November 17, 2007


Source: SAAG

By B.Raman

Anger is a common root cause of all terrorism---ideological, ethnic, separatist, sectarian or religious. Terrorist organisations exploit the anger to motivate the members of the community from which they have arisen to support them in their acts of terrorism. Such support can be in the form of volunteers for committing acts of terrorism, contribution of funds, logistic support etc. Extreme anger in individuals can motivate them to resort to terrorism as individuals without their belonging to any organisation. Anger containment and ultimate reduction has, therefore, to be an important component of counter-terrorism.

2.Terrorists use the soft power of the media----old and new--- to keep the anger sustained and make it increase in order to maintain a high level of motivation. The role of soft power in counter-terrorism is to neutralise the motivation through anger containment and reduction. Use of disinformation is counter-produtive in counter-terrorism. For effective use of soft power in counter-terrorism, the causes of anger have to be identified and those, which are capable of being removed, have to be removed. Counter-terrorism itself often adds to the prevailing anger through disproportionate use of force, serious violation of human rights etc. These are tactical causes of anger and can be easily removed through corrections in the counter-terrorism techniques.

3. It is more difficult---often impossible--- to remove strategic causes of anger. As examples of such strategic causes, one could mention Al Qaeda's anger over historic wrongs allegedly committed to the Muslims. The objective of the soft power has to be to explain to the community supporting terrorism the untenability of such causes and wean the community away from terrorism---whether by organisations or by individuals. A mix of removal of tactical causes of anger through appropriate correctives in counter-terrorism operations and explanation of the untenability of the strategic causes is required if the use of soft power is to be effective.

4.An attribute of soft power---whether in a conventional war with State adversaries or in an unconventional conflict with non-State actors--- is the ability to convey a message to a targeted audience in a convincing manner through an appropriate instrument of dissemination suited to the targeted audience.

5.All media----the print media,radio, TV, audio and video cassettes, films and the Internet--- are weapons of soft power. The handheld gun and the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are weapons of hard power. Just as weapons of hard power keep improving with the advent of new technologies, so too the weapons of soft power. The advent of the Direct-to-Home (DTH) TV and the Internet totally revolutionised the way soft power is wielded by making it possible to take a message to the targeted people in their living rooms over the heads of their rulers and censors.

6. All States use soft power---not only against State adversaries, but also against sections of their own people who take to insurgency or terrorism. Similarly, non-State actors----particularly the jihadi terrorist organisations--- too use soft power in their campaign against their state adversaries.

7. One has been seeing since 9/11 that jihadi terrorist organisations----particularly Al Qaeda and its associates--- have become more adept in their use of soft power against their State adversaries than their State adversaries in their use against the terrorists. This is one of the factors, which has contributed to the continued resilence of Al Qaeda and its associates and their ability to draw volunteers and support from the communities from which they have arisen.

8. The inability of the US-led coalition to use soft power effectively against the jihadi terrorists comes in the way of the campaign against terrorism making headway.The Western powers have had a long history of the effective use of soft power against adversaries. One would be aware of the role played by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the Second World War against the Nazis and the Fascists. The broadcasts of the BBC helped in two ways. They kept up the morale of the British people and rallied them to supporting the cause of the war. They weakened the credibility of the Nazis and the Fascists in the eyes of their own people.

9. Similarly, one would be aware of the role played by the use of soft power by the US during the Cold War against the USSR and other Communist States in undermining their credibility and bringing about their collapse. Among the instruments of soft power used by the US for this purpose were the Voice of America, funded by the State Department, and the Munich-based Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, allegedly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the publication and dissemination of books written by political dissidents from the Communist countries explaining why they ran away from their country. The Clinton Administration set up a Radio Free Asia to promote the cause of democracy in Asia.

10.One of the reasons the US was able to use its soft power effectively during the Cold War was the availability of a large reservoir of political dissidents from the Communist countries, who co-operated in the running of the radio stations and imparted credibility to their broadcasts.

11 Al Qaeda and its associates have shown some sophistication in their use of soft power against the US and its allies. The effectiveness of soft power depends on the contents of the message sought to be disseminated and the instruments chosen for their dissemination. The selection of the instruments depends on the audience to which the message is directed. Any research with regard to the instrument and the contents of the message to be used has to start with a research on the intended audience.

12. Any strategy for the use of soft power against Al Qaeda and its associates has to provide for two totally different kinds of audience. The first audience is the people in the spawning areas of jihadi terrorism. These are the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They are semi-literate, if not illiterate. They are highly Talibanised. They look upon visuals as evils and anti-Islam. They destroy TV sets, CDs, Video cassettes and computers. Hence, the use of the print media, the TV and the Internet in their case may not work. The only instrument of dissemination with which they feel comfortable is the radio. Moreover, they are so poor that radio is the only instrument which they can afford.

13. One finds the jihadi terrorist organisations extensively using FM radio broadcasts since 2002 to reach their messages to the tribal people. FM radio broadcasts are used for preaching, mobilisation, enlistment of volunteers, collection of funds, motivation and aggravating their anger against the US. It is reported that there are nearly 30 illegal FM radio stations operating from the mosques and madrasas in the tribal areas making anti-Musharraf and anti-US broadcasts.

14. The arguments used by these broadcasts are of a tactical nature such as calls for reprisals against the Pakistan army's raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007, against Musharraf for co-operating with the US and against the US for allegedly bombing mosques and madrasas and using the Air Force against the civilian population. Their arguments have no strategic content such as their vision of the Ummah of tomorrow.

15. The broadcasts of these radio stations have been effective till now because the US-led coalition has not thought of an effective counter. Jamming them cannot be the counter. Moreover, one can jam some broadcasts for some time, but not all broadcasts for all time. Hence, a more intelligent counter would have been for the US-led coalition to have its own broadcasting capability manned by Muslims speaking the language and dialects of the area, well-versed in Islam and in the ethnic and cultural mores of the area, who can gradually wean the population away from the terrorists. Such a broadcast strategy is nowhere to be seen or felt. It is time for the soft power experts of the US to think in terms of a Radio Free Islam or just Radio Islam and Radio Harmony, if they have not already done so, in order to make an impact on the tribals.

16. The second audience is the diaspora of Muslims across the Western world. The defining characteristics of this audience totally differ from those of the tribal audience in the spawning grounds of jihadi terrorism. They are educated, radicalised, but not Talibanised, and they are capable of tactical as well as strategic thinking. Issues relating to maintaining the pristine purity of Islam do not agitate them to the same extent as issues relating to Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror as waged by the US.

17. While the second audience feels comfortable with all instruments of dissemination, it avoids the Western print media which it looks upon as controlled by Jewish money and interests. It will not be possible for it to own and operate radio and TV stations from the Western countries. It, therefore, relies almost exclusively on the Internet for its jihadi mission. Al Qaeda and its associates too use the Internet for rallying radical elements of the diaspora to their cause.

15.Internet activism is the most important component of Al Qaeda's use of soft power to win adherents to its cause fromm the diaspora. The Internet provides a variety of ways of reaching and influencing the targeted audience----the conventional E-mail and web sites, the chat rooms, the blogs etc. Many papers have come out on the use of the Internet by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist organisations and angry Muslim individuals for operational purposes, meaning, commission of acts of terrorism. There is an equally urgent need for a study of the use of the Internet by the terrorists as an instrument of soft power to mould opinion in the Islamic world in thei favour and against their state adversaries.

16. They use the Internet with some effectiveness for keeping the anger in the Islamic world sustained, if not enhanced, and for motivating Muslims to join the global jihad in their own way and according to their own lights. They do not ask them to join any particular organisation. They merely ask them to rise against the enemy and martyr themselves for what they project as the cause of the Muslims. Many do by joining different organisations and some in their individual capacity without joining any organisation.

17. The focus of counte-terrorism experts till now has been on countering the operational use of the Internet by the terrorists for acts of terrorism. Not adequate thought has been given to countering the use of the Internet as an instrument of soft power. How States can use the Internet to demotivate the terrorists or potential terrorists? What role the Internet can play in making the civil society think about the damage being caused by the terrorists? Just as the terrorists seek to cause and enhance anger, counter-terrorism agencies should cause and enhance disgust against the terrorists, by making effective use of truth about the real nature of terrorism instead of indulging in disinformation and spins. One can use disinformation and spins against adversary States but not against non-State actors, which often consist of one's own people.

18. Right from the days of the Vietnam War, one has been talking of the silent majority, which is not able or willing to assert itself. There is an equally strong silent majority in all civil societies, which feels disturbed by the phenomenon of jihadi terrorism----which does not spare even fellow-Muslims. This silent majority is not prepared to activate itself through conventional means such as holding processions, writing articles in the print media, addressing audiences etc It is afraid of being targeted by the terrorists and killed.

19. The Internet provides an excellent means of empowering this inarticulate majority and encouraging it to come out against religious radicalism and the resort to terror, without fearing the consequences of their Internet activism. How to promote Internet activism by enlightened sections of the Muslim civil societies and communities against radicalism and terrorism is a subject, which needs attention from policy-makers and civil society leaders.

20.Mr.Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, told the House of Commons on November 14,2007, that " Britain will spend 400 million pounds abroad on fighting radicalisation. the first time, Britain would sponsor events in Pakistan to counter extremist propaganda."
He did not elaborate how this money will be spent and what events will be sponsored. A better way would be to make effective use of the available instruments of soft power in more imaginative ways. The extent of the funding is only one aspect of action. Bringing to bear an imaginative approach to the problem is an equally important aspect---if not more important. Six years after 9/11, one does not find much evidence of such thinking and such an imaginative approach despite a profusion in funding.

21. In the years after the Second World War, Mr.Northcote Parkinson told the British policy-makers who assessed the effectiveness of their actions in terms of the money spent:" When funds are limitless, the only economy made is in thinking." We can update this and say in the context of today's so-called war on terrorism:"When funds are limitless, a battlefield casualty is your imagination."

22. What one needs is not just more funds, but more imagination and innovation.

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

An intellectual loss
Swapan Dasgupta

18 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,SWAPAN DASGUPTA

In 1956, after Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the democracy movement in Hungary, Communist parties of Western Europe lost nearly one-third of their members. The exodus of those outraged by the Kremlin’s intolerance was described as ‘‘the revolt of the intellectuals.’’

The invasion of Hungary cost Communism its moral halo. The Soviet Union dissipated the goodwill it had generated during its battle against fascism. To many of the extremely talented individuals who became party members, fellow travellers and even Soviet spies in the 1930s, Communism became the ‘‘God that failed’’. By the time the Berlin Wall was breached in 1989, the Comrades in Moscow discovered they could no longer inspire a defence of the cause. The Bolshevik Revolution died unmourned - except in Cuba and West Bengal.

It is intriguing that the wave of disillusionment bypassed Bengal. Barring hiccups between 1972 and 1977, the Communist movement in the state has expanded steadily since 1947. After 30 years of uninterrupted power, the CPM today exercises control over almost every walk of life in Bengal. Its organisational stranglehold is complemented by a staggering degree of intellectual hegemony over an otherwise garrulous and fractious people. Intellectual relevance in Bengal has become synonymous with ‘progressive’ thought. Public discourse has been moulded to fit into an ideological structure. Heretics have bought one-way tickets out of Kolkata.

The framework of Left intellectualism was built around three principles: grievance, guilt and envy. Beginning from violent movements against rapacious capitalists and landlords and culminating in solidarity with all acts of anti-Americanism, the Left became the epitome of the permanently aggrieved. This was supplemented by a mindset that made suffering and morbidity a romantic fetish - particularly in arty Bengali films.

In the ‘progressive’ world view of Bengal, market economics and globalisation were vulgar because they were invariably accompanied by the symbols of a decadent cosmopolitanism. The capitalist virus having engulfed India, Left fundamentalists felt that Bengal must remain an island of enlightened backwardness.

The revolt of the intellectuals against the CPM for its conduct in Singur and Nandigram was not prompted by either an abhorrence of violence or respect for human rights. On both counts the record of Kolkata’s intellectuals is shoddy - witness its glorification of Naxalites and silence over umpteen examples of CPM hooliganism. They were agitated because they instinctively sympathised with all opposition to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s reformism. In their eyes it was the chief minister who stood indicted for betraying the right of Bengal to live in a time warp.

The banner for last Wednesday’s impressive rally in Kolkata extended the ‘revolutionary greetings’ of intellectuals to Singur and Nandigram. Medha Patkar, a deity of the Flat Earth fraternity, was a star attraction; and an email of support from Noam Chomsky was read out. Berating those fellow-traveller intellectuals who have remained loyal to the CPM, poet Shankha Ghosh sneered: ‘‘Time will decide who are the real Leftists.’’

The intellectuals, who tore up their Communist Party cards in 1956, believed they had upheld the humanistic ethos of Marxism. Some, like the historian EP Thompson, never wavered from this commitment. Others travelled down the more abstruse by-lanes of radicalism and lost their way. A significant minority, however, went completely over to the ‘other’ side and became part of the neo-conservative nucleus. Their examples helped in the decimation of Marxism as a force in the erstwhile Soviet bloc after 1989.

The CPM should beware. The alienation of its committed intellectuals may yet trigger Bengal’s decisive break from decades of mental darkness

November 14, 2007

Pak Intell Community: Spy rings & Jehad

Proclamation of Emergency by Gen Musharraf marks the starting of next phase of 'Great Pakistan Democracy Drama' that was staged by General with a great genius and a sort of expertise which he has inherited from his seniors in Army who are well renowned in such tactics.

Characters of this play have not only defined new standards of political acting
and deceit but also better them on daily basis.Tactics used by Pakistani intelligence and 'Private or Independent Spy Rings'-a relatively new phenomenon- ran by likes of Lt.Gen Hamid Gul(most famous of these rings) and many many other former Intelligence Chiefs to create psychological impact on masses and their competitors is fast nearing perfection.This is modest starting of what will be a horrible phase in Pakistani and Islamic history.

Things are very different behind the scenes from what is perceived in Western Media where Democracy talk consumes all the space.Real problem is not democracy.It does not matter to success in War on Terror .Democracy has never been there in Pakistan and is not going to be there . Moreover,it is a great myth that bringing democracy will help win war on terror.Terrorism originating from Pakistan is not a function of Democracy in Pakistan.In past Jehad flourished during democratic governments and at many places so called democrats fuelled it more than Millitary.The real crucial problem that has led to worsening of situation on Terror front in last one year is different.That is increasing radicalisation of Pak Army and 'signs of corrosion' in command and control structure of Intelligence Agencies on account of this.Manifestation of this are these Independent Spy Rings.

These private spy rings have infiltrated ISI & IB and have considerable influence on cadres.A substantial number of people in government agencies have linkages with these rings specially in lower ranks although some higher seats are also involved.
Some former Generals and former intelligence officers have huge sympathy for Jehadis as throughout their carrer and even after retirement they were closely involved in promoting Jehad Culture and have "personal intrests" in its continuity.These Generals,some elements of Air Force and add to it those 10-15% cadres of ISI and IB;it for sure makes quite an explosive mixture.

That's how travel itineraries of some ISI field officers leaked.Few of them were even ambushed and killed.Many buses carrying intelligence staff were bombed.Latest implication of this is that Taliban has 'outsmarted' Pak Army in Swat and NWFP in past few months.Large desertions were witnessed and Army was badly humiliated at the hands of Taliban and Tribals.Morale of troops is quite low and there is little 'will power' left with a soldier to fight Jehadis which is most important thing in counter-insurgency operations.For the first time in last five or so years of Army offensive in NWFP and tribal areas, situation is so much out of hand.

These spy rings provide Taliban forces and tribals with 'intelligence' and provide them with "tactical advice" to tackle Pak and NATO forces.NATO forces are increasingly becoming dependent on TechInt and satellite imagery.Western agents find it extremely difficult to operate on ground.Americans are largely dependent on Afghan sources and Saudis or Indians for ground information.Any attempt by American intelligence to gather ground met with stiff ressistance in recent past.There have been numerous instances that when an American Field Officer was trying to set up base with ISI help,suddenly,this information got leaked.Locals demonstrated,stone pelting happened and American chap was left with no other alternative but to leave.Anybody knowing basics of intelligence biz can understand how pathetic and alarming state of affairs this is.

These rings are controlled by former spymasters and support of powerful Jehad Complex.This complex has support of influential clergy,landlords and Arab Sheikhs.All of these have large stakes in low cost-high margin business called Jehad.
These are alarming signs for stability of Pakistan.Intelligence community in Pakistan is being radicalised and considerable number of cadres are identifying themselves with Jehadis rather than with government.As they say that intelligence agencies are any country's Last Line of Defence but in these patterns in Pakistan's case are alarming and calls for a review by the West of its ploicy towards Pak Army.British are probably already factoring in these facts in their thoughts and statements.Some quarters on Capital Hill are also coming out of Dream Land. Whatever,this in coming days will drag Pakistan into era of instability and more worse security situation will follow.So be ready for more Bling-Bang.

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The “People” in the PLA: Recruitment, Training, and Education in China’s 80-Year

The “People” in the PLA: Recruitment, Training, and Education in China’s 80-Year -Old Military

Compiled by
Justin B. Liang and Sarah K. Snyder
The National Bureau of Asian Research


• China’s ideal “new type” of military officer is university educated and possesses the technical competence and physical ability to handle actual combat against a modern, high-tech adversary.

• Driven by the understanding of the critical and integral role of soldiers to the success of military modernization, China’s professional military education (PME) system is undergoing rapid changes, focusing on science, technology, and the development of leadership skills.

• Underpinning China’s drive towards a more high-tech military is the concept of “informatization” (xinxihua), a sophisticated idea about aligning capabilities and requirements in the face of an increasingly hybridized force.

On September 28, 2007, more than 60 leading experts on China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) convened at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, for a 2-day discussion on “The ‘People’ in the PLA: Recruitment,

Training, and Education in China’s 80-Year-Old Military.” The 2007 PLA Conference, conducted by The National Bureau of Asian Research and the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, sought to investigate the 80-year-old military’s human infrastructure, identifying trends in PLA recruitment, education and training, demographics, and historical perspectives.

Fueled by double-digit growth in spending over the past 15 years, China’s PLA has undergone a staggering transformation from an anachronistic, unwieldy vestige of the Mao era to a more mobile and high-tech military force able to engage in an increasing number of joint exercises, multilateral peacekeeping operations, and deterrence-oriented activities. The acquisition of new weapons and combat capabilities has been a large part of this modernization, to be sure, but hardware and force structure alone tell us little of the institutions, doctrines, and people underlying such development.

As systems become more complex and gaps between PLA service programs widen, the human elements of China’s military—officer training, education, and mobilization—have become an increasingly important part of the modernization equation. How is the military’s personnel system changing to meet the needs of a force able to “win local wars under informatized conditions,” as the Chinese now proclaim? What types of officers is the PLA currently grooming, and what do its ideal officers look like?

Knowing who comprises the PLA’s modern force gives us further insight into how it is run—and what its priorities will be in the future


The PLA’s “New Type” of Military Officer

Roughly half the output of new officers now seems to be coming from civilian universities, predominantly from the hard sciences—and in particular, engineering. These changes comport with a new military mantra, the so-called “Strategic Project for Talented People,” that values quality over quantity and places a high premium on academic credentials and technical expertise.

For what kind of army are the Chinese cultivating their officers?

In the last few years, four main missions have emerged: (1) defending the territorial integrity of China; (2) becoming a great power; (3) asserting regional preeminence; and (4) dealing with Taiwan. Against this backdrop of objectives, the PLA has sought to develop a more streamlined command structure, a more efficient logistical support system, and a more relevant and focused PME.


Where business is feeling the heat

Source :

IRAN : Charges against Moussavian Already Proved

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ezhehee said that his ministry has established facts substantiating leakage of the country's secret information by the former nuclear negotiator, Hossein Moussavian.

"Moussavian has been charged with harming national security through leaking information to the aliens, including the British embassy in Tehran and he has been informed of his crimes since the very first day" Ezhehee told FNA, adding, "From the viewpoint of the intelligence ministry, these charges have been proved."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday the judge verifying Moussavian's case was heavily pressured by some of his political foes to exonerate the spy and dismiss the case.

Ahmadinejad said some of his political opponents inside the country had sent certain individuals abroad to leak Iran's nuclear and political information to the enemies of the Iranian nation in their weekly meetings in a bid to break the resolve of his administration and face him with a defeat.

"But now that these individuals have been summoned to the court to be tried for their actions, some have laid a heavy pressure on the judge to exonerate the spy," he said.

Ezhehee confirmed Ahmadinejad's remarks, saying that "the judge has been contacted to exonerate the nuclear spy."

"Influential individuals have summoned the judge and strove to exonerate the nuclear spy several times," he added, warning the said individuals to keep away from Moussavian's case.

"We believe he (Moussavian) is a criminal," the intelligence minister reiterated.

Iran's former senior negotiator in nuclear talks with the West Hossein Moussavian was freed after paying bail of 2 bln rials (215,000 dollars) in May.

Moussavian, Iran's top nuclear negotiator that served under reformist president Mohammad Khatami to 2005, was arrested on April 30. He also served as ambassador to Germany under Rafsanjani.

Earlier a source told FNA that Moussavian "has expressed sorrow and remorse over his deeds".

It said the Moussavian's accusations "are not related to today or yesterday but have to do with (actions) many years ago".

Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ezhehee had also earlier said that two other unnamed individuals had been summoned for questioning by intelligence agents in connection with the case.

FNA's source said that one of the individuals - both of whom worked for security bodies - had been released on bail. It did not give details over the fate of the other suspect.

Prior to his detention, Moussavian was deputy head of the Strategic Research center belonging to the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body which is headed by Rafsanjani himself.

The head of the Strategic Studies Centre is Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric who until 2005 was Iran's top nuclear negotiator and Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary under Khatami.

Since Moussavian has been charged with spying on Iran's nuclear programs and activities, his case is verified at the Revolutionary Court and under Tehran's deputy prosecutor general for security affairs.

Venezuela's Chavez Blasts Spain's King

November 14th 2007, by Nikolas Kozloff - CounterPunch

Spain's King Juan Carlos tells Venezuela's President Chavez to "Shut Up". It's been almost two hundred years since Venezuela first declared its independence from Spain, but over the past few days Hugo Chávez stoked Venezuelan nationalism again by attacking King Juan Carlos of Spain. The spat, which could damage diplomatic relations between the two nations, began over the weekend during a hemispheric summit held in Santiago, Chile, during which Chávez called ex-Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar a "fascist." In one of his typical rhetorical flourishes, Chávez added, "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Moving to damp down the escalating rhetoric, Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero then remarked: "[Former Prime Minister] Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people." Insensed, Chávez wouldn't let go. Though his microphone was turned off, the Venezuelan leader repeatedly tried to interrupt.
Finally, Juan Carlos leaned forward and said, "Why don't you shut up?" According to reports, in addressing Chávez Juan Carlos did not use the formal mode of address in Spanish known as usted but rather the familiar form or tú, which is generally reserved for close acquaintances or children, not a head of state.

Aznar and the 2002 Coup

The summit ended in fiasco, as Juan Carlos stormed out of the meeting while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega rushed to embrace and defend Chávez. Meanwhile, Chávez said the king was "imprudent" and asked if Juan Carlos knew in advance of the brief coup against him in April, 2002. As he left Santiago, Chávez openly questioned whether Spain's ambassador had appeared with Venezuelan interim president Pedro Carmona during the 2002 coup with Juan Carlos's blessing.

"Mr King, did you know about the coup d'etat against Venezuela, against the democratic, legitimate government of Venezuela in 2002?" he asked. "It's very hard to imagine the Spanish ambassador would have been at the presidential palace supporting the coup plotters without authorisation from his majesty," he insinuated. The Spanish paper El Mundo quoted Chávez as saying that the king had "got very mad, like a bull. But I'm a great bullfighter - olé!" The Venezuelan firebrand added, "I think it's imprudent for a king to shout at a president to shut up. Mr King, we are not going to shut up."

Though Chávez enjoys warm ties to the socialist Zapatero, the Venezuelan leader has long lambasted the previous Spanish regime. During Bush's first term the United States enjoyed a willing foreign partner in Spain. José María Aznar, who had reorganized Spanish conservatives into the People's Party (Partido Popular or PP) had been Prime Minister of Spain since 1996. Though Chávez exaggerated in calling Aznar a fascist, the Spanish politician's family certainly had clear fascist ties. Aznar's grandfather, in fact, served as Franco's ambassador to Morocco and the United Nations and his father was a pro-Franco journalist.

In 2002, Aznar was Washington's willing ally in opposing Chávez. Prior to the April 12 coup, Venezuelan businessman Carmona visited high level government officials in Madrid as well as prominent Spanish businessmen. Though it's unclear whether Juan Carlos gave his blessing as Chávez suggested, once the coup had been carried out Carmona called Aznar and met with the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, Manuel Viturro de la Torre. The Spanish ambassador was accompanied at the meeting by the U.S. Ambassador, Charles Shapiro. As Chávez languished in a military barracks during the coup, PP parliamentary spokesman Gustavo de Arístegui wrote an article in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo supporting the coup. According to anonymous diplomatic sources who spoke with Inter Press Service, the Spanish foreign ministry holds documents which reveal the Spanish role. The documents reportedly prove that de la Torre had written instructions from the Aznar government to recognize Carmona as the new president of Venezuela.

Diplomatic Fall Out

The diplomatic tit-for-tat continued after the coup. After defeating the coup attempt, Chávez detained the president of Fedecámaras, Carlos Fernández, who was accused of helping to foment a lock out which reduced oil output in 2002-03. Fernández was charged with inciting unrest and sedition. In February 2003 Ana Palacio, the Spanish Minister of External Affairs, criticized the detention. During his Sunday radio and TV show, Chávez angrily shot back that Spain should not interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs. "We must respect each other," said Chávez. "Don't get involved in our things and we won't involve ourselves in your things. Is it necessary to remember that the Spanish ambassador was here applauding the April coup?" Chávez added, "Aznar, please, each one in his own place."

The diplomatic chill continued late into 2003 when Aznar criticized Chávez for adopting "failed models" like those of Cuba's Fidel Castro. Chávez retorted that Aznar's statements were "unacceptable" and added that "perhaps Aznar thinks he is Fernando VII and we are still a colony. No, Carabobo [a battle of independence] already happened. Aznar, Ayacucho [another battle during the wars of independence] already occurred. The Spanish empire was already thrown out of here almost 200 years ago Aznar. Let those who stick their noses in Venezuela take note that we will not accept it." In a further snub Chávez stated that Aznar should respond to the Spanish public which protested PP support for the invasion of Iraq. "He should definitely take responsibility for that," Chávez concluded.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish Foreign Minister, has accused the previous PP administration of supporting the failed coup d'etat against Chávez in April 2002. Speaking on the Spanish TV program 59 Segundos, Moratinos remarked that Aznar's policy in Venezuela "was something unheard of in Spanish diplomacy, the Spanish ambassador received instructions to support the coup." Before the cameras Moratinos declared, "That won't happen in the future, because we respect the popular will." Adding fuel to the fire Chávez remarked "I have no doubt that it [the Spanish involvement] happened. It was a very serious error on the part of the former government." Chávez declared that Venezuela had no problem with the PP nor with Spain, and that for a brief moment the two countries enjoyed good relations. But later Aznar's political as well as personal views changed. "With Aznar," Chávez stated memorably, "there was neither chemistry, nor physics, nor math."

Needless to say, Chávez's retort to Juan Carlos has not been embraced by all. In Spain, the press has rushed to defend the King against Chávez, while the Spanish community in Venezuela called for a protest march against the President. Peru and Chile, strong U.S. allies in the region, have also expressed support for Juan Carlos and have criticized Chávez's reaction at the summit.

Still, Chávez has gained welcome political mileage from the incident, which has stoked unpleasant memories of Spanish monarchical rule. United Left, a Spanish political party, qualified Juan Carlos' statements as "excessive." Willy Meyer, spokesperson for the party, said that Juan Carlos behaved as if he was still in the 15th or 16th centuries. "The King can't tell the Spanish President to shut up," he said, "and doesn't have the right to do this to others outside of Spain."

For the past eight years, Chávez has sought to build up the cult of Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan who liberated the country from Spanish rule. Books on Bolívar are selling like hotcakes in Caracas, hardly surprising in light of the political importance which Chávez has attached to Bolívar in his public speeches. By attacking Juan Carlos, Chávez may cast himself as a true Venezuelan patriot fighting against the domineering attitude of the old Spanish Empire. It's a move that plays well to the Chavista base and Venezuelans' sense of national pride.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. His new book, Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left will be released in April, 2008 with Palgrave-Macmillan

TURKEY : The missing link between procurement and war against the PKK


Source :Turkish Daily News
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Recently there has been too much talk over the political aspects of Turkey’s war against the PKK. Unspoken is the weaponry/procurement side of the war


Why do militaries buy weapons? To fight present and future security threats? Yes. How do they select the weaponry they buy? According to calculations based on what systems they would optimally need to fight present and future security threats (and of course with a view to budgetary constraints)? Yes, presumably. But not always, especially when there are serious failings in procurement systems. Recently there has been too much talk about the political aspect of Turkey's war against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The weaponry and procurement side of the war unspoken is.

Helicopter gunship that never arrive

In the mid 1990s, Turkey's military and civilian authorities that control the country's defense procurement mechanism established that one critical weapons system to optimally fight the PKK (and other potential threats) would be attack helicopters. Expensive but useful war toys…

More than a decade later, Ankara is still several years away from having the gunships in its military inventory – although there has always been available financing for the multi-billion-dollar program. Most recently, after very exciting episodes from which a few thriller books could have been produced, the Turkish government awarded the contract to AgustaWestland, an Italian-British helicopter maker. (By the way, AgustaWestland's parent company, Finmeccanica, hosted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's luncheon last week in Rome.) The contract became effective this year but naturally the deliveries will arrive many years in the future, even if everything surrounding the complex deal goes perfectly smooth.

Such was the background that provoked a conversation with a three-star general two weeks ago, possibly to his discomfort. “Does the fact that the military is deprived of new generation attack helicopters create any weakness in your fight against the PKK?” Without hesitation, the army general replied, “No.” It was relieving to know that major delays in the program have not weakened the military at all in terms of the “absence of critical weapons system needed in fight against the PKK.” Good.

But, fortunately, that being the case, one becomes curious about other aspects of the chopper program. So, another question to the general. “If –fortunately -- the warfare goes perfectly without the gunships, why did the procurement system tag the helicopters as an ‘urgent priority' buy?”

Since the system is still very eager to buy the expensive platforms and there are no flaws in our fight against the PKK, against which other target do we intend to use them? A reasonable answer could be, “Against any one of the potential threats.” It's fine. But why, then, the “urgent buy” tag, if not because of the PKK? Are there any other military programs with “urgent” tags that are not “urgent?” If yes, which ones are they? If they are not “urgent,” i.e. their delays by a decade would not cause any operational weakness, why are they tagged “urgent?”

What went wrong with the UAVs?

There may be other questions too. For example, knowing that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are essential for border security, why have the UAV systems Turkey intended to buy from an Israeli supplier been delayed significantly? What went wrong with the UAV program? Why did Turkey have to lease UAV systems from Israel, with Israeli crew to operate them, to make up for the delays?

More questions. What kind of contract specifications forced the American supplier out of the competition and left the Israeli contender as the only contender in the competition? Why did the Israeli contender fail to deliver on time? Is it because of the Turkish sub-contractor who, due to competition rules, manufactures the critical pods for the UAVs? Basically, the question is, whose fault are the delays? And why? Further, have the delays caused any operational weakness? If not, fine. If so, who should be blamed?

What went wrong with the jammers?

By the way, the same “national” defense company – Turkey's biggest defense concern by turnover – also volunteered to design, develop and manufacture improved jammers against the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) many years ago, to protect military convoys from roadside bombs. Since the company set off to work, how many casualties have there been due to IEDs? Why not an off-the-shelf purchase as a stopgap solution until the company begins deliveries? When will the company complete deliveries and how well would they protect the military convoys from PKK attacks by IEDs?

Is the Turkish-Iraqi border physically and geographically too impossible to protect? If so, why have there been numerous plans for border security? If not, why have they not been executed in more than two decades? If the answer is “yes-and-no,” will there still be efforts for border security, in which form, and at what cost? Do these efforts fall into the “classified” category?

More questions. If the military needs hi-tech reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities as part of their war against the PKK, is it reasonable that after 10 years of effort we are still years away from possessing a military satellite?

What went wrong with the satellite, with spy planes?

Understandably, a 2001 preliminary contract with a French satellite maker was cancelled due to the French parliament's recognition of the Armenian genocide. But in the renewed competition there are two European companies that are one-third French-owned. Will the French bidders be excluded from competition, too? Or is this another “priority buy” that is not a priority? Has there been an operational weakness due to the decade-long delay in procuring Turkey's first military satellite? If so, should we blame the French? Should we blame ourselves? If not, why is the satellite program still on the “priority buy list?”

Is this not the best time to use airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, publicly known as AWACS, or spy planes that the Turkish procurement system penned and ordered many years ago? Why has the supplier, Boeing, delayed deliveries by several months? Will there be penalties? If so, in what form? If in cash form, how much?

Every war has its “dark side of the moon” facets. Turkey's war against the PKK is no exception. This is just a bit of innocent curiosity about when anyone with authority will begin to inquire about the missing link between procurement and operational failures in the war. Will anyone ever do that?

Consultants Proxies in New Russian Oligarch Fight

Mikhail Friedman squared off against IPOC and then Oleg Deripaska took on Mihail Chernoy. Now a new battle between Russian oligarchs has broken out between Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich

The long and complicated feuds between oligarchs living in exile are being played out in courtrooms but also in the media. And each time consultants are also hired to act as proxies until the quarrels are resolved. Involving huge sums of money and facts that are hard to pin down because they took place in a tumultuous period in Russia, the stand-offs are never fully settled by the courts. The outcome depends largely on the capacity of consultants to modify the balance of power sufficiently between the two sides by manoeuvres and revelations to lead the combatants to the negotiating table.

In a suit filed in May before Britain’s High Court, Boris Berezovsky accused Roman Abramovich of forcing him to sell his shares in the ORT television chain and then in the Sibneft oil company at bargain-basement prices, promising in return to facilitate the release of Berezovsky’s associates and friends behind bars in Moscow. He accuses him of also wrongly selling shares in Rusal that had only been placed in his care. Berezovsky’s camp estimates the loss at between USD 5 and USD 12 billion.

But the battle between the two also has a political side. Like Oleg Deripaska, Abramovich has remained on good terms with president Vladimir Putin. Over the past seven years he has divided his time between his businesses in London and his job as governor of the autonomous district of Chukotka. Living in exile in London since 2000, Berezovsky has declared himself a stout enemy of Putin and has provoked him on several occasions, to the displeasure of the Kremlin.

Storming the Caspian

Storming the Caspian

As the five Caspian states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan - are trying, with little success, to come to terms on the legal status of Caspian Sea, the region is gradually emerging as one of the most explosive parts of the world. Experts believe that tensions there could come to a head soon.

In Washington's Cross Hairs

The Caspian region is turning from a zone of diplomatic games into a military test site. The coastal states are actively building up their military presence: in the past decade, the number of warships on the Caspian has almost doubled, while coastal infrastructure is also being rapidly reinforced. Furthermore, "non-Caspian" countries, in particular the United States, have started demonstrating their interest and flexing their muscle in the area.

Washington's foreign policy line in the Caspian region is geared toward several goals. Priority is given to creating conditions where Moscow would be unable to exercise control over U.S. energy projects. The United States is currently trying to justify its plan to increase its influence on the Caspian with the pressing need to boost security along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. There has been increasing talk in the West about the need for NATO's military presence in the Caspian region.

"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is considering the possibility of providing security for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline," said Robert Simmons, the NATO secretary general's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. "The Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline runs to Turkey, a NATO country, and passes through the territory of Azerbaijan, a NATO partner. The protection of energy infrastructure includes the security of this oil pipeline in addition to other energy infrastructure facilities." He said that terrorism is the biggest threat to the pipeline.

Washington is also seriously concerned by the prospect of a full blown war breaking out between Turkey and ethnic Kurds based in the north of Iraq. The White House is no longer attempting to hide its fear of bomb attacks against the oil pipelines leading from rebellious Kurdistan. Furthermore, the Americans do not rule out that possible terrorist attacks could be carried out on orders from Tehran, while Washington is on the verge of war with it.

The Iran problem is yet another plausible excuse for the U.S. to strengthen its military presence in the Caspian: the Pentagon needs logistic bases in the region should it decide to use force against Tehran. The Americans intend to use Azerbaijan's territory in an anti-Iran campaign. Washington has already provided $30 million to beef up the country's coast guard. Now the United States has earmarked $135 million as part of the Caspian Guard Initiative, a framework program designed to coordinate activities in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan with those of U.S. Central Command and other U.S. government agencies to enhance Caspian security. The program assists the two countries in improving their ability to prevent and, if needed, respond to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, drug and human trafficking, and other transnational treats in the Caspian region. According to some reports, the Pentagon has already built two radar stations, as well as command and control facilities in Azerbaijan. In addition to that, as part of Baku's partnership plan with Brussels, Azerbaijan's Navy and Border Service will be provided with advanced, state of the art military hardware and equipment.

NATO has also finalized a long term program to provide military support for all pipelines along the Caspian-Turkey-Balkans route. A NATO contingent is already present in the region, in particular at former Soviet military bases in the Azerbaijani towns of Kurdamir, Nasosnoye and Gulli: "temporary mobile forces" have been deployed there since the spring of 2006. Their strength, according to different estimates, varies between 750 and 1,300 troops, but is expected to double in the foreseeable future. This force is also designed for "strategic missions" in Georgia, its principal function being to "protect" the Azerbaijani-Georgian section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

The Stakes

It is noteworthy that the Caspian "Group of Five" have different views on Western military presence in the oil region.

Like Iran, Russia has long been opposed to any interference by "third party countries" in regional affairs. At their recent summit in Tehran, the "Group of Five" adopted a declaration prohibiting the presence of "non-Caspian" armed forces in the region or any use of force in resolving regional problems. The Caspian was declared "a sea of peace."

The Kremlin is convinced that Washing­ton's military plans in the Caspian region are not only aimed against Tehran: they also jeopardize Russia's security and sovereignty. Furthermore, Moscow is evidently attempting to neutralize the West's efforts to strengthen its presence in the Caspian region, not least through large scale energy projects. Analysts believe that one of Russia's priorities today is to thwart the construction of the Nabucco trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline to Europe bypassing Russia. The provisions of the Tehran agreements signed by the five Caspian nations can easily freeze this project skirting Russia.

However, many experts are skeptical about the Tehran documents, stressing that they are but a declaration of intent. Indeed, it is rather unlikely that Azerbaijan will deny the Americans the use of its soil. After all, Baku, which has already clashed with Tehran over disputed oil fields, is well served by U.S. military presence, especially in the event of new friction with the Iranian side.

For their part, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which were unable to bow out of participation in the Trans-Caspian project lobbied for by the West, are also unlikely to adopt a tough stance on U.S. military presence in the Caspian, especially considering that Washington is actively helping these republics in protecting their oil and gas deposits and is ready to invest heavily in developing sections of the Kazakh and Turkmen shelves in the Caspian Sea.

It seems that only China could show complete solidarity with Russia and Iran in their anti-U.S. stance. Analysts believe that China could soon become an additional center of influence in the region. Beijing, which is building a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, will somehow or other have to protect its oil and gas interests. So it is quite possible that unless a convention on the legal status of the sea (lake) is signed, Chinese flagged ships could appear in the Caspian waters.

Incidentally, experts believe that Tehran, which owns two percent of global oil reserves, nevertheless, regards Moscow as a potential competitor and does not rule out the possibility of clashes with the Russian side and could use Beijing as a counterweight not only against the United States, but also against Russia. And it looks like Iran is ready to bet on the new Caspian player. Meanwhile, the stakes in the Caspian game are very high: according to various estimates, this body of water contains between four and 10 percent of the world's hydrocarbon reserves.

As for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thus far, they are only building up their military capability on the Caspian to protect their own natural resources. But given the disparity of the geo-political interests of the Caspian states and the lack of serious agreements in the realm of regional security, today, they can be seen as potential adversaries in a possible war. True, to date, there have been no scenarios for a military conflict in this landlocked sea: the military doctrines of the coastal states do not even use the term "border threats."

By Vasilina Vasilyeva

Russia, EU still divided on trans-Siberian overflight charges

11:39 | 14/ 11/ 2007

MOSCOW. (Sergei Sokolov for RIA Novosti) - The Russia-EU aviation summit, slated for November 16-17 in Moscow, has been "postponed for an indefinite time" because of Moscow's reluctance to sign an agreement on trans-Siberian overflights.

On November 8, the Russian Transport Ministry said the summit had been called off indefinitely. According to both Russian and European media, the European Commission, which had co-organized the summit, wants to punish Moscow for its intractability.

Brussels has done everything possible to turn the issue of trans-Siberian overflight fees into a serious irritant in bilateral relations. The EU is regularly raising this purely technical issue at the highest level along with calls on Moscow to make concessions in the spheres of democracy, energy, human rights and Polish meat imports. It appears that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson cannot help over reacting at the mention of trans-Siberian overflight tax.

By deciding to boycott the summit, the EU has lost a unique opportunity to discuss an important issue with senior Russian Government officials and aircraft industry managers.

Over the last five years, trans-Siberian overflights have become the subject of loud statements on both sides. Inevitably the issue has also become clouded by myths. Before addressing the issue, it is worth trying to clear some of these up.

Myth one. The Russian Government is charging overflight tax for the use of national air space and in violation of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. This is not true. In reality, this would imply mutual settlements between economic agents - Russian and EU air carriers. As Russian Government receives no money, it does not violate the Convention.

Myth two. Trans-Siberian overflight fees run counter to standard international practice and Russia's international commitments. This is not true either. Airlines all over the world sign commercial contracts in accordance with bilateral inter-governmental air-traffic agreements.

Myth three. Russia is forcing the EU to use trans-Siberian routes and pay money for that. However, the system of trans-Siberian overflights was established in the 1960s and the 1970s in response to European airlines' persistent requests for a short cut to Asia. Nobody is preventing EU flag carriers from using other routes, including those outside Russia.

Myth four. Moscow pledged to abolish trans-Siberian overflight fees three years ago. Although this false EU assertion has now become quite popular, the truth is that the Russian Government and former Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref unilaterally pledged to introduce a transparent system of trans-Siberian charges by 2013, to more accurately reflect real expenses and prevent discrimination among foreign air carriers. But Russia did not promise to completely abolish such fees.

Myth five. Trans-Siberian overflight charges hinder air traffic between Europe and Asia. In reality, EU flag carriers annually operate hundreds of thousands of flights along this shortest, most convenient and economical route. From January to September 2007, the number increased by 14%.

Myth six. Over-flight charges violate the rules of the WTO, and will prevent Russia's joining this organization. The European Commission's Director General for Trade is spreading this lie. But the truth is that the WTO does not regulate air-traffic issues. Furthermore the problem of Russia's accession to the WTO has been created by Peter Mandelson and his colleagues in spite of the fact that the May 2004 Russia-EU protocol on bilateral WTO-accession terms says nothing about streamlining trans-Siberian overflight tax.

Myth seven. President Vladimir Putin has promised to the EU that Moscow will abolish trans-Siberian overflight fees. The Russian leader has never made any such promises, not even during the recent Russia-EU summit in Portugal.

Myth eight. Trans-Siberian overflight fees hinder expanded bilateral cooperation in the sphere of civil aviation. Nonetheless, such cooperation continues to develop in spite of the obstacles created by Brussels. Russian companies join international alliances involving European carriers and discuss major asset-exchange deals. Moreover, national aircraft industries discuss additional cooperation projects.

The May 2004 Russia-EU protocol on the terms of Moscow's WTO accession called for discussing the parameters and deadlines for streamlining trans-Siberian overflight charge as part of bilateral talks to conclude a large-scale air-traffic agreement. However, the European Commission has not upheld its part of this gentlemen's agreement, failing to obtain an EU mandate for holding such talks.

Russian experts remain divided over an agreement similar to the EU-U.S. "open skies" treaty. Many believe that Russian national carriers are not yet ready to compete with EU airlines on global markets. Nevertheless, talks on a Russia-EU air-traffic agreement could lead to a mutually acceptable compromise between the EU, the European Commission and Russia's civil aviation and aircraft industry.

The EU's decision to cancel the summit in Moscow shows that, in spite of loud declarations of its desire for equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with Moscow, Brussels wants such cooperation to resemble a one-way street.

Sergei Sokolov is an adviser to the Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Why "Koodankulam Plus" Agreement was not Signed at Moscow?

Source: SAAG

by B. Raman

Prior to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's just concluded 28-hour visit to Moscow on November 11-12, 2007, for talks with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, it was widely speculated in New Delhi that the visit would see the signing, inter alia, of a "Koodankulam Plus" agreement under which Russia would help India in setting up four more civilian nuclear power reactors at Koodankulam in southern Tamil Nadu.

2. These would be in addition to the two already under construction under an agreement signed by India and Russia in 1988. When work on the two reactors was about to start, the Clinton Administration in the US had strongly opposed it on the ground that even though the 1988 agreement was signed before the restrictions on civilian nuclear trade imposed by the Nuclear Supliers' Group (NSG) came into force, these restrictions would retrospectively apply to the 1988 Indo-Russian agreement too. The US contention was rejected by Moscow and New Delhi and Moscow went ahead with the construction. The US too did not raise any further objection.

3. Under an agreement on civilian nuclear co-operation signed between China and Pakistan in 1985. Beijing had agreed to help Pakistan in the construction of a nuclear power station at Chashma, which is now referred to as Chashma I. The US did not object to it. Its construction has been completed and it is now operational.

4. Subsequently, China accepted a request from Pakistan for the construction of another nuclear power reactor at Chashma, to be called Chashma II. An agreement was signed under the over-all framework of the 1985 grandfather agreement. The Clinton Administration objected to this on the ground that the NSG restrictions would retrospetively apply to Chashma II. Both Beijing and Islamabad rejected the US objection and pointed out that Russia was going ahead with the construction of the two reactors at Koodankulam.They went ahead with the construction and the Clinton Administration did not raise any further objection.

5. When Pakistan heard that Russia had agreed in principle to construct four more reactors at Koodankulam under the 1988 grandfather agreement, it requested China for assistance in the construction of more power reactors. Musharraf requested the Chinese leaders during his State visit to China in February, 2006, for Chinese assistance in the construction of six more nuclear power stations, with a capacity of 600 or 900 MWS each. The Chinese reportedly agreed in principle to supply two stations of 300 MWs each to be followed later by four more. This subject again figured in the General's bilateral discussions with President Hu Jintao in the margins of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) summit at Shanghai in June, 2006, and in the subsequent discussions between the officials of the two countries, who met at Islamabad and Beijing for doing the preparatory work for President Hu Jintao's visit to Pakistan from November 23 to 26, 2006.China agreed to construct two more power reactors at Chashma to be called Chashma III and Chashma IV.

6. Gen. Musharraf and his officials were so confident that an agreement in principle for the construction of Chashma III and IV would be initialed during Mr. Hu's visit that they even set up a site selection task force. But, before the arrival of Mr.Hu in Islamabad, the spokespersons of the Foreign Ministries of Pakistan and China tried to discourage expectations in Pakistan that Gen. Musharraf and Mr.Hu would be initialling a memorandum of understanding on the Chinese supply of two more nuclear power stations. They described the reports in this regard, which had been appearing in the Pakistani media for weeks before Mr. Hu's visit, as speculative and not based on facts.

7. Well-informed Pakistani sources attributed the decision not to initial the MOU to the bilateral discussions between President George Bush and Mr.Hu at Hanoi in the margins of the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Organisation on November 18 and 19, 2006. The speculation was that during these bilateral discussions, Mr. Bush pointed out to Mr.Hu that the Chinese supply of new nuclear power stations to Pakistan could not be projected as a continuation of the Chinese assistance to Pakistan under the 1985 bilateral co-operation treaty under which CHASHMA I and CHASHMA II were given and hence would need the clearance of the NSG. According to this speculation, Mr. Bush was also reported to have referred to the Pakistani rejection of repeated requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to hand over Dr. A. Q. Khan for an independent interrogation and pointed out that the Chinese supply of the new power stations could encourage Pakistan's non-cooperation with the IAEA.

8. It was believed by these sources that Beijing, which has been projecting itself as a responsible and co-operative interlocutor of the US, Japan and South Korea on the question of North Korea's nuclear programme and had won praise for its role in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table, did not want this positive image to be dented by disregarding the reservations of Mr. Bush relating to the supply of new power stations to Pakistan. It, therefore, changed its stance at the last minute and agreed not to go ahead with Chashma III and Chashma IV.

9. There was no substantive reference to the co-operation between China and Pakistan in the field of civilian nuclear energy during Mr. Hu's visit to Pakistan. The joint statement issued on November 25, 2006, by Gen. Musharraf and Mr.Hu said: “The two sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector, including fossil fuels, coal, hydro-power, nuclear power, renewable sources of energy as well as in the mining and resources sector.” Addressing a press conference after his talks with Gen. Musharraf, Mr.Hu said in reply to a question on nuclear co-operation: "Cooperation in the energy sector is an important component in the relationship between the two countries. We reached a common understanding on strengthening energy cooperation. We would continue this cooperation in future as well." While Mr.Hu himself did not refer to any future supply of new nuclear power stations, some Pakistani analysts interpreted Mr. Hu's remarks as indicating a willingness to supply more nuclear power stations.

10. Pakistani officials and analysts close to the Government tried to give the impression that the fact that no memorandum of understanding was signed did not mean that the Chinese were not going ahead with the project. But, the Chinese Foreign Office spokesperson was very clear on this point during a media briefing on November 20, 2006, at Beijing. He said: "As far as I know, there will be no new arrangement in this area."

11. Interestingly, in reply to a question on this subject, Mr. Sean McCormack, a spokesperson of the US State Department, said in Washington as follows on November 27, 2006: "The US welcomes strong ties between China and Pakistan and urges China to play a constructive role in world affairs. We encourage development of bilateral relations between Pakistan and its neighbours. China and Pakistan have a long history of relations. As for any sort of nuclear angle on this, I’m not aware of anything new that was announced or is allowed for by these agreements other than what was already grandfathered in by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. So I don’t think there’s anything new on that front.”

12. What he apparently meant was that in addition to the Chashma I and Chashma II power stations given by China under the old agreement of 1985, there would be nothing new for the present till approved by the NSG. What was significant was that China paid attention to the US reservations on this subject instead of going ahead with its assistance as it did in the past in matters such as the supply of M-9 and M-11 missiles and nuclear equipment to Pakistan. This new attention to US reservations is what the Americans welcomed as China's constructive role.

13. There was no reference to China's possible assistance to Pakistan for the construction of Chashma IV and V for nearly seven months ---either from the Pakistani side or from the Chinese side. On July 18, 2007, there was a surprising reference to it in a Chinese statement on the Pakistani commando action in the Lal Masjid. This caused anger against the Chinese, who were suspected to have forced Musharraf to order the commando action after the kidnapping of six Chinese women by some students of the girls' madrasa attached to the Masjid. The "China Daily" reported as follows on July 18, 2007: "China did not push Pakistan for operations against the Red Mosque, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui said. It is the consistent policy of China not to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries, he told The News, a major Pakistani daily. Luo said he was considering an invitation to visit the mosque but it was made impossible due to the unstable security situation. "We enjoy very cordial relations with the ruling party here and likewise we maintain friendly ties with other segments of the society including the political parties of the opposition," he said. "I had no knowledge as to why Chinese nationals are being targeted and were the victims in five recent incidents", Luo said, referring to several Chinese who were killed in that country. He said if Chinese continued to be targeted, cooperation between the two countries could suffer. To protect the 3,000 Chinese working in Pakistan, China and Pakistan have decided to set up a Joint Task Force (JTF), the Ambassador revealed. China and Pakistan are still close friends and neighbors, Luo said. The Chinese Government is in discussions about proposed Chashma-III and IV for nuclear power projects. Chashma-II will be completed early next year, he said."

14. Apparently concerned over the anti-Chinese turn in some sections of public opinion in the tribal areas, the Chinese once again started talking of possible Chinese assistance for the construction of Chashma III and IV in order to reassure Pakistani public opinion that China would continue to be a steadfast friend of Pakistan.

15. During President Putin's visit to India in January, 2007, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Intent on the Russian supply of four more power reactors for Koodankulam. A formal agreement was subsequently negotiated in pursuance of this and this agreement was expected to be signed during Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow. It is believed that in the meanwhile the US pointed out that the proposed supply of four more nuclear reactors could not be "grandfathered" under the 1988 agreement. The US interpreted them as fresh sales, which would attract the restrictions of the NSG just as it had done in the case of Chashma III and Chashma IV.

16. Since China and Pakistan had accepted the US interpretation in respect of Chashma III and Chashma IV, it would have been difficult for India to disregard the US objection and go ahead with the signing of the agreement. The decision of the Government of India not to go ahead with the signing, but to await the lifting of the restrictions by the NSG on nuclear trade with India is ,therefore, understandable. Moreover, since the US has agreed to steer the 123 Agreement with India through the NSG after India has signed an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna, it would have been difficult for India to go ahead with the signing in Moscow.

17. The US had taken up the issue of the four new reactors not only with the Government of India at New Delhi, but also with the Russian Government at Moscow. Russian officials have been quoted by the media as claiming that while they were prepared to go ahead with the signing, India was not. One does not know how far this is factually correct. In view of the Chinese acceptance of the US interpretation in November 2006, as to what could not be "grandfathered", it would have been equally difficult for Moscow to ignore the US objections.

19. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of August 12, 2007, titled "CHINA & THE 123 AGREEMENT: An Update" at

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

NIGERIA : Militants attack jetty in Akwa Ibom

Militants attack jetty in Akwa Ibom
By Our Reporter
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Suspected militants, on Monday attacked Ibeno Jetty, in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The militants overpowered some Navy personnel on location and snatched machine guns. They also blew up two police boats, while in the ensuing crossfire, a pregnant woman was killed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had threatened to resume its onslaught in the region, after perceived official indifference to its demands for greater share of oil revenue and prioritized development of the states in the affected zone.

Analysis: Nigeria sees al-Qaida oil threat

Published: Nov. 12, 2007 at 2:40 PM
Print story Email to a friend Font size:PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Nigerian Security officials say they foiled a terrorist plot that included bombing attacks by suspects linked to al-Qaida, officials said Monday.

The undisclosed number of suspects were arrested over the weekend -- following a lengthy investigation, according to the country's State Security Services -- in the northern, predominantly Muslim states of Kaduna, Kano and Yobe.

The SSS said the men were tied to several attacks on police stations and residential neighborhoods in that part of the country. Among the items recovered following the men's arrest were assorted firearms and fertilizer that could be used to makes explosives.

"The successes recorded in the operation that led to the arrest of the suspects were attributed to the recent changes in the State Security Service, especially the reorganization and strengthening of the Anti-Terrorism Department and prioritizing of operational focus," said an SSS official, Nigeria's Leadership newspaper reported Monday.

In addition to alleging the suspects were associated with al-Qaida, security officials also accused the men of being members of the "Nigerian Taliban," a group of Muslim university students that in 2003 was accused of raiding several police stations in northern Nigeria.

The Nigerian Taliban, however, has no ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Over the last several years, there have been widespread allegations that terrorist groups like al-Qaida have been trying to infiltrate Muslim communities in Nigeria, though local authorities have been unable to produce credible evidence supporting the claim.

There are reports certain parts of Nigeria's northern border with Chad are havens for extremist Islamic groups.

"It would be very difficult to prove there are ties to al-Qaida here in Nigeria," said Adam Isa, a leader in the Polo Central Mosque in Port Harcourt, adding that the mosque's imam discourages its members from pursuing ties to Islamic extremists.

Concerns about terror groups infiltrating Nigeria have increased in recent years.

Two months ago, the U.S. Embassy in Abuja warned that Islamic extremist groups could be planning an attack. A similar warning prompted the closure of U.S. diplomatic missions in Abuja and Nigeria's largest city, Lagos.

In 2006, there were rumors circulating that al-Qaida was, in fact, reaching out to the country's militants in the Niger Delta in hopes of waging a terrorist campaign in the region responsible for Nigeria's multibillion dollar oil and gas industry.

Militant groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta have been waging a campaign of attacks on both onshore and offshore oil facilities and pipelines in the proclaimed hope of prompting the corrupt Nigerian government of improving living condition in the delta, where many residents do not have access to clean drinking water or other basic amenities.

During the last year alone, MEND and other groups have been responsible for more than 150 kidnappings in the delta and numerous attacks on oil rigs. On Monday, shots were reportedly fired on an ExxonMobil facility, its main oil terminal in the country, though no one was injured.

The militancy and gang movements are blamed for causing a 20 percent decrease in the country's production levels in the last two years, down from 2.5 million barrels per day.

Despite the unrest in the Niger Delta, militants have denounced claims MEND and others are tied to al-Qaida and global Islamic extremism, noting that southern Nigeria is predominantly Christian.

Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a leader of the militant Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, dismissed claims that the other groups might be forging ties with al-Qaida.

"Most of the SSS are liars, as is evident with these claims of terror arrest," Asari, himself a Muslim, told United Press International Monday.

Published: Nov. 12, 2007 at 11:23 AM

ABUJA, Nigeria, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- It's been almost six months since the release from prison of Nigerian militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.

Since then, Asari, 43, who in 2004 led the armed occupation of the country's de facto petroleum capital, Port Harcourt, has repeatedly spoken out against political corruption, foreign oil and its adverse effects on the Niger Delta. He has also criticized armed groups that profess to have the same interests as his own Niger Delta People Volunteer Force.

In an interview with United Press International, Asari talked about the crucial issues affecting Nigeria, particularly those in the delta, where billions of dollars of oil and gas are extracted annually though the vast majority of people live in abject poverty.

Revered by some delta residents as a hero, and others as a gang leader responsible for numerous deaths, Asari spoke candidly about his impressions of new Nigerian President Umaru Yard'Adua, foreign petroleum companies and the ethic and tribal strains that continue to fracture Nigeria, a former British colony that has known little peace since its independence in 1960.

UPI: You appear to be very popular since your release from prison. Why is that?

Asari: Because people are able to make a distinction between our struggle and the struggle of those who are engaged in criminal activities. Our struggle is moral and just. It is based on the traditional ethics of the people of the Niger Delta. It's not about making money or mass murder. And that's what some people have reduced the struggle to.

Q: NDPVF is not about that?

A: No. Never.

Q: How does your struggle differ from that of armed militants in the delta?

A: We were in the creeks for 12 months (October 2003-October 2004). And during that time, we didn't do one single act of kidnapping. But we were very effective. We drew the attention of the world with our successes against the Nigerian military. We seized Port Harcourt city for eight hours (August 2004). The people pleaded with us to leave Port Harcourt. The government of the day fled Port Harcourt.

It was such a force. There was no kidnapping of children, no bank robbery – none of these activities that are now going on. People have now been able to make a distinction. They say: "Look, this is a genuine struggle (Asari's NDPVF) and this is a false struggle (the current militant and gang activity in the Niger Delta.)

Q: Regarding this "struggle" now: Some say there is no difference between militant groups like MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and armed gangs. Is there is difference?

A: There is no organization known as MEND. It does not exist (now).

Q: How is it then that a group calling itself the MEND takes responsibility for armed attacks on oil installations and kidnappings of foreign oil workers?

A: Let me educate you about how MEND came about. When I was arrested, the NDPVF and other groups met and decided to start an agitation for my release. But the Ijaw groups want to provide an armed platform. Those that wanted to form an armed platform formed the MEND. And the name MEND came into being. But there is no structure to MEND. There is not official to MEND.

Q: Where are the militants and gangs in the Niger Delta getting their weapons?

A: The guns are everywhere. I can take you there to buy one.

Q: Where did the NDPVF get their arms?

A: One of our arms suppliers. (Asari did, however, tell UPI his arms were purchased with his own money from a supplier who later became a member of the MEND.)

Q: In a recent interview you said that Nigeria is a country, but not a nation. What did you mean by that?

A: A nation is a group of people of common origin. We are not of common origin. We were forced to come together as one nation. We are not the same people. But the people were forcefully amalgamated to form Nigeria. But we have not come together as one nation and it would be difficult for us to do so.

Q: Why?

A: Because we are not the same people. We have to agree. If all of us want to jettison our separate identities and sovereignties and fuse together as one we have to see that. No one can use the force of harm to make us what we are not. The Nigerian government has the backing of the military. The military is used to put down the people, put down dissenting voices and say you must be "Nigerians." We (the NDPVF) are saying it cannot happen. That's why the armed struggle in Nigeria began in 1966.

Q: What do you think of President Umaru Yar'Adua?

A: I have met the man (Yar'Adua) on three occasions. He is a likable man. But the interests at stake are too much for him (to handle). He is not courageous enough to undo all the evil and crimes that have been committed during all these years.

Q: Is there someone in Nigeria can tackle these problems?

A: Possibly.

Q: Is it you?

A: If I become president I can do it.

Q: There are widespread allegations that the last presidential election was fraudulent. Do you think so?

A: I cannot say because I was underground (in prison). In 2003, the election was a fraud. That's what led to my confrontation with the government.

Q: There are calls from some for a referendum, would you run for president?

A: I don't think so.

Q: How do you feel about the multinational oil companies operating in the delta?

A: They are criminals -- irresponsible criminals. They have to be put on trial for polluting the environment and discharging toxic waste into the rivers killing our aquatic life and all the wildlife. They are turning the Niger Delta into a wasteland.

Q: What can be done to improve the environment and save the delta?

A: We need a strong leader to change that. Yar'Adua has not yet shown he can do that. He has not exhibited that courage. The problem is political. We say that if we regain our political independence as sovereign people then all these things will fall in place.

Q: What do residents of the Niger Delta need most?

A: Political freedom! The freedom to decide who they are those who are going to govern them; the freedom to make laws for themselves, to preserve their culture and political freedom to decide everything for themselves.

Azerbaijan: Heading off jihad

A spate of recent arrests and an alleged plot to attack on western embassies in Baku are alarming indicators of rising Islamic radicalization among Azerbaijan's disenfranchised ethnic minorities. While these groups appear to lack any concrete organization, the government's failure to address their needs and strengthen its democratic institutions could buy them enough time to become a much more serious threat. From ISA.

By ISA Staff (14/11/07)

Authorities in Azerbaijan have arrested an army lieutenant wanted in connection with an alleged terrorist plot targeting the US and British embassies and other facilities in Baku, according to local news reports. Lieutenant Kamran Asadov and another man were arrested on 9 November in a forest near Baku. Ten days prior to their arrest, the pair had reportedly stolen several thousand dollars worth of cash in a gas-station robbery. The authorities said the two had confessed to the terror plot.

Earlier, on 2-3 November, the authorities arrested eight people, including purported al-Qaida emissary Abu Jafar and confiscated four crates of submachine guns. It was unclear if the two incidents were connected.

According to local media reports citing official statements, Lieutenant Asadov had deserted his military unit, taking with him grenades, assault rifles and ammunition. The country's security ministry described him as a follower of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, which holds to strict literal interpretations of the Qur'an and Hadith.

When the authorities initially announced they had thwarted a terrorist attack, the US and British embassies responded to the potential threat by temporarily closing down, while the offices of several major international oil companies followed suit.

Azerbaijan exports around 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline operated by an international consortium led by BP.

It was the first such plot uncovered in Azerbaijan, and the arrests raise questions as to how organized the oil-rich country's radical Islamic forces have become, and regarding the threat they pose.

While the government is strictly secular and has close ties to Washington, the public's relationship with Islam, especially outside the capital Baku, is a complicated one, as is the ethnic patchwork in many regions.

For now it remains uncertain to what extent these radical groups pose a threat to the country's secular government, but what is clear is that the country's disenfranchised minorities who benefit little if at all from the oil-rich nations resource revenues are increasingly disillusioned.

Radical Islam is quickly stepping in to fill in the gap, and while these groups appear to lack any concrete organization, the government's failure to address minority needs and to strengthen its democratic institutions could buy them enough time to become a much more serious threat.

Trouble in the north
The varied ethnic minorities that inhabit the north are increasingly expressing their dissatisfaction with Baku. The northern province retains the characteristics of a nearly separate country, inhabited by Legzins, Nakhchivanis, "Armenian Azeris" (sometimes called "Yeraz"), Georgians and Kurds. The Lezgins, who hail largely from Dagestan and Azerbaijan, are, with several other minorities, particularly distant from the centers of power.

According to ISA source Karl Rahder, who spends much of his time in the region, the Lezgin's Sunni identity and the fact that they are not Turkic Azeris widens this gulf. "The mix of foreigners (e.g. Chechens) in the north as well as Azerbaijani ethnic and religious minorities is something that Sunni radicals exploit cleverly, using the resentment as a component of their power base. And in its extreme form, you find certain Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) groups spreading hatred against Shia, claiming that it is an impure form of Islam," Rahder told ISA.

"What I'm suggesting," Rahder said, is that when Chechens and Dagestanis filter into Azerbaijan to avoid pursuit by the Russian army, they feel quite at home. And occasionally, they find a receptive audience at Sunni mosques in northern regions such as Quba and Zaqatala. And it is in the north where the occasional weapons cache is (allegedly) found or where a shootout with police takes place from time to time."

Rahder believes, however reluctantly, that radicalism in Azerbaijan could spread because the people do not feel that they "own" their own country. "They feel economically squeezed and totally disenfranchised by rigged elections and systemic corruption. The perceived tribalism of the elite families is fuel on the fire."

As such, he says, radical Islam is a "seductive and powerful alternative to participation in a political system that marginalizes these groups." Further to this he points to a small group of Sunni separatists recently proclaiming an "autonomous republic" in the northern regions of Zaqatala and Balekan, complete with its own flag.

Still, it is far from clear whether these groups are organized and to what extent they pose a serious threat.

In Rahder's opinion, "there is no network that is being activated or even can be. The growing disaffection and resultant Salafi activity are spontaneous and remain uncoordinated, in my view. If and when things blow up (figuratively or literally), at least for now, it's going to be in fits and starts."

Iranian influence in the south
In the south, there is also evidence of ethnic alienation and rumblings of discontent. While there is a close cultural and confessional bond between Azerbaijan and Iran, Iranian influence in the country is characterized by a complicated set of historical factors.

The Talysh minority, which lives mostly in the southern Astara and Lankaran regions, are particularly sensitive to ethnic alienation. And it is here, according to Rahder, and in other districts abutting the Araz River, that Iran has established a sphere of influence. Furthermore, he said, the village of Nadaran has a history or clashes with government forces and is a stronghold of Iranian influence."

And Rahder surmises that Iran has things relatively under control "in the south." He says that some of his sources in the region attest to the presence of Iranian-controlled sleeper cells in the country - some of them linked to Hizbollah. "These cells may be activated when the time is ripe."

"Certainly, if an American attack on Iran even appears to be aided by Azerbaijan, these groups will go into action, moving against western economic targets, embassies and Azerbaijani government facilities," Rahder said.

But for now, they are waiting patiently.

The government's response
In the meantime, the administration of President Ilham Aliyev will find heading off any jihadist trouble a serious challenge, despite the fact that security forces are quick to crack down on any movements or even potential movements that could threaten the secular government.

While police frequently break up alleged cells of jihadist activity, a report earlier this month from Zaqatala that the dean of the Art Department of the Azerbaijan Institute of Teachers suspended eight female students for wearing hijabs was particularly telling and indicative of the government's growing anxiety.

"So they are nervous," says Rahder. "And they've got a right to be, after all. Jihadists do use Azerbaijan as a sanctuary, and the Salafis do hate the Shia, and Iran does have an interest in encouraging ethnic and religious unrest in the south."

However, this decisive security action begs another question: Why don't they break up the Abu Bakr mosque - the largest mosque in the country and a nexus of Salafi activity? Rahder points out that security forces raided the much smaller Juma mosque in 2004, even though its leader was a liberal Muslim with a human rights rather than a jihadist agenda, though there were suspicions that the mosque's imam, Ilgar Ibrahmoglu, was taking orders from Tehran.

Rahder says the government has likely decided that it is in its best interest to keep the Abu Bakr mosque and its congregation in plain view, and that closing down the mosque would result in the creation of private or "underground" facilities that would be much more difficult to monitor.

In the meantime, while the government has embarked on some solid projects aimed at improving life in discontented regions, not nearly enough is being done. Rahder suggests a number of measures to quell tensions in the long term, including: a new distribution of oil wealth that would resemble the "Alaskan model" - i.e. give everyone a share of the revenues and make the revenue stream completely transparent. Alternatively, investment in infrastructure, job training, education, etc. to attract further investment and provide a pool of talented Azeris for new jobs would be beneficial, as would fostering a genuine participatory democracy that embraces (instead of undermining) the opposition.

Rahder refers to oil as a "resource curse" and key concern, arguing that the State Oil Fund is anything but transparent.

As for democratic values: "Azerbaijan has been on the cutting edge of democratic, Muslim secularism since the post-WWI period - or it was prior to being absorbed by the USSR. This brief period shows that Azerbaijan has a lot to teach the Muslim world, including Iran," says Rahder.

"And if Aliyev is smart, he will use this historical legacy to unify the country and deprive the radical Islamists of their central premise: that democracy is a sham in Azerbaijan and corruption is a permanent fact of life."

ISA is a nonprofit, independent consultancy that specializes in providing analysis of developing issues in international relations to NGOs.

Georgia: Fading 'beacon of democracy'

In light of the Georgian government's clampdown on protesters, imposition of a state of emergency and call for early elections, it is time for an honest assessment of this 'beacon of democracy.'

Image: WikipediaCommentary by Stacy Closson for ISN Security Watch (14/11/07)

After the Georgian government clamped down on protesters, declared a 15-day state of emergency, and called for early presidential elections, western governments' support for the post-Rose Revolution victors seems under scrutiny.

Are these developments just a blip on the road to democracy, or are these actions the culmination of years of violations perpetrated by the government, weakening its social contract with its citizens? Moreover, is a menacing Russia enough to justify the clampdown?

The recent events caught many in the west by surprise. The majority of the western media coverage of Georgia and read-outs of meetings between the Georgian government and western officials have been positive. Moreover, President Mikhail Saakashvili's achievements during the past four years are impressive: double digit economic growth, record privatization, improved educational standards, a professionalized police force and army and 24-hour electricity.

However, for many Georgians - including those who have worked for the government and NGOs and those residing in the periphery - much has not been democratic. The Saakashvili administration is viewed as a hierarchically constructed, increasingly autocratic regime that takes uncoordinated decisions implemented through heavy handed measures.

Opinion polls by the International Republic Institute and the Caucasus Resource Research Center reflect that not only do the majority of Georgians believe that the country is not going in the right direction, but only 15 percent trust the court system, and mistrust of the police is once again on the rise.

The government's harsh tactics in "cleansing" past practices, including reclaiming property through the use of bulldozers, employing wire and video tapping, redistributing ownership rights of lucrative markets and banning street trading, have hurt many, and the innocent have been no exception.

Moreover, the trickle down of major sales of state assets has not seemed to budge high unemployment in the periphery. Average salaries remain low and have not kept up with rising inflation.

As one employee of Liberty Institute (an NGO closely aligned to the government) told this author earlier this year, Georgia was rightfully adopting the Singaporean model of governance, putting economic development first, quelling corrupt tendencies with force when necessary and placing political decisions within an elite circle allegiant to the president.

Control of the media has been a principle tool of Saakashvili's administration. The forced closure of the independent Imedi television station is just the latest in a persistent campaign that has included increasing the government's influence over the pro-Revolution Rustavi 2 station, pressuring stations to cancel investigative programs and allowing cases of journalists' beatings to go unresolved.

With the support of his majoritarian parliament, the president has enhanced his powers, including those over law enforcement agencies, and he has ensured a monopolization of the central election commission. Saakashvili has also strengthened his party's representation in, and fiscal control over, local governments. The third branch of government - the courts - is viewed, even by the international community, as an instrument of the president.

Thus, the locus of politics in Georgia is the president. Debates in parliament, the district governments and civil society seem not to influence policy. Like his predecessor Shevardnadze, the "strong man" Saakashvili has no institutional legitimacy to survive him.

Saakashvili's warnings of a Russian-orchestrated coup d'etat sound "tired" to many, as Russia is to blame for their economic and social hardships as well as the government's inability to regain the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Average Georgians are suffering from poor relations with Russia - they want to work and trade there.

In fact, blaming Russia for the imposition of the state of emergency calls into question the ability of the Saakashvili administration to protect the sovereignty of Georgia. If things were going better in Georgia, Russia's ability to infiltrate society would likely lesson.

Ultimately, placing the blame on Russia could be related to the fate of Georgia's separatist region Abkhazia. With the fate of Kosovo supposedly to be decided in early 2008, perhaps Saakashvili is hoping that the January elections will trigger a debate as to who can best maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia; those who want friendlier relations with Russia or those who have built up the armed forces.

There is a cyclical pattern of western support for Georgia: back one man, provide lots of state-building assistance, employ the rhetoric of "our man can do no wrong," and when chaos strikes, meet with the opposition in preparation for early presidential elections. Western governments continue to do a disservice to Georgian citizens by not publicly requesting more of Georgian authorities before the chaos.

After the January presidential election, perhaps the west should begin to support incremental reforms that could eventually lead to a parliamentary model, in which the leader and cabinet are members of parliament. This could expand the number of participants in politics, raise the voice of Georgians in the periphery, and may even normalize the procedure for calling early elections.

Stacy Closson, PhD, is a visiting research fellow at Center for Security Studies (CSS). She is part of a network of post-doctoral fellows in Europe and the US called the 'Trans-Atlantic Post-Doc Fellowship for International Relations and Security (TAPIR)'.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).