November 10, 2007

The U.S., Syria and the New Old Middle East: Confrontation or Cooperation?



Commonwealth Club - San Francisco, CA

Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha discusses The U.S., Syria and the New Old Middle East: Confrontation or Cooperation?

On the front lines of multiple Middle Eastern crises, Syria is a key player in regional politics, and a strong diplomatic relationship with the United States is critical in efforts to rebuild Iraq and improve the region's relationship with the West, according to the Iraq Study Group's findings. Moustapha was a dean at the University of Damascus and secretary general of the Arab School for Science and Technology - The Commonwealth Club

Imad Moustapha is the Syrian Ambassador to the United States since March 2004. Prior to that, he was Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at the University of Damascus, and Secretary General of the Arab School on Science and Technology. He is co-founder of the Network of Syrian Scientists, Technologists and Innovators Abroad (NOSSTIA), and was an active consultant to several international and regional organizations on Science and Technology policies in the Middle East (UNDP, UNESCO, ESCWA, ALECSO).

Impose President’s Rule in West Bengal

http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/
In a late Diwali night media release West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has set some political fireworks off with these remarks

In a statement to the media Governor Gandhi has said,
“The manner in which the recapture of Nandigram villages is being attempted is totally unlawful and unacceptable. A large number of armed persons from outside the district have, it is undeniable, forced themselves onto villages in Nandigram Block one and two for territorial assertion. Thousands of villages have consequently been intimidated into leaving their homes. No government or society could allow a war zone to exist without immediate and effective action”,
he said.

The Governor’s remarks should leave no one in doubt that the West Bengal Government did not do its duty in upholding the constitution and rule of law when it willingly connived with the CPI-M party to wage war on the very people it swore to protect.

On 7th Nov Offstumped had chronicled how this war was waged. The next day Offstumped had highlighted how Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee slept over the warning signals to allow this war to be waged. The latest events are a culmination of a 11 month saga that saw its worst with police shooting on innocents in March. A week later Offstumped highlighted how the media belatedly expressed token remorse. The Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi lead UPA Government has been delinquent in holding the Prakash Karat lead CPI-M to account.

Given the manner in which the media and the conscience keepers have reacted to events in BJP ruled Gujarat in the past, it is surprising that there has not even been a semblance of critcisim let alone activism in holding the CPI-M to account.

Offstumped Bottomline:

Governor Gopal Gandhi’s remarks have blown the cover off Brand Buddha. The time for holding the CPI-M to account for its sacrilege of democracy and the constitution has come. Manmohan Singh must act now to impose President’s rule in West Bengal.

Zambia: the debate over the new Constitution leads to internal political tensions

Following the presidential elections undertaken on September 28th 2006, while the democratic regime was in full swing, the outgoing President Levy Mwanawasa of the “Movement for a Multi-party Democracy” (MMD) in Zambia, has been re-elected. Now Zambia finds itself living through a phase of internal tension, linked to the constitutional debate, already in mid-flow and accentuated by the expectations of citizens in response to the new constitutional text.

Serena Grassia

Equilibri.net (09 November 2007)


The constitutional revision project: a clash of political and social forces
The only factor which unites Zambia's civil society and the political class, be it those in power or the opposition, is the need for the production of a new Constitution which is relevant to modern times. However, in spite of the social unity and values of equality set out within a Constitution and a State of Right, the constitutional debate ignited in the last few months in the ex-British colony is becoming quite bitter and is causing serious fractures within the political class. The amendments which should have been completed by July 2007 will only be completed by December 2008. The year in which Zambia proclaimed its independence from Great Britain was 1964, the same year in which it wrote its first Constitution, which remains to be in force; 43 clauses are out- dated and many amendments have been made to the text thanks to the creation of four Commissions for Constitutional Revision. The new Constitution aims to install the democratic principal of Constitutionalism or rather, the recognition of constitutional principles such as Supreme Law, to which eventual amendments can be made only by means of referendum. Three forces are involved in the revision process:

The Oasis Forum, a non-governative Organisation which takes into consideration different associations which are representative of the civil and Catholic society and which has supported for some time, the revision process, defining itself as a “noble cause”;
The Patriotic Front Party (PF), lead by Michael Sata, won the Presidential elections of 2006 and proposed close collaboration with the Oasis Forum, in attempt to reach and assert their common goal;
the party of President Levy Mwanawasa, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).


The main reason for disagreement regards the question over whether to include within the new constitutional text, all of the relative social problems, for example, the right to a home and education, or instead to comply exclusively with the enumeration of underlying principles of law which establish a State, giving particular importance to the respect for human rights. In opposition to the first principal is that on which President Levy Mwanawasa and his party openly base themselves within the political sphere, for reasons of an economic nature. To speak of the right to a home and work in poor countries like Zambia and above all, to define them as “constitutional rights”, would mean “legally” granting people the wherewithal to topple a government every time these same rights aren't guaranteed to the majority of the population, including outlying areas where problems such as the lack of alimentation and epidemic disease continue to be experienced. Poverty, lack of work and premature death are among the main problems which the country needs to face up to and for which it is necessary to guarantee political stability and continuity.

This is the main motivation. The second motivation complies with the cultural background of the current President, an ex-human rights lawyer, making him particularly aware of and sympathetic towards these issues. The opinion of the Oasis Forum and the Patriotic Front is that Mwanawasa's behaviour is due to his desire to maintain his own power, at the expense of the expectations of the citizens who voted him in. This is in contradiction with the same “popular” principle which inspired the foundation of the Commission for Constitutional Revision (CRC), carried out by the same Mwanawasa. The intention was to give the Commission an apolitical nature, so that it was considered to be a place devoted solely to meetings and debates through which the new constitutional text could be formulated, thanks to contributions not only from the political world but also and above all, from civil society. To this end, there is no lack of analysts who suggest the provision of incentives for journalistic debate on constitutional themes, in order to involve the masses as much as possible and to definitively confirm the principal of freedom of the press and expression in the essence of democracy. In a meeting, the first following the presidential elections, Michael Sata publicly accused Levy Mwanawasa of boycotting the process of constitutional revision and of doing so for his own political ends. However, from a presidential point of view, it is noted how the draft, almost as if it were written by the Commission, sets out the strong reduction in the President's powers, almost rendering it constitutional.

Michael Sata echoes the Oasis Forum and various other associations in defence of human rights, his principal objective being to make the recipients of the future Constitution, particularly in the more remote provinces, aware of their rights and obligations. A Constitution of this type, which along with human rights, considers social and civil rights, would be similar to that of South Africa, considered to be the best in all of sub-Saharan Africa, because it would clearly set out the rights of citizens and above all, it would reinforce the responsibilities of the governing class, by making political action more transparent. It is important to bear in mind that in Zambia and likewise in any other state on the African continent, political action which is more often than not, corrupt, paralyses development, in turn increasing levels of poverty which a focused policy could help to overcome. These are the points on which the Oasis Forum and the Patriotic Front base their campaigns.

The expectations of citizens towards the new Constitution
The most crucial aspect linked to this long-winded constitutional process are the citizens' expectations towards the new Constitution and they regard above all, the admission and recognition of their own rights. “A new Constitution and not only amendments before the 2011 elections” are the widely circulated requests. The Minister of Justice, George Kunda has responded assuring that the Constitutional Conference (CC) will quickly adopt a new Republican-style Constitution. It is likely that the new text has been prompted by the desire to consolidate democratic institutions and customs, following the path begun several years ago and which lead, for the first time in 2006 to completely free and transparent elections. The democratic process is made concrete in an eloquent manner in the transformation of Zambia from a mono-party to multi-party State and in the future it could function as a role model for other regions of southern Africa which are still marked by despotic regimes and a lack of democratic institutions. The spokesperson of the Oasis Forum, Musa Mwenye criticises the slowness with which this constitutional revision process moves, attributing it to a lack of consistency on the part of President Mwanawasa. Of the criticisms bestowed on the President, that which wills constitutional change has the necessary support of a constituent assembly and therefore of a referendum. This is a scenario which wasn't foreseen by the Constitution currently in force and it is strongly objected to by the opposition party.

Among the main requests coming from civil society as regards the new constitutional text, there are:

the reduction of epidemic disease, above all in rural areas;
the reduction in unemployment levels (already slightly decreased during the first five years of Mwanawasa's presidency);
the general improvement of living conditions for the population.


Every government must comply with the realisation of these objectives, otherwise they will be thrown out.

Conclusion
Since Mwanawasa rose to power, Zambia can boast of a modest economic awakening: inflation levels fell and a growth of up to 5.8% was guaranteed, above all thanks to the establishment of strong relations with international financers and additional growth is predicted before 2008. On the international front, cooperative development programmes have been launched with Japan, collaborative policies aimed at combating criminality and corruption have been enacted with Finland, inspired by the north-European model and it is working together with Egypt to establish national peace. The much awaited revision of the Constitutional text would represent a fundamental step towards democracy. However, the political and social battle currently underway risks further worsening the formulation, generating tensions which could put the brakes on the general development of the country.

Translation by Megan Ball
Contents produced by Equilibri cannot be reproduced in whole or in part. In the case of commercial use written permission must be issued by the copyright holder (Equilibri Srl). Published articles may not reflect the opinion of the owners of this site. Registered with the Tribunale di Firenze on the 19th January, 2004

Argentina: new challenges from an economical perspective on foreign policies

The Newly elected President Cristina Kirchner will face a tough job trying to keep Argentina's economic growth at the current pace, while dealing with internal demands for better socio-economic conditions, the evolution of the regional scenario and external pressure over the bonds issue.

Pablo Julian Prieto

Equilibri.net (09 November 2007)


Public Debt: Achievements and pending issues
If we had measured economic indexes four years ago, things would have been very different compared to the actual scenery. Argentina underwent its worst economic breakdown, and the whole economy needed to be restructured. Helped by the devaluation of the peso, and the favourable economic global cycle pushed by China and India, Argentina has grown in its GDP (economist’s studies believe this to continue for the next year too) for four years without any interruptions at levels above 7% per year.

Problems with the IMF, concerning what should be done in economic terms, and its participation under the legal umbrella given by the conditionality, produced anger among the Government’s leaders. The difference was substantial: while the new government wanted to recover the economy and most of all, its industrial production by having a competitive currency which allowed first an increase in exports with a subsequent surplus in the payments balance; the IMF thought that Argentina’s problems had a fiscal origin. The best option was to cool down the economy and reduce public spending in order to lower imports needed for the local industry. The IMF promised to review its policies in order to see if what had been advised was adequate or not. Nevertheless, “Argentina and the Fund: from triumph to tragedy” (Mussa, 2001) a research paper that was meant to be critical of the Fund’s economic recipes, supported the same argument. The government should have spent less in order to keep down imports. Many hypotheses were taken into account considering the different options that could have been taken. Finally, Argentina decided to pay its debt with the IMF, but as a member and as a shareholder, has the statuary obligation of being audited and to receive the advice and suggestions made by their experts in the annual report.

A completely different option was taken regarding public debt due to the private bond tenants. A general offer was made and those who accepted it were forced to receive a cut of 75% of the nominal value of the bond and a couple of years´ time if they wanted to get their money back. The whole renegotiation procedure ended up with a rate of acceptance of three out of four bond tenants. Those that thought that the proposal was not good enough are still trying to restrain Argentina’s funds abroad, without any success at all. This, together with the Paris Club debt, is one of the challenges that the new government will have to deal with, in the next four years.

While there are many private lobbyists bond holders who claim the IMF to include their 27,000 million dollar debt to the Paris Club debt there are others who claim not to be worried about Argentina’s proposal, considering the solutions proposed to privates were completely different and discriminatory comparing it with the IMF. Creditors associations like American Task Force Argentina think that: “The U.S. government should vigorously pursue a negotiated settlement with the Argentine government in the interests of American investors and respect for the rule of law. ATFA was formed in response to concerns over Argentina’s reckless handling of its sovereign debt.” Their pressure may extend not only to the US State Department, but also the Treasure Department or the Agriculture Department.

Foreign Investments
One of the key issues that the new government will have to deal with is how to attract new investments. Before going to the United Nations´ annual Assembly in New York, the government’s candidate (President’s wife, as well) went on a tour to different European countries. She was asked, among other things, why her husband left the Santa Cruz´s funds in a Swiss bank account in the nineties, and why should they be confident in investing, if the actual president and former governor had a different point of view. But what they really wanted to know was about public service prices, which five years ago had been frozen by law from the devaluation process period. Many politicians from the opposition criticized the candidate, due to the fact that she promised to raise public services without any infrastructure investments in exchange. This can be a crucial item, taking into account that this winter (one of the coldest in many years), production was limited due to shortages and cuts of energy. Nevertheless, public services have maintained their price so far since the devaluation of the peso. Many enterprises decided to take into the World’s Bank arbitral court (ICSID) their cases, in order to defend their interests.

An important point that mostly concerns the Government is related to the inflation rate that it is calculated to be 20% by the end of this year. There is a close relationship between inflation and investments. One of the main ideas of this government, and also of some political opponents (such as Roberto Lavagna), is to defeat inflation by enlarging aggregated supply. In this sense, energy crises and shortcuts would be a really dangerous item that should be solved in order to maintain productivity and consequently supply high. Many European and foreign investments that in the nineties launched in sectors like gas, electricity, and telecommunications among others, withdrew from the country due to the fact that businesses were not giving enough profits as they used to in the past. On the other hand, if inflation were high, they might be wondering if it was a good moment to invest. Is the Government going to allow a raise in public services that will affect first of all the consumers? What will happen with trade unions and salaries? At the end of the story, consumers are also citizens with a right to vote, and this can be a decisive issue when elections are near.

A recent report published by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference for Trade and Development) revealed that FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) lowered in Argentina a 4% last year: from U$S 5,000 millions in 2005 to U$S 4,800 millions during 2006. Following the same report, Brazil registered an increase of 25%, Ecuador a 27%, and Chile also raised a 14% of the FDI during the same period. This can be an element to take into consideration. Is it or not a regional problem?

What’s going on in South America?
The anti American president Hugo Chavez has a strong friendship with Argentine’s president Nestor Kirchner. Many developed countries are worried about Argentina’s close relationship with Venezuela. Their main concern is the possibility that Argentina might start a new process of populism in the region, and that this fact might have economic consequences on private investment projects. Venezuela suffered a loss, producing a negative index in the FDI received last year according to the UNCTAD`s report. Another point to consider is that Brazil, Argentina’s main partner in the Mercosur, cooled its relation with Venezuela. In May 2007, the Brazilian Congress questioned the Chavez regime decision to take off the air Venezuela’s longest established television station RCTV by not renewing its licence, which was described as censorship. Chavez replied by calling Brazilian senators “parrots that repeat whatever Washington says”. Many advisors and consultants that work for Brazil’s President, Luiz Ignacio Da Silva, do not see with good eyes a close relationship with Chavez. Last year, in an interview done by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Marco Aurelio Garcia, an important counsellor of Da Silva said: "Brazil’s foreign policy for South America and for the rest of the world is not based on the prefix “anti”. We are not ”anti anybody“. We are ”pro", said García, in relation with Chavez speeches against United States. If we analyze Brazil’s attitude towards Washington even considering that the ruling party is leftist, we can affirm that they are closer to the United States than Venezuela. Anyway, as the price of petrol has kept high, Venezuela has gained new spaces in the last years. Leaving aside rhetorical matters, such as calling North American president George Bush the “devil” or “Mr. Donkey”, Venezuela is trying to be a predominant figure in South America. Venezuela entered the Mercosur, and has been one of the promoters of South Bank (Banco del Sur). This regional institution will have the scope to finance infrastructure projects, trying to compete with the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank that operate in the region. The main difference stands basically on who will be the owners and who is going to possess the voting power. Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela will probably subscribed the Establishing Agreement in December.

Petrosur is another project that involves Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela y Uruguay, and its objective is to “establish mechanisms of cooperation and integration over a base of complementarities and using democratically energetic resources for economic welfare of population”. The main idea is to provide energetic resources from Venezuela till Tierra del Fuego, the southern end of the continent. The project includes the construction of a pipeline that reaches all South America.

Conclusions
A new agenda in Argentina’s foreign policy has arisen. There has been economic progress in the last four years but also new issues are ahead for the coming government to deal with.

How to solve the Paris Club debt and private bond holders that remained excluded from the renegotiation process is one of the main issues that need a solution in order to re-establish confidence to get new credits. The coming IMF managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, promised he will help Argentina in order to arrive to a negotiated settlement with the Paris Club, but a new strategy will be mandatory to seduce and convince foreign investors. The main issue will be focused in transmitting clear rules.


Inflation and public services rates are two national issues that are directly connected with foreign investments. Analysts will take into consideration these two items before they make any decisions.


Energetic crisis could approximate the relationship with Venezuela and Bolivia, main producers of gas and petrol in the region. At the same time, this could have a negative effect on the developed Countries view due to the fact that these two Countries might be leading populist governments who might have serious democratic shortcomings. The manner in which this whole situation will be handled might be decisive in order to maximize benefits and minimize possible losses.
Contents produced by Equilibri cannot be reproduced in whole or in part. In the case of commercial use written permission must be issued by the copyright holder (Equilibri Srl). Published articles may not reflect the opinion of the owners of this site. Registered with the Tribunale di Firenze on the 19th January, 2004

Time's up, Mr Musharraf


Martial law in Pakistan
Time's up, Mr Musharraf

Nov 8th 2007
From The Economist

No longer the potential solution, the general has become a big part of Pakistan's problem

Illustration by Kevin Kallaugher


AS MILITARY dictators go, Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf has always seemed rather a decent sort. An affable man who gives the appearance of speaking his soldierly mind, he prompted quiet cheers from many of his countrymen when he usurped power from a corrupt civilian government in 1999. After September 11th 2001, he won the backing of America and its allies, risking popular anger by swiftly enlisting his country in the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Proclaiming himself an apostle of “enlightened moderation”, he seemed, despite his embarrassing lack of democratic credentials, a relatively safe pair of hands to be in charge of a 165m-strong moderate Islamic nation—one that possesses nuclear weapons and is prey to a frightening extremist fringe.

Over the years, however, General Musharraf has squandered the goodwill he enjoyed at home and abroad. Many at home were angered by his alliance with America in a war they saw as directed at both Islam and their ethnic-Pushtun kin in Afghanistan. His persistent refusal to take off his army uniform and allow unrigged elections alienated liberal opinion.



So most of his support had evaporated even before he staged his second coup. That came on November 3rd, when he dismantled the constitutional facade built to prettify his rule and imposed, in effect, martial law. Hundreds of secular and Islamist politicians, lawyers and human-rights activists were locked up. Private television-news channels were taken off the air. For a decent seeming man, it was an act of political indecency. He may have been surprised by the vehemence of the condemnation he has faced, especially from America. But, like a borrower whose insolvency would bring down a bank, he may calculate that much of his former backers' anger is bluster, covering a fear of their own impotence. Many want him gone; America itself is demanding that he introduce some semblance of democracy. But it is not obvious how to force his hand without endangering the stability of Pakistan itself.
General emergency

A way must be found, however. General Musharraf has built his international alliances on the fear that whoever replaces him will be worse. If that were ever true, it is not now. He himself is now a central part of Pakistan's instability.

As so often happens to dictators, however decent they seem to start with, General Musharraf has come to see himself as “indispensable”. In declaring what he euphemistically termed “a state of emergency”, he cited two threats to Pakistan's future that required his firm hand: the spread of violent extremism and the pesky interference of the judiciary in his efforts to deal with it. The first of these is a real and growing menace. The cancer of extremist violence (see article) has spread from the lawless tribal areas where Pakistan blurs into Afghanistan to the neighbouring parts of Pakistan proper, and beyond. The bizarre stand-off and bloody dénouement in July at the Red Mosque showed it can touch the administrative heart of Islamabad. Last month's carnage in Karachi at a procession celebrating the return from exile of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, emphasised that nowhere in Pakistan is free of the threat. Nor, such is the involvement of Pakistan-trained terrorists in attacks in the West, is anywhere else. The radical mullahs of the border areas people the West's worst nightmares: a “Talibanised”, nuclear-armed Pakistan.

General Musharraf is gambling that, so terrifying are these nightmares, the West will give his authoritarian streak the benefit of the doubt. Freed from the pettifogging concerns of quibbling lawyers and self-serving politicians, goes the argument, he can concentrate on eradicating extremism. If only. It is true that Western diplomats have been frustrated in recent months by his preoccupation with political intrigue. But martial law has so clearly pitted him and the army against the rest of the country that, rather than gain a sharper focus, he is now likely to be even more distracted. Supporters of the prime minister he deposed, Nawaz Sharif, were already angered by General Musharraf's apparently illegal deportation of Mr Sharif when he tried to return from exile in September. After a lag Miss Bhutto's party was not spared this week's round-up of democrats. She will find it hard to resume the power-sharing talks that General Musharraf and America hoped might give his regime a credible civilian cloak. Already the legal profession, turned into anti-government street fighters by General Musharraf's clumsy attempt this year to sack a stubbornly independent chief justice, is manning the barricades again.
Looking for a lever

America and Britain are loth to do anything that might jeopardise their links with Pakistan's army and its intelligence services. Pakistan still smarts from what it sees as America's fickleness in ditching it in the 1990s after Pakistan had, through Afghanistan, helped topple the Soviet Union. Logistical support for the Afghan war, undermining the Taliban's rear base in the tribal areas, and intelligence on planned terrorist attacks in the West: all demand Pakistani co-operation.

For this reason, the most obvious stick with which the West can beat General Musharraf—the threat to withdraw American aid, of which nearly $11 billion has poured in since 2001—is difficult to use. But it should be used. After some tough talk from America, General Musharraf has apparently promised to hold elections by mid-February, overturning the suggestion by Shaukat Aziz, his prime minister, that elections due by January might be delayed a year. If this pressure is maintained, Pakistan can still be dragged back from the brink.

The top brass of the Pakistan army are protégés of their chief, General Musharraf. They have done well out of his rule both personally and institutionally from all that American largesse. But their loyalty to their boss can be assumed to be finite. It will end at the point where it becomes obvious he can no longer deliver the goods: either in terms of popular support for the army at home, or in terms of American backing. It must be made plain that such backing is dependent on restoring democracy, through a free election open to all. Otherwise, as military dictators go, so should General Musharraf.

An eerie lull in the violent Delta




Nov 8th 2007 | OKRIKA AND PORT HARCOURT
From The Economist

Can peace break out in Nigeria's oil-richest states?



IT IS a nice, warm afternoon, just right for a football match in Okrika, an island village a few miles south of the big city of Port Harcourt, capital of Nigeria's oil-rich Rivers state. Local teams gather to compete for one of three large trophies and the pot of money that comes with victory. Politicians and chiefs have been invited. It is your average local tournament—save for the host. This “unity and peace” competition, worth 15m naira ($120,000), replete with tents, music and commentators, is in the gift of Ateke Tom, an alleged militant wanted by the Nigerian government.

A few months ago, Tom, as he is simply known, was said to be over the water in Port Harcourt with his boys when gang warfare there left at least 40 dead and twice as many wounded. His was one of several gangs that roamed the streets with AK-47s in a fight to control the city. The usually ubiquitous hawkers and traders at the roadside vanished. Only after a joint force of soldiers, sailors and airmen stormed the city did the violence subside.


Port Harcourt is quiet again but no one thinks the peace is secure. Soldiers still patrol the town and its nearby creeks. Every rural area has a military monitor. An evening curfew has emptied bars and packs the streets at the end of the working day as people leave the town for the villages. Militants such as Tom go back to their rural areas; others, such as Soboma George, are in hiding. They have put aside their arms for now. But the joint task-force commander, Brigadier Sakin-Yaki Bello, admits that the military solution is no real solution at all.

It is no accident that this has happened in Port Harcourt, the key oil city in Africa's most populous country. Though Nigeria's huge wealth springs out of the soil and the nearby seabed, the city's slums are overflowing, roads are rotten and jammed. Rural people complain of oil pollution and neglect from both government and oil companies. Protest movements, starting in the mid-1990s, were at first peaceful, then became violent. Recently, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has become notorious for kidnapping foreign oil men and demanding ransom. Ethnic groups have been organised and sometimes arm their youth wings.

Though violence has simmered for two decades in the Delta region (which embraces several states), Rivers state, to the east, is among the worst. After Nigeria's transition from military rule to democracy in 1999, politicians paid and armed groups of youths to win elections there by intimidation and violence. Many armed groups had roots in university “cults” formed during the military era and linked by membership to the new democratic leaders.

During elections in 2003 and 2007, violence erupted again. Celestine Omehia was sworn in as Rivers's governor in May; in August, rival gangs fought for patronage on Port Harcourt's streets. Accusations of favouring one cult over another were hurled at the governor, though he denied paying any thugs at all. Chief Edwin K. Clarke, a leader of the Ijaw people, says he has proof that the state paid militants as much as 100m naira a month.

Port Harcourt's gangs are linked to the struggle in the wider Niger Delta, where rebels demanding a better deal—in particular, that money from the oil revenue should be spent on local services—have also been fighting the government. Membership of gangs, cults and militant groups overlaps with conventional politics. Gang members move in the same circles as politicians and ethnic leaders. “The militancy has changed from its roots,” says Anyakwee Nsirimovu of the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Port Harcourt. “Where it was once wearing jackets, now it's wearing suits and ties.”
The gangs dig in

Recruitment into the gangs continues in earnest; the incentives are strong. A lowly member earns more than twice the average blue-collar wage. The unskilled and even the university-educated consider gangs the best—perhaps the only—way to survive. Schoolboys join for a month at a time in the holidays to earn enough to pay their school fees. Many think gang membership a democratic right: the only way to get a slice of the oil state's cash.

The government's joint force says it is flushing out militants and seizing their arms. Since August, the army has made several raids on militant camps. The army says it may trap politicians, if a good case is found against them. But the gangs do not look like going away for good.

Negotiations are also going on in the federal capital, Abuja, in preparation for a summit on the Niger Delta that has been planned for later this year. In public, Nigeria's vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw from the Niger Delta, has invited tribal leaders to attend. Militant leaders may also quietly be invited to the negotiating table, including those from MEND. President Umaru Yar'Adua may set up a judicial committee to investigate gang mayhem in Port Harcourt.

It is unclear whether the militants are in a mood to negotiate. Across the Niger Delta as a whole, their rank and file may suspect that their negotiators may be bought out. The militants also say they will increase attacks unless the authorities release Henry Okah, one of MEND's top men, who was arrested two months ago in Angola.

And in Rivers state, patronage may win the day again. Nigeria's Supreme Court recently ousted Mr Omehia from his governorship, after it upheld an electoral challenge from Rotimi Amaechi, a former speaker of the state assembly. The streets of Port Harcourt filled with celebrators, protesters and soldiers ready to put down violence. With a new governor running the show and local elections due this month, violence could well erupt again.

Chad seeks Indian investment in petroleum


Nov 8, 2007, 9:10 GMT


New Delhi, Nov 8 (IANS) Indian investment in petroleum in the tiny West African nation of Chad would be a win-win situation for both countries, says that country's petroleum minister. Chad is expected to offer 20 new petroleum blocks by end 2007 or early 2008.

'I want to invite Indian companies to come and discuss possibilities for collaboration, which will be a win-win proposition for both sides,' Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Nadingar told IANS.


Nadingar is in New Delhi to attend the India-Africa Hydrocarbon Conference, jointly organised by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad)), India's ministry of petroleum and natural gas and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).


The French-speaking country has not yet seen any Indian investment in the oil and gas sector, which the minister hopes to rectify on his current visit.


He cited 'Indian expertise in crude refining' as an area of possible cooperation, as well as development of manpower for the fast-growing hydrocarbon industry.


The national oil company, Societe des Hyrocarbures du Tchad, is currently negotiating with China National Petroleum Corp to build a mini-refinery, as it is totally dependent on import of refined petroleum products from Nigeria and Cameroon.


Chad is presently riding high on growth since large reserves of oil were found in the country in the 1970s. The country currently has seven oil fields, with the Doba field being the largest. Its total production in 2006 was 156,000 barrels a day.


Although oil reserves were detected in the seventies, Chad became an oil producer only four years ago, after construction of a 1,078 km underground pipeline to Cameroon to transport crude oil.


But in exchange for sponsoring the pipeline construction, Chad had to pass a petroleum revenue management law in 1999.


Touted by World Bank as a 'model' law for equitable revenue distribution, it required 12.5 percent of direct revenues from oil production to go directly into a London bank's escrow account, whose management was monitored by an independent body.


Another 72 percent was channelled to fund 'priority sectors' like infrastructure and health, 10 percent for a 'future generations' fund to finance a post-oil society and the rest shared with the local government from where the oil was extracted.


In many ways, landlocked Chad is a classic example of the spectacular growth of the African hydrocarbon industry, which has witnessed production increase of over 30 percent in the last decade.


In 2000, per capita income in the West African nation of Chad was just $175 (Rs.6,866). Today, thanks to petroleum riches, it has shot up nine times to $1,500 (Rs.58,856).


It can also be described as a laboratory experiment on the relatively modern stress on equitable distribution of revenue from petroleum - an issue that has plagued oil-rich but largely impoverished African nations.


Nadingar says that his people had benefited from the start of oil production in 2003.


'Yes, of course, the production of oil has made a difference to the people for the better,' he asserted.


'With rising global oil prices, Chad had been able to pay all external debt in three years. From then, the export of oil was able to benefit our people,' said Nadingar.


But in 2005, the Chad government, led by Idriss Deby Itno, decided to revise the law to allow more funds to be retained by the central government, following a financial crisis and a rebel uprising.


The World Bank responded by suspending all loans to Chad but finally reached an agreement in July 2006 to increase the revenue share supervised by the independent body but also allowed the government to include new areas for spending its share.


'There has been an improvement in the living conditions of the population. Also, employment has also gone up, with all sub-contractors having to employ local people,' said Nadingar.


A year after the revenue law was revised, the Chad oil minister indicated that he was happy with its implementation.

© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service

India turns its energies on Africa

Source: Asia Times Online
By Sudha Ramachandran

BANGALORE - With an eye on meeting its soaring energy demands and decreasing its dependence on Gulf oil, India is wooing Africa with a vengeance.

Oil ministers from 10 African countries and delegations from 16 others were courted at a two-day India-Africa Hydrocarbon Conference at New Delhi this week. India has in the past organized business conferences focusing on Africa, but this is the first sector-specific conclave to engage the continent.

India imports over 70% of its crude oil needs and, according to World Energy Outlook, published by the Paris-based International



Energy Agency, its dependence on oil imports will grow to 91.6% by 2020. Sixty-five percent of India's oil requirement is met by the Gulf. Worried about its excessive dependence on the Middle East - a region of perennial turmoil - India has been scouting for oil outside this region.

It is in this context that Africa is emerging as an attractive partner. The continent holds about 10% of global oil reserves; six countries - Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan accounting for 95% of that reserve. Besides, it accounts for 7% of global natural gas production.

Africa's estimated oil reserves are small compared with those in the Gulf, but the quality of its crude - the kind found in the Gulf of Guinea is light and sweet, ie viscous and low in sulfur - makes it an attractive option as it is easier and cheaper to refine than Middle Eastern oil. Moreover, most of it is located offshore, which means decreased transport costs and reduced risk of political violence.


As John Ghazvinian points out in his book Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, in Africa "existing sea-lanes can be used for quick, cheap delivery, so there is no need to worry about the Suez Canal, for instance, or to build expensive pipelines through unpredictable countries". African oil "is simply loaded onto a tanker at the point of production and begins its smooth, unmolested journey on the high seas, arriving just days later in Shreveport, Southampton, or Le Havre."

In a nutshell, Africa's oil "is cheaper, safer and more accessible than its competitors, and there seems to be more of it every day".

Africa meets 16% of India's oil needs. "In the next two to three years, India's imports from African countries are expected to touch 20-21%, around 24-25 million tonnes," M S Srinivasan, secretary, India's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said. India is keen to acquire more oil and gas fields as well as bag other energy projects, such as refineries, petrochemical plants and pipelines in Africa. Besides oil, India is also interested in importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt.

Srinivasan also drew attention to the growing importance of Africa in India's investment plans. "For the 12th five-year plan [2012-2017], ONGC Videsh Ltd [OVL - the overseas arm of the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation] alone has set a target of over $12 billion for investment abroad," Srinivasan said, adding that "a significant part of that will go to Africa".

India has strong historical and cultural links with Africa. Besides, its campaign in global forums to end apartheid in South Africa and secure the decolonization of African countries is well known. Consequently, it has enjoyed immense goodwill in the continent. (Idi Amin's Uganda in the 1970s being a notable exception.)

However, with India giving priority to ties with the US and Europe as well as East Asia, Africa was relegated to the sidelines in India's foreign-policy interests. And in the process, India ceded its influential role in Africa to another Asian giant - China.

China currently sources 30% of its oil imports from Africa, which amounts to about 37 million tonnes (India gets about 18 million tonnes from Africa). Today, as India seeks to regain lost ground in Africa, it is China that it is bumping into across the continent. And it is competition from China that India is having to fight off in the course of its African oil safari.

At the Delhi conference, India indicated that its strategy for building partnerships with Africa in the energy field is similar to the one adopted by China. China has wooed Africa with soft loans, development aid, arms transfers and political support to bag lucrative oil projects.

India has indicated that it, too, is open to an aid-for-oil strategy and will back this up by extending credit too. Soft loans at the rate of 0.5-1.75% interest for a period of 15 to 20 years are in the pipeline. The money can be used for infrastructure as well as for oil sector projects.

China is involved in a big way in infrastructural development in Africa, where it is building roads, railways, harbors, hospitals, stadiums and petrochemical installations. It has offered African governments attractive lines of credit. At a meeting of the African Development Bank in Shanghai in June, China pledged $20 billion in infrastructure and trade financing to Africa over the next three years. It has promised to double development assistance to Africa by 2009. Having already written off debts of almost $1.5 billion in the continent, it has promised to write off a similar amount again.

Indian officials point out that India has already tried the aid-for-oil strategy in Africa. In 2005, Mittal Steel and ONGC announced an investment of $6 billion to establish a refinery, power plant and railway lines in Nigeria through a joint-venture company, ONGC-Mittal Energy Ltd (OMEL). Under the mega-deal between ONGC and the Nigerian government, OMEL would create the infrastructure, while Nigeria would give it oil blocks.

ONGC has pumped $2 billion into eight countries in Africa, including Sudan, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. The consortium of Indian Oil Corporation (India's biggest state-run refiner) and Oil India has invested $125 million in Libya, Nigeria and Gabon. It has two blocks in Libya, and one block each in Nigeria and Gabon. GAIL (India) Limited has entered into a joint venture for a gas distribution project in Egypt and has signed up for pipeline and city gas projects in Libya.

OVL, which is present in three blocks in Sudan and on its way to joining a fourth, has applied for two more blocks in the country, Sudanese energy minister Awad Ahmed al-Jaz announced in Delhi.

OVL wants to buy a 30% stake from Petronas of Malaysia in the massive Block 8 in the Blue Nile Basin, northeast of Sudan's Melut Basin. Petronas Carigali Overseas has a 77% interest in the block, while the remaining equity is shared between Sudan's national oil company Sudapet (15%) and High Tech Group (8%). OVL managing director R S Butola said the company is also keen on taking the unallocated 32.5% stake in Block B.

GAIL announced it is looking for a stake in a LNG plant in Nigeria and is interested in setting up a gas-based petrochemical plant in this country. It has announced that it will supply gas from Nigeria to Darfur.

Last month, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Nigeria, the first Indian premier to do so in 45 years. The two countries signed an array of agreements and took steps to deepen their energy and economic partnership that would include new oil exploration blocks and infrastructure deals.

At the Delhi conference, IOC announced plans to raise its annual Nigerian crude imports from the current 2 million tonnes to 3 million. "We are in talks with Nigeria and some other African countries for exploration and production blocks," IOC's business development director B M Bansal was quoted as saying. IOC is keen on buying stakes in refineries in Africa, but only if the refinery comes as part of a package that includes an oil or gas block.

IOC has also offered to invest in a gas-based petrochemicals plant and to set up a LNG facility in Mozambique.

At the Delhi conference, India signaled that it was interested not just in buying Africa's oil but in participating in all phases of its production, refining, storage and transport. Moreover, it clarified that while gaining from Africa's oil, it would give back, and it would contribute to capacity building.

"India stands ready to share its experience with its African partners in the hydrocarbon sector, from exploration to distribution through refining, storage and transportation," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the participants, adding, "Over a period of time, investment in this sector will directly assist in the building up of a trained and skilled workforce capable of efficiently running the assets."

In its competition with China for Africa's oil, India finds itself at a disadvantage. It lacks China's deep pockets, which have proved crucial in swinging deals in Beijing's favor. In Angola, for instance, India had almost clinched a deal with Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell to purchase a 50% share in an oil-exploration project. It had offered $200 million in aid. But China offered Angola $2.3 billion. The deal went to China.

Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.



India for ties with energy-rich African nations

Sujay Mehdudia





— Photo: Sandeep Saxena

OIL DIPLOMACY: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora (left) with Sudan’s Energy and Mines Minister Aead Ahmed Al-Jaz at the inauguration of India-Africa Hydrocarbons Conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.


NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said the unprecedented rise in international oil prices posed a danger of economic dislocation to developing countries and could have a cascading effect on both oil producing and consuming nations.

Delivering a special address at the first India-Africa Hydrocarbons Conference here, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora said the rise in crude oil prices was a matter of concern to all developing countries.

The conference is jointly organised by the FICCI and UNCTAD.

India, which imports 73 per cent of its oil needs, has been hit by the surge in international crude prices that touched $96 a barrel last week.

Indian Oil Corporation,Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited are now losing Rs. 240 crore a day on selling petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene.

Mr. Deora said the greatest challenge was meeting the rapidly expanding energy needs of people in a cost-effective and environment-friendly manner.

During these challenging times, the spectacular oil reserves of Africa were gratifying, he sought and sought greater cooperation with energy-rich African nations.

India was seeking oil and gas blocks in nations such as Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt to bridge the energy deficit it faced. Mr. Deora said: “We are committed to ensuring our billion strong nation affordable access to energy. To insulate our economy from the vagaries of the international oil market and inflationary pressures that could arise from transferring the entire price rise to end-users, the Indian government and the national oil companies are absorbing over 85 per cent of the difference between cost of import and domestic oil prices.”



India woos fuel-rich African states

4 days ago

NEW DELHI (AFP) — Energy-starved India stepped up efforts to woo fuel-rich African states on Tuesday hosting the first India-Africa hydrocarbon conference as oil prices surged towards the 100 dollar mark.

Oil Minister Murli Deora urged African countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt to "use the opportunity ... to develop strong business ties ... for mutual benefit."

Rising oil prices, Deora told the opening day of the two-day meet, were "a matter of grave concern to all developing countries due to the imminent danger of economic dislocation and its cascading effect on both oil producing and consuming countries.

"As legitimate energy demands of developing countries grow in order to fuel their economic growth, the spare capacity across the global supply chain has been diminishing feeding speculative interests in the oil market," he said.

Against this backdrop, "the spectacular oil reserves of Africa are gratifying," Deora said, seeking greater cooperation between India and energy-rich African nations.

India, which currently imports more than 70 percent of its energy needs, is seeking new supplies of oil and gas from abroad as well as ramping up production from domestic sources to fuel runaway economic growth.

New York's light sweet crude for delivery in December climbed 1.19 dollars to 95.17 dollars a barrel from its close of 93.98 in US trades on Monday. It hit a record high of 96.24 dollars last Thursday.

Oil ministers from eight countries and delegations from some 18 others are taking part in the conference that concludes Wednesday.

Analysis: Niger Delta hopeful for now

Analysis: Niger Delta hopeful for now


By CARMEN GENTILE
UPI Energy Correspondent

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- One the streets of Potts Johnson, a Port Harcourt neighborhood where gang violence and gunfire are considered the normal fare, a guarded sense of hope has emerged among some for the future of the impoverished, albeit oil-rich, Niger Delta.

"We used to sleep with one eye open, but now we are able to close both at night," said Tex Laban Jamabo, a former delta lawmaker and author of a book on the history of Nigeria, who noted that the nightly gunfire that once pervaded the neighborhood has subsided in recent months.

Despite a recent drop-off in violence here, Potts Johnson remains a stronghold for gangs and militant groups with strong opposition toward foreign oil companies and the Nigerian government.

Just a few months ago, gunmen brought their grievance with big oil and lawmakers to the streets of Port Harcourt, where the mother of a newly elected governor of a delta state was abducted, along with a handful of children of government officials.

Since then, the city, with its open sewers and shanty towns that abut multimillion-dollar homes, has been subject to a 9 p.m. curfew.

So far, it seems to have worked, though the relative calm is still occasionally fractured by kidnappings and gang warfare, and concerns about the future of the region remain foremost on the minds of its residents.

"They have pushed us to the edge here," said Tams Dede, a radio journalist in Port Harcourt, pointing to the dilapidated buildings and filth-ridden streets of the neighborhood. "You see, these young boys are getting annoyed."

And in the rural hinterland of the delta, foreign oil operations continue to be targeted by militant groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which takes both Nigerian and foreign oil workers hostage and attack pipelines.

Leaders of MEND, who some contend is part of the delta's pervasive gang culture, have called for a more equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth. MEND, along with other lesser-known militant groups, have launched numerous attacks on both onshore and offshore oil installations in the delta and kidnapped more than 150 people in the last year.

Since the 1970s, Nigeria, Africa's No. 1 oil producer, has pumped more than $300 billion worth of crude from the southern delta states, according to estimates. But high unemployment in the delta, environmental degradation due to oil and gas extraction, and a lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity have angered some of the region's youth and incited them to take up arms.

One former leader of the delta's armed resistance, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, contends MEND is not part of his own struggle, which until his release in July kept him in prison for 20 months.

"There is no MEND, or militants," Asari told United Press International in a recent interview. "They are merely armed gangs bent on violence and thievery, nothing more."

During his budget proposal this week, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua allotted one-third of the country's $20 billion budget for next year to security in the Niger Delta, a move that elicited praise from both supporters and opponents in the country's deeply divided National Assembly.

The decision to spend a considerable amount of the 2008 budget on the delta could prove vital to Yar'Adua's ability to maintain control of his government amid growing calls for a presidential referendum following April elections, considered by many to be rigged by Yar'Adua supporters with the help of the same gangs that the president has pledged to crack down on.

However, some speculate that a referendum would ultimately result in another win for Yar'Adua, who since assuming office in May has positioned himself as a leader with genuine concern for the grim realities facing delta residents and a desire to "stem the tide of corruption in the country," Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an Africa analyst for the New York-based Eurasia Group, wrote earlier this week.

"A re-run of the April election will essential yield the same outcome as the first -- a Yar'Adua and ruling party victory," said Spio-Garbrah.

--

(e-mail: energy@upi.com

China's media scorns Blair's £200,000 'cash raking' lecture trip

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article3143255.ece
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Published: 09 November 2007

Tony Blair earned the scorn of the Chinese media yesterday for accepting £200,000 for a three-hour spin through southern China, during which he gave a "cliched" speech and fitted in a quick jaunt around a high-class villa complex.

"Is he worth the money?" asked some Chinese newspapers and compared the former prime minister's oratorical insights to those of a village official.

The Guangzhou Daily said the trip was simply a "money-raking" exercise and complained that China was becoming a place for celebrities and former leaders to come and cash in. The paper said it was time for Chinese sponsors to think a bit harder about who they invite to open their supermarkets and walk down their red carpets.

"We should exercise less ostentation and vanity... learn more new and genuine knowledge – especially when we are using even a cent of taxpayers'money," the paper said.

The 1.8 million circulation newspaper said the property company sponsoring his visit, Guangda, had also offered him one of the villas in the luxury estate, worth 38m yuan (£2.4m), although it declined to say whether he took up the offer. Perhaps he is holding out to buy the £3m Winslow Hall in Buckinghamshire, as is widely rumoured.

His trip that has garnered its fair share of other negative notices. Earlier in the week, foreign journalists were banned from the hall where Mr Blair was giving an address in the capital, reportedly at the request of his aides. They could only listen to the speech via a closed-circuit television feed but transmission was cut after he moved into a 40-minute question-and-answer session.

The tone of the visit was set early on. Mr Blair arrived in Hong Kong on a private jet on Monday to start his lecture circuit, kicking off with a group of bankers at Merrill Lynch before heading over the border the following day.

He travelled to Dongguan, a vast industrial city in the Pearlr river delta near the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, where many of the industrial goods fuelling China's remarkable economic boom are made. Dongguan, with a population of seven million, is also home to some of the factories producing the sub-standard toys that shops had to recall earlier this year.

In an editorial, the China Youth Daily, which is affiliated to the Communist Party's Youth League, the power-base of Chinese President Hu Jintao, criticised the amount of Mr Blair's fee.

In a comment that rang hilariously true to those used to hearing tiresome speeches by local officials in small towns, the paper said his speech was full of pleasantries and cliches on collaboration between the government and business, education, innovation and environmental protection, but was decidedly low on insight.

It said: "Like reports made by some local officials, there was nothing new in his views... so was the speech worth the large sums of money paid out?"

Mr Blair has been criticised for concentrating on earning a lucrative income from speeches and books since he stepped down as prime minister in favour of Gordon Brown in June. There were reports that he stands to earn as much as £5m from his memoirs.

During his speech at the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Mr Blair urged countries to look at the huge recent growth in China and consider how best to achieve partnership.

Since his resignation Mr Blair has worked as special Middle East envoy representing the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia, helping the Palestinians lay the groundwork for a viable independent state alongside Israel.

Catholic move 'in weeks'

Tony Blair is expected to convert to Catholicism within weeks, according to the Catholic magazine The Tablet. He is likely to be received into the Church at a Mass led by the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, in the private chapel of Archbishop's House, Westminster. Cherie Blair and their four children are Catholics. The involvement of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor suggested Mr Blair's preparations for conversion began while he was in office, because a candidate was usually received into the Church by their parish priest, The Tablet said.

When is the next war with Iran?

When is the next war with Iran?

By Behrad Savafi
http://www.payvand.com/news/07/nov/1081.html


The first week of the war with Iran is very crucial and as I see it the loss of life on the both side will be great. Causalities of the US force would be equal to all their causalities since they have been in Iraq, if not more.



Recently, I visited one of my relatives who had returned from Iraq to Iran for good. They had been living in Iraq for generations and even during Saddam’s rule when many Iranians were expelled from Iraq, they stayed in there. I had seen him at least in two instances in Maleki’s entourage on television. It seemed to me that he might have had a high position in the Iraqi government. I had a long talk with him. We talked about everything: daily life in Iraq, “fat ladies” (referring to the American soldiers under heavy military gears and the way they walk), Blackwater mercenaries, the future war with Iran, Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, etc. It seemed to me that he was totally disillusioned with the future of Iraq and decided to return to Iran. I can not reveal his position, his name or where he worked in Iraq, but I can call him Abdullah.



I asked Abdullah about himself and life in Iraq. He depicted a very grim picture of the daily life in Iraq. He said, “What you see in the American media like CNN or read in major US publication is not the whole picture of what is going on in Iraq, but part of it and even that is a bit sanitized”. He talked about rapes and annihilation of Sunni villages by US troops and mercenaries and how they are not reflected much in US media. When I asked him to explain more, he said, “What you see or read is only reports from “embedded journalist” paid by American news corporations who serve their corporations and their country in the time of war. Rarely the news comes from Iraqi sources or independent news media. The Anglo-American troops went to Iraq to tear it apart into three small countries. In that way they can cause a lot of problems for Iran in decades to come. That would also take the world attention from Palestinian problem away and let Israel continue the slow motion holocaust of Palestinians. It is now a fact that the first explosion of shrine of Imam Musa kazem was not carried out by Iraqis or any Arab or Moslem individual, but either by Blackwater mercenaries, MOSAD, or CIA. That was the first step toward start of Shiite and Sunnis division in Iraq.”



I asked him how true is the Iranian help to insurgence and killing of US troops? He said, “This is nonsense. If Iran was seriously involved, hundreds of Americans were killed each month not few dozens. This is an unpopular war and has lost American public support. The Bush administration wants to get public support. Many US soldiers are demoralized and do not want another war. The Shiites and Kurds are benefited from overthrow of Saddam, why should they kill American soldiers. This is propaganda to obtain American public opinion against Iran for further actions. The American public is very important in this war. Dick Cheney and George Bush know that they can not attack Iran just on the bases of accusations on nuclear weapon without evidence. These accusations were first started by CIA operatives in Iraq. If you notice first a low rank American officer claimed that Iran provides explosive for the insurgents. It was promptly denied by the top commanders in the field and pentagon officials, including General Casey. Then gradually it seems they gave in under great pressure from crazy Dick (Dick Cheney). If you remember amongst the weapons claimed to be captured from insurgents provided by the Iranians were weapons which Iran does not manufacture, and even some had Christian date on them, while the Iranians use different calendar. They amassed those weapons is such a hurry that they forgot about these subtle differences. Actually even general Petraeus was reluctant at the beginning to accuse Iranians of helping the insurgent, but eventually even he gave in under pressure from the White House. He is a soldier and he has to follow the chain of commands.



I asked him how he sees the prospect of George Bush attacking Iran. He said, “I do not believe US is in a position to attack Iran.” His general argument was like this: “in any case of American invasion millions of Iranians will go to fight them, and this time even harder than the time of Iran-Iraq war. In that war mostly religious zealots took part. War with America will mobilize the secular part of the Iranian society, even many who oppose the government, and will turn it into a nationalistic anti-imperialist war. That will give the government even greater efficiency. Besides that, the army, Revolutionary Guard and Basij have been totally changed in recent years to a real fighting force with sophisticated weaponry and training. They have arsenals of many new weapons that US does not know about them. In recent month they showed some of them so that US think twice before making any mistakes. Many American generals wet their pants of the idea of going to war with Iran. Not because they do not have fire power or can not wipe out Iran from the world map, but because they think they are serving their country and spreading democracy and the war with Iran will not be finished in 1, 2, or 5 years but at least a decade and it will be a bloody war, worse than Vietnam war. Above all, inefficiency of American military machine to fight a “war of people” like in Vietnam is well known. Although politician like Dick Cheney and George Bush directly and indirectly have threatened Iran, generals know what the war with Iran means. Iran is not like Germany to go into it just with a few thousand tanks. Iran is like Japan, you need to drop atomic bombs, and not two or three, but a dozen to make them surrender and we are not at a time this kind of things can be repeated. The war with Iran will not be army to army. US has to fight with each individual Iranian and that takes years. Besides that, the Iranian army is organized to fight an asymmetrical war with a powerful enemy. It does not have one command and control center which the Americans know about it and could destroy it in matter of hours, like Saddam’s army. It is like hydra, with many head. And any head which is cut out, it grows again. So that will be an unending war.”



I asked him about a limited war like “surgical strike” by Israeli or American air force. He said, “That will not happen. Israelis know not to engage directly with Iran, since they know they will instigate the wrath of Iran. If Israeli’s attack Iran, the Iranians have quite good map of all the Israeli nuclear installation and they know where to hit it with great accuracy and minimum charge and cause great pain to them. They always can say you attacked our civilian nuclear program, we attacked your military nuclear program. Besides that, Israelis have the Americans in their hand and they can force the American to do what they want to do. This is also improbable. In any case of US attack, Iran can retaliate severely. They can hit American bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Persian Gulf, and many Arab countries from inside and outside. In the first few hours of the war tens of thousands of missile will fly toward US bases, many of them are smart bombs, many of them using stealth technology. The Iranian defense system is based on the 5:95 rules. That is, if 95% of the defense system were destroyed in the initial attack by an enemy, the remaining 5% must be so accurate and enough in numbers to destroy 95% of any enemy’s assets so that to cause the total defeat of the enemy or at least leave both sides in the same position as they had started.



I asked him, “You think Iran can overcome such a powerful military force?” He said, “There are two theories on the response of Iranians, one is severe reaction and massive retaliation against US and Israel adapted from Israeli’s tactic during Arab-Israeli war of 1963 when Israeli’s fought an enemy who seemed very powerful and outnumbered them. They have already mapped out the most sensitive American targets and they can hit them with accuracy of 95%. They know that American public is very sensitive to causalities, so their tactic is to go after their soft spots and software rather than hardware. They try to cause the maximum causalities in the shortest time and use American public against the generals in battlefield. They are aware of the immense American capability to replace tanks and airplanes very quickly, but replacing human is not so easy for an army who has been in fight for almost 5 years.



The other theory is that the Iranians might not react quickly, but gradually in all the theaters of operation and cause gradual and steady casualty for US forces, like few hundred per month from within and from without the theater of operations. Iran can give tens of thousands of its supporters in Iraq and Afghanistan Iranian-made antiaircraft Stinger missiles or sophisticated antitank missiles and make those places like a hell for American troops. Iran can also bring other countries into the conflict and turn the war into a regional war and turn it into a low intensity and protracted long war. This is a kind of war that US can not afford at this time.”



I asked him, “Why the Iranians are so confident of themselves and so defiant?” He said, “They have the best intelligence network in the Middle-East, by far better than Israelis and Americans. I know a few cases in which they thwarted a few CIA and MOSAD operations successfully. The reason is that most Arabs politicians in high positions provide them information, since they are fed up with their US-backed corrupt governments. A diplomat from an Arab country wherein US has a base there told me that once an Iranian intelligent officer asked him about the US command center in there. The diplomat told him why do you ask this kind of questions when you are going to missile it down. The agent got embarrassed and never talked to him. Even some Israelis cooperate with the Iranians and provide them with intelligence. The Iranians are very generous with money when it comes to this. I guess they also get some of their intelligence from Americans. There are many dissident in the Pentagon and US army and I guess sometimes they provide the kind of information that nobody can have except American themselves. I think these dissidents want to prevent the war with Iran at any cost. They are patriotic and realistic and know that war with Iran will not be a quick one and will not end in a few months. They know that they will be in it for years to come and that will hurt the image of Americans.”



I asked him, “If US is not going to attack Iran directly, then when is this conflict going to end?” He said, “The war with Iran is not modeled after Iraq war, but it is like the clandestine war with Soviet Union. US will spend lots of money on propaganda and training of minorities to start descent over the next few decades, and then separation of Iran into three to four countries. Look how US right now provides money and training for Baluchis in Baluchistan, for Kurds in Kurdistan, for Arabs in Khuzestan, for Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan. Since US troops invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been lots of demonstrations and terrorist activity in the provinces neighboring these two countries. Right now US troops are training Mojahedin Khalgh for sabotage and clandestine operation inside Iran. Separation of Iraq to three states that will claim part of Iran’s territory has been on the agenda of pro-Israeli lobby and many think thank organization in US. Those Iranians who want to play the role of Ahmad Chalabi should think twice before inviting American troops to their cities, villages, and homes.”



At the end I asked him, “Then how would the nuclear issue be resolved?” He said, “I think the Americans already have accepted Iran as a nuclear power, but they try to turn it into harassment and get more political concession from Iranians. All the US presidents since the birth of Islamic republic got hurt burn from the Iranians, I think the present one will get a heart attack.”

... Payvand News - 11/09/07 ...

Analysis: Pakistan unrest hurts pipelines

Published: Nov. 9, 2007 at 6:58 PM



Font size:
By JOHN C.K. DALY
UPI International Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- On Nov. 3 Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule in Pakistan.

In his "Proclamation of Emergency," Musharraf began with the country's rising troubles from rising militancy and terrorism, beginning by telling the nation, "There is visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, IED explosions, rocket firing and bomb explosions and the banding together of some militant groups have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan," and ending by proclaiming, "The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance."

India immediately closed the border and put its troops on heightened alert.

An unintended but significant byproduct of the proclamation is to kill, perhaps for good, any Pakistani or Indian hopes for sharing in the burgeoning Caspian basin energy exports, threatening some projects that have been on the drawing boards for years. Proposed pipelines include those to bring Turkmen and Iranian hydrocarbons via Pakistan and thence onward to India. The chaos in Afghanistan initially dimmed Indian and Pakistani hopes as the chaos, combined with other more stable suitors, most notably China, stepped into the breach with offers and funding. Islamabad's recent pronouncement seems hardly likely to quell the anxieties of potential Western investors, painfully aware this is the first time since 1945 that a nuclear-armed state has declared a state of emergency.

For the foreign investment community, Pakistan's announcement constitutes a triple whammy for possible pipeline projects -- Iran, one of the major potential providers of energy exports, remains under relentless U.S. sanctions pressure, while neighboring Afghanistan copes with a persistent Taliban insurgency six years after they were driven from power. Pakistan in turn faces a turbulent North West Frontier province along with a second of Pakistan's four provinces simmering in unrest, Balochistan.

Pakistan's announcement will undoubtedly drive all but the most stalwart investors away, with Moody's Investor Service downgrading Pakistan's credit ratings from "stable" to "negative," negatively affecting Pakistan's foreign and local B1 currency bonds as well as B2 foreign-currency Pakistani recommendations on bank deposits. Across the frontier, India can only watch and wait.

Musharraf's pronouncement imperils two longstanding high-profile initiatives -- the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas project along with the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline. Both now seem to be triumphs of wishfulness over reality, despite their long genesis.

TAP was first proposed in 1989 by India's Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, head of the Tata Energy Research Institute, in partnership with Iranian former Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Shams Ardekani. As envisaged, the proposed $3.5 billion, 1,044-mile pipeline was annually to transmit 33 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas from its Dauletabad fields via Afghanistan through Pakistani sites Quetta and Multan to Fazilka.

IPI was equally ambitious, with the projected $3.5 billion pipeline to become operational in 2015, with Pakistan importing 3.15 billion cubic feet per day and India eventually importing 4.25 billion cubic feet per day through the IPI "peace pipeline."

In light of current developments, both projects seem stymied for some time, while both Russia and China move swiftly to take up the slack in assessing Iranian and Turkmen natural gas.

India's energy import problems in the short and long term will only increase. On Nov. 7 the International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook 2007 report that the rapidly rising Indian economy by 2030 would have to import 90 percent of its oil to cover domestic needs because its domestic proven oil reserves are "small."

The report also concluded that by 2025 India would surpass Japan to become the world's third-largest oil importer before 2025, with domestic consumption needs rising as high as 6 million barrels a day by 2030. According to the IEA, demand for oil imports by China and India will almost quadruple by 2030, severely disrupting markets. Since 2005, China and India between them accounted for about 70 percent of the increase in global energy demand.

India, like China, however, is not putting all its energy eggs in one basket, and is seeking out new opportunities worldwide, most notably in Africa. New Delhi is hosting its first India-Africa Hydrocarbons Conference. Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora told the conference, "We are committed to ensuring our billion-strong nation affordable access to energy. To insulate our economy from the vagaries of the international oil market and inflationary pressures that could arise from transferring the entire price rise to end-users, the Indian government and the national oil companies are absorbing over 85 percent of the difference between cost of import and domestic oil prices." Pakistan's options remain much more limited.

Gas pipeline blown up in restive Balochistan

http://www.onlinenews.com.pk/details.php?id=120179

BOLAN: Unidentified miscreants have blown up a gas pipeline in Bolan.

General Manager of Sui Southern Gas Company, Mustaq Ahmed talking to private TV said that a diameter of eighteen inch of a gas pipeline in the area of Kwulpur has been blown up due to which gas supply to Quetta, Mustang, Kalat, Pisheen and Ziarat has been disrupted.

Teams of the company have reached on the spot to restore the gas pipeline.

Meanwhile, a railway track has been blown up in the area of Sibbi. Concerned departments have reached on the spot and restored the traffic after one and half hour.


Damaged Bolan Gas pipeline Repaired
'Pakistan Times' Wire Service

BOLAN: The Sui Southern Gas Co (SSGC) has repaired 18-inch diameter Bolan gas pipeline, which was damaged as a result of a blast.

The teams SSGC managed to repair the damaged pipeline with in four, the SSGC sources said.

Unknown persons had blown up the gas pipeline in district Bolan of Balochistan disrupting gas supply to Quetta and several other districts of the province.

The blast damaged several feet portion of the gas line causing disruption of gas supply to Quetta, Mastung, Qalat, Pishin and Ziarat districts.

An earlier report had said that unknown persons blew up 18-inch diameter gas pipeline in district Bolan of Balochistan disrupting gas supply to Quetta and several other districts of the province.

A railway track that was damaged in a blast in Sibi district of Balochistan has been repaired and the rail traffic restored.

Gen. Manager of Sui Southern Gas Co. in Balochistan Mushtaq Ahmed said that 18-inch diameter gas pipeline was blown up near Kolpur in district Bolan. An explosion damaged several feet portion of the gas line causing disruption of gas supply to Quetta, Mastung, Qalat, Pishin and Ziarat districts.

The teams have been sent to the place for repair of the damaged pipeline, he further said.

Meanwhile, an explosion near railway track in Bhutta area of district Sibi damaged two and half feet portion of the track. After the incident Balochistan Express and Bolan Express were stopped at Jacobabad railway station.

Railway staff repaired the track in one and half hour and restored rail traffic.●

THE NEW TROJAN HORSE OF AL QAEDA

SourcE: SAAG.ORG
By B.Raman

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), is emerging as the new Trojan Horse of Al Qaeda to carry out operations on behalf of Al Qaeda in areas where Al Qaeda faces difficulty in operating directly or in those cases where it does not want to operate directly.

2. In the past, this role was being performed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). Both the LET and the LEJ are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People. Both are strongly Wahabi organisations, but whereas the LEJ is strongly anti-US, anti-Israel, anti-India, anti-Iran and anti-Shia, the LET is only anti-US, anti-Israel and anti-India, but not anti-Iran or anti-Shia.

3. There is no confirmed instance of the LET indulging in planned anti-Shia violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but the LEJ has been responsible for most of the targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship in Pakistan and on the Hazaras---who are Shias---in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

4.The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which are also members of the IIF, strongly share the anti-Shia feelings of the LEJ, but they do not indulge in targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship. Many of the leaders of these organisations, including Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM, started their jihadi career in the SSP, but later drifted away from it since they felt uncomfortable with its targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship. Despite being separate now, they do co-operate with the LEJ in its operations directed against US interests and the Pakistani armed forces. The LET prefers to operate independently without getting involved with the SSP or the LEJ. The LET avoids attacks on Pakistani security forces.

5. The strong action taken by the international community against known and suspected Arab members of Al Qaeda created difficulties for them in travelling freely and in carrying out operations in non-Muslim countries. Consequently, it startred depending increasingly on the Pakistani members of the LET for its operations. Post-9/11, the LET emerged as the clone of Al Qaeda. It opened its sleeper cells in countries such as Australia, Singapore, the UK, France and the US to help Al Qaeda in its operations by collecting information, motivating the members of the Pakistani diaspora and other means.

6. In 2002-03, Western intelligence agencies did not pay much attention to LET activities in the Pakistani diaspora. They tended to disregard Indian evidence about the new role of the LET as the operational facilitator of Al Qaeda since they suspected that Indian officials and non-governmental analysts tended to over-project the LET's role in the West because of its activities in Indian territory. However, the discovery of LET sleeper cells in the Western countries post-2002 changed this attitude and Indian evidence on the LET was treated with greater seriousness. Next to the Arab members of Al Qaeda, suspected Pakistani members of the LET were placed under close surveillance in many countries. This created difficulties in the movement and activities of the LET. The LET is no longer able to operate outside the Indian sub-continnt as freely as it used to do in the past.

7. Moreover, the LET is feeling uncomfortable over the anti-Shia violence unleashed by Al Qaeda and its surrogates in Iraq. While continuing to be a member of the IIF, it is trying to avoid being associated with Al Qaeda's anti-Shia and anti-Saudi policies. Saudi charity organisations have been one of the main funders of the LET, which has an active branch in Saudi Arabia to recruit members from the Indian Muslim diaspora in the Gulf countries.

8.In view of these developments, Al Qaeda has started increasingly using the the SSP and the LEJ for its operations in Pakistan itself as well as in the non-Muslim countries. The LEJ was actively involved in supporting the students of the two madrasas of the Lal Masjid of Islamabad before they were raided by Pakistani military commandoes in July,2007. Many of the women, who were targeted by the girl students for allegedly running a call girl racket, were reportedly Shias. It has been actively backing the tribals, who have taken to arms against the Pakistani security forces in North and South Waziristan and in the Swat Valley in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province. Under the influence of the LEJ, the tribals have been beheading or otherwise killing only the Shias among the security forces personnel captured by them. Well-informed Police sources say that all the para-military personnel beheaded so far by the tribals were Shias. According to them, there has not been a single instance of the beheading of a Sunni member of the security forces though many Sunnis have been killed in explosions.

9. The JEM is also actively involved in supporting the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in its fight against the security forces in the Swat Valley.There have been targeted attacks on members of the local Shia community. The anti-Shia dimension of the current violence in the tribal areas has also been corroborated by the well-informed "Daily Times" of Lahore in an editorial titled "Two Oppressions" carried by it on November 10,2007. The editorial says: ' The latest news from Waziristan is that a well-known Shia personality has been gunned down. This is a part of the sectarian violence that Al Qaeda commits in the territories it captures. Earlier, Shias among the captured Pakistani troops were casually beheaded while the Sunnis were returned. In the Shia-majority Parachinar in the Kurram Agency, suicide-bombers have been killing indiscriminately."

10. Thus, a new anti-Shia front has emerged inside the IIF consisting of Al Qaeda, the LEJ, the TNSM and the JEM. Al Qaeda's use of the LEJ is not confined to Pakistani territory. The Police sources mentioned above say that in view of the difficulties now faced by suspected LET members in Western countries and in South-east Asia, Al Qaeda is encouraging the SSP and the LEJ to gradually take over the role of the LET as the motivators and mobilisers of members of the overseas Pakistani diaspora for assisting Al Qaeda in its operations. They claim that some sleeper cells of the SSP and the LEJ have already come up in the US, the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Singapore and Australia. Since the foreign intelligence agencies do not have much information about the SSP and the LEJ, they are able to operate without creating suspicions about them.

11. The SSP and the LEJ have not come to notice till now for any activities in the Indian territory---either in Jammu & Kashmir or outside. In view of the recurring explosions targeting Muslims and Muslim places of worship in Delhi, Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer since last year, one has to look into the possibility of the involvement of the SSP and the LEJ in terrorism in Indian territory. None of the Muslim places of worship targeted in India so far belonged to the Shias, but one must note that in Pakistan, the LEJ targets not only Shias and their places of worship, but also the Barelvi Sunnis and their places of worship. The Barelvis are a more tolerant Sunni sect and have rejected Wahabism so far.Despite the progress made by Wahabism and Deobandi sects, the Barelvis are still in a majority in the Indian sub-continent. Hence, the LEJ's attacks on the Barelvis, many of whom are descendents of converts from Hinduism. The Wahabis/Deobandis are mainly descendents of Muslim migrants into the sub-continent from West and Central Asia.Indian investigators should not keep their focus exclusively on the LET and the HUJI. They should keep their mind open and look into the possibility of the involvement of other jihadi terrorist organisations too. (.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 1,2002, titled SIPAH-E-SAHABA PAKISTAN, LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI, BIN LADEN & RAMZI YOUSEF at http://www.saag.org/papers5/paper484.html )

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Will 9/11 and BAE Derail Cheney's Plan To Bomb Iran?

This article appears in the November 9, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

by Jeffrey Steinberg

Two recent events, both occurring in the context of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's visit to London at the end of October, have once again cast the dark shadows of 9/11 and the BAE scandal over Vice President Dick Cheney. Coupled with mounting opposition to Cheney's war schemes from within the U.S. military and factions of the Bush Administration, as well as from Persian Gulf states, Russia, and even Israel, the spotlight, once again focussed on two of the biggest Cheney-linked scandals, could help derail the Vice President's accelerating drive for a U.S. bombing of Iran, and avert what would certainly devolve into a new Eurasian Hundred Years War.

On Nov. 1, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the longtime former Saudi ambassador in Washington, and the current national security advisor to King Abdullah, gave an interview to the Arabic-language satellite TV network Al-Arabiya, in which he made the startling claim that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks could have been avoided, if the United States had taken Saudi intelligence efforts more seriously.

Bandar claimed that Saudi intelligence was "actively following" most of the 9/11 hijackers "with precision," prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened."
Finger-Pointing on 9/11

Bandar's accusations that the U.S. government could have stopped 9/11, had they pursued leads provided by Saudi intelligence, were met with skepticism by some U.S. intelligence officials consulted by EIR. They pointed to EIR's own June 29, 2007 revelations, drawn from the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources, that then-Saudi Ambassador Bandar had funnelled more than $50,000 through two Saudi intelligence operatives, to some of the 9/11 hijackers. One source emphasized that the Bandar payments were so controversial that a 28-page segment of the 9/11 Commission report, dealing with this incident, was classified and blocked, to this day, from publication. But the Prince's charges of U.S. failures, leading to the 9/11 attacks, could signal a rift between the Saudi prince and his "war party" ally Dick Cheney, that could set back the Vice President's schemes to build up a Sunni versus Shi'ite confrontation in the Persian Gulf—a scheme he launched with his November 2006 trip to Riyadh, arranged by Bandar personally.

Whether legitimate or not, Prince Bandar's extraordinary claims mirrored comments made by King Abdullah on Oct. 29, in an interview with the BBC on the eve of his state visit to London. King Abdullah claimed that British authorities also failed to listen to Saudi intelligence warnings about terror plots in England; and the July 7, 2005 London subway bombings, which killed 52 people, could have been prevented, if British authorities had acted on specific warnings passed from Riyadh in advance of the attacks.

U.S. intelligence sources, canvassed by EIR following the Bandar and Abdullah statements, reported that the Saudis had been devastated by the public revelation that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers had been Saudi nationals, and that they were now launching a public relations offensive to get beyond the stigma. But, the sources observed, the effort to shift the blame for the 9/11 attacks carried considerable risks—for all parties concerned, including the Vice President, who has counted on the Saudis to back up his war plans against Iran.

Bandar's blunt allegations raised some dramatic questions, which echo charges made by Lyndon LaRouche, most recently, during his Oct. 10, 2007 international webcast from Washington, D.C. In his opening remarks, LaRouche declared: "I shall say, that I do know, beyond doubt, that 9/11 was an inside job. It was an inside job on behalf of what the Bush-Cheney Administration represents." Later, LaRouche added, "I know more than I'm saying: With complicity of certain people in Saudi Arabia, with the British Empire, which shares power with Saudi Arabia, through the BAE, a job was done on the United States on 9/11. And we've been living under the heat of that, ever since. That I stand by. Other facts will come out at a suitable time."

With Bandar's charges that U.S. officials failed to cooperate with the Saudis, who were tracking the 9/11 hijackers "with precision," a question must be posed to Vice President Cheney and others inside the Bush White House:

Did the Saudis, in fact, provide the Bush-Cheney Administration with "actionable intelligence" on a pending al-Qaeda attack on America? By July 2001, both the FBI and the CIA were circulating warnings about an al-Qaeda terrorist action. On July 10, 2001, then-CIA director George Tenet and Cofer Black, the Agency's counterterrorism director, met with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to sound the alarms about an imminent al-Qaeda attack, but they were given the "brush-off"—by Rice, in particular.

This led up to the now infamous Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, with a section titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US," which again warned of imminent al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, based on a pattern of U.S.- and foreign-generated intelligence.

Despite all of the FBI and CIA warnings, and the new claims by Prince Bandar that Saudi Arabia had also been warning about pending al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S.A., the Bush-Cheney White House did absolutely nothing to act on the warnings.

Who bears the greatest burden of responsibility within the U.S. government for 9/11, whether or not the Bandar allegations pan out? At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Cheney was the counter-terrorism czar at the White House, a title bestowed on him by President Bush on May 17, 2001—at the very moment that the White House was shelving the findings of the Hart-Rudman U.S. Commission on National Security, which conducted a two-and-a-half year study of America's vulnerability to terrorist attack, and demanded a major overhaul of U.S. domestic security planning and structures.

The Bandar accusations, on the heels of the LaRouche Oct. 10 webcast, are now certain to push the 9/11 matter back onto the front burner, which is particularly bad news for Cheney, whom LaRouche has branded the "Hermann Göring" of the Bush Administration.

The BAE Scandal: Back With a Vengeance

With much pomp and circumstance, King Abdullah paid a state visit to Great Britain during the last week of October, in what was billed as the "Two Kingdoms" celebration. Over 500 people accompanied the King—including Prince Bandar, Defense Minister Prince Sultan (Bandar's father), Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Interior Minister Prince Naif.

The visit once again placed a spotlight on the scandal surrounding the longstanding "Al-Yamamah" arms-for-oil deal between Britain's premier arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, and the Saudis. Vince Cable, the acting leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, boycotted the entire British-Saudi ceremony in protest over the British government's coverup of the BAE scandal, and over Saudi human rights violations.

As one of his last official acts as Prime Minister, Tony Blair had ordered the Serious Fraud Office to shut down its investigation into the Al-Yamamah deal—including the reported $2 billion in kickbacks paid to Prince Bandar, the architect of the entire arms-for-oil scheme, since the mid-1980s. Just before packing his bags and leaving 10 Downing Street, Blair had signed a new BAE arms deal with the Saudis, worth an estimated $20 billion.

As EIR exclusively revealed earlier this year, the real BAE Al-Yamamah scandal centered around a $100 billion offshore covert action fund, which was administered by the British, with Saudi complicity and American participation, utilizing the spot market sales of the Saudi oil, paid to BAE for the weapons and support systems. These clandestine funds, according to Bandar's semi-authorized biography, went to a wide range of secret war schemes, including bankrolling the Afghani mujahideen, who battled the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s; arming Chad with Soviet-made weapons, to repel a Libyan invasion in the late 1980s; and U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, bypassing Congressional oversight. Some of the BAE slush funds went to Bandar—and may have even been part of the money that went to some of the 9/11 hijackers, through Saudi intelligence operative Osama Basnan.

According to one U.S. intelligence source, the resurfacing of the BAE Al-Yamamah scandal during the Saudi royal visit to Britain could lead to new frictions between Riyadh and London. In an interview with BBC during the visit, Prince Faisal answered a question about the BAE scandal, saying that the focus of any investigation should be on the party that did the bribing, not on the recipients—i.e., blame BAE for any funny money passed to Prince Bandar.

The BAE scandal remains a subject of serious investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. So far, according to official sources, the probe is centered around possible BAE violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—for making the $2 billion in payoffs to Bandar, via Saudi bank accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C. If the DOJ investigation were to be expanded to include money laundering, the finances of the Saudi Embassy, during Bandar's more than two decades as ambassador, could be opened to scrutiny. And that is something that Dick Cheney, the Republican National Committee, and a whole lot of others do not wish to see happen