June 02, 2007

The Secret Government

It aired on PBS in 1987 and is as good as anything on the tape (must see). Moyers is a very respected TV journalist who also worked for Lyndon B. Johnson and has a very professional approach. He interviews many different people involved with the CIA and other government agencies. His documentary gives quite an overview of what has actually happened in the last 50 years regarding the CIA and the cold war (including Iran, Guatamala, Cuba, Viet Nam and Chile). He features such people as Ralph McGeehee and Phil Retinger (both former CIA agents), Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque (Ret. U.S.N.), Theodore Bissell (active in the CIA at the time), Sen. Frank Church and many others. Moyers is so very credible. The full video "The Secret Government" is 90 minutes - this segment is edited by Frank Dorrel to 20 minutes

The Case for Bombing Iran

Norman Podhoretz

June 2007

Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what September 11, 2001 did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war. I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the cold war was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II. Like the cold war, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism, yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of Communism; it is global in scope; it is being fought with a variety of weapons, not all of them military; and it is likely to go on for decades.

What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.

The Iranians, of course, never cease denying that they intend to build a nuclear arsenal, and yet in the same breath they openly tell us what they intend to do with it. Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to “wipe Israel off the map”—a feat that could not be accomplished by conventional weapons alone.

But Ahmadinejad’s ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. If he acquired a nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick.

Nor are Ahmadinejad’s ambitions merely regional in scope. He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this too he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war. And then, finally, comes the largest dream of all: what Ahmadinejad does not shrink from describing as “a world without America.” Demented though he may be, I doubt that Ahmadinejad is so crazy as to imagine that he could wipe America off the map even if he had nuclear weapons. But what he probably does envisage is a diminution of the American will to oppose him: that is, if not a world without America, he will settle, at least in the short run, for a world without much American influence.

Not surprisingly, the old American foreign-policy establishment and many others say that these dreams are nothing more than the fantasies of a madman. They also dismiss those who think otherwise as neoconservative alarmists trying to drag this country into another senseless war that is in the interest not of the United States but only of Israel. But the irony is that Ahmadinejad’s dreams are more realistic than the dismissal of those dreams as merely insane delusions. To understand why, an analogy with World War III may help.


At certain points in that earlier war, some of us feared that the Soviets might seize control of the oil fields of the Middle East, and that the West, faced with a choice between surrendering to their dominance or trying to stop them at the risk of a nuclear exchange, would choose surrender. In that case, we thought, the result would be what in those days went by the name of Finlandization.

In Europe, where there were large Communist parties, Finlandization would take the form of bringing these parties to power so that they could establish “Red Vichy” regimes like the one already in place in Finland—regimes whose subservience to the Soviet will in all things, domestic and foreign alike, would make military occupation unnecessary and would therefore preserve a minimal degree of national independence.

In the United States, where there was no Communist party to speak of, we speculated that Finlandization would take a subtler form. In the realm of foreign affairs, politicians and pundits would arise to celebrate the arrival of a new era of peace and friendship in which the cold-war policy of containment would be scrapped, thus giving the Soviets complete freedom to expand without encountering any significant obstacles. And in the realm of domestic affairs, Finlandization would mean that the only candidates running for office with a prayer of being elected would be those who promised to work toward a sociopolitical system more in harmony with the Soviet model than the unjust capitalist plutocracy under which we had been living.

Of course, by the grace of God, the dissidents behind the Iron Curtain, and Ronald Reagan, we won World War III and were therefore spared the depredations that Finlandization would have brought. Alas, we are far from knowing what the outcome of World War IV will be. But in the meantime, looking at Europe today, we already see the unfolding of a process analogous to Finlandization: it has been called, rightly, Islamization. Consider, for example, what happened when, only a few weeks ago, the Iranians captured fifteen British sailors and marines and held them hostage. Did the Royal Navy, which once boasted that it ruled the waves, immediately retaliate against this blatant act of aggression, or even threaten to do so unless the captives were immediately released? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, using force was the last thing in the world the British contemplated doing, as they made sure to announce. Instead they relied on the “soft power” so beloved of “sophisticated” Europeans and their American fellow travelers.

But then, as if this show of impotence were not humiliating enough, the British were unable even to mobilize any of that soft power. The European Union, of which they are a member, turned down their request to threaten Iran with a freeze of imports. As for the UN, under whose very auspices they were patrolling the international waters in which the sailors were kidnapped, it once again showed its true colors by refusing even to condemn the Iranians. The most the Security Council could bring itself to do was to express “grave concern.” Meanwhile, a member of the British cabinet was going the Security Council one better. While registering no objection to propaganda pictures of the one woman hostage, who had been forced to shed her uniform and dress for the cameras in Muslim clothing, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt pronounced it “deplorable” that she should have permitted herself to be photographed with a cigarette in her mouth. “This,” said Hewitt, “sends completely the wrong message to our young people.”

According to John Bolton, our former ambassador to the UN, the Iranians were testing the British to see if there would be any price to pay for committing what would once have been considered an act of war. Having received his answer, Ahmadinejad could now reap the additional benefit of, as the British commentator Daniel Johnson puts it, “posing as a benefactor” by releasing the hostages, even while ordering more attacks in Iraq and even while continuing to arm terrorist organizations, whether Shiite (Hizballah) or Sunni (Hamas). For fanatical Shiites though Ahmadinejad and his ilk assuredly are, they are obviously willing to set sectarian differences aside when it comes to forging jihadist alliances against the infidels.

If, then, under present circumstances Ahmadinejad could bring about the extraordinary degree of kowtowing that resulted from the kidnapping of the British sailors, what might he not accomplish with a nuclear arsenal behind him—nuclear bombs that could be fitted on missiles capable of reaching Europe? As to such a capability, Robert G. Joseph, the U.S. Special Envoy for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, tells us that Iran is “expanding what is already the largest offensive missile force in the region. Moreover, it is reported to be working closely with North Korea, the world’s number-one missile proliferator, to develop even more capable ballistic missiles.” This, Joseph goes on, is why “analysts agree that in the foreseeable future Iran will be armed with medium- and long-range ballistic missiles,” and it is also why “we could wake up one morning to find that Iran is holding Berlin, Paris or London hostage to whatever its demands are then.”

About the Author

Norman Podhoretz is the editor-at-large of COMMENTARY. His new book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, will be released by Doubleday on September 11, 2007. The present essay, in somewhat different form, was delivered as an address at a conference, “Is It 1938 Again?,” held by the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, City University of New York, in April.

© 2007 Commentary

My Saudi Sojourn

American Enterprise Institute | June, 2007 | Joshua Muravchik

The application for a visa to Saudi Arabia asked for my religion. In inviting me to give some lectures and interviews, the American embassy in Riyadh had already suggested I answer "non-Muslim"--its standard advice to American visitors, I was told. But I did not feel comfortable with this evasion, so I put "Jewish." My visa came through nonetheless.

I was under the impression that Jews were or had been barred from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and once there I asked several Saudis if this was true. Some agreed that the ban had once applied to all Jews, but most denied it, saying that only Israelis were excluded. Among the deniers was Prince Turki al-Faisal, an important figure in the ruling family and a former ambassador to the United States. He cited two examples that he could recall personally: the visits of Rabbi Elmer Berger in the 1950's and Henry Kissinger in the 1970's. Respectful of royalty, I did not reply that, given Kissinger's lofty position in the U.S. government, and Berger's notoriety as the then leading Jewish opponent of the state of Israel, his examples were of mixed import.

I had asked my embassy hosts whether I could bring a prayer book with me; they advised against it, warning that non-Muslim religious articles might be confiscated on arrival. But since I was in mourning for my father and unlikely to find a minyan in Saudi Arabia, my only recourse was to bring prayers and psalms to recite on my own. In the event, my luggage was not searched. Once inside the country, several people suggested that I not leave the book in sight in my hotel room, lest cleaning personnel or covert visitors from the security services report it. I did as advised, and nothing came of the matter.

Just before I departed Washington, a Lebanese friend who manages one of the Arabic satellite television stations had called me with the news that four Frenchmen had been gunned down in the kingdom in an apparently random terrorist attack. "Please be very careful," he admonished. It turned out that the four were not tourists but expatriates who resided in Saudi Arabia, and at least two were converts to Islam. Their stalkers were not interested in discovering any of this. That the men were Westerners had sufficed to seal their doom.

Prior to this warning, I had not thought there would be anything dangerous about my visit, but my concerns were heightened on my first morning in Saudi Arabia when I was taken to the U.S. consulate in Jeddah. The consulate, its grounds taking up a city block, is a fortress surrounded by concertina wire, concrete barricades, and other protective structures. There are reasons for such precautions. In addition to the 1996 attack on the U.S. army barracks in Khobar Towers near the eastern city of Dhahran, other, less well remembered attacks have been mounted against Americans or American facilities. In one, the Jeddah consulate was stormed and four foreign nationals who worked there were slaughtered. Only a well-placed shot by a Marine guard that felled the leader of the terror band prevented the death of many more.

Thus, the first briefing I received was about security. The five days that I was to spend under the direct auspices of the embassy were not at issue; diplomats familiar with security routines would accompany me, and we would always travel in armored U.S. diplomatic vehicles. But I planned to stay on for another week to meet more Saudis and do my own research. For that period, my briefer offered a series of rules designed to make me careful "but not paranoid." Some were easy to follow; others were not. "Try to avoid taxis," he said. "We'd prefer you not travel in thin-skinned vehicles." I imagined asking the hotel concierge to call me an armored car.


After a few days, and despite the warnings, I came to feel at ease. I had had the experience on other trips of arriving in Egypt, Israel, or the Palestinian territories right on the heels of terrorist events. To a visitor such acts are not only appalling but also always frightening, even if there is a greater likelihood that one will become a random victim of reckless drivers than of terrorists. Saudi Arabia has more than its share of the latter, but it has even more of the former--the result, I conjectured, of too many young men with too much access to money and too little access to other worldly thrills. The newspapers during my stay carried stories of suicidal motorcycle daredevils and homicidal drag races and other automotive antics; on a couple of occasions I caught glimpses of such near-mayhem on the road. A Saudi woman who advocates women's rights quipped to me: "I would like to be able to drive here once Saudi men learn how to drive better."

If I did not find the country exceptionally scary, I did find it rather bleak. To begin with, alcohol was entirely absent. I had read that Christopher Hitchens secreted a bottle of booze into the kingdom in his luggage. I might have tried the same, but having put a higher priority on my prayer book, I figured that two items of contraband would have pressed my luck.

Then there were the women, all of whom were draped in black abayas from neck to toe. Above the neck, here and there, a bold individual exposed her face beneath the hijab hiding her hair, but most had their faces covered. Of these, the more liberal had a slit through which one might see their eyes or from which their glasses protruded, while the more conservative peered out at the world through the black material that shrouded them totally. For me, beer or wine with dinner and the chance to admire the beauty of women are among life's quotidian joys; I missed them.

In addition, the land is flat and dry, the architecture functional (apart from the occasional gilded palace), the arts undeveloped, music minimal. The religious authorities frown upon most forms of joy outside the joys of faith itself, and this dourness suffuses things. The most visible form of self-indulgence is sweets. That is common enough in the Arab world, but whereas elsewhere in the region I have seen plentiful baklava, in Saudi Arabia, with its odd mixture of traditional ways and American influence, every city block seems to boast a Dunkin' Donuts or some rival outlet.

Not all Saudis are salafis, as Muslim puritans are known. (We often call them Wahhabis.) But the country is bathed in ascetic religiosity, of which the shrouding of women and prohibition of alcohol are only small parts. Saudi schoolchildren spend one-third of their classroom time on religious studies. The business sections of newspapers tout "shari'a-friendly" investments. Each day's papers also prominently list the times for the five obligatory daily prayers. A sixth, at night, will earn the believer extra credit in the beyond. Although not everyone worships so dutifully, shops close at prayer time and people cease working. During one such appointed hour in Jeddah, I was in a restaurant that promptly closed its doors to new customers while the whole staff (and some diners) gathered in an unobstructed area to perform their devotions.

Saudis stay up extremely late. I speculated that this might have to do with the constant consumption of coffee at times of the evening when a Westerner might be imbibing a beverage with sedative properties. But an American who lived there offered a different explanation: daytimes were so broken up by prayer that only after nightfall could Saudis easily accomplish anything that required several uninterrupted hours of attention.


The six specified daily times are not the only occasions for praying. On Saudi Airlines, on which I hop-scotched around, each takeoff was preceded by a male voice on the sound system intoning a passage that commenced with the customary "Allahu akhbar, Allahu akhbar, Allahu akhbar." The flight from Riyadh to Jeddah featured yet another prayer. As the metropolis nearest Mecca and Medina, Jeddah is the jumping-off point for pilgrimage to the holy cities. The flights I took en route to that city were partially filled with men and boys dressed only in two white cloths, most often bath towels, one covering the lower and one the upper portion of their bodies--symbols of their immersion in the unworldly spirituality of the hajj. A chorus of prayer erupted when the pilot announced that we had crossed the irregular, imaginary perimeter (ranging from 14 to 300 kilometers) surrounding the kaaba, the holy structure at the center of Mecca. "Mecca and Medina are so beautiful," said the handsome young crewman who explained all this to me. "You must see them." "But I am not a Muslim," I replied, alluding to the fact that non-believers are barred from these cities. He gave me a look of earnest kindness and said: "Then I will pray that you will be a Muslim."

It was in Mecca that the prophet Muhammad was born and in Medina that he established his capital. They are the twin birthplaces of Islam, which itself lies at the center of Saudi identity. At the National Museum in Riyadh, one wends through dimly lit rooms that display the early history of the land until, ascending an escalator, one is greeted by light that grows progressively and dramatically brighter as the narrative reaches the birth of the prophet. But if the coming of Islam remains the defining historical event for Saudis, a second historical episode is reshaping their country's identity. This is the confrontation with modernity, a collision, powered by oil wealth, that has occurred at a greater speed than anywhere else that I have ever visited.

The National Museum shows photos and video footage of Abdel Aziz al-Saud uniting the peninsula under his rule by conquest in the 1920's and 30's, forging the state we know today. From the pictures of nomads and tents and camels, one cannot but be struck by how little, apart from the advent of fire arms, appears to have changed from the time of the prophet until that moment.

Even today, Saudi traditions remain extremely insular. The exclusion of Israelis (and once, apparently, Jews) was just part of a bigger picture. Until a year ago, Saudi Arabia did not issue standard tourist visas. Historically, the only foreign visitors to reach the kingdom in large numbers were pilgrims. Much insularity remains within as well. The Shiites who constitute an estimated 10 percent of the Saudi population are largely segregated geographically (in the eastern regions) and to some extent socially and professionally. A leading liberal declared to me un-self-consciously that he believed in the equal dignity of all: "Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Shiites."


These are the veils of isolation that were pierced by the discovery of oil in 1938 and that in the last four decades have been shredded by the avalanche of wealth that has generated an intense demand for foreign labor. A Saudi economist who briefed me estimated the country's population at 17 million Saudis and 6 million foreign workers. The foreigners include Westerners who fill skilled positions in management and technology and Asians or other third-world immigrants, sometimes illegal, who perform less skilled jobs. As a result, English is the lingua franca, spoken widely in the cities, and the country boasts two good English newspapers, the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, each replete with help-wanted notices.

Despite the mixed work force, the country is no melting pot. Foreign workers generally cannot bring their families with them. Ihsan, a Pakistani cab driver sporting a white robe, skull cap, and long beard told me that he worked in Riyadh eight months a year and then returned for the balance to his home in Peshawar--"where lots of Taliban are," he added with a laugh. He has no education, but, he said proudly, a son of his was in medical school in Karachi. A few other cab drivers told me they did not like the way Saudis treated them, and there were stories in the papers about the mistreatment of foreign household help.

The flood of foreign workers is matched by the influx of foreign cultural artifacts. The cities are sprawling, their centers made up of modern buildings bristling with satellite dishes. The wide roadways throb with the engines of BMW's, Mercedeses, Lexuses, and Harleys. In a newspaper that lengthily parsed Qur'anic teachings on the role of women, and where one could read advertisements by parents seeking husbands for their daughters, I opened to a center spread of gossip about Paris Hilton's legal problems, Angelina Jolie's travels, Christie Brinkley's surgery, and Beyoncé's appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. At a shopping mall in Riyadh, women could buy Gucci and Ferragamo fashions to wear beneath their abayas--at least, when the stores were not closed for prayer. The food court sported Cinnabon, McDonalds, Baskin-Robbins, Cheesecake Factory, Annie's Pretzels, Little Caesar's, Subway, London Fish & Chips, Hotdog Express, something Tex-Mex, and of course Dunkin' Donuts. Outside there was a huge bowling alley.

"American culture," I joked self-deprecatingly to Ihsan, my cabbie from Peshawar, as we stopped for a light next to an enormous set of McDonald's golden arches. "I do not like McDonald's," he said solemnly. "Nor do I," said I. "I like KFC," he explained.


Foreign imports include not only cars, fast food, and Hollywood gossip, but also scientific knowledge. While I was there, the King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh boasted of a record five organ transplants in a single day, and the King Abdel Aziz University Hospital in Jeddah hosted a conference on "sex-correction" surgery (for inherited abnormalities only, as news accounts were at pains to point out). Regarding education, it was reported that "academic leaders from ten of the world's top science and research universities" had been retained to help design a new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology now under construction. Also during my stay, the creation of the King Abdullah Prize in translation was announced, to be awarded separately in the sciences and the humanities.

The pace of Westernization is of course uneven. Once, when I asked for directions, I was told that my destination was on a certain street near another street: "We haven't yet gotten to putting numbers on our buildings." Still more uneven is the pace of cultural change. Corporal punishment is still practiced in the kingdom in the name of Islamic law. Although I did not choose to visit "chop-chop square" in Riyadh, where public hangings and mutilations take place, the papers reported enough floggings to satiate the Marquis de Sade. For the most part, I learned from a local journalist, Saudi criminal law specifies no punishments, leaving the matter entirely to the wisdom of judges. Some are draconian, while others are experimenting with the idea of community service for minor crimes. (Since almost no private voluntary organizations are allowed in Saudi Arabia, this takes the form of mosque-cleaning.) A highly publicized charity run by a member of the royal family works to free murderers on death row by securing forgiveness from the families of the victims, often in exchange for the traditional monetary restitution.

Even more profound than the import of foreign technologies is likely to be the effect of study abroad by Saudi nationals. Despite the tightening of U.S. visa procedures after 9/11, 15,000 Saudi students are currently enrolled in U.S. universities (according to our embassy). Many others are in Europe. A young man named Khaled told me that he had studied at a small school in St. Louis, where after an initial bout of homesickness he gradually fell in love with the American way of life. After his studies were finished and his student visa had expired, he stayed on, having decided to become an American by hook or by crook. Then came 9/11, and he was picked up in a sweep. A neighbor whom he had befriended, an elderly secular Jew, knocked on official doors on his behalf, and after three weeks, satisfied that Khaled constituted no threat, the authorities released him, giving him time to put his affairs in order and buy himself a ticket home. "My greatest fear," he told me, "was that I would not readjust to Saudi life."

After our interview, Khaled invited me to visit his home. "My father would love to meet you. He is a neocon," he said. I asked what it meant to be a Saudi neocon, and Khaled replied: "He supports you guys." A few days later, taking him up on the invitation, I headed off to an older, poorer section of Riyadh for the Saudi equivalent of cocktail hour. My cab driver was guided via cell phone to a landmark, where Khaled met us in his pick-up and led us the rest of the way. Once there, he took me into the majlis, a square room in the outdoor courtyard, lacking furniture except cushions along the walls to make sitting on the floor comfortable.

The standard fare at these pre-dinner sittings is dates, tea, and Saudi coffee--tannish green and heavily laced with cardamom; but Khaled had graciously thought to stop for doughnuts and American-style coffee as well. His father, a retired customs clerk who spoke no English, presented me with a gift of a string of white prayer beads. Other male relatives arrived, one of whom regaled me with memories of "the happiest three-and-a-half years of my life" when he studied engineering at a New England college. In deference to his elders, Khaled shrank into a corner and kept mostly silent. Not once did I spot a female family member. As I left, Khaled translated his father's farewell wish that I learn Arabic so that next time we could talk with each other.

Such meetings brought home the way in which Saudi Arabia is like a vast battleground between antiquity and modernity--a battle conducted more on the personal than on the political level. The enforcers of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, called the mutawa or mutawa'een, roam the streets and the malls, spying out derogations from the country's strict code of morals and decorum. Young people, and others, push against the restraints. A woman journalist told me she was working on a story about fashions in abayas, which were starting to appear with embroidery and shapes suggestive of the female figure. Diplomats told me that if invited to a Saudi home for dinner, they felt obliged to bring wine, available in the diplomatic quarter and much appreciated outside it. Although many families still select spouses for their children, young Saudis maneuver to meet members of the opposite sex. Every restaurant and café has separate seating areas for men and women, but youngsters get around this through text-messaging. Boasting of his adeptness at recognizing various makes and models of cell phones, a young man explained to me how, after launching a conversation by text-message, he would scan the women's section and quickly figure out which girl he was flirting with by identifying her phone.


Cell phones are not the end of it. In the Arab News I read an exposé of the "widespread problem" of "schoolgirls and female university and college students playing truant and hanging out at coffee shops, shopping malls, restaurants, and hotel foyers to meet boyfriends and flirt with men." Newsstands carry the slick English-language magazine Arabian Woman, modeled after American glamor magazines. (There is also Arabian Man.) Much less flesh is displayed, and the whole is far less steamy than its American equivalents, but the subject matter is the same. Although published in Dubai, a more liberal place, the magazine is sold and advertised freely in Saudi Arabia. One issue, featuring a "regional report" on the decline of pre-marital virginity, contained this passage:

As teenagers enter into high school, many of them find it difficult to preserve their chastity. Remaining a virgin until marriage is neither an easy nor common choice in schools or colleges in this region. Deena, a 16-year-old Yemeni student in Sharjah, UAE (United Arab Emirates), shared her first sexual experience . . . "One night, when I met Ali at our regular building terrace, he began joking about taking our physical relationship to the next level. At first I was nervous and embarrassed. I mean, although I had discussed oral sex with my friends before, I didn't really know that much about it. But almost everyone in school was having a physical relationship with their partners. So it didn't seem wrong. . . . Immediately I regretted doing it, but when I got to school most kids were pretty supportive and said that everyone did it. At least I hadn't lost my virginity."

No doubt this portrait, assuming it is accurate or representative, depicts life in one or more of Saudi Arabia's more permissive neighboring countries. Still, Saudis who read it were not learning about the infidel West but about their Muslim Arab cousins. The impact is not difficult to imagine.

As for homosexuality, although same-sex acts can be punished by death, a recent article in the Atlantic claims that homosexual behavior is in fact widespread in Saudi Arabia, but that it does not necessarily signify gay identity. Because contact with the opposite sex--especially in private--is so difficult, people are more likely to have same-sex experiences. One young man is quoted as saying: "It's a lot easier to be gay than straight here. If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions. But if I have a date [with another male] upstairs, and my family is downstairs, they won't even come up." Arab friends from other countries have told me that, at least according to legend within the Arab world, homosexual experiences are common among Saudis of both sexes. To my surprise, one blogger whom I arranged to meet displayed the familiar mannerisms suggesting both that he was gay and that he wanted others to know it.

Although the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice remains a potent force, it also seems on the defensive, perhaps the blowback from a notorious episode in 2002 when a fire broke out at a girls' school in Mecca. Because the girls were not properly scarved, they were blocked by some mutawa'een from exiting the building, and fifteen perished. During my visit, the Arab News carried a long interview with one of the heads of the commission in which he stressed the humanitarian nature of his organization and endeavored to dismiss what he said were false beliefs about its abuse of citizens. At the Riyadh International Book Fair, which happened to coincide with my visit, the exhibits had to be approved by a government ministry, but not, as was the case last year, by the mutawa'een. Interestingly, one die-hard fundamentalist was arrested at the fair for impersonating a mutawa and trying to censor "un-Islamic" items.


On the political level, Saudi Arabia remains one of the least free countries in the world. But here too the situation is not static. In annual Freedom House surveys, Saudi Arabia has always ranked among the ten or so countries scoring a rock-bottom 7.0. In last year's report, for the first time, Saudi Arabia climbed out of this "worst of the worst" category to score a 6.5. According to Freedom House, the change was based on an improving atmosphere of academic freedom.

Reforms in governance are modest in the extreme. A new rule has been promulgated specifying the procedure for selecting the crown prince. Succession has always entailed internecine politics within the sprawling royal family, but now the process will be formalized. The Shura council, entirely appointed by the king and not empowered to make law, has begun to conduct hearings at which government ministers are subjected to questioning. Municipal elections were held in 2005, albeit for only a restricted share of seats in bodies with limited authority.

Yet the progress in freedom of expression was greater than I expected. True enough, I read no criticism whatsoever of the royal family or the basic system of government. And the English papers I read were probably freer than the Arabic press. But they did keep up a drumbeat of criticism on the subject of women's rights. They also carried investigative reports and stories of societal self-criticism. Their opinion pages offered a range of views, mostly from American and British sources. And even their news coverage of Israel, to my surprise, could be reasonably fair. (For reasons one can guess, the Arab News often ran headlines biased against Israel atop stories that were objective and balanced.)

Then there is the Internet. Websites can be censored. (A spokesman for the commission insisted that 95 percent of the blocked sites are pornographic and only 5 percent are political.) I made my way to one censored site and found a one-line message announcing the blockage and also two links. You could click one link to send a message arguing that the site should not be blocked, and you could click the other to volunteer the URL's of additional sites that you felt needed to be blocked. Of course, by clicking either one you would be informing the mutawa'een that you had attempted to visit a forbidden site.

The Internet has also given rise to bloggers, perhaps a bit tamer than elsewhere but still with a great deal of independence. The one blogger who has most aroused the wrath of the authorities goes by the handle "Saudi Eve," and what has gotten her in trouble is frank discussion of her love life. Yet in contrast to Egypt, where several bloggers have been incarcerated and one has been sentenced to a four-year term, the Saudi government has struck at offenders only by temporarily blocking their sites. As Saudis are increasingly switching to satellite Internet providers, the government will find it technically difficult to exert this kind of censorship.

During my visit, the hottest controversy pitting modernizers against ultra-traditionalists concerned a married couple whom a Saudi court had divorced in absentia and against their will. The wife's family had petitioned for the ruling on the grounds that, in asking for her hand, the groom had falsified his tribal identity in order to cover his lower social standing. Following the ruling, the wife refused to return to her parental home and was clapped in jail, where she languished along with one of the couple's two young children. The husband had gone into hiding with the other child. The case brought into bold relief the enduring grip of primitivism, but also undeniably evoked harsh and outspoken public criticism.

In another clash I observed, some modernizers lined up with primitivists against a world-famous architect named Sami Angawi. Educated in Texas, Angawi is a native of Mecca and a hereditary mutawuf (not to be confused with mutawa). Mutawufs serve as hosts and guides in Mecca and Medina for foreign Muslims making the hajj. Angawi is also a Hashemite, meaning a descendant of the prophet, and a devout Sufi Muslim. During the days I spent with him, he did not miss any of the obligatory prayers, although we were mostly in his home and not in view of anyone else. His speech is peppered with allusions to Allah and the prophet and the Qur'an, and during pauses between bits of conversation he often seemed to be reciting prayers under his breath.

Thanks to his background, plus his training in architecture, Angawi has devoted most of his professional life to the preservation of Mecca. The city is under severe strain from the increasing number of Muslims around the world who can afford to make the pilgrimage. Saudi businessmen and officials have collaborated to meet the rising demand for new infrastructure, which has sometimes been built at the cost of historically significant mosques, other buildings, and natural landmarks. The debate between developers and preservationists, familiar enough everywhere around the world, takes on a special twist in Saudi Arabia. The salafis are fanatic against (among other things) idolatry, which they see as lurking in human attachment to almost any physical thing, even in the veneration of an ancient mosque. So they throw their weight on the side of the developers. The very fact that Muslims wish to preserve something is, to them, a reason for its destruction.


I was warmly received everywhere in Saudi Arabia, though I always identified myself as a Jew and as a neoconservative. The latter term, much as at home, has become a buzzword throughout the Arab world for everything disliked about U.S. policy. (An interviewer for an Islamist news organization in Egypt once put it to me: "‘neoconservative' sounds to our ears like ‘terrorist' sounds to yours.") But Arabs value politeness, and to avoid confrontation they often say, "We like the American people, just not your government." I always tried to block this retreat from controversy by asserting that I was one of those Americans who supported the very policies of my government that Arabs were angry about. Nonetheless, interviews with me in the Saudi media were respectful, fair, and accurately reported.

At my talks, people argued with me sharply, but invariably finished by saying that they were grateful to have gained a better understanding of American views. Since freedoms of speech and assembly are severely constrained, some of my talks took place in private homes. At one such salon, with a large and relatively heterogeneous group in attendance, I was pressed about why it was legitimate for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not Iran. One man, bedecked in white robes and brandishing a carved walking stick and a gold tooth, described Israel as a "cancer" made up of the "garbage of Europe." I told the group that this man personified Israel's reason for wanting nuclear weapons: it alone faced neighbors opposed to its existence. For the rest of the evening I pounded on the guy, and when it was over he smiled, laughed, apologized, and told me he had not really meant what he said.

This anecdote bears on the larger change taking place in the kingdom's external role. Although the royal family has long used its great wealth and its religious prestige to influence international affairs, it has mostly preferred to play behind the scenes. Now it is asserting itself more publicly, mediating among Lebanese factions, brokering the deal that allowed Hamas to form a Palestinian coalition government without accepting Israel's existence and without renouncing violence, and reviving the "Arab peace initiative" toward Israel. Influential Saudis pleaded with me to encourage U.S. support for this initiative in order to strengthen King Abdullah, who they insisted was a true reformer and peacemaker, and to seize an opportunity that might otherwise pass.

This is a long way from the former assertion of Saudis that theirs would be the last country to make peace with Israel. The reaffirmation of the proposed deal with Israel at the recent Riyadh summit is likewise a long way from the Arab League's suspension of Egypt's membership in 1978 as punishment for having signed a peace treaty with Israel, let alone from the famous "three no's" proclaimed by the league in 1967: "no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel." The first and third "no's" have been jettisoned. What remains murky is the status of the second, namely, whether the league is ready to negotiate with Israel about the terms of its proposal. If not, then the proposal remains little more than a posture. In this connection in particular, the argument that the opportunity may pass left me cold. If there is real readiness for peace, then the moment will not pass. A durable peace must rest on a durable willingness for peace.

Indeed, despite all the appeals I received for American support for Abdullah, the king went out of his way at the summit to rebuke the U.S. for its "illegitimate occupation" of Iraq. This, on the heels of his Palestinian mediation that stymied U.S. diplomacy by favoring Hamas, has led American officials to wonder what he is up to. I do not know the answer, but the contradictions of the king mirror the contradictions evident in his kingdom.


Thus, although every one of my interlocutors responded in a friendly manner to my professions of Jewishness, I did have to secrete my prayer book, and demonization of Jews is still to be found in the Arabic news and entertainment media and in school curriculums. The editor-in-chief of the Arab News, the paper I so enjoyed reading, penned a magazine essay elsewhere parroting the childish semantic argument that "Arabs can't be anti-Semites" because they are "themselves Semites." Then he took it a step further, arguing that since Ashkenazi Jews are not really Semites but Europeans, and since they persecute Arab Palestinians, it is the Israelis themselves who are the true "anti-Semites."

To cite another example, I was gratified to see the word "terrorist" used freely in the Saudi media and to see terrorists described harshly; but in each case the reference was to attacks perpetrated within Saudi Arabia itself. A U.S. diplomat told me that our government began to get much better anti-terror cooperation from Saudi officials after some al-Qaeda types tried to blow up the ministry of the interior. Nonetheless, I read several diatribes claiming that the U.S. uses "terrorism" as an excuse for its nefarious policies in the region and heard various expressions of support for "resistance" to occupation by Iraqis and Palestinians.

Finally, despite the flood of Saudi students to American campuses, their country--like the rest of the Arab world--remains awash in conspiracy theories and wild rumors, and is sadly deficient in the skills of reality-testing. One educated Saudi bewailed America's alleged decision to double its aid to Israel; tracking the story, I found that Israel had begun negotiations with the State Department over its request for a 2-percent increase. Another Saudi told me of the Mossad's attempt to blow up the Mexican congress; when I replied that I did not believe such an event could have taken place without its having been reported in the American news media, he assured me that the story had been suppressed in America although widely known everywhere else. Invited to contribute to a prestigious journal published by a think tank in the foreign ministry, I was given a sample copy; the cover story argued that "the West cannot live without an ‘enemy,' whether real or made up" and that it was therefore "appropriate for the American administration, and also for the Zionist project, that it should exploit the September 11 events to the maximum extent possible, in order to give Islam and Muslims a bad name."

Once back home, I received an e-mail from Prince Turki bidding me to "come back again, with your family and friends." For my part, based on twelve days of observing this once-forbidden and still most distant of lands, I would be eager for another visit. My wife and daughters will not want to accompany me until they can go around without having to don abayas.

Joshua Muravchik is a resident scholar at AEI.

AFGHANISTAN:Re-Assessing the Taliban's 2007 Offensive

Dr. Brian Glyn Williams
Associate Professor of Islamic History, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Glen Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
The Jamestown Foundation
1111 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

A new phase appears to be opening in Afghanistan--not the much awaited "spring offensive" of the Taliban, nor the "normalization" hoped for by the Afghan government and NATO forces. Rather, an atmosphere of apprehension and insecurity has cloaked the war-torn country, as Taliban fighters are embedding themselves among the locals in rural villages and a new wave of suicide bombing has sent ripples of uncertainty across the country.

Having just returned from his third research expedition to Afghanistan, The Jamestown Foundation is pleased to host Dr. Brian Glyn Williams for a lecture on the Taliban's "spring offensive" and the West's battle for the "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan. His most recent field work, which was designed to coincide with the Taliban's heralded spring offensive, focused on Taliban suicide bombings and terrorism. He will also discuss the roles of the warlords, al-Qaeda, Iraq and Western political and military responses to the mounting Taliban insurgency. Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and a regular contributor to Jamestown's Global Terrorism Analysis program.

As space is limited, reservations are required. Please e-mail your name and affiliation to: rsvp-jun5@jamestown.org.

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg : Govt of India issued Postal Stamp

Government of India issued a POSTAL STAMP in the name of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, with his photo. This casted some distaste among hindu groups who oppose Evangalisation , just as jews in Israel. So who is Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (June 10, 1682 - February 23, 1719) was a member of the Lutheran clergy and the first Protestant missionary to India.

He answered the call of King Frederick IV of Denmark for clergy who would spread the Gospel in India . On July 9, 1706, Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau arrived in the region of Tranquebar, thus becoming the first Protestant missionaries to arrive on the Indian sub-continent. The two labored intensively, despite opposition from the local Hindu and Danish authorities in Tranquebar, baptizing their first Indian converts on May 12, 1707.

Exposing Pope : Pakistani Ambassador Vs Indian Ambassador

When the Indian Ambassador to the Vatican presented his credentials, he received an aggressive homily about 'persecution of Christians in
India'. When the Pakistani Ambassador did so, there is submissiveness.Wonder what kind of message is given to the Hindus?
--Ashok Chowgule

Pope's Address to Pakistani Ambassador
"Work Tirelessly for Peace, Justice and a Better Future"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2007 (Zenit.org). - Here is the text of a talk Benedict XVI gave today to Ayesha Riyaz, the new ambassador to the Holy See from Pakistan, upon receiving her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It gives me pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as I accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my greetings to His Excellency President Pervez Musharraf, and to the government and people of your nation. I am confident that the spirit of cooperation that has marked our diplomatic relations for over five decades will continue to promote the fundamental values which serve to uphold the inherent dignity of the human person. I
would also ask you to extend affectionate greetings to the Catholic faithful in Pakistan and their Bishops and to assure them of my fervent prayers for their well-being.

You have rightly highlighted our common goal of fostering peace and justice in the world to secure a better future for mankind. This can only be accomplished when there is genuine cooperation between peoples, religions and nations. In this regard, the Holy See appreciates Pakistan's commitment to work together with the international community to bring greater stability to your region and to protect innocent lives from the threats of terrorism and violence. The road to national and
international security is long and difficult. It takes great patience and resolve. Notwithstanding the obstacles encountered along the way, all efforts to keep open the pathway to peace, stability and hope should be encouraged and promoted.

The people of Pakistan know only too well the suffering caused by violence and lawlessness which, as Your Excellency correctly noted, lead to destabilization. The principles of democracy assure the freedom to express political opinions publicly in a variety of ways. This right should always be exercised responsibly so that civil order is maintained and social harmony protected and fostered. I know your government is aware that the roots of political unrest and agitation within your
borders must be addressed, and ways of sustaining civic and democratic institutions must be strengthened. In this way, national solidarity is enhanced, and peaceful ways of reconciling differences are encouraged.

One such step your country has taken in this direction is exemplified in your recent electoral reforms, which are aimed at facilitating the full participation of all citizens, including those belonging to minority groups. I would also like to acknowledge recent legislative decisions in Pakistan aimed at eliminating unjust forms of prejudice and discrimination against women. Pakistan has always placed a high value on education. Good schooling not only attends to the cognitive development
of children, but the spiritual as well. Led by their teachers to discover the uniqueness of each human being as a creature of God, young people will come to recognize the dignity common to all men and women, including those belonging to cultures and religions different from their own. In this way, the civil life of a nation matures, making it possible for all citizens to enjoy the fruits of genuine tolerance and mutual respect.

A robust democratic society depends on its ability to uphold and protect religious freedom -- a basic right inherent in the very dignity of the human person. It is therefore essential to safeguard citizens who belong to religious minorities from acts of violence. Such protection not only accords with human dignity but also contributes to the common good. During an era in which threats against religious freedom are becoming more ominous throughout the world, I encourage Pakistan to bolster its efforts in securing freedom for people to live, worship, and perform
works of charity according to the dictates of their conscience and with immunity from intimidation. There is in fact an inseparable bond linking the love and worship of Almighty God with love and service toward one's neighbour ("Deus Caritas Est," 16). Pakistan witnessed such charity in action in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake that struck your nation in 2005, when many organizations, including the Catholic Church, helped relieve the suffering of those affected by this natural disaster. The Catholic Church continues to play an important role in providing
education, health care, and other charitable services to all your citizens, regardless of religious affiliation.

I wish to conclude by expressing my deep respect and admiration for the religious heritage that has inspired the human development of your country, and continues to animate its aspirations for greater peace and mutual understanding. Christians and Muslims both worship the One God, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. It is this belief that moves us to unite minds and hearts as we work tirelessly for peace, justice, and a better future for mankind.

Be assured that the various departments of the Roman Curia stand ready to offer their services to help achieve these noble goals. As you carry out the duties entrusted to you, I extend to Your Excellency my sincere wish that your public service will bear much fruit. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

[Original text in English]

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Brahmins In India

Snapshot of a community: population per state - the rich, the poor and the educated...


Total Population: 5.6 crore
Poor Brahmins: 13%
Rich: 19%
Literacy levels above the age of 18: 84%
Graduates: 39%
Brahmin chief justices between 1950 to 2000: 47%
Associate justices between 1950-2000: 40%

Down in the Cow-belt

Falling percentage of Brahmin MPs elected in the Hindi belt

1984: 19.91%
1989: 12.44%
1998: 12.44%
1999: 11.3%
2007: The present Lok Sabha has only 50 Brahmin MPs nationwide. That’s 9.17 per cent of the total strength of the House.

Percentage by States

Down in the Cow-belt

Brahmin Politicians

Musharraf & Bush: Blaming ‘The Enemy Out There..’

Source: themoderatevoice.com

By Swaraaj Chauhan

When a top political leader (or a military dictator) faces a substantial public opinion that openly expresses its lack of faith/trust in his leadership qualities, the leader/dictator in turn tries to find (real or imagined) enemies ‘out there’ to divert public attention.

While President Bush and his team have been chasing ’such enemies’ for over four years (in what appears to be an unending ‘war’) to make the USA a ’safe place’, his comrade-in-arms in Pakistan now sees a ‘foreign hand’ in the ongoing major crisis in his country.

And that ‘foreign hand’ inevitably means India. The genial, quite and soft spoken Indian Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, who has been accused in his country of being ‘too soft’ towards General Musharraf’s regime (some say under pressure from the US administration), must be feeling hurt.

Some time ago when General Musharraf’s elderly mother and his son came visiting India, the gracious Indian Prime Minister (a virtual non-politician and more of an academic) and his hospitable wife insisted that they stayed in his own official house.

A leading Indian newspaper, The Hindu, today carries a story by its Islamabad correspondent Nirupama Subramanian: “Over the last three months, Opposition activists in Pakistan have occasionally voiced the view that India was overly fond of President Pervez Musharraf for his ‘flexibility’ on the Kashmir issue and, therefore, not supportive enough of its ongoing struggle against the regime.

“With the Opposition struggle intensifying, India stands in the dock again, but this time accused by the (Pakistani) Government of a conspiracy to malign the Pakistan armed forces through the ongoing judicial crisis.

(Military ruler Musharraf removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9, citing alleged misconduct. The move sparked the biggest political challenge to the general since he seized power eight years ago.)

“Tightening rules for television programmes, the Government announced on Thursday that it would strictly enforce an existing rule that requires private channels to seek permission for live coverage.”

Meanwhile a CNN report says: “Thousands turned out to greet Pakistan’s suspended chief justice as he traveled to a northwestern town on Saturday to muster support for his legal battle against President Pervez Musharraf’s attempt to sack him.

“Chants of ‘Go Musharraf Go’, that have become a signature of the three-month-old judicial crisis, were raised as Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry passed through towns and villages on his way to address the legal fraternity in Abbottabad.

“Along the way, Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the legal team defending Chaudhry against charges of misconduct, delivered a sharp riposte to a statement of support for General Musharraf issued by the army’s top brass a day earlier.

“There were no live broadcasts of Chaudhry’s journey, as the authorities have clamped down, partly out of nervousness over the increasingly bold criticism of the powerful military.

“Earlier, television channels had followed Chaudhry on his travels to address the legal community in various cities, and broadcast live pictures of rousing receptions given to the judge.”

The Australian reports that: “Pervez Musharraf was in crisis talks with commanders of Pakistan’s 650,000-strong army last night as fears rose that a state of emergency would be declared to quell unrest after the President’s attempt to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.”

In an interview to the BBC, General Musharraf brushed aside the demand for quitting the post of army chief. He said his uniform is like a second skin, which he cannot remove.

Some present day rulers do develop the mindset of the 17th century king Louis XIV when he bemoaned about his beloved France: “Après’ mois le deluge!”

China, United States To Have 'Hotline'

By Staff
Jun 2, 2007

China and the United States have agreed to set up a "hotline" to handle security emergencies, it was announced Saturday.

The hotline agreement was disclosed at the Sixth Asia Security Summit by Zhang Qinsheng, a senior Chinese military official.

The three-day meeting, which opened Friday in Singapore, comprised delegations from 26 countries, including China, Russia, the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The delegations were to discuss major regional security issues and defense cooperation.

The hotline was announced during a session titled "India and China: Building International Stability," reported the Chinese news agency Xinhua. No other details about the hotline, or what emergencies it might be used for, were given.

In his address, Zhang Qinsheng did touch briefly on what he said was "China's problem" with the "Taiwan issue."

"Some people in Taiwan are still dreaming about secession" from China, he said. "So the Chinese military must be prepared to cope with this kind of threat." (c) UPI

India: New security priorities



Ajai Shukla, / New Delhi June 03, 2007

At the 6th Asia Security Conference in New Delhi on Saturday, Defence Minister A K Antony became the first Union minister to signal a radical shift in India’s security policy.

Outlining new threat perceptions, he stated that India’s greatest security threat came not from Pakistan, China, nuclear weapons or terrorism, but from the difficulties of meeting the aspirations of all of India’s citizens at a time of rapid modernisation. This radically departs from India’s traditional position of defining security almost exclusively in terms of external threats.

The new security policy explicitly recognises the destabilising effect, at the national level, of the long-playing insurgencies in the north-east, movements such as Naxalism that stem from lack of governance, communal dissension, as well as agitations such as the Gujjar demand for scheduled tribe status.

Security against external threats alone, said the defence minister, is not enough. “When (external) security is accompanied by such a broad sense of well being, we can be more certainly assured of stability.”

Interestingly, the MoD has framed its new concerns in the face-saving rhetoric of contribution to international stability. Antony stated, “When one-sixth of the world demonstrates an ability to meet its wants, manage its expectations and govern itself effectively, the significance of that achievement cannot be overvalued.”

After internal security, the MoD’s second priority is to ensure “peace and stability on India’s borders and in the regions with which we have increasing interaction: the Gulf, Central Asia, Indian Ocean region, South Asia and South East Asia.”

This is not just an emerging power’s geographically expanded phrasing of what was earlier termed, “safeguarding our borders”. Instead, there seems new hope for a peaceful neighbourhood.

The Defence Minister pointed to the peace processes that had transformed relations with both China and Pakistan, and said that security objectives could be met through “confidence building and a rational and realistic approach based on peaceful bilateral dialogue.”

India’s third priority is drawn from the economy’s increasing integration with global trade, investment and technology flows. Antony stated, “The third security priority for us is to safeguard the material, psychological and technological basis for enhanced interaction with the rest of the world.” In specific terms, this boils down to energy and maritime security, the security of critical infrastructure, and WMD proliferation. The defence minister emphasised India’s intention to work constructively with littoral states in ensuring the security of international sea-lanes.

India’s final priority, said the defence minister, was to enhance its global clout through strong equations with key players - the US, Russia, EU, China and Japan and key regions such as the South East Asia, the Gulf and the West Asia.

This new approach to international affairs is markedly different from that of the Foreign Ministry’s stated position that the UN must be the nodal forum for global action.

Antony declared that, “no single forum should perhaps assume responsibility for international security related issues. Only a pluralistic security order working through a network of cooperative structures can have the legitimacy as well as the wherewithal to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century. India is ready to play its role in the shaping of this new approach to collective security.”


Meeting the aspirations of Indian citizens; providing broad well-being

Ensuring peace in the border and the region through dialogue and confidence building

Safeguarding the Indian economy’s links with the world

Enhancing global clout through alliances with key partners

Nigerian Militants Vow to Halt Attacks

Associated Press Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria - The main militant group responsible for attacks on foreign oil installations in Nigeria's lawless south announced a one-month cease-fire Saturday, giving the new president a chance to resolve the crisis that has helped cause global crude prices to spike.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta did not offer to stop kidnapping foreign oil workers, but it released six hostages who had been seized May 1 - four Italians, one American and one Croatian - as a peace offering to the government.

Hours earlier, however, gunmen wearing security force garb abducted four other foreign oil workers from their compound in the southern Niger Delta region's main city without firing a shot.

The group launched its campaign of kidnappings and oil-installation bombings in late 2005, seeking to force the government to give its impoverished region a greater share of oil funds.

In his inaugural speech Tuesday, newly elected President Umaru Yar'Adua called the conflict an urgent matter and asked for a permanent cease-fire to allow for mediation toward a long-term peace.

A spokesman for MEND said Saturday it would suspend its attacks on oil installations for one month, "which we hope the government will take advantage of to ruminate on positive and realistic measures towards a just peace in the delta."

However, the announcement isn't likely to immediately calm the vast southern region where numerous criminal gangs and non-allied militant groups ply the swamps and creeks in gunboats. MEND - the main militant group in the area - also insisted it wasn't ending its struggle.

After the one-month grace period, "we will resume attacks on installations and oil workers in the delta with greater purpose," the MEND spokesman wrote in an e-mail to reporters.

Officials in Yar'Adua's nascent administration were not available for comment.

While the delta region has long been roiled by violence and militant activity, the MEND militants have brought the violence to a new level. Armed with heavy weaponry and schooled in sophisticated military and propaganda tactics, the militants frequently have blown up oil installations and attacked boats carrying oil workers.

Their 18 months of attacks have cut nearly one-third of Nigeria's usual 3 million barrel-per-day production, helping send prices toward all-time highs on international markets. Nigeria is Africa's top crude producer, an OPEC member and a leading exporter of oil to the United States.

Oil prices fell Tuesday after MEND said it was considering Yar'Adua's call for a cease-fire in the southern region. Prices then jumped $1.07 to settle at $65.08 a barrel on Friday.

While former President Olusegun Obasanjo branded the militants criminals and did not mention the region in his farewell speech to the nation last week, Yar'Adua made clear upon taking over that he believed the crisis was one of his stiffest challenges.

More than 200 foreigners have been seized since MEND launched its campaign. Criminal gangs with no obvious political aims also have taken up the practice this year.

In announcing its intention to halt attacks, MEND released the six hostages it admitted holding, saying their release showed "a preparedness to dialogue with a willing government." The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the hostages' release, saying they were with officials from their employer, U.S.-based Chevron Corp.

Police said the four foreigners kidnapped Saturday - from Britain, Pakistan, the Netherlands and France - were taken from their compound in the main delta city of Port Harcourt.

The gunmen wore uniforms that resembled those of one of Nigeria's two police forces, and they were able to enter the compound and leave again without firing a shot, said Rivers State Police Commissioner Felix Ogbaudu.

He noted that both uniforms - black for regular officers and green for elite mobile police - are simple in appearance and easily duplicated. The gunmen could not be presumed to be security forces, he said.

Nigeria's security forces, however, are deeply corrupt, and police shake down travelers at checkpoints across the country. Many of the more-sophisticated crimes are presumed by Nigerians to have at least a tacit involvement by police who have been paid to look the other way.

Popular movement in Pakistan?


by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
June 01, 2007

In the coming weeks and months, if popular pressure is maintained, Pakistani politics could reach something of an historical crossroads. All forces that remain committed to an oligarchic system of rule will stand on one side of the fence and all those that want people’s rule will stand on the other. In any case, given the deep resentment that exists across a wide cross-section of society, unchallenged military-bureaucratic domination will surely soon be condemned to the dustbin of history.

Since March 9 when Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf fired the Chief Justice, a popular movement has been in the making. Ostensibly the Chief Justice was surplus to the general’s requirements because he had made one objectionable decision too many, most notably the issuing of orders to the omnipotent intelligence agencies to produce dozens of ‘disappeared persons’, the vast majority of whom have been victims of the anti-terrorist legislation enacted in the aftermath of September 11. Importantly the Chief Justice took oath under the provisional constitutional order (PCO) that Musharraf introduced after taking power and suspending the constitution. Thus the CJ can hardly be considered a principled flagbearer of democracy. Nonetheless, in a little less than three months, he has become the symbol of a growing movement against dictatorship.

The movement has been spearheaded by the legal fraternity, which had protested the Musharraf regime at various points over the past 8 years. Lawyers enthusiastically opposed the Musharraf regime soon after the coup and retreated only when the alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) signed a constitutional amendments package in December 2003 that accorded the regime a semblance of formal legitimacy. This time however, there is no constitutional tinkering that is likely to placate the protests. Indeed the demands for the Chief Justice’s reinstatement are slowly but surely evolving into a wider movement seeking an end to the military’s intervention in the political sphere.

The two mainstream secular opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), have been frozen out of power for the almost 8 years that Musharraf has been in power, and have accordingly been prominent supporters of the lawyers movement. They have not necessarily been willing or able to expand the movement to other segments of society, but have taken on a progressively more radical stance as it has become clear that a wide cross-section of society is increasingly angry about the military’s dominance of the country’s politics and economics.

The MMA has clearly suffered for its complicity with the Musharraf regime, and while some of its component parties have attempted to project themselves as part of the wider movement, the party that holds the most seats in the provincial and national assembles, the Jamia’t-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), has been conspicuously absent during most of the protests. In general both the religious and secular mainstream parties suffer from a deficit of credibility amongst the general public, at least partially because they have acquiesced to a military-dominated political system in the past. It is also important however to bear in mind that over Pakistan’s 60 year history, the military has systematically defamed politicians and indeed politics itself, the imprint of which is very clear on even the present movement which has yet to draw ordinary people out in very large numbers.

The lack of credibility of the mainstream parties has meant that ordinary people have rallied around the Chief Justice rather than putting their lot in with the opposition parties. Indeed the outburst of popular support for the CJ has been nothing short of incredible – most notably his motorcade from Islamabad to Lahore (a distance of 280 kms) on May 5th reached its destination in 26 hours, mobbed by lawyers, rank and file political activists and ordinary people at every small hamlet along the way.

As implied above, increasingly radical slogans are extending beyond calls for an end to the Musharraf dictatorship. There is a growing recognition within the general public that for 60 years Pakistan has been subject to the whims of the military-bureaucratic state apparatus, whether it has directly run the government or pulled the strings from behind the scene. In addition, the military has created a vast economic empire through its control over state institutions, expanding its stakes in a plethora of industries while also continuing to acquire rich residential and agricultural land along the pattern of the British Raj, which literally bought the loyalty of its military men through the issuing of land grants.

Alongside the emphasis on the political role of the military, the protests have also focused on the need for an independent judiciary. Indeed the superior judiciary has condoned successive periods of military rule by invoking the doctrine of necessity, one after the other pliant judge having acted in accordance with the needs of the military-bureaucratic apparatus. The legal fraternity, empowered by a dissenting CJ joining its ranks, has called into question the credibility of the superior judiciary in no uncertain terms, thereby making it clear that it will not tolerate anything less than a complete reconfiguration of the power sharing arrangement between the judicial, executive and legislative branches of the state.

The present movement then is chartering new territory on Pakistan’s chequered political landscape insofar as a 60 year legacy of oligarchic rule is being called into question. It is important however, to keep things in perspective. As suggested above, this is by no means a mass movement yet. The protests have been centred around the movements of the CJ. Public rallies have been organized on a fairly regular basis, and the media has aggressively followed the story. However, dissent remains fairly fragmented, and political parties have yet to bring together all of the disparate groups that are, in their own right, making their voices heard at some level or the other. While the protests are still causing the regime heartache in no uncertain terms, if the lawyers decide to call it quits at any time, there is little to fall back on.

There is also the question of what will transpire if and when the present government goes, which looks increasingly likely. Ostensibly elections will be held by any interim government that is put in place, and if the present wave of politicization is anything to go by, the elections will be relatively transparent. However, the fact remains that the existing mainstream parties leave a lot to be desired in terms of their organic links to the people (or lack thereof), and as importantly, their penetration by the state. The religious parties in particular, still riding the wave of their unprecedented showing at the polls in 2002, remain the major supporters of the national security paradigm that has provided the military-bureaucratic apparatus with a mandate to rule since the country’s creation. In the four years that the MMA has been in power in the NWFP province, it has made no break with the neo-liberal policies of the centre, nor has it made any attempt to undermine the incumbent structures of power that exist in the province. The MMA is also in power in Balochistan where the federal government has launched a military operation against ethno-nationalist forces that claim rights to the province’s resources and demand autonomy guaranteed under the constitution.

Meanwhile the PPP and PML-N have had their organizational backbone snapped by the state and have yet to rebuild any popular constituency. They are prone to deal-making with the military, having done so repeatedly throughout the 1990s, and could do so again. Nonetheless, it is also true that these parties have been chastened by their experience during the 1990s and have accordingly agreed upon a Charter of Democracy in which they have openly apologized for their past invocations to the military and vowed to struggle together for a permanent end to the military’s political role. It is quite possible that under the weight of public expectation, these parties will avoid staining their credibility any further by doing yet another deal with the military.

However, it would be unwise to rely too much on parties that are still dominated by the propertied classes, and in the case of the PPP, have long reneged on any ideological commitment to a vague model of social democracy. Left parties remain weak, split up into small groups because of mutual mistrust. The present movement has created a space for the left to at least assert its existence, which it has done to a certain extent. Meanwhile other progressive pockets of resistance to state and corporate power continue to emerge as a necessary consequence of neo-liberal radicalism and the state’s own unashamed capture of natural resources. However, progressive alternatives to the mainstream parties are still weak; while benefiting from the current space available to them, it will be some while before they offer a coherent political option to working people.

In any case, if and when elections take place, the operative principle will remain patronage, and this is precisely the type of politics that has permitted the military-bureaucratic apparatus to keep hold of power for as long as it has. Like most post-colonial countries, in Pakistan too a peculiar combination of cultural dispositions, a huge shadow economy and a state that continues to be the repository of power in society has ensured that politics remains extremely personalized. This effectively means that political struggle is a race to gain access to the state so as to be able to distribute patronage.

Finally there is the huge shadow of the empire lurking over Pakistani politics. From 1954 onwards, the US has actively patronized the Pakistani military, and has thereby directly undermined the fledgling political process. Time and again Pakistan has been made frontline state to meet American imperial needs, and successive periods of American-supported military rule have exacerbated an already dire situation. The almost blind faith that the Bush administration has shown in the Musharraf junta since September 11, 2001 has reinforced this unfortunate pattern.

Any immediate change in Pakistan will therefore necessarily be subject to American sanction, that is of course, if that change is conceived in the corridors of power rather than on the streets. All of the powers-that-be are likely expecting the current wave of activism to fizzle out sooner or later, and plot a new power-sharing arrangement once they are capable of manipulating without fear of inciting revolt. However, there is no saying if and when things will calm down, and if anything, the situation is becoming more and more charged with each passing day.

At least part of the reason for this has to do with the government’s own reactions. On more than one occasion, the response to the protests has been repression, with the most disgraceful such episode taking place in Karachi on May 12th when close to 50 people were shot in cold blood. Following this the government is said to be contemplating a ban on what TV channels can and should be allowed to broadcast live, while it has also started to publicly warn that criticism of the military is an act of high treason. All of these actions reflect weakness rather than strength. Contrary to what the regime’s political strategists clearly believe, resentment is becoming more acute by the day.

What is happening in Pakistan is by no means comparable to the popular uprisings taking place in Latin America, or even closer to home in Nepal. However, the significance of the current wave of protests should not be understated in any way. Given the configuration of power that has persisted throughout Pakistan’s history, and the importance of the Pakistani military to American imperial designs in central and west Asia, the emergence of a movement with a one-point agenda to end military intervention and redress the institutional imbalance within the state is a boost for anti-imperialist forces everywhere.

International coverage of the protests should also demonstrate that the corporate media’s depictions of Pakistan in the aftermath of September 11 have been distorted, because this movement, clearly the biggest challenge that the Musharraf junta has faced, is broad-based, and the religious parties are actually struggling to keep pace with the increasingly radical demands of the lawyers, the rank and file of political parties, and the ordinary populace. Pakistan is anything but a society in which hyper-religious sensibilities prevail, even though the state and imperialism have done their best to create and sustain pockets of militancy in certain areas of the country.

In the coming weeks and months, if popular pressure is maintained, Pakistani politics could reach something of an historical crossroads. All forces that remain committed to an oligarchic system of rule will stand on one side of the fence and all those that want people’s rule will stand on the other. In any case, given the deep resentment that exists across a wide cross-section of society, unchallenged military-bureaucratic domination will surely soon be condemned to the dustbin of history.

Kissinger on Turkey’s 'intervention to northern Iraq'

Saturday, June 2, 2007
Source: turkishdailynews.com.tr

Kissinger sees that Turkey’s concerns about PKK are just and legitimate. However, he believes, a military intervention in northern Iraq is not the ‘formula’ of prevention; that even will result in Turkey being trapped in Iraq and this does not suit for interests of not only the U.S. but also Turkey

Cengiz Çandar

I approached Henry Kissinger before he started his speech and I said, “I heard in the news just minutes ago; you told CNN-Türk that a military operation in northern Iraq by Turkey is wrong.” He replied, “I understand Turkey's concerns but I am a friend of Turkey and I expressed my opinion sincerely.”

Retired Ambassador Cem Duna took the turn and expressed his view: “Your words will be noted by administrator elites of Turkey.” He meant the military, and a small group of people around us and Kissinger got it.

After that, in a way to emphasize that his opinion is not so exceptional, Kissinger replied, “But our government (the U.S. administration) made a similar statement anyway”. And it was my turn to say, “In Ankara, your words might weigh more than that of the U.S. administration”.

My words to Dr. Henry Kissinger, the “biggest living strategic brain” in the world, were flattering, but I told them because I believe that this reflects a certain truth. In a speech he delivered as the guest of Akbank in İstanbul yesterday, Kissinger made similar emphasis on what he told us in the above dialogue, but this time it was before the public. To the question, “How will the U.S. react if Turkey conducts a military operation in northern Iraq,” Kissenger answered as follows:

“America will understand why Turkey did this, but at this stage it will not be pleased by that. At the moment, America adopts the immunity principle for the Iraqi border from the direction of Iran and Syria.”

The Iraq-Syria border:

Meaning of his statement is clear enough; Turkish military entry in northern Iraq will automatically legitimize Iran's sending troops to Iraq openly. We should not forget that the camps of Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization, i.e., “Holy Warriors of the People,” are situated in the province of Diyala, between Bakuba city and the Iranian border. This “Warriors of the People” in Iran is perceived as what the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) is perceived in Turkey.

The Iraq-Syria border is riddled anyway. The U.S. shows reaction against infiltrations from both long borders in the East and the West. Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq will mean the blowing up of America's Iraq policy through Turkey.

This is what Kissinger tried to explain from the “American point of view”.

But, is not Kissinger aware of the tremendous rage in Turkey against “terrorist actions” of the PKK infiltrating Turkey from northern Iraq?

Of course, he is. He sees that Turkey's concerns are just and legitimate. However, Kissinger believes, a military intervention in northern Iraq is not the “formula” of prevention; that even will result in Turkey being trapped in Iraq and this does not suit for interests of not only the U.S. but also Turkey.

At the Akbank conference, he exactly said, “Infiltration (PKK) should be resisted not at the national level, but with international policies level.”

What he means is that the “Iraq issue” will mainly find its way to a solution via an international accord set by a mechanism to be formulated in the “International and Countries Neighboring Iraq Conference”.

Turkey would play a big decisive role in such a “mechanism”, he said. If the U.S.-Iran negotiations are held under the umbrella of the İstanbul Conference, Kissinger thinks, it would be satisfactory and effective for both parties. Plus, the security of Turkey would soundly be provided by international guarantees against terrorist infiltrations from northern Iraq. Since we met with Kissinger three times in the past few days, at two dinners and a breakfast, with a small group of people, we were able to read the “background” information about his speech at the Akbank conference.

Kissinger's interpretation of Büyükanıt:

An important sidelight detail: Mr. Kissinger made his statements, both to us and to the public at the Akbank conference, after he learned what Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt said during his speech at the War Academies yesterday.

It has already been known that Kissinger interpreted Büyükanıt's remarks yesterday as a “break” to “Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq”, to the contrary of possible erroneous general “mediatic perception”. Even more so, he “approved” the statement made by the Chief of General Staff and one of our counterparts took a notice of this.

Richard Holbrooke, who was featured in the 1990's as the most important strategic brain of the U.S. since Kissinger, also attended the small private breakfast yesterday. When the issue is Turkey and northern Iraq, the Democrat Holbrooke who once said for the first time that the significance of Turkey in the new world is equal to that of Germany during the Cold War period is of the same opinion with the Republican Kissinger. Holbrooke even has more detailed views.

We will talk about what Holbrooke thinks after this Kissinger episode, because probably Holbrooke will be in charge of the U.S. foreign politics if the Democrats win 2008 U.S. elections.

U.S. and South Korean Forces' Aerial Espionage Unabated in May

Pyongyang, May 31 (KCNA) -- The U.S. imperialist aggressor forces committed more than 90 cases of aerial espionage against the overall areas of the DPRK and the south Korean armed forces at least 70 cases of aerial espionage in May, according to a military source.
The U.S. imperialist warmongers were busy spying on the East and West coasts of the north side by mobilizing 15 reconnaissance planes of different types such as U-2 and RC-7B and overseas-based EP-3 on May 15, 17 and 19.
On May 23, E-3 flew into the air over the areas of Kyonggi Province and North and South Chungchong Provinces to perpetrate aerial espionage while commanding the flying corps involved in madcap war exercises targeted against the north.
RC-12 committed more than 50 cases of espionage in May.
Warmongers of the south Korean armed forces infiltrated RC-800 and RF-4C and other tactical reconnaissance planes, two or three on a daily average, into the air over the areas along the Military Demarcation Line in coordinated operation with the U.S. forces to perpetrate intensive aerial photographing of the frontline areas and central parts of the north side.

Kurdistan in the Making: Challenges and Opportunities for Turkey in Northern Iraq

5/1/2007 (Balkanalysis.com)

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

Nowadays, amid the current presidential and nearing parliamentary elections, Ankara is preoccupied with the question of a cross-border operation against Kurdish PKK militants who have found refuge in northern Iraq. A provocative comment came from one of the Kurdish leaders in Iraq, Massoud Barzani: “if Turkey interferes with Kirkuk, then we will interfere with Diyarbakir.”1 Baghdad’s apparent tacit approval of his comments have strained nerves in Ankara more than ever as the Turkish military keeps a wary eye on developments in Northern Iraq.2

The provocative attitude of Barzani’s Kurdish Regional Government, and Baghdad’s failure to confront it, are also coinciding with heightened terrorist activities from the PKK in Turkey’s southeastern border area with Iraq. This has had the effect of blurring the distinction between the PKK threat to Turkey and Kurdish state formation in Northern Iraq, creating the impression that the two are naturally conducive to each other. In fact, they are not. The two are indeed interrelated, but will reinforce one another only if Ankara gets involved in northern Iraq militarily and isolates itself from the region economically and diplomatically.

The PKK threat is likely to be used by the Kurdish leaders as leverage against Ankara so long as it does not recognize the legitimacy of Kurdish state formation in northern Iraq. The PKK would seek to garner Kurdish popular support for the idea of the so called “Greater Kurdistan” in the southeastern Turkey as well as within the Kurdish Diaspora in the European capitals through alliances, with other diasporas traditionally not so friendly with Turkey.

The PKK threat is, however, destined to die out, provided that Ankara fully engages in diplomatic and economic relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad, tries to make sure that the KRG is not dominated by a particular clan or family but is controlled by alternating governments through democratic elections, and carries out multilateral but not unilateral military operations against the PKK camps in Northern Iraq. At the end of the day, the formation of a Kurdish political entity in Northern Iraq may even serve Turkey’s deliberate diffusion into the Middle East, if handled properly by Ankara.

A Hostile and Unpredictable Kurdish Government is a Threat- Not Kurdistan

A democratic Kurdistan on good terms with Turkey can be a reliable ally in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, for Turkey, which is now all for more involvement in the Middle East, Kurdistan with a democratic government could be even vital to Turkish interests, provided that its leadership is available and accountable to the average Kurd, and hence subject to alteration through a democratic election process. The real challenge seems to be securing the Kurdish Regional Government’s future against the absolute domination of a particular clan, which is the Barzani clan at the moment. This clan has traditionally proven unpredictable and exhibited a mostly confrontational behavioral pattern.

Ankara can never have a stable and predictable relationship with the Barzani leadership, at least so far as past experience would seem to indicate. The relations between the two have frequently swayed between cooperation and confrontation. Turkey provided a safe haven for some half a million Iraqi Kurds during the First Gulf War, in addition to 1.5 million Kurds escaping Saddam Hussein’s campaigns in the 1980s- most notably, the 1988 chemical attack in Halabja. In the early 1990s, Ankara granted the Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani the right to seek refuge in Turkey, which it did not give to his rival, Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Nevertheless, the Ankara-Barzani alliance did not last.

According to Iraqi Kurdish writer Kamal Said Qadir, “switching alliances is part of the Barzani family political culture, intertwining survival and power with Kurdish nationalism. Between 1980 and 1988, Massoud Barzani allied himself with Iran in its fight against Saddam, even as the revolutionary authorities in Iran turned their guns on Iranian Kurds. After long hostility to Turkey, in 1992, he allied with Ankara in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK); in 1996, he allied with Saddam Hussein against rival Kurdish leader (and current Iraqi president) Jalal Talabani. In the wake of Iraq’s liberation in 2003, Barzani has portrayed himself as a U.S. ally. For how long, though, remains unclear.”3 Barzani’s recently confrontational attitude toward Ankarawas thus not contrary to his attested behavioral pattern when he recently threatened to interfere with Diyarbakir, Turkey’s southeastern province, in case Turkey interferes with Kirkuk, which he claims to be a truly Kurdish city.

However, Opportunities Still Exist

Despite Ankara’s not so friendly experience with Massoud Barzani, Turkey and the Kurdish entity in Northern Iraq, be it defined as a state within clearly defined borders or an autonomous regional government, could develop mutually beneficial relationship in this chronically unstable region- so long as the Kurdish leadership turns truly democratic as opposed to being run by a dictatorship led by a particular family or clan. According to Richard Holbooke, a former US Ambassador to the UN, “despite their history, Turkeyand Iraqi Kurdistan need each other. Kurdistan could become a buffer between Turkey and the chaos to the south, while Turkey could become the protector of a Kurdistan that, though still technically part of Iraq, is effectively cut loose from a Baghdad government that may no longer function. In addition, Turkey has a major economic opportunity in northern Iraq; already, more than 300 Turkish companies and substantial investment are a primary engine of Kurdish growth.”4

Due to either this approach being favored by the United States, which has so far acted unilaterally in the region with almost no regard for Ankara’s concerns, or fearing possible nationalist unrest from the Turkish public, Ankara has so far reflexively disregarded the possibility of accommodating the process of Kurdish state formation in Northern Iraq. However, such a process, so long as it is guided by democratic values and remains somewhat predictable, may not be detrimental to Turkish national interests in the region after all.

Full engagement with the current Kurdish state-building process in Iraq from the very beginning would help Turkey gain confidence, not only in its own Kurds, but also in all Kurds of the region- the very constituency targeted by the PKK and other separatist entities. In so doing, Turkey can build leverage against the possibly hostile Kurdish government(s) now and then in Northern Iraq, and the central government in Baghdad. In this regard, Turkey should take the lead in the region by helping the Kurds of Northern Iraq to modernize their community, establish institutions and help democracy take root in the new Kurdish state entity.

Turkey’s support to the Iraqi Kurds should also aim to create a broad middle class which would also develop an economic interdependence between Turkey and the Kurdish Iraqi state. Economic engagement could start with taxing the already ongoing trade between Turkey’s southeastern cities and the cities in Northern Iraq. Such an engagement should also aim to carry Kirkuk oil to the global markets through Turkish pipelines. In addition to pursuing full diplomatic and economic relations with the new Kurdish state, Ankara should mobilize civil society organizations in Turkey to be proactive in the making of the new Kurdistan, so that the ties between the Turkish and Kurdish publics remain strong, even if disruptions may occur occasionally between the governments.

Is the Military Option a Viable One?

The option of a military operation against the PKK camps in Northern Iraq might seem tempting, but is in fact highly risky, not only for Turkey but also for regional stability. The military might of Ankara of course cannot be compared to that of the PKK rebels, or even its possible allies in Baghdad. Based on that comparison and the record of 16 successful cross-border operations, some may tend to think that it would take only hours to annihilate the PKK threat. However, it is no longer 1992, when the PKK was encircled by Barzani’s peshmerga units from the south, thereby helping the Turkish military to succeed quickly. Today, a military operation with some 40,000 troops against the PKK is no different from a scenario in which a conventional military power goes after a non-conventional enemy with high mobility, which would most probably retreat back and diffuse into the Kurdish civilian settlements. Once the Turkish military forces are tempted to chase the retreating fighters, it may be far too late for Ankara to realize just how far it has had to go into northern Iraq by the time the world media will have already condemned the operation as a Turkish invasion of Iraq.

The Last Thing Turkey Needs: A Hostile Kurdish Diaspora

Another risk associated with Ankara’s non-accommodating approach to the Kurdish state being formed in Northern Iraq is the likelihood that it would create a hostile Kurdish Diaspora in the Western capitals, and provide a medium for them to be lured by other anti-Turkish diasporas. Given Turkey’s bitter experience with the Armenian and Greek diasporas, the last thing Turkey needs is a hostile Kurdish Diaspora. However, the present attitude of Ankara toward the Kurdish state formation in a restructuring Iraq is likely to only create another hostile diaspora, this time a Kurdish one, mainly located in the European capitals.

It is to the best interest of Ankara to recognize that it cannot afford to ignore the ongoing modernization of Kurds in Western capitals and the expediting role of transportation and digital communication to help them organize. Most probably no later than a decade will proliferate Western educated Kurdish leaders who will be pursuing a Kurdish “independence” cause. A la Qubad Talabani who represents the Kurdish Regional Government in Washington, who is up for establishing a Kurdish Congressional Caucus and a Kurdish-American Business Council, and who interestingly called for an amnesty for the PKK, 6 which is listed as terrorist organization by the US State Department.

Similarly is it inevitable that there will grow a second- and third-generation European Kurdish community which will be attached to the imagined “Kurdistan.” It should not be difficult for Ankara to understand that such a flourishing diaspora would easily find financial and intellectual support in Europe, given certain European states’ certified support for the PKK. According to Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in the recent past Greece, Bulgaria and Russia, in addition to Syria, Iran and Israel have supported the PKK in one way or another.5 In addition, the Danish government has long turned a blind eye to the Kurdish Roj TV broadcasting from Denmark, despite Ankara’s concerns over the TV channel being used as an outlet for the PKK to convey its captured leader Abdullah Ocalan’s messages, and to instigate the Kurds in Turkey to make uprisings and provocations. Similarly, the Belgian government has long provided protection to Fehriye Erdal, a PKK member and the assassin of prominent Turkish businessman Ozdemir Sabanci, despite Ankara’s continuous efforts to bring her to justice.

After all, not only should Ankara avoid making foes of those who could be friends, but also recognize the opportunities attached to the challenges unfolding in Northern Iraq.

1 “Barzani haddini asti, bu sozlerin bedeli agir olur”, Zaman, April 10, 2007, available at http://www.zaman.com.tr/webapp-tr/haber.do?haberno=525763
2 “Barzani’ye destek Verdi: Karisanin elini keseriz”, Zaman, April 14, 2007, available at http://www.zaman.com.tr/webapp-tr/haber.do?haberno=527509

3 Kamal Said Qadir, “The Barzani Chameleon”, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2007, available at http://www.meforum.org/article/1681

4 Richard Holbrooke, “Opportunity for Turks and Kurds?” Washington Post, February 12, 2007, p.17

5 “Dr. Cagaptay: ABD, Turkiye’nin K. Irak’ta kisa sureli operasyon yapmasina goz yumar”, Zaman Amerika, 12 Nisan 2007, p.3

6 “Qubad Talabani calls for amnesty for PKK,” Turkish Daily News, (KurdishMedia.com), June 14, 2006. See speech on “Amnesty for the PKK”at the Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS), June 13, 2006, cited at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Qubad_al-Talabani