April 14, 2007

The 21st Century Mafia: Made in China

© "Russia in Global Affairs". № 1, January - March 2007

Vladimir Ovchinsky, Doctor of Science (Law), Major-General of the Police (Ret), is an advisor to the Chairman of Russia’s Constitutional Court, and a member of the Editorial Board of Russia in Global Affairs.




China, which is rapidly becoming a leader in global development, is now the talk of the world. However, the positive manifestations of this diverse phenomenon are closely linked with negative ones. For example, as China continues to consolidate its leading positions in the global economy, Chinese organized crime is expected to broaden its presence in global criminal links. This is of tremendous concern for Russia and the world.



THE “TRIADS” AND REFORMS


Many observers believe that information concerning the negative processes in contemporary China is classified, but this view is largely exaggerated. Chinese criminologists (including Liao Ping, He Bisong, Xin Yan, and others) have conducted in-depth studies into organized crime in their country, and the results of these studies have been translated into other languages, including Russian. Furthermore, Chinese officials from the Communist Party and law-enforcement bodies eagerly share their information about the criminal situation.


Analysis of these studies suggests that any shift from a command economy to a market economy brings about, as a negative side effect, an upsurge (or rather an outburst) of organized crime and corruption. China launched market reforms earlier than the Soviet Union, followed by Russia, and therefore was in the position to recognize the problem at an earlier time. While the Soviet Union first confronted the problem of organized crime and corruption in the mid-1980s, beginning with the famous “Uzbek affair,” China already experienced this phenomenon in the late 1970s, with the revival of the notorious “triads” (which, incidentally, played a significant role in the Celestial Empire back in the 17th century).


The study of contemporary organized crime in China, carried out by Chinese scholar Xin Yan, shows that mafia-type organizations seriously destabilize public order. Their leaders actively infiltrate economic structures as corruption ties grow stronger and economic crimes become more refined. Meanwhile, low-level government bodies (in villages and small towns) and law-enforcement agencies become increasingly infiltrated by criminal elements.


Eventually, the leaders of criminal organizations succeed in rising to high positions in the social hierarchy. For example, they become deputies of the National People’s Congress or members of political consultative councils in the provinces. Criminal organizations are more frequently interfering with the reshuffling of high-ranking officials. Moreover, there were even cases when the authorities of some Chinese regions asked the mafia to take over low-level administrative power (for example, in villages), while many local administrators asked the mafia for financial aid. Thus, criminal organizations in those regions evolved from a “criminal force” into a “criminal power.”


Xin Yan has studied many criminal cases and concluded that organized crime groups are often organized and run by former party and administrative functionaries and high-ranking officials of prosecutor’s offices. There were even reports alleging that these criminal leaders were active deputies of the National People’s Congress, secretaries of Communist Party cells, and chief executives of local Public Security Bureaus.


An increasing number of triad societies now operate under the umbrella of legitimate companies and enterprises and infiltrate governmental economic entities. Triads, which generate massive profits, have built a system for laundering illegal revenues. According to Chinese experts, about 200 billion yuans (U.S. $24.7 billion) is laundered in China each year; huge sums of money circulate through illegal money-changing shops.


Triads are more active in the coastal provinces, especially in Hong Kong. They control heroin and opium supplies, the hard currency black market, and the trafficking of Russian and Ukrainian prostitutes for brothels in Hong Kong and Macao. Finally, they control arms trafficking and provide “protection” for local businessmen. In Hong Kong, for example, there are 15 to 20 triad groups that actively engage in criminal activities, each having at least 30,000 members.


The official China News Weekly Review published an article in 2005, revealing that, apart from Hong Kong and Macao, the Chinese mafia has spread its operations to large industrial centers in mainland China, such as Guangzhou, Tianjin and Shanghai.


Mafia organizations are taking advantage of both the negative and positive aspects of China’s economic reforms. Of course, they could not ignore the country’s fast-developing Internet market (as of early 2006, China placed second in the world with over 110 million users, behind only the U.S.) and organized on-line sales of pirated audio and video materials. Now, items offered for sale by triads also include drugs, prostitutes, stolen cars, weapons, false documents, and even human organs for transplantation.


The Beijing authorities work hard to control the Net by means of over 30,000 Internet police officers. Since the beginning of the 21st century, more than 2,000 web sites have been closed down for offering sexual services and gambling entertainment. Yet every day new sites appear that replace the closed web sites.


The rapid growth in fuel prices tempted the mafia to steal crude oil from pipelines, many of which were seriously damaged. The police estimated the amount of oil stolen in 2005 at over U.S. $120 million.



CHOPPING OFF THE DRAGON HEADS


The architect of the Chinese reforms, Deng Xiaoping, laid the ideological and organizational basis for the struggle against mafia structures and corruption in the People’s Republic of China. In the early 1980s, he pointed to a steadily worsening criminogenic situation in the country and emphasized the need for a long-term struggle against this social evil. In particular, he ordered full-scale operations against organized crime.


Deng also initiated the establishment of powerful analytical subdivisions within the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security. These subdivisions prepare long-term forecasts for the development of the geostrategic and regional criminogenic situation and devise plans for full-scale operations. There are also several central analytical organizations (for example, the Research Office under the State Council).


From 1983 to 2005, at least ten full-scale operations of this kind were carried out, in which more than one million criminal groups were liquidated. Many of their leaders, together with the most odious members, were executed.


Importantly, these types of operations against organized crime, together with the ongoing struggle against the mafia and corruption, are conducted in China in strict compliance with the law. China’s criminal law, together with those laws that pertain to criminal procedure, is constantly modified to respond to changes in the situation. Chinese laws, unlike Russia’s, contain clear definitions of mafia organizations, while the Supreme People’s Court regularly gives detailed explanations of judicial practices pertaining to cases on organized crime and corruption.


To counter the increased scope of money laundering by the mafia, the Chinese government in 2004 set up the Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center. Additionally, the Ministry of Public Security has an anti-money laundering department, which develops specific measures, interacts with foreign counterparts, and coordinates the activities of the ministry’s local divisions. There is even a special computer network that controls money flows 24 hours a day.


All these organizations participate in the full-scale operations, after which criminal activities subside for some time. Yet, after a while, criminal groups become active again, because these operations fail to eliminate the main reasons for crime. Thus, in place of the chopped off head of the dragon, many more deadlier heads grow in its place.


Unless unemployment, China’s main social problem, is solved, the self-reproduction of liquidated criminal organizations will continue. The number of the unemployed in the country is estimated at 182 million to 199 million, or 26 to 28 percent of the number of the employed. This figure equals 10 Chinese armies, and the mafia uses a large part of these redundant people.


A source of special concern is that the army of the unemployed is largely recruited from young people below the age of 35. According to a study conducted by China’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the unemployment rate among young people in 62 cities across China has exceeded 60 percent. Even graduates from institutions of higher learning have difficulties finding a job.


The “going outward” and “welcome to come” strategies, conducted by China in the last few years, are intended to increase the country’s foreign trade and foreign direct investment and, simultaneously, to solve the unemployment problem through intensive labor migration to other countries.



THE EXPANSION PROJECT GAINING STRENGTH

The above strategies helped China to increase its foreign trade almost threefold between 2001 and 2005. According to expert estimates, by 2020-2030, China will pass the United States in terms of GDP, thus becoming the world’s economic leader. The same conclusion is drawn by the well-known 2020 Project [Mapping the Global Future, prepared by the National Intelligence Council, a CIA advisory group, and issued on January 15, 2006 – Ed.].


As regards the “welcome to come” strategy, according to some Western analytical centers cited by Maxim Chereda, the leaders of the largest and most influential triads established contacts with representatives of the Chinese leadership at all levels, which ensured the safe infiltration of their cash into Mainland China, mainly in its southern provinces. The triads’ money was used for establishing profitable joint ventures, such as nightclubs and casinos. The co-founders of these ventures included regional representatives of China’s security organizations, in particular the Ministry of Public Security and the People’s Liberation Army.


However, any sort of “peaceful coexistence” between the Chinese mafia and the country’s leadership could not last for long. “Triads were alright for Beijing for as long as their capital was needed for economic reforms in the country,” Chereda wrote. “Now the reform process no longer needs support from ‘not quite legitimate organizations,’ to put it mildly.” As a result, the Chinese leadership has launched an offensive against triads.


At the same time, as prominent sinologist Vilya Gelbras writes, China has attracted U.S. $600 billion in foreign direct investment in the course of its “going outward” policy. According to some estimates, China has invested U.S. $700 billion in American securities, thus protecting the dollar and securing its presence on the U.S. market. From 2002 to 2005, foreign direct investment by Chinese enterprises alone (without taking into account financial organizations) amounted to $17.9 billion (with an average increase of 36 percent a year!), while more than 10,000 various enterprises have been set up outside the country. Considering the toughening of the government’s anti-mafia and anti-corruption policies inside the country, and the continuing “going outward” strategy, triad leaders objectively benefit more from directing their expansion out of the country.


This global criminal project is already being implemented – and very effectively. Chinese mafia organizations have established control over migration processes and have taken leading positions in organizing human trafficking and illegal migration. As follows from the U.S. Department of State’s report of 2005, China now ranks amongst the countries that require special attention due to the vast number of people who are made victims of human trafficking. A June 2006 report by Europol described Chinese mafia groups as leaders in human trafficking throughout the European Union.


Chinese triads have even made Japan’s mafia, yakuza, make room in its own country: the Chinese account for about half of all crimes committed by foreigners in Japan (double the figure from a decade ago), while their mafia organizations control two-thirds of heroin trade in that country. According to U.S. expert estimates, these organizations have also infiltrated the U.S. legal and black-market economies, surpassing even the Colombian cartels. In Italy, in early 2006, law enforcement bodies launched a major investigation into links between Chinese gangsters and the Italian mafia. An investigation is being held in Milan’s Chinatown with regard to suspicious investments in real estate and trade. In Rome, investigators have revealed dummy firms and banks engaged in money laundering. The first large-scale investigation concerning the financial resources of the Chinese mafia in Italy involved 22,000 Chinese. In total, the Italian police have launched 250 criminal cases against the leaders of Chinese mafia organizations and their assistants.


A 2005 report by Italy’s chief prosecutor said that the local Chinese triad was becoming more and more aggressive and united. The last few years have seen a rise in illegal activity, such as robberies and acts of extortion with regard to Italian citizens, and the emergence of mixed Chinese-Italian criminal groups.


Chinese organized crime can provoke global economic crises and influence market prices. In particular, in 2005 the world copper market was on the brink of collapse after a disastrous gamble on the London Metal Exchange. Chinese copper trader Liu Qibing, well known among business circles, sold 200,000 tons of copper on the exchange on behalf of the Chinese State Reserve Bureau, after which he disappeared, while world copper prices reached a record high.


Given the vast expansion of Chinese organized crime, it was impossible that the phenomenon would bypass Russia, but the intensity and forms of this expansion differ in many respects from the situation in other countries. There are objective reasons for this.



INFILTRATION OF RUSSIA


Sociological studies conducted by Russian scholars on Chinese communities in Moscow, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, in addition to the results of polls taken in Blagoveshchensk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Barnaul and Belokurikha (the Altai Region), have shown that Russia, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a decisive moment: the development of new conditions for the global expansion of Chinese migration, and the rise of Chinese communities in foreign countries. This largely spontaneous growth has given way to the organized expansion of Chinese immigrants abroad and the broadening of their business activities.


The estimated number of Chinese migrants in Russia varies from 400,000 to 3 million. The main problem posed by this relatively new phenomenon is the damage these groups inflict on the Russian economy: the Chinese communities, according to police information, are covertly controlled by Chinese mafia organizations. Meanwhile, relations within these communities are patterned after those in the triads (strict obedience to the leaders, a vow of silence, severe punishment of recalcitrant members, etc.).


The majority of Chinese migrants, organized by mafia, go to Russia’s Far East. There are objective historical, demographic and, particularly, economic reasons for this choice. Sinologist Andrei Ostrovsky writes that Russia’s market reforms, marked by the loss of state regulation in the economy, have not made the region attractive to investors. Actually, in the competition for attracting capital to the Far East, Russia lost out to China.


The governor of the Khabarovsk Territory in the Russian Far East, Victor Ishayev, told the Izvestia newspaper in April 2006: “The Far East has been isolated from the Russian economy. In the Soviet times, 75 percent of all our products were supplied to Russia’s domestic market, whereas today we supply only 4 percent. Full-scale ties with the rest of Russia are impossible due to unequal conditions, in particular high tariffs on heat energy, electricity and transport, and the absence of industrial restructuring… Today we are legislatively determined to be a raw-material appendage of the advanced, fast-developing countries (Japan, China, Korea).”


Chinese mafia organizations exploit Russia’s Far East and Siberia precisely as a raw-material appendage. Yuri Yegorov and Alexander Samsonov, who studied organized crime in Russia’s East Siberia and Far East on the basis of police information available for the period 1999-2003, cite the following figures.




Of all criminal cases launched by the Russian police against ethnic organized crime groups in 2002, Chinese criminal groups accounted for 38 percent of the criminal cases in East Siberia, and for 40.9 percent of all cases in the Far East.


Poaching and smuggling of the forests and seas in the Russian Far East is also carried out on an organized basis. Hundreds of Chinese citizens are repeatedly detained in the Ussuri taiga with ginseng roots and other plants included in the Red Book of Russia. During the season for pine nut picking, Russian police recovered many tons of pine nuts from Chinese illegals. In China, pine nuts are processed for oil, which is later used as a component in pharmaceuticals and perfumes. Products that are valuable on the Chinese market, including trepang, ginseng, tiger skins and even bear bile, are smuggled out of the Maritime Territory. There is also an underground market for various kinds of frogs and turtle. In 2003, Chinese citizens began to actively smuggle various species of sturgeons into China from Russia.


Chinese poachers have destroyed the commercial stock of autumn salmon in the Ussuri River and have taken almost complete control over the migration routes of valuable fish species, including Siberian salmon and Siberian sturgeon, as well as popular sturgeon spawning areas.


Initially, the Chinese caught the fish themselves; now they actually hire the local Russian population for this task. The Chinese organized crime groups also hire Russians for cultivating plots of land leased by these groups. In other words, instead of serving as additional manpower resources, these Chinese “migrants” mercilessly exploit the Russian population: the mafia never becomes a manpower resource!


Professor Vitaly Nomokonov of the Far Eastern State University warns that Chinese mafia organizations in the Far East are intensively integrating with the Russian mafia. In Ussuriisk, for example, triads have established business relations with local criminal leaders: Russian organized crime groups help triads to buy metals in the region and to ship them abroad. Also, Russians set up passenger transportation firms, which are used by the Chinese, and provide warehouses for storing goods, including contraband. The last few years have seen the rise of yet another phenomenon: more and more Chinese are joining Russian organized crime groups, tipping them off about the movements of Chinese traders. At least one Chinese trader is robbed every month.

Professor Valery Sobolnikov of the Siberian Academy of Civil Service points out that in 2002-2005 Chinese organized crime groups registered businesses with dummy Russian owners, which allowed the actual heads of these firms or commercial structures to evade taxes. In many cases, the Chinese mafia establishes firms for single transactions. In the Chita Region, for example, about a thousand such “companies” have been revealed. In the Novosibirsk Region, numerous facts have been disclosed about foreign-trade operations carried out by front businesses. Incidentally, a majority of such commercial structures export strategic raw materials out of Russia.


Professor Anna Repetskaya of the Baikal State University of Economics and Law points to a similar tendency in the Irkutsk Region. She cites reports collected by the local bodies of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which thwarted the thefts of strategic raw and radioactive materials that were intended for export to China. Many Russian and Chinese organized crime groups divided functions: Russians stole the products from local enterprises, while the Chinese smuggled them to China.


FOREST MANDARINS


Researchers are warning that the greatest threat to Russia’s national security (especially in the economic realm) comes from criminal operations in the timber sector. Anatoly Lebedev of the Bureau of Regional Public Companies in Vladivostok has analyzed this problem in detail in the course of a journalistic investigation. Below are its main findings.


The lack of funding of the State Timber Service and Inspectorate in past years, compounded by official permission to seize confiscated illegal timber, resulted in unprecedented rates of corruption in the timber sector. Later, in 2002, a new government decree outlawed the practice by foresters and law enforcement bodies to profit by means of confiscated timber. Since then, all confiscated timber must be sold in favor of the Ministry of Property, while the foresters no longer receive a cent from these revenues.


Yet the corruption continues. The system of illegal logging and timber resales has become too widespread and involves too many local high-ranking officials to be easily liquidated. Chinese businessmen play a major role in this system. This is why attempts to adopt a new Forest Code that provides for the abolition of forestry enterprises, together with the delegation of their functions to leaseholders, have caused a panic in the region. For the Far East, this would mean that the vast forests could simply fall under the direct control of Chinese businesses.


Many retired Chinese generals and agents of special services actively participate in legal and illegal commercial operations in the Far East, buying property, hiring workers and controlling the most profitable kinds of businesses. The Chinese have quickly learned to copy Russian methods of evading taxes, with a slight difference: they are more effective at it. Thus, the large-scale smuggling of timber continues to the mutual delight of Russian and Chinese businessmen – and to the detriment of the Ussuri taiga.


Many Chinese, who operate under alias Russian names, control areas for wholesale timber sales in several cities of the Maritime Territory – Luchegorsk, Dalnerechensk, Lesozavodsk, Ussuriisk, Nakhodka and Dalnegorsk, in the Khabarovsk Territory, the Jewish Autonomous Region, and in the Amur and Chita Regions. According to the Anti-Organized Crime Department of the Maritime Interior Affairs Agency, there is enough proof that Chinese timber businesses in the Maritime Territory are under the strict control of triads.



DARING THE DRAGON


Why is it important to focus attention on these natural and raw-material resources? The matter is that over the years of reforms the Russian and foreign (including Chinese) mafias have got possession of what must never fall into their hands: Russia’s natural wealth, raw-material resources, metals (including rare-earth varieties and gold), timber and coal.


This situation is tantamount to a loss by the state of the levers of governance in the law enforcement sphere. If the government does not realize where it must focus its efforts, the law enforcement resource will continue to be dissipated without yielding the required results. Since it is impossible to address all the problems at once, the government must first set national priorities. Then it will be clear what methods will be the most effective against the Chinese mafia: cleaning up Chinese markets, dislodging triads from the taiga and timber-felling sites or launching military operations against those who destroy Russian bio-resources and ship trainloads of nonferrous metals and timber to China. On this last option, it would be extremely useful for Russia to borrow from China’s experience in conducting full-scale operations against the mafia. Certainly, the success of any law-enforcement operation depends on whether the government makes a turn for the better in its social and economic policy in the Far East and East Siberia, which, in turn, depends on its policy nationwide. Why not follow the example of the Chinese leadership, which has admitted making serious mistakes pertaining to the “going outward” and “welcome to come” strategies?


The 5th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee of the 16th convocation (held in October 2005) discussed the five-year plan for 2006-2010 and set the task of “revising the view on the development” and “creating a new development model.” In its desire to “reform the reforms,” the Chinese authorities are focusing their ideological efforts on two major areas – propaganda of a new economic policy, with an emphasis on social justice and maximum expansion of the domestic market, together with a struggle against the liberal ideology, viewed as a challenge to China’s political stability. At the same time, the authorities have shifted the focus of the polemic away from Chinese problems to Latin America, Russia and other states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, asserting that those regions have turned into disaster areas due to America’s policy of imposing its liberal model on them.


Beijing has already announced that the economic model that has been used to rapidly enrich the most active part of Chinese society has exhausted itself. Now, the time has come to pay attention to the quality of growth, smooth over social conflicts, remove inequality, and provide equal opportunities for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

Iran's big bluff


Iran's claims this week to have reached an industrial level of uranium enrichment have largely been met with scorn. ISN Security Watch investigates the current status of the Iranian nuclear program.


By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch (13/4/07)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced during a visit to the Natanz enrichment facility on Monday that the Islamic Republic was now capable of uranium enrichment on an "industrial scale," in direct contravention of UN resolutions.

However, serious doubts have arisen concerning the enrichment claim, and Iran's ability to pay for atomic facilities currently under construction, shedding a new light on the capacity and future potential of the Iranian nuclear program.

Referring to a recently extended UN sanctions package, Institute for National Security Studies disarmament expert Dr Emily Landau told ISN Security Watch: "What we need to take from this announcement is [that it is] just a further indication after the second round of sanctions that the whole issue of continuing the program as it is - enriching uranium - is still very much on the agenda. Iran has no intention of complying with the latest UN resolution.

Regarding the announcement itself, she said, "I don't think that it is really [indicative] of Iran being at that point of no return or a technical threshold where it can go it alone and start industrial-scale production."

Asked if the Iranian announcement signaled a major developmental step, International Institute for Strategic Studies non-proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick told ISN Security Watch: "No, It was a political announcement, devoid of any supporting evidence. Iran is not at the industrial-scale of enrichment, and will not be for some time."

Asked to explain the diplomatic implications of Monday's announcement, he said, "It showed that Iran has no intention of honoring the UN mandate that it suspend all enrichment-related activity."
Limiting cooperation

Both Iran and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have made moves to limit their mutual cooperation under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Islamic Republic's ancillary NPT safeguards agreement.

The moves come amid accusations that Iran has not fully disclosed its nuclear work - including 18 years of uranium enrichment activities.

Two IAEA inspectors arrived in Iran on Tuesday. During their week-long stay the pair will investigate ongoing uranium reprocessing work at the Natanz enrichment facility. Their conclusions will heavily influence the next IAEA report to the UN Security Council on Iranian NPT compliance, to be delivered following the nuclear watchdog's board meeting in late May.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reports that IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming told German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday that Iran would have the capacity to create a nuclear weapon in four to six years and had received related materials illegally in the past while engaging in illicit nuclear experiments.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Monday warned that Iran would be forced to review its NPT membership if it faced further international pressure over its nuclear program.

Asked if Iran would leave the NPT, Fitzpatrick said, "No. Threatening to do so is a bluff. Withdrawing from the NPT would be equivalent to saying that their intentions are not peaceful, and that the nuclear program is for weapons purposes."

ISN Security Watch spoke to an official source with an intimate knowledge of the IAEA-Iran relationshipon the condition of anonymity.

Asked if the IAEA's problems with Iran stemmed largely from the failure to provide historical data on the development of its nuclear program, the source said: "It would not be incorrect when you say that the majority of issues are actually historical."

The IAEA does "not have a full picture of the past and therefore building up future work on a past which is not that clear is not comfortable for a number of [IAEA] member states."

"There were outstanding issues," he noted, "plutonium experiments they have done in the past, sources of the P-1 centrifuges, P-2 centrifuges, [used in enrichment] etc. These have not really come to the limelight yet and this is probably one of the problems."
Sanctions bite

"I have a sense that the sanctions route is a little more effective than the diplomacy that was carried out by the EU-3 [Britain, Germany and France] from 2003 to 2005," Landau said. "Iran still is not at the place where the international community wants it to be but there are signs of pressure."

The UN Security Council voted on 26 March to expand sanctions on Iran imposed over 14 alleged breaches of its NPT commitments, including an embargo on arms exports and the freezing of financial assets of a further group of prominent Iranian figures - including Revolutionary Guards commanders.

"After the first round of sanctions there were all these voices of criticism [in Iran] that came out aimed at Ahmadinejad, and even criticism from Khamenei, the supreme leader […] calling for a more moderate team to deal with the nuclear issue," Landau said.

"I think that the significance of the criticism is not that there is a desire to take necessarily a different route in the nuclear realm," she said. "They still want to go forward with the program, but it does mean that they are not happy with so many states in the international community being in agreement on taking this kind of resolution."

Landau believes that the Iranian economy "may be starting to feel the pressure" of US threats to cut banks off from the US financial system for doing business with companies that are found to have involvement with weapons of mass destruction programs or militant groups.

"Even the hint that banks might be subject to these kinds of penalties are enough for them to cut off ties with Iranian companies. So I think that these are steps that are starting to have an effect on Iran. But again, they are obviously not at a point that they will stop uranium enrichment."
Strained ties

Arguably, the most important diplomatic shift in recent months has been Russia's seeming decision to support a gradual move towards full UN sanctions.

"Having joined three Security Council resolutions mandating a suspension in Iran's enrichment program, Russia is committed to this goal and frustrated at Iran's continued defiance," Fitzpatrick said.

Russia and China had been seen as a bulwark in the UN Security Council against the US sanctions drive, but have eased their opposition to limited sanctions in the absence of Iranian diplomatic engagement.

Problems have also arisen over the completion and supply of the Russian-built Bushehr reactor, which was expected to be fully operational last September but has been dogged by delays, Iranian intimations of poor workmanship, and a growing crisis over payment scheduling.

According to the website of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, the country's general contractor working on the Bushehr plant, Atomstroyexport, has not been paid for over two months. Iran vehemently denies this.

Ongoing talks in Moscow and Tehran have failed to solve the crisis, and Russia will now withhold project work and nuclear fuel deliveries, the agency says.

Importantly, the first vice chairman of the State Duma Security Committee, Mikhail Grishankov, specifically linked the withholding of initial fuel shipments to Russian fears that the fuel could be used for unsanctioned purposes, describing the payments crisis as a challenge to all bilateral agreements and partner relations between the states.

"It is very hard to know with this whole issue with Bushehr […] whether the explanation really is that they haven't transferred the funds; or whether it is [related to] the demand that Iran stop uranium enrichment and only then they [Russia] will continue with the preparations," Landau said. "I tend to think that the second explanation is perhaps the more plausible."
Fading diplomacy

Crucially, the Russian suspension of nuclear fuel supplies will further undermine diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to agree to the suspension of autonomous uranium reprocessing in return for an international aid package proffered last June by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

This included an offer of light water reactors, atomic and other technological aid, in return for a guaranteed Russian nuclear fuel supply and the re-export of spent fuel.

"If the Iranian government were inclined to try to find a diplomatic solution, it would be able to use the Monday announcement as a face-saving way of saying, "We achieved our goal of industrial-scale enrichment, so now, we can afford to take a technical pause and negotiate on the basis of the proposal put forward by Mr Solana last June,"" Fitzpatrick said, adding that he did not believe Iran was ready end enrichment.
Spinning the centrifuges

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani confirmed on Monday that work had begun on injecting uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into an undisclosed number of the 3,000 centrifuges he says are to be installed at Natanz.

"On 21 February, when the IAEA last reported on the status of the underground enrichment production facility at Natanz, the IAEA said Iran had installed two 164-centrifuge cascades and was nearing completion on two more. That was a total of 656. Going from that number to 3,000 in six weeks is impossible for a country that is just a beginner in the field of uranium enrichment," he said.

Ahmadinejad had been expected to announce that the 3,000 centrifuges were operational in January but failed to do so, in an indication that Iran may be struggling in centrifuge fabrication or in ensuring a sufficient supply of uranium hexafluoride UF6 for their operation.

According to reports, an estimated 50,000-60,000 centrifuges would be needed for the indigenous supply of one nuclear reactor, while the continuous operation of a full series of 3,000 centrifuges would allow Iran to attain the nuclear material required for a nuclear weapon within a year.

The IAEA inspectors' report will provide the first confirmation of any major expansion in Iran's enrichment capacity.
Prospects

Monday's enrichment announcement confirms that Iran is determined to maintain its right to autonomous fuel production and to push on with nuclear development.

This further raises the prospects for wider regional nuclear proliferation and the attendant risk of a future nuclear arms race.

"There is the whole issue of additional nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, which has been a concern all along," Landau said. "The Gulf countries as a group made an announcement and now Jordan has made several announcements, all planning to make a nuclear program."

"The only short cut that I can think of is for a state like Saudi Arabia, which can perhaps buy a nuclear bomb and that could get them there quicker. But any kind of indigenous nuclear program is not going to become a reality anytime soon."

"There is a need to look at this as an opportunity to get some kind of security dialogue going […] to somehow find a way to address their [regional states'] concerns in a common framework, and not to address their concerns by becoming proliferators themselves," Landau said.

Fitzpatrick believes, "Iran should make a rational calculation about whether its national interests are best served by pursuing uranium enrichment despite the costs of sanctions and diplomatic isolation; or by stopping the program and reaping the benefits offered in the June 2006 [Solana] proposal."



Dr Dominic Moran is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East.

2008 OLYMPICS IN CHINA: SECURITY THREAT ASSESSMENT



By B.Raman

The Falun Gong, Tibetan youth, Uighur separatists and disgruntled sections of the local population due to perceived issues of economic injustice would constitute the four internal sources of concern to the Chinese authorities responsible for the security arrangements before and during the Olympic Games of 2008, which are to be held in China.

2. These elements are unlikely to indulge in acts of violence directed against the foreign participants in the Olympics. Their likely targets would be more Chinese authorities and leadership. Their aim would be not to cause death, but disruption in the arrangements for the Games and political embarrassment for the hosts. The disruptions could be in the form of acts of sabotage directed at the Games infrastructure such as the Games villages, hotels, airports, railway stations etc undertaken much before the inauguration of the Games. Apart from causing disruption, successful acts of sabotage could create feelings of insecurity in the minds of participating national teams and make them have second thoughts about their participation.The Falun Gong has many cyber disruption experts and one should be prepared for attempts by it to disrupt the information infrastructure set up for the Games. Other likely threats from these elements would include shouting slogans, demonstrations and acts of self-immolation.

3.There is an ambivalence in the attitude of Al Qaeda and its International Islamic Front (IIF) towards China. Generally, the Muslims of the world look upon China as their well-wisher because of its assistance to Pakistan in developing a military nuclear capability----the Islamic bomb--- its assistance to Pakistan, Iran and Libya in developing a missile capability, its opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and its support for Iran on the nuclear issue. At the same time, they look upon the Xinjiang province of China as rightfully belonging to the Islamic Ummah and support the struggle of the Uighurs for their separation from China. They also support the struggle of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) for an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia consisting of the Central Asian Republics and the Xinjiang Region of China.

4. While they would have no motivation for targeting Chinese nationals, interests and prestige before and during the Games, they would be strongly tempted not to miss this spectacular occasion for mounting an act of terrorism directed at the participants from the US, the UK, Australia and other countries forming part of the occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tight security arrangements being made by the Chinese authorities would make it difficult for them to infiltrate into China before and during the Games. A danger is of their infiltrating as members or office-bearers of the national teams from Iraq and Afghanistan participating in the Games. The explosion in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament, which is located inside the highly protected Green Zone of Baghdad, on April 12,2007, showed how the resistance-fighters managed to get into the Zone under the garb of the security guard of one of the Members of Parliament. There has been large-scale infiltration of Iraqi security forces, Government departments and other institutions by the resistance fighters and Al Qaeda. It should be easy for them to infiltrate the national contingent from Iraq for the Games. So too in the case of Afghanistan.

5. The Chinese authorities have to address two questions: First, should they allow each national team to bring its own security team? Second, if so, should they insist that the security teams accompanying the national contingents should be from State security agencies and not from private companies? Verification of the antecedents of private companies and their personnel and a strict security control over them could be very difficult.

6. During the current World Cup Cricket tournament in the West Indies, those desirous of bringing their own security teams were allowed to do so. The Indian team was accompanied by a team of the National Security Guards. Despite the tight security arrangements made by the West Indies authorities, an unidentified killer managed to reach the hotel room of the coach of the Pakistani team and allegedly kill him. The local police investigating the case are still groping in the dark. This shows how easily a determined and well-motivated person could infiltrate even seemingly strong security arrangements and commit an act of violence. The Chinese authorities should study the security arrangements made in the West Indies in order to understand how this could have happened.

7. There is seething anger against the Chinese in many African countries due to reasons such as their support to dictatorial, anti-people regimes as in Sudan and Zimbabwe, the import of a very large number of Chinese workers to work in the local Chinese-aided projects and the resulting perceptions of deprivation of jobs for the sons of the soil. This sons of the soil anger against the Chinese could be exploited by mischievous elements to infiltrate the teams from these countries and create incidents during the Olympics.

8.For a spectacular occasion such as the Olympics, collection of precise preventive intelligence regarding security threats would be very difficult. The flow of preventive intelligence would be largely a matter of luck. The only way of ensuring the security of the Games would, therefore, be through very tight physical security. An exercise should be undertaken to visualise various likely scenarios and prepare a phsyical security plan to foil those scenarios and a crisis management plan to deal with the situation if any of those scenarios becomes a reality despite tight physical security. Strict verification of the antecedents of all participants---sportsmen or officials-- is a must.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com )

How it will take US to understand the Mushraf game


M.Mumtaz Khan

How long it will take US to understand the Mushraf, who portrays himself as front ally against terrorism but his close aids from arm and ISI continue to shelter and protect them in Pakistan . First he got his religious political parties elected in two strategically important Provinces which have been sanctuary for extremists and terrorists. By getting MMA elected Mushraf has killed two birds with one stone; first he exonerated himself from being blamed for supporting terrorism since where Taliban and Al-Qaeda are believed to be based or hiding, are under MMA governments. In the center Mushraf by giving MMA reasonable seats, sidelined the genuine political opposition and brought his indirect ally MMA into the opposition for smooth sailing. The victory of MMA in last elections is attributed to the surging anti-US sentiments in those two provinces as arguments are largely advanced by Pakistan officials and US officials but hardly anyone takes serious notice of those factors and forces that facilitated the victory of MMA in Provinces and center; in order to have justification to maintain the support to Taliban and extremist organizations under MMA cover. While, externally he has been successful to translate, all his covert support he rendered to MMA, as perceived serious extremist threat to blackmail US and west, and to show that only Pakistan military is capable of dealing with or neutralizing that threat. US have not been only generous to pour billions of dollars to strengthen Mushraf position and to extract maximum his cooperation against the terrorists. Mushraf has succeeded to convince the Bush administration that if Mushraf loses power, threat of taking over Pakistan ’s nuclear weapons by extremists is very imminent. Under this self serving argument Mushraf has been successful to trigger the fear among US circles of serious extremist threat of taking over Pakistan nuclear weapons. Under the false hope of winning against terrorism with the Mushraf’s help they turned blind eyes to every other social and political aspects, and forces that could have been useful in sidelining extremists politically and socially in Pakistan . Mushraf, government is collection of such people those are widely hated and disliked elements of society including the growing hate against the overwhelming presence of military generals in every walk of life has further undermined the direct appeal to the people against extremists by Mushraf government. While any popular leadership could have been politically very effective to neutralize extremists politically if ISI had stopped backing them and had allowed popular leaderships to participate in the elections. Keeping them out of country and forcing their workers and leaders in pre-and post poll days to change their loyalties were meant to benefit pro-Mushraf forces that directly supported MMA. But If US has had serious interest pushing Pakistan on right direction would have forced Mushraf to bring someone who had public acceptance and had lent him political credibility.

Mushraf, who after 9/11 had no option except to stand with US but never gave up option of supporting Taliban and extremists in Pakistan . Pakistan military and ISI have not only hid them and sheltered them but continued to infiltrate them in Afghanistan and Indian administered Kashmir , though at very small scale in the former in first few years. India criticized US double standard of turning blind eyes toward the infiltration and terrorism, to which India is victim of, while US is busy in praising Mushraf who has not been serious and sincere in rooting out his home grown terrorists and extremists.

US, forced by its own compulsions in Afghanistan pressurized Mushraf to take at least some cosmetic steps to please India . As a result of that Musharf’s announced banning of some extremist groups, promising not allowing his territory to let terrorists use against India , and US finally succeeded to get them agreed on ceasefire. Mushraf, arrested some extremists organizations leaders especially LeT, JeM, the most notoriously terrorists organizations operating from Afghanistan to Kashmir, as cosmetic steps but they remained effective and active in carrying out their activities and operations within Pakistan and across the border freely and openly, only they have to rename themselves.
US primary object was to lessen Indian military pressure from eastern borders on Pakistan that would allow Mushraf to shift his forces to western border to guard the infiltration into Afghanistan from the porous border.

In spite of easing tension between India and Pakistan encouraging further CBMs that eased Pakistan to divert its forces to North West frontiers to help allies in Afghanistan but infiltration didn’t stop. But US despite its intelligence personnel presence in Pakistan, capturing many of important Al-Qaeda leaders and staging some skirmishes in Wazirastan against the Al-Qaeda terrorists, but never renounced his support and sheltering key vital Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan. US underestimated Pakistan ISI’s skill to manage both sides while further equipped them with new technology and skill that ISI was lacking in intercepting internet based information and many other that further helped them to train their extremist elements active in Indian administered Kashmir and Taliban presently demonstrating that skill in Afghanistan. Pakistan, military leaders once called Taliban and extremists organizations as their strategic assets, have not completely abandoned them, and now Taliban and extremists are strategic assets for military to hold on to the power using their threat to keep continue to reap rewards and concessions from US.

The agreement in Wazirastan with Taliban, purportedly claimed to contain their activities across the border but benefited terrorists largely by providing them sanctuary, releasing their arrested carders, paying them bounty and assure them non-interference have increased their influence among the local population which was not inclined to subserve their interests before. But in the wake of agreement, power and authority of Taliban was endorsed by the Pakistan government that shunned every possibility of resistance against them. No matter what Pakistan government have advanced the arguments in its favor to convince the US but this agreement have benefited Taliban and Al-Qaeda by and large; as following increasing attacks in Afghanistan are fully reflective of this fact that how they have spread their political influence beyond the WANA and Wazirastan, as in Bannu, Kohat and other Areas; are continued facing the wrath of their political Islam, threatening video stores, forcing to closure of co-education schools, warning barbers not to shave and closing of English medium schools; recruiting school boys and killing principle, police and civilians those were not cooperating is not happening itself unless state support is rendered.
Now militant Islam is on the street of Islamabad, as largely believed that forces behind recent incident of Jamia hafsa and announcing to implement the shria Law by Imam of Lal Musjid is the handiwork of Pakistan ISI to divert the attention of people’s from serious judicial crisis that has threatened Mushraf’s very basis of the power and upcoming issue of his uniform and presidential elections. Interestingly enough that Imam of Lal Mujid is employee of Pakistan government who draws salary from government ex-chequer and in grade 19 but military ruler is still issuing warning and mediation now is being conducted by Mushraf’s close ally Chaudhry Shujat the government employee, who attacked few women, kidnapped and dragged them in day light to Lal Musjid, kidnapped their police officials, announced sharia Law in Islamabad surprisingly military took no time killing Nawb Akbar Bugti, who was former Chief Minister, Governor, minister and strong political leader, because he was real challenge. The US illusion will soon over to lure Mushraf or Pakistan ISI when in coming days allies will face further serious threat from Taliban. Although presently under the growing US pressure and visit of Cheney they handed over one Taliban leader, which is another indicative of that Pakistan military, has complete access to these wanted elements. As in the past whenever Mushraf traveled to Washington Pakistan handed over the Al-Qaeda leader to Bush administration to provide justification to fill their pockets and continue political support to military rule in Pakistan . Now, military ruler sensed the US priority of defeating Taliban than Al-Qaeda, and handed over Taliban leader to show their utility and indicate that they are still in control of their strategic assets and can use them or abuse them whenever they want to.
Time is crucial for US to make tough decisions about Pakistan if serious to eliminate the threat of terrorism. As 90% terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan whether it is regional or global but Pakistan ’s direct or indirect involvement is somehow was always found in most of the cases. The recent Mushraf action against the Chief Justice and people’s reaction should serve as warning that military is losing its image among the people and coming elections in Pakistan will be benchmark for both US policy toward it and containing the threat of terrorism, and also people will assess US commitment toward democracy and democratic values it always claims to uphold and promote in the Muslim world. These elections will also determine the public perception about the US whether US sincerely interested in seeing democratic and stable Pakistan or wants to use it through military dictators. The idea of winning public support by offering aid in social sector will not make any difference unless US makes clear political choices between supporting democracy in Pakistan or military, no matter how any military dictators poses but he is perceived to be usurper of rights and US support is viewed only to strengthen that dictatorship not to the people. This impression that military is capable of delivering since it wields tremendous political influence in policy making during the civil government too, which is true, but that happens because of US continued support to them. The fight against terrorism has entered into serious phase and future of Afghanistan will determine the future of this region and political influence of US. If US fails in Afghanistan and Taliban or extremists take over then US power and authority will seriously suffer its global image. The aid to military is neither strengthening Pakistan nor liberal forces in Pakistan, and ultimately helps military to hold on to the power. Extremist and religious forces are natural ally of Pakistan military and they will never seriously try to undermine or eradicate their influence.
It is the time that US support the genuine liberal parties, and force Mushraf to let them to return to Pakistan and participate in the coming elections, and meantime it should force him to take action against the homegrown extremists parties. While its continued support to the extremists in the name of Indian administered Kashmir is an excuse to protect these extremists. By showing serious interests in democracy will enhance US image among the people of not only in Pakistan but most of the Islamic countries where US support to dictators is interpreted that US is not serious in democracy in Muslim countries.

 

Executive Director
International center for peace and democracy-ICFPD
Vice Chairman
International Kashmir Alliance-IKA




55 Nugget Ave suite 230 Toronto
M1P 3L1 Canada
Mumtazkhan88@yahoo.com

“The Shock of the Powers” Conference by Economic School of War

To celebrate its 10 years, the Economic School of War (EGE) organized its first international conference on “the Shock of the Powers” on April 13 .


“Shock of Civilizations” with “Shock of the Powers”

Challenges and strategies of the nations

The incipient century is marked by the assertion of the strategies of power. To date universalization generates more threats that concrete promises. This is why the States develop policies of power to maintain a dominant position or to remain competitive on the international scene.

The fourth conference of the Economic School of War underlines contemporary antagonisms geostrategic. It has an objective, to define contours of the new paradigm of the international relations: the shock of the powers.

For further information and to register you: www.lechocdespuissances.com/fr.



“Stakes and evolution of the power”

08h15 - 08h45
Reception of the participants

09h00 - 09h15
Short speech of opening
• Pierre Conesa

09h15 - 09h45
Power the History proof: theories and figures
• Christian Harbulot

09h45 - 10h15
Conditions of the development of the power
• Christophe Réveillard

10h15 - 10h45
National interests and role of Europe
• Wolfgang Reineke

10h45 - 11h15
Pauses

11h15 - 11h45
“Shock of Civilizations” to the “Shock of the Powers”
• Ali Rastbeen

11h45 - 12h15
Stakes and challenges of economic safety
• Thomas Menk


12h45 - 14h00
Lunch pauses (free)


“Which strategies of power?”

14h00 - 14h30
Militarization: Chinese method
• Anh Tiecieng
• Jacques Baudouin

14h30 - 15h00
Power by the influence: the Russian thought
• Victor Perevalov

15h00 - 15h30
Total governorship: American vision
• Charles Cogan

15h30 - 16h00
Operations of information and strategies of power
• Cameron Kerry

16h00 - 16h30
Pauses

16h30 - 17h30
Round table: Panel of strategies in Europe
• António Bessa Marks
• General Carlo Jean

17h30 - 18h00
Virtues of the way of the power
• Michel Guénaire

18h00 - 18h30
Short speech of fence
• Steve Gentili

India has China in its range

written by: Siddharth Srivastava, 13-Apr-07

NEW DELHI - Even as India celebrates the successful test-firing on Thursday of its home-grown Agni-III intermediate-range ballistic missile - capable of delivering a 1.5-tonne nuclear or conventional payload over much of Asia - officials admit that the test had the tacit approval of the United States.

The US is striving to build India as a strategic counterweight to China, along with Japan and Australia.

Last May, during a period of frenzied negotiations on a civilian nuclear deal with Washington, New Delhi postponed testing of the Agni-III so as not to invite the ire of nuclear hawks in the US Congress, which was deliberating the nuclear pact that now stands approved.

According to reports last year, Washington put pressure on New Delhi to agree to a future moratorium on testing of dual-use missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear payload and testing another atomic bomb as a quid pro quo for the civilian nuclear deal.

India, however, rejected such a commitment as a back-door entry to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. India has not signed the CTBT as it feels that the treaty came into existence after those who possessed nuclear weapons had developed the know-how.

Strategic equations have obviously changed now, with a combination of business interests, India's record as a responsible democratic nation, and the China factor coming into play.

Agni-III, given its range of 3,000 kilometers, has been specifically designed to build a minimum nuclear deterrence against China, with cities such as Beijing and Shanghai very much in the radar. Agni-III is said to possess a high degree of accuracy with a medium-to-large nuclear payload.

Beijing reacted immediately to the Indian firing, saying it hoped that India, "as a country with an important influence in this region, can work to maintain and promote peace and stability in the region". Indian officials have said Agni-III is not China-centric, but an effort to build overall security.

India, of course, has traditional rival Pakistan already covered via its Agni-I (700-800km range) and Agni-II (2,000km-plus range) missiles that are now being inducted into the armed forces. As per the agreed norms, New Delhi informed Islamabad about Agni-III prior to the test.

Not to be undone, Pakistan, with help from China and North Korea, is in the process of inducting the nuclear-capable Shaheen-II missile, tested for the first time in March 2004, which can strike Indian targets over a range of 2,000km.

Apart from gaining more security muscle in the region, the success of Agni-III is significant on other counts. The maiden test of Agni-III failed last July 9, so Indian scientists had to work on the technical glitches.

The Agni is one of five missiles that have been developed by India. The others are the short-range surface-to-surface Prithvi, the surface-to-air Trishul (Trident), the multi-purpose Akash (Sky) and the anti-tank Nag (Cobra) missile.

Other benefits
It would seem that India is also now reasonably sure of its acceptance as a nuclear exception among the global community that will allow it to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from the international market. Indian efforts have now moved to turning around nations that form part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), with success on this count. India needs approval from the NSG so that it can implement its nuclear agreement with the US.

Heavyweights France, the United Kingdom and Canada have already backed the deal. The business potential and diplomatic efforts have had important countries such as China and Australia rethink their approach. Those two countries have hinted that they will not be averse to doing nuclear business with India. Russia has already chalked out its nuclear-power engagement with India.

South Africa and Brazil have been co-opted by promises of New Delhi's support in securing business deals and expertise in software and information technology.

Japan has been difficult, but Indian officials are sure that given the massive business opportunities, especially in software to upgrade Japanese companies, and extensive diplomatic efforts, Japan will come around and has already considerably softened its stand. Tokyo is pretty much clued into a US-India-Japan "axis of democracy" to counter the might of China.

Thus the timing of the Agni-III test seems to be right. Politically, the Congress-led New Delhi government has been criticized for being feeble to India's internal and external security threats, because of repeated terrorist attacks and the need to tread carefully in dealing with Beijing.

Given the ongoing detailed negotiations on the nitty-gritty of the nuclear pact with the US as well the benefits of nuclear power that will flow in times to come, it was only prudent for New Delhi to gain a few political points given the immediacy of electoral politics.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the success of the Agni-III missile is an "impressive illustration" of India mastering the strategic high technologies to uphold national security.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist.

Published in: Asia Times

Quote of the day : Brig (r) Saad Muhammad

“The only Central Asian nation that can be worked out for Pakistan’s benefit and still out of Indian influence is Kazakhstan, and Pakistan should launch serious and concerted efforts to establish its economic ties with that nation,”

 Brig (r) Saad Muhammad (Lecture on Afghanistan at the Peshawar University’s Area Study Centre for Russia, China and Central Asia , Daily Times, April 14, 2007)

Analysis on Afghanistan by Brigadier (r) Saad Muhammad

‘Taliban pose no threat to US, NATO presence in Afghanistan’
Staff Report: Daily Times, April 14, 2007

PESHAWAR: Former Pakistani Defence Attaché to Kabul Brigadier (r) Saad Muhammad said on Friday that there was no immediate strategic threat to the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan because of taliban movement in the Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan.

He was delivering a lecture on Afghanistan at the Peshawar University’s Area Study Centre for Russia, China and Central Asia. Former Peshawar University vice chancellor and ex-director of the ASC Professor Dr Muhammad Anwar Khan, Dr Sarfaraz Khan, Dr Zahid Anwar, Dr Shabbir Ahmad Khan and some students participated in the discussion.

Saad Muhammad concentrated on the period from 2003-06, the time when he served as a defence attaché in Kabul, and on several issues with particular reference to Afghanistan, US, NATO, taliban and Pakistan. It was his personal and shared opinion of participants that a peaceful Afghanistan was beneficial for Pakistan and that Pakistan should do away with the policy of appeasing either the Pushtoon or any other specific ethnic groups in Afghanistan for its better future in the region.

He said that if US-NATO forces left Afghanistan today, the Pushtoon taliban would occupy Kabul within a fortnight and could deal with the non-Pushtoon population so brutally that “Changez Khan’s reputation in history will be dwarfed”.

He also discussed the hatred between the Pushtoon and non-Pushtoon segments of Afghan society. He said the non-Pushtoon population was supportive of the foreign troops because of the fear of once again being under Pushtoon domination. He defined the non-Pushtoon support to the US-NATO forces as strategic public support which had confined Taliban movement to hardly eight Afghan provinces - overwhelmingly Pushtoon and bordering with Pakistan.

Saad Muhammad said the rich oil, gas and mineral deposits in the region and the need to contain China and Russia in the region were probably the two most significant reasons for the presence of US-NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In the same context, he said the People’s Republic of China and Russian Federation had adopted a “wait and see policy” vis-à-vis the US-NATO presence in Afghanistan because the US-NATO military operations against the Al-Qaeda and taliban went in favour of both the countries to a certain extent. He added that both countries feared Islamic extremism because of the Islamic Movement in Xingjian, China and the Chechen movement in Russia.

Turning towards Central Asian countries and Pakistan’s role there, he said Indians beyond estimations had penetrated Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. “The only Central Asian nation that can be worked out for Pakistan’s benefit and still out of Indian influence is Kazakhstan, and Pakistan should launch serious and concerted efforts to establish its economic ties with that nation,” he added.

Brig Saad was of the view that it was not possible for US-NATO forces to control Afghanistan’s militarily or fight for an indefinite period in future. The only solution, he said, was to enter into a dialogue process with various segments of Afghan society for stabilising Afghanistan.

A Leadership 'Beyond Repair': Asma Jahangir




The Last Word: Asma Jahangir
A Leadership 'Beyond Repair'
By Asma Jahangir
Newsweek International

April 2, 2007 issue - These are tough times for Pervez Musharraf. Under increasing criticism for his inability to control Islamic militants in the country's tribal areas, the Pakistani president now faces a revolt within his own judicial establishment. For the past two weeks, hundreds of lawyers have staged protests and gone on strike over the president's decision to suspend Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for alleged misuse of his powers. (The charges include nepotism and an excessive fondness for luxury cars and aircraft.) In addition to the demonstrations, eight judges and the deputy attorney general have resigned, raising questions over the future of Pakistan's judiciary—and its leader's grip. NEWSWEEK's Ron Moreau spoke to Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan's foremost Supreme Court lawyers and chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Excerpts:

MOREAU: What is Musharraf's motive for suspending Chaudhry?
Jahangir: Insecure dictators see ghosts everywhere. This is not the first time it has happened. He forced the Supreme Court justices to swear a loyalty oath to him when he came in [via a bloodless coup in 1999.] He's insecure. Not only does he want a pliant judiciary, he wants a totally subservient one. But it's very difficult in 2007 to have that with today's free media and the independent bar.

Musharraf claims that he is only following procedure—that Chaudhry's suspension is standard reaction to the charges against the chief justice.
The president has tried once again to lie and to mislead everybody. His move is not as casual and simple as he puts it. It was obviously preplanned. He claims that placing Chaudhry under house arrest was a tactical error. Yet for two days this "tactical error" continued.

Chaudhry ordered the government to begin looking into the hundreds of so-called Islamic extremists who had been detained and disappeared. Is this a factor in Musharraf's decision?
Musharraf is a very skillful liar, but now he is losing his touch. He says: "I've been very worried about the missing people, too, but what can I do? They are jihadis." He wants the world to feel that these disappeared people are Islamic militants, which is not true. I would say 60 percent to 70 percent on the list of the 141 disappeared people that we have given to the Supreme Court are Sindhi and Baluch nationalists who are secular. And some of these nationalists are well known in the country. They are poets and writers, and their work is secular. They have no connection to jihad, or Al Qaeda or Taliban. Either he's living in denial or is misled. But I think he is just lying.


But Chaudhry ruled that the government should produce the missing people, didn't he?
As far as the missing people are concerned, Chaudhry has not given a single judgment on it. He kept the Human Rights Commission's petition pending for one and a half months. But since we are lawyers of renown, it is very difficult for any judge to kick us around—he had to hear it. But he went at it very slowly. He did give a notice to the government [to act], but he really didn't give a judgment. There was not a single time when he said that those who kept these people should be brought to justice. All he was doing was saying to the government, "Let's find some people." How can any court close its eye to hundreds of people who have disappeared?

Was Musharraf worried that Chaudhry would rule against his retaining a dual role as president and chief of Army staff later this year?
Whether the president can continue to wear his uniform or not was not an issue. We do not think that any judge has that kind of courage, including Chaudhry. We don't think that these judges have gumption or courage.

The police roughed up Chaudhry as he went to his hearing last week.
You even see the chief justice on television being dragged by the hair. It was all over the newspapers and television. It's a violation of human rights. What frightens people the most is that if they can treat a chief justice so shabbily and humiliate him so shamelessly, then nobody is safe. We all feel that we are next in line.

What will happen if the Supreme Judicial Council exonerates and reinstalls the chief justice?
If the SJC restores [Chaudhry] to the bench I don't know if he can perform independently because lawyers are championing his cause. Would a chief justice who comes back riding on the shoulders of lawyers be able to sit on the bench and not be able to think about the fact that he owes his reinstatement to lawyers?

How do you see this ending?
They [the government] probably feel the longer they prolong the proceedings the greater the chance that the movement will eventually fizzle out. My own assessment is that the situation will become defused because lawyers can't stay on strike and keep protesting for months on end. But this government will make another mistake. This government is beyond repair.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17770835/site/newsweek/

Demographic snapshot of US Airforce Personnel

4/10/2007 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNEWS) -- The Air Force Personnel Center here recently published its demographics report offering a snapshot of the service's active-duty and civilian force, as of March 31.

Statistics are rounded to the nearest tenth.

Active-duty demographics

-- 337,780 individuals are on active duty composed of 68,675 officers and 269,105 enlisted Airmen.
-- The Air Force has 13,545 pilots, 4,371 navigators, 1,363 air battle managers and 33,188 non-rated line officers in the grades of lieutenant colonel and below.

Age
-- The average age of the officer force is 35; for enlisted Airmen it's 29.
-- 38.7 percent are below the age of 26, which is 45.3 percent of enlisted Airmen and 12.9 percent of officers.

Sex
-- There are 66,410 women in the Air Force, which is 19.7 percent of the force; 18.2 percent of officers and 20 percent of enlisted Airmen.
-- 59 percent of the female officers are line officers; 41 percent are non-line; 85.4 percent of the male officers are line officers and 14.6 percent are non-line.
-- Women first began entering pilot training in 1976, navigator training in 1977 and fighter pilot training in July 1993. Currently there are 593 (4.1 percent) female pilots, 226 (4.8 percent) female navigators and 164 air battle managers (11.7 percent)

Race
The following percentages covers self-reported racial information:
-- 0.6 percent are American Indian or native Alaskan.
-- 2.3 percent are Asian.
-- 14.8 percent are black or African American.
-- 0.8 percent are native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
-- 74.3 percent are white.
-- 1.6 percent are of more than one of the categories.
-- 5.6 percent declined to report their race.

Ethnicity
"Hispanic or Latino" is now considered an ethnic, not a racial, category that is registered separately and in addition to the above racial categories.
-- 9.1 percent are "Hispanic/Latino."
-- 87.8 percent "not Hispanic/Latino."
-- 3.1 percent declined to respond.

Marital status
-- 60.8 percent of the current force is married, which is 72.6 percent of officers and 57.8 percent of enlisted Airmen. There are 19,597 couples in the Air Force with both spouses in the military; 1,358 of these are married to members of other military services.

Family members

-- Active duty members supported 516,685 family members; 413,159 family members reside in an Airman's household.

Overseas
-- 21.3 percent of Airmen are assigned overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii), which is composed of 10,466 officers and 61,567 enlisted Airmen.

Total active federal military service
-- The average total active federal military service is 11 years for officers and nine years for enlisted Airmen.

Academic education
-- 50.4 percent of officers have advanced or professional degrees; 40.1 percent have master's degrees, 8.9 percent have professional degrees and 1.3 percent have doctorate degrees.
-- 24 percent of company grade officers have advanced degrees; 17.3 percent have master's degrees, 6.5 percent have professional degrees and 0.3 percent have doctorate degrees.
-- 84.8 percent of field grade officers have advanced degrees; 70.1 percent have master's degrees, 12.2 percent have professional degrees and 2.6 percent have doctorate degrees.
-- 99.95 percent of the enlisted force have at least a high school education; 73.5 percent have some semester hours toward a college degree; 16.4 percent have an associate's degree or equivalent semester hours; 4.8 percent have a bachelor's degree; 0.8 percent have a master's degree and .01 percent have a professional or doctorate degree.

Component
-- 99.4 percent of the officers have a regular commission; 99.6 percent of the line officers have a regular commission.

Developmental education
-- 60.1 percent of the officers have completed one or more professional military education or developmental education course either in residence or by correspondence; 8,939 have completed at least one senior service school or senior developmental education course, 13,633 have completed an intermediate level course while 18,675 have completed Squadron Officer School.

Source of commission
-- 19.4 percent of the officers were commissioned through the U.S. Air Force Academy, 43.1 percent through ROTC and 20.8 percent through Officer Training School. The remaining 16.7 percent were commissioned from other sources (direct appointment, etc.).

Civilian employee demographics

Total civilian strength
-- There are 142,447 civilian employees; 76 percent are "white collar" and 24 percent are "blue collar."

Citizenship
-- 133,276 are U.S. citizens including U.S. nationals (9,796 are Air Force Reserve technicians); 9,168 are foreign national employees; and three are other non-U.S. employees in the U.S. or a U.S. territory.

Age
-- The average age is 46.6 years.

Length of service
-- The average length of service is 15.6 years.

Retirement eligibility

-- 24 percent become eligible in more than 20 years.
-- 30.2 percent become eligible in 11 to 20 years.
-- 17.8 percent become eligible in six to 10 years.
-- 18 percent become eligible in one to five years.
-- 8.4 percent became eligible in one to five years ago.
-- 1.7 percent became eligible more than five years ago.

Gender
-- 33.4 percent are female and 66.6 percent are male.

Race
The following percentages cover self-reported Air Force civilian members' racial information.
-- 1.1 percent are American Indian or native Alaskan.
-- 4.8 percent are Asian.
-- 11.7 percent are black or African American.
-- 0.2 percent are native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
-- 70.5 percent are white.
-- 0.2 percent are more than one of the categories.
-- 11.4 percent declined to respond.

Ethnicity
"Hispanic or Latino" is now considered an ethnic, not a racial, category that is registered separately and in addition to the above racial categories.
-- 7.1 percent are "Hispanic/Latino."
-- 92.9 percent are "not Hispanic/Latino."

Overseas
-- 10.8 percent of the total civilian work force are assigned overseas; 40.5 percent are U.S. citizens including U.S. nationals; 59.4 percent are local nationals.

Military service
-- 2.6 percent of civilians are retired officers.
-- 15.4 percent of civilians are retired enlisted.
-- 30.2 percent of civilians have some military service.
-- 51.7 percent have no military service.

Education

White collar
-- 25.4 percent of civilians have a bachelor's degree; 16.9 percent have a master's and 2 percent have a doctorate or professional degree; 24.2 percent have an associate's degree or have accumulated hours toward a bachelor's degree; 28.6 percent have at least a high school education; and 1.2 percent have less than a high school diploma.

Blue collar
-- 4.4 percent have a bachelor's degree; 0.4 percent have a master's degree; 27.3 percent have an associate's degree or have accumulated hours toward a bachelor's degree; 65.7 percent have at least a high school education or equivalent; and 1.8 percent have less than a high school diploma.

Developmental education
-- 5,936 civilian employees have completed one or more military schools; 3,364 have completed Squadron Officer School; 3,292 have completed intermediate developmental education; and 1,545 have completed senior developmental education.

Executive-level training
-- 330 employees have completed executive-level training; 19 Congressional fellowship programs; 276 executive and senior leadership; 27 public administration graduate school; and 12 management graduate school.

New policy protects US Air Force computer networks

by Josh Aycock
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

4/13/2007 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFNEWS) -- A new Air Force policy on encrypting and digitally signing e-mails is now in effect to ensure security and reliability of information as the battle for cyberspace dominance continues.

Officially called the Air Force Public Key Infrastructure Policy on Encrypting and Digitally Signing E-mails, it is designed to combat adversaries' growing attempts at network infiltration and sending barrages of malicious e-mails.

PKI is not simply a program. It is a combination of hardware, software, policies and procedures that allows users to securely send and receive e-mails. Every user has a personal identity on the Air Force network and now has the ability to protect their identity.

Defense Department networks sustain up to six million attacks per day, said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, in a speech given at the 2007 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association SpaceComm conference.

A digital signature is the same as a signature on a piece of paper, they both are legally binding. Digital signatures also assure the recipient of the sender's identity and reaffirm that an e-mail remains unaltered through transmission.

Message encryption assures the sender that only the intended recipient will have the ability to receive and read the message.

"Increased threats and changes in mission needs resulted in our senior leaders recently modifying the Air Force mission to include cyberspace as a viable domain in which to fight and win," said Col. Daniel Blaettler, the Cryptologic Systems Group commander at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "PKI is integral to defending our networks against those threats."

Both digital signature and e-mail encryption are readily available tools and mandatory for network users when conducting official Air Force business through electronic means. The policy defines the criteria when these tools should be used.

Examples of when to use a digital signature include formal direction to a government employee or contractor, messages that stipulate an Air Force official position on any matter and messages that commit to, authorize or deny the use of funds in some manner, according to the policy.

In addition to being digitally signed, e-mail messages that contain sensitive, but unclassified information or mission critical information should also be encrypted with the PKI certificates to ensure confidentiality, according to the policy. Examples include e-mails containing for official use only information, Privacy Act Information or personally identifiable information, according to the policy.

"These are powerful, readily available tools everyone can use to ensure vital Air Force information infrastructure and operations are secure," Colonel Blaettler said.

Operational security can now be practiced by every user with a click of the mouse. After composing a sensitive e-mail users can click on either or both the digitally sign or encrypt e-mail icons located on the e-mail message toolbar in Microsoft Outlook.

"Digital signature and encryption is not just a change in technology, it is a change in culture," said James Pinder, Air Combat Command's core services manager.

For more information on how and when to use PKI visit the PKI Web site at: https://afpki.lackland.af.mil/html/awareness.asp.

Economic Intelligence and Economic Patriotism :Defined

Economic intelligence

“The economic intelligence is an action and way of thinking which consists, for the companies and the territories, to organize the systematic monitoring of their environment, to protect strategic information, to capitalize and develop their knowledge (knowledge and know-how) and to be able to deploy actions of influence. The economic intelligence is made legal and ethical practices. Working on “opened” information known as, it cannot be confused with espionage. It implies a real setting in network of all the actors bus if competence is individual, the intelligence is collective. ”


Nicolas MOINET
Lecturer
Researcher with the CEREGE - Economic Intelligence Team
Director of economic Master intelligence and strategic communication
(economic ex DESS Intelligence and development of the companies)
ICOMTEC - University of Poitiers - Technopolis of Futuroscope


“The economic intelligence gathers the whole of the tools and methodologies which take part legally in the collection, the treatment and the diffusion in an optimal way of decisional information within an organized structure (Undertaken, area, state). It integrates the concepts of minimization of the risks and protection of the inheritance. It takes part in the active positioning of this structure from actions of lobbying and, in fact, is located between the strategic day before of which it takes again the synthetic analyses and intelligence counters it from which it excludes the aspect misinformation. ”

Jean-Pierre BERNAT
Responsible for mission in strategic day before CIRAD
Expert in Information, documentation and strategic day before

Economic Patriotism

“The appearance of economic patriotism in the vocabulary of the French government made flash back with force certain blockings cultural, in particular when it is a question of defining strategic autonomy that a country has the right to assert to ensure its future. It remains much of way to traverse bus with the concept of interest general is added from now on that of the collective interest. By collective interest, we understand the objectives geoeconomic that the political power must define in order to preserve the chances of development of the country. This collective interest which does not have anything a concept Marxist, gives all its direction to economic patriotism. Patriotism is the basic reference mark to approach the complexity of the reports/ratios of cold force of the post-war period. Let us point out the definition of the word fatherland: a community political individuals living on the same ground and bound by a feeling of membership to the same community, in particular cultural and linguistic. Economic patriotism thus defines the framework of development of a country confronted with the appropriatenesses and the threats of the dynamic news of power exits of the universalization of the exchanges. ”

Christian HARBULOT
Principal of War Economic (EGE)
Web site - http://www.ege.fr/

Iran emboldened : Seeks to dominate Middle East politics

Source: Armed Forces Journal

Tehran seeks to dominate Middle East politics
By Peter Brookes

With the creeping possibility of a nuclear breakout, its vigorous sponsorship of international terrorism and its escalating intervention next door in Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a triple threat — at least — to international security and America's Middle Eastern interests. Indeed, perhaps no country fits the definition of rogue state as well as Iran does. Making matters worse, Iran's confidence and clout in the region — and beyond — are indubitably on the rise.

But that is only the beginning. Shiite Persian Iran is not content with being just an inconsequential pariah. Iran has grand ambitions. Tehran wants to be the predominant state in the Middle East, replacing the U.S. as the region's power broker and lording over its Sunni Arab neighbors. With the fall of its most fearsome competitors for regional pre-eminence — Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan's Taliban — Iran is unabashedly reasserting itself on the international stage.

Buoyed by high energy prices, emboldened by continuing American challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, encouraged by consistent, unimpeded progress in its nuclear program and the increased influence of its extremist allies — Hamas and Hezbollah — Iran has its eye on becoming the regional hegemony. If unchecked, Tehran may pull it off.


NUKES 'R' US

While Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian power generation, analysts are deeply skeptical. All indicators — from the lack of the program's transparency to its ties to the prodigious Pakistani proliferator, A.Q. Khan, to its burgeoning ballistic missile program — point in the direction of nuclear weapons, not nuclear power.

Moreover, Iran's continued defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on it to cease the enrichment of uranium — key to both producing nuclear reactor fuel and fissile material for nuclear weapons — has not inspired confidence in Iran's so-called "peaceful intentions."

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says Iran could be involved in industrial-scale uranium enrichment in as little as six months. Tehran, naturally, insists it needs access to the full nuclear fuel cycle, and will only enrich uranium to 4 percent — the level needed for nuclear reactor fuel. (Fissile material used for weapons — highly enriched uranium — is enriched to 90 percent.)

According to the latest intelligence estimates, if unfettered, Iran could be a nuclear weapons state by 2015. A reasonable estimate? Perhaps. But with limited visibility into Iran's nuclear program, it is at best a "guesstimate." Further, it probably also does not take into account the possibility of external assistance from the former Soviet Union or now-nuclear North Korea, with whom Iran has budding ballistic missile ties.

Similarly troubling is the question of whether Iran, as a nuclear weapons state, will involve itself in the dreaded "secondary proliferation," passing its nuclear know-how on to others. Could Tehran's de facto ally, Syria, be the recipient of Iran's nuclear largesse? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed at the U.N. to share Iran's nuclear technology with other Muslim states. Another question: Would Iran put other states under its nuclear umbrella?

These scenarios do not even take into account the regional implications of an Iranian nuclear breakout. In recent months, at least six Middle Eastern Arab states have declared their intention to the IAEA to pursue "peaceful" nuclear energy programs. Suspiciously, one of the six, Saudi Arabia, sits atop 25 percent of the world's known oil reserves. With only 20 million people, Riyadh hardly needs nuclear power. Moreover, the advent of an Iranian bomb would also shoot another hole in the already-leaky Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermining international efforts to limit access to the once exclusive nuclear weapons club.

To get conventional — or nuclear — weapons on target, Iran is developing a prodigious ballistic-missile arsenal, now the Middle East's biggest. Based on the North Korean No-Dong ballistic missile, its Shahab-3 missile can already reach all of the Middle East and Turkey. Tehran is working on another version, the Shahab-4, that can strike into Europe. A longer-range program is also on the drawing board, making Iran's recent claims of a space program set off alarm bells about an intercontinental ballistic missile, which could reach the U.S.

ties to TERRORism

According to the U.S. State Department, Iran continues to be the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism. At the request of senior Iranian leadership, Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) support Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command with funding, training and weapons.

Hezbollah — a Lebanese Shiite terrorist group — is a particular favorite. In fact, Iran established Hezbollah to parry Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Tehran may fund Hezbollah to the tune of $100 million per year. Last summer, Tehran's military support for Hezbollah was evident. Iran likely gave Hezbollah the green light to ambush an Israeli patrol and kidnap soldiers, which ultimately kicked off the monthlong conflict.

In the ensuing days, Hezbollah indiscriminately fired as many as 10,000 Iran-supplied rockets and missiles into Israel. In addition, many were stunned when a C-802 cruise missile struck an Israeli naval vessel off the coast of Lebanon. While the shooter was never identified, the Chinese C-802 is in Iran's inventory. It could have been fired by either Hezbollah or the IRGC.

Today, Hezbollah, with Iranian and Syrian support, is threatening to topple Lebanon's democratically elected government unless it is given additional cabinet seats — potentially giving it veto power over Beirut's decisions. Iran would love to add Lebanon to Syria as a client state in its effort to form an arc of Iranian influence across the region.

Iran has made a number of not-so-veiled threats that it would deploy its irregular forces and terrorist allies against the U.S. and American interests, if necessary. This is likely not an idle threat. American blood is already on the hands of Iran and its terrorist proxies as a result of the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks attack and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and in Iraq today. It is almost without question that Tehran sees its ability to hold U.S. interests at risk across the globe — including in the U.S. — as leverage against American military action over its nuclear program or meddling in Iraq.

Perhaps the most frightening scenario is that Iran might transfer weapons of mass destruction capability to a terrorist ally. While this is risky behavior, it is a possibility. Iran could transfer nuclear capability to a Hezbollah-dominated government in Lebanon, or a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, significantly increasing the threat to Israeli security. Osama bin Laden has not been shy about his desire for WMD or al-Qaida's readiness to use them. The insurgency's recent use of chlorine gas in Iraq is evidence of a terrorist group's willingness to employ WMD.

IRAN IN IRAQ

Despite its insistence that it seeks stability in Iraq, Tehran is providing funding, weapons and safe passage into Iraq for Shiite militias and other militants. Hezbollah is helping with training. The IRGC, MOIS and the shadowy Quds Force are supplying explosively formed penetrators, rocket-propelled grenades, .50-caliber sniper rifles and other weapons to Shiite militias, resulting in nearly 200 U.S. deaths and 700 wounded over the last six months, according to the U.S. military.

Iran is also using "soft power" such as radio, television and the print media to shape Iraqi public opinion, including funding friendly Shiite political parties and promoting pro-Iranian officials in the Iraq government. As with Beirut and Damascus, Tehran would love to bring Baghdad under its political sway, allowing Iran to dominate the heart of the Middle East.

To implement its hegemonic designs, Iran must become the dominant military force in the Persian Gulf. Nuclear weapons only go so far. Iran's conventional forces are large in contrast with other regional militaries, but have limited capability, especially compared with U.S. forces. Most of its equipment is worn, even obsolete, but Tehran has used windfall profits from oil and natural gas exports to modernize its conventional armed forces through equipment upgrades, procurement and a robust military-exercise program. For instance, spending nearly $1 billion, Iran is purchasing the highly capable Russian short-range air defense system, the SA-15 (Tor-M1). But even with ongoing modernization efforts, limitations in command and control, intelligence, electronic warfare, logistics and joint operations will undermine Tehran's dreams of hegemony — at least for the short term.

Iran has also flexed its muscles through military exercises, especially over the last year. It is clear Iran has no intention of taking the U.S. head-on in a military dust-up. Tehran will use an asymmetric strategy, including land- and sea-based ballistic and cruise missiles, missile-equipped patrol boats and mines. Irregular warfare, including suicide attacks, is a certainty. In fact, Iranian exercises have been so aggressive that American commanders are worried an incident could spark an engagement in the Persian Gulf as Tehran edges its war games into busy gulf sea lanes.

Iran has talked about wielding the oil weapon, too, closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil flows. But, in practice, the threat rings a bit hollow. Sure, Iran could slow maritime traffic by mining the six-mile-wide sea lanes of the strait or by attacking international shipping with, for instance, its Kilo-class diesel submarines or Seersucker anti-ship missiles. Expending a large number of assets, it could possibly close the strait to navigation for a few days, a week tops. But there are trade-offs. Iran would certainly unsettle global oil markets and intimidate its oil-producing neighbors. But if it closes the strait, it would have a difficult time getting its own oil and gas to market, hamstringing its fragile economy.

Diplomatic efforts over the past couple of years have yielded little to nothing in terms of moderating Iranian behavior, especially its nuclear program. While punitive economic sanctions would pummel the Iranian economy, already beset by high unemployment and inflation, permanent U.N. Security Council members China and Russia are reluctant to get tough. Russia is building Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr for $1 billion; China is investing $100 billion in Iranian oil and gas over the next 25 years.

NUCLEAR CAT-AND-MOUSE

So what is the prognosis for the near future? Iran is very likely to continue to play a cat-and-mouse game on its nuclear program despite international obligations and pressure. Tehran will continue to flout U.N. resolutions while offering up the possibility of negotiations to end the crisis, which some, especially the Europeans, find attractive. Iran will also continue its involvement in Iraq, being careful to keep its fingerprints off events while working to bring Iraq into its sphere of influence and hastening along an ignominious U.S. defeat and withdrawal.

But don't forget Israel. Even with the current government's weakened state, Israel could decide to take things into its own hands. A strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be more difficult than the one against Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. But an attack against key Iranian nuclear facilities could set the program back years. Iran's Arab neighbors would vociferously protest Israeli aggression for public consumption, but privately breathe a large sigh of relief. Unfortunately, a strike might not end Iran's nuclear ambitions, and there remains the possibility of a wider Israeli-Iranian war, involving Iranian missile and terrorist attacks on Israel.

So is war with Iran inevitable? War is never inevitable. But while conflict with Iran is not a certainty, misperception and miscalculation that lead to war are always a possibility. Dealing with Tehran is nettlesome. This means that while running out other diplomatic and economic sanction options, Washington would be wise to build a regional coalition to contain and deter Iran, and look for opportunities to roll back Iranian influence wherever possible — while keeping the military option squarely on the table.