January 12, 2008

Is US Planning To Hit Pak Tribal Areas?

Divya Kumar Soti

Pak Army’s increasing inefficiency in dealing with extremists is making the matters worse.

Last week ,in a low key event, Governor of Pakistan’s Frontier province Retd. Gen Jan Mohmmad Urugzai submitted his resignation, on ground of some private reasons. Resignation was accepted readily and Governor of Balochistan was given charge of NWFP for the time being.

This is seen as an ominous event in diplomatic circles. Gen Urugzai favored a political solution to current crisis in NWFP. He was a key figure in arranging past ceasefires arranged in this Jehadi hotbed. That is reason he was not liked by hawkish & deeply irritated NATO and Afghan commanders across the Durand line. Western diplomats operating on field in Pakistan who are shocked & overawed by the pace of deteriorating security situation in Pakistan are not in mood to buy any sort of new ceasefire. So, Gen Urugzai had been shown the way.

This many think, is the first sign that US may be planning to attack Al-Qaeda & Taliban in tribal areas. Last year, during same period some ‘ceasefires’ were arranged in the name of political solution ( which proved to be more fragile than what their manufacturers & consumers presumed them to be), resulted in Taliban’s Spring offensive in Afghanistan, catastrophe in Swat & by the Year end whole Pakistan is itself in dire need of a political solution which is no where in sight. Now nobody wants such solutions anymore; be it Americans, Afghans or so called feudal moderate (by Pakistani standards only).

Moreover results of Army’s offensive in Swat are unclear. Pak Army so far is unable to stop bombings and Mullah Fazlullah & other top commanders are still out of its reach. There is no clarity about damage suffered by TNSM. Number of terrorists still hiding in Swat is still unclear, but, with the kind of ease they are striking, it is clear that they still have a lot of strength. There withdrawal from District Headquarters is most probably a classical guerilla tactic. They are still there on streets in disguise and if their leadership is not shocked and eliminated at regular basis, they will continue to have capability to destabilize hinterland anytime through bombings, assassinations and other sabotage activities. Swat offensive started with lot of embarrassment for Pak Army. Lot of soldiers surrendered to terrorists, many deserted and many were taken hostage and then exchanged with terrorists. Some pilots refused to bomb Talibani positions. All this made it evident to policy makers in Washington and Delhi that they were over estimating Pak Army’s capability to take on terrorists as holes; although still pretty small; began to surface in Army and ISI.

Situation across the Durand line is not better either. In last few months, Taliban has demonstrated ability of striking in Provinces which are relatively calm and are considered free of disease known as Talibanisation. Now, Indian Government is also feeling uneasy as there was a bomb blast near Indian Consulate in Jalalabad and ITBP commandos were targeted in a suicide bombing in Nimroze province. US sponsored plan to install Benazir which Ministry of External Affairs supported tacitly, is already in shatters with her assassination.

This all is leading planners in Washington- who for the first time are taking conventional Indian & Afghan wisdom about Pakistan seriously- to consider option of military action inside tribal areas seriously and sincerely. Another very important thing is that this is election year in US. All the Democrat frontrunners are promising voters that they will hunt down terrorists by sending US troops inside Pak tribal areas. So, Republicans may try to outsmart them by doing so before elections and maintain there hawkish image on terror front; which is the only lifeline for them in coming elections. Moreover, this plan does not require crossing many technical barriers and will find support in US as well as Europe. With Iran issue taking a backseat, Pakistan may have to face the heat in coming days.

E-Mail: writing2divya@gmail.com

INDIA : Collapse of a culture

The Moving Finger Writes

By M.V. Kamath

The media which tried to cover the event were pounced upon, beaten up and had their cameras smashed. All by the CPM cadres or their police counterparts. Has the RSS ever been guilty of such behavious anywhere in India, including Gujarat? Now Karat is frightening the UPA that if it goes ahead with the talks with the IAEA, then it would withdraw its support to the coalition.

What have we come to? To what depths of political degradation have we fallen that the politicking especially prior to the first phase of elections to the Gujarat State Assembly should be turned into name-calling and mud-slinging? One is ashamed of our leaders. One expected some high class speechifying from the Congress leaders in fighting the elections. As it turned out, both Sonia Gandhi and the party general secretary Rahul Gandhi could only engage themselves in slovenly shouting unworthy of any leader. The idea, apparently, was to run down the Gujarat Chief Minister in whatever way possible. And understandably he hit back in ample measure unworthy of an elder. Sonia Gandhi was badly advised. So was Rahul. They had nothing positive to say and whatever they said reflected poor taste. Is Gujarat a “den of sins” as was made out by Congress leaders? Do they have their own hands clean?

Surprising support to the Gujarat Chief Minister has come from an unsuspected source: columnist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar. According to him, the Chief Minister is “factually on firm ground in saying that political parties who have resorted to extra judicial killings in other states are hypocrites in trying to portray Gujarat as a den of sin”. And how right he is. In Punjab, during the rise of the Pakistan-ISI sponsored Sikh militancy, upholding civil rights or the rule of law did not end it. Sikh terrorism was quashed by state terror, by extra-judicial torture, kidnapping and murder.

Ask K.P.S.Gill. Earlier, when Naxalite militants threatened West Bengal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was collusion between Congress and CPM that led to the crushing to the insurgents again, through extra-judicial means. As Aiyar noted, “Naxalism was not quashed by the rule of law, but by State terror”. Forget the past. Think of the present. Who halted the Nandigram revolt sponsored by the Bhumi Uchched Pratiridh Committee (BUPC): the West Bengal police? The CRPF? Neither. It was the CPM cadre, fully armed, which ‘invaded’ Nandigram in ‘Operation Recapture’ and took it over. Fully armed CPM cadres? Yes, fully-armed CPM cadres indeed. Not only did the CPM cadres take over Nandigram, they have been, according to The Statesman (November 16) laying down fines on BUPC supporters. The cadres would tell them that if they did not pay the fine they would have to leave their homes. Has the Congress raised its voice against this form of terrorism and utter lawlessness?

The State police simply failed to stop the cadres. And West Bengal’s Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya boasted about their work, saying the Opposition in Nandigram has been “paid back in the same coin”. He even went to the extent of saying that the CPM cadres were “legally and morally justified in entering Nandigram, armed”. Where, pray, is the rule of law? The media has not identified the so-called ‘Opposition’, which largely consisted of Muslims. Fancy something like that happening in Gujarat with a Gujarat Nandigram being ruthlessly put down, say, by ‘fully armed’ RSS cadres? The media then would have been up in arms. The RSS would have been damned as an anti-Muslim outfit. And the Chief Minister would have been condemned as a fascist, communal monster and killer of Muslims. The CPM has been able literally to get away with murder of Muslims. But what has the media to say about it? Nothing.

The Times of India (December 7, 2007) demanded of the Gujarat Chief Minister that he should “understand the rule of law”. Did it give the same advise to Buddhadev Bhattacharya? A report in The Pioneer (November 10) re-called what happened in Nandigram. It said: Hungry men, women and children, rendered homeless after CPM cadres began to shoot and bomb their way into Nandigram wailed in despair… They had to retreat under the deadly firepower of the Marxist militia armed with sophisticated weapons, including self-loading rifles…” Can one imagine RSS volunteers being thus armed? Where did the Marxist cadres get their arms from? The Congress has no answer. It prefers to look away from the scene.

CPM’s murderous activities are not new. The Marxists have been indulging in Nandigram-type violence against BJP workers in Kerala for decades. It doesn’t serve Congress to remember these foul acts. According to BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy, over the last 40 years since 1960s, about 150 RSS and BJP workers have been killed in Kerala, especially in Kannur district. Many more were attacked. As many as 15 survivors of such violent attacks, many of them amputees, told their stories to reporters in Delhi. They said that their hands and legs were cut off often because they had deserted the CPM to join the RSS or BJP. The violence shown by the CPM has never been projected by the media, because the CPM is allegedly ‘secular’. One would like to ask the CPM-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal how many of their party murderers have been booked, let alone tried and sentenced to death. If these state governments would not provide the answer, will Home Minister Shivraj Patil kindly provide one?

The late Nikhil Chakravartty was a confirmed Leftist, but even he had complaints to make against the CPM. Writing in Mainstream (January 23, 1993) a journal he edited, Chakravartty recalled how in a village in Nadia district, a deaf and dumb girl in a poverty-stricken family had been ‘allegedly’ raped by a worker of the ruling CPM. Her mother complained to Mamata Bannerjee, then a Union Minister of State and an M.P. Mamata sought an appointment with a CPM Minister in Kolkata who refused to see her. Mamata decided to observe dharna in front of the Chief Minister’s office. The police encircled her, physically dragged her down the stairs, whisked her away in a police van to police headquarters and locked her up until midnight. And this happened to a Union Minister and an MP. That is the CPM.

The media which tried to cover the event were pounced upon, beaten up and had their cameras smashed. All by the CPM cadres or their police counterparts. Has the RSS ever been guilty of such behavious anywhere in India, including Gujarat? Now Karat is frightening the UPA that if it goes ahead with the talks with the IAEA, then it would withdraw its support to the coalition. When will Congress learn that the BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat comes out smelling of roses when contrasted with the CPM thugs who observe no law and have no respect for authority? And has Congress forgotten that it was the CPM which originated the concept of gherao, torturing Company managers in many ways that was ultimately to lead to the closure of several industrial units in West Bengal? One suspects Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh suffering from loss of memory. Or is it a question of holding on to power at any cost? Answer, Congressmen, answer!

Source: http://www.organiser.org/

Implications of the New Kurdish-Sunni Alliance for Security in Iraq’s Ninawa Governorate


By Ramzy Mardini

As the U.S. military “surge” and the activities of Iraq’s Awakening Councils drive al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups into northern Iraq, a new and largely overlooked accord between Kurds and Sunnis could have enormous implications for the security situation in the Ninawa governorate.

On December 24, the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties—the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)—signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Though the agreement was grossly underreported in Western media, the event may presage a gradual but significant change in Iraqi politics with great importance for the political security of Ninawa and the rest of northern Iraq: the formation of a Kurdish-Sunni alliance.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President and KDP leader Massoud Barzani, Iraqi President and PUK leader Jalal Talabani and Sunni Vice President and IIP leader Tariq al-Hashimi signed the Kurdish-Sunni tripartite agreement in Irbil (al-Jazeera, December 25, 2007). The talks were the latest in a series of political exchanges between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Three weeks before the signing of the MoU, the Kurdish list in Kirkuk’s provincial council offered their Sunni counterpart a number of concessions, effectively ending a yearlong political boycott by the Sunni Arabs (PUK Online, December 5, 2007).

The apparent alliance may present a significant step for Iraq’s national reconciliation process. But the agreement may also introduce new security implications in Iraq if the relations between the signatories deepen, especially at the expense of the deteriorating Shiite-Kurdish alliance.

Security Implications in Northern Iraq

In the disputed territories of Iraq where Sunni Arab and Kurdish interests clash, the new alliance could create a backlash and increase violence rather than facilitate cooperation. One of those precarious, ethnically mixed areas is Mosul, the capital of Ninawa province—a northern Iraqi governorate that has been plagued with instability and violence since 2004. In October 2007, Ninawa Governor Muhammad Dreid Kashmoula quit his post declaring, “I am tendering my resignation due to the deteriorating security conditions in Ninawa and the failure to impose security and order” (Aswat al-Iraq, October 12, 2007). His exit came at a time when media reports coming out of Iraq were overwhelmingly positive regarding the regression in violence. In Ninawa, Sunni insurgents have waged a brutal campaign against Mosul’s Kurdish Yazidi community, sometimes killing entire families (Rojnama Kurdish Daily, December 10, 2007). Since 2003, almost 120 Kurdish families have left Mosul (Mydia Kurdish Weekly, January 1). One Sunni militant who had been targeting the province’s Yazidi minority was Hatim Sultan al-Hadidi—a key member of the Islamic State of Iraq—who was arrested by Iraqi soldiers in the al-Zahraa neighborhood of Mosul in December. Last April, Hadidi was responsible for the murders of 23 Yazidi workers in Mosul (Aswat al-Iraq, December 5, 2007).

Some of the violence in Mosul can be attributed to disagreements within the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI), a group formed after the U.S.-led invasion as part of the overall insurgency. The organization’s Mosul sector recently split from the Islamic Army of Iraq, renaming their section al-Fatih al-Mubeen, which can mean “the manifest opener” or “the clear conquest” (Azzaman, November 27, 2007). It appears that the formation of al-Fatih al-Mubeen was motivated by the IAI decision to suspend operations against U.S. soldiers to join the efforts of the Coalition in combating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Though the IAI has some Islamist tendencies, the group is largely comprised of Baathists, giving the organization a nationalist orientation. The shared interest in combating the U.S. military presence had helped keep the IAI from fragmenting earlier.

This interest had also been shared by al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the sectarian nature of al-Qaeda’s activities was blamed by many Sunnis for the rise of Shiite militia violence against them. The IAI has had several clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization formed in October 2006 (al-Jazeera, April 12, 2007). Unlike the IAI, al-Fatih al-Mubeen indicated their intent to continue anti-U.S. operations, implying that the pro-U.S. decision on the part of their former comrades was the main factor in contributing to the split. Yet leaflets distributed by members of al-Fatih al-Mubeen officially confirming the separation stated that the splinter group’s formation was not associated with the IAI’s new alliances (Azzaman, November 27, 2007). This would seem to suggest that al-Fatih al-Mubeen could have been formed in consequence of the Islamic Army’s adversarial outlook toward al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq. From this viewpoint, the foundation of al-Fatih al-Mubeen would seem to be inspired by Islamist motivations, rather than Iraqi nationalism.

The interest-based tribal coalition of the al-Anbar Awakening Council had already joined with U.S. forces in combating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Though the Awakening Council contributed positively to the counterinsurgency strategy in marginalizing al-Qaeda’s power in al-Anbar province, the group has quickly come to politically challenge Tariq al-Hashimi’s power as the Sunni figurehead in the Iraqi government. The IIP leader’s reasons for improving relations with the Kurdish parties are essentially two-fold: 1, Hashimi strengthens the Sunni position against the Maliki government through the new alliance, and 2, Hashimi legitimizes his status as a Sunni leader against the rising power of the tribal council in al-Anbar.

According to sources cited by the Sunni Haq News Agency, the agreement between Hashimi and the Kurdish parties stipulates that two-thirds of Ninawa province will be under Kurdish authority in any future federal region (Haq News Agency, December 29, 2007). The Federal Regions Law, passed by the Council of Representatives in October 2006, specifies that Iraq’s 18 provinces may begin to unite and form federal regions beginning in April 2008. The Sunni-Kurdish MoU is also said to completely discard the insertion of Mosul in any newly formed region and rather suggests that two-thirds of the city’s administration will be given to the Kurds, while the remaining one-third will go to Arabs and other ethnic groups (Haq News Agency, December 29, 2007). Though publicly reported, many of the aspects of the MoU, such as those indicated above, are said to be part of an “unpublished” portion of the agreement. If this is the case, Hashimi certainly had good reason to keep such information secret since public knowledge of the vice president’s compromises might create a political backlash from ordinary Sunnis, especially in Ninawa province. If accurate, the sensitivity of these compromises explains Hashimi’s passive rhetoric when describing the MoU with the Kurds: “We don’t want to send the wrong message that this [agreement] is aimed against any specific sides, but is [instead designed] to activate national reconciliation” (al-Sabah, December 26, 2007).

The Sunnis in Ninawa are conscious of any attempts by Kurdish officials to manipulate the Arab makeup of Mosul. Such prospects may motivate the Islamic State of Iraq and the newly formed al-Fatih al-Mubeen to target Hashimi, along with members and facilities associated with his Iraqi Islamic Party. If these “unpublished” concessions are part of the new alliance, they may present a new problem for the United States in maintaining the focus of the Awakening Councils on al-Qaeda. Such aspects may offer an opening to the Islamic Army of Iraq—among others in the tribal coalition—to work again with al-Qaeda in preventing any efforts to implement the “Kurdization” of Ninawa.

Decline in Shiite-Kurdish Relations

The accord’s announcement has come at a delicate time in Shiite-Kurdish relations. In August 2007, the KDP and PUK saved the central government from political paralysis by uniting in a four-party alliance with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party (Aswat al-Iraq, December 25, 2007). Since then, political developments have changed the alliance’s status—perhaps compelling Kurdish leaders to spearhead a strategic relationship with their Sunni Arab counterparts, thus redefining their existing rapport with the Shiite political bloc.

Near-term Kurdish interests are weighted around Kirkuk, an ethnically diverse city and the hub of one of Iraq’s largest oil reserves. The December 2007 deadline has passed for the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which calls for the normalization of Kirkuk by assigning the city to either the KRG or the Iraqi central government. Kurdish demands to address Article 140 have been delayed and ignored by Maliki’s government, forcing the Kurds to settle for an agreement in 2008. Arab and Kurdish lawmakers now disagree whether Article 140 is constitutionally valid since the government failed to meet the written deadline. This produced deep dissatisfaction among Kurds with Maliki and the Shiite coalition.

The relationship between Shiites and Kurds has deteriorated since last August’s announcement of the four-party alliance. Growing disputes have forced the Kurdish parties to reevaluate their political relations with the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite bloc in the Council of Representatives. In addition to the dispute over Kirkuk, the issuance of foreign oil contracts has become another point of contention between Shiite and Kurdish officials. The August 2007 passage of the Kurdish oil law by the KRG allowed for agreements with international companies in oil development and production in the Kurdish region without the approval of the central government. The Maliki government views the signing of these independent contracts as a method taken by the KRG to bypass the central government. More recently, al-Talabani questioned the validity of the 1975 Algiers Accord, an agreement dealing with territorial claims between Iraq and Iran, including the Shatt al-Arab waterway (Dar al-Hayat, December 24, 2007). Iran reacted to the comments by demanding that al-Talabani reverse his claims, which he eventually did.

The apparent Kurdish-Sunni alliance may have been formed to send a signal to Maliki that his power as prime minister is contingent on Kurdish participation. This is in fact what Salim Abdullah, a leader in Hashimi’s party, indicated when he suggested Sunnis and Kurds could come together to challenge Shiite preference and power (al-Sharq al-Awsat, December 26, 2007). By threatening to ally with the Sunnis and break up the four-party alliance—effectively paralyzing the central government—the Kurdish parties gain political leverage in pressuring Maliki to submit to the KRG’s demands.

Reactivating Shiite Militias?

The prospects of a shift in the Iraqi political power structure may result in severe threats to Iraqi security as each side attempts to regain leverage over the others. The gradual decline in Iraqi and U.S. casualties has much to do with a number of factors in addition to the increase of troop levels. Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has been successful in reining in rogue elements of his Jaysh al-Mahdi militia and maintaining a ceasefire agreement. Recently, reports indicate that Iran has had a positive influence in contributing to the decline of violence in Iraq (IPS, January 2). But the reported successes in the security aspects of the “surge” are largely superficial and contingent on broader political dynamics. Before and during the implementation of the counterinsurgency strategy, the plan for many of the terrorist organizations was to simply become dormant until U.S. troop levels declined. The positive factor represented by the actions of al-Sadr and Iran is temporary and perhaps soon approaching its expiration date. According to U.S. General David Petraeus, the United States is likely to scale down its troop levels soon, leaving the same political void that the strategy was meant to address, consequently welcoming back the violence that was tied to unresolved political issues.

If the new Kurdish-Sunni alliance becomes an obstacle for the Shiite coalition in pressuring the government on the status of Mosul and Kirkuk, it would most likely motivate Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi and Iran to enter the scene—perhaps marked by a heightened level of confrontation with Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, who are present in Baghdad. It will be interesting to watch if the emerging Kurdish-Sunni alliance can mature and prompt these actors to realign the political makeup in Iraq—a prospect that may have local and national consequences in escalating the stakes between Iraqi militias and their affiliated backers in the region.

A report from Balochistan : People & Power-Burning Issues

People & Power-Burning Issues, Al Jazeera, Jan 9, 2008: a report from Balochistan, where nationalists struggle for greater control over their region's natural resources.

Insurrection in Iranian Balochistan

From jamestown.org:
Volume 6, Issue 1 (January 11, 2008)

By Chris Zambelis

Issues of dissent and rebellion amongst Iran's elaborate patchwork of ethnic and sectarian minority communities are receiving increasing international scrutiny. Many advocacy organizations representing Iranian minorities accuse Tehran of operating a policy of cultural subjugation aimed at erasing identities distinct from Iran's dominant Persian culture and Shiite brand of Islam. In some cases, these grievances have led to unrest and bloodshed. The latest round of violence between ethnic Baloch nationalists led by Jondallah (“Soldiers of God”) and Iranian security forces in the province of Sistan-Balochistan is indicative of this wider trend in Iranian society. The shadowy Jondallah group emerged sometime in 2003 to advocate on behalf of Baloch rights. It has been known to operate under other monikers as well, including the People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PMRI).

Tehran has implicated Jondallah in a series of high-profile terrorist and guerrilla attacks against the security forces and symbols of the regime in Iranian Balochistan. Bold operations—such as the June 2005 abduction of Iranian military and intelligence personnel along the Iranian-Pakistani border and the February 2007 car bomb attack against a bus transporting members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) just outside of the provincial capital of Zahedan that left 11 dead and scores injured—have become a Jondallah signature (see Terrorism Focus, February 27, 2007).

Iranian government sources reported a series of clashes in recent weeks between Jondallah rebels and the IRGC and provincial police forces in Iranian Balochistan. On December 13, Iranian security units reported killing 12 men belonging to Jondallah and arresting others affiliated with the group in the city of Iranshahr. Security officials also reported the discovery of a weapons cache that included automatic rifles, ammunition, detonators and explosives material, as well as communications equipment and what were described as “important internal documents.” They also claimed that the detainees confessed to being part of a cell planning a series of bombings across the province in an effort to foment ethnic and sectarian unrest (Islamic Republic News Agency, December 13, 2007).

Subsequent reports alleged that Jondallah leaders and four men directly implicated in previous terrorist attacks were among those killed and detained by Iranian security forces (Voice of the Islamic Republic TV, December 19, 2007). In a December 14 interview, Jondallah's young leader Abdulmalak Rigi disputed the official casualty count, and claimed that only one member of his group was killed in the battle. Rigi, who is reported to be in his mid-twenties, also claimed that Iranian forces killed civilians during the skirmishes—including women and children—and that his forces killed 26 IRGC officers. He vowed to “take revenge for the women and children who were killed” (Voice of the Islamic Republic TV, December 19, 2007).

In another sign of escalating tensions, Iran hanged two Baloch men convicted of armed robbery and drug smuggling on December 31, in a Zahedan prison and amputated the right hand and left foot of five others convicted on armed robbery and kidnapping charges a few days later (Iranian Students' News Agency, January 6; balochpeople.org, January 7). Baloch activists accuse Tehran of systematically harassing dissidents in the province by accusing them of false criminal charges in an effort to intimidate opposition elements. In a January 3 incident, Baloch sources reported that Iranian security forces opened fire against a vehicle delivering drinking water to a wedding ceremony on a busy street in Zahedan. Witnesses videotaped the alleged incident and the ensuing chaos and posted it online [1].

Nationalism and Rebellion in West Balochistan

The Baloch national question has been a source of simmering tensions for decades. Iran's approximately one to four million-strong Baloch community inhabits the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan [2]. This desolate and underdeveloped region is one of Iran's poorest provinces. Unlike most Iranians, the Baloch are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Violent crackdowns and repression by security services in the economically backward province have engendered deep-seated animosity toward the Shiite Islamist regime among the fiercely independent and proud Baloch people.

Iranian Baloch identify with their kin in neighboring Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan—home to the region's largest Baloch population at approximately four to eight million—and the smaller Baloch community in southern Afghanistan. The Pakistani Baloch are engaged in their own long-running struggle for greater rights and independence through a violent insurgency against Islamabad. The sum of these circumstances imbues the Baloch national consciousness with a sense of historic persecution at the hands of imperial powers that left the Baloch nation divided and without a state of its own. Baloch nationalists see the unification of their people in an independent “Greater Balochistan” as a historical right. The plight of Iranian Balochistan, referred to as “West Balochistan” by Baloch nationalists, is a pillar of the wider Baloch nationalist cause [3].

Despite a lack of evidence, Tehran accuses Jondallah of serving as an affiliate of both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, claims the group emphatically denies (see Terrorism Monitor, June 29, 2006). Jondallah does, however, rely on religious discourse to highlight its grievances against the Shiite Islamist regime. This most likely represents an effort to highlight the Iranian Baloch position as an oppressed ethnic and sectarian minority within the Shiite Islamist clerical regime. Nevertheless, there are no indications that the group has ties to radical Sunni Islamists. Iran also links Jondallah to other Iranian opposition groups—including the radical People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), more commonly referred to as the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), and the affiliated National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)—in an effort to tarnish its reputation. Tehran also accuses Jondallah of harboring secessionist aspirations. Abdulmalak Rigi has stated on numerous occasions that his group's goal is not secession, but the achievement of equal rights for his people in a reformed Iran. Essentially, Jondallah frames its campaign as a war of self-defense. At the same time, Rigi has gone so far as to declare himself an Iranian and Iran as his motherland (roozonline.com, May 10, 2006). This is a position held by other Iranian Baloch dissident groups advocating on behalf of greater Baloch rights. Organizations such as the Balochistan United Front and the Balochistan National Movement coordinate closely with other ethnic and sectarian-minded opposition groups agitating for greater rights and representation in Iran, including the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran [4].

Iranian authorities often describe the group as Pakistani-based in an apparent effort to implicate outside forces in the insurgency, especially the United States. Iran also occasionally accuses Pakistan of turning a blind eye to Jondallah activities, despite a strong record of Iranian and Pakistani cooperation in suppressing Baloch nationalism on both sides of the border. Iran also suggests Jondallah is a creation of the CIA, an allegation strongly denied by Rigi himself. Iran believes that the United States and other hostile forces are providing moral, material and financial support to ethnic and sectarian-based secessionist movements—including insurgent and terrorist organizations—to undermine the Islamic Republic. Tehran is convinced that any potential U.S. attack against Iran stemming from tensions over its nuclear program or alleged support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan will include a campaign to destabilize the Islamic Republic from within. Groups such as Jondallah would figure prominently in such a strategy (see Terrorism Monitor, August 2, 2007).

There is no concrete evidence that Jondallah maintains a formal operational base in Pakistan. The difficult terrain that characterizes the Iranian-Pakistani border region is, however, a major crossroads for drug and arms smuggling between locally-based gangs. The porous border also facilitates links between Baloch families and tribes on both sides of the border. In a testament to the extent of Iranian and Pakistani Baloch links, a controversial proposal by Islamabad to construct a wall along the border inspired vocal protests from Pakistani Baloch leaders who labeled the initiative the “anti-Baloch wall” (The News International [Karachi], May 28, 2007). Given this background, it is likely that Jondallah maintains contacts over the border in Pakistan, possibly with Baloch insurgent groups operating there, such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). There is no evidence, however, of formal operational links between the two groups, as both appear committed to furthering their respective causes separately within the Iranian and Pakistani contexts.

The recent assassination of two-time Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto raises questions about the trajectory of the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan and—by extension—Iran. As a center of Baloch nationalism, events in Pakistani Balochistan have a profound impact on the Baloch cause in Iran. In an effort to win support in Pakistani Balochistan for her campaign to oust incumbent President Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto promised that her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) would implement a general amnesty for Baloch prisoners and rebels and immediately enter into negotiations with local leaders to help settle the conflict. She also criticized Islamabad's heavy-handed approach in dealing with the Baloch insurgency, accusing Musharraf of exacerbating regional tensions (Dawn [Karachi], December 21, 2007); her assassination was strongly condemned by Baloch activists. Ironically, tensions between Pakistani Baloch and the state during her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's tenure as prime minister in the mid-1970s were high. The senior Bhutto used brutal tactics—as well as direct material and military support from the Shah of Iran that included helicopter gunships and armored vehicles—to quell the armed Baloch uprising [5]. The history of Iranian-Pakistani cooperation in jointly repressing Baloch nationalism—a trend both countries see as a potential threat to their respective territorial integrity and stability—suggests that Iranian accusations of Islamabad's support for Jondallah in Iran are unfounded.

Bhutto's assassination is not likely have a major impact on the situation in Iranian Balochistan, at least not directly. Despite expressions of solidarity and what is most likely limited contact, ethnic Baloch rebels in Iran and Pakistan will continue to devote their efforts to pursuing local agendas, essentially focusing on furthering the Baloch cause in Iran and Pakistan, respectively. Although Bhutto's amnesty proposal may have set an interesting precedent for relations between Tehran and Iranian Balochistan had she lived to implement it, it is unlikely that Islamabad will pursue a similar course of action in the foreseeable future.


The simmering tensions and violence in Iranian Balochistan will continue to characterize Tehran's interface with its Baloch minority. The social, political and economic grievances of the Iranian Baloch will remain a source of resentment toward the clerical regime until Tehran commits to integrating minorities into the fabric of society. Despite Iranian claims, there is no conclusive evidence that the United States is providing material support to Jondallah. It is likely, however, that the group calculates its activities and operations to correspond with periods of tension between the United States and Iran. This enables Jondallah to maximize the effect of its campaign. At the same time, Iran does have cause for concern, as the United States could consider the possibility of supporting active insurgencies as a means to pressure Iran during any potential conflict.


1. See “Iranian Security Forces Shooting at Furious Baloch Demonstration,” Balochistan News, January 1, 2008. For footage of the alleged incident, see the official website of the Baloch People's Party (BPP), a Baloch nationalist organization based in Sweden: .

2. Demographic figures related to ethnic and sectarian minority representation in Iran tend to be heavily politicized, hence the wide ranging estimates.

3. The Baloch national cause is bolstered by a sophisticated network of activists in the diaspora and online advocating for their kin in Iran and Pakistan. For more details, see ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; and .

4. The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran includes Kurdish, Azeri, Ahvazi (Arab), Turkmen, Baloch and other organizations advocating the federalization of Iran along ethnic and regional lines. For more details, see .

5. Stephen Philip Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2004), pp. 219-221.

Israel, Iran and the United States : Trita Parsi discusses

Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.

Markos Kounalakis is a print and network broadcast journalist and author who covered wars and revolutions, both civil and technological. He worked as the NBC Radio and Mutual News Moscow correspondent and covered the fall of the Soviet Union as well as the war in Afghanistan.

He reported the overthrow of communism for Newsweek in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the rise of both democratic institutions in Hungary and of ethnic strife in Yugoslavia. He was based in Rome and Vienna and later ran the magazine's Prague satellite bureau for over a year.

World Affairs Council of Northern California - San Francisco, CA

Trita Parsi discusses Israel, Iran and the United States.

With talk of the Iranian nuclear threat heating up, tension between Iran and Israel is dangerously high and the risk of a war involving the United States looms. To Trita Parsi, efforts to defuse those tensions have failed because the real roots of the hostility between Iran and Israel have eluded Washington policymakers. Drawing on his extensive personal interviews with key policy players in all three countries, Dr. Parsi examines the strategic and geopolitical tensions feeding the growing conflict between Iran and Israel.

In his new book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, Parsi describes the explosive Israeli-Iranian rivalry of the 1990s that poisoned American and Iranian efforts to improve their bilateral relations, and warns of a coming clash under Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad - World Affairs Council of Northern California

'Queen of Balochistan' passes away


QUETTA - Irish-born Jennifer Musa, who had tied the knot with Qazi Mohammad Musa in 1940, the younger brother of Pakistan Movement’s prominent figure Qazi Essa, died in Pishin on Saturday morning. She was 90-years-old. She was suffering from memory loss.
“She breathed her last at 8:30am Saturday,” Hayat Khan, the personal family servant told The Nation. She will be laid to rest at Qazi’s ancestral graveyard close to Sheikh Farid Baba’s tomb on Sunday (today) afternoon. Her son Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, family members and others will attend her funeral.Jennifer Musa chose Pishin town as her permanent residence in 1956 when her husband Qazi Musa died in a road accident.

Jennifer, who was the second wife of Qazi Musa, married him in 1940 in London and agreed to live in the remote town of Pishin, some 50km north of Quetta. She was the mother of Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, a career diplomat who was last posted as Pakistani Ambassador to United States before retirement. He was also appointed as United Nations special envoy to Iraq and then Sudan. She also had four stepsons and a stepdaughter who married to elderly Baloch leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri.

Jennifer Musa was known as Queen of Balochistan for her beauty and charismatic personality. She became Member of Parliament in 1970 and had the distinction of not signing the 1973 Constitution.Collecting her memories few years back, Jennifer Musa told this ascribe that she met her late husband in a restaurant in Ireland in 1948 and fell in love with him and same year both decided to tie the knot.

She had five sisters and two brothers among whom only two sisters are still alive. She used to visit her family members in 1950s, but she had last visited Ireland in early sixties.Hayat Khan, a 40-year-old family servant told The Nation that he had been associated with mummy, popularly known in the family for the last 27 years.

“She always used to explain to the foreigners that the meaning of the Pishin town she had chosen as a permanent abode is ‘cat’ in local Pashto language.” However, he said, nobody knew the meaning of Pishin in Pashto as well as Urdu or other language, but she derived the meaning as it sounded like the meaning of cat in Pashto language.
Although Jennifer Musa spent over sixty years in Pishin and Pathans, she did not learn how to speak Pashto rather she taught English to servants and uneducated family members. She joined defunct National Awami Party for having the sentiments of freedom for being Irish lady. “I joined NAP for being the inhabitant of an occupied land, because NAP demands much autonomy that I liked,” Jennifer told journalists once at her residence in Pishin a few years back.

Our Monitoring Desk adds: Jennifer Musa had lived in Pakistan for almost as long as the country has existed. She came to her husband’s homeland in 1948 and stayed on after he died, becoming a legislator, ice manufacturer and a local legend who refused to wear the Muslim veil. After six decades living in Balochistan, the 89-year-old told ThingsAsian’s Islamabad correspondent Danny Kemp she had no regrets that she was unlikely to see County Kerry again.

Pishin, December 2006 - the tribal-ruled, rust-red deserts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan are generally out of bounds to all foreigners - all, that is, apart from an elderly Irishwoman who has spent nearly 60 years here.
Jennifer Musa was such an engrained part of this parched wilderness that she was widely known as the “Queen of Balochistan” and once saw Kalashnikov-wielding feudal lords meekly bow to her will.

The one-time nurse from County Kerry once ran an ice factory, and had long defied local traditions by refusing to cover her head with a veil.“I feel very much like I am at home here, they have always treated me like one of themselves. I couldn’t have gone back to Ireland,” the frail Jennifer Musa told a few years back, the faintest trace of an Irish brogue still clinging to her words.“I know more about this place now than I do about my home.”

Her 113-year-old colonial home in the dusty town of Pishin serves as a museum for a life that has mirrored her adopted nation’s tumultuous history.In the 1940s Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his wife spent two nights in the four-poster iron bed that dominates the room next door. Four antique sabres ring a photograph of the Quaid in an astrakhan hat.

The barren Khwaja Amran mountains lie on the horizon and on the other side is the insurgency-hit Kandahar province of Afghanistan where the Taliban once again hold sway.
“I married into a progressive family and never wore a veil,” she said.

Are we losing Afghanistan?

Part two: On the trail of the Taliban
Eyewitness by Nick Meo in Helmand Province

SERGEANT DAVID Baxter, a tall, bearded gunner from Glasgow, was describing life in the forward operating base (FOB) - nicknamed "Incoming" - when the machine gun fire started. It was the third Taliban attack of the day. The noise was a few hundred yards off with no rounds whipping overhead, so even though he was standing out in the open, albeit inside the base's perimeter, Baxter hardly batted an eyelid. Instead, he just muttered something about the Afghan army soldiers shooting at stray dogs. Then the crump of mortars started, much closer this time, and the siren to take cover went off while the gun battle at the Afghan army's position rose to an angry crescendo.

The bunker, a 50-yard sprint across open ground, was full of laughing gunners pulling on body armour and helmets after their lazy afternoon under a winter sun had been rudely interrupted.

"Welcome to Incoming," Baxter grinned as a couple of Royal Marines sprinted into the bunker and crashed into its occupants. At a trestle table, young women soldiers spoke urgently into radios. Scruffy marines joked about "Terry" Taliban - the British soldier's half-affectionate nickname for his enemy. They reckon Terry is a pretty hopeless soldier, returning again and again to the same firing positions where he is routinely killed. Nor is he very good at handling his weapons or planning his attacks. But he is ballsy, and the young men of Incoming respect him for that. It is a uniquely British moniker, like something cooked up by Viz magazine, and a subversive echo of the Vietnam war's "Charlie" that only the British soldier's cheerful sense of subversive black humour could have come up with.

A few weeks earlier, the Taliban mortar crews had managed to hit inside FOB Incoming, but their aim was wild today. No bombs landed within the towering perimeter walls constructed from massive plastic containers full of dirt. Most of the rounds seemed to be outgoing, fired from the marines' own mortar pits.

Chatting idly in the bunker while the battle raged outside, the British soldiers explained that they had recently shot a number of Taliban out in the fields where the fire was coming from. Since then the accurate mortar fire had ended. They revealed - with some satisfaction - their theory that they had got the Taliban's mortar crews.

Most of the soldiers were in their 20s or younger, with accents from the poorer parts of the north of England and Wales predominating. They didn't look conventionally military, with a profusion of unkempt beards, sideburns, and scraggly moustaches, which they are allowed to grow on the FOBs but must shave off when they go back to the main base.

The FOB is one of a couple of dozen the British have constructed along the Helmand river at strategic points, looking like the kind of outposts once held by the Foreign Legion. The MoD does not want the Taliban to know the real name of the FOB, so the soldiers - who face more daily mortar fire and machine gun attacks than almost anywhere else in Helmand - nicknamed it Incoming.

Marine Simon Vaughan, from Newport in south Wales, said: "It's pretty tough here. It's cold at night, the living conditions are basic, and the Taliban attack every day. But you join up hoping to fight a war like this. Nobody here wants to be anywhere else."

The soldiers serving in Incoming spend much of their downtime swapping stories. Lance-Corporal Kearan Varley said: "The atmosphere here is so blasé it is unreal. They hardly flinch when mortars come in. At lunchtime on the day I arrived the Taliban launched a big attack and Mitch, the cook, ran out of the kitchen with his gun and went up on the parapet, blazing away still wearing his apron. Where else would you see something like that?"

Like the British military in any campaign, Incoming has its mix of characters and not all of them British. A giant Fijian refueller joked about the cold. At home before joining the army he had never seen snow or imagined what -10˚C at night was like. A small detachment of Gurkha engineers were busy every day extending and repairing the FOB's fortifications, which would have presented a pretty respectable challenge to a besieging army in the Middle Ages.

They had taken over a half-derelict Afghan building and turned it into a little corner of Nepal, complete with national flag, a DVD player with a pile of Bollywood movies, and plenty of milky chai. Afghanistan, with its insurgents, brigands, and dangers, reminded them of home with its Maoist revolutionaries and bitter political problems.

For the British troops, living conditions are rudimentary. The grub is plentiful but basic. Entertainment consists of a giant screen and DVD player in a tent where Steven Seagal movies play endlessly. Hours and hours of duty consist of staring into the dark looking for the Taliban or manning the parapet with a machine gun waiting for the guerrillas to open fire.

The FOB was deliberately set up as a Taliban magnet. On one side is a desert across which British supply convoys can cautiously travel. On the other are poppy fields, trees and deserted villages leading down to the "green zone" of dense vegetation along the Helmand river where the Taliban move around and where the attacks come from.

The FOB controls an approach to the vital town of Sangin. Many of the roving jihadis who want to fight the British are drawn to it. Mostly their attacks are hurried and ineffective. The Royal Marines and soldiers are often fired at but rarely hit, and most of the casualties so far have been minor ones from shrapnel. Its defenders know the risk they are taking in Britain's most high-intensity conflict since Korea 50 years ago. On Christmas Eve at a nearby FOB a young marine ran over an anti-tank mine, losing both of his legs and an arm.

A nurse at Camp Bastion, the sprawling British base in the desert, described having to deal with such a terrible casualty. "The worst thing was thinking about his family, who had been looking forward to Christmas. Then they would have to deal with his injuries," she said. Body armour and battlefield surgery means casualties who would have been deaths in previous conflicts can survive in Helmand, but are often maimed.

Landmines are the biggest threat. The Taliban sneak up to the FOB approach roads and bury them at night, hoping the British will run over them on patrol.

The young soldiers and marines constantly head out of their bases to attack the Taliban and keep their enemy off balance. A few days after the mortar attack, a party of marines were chatting at 8pm before leaving Incoming on a night patrol to the green zone to hunt their enemy. Sitting on the cold ground in the dark with faces blackened and weapons ready, they joked together like a group of Boy Scouts preparing to head out on a lark. In the distance, unexplained flares occasionally lit up the horizon, while overhead mysterious aircraft and drones circled under a sky full of bright stars. The camp was almost pitch black. Lights are banned to make it harder for the enemy to aim mortars at night.

Hours after the patrol left, the dull thump of distant gunfire sounded from the green zone, the noise of the British rifles. The higher-pitched crack of the Taliban's AK-47s was not heard.

As well as fighting their own war in the fields around the FOB, the British are trying to win local hearts and minds as part of a counter-insurgency campaign. Major Adrian Morely, a bearded and cheerful Royal Marine who looked as if he had stepped out of a Victorian expeditionary force, said that, between defending the FOB by day and leading patrols by night, he was attempting to rebuild a bridge and get an irrigation scheme going for farmers, who are deeply suspicious of foreigners, especially foreign soldiers.

The British believe they are slowly prevailing against the Taliban, who they killed in large numbers last year and drove out of key positions, including the strategic town of Musa Qala to the north. But they think that only by winning over the population will they bring stability to Helmand and one day manage to extract themselves from the province.

Not that political matters are of much interest to the enlisted men here. Few of them seem to take much interest in why Britain is in Helmand or the rights and wrongs of the conflict. Where American soldiers will give a lecture about bringing democracy or fighting terrorism, most British soldiers will look uncomfortable and explain with a shrug that they are doing their jobs.

Some soldiers do question what Britain is doing in Afghanistan. "It costs a fortune for us to be here and we don't seem to be really achieving anything," one squaddie said. "When we leave in a few years' time, this place will simply go back to its usual state of mayhem."

Others believe stabilising Afghanistan is worthwhile, and necessary to defeat international terrorism. For most, it is a chance to do some real soldiering against an enemy who is prepared to stand up and fight. Veterans of Iraq enthuse about Afghanistan, a man's war compared with the urban terrorism of roadside bombs and hit-and-run mortar attacks they had to contend with in Basra.

War in Helmand tests everybody in Britain's 7000-strong force. And they know it could continue to do so for years or even decades to come.

On the Campaign Trail in Pakistan


"Why should I vote in a Pakistani election? I don't recognize Pakistan."
By Nicholas Schmidle

Updated Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, at 7:49 AM ET

From: Nicholas Schmidle
Subject: "Benazir Didn't Just Belong to the PPP"
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008, at 12:51 PM ET

KARACHI, Pakistan—I arrived in Karachi on New Year's Eve, just as the seaside metropolis was limping back to normal after four days of rioting and looting in the aftermath of the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The day felt like the first after a blizzard, but instead of snowdrifts blocking driveways, burnt-out vehicles littered the road. More than 900 cars, buses, and trucks were torched in Karachi alone. Shocked by the violence, investors panicked, and when the Karachi Stock Exchange opened Monday morning, it was down almost 5 percent. Long lines of cars streamed out of gas stations, where pumps had been closed for days. Shopkeepers tentatively opened up, keeping their metal shutters halfway down in case they needed to close in a hurry. Then, around lunchtime, a rumor spread through the city that a top politician from Bhutto's rival party in Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement, had been assassinated. The already spooked city of 15 million immediately withdrew back into its shell. Gas stations and stores shut down early in anticipation of more violence. Normalcy would have to wait another day. (The rumors proved false.)

That morning, I met Syed Hafeezuddin, a hopeful for the upcoming parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for Jan. 8 but recently postponed until Feb. 18. Hafeezuddin belongs to the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League headed by Nawaz Sharif, known as the PML (Nawaz). (In 2002, Musharraf's supporters created their own faction, the Pakistan Muslim League [Q].) After Bhutto's murder, many of her enraged supporters blamed Musharraf's government for—at least—negligence and failure to provide adequate security for the two-time former prime minister. Some even alleged that Musharraf's role was more direct and nefarious. As a result, looters attacked the offices of the PML (Q) and the pro-Musharraf MQM, burning everything inside and forcing their candidates underground. Meanwhile, Sharif, who rushed to the hospital after Bhutto's murder and who has pledged to topple Musharraf, received a boost both because of his new bond with Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party and because Sharif now leads the opposition to Musharraf. "We are the only ones who can still run a public campaign," Hafeezuddin told me.

Hafeezuddin and I headed to Machar ("Mosquito") Colony, a slum built on top of a swamp, where two days earlier, a teenage boy had apparently been shot and killed by paramilitary Rangers. Hafeezuddin wanted to offer a funeral prayer with the family before they buried the teenager. A small fire burned in a mound of trash just behind us, and the slum smelled like a combination of sewage and spoiled fish. When the residents recognized Hafeezuddin from his campaign posters, they began to complain about the lack of electricity, water, and trash removal. "I take one bath a week, if I am lucky," one man said. Hafeezuddin, who is more than 6 feet tall, towered above them and made lofty promises. Then, a few hundred yards away, gunfire rang out. Unsure which direction it was coming from, people scattered and sprinted for cover. Hafeezuddin and I jumped into his car and sped away. No one will be fully insulated from the security risks of the upcoming elections.

Hafeezuddin drove to another spot in the constituency where, the day after Bhutto's assassination, he had organized a gathering in her memory. "I can't leave the PPP alone right now," he said. The PPP is riding a wave of sympathy, and Hafeezuddin knew that he would lose the election if he didn't seize the initiative by leading the agitation against Musharraf and sympathizing about Bhutto's loss. "I've tactfully taken on the PPP by sponsoring events in Benazir's honor and then inviting PPP supporters," he said. "I make them come to my events." A goat walked down the street wearing a T-shirt. "Benazir didn't just belong to the PPP, just like they didn't own the memory of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. We, the people of Pakistan, own the Bhuttos and their memories."

Most pundits and analysts agree that the PPP is poised to win big in the February elections, in large part because of the sympathy vote they are expected to receive. Hafeezuddin understands this all too well, which is why, even while Sharif united with the PPP in demanding that the elections be held on Jan. 8 as planned, Hafeezuddin quietly prayed for a delay. "I need some time to let the sympathy vote die down," he confided. After all, he is contesting a seat in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, where the Bhuttos have long been powerful.

But the PPP may not win as big in Punjab and the North West Frontier Province as many expect, in large part because of the ethnic dimension that the riots took on. Pakistan is divided into four provinces—Punjab, Baluchistan, the North West Frontier Province, and Sindh—each one dominated by a different ethnic group. Punjab remains the most important when it comes to electoral politics, since its representation in the National Assembly is roughly equal to that of the small provinces combined.

The bulk of the post-assassination violence occurred in Sindh, much of it directed at non-Sindhis, primarily people from Punjab and the North West Frontier Province. Pashtuns from the North West Frontier Province control most of the transport businesses in Pakistan. One transporter I met in Karachi had 190 of his trailers burned on the stretch of highway running through the province. Moreover, the PPP's decision to tap Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, as the new head of the party could alienate voters in other provinces who don't subscribe to the dynastic politics sanctioned by Sindhi customs and feudal traditions. And her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who is widely perceived as a sleazy crook, will run the party until Bilawal comes of age. "Zardari will damage the PPP's national appeal," said Hafeezuddin. "They will end up confining themselves to the interior of Sindh."

Did Benazir Bhutto herself sow the seeds of this crisis? In the months before she died, Bhutto focused her election campaign almost entirely in Sindh. Though she never pitched herself as a Sindhi leader or employed the rhetoric of Sindhi nationalism, her exhaustive campaigning gave Sindhis the impression that "one of theirs" was about to take power once again. At her burial, mourners chanted, in Sindhi, "We don't want Pakistan!" Such slogans raised concerns over the possibility of militant Sindhi nationalism re-emerging, as it did during the 1970s and '80s. "Bhutto was killed only because she was a Sindhi woman," said Khaled, a 32-year-old member of Jeay Sindh, a party calling for an independent Sindhi state. In the press conference Zardari gave Dec. 30, he made a point of saying, in Sindhi, "We want Pakistan, We want Pakistan." But has the damage been done?

I left Khaled and drove down a muddy, rutted road in Lyari, the section of Karachi worst hit by the violence. It hadn't rained in months, so the pools of slush in the road were actually sewage. I read chalk graffiti dating back to Bhutto's return from exile on Oct. 18. It said, in Urdu: "Go, Go, to the Karachi Airport, Go!" (Hundreds of thousands of people went, but more than 140 never came home after suicide bombers targeted Bhutto's motorcade.) We arrived at the local PPP office, where roughly 100 women sat on the floor, weeping and reading the Quran in Bhutto's memory. "Oh Benazir, Princess of Heaven, we are sorry that your killers are still alive," they chanted. Afterward, Nasreen Chandio, a PPP stalwart and former member of the national assembly, assessed the impact of Bhutto's murder on the Sindhi people. "Sindhi nationalism has definitely been ignited because people realize that there will be no representation of Sindhis in the federation without Benazir," she said. "The people of Sindh have become orphans."

From: Nicholas Schmidle
Subject: A Fight Between Fundamentalism and Moderation
Posted Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, at 7:57 AM ET

PESHAWAR, Pakistan—A dozen men sat in a circle in a village outside Peshawar on a recent afternoon. Wearing red caps, they gossiped and drank green tea. The sun fell behind a roof, and several of the men wrapped wool blankets around themselves. All belonged to the Awami National Party, a secular political party based in the North West Frontier Province. The ANP is predicted to win big in the coming elections, mostly at the expense of the Islamist parties who've frightened U.S. policy-makers for the past five years. "This election is a straight fight between those who want war and those who want peace," Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the ANP, told me. He drew a line between Islamic militants on the one hand, and his own party on the other. "It is between fundamentalism and moderation."

In the last elections, which took place in October 2002, the Muttahida Majles Amal, a six-party Islamist coalition, defeated the ANP, the Pakistan Peoples Party, and all other contenders by a wide margin in the North West Frontier Province and went on to form the provincial government. The MMA's critics, led by the ANP, allege that the Islamists' rhetoric and sympathies allowed so-called "Talibanization" to spread throughout the regions bordering Afghanistan. Sitting in the circle of red-capped men, I asked if any of them had voted for the MMA last time around. One man sheepishly raised his hand. "That was a vote for paradise and the Quran," he said, as if excusing himself. "When they shoved the Quran in my face and said 'Vote!' I had no other choice. But once the MMA got their bungalows in Islamabad, everything changed. They went to Islamabad, not to Islam."

The World Bank praised the MMA government for its fiscal responsibility and health programs, but local perceptions of corruption, broken promises, and excessive politicking tarnished the coalition's image at home. "We expected them to implement Islamic law and establish a system of justice," said Salauddin, a middle-aged civil servant from Chardsadda. In 2002, the MMA pledged to implement sharia law and support the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the time, people couldn't have cared less about fiscal restraint. Now they have turned from the MMA, not because the Islamists were too hard-core, but because they failed to fulfill their campaign promises. What did they have to show for their time in government? "Acts of terrorism only increased under the mullahs," Salauddin exclaimed. During 2007, 60 suicide-bomb attacks killed more than 770 people in Pakistan, according to a recent report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. Most of the incidents occurred in the North West Frontier Province.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the ANP is the desire to rehabilitate the image of Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in western Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Street-level supporters, such as the men in red caps, and party leaders cited this as their greatest concern. More than 25 million Pashtuns live along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they've been renowned as fierce fighters for centuries. Pashtun militias have repelled British armies, Sikh armies, Soviet armies, and now American, NATO, and Pakistani ones, too. The majority of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan today are Pashtuns. "At this moment, if you talk about Pashtuns, the world thinks he is a terrorist, has a beard to his navel, hair to his shoulders, and holds a Kalashnikov," said Khan, the ANP chief. "Islamic fundamentalism is destroying the basic fabric of Pashtun society."

But the success of the ANP's election campaign signals a shift in the politics of the North West Frontier Province, where the rhetoric of secular nationalism is finding more appeal than that of Islamic fundamentalism. For instance, the ANP proposes changing the name of the province to Pashtunistan ("Land of the Pashtuns") or Pakhtunkhwa ("Pashtun Nation"). (The MMA tried to change the name to Dar-ul-Islam, or "Domain of Islam.") Khan said that all the other provinces of Pakistan shared "frontiers" with Iran, Afghanistan, or India. "But if they—Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan—can have their own names, why can't we? This is a matter of our identity."

According to Khan and the ANP, Pashtuns are not naturally brash, militant people—an impression that's been created by the Taliban. If anyone can reform the Pashtuns' image, Khan's family history suggests that he's the man for the job. His grandfather Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan earned the nickname "Frontier Gandhi" for his role in leading the Pashtuns in a nonviolent resistance movement against the British Raj during the 1930s and '40s. His organization became known as the "Red Shirts," which is why the ANP's flag is red and its supporters wear red caps. Ghaffar Khan opposed the Muslim League, the main outfit lobbying for the creation of Pakistan, and supported Gandhi's Congress Party. Ghaffar Khan argued that religious identity shouldn't determine the country where a person should live—and thus denied the rationale for the creation of Pakistan. Instead, Ghaffar Khan contended that ethnic identity was more important, and he called for the creation of an independent Pashtunistan. A year before the birth of Pakistan, fellow Muslims physically attacked him for being, in their minds, anti-Muslim, illustrating the tension that's long existed between Pashtun nationalists and Islamists.

To find out how the Islamists felt about their fall from power, I went to Mardan to meet Ata-ur-Rahman. Rahman is a senior leader of Jamaat-i-Islami and a former member of Pakistan's National Assembly. Jamaat-i-Islami is one of the main component parties in the MMA. In December, Jamaat-i-Islami opted to boycott the coming elections in protest against President Pervez Musharraf's regime and what they believe are destined to be rigged elections on Feb. 18. I had met Rahman several times in the past, but when I arrived at his madrasah in late December, he appeared pensive and distracted. He didn't agree with the party's decision to boycott the elections and had argued that doing so would leave the field wide open for the ANP. He lost the argument, and now Jamaat-i-Islami expected him to convince local people of the merits of a boycott.

But what worried him most was the legacy that the Islamists had left behind. "The worst result of our rule was the rise in militancy throughout the region," he said. Rahman is a moderate, with a Ph.D. from the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as comfortable speaking English or Malay as he is speaking Urdu or Pashto. He is one of the only Islamists I've heard admit that so-called "Talibanization" was a product of the Islamists being in government.

We discussed the pro-Taliban uprising in the nearby Swat Valley, where a radical cleric determined to implement sharia is waging an insurgency against the state. I asked Rahman if he believes that people's disappointment with the MMA's failure to implement sharia had led some to turn to the Pakistani Taliban, believing they were the only ones capable of doing so. He nodded his head slowly and stared out the window. "If the MMA had been able to bring sharia to Swat, that would have definitely weakened the militants," he said.

With those alternatives, does anyone wonder why U.S. policy-makers are paralyzed when it comes to Pakistan?

From: Nicholas Schmidle
Subject: "Why Should I Vote in a Pakistani Election?"
Posted Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, at 7:49 AM ET

QUETTA, Pakistan—Naiz Mohammad, an illiterate man who doesn't know his age but guesses he's around 50, squatted on a rocky hillside just outside Quetta and told me how he teaches his children. More than a dozen kids, caked head to toe in dust, crowded around, their bellies swollen with worms, greenish snot yo-yoing from their noses. A range of treeless mountains rose behind us, and Quetta's parched cityscape spread in front. Hundreds of rectangular mud huts, all of them inhabited by Naiz's fellow tribesmen, stood scattered along the pitched slope. Spindly desert twigs snagged shreds of plastic shopping bags, which flapped in the biting wind. New Kahan, Naiz's village, has neither phone service nor electricity or running water. There is a government school nearby, but few kids actually attend. "We have a natural cycle of educating our people," said Naiz, who wore a black turban and camouflage jacket. "For instance, you people came today in a big jeep. When you leave, my boys will ask me, 'Why we don't have a jeep like that?' I'll tell them, and then they'll understand the deprivation that the Baluchis suffer."

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, the largest—and poorest—of Pakistan's four provinces. The majority of Baluchistan's 10 million inhabitants are Baluchis, though Pashtun tribes form a significant minority in the northern part of the province, and there are Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking "settlers" living in Quetta. Since Pakistan's creation in 1947, a percolating Baluchi nationalist movement has resulted in five insurgencies against the Pakistani army, most intensely 1973-77 and from 2005 to today. The nationalists argue that Pakistan illegally occupied the independent Baluchi state in 1948 and has been treating the Baluchis like colonial subjects ever since. When prospectors discovered natural gas in the remote mountains near Naiz's ancestral village in 1953, it only added to the Baluchis' sense of perceived injustice; they were the last in the country to enjoy gas stovetops and furnaces.

Naiz's tribe, the Marri, is the most militant and nationalist of the Baluchi tribes. During the 1970s rebellion against the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Benazir's father), Naiz enlisted alongside guerrillas in an insurgency that left nearly 10,000 rebels and soldiers dead. "Then and now, we are only fighting for our rights, for an independent Baluchistan, where we are masters of our own land," he said. According to Naiz, the Pakistani government has punished the Baluchis by refusing to develop the province. But running water and electricity are not his top priorities. "We just want the government to stop bombing us."

Naiz is originally from Kahan, a town in the gas-rich district of Kohlu. In the late 1980s, after a stint living in Afghanistan, Naiz and thousands of fellow tribesmen moved to Quetta and established New Kahan, partly to escape the constant fighting and bombardment in their native lands and partly because they wanted to be near their tribal chief. The tribal system revolves around obedience to the chief, or sardar. President Pervez Musharraf blames a few sardars, including the one from the Marri tribe, for the violence and instability engulfing Baluchistan. Since 2005, a guerrilla outfit known as the Baluchistan Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks on army convoys, oil installations, and railroads. The Marris comprise the top leadership of the BLA, which Musharraf declared a banned terrorist organization in April 2006. Yet the BLA aren't alone; politicians, writers, and university students use their own methods to argue for an independent Baluchistan. And while they stress the nonviolent nature of their own tactics, their sympathies are unmistakable. "I pray for the BLA that God will help them remove the Punjabi forces from Baluchistan," said Mohiuddin Baluch, the chairman of the Baluchistan Students Organization.

I arrived in Quetta in early December, just as the election campaign was beginning, to find army and paramilitary forces deployed in the streets. An armored personnel carrier sat just outside the entrance to my hotel, machine-gun barrels poked out of sandbag bunkers at major intersections, and heavily armed convoys patrolled the roads every evening after sundown. Two weeks earlier, a top BLA commander (and son of the chief of the Marri tribe) was killed, setting off a wave of riots and guerrilla attacks on security forces that left dozens dead. I asked Naiz if he considered the dead BLA commander a fallen hero. "We don't live in circumstances where we have time to dream of heroes," he answered. "Independent Baluchistan is our hero. And sometimes we are obliged to carry out attacks on Pakistani forces to achieve this."

On my first night in Quetta, a soldier, standing behind a stack of sandbags near the center of town, took a bullet in the face and died. The intelligence agencies, police, and paramilitaries responded with house-to-house raids in BLA strongholds from Kohlu to Quetta. They cordoned off New Kahan and arrested 12 of Naiz's fellow tribesmen. In many cases over the last two years, young Baluchi men have simply "disappeared," kidnapped by Pakistan's intelligence agencies. Others have been arrested and charged with treason. (In the autumn of 2006, I spent several weeks reporting in Baluchistan; by the time my story was published a few months later, nearly every featured character had been arrested or exiled.) A politician in Quetta told me that 6,000 Baluchi men were missing. Another man described how his cousin had been kidnapped by Anti-Terror Force troops in front of his four nephews in a city park. I asked how the four kids, aged between 4 and 8, knew the identity of the kidnappers. "In America, your children play with toys. That's what they know," he explained. "Our children know about the intelligence agencies and the army. This is what they grow up on."

Nonetheless, not all the Baluchi tribes are fighting against the government. In fact, Musharraf's own party, the Pakistan Muslim League, is stacked with compliant sardars and tribal chieftains. "Though many of these tribes, since the inception of Pakistan, have been bearing anti-state feelings, some of them got on the bandwagon, and they've been ruling this province ever since," said Anwar ul-Haq, a first-time candidate for the parliamentary seat from Quetta, running on the PML (Q) ticket. "For these people, being part of the establishment presents a huge opportunity for personal aggrandizement." Later that day, I attended a PML (Q) rally with Haq in the same part of town where Western intelligence sources have alleged that Mullah Omar and other top Taliban leaders enjoy safe haven; in other words, a neighborhood where Musharraf and his cohorts are none too popular. Bodyguards assigned to protect the PML (Q) candidates stood on nearby rooftops, surrounded the stage, and mingled in the crowd. At one point, a rock hurled over the wall landed in the crowd of spectators. With a half-nervous smirk, my friend said, "At least it wasn't a grenade."

When it was his turn to speak, Haq leaned on the podium with both hands and promoted a candidate for the provincial assembly because he wasn't a sardar and therefore "understands your problems." He added, "We will provide education, not Kalashnikovs, for your children. Now is the time for your decision. Give us your vote, and we will deliver." I asked Haq, a middle-class divorcee in his late 30s with no tribal roots and no obvious constituency, if he planned to campaign in New Kahan. Earlier that day, Naiz told me that no candidate had visited New Kahan in years, although there were roughly 4,000 voters there. "Ideally, no party should ignore any area," Haq answered. "But would the people in the Marri areas even allow me to go there? I doubt it. They only respond to certain social norms, those filtered through the tribe."

Back in New Kahan, I crouched beside Naiz, our jeep, and a horde of children, and shielded my eyes as a dust cloud blew across the exposed hillside. Naiz admitted that any decision about whether or not to vote, and for whom, would be decided by the tribal chiefs. Naiz hadn't participated in an election since 1995. I asked him which way he was leaning this time around. "Why should I vote in a Pakistani election?" he said. "I don't even recognize Pakistan."
Nicholas Schmidle is a Pakistan-based writer and fellow at the Institute of Current World Affairs.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2181778/

January 11, 2008

Golbang : Band of Exile Iranian Baloch in Sweden

Göteborgsposten, Bengt Eriksson

Golbang (consisting of seven exile-iranians and one swede) has brought with them musical memories from their homecountry, and at the same time kept a window open for other influnces. Electronic keyboards interplays with western and arabian drums. Two folksongs, one from Sweden, the other one from Afghanistan harmonizes perfectly. The rest of the melodies, old and new originates from Iran. The word golbang means the nightinglae's song in persian. But Golbang could easily be used to describe the singer Rostam Mirlasharis voice soft yet rythmic, softly and gently swaying. Abdul Rahman Surizehis benjo jingles like a zither. until he turns the power on and makes the benjo sound like an electronical guitar!! Oriental sounds comes out from Daniel Carlssons saxophone. This is one of the best bands in Sweden- all categories!But to most people Golbang is a secret. So far that is.

Vash Malle - Live performing

Iran May not Sign Gas Pipeline Pact with Pakistan Next Week

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran is unlikely to sign next week a bilateral agreement with Pakistan for export of natural gas and has said it was keen on India joining the tri-nation 'peace' pipeline project.

"As we speak, there is no ceremony scheduled for signing of Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with Pakistan next week," a senior Iranian official told PTI from Tehran.

While New Delhi has since June 2007 left unattended meetings on the seven billion dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project over the issue of transit fee payable to Islamabad.

Iran and Pakistan have held several rounds of discussions and were reported close to signing a bilateral deal. Pakistan's caretaker Petroleum Minister Ahsan Ullah Khan had earlier this week stated that an economic coordination committee of the Pakistani Cabinet had cleared sovereign guarantees for gas imports from Iran and a GSPA with Iran was likely to be signed next week.

"Those are statements made by Pakistan. We haven't said that we are signing a bilateral GSPA. We are very keen that India joins the project," the Iranian official said. "We are proposing a trilateral meeting in New Delhi next month."

Iran would like a stable and high demand consumer like India to back the multi-billion dollar revenues it expects to earn every year from sale of natural gas.

Indian officials also said though a bilateral meeting with Pakistan was scheduled to take place in Islamabad on February 14-16 to resolve the transit fee issue, no agreement was likely unless elections take place in that country and a new government is sworn in

Iran to Resume Gas Supplies by Next Week to Turkey

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran is expected to resume gas exports to Turkey by the beginning of next week, ending a days-long cut forced by a supply crunch, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

"I talked to an envoy of (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad. He told me they would resolve this issue by Monday at the latest," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

"I believe they will resume the gas flow by then," he added.

Iran halted gas shipments to Turkey on Monday, six days after it was forced to slash exports from 20 million cubic meters (706 million cubic feet) a day to 5.0 million cubic meters (177 million cubic feet).

The cut was brought about by a severe cold snap in Iran that peaked domestic consumption and a halt in gas supplies from Turkmenistan to the Islamic republic.

As a result, Turkey had to stop gas exports to neighboring Greece, media reports said.

Russia's Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had increased gas supplies to both Turkey and Greece to above previously-contracted levels.

In January 2007, Iran was forced to shut down gas exports to Turkey for five days to compensate for a domestic consumption crunch.

Turkey has been buying gas from Iran via a pipeline from the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz to Ankara since December 2001 under a deal that raised eyebrows in the United States.

TURKEY : Time for energy in energy policy

Friday, January 11, 2008

Turkey’s energy strategy needs to include domestic sources to reduce dependency on Russia, experts say. Procurement from Iran is another problematic matter, as Tehran’s capability to meet its obligations is questioned


Against the backdrop of a widening energy crisis begun when harsh weather forced Iran to curtail gas exports to Turkey, the chief of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) yesterday scored the government for idling on development of an energy policy while surrounded with ample and underused resources.

Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, was joined by another prominent energy analyst Faruk Demir in decrying a situation where use of energy resources from neighbhoring countries is less than optimal and Turkey's own ample resources of hydroelectic supplies, solar potential and wind energy are all but untapped.

“Turkey also has a stronger economy that its neighbors; nevertheless, it must develop a national energy strategy to increase energy efficiency,” Birol said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News. "Hydroelectric, solar and geothermal power and energy efficiency are building blocs of that strategy."

Annual natural gas cuts by Iran that have become a recurrent nightmare for Turkey and the most recent round, leading Turkey in domino fashion to curtail transit of Azeri gas to Greece, has prompted a new examination of strategies and options to meet the country's ever-rising energy demands. Energy analysts argue that Turkey has still not developed a comprehensive energy policy and has relied on Turkmenistan and Iran to reduce dependency on Russia.

Quenching Turkey's energy thirst

Energy analyst Demir echoed Birol, underscoring the fact that Turkey can exploit its hydroelectricity, geothermal and wind power. “The state declared a purchase guarantee for 10 years with a unit price of 5 to 5.5 eurocents. Turkey's import need will decrease in two to five years,” Demir said.

Turkey's dependency rate in energy is 73 percent, Demir said. “The potential for wind power stands somewhere between 4,500 to 6,000 MW, whereas geothermal energy can provide 5,000 to 6,000 MW in the first step,” Demir noted. Turkey can boost the percentage of internal sources in energy procurement from 23 percent to 40 percent, said Demir.

Chief economist Birol pointed to Turkey's key geographical location in energy transfer routes, but Turkey must also invest in neighboring countries' energy sector to exploit the geographical asset. “Foreign policy and energy policy must go hand-in-hand, especially in the Hazar region,” he maintained.

Demir pointed to a grave error in Turkey's energy procurement strategy. “The share of natural gas in electricity production surpassed 45 percent. This automatically increases economic and political dependence on Russia, which provides 65 percent of Turkey's natural gas,” he warned.

Think twice before dealing with Iran

Analysts agree on the importance of Iran's energy resources for Turkey, yet they urged decision makers to consider the fine points of the technical and political sides while doing business with Teheran.

Birol noted that Iran had difficulties in extracting its massive natural gas reserves. “They have technological and investment handicaps,” he said. Turkey should look alert on its energy deals with Iran, noting that Teheran does not always hit the headlines with its energy production. “International political implications must be evaluated as well,” he said.

Demir, on the other hand, had a more positive stance toward Turkey's eventual development of three gas fields in Iranian South Pars region. “By the end of 2011, Turkey can produce and transport its own natural gas,” said Demir and denied that the United States will be categorically opposed to such a move. “Turkey's investment will not trigger the Iran Sanctions Act that envisages sanctions on companies investing in Iran's energy sector,” he argued. “The only way Turkey-Iran cooperation in energy would upset the U.S. is by turning it into a support for Iran's position in international politics, which in my view, is not contemplated by Turkish officials.”

Concluding energy deals with Iran perfectly fits the purpose of Energy Independence and Security Act passed by U.S. Congress in 2007 according to Demir, who noted that Turkey would provide a means of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas.

“There are two points on which the U.S. keeps silent at this point. First is the fact that China and India flow capital to Iranian energy market and the second is the lack of viable alternative energy routes to smash Russia's energy monopoly over Europe,” Demir said, and added that the Shah Sea reserves, though important, cannot meet demands, while Turkmenistan gas is problematic due to legal disputes over the Hazar Sea. Demir suggested that U.S. officials gave tacit consent to energy contracts with Iran, unless Tehran's position is strengthened.

Iran's trouble keeping its promise

Analysts differed on Iran's performance on its natural gas contract with Turkey. Birol said Iran did not have legitimate reasons to cut the gas off. “Iran classified that harsh winter as force majeur, but only an extraordinary circumstance in which temperatures fell for example, to –50 C, or something as grave as toppling of an oil platform at sea [would qualify as such],” he argued.

Demir, on the other hand, claimed that both Turkmenistan's decision to cut gas flow to Iran and a freezing winter gave Iran a legitimate claim of force majeur. “Iran's natural gas production is slightly above its domestic consumption. It transfers gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey,” noted Demir. Iran's incapability to invest enough in its energy sector to be able to cope with the clauses of its 1996 natural gas deal with Turkey is a matter of contention in international arbitration.

There is no magic bullet to energy procurement problems, said Demir, who urged decision makers to make acute risk analysis shaped by increasing welfare, a burgeoning economy and growing population levels.

Chinese cyberwarfare

Intel Brief: Chinese cyberwarfare

Governments are likely to become targets of increasingly sophisticated Chinese cyber warfare attacks over the next three to five years as the PLA assembles an advanced cybermilitia.

Intel Brief by Rachel F Kesselman for ISN Security Watch (11/01/08)

A Chinese hacker community, referring to itself as "Honker Union," declared war on US government and business websites in 2001. The group claimed responsibility for attacks against the US Geological Survey, NASA, Cornell University and more than 100 other US government and business sites since 30 April of that year.

Honker Union's website directed interested hackers to contact "Lion," a hacker believed to be responsible for spreading the Lion Worm, a program that captures passwords from operating systems and transmits them to an e-mail address in China.

In 2002, another Chinese group by the name of "netXeyes" developed additional Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP hacking tools, namely a brute force password cracker, a Windows Management Interface cracker and a command line redirection and sniffing tool.

The premier piece of software in the netXeyes armory, however, was a system referred to as Fluxay. According to the Spyware Guide, a public reference site for spyware and greynet research, the program is a backdoor trojan that "enables an attacker to get nearly complete control over an infected PC."

In 2004, Chris McNab, technical director of Matta, a UK-based security consulting firm, predicted that 2004 would be the year of the Chinese hacker. However, it appears that 2006 was likely the landmark year for the return of Chinese malicious internet activity.

According to a 2006 US Defense Department report, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) began developing information warfare reserves and militia units in 2005, often incorporating them into broader exercises and training. The establishment of this elite Chinese unit is evident by a likely increase in sophisticated attacks on high-risk targets.

Reports in Chinese newspapers also suggest that the Chinese are actively attempting to establish a cybermilitia. A Time Magazine article entitled "Enemies at The Firewall" purports that the military has put forth a concerted effort to carry out nationwide recruiting campaigns in hopes of discovering the country's most brilliant hackers.

A 2005 World Tribune article discusses China's rapid economic expansion in relation to its hacker recruitment program. According to the report, Beijing is actively funding a recruitment drive that in addition to recruiting its own citizens targets some of "best and brightest IT graduates from US universities."

In July 2006, the State Department claimed that Chinese hackers broke into their systems. The attacks originated in the East-Asia Pacific region, affecting unclassified computer systems at US embassies there and eventually working their way to State Department headquarters in Washington, DC.

The US government's Commerce Department admitted in October 2006 that it had sustained heavy attacks on its computers from hackers working through Chinese servers, forcing the bureau to lock down internet access for more than a month.

An attack against computers of the Bureau of Industry and Security, the branch of the Commerce Department responsible for overseeing US exports that deal with both commercial and military applications, forced the unit to disable internet access in early September 2006.

Richard Stiennan, a principal analyst with security consultancy IT-Harvest, mentioned in a 2006 TechWeb article that "this [Commerce attack] is the third or fourth battle that we've lost to China. It's not a digital Pearl Harbor, not yet, but it's getting closer."

In November 2006, hackers from China were also likely behind an intrusion that disabled the US Naval War College's network, forcing it to disconnect from the internet for several weeks.

The stakes were likely raised in June 2007 when Chinese hackers allegedly spent several months probing the US Defense Department's computer network that serves the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The cyberattack forced the Pentagon to shut down its unclassified email for nearly three weeks.

In December 2007, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee also detected a "sophisticated cyberattack" that might have compromised the personal information of thousands of visitors to the lab. The FBI and US Department of Homeland Security officials told ABC News that they believed the attacks originated in China with entities from there probing US systems.

The attacks are not limited to US networks and also include heavy attacks on the UK, Germany and South Korea. According to a 2007 article in the British newspaper the Guardian, Whitehall officials claim that virtual attacks originating in China were responsible for shutting down part of the UK House of Commons computer system.

Earlier in 2007, the Chinese also allegedly hacked into computer systems in the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and three German ministries. The hackers are said to have stolen computer data through the installation of trojan spyware.

In 2004, the Chinese are believed to have compromised 211 South Korean government computers, as well as 67 other machines belonging to companies, media groups and universities. The attackers utilized trojan programs to obtain classified documents on weapons systems.

All of these hacking incidents allegedly perpetrated by the Chinese are likely seen as an ongoing effort to develop computer warfare capability. In a Chinese white paper that describes military strategy, the country establishes "informationised armed forces" as one of three pillars of its military strategy, setting forth the goal of building itself a cyberarmy that could win such a war by 2050.

The 2006 US Defense Department report states that "during a military contingency, information warfare units could support active PLA forces by conducting 'hacker attacks' and network intrusions, or other forms of 'cyber' warfare, on an adversary's military and commercial computer systems, while helping to defend Chinese networks."

In his testimony to US Congress on 25 April 2007, Sami Saydjari, who has worked on cyberdefense systems for the Pentagon since the 1980s, warned President George W Bush that "the situation was grave, with nation-states such as China developing serious offensive capabilities [...]."

A Pentagon report obtained by The Times spells out a detailed plan in which Chinese military hackers are preparing to disable the US aircraft battle carrier fleet with a devastating cyberattack. The planned assault was designed by two hackers working for the PLA and is in line with Beijing's plan to achieve "electronic dominance" over the US, Russia, UK and South Korea.

According to a December 2007 article in the Financial Times, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer for Finjan, a web security group with headquarters in San Jose, California, noted that "in the last three months, the attacks [from China] have almost tripled."

China's information warfare expertise likely stems from a group that refers to itself as the "Red Hackers Alliance." The Alliance operates as a government- or party-backed organization that specializes in network security, software development and patriotic hacker training.

The Alliance was once considered the fifth largest hacking organization in the world. Its website was established at the end of 2000 and had 80,000 members at its peak. Although the network disintegrated at the end of 2004 for no apparent reason, it is highly likely that this organization has regrouped and is now working in conjunction with the PLA and largely responsible for the increase in attacks on global networks.

Cybercrime lawyer and security expert Parry Aftab was quoted in a TechNewsWorld article as saying "The good thing is, the United States has been preparing for this for a long time." The Pentagon released a report in 2000 stating that within two decades, US military forces will "develop the capability to conduct attacks on foreign computers and networks while defending its systems against strategic information warfare strikes."

In 2001, Aviation Week & Space Technology claimed that the US Air Force had begun a "quiet" series of organization changes that were intended to make maximum use of "cyber-weapons."

Recent global attacks have likely prompted NATO to develop a cyberwarfare plan quicker than it had intended. NATO defense ministers met in the Netherlands in October 2007 to discuss cyberdefense, debating the effectiveness of The Organization's own cyberdefense policies as well as how best to support other member states in the aftermath of an attack.

NATO developed cyberdefense capabilities in 2000 after a series of attacks originating from Balkan states, and the organization's finalized policy will be announced in 2008 at a NATO summit meeting for heads of state. However, as the Chinese actively search for new methods to penetrate government networks, it is unlikely that countermeasures will be entirely foolproof.

"I always thought that the face of the new generation of hackers would be Chinese. There is just so many of them, and they are an emerging technology power," said Roger Thompson, chief technology officer at Exploit Prevention Labs in Pennsylvania.

Mercyhurst-ISN intelligence briefs offer foresight into issues that are likely to dominate news headlines and policy agendas. The briefs are a joint initiative of the ISN and Mercyhurst Institute for Intelligence Studies and are composed and referenced using open sources.