqat Hussain, the then Minister of State for Religious Affairs, gave expression to these fears in an interview to the Daily Times of Lahore on May 5, 2005. He warned that Musharraf had a lot of enemies ‘within’ who could make an attempt on his life again at any time. He said that there were certain elements within the forces, who could attack the General. He added: “No common people could attack President Musharraf, but certainly there are elements in the forces, who can launch yet another attack against him. There is an ISI within the ISI, which is more powerful than the original and still orchestrating many eventualities in the country.”

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THE OBSCURE WORLD OF GOD’S SCHOOLS

THE OBSCURE WORLD OF GOD’S SCHOOLS

by Sabookh SYED

Pakistan’s madrasas are not only full of terrorists. They are pillars of the national welfare system and they help educate those who are less fortunate. As of today, Islamabad has been pleasingly tolerant, but now the game is becoming too dangerous.

1.

S

URROUNDED BY A GROUP OF RELIGIOUS

seminary students, I am sitting in Jamia Muhammadia F-6/4. This religious seminary is considered as the largest one of its type in Islamabad (Capital of Pakistan). These students are quite different from the ones we encounter with in our daily life. Instead of jeans, trousers and tee-shirts, these middle-aged, some of which are bald, have abnormal attire. Wearing long kurtas, pajamas, some of them have tactfully placed white turbans and handmade caps on their heads. Most of them come of the Pushtoon areas of North Western Federal Province of Pakistan. I don’t see many Punjabis in them. But it doesn’t mean that people of Punjab are against the Madrasa (religious seminary) system. In fact, most Punjabis prefer joining the religious schools of Lahore and other major cities of the province. Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 most writers, scholars, politicians, diplomats, development workers, teachers, students and others have been trying to understand the reasons behind that devastating day. Muslim radicalism, Islamic fanaticism, Muslim fundamentalism are a few terms that have become very popular. In addition, as most of the operatives of the Taliban government in Muslim countries has gained special attention during the past two years. There are many questions. How did they evolve? How do they function? Where do they get their money? Who supports them? Albeit these types of schools existed earlier as well, the Madrasa system grew rapidly after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Then a rapid mushrooming of such schools can be observed during the Afghan Jihad. Dars-e-Nizami is taught in these madrasas, which, on average, takes eight years for a student to complete. Most students, commonly known as Talib-e-Ilm, are enrolled for Dars-e-Nizami after completion of their secondary school education. A significant number of madrasa students are the ones who cannot afford the expensive modern education in private/government schools and universities. There are five major Islamic schools of thought in Pakistan: Deobandi, Bareili, Ahle-hadith, Salafi, and Shia. Each sect has their own madrasas in which they teach their own version of Islam. The two main sects of Sunni Islam – Deobandi and Bareili – dominate the Madrasa system in Pakistan. Deobandi schools are most commonly found along the Afghan- Pakistan border and within city centers. The Deobandi and Bareili sects originated in the colonial Indian sub-continent in response to the perceived imperial plot to destroy Islam and its followers by enforcing its own version of education. The Deobandi sect is considered the most conservative and anti-western. The Deoband school of thought has a clearly dominant percentage in the total number of religious schools in Pakistan. Though, majority population of the country belongs to the Brelvi school of thought. Deoband school of thought has its roots in Darul Uloom Deoband (Madrasa). Madrasa Darul Uloom Deoband was established in Hindustan on May 16, 1867. At that point in time,

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this Madrasa was set up against British rule over Subcontinent and to stop Muslims from acquiring formal education introduced by the Britons. Deoband school of thought is an activist sect whose disciples are much involved in political and religious activities. Similarly, its disciples head major Jihadi, social and social welfare organizations in the country. Jihadi organizations like Jesh-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin, Harkat-ul-Ansar, sectarian organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba, Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamat and political parties like Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam are Deoband organizations. Religious institutions have played an important role in providing religious education of the Quran and hadith. They are mostly financed by charity. Teachers and the management of these institutions believe that it is the religious responsibility of the people to provide for the teachers and the students there. There are various kinds of madrasas depending on the level of education. Some of the important types are Nazira, which focus on teaching the correct reading of the Quran, Hifz, where Quran memorization is the objective, Dar-ul-uloom, where there is religious education, the teaching of the Arabic language, ahadith, fiqh and commentaries on the Quran are also taught and Jamia, which teaches advance courses in the above subjects with a dissertation and thesis. The number of madrasas has increased with the passage of time (Table 1 shows some figures in that regard). According to Akhbar-i-Jehan, these figures were presented to the president and prime minister of Pakistan during a briefing on religious madrasas by the intelligence bureau. These figures show only the big madrasas that are registered and where advanced level of religious education is imparted. The unregistered and informal madrasas, which are operating on a huge scale in the country, are not reflected in these statistics.
Table 1. Year 1957 1971 1997 The growth of madrasas over time. No. of registered madrasas 150 900 4500 No. of students 30,000 180,000 900,000

Source: Akhbar-i-Jahan (Jang Group)

2. Seeking knowledge has been an integral part of the Islamic tradition. The early years of Quranic revelations to the prophet where embedded in the oral tradition. Similar to the verses of good poetry, revelations of the Quran inspired the people of Arabia into memorizing the verses. However, as Islam expanded and it became necessary to preserve this vast knowledge, these four verses were written down and compiled into various chapters. This collection came to be the book of Islam, the Quran. From early on, Islam emphasized two types of knowledge, revealed and earthly. Revealed knowledge comes straight from God, earthly knowledge is to be discovered by human beings themselves. Islam considers both to be of vital importance and directs its followers, both men and women, to go and seek knowledge. For Muslims, the Quran is the perfect word of God, sacred and therefore cannot be changed. It should be memorized from start to finish. Once a person has memorized it, he/she must reflect on these verses and have a detailed understanding of its meaning and interpretation over the lifetime. A person has mastered it would carry the knowledge of Islam in his\her heart and spread the word to the ones who he/she encounter.

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According to Islam, seeking earthly knowledge is also important because earthly knowledge compliments the knowledge revealed by God in the Quran and helps Muslims to obtain productive and good lives in this world. However, as Islam expanded to other regions and came into contact with other indigenous traditions and languages, it became necessary to create a cadre of Muslim experts who would develop sophisticated writings and textbooks on fiqa – Islamic jurisprudence, sunna – prophet’s traditions, hadith – prophet’s sayings, and tafseer – the interpretation of the Quran, to cater to the needs of non-Arab Muslim populations. Thus began the tradition of madrasa, the center for higher learning the initial purpose of which was to preserve religious conformity through uniform teachings of Islam for all. There are three main types of religious institution in Pakistan: Quranic schools (where only the Quran is taught), mosque schools (where both Quranic and secular subjects are taught) and madrasas (where only Islamic learning takes place). At Quranic schools, every Muslim child in Pakistan is expected and encouraged to read the Quran either in a mosque or at home. Quranic schools usually function in a mosque where the mullah teaches the Quran to children, both boys and girls. At the basic level, the Quran is taught in words only and no translation or interpretation is provided to students. The end objective is that all Muslims must be able to read the Quran in Arabic even if they do not understand that language itself. Mosque primary schools, due to a lack of resources to provide schools in every village, in the mid-80’s the government of Pakistan experimented with the idea of converting some Quranic schools into mosque primary schools in rural areas. The plan was to add some additional subjects such as basic Urdu and mathematics, which would be taught to the students by the local imam. The plan faced serious challenges because the local imams were not academically prepared to teach Urdu and math since many of them had not attended formal secular schools and the government did not provide any training to prepare them for the new task. While some mosque schools closed down, some also survived. Currently, there are approximately 25,000 mosque primary schools in Pakistan. In the end, the mission of most madrasas in Pakistan is to prepare students for religious studies. Adhering to strict religious teachings, madrasas teach Islamic subjects such as the Quran, Islamic law and jurisprudence, logic and the prophet’s traditions. Depending upon the level of the madrasa (primary, middle or high), the concentration of religious teachings increases. Hafiz-e-Quran (the one who memorizes the Quran fully) or qari (the one who can recite the Quran with good pronunciation and in a melodic tone) are produced at the lower level of madrasas. The higher levels of madrasas produce alim — the Islamic scholar and/or teacher. And alim certificate from a madrasa is equivalent to a MA degree in Islamic studies or Arabic from a regular university. A madrasa student, after graduating from grade 10, is qualified enough to declare fatwas – religious edicts. Those students who enrol in madrasa full time do so with the knowledge that they will become well versed in religious studies only and will only find jobs in the religious sector since very few madrasas supplement religious education with secular subjects. As can be seen in Table 2, there is no mention of modern sciences, such as chemistry, biology or technology. However, since September 11, several madrasas in Pakistan, especially those located in urban centers, have tried to include science subjects in their curriculum.

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Table 2.

The curriculum of Pakistan’s madrasas.

First Year: Biography of the prophet (syrat), conjugation-grammar (sarf), syntax (nahv), Arabic literature, chirography, chant illation (tajvid) Second Year: Conjugation-grammar (sarf), syntax (nahv), Arabic literature, jurisprudence (fiqh) logic, chirography (khush-navisi), chant illation (tajvid) Third Year: Quranic exegesis, jurisprudence: (fiqh), syntax (nahv), Arabic literature, logic, chirography (khush-navisi), chant illation, (tajvid) Fourth Year: Quranic exegesis, jurisprudence (fiqh), principles of jurisprudence, rhetoric’s, hadith, logic, history, chant illation, modern sciences (sciences of cities of Arabia, geography of the Arab peninsula and other Islamic countries) Fifth Year: Quranic exegesis, jurisprudence, principles’ of jurisprudence, rhetoric, beliefs (aqa’id), logic, Arabic literature, chant illation, external study (history of Indian kings) Sixth Year: Interpretation of the Quran, jurisprudence, principles of interpretation and jurisprudence, Arabic literature, philosophy, chant illation, study of prophet’s traditions Seventh Year: Sayings of the prophet, jurisprudence, belief (aqa’ed), responsibility (fra’iz), chant illation, external study (Urdu texts) Eighth Year: Ten books by various authors focusing on the sayings of the prophet.

Pakistani madrasas pay heavy emphasis to the teachings of Arabic and Persian. The languages in the Pakistani madrasas are not taught for their intrinsic worth but because they facilitate mastery of the religion and because they are necessary for becoming an alim. For this purpose Arabic, of course, occupies center stage. Persian, which was socially and academically necessary in Muslim India, still forms part of the curriculum. Urdu is generally the medium of instruction in Pakistani madrasas. However, in the Pashto-speaking parts of the NWFP, Pashto is the medium of instruction while Sindhi is the medium of instruction in many madrasas in Sindhi-speaking parts of Sindh. Urdu is indeed, the language in which madrasa students become most competent in most of the madrasas. Most of the books, from which the languages are taught, are very old Arabic and Persian books that were written in the 1500’s or before. Pakistani madrasas today still teach many of the dars-e-nizami texts. These are some of the oldest existing Arabic books. Students also study the Persian translation of Arabic books. “The Arabic books are treatises on grammar in rhymed couplets. One of the best known among them, kafia ibn-e-malik, is so obscure that it is always taught through a commentary called the sharah ibn-e-aqil. The commentary is often the dread of students and a source of pride for the teacher who has mastered it. In the madrasas, Arabic is not taught as a living language. The student is made to memorize the rhymed couplets from the ancient texts as well as their explanation. As the explanations in a number of texts are in Persian, which is also memorized, the student generally fails to apply his knowledge to the living language. Some ancient texts, such as the mizbah-ul-nahv, are explained in Urdu. However, in this case, the Urdu is much arabicized. The explanation is scholastic and would not be understood by, let alone convince, somebody who is not familiar with the special branch of medieval Islamic philosophy on which it is based.”

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In addition, many of the madrasas teach muallimul insha which is written by an Indian alim, which is a response to modernity. Whereas the ancient books never felt it necessary to prescribe an Islamic form of behavior as it was not in dispute or under threat. In this book, history begins with the fall of Spain by the hands of the Moorish prince, Tariq bin Zayad. It also states that the English were always the enemies of Muslims.

3. For this reason, the madrasas in Pakistan present a unique example of what can go wrong with the religious education system if it is not monitored in a positive manner. For most of Pakistan’s history, madrasas numbered in the low hundreds and focused on training the next generation of religious leaders, beginning in the mid-70s, the number of madrasas began to grow, the reasons was that the government of Pakistan failed to provide for the growing number of students. The rise of jamat-e-islami (an Islamic political party), and the active support from the Bhutto Government to, essentially, declaring Pakistan a theocracy led to the expansion of the Madrasa system where children could receive religious education free of cost. Because of these reasons, no serious efforts have ever been made to utilize their capabilities for

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developmental initiatives in the country. During the mid-80s, the number of madras’s grew at an even greater rate under Zia’s regime because of financing from the Pakistani Government and the CIA. Large theological seminaries were established along the Afghan-Pakistan border to create a cadre of religiously motivated Mujahedeens to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Students in these seminaries were taught to fight the godless Russians and ensure that Afghanistan is free to become a religious state. Since then most of the madrasas strongly advocate and work for the implementation of the same set of laws as the Taliban were introducing in Afghanistan. The events of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) have provoked perplexity about Pakistan’s Madrasa system and about the way in which they have managed them. In particular, there are fingers being pointed at the possession of arms and munitions by the madrasas even though it’s still not clear who actually supplied the weapons to the madrasas and who is propitiating a gospel of jihad. Today, after years of disinterest in intervention, the Pakistani government has found itself having to devise a way to keep these Muslims school under watch and under thumb.

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WHY WE HATE THE UNITED STATES

WHY WE HATE THE UNITED STATES

by Mohammad SHEHZAD

The Pakistanis detest the Americans because they blame them for Pakistan’s problems. The United States has always sustained, instrumentally, control over Pakistani authorities. For this reason, extremists and terrorists are operating within the country. Now is time to turn the page.

1.

T

HE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE

United States and Pakistan has always been unpredictable since the inception of Pakistan. Both countries were not equal in any term. The U.S. was always a superpower and Pakistan a colony of Britain when it was part of the British India. Elements like respect, love, friendship and human feelings were missing in the U.S.-Pak relations. The relations had no roots among the people. That is the reason the people of Pakistan never loved the U.S. The people of Pakistan hate the U.S. because it is the only country that is responsible for all the evils in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are right to a great extent if they have developed such feelings about the U.S. The U.S. is the country that did not let democracy flourish in Pakistan. The U.S. supported the military dictators in Pakistan – from General Ayub Khan to General Parvez Musharraf. Pakistan’s first military dictator General Ayub Khan used to be a great ally of the U.S. As time passed and he learnt more about the U.S. mind, he was convinced that the U.S. is nobody’s friend. He was so disappointed with the U.S. that he authored a book – Friends not Masters. No doubt that the U.S. always treated Pakistan as a master. Pakistan for the U.S. was always a ‘diaper’ that was thrown in the trash after the job was done. The U.S. could never become for Pakistan a friend like China – a trusted, long-term friend. The U.S.’ reputation is ugly in Pakistan. It is considered as a selfish partner. And trust me these are the feelings of the educated class as well. The feelings of Islamists and Jihadis are far more negative, aggressive and strong. For them, the U.S. is the biggest terrorist in the world. I will explain it in detail in the following paragraphs. 2. The disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 is the greatest tragedy for any Pakistani. A majority of the people of Pakistan considers the U.S. responsible for this tragedy. The people, like the army generals, were thinking that the U.S.’ 7th Fleet will come to Pakistan’s help. The U.S. promised to send it but it never reached. Pakistan could have been saved had the U.S. sent the 7th fleet. Pakistanis have still not forgotten this tragedy. They believe that the disintegration of Pakistan was a U.S. conspiracy; the U.S. broke apart Pakistan with the help of India. The U.S. relations with Pakistan have been erratic since the start. They still go on like this. The U.S. came close to Pakistan whenever the country was ruled by a military dictator. The U.S. cleverly used this opportunity. The U.S. on the basis of its past experience knew it very well that dealing with a dictator is far easier than an elected government. Dictators could be bribed or influenced easily than a parliament. So, the dictators are the best choice to work with to achieve all the ulterior objectives

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easily. The myopic leadership of Pakistan could never realize that U.S.’ friendship was never in the country’s interest. It was the former USSR that had extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan. But the Pakistani politicians did not accept this offer – the acceptance of which was guided by every standard of rationality. The USSR was a neighbor. The U.S. was too far from Pakistan. The system of governance of the USSR was close to the system that Islam advocates. Islam discourages capitalism. Thus, ideologically, understanding with the USSR would have been compatible. But the Pakistani rulers did not demonstrate wisdom. The first prime minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan proceeded to the U.S. to forge ties. The U.S.-Pak relations strengthened when the country came under the rule of military dictator Ayub Khan. The U.S. supported Ayub Khan’s illegitimate rule for more than ten years. The country became a colony of America. The U.S. was allowed to set up military bases in Pakistan. Pakistan unnecessarily antagonized its neighbor USSR by becoming the U.S.’ ally in the cold war. Supporting the U.S. became a lucrative business for the military rulers. They did nothing for the welfare of the country. They destroyed every institution so that they could continue their business with the U.S. Ayub’s pro-U.S.’ policies caused Pakistan’s disintegration in 1971. The U.S. completely abandoned Pakistan after its disintegration. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s People’s Party came to power in Pakistan. After the disintegration of Pakistan, Z.A. Bhutto decided to make Pakistan a nuclear power – because India had already started a nuclear program and the fear was that it will use that nuclear power to eliminate Pakistan. In fact, this was just a fear. India had become a nuclear power years before Pakistan. If its intention were to eliminate Pakistan through nukes, it would have done it instead of giving Pakistan time to become a nuclear power. Bhutto also wanted to make an Islamic Union like the European Union. He had convened a conference of Muslim countries in Lahore in this effect. He wanted to educate the Arab countries about the exploitative U.S. policies. He wanted Arab countries to use oil as a weapon to seek the resolution of the Palestine issue. Z.A. Bhutto wanted a respectable position for the Muslim countries in the world which was not acceptable to the U.S. In other words, his vision was in conflict with U.S. interest. He was firm about pursuing a nuclear program. The U.S. eliminated him through a military ruler – the late General Zia ul Haq. When the former-USSR invaded Afghanistan and the U.S. broke apart the USSR through a proxy war. The U.S. used Zia in the name of Islam. The U.S. glorified jihad and provided Zia with billions of dollars to break apart the USSR through jihad. During his 10-year rule, Pakistan did nothing to boost its economy. Pakistan did jihad at the behest of the U.S. and the Muslim fundamentalists were supported by the state. Pakistani civil society was completely destroyed. The country became a hub of illegal weapons, drugs and extremism. When the USSR broke apart, the U.S. proceeded to ditch Pakistan. It abandoned Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan was left alone to clean the dirt that the U.S. had left. By then, jihad had become a profitable business. Pakistani generals and holy warriors had become used to ‘easy-money’. They decided to extend their agenda of jihad in Kashmir. Meanwhile, Zia had earned a reputation of a great Mujahid. He started dreaming of becoming an Amir ul Momineen. He wanted to make an Islamic bloc against the western bloc. He too was eliminated by mysterious circumstances in a plane crash. 3. The period of 90’s witnessed the worst U.S.-Pak relations. The U.S. slapped several sanctions on Pakistan – the harshest was the notorious Pressler Amendment. This was the period when civilian governments were in power. This period – 1988-1999 – once again proved that U.S.-Pak relations are marred by ‘hate’ when

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civilian governments are at the helm and by ‘love’ when the military dictators are running the country. The period of love started in October 12, 1999 when General Musharraf ousted the elected prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. Almost two years later, 9/11 took place and thus started the so-called war against terror. The Pressler Amendment was gone. USAID was back. Dollars started pouring once again into Pakistan. The business of military dictators was again on a roll. Musharraf destroyed all the institutions of Pakistan to consolidate his illegitimate rule for which support was coming from Washington. He imposed Emergency Rule twice – the first time to get rid of an elected prime minister and the second time to clip the wings of the judiciary that had started working independently under the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Musharraf committed worse atrocities against lawyers, journalists and judges but the U.S. did not budge. The U.S. still treats him as an important ally in the war against terror. When President Bush came to Pakistan in 2006, people cursed him. All the roads were blocked. All the shops were forcibly closed down. The working class – laborers and shopkeepers who sell daily commodities on streets commented that Bush has deprived them of ‘bread’. Today, a common Pakistani would curse two entities for all the social evils in Pakistan – the Pakistan army and the U.S. Even the educated and liberals would also tell the diplomatic community in private gatherings that the solution of conflicts in the region lies in democracy. Militancy and extremism will increase as long as the U.S. continues to support the dictatorial regimes in Pakistan. All the sections of Pakistani society are convinced that it is not the desire of the U.S. that Pakistan should be a peaceful country. Pakistan is the victim of terrorism and the U.S. is responsible for it. The U.S. spent dollars like water to spread extremism and jihad in every nook and cranny of Pakistan. The U.S. nurtured jihad for more than ten years. The U.S. glorified mujahedeen in the past and now it recognizes them as terrorists. This hypocrisy enhances the hatred against the U.S. among the holy warriors. They are provoked when they see the U.S. supporting Israel’s nuclear program while picking up faults with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. The double standards of the U.S. are simply enhancing hatred against it. 4. The U.S. has destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq. It will reap for what it has sown. The U.S.’ policies have pushed the world into the fire of terrorism and extremism. I am not a fan of jihads. In fact, I am strongly against them. But when they say in their speeches that the U.S. is the biggest terrorist in the world, I find myself helpless to defend the U.S. They say that the U.S. is the most irresponsible and rogue nation when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons. Thus, if there is a country that poses nuclear dangers to other nations, it is the U.S. The U.S.’ current policies will never lead the world to peace. It is due to the U.S.’ policies that Iraq and Afghanistan have become volatile countries. There was no presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq. But today, al-Qaeda has a strong presence in Iraq. There are no signs of peace in Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO forces have failed to win the sympathies of the Afghan people. The people of Afghanistan curse them because they are killing the civilian population more than the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Independent think-tanks are claiming that the Taliban control 54% of Afghanistan. The Afghan President Hamid Karzai feels insecure even in his palace. His influence does not extend outside of Kabul. The recent suicide attack at the Serena Hotel in Kabul proves that the Taliban has become so strong that they can prepare strategies for bigger attacks and implement them. The militancy in Afghanistan has now entered Pakistan. Earlier the militancy in Pakistan was limited to its border areas. But now, it has spread out to the settled areas like Swat, Bannu, Kohat and even Islamabad in the form of Lal Masjid. This simply

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shows that the U.S.’ sponsored war against terrorism has failed. The U.S.’ polices have made the world a more vulnerable place. If the world has to be a peaceful place, then it will have to make polices based on justice, respect, love and caring. The world will have to respect the human dignity for peace.

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THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG I

BURNING PROVINCES

THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

THE BALOCHISTAN CRISIS

THE BALOCHISTAN CRISIS

by Sanaullah BALOCH

With a mix of repression and political manipulation, Islamabad attempts to neutralize the Baloch separatists, while maintaining its hold on a strategic province because of its size, location and resources. However, with violence increasing, the population is growing restless.

1.

B

ALOCHISTAN

IS

THE

LARGEST

province of Pakistan, comprised on more than 43% of the land mass of the country. The province is home to eight million Baloch people, who have a distinct language, culture and liberal values. The province is of strategic importance since it shares a long border with the Iranian province of Balochistan and a Baloch populated region of Afghanistan. The province is the major source of natural gas supply to Pakistan, but contrary to the national and international laws, Baloch people are deprived of its own natural wealth. The population in province has also been systematically denied modernization, practical education and health. Balochistan has the highest infant mortality rate in South Asia and the lowest literacy rate in the region. Economically, the region is the most backward. It doesn’t have basic infrastructures like roads, power supply and sanitation. The Baloch voice and legitimate demand for self-rule has been suppressed by the respective central government and, since 1999, the conflict has turned bloodier. The tempting strategic significance of Balochistan has long been a source of constant suppression and threat to Baloch nationalism. It’s strategically situated at the eastern flank of the Middle East, linking the Central Asian states with the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean. It also possesses the northern part of the Gulf and Arab Sea from the strait of Hormoz to Karachi. The country’s navel facilities and Chinese financed Gwadar deep sea port located at the world’s key oil supply route is also located on the Baloch coast. Balochistan’s vast and geographically intact region is the only potential land route for some of the world’s costly proposed gas pipelines. These include Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) and QatarPakistan-India gas supplying pipelines. The majority of the proposed 2,600 kilometer-long IPI gas pipeline, with an estimated cost of $ 7 billion which will connects Iran’s Pars gas field to the Indian boarder, will pass through Baloch territory. Islamabad is expected to earn $500 million per year from a transhipment fee from this project. Due to rising prices of energy in the world market, Iran is expected to earn six to eight billion dollars a year from gas exports. As usual, Islamabad can careless about Baloch’s wellbeing on proposed developments. Baloch’s opposition to the transnational pipelines voiced itself early in 2005, when the Baloch nationalist, Akbar khan Bugti, who was killed by the Pakistani security forces in August 2006, when it stated that “only the goodwill of the Baloch people would let the proposed gas pipeline from Iran and Central Asia to India pass through its soil.” On June 9, 2006, exhibiting unprecedented unity, members of the treasury and the opposition in the Balochistan Provincial Assembly unanimously passed a resolution seeking royalties for the province by the proposed multi-billion dollar

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Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. The Assembly also demanded Balochistan’s representation in the IPI talks, free gas for the population, hundred % of the available jobs and a major share of royalties. However, prevailing unrest in Balochistan is a major cause for concern and would critically influence the practicability of the Gwadar port project and proposed transnational gas pipelines. Moreover, 9/11 has further increased the significance of Baloch territory. Currently, Dalbanden, Shimshe and Pasni air bases are used by the U.S. forces and, in return, Islamabad is receiving a sizeable amount of revenue without sharing it with the poverty stricken Baloch population.

2. There is a Baloch saying: “a Baloch child may be born without socks on his feet, but when he grows up, every step he takes is on silver and gold.” But the politically enslaved and economically deprived Baloch region been has forced to live in hunger.

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Balochistan possesses significant reserves of oil and natural gas. The region is based on the geological belt which is known for its world-class mineral deposits. These include chromites, copper, gold, silver, iron ore, lead, zinc including number of precious non-metallic minerals. Balochistan has an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas and an estimated six trillion barrels of oil reserves both on-shore and off-shore. Pakistan’s other three provinces possess only 6.1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas stock. Presently, Balochistan and Sindh together produce over 90 % of Pakistan’s natural gas. According to Pakistan Energy Book 2005, 1.5 million tons of coal was mined from Balochistan in 2004, which is 40 % of Pakistan’s production. Pakistan’s major gas installations are largely located in Balochistan. Existing gas fields in Balochistan supply 45% or 11 billion cubic meters of Pakistan’s total gas requirements that generates $1.4 billion annually in revenue but Balochistan receives only $116 million in terms of royalties. Baloch people feel totally exploited because they are not only deprived of energy but also from jobs and socio-economic benefits of Baloch wealth. Pakistan is saving two billion dollars worth of foreign exchange annually due to the natural gas produced from Balochistan. Providing fuel to the national economy for years, gas reached Balochistan after 25 years. Six decades have passed but, even today, Balochistan has only 3.4 % of gas consumers as compared to 64 % of Punjab alone, which produces only 4.75 % of gas. The world largest copper-gold deposits are also situated in Baloch region. Presently, the Chinese have invested over $350 million in the world’s fifth largest copper-gold Saindak project. This project was supposed to employ and train local youth but the fully fenced and heavily guarded site is now no-man’s land for Baloch youth. Tethyan, an Australian company has anticipated spending $1 billion to develop the Reko Deq copper mines, which is projected among the world’s top deposits. Balochistan also possesses enormous economic potential in farming, livestock and fisheries. These resources provide the base for setting up a large number of agro-based industries. In spite of being a resource-rich region, Balochistan is Pakistan's least developed province with high rates of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. With disturbing figures for poverty, Pakistan Integrated Household Survey 2001-02 revealed that Balochistan has the highest poor population with 48 % and the worst in rural areas with 51 % living below the poverty line. As compared to the 75% in country only 25% population in province have access to electricity. According to the “Social Policy and Development Center” (SPDC), “An overview of the development scene in Balochistan is discomforting and the extent of relative deprivation in the province is appalling.” The percentage of districts that are classified as “high deprivation” are 92% in Balochistan, 62% in NWFP, 50% in Sindh and only 29% in the Punjab. The SPDC review also revealed that the percentage of the population living in a high degree of deprivation stands at 88% in Balochistan, 51% in NWFP, 49% in Sindh and 25% in Punjab. According to poverty-related reports the percentage of the population living below the poverty line stands at 63% in Balochistan, 26% in Punjab, 29% in NWFP, 38% in rural and 27% in urban Sindh. The years of military operations, ill-conceived and discriminatory policies and poor governance has resulted in extreme underdevelopment of the province. Furthermore, recent military operations and restrictions on free movement have further deteriorated the socio-economic conditions. According to UNDP Human Development Report 2003, Dera Bugti the wealthiest and sole gas producing district of the province ranked last among the 91 districts of the country on the Human Development Index. The province has an 18.3 % male and 7% female literacy rate against the 63.6%

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literacy rate for the Punjab province. Islamabad is pursuing a planed “literacy control” policy to keep the population untaught. The establishment in Pakistan perceives that a literate and politically conscious Baloch population will not allow for easy plundering of Baloch wealth. 76 % of schools are shelter-less, 60% of primary schools have only one untrained and unqualified teacher. However, strong growth of religious schools has been reported in province during pro-Taliban MMA and the Musharraf-led PML coalition. The systematic denial of basic education and education-related facilities in Balochistan clearly indicates the disrespect and discriminatory policies of Islamabad. In the private sector, the lack of basic infrastructure, lack of industries and agriculture is regarded as the major causes of unemployment. However, in the government sector, Baloch youths are also denied access to jobs. Non-Baloch and recently settled populations from other parts of Pakistan have a greater chance of receiving important positions. The Baloch and local populations are denied access to even unskilled jobs in gas producing and gas supplying companies. In Dera Bugti, the heavily guarded compound of Pakistan Petroleum Limited is a no-go area for Baloch youths. All the glitzy mega-projects launched in Balochistan including the Gwadar port, the Mirani Dam, the coastal highway, cantonments, and the extraction of copper and gold deposits, do not envisage any participation nor direct benefit to the people and the province. 3. Islamabad's unpleasant policies are resulting in deep alienation of the Baloch masses. There is total ignorance and lack of understanding among the civil-military establishment in Islamabad about Baloch and Balochistan. Unlike the military rule of Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), who had an overt policy of oppression and controlled development, the Musharraf regime is pursuing a policy of absolute suppression. Nationalist parties have been sidelined and their representatives have been harshly targeted due to their struggle for greater autonomy and opposition to military rule. The Baloch leader, Nawab Bugti, was killed in August 2006, Mr. Akhter Mengal, the former chief minister of Balochistan and head of Balochistan National Party has been detained since November 2006. Balach Marri, a young Baloch politician and son of prominent Baloch leader, was recently killed. Each day police and paramilitary troops continue to detain innocent citizens without lawful procedure, although the government has always tried to discredit the Baloch leadership, blaming them for anti-development, anti-social and even anti-state elements. In November, 1999, the militarily created National Accountability Bureau published a list of more than 320 names of Pakistan's top loan defaulters, but none of the Baloch nationalists, politicians or businessmen were among the non-payers of the $4 billion loan embezzlement. 80% of these debtors were from the Punjab province and a majority of them were close allies of the president, holding important political offices during 2002 to 2007. In November, 2004, Islamabad agreed to resolve the province’s political matters by constituting a Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan. The Baloch Nationalists Alliance responded politely and politically, in which they came up with calculated and legitimate political issues which caused grave irritation among the civil-military establishment in capital. The Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan approved that military and paramilitary forces start mobilizing against Baloch people, when the Baloch leadership was in negotiations with central government. Islamabad used the December 17, 2005 rocket attack, when Mr. Musharaf was visiting the Kohlu district, as an excuse to start an unending operation. The subsequent military operation resulted in killings, displacement, disappearances, harassment and stirring deep frustration among the powerless. Security forces in Balochistan have since committed dozens of unlawful killings as documented in the HRCP January

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2006 report. High levels of intimidation, harassment, arrests, and torture are persistent against opposition supporters. Peaceful protestors have been suppressed, political representatives have been detained unlawfully, and so has the freedom of expression and the right to assembly. Today, Islamabad is determined to politically marginalize the natives of this strategically significant and resource rich province and seems determined to uproot all nationalist forces to pave the way for the “Talibanization” of the province. The central government’s oppressive policies have compelled Baloch and Pushtoon nationalist parties to boycott upcoming elections. Their boycott will certainly give the government an opportunity to re-install a pro-military religious puppet government in Balochistan to continue its unpopular policies. In the 2002 elections, General Musharraf successfully sidelined the Baloch nationalists and paved the way for pro-Taliban MMA elements. The systematic exclusion of Baloch moderate parties resulted in political violence and the 2008 elections will further alienate the moderate Baloch and Pakhtoon political forces from the center. In July 2007, the International Crisis Group’s report on Pakistan expressed serious concerns about Islamabad’s support towards religious groups in Balochistan. Although, the central government seems determined to hold elections in Balochistan, any future government in this volatile province would not be in position to function properly. It will lack a mandate from the people and the parties, who enjoy very strong support, which will make it difficult for any regime to smoothly function. The Baloch resentment, by all means, is genuine. The continued plundering of natural resources, economic and political marginalization and militarization are all major causes for the mounting of tensions between Baloch and Islamabad. Now, the cost of political instability is on rise. Peace in Balochistan is not only important for Pakistan but peace and stability in the Baloch country is vital for economic and strategic gain in broader terms. Islamabad’s reliance on brute force may help the center government create short-term cosmetic calm, but simmering unrest and political frustration will lead to an unending crisis. Baloch demands for fair distribution of fiscal wealth include control over the natural resources and the right to self-development are all genuine political demands. Islamabad must not discredit and discriminate the Baloch people and their representatives. Their lawful demand for development and politico-economic empowerment is guaranteed in international conventions and enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution.

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THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

GILGIT-BALTISTAN THE WORLD’S LAST COLONY

GILGIT-BALTISTAN, THE WORLD’S LAST COLONY

by Ajai SANHI

In a remote northern region of Pakistan lives a Shiite majority, which has been living under the iron fist of Islamabad. Under military control, underdeveloped and ‘sunnification’ are all of the ingredients for repression; all done in the name of unity for the country.

1.

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N APRIL 2007, THE EUROPEAN UNION

(EU) brought fleeting international attention to focus on the darkest corner of Pakistan – the Gilgit-Baltistan region that Islamabad refers to as the ‘Northern Areas’ of Pakistan; occupied Kashmir (PoK) – when the EU Parliament passed in overwhelming majority its rapporteur, Baroness Emma Nicholson’s report ‘Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects’. The report excoriated Pakistan on the conditions prevailing in this forgotten corner of the world, ‘the last colony in the world’ as its people describe it, deploring “documented human rights violations by Pakistan” in the region, and declaring unambiguously that “the people of Gilgit and Baltistan are under the direct rule of the military and enjoy no democracy”.1 Nicholson’s report was scathing, both on sheer oppression of the people, on the complete absence of legal and human rights as well as on the enveloping backwardness that had evidently been engineered as a matter of state policy in the region: “The Northern Areas Council, set up some time ago, screens, in reality, a total absence of constitutional identity or civil rights”, the report assesses. “The people are kept in poverty, illiteracy and backwardness, counting on just 25 small hospitals serviced by 140 doctors (1 doctor per 6,000 people) as compared to 830 hospitals and 75,000 doctors in the rest of Pakistan, an overall literacy rate of 33% (with especially poor educational indicators for girls and women) and only 12 high schools and 2 regional colleges. Apart from the problematic tourism sector, the only other form of employment is government jobs, which are hard to obtain by locals and paid up to 35% less than non-native employees.”2 The report provoked strong protestations from Islamabad. In continued efforts to mislead the international community without altering the circumstances within the region, President Pervez Musharraf announced a new ‘comprehensive development package for the Northern Areas’ in October 2007, purportedly to “help bring the region at par with the rest of the country”. While a critique of the details is not intended here, it is useful to note that the ‘comprehensive package’ failed entirely to attract any favourable reviews. 2. Spanning an area of approximately 72,496 square kilometres, the Gilgit-Baltistan region is an area that has historically been of pivotal strategic importance and so remains. This is the ancient ‘axis of Asia’, where South, Central and East Asia converge. Gilgit-Baltistan was traditionally both India’s and China’s gateway to Central Asia and beyond, into the heart of Europe, along the ancient Silk Route that
1 Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Rapporteur, Report on Kashmir: Present Situation, Future Prospects, European Parliament Session Document, A6-0158/2007, 25.04.2007. 2 Ibid.

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contributed so much to the wealth and civilization of the many peoples it touched. Bordering China, Afghanistan and India, Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan – occupied Kashmir (PoK) has been divided into five districts: Gilgit, Baltistan (Skardu), Diamir, Ghizar and Ghanche, with administrative headquarters located in Gilgit town. According to the 1998 population census, the region had 870,347 inhabitants from varied ethnic groups including the Baltees, Shinas, Vashkuns, Mughals, Kashmiris, Pathans, Ladhakhis and Turks, speaking a variety of languages such as Balti, Shina, Brushaski, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Tibeti, Pushto and Urdu.

When the British granted Independence to India, the 565 ‘Princely states’ – including J&K – technically became ‘sovereign states’. Consequently, following the collapse of British paramountcy in 1947, the entire Gilgit agency was restored to the then Dogra King, Hari Singh. Pakistan, however, fomented and supported a rebellion in the region, and seized control, consolidating its administration through a succession of illegal ruses, such as the Karachi Agreement of 1949, under which entirely unrepresentative officials signed ‘letters of accession’ and ‘ratified’ Pakistani

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administrative control over the region.3 Crucially, a Supreme Court judgement in 1999 took note of the legal and constitutional anomalies, as well as the denial of basic rights and development in Gilgit-Baltistan and explicitly directed the Pakistan Government, among other things, “to initiate appropriate administrative/legislative measures within a period of six months from today to […] ensure that the people of Northern Areas enjoy their fundamental rights, namely, to be governed through their chosen representatives and to have access to justice through an independent judiciary”.4 The Government has failed to meet even the minimum requirements of the clear and specific direction of the Supreme Court. In the interim, despite the existence of nominal political institutions such as the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA), there has been no impact on the political rights of the people of the region, which continues to be “directly administrated by fiat from Islamabad. The bureaucracy, primarily drawn from the North West Frontier Province and Punjab, has intensified the sense of alienation and negated any semblance of self-rule in the NAs.”5 Balawaristan National Front (BNF) leader, Nawaz Khan Naji, notes, “In every department, the chief is from Pakistan, the other, secondary positions are locals.”6 3. Three different sects of Islam: Shia, Sunni and Ismaili are prevalent in Gilgit-Baltistan, with the Shias dominating, unlike other parts of Pakistan, where Sunnis constitute the overwhelming majority. With the very small exception of Chilas, Darel and Tangir villages of the Diamer District, Shias constitute the clear majority across the rest of the region.7 The Pakistani administration has long been involved in a campaign that seeks to alter the demographic profile of the region and reduce the local Shia and Ismaili populations to a minority. In the Gilgit and Skardu areas, large tracts of land have been allotted to non-locals, violating the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions and the Jammu and Kashmir State Subject Rule, and outsiders have also purchased large tracts of land. One unofficial estimate suggest that over 30,000 Gilgit residents have fled the city and its suburbs since 2000, in the wake of discriminatory and repressive action by the state Forces, that the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) described as “a distinct pattern of brutality and violence towards citizens”.8 Moreover, Islamabad has opened up the region for colonisation by Sunnis who are brought in with a number of incentives, including ownership of lands and forests, which were earlier the preserve of the Shias. Following the construction of the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan to China in 1978, the region saw a swelling Sunni influx from the Pakistani ‘mainland’, essentially Pathans and Afghans traders, that today control the lucrative trade between the two countries, having pushed out local businessmen. 9 Sources in Gilgit-Baltistan indicate that large tracts of land continue to be allotted to Afghan refugees and Pashtuns.10
3 See A. SAHNI & S. CHERIAN, “Gilgit-Baltistan: The Laws of Occupation”, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, Volume 18, January 2007, pp. 155-184 New Delhi: ICM-Bulwark Books. 4 Al Jihad Trust through Habibul Wahab al-Khairi vs. Federation of Pakistan through Secretary, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, Islamabad, 1999, Supreme Court Monthly Review (SCMR) 1379, Lahore, August 1999. 5 K. LAKSHMAN, “Northern Areas: Legal Ambivalence and Rising Unrest”, South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 4, No. 6, August 22, 2005. 6 “The Rediff Interview/Balawaristan leader Nawaz Khan Naji”, March 16, 2004. 7 See "Report on curfew in Gilgit", Report by HRCP core group, Northern Areas in http://www.hrcp-web.org/report_curfew_gilgit.cfm 8 “Gunning down of students in Gilgit an outrage”, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Press Release of October 14, 2005. 9 M. FATHERS, “Political Limbo”, Time, July 13, 2001 10 “The Rediff Interview/Balawaristan leader Nawaz Khan Naji”, March 16, 2004.

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Sectarian polarization in Gilgit-Baltistan is not new. It has been continuously encouraged since the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto regime in the mid-1970s. When Sunnis in Gilgit objected to Shia processions and the construction of a stage on the city’s main road, these activities were immediately banned. Shia’s subsequently protested the ban and the police fired on them. But the situation worsened dramatically under General Zia-ul-Haq, who encouraged cadres of the radical Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan to extend its activities to the Gilgit-Baltistan region. A local (Shia) insurrection broke out in Gilgit in May 1988, with people demanding wider rights. In order to suppress the rebellion, the Special Services Group of the Pakistani Army based in Khapalu was dispatched. Pakistan’s present President Pervez Musharraf, then a young Brigadier, was in charge of the operations, in which he used Sunni tribal irregulars to execute a brutal pogrom against the locals, something unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. After eight days of sustained violence, the Army ‘stepped in’ to ‘restore peace’. The anti-Shia pogrom resurfaced in 1993, when sectarian riots started again in Gilgit, leading to the death of 20 Shias. Later, the Shia population was further alarmed when large numbers of Sunnis were brought in from Punjab and the NWFP to settle in Gilgit. This Government-supported migration towards Gilgit-Baltistan has been hugely successful and, according to unofficial estimates, the 1:4 ratio of non-local to local people in the region, which prevailed in January 2001, has now dipped to an alarming 3:4.11 The Shia retain a slim but continuously diminishing regional majority, but there are areas where concentrations of Sunni already outnumber them. A cycle of sectarian killings has, moreover, become a continuous feature of the Gilgit-Baltistan political landscape, escalating repeatedly during religious festivals and periods of political tension. 4. Another aspect of Islamabad’s mischief that has fed violence in the region is the effort to impose a Sunni curriculum in the schools in Gilgit-Baltistan, even where the Sunni have no or negligible presence. This has provoked a widespread Shia agitation which underlines Islamabad’s efforts to change the ethnic composition of the region. Sporadically, since 1999, and almost continuously since 2003, trouble has been brewing in the Northern Areas over the Islamic textbooks that the Pakistan Ministry of Education has issued as part of the curriculum for the schools in the region. According to Shia community leaders, the textbooks promote Sunni thought and values and are an attempt to promote sectarian hatred between the two sects. Protests and violence have been continuously simmering in the region over this issue. In 1999, the Shia community raised the issue of curricula taught at schools and school children filled the streets in protest. In response, the local administration, in close collusion with the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs & Northern Affairs at Islamabad, arrested the school children and subjected them to untold humiliation and harassment. By the way, right after this unprecedented violence the curriculum issue was “resolved” at the local level and all the sects of the region agreed to the settlement on three points formula: in Shia majority areas, the controversial aspects of the curriculum would not be taught; in Sunni majority areas, the curriculum would be taught as it is; in the areas where there is mixed population, the curriculum would specify the faith of both the sects. After reaching the settlement, the local government sought time to get final approval from the Chief Executive Northern Areas Legislative Council (Minister KANA) and the Deputy Chief Executive of NALC was assigned with the task of getting approval from the competent authority. The Chief Executive NALC refused to
11

R. BEDI, 'An enclave on the boil', Frontline, Volume 21 - Issue 11, May 22 - Jun 04, 2004

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assent to the settlement for reasons best known to him, due to which the situation aggravated. The Shia leadership, in response to the adamant attitude of the authority, called for a peaceful strike on June 3rd 2004. The local government decided to arrest the top leadership and to impose a curfew in the area, which resulted in further violence from both sides.12 Tension and strife orchestrated over curriculum distortions in educational institutions only compounds an extended campaign of intimidation, terror and inspired sectarian violence. There is cumulative evidence of an accelerated radicalization of Sunni organisations in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially since 2001, with the shifting of bases of a number of terrorist groups – some affiliated with Al-Qaeda – to ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and to Gilgit-Baltistan. Abdul Hamid Khan of the BNF records: “There has been a steady inflow of Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives into the Ghezar Valley. Terrorist training to Afghan mercenaries and various groups active in Indian held Kashmir is being provided in the remote hilly areas of Hazara, Darel Yashote, Tangir, Astore, Skardu city and Gilgit city. These Pakistan-sponsored terrorist camps remain active despite President Musharraf's apparent crackdown against terrorism. Besides the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen camp in Tangir, Diamar District, camps were located in Ghowadi village in Skardu, Juglote near Gilgit and Konodas, Gilgit. After the post-January 12, 2002, ‘crackdown’ on jehadis, while the offices of certain terrorist groups have been closed down in Pakistan, many cadres of banned groups have been shifted to the NAs. No reports of arrests of terrorist cadres have been made from this region. As many as 3,000 terrorists are said to have recently secured training in the HuM camp in the Darel and Tangir area.”13 There is, moreover, “evidence to indicate that the sectarian violence in the NAs, in particular at Gilgit, is being planned and orchestrated from other Pakistani provinces, especially the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).”14 Very significant quantities of weapons have also been seized in Gilgit-Baltistan, and are shipped in from the neighbouring provinces, even as “the tactics used by sectarian terrorists in places like Quetta, Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and elsewhere are now being employed in the NAs.” 15 5. As the Nicholson Report clearly noted, the entire Gilgit-Baltistan region remains mired in extreme poverty and backwardness, with a pervasive absence of most basic amenities. Even the KANA Ministry, which is charged with the development of the region, conceded, in the late 1990s, that the ‘Northern Areas’ “have been neglected for the last 50 years and still rank in the most backward areas of the country.”16 In late August 2005, a 10-member group from the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) visited the Northern Areas to assess the level of social services and infrastructure in the region. The mission was fiercely critical of the inadequate structures of governance, the appalling justice system, and the paucity of social services available to the people of the region. It identified the absence of a unifying and conducive socio-political environment as one of the main factors behind the ongoing violence in the region, noting further that the local communities were drifting towards sectarian conflict because of this absence.17
http://www.hrcp-web.org A.H. KHAN, “Balawaristan: The Heart of Darkness”, South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 1, No. 5, August 19, 2002 14 Ibid 15 Ibid. 16 Press note issued by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Affairs on 3rd July 1996 17 I. KHAN, "The Northern Areas' dangerous limbo", www.jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2005-daily/27-09-2005/ oped/o2.htm
12 13

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Another index of regional backwardness can be found in the education sector. While current data for the region remains unavailable, in 1998/99 the overall literacy rate in the Northern Areas was estimated to be 33 % – substantially below the national rate of 54 %. There were significant disparities between the male and female population: the estimated literacy rate for males was 40 %, whereas the estimate for females was only 25 %.18 More significantly, there are wide disparities between the number of educational institutions in the Northern areas and the ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, reflecting Islamabad’s peculiar orientation towards, and biases against, Gilgit-Baltistan: Thus we find a total of 787 educational institutions at all levels, servicing a total population of 870,347 in Gilgit-Baltistan, as against 6,094 institutions in ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, PoK second and relatively privileged region, servicing a population of 2.97 million (population figures: 1998 Census). According to the Northern Areas Strategy for Sustainable Development report, the health sector remained an area of extraordinary neglect as well: “[…]Although official statistics suggest that 40% of the region’s households have access to piped water services, a recent, independent study concluded that actual coverage may be as low as 20%. Similarly, most of the NA’s settlements lack proper sewerage and drainage systems. As a result of these conditions, virtually all the water supply systems in the Northern Areas are contaminated with human and animal waste, leading to a wide range of diseases.”19 A comparison of the number of public health facilities in the Northern Areas and ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ again reveals Islamabad’s partiality. Gilgit-Baltistan has a total of 305 public health facilities in all categories, hospitals, dispensaries and first aid posts. ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, in sharp contrast, has a total of 4,585 public health facilities across a much wider range of categories.20 The region also suffers from under-utilization of its natural resources. Although the Northern Areas have tremendous potential for hydropower generation, and are, indeed, seen as a primary source of both water and power for the rest of Pakistan, the present system of energy production is unable to meet the region’s own energy demands. As a result, the Northern Areas currently have the lowest per capita rate of energy consumption in Pakistan.21 Firewood is, still, the main source of domestic energy and is used for cooking and heating. Field surveys conducted by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) with German technical assistance (GTZ) revealed that 99.6% of all respondents used firewood as fuel for domestic purposes. Kerosene is currently the second most widely used energy source in the Northern Areas. Even in Gilgit-Baltistan’s ‘electrified’ regions, kerosene is commonly used because of limited coverage of the population and frequent disruptions of the power supply.22 6. Despite a long history of protests against Islamabad’s discriminatory policies, against growing sectarianism and violence, and against brutal state repression, Gilgit-Baltistan remains a neglected centre of inequity and widespread suffering. Pakistan has utterly and continuously suppressed the people of Gilgit-Baltistan; denied them the most basic constitutional and human rights; blocked access to development and an equitable use even of local natural resources; and repeatedly and brutally suppressed the local Shia majority, even as it seeks to violently promote Sunni
18 19 20 21 22

Ibid Northern Areas Strategy for Sustainable Development report Schools Census Report of AKESP cited in www.ips.org.pk/publications/ Perspectives/Vol2/Chapt7.pdf. ‘Energy’, Chapter 10, Background paper in the Northern Areas Strategy for Sustainable Development report, p.7 Ibid

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sectarianism in the region. Gilgit Baltistan consequently remains an ‘area of darkness’, of deep neglect and exploitation, and of the denial of political rights and identity – indeed, a violation of every conceivable element of the very ‘self-determination’ that Pakistan prescribes abroad. Circumstances in Gilgit-Baltistan constitute an international humanitarian crisis. Yet, for decades, Pakistan has set a distorted international agenda of discourse, treating areas under its occupation – ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan – as settled issues, even as it violently promotes and stridently proclaims a ‘dispute’ over the Indian-administered State of Jammu & Kashmir. Regrettably, the poorly informed international community has accepted this travesty of history. It is now time to administer correctives and to deny Pakistan the fruits of aggression and criminality that have accrued for six decades, in the process creating immense suffering on a hapless sectarian minority in Gilgit-Baltistan.

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KARACHI, THE NEW YORK OF PAKISTAN

KARACHI, THE NEW YORK OF PAKISTAN

by Kamal SIDDIQI

Karachi, the economic and financial capital of the country, is a multi-ethnic megalopolis, where all the souls of Pakistan convene. However, terrorism, crime and corruption threaten the delicate equilibrium and exacerbate the polar opposites of the city. There remains a sense of hope.

1.

A

PART FROM BEING PAKISTAN'S

largest city, Karachi is also the country's commercial capital and trading hub. No one knows how many people live here. The last census held showed the population may be at 9 million. Today, officials claim that this number has surged to over 14 million. Thousands come here to seek a better life. However, the fortunes of the city have not been that bright. The city has seen much violence in the past two decades. Initially the violence had to do with the rise of the ethnic-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) party, which first fought against the religious parties and then the government in a bid to establish its writ over the city. In the mid-90's, the city saw some its worst violence. There was rioting in the street and ethnic violence but settled down by the turn of the century. While that turf war has been settled, the violence has resurfaced in other forms. Terrorist organizations took hold of the city's fortunes and used it as a base to launch operations. Foreign nationals, including diplomats, were targeted in Karachi and there were bomb blasts on American diplomatic properties. This made Karachi an unsafe place for visiting westerners, particularly Americans. With the arrival of General Musharraf in 1999, the fortunes of the city improved. Under a special package plan, the city underwent a massive plan to improve basic infrastructure. As a result, the city boasts a good road network and also other amenities including a plan to increase the water supply to residents. However, while there were improvements in some areas, the law and order situation remained unpredictable. After a lull in violence, the problems have returned with a vengeance. These days the city is undergoing turmoil in the wake of terrorist attacks as well as surge in crime and lawlessness in the city. Citizens say that 2007 was a particularly bad year for them as several hundred people died in terrorism related attacks in the city. They say that they are fearful of 2008. 2. Despite the claim of the MQM on the city, in practice, Karachi is not the bastion of one party or community. It is a multi-layered city, which also houses the largest number of Pashtuns in any city in the world and is also home to most of the country's minority members. This includes Hindus, Parsis and Christians. Many say that Karachi offers them the freedom they do not find elsewhere in Pakistan. But that freedom is now under threat from the rise in crime, mostly patronized by a number of local mafias, and the increase of incidents from terrorists. On October 18, 2007 over 400 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a political rally held to welcome former Pakistan PM, Benazir Bhutto. Earlier that year, in May 2007, several people died as rival militant groups fought it out on the streets of

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Karachi as the government's law enforcing agencies withdrew from their duties, ostensibly from pressure coming from the ruling MQM party. More than the deaths, people of the city say that they are uncertain about what the future holds for them. The local police chief has been replaced but residents say that the police and law enforcement agencies are too politicized and corrupt. They say that the police usually sides with the criminals and honest / law abiding persons are targeted and harassed. There is a prevalent culture here of police taking protection money from small traders and shopkeepers. This has not changed. However, the city is the country's business hub. Karachi is without doubt the financial capital of Pakistan. It accounts for the lion's share of GDP and revenue. It generates over 60% of total national revenue (federal and provincial taxes, customs and surcharges) and produces about 42 % of value added in large scale manufacturing. In February 2007, the World Bank identified Karachi as the most business-friendly city in Pakistan despite the problems with law, order and criminal acts. The biggest advantage that Karachi offers is a vibrant market and the ease of business. As of today, Karachi is a melting pot for Pakistan. After the independence of the country, millions of refugees from India were drawn here to set up their new life. In the 60's, this wave was followed by people coming from the northern parts of Pakistan. Even today, there is an influx of people from all over Pakistan, who come to Karachi because they feel this city has the capacity to give them jobs and food. Most people come from rural areas and start their lives here as labourers and day workers in houses. At the top of the social ladder here are the Western educated elite. In between is a bursting middle class which has been empowered by an economy that has done well over the past decade. 3. Even though Karachi is in the driver seat of the Pakistani economy, it is seething with problems. The recent rise in fuel prices coupled with a jump in flour rates as well as other essential qualities has left people bitter and angry. Two years back, the city's main electricity company was privatised. This year, President Musharraf admitted that the sale was a mistake. The service had not improved. As a result, power riots are a common occurrence in the city during the summer months when people come out on the streets to protest when power is shut off for prolonged periods. And people are angry over the lack of basic amenities in the city. Some of this anger could be witnessed on the streets of the city following the death of Ms. Benazir Bhutto, whose hometown was Karachi. Private and public property worth billions was torched by mobs as looting and arson incidents took place all over the city in the days following the murder of the former Pakistan PM. Cars were torched and houses robbed as police tried its best to maintain law and order in the city. There has been a general outcry that the performance of the police in the riots as well as the para-military Rangers be investigated. This has been met by silence from the government. But investors and businessmen are angry that the government has done little to protect their properties in the riots. Most of Pakistan's public and private banks are headquartered on Karachi's I.I. Chundrigar Road, while most major foreign multinational corporations operating in Pakistan have their headquarters in Karachi. Some of these were attacked in the rioting in December. The government has promised compensation but many businessmen and investors say that the real damage has been to the image of the city as a place to invest and do business. At the same time, the city is run by a number of parallel mafias. The public transport mafia ensures that the city's commuters travel in old and dilapidated buses and that the city is deprived of a proper and safe public transport system. The water tanker mafia ensures that many areas go without water supply so that these tankers can sell water to them. The local protection racket exists whereby people can happily

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encroach on government land and public space as long as they pay money to the local police station. The corruption in the police has left the city poorly protected. Many Western analysts say that Karachi is also emerging as a major melting point for terrorists and terror-related organizations. In the past, the city has been used as a transit point for many. However, the government of President Musharraf came down strong on militant outfits after an attack on the convoy of the regional army commander took place within the city in 2004. This led to the arrest of militants affiliated with a Pakistani extremist organization called "Jundullah." The army crackdown on extremist outfits in the city bore some fruit between 2004 and 2006 but now the militants and most wanted persons are believed to be using Karachi as a transit point. The attacks on military installations and personnel, which had lulled, seem now to be making a comeback. For example, Karachi has a number of madrasas, where it is believed a number of children are indoctrinated into the ways of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The leadership of the Taliban trace their roots to a religious institution in Karachi called the Binnori Town Mosque. This is where many received their initial religious instruction. The madrasas have not seen the reform program that was promised by the government to the West as part of its moves to check extremism in the country. Possibly Karachi has the most madrasas in Pakistan and many of them are left to their own. This is disconcerting considering that a number of extremist organizations gather their manpower from Karachi. The government acted in 2002 and 2003 to expel foreign students from these madrasas. However it has done nothing to check what is being taught here and to work towards modernizing the syllabus. 4. Despite these problems, the city is one that is on the go and yet, despite all the gloom, there is optimism. The Karachi Stock Exchange is the largest stock exchange in Pakistan, and is considered by many economists to be one of the prime reasons for Pakistan's 8% GDP growth across 2005. After some dips in 2007, the market is up and running again. During the 1960s, Karachi was seen as an economic role model around the world, and there was much praise for the way its economy was progressing. Many countries sought to emulate Pakistan's economic planning strategy and one of them, South Korea, copied the city's second "Five-Year Plan" and World Financial Centre in Seoul is designed and modelled after Karachi. The city's fathers say that one of the problems for the lack of development of the city was that the capital was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad in the mid-sixties and with that went all the government's focus. To date, this is also the most liberal city in Pakistan. Women can be seen working in offices and shops and driving cars. There is little discrimination amongst men and women at most places of work. There are also numerous clubs in the city where, despite a ban on consumption of alcohol due to religious reasons, the drinks flow freely. The music scene is also thriving. Bands play at concerts and clubs and many are in much demand. There is too a coffee house culture that has emerged in the swanky Zamazama area where young men and women spend hours chatting and sipping coffee and smoking shishas. Many Pakistanis who have returned from jobs abroad say that the situation has never been better for Pakistani professionals, who are very much in demand. Today, despite the multi-billion rupee infrastructure projects, most small roads having potholes, overflowing sewerage, corruption, organized crime networks and terrorism; there is still hope for Karachi. Despite the bad news in 2007 and the fear of 2008, the people of Karachi continue to survive and their survival instinct makes them different from most people of the country.

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JAMMU AND KASHMIR: THE IMPROBABLE PEACE

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: THE IMPROBABLE PEACE

by Praveen SWAMI

In a region that both India and Pakistan lay claim, the violence is dropping. However, the promises for an agreement are yet to be seen. The instability in Pakistan risks restructuring the current border. Is Northern Ireland a similar example?

“S

PRING,

WILL

RETURN

TO

THE

BEAUTIFUL Valley soon,” India’s former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee promised a Srinagar audience in April 2002, quoting a passage from the Kashmiri poet Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor, “the flowers will bloom again and the nightingales will return, chirping.” Six years on, trite poetry is no longer needed to imagine an end to one of the most bitter conflicts in the world. Both India and Pakistan are engaged in quiet diplomatic dialogue intended to arrive at an abiding resolution of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, and some accounts suggest a broad framework of agreed principles have already been hammered out. Other signs are just as heartening. A ceasefire put in place along the Line of Control — once described by former United States President Bill Clinton as the most dangerous place on earth — has, against all expectations, held since 2002. Political life, containing within it a rich profusion of secessionists, nationalists, centrists, communists and Islamists, has flowered in the run-up to elections due to be held in the Indian-administered part of the region later this year. Most important of all, perhaps, violence has declined to its lowest levels since 1988. Last year, Jammu and Kashmir, for the first time, witnessed fewer than 1,000 combat-related fatalities in the course of a year — a common definitional benchmark used to determine whether conflicts are acute. Some 777 people, just 121 of whom were civilians, are estimated to have been killed in the course of the year. By contrast, some 5,946 people were killed in combat-related violence in 1995, the worst single year of fighting in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, however, the still-unfolding crisis in Pakistan has raised fears that what many had characterised a slow but irreversible peace process may be headed towards an unexpected demise. First, some fear, Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, no longer has the legitimacy needed to make important concessions needed to prepare the way for a negotiated settlement of the conflict — the acceptance of the Line of Control as a border, for example, in return for Indian’s acceptance of greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. More important, the Islamist surge in Pakistan could sweep away the keystone of the peace process: the de-escalation of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, which Islamabad was compelled to deliver after an attack on India’s Parliament House almost led both countries to war in 2001-2002. How credible are these fears? No simple answer is possible, but this much is clear: the path to peace is indeed littered with pitfalls — and the occasional land-mine.

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Peace and the ‘Islamist Peril’
Banners emblazoned with the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s crossed scimitars-and-Quran logo fluttered outside the Bihisht-e-Shauda-e-Kashmir, the Srinagar graveyard where many of the protagonists of the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir are buried. Among them is Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, the father of the Srinagar cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a secessionist coalition that supports General Musharraf’s peace efforts, and has engaged in a now-on now-off dialogue with New Delhi. So, too, ironically, is his assassin, Abdullah Bangroo.

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“Lashkar ayi, Lashkar ayi, [the Lashkar is coming, the Lashkar is coming]” shouted the crowd which had massed at the graveyard for hard-line Islamist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s April 22 rally, 2007, rally intended to signal rejection of General Musharraf’s efforts to wind down the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. The bilious polemic at what was without dispute the largest Islamist gathering in recent years, served to demonstrate the growing aggression – and impunity – of the far-right in Jammu and Kashmir. Principal among the threats to the peace process is that represented by these voices, which we might call the ‘Islamist Peril’: the prospect that Pakistan-based pro-jihad groups will be freed of the shackles imposed on them after the 2002 crisis, and proceed to wage an increasingly ferocious war against India. At first glance, the notion is credible: the waning of the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir has been mirrored by a sharp escalation of operations conducted elsewhere in India by Islamist terror groups. Since 2006, when a murderous series of bombings believed to have been conducted by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba claimed over 200 lives in Mumbai, similar strikes have taken place in several cities in north, west and southern India — new-economy hubs like Hyderabad among them. To discern the intentions of Pakistani sponsored-groups of terrorism in India, it is useful to turn to their mass-media productions. In essence, three themes can be discerned in this body of literature: the need for Islamist activists to educate their audience in Pakistan of the legitimacy of jihad both in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India; the representation of Hindus, Jews and Christians as eternal enemies; and the proposition that the Pakistani state has, under General Musharraf, betrayed its historic role as a sponsor of the jihad. All three themes were laid out at a National Consultative Conference organised by the Jamaat ud-Dawa, the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s parent religious-political organisation, in January 2007, to formulate an Islamist response to the peace process. Ghazwa magazine, a Lashkar-e-Taiba house organ, approvingly quoted a participant in the Conference, retired Pakistan Army General Faiz Ali Chishti, as asserting that “jihad remains the only solution of this conflict.” According to Ghazwa, “he vociferously lamented, ‘we have neglected to educate our younger generations about the Hindu mindset.’ He said Hindus have never accepted Pakistan’s independence and are continually scheming to destroy it, one way or another.” A January 30, 2007, editorial in Ghazwa fleshed out these themes, arguing that “Indo-Pak negotiations on the Kashmir have never borne any fruit.” “Up until now,” the magazine’s editors argued, “only India has enjoyed the benefits of the Islamabad Declaration. All Pakistan received from that agreement is an exchange of cultural troupes. And as if that wasn’t enough, Indian politicians have taken the exchange of such cultural troupes as a step forward by suggesting eradication of borders between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, our own rulers are trying to weaken our ideological borders, instead of strengthening them. Efforts are under way by the Pakistani government to remove facts and material from the curriculum which educates our youth about the designs of the Hindus, and exposes their real mindset about Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular.” Writing in Daily Jasarat, a Jamaat-e-Islami linked publication which has an estimated circulation of 50,000, Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Abdul Rehman Makki recently demanded that General Musharraf’s regime “discard the pro-United States policy that has weakened the Kashmir cause. It is time to adopt a pro-jihad and pro-jihadi policy. You give us the country for six months and we will conquer Kashmir. We will also force the Americans out from Afghanistan.” In a subsequent editorial published in its Friday supplement, the Daily Jasarat

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demanded that the “slogan of jihad should reverberate in every nook and corner of Pakistan. If Pakistan allows jihadis to infiltrate into India then Kashmir could be liberated in six months.” “Within a couple of years,” the newspaper asserted, “the rest of the territories of India could be conquered as well, and we can regain our lost glory. We can bring back the era of Mughal rule. We can once again subjugate the Hindus like our forefathers.” How seriously ought we be taking such polemic? Two points are perhaps important. First, Islamist opposition to the peace process is not new. In 2004 — with General Musharraf’s regime firmly ensconced in power — the Lashkar-e-Taiba affiliated Zarb-e-Taiba saw in an ongoing India-Pakistan cricket series evidence of a moral degradation which in turn was represented as the cause of the waning jihad. “It is sad,” the magazine lamented, “that Pakistanis are committing suicides after losing cricket matches to India. But they are not sacrificing their lives to protect the honour of the raped Kashmiri women. To watch a cricket match, we would take a day-off from work. But for jihad, we have no time! Israel is a very tiny country. It does not play cricket. Therefore, it is progressing. We should throw the bat and seize the sword and instead of hitting ‘six’ or ‘four,’ cut the throats of the Hindus and the Jews.” Despite such hostile polemic, though, the Pakistani state succeeded in ensuring jihadi groups were compelled to wind down the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. There is nothing in the 2007 data that suggests a need to revise the belief that Pakistan’s covert service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate can calibrate the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir at an intensity it believes best serve that country’s strategic interests. Under intense international pressure, mired in domestic crisis, and with much of its northern Army reserve committed to counter-insurgency operations, Pakistan simply cannot afford to risk a 2002-like crisis with India. Hence, the steady decline in violence seen within Jammu and Kashmir since 2002 is likely to continue — perhaps escalating somewhat as elections due for later this year draw closer, but only for a short time. Indeed, the terror strikes seen elsewhere in India in recent months have, for the most part, been of low and medium intensity — not the kinds of large-scale bombings the Lashkar-e-Taiba demonstrated it had the capability to execute in 2006. What evidence is available suggests these operations — most often conducted by the Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad with the assistance of Islamist terror groups of Indian origin, like the Students Islamic Movement of India and Mujahideen-e-Hind — have the consent of the ISI, which sees them as an instrument with which to sustain pressure on India during the ongoing negotiations process. As such, the ‘Islamist Peril’ is a concern — but not the imminent crisis it is sometimes represented as within and outside Jammu and Kashmir. Of more concern is the fact that the Pakistani establishment is unwilling to abandon its use of Islamists for waging covert warfare in India — or to decisively dismantle their infrastructure. Despite the forward movement in India-Pakistan negotiations, both sides bottom-lines are still profoundly divergent. Neither side is, moreover, in a position to sell major concessions to their domestic constituencies. For all practical purposes, there remains an impasse, albeit one that masquerades as a forward march. Can events in Jammu and Kashmir move the peace process on?

Peace and the Dying Jihad
In the crumpled photograph found on his bullet-ridden body, Sartaj Ahmad has his arm wrapped around the shoulder of a slender young woman: a woman, his

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neighbours in the small south Kashmir village of Okay say, he hoped one day to marry. The assault rifle that Ahmad fired from at Indian troops in the minutes before his death is draped over his right shoulder. Hours after Hizb ul-Mujahideen battalion commander Ahmad and his bodyguard, Ashiq Husain Paddar, were shot dead near Kulgam, the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council [UJC] announced a unilateral ceasefire on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. In an October 8, 2007, statement, UJC chairman and Hizb ul-Mujahideen supreme commander Mohammad Yusuf Shah commanded “the mujahideen leadership and cadres engaged in armed confrontation to strictly comply [with] the directions with regard to the unilateral decision to cease fire.” While the ceasefire achieved little, developments since then have been instructive. Shah — a north Kashmir apple-orchard owner who prefers to use the somewhat vainglorious pseudonym Syed Salahuddin, after the liberator of Jerusalem — has since called for a Northern Ireland-model solution. Since the formulation suggests the Hizb ul-Mujahideen is open to disarming itself, and because it would presumably be followed by the organisation entering political life, both the ceasefire and the announcement are of obvious significance. Here, the peace process confronts the second peril: are Jammu and Kashmir’s major secessionist forces in a position to forge, and implement, a workable peace solution with India? Ever since Nasir Ahmad Bhat took charge of the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s Kashmir Valley operations in 2004, his message to his Rawalpindi-based organisation was simple: the terror group is comatose and its decline possibly terminal. Bhat discovered that the organisation no longer had the popular legitimacy or political influence that it needed to remain a credible force. Internecine feuding had plagued the organisation since 2000-2001, when the Hizb first aborted a ceasefire announced by the pro-dialogue commander, Abdul Majid Dar, and then arranged for his assassination. Bhat sought to ship in new operatives, often Islamists to the right of the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s rank-and-file, from across the Line of Control to revive its dwindling fortunes. For the most part, the strategy failed. Hizb ul-Mujahideen central Kashmir division commander Tajamul Islam Abdullah, for example, proved unable to mount a single operation of consequence in over six months. Although he had served with distinction for over six months with an al-Qaeda — linked Taliban communications unit in Afghanistan, his organisational skills proved useless in Jammu and Kashmir. A planned series of bombings scheduled for October 30, 2007, to commemorate the historic battle between the forces of Prophet Mohammad and his opponents in the tribe of Quraish at Badr, was betrayed to the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Abdullah’s failures, like those of his superiors, were linked to his lack of local political legitimacy. His family migrated from Srinagar to Karachi during the first India-Pakistan war of 1947-1948, and although it retains ties of kinship and marriage within Srinagar, it has little direct relationship with the Islamist networks within Jammu and Kashmir from which the Hizb draws its sustenance. Evidence of the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s diminishing influence is not hard to come by. Earlier this month, People’s Democratic Party [PDP] dissident Ghulam Hasan Mir made a bid to harvest support among Islamists by offering prayers at the graves of nine Pakistani terrorists killed by the Indian Army along the Line of Control in Tangmarg — not the ethnic-Kashmiri Hizb ul-Mujahideen cadre his party has historically supported. Mohammad Ashraf Shah’s own funeral rites were ignored by politicians in Jammu and Kashmir, a marked departure from 2001-2003, when the PDP actively courted the terror group’s support. Nor, it bears mention, did a single south Kashmir

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politician see it fit to condole with the families of Sartaj Ahmad or Pervez Ahmad Padder. In a startling demonstration of that change, both Ahmad and Abdullah are believed to have quietly surrendered to a Jammu and Kashmir Police-run covert group in December, 2007, in whose informal — and undeclared — custody they remain. Just four years ago, when tacit Hizb ul-Mujahideen support helped propel the PDP to power, the terror group seemed to hold the keys to power. Today, its own long-term prospects are in question. “I believe,” Shah told the Pakistan-based Islamist newspaper Jasarat on September 20, 2007, “that Kashmir will only be freed through jihad, not dialogue.” In practice, though, Hizb insiders have long known that Shah has wearied of the long jihad he helped initiate in 1988. An affluent apple farmer who participated in Kashmir’s electoral politics, Shah was from the outset an improbable radical. His family embodies traditional Kashmiri middle-class aspirations — not neoconservative Islamism. Shah’s oldest son, 35-year old Shahid Yusuf, works as a teacher, while 30-year old Javed Yusuf is an agricultural technologist. Twenty-six-year-old Shakeel Yusuf works as a medical assistant at a government-run hospital. Wahid Yusuf, 24, graduated from the Government Medical College in Srinagar, where the family’s contacts helped him obtain a seat through a quota controlled by the Jammu and Kashmir Governor. Momin Yusuf, at 20 the youngest of Shah’s sons, is an engineering student. Starting in 2006, Shah gave a series of interviews that fuelled speculation that he was in search of a road that could bring him home. Speaking to the Srinagar-based Kashmir News Service in August 2006, for example, he said the organisation was willing to initiate a dialogue with New Delhi. A ceasefire, he said, could also come about if India brought troop levels “in Jammu and Kashmir to the 1989 position” adding that “it should release detainees, it should stop all military operations, it should acknowledge before the world community that there are three parties to the dispute.” New Delhi flatly refused to meet the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s extravagant terms. Now, however, that the Hizb ul-Mujahideen seems willing to come to the table on more reasonable terms, the political space for such a move seems to have diminished. Should the group, or the Mirwaiz Farooq-led APHC be willing to participate in a future election, most analysts agree they would harvest only a small percentage of power. During their time in office, both the ruling Congress-PDP alliance and the National Conference, which held power earlier, built significant constituencies. Even if it should form a united front with Mirwaiz Farooq’s APHC — which, at present, has neither the stomach nor resources to contest elections — there is little hope that the new coalition would gain over a quarter of the seats to the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly. For the both the APHC and the Hizb ul-Mujahideen, a political process which holds out the prospect only of euthanasia is, after all, of little value. Humiliated adversaries might be expected to be a source of satisfaction for New Delhi — but aren’t. For one, the ceding of space by the Hizb ul-Mujahideen and APHC to organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Geelani’s Tehrik-i-Hurriyat means there is no credible force within Jammu and Kashmir which can endorse a final-status settlement. As the Hizb ul-Mujahideen disintegrates, moreover, at least some numbers of its more committed Islamists are likely to join the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a phenomenon already evident in parts of northern Kashmir. New Delhi has promised to facilitate the rehabilitation of Hizb ul-Mujahideen cadre and facilitate the return of those still in camps across the Line of Control. Little, however, has been done. Nor does the Government of India seemed to have applied its mind to creating a political process in which the APHC and Hizb ul-Mujahideen might find space and a voice.

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What, then, might the future hold out? When we speak of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, we are in fact referring to a complex maze of entwined historical contestations. It is precisely the fact that the conflict is not made up of a single crisis but several that has rendered it so intractable — and will, inevitably, make the search for a peace infinitely complex. In search of solutions, it is tempting to seek a deux ex machina that will relieve us of our obligation to engage with complexity. However, the history of the conflict has demonstrated that one-pill cures often create more problems than they solve. We have real reason for optimism — to recapitulate, growing people-to-people contact, the ceasefire on the Line of Control and, of course, the decline in violence — but these are fragile and could, only too easily, disintegrate with the next large bomb blast or massacre. In essence, a continuing decline of violence Jammu and Kashmir seems the most likely short-term outcome — but it isn’t yet clear if the end of war will mean the beginning of peace.

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BETWEEN AMERICA AND ASIA THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT O

THE PAKISTANI BOOMERANG

PUNJAB TROUBLE-MAKERS ABOUND

PUNJAB TROUBLE-MAKERS ABOUND

by Sandipani DASH

The Secret Service of Pakistan finance and train militant Sikhs, who dream of their own state in North-Western India. In spite of their defeats, these independent groups still make increasingly large threats.

1.

T

HE NORTH-WEST INDIAN STATE OF

Punjab remained peaceful through 2007, though it was marred by a single and significant terrorist strike at Ludhiana in October. This is the 14th consecutive year the State has remained relatively free of major political violence after the widespread terrorist-secessionist movement for ‘Khalistan’ was comprehensively defeated in 1993. Central intelligence sources, however, indicate that a concerted attempt to revive militancy in the State is under way. Sources disclose that Pakistan-sponsored terrorist cells are plotting to trigger sectarian violence, and that there had been a three-fold increase of narcotics and arms trading into Punjab from Pakistan. The Intelligence Bureau has reportedly indicated that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, had chosen five groups in Pakistan, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), to train Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) militants. The BKI has reportedly set up a common office with the LeT in Nankana Sahib, in West Punjab, Pakistan. There is also a substantial amount of overseas funding and support for the militant groups, coming primarily from Khalistani operatives in Germany, U.S., UK and Canada, a trend that has been sustained since the separatist movement was defeated. On January 10, 2008, the Director General of Police in Punjab, N. P. S. Aulakh, stated that the ISI was behind the regrouping of the BKI in Punjab. Addressing a Press Conference at Chandigarh, he claimed the that the BKI had engineered the Ludhiana bomb blast, and had planned the elimination of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, Baba Bhaniarewala and certain other heads of religious sects operating in Punjab. He added that the BKI operatives arrested by the Ludhiana Police had revealed that they secured arms training in Pakistan. The Punjab Police chief further disclosed to the media that the police had identified a new terrorist group in the name of the International Liberation Revolutionary Force (ILRF) working in the Malwa region and had arrested all six persons behind the formation of this outfit, along with one AK 47 rifle and other weapons. The most significant among the surviving leaders of the Khalistani militant groups and many cadres are currently hosted by the ISI in Pakistan, and there is a

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constant effort to revive recruitment and terrorism in Punjab, as well as a continuous vigil for opportunities that may help provoke a favourable extremist mobilisation. In early May 2007, for instance, intelligence agencies revealed that the LeT and the ISI were trying to revive militancy in Punjab through sympathisers of Sikh militant groups like the BKI, the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). Information was reportedly sent to the Punjab Police about plans to target towns in the Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Pathankot regions. Instructions had, at this junction, been issued to the authorities to monitor the activities of sympathisers of these groups, who were allegedly sending funds through hawala (illegal money transfers) to "re-launch their separatist movement."

2. The revival of forgotten slogans for ‘Khalistan’ was again witnessed on the ‘lunatic fringes’ of the State’s politics in 2007. A constant campaign was re-orchestrated by the radicals against the Dera Sacha Sauda – a group regarded as ‘heretic’ by orthodox Sikhs – and its head, Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, accused of ‘blasphemy’ and of ‘hurting Sikh sentiments’. The Dera had published advertisements with Ram Rahim Singh dressed as the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh. The controversy had dovetailed into party political conflicts, since the Dera had supported the Congress Party in the Legislative Assembly Elections in February 2007, helping the Congress secure 37 of 65 seats in the Malwa belt, where the Dera boasted hundreds of thousands of followers. The Congress Party was, nonetheless, defeated in the Assembly Elections, but the victorious Shiromani Akali Dal, a party that secured its mandate from its claim to represent Sikh interests, was left with an issue to pick with the Dera. Further, intelligence sources did confirm that the troubles had started from

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the Gurudwara at Talwandi Sabo after "a significant amount of ‘chatter’ between priests there and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence handlers as well as Wadhawa Singh, the Babbar Khalsa International ‘chief’, who is being retained in comfort – with a small surviving rump of cadres – at Karachi." There was only one terrorist attack in Punjab during 2007 – Sikh militants did manage to trigger a bomb blast inside a cinema hall in Ludhiana, killing seven persons, including a 10-year old child, and injuring 40 others on October 14, 2007. The victims were identified as migrants from other States, who were watching a Bhojpuri language film at the city’s Shringaar Cinema. Two days after the blast, on October 16, National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan stated that attempts were being made in Pakistan to revive Sikh extremism in Punjab. On board Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s aircraft, the NSA stated, "There has been a manifest attempt in Pakistan to build up a radical Sikh environment. Sporadic blasts were creating sensation, but the desired effect of sustained tension was not working. We had intelligence about four to six months back that a lot of effort was going into attempts to foment militancy." He added further, "We have tracked intelligence information, we have studied the way such attacks take place and we can read a pattern. We have also seen signs of resuscitation of militant groups in Canada, U.S. and Germany. We had been bracing for such a move by such elements." 3. The Punjab Police registered a number of counter-terrorism successes in 2007, as had been the case in previous years. On April 14, Balbir Singh alias Beera, a Pakistan-trained terrorist, was arrested from his native Chak Thaliwal village in the Ferozepore District. He was part of Paramjit Singh Dhadi’s gang of the ISYF, and cases of terrorism, murder and kidnapping for ransom were pending against him. Again, on June 15, Punjab Police claimed to have foiled an attempt to reorganise the terrorist base in the State through a conspiracy to kill some high profile religious and political leaders. The General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s youth wing in Rupnagar District, Swaranjeet Singh alias Bobby of Bahadarpur, and a Bhindranwale Tigers Force (BTF) militant Gurcharan Singh alias Kala of Bawani village were arrested. Bobby and Kala had planned to assassinate religious leader Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarawale and had formed the Khalsa Action Committee, to recruit ‘like-minded persons’. In September 2007, 3.5 kilograms of RDX were recovered from a car owned by Jagraon resident Gurpreet Singh, son of a former terrorist. Police said that Gurpreet Singh, who is absconding, met BKI chief Wadhawa Singh earlier in 2007, after travelling to Lahore through Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The Punjab Police foiled another attempt by BKI terrorists to assassinate Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh, and heads of two sects other than the Dera Sacha Sauda, when three members of a BKI module were arrested along with explosives on December 13. The Senior Superintendent of Police (Kapurthala), Rakesh Aggarwal, disclosed that 12 other BKI gang members, including its kingpin Gurpreet Singh, were still at large. The Additional District and Sessions Judge in Chandigarh Ravi Kumar Sondhi, on July 27, convicted six persons out of a group of nine accused in the assassination case of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Jagtar Singh Hawara of the BKI, Shamsher Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Balwant Singh and Gurmeet Singh were held guilty on charges of murder, attempt to murder, abetment to suicide, criminal conspiracy under sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosives Act. Nasib Singh who was also accused of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and abetment to suicide, was acquitted on these charges, owing to lack of evidence, and was held guilty only under Section 5 of the Explosives Act. The only accused who was acquitted of all

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charges was Navjot Singh. Proceedings against Paramjit Singh Bheora, declared a proclaimed offender in the case, are still pending. The ninth accused, Jagtar Singh Tara, was still absconding. On July 31, the Judge awarded the death sentence to Hawara and Balwant Singh. Three other convicts were awarded life imprisonment for their involvement in the criminal conspiracy, while the sixth, Naseeb Singh, was given 10 years imprisonment under the Explosives Act, along with a fine of INR 10,000. However, since Naseeb, the oldest of the accused at 72, had already undergone more than the sentence awarded to him, he was freed soon after the sentencing. 4. Outside Punjab, a BKI militant, Gurdip Singh Rana, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on June 11, after being convicted under the Arms Act at Kurukshetra in the neighbouring State of Haryana. Wanted by the Punjab Police, Rana, who was hiding in the Sujra village of Kurukshetra District, was arrested on October 17, 2005. In 2007, Punjab also became an extended area of operation for the banned Assam-based outfit, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). On August 13, 2007, two ULFA militants were arrested from Jalandhar following a joint operation by the Western Command Military Intelligence and Punjab Police. The duo was identified as Hemanta Roy and Jagdish Das. Roy, who hails from Shingrapara village in Assam’s Baksa District, is a member of the outfit’s ‘709th battalion’ and a relative of Hira Sarania, ‘commander’ of the unit. Das was reportedly living in Jalandhar for the past four months and was arrested from the Domariapull area. Roy had joined Das three months earlier, and was working as a waiter in the hotel, from where he was arrested. Senior Superintendent of Police Arpit Shukla stated that five driving licences, two PAN cards, a camera, defence maps and some sensitive documents, were recovered from the militants. An unidentified Army official involved in the operation disclosed, "This is perhaps the first time that we have had specific information on ULFA militants in Punjab. The cell could have been tasked with procuring guns from across the border or via Jammu and Kashmir or could have had nefarious designs to destabilise the region with the help of Pakistan’s ISI." The ISI supports and coordinates its operation with a number of active Diaspora groups across the world, using its embassies and consulates as points of contact, coordination and recruitment. SAIR noted in an earlier assessment: On May 6, 2007, a meeting organised by the Council of Khalistan at Birmingham in the United Kingdom (UK) was attended by the habitual India-baiter in the UK Parliament, Lord Nazir Ahmed, and by ‘representatives’ of a number of other groups including the obscure ‘Tehrik-e-Kashmir’ represented by Muhammad Ghalib. On June 6, 2007, similarly, a rally was successfully organised at Frankfurt in Germany (part of a series planned on that date for Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Surrey, Frankfurt, Sydney and London – the other rallies made little impression) by a combination of Diaspora groups under the banner of the "German Sikh Community", which sought, among other things, strong action against the Dera Sacha Sauda and its "criminal Baba" Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh. Such ‘events’ are regularly stage-managed by extremist Diaspora groups in close coordination with the ISI, which uses Pakistani embassies and consulates in various countries as contact points with anti-India extremist elements, not only for propaganda activities and fund generation, but, crucially, for recruitment. A trickle of volunteers continues to be diverted by these radical Diaspora organisations into Pakistani training camps, building the ‘reserves’ that are to be activated when conditions become ‘favourable’. In violence-afflicted South Asia, Punjab is the rare exception where the state recovered territorial and administrative control after extremist violence had led to a near-complete breakdown of governance. However, the Sikh militants’ calculus, as of

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their supporters and sponsors in Pakistan and among Diaspora elements, is that, at some stage, "a convergence of political incompetence, an emotive public issue, and public discontent, will abruptly catalyse a resurgence of terror." Although such a resurgence of terror in Punjab remains a remote possibility, there are compelling reasons not to lower the guard in this strategically crucial State.

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THE IRANIAN DOSSIER: IN WASHINGTON THE

BUREAUCRATS ARE WINNING

THE IRANIAN DOSSIER: IN WASHINGTON THE BUREAUCRATS ARE WINNING

by John C. HULSMAN, Ph.D

The report by the American intelligence agencies on atomic weapons in Tehran has inflicted the harshest blow to Bush and his supporters for a military option. The problem, however, remains: the country of the Ayatollahs wants the Bomb.

R

ARELY HAS A SEEMINGLY BLAND

government report become so sexy. In early December 2007, global newspaper headlines shrieked the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the educated guess of the 16 U.S. spy agencies as to the state of Iran’s nuclear program. The simplified story ran as follows: as was true with Iraq, once again the Bush administration has been made to look very foolish, as Iran, far from looming as a nuclear threat, actually stopped its weapons program in 2003. This was sweet vindication for enemies of the neo-conservative president, yet another sign of his tendency to shoot first, and ask questions later. The newspapers are right. The National Intelligence Estimate is vitally important, but not in the way that they think. It is not just another chapter in the story of an administration’s incompetence. Rather, it lifts the lid on the current state of bureaucratic politics in Washington, signaling the beginning of the end for one of the most contentious presidencies in American history. Unfortunately, the Bush White House’s intelligence bungling has obscured the second key finding of the report, one at odds with the condescending smiles of many in Europe; Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons will be the major foreign policy test of whoever is elected to succeed the hapless Texan.

What It Says
The National Intelligence Estimate, released on December 3rd, 2007, was the combined report of the U.S. intelligence community into the state of Iran’s nuclear program. It involved the opinions of hundreds of officials and evaluated thousands of documents, critically, including recently intercepted communications and other fresh information. Beyond the headlines, the NIE made certain controversial and politically important statements. First, it was an about-face from the 2005 NIE on Iran, which had categorically stated that the Islamic Republic had an active nuclear weapons program. Certainly, America’s spies were wrong either two years ago or now; as such the agencies were tacitly admitting to yet another American intelligence failure over a matter of primary American security. Second, it maintains that Iran had indeed possessed a long-running covert nuclear weapons program, while lying about its nuclear intentions to the international community for well more than a decade. This is not a finding that should reassure the world.

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BUREAUCRATS ARE WINNING

Third, this covert program was suspended in 2003. While the report fails to make clear exactly why the mullahs hesitated, the NIE does assert that the Iranian regime seems amenable to the traditional rational inducements of great power politics, carrots and sticks. Such an assertion is a serious blow to neo-conservatives, caught as they are saying that the Iranian government’s irrationality makes deterrence of a Persian bomb impossible. If Iran responds normally to international diplomatic pressure, then it is obvious that negotiations, and not preventive bombing, must be the policy tool of first resort. However, the report does not make clear what inducements caused the mullahs to hesitate. While general international diplomatic pressure was ratcheting up at the time, more specific American military sticks, the then-successful invasion of next-door Iraq, may have made the difference. If this was so, inadvertently the disastrous Iraq war may have served a very salutary purpose. But the rest of the world does not want to hear that sticks, despite their misuse by the administration, still play a major role in global diplomacy. Fourth, while accepting the weaponization program is on hold, the NIE notes that Iran is rapidly moving forward with uranium enrichment, under the guise of civilian use. Enriching uranium in sufficient quantities has always been the difficult part of acquiring nuclear weapons. In engineering terms, the warhead itself is relatively easy to construct. In other words, in plain view of the rest of us, Iran is working on the hardest single problem they need to overcome in obtaining a bomb. Lastly, the report speculates that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons between 2010 and 2015. This can be looked at in a couple of ways. While it certainly makes the administration’s all-too-often heard claims of imminent danger look hysterical, 2010 is not all that far way. Whoever succeeds President Bush will have to navigate this demanding timetable.

What It Means
In the wake of the report, the president was left defending the indefensible, his current bellicose policy toward Iran. Defiantly ignoring facts, President Bush insisted that, “nothing has changed,”1 but of course this was nonsense. The NIE became the last in a series of checks on the Bush administration’s power. Indeed, the report cannot be seen in isolation; rather, it is strongly influenced by the Iraq debacle, where neo-conservatives in the administration, particularly in the Vice President’s office, ran roughshod over the objections and hesitations of senior diplomats and intelligence officers. Worse, in the wake of the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that the President had made his raison d’etre for the invasion, many of these same officials were left holding the bag, being blamed by neo-conservative allies of the administration for the misadventure. They were determined that this would not happen again. The NIE signals the bureaucratic victory of career staffers over the President’s ideologues; it is the beginning of the end of the neo-conservative adventurism that has so marred the Bush policy record. In 2004, following the Iraq intelligence debacle, U.S. spy agencies were restructured giving intelligence chiefs more autonomy from political pressure. As a result the White House was effectively locked out of the NIE process. A number of those who had questioned the Iraq invasion congregated in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which played the critical coordinating role in the
P. BAKER and R. WRIGHT, “US Renews Efforts to Keep Coalition Against Tehran,” Washington Post, December 5, 2007.
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drafting of the report. At last, administration critics from within the government had a chance to bureaucratically push back at the excesses of the Bush White House. The NIE, in saying that Iran presently does not have an active nuclear weapons program, that such an effort was suspended in 2003, and that Tehran will be unable to produce a bomb until 2010-2015, dealt a decisive bureaucratic blow to neo-conservative efforts to mount a military strike against Iran in the last year of the Bush presidency. Such an outcome was bitterly admitted by their bureaucratic foes. A long-time neo-conservative aide to the Vice President acknowledged the report’s authors, “knew how to pull out the rug from under us.”2 Former UN Ambassador, John Bolton, was characteristically blunt, “You could not read the judgments and not assume that this was intended to change policy. It shredded the Bush administration policy.”3 Robert Kagan, an influential neo-conservative thinker close to the White House, went so far as to urge that the NIE merited a change in administration policy. He noted grimly that the military option is, “now gone,”4 and that the Bush White House should recognize this, throw in the towel, and begin direct talks with Iran. For the neo-conservatives rightly saw the context of the NIE as bureaucratically the last stake in the heart of the administration. Following the Democratic victory in the mid-terms, the age-old American constitutional system of checks and balances, both formal and bureaucratic, has begun to reassert itself. Court rulings have made clear there are limits to any president’s ability to hide behind the commander-in-chief rationale as a pretext for possessing almost unlimited power. The Congress, long shamefully dormant, has begun a series of hearings on the war, exposing some of the administration’s most grievous flaws. Party identification, evenly divided when the President came to power, now runs a staggering 50-36%, in favor of the Democrats, part of the political price for the Iraq war. The President has also made some accommodation with reality, installing a second term team of Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates, far less eager to go along with the neo-conservative demands of the Vice President’s office. The revenge of the careerists is just another example of the American ship of state righting its course. But if this bureaucratic shift is undoubtedly good news for both America and the world, there is also something worrying about the aftermath of the NIE. Amid the neo-conservative sour grapes, Robert Kagan, one of the most thoughtful members of the school of thought, made an interesting observation. The NIE, he observed, made the chance of winning European support for further sanctions, “impossible.”5 Given the fact that the NIE makes clear Iran is amenable to carrots and sticks, this would be a disastrous development, as the puny first two rounds of UN sanctions are unlikely to sway anyone in Iran from developing a nuclear program. Yet Kagan, at least initially, seems to be right. Since the NIE has been issued, U.S. diplomats have reported that there is little appetite for a third round of UN sanctions, which, even if enacted, would still fail to really pressure the mullahs into coming clean about their enrichment program and giving up the dream of possessing a nuclear weapon. As Michael Rubin, a leading analyst at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, makes clear, the NIE, “almost gives Berlin, Beijing, and Moscow an excuse not to come together for a third round of sanctions.”6 Indeed, China’s Ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, complacently said, regarding further sanctions,
2 J. SOLOMON and S. GORMAN, “In Iran Reversal, Bureaucrats Triumphed Over Cheney Team,” Washington Post, January 14, 2008. 3 Ibid. 4 Baker and Wright, Washington Post, December 5, 2007. 5 Ibid. 6 Baker and Wright, “A Blow to Bush’s Tehran Policy,” Washington Post, December 4, 2007.

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“I think we all start from the perception that things have changed.”7 One can be excused for not thinking the ambassador is assessing the case on its merits; China recently negotiated a major new deal with Iran for oil exploration and production. Such an attitude is both irresponsible and alarming. Paradoxically, the baleful result of the NIE seems to be to make forming an international coalition to stop Iran acquiring nukes far harder. The NIE signals to the rest of the world that the pressure is off; why even the Americans do not think Iran will momentarily acquire a nuclear weapons capability. As a result, why should the rest of the world think through the hard choices that await us all in the medium-term? The simple answer is that without international consensus over a diplomatic strategy to deal with Iran in a couple of years the world will again face the dire existential policy options that, presently, it is so relieved to have avoided – either accepting an Iranian bomb (and the Middle East nuclear arms race that is sure to follow) or a bombing campaign, with all the catastrophic side effects (the end of NATO, the destabilization of pro-American regimes by the Arab street and Islamic radicals) that implies. The NIE must not be the excuse for the international community to back off from dealing with this vital problem.

Conclusion: Some Good News
And yet, if evaluated properly, the NIE does one thing more; it shows the way forward for dealing with Iran in terms of policy. For the fact that Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program means that there is time to assemble the intricate international coalition necessary to deal with the problem. As Iran’s leaders hid the existence of the program for more than a decade, it can be assumed that they were (and are) serious about the possibility of acquiring a nuclear capability. The suspension in 2003 does give room for hope; the Iranians seem rational and amendable to diplomatic carrots and sticks. All the more reason for the international community to devise a comprehensive strategy with both, including American diplomatic recognition, increased global investment and a nonaggression agreement, while sticks would include an investment freeze (with Russian and Chinese, as well as European participation), which could drag the Iranian economy to its knees. Iran’s continued efforts at enrichment, as well as the 2010-2015 timetable for acquiring the capability for nuclear weapons, means one thing more: there is time to come up with a diplomatic solution, but it is not infinite. As usual, President Bush is mistaken. No matter how many times he says it, the NIE does not signal business as usual. Rather, it heralds the end of the adventurism that so damaged his presidency. This is undoubtedly good news for all. Sadly, in discrediting the President’s efforts to characterize Iran as an imminent danger, the NIE has given cover to all those who would rather not think through the complexities of the current situation. Lastly, and hopefully, the very assertions in the report signal a diplomatic way forward that may allow the mullahs to change their calculations about acquiring a nuclear capability, based on a reading of their own national interests. Rarely has a government report mattered so much.

7

Baker and Wright, Washington Post, December 5, 2007.

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THE WORST CASE SCENARIO IS NOT AS BAD AS IT SEEMS

THE WORST CASE SCENARIO IS NOT AS BAD AS IT SEEMS

by Ariel COHEN

An American study simulates one of the worst nightmares for the West: the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran. A timely and concentrated response could check Tehran. And avoid the possibility of a world thirsting for oil.

1.

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ODAY, Not since the Team A – Team B

debate over the Soviet threat in the 1970s, has an intelligence estimate played such a major role in U.S. foreign policy. It may be argued that the Iran National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the pivotal event in U.S. foreign policy in 2007, with repercussions for 2008 and beyond.1 The NIE may lay the ground work for a dramatic turnaround of the U.S. foreign policy on Iran and herald a further decline in the perception of American power in the world. The report acknowledges that Iran managed a clandestine and sophisticated nuclear weapons program until the fall of 2003, when it allegedly stopped it due to international diplomatic pressure and sanctions.2 Skeptics are already piling up to criticize the report. First, its three top authors are not Iranian experts. Nor are they intelligence officers with experience in field operations and spy tradecraft. They are arms control analysts and diplomats. 3 Therefore, their understanding of Iranian politics and of “sources and methods” of intelligence collected in preparation of the report is somewhat limited. Secondly, some commentators blamed the NIE authors, Thomas Fingar, the former head of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), Ambassador Kenneth Brill, and Vann H. Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Non-Proliferation, of harboring partisan agendas.4 Thirdly, the published partial Estimate, 9 pages out of 150, declares that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but never mentions the fundamental events of that era. This was when the U.S. went to Iraq after liberating Afghanistan.5 Many in Iran, including then-president Mohammad Khatami, wanted to negotiate with the U.S. to prevent their country’s encirclement by the U.S. troops and pro-American regimes. A temporary halt in the nuclear weapons program made sense as a negotiating tactic then, but does not make sense since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office and launched his blood-curling rhetoric in 2005. The NIE bottom line is, whether or not Iran took a breather in doomsday weapons development in 2003, the intelligence community is not sure whether these activities have restarted. Those who say that Iran “does not have “a nuclear weapons program”
National Intelligence Council, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” November 2007, at http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf (December 07, 2007). 2 Ibid. 3 R. KENNETH, “U.S. Intel Possibly Duped by Iran,” Newsmax, December 4, 2007, at www.newsmax.com/ timmerman/iran_nukes/2007/12/04/54359.html (December 06, 2007). 4 Ibid 5 J.R. BOLTON, “The Flaws in the Iran Report,” The Washington Post, December 6, 2007, at http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.27201/pub_detail.asp (December 07, 2007).
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today are utterly misleading – deliberately or otherwise. 2. The NIE release is the latest blow in the long-running battle between supporters of a hard line towards Iran and robust American foreign policy, and those who give absolute preference to diplomacy over the use of force, or the threat to use force. The former include Vice President Dick Cheney, while the latter count today Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Admiral William Fallon, Central Command, who would be waging the war. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is among NIE supporters, government sources said. Outside the executive branch, the NIE is likely cheered by the Baker-Hamilton Commission members, including the former national security adviser General Brent Scowcroft and other heavyweights from the Bush One Administration. The NIE already has created winners and losers – domestically and internationally. Among the winners, President Ahmadinejad, who claimed credit for Iran’s achieving ranks of a “nuclear state” and derided the U.S. and its intelligence community, which based the report on “faulty intelligence.”6 He takes credit for the rejection of Western demands by his London negotiator Saeed Jalili. Ahmadinejad came awfully close to admitting that Iran either has a bomb or is on track to get it. Otherwise, why would Teheran spend billions building an arsenal of increasingly long range ballistic missiles? Other winners include Russia and China. They will implacably oppose the future U.S. sanction demands in the UN Security Council. Now they can say that the sanctions are unnecessary as the U.S. intelligence assessment claims that there is no Iran nuclear program. Vladimir Putin would reiterate that the European deployment of a U.S. ballistic missile defense system is against Russia, not Iran, and hence Moscow’s fervid opposition to it.7 Russia and China are major suppliers of military and nuclear technology to the mullocracy, while Germany will be happy to continue business as usual in Iran. The only question is, why has Iran educated hundreds of nuclear physicists and engineers in the best military technology colleges – in Russia and around the world? Just to run a civilian nuclear reactor? Domestically, the U.S. intelligence community, celebrates that this time it has distanced itself from the White House’s policy on Iran. The analysts are trying to do a “mea culpa” after Iraq. They believe that they were unjustly blamed for Iraq’s initial failures when their assessment of the Iraqi WMD program was rejected, then made the fall guy. Another executive branch winner is the State Department, which is now riding high after losing the turf battles to the White House and the Pentagon in the run-up to the Iraq war. Among the losers are President Bush and Dick Cheney, U.S. credibility, and the remnants of the neo-cons. The neo-cons get payback for beating the drums for the Iraq war. Maybe they cried wolf too early. But now, the real wolf may have fled the barn. Another loser is Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Defense Minister Efrain Sneh, who spent the last fifteen years tracking Iranian missile and nuclear program have rejected the report. As Barak told an Israeli Army Radio, "It
Iran: Nuclear report a ‘victory,” CNN, December 05, 2007, at http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast /12/05/iran.nuclear/index.html (December 06, 2007). 7 T. SHANKER and S.L. MYERS, Putin Criticizes U.S. Officials on Missile Defense, The New York Times, Oct. 13, 2007, at www.nytimes.com/2007/10/13/world/europe/13russia.html?_r=1&oref=slogin (Dec. 2007)
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seems Iran in 2003 halted, for a certain period of time, its military nuclear program but, as far as we know, it has probably since revived it."8 But what may be portrayed as Israel’s “alarmism” will be now used to draw a wedge between the U.S. and the Jewish state. For the neo-cons, the loss may be tactical and political. For Israel, it may be existential and fatal. Finally, the biggest loser – the Iranian people. Now the chances of the U.S. going after the mullahs, militarily or through regime change, are minimal. Iranians are on their own. The U.S. cannot credibly lead as our key policy on Iran is repudiated by its own intelligence community. If the U.S. won’t lead on Iran, our reputation is undermined from Warsaw and Prague to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. For the moderate Gulf states, with large and strategically placed Shia minorities, Iran is an aspiring hegemon that might overturn the apple cart of autocracy and oil profits. U.S. Gulf allies are terrified by Teheran. Thus, an internal Washington power game, between the Cheney camp and the State Department-CIA-Realpolitik supporters, is affecting U.S. policy towards Iran and the Middle East in a major way. 3. The debates about a possible war with Iran was preoccupying Washington for the last 18 months, despite the fact that the probability of a real military confrontation never raised above 25-30%. This is because Iraq, with its high costs and questionable justifications, has left its indelible mark on the Bush Administration. Moreover, one of the lessons of Iraq was to exhaust diplomacy and not to rush to war. One of the clear consequences of the global war on terror and especially the Iraq war was a great escalation in the price of oil, from the high $20s before 9/11 to $99 in November of 2007. Thus, it was important to explore the costs and domestic and international repercussions of a U.S. military strike against Teheran’s nuclear program, especially its oil market consequences. From December 2006 to March 2007, the Heritage Foundation scholars and an outside economic modeling firm conducted a gaming exercise and a computer simulation that examined the likely economic and policy consequences of a major oil disruption in the Persian Gulf. The exercise utilized a realistic scenario, state-of-the-art macroeconomic modeling, and a knowledgeable team of subject-matter experts from government, business, academia, and research institutes from around Washington, D.C.9 This project was a proof-of-principle investigation that combined computer modeling and gaming to capture how U.S. decisions during a crisis might affect how global energy markets and the U.S. economy adjust to sudden and significant disruptions of oil supplies. In this scenario, the United States responded to a crisis precipitated by an attempted Iranian blockade of the Strait of Hormuz. The game began with a series of economic results based on a scenario in which Iran began blockading the Strait of Hormuz in January 2007. The assumption was that Iran may succeed in fully blockading the strait for up to one week, but after that, some oil shipping would slowly resume. The Heritage Foundation economics team, supported by analysts at Global Insight, then modeled the blockade's likely economic effects on world oil prices and the U.S. economy. They found that under worst-case circumstances: the price of West
T. McGirk, “Iran Assessment Creates an Israeli Headache,” Time Magazine, Dec. 06, 2007, at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1691682,00.html (December 07, 2007). 9 W. BEACH, J. CARAFANO, A. COHEN, L. CURTIS, T. L. FOERTSH, A. ACOSTA FRASER, B. LIEBERMAN and J. PHILLIPS, “If Iran Provokes an Energy Crisis: Modeling the Problem in a War Game,” The Heritage Foundation, July 25, 2007, at www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/cda07-03.cfm
8

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Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude10 would peak in the third quarter of 2007 at $150 per barrel, an increase of $85 per barrel; real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by over $161 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007; private non-farm employment would decline by over 1 million jobs by the middle of 2008; and real disposable personal income would be more than $260 billion lower by the fourth quarter of 2007. With this set of economic forecasts, the game participants devised policy responses to mitigate the oil price shock and subsequent economic harm. They recommended a number of policy moves, which are described later in this report. The economics team ran new economic simulations based on these policy responses and found that: the price of WTI crude would peak in the first quarter of 2007 at $75 per barrel, an increase of less than $12 per barrel; real GDP would remain at roughly non-crisis levels during 2007; employment would expand by 109,000 in 2007; and real disposable personal income would grow at non-crisis rates during 2007. The project demonstrated the feasibility of modeling the economic consequences of crisis decision making and responses during an oil price shock induced by a hostile foreign government. The results of the game suggest that an official response to an actual crisis based on an Iran blockade of the strait might be effective. The experts who played the roles of the U.S. government officials opted for a focused but restrained use of military power. This use of force demonstrated the U.S. determination to uphold freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. The American response did much to calm global markets and reassure American consumers. In addition, the experts chose to take a minimalist approach to interfering in U.S. domestic markets. As global energy demand grows—especially among China, India, and other developing countries—competition for access to oil is escalating. The Persian Gulf is becoming the most important bottleneck, making freedom of navigation through the strait a vital American and global interest. Indeed, serious thinking about policy decision making during an energy crisis is needed more than ever before. Global energy markets have never been more integrated or more competitive. U.S. decisions during a crisis will affect not just every American consumer, but the worldwide economy. The purpose of this exercise was to gain data on how the United States would respond to an oil crisis resulting from an attempted blockade of oil flowing from the Persian Gulf. From these data emerge insights into policy decisions that should or should not be made during an energy crisis. Heritage Foundation experts developed the scenario used in the simulation. Day 1: After one month of debate (which gives markets time to factor action into oil prices), the United Nations Security Council imposes significant sanctions on Iran over its suspicious nuclear program. Day 2: Iran withdraws from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and tests a nuclear weapon. Day 3: The U.S. bombs Iranian nuclear sites, air bases, and air defense targets but spares Iran's oil infrastructure to minimize disruption of the world oil market. Day 4: Iran announces that it will deny its oil exports to any country that does not condemn the U.S. action, but it continues to produce oil at the same levels. Most countries that refuse to condemn the U.S. action either are oil exporters (e.g., the United Kingdom and Canada) or do not import Iranian oil anyway. Day 5: Pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq stage an uprising, attack coalition forces,
10

The price of WTI crude is one of many benchmark spot market prices for petroleum.

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and shut down Iraqi oil production in the southern oil fields. This takes roughly 60% of Iraq's oil exports off the world market for an indefinite period. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announces an oil embargo against the U.S. in support of Iran.11 Most other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries condemn the U.S. "aggression" but ignore Iran's call for an embargo. Sudan and Libya embargo oil exports to the U.S., but this has little effect because the U.S. imports very little oil from them. China, Japan, and the European Union condemn the U.S. and escape Iranian oil threats. Russia condemns the U.S. and continues oil production at maximum capacity to exploit higher oil prices. Day 6: An oil tanker is sunk by a mine in the shipping channel in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran is believed to be responsible but does not claim responsibility. U.S. intelligence believes that the mine was laid by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in civilian clothes operating from a fishing vessel or an Iranian Kilo-class submarine. Saudi Arabia announces that it will divert as much oil as possible to Red Sea ports through secure pipelines. Based on this scenario, Heritage Foundation analysts estimated the losses in oil shipping out of the Persian Gulf and their effects on world oil spot prices. These estimates also became a central parameter of the game. Participants were presented with two levels of oil price spikes associated with a short interruption of oil supplies and a more protracted disruption. Scenario 1. The moderate-case scenario is the loss of 2.5 million barrels per day (mbd). This amount is insufficient to trigger International Energy Agency (IEA) emergency mechanisms. Demand is reduced, but not enough to drive prices much higher than they were in the summer of 2006. Provided the U.S. government makes the appropriate decisions, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is utilized at a rate of 15% of the total decrease in supply. Scenario 2. In the worst-case scenario, oil shipping drops by 6 mbd or more and supplies are disrupted significantly for the first two calendar quarters of 2007. This is sufficient to trigger IEA mechanisms, which start at a loss of 7% to IEA members in total or to an individual member. IEA Integrated Energy Policy calls for a 7% cut in demand when the policy is triggered, but analysts at Global Insight12 who assisted Heritage Foundation scholars in estimating the economic effects of the oil disruption assumed that the cuts were less than this. If demand is cut too much and the SPR is released, there are no real problems with supply, stocks rise too much, and there is no justification for a high price. SPR is utilized as in the moderate-case scenario. Heritage Foundation experts also facilitated the actual game. The game began with a briefing on the scenario, including the trigger that disrupts oil production and the reactions of key world players. The policymakers directed policy; the federal agencies and industry members determined the best way to implement and meet the technical needs of the policy. Chart 1 shows the changes in crude oil prices in the scenarios. In the
11 If Venezuela actually followed through, this could lead to short-term disruptions and higher world oil prices. The U.S. would be forced to find substitutes for Venezuelan oil, which would be difficult in the short run because U.S. refineries are configured for the heavier and sourer Venezuelan oil. 12 Global Insight provides the most comprehensive economic, financial, and political coverage of countries, regions, and industries available from any source, covering over 200 countries and spanning more than 170 industries and using a unique combination of expertise, models, data, and software within a common analytical framework to support planning and decision making. Recognized as the most consistently accurate forecasting company in the world, Global Insight has over 3,800 clients in industry, finance, and government, with revenues in excess of $95 million, 600 employees, and 23 offices in 13 countries covering North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The Heritage Foundation worked with Global Insight to determine some of the results outlined in this report. For more complete information on the methodology and macroeconomic model used, see the appendices.

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moderate-case and worst-case scenarios, prices increased significantly, but the worst-case scenario clearly delineates the policy challenge. As a prudent measure, the participants quickly decided to address the worst-case outcome, in which the price of WTI crude rose to $150 per barrel by the third quarter of 2007, compared to $65 per barrel if no crisis had occurred. This significant jump in crude prices caused a substantial economic response. For example, real GDP fell by more than $150 billion in both the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008. (See Chart 2.) In fact, the simulation forecasted that the two-quarter crisis could depress GDP for 10 quarters, or two and a half years. This fall in real GDP is mirrored by reductions in private non-farm employment and real disposable income. (See Chart 3 and Chart 4.) The simulation forecasted that the worst-case scenario would result in roughly 1 million fewer jobs one year after the strait was blocked. If Iran's blockade of the strait produced an $85-per-barrel increase in crude oil prices, employment would not recover for almost three years. In addition, households would have slower income growth. The oil-induced economic slowdown would reduce real disposable personal income by nearly $260 billion by the fourth quarter of 2007, and real disposable income would average roughly $100 billion lower during 2008. It would not recover until the first quarter of 2010. In the exercise, the game managers assumed that the crisis started on January 1, 2007, and tasked players with finding practical policy responses to the crisis that would have the likely effect of reducing the spike in oil prices and mitigating the economic harm that inaction would likely produce. At the end of the game, the participants recommended that: The U.S. and its allies deploy sufficient military forces to protect freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. The participants assumed that the military response would be extensive, swift, and effective. They further assumed that the U.S. and allied military response to the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would reduce Iran's obstruction of tanker traffic by 50% by January 31, 75% by March 31, and 100% by October 1, 2007. The U.S. government employs the Strategic Petroleum Reserve according to the rules laid out in international treaties. The participants assumed that every country with SPR inventories would respond according to these rules beginning on January 1, 2007. (Full compliance in sharing, much less in reducing demand, is highly unlikely. Global Insight optimistically assumed 50% compliance.) Congress and the Administration temporarily reduce regulatory burdens that would otherwise cause energy prices to increase. The participants assumed that, in March 2007, Congress would delay implementation of fuel economy standards and relax compliance with the Jones Act and clean air regulations regarding power plant improvements.13 To determine whether these policy recommendations would offset some of the economic harm produced by the oil blockade, Heritage Foundation analysts implemented these recommendations in the same economic model that was used to estimate the original economic effects in order to allow accurate comparisons.
13 Global Insight noted that power plant improvements (adding pollution-abatement equipment) are far too advanced to have any impact in the short or medium term. Utility companies have ordered equipment that is scheduled to be installed through 2012. They have already paid money that they cannot recover through rates unless the equipment is installed. There may be some ability to waive NOx emission standards for a few months, but this would have minimal impact. Oil consumption by power generators is extremely small and is limited to a few East Coast states that have little capacity to turn to coal. To the extent that oil consumption could be reduced further, it would require increased reliance on natural gas—a fuel already in short supply.

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4. The results were impressive. The policy recommendations eliminated virtually all of the negative outcomes from the blockade. Charts 1 through 4 show the simulation results for the price of crude oil, real GDP, employment, and personal income under the three scenarios: moderate case, worst case, and the participants' policy responses. In virtually every economic indicator, incorporating policy responses neutralized the negative effects of the crisis. Overall, the military response had the greatest effect, because it shortened the length and severity of the crisis. However, supplemental budgetary appropriations increased defense spending, which helped to keep GDP from falling significantly even with increased oil prices. Additionally, the lack of government response (or limited influence on the market through regulations) helped by allowing market forces to adjust to the crisis without artificial constraints, keeping the overall price shock from being too severe. The analysis suggests that the right blueprint for an American response to any attempt by a hostile state to use armed force to disrupt global energy supplies is that the United States must lead the effort to defeat such a purpose. An American-led military response focused on objectives that are clear, relevant, and obtainable would demonstrate U.S. determination to uphold freedom of navigation, which would be essential to calming global energy markets and reassuring producers and consumers. At the same time, minimizing disruptions and focusing on measures that liberalize energy policies and roll back regulatory restrictions would allow the marketplace to find the best market-based solutions to meet global energy needs. President Bush has declared that the U.S. will continue its policy of applying diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions on Iran. In fact, the NIE recommends diplomacy and sanctions as the main tool to modify Iranian behavior. The top priority in such “modification program” is making Iran come clean about the scope and the nature of its nuclear program. It is possible, but not very likely, that with the U.S. Administration change in 2009 the policy towards the Islamic Republic. Regardless of the future U.S. policy, Iranian ambitions in the Gulf are here to stay, at least as long as the hardliners dominate the government in Teheran. And, because of that, the United States will deploy its full array of foreign policy tools to guard the oil lanes and support its allies in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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THE SHIA FACTOR

THE SHIA FACTOR

by Kayhan BARZEGAR

The new rivalry between two main Muslim communities is the result of the political developments in Iraq. The pragmatic relationship between Iran and the Shia factions in other countries. The fears of Sunni regimes of a Shia crescent moon.

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developments after the 2003 Iraqi invasion, this paper investigates the role of the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy conduct. With coming to power of the Shia factions in Iraq and its implications in the region, the Shia factor is becoming a significant element in shaping Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Some assessments tend to agree that the revival of Shiite factions and their conflict with Sunnis will shape the future of Middle East politics; Iran has a key role in this respect.1 Some tend to discuss that the current potential in Shia factions is to create a coalition in a more temporary capacity and that, when the Iraqi Crisis settles down, Iranian and the Shia factions’ relations will loosen.2 Lastly, some other focus on Iran’s intentions and aims in empowering an ideological coalition of friendly Shia factions in the region, a policy that is called by some Arab leaderships as a supposed Shia crescent.3 How does the Shia factor influence Iran’s foreign policy conduct toward the region? What are the aims of Iran and the Shia factions in establishing close relationships in the region and especially in Iraq? What are the roots of the new rivalry between Shia and Sunni factions in the region? Answering these questions, I first investigate the significance of the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy. I then argue that close relations between Iran and the Shia factions are based on pragmatic aims and for securing both Iran’s national interests as well as the factual interests of Shia groups. Lastly, I discuss that the emergence of a new Shia-Sunni rivalry in the region as a result of Iraq’s new political development and an attempt by Shia factions to institute their new status in Iraqi domestic politics as well as relations with states in the region, rather than a rivalry stemming from Iran’s policy in building a Shia crescent. For two reasons, the Shia factor was not properly employed as an opportunity and instrument of conducting Iran’s foreign policy before the 2003 Iraqi crisis: 1) the secular nature of the Shah’s regime and foreign Policy conduct 2) the suppressive policies of Arab regimes especially Saddam Hussein toward the Shia Factions. Because of its secular nature, the Shah’s regime had no desire in appreciating or employing the decisive role of ideology and religion in boosting Iran’s foreign policy capacities. Meanwhile, the regime rarely followed a policy of engaging Iran intensely with the Arab world’s political affairs such as Arab-Israeli wars and peace process since it conceived those issues to be out of Iran’s national interests. This standpoint prevented Iran in benefiting from the advantageous role of the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy conduct. Some experts tend to agree, however, that the Shah’s regime at certain points took advantage of the Shia factor in the 1970s, especially in Lebanon through Imam Musa al-Sadr’s Shia movement, and in Iraq by indirectly supporting the
V. NASR, “Behind the Rise of the Shiites,” Time.com, December 19, 2006, http://www.belfercenter.org F. Gregory Gause, “Symposium on The Emerging Shia Crescent: Implications for the Middle East and U.S. Policy,” June 5, 2006, at: www.cfr.org 3 The concern on the emergence of a “Shia crescent” was first warned by King Abdullah of Jordan in 2004.
1 2

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Dawa Party.4 Yet again, if Iran in the past took the slightest advantage of the Shia factor in regulating its foreign policy, it was mostly focused on supporting the certain groups and political factions that were opposing the regimes or groups that primarily supported radical Arab nationalism i.e. those regimes in Iraq and Lebanon that had, by that time, unfriendly political positions toward Iran.5 The advent of the 1979 Islamic revolution was a turning point for empowering the place of the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy regulation. The Islamic revolution indeed emboldened the Shias to express their factual identity and to show their existence to other entities. However, the suppressive policies adopted by Arab regimes and especially the Baathist regime in Iraq were major impediments to take advantage of the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy. Since the Islamic revolution served to intensify the ideological differences, the fundamentalists of the Islamic Republic, with their own brand of Shia Islam, came into conflict either with the regions’ conservative Sunni Islam i.e. in the Persian Gulf or Arab secular nationalist in the Saddam’s Iraq. Because of its ideological and revolutionary philosophy, the Islamic Republic, especially in the days of the revolution, attempted to change the region’s political status quo by means in which it perceived itself at the time. The driving force for Iran’s new endeavor was the Shia factions who were kept for a long time out of their own countries’ politics by Sunni governing elites who essentially considered the Islamic revolution as a more Shia revolution. Subsequently, any attempts by Shia factions in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq to establish a close friendship with Iran were suppressed. The worst suppression occurred in Iraq and by the Saddam Baathist regime. Given the long backgrounds of cultural-societal connectedness, the Islamic Republic tried to establish close relationships with Iraqi Shia factions. However, its attempts ended with more imposing restrictions on Shia factions’ activities by the Bathsist regime. The Saddam regime called the Shias elements of expanding Iran's influence. The subsequent Iran-Iraq war changed the sentiment of friendship between Iran and the Iraqi Shias due to the war being propagated by the Baathist regime as a war between two states in line with the Persian and Arab nationalistic identities. Iran’s endeavors to employ the Shia factor experienced ups and downs during the 1980s and 1990s. Although, it is believed that by employing the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy, Tehran had advanced an idealist-ideological foreign policy in the region, one should argue that, except a few months after the revolution, pragmatic aims have always derived Iran’s foreign policy during this period. Some assessments tend to agree that in action, a rational, pragmatic and accommodating policy prevailed in Iran’s relations toward the region.6 “Various indications show that Tehran’s foreign policy from the beginning was mainly regulated and reacted to the threats posed from the region and international arena in presenting the Islamic Republic as a new regional and international threat.”7

Iran and the Shia Factions: Strategic Link
The installation of a Shia-dominated government in Iraq following the 2003 Iraqi crisis, however, has been a turning point in empowering the place of the Shia factor in
G.E. FULLER and R.R. FRANCKE, The Arab Shi'a : The Forgotton Muslims( in Persian) Translated by Khadijeh Tabrizi, Tehran-Qom: Center for Shia Studies', 2005, pp. 171-172 5 Ibid., p. 203 6 A.M. HAJI-YOUSEFI, “ The Shia Factor in Iran-Iraq Relations,” The Iranian Journal of International affairs, August 2007, at: http://www.theiranianjournalofinternationalaffairs.org 7 Ibid.
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Iran’s foreign policy. Under the new circumstances, the Shias, who were “the forgotten Muslims”8, suddenly entered the regional power equations as a determining force. The new change has influenced the political developments in the entire Middle East. The new development has enhanced Iran’s relations with Shia factions for the first time both at the level of the masses and the states. With changing the traditional power structure, which was based on the rule of Sunni minority, the Shia factions have found it momentous to establish close relations with friendly states and nations in the region such as Iran thereby withdrawing from their traditional marginalization. Iran’s close relationships with Shia factions in the region are aimed at building a strategic linkage for establishing security as well as creating economic–cultural opportunities. In Iraq, one aspect of establishing this strategic linkage is the installation of a new generation of friendly elites at the level of states, who have no backgrounds or feeling of enmity toward Iran. Another is the creation of Iran-Iraq’s coalition to cooperate for shaping new political-security arrangements in the Persian Gulf with inclusion of all littoral states. Similarly, advancing relations at the level of states for the first time can provide the grounds for developing Iran-Iraq’s mutual economic activities in the region. The logic of this strategic linkage through the Iraqi Shias is based on the fact that the future power games in the Middle East will be more based on securing states' economic and security roles. Iran’s role in the region would hence depend upon the degree of strategic relationship with Shia political allies in the region, its support these factions’ role within the states’ political structure and building political camps. In the long run, no doubt, the Shia factions are only able to sustain their activities within the frame of states and through public support. Iran’s relations with Shia factions, therefore, should transgress its short term security-factional relations and be directed at the state-oriented strategic level.9 Based on the strategic linkage, the Shia factor could be a base of creating opportunity in Iran’s foreign policy at the national, regional and international levels. At the national level, the Shias’ presence as the ruling power is an appropriate ground for bolstering bilateral economic, political and security cooperation. Since the new Shia government in Iraq has the executive power, unlike the past, the two countries can expand cooperation in such domains as mutual trade, cultural and social activities, media relations, religious tourism, academic and scientific exchanges, expansion of ties among religious seminaries, implementation of joint research projects. This close cooperation would play an important role in the re-engineering of cultural interactions and could lead both states away from past mutual distrust. The absence of interaction in the past has been costly for both nation-states. At the regional level, the Shias’ empowerment in Iraq plays an imperative role in balancing Iran’s relations with other Shia factions in the region. Before a close relation with the Iraqi Shias, Iran had less presence and influence in the region’s politics. The objective of Iran’s foreign policy in the last four years has been in accordance with geopolitical and cultural-religious realities. The key to this strategic friendship between Iran and Iraq is a legacy of centuries of historical, cultural and religious connectedness. Regionally, Iraq has a special place in Iran’s national interests and calculations. Beyond the existing historical-cultural commonalities, the two countries have a long way to go for establishing economic and political cooperation in the region. At an international level, bolstering the role of the Shias in the new Iraq and its
FULLER, op. cit. For further information on the logic of Strategic linkage see Kayhan Barzegar, Iran’s Foreign Policy in the New Iraq (in Persian), Tehran: CSR publications, 2007.
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effects on Iraq’s international relations will provide many opportunities for Iran’s foreign policy. It also provides some grounds for resolving some strategic challenges between Iran and the United States. One significant aspects of the National Intelligence Estimate report released recently is Iran’s “cost-benefit” attitude to achieve its security, status and prestige in the region.10 This finding shows that Iran’s main driving force in the region is establishing security and creating economic opportunities. The ongoing challenge for the American troop withdrawal from Iraq is the fear of a comprehensive civil war spreading throughout the entire region. Even before the war started, the main concerns were post-war Iraq, how to meet Iraq’s neighbours’ expectations and how to engage them. Focusing on the region’s geopolitical realities after the crisis, the Baker-Hamilton Plan was a momentous opportunity to address a major concern that was unfortunately missed by the Bush administration. Instead of isolating Iran, the Plan, focused on engaging Iran, its positive role and even addressing its security concerns. It is not too late to address this geopolitical aspect of the crisis. Even with the inevitable American withdrawal, there is a need to work with Iran to preserve the already fractious and tenuous stability that will emerge in the post-withdrawal era. Iran undoubtedly wants a stabilized, united and prosperous Iraq. Spreading insecurity in Iraq would mean insecurity for Iran as well. On the Iranian side, there is great motivation to help the U.S. secure Iraq, while at the same time addressing Iran’s security concerns. By glancing at some statistics and features one can see that there is the possibility for the Shia population to enhance their role and status in the region. At present, the Shia population stands at 120 to 200 million people. They constitute the majorities in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and the Republic of Azerbaijan. They are also living as minorities in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.11 The Arab Shia population has been estimated at 14 million most of which pertains to the littoral states in the Persian Gulf.12 Concerning the Shias' access to energy sources, some 50% of the total global proven oil reserves are located in the areas where the Shias live. Countries with Shia majorities account for some 30% of the world total oil reserves which include Iran, Iraq (together 25%) and Azerbaijan. If the eastern part of Saudi Arabia is taken into consideration, the figure will increase to some 50%. With these capacities, Iran will play a significant role as the hub of Shia development in the coming years.

Iran and the New Shia-Sunni Power Equation
The current conflict between Shia and Sunni factions in the region is the result of ascendancy in the Shia factions’ role in the region following the rise to power of a Shia-dominated government in Iraq. Ignoring the Shias’ political demands in the region has planted a rift and potential sense of resentment within Shia-Sunni relations. Some analysts tend to discuss that this sense of hostility has been triggered by two elements: 1) Zarquawi and al-Qaeda attempts to plant sectarian violence by bombing the Shia sacred shrines in Samara; 2) The U.S. democratization policy and attempts to create participatory politics, which pushes Iraqis to look for new identities.13
National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” November 2007. A. MALEKI, “Extremism in Islamic Shiite's Faith," in: Roots and Routes of Democracy and Extremism, T. HELLENBERG and K. ROBINS (eds.), Helsinki: University of Helsinki Publication, Alxandria Institute, 2006, pp. 256-257. 12 For further information on the Shia population in the region see Vali Nasr, “When the Shia Rise,’’ Foreign Affairs, July-August 2006. See also Fuller, op. cit., p. 23 13 N. FELDMAN, “Symposium on The Emerging Shia Crescent: Implications for the Middle East and U.S.
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However, what is happening today in the region is the result of the region’s struggle to change to a new order in which the Shia factions are taking control of their destinies. In other words, the revival of Shias in Iraq has changed the bases of power and politics in the Middle East in favor of Shia groups. Although the Shias, in Iraq and Bahrain have been a driving force for political-social movements and reform, it was only recently that the Shiite factions gained the power to assert themselves politically. The rise to power of Shiites in Iraq has made the Sunni governing elites extremely concerned not only because of the Shiite populations’ demands for acquiring further political-social rights but also for a process that can eventually lead to the Sunnis’ removal from power. One manifestation of this concern is related to the debates about the emergence of a Shia crescent in the region. The concern was first warned by King Abdullah of Jordan in 2004 mentioning that a Shia crescent under Iran’s leading role was appearing in the region. Ever since, this concern has been frequently echoed by other Arab leaders including Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, and foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al-Feisal. As Mubarak puts it, ''the Shias in the region are more loyal to Iran than their own countries."14 Saud al-Feisal voiced Saudi Arabia’s concern about Iran's increased role in Iraq by saying that, “all Arab countries assisted Iraq to not be occupied by Iran (in the Iran-Iraq war) but now we are handing the whole country (Iraq) over to Iran without reason.”15 The Arab world’s concerns about the emergence of a supposed Shia crescent are based on some realities. First, any alliance between Iran and Shia factions in the region will imbalance the position of Sunni governing elites in governmental institutions. Some assessments even say the emergence of a Shia crescent is a fear tactic by Sunni autocrats to cement Washington’s political and financial supports for their regimes.16 Second, such an alliance takes place in countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah) where the regimes are against the existing political status quo. Third, the establishment of such an alliance, which confronts the U.S. presence in the region, will question the legitimacy of the region's conservative regimes who have, in several stages, agreed the American troops’ presence in the region. 17 This is especially imperative in terms of influencing the Shia minorities in the Persian Gulf littoral states. In this context, undoubtedly, the creation of a democratic Shia government in Iraq will be a serious challenge to the Sunni regimes of the region. If indeed Iraq’s progressive constitution is fully implemented, for instance, instituting a participatory politics in the region would be a threat to the existing regional political-social regulations in the Persian Gulf region. However, despite all these new concerns raised by the Arab world, the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy is mostly acting in line with Iran’s pragmatic policies in establishing friendly relationships with states in the region. It mainly aims to tackle security concerns as well as creating economic-cultural opportunities. The role of the Shia factor in expanding Iran’s relations with the new Iraq is a good example. Because
Policy,” June 5, 2006, at: www.cfr.org. 14 Remarks expressed by Hosni Mobark caused anxious among Shia communities in the Arab world and Iran. Baztab Site, 21 Farvardin 1385, 10 April 2006. Also for an Iranian reaction of what Mobarak expressed on the Arab Shiite's loyalty toward the Iranian government see" Mobarak: The Loyalty of Arab World Shiite to Iran," Baztab, 21 Farvardin 2006. 15 For an analysis on Saud al Fiesal's remarks see E. GNEHEM," Iraq: A View from the Neighborhood," February 23, 2006, at: http://www.gwu.edu/elliott/news/transcript/shapiro5.html. 16 F. AJAMI, “Symposium on The Emerging Shia Crescent: Implications for the Middle East and U.S. Policy,” June 5, 2006, at: www.cfr.org. 17 S. ZUNES, "U.S. Policy toward Political Islam," Foreign Policy in Focus, 12 September 2001, at: http://www.alternet.org/story/11479; K. BARZEGAR, "The Middle East and the New Terrorism," Journal on Science and World Affairs, Vol. 1, Summer 2005, p. 116

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of the nature of opportunities and challenges, Iran has ultimately pursued a pragmatist foreign policy in Iraq. This is because of the range and involvement of the different layers of Iranian society as well as the nature of the political-security issues, which are affecting Iran’s foreign policy in Iraq. Since 2003, the involvement of various layers of Iranian society such as average Iranians traveling to the sacred cities, merchants for developing trade, intellectuals and executives elites in expressing their security concerns, etc., have greatly affected Iran’s Iraq policy. Meanwhile, the perils resulting from the immediate security threats such as the U.S. troop’s presence, civil war, sectarian violence, ethnic fragmentation, etc., from the new Iraq, have forced Iran to direct its foreign policy pragmatically and in line with its national interests. In addition, Iran has vast economic interests in the new Iraq. Traditionally Iraq’s economic and political exchanges were oriented to the Arab world through Jordan in the west, Turkey in the north and the Soviet Bloc countries. In the new circumstances, orienting to the eastern areas and Iran as well due to the long borders and cultural-societal commonalities could play a major role for increasing economic and political exchanges thereby narrowing the gap with other regional nations. The more diverse exchanges with the neighboring countries further mutual interactions leading to an appropriate level of political-security relations.18 Yet, despite all the new opportunities, employing the Shia factor in Iran’s foreign policy conduct will bring about some challenges. The main challenge for Iran’s foreign policy is to create a balance between Iran’s foreign policy in the new Iraq on the one hand, and its' regional and international relations on the other. It is certainly in Iran’s interest to develop an alliance with Iraq for creating opportunities for Iran’s foreign policy. Yet, Iran's increased presence in Iraq will lead to some constraints in regulating its relations with the Arab world particularly with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This move, in fact, weakens Iran's current confidence-building policy towards the Arab world especially in the Persian Gulf. On the Shia side, similarly, the logic for establishing close relationships with Iran is mainly based on strategic interests and pragmatic policies. Shia factions in the region perceive Iran as a source of logistical and political support. Therefore, their attitude and response toward Iran will be in line with how to preserve their factional interests. A weak regional position for Iran is somehow equated to a weaker role for the Shia factions. Institutionalizing the Shias factions’ power in the region requires some alliances with the regional states and the establishment of a coalition of friendly governments in the region. In Iraq, for instance, empowering and defining a new role for the Shia factions within Iraq and as a Shia state in the Arab world requires the support of a powerful regional state like Iran. In other words, demand by the Iraqi Shias for expanding ties and initiating new political, cultural, and economic interactions with Iran arises from the region’s political realities. Put differently, being encircled in a Sunni neighborhood, having less sympathetic neighboring states, and for balancing its domestic politics and regional relations, a Shiite government in Iraq would inevitably require Iran’s political support. Some assessments even go further and argue that the Shia factions in Iraq are temporarily looking for new allies. “Once Iraq gets settled down, they (Shias) are going to assert their state interests. But in their current struggle they need a regional ally.”19

18 19

K. BARZEGAR, Iran foreign Policy in the New Iraq, op. cit., pp. 90-92 F.G. GAUSE, op. cit.

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Conclusion
I have argued that the Shia factor, since the 2003 Iraqi crisis and the establishment a Shia-dominated government in Iraq, has become a determining force in shaping Iran’s foreign policy toward the region. However, Iran’s policy to install the Shia factor is more pragmatic rather than ideological. I have also argued that Iran and the Shia factions’ aims in establishing a close relationship is mainly aimed at creating a strategic linkage in the region to tackle security threats and creating opportunities at the level of the masses and the states. The logic of a strategic linkage is based on the fact that, given the nature of politics in the Middle East region, the future games between states will be more based on securing domains of political role and economic zones. In this context, Shia factions in the region need Iran’s support and presence to balance their domestic politics as well as their relations with the Arab world while it is considered as a new Shia state. Lastly, I have debated that the new rivalry between the Shia and Sunni factions in the region is the result of the Iraqi transformation; it is also because of the latitude and role given to the Shia political groups following the removal of Iraq’s traditional Sunni-oriented order. In this respect, exaggerating on Iran’s intentions to build a Shia crescent is more based on the concerns that the Shia factor gives Iran a larger role in the region’s politics.

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AMERICA CAN MAKE THE PEACE

AMERICA CAN MAKE THE PEACE

by John C. HULSMAN, Ph.D.

The CIA., this time, will not cover the White House if it decides to attack Tehran. Yet, the gun remains on the table. The war would be a disaster. The alternative is to return to the TNP and freeze the investments in Iran. Without giving up extreme dissuasion.

I

n the unhappy, waning days of the Bush

administration, the Iranian nuclear crisis towers above all others. This is reflected in the foreign policy positions of the major candidates for president in 2008. While a gloomy consensus has emerged over Iraq (the U.S. cannot leave immediately but should begin to draw down troops, train up the army and the police, and follow the oft-ignored recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report and secure the support of neighboring regimes not to meddle in Baghdad’s internal affairs), policy over Iran has exposed clear differences. The Democratic field has stressed ‘more diplomacy’ to the exclusion of how this bumper sticker would stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon. The Republicans have thundered that Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, and that ‘force must not be taken off the table,’ without looking at what this would mean strategically. These are slogans, not foreign policy positions. If the Iranian crisis is to be dealt with coherently, it is instructive to look at both the dangers of military action, as well as the dangers of doing nothing (i.e. increasing ‘diplomacy’ without genuine carrots and sticks undergirding such an approach). For beyond the campaign’s ritualized positions, there is a monumental crisis brewing here, and scant few policy proposals for dealing with it.

The Problem with ‘Diplomacy’
What will be the likely result of continuing as we are, using the UN to impose a third round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to stop its enrichment program, in the face of complaints from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)? If the neo-conservatives are utopian in their one-note view that unbound American force can solve most problems, many Democrats (and most Europeans) are equally theological in their belief that ‘diplomacy’ or endlessly talking in international forums without regard to power realities, is a panacea for the world’s ills. For, as was the case with Saddam flouting endless UN resolutions, international diplomacy quickly runs into a brick wall, if diplomatic efforts have little to do with genuine inducements and punishments being put on the table. Iran is a prime case in point. Evidently, the current European response to the Iran crisis is an effort to bore the Iranians to death, as if endless communication alone would solve the problem. To put it mildly, the UN sanctions put on the table up to now have not been remotely weighty enough to persuade Tehran to change its mind about enrichment. European diplomats respond to this criticism, with glazed looks of religious zeal, patiently intoning to skeptics like myself that the key is to keep the Big 5 of the Security Council plus Germany together (U.S., UK, France, Russia, China), even if this means going slower on sanctions than the Western countries would like.

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The fatal flaw in such comfortable thinking is that it presupposes that at some level the Big 5 have overriding common strategic interests; keeping Iran at all costs from producing a deliverable nuclear weapon. Given the empirical reality of Chinese and Russian foot dragging, this is a very dubious hypothesis. While it is clear that Russia is rightly nervous about Tehran’s nuclear intentions (after all, they live next door), the Putin government - over issues such as Kosovo, missile defense, and the CFE treaty - has made it abundantly clear that it is moving in a Gaullist direction; that it reflexively is against the U.S. and its allies dictating international outcomes. With oil at $98 a barrel, Putin’s genuine popularity with his countrymen is primarily based on his getting Russia up from its knees, where many believe it was in the bad, old days of the Yeltsin regime. Iran having a bomb is a problem, but Russia’s fears of U.S. power may trump this concern. China has different, but no less compelling reasons to be wary of tightening the screws on Iran. A cornerstone of Chinese foreign policy remains the non-interference in a state’s internal workings. In this sense, China is the greatest defender of the Westphalian state system that has dominated international relations since 1648. Given its own record of humiliation at the hands of Western powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese nationalism leads its leaders to fear, ‘thereby but for the grace of God go I,’ that if the U.S. is prepared to intervene in others state’s affairs merely because it does not like their internal arrangements, regime change in Beijing cannot be far behind on the U.S. list of things to do. Also, as the primary new consumer of oil and natural gas, Iran and China have growing economic interests in common that may well override China’s concerns over Iran acquiring a bomb. Certainly, the glacial pace that Beijing and Moscow are setting in the Security Council calls into question how serious they are about the Iranian nuclear threat. If Europeans blithely keep repeating the mantra that the Security Council must remain the primary venue for dealing with the Iranian nuclear crisis, the sanctions regime imposed on Tehran is likely to remain laughably short of the serious diplomatic sticks needed to change the Iranian leadership’s calculations. In such a case, in a few years hence, Iran will announce to the world that it is abrogating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and that they indeed have a deliverable nuclear weapon. Contrary to the standard UN and EU mantra, this will not amount to ‘success,’ but will instead be a strategic failure of the gravest order. Worse yet, many stressing ‘diplomacy,’ especially in Europe, will not even notice.

What the World Looks Like With An Iranian Bomb
There will be dire consequences to such a hapless outcome. For Iran with a bomb signals the final death knell of the NPT, already badly wounded over the Bush administration’s acquiescence in India’s nuclear program, as well as the weapons produced by Israel and Pakistan. Without an international regime of any kind, we would be truly living in the jungle. The very international institutions so prized by Wilsonians around the world would be fatally compromised. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East is bound to follow, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey likely candidates to quickly acquire nuclear weapons. One can see the logic from Ankara’s point of view. Speaking to the U.S., they would rightly say, ‘You allowed your greatest enemy to acquire nuclear weapons, how can you stand in our way, your long-term ally?’ The problem here is Israel. For them, unlike for the United States or Europe, the Iranian nuclear program certainly can be seen as an existential threat. Certainly, a nuclear arms race in the region would do much to erode their strategic position. Also,

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strategic culture plays a role here; it is simply not like the Israelis to decide that they can live with the balance of terror in their region, that reasonable minds on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide will prevail. To put it mildly, that has not been the lesson Jerusalem has drawn from history. An ineffectual effort at diplomacy by the United States and the Europeans greatly increases the chances of an Israeli air strike as Iran moves forward with its nuclear program. A nuclear arms race in the region practically assures an Arab-Israeli conflict, perhaps between sworn adversaries with nuclear weapons. We must be clear-eyed about this, for this is what the world will look like, given the continued resort to feeble UN diplomacy. Give this endlessly complex scenario, as well as the genuine dangers associated with failure, the neo-conservative drumbeat of military action seems an immensely attractive option. However, it is but another siren song from this discredited school of thought. For in looking at outcomes of an American military strike, it becomes clear that the only thing worse than doing nothing militarily about the Iran crisis is to do something. One of the key problems lying at the heart of the current American foreign policy malaise is that policy analysts are not being held to account for what they have predicted and advocated. Norman Podhoretz, a senior policy adviser to former frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani, is a prime case in point. For thirty years he has been as off the mark as he has been shameless, never stopping to let facts get in the way of his neo-conservative theory. It is important to remember that this is the man who so wrongly saw communism as monolithic; it is not surprising that he now groups all of America’s enemies in the Middle East, be they secular socialists or radical Islamists, together as ‘Islamo-fascists.’ Podhoretz feared, well into the 1980s, that the USSR was so strong and American democracy so pathetically weak that unless Washington went to war with Moscow quickly, it was doomed. It goes without saying that events proved to be otherwise. In his new book, World War IV, Podhoretz straightforwardly calls for regime change in Tehran, and a military response to the Iranian nuclear program. Given his remarkably wrongheaded past record alone, the rest of us should have doubts. The practical limitations of such a military attack are clear. After Iraq, the army finds itself overstretched. The National Guard, which performs many of the vital technical aspects of any invasion, such as engineering, policing, and medical work, is in even worse shape. There are not the troops and certainly not the specialists for a full-scale invasion of a country far larger than Iraq. If one is to talk of military action at all, it is of a strategic bombing of Iran nuclear and command and control sites, with perhaps some special forces on the ground guiding in American smart bombs. But it is primarily a bombing campaign, rather than an invasion, that is on offer. Historically, bombing campaigns have not had a very distinguished record. German war production in World War II continued apace, despite the carpet-bombing of many of its cities. Likewise, the overwhelming bombing campaign of the Vietnam era did not deter Ho Chi Minh, destroy Communist morale, or turn the tide of the war. As was true for Britain in World War II, sustained bombing campaigns often paradoxically seem to stiffen civilian morale, inducing a rallying-round of whatever government happens to be in power. It is highly likely that such would be the outcome of a bombing campaign launched against Iran today. Another basic political problem with bombing Iran comes from ignoring its internal politics. While it may be comforting for neo-conservatives to see America’s enemies as monolithic, history would lead one to the conclusion that this has never been the case; the world is simply more complicated than this. Iran, with its quasi-democracy, has more checks and balances in its politics than many of the regimes in the Middle East, even if they are certainly not Madisonian in nature. For all

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his rantings, President Ahmadinejad does not control the nuclear program at present; the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei does. Former President Rafsanjanni, conservative head of the Guardian Council tasked with choosing Iran’s next Supreme leader after Khamenei’s death, is also an enemy of Ahmadinejad. The current Iranian president has failed to deliver on his populist promises to divert more of Iran’s oil and natural gas resources to the poor, and has instead run the economy further into the ground. While almost all Iranians, taking pride in ancient Persian nationalism, feel they have a right to their nuclear program, to see Iran only through a monolithic lens misses out on these internal political developments, many of which lead to the conclusion that a deal is still possible. However, a military attack may satisfy American hawk’s desire to ‘do something’ (that fatal phrase), but it will dramatically worsen the internal political situation within Iran and catastrophically affect America’s strategic position in the world.

The Day After A Bombing
While the pilots of the American Air Force are the best in the world, in the end they remain men; they will occasionally be off-target with their payloads. The Iranian leadership has learned of the lesson of the Israeli strike on the Iraqi nuclear program at Osirak in the 1980’s, whereby the concentration of the program in an isolated area meant that it could be taken out cleanly and with few casualties. Cynically, the Iranian leadership has constructed part of their program in high-density population centers, where casualties are bound to be high from a bombing campaign. Also, the Iranians have duplicated facilities and placed many of the key components far underground. While a sustained air strike would set back the Iranian nuclear program, it would hardly destroy it. The political costs for this partial success would be exorbitant. Contrary to the neo-conservative Michael Ledeen’s twisted logic, it is overwhelmingly likely that an air strike would not lead to regime change; it is beyond belief that a recently attacked Iranian populace would blame its leadership, rather than American planes, for the carnage on the ground. There would be a rallying round Ahmadinejad, which is the last thing the United States ought to want, as well as quite likely redoubled efforts to acquire a bomb as soon as possible, as a way to make sure such a bombing never happened again. In other words, bombing Iran is unlikely to make its people want to ally with the United States. Instead, the political blow-back from such a strategy will make America’s worst enemies far more secure, creating just the atmosphere of crisis in which demagoguery is likely to flourish. The second political cost is likely to be felt by America’s allies in the region. After a sustained bombing of Iran, the street in the Middle East is likely to rise up in a way that it has not since the heyday of Nasser. The pro-American, pro-Western Kings of Oman, Jordan, and Morocco, would all be imperiled. Mubarak’s brittle regime in Egypt, the House of Saud in Arabia, and the mess that is Pakistan, would all come under great internal pressure. If even some of these states experience revolution, the likely successor regimes would all be frightful from an American perspective. Here, unwittingly, the neo-conservatives would at last have linked Iran with al-Qaeda. In his speeches, Osama bin Laden is quite clear which states must be central parts of his dreamed-for Caliphate, which he hopes to mold into a global power. He mentions Pakistan, in terms of its nuclear program; Saudi Arabia, as the symbolic keeper of the holy places and swing producer of OPEC; Jordan, as having the best diplomats; and Egypt, as the spear of Islam, possessing the most potent army. A caliphate with all these attributes would surely be a great power. It is not a bad metric

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to observe that as long as these countries remain broadly anti-al-Qaeda the War on Terror is proceeding well; if any of these states were to be taken over by radical Islamists such a judgment would have to be revised. Bombing Iran is the best way to help al-Qaeda meet this strategic goal. That alone should be reason enough not to support such a campaign. The third political cost would involve the Western alliance. After the wrenching disagreements over Iraq, it is hard to see the alliance surviving a unilateral bombing of Iran. Such an outcome would be a public diplomacy disaster for the United States, so turning European public opinion against America that even sympathetic governments would feel the need to distance themselves from American policies they might otherwise agree with. For example, it is hard to imagine that President Sarkozy of France could continue his pro-American drift if such a bombing took place. Instead, Washington could well see the crack-up of NATO and the end of the alliance as we know it. While America and individual European countries might work together discretely when their interests were in line, any sort of coordinated, general Western position on anything would be almost impossible to achieve, given the likely further dive in European public opinion toward America. Bombing Iran would mean the end of the 50-year alliance. In laying out this case, it becomes very clear that if even one-third of this scenario comes into being, bombing Iran is entirely counterproductive to America’s strategic position in the world. But it is not enough to merely point out the gigantic flaws in the current debate about Iran. The ultimate question for policy-makers remains: What is to be done?

A Plan With a Chance of Success
The best way forward is to accept the criticisms these two basic approaches toward Iran have of each other. The neo-conservatives are right; diplomacy without sticks is merely strategic surrender. The Wilsonians are right; the political price to be paid for a bombing campaign makes such an option utterly counterproductive. A successful policy toward Iran must incorporate both of these realities if it is to stand a chance of success. Realistically, the best way forward is to go back to the NPT as the basis of all further negotiation, but it must be the treaty as it reads, and not merely confirming Iran’s right to enrichment. While the treaty confirms this, as well as Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program, it also makes clear that lying about Iran’s nuclear program, not allowing intrusive spot inspections, not answering all the IAEA’s questions to its satisfaction, or weaponizing its program, are breaches of its terms. As such, it is present and future Iranian behavior that must drive the international diplomatic outcome. If Iran agrees to all the terms of the NPT, the United States must be ready with carrots: a venue to discuss the many outstanding differences between the two countries; a promise not to push for regime change by military means (such as was given to Kim Jong-Il of North Korea); the prospect of full diplomatic recognition; the lure of future American foreign direct investment, and a promise not to hinder other nation’s efforts to cut trade and investment deals with Tehran. But if Tehran balks at the terms of the NPT, and in line with these American concessions, the EU-3 (France, Germany, the UK), plus the Security Council of the UN, must commit to common sticks. Foremost among these would be an investment freeze. The Iranian economy has been run into the ground by the mullahs. Given its current demographic bulge, Iran must create hundreds of thousands of new jobs every year just to keep even with the rising economic demands of its youth. While trade

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sanctions seem a dead end, an investment freeze would quickly stop Tehran in its tracks; this alone may cause the Iranian leadership to rethink their headlong rush toward a nuclear weapon. There are problems with this approach. Many Americans suspect that the Europeans, through their current efforts at diplomacy, are merely trying to play out the string with America, to so tie Washington in knots that it will come to acquiesce in an Iranian nuclear capability. In other words, many Europeans are more afraid of American military action than Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. This is a dangerous misreading of American strategic culture, which in both parties is still more about solving problems, than living with them. The EU-3 must be made to see that counter-intuitively the tougher they are on Iran, the less likely there will be American or Israeli military strikes. But it is the Germans and the Italians that have significant investments in Iran, which could grow to be more significant still. It is they who possess the diplomatic stick, and given their record in wielding it, that is worrying. Europeans are sure to reply that the Chinese, even more than the Russians, will gratefully fill this investment vacuum, thus guaranteeing a primary source of natural gas and oil for their fuel-starved country. This is indeed a possibility. However, recent changes in Chinese rhetoric over Myanmar as well as their grudging acceptance of the limited sanctions on Iran up to now, mean that at the very least, it is worth a try to bring the Chinese on board this new strategy. The timing is propitious. In the Olympics of next year, China is having its coming-out party as a great power. If they refused to go along with such a plan, after the Americans, Europeans, and Russians endorsed it, the adverse international public reaction is certainly something Beijing would like to avoid. This is particularly so as an international solution to the problem leading to a nonmilitary outcome, would genuinely secure China’s energy interests in Iran for the long term. If the Chinese went along, then it would be up to the Iranians. For in the end, it is the Iranian leadership, and not the rest of the world, which will determine whether they are going to acquire nuclear weapons. Perhaps whatever we do the Iranians will go forward anyway. But this plan would place the onus for the security threat squarely where it belongs-on the Iranians themselves. It allows for both real carrots and sticks, and is likely to at least change the Iranian leadership’s calculations. It keeps the international community together around a plan with at least a chance for success, enforcing both international norms and the desire to genuinely stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. It is the best that we can do.

Sunshine Amid the Gloom
If the Iranians do, in the face of all this, acquire a bomb, there are still cards left to play. However, convincing America and especially Israel not to act militarily in such an event will be very difficult. It should be brought to both countries attention that deterrence still works. The U.S. deterred the far more malignant Stalin and Mao because in the end, as President Eisenhower shrewdly guessed, they did not want to personally die, or see their civilization die. Ayatollah Khomeini seems to show no signs of having a death wish, either for himself or Persia. The Iranian leadership knows that if, God forbid, one of their nukes was stolen and used by Islamic radicals, such as Hezbollah they, and not the other nuclear powers, would be blamed. Such an outcome would lead to their total eradication. This is a powerful and seldom discussed incentive for Iran to keep close command and control over their nuclear program. The situation could even then be stabilized between Iran and Israel; it is the regional arms race that would prove almost impossible to stop.

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But any analysis of scenarios predicated on the current strategies leads to the same conclusion: new thinking and a new initiative are desperately required and quickly. For the new plan to have a chance, there must be an intellectual sea of change on both sides of the Atlantic. The general problem in dealing with Iran is that the Americans have the carrots, and the Europeans the sticks. To put it mildly, these are not the tools of choice for either side. But without the use of both, global diplomacy will become ever more dysfunctional, with the list of unsolved crises growing ever larger. What is really needed on all sides is the rebirth of statecraft, seeing that carrots and sticks must be wielded together to solve diplomatic problems. It is our last, best chance.

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HEARTLAND PLUS A

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HOW THE ARAB REGIMES DEFEATED DEMOCRACY

HOW THE ARAB REGIMES DEFEATED DEMOCRACY

by Barry RUBIN

In spite of sporadic domestic reforms, the relation between democracy and Arab regimes has always been one of repression and negation. Today’s response to the liberalization challenge is defining how Arab governance will work in the future.

1.

I

N RECENT YEARS, FROM WITHIN AND

without, Arab regimes have faced a democracy challenge. Originally, this arose from a domestic challenge by reform-minded groups that were frustrated by the shortcomings of their countries’ governments. It became increasingly clear that the numerous failures of Arab rulers over many years were not being addressed by changes. Arab states were increasingly falling further behind others in the world in terms of living standards, the level of rights, the treatment of women, responsiveness to rapid changes in the world, and other areas.1 This effort was joined and reinforced by Western policies—especially by the U.S. government. Finally, around 2004, Islamist groups also began to take up the demand for more civic rights and freer elections. By 2006, however, the impetus toward democracy—at least as a high-profile agenda theme—began to fade. One reason for this was the relative success of Islamist groups in using the issue for their own purposes. However, paramount was the way in which the incumbent Arab regimes dealt with the question. Yet the region has now entered a new era characterized by the following points: a rise in radical Islamist movements, though the Arab nationalist regimes are still holding onto power and might well not lose it; growing hatred of the United States and Israel, at least compared to the levels in some places during the 1990s; the belief that total victory can be achieved through terrorism and other violent tactics; euphoric expectation of imminent revolution, glorious victories, and unprecedented Arab or Muslim unity; a disinterest in diplomatic compromise solutions as unnecessary and even treasonous—to concede nothing is to lose nothing because you still have the claim to all you want and have thus left open an opportunity to gain everything; and the death of hope for democracy due to both regime manipulation and radical Islamist exploitation of the opportunities offered by some openings in the system. The only real difference between the new and the old concepts is that what was formally expressed in Arab nationalist terms is now stated in Islamist, or at least more Islamic, ones. The idea is that Islamism can succeed where Arab nationalism failed. Yet aside from the obvious difference in the content of the two ideologies, their basic perceptions and goals are quite parallel. They both believe that the Arab/Muslim world faces a U.S.-Israel (or Western-Israel) or Zionist-Crusader conspiracy to destroy it; a secondary enemy is the majority of Arab rulers whose relative moderation shows them to be traitors. Only those who preach intransigence and struggle are upholders of proper Arab and Muslim values.

These issues were examined in great detail in the author's The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (New York: Wiley, 2005) to which readers are urged to refer.
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In the 1950s and 1960s, this distinction pitted Egypt, Syria, and Iraq as the progressive states against “reactionary” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other monarchies. Today, it is Iran and Syria against Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia; since this enemy is purely evil, there can be no compromise with it. By the same token, more or less all types of violence are justified. This cannot be terrorism because the violence is defensive, responsive, necessary, and against a satanic foe; total victory is achievable and therefore anything less is treasonous. Consequently, the people must unite under governments with the proper ideologies and that are able to mobilize the entire society—that is, a dictatorship that will destroy Israel, expel Western influence, and bring rapid development without sacrificing traditional identity, thus creating a just, even utopian, society. In contrast, the idea of liberalism and reform is essentially a trick of the enemy. As this is all so necessary and workable, anything other than struggle and resistance—more citizen rights, reform, modernized economic structures, and the like—is a distraction. Only after total victory is achieved can these luxuries be managed. Thus, while Islamists and Arab nationalists compete for power, sometimes even violently, they mutually reinforce the intellectual system and worldview that locks the Arab world into the very problems they purport to remedy. If the priority is on resistance, reform is at best a distraction, and at worst it is treason. “In a state of war,” wrote the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem, whose works are banned in his own country, “No one argues... or asks questions.” They are told that this is not the right time to talk about free speech, democracy, or corruption, and then ordered, “Get back to the trench immediately!” When in March 2001, Ba’th party members asked Syrian Vice President Khaddam at a public meeting why the regime did not do more to solve the problems of corruption, incompetence, and the slow pace of reform, his answer was that the Arab-Israeli conflict permitted no changes at home: “This country is in a state of war as long as the occupation continues.” The irony of this argument is that the regime had turned down Israel’s offer to return the entire Golan Heights a year earlier. 2. Arab regimes have usually neutralized democracy by using a multilayered response that included repression, redefinition, and cooption. In some cases — which deserve more attention than they have received to date — governments even made some actual domestic changes. Clearly, every country managed the issue in different ways. What is most significant, however, is not that the democracy project was largely a failed effort but rather that the way regimes responded to this challenge is defining how Arab governance will work in the coming decades. Assessing whether Arab regimes will become weaker and more unstable due to this reaction and how such efforts have affected the relative chances of competing forces in the future is extremely important. Among the main responses, with the balance different in each country, are: a reassertion of a traditional agenda; the delegitimization of opponents; repression and harassment; pretense and cooption; and finally, actual reforms. Both liberal and Islamist opposition have adjusted to this process, and their strategies will also be examined. Punishing dissidents is the most obvious way of silencing the democratic and liberal forces. It should be emphasized, however, that this is only one tool in the regimes’ repertoire. Taken alone, it would be far less effective than a broader strategy composed of a wide range of instruments. Such a strategy would include the mobilization of the masses around a positive program that promised them success, though the victory might be one of feeling better rather than material improvement of

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their lives; an alternative interpretation of the facts so as to suggest that reform or democracy would be damaging; the harnessing of nationalist and religious sentiments in the service of the regime and as enemies of reform; the discrediting of dissidents as traitors among the general population; and the infliction of costs on dissidents, which might include death, imprisonment, torture, injury to their families, the loss of jobs and positions, forbidding them to travel abroad, making them unpopular and dishonored, or forcing them into exile. It should be remembered that for every one person punished, dozens more are intimidated by these events to stop, decrease, or redirect their activism to avoid suffering a similar fate. At the same time, for every negative treatment there is a positive one—the carrots as opposed to the sticks. People can be offered money, jobs, honors and privileges, patronage, and so on to get them either to cooperate or to keep quiet. Again, many observe such things and act as the regime prefers in order to gain these benefits for themselves. Humans are more often weak, meek, or selfish rather than heroic. The best thing of all is to appear heroic while selling out. Another tactic employed by the regimes is to instil fear that reform or democratization brings the risk of chaos or an Islamist takeover. This is an especially effective weapon in turning people who would otherwise advocate change to cling fearfully to the status quo. It is even stronger because it has a material basis in truth, given the presence of Iraq as a vivid example. Of course, that country’s instability and bloodshed is due in part to those who want it to serve precisely that purpose as opposed to being a model that encourages emulation by their own people. Furthermore, these regimes persuade the large traditionalist and conservative bloc, often a majority of the population, that the existing government and status quo is preferable to liberalization. This is often an easy task. At the same time, by combating such changes—and posturing as combatants against the West and Israel as well as pious rulers—even those who might otherwise be radical Islamists are won over. At the same time, the regimes can tell would-be liberals they must support their rulers against the Islamists and the would-be Islamists that they must support their rulers against the liberals. This is, of course, contradictory, but that does not prevent it from working. In addition, the regimes sometimes pretend to be the real reformers. Governments have many ways of acting as if they are themselves the main advocates of democracy and implementers of reform. There are many ways to do so: conferences, rhetoric, promises, fixed elections, the creation of their own substitute institutions (such as state-sponsored human rights groups), and so on. These efforts are also often successful in fooling the Western media, governments, and others, or at least they give them an excuse not to take action or criticize. Finally, of course, some regimes actually do make reforms, though often face popular opposition. The clearest examples here are Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps Jordan, to a lesser extent, could also be listed here. 3. Perhaps the single most active and consistent measure among regimes was to reinforce and revitalize the existing Arab nationalist ideology, which already offered significant defenses against the democracy challenge2. Basically, this view has been that the key danger facing the Arabs is Western—especially American—imperialism, Zionism, and their collaborators among the Arab rulers or intellectuals. This threat is to
2 More detailed documentation is provided in the author's books: The Truth about Syria (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007); The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (New York: John Wiley, 2005); and The Tragedy of the Middle East (New York: Cambridge Uni. Press, 2002).

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be countered by Arab unity in general and by solidarity around their existing, proper, leaders. The basic argument was that given the threat of imperialism (both American and Western generally) and Zionism, democracy was not only a distracting luxury and still one more example of Western hypocrisy, but indeed even an integral part of the conspiracy against the Arabs. For example, in January 2001, Syrian Information Minister Adnan Omran proclaimed that civil society was an “American term” and that “neocolonialism no longer relies on armies.” It was by using subversion through cultural products and political ideas that the enemy was attacking.3 The West was said to be attacking the Arab world—sometimes used interchangeably with Islam itself—on many fronts: not only on the traditional Arab-Israeli one, but in Iraq, Lebanon, and many other places, utilizing economic, intellectual, and cultural, as well as military weapons. The response had to be that of uniting around one’s own leaders, in particular the local regime. The “war on terrorism” was reinterpreted as a war on Arabism or Islam. Polls showed that these claims had a great appeal popularly, more so than did the idea of democracy or liberalization. A second campaign was to focus directly on the revitalization of Arab nationalism, which often included its mixing with Islamism, or at least put a greater emphasis on Islam. This tactic was both to undermine the Islamist opposition and to strengthen the appeal of nationalism. A particularly powerful use of this measure was the development of the concept of “resistance,” especially in Syria. This idea was most clearly laid out in Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s speech to the Fourth General Conference of the Syrian Journalists Union on August 15, 2006.4 It should be stressed that while his rhetoric was far more extreme than that of other Arab leaders, his basic ideas can be found throughout the Arab-speaking world in diluted form, especially in the majority of the media. It was nothing less than an alternative interpretation of the problems and solutions of the Middle East to that offered by the advocates of reform, cooperation with the West, and democratization. According to Bashar, the Arab world’s principal problem was not underdevelopment or dictatorship, but the threat to mind and spirit as well as to identity and heritage by a “systematic invasion.” To make matters worse, many Arabs had betrayed their fellows through the “culture of defeat, submission, and blind drifting” that accepted the enemy’s plan. To change course was tantamount to embracing extinction. For Bashar, the democratization/moderation program was merely a cover for the “submission and humiliation and deprivation of peoples of their rights,” to be killed without mercy and enslaved without appeal.5 “They wanted Israel to be the dominating power in the Arab region and the Arabs would be laborers, slaves, and satellites revolving in the Israeli orbit.” As an example, he cited Iraq, whose “destruction and ruination” had taken the country back to the Stone Age. The same point applies to the Arab-Israeli peace process of the 1990s. Bashar’s diagnosis was that the Arab mistake had been to adopt diplomacy and cancel “all the other options.”6 Regarding the moderate Arab bargaining position, Bashar characterized that as “to offer everything to Israel” and get nothing at all. The Arab mistake, according to
G. GAMBILL, "Dark Days Ahead for Syria's Liberal Reformers," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 2 (February 2001). 4 Speech by Bashar al-Asad, Syrian Arab Television, Damascus, August 15, 2006. Translation in U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) GMP20060815607001. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid.
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Bashar, was not rejecting compromise but rather not even considering that as an option. By trying “to appease Israel and the United States” they abandoned intimidation and ensured the indifference of the rest of the world. Instead of pressuring and criticizing Israel, the West demands things such as better treatment for Syrian dissidents, and the UN passes resolutions protesting massacres in Sudan. According to Bashar, this is what happened when the Arabs wasted their time “discussing and negotiating with [them]selves, convinced about a promised peace with an imaginary party that is [in fact] preparing itself for its next aggression against the Arabs.”7 Bashar then stirred up passions quite effectively. Not only was it more heroic to fight the West and Israel while rejecting change, it was more likely to be effective. “If wisdom, according to some Arabs, means defeat and humiliation, then by the same token, victory means adventure and recklessness.” His model was the Hizballah-Israel War of 2006, which not only did he proclaim to be a victory over Israel but also one over the treacherous Lebanese majority which had opposed Syrian domination. Hizballah had not only won, he claimed, but its actions had been wildly popular in the Arab world. This all proved that Arab nationalist sentiment had not declined at all; it was not a thing of the past to be replaced by liberalism, but rather “is at its peak.” If there is an unfavorable balance of power, righting it is only a matter of willpower, which will be overcome “When we decide—and the decision is in our hands—to overcome this gap.”8 He summed up the strategy of willpower over material power in the following words: “We have decided to be weak but when we decide to be strong this balance will be changed.” As for the global community, the UN Security Council, or other countries’ views, it was unnecessary to take their opinions into consideration. “National decisions take precedence over any international resolution, even if this leads to fighting or war.”9 This did not mean that other Arab regimes, or even Syria itself, were eager for war or that more moderate governments wanted a confrontation with the West. However, they did want to use this kind of rhetoric to stir up pro-government emotions. The real line of conflict did not stand, as the United States or local reformers said, between the dictatorships and their own people, but rather between all Arabs—from top to bottom—and their outside enemies. This was an old argument whose effectiveness had appeared to decline in past decades. Nevertheless, it did continue to be spectacularly successful in shaping perceptions and mobilizing loyalties. The result was overwhelming opposition to the alternative, democracy-oriented, program. It should be noted that Islamists, even those who opposed the existing regimes, shared their basic approach. Ironically, perhaps, the Islamists’ arguments often, albeit unintentionally, helped strengthen the status quo. Both of the main forces in the Arabic-speaking world agreed that the best course was not to abandon past practices, but to reinforce them properly. Clearly, the strengthening of the Arab nationalist narrative—reinforced by the partly contrasting Islamist one—tended to delegitimize the democratic opposition. This practice was followed in a far more direct manner as well. Reformers were branded as traitors and subversives. In the milder version, they were unintentionally doing the devil’s work, though ultimately it was explained this did not matter. Many examples of this situation can be offered, but one of the clearest is the Saad Eddin Ibrahim case in Egypt. Ibrahim, one of the Arab world’s best social scientists, headed the Ibn Khaldoun Center, a think tank. In 2000, after Ibrahim and his center
7 8 9

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

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examined such sensitive issues as fixed elections, the treatment of Egypt’s Christian minority, the quality of Egyptian schools, and the plan of President Husni Mubarak to name his own son as successor, a major campaign was launched by the government to discredit him. He and his staff were arrested, the center closed, and its staff charged with embezzlement, receiving foreign funds illegally, defaming Egypt’s reputation, and bribery. In May 2001, Cairo’s Supreme State Security Court found them all guilty. Twenty-two defendants were given suspended sentences, but Ibrahim was ordered to serve seven years of hard labor for “harming society’s interests, values and laws.”10 4. While direct repression was certainly one instrument used, what was ultimately more important was the ability to convince Egyptians that the regime was their friend while the reformers were their enemies. These tactics both, of course, discouraged others from following Ibrahim’s example. When foreigners criticized the treatment of Ibrahim or tried to help him, this became another factor used in the government’s campaign of discrediting its rivals. The editor of a pro-government weekly wrote, “Those who ally themselves with foreign quarters to harm Egypt's national security… should be executed in a public square.”11 He sneered that Ibrahim’s supporters thought defending his “crime” was more important “than defending Iraq and Palestine.” Those advocating civil society and human rights in Egypt were merely proving themselves to be Western lackeys threatening to lead Egypt into an “age of darkness.”12 While Ibrahim was eventually released from prison and continued to voice his views, such intimidation was effective. A number of groups shifted their attention from domestic human rights to safer, populist issues such as supporting the Palestinian intifada and condemning sanctions against Iraq.13 In other words, organizations that may have otherwise criticized the governance of their own country and demanded change were coopted into being allies of the regime, furthering its trump issues and foreign policy agenda. There were an infinite variety of repressive acts. On one end of the spectrum, Summir Said, an Egyptian working for the Reuters bureau in Cairo, was threatened by the secret police in 1996.14 In Syria, the government denied an operating permit to the National Organization for Human Rights in 2006.15 Such actions lay at the lower end of the scale of repression. Merely calling in a dissident for questioning (which might include threats) or a brief jail term might be expected to yield results. However, regimes do not hesitate to throw individuals seen as rally points for democratic oppositions, such as Fathi al-Jahmi in Libya, Ayman Nur in Egypt, or Michel Kilo in Syria into prison for longer terms. Again, every country is different, with Morocco and Jordan, for example, preferring cooption to repression, except in the case of clearly violent oppositionists. Repression is often multilayered. For instance, the influential Kurdish cleric Mashuq al-Khaznawi was murdered in Syria under suspicious circumstances that made it appear to be a government operation. When his son accused the regime of the deed, he was arrested along with 49 Kurds who had participated in a rally demanding to know the truth about the killing.16
Al-Ahram, May 25, 2001; al-Akhbar, May 27, 2001. Ibid. 12 N.A. EL-MAGD, "Seven Years," Al-Ahram (Cairo), May 24–30, 2001; Al-Usbu, October 7, 2002. Translation in MEMRI, No. 429 (October 15, 2002). 13 Cairo Times, May 31-June 6, 2001. 14 Reporters sans Fronti?res, press release, September 11, 2006. 15 AFP dispatch, Sunday Times, September 2, 2006. 16 The Syria Monitor, September 28, 2006.
10 11

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With its enormous resources for buying off dissent, Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) rarely revert to force. In February 2007, for example, Saudi authorities arrested ten men on suspicion of funding terrorism charges, though their actual sin was apparently planning to form a political party. Three of them had previously signed a petition calling for free elections. Typical, too, of Saudi Arabia, those demanding reforms were Islamists. The petition accused the government of preventing reformers from traveling abroad, closing Internet sites, banning public demonstrations, and threatening state employees with dismissal for expressing opinions contrary to government policy.17 In effect, this minor incident revealed a great deal about the nature of the current struggle. On one hand, there are Islamists using the democracy card and employing nonviolent methods, though others continue to engage in terrorism. On the other hand, the regime wants to brand these dissenters as being linked to terrorism, which also has the advantage of appearing as a viable reason for suppression in Western eyes as well as scaring Saudis. Still, it should be emphasized that there is no country that is the equivalent of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where a word of criticism could lead to torture and murder. Although they define what is a misdemeanor or felony, there is some relative scale in terms of letting the punishment fit the crime. Perhaps the most repressive, other than Syria, is Libya. Its leader, Muammar Qadhafi, openly called on his supporters to kill anyone who asked for political change in the country: “If the enemy shows up you must finish it off because the enemy [wants] to exterminate you. We cannot tolerate that the enemy undermines the power of the people and the revolution.”18 It should be remembered, though, that when threats against liberals come from Islamists, the regime usually does nothing to protect them or punish those making—and sometimes implementing—such warnings. In such circumstances, the radical Islamists become an arm of regime interests for all practical purposes. For example, in May 2006, a Saudi Islamist Internet site published a statement condemning reformists as dangerously anti-Islamic Westernizers. The statement’s signatories included government officials such as judges and employees of the education department. If anyone working for the government had signed a parallel reform manifesto, he would have been immediately fired.19 The fear that a loosening of political and social bonds might lead to instability was a real and logical concern for many. Abroad, they could look at the collapse of the USSR and Yugoslavia; or at how the impending election of Islamists in Algeria, blocked by a military coup, brought on a long and bloody civil war there. Iraq was also a warning of what might be, for in addition to an Islamist takeover, many countries—notably Syria and Lebanon—faced ethnic strife. Turkey too, though less often cited, showed how Islamists could win elections. More recently, gains by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and an election victory for Hamas in the Palestinian Authority drove the lesson home. Even the rise of low-level insurgencies, as in Saudi Arabia, set off warning signals of what might potentially happen. In light of all these things, the status quo did not look so bad for many people. Regimes found many ways of incorporating these issues into their rhetoric. For example, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz, in charge of that government’s counterinsurgency campaign, told his people that al-Qa’ida was a
Reuters, April 4, 2007. "Qaddafi Urges Death for Foes on Anniversary of 1969 Coup," New York Times, September 1, 2006"; Reuters, August 31, 2006. 19 Translation in MEMRI, No. 294 (September 21, 2006), www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=IA29406
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Western front group, part of an overall effort to sabotage Saudi Arabia, of which liberalization was another tactic.20 5. The growing power of Islamists is clearly evident and has been enhanced by elections. Aside from state balloting, the professional organizations, whose leaders are elected in relatively fair elections, have become dominated by Islamists in, for example, Egypt and Jordan. Even though the Islamists are enemies of the regime, the government often favors their activities over those of liberals since the Islamists often—though of course not always—produce parallel ideas that reinforce the regimes’ positions. Moreover, the Islamists’ strength also frightens people into supporting the regime. As one Egyptian analyst has written, “Propagators of extremist [Islamist] thought are given a free hand to spread their ideas by all means (as long as they are not overly critical of the regime). On the other hand, efforts by civil society are systematically obstructed….” On programs broadcast on state television, Islamist preachers condemn liberals and reform while not being allowed to voice negative remarks toward the regime.21 Aside from their “objective cooperation” with the government, the Islamists also block a movement for reform in their own right, even if they support fairer elections as being in their own interest. As the Syrian researcher Burhan Ghaliun put it, also indicating the heightened pessimism of liberals: The main problem…is that the clerics have become the leading shapers of public opinion…. Arab societies are held hostage by two authorities: [One is the] political dictatorship…. [The other is]… the clerics—even those opposing these regimes—who tyrannize Arab public opinion nowadays…. There is a kind of undeclared, practical alliance between the political dictatorship and the dictatorship of the religious authority [which accuses reformers] of secularism, which means heresy, or by accusing them of modernism, of having ties with the West, or of collaborating with colonialism. In their conduct, they do not really differ from the Arab dictatorial regimes…. They have won the war of culture….22 Consequently, as Bruce Maddy-Weitzman explains in discussing Tunisia: The… elites and middle class alike, fearful of the consequences of a rising political Islam in a society noted for its relatively liberal and secular ambience, essentially agreed to their indefinite political emasculation in return for the regime's repression of the Islamist movement and the maintenance of a liberal economy and the existing legal and social frameworks.23 Arab rulers and their supporters—including government employees in the media, education, and even religious institutions—often stress that their countries are already wonderfully governed and truly democratic. In Qadhafi’s words, “Our political path is the correct one as it grants freedom to the whole people, sovereignty, power and wealth to the whole people.”24 An easy and low-cost response is for governments to state that they have already made reforms, are in the process of doing so, are studying such measures, or will do so in future. There are many such statements and claims. Entire supposedly civil society

Al-Majd TV, Sep. 25, 2006. Transl. by MEMRI, No. 1305 (Oct. 4, 2006), www.memritv.org/search.asp? ACT=S9&P1=1283 21 A. GUINDY, "The Islamization of Egypt," Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006), p. 94, http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2006/issue3/jv10no3a7.html 22 Al-Jazeera, January 22, 2007,: http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1372, Clip #1372 23 B. MADDY-WEITZMAN, "Maghreb Regime Scenarios," MERIA Journal, Volume 10, No. 3 (September 2006), p. 115. 24 Reuters, August 31, 2006.
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institutions are created under state control to propagandize for the government’s virtue and to crowd out independent counterparts. For example, Bahrain created a High Council for Women that was used, according to a woman’s rights activist there, to hinder non-governmental women’s societies and to block the registration of the independent Women’s Union for many years.25 In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdallah established a forum for national dialogue and invited a wide variety of people to attend, but the recommendations arising from the discussions, which were held in a beautiful building created solely to house the meetings, were very conservative and at any rate had no effect. In the media, al-Watan, a publication owned by a prince, ran more liberal articles, but then its editor, Jamal Khashoggi, was fired by the regime shortly after criticizing clerics for supporting Islamist terrorists. Husayn Shobokshi was allowed to publish an article describing a liberal future Saudi Arabia in an English-language paper but not in Arabic; he soon lost his column as a result.26 Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abd al-Aziz made liberal pronouncements but then was reportedly lured by Saudi officials to a meeting in Geneva, drugged, and forcibly returned to a house arrest in Riyadh.27 In March 2004, the Saudi government approved the establishment of an official human rights association, whose members flew off to London to explain how the kingdom was moving toward liberalization. A few days later, 13 prominent independent liberals were taken into police custody and charged with endangering national unity. Those who promised not to petition for reform or to talk to reporters were quickly released. One reformer remarked, “This will make people lose trust in the government and their promises. It contradicts 100% what they have been promising.”28 6. A useful gimmick regimes use is the creation of their own human rights or civil society groups, which can then be guaranteed not to cause any problems for the government. In the Saudi case, a leading prince explained that dissidents were those rebelling “against their fathers and their country” and thus could not expect support from the state-backed human rights body. “I urge you not to think that the national human rights association was founded to assist offenders” against the law, he said. The new chairman of this National Organization for Human Rights, Abdallah bin Salah al-Ubayd, explained that “there are those who consider certain issues a violation of human rights, while we consider them a safeguard to human rights. For example, executions, amputating the hand of a thief, or flogging an adulterer.”29 In Egypt, the state-backed National Council for Human Rights remains quite vague in its discussion of issues, including nothing that would offend the government, indeed avoiding any serious discussion of the country at all.30 The regime even sponsored a journal on democracy, producing more copies in English than in Arabic and publishing little about the Arab world and almost nothing about Egypt in its pages.

"Committee of Women's Petition" President to British House of Lords: "The Struggle for Women's Rights in Bahrain Has Become More Difficult," December 19, 2006. Translation in MEMRI, No. 1401 (December 20, 2006), 26 Transcript of, interview with Jamal Khashoggi, "Saudi Arabia: Is Reform on the Way?," BBC Television, August 1, 2003. 27 R. HARDY, "Saudis 'Kidnap Reformer Prince,'" BBC, January 21, 2004. 28 Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 10, 2004; Reuters March 16, 2004; Washington Post, March 17, 2004; Mai Yamani, "Arrests Make Mockery of Saudi Reform Talk," International Herald Tribune, March 22, 2004. 29 Al-Hayat, March 12, 2004. Translation by MEMRI, No. 167 (March 26, 2004); Cited in Democracy Digest, "Focus: Democracy in the Middle East," April 5, 2004. 30 See its site, http://www.sis.gov.eg/eginfnew/humanrights/html/hr.htm
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In addition, the government presented its own reform program. Reformists did not expect any real change but were uncertain as to how they could respond effectively.31 Similarly, there were promises in many countries of reforming education to make it more tolerance-oriented, but these were accompanied by little action and sometimes even high-level denials that any change would indeed be made.32 In Saudi Arabia, no government action was taken against 160 clerics, many of them government employees, who accused liberals of being traitors loyal to infidels and denounced educational reform as a plot by “the Zionist-Crusader government in Washington… to convert the Muslims to another religion.”33 If any government employees would have made such strong statements demanding reform or liberalization, they would have been immediately fired.34 Even the most transparent exercises were used by regimes to claim democracy. While this might not have been so effective, it certainly seemed to please the regimes themselves as a strategy. In Yemen, Ali Abdallah Salah, who had ruled for 28 years, had himself elected in 1999, with 96%35 of the vote and in 2006, by 77%.36 In 2000, Bashar al-Asad was elected president of Syria with 97.29% of the votes.37 Since his father was elected in 1999 by 99.9% of the votes,38 the 2.7 reduction in unanimity might be taken to represent the degree of democratic opening represented by his new regime.39 Syrian parliamentary elections in 2007, for example, were also conducted without opposition candidates and with the regime’s party choosing two-thirds of the candidates as well as approving the remaining “independents.” In Bahrain, there were fair, multiparty elections in October 2002, despite a history of unrest from the majority Shi’a Muslims against the minority Sunni-controlled government.40 The opposition was legalized and security forces curbed. Kuwait also held periodic free and fair elections, with Islamists doing well but not gaining control of parliament. The way things could be was illustrated by an event in tiny Bahrain in January 2004. Bahrain’s elected parliament held a special televised session to denounce alleged government corruption in managing the country’s pension funds. Members, including Islamists, demanded that accused cabinet members resign for making bad investments that benefited themselves, change the system, and return the lost money. One liberal member declared that the special session showed the people that parliament was not a “rubber stamp” for the regime.41 The government denied the accusations and presented its defense to the legislators. Yet a high official proclaimed himself “happy” to be part of “this historic day” on which Bahrain’s democracy showed itself so well. “The government supports the Parliament's eagerness to exercise its monitoring role,” he added. “I am really proud of the work done by the special committee.”42 In turn, parliamentarians praised the ruler’s democratic reforms and the government for its cooperation.43
AP, December 16, 2006. Mid East Times, January 11, 2004; Saudi Gazette, January 4, 2004. 33 Cited in Z. BAR'EL, Ha'aretz, January 7, 2004. 34 Z. BAR'EL, "Even the Saudi Public Discourse on Reforms is Conducted in Secrecy," Haaretz, July 1, 2004. 35 "Country Profile: Yemen," BBC, July 14, 2007. 36 "Yemeni Leader Wins By Landslide," BBC, September 23, 2007. 37 New York Times, June 12, 19, 21, 28 and July 12, 2000. 38 Al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 12, 1999. 39 Syrian election results available online. 40 Economist Intelligence Unit, Bahrain Country Profile (London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2003), pp. 6-7. 41 Reuters, January 11, 2004; Gulf News, January 14, 2004. 42 M. ALMEZEL, "Bahrain Government under Fire for 'Misuse' of Public Funds," Gulf News (Dubai), January 11, 2004. 43 Reuters, January 11, 2004.
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Still, even in Bahrain there are many questions about both government manipulation and the problems of Islamist gains. Ghada Jamshir, president of the Committee of Women's Petition there stated, for example, “There is a lot of talk about progress and achievements in regard to women's rights…. [Yet] on the other hand, the injustice and suffering continue.” She notes that ten of the eleven women who became members of the 40-member legislature were appointed because they supported the regime, while only one who won the election on her own was nominated by the government in a district with few people and no competing candidate. Still, this might be held in the government’s favor since it did not have to give 25% representation to women. The point is that while the government was willing to have women on the council, it preferred they support it. Jamshir also charges that in the assembly: As a result of government manipulation of elections, the majority… are members of Islamist groups who have other priorities than women’s rights. Many campaigners for human rights, including women, lost the election to Islamists backed by the government, as a result of using the floating votes of military men and newly nationalized persons.44 If so, this is a good example of the government-Islamist alliance at work. She also points out that while women now serve in positions as the minister of health and social affairs, the head of Bahrain University, and a candidate to head the UN General Assembly, only 8% of high government positions are held by women. Reforms, of course, do take time, and the key question is whether progress continues or not. Another issue is that the great majority benefit relatively little from these changes. Women still have great difficulties with divorce and child custody issues, and, according to Jamshir, the government is holding up a family law reform as a bargaining chip with the Islamists, another common problem. She concludes that the reforms so far are counterproductive: “The struggle for women’s rights in Bahrain has become more difficult. That is because of the new government approach and policies, which pretend to be the protector of women’s rights by implementing artificial and marginal reforms.”45 Whether valid or not, this certainly reveals the pessimistic tone of reformists today. The system allowed for more openness while setting strict limits. After the human rights activist al-Mazal Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja criticized Bahrain’s prime minister in a public lecture in October 2004, he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to one year in prison for “inciting hatred of the regime by publicly calling it corrupt.” His Bahrain Center for Human Rights was disbanded. Within hours of the sentencing, however, he was pardoned by the country’s monarch. Khawaja then stated he would continue his efforts on behalf of human rights. An undertone to the affair was that Khawaja, who had recently returned to the country after 22 years living in Europe, was a member of the Shi’a Muslim majority in a country ruled by a Sunni Muslim dynasty. Thus, either repressing him or allowing democracy became immediately entangled in potentially explosive sectarian issues.46 7. However, these are exceptions and limited ones at that. In contrast, consider Jordan, rightly seen as one of the most moderately ruled Arab state. In an article for a Western newspaper, Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher explained that the Arab world
G. JAMSHEER, Transcript of address to the British House of Lords, MEMRI Special Dispatch Series, No. 1401, December 18, 2006. 45 Ibid. 46 B. RUBIN, "The Region: The Rocky Road to Arab Reform," Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2007; Gulf News, October 5, 2004; Beirut Daily Star, November 23, 2004. On liberalism in Bahrain, see also Beirut Daily Star, September 7, 2004.
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must “take the initiative” to become more democratic. This cannot happen overnight, of course, and forcing the pace could lead to radicalization. U.S. pressure to do so is “alienating Arabs and jeopardizing the efforts of genuine reformers, who now cannot advocate democracy without being accused of doing America’s bidding.” Yet the Arab world is ready to manage this transition itself. How do we know? Because, he explains, Jordan’s king and queen have endorsed the UN Arab Human Development Report!47 Is this sufficient? Jordanians elected a new parliament in 2003, choosing mostly pro-government representatives. The elections were honest but unfair. Ever since the prime minister had dissolved the previous parliament two years earlier, he had decreed dozens of “temporary laws” limiting free speech, tightening press controls, and gerrymandering districts to ensure the regime’s victory. Amman, with a higher proportion of dissidents, had about one parliament member for 52,000 voters, compared to just 6,000 people in Kerak, a regime stronghold. The number of seats was expanded from 80 to 110, giving more power to pro-government areas. As a result, Islamists received only 17 out of 110 seats, far fewer than they might have won in a fair system.48 However, if Islamists were to win, the result would hardly be conducive to stability or holding any future elections, much less the changes required to raise living standards and expand civil rights. The main concern of Jordan’s government seemed to be to appease the Islamists without giving them any real power while making empty promises of more consultation and partnership.49 At the same time, though, Jordanians do enjoy more freedom than most other Arabs. It is probable that this greater openness provides an escape valve, reducing the level of Islamist violence in Jordan. Jordan, then, is more of a democracy in appearance than in practice, since elections are not fair reflections of the population’s views. In theory, parliament can dismiss the prime minister and cabinet; in practice, the opposite is more likely to happen. All the senate’s members are appointed by the king. The legislature is dominated by opponents of reform, either because they are instruments of the regime or radical Islamists. Kuwait’s parliament, elected freely, has a variety of groups, representing a spectrum from Islamists through tribal conservatives to liberals, Sunni and Shi’a, though the balance of power is still held by the monarch through his ability to appoint a large share of the members.50 In Jordan, there is no organized liberal party as such, in part because the monarchy plays the role of reformer, albeit to a very limited extent. The Islamist opposition is partly coopted by being allowed to have a sizeable, but always minority, share of seats in parliament. An important example of genuine reform has been the Tunisian educational system, even in the Islamic university, which stresses tolerance and a pluralistic interpretation of Islam. Tunisia also has the most advanced laws on gender equality in terms of rights and family law. However, this makes it stand all the more in contrast to the form and content of the educational process in other countries.51 At the same time, Tunisia is authoritarian and repressive, marked by fixed elections and a dismal human rights record. This is an example of how complex and contradictory the situation with which reformers must contend is.

M. MUASHER, "A Path to Arab Democracy," New York Times, April 28, 2003. T. FAISAL and I. Urbina, "Jordan's Troubling Detour," Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2003; King Loyalists Win Jordan Poll," BBC, June 19, 2003. 49 Al Ahram Weekly, November 20-26, 2003. 50 G. NOONEMAN, "Political Reform in the Gulf Monarchies: From Liberalisation to Democratization?: A Comparative Perspective," Sir William Luce Fellowship Paper No. 6 (2006), University of Durham. 51 L. LAKHDAR, "Moving From Salafi to Rationalist Education," MERIA Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (March 2005).
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In Morocco, there is a lively civil society and strong women’s groups.52 King Hassan, who died in 1999, used the phrase “homeopathic democracy,” which meant, in Bruce Maddy-Weitzman’s words, “controlled, measured steps at political liberalization while the makhzen (the traditional term for Morocco's ruling security-bureaucratic apparatus), headed by the monarch, continued to maintain overweening control.” His son and successor, Muhammad, quickened the pace of change. The slogan used was “development and ijtihad,” meaning liberalization within the parameters of Islamic law rather than a mere imitation of tradition. This includes holding fair elections. The goal is to stabilize the regime, including the recruitment of allies among liberals and women who will join it in opposing Islamism, as well as taking into consideration their goals and demands. While the regime also tries to appease Islamists, this may be the country where the regime-liberal alliance has gone the furthest. Still, Morocco’s democracy involves a large amount of cooption in which the palace manipulates political parties by offering them a share in power.53 Particularly impressive are steps toward democratization and reform being taken in the smaller Gulf Arab states. For example, the 2007 Qatar municipal elections saw 51.1% of the total eligible voters voting. Almost half of them were female. The polling went smoothly, and the voting stations were policed to avoid violations of law. “Gone are the days when people voted for members of their family or tribe. Now the voters are more critical and they are looking at the qualifications of the candidate and whether they are capable of doing some good job in their constituency,” said one voter.54 Of course, there are definite limitations and flaws in the developments regarding Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Hereditary rule remains, and the royal families still dominate the system. Yet the progress has been undeniably impressive. There also seems to be a strengthening of what might be called the democratic mentality. Islamists participate in this process and often win parliamentary seats in large numbers. Yet their attitudes seem far more moderate than those of their counterparts in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia. Generally, with the notable exception of Saudi Arabia, a greater dynamism at the bottom and flexibility at the top seems evident in the “reactionary” monarchies of the Gulf and in Morocco, as compared to the “progressive” Arab nationalist regimes, which increasingly seem like the Soviet Union in its most dinosaur-like period. Yet again this is relatively more democratic and pluralist than the intransigent alternatives. Also, fears of instability or an even worse regime due to a too rapid or extensive change are not merely phony. 8. How did the reform movements respond to all these difficulties and pressures? Two factors should be emphasized. First, the liberals were generally depressed and discouraged, seeing their lack of progress and popularity as well as the obstacles put in their way clearly. No doubt, this situation prevented others from joining their ranks, making some of them reduce or abandon activism, and contributed to splits in their ranks. Second, seeing this, there was a strong temptation for liberals to water down their arguments, sometimes themselves coming to advocate radical and populist views long typical of their Arab nationalist and Islamist rivals. Each individual and group faced an extraordinarily difficult choice. Given the fact that the main struggle was between the Arab nationalist regimes and the Islamists,
52 53 54

A. JAMAL, "Morocco's Choice: Openness or Terror," New York Times, May 31, 2003. Maddy-Weitzman, "Maghreb Regime Scenarios." Al-Jazeera, April 2, 2007.

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liberals needed to consider taking sides. If they feared an Islamist takeover would lead to an even less free society, they might side with the government against the Islamists. The fact that the regime would reward them for doing so and that most reformers had a relatively Westernized, secular worldview—at least compared with the average in their society—dividing them from the Islamists were additional incentives. This pattern prevailed, for example, in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Even though Saudi reformers were highly religious compared to liberal counterparts in other countries, they faced the political alternative of an al-Qa’ida regime. Another possible choice was to side with the Islamists against the regime. This decision arose from a deep hatred for the regime. Given his personal experience, it is understandable that Saad Eddin Ibrahim was the most important liberal to take this road. In an article explaining why he advocated an alliance with the Islamists, Ibrahim showed how deeply impressed he was by the popularity of Hizballah, Hamas, Iran, al-Qa’ida, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their leaders in Egypt. “The pattern here is clear, and it is Islamic.” In contrast, the incumbent leaders of Arab countries are less popular. Egyptians are moving toward Islamism, he concludes. “More mainstream Islamists with broad support, developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most likely actors in building a new Middle East.” Clearly, he sees the Islamists as the winning side and believes that since they cannot be defeated they must be coopted.55 Yet this strategy also coincides with a belief that the Islamists can be “tamed” by participating in the system or even in taking power. At times, it has been suggested that having to develop pragmatic solutions to real problems and deal with the exigencies of electoral political life—if it were no longer possible to merely repeat the slogan, “Islam is the answer!”—they would face splits and a reduced popularity. The idea of alliance with the Islamists against the regime most often appeared, but not exclusively so, in Egypt, in part because Islamists successfully infiltrated the reform movement. A prime example of the populist and Islamist-oriented strategy took place with the Kifaya movement in Egypt. When the group focused its criticism on the government of President Husni Mubarak and such sensitive issues as his possible intention of having his own son as successor, it was harassed and repressed. Thus, it turned to attacks on America and Israel instead, the historic distraction and scapegoat strategy of nationalists and Islamists. In a September 2006 meeting, attended by both the Muslim Brotherhood and Kifaya leaders, a campaign was launched to try to get Egypt to repeal its peace treaty with Israel.56 Nevertheless, even engaging in such demagoguery did not help. The organization’s decline continued with a December 2006 demonstration attracting only 100 people.57 Of course, liberals have not had to choose between alliance with Arab nationalist regimes or Islamists but can keep their principled independence and criticize both sides. Many did in fact do so. However, this was an even more difficult strategy to follow, one isolating them to a greater extent and limiting any role they might play in actual events. Furthermore, there is always the hope of influencing one of the far more powerful groups—the government toward greater openness or the Islamists toward more moderation. Things were clearly not going well for the reformers. Kifaya, as a December 2006 AP report on the organization stated, “is divided and demoralized its members split over a host of issues…. 'Nobody is listening. They've demonstrated so many
S. E. IBRAHIM, "The 'New Middle East' Bush Is Resisting," Washington Post, August 23, 2006. Al-Quds al-Arabi, September 8, 1996; AP, September 14, 2006. 57 M. MICHAEL, "Once Energetic Egyptian Democracy Movement Divided Its Second Year," Associated Press, December 16, 2006.
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times but nothing has changed,’” said a young student watching a small Kifaya protest. Within the organization, Marxists, leftists, Arab nationalists, Islamists, and secular liberals battled each other. Indeed, some of Kifaya’s own members, “deep inside, are against democracy and reform,” said Bahay al-Din Hassan, director of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies. One of those leaving Kifaya said its leaders were acting like “dictators.” Islamist leaders quit to protest Kifaya issuing a statement supporting Egypt’s culture minister, who had criticized the Islamic veil as a sign of “backward thinking.”58 The reformist Wafd party also split when a leadership struggle ended in gunfire between two factions in a battle for control over the group’s headquarters.59 This conflict may well have been intensified by the provocations of infiltrating government agents who staged an internal coup. The ousted head of the party was arrested by the government. 9. Another serious problem is that liberal forces are unwilling to respect democracy when they fight radical Islamists, sometimes in alliance with the regimes. An interesting example took place in November 2006, when a columnist wrote in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyassa that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a hero and that the Arabs should support the Iraqi “resistance,” both positions contrary to those of Kuwait itself. In response, Kuwaiti Information Minister Muhammad al-San’usi said that the newspaper would be charged with “publishing reports that negatively impact Kuwaiti society.”60 A further inconsistency was pointed out by Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, who said that liberals “were driven into a collective 'craze’ when the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and in other Arab countries decided to become political parties and to take part in the 'democratic’ game, in accordance with the existing rules,” despite anti-democratic government policies limiting rights. If liberals really wanted democracy they would welcome the Islamists’ decision and participation.61 In fact, what liberals really wanted was only: 'Democracy’ that will bring them to power, without their having to take it upon themselves to descend to the level of the 'masses,’ the 'rabble’—or, in more elegant terminology, 'the man on the street’—and without having to rub shoulders with him and to understand his situation.62 To act this way, he concludes, is an “intentional falsification of the values of rationalism and liberalism.” The problem, of course, is that the liberal and reform movement is simultaneously one that advocates a specific method and a particular outcome. It argues that democratic norms are best but also aims for a large number of changes in society as well. To isolate elections from the entire reform program brings up, in the context of radical Islamist movements, the well-known problem of authoritarian movements using democratic means to come to power. Even if one restricts the scope of discussion to democratic methods, there still remains the problem—raising understandable concerns among reformers—of the use of anti-democratic methods in terms of argument (terming opponents as heretics and traitors) and strategies (violence, including incitement to kill). Beyond that lies the doubt in the sincerity of democratic professions on the part of Islamists, the likelihood
Ibid. Ibid. 60 Al-Siyassa, November 9, 2006; al-Watan, November 13, 2006; and al-Ray al-Am, November 16, 2006, translated in MEMRI, No. 1364 (November 22, 2006). 61 Al-Masri al-Yawm, August 17, 2006. Translation in MEMRI, No. 1259 (August 23, 2006). 62 Ibid.
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of what has been called, “One man, one vote, one time.” That is, if victorious, the Islamists would revoke the democracy that brought them to power. Still, these are real difficulties, not so much because liberals will be criticized for hypocrisy, but because they genuinely do face the potential triumph of an anti-democratic movement, or perhaps what should be called two anti-democratic ones—Arab nationalism and Islamism. At any rate, Abu Zayd demonstrates this very point by revealing that he is advocating the popular stance of subordinating everything to the struggle against foreigners. He writes: Resistance is not 'adventure,’ but rather the only existing option at the moment for our peoples, after the [true] face of the modern Arab nation has been exposed... You are against Hamas, against Hizballah, and against the Muslim Brotherhood because of their religious ideology. You are afraid that their growing stronger will lead to the establishment of religious states, but [by ignoring] Israel, you reveal that your liberalism and rationalism are not just phony; they are destructive rationalism. This is American rationalism, in which an idea is correct to the degree that it is useful.63 So quickly, as often happens—indeed, usually happens—the liberal concern over Islamism is transformed into proof that they are in fact Zionist and American agents, traitors, and hold ideas that are heretical in patriotic terms. With such delegitimization as the norm, of course, democratic debate is impossible. Nevertheless, the liberals’ twin problems remain. Arab nationalists and Islamists are more popular than reformers, are willing (and by their doctrines, able) to use more extreme methods, fit better with the traditional and existing worldviews, and are adept at employing demagoguery and xenophobia to succeed. Moreover, the regimes have a wide repertoire of tools—including both the Islamists themselves and fear of the Islamists simultaneously—to inhibit democracy and reform. 10. As so often happens with Middle East issues, this leaves the West, and the United States in particular, with unpalatable policy alternatives. A primary emphasis on democratization is both unlikely to succeed and raises problems of its own. In this context, however, two policy themes are both important and reasonable. First, support for reform and democratization should be an important part of the U.S. policy arsenal. This is true for several reasons. In the long term, the erosion of dictatorship and the mentality that accompanies it is the only way that regional problems might be solved; for dictatorship stands in the way of a more peaceful, tolerant region, not to mention the spread of human rights, a decline in extremism, and socioeconomic progress. Such a policy is both morally right and expedient in terms of U.S. interests. At the same time, however, the fact is that the United States needs good relations with key regimes for a variety of purposes, ranging from Iraq to the Arab-Israeli conflict to the war against terrorism, as well as economic relationships. In addition, pressure on these regimes for reform and greater democracy could be destabilizing and bring increasingly extreme and repressive governments, even if they achieve power through democratic means. Of course, the existing regimes are likely to ignore U.S. efforts to change them and even turn U.S. efforts into anti-American propaganda as examples of imperialistic interference. The way to deal with this contradiction is not to ignore it, but to develop a reasonably balanced policy that deals with both aspects. A stated policy of support for change and small-scale aid to reformers can accompany a realpolitik approach to
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alliances with Arab dictatorships. Achieving a balance has often been difficult for U.S. policy, but that does not mean this is an incorrect strategy. Special recognition should be given to the fairly successful efforts of countries such as Morocco and the smaller Gulf Arab states to evolve their systems in the right direction. The United States also should not be afraid to intervene energetically, if verbally, on specific cases of human rights abuses. It does not have to endorse unfair elections, for example, and it should wage ideological struggle against both of the extremist ideologies that dominate the Arab world. After all, the United States too provides a wide variety of strategic, diplomatic, and economic services to the relatively more moderate Arab states, and it has a right to ask for things in return up to a reasonable point. Every country, certainly, is different in its mix of politics, ideology, problems, and policies. This leads to a second important point. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, there is a real distinction between more moderate and more extreme states, not only in the fact that they are friendlier to the West and less aggressive externally but also in regard to their internal nature. Many criticisms can be made, for instance, against Egypt’s domestic policies and system. Yet Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco—to pick several countries—are genuinely more moderate and less oppressive than Syria, Sudan, and Libya, or Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The United States, then, can and should legitimately draw distinctions. Greater effort and a higher level of criticism or even sanctions can be employed against the radical states precisely because they are radical. The level of free speech or civil society in Egypt is far more open than that in Syria. While it can be charged that the United States is inconsistent or using criticism over dictatorship as a strategic tool, setting priorities along these lines makes sense not only in terms of national interests but also on the merits of the cases themselves. Finally, there should be a realistic assessment of the situation. With the exception of the few countries mentioned above where progress is apparent, the democratic movements are not doing so well. Generally, they are lagging far behind the radical Arab nationalists—whose staying power should not be underestimated—and the radical Islamists. Even given the gains made by the Islamists, with the exception of the Palestinians, the Arab nationalist status quo is still winning and enjoys majority support. In short, the regimes’ strategy worked to turn back the democratic challenge. In the long run things might turn out differently, but it is going to be a very long run indeed.

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