In 1976 Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan came to Pakistan bringing “stolen uranium enrichment technologies from Europe,” acquired through his position at the classified URENCO uranium enrichment plant in the Netherlands. Put in charge of building, equipping and operating Pakistan’s Kahuta facility, he developed an extensive clandestine network in order to obtain the necessary materials and technology to enrich uranium preparatory to developing a nuclear bomb. As a government sponsored program this project was kept under wraps for years, but Dr. Khan would – perhaps without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities (?) – eventually peddle his nuclear expertise to other countries, notably (as far as we know so far) to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. What was a state-sponsored clandestine activity in the 1970s became a private “shadow” enterprise unmonitored by any state in the 1980s and 1990s.
Evidence of the continued respect, even affection, for Dr. A. Q. Khan, mastermind of the Pakistani nuclear weapon, is evinced in the intense interest the public has in his health. That he is held under house arrest for contraband activities has been lost on the Pakistani public.
Bahman Nirumand. Is pointing out that the more international pressure put on Iran the easier it is for the government to stir up citizens’ suspicions of both internal and external enemies. The victims are intellectuals, artists, and journalists. The Iranian Writers’ Association on August 16 put out a notice saying that “Censorship of literature and the press, filtering of websites, the confiscation of satellite dishes and censorship of film and theatre are mounting day by day.” All politically “critical content is censured, but also anything that even hints at renewal, openness and diversity, at enlightenment and modernization.” Intellectuals are being ”publicly denounced and tortured into making false confessions.” In the past Iranian TV has portrayed popular artists, writers and intellectuals as traitors, Western puppets and corrupters whose primarily goal was to undermine Islam and the national culture. Torture has become more common: one of the “many demonstrators arrested during the student uprisings in Tehran in the summer of 1999” was recently tortured to death. The intent, of course, is to spread fear and to intimidate and silence critics and cultural practitioners. Journalists are of course intimidated: “One in five journalists has been imprisoned at least once. On average, journalists don’t work longer than seven months for a newspaper, either because the newspaper ends up being banned or because the justice system or secret service recommends that the journalist be fired.” Even the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, presided over by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, was declared illegal and officially banned in early August, 2006. The government strategy to spread fear, incite hatred and stir the public’s hostility can only be effective if the country is in a permanent state of crisis.
By Bahman Nirumand
August 25, 2006 (Qantara de)
There has been a buz in the American and European media about the Chatham House report on Iran:
“The US government’s “war on terror” has indirectly strengthened the position of Iran in the Middle East, according to a new report by leading British think tank Chatham House.”
In fact, the biggest surprise in this discussion is that people in the West are just now discovering how much Iran has gained from American policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has been noted for, I suppose, a year among the Arabs — and how could the Iranians have missed it? Are the media this slow on the draw? Yes, of course, by attacking the Taliban, mortal enemy of Iran, and by attacking Saddam, the other mortal enemy of Iran, the United States has given Iran more security than it ever could have had otherwise. The surprise is that for the western media this is news — now, so late.
Recently there have been two articles with similar titles, “Afghanistan’s Other War” (The American Prospect July 12, 2006) and “Pakistan’s Other War” (Time, Asia Magazine edition, Jun. 19, 2006). Actually, they could both be entitled “Pakistan’s Wars”. It turns out that in both cases, Pakistan’s struggles — with the Baluch in their own territories or with their neighbor, India – belong to the same bundle in the sense that they are critical issues for a government whose legitimacy is getting shakier by the month. It is hard not to see Pakistan as the most conflicted, even dangerous, place on earth. The Pakistanis are struggling with India over Kashmir – and as the articles indicate, they still resent the loss of East Pakistan (now Bagladesh) – and at the same time their future depends on connecting into the riches of Central Asia, which requires that they do everything possible to have a commanding presence in Afghanistan. In the mean time they have to deal with insurgent Baluch who believe they have been short-changed, and who in fact sit atride not only vital gas reserves but also the new port being built at Gwadar, in preparation for the day when it will be the terminus (and access point for the world) of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. So, our friends who are supposed to be “fighting terrorists” must somehow balance crises on three fronts: Afghanistan, which is increasingly unstable, but in any case is resentful Pakistan’s failure to control the Taliban who are spilling across their borders; India, for which Pakistan needs to keep producing a reserve of holy warriors to fight for Kashmir; and Baluchistan within its own borders, for which Pakistan must deploy a professinal army. Not one of these problems is new or will go away in the near future. A dangerous situation for the country, but also a dangerous situation for the world, as this is a nuclear power.
In an earlier post I noted that a Pakistani leader of a violent group said they believed in “Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and they would be fighting until Islam becomes the dominant religion. I also quoted the President of Indonesia who feared that such a “clash” would be the “ultimate nightmare.” Here is what they are saying in Egypt and the Arab Middle East in the context of the “victory of Hizbullah in Lebanon.” According to one observer “The secular resistance movements are gone. Now there are the Islamists coming in. The new nationalism is religious nationalism, and one of the main reasons is dignity. People want their dignity back.” And another commentator: “People have come to identify themselves more as Muslims during the last five years in response to the U.S.-led ‘war on terrorism’ which Egyptians frequently feel is a discriminatory campaign targeting Muslims and Islam worldwide.” Note that this Islamic nationalism [in Egypt] is pitted against the regime in power whereas in some cases [Pakistan] Islamism is the tool of the state inorder to stay in power. RLC
August 20 (The New York Times)
By Michael Slackman
The prevailing view in the Middle East is that where Arab nations failed to stand up to Israel and the United States, an Islamic movement succeeded.
She grew up in Cairo with the privileges that go to the daughter of a military officer, attended a university and landed a job in marketing. He grew up in a poor village of dusty unpaved roads, where young men work long hours in a brick factory while dreaming of getting a government job that would pay $90 a month.
Samuel Huntington developed the thesis that “[C]ulture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilizational identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War world.” “Of all the objective elements which define civilizations,” he says, “the more important usually is religion. … [P]eople who share ethnicity and language but differ in religion may slaughter each other …” (p. 20, 42, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996).
As far as I know, most scholars in the West have scorned Huntington’s thesis. But in the Muslim world the notion is taken very seriously. Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Islamist group in Pakistan, Lashkar-i Taiba, has said, “We believe in Huntington’s clash of civilizations, and our jihad will continue until Islam becomes the dominant religion.” (Quoted in Hassan Abbas (2005) Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, p 212). And the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has recently said that Middle East hostilities involving Israel “will radicalize the Muslim world, even those of us who are moderate today. From there, it will be just one step away to that ultimate nightmare: a clash of civilizations.” (Quoted by Scott Atran, “Is Hamas Ready to Deal?” The New York Times, August 17, 2006). That Huntington’s notion is ignored or scouted in the West but embraced in the Muslim world, says much about the two cultural worlds. If we want to understand others we must begin by listening. What does it mean that one of the most violent Islamist groups in the world “believes in Huntington’s clash of civilizations”? Or that the President of the largest Muslim country in the world believes we could be “one step away” from “the ultimate nightmare: a clash of civilizations”?
Even though this article is very long there is so much specific information here that I wanted it to be posted. It raises some questions: where do the Taliban get their money? No longer is money a problem for them. Dignifying and to laundering the reputations “of the worst war criminals in the country”? In the long run, much depends on how these people behave.
July 15 (Sydney Morning Herald)
By Paul McGeough
In a land where the Taliban will pay $US25,000 for the body of an MP, many question the Afghan parliament’s ability to help build real democracy, writes Paul McGeough.
As a warlord with all the backing of his Alokozai tribal elders, Dad Mohammed Khan did not stoop to campaigning for his seat in Afghanistan’s infant parliament. Suspicious electoral officials disallowed several ballot boxes in which the heavy- set candidate scored 100 per cent. But Khan still topped the vote in Helmand province, a parched southern wasteland that local opium farmers and smugglers call the valley of death. And within days of the poll, the spilling of more blood cruelly punctured Khan’s air of expectation and his urge to celebrate – his brother Daoud, the security chief in the province’s Sangin district, was mowed down in a hail of Taliban bullets as he and four of his bodyguards emerged from the local bazaar. All 350 members of the new parliament have been threatened or attacked for having the courage to take their place in Afghanistan’s new American-sponsored democratic order. But none of their stories comes anywhere near the butchery the resurgent Taliban was storing up for Khan.
Shirin Ebadi’s book “Iran Awakening” (2006) brings her experience in Iran up to a fairly recent time. Clearly the Iranian government is not pleased with the recognition she has received, and if they read her book they will be even less pleased. Their attempts to quench all open expression of dissent have been relentless. RLC
August 12 (The Age)
By Paul McGreough
AMID a new crackdown on human rights activists, the Iranian Government is attempting to isolate one of the country’s most high-profile lawyers, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.
This is a serious indictment against the intelligence agencies of the West, but it also reveals something of the attitude of the comfortable capitalist world toward the rest. Consider his critique: “A cultural arrogance seems to have set in with Western diplomatic services and intelligence agencies. They no longer take the trouble or time to understand why people would spend six years building tunnels or sending out suicide bombers.” RLC
August 6 (International Herald Tribune)
By Ahmed Rashid
LAHORE PAKISTAN – What is it about the intelligence failures by Western armies and governments in the past few years? Despite being armed with the latest high-tech paraphernalia, the richest countries in the world have gone through stunning reversals of fortune when it comes to intelligence gathering and assessment.
July 16 (Yahoo News)
By Danny Kemp
ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan could jeopardise peace in South Asia by clinging to a “jihadi option” despite a high-profile crackdown on Islamic militants by President Pervez Musharraf, analysts say.
Military ruler Musharraf, a major US ally in the “war on terror”, has also failed to tackle the so-called holy warriors because he needs Pakistan’s hardline Muslim parties on-side, they say.
The result is worsening ties with India — which says Tuesday’s Mumbai bombings were carried out with “cross-border” help — while Afghanistan is urging him to purge Taliban rebels allegedly based on Pakistani soil.