Archive for September 4th, 2008
US special forces carried out Pakistan raid
WASHINGTON, Sept 4 (Reuters)
US commandos entered Pakistan this week to attack an al Qaeda target near the Afghan border in a move that could signal more intense US efforts to thwart cross-border militant violence, US officials said on Thursday. The Bush administration has not officially acknowledged any involvement in the Wednesday attack on the village of Angor Adda that killed up to 20 people, including women and children, according to Pakistani officials. Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the raid by special operations forces targeted suspected al Qaeda operatives and signalled a possible intensification of American efforts to disrupt militant safe havens in Pakistan. The US says al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan are fuelling an increasingly sophisticated and deadly insurgency against US, NATO and Afghan forces across the border in eastern Afghanistan. Wednesday’s raid has been described publicly as the first known incursion into Pakistan by US-led troops since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But Pentagon officials said privately the presence of US troops in Pakistan marked a return to tactics the American military has not used since soon after the Afghanistan invasion. US concerns about the growing threat of militant attacks from bases inside Pakistan prompted top US military officials including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen to meet secretly with Pakistan’s military chief last week aboard a US aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean. “The safe havens in the border regions provide launching pads for these sorts of attacks, and they need to be shut down,” Mullen later told reporters at the Pentagon. US special operations forces, which lead the Pentagon’s counterterrorism effort, are among 19,000 US troops deployed to Afghanistan under US command.
France elbows US aside in Syria negotiations
Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz, 04/09/2008
A senior diplomatic source close to the Turkish-mediated talks between Israel and Syria said the United States has been persuaded that it should take part in the talks, but that France has “pushed itself” into Syria; and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s participation in talks in Damascus have led the US to cancel its decision for now. The source said that US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was to have participated as an observer at the coming Israeli-Syrian meeting in Turkey, but that Washington was not prepared to be “a tail” to the French and so Welch’s participation was called off. The source also said Welch’s participation was to have kicked off direct talks between the Israelis and the Syrians and it is not clear now when such talks will begin. France said Syrian President Bashar Assad had been the one to invite the French to sponsor direct talks, and that the US cannot complain if it hesitates to take part. Sarkozy and Assad are to meet today in Damascus with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
The summit is considered a major achievement for Assad, since France is now the chair of the European Union and Al Thani is president of the Gulf Cooperative Council of six countries. Since Washington is not taking part in the indirect talks, and perhaps to strengthen France’s position in effecting a breakthrough of the American isolation of Damascus, Assad may make do with the French-Qatari-Turkish sponsorship of the direct talks with Israel until the US presidential elections. At that point an American representative could join them. In any case, Israel would not be able to refuse a direct meeting, even if Washington decided not to take part. Sarkozy’s participation in the summit also makes a mockery of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which France and the US initiated four years ago. The resolution states that all foreign forces must leave Lebanon and all armed militias must be disbanded, including Hezbollah. The resolution angered the Syrians, and according to UN research, partially laid the groundwork for the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who worked to promote it. Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War is based on Resolution 1559. With the major conciliation between France and Syria now underway, it seems that there will no longer be anyone to push for its implementation.
Political crisis in Ukraine continues
Sydney Age, Sept 4 2008
Ukraine’s political crisis has deepened as a pro-Russian MP called for the foreign minister to be sacked over the “illegal” presence of US warships in the Black Sea, Interfax news agency said. A draft text demanding removal of Foreign Minister Vladimir Orgyzko was submitted to parliament as the body’s speaker said he had been “informed” that President Viktor Yushchenko’s faction had quit Ukraine’s governing coalition. The author of the draft resolution, Vasiliy Kiselev, told Interfax Ukraine in an interview that the country’s foreign minister should be sacked for “the illegal entry of the American warship ‘Dallas’ into the bay of Sevastopol.” Orgyzko should have protested the US vessel’s presence because no foreign warship may enter Ukrainian territorial waters with prior permission from the foreign ministry, the agency cited Kiselev as saying. Kiselev is a member of the pro-Russian Regions Party and another report said that this bloc had been joined by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in calling for further reductions in the powers of the presidency.
The independent daily Gazeta 24, quoting unnamed lawmakers in the prime minister’s parliamentary bloc, said Tymoshenko and the leader of the Regions Party “have already agreed to create a coalition.” According to that report, Tymoshenko would remain in the post of prime minister while the Regions Party leader, Viktor Yanukovych, would take over as speaker of parliament. Yushchenko, whose popularity is very low in Ukraine and whose presidential prerogatives have already been significantly trimmed, would be largely powerless to thwart such a scenario, experts said. “His popularity is too low to compete with the Tymoshenko bloc and the Regions Party,” Gazeta 24 quoted an unidentified parliamentary source as saying. The Regions Party holds the most seats in Ukraine’s parliament and an alliance between them and Tymoshenko’s deputies would easily create a coalition capable of governing. Yushchenko threatened to dissolve the parliament and force new elections, but analysts said this was a bluff that he could not afford to have called. One report speculated that the president could avoid elections and impose his will by declaring a state of emergency in Crimea where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based.
excerpted from Strategic Culture Foundation, Sept 5 2008
[...] In all likelihood, preparations for the second phase of the US operation aimed at destabilizing the post-Soviet space are underway. Its start is tentatively scheduled for September-October, 2008 and will probably be marked by a new Georgian invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, this time with the direct US support by means of space reconnaissance and radio-frequency jamming. Quite possibly, the US Special Forces in the Georgian army uniforms will be involved in combat. At the same time, a provocation such as a murder of Russian sailors or a blow-up of a Russian warship will be organized in Sevastopol, the result being a civil war in Ukraine and a direct military conflict between the country and Russia. Obviously, the US intends to use Georgia as a foothold in a campaign aimed at dragging Russia into a low-intensity conflict as it has been done in Vietnam. The response of the Ukrainian leadership has shown that it is ready to join Georgia in a military confrontation with Russia in case Washington asks it to.
Parallelly, the US will be bracing for an attack on Iran. The result will be McCain’s victory in the coming presidential race. The American society has given him carte blanche to take drastic measures to deal with the countries which do not side with the US. Nevertheless, the war with Iran will stretch thin the US armed forces simultaneously engaged in several conflicts. Though Iran’s infrastructure will be largely destroyed during the first days of the US attack and, quite possibly, the US and Israel will subject it to nuclear strikes, its strategy will be to block the Strait of Hormuz and to switch the conflict to a permanent mode. The fact that the US elite aims at instigating a series of regional conflicts shows that the US is no longer able to carry the burden of the global leadership, and the coming war is the last resort to retain it. However, the conflict will not last forever and sooner or later the US will have to downscale its military and political presence worldwide. The reliance on war demonstrates that the US elite’s intellectual potential needed to maintain the status of the US as the only superpower is exhausted.
Under the circumstances Russia’s main task is to psychologically survive the first propaganda strike and some 3-6 months of the information war waged by Western media. Subsequently the US will have to withdraw under various pretexts from the conflicts it unleashed unless its victory will be complete and obvious. The result will be a fundamental transformation of the global geo-economic picture and pattern of trade and financial flows, plus a reform of the UN. A new global monetary system will be established based on the economies of Russia, China, Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil. The US dollar will lose its current status of the global currency. The US will no longer be a country with attractive living conditions, and a migration of quality workforce from the country will commence. The US will be plagued by crime and will face the problem of preserving its territorial integrity. The international community will have to dispatch a peacekeeping force to the US territory to maintain order in the country and to prevent international terrorists from making inroads into its nuclear arsenals. The EU in its current form will stop to exist. A new system of the European collective security will be based on the alliance of Russia, Germany, and France and on a partition of Europe into their respective spheres of influence. Great Britain will be distanced from the continent again and lose its competitive advantages. London will stop serving as the world’s financial center.
And if you’re interested, the transcript …
Chuck Todd: Mike Murphy, lots of free advice, we’ll see if Steve Schmidt and the boys were watching. We’ll find out on your blackberry. Tonight voters will get their chance to hear from Sarah Palin and she will get the chance to show voters she’s the right woman for the job. Up next, one man who’s already convinced, and he’ll us why, Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Peggy Noonan: Yeah.
Mike Murphy: You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor world: Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. I mean, these guys — this is how you win a Texas race, just run it up. And it’s not gonna work. And –
PN: It’s over.
MM: Still McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good.
CT: I also think the Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too.
PN: Saw Kay this morning.
CT: Yeah, she’s never looked comfortable about this.
MM: They’re all bummed out.
CT: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?
PN: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this — excuse me — political bullshit about narratives –
CT: Yeah they went to a narrative.
MM: I totally agree.
PN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that’s not where they live and it’s not what they’re good at, they blow it.
MM: You know what’s really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.
CT: This is cynical, and as you called it, gimmicky.
Sarkozy Says Iran Takes ‘Risk,’ Provoking Israel
Francois de Beaupuy, Sept. 4 (Bloomberg)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran’s nuclear program may provoke an attack by Israel, urging the Islamic republic to accept international inspections. “Iran is taking a major risk in continuing its process of obtaining nuclear weapons, which we are certain is happening,” Sarkozy said today in Damascus, Syria. “One day, whatever the Israeli government is, we can imagine ourselves one morning with an Israel that would have attacked. That would be a disaster.” Sarkozy is using the meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, to press efforts to convince Tehran that it should cease its uranium-enrichment program and give full access to international inspectors. The French president is trying to deepen France’s political influence in the Middle East and renewed Europe’s ties with Syria after Assad’s help in ending an 18-month-long political deadlock in Lebanon in May. The “fallout would be disastrous” from any military strike against Iran, Assad said last night in a press conference with Sarkozy.
The wealth of Russia’s gilded youth is protected by legislative reform three years ago that abolished inheritance tax. Some, however, may be feeling a little jittery about the possibility of David Cameron, the Tory leader, becoming prime minister. Mr Cameron has proposed a visa ban and a possible asset freeze against Russia’s political and business elites, many of whom have houses in London and send their children to British public schools. Such sanctions, however, would be difficult to enforce …
Russian nationalist advocates Eurasian alliance against the US
Megan K. Stack, LA Times, Sept 3 2008
MOSCOW — Writer, political activist and father figure for contemporary Russian nationalism, Aleksandr Dugin is the founder of Russia’s International Eurasian Movement and a popular theorist among Russia’s hard-line elite. He envisions a strategic bloc comprising the former Soviet Union and the Middle East to rival the US-dominated Atlantic alliance. The Times interviewed Dugin this week at his Moscow office, a room draped with flags bearing the slogan “Pax Russica.” The following are excerpts.
LAT: What is your assessment of Russia’s place in the world now, and how should Russia be behaving with respect to the West?
AD: First of all, I advocate strongly a multipolar construction of the world. I think that the pretension of the United States to be the unique pole of the world is completely wrong, immoral and unacceptable by the other great centers of power. We support the creation of great space, a few great spaces, instead of only one point of decision, the United States’ decision. We think Russia should be in the vanguard of this process. We consider — not only myself, not only I, but our political chiefs — we consider that in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili has committed not only a moral crime, but also he tested what is behind the Russian words, behind the Russian protests against American domination. They wanted to test up to which point is this only words, and what Russia could oppose directly, in concrete acts.
LAT: Many in the West believe that Moscow deliberately provoked a confrontation over Georgia’s breakaway republics. Who do you believe is responsible for the eruption of armed conflict?
AD: It was too risky for us to begin it. And I think, also, that as long as I have known Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, they would like to avoid at any price direct confrontation with the United States. Their idea was that they should gain the time to prepare Russia to attack or to withstand the possible attack of the United States, and they needed 10 years. The reaction of Putin — of Putin and Medvedev — was such as it was only because they considered this an offensive, impossible and unacceptable provocation from the Georgians. And that was a reaction, not a planned strategic offensive. Putin and Medvedev were not ready to start by themselves, by their will, such a difficult situation and a difficult war that doesn’t seem to end. We political analysts we see that we could start such a war, but we could not end it. It is very far from the end. It is only the beginning of a real, and maybe very serious, and very dangerous for all of the sides, confrontation between us and Americans.
LAT: What was the strategic purpose in recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Russia is, so far, completely alone in the recognition.
AD: First of all, by this step Russia confirmed its will to go until the end in this conflict. It was a kind of demonstration of our serious and profound will to continue. Second, we needed, and now we have gotten, juridical explication of what our armed forces were doing on the Georgian territory. Now it is more or less clear. Regarding recognition, I think that if Russia will stay in this confrontation, if Russia will continue this demonstration of the firm decision and power, the other countries will, little by little, step by step, join the attitude toward South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is not the rule that from now on we will recognize all the separatist regions. Absolutely no. We will recognize those separatists’ regions that would be geopolitically on our side — either on our side or on our friends’ — and opposed to the United States. The United States showed us this double morality. They recognized pro-American Kosovo and don’t recognize anti-American, pro-Russian South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They don’t recognize the integrity of Serbia, but they recognize the integrity of Georgia.
LAT: How does Russia view the development of friendly relations between the United States and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia?
AD: As a declaration of war. As a declaration of psychological, geopolitical, economic and open war. Putin was pro-Western at the beginning. He was pro-American. That was the reason of our criticism of his conduct. For example, after Sept. 11 we were against his help to United States and his steps toward United States. But little by little, he was confronted with the complete neglect of all Russian interests. With these neoconservatives, with Richard Perle or Dick Cheney, we always were helping. “We will sign here, it is so.” Step by step, with the economy and the trade of energy resources, we finally found the force and the will to respond against this war. Because this war was not desired by us. It was a challenge. It was imposed on us by the United States. We consider that all of the post-Soviet space — except the Baltic states — we are dealing with Eurasian civilization. Not with European, not with the West. And to try to get these spaces out of our control, or out of our dialogue, or out of our special relations with them, based on history — it was a kind of attack, a declaration of war. It is not, as Americans like to put it, a competition. It was perceived to be not a competition but an act of aggression, as Napoleon or Hitler, and nothing else.
LAT: When Russia faced a separatist movement in Chechnya, it reacted with a large-scale military attack and an air assault that turned the Chechen capital of Grozny to rubble. Yet Moscow has been quick to criticize the Georgian capital of Tbilisi for launching a military operation in its breakaway republic. Isn’t there a double standard at work here?
AD: Yes. Yes. It was reaction to a double standard by a double standard. I agree.
LAT: If it’s going to be a reaction to a double standard with another double standard, where does the cycle end?
AD: The United States behaves as a unique pole that could define what is good and what is bad. It will never end if something would not say, “stop it.” So we should demonstrate, stop it or you will repent. Maybe we also will repent, but you will repent. Stop it.
LAT: You have been banned from visiting Ukraine. Do you believe that Ukraine will join NATO, and if so, how will Russia react?
AD: I think that most of the population of Ukraine doesn’t want to come into NATO. The majority of the population, after the Georgian case more than before, wants to have a good relationship with Russia. Entrance to NATO will signify complete abolishment of any kind of relationship, and real, hard confrontation. Half the Ukrainian population consider themselves to be Russian — politically, geopolitically, culturally, ethnically and so on. We could not conserve Ukraine without either a split or a compromise between two parts. President Viktor Yushchenko hollered to put me out of Ukraine and to prohibit me from entering in this state. I think it is his right. It’s a sovereign state. But I think by doing so he diminished his respect for different kinds of Ukrainian people. Because, you know, my ideas are very popular in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and there are many, many hundreds of thousands of people who are supporters of the Eurasian movement there.
LAT: If Ukraine were to move into NATO, what do you think the Russian reaction would be?
AD: I think that Russian reaction would be to support an uprising in eastern parts and Crimea and I could not exclude the entrance of armed force there, as in the Ossetian scenario. But the difference is that half of the Ukrainian population is Russian, is directly Russian, and this half of the population regards itself as being oppressed by the values, by the language, by the geopolitical issues, completely against their will. So I don’t think that, in this case, direct intervention of Russian armed force will be needed. I think on the eve of the entrance into NATO there will be public riots and the split of Ukraine into two parts.
LAT: What do you think would happen if Ukraine were to push Russia’s Black Sea Fleet out of the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol?
AD: I think it could be armed conflict there, because now we feel ourselves at ease, more or less. We are ready to continue in Georgia. But at the same time, we haven’t finished in Georgia. It’s far from the end, the situation there. We need Saakashvili’s head. We consider him to be an aggressor and author of war crimes. Morally, I think our army and our political leaders are completely prepared to play hard, to play tough with the Ukrainian leader because we consider him to be an accomplice of Saakashvili.
LAT: You have spoken of Iran as an alternative to American power. Are you still thinking of Tehran in this light?
AD: I think that Iran should and could be an ally of Russia. Working with Iran, exchanging weapons and the possibility of resources and the base to transport natural resources from Eurasia and Iran, to combine our efforts in strategy, military, economy and energy — we could create a real force to influence the whole Middle East. With Iranians we have common interests, because I consider that to stop American unipolarity is the most important thing, the absolute thing. These parties, these pro-Westerners here in the Russian government, they insisted that Iran, being fundamentalist, could at some time aggress us. But that was a kind of propaganda against Iranians made by pro-American, pro-Western forces in Moscow.
LAT: Your views on Vladimir Putin have fluctuated.
AD: I appreciated very much his concrete steps to reinforce political order in Russia, his steps to get away the oligarchs, to diminish influence of Westerners and to save Russian territorial unity in the Chechnya situation. But also I saw that he was encircled by pro-Western, pro-liberal politicians and advisors and experts, and that was main reason for my criticism toward him. But I think that now, after Russia’s military intervention in Georgia on Aug. 8, Putin and Medvedev have passed the irreversible point. They have shown that the will and the decision to put the words into practice are in fact irreversible. So my support to Putin and Medvedev is now absolute. I was deceived by these circles. But at the same time, maybe the West also was deceived by them. And by Medvedev, also! Because I considered Medvedev to be the revenge of the liberals, and I protested. I think Washington and Brussels also saw the same and we were all deceived. Medvedev proved to be a real hard-core Russian patriot and statesman. So I admire such deception — even if I was also the victim.
LAT: Is Moscow overplaying its hand? Many analysts question whether Russia has the military strength and economic stability to risk isolation.
AD: Russia will be not isolated — not from Europe nor from Asia. From the United States, maybe, but that doesn’t mean anything for us.
MTV Street Team: Well, a lot of students asked me to ask you, Ron Paul, cult-following in Alaska….
Governor Sarah Palin: He’s cool. He’s a good guy. He’s a good guy. He’s so independent. He’s independent of like the party machine, I’m like, right on, so am I. The party machinery, on both sides of the party, ya know, Americans are tiring of the incessant partisanship that gets in the way of just doing the right thing for this country.