Monday, 23 August 2010

The Pogroms in Kyrgyzstan



Media Release

Without prompt, genuine and exhaustive measures to address the damage done by the pogroms, Kyrgyzstan risks another round of terrible violence.

The Pogroms in Kyrgyzstan , the latest report from the International Crisis Group, highlights the risk of spiralling violence in the south of Kyrgyzstan and the central government’s loss of control over the region. It calls for the Kyrgyz government to support an internationally backed enquiry into the pogroms which took place in May and June 2010 in Jalalabad and in Osh. It also urges the international community to form a united front in calling on the Kyrgyz government to address the root causes of the violence, and in warning the country’s leadership of the dangers of inaction and denial.

“The violence and pogroms of June have further deepened the gulf between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Central Asia Project Director. “If this problem remains unaddressed, another explosion is only a matter of time, and in the next outburst, the victimised party could look to Islamist radicals for help, or violence could spread to other ethnic groups – Russians, Uighur, Tatar or Dungan”.

Successive governments have failed to address ethnic tensions in the south or even to admit their existence. Many features of the 2010 violence strongly resemble the last round of bloody ethnic clashes, in 1990. One of the most striking differences, however, is that twenty years ago, a large number of elite Soviet troops were deployed in the region for six months to normalise the situation. This time, a weaker government facing a greater challenge has refused any external help, unrealistically arguing that it can handle the situation itself. In fact, the government has now lost control of a significant part of southern Kyrgyzstan, where the mayor of Osh, Melis Myrzakmatov, publicly rejects the president’s authority.

The Kyrgyz government should take a strong public stand against positions of extreme nationalism by prominent national and regional politicians. The government of Kyrgyzstan, as well as donors and supporters, should support a full, open and internationally backed enquiry into the recent pogroms.

Given the weakness of the Kyrgyz government, responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the international community. It should play a more forthright role than usual in raising the long-term dangers to Kyrgyzstan of extremism, the need to restore the central government’s political control over the city of Osh, and the urgent necessity of reconciliation between ethnic communities. It also needs to draw up a blueprint for establishing a long-term modus vivendi between the majority Kyrgyz and ethnic minorities, Uzbeks and others. This should include a unified strategy for the reconstruction of the south, involving extensive on-the-ground monitoring, the recognition of cultural sensitivities and the need to avoid worsening conflict risks.

“If the south remains outside of central control, there is a strong risk that the narcotics trade, already an important factor, could extend its power still further”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Without decisive action by the international community, the region could also quickly become a welcoming environment for Islamist guerrillas”.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

An explosion of violence, destruction and looting in southern Kyrgyzstan on 11-14 June 2010 killed many hundreds of people, mostly Uzbeks, destroyed over 2000 buildings, mostly homes, and deepened the gulf between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. It was further proof of the near total ineffectiveness of the provisional government that overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010, and is now trying to guide the country to general elections in October. Given the government’s slowness to address the causes and consequences of the violence, the danger of another explosion is high. Even without one, the aftershocks of the looting, murder and arson could seriously damage Kyrgyzstan’s ailing economy, cause a significant outflow of ethnic Uzbeks and other minorities, and further destabilise the already fragile situation in Central Asia in general. The route back to stability will be long and difficult, not least because no reliable security or even monitoring force has been deployed in the affected area. It should start with an internationally supported investigation into the pogroms, as visible an international police and diplomatic presence as possible to discourage their recurrence, and close coordination on effective rebuilding of towns and communities.

The most disturbing and dangerous consequence of the violence is that the central government has now lost de facto control of the south. Melis Myrzakmatov, the mayor of Osh, a ruthless and resolute young nationalist leader, has emerged from the bloodshed with his political strength, and his extremist credentials, stronger than ever, and is now the south’s pivotal political figure. Given this, there is a strong risk that any attempt at investigation or even reconciliation will be subordinated to many politicians’ desire to enlist his support for the October elections. The government seems reluctant to challenge this nationalist mood, which it clearly feels is popular within the majority Kyrgyz community. If the south remains outside of central control, there is a strong risk that the narcotics trade, already an important factor, could extend its power still further, and that the region could quickly become a welcoming environment for Islamist guerrillas.

Though the government blames external elements, including Islamic militants, the pogroms in fact involved many forces, from the remnants of the Bakiyev political machine to prominent mainstream politicians and organised crime, especially the narcotics trade.

Most of the violence took place in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital, with a less bloody outburst in and around the region’s other main city, Jalalabad. The forces that stand behind the violence have not yet been fully identified. This is unlikely to happen without an exhaustive and professional international investigation. Certain things are, however, clear. Although the profound belief in the Uzbek community that the pogroms were a state-planned attack on them is not borne out by the facts, there are strong indications that prominent political figures, particularly in Osh city, were actively, perhaps decisively, involved. Most security forces in the region, who in Osh currently answer to local leaders rather than the capital, were slow to act or complicit in the violence. The pattern of violence in Osh moreover suggests a coordinated strategy; it is unlikely the marauders were spontaneously responding to events. The criterion that guided looters in all the districts attacked was ethnic, not economic. June’s violence had been prefigured by serious ethnic and political tension in Jalalabad in May. At the time, however, this was largely ignored by the central government and the international community.

Successive governments have failed to address ethnic tensions in the south, or even admit their existence. Many features of the 2010 violence strongly resemble the last round of bloody ethnic clashes, in 1990. At that time there was no attempt to address the root causes of the problem, and the same phenomena burst to the surface in an even more virulent form twenty years on. During the intervening two decades, state neglect and economic decline have deepened social deprivation, increasing the pool of poorly educated and mostly unemployed young men who, in 2010 as in 1990, proved particularly susceptible to destructive rhetoric.

One of the most striking differences between 1990 and 2010 was that twenty years ago a large number of elite Soviet troops were deployed in the region for six months to normalise the situation. This time, a weaker government facing a greater challenge has refused any external help, arguing that it can handle the situation itself. Even the token and already delayed deployment of 52 police advisers by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been the target of repeated protests by nationalist demonstrators who seek to weaken the central government. Few international observers or foreign governments believe that the government is capable of assuring the bare minimum of governance in coming months; an embarrassingly unsuccessful attempt to remove Myrzakmatov has weakened the government, and the president, even further. It has also reinforced Myrzakmatov's hold on the south.

The international community’s response to the crisis was inglorious. Most countries deferred to Russia, which declined to send peacekeepers and has since predicted the country’s disintegration. The UN Security Council did nothing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deployed with laudable speed, while key UN agencies were initially frustrated by internal security rules that even some senior UN officials felt were excessively constricting – and which played into the hands of local officials in Osh who appeared keen to limit the number of outsiders in the area. Looting of aid convoys was a serious problem for some time after the Osh authorities announced that order had been restored.

The situation throughout the country remains tense. In the south, however, it is explosive. The government tries to maintain a facade that the situation is returning to normal. In fact the Osh authorities are pursuing a punitive anti-Uzbek policy that could well trigger more violence – and in the view of many observers, Kyrgyz and international, may be intended to do just that. Moderate ethnic Kyrgyz are aggrieved at sweeping foreign allegations that have made them the villains of the crisis. Meanwhile, there is already talk within the Uzbek areas of Osh – largely secular and middle class, a long way from the Islamists’ core constituency in the south – of the welcome that the jihadi guerrillas would receive if they stepped up their activities in the south. The conversations are so far restricted to a tiny segment of the Uzbek community. Without prompt, genuine and exhaustive measures to address the damage done by the pogroms, however, the country risks, sooner or later, another round of terrible violence.

RECOMMENDATIONS;

To the Government of Kyrgyzstan:

01. Support a full, open and internationally backed enquiry into the events in May 2010 in Jalalabad, and June in Osh and Jalalabad.

02. Take a strong public stand against positions of extreme nationalism and ethnic exclusivity put forward by prominent national and regional politicians.

03. Cooperate with and support immediate deployment of OSCE police mission to Osh, international humanitarian organisations and diplomatic presence to reduce the likelihood of new violence.

To the International Community:

04. Call for and support a thorough enquiry into the events of May-June 2010, with central roles assigned to international organisations with expertise in this field such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Make it clear that further aid to the Kyrgyz government will be conditional upon such an investigation.

05. Elaborate a unified strategy for the reconstruction of the south, involving extensive on-ground monitoring – including the early deployment to Osh of the OSCE police mission and other international humanitarian and diplomatic observers – the recognition of cultural sensitivities and the need to avoid worsening conflict risks.

06. Ensure that no international aid funds go to the Osh government as long as it advocates an exclusionary ethnic policy and refuses to submit to the authority of the central government.

07. Engage in a long-term program of police reform and training, sweeping reforms of the judiciary and legal system.

08. Start the process of seeking a framework for the equitable coexistence of all ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan.

To the Members of the UN Security Council, in particular the U.S. and Russia:

09. Undertake active contingency planning on a priority basis, jointly and severally as appropriate, so that in the event of another explosion in the south threatening lives and the stability of Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asia region, the international community or key mem­bers and institutions will be in a position to respond in a timely and effective manner. (Ends/)

Download Full report from; here

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

The floods reveal the good in the Ummah and the evil in her rulers

As July ended and August began, during the monsoon seasons of Pakistan, heavy rains caused rivers and lakes to burst their banks, dams to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of water, sending great flash floods which swept away the houses, bridges, roads and electricity power lines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Southern Punjab, with Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Swat and Shangla included amongst the worst hit areas. Thousands have been drowned and hundreds of thousands are now under the bare sky, starving and thirsty, now facing death through waterborne diseases of the stomach, such as cholera and typhoid.

As for the Muslims who have drowned and are now dying because of diseases of the stomach, they are of the status of martyrs with respect to reward, RasulAllah (SAW) said,

"Whom do you consider a shaheed among you? They said: O Messenger of Allah, the one killed in the way of Allah is a shaheed. He said: Then the shuhadaa (martyrs) among my Ummah would be few. They said: Then who are they, O Messenger of Allah? He said: The one killed in the way of Allah is a shaheed, the one who dies in the way of Allah is a shaheed, the one who died in plague is a shaheed, the one who died due to the stomach is a shaheed and the drowned person is a shaheed." [Muslim]
Indeed, it is the way of Allah (SWT) that the best and most pious of Muslims return to Allah (SWT) in the best manner.

As for the millions of Muslims who grieve for the sufferings of the Muslims, from all over Pakistan and beyond Pakistan, who seek paths through the chaos, to bring clean water, food, medicine and clothing to their brethren, all this is a great evidence of the good within this Ummah of RasulAllah (SAW). Truly this Ummah is as RasulAllah (SAW) described it,
"The similitude of the believers in their mutual love, compassion and sympathy is like that of a body: when one part hurts then the rest of the body calls out in sleeplessness and fever." [Muslim]

And what a contrast the rulers of the Muslims are, in Pakistan and outside it, to the Ummah over which they rule. Collectively the rulers command millions of soldiers and trillions of dollars of resources, yet what was their response to the sufferings of the Muslims in their time of great need?

As for the rulers of Pakistan itself, as the floods worsened and casualties mounted, the President, Asif Ali Zardari, actually left the country to smile and socialize with the rulers of Europe. Only after several days of a clear and obvious national emergency, did the Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gillani, decide to call for an "emergency" cabinet meeting. Was it not upon the rulers to immediately move to the affected areas, to personally supervise the management, rather than view television reports as if the disaster had occurred in another country? Was it not upon them to ensure the ample supply of food and water to prevent the huge rise in prices due to shortage of supply in the affected areas, such that one wheat roti was Rs. 25, whereas in the unaffected cities it is Rs. 2. Was it not upon them to mobilize tens of thousands of soldiers to assist the people, not merely thousands who are clearly overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, rather than commit nearly 150,000 troops to America's war of Fitna in the tribal areas? And the oppressor rulers will turn the country upside down to secure the NATO supply line, providing wine and weapons for the crusaders in Afghanistan, but will hardly lift a finger to alleviate the suffering of the Muslims. As if this was not enough, these rulers are accepting nominal aid of America for flood relief, in an effort to improve her image in the eyes of the people of Pakistan, even though America is a crusader enemy who is killing Muslims of Pakistan daily through drone attacks.

As for the rulers outside of Pakistan, they are as the rulers of Pakistan. They are forced to utter the word "Ummah", because of the demands of the Muslims, but their words do not descend beyond their lips and throats. They are content to allow the Muslims to die as if they are animals, whilst they loot and plunder the immense resources of the Ummah and store their ill-gotten billions in the Western banks, safe for the time when they must escape from their own people. They will throw aid as little as they feel is required to prevent widespread rage against them, as one would throw some morsel to hungry animals through fear of their bite. But overall they will treat the Muslims in crisis, as they would treat them in the normal days, depriving them of the most basic of needs.

The rulers of Pakistan and outside Pakistan do not care for the Muslims, because the capitalist system which they implement is designed only to care for the ruling elite and its entourage. Throughout the world a select, band of elite deprive the billions of the world's important resources, leaving them to hunger, thirst and homelessness. So, worse must be expected in a time of crisis. This was witnessed clearly in 2005 during the time of President Bush, in America, the heartland of Capitalism, as the people of the southern states were abandoned to hunger, thirst and violence, after Hurricane Katrina. As such, Capitalism is a kufr system which secures the most outrageous luxurious needs of a small fraction, such as extravagant paintings and ostentatious residences, so that most of the people are denied their most basic of needs. Without doubt, Capitalism's time is at its end, as is the time of the rulers that implement it.

O People of Power in Pakistan! O officers in Pakistan's Armed Forces!

Have you not seen enough to move against these evil rulers? Will you forsake those you have sworn to protect? Does this Ummah that once sent a flotilla of ships to relieve the Irish of the suffering of famine, in the time of Queen Victoria, not deserve its basic needs secured? Does this great Ummah, that throughout the era of the Khilafah, provided sanctuary for oppressed non-Muslims, not deserve security and peace? Does this noble Ummah not deserve noble rulers, who share in her despair, crying until their hearts ache and move tirelessly for her needs, forsaking sleep, ignoring their aching limbs and sparing no effort to relieve suffering, as happened in the time of the famine in Madinah during the time of the Khaleefah Rashid, Umar (RA)? His Wali in far flung Syria, Abu Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah (RA), said that he would send a train of camels so long that he said, "I am sending you the caravans whose one end will be here at Syria and the other will be at Madinah." Moreover, later, Abu Ubaidah (RA) paid a personal visit to Madinah and acted as an officer of a disaster management cell, which was headed personally by Umar (RA). Tens of thousands of people from desert towns had already gathered in Madinah and once adequate supply of ration reached Madinah, Umar (RA) dispatched his men to the routes of Iraq, Palestine and Syria to take the supply caravans to the desert settlements deeper into Arabia, which in turn saved hundreds of thousands from annihilation. For the internally displaced people, Umar (RA) hosted a dinner every night at Madinah, which according to one estimate every night more than hundred thousand people use to attend. If all this could be achieved by Islamic ruling, in the age of the camel and messages by horse rider, what could be achieved by the Khilafah state in the era of the plane and internet?

O People of Power in Pakistan! O officers in Pakistan's Armed Forces!

It is not enough that you merely assist the people in the relief efforts. Allah (SWT) has given you far more capability than that, about which you will be asked when you face him on a day that no excuse will rescue you from His (SWT) Wrath and Punishment. It is upon you to make the bold step that will ensure for generations that the needs of your people are fulfilled, within crises and outside of crises, by a rightly guided Khaleefah, ruling by Islam, seeking the pleasure of Allah (SWT). So, when will you grant the Nussrah to establish the Khilafah, O brothers?

وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنقَلَبٍ يَنقَلِبُونَ


"And soon will the unjust know what change in circumstance their affairs will take" [Surah Al-Sha'raa 26:227] (Ends/)



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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Where is Zaradari's priority in Pakistan?

Pakistan is once again in the midst of another crisis. Floods triggered by the heavy monsoon rains have left a trail of destruction throughout the country. Images of children and women submerged in waist deep water have beamed around the world. They now face hunger and disease.

With 12 million affected, 650000 homes destroyed over some 132,000 square kilometres. The official death toll is 1,500 and rising. Hundreds of thousands of people are still stranded without shelter or supplies of food and clean water.

During this time, Zardari was touring Europe with his family in order to launch his son's political career. He was residing in 5 star hotels in the initial days of the disaster the government failed to provide any response. Current relief efforts can only be described as inadequate. Enraged survivors have physically attacked government officials in flood-hit areas, amid widespread anger at the inadequacy of Zardari's government.

In fact, the following statistics make it clear where the priority lies.

- A special report by the New York Times in 1998 considered Zardari to be worth $1.8 billion. In a list prepared by the Pakistan Daily Asif Ali Zardari is considered the 2nd richest man in Pakistan with total assets worth 1.8 billion. The list highlighted Zardari's stakes in Sugar Mills all over Pakistan, his huge business ventures in the Middle East which run into hundreds of Millions

- Whilst the PPP government pumped no money into the relief effort it has invested over $35 billion for its part in the America's war on terror. Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi mentioned this during a news briefing on the 14th November, 2008 in New York, he also confirmed the US has compensated Pakistan with $10 billion for acting as a mercenary force for the US.

- Pakistan spent $10 billion in the Malakand operation that was staged during the summer of 2009.

- In the recent budget announced in March 2010 The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government increased its security budget by over 117% for the year 2010-11 in order to deal with the threat posed by the Taliban insurgency. The Federal government was allocated Rs 21 billion.

This disaster has shown again that Pakistan needs a change of system. Whilst Zardari shores up his own pockets the people of Pakistan do not feature even remotely as a priority for government funds. Whilst Musharraf's dictatorship sold Pakistan to America, this sham democracy has made Pakistan hostage to corrupt politicians who are only interested in increasing the size of their own bank accounts at the expense of the people of Pakistan. It's high time Pakistan changed it's systems to the Khilafah ruling system. (Ends/)

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The “humanitarian” campaign for the war in Afghanistan

The US media has launched a full-scale effort to suppress growing popular opposition to the war in Afghanistan, using one-sided propaganda about Taliban atrocities to conceal the murderous character of the American intervention. Beginning with the cover of Time magazine, showing a young woman mutilated by her Taliban husband, the media blitz now focuses on the killing of 10 medical aid workers Friday in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. Six of the ten were American citizens.

Both of these events are, without a doubt, terrible human tragedies. But they are being used in the most cynical fashion to browbeat the American people into accepting an indefinite continuation of the war in Afghanistan, under conditions where a clear majority of the population now regards the war with hostility and favors a rapid US pullout.

The July 29 issue of Time marked the official kickoff of the campaign, with the cover photo of the young woman whose nose and ears were hacked off for attempting to flee her husband, and an accompanying headline declaring this atrocity to be “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan.” The political message was unmistakable: those who advocate withdrawal of US forces are condemning Afghan women to butchery.

Managing Editor Rick Stengel gave the following explanation to readers upset at the magazine for publishing the gruesome image, writing, “I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening—and what can happen—in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban’s treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the US and its allies should do in Afghanistan.”

It is fair to ask a different question, however. Why didn’t the Time editor publish a photograph on the magazine’s front cover of any of the thousands of innocent Afghan men, women and children killed by US air strikes, missiles, artillery and mortar shells? He might have chosen the scene at Kunduz, where 140 people were incinerated in a single air strike that detonated a gasoline tanker. Or the wedding party in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where 47 were blown to fragments by bombs and missiles, including the young bride. Or the 90 people machine-gunned by US helicopter gunships during a funeral ceremony in Herat province. Or any of the hundreds of individual, small-scale killings of civilians detailed in the recent release of documents by WikiLeaks.

There are enough such victims of imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan to fill the covers of American news magazines for decades to come. But the giant corporations that control the media are not in the business of informing the American people about the atrocities being committed in their name. Their task is to manipulate public opinion in the interests of policies decided on by the financial aristocracy and its political representatives, and they are hard at work at that task.

The Time cover is a lie on another level as well. The horrific treatment of women under the Taliban (and to a large extent under the US-backed Karzai regime as well), is itself the product of the American intervention in Afghanistan over the course of three decades. The Carter and Reagan administrations sought to mobilize opposition to a Soviet-backed regime in which, at least in urban areas, women had substantially improved rights, education and social standing. The mujahedin were drawn from the most right-wing elements in the Islamic world, financed by Saudi Arabia, trained by the CIA in terror techniques, and dispatched to Afghanistan. Among them was the future leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.

The United States government deliberately fomented and spread a version of Islamic fundamentalism that had no widespread support at the time, except from a handful of close US allies like the Saudi monarchy. When the mujahedin warlords fell into civil war after the Soviet withdrawal, the Pakistani military, with US backing, promoted the Taliban as a more reliable replacement. Thus the Taliban, like Al Qaeda, is very much a Frankenstein’s monster, raised up in the course of the Cold War struggle with the USSR, which has turned against its creator.

The killing of the medical missionaries in Badakhshan has now become the focus of saturation media coverage. Many basic facts of the massacre remain uncertain, including the affiliation of the killers. There have been suggestions that bandits motivated by robbery were actually involved, despite the Taliban’s claim of responsibility. Most other encounters between unarmed Western aid workers and insurgent forces have resulted in kidnapping for ransom and propaganda purposes, and only a handful, albeit well-publicized, have ended in murder.

Whatever the exact circumstances, however, such atrocities are an absolutely inevitable by-product of a counterinsurgency war waged by an imperialist state armed with overwhelming firepower against an enemy rooted in a tribal society that has proven fiercely hostile to foreign occupiers.
The bulk of the US media coverage initially focused on the individual medical aid workers, their long labors in Afghanistan, and the sorrowful impact on their families and colleagues, but has begun to exploit the event to promote the war. One New York tabloid published its report under a giant one-word headline, “SAVAGES,” consciously or unconsciously making the connection between US policy in Afghanistan and the attempted extermination of Native Americans in the 19th century.

The Obama administration began to draw its desired political conclusions from the event Sunday, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issuing a statement denouncing the “despicable act of wanton violence” that revealed the “twisted ideology” of the Taliban, and reaffirming her government’s determination to prevail in the war, now nearly nine years old.

Characteristically, the Wall Street Journal drew the most explicit and reactionary conclusions from the event in an editorial Monday headlined “The Taliban Method,” calling the killings “especially notable as an education in the nature of our enemy.”

“The murders are a window on the threat that thousands of Afghans face every day if they dare to cooperate with the Afghan government,” the Journal continued. “The assassinations and disfigurements (cutting off ears or arms) are a war tactic, designed to make it harder for the government to collect intelligence and deliver services to win over the population.”

This ignores the well-known fact that a large majority of the Afghan people oppose the US-led occupation of their country and Washington’s corrupt puppet government in Kabul. Moreover, the high-tech war machine operated by the Pentagon inflicts far worse damage on the bodies of its victims, without the well-paid reactionaries in US editorial offices shedding any tears.

The Journal concludes, “The main US strategic purpose in this war is self-defense in denying an Al Qaeda sanctuary. But our cause also includes the moral imperative of preventing Islamic radicals from a victory that would give them rein to maim and murder thousands of innocents.”

This combines the lie that was the original basis for the invasion of Afghanistan—the war as revenge for the 9/11 terrorist attacks—with the “moral” and “humanitarian” rationale now being propagated so assiduously by the American media.

In his explanation of why Time published its cover photograph, executive editor Stengel makes a revealing reference to the fact that “The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war.” A major reason for the furious hostility towards WikiLeaks is that this small Internet-based organization has broken through the self-censorship practiced by the vast corporate-controlled media machine.

Those who play the decision-making role—the editors of the leading newspapers and magazines, the executives, producers and anchormen of the major television networks—are well aware of the nature of the war in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks was no revelation to them. In their deliberate suppression of the brutality of the American war, they play an important role in enabling the crimes of imperialism. (WSWS)

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Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain calls on Muslims to strengthen call for Khilafah in Pakistan





Part 01: Floods in Pakistan: The test for us is to ACT

Thousands have died and millions have been made homeless from widespread flooding in Pakistan. How should Muslims living in Britain respond?

01. We are one Ummah: The Ummah of Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wassallam - and those who are shaheed or made homeless are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children. We make dua for them, and our hearts ache for them.

02. Just as Allah is testing them with their hardship, He Subhana wa Ta’ala is testing us with our response. In this time of need and immediate crisis, we should help where we can and give sadaqa for their aid. So, we urge all Muslims to donate to those brothers and sisters collecting in communities up and down the country - especially to those who can facilitate the aid through direct links which will help those in need.

03. Flooding is not new to Pakistan, and it is a criminal neglect that after more than 60 years no government has yet instituted flood management plans. It is a criminal neglect that the so-called head of state abandons solidarity with the people at this time, to enjoy European luxuries. It is a criminal neglect that troops are used to support the US led war on terror instead of rescuing those in hardship. We pray all Muslims call for removal of the current corrupt leaders and for the establishment of a just Khilafah in its place.

May Allah help this Ummah, help unite this Ummah, protect this Ummah and guide this Ummah.

Part 02: A call for Khilafah in Pakistan



Pakistan is beset by crises. Floods have devastated the north and west. Thousands have been killed and millions have been made homeless. The threat of disease is impending. This is on top of the existing poverty and hardship for ordinary people.

Security is utterly compromised. There is now an Indian threat on western frontier as well as the east. American drones continue to bomb Pakistan, killing civilians. US security agencies are allowed to create terror on Pakistan’s streets, and India stokes militancy and sectarianism in Baluchistan.

A Diplomatic vacuum exists, as Western governments can slander Pakistan, claiming it is the source of all terror, whilst neglecting the fact that there was no terror in Pakistan until the NATO invasion destabilized the region. They use this propaganda to pressure Pakistan to continue to sacrifice its troops and citizens for Western interests, and to continue to allow the US to use bases and fuel for the attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The causes of these crises are many. Incompetent government, whether democratic or dictatorship, successive regimes have failed to address peoples problems. Whether flood, or earthquake, or education, poverty these politicians do not show any care for ordinary people. How can it be that a country that has a history of flooding fails to have effective flood management plans after sixty years?

Slavery to Western interests: Democrats and dictators alike have allowed western politicians – like David Cameron – to slap their faces, creating propaganda against Pakistan and Islam without challenge, and then kiss the hand that slaps them. They pursue policies that have made Pakistan insecure by supporting the invasion of Afghanistan, moving troops away from the eastern frontier with India to the west. They have spent $30 billion on America’s war on terror and ruined the economy by pursuing harsh policies dictated by the IMF and World Bank.

Corrupt government: Democrats and dictators alike have robbed the wealth of the country and put the interests of their own elite above every one else. Zardari, who is arguably the most corrupt of all the corrupt politicians (and there are many), has left a country in crisis to enjoy the comfort of the west, in a way that no self respecting leader who cared for his citizens would. He has come on a lavish trip to promote his son as his successor, without any sense of shame.

There is only one solution Pakistan needs. It has tried democracy and dictatorship: the Zardari-Bhutto dynasty, Musharraf and the military, Nawaz Sharif etc have all been disgraced in office. It urgently needs a new leadership and new system.

Pakistan needs Khilafat:
· An Islamic government to look after the affairs of the people
· A Shield to defend the security of the state
· An Independent government that is not a slave or punch bag for others
· An Accountable government with an independent judiciary to ensure integrity in leaders.

Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain has organised a demonstration to demand the removal of Zardari and his cronies for their betrayal of the people of Pakistan and their unwavering support for the UK and US governments. The time has come for sincere people in Pakistan to re-establish the Islamic Khilafah state to replace these rulers - a government that will have an independent policy, that will not be a slave to the west and which will look after the affairs of the people.  WE ASK YOU ALL TO SUPPORT THE CALL TO OUST ZARDARI AND ESTABLISH KHILAFAT. Read more>>>

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Obama and the Politics of Troop Withdrawal

On Wednesday 3rd August 2010 Barack Obama in a speech to a packed audience at the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia, confirmed the end of all combat operations in Iraq by the end of August 2010. The thrust of Obama's speech was the fulfilment of his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, which was a defining feature of his 2008 candidacy.

Barack Obama inherited George W. Bush's plan that called for coalition forces to help create a viable Iraqi national military and security force that would maintain central government's authority and Iraq's territorial cohesion and integrity. However the apparent stability that has been achieved in Iraq has been through co-opting various war lords, tribal leaders, Iran, Syria and numerous other factions. It is these factions that have integrated themselves into America's political settlement for Iraq and through this their own interests.

Obama's election campaign pledge was to systematically reduce US presence in Iraq by around the summer of 2010. For the American public who were originally sold a short war with shock and awe tactics giving way to a quick victory, troop reduction became the measure of success.

Today around 100,000 US troops remain in Iraq. The drawdown that was planned to begin in earnest following Iraq's parliamentary elections in March 2010, never took place due to the US constructed Iraqi political system descending into factionalism. The plan was to have around 50,000 support and advisory troops remaining in Iraq by the end of August, who could then be withdrawn.

Much of this was dependent upon a successful election in March and the appointment of a president by the different factions. The result of the elections however resulted in the return of violence as many refused to accept the outcome, today the new government has still not taken office. It should be remembered that the various deals the US made to establish its political solution to Iraq has only remained intact due to the US armed forces being present in large numbers in Iraq and with Iranian proxies partaking in Iraq's central government. America's political settlement has always remained tentative at best and with the various factions engaging in ethno-sectarian violence the removal of US troops would be a disaster in the current situation.

Combat most certainly will not end, nor will the troops stop engaging in it. Rather, the US administration has decided to redefine the 50,000 combat troops that will still be in Iraq, still engaging in combat, as a "transitional" force. The transnational force will focus on training, advising, assisting and providing support but it should be remembered that most of the units carrying out training and advisory functions are retooled combat formations.
The sheer logistical challenge of moving vehicles, equipment and military hardware and handing over facilities to the Iraqis is virtually impossible in a month. The level of US soldiers in Iraq has dropped slightly since Obama took office, large portions of these troops were "transitioned" straight into Afghanistan, and with violence still on the rise the US role in Iraq is unlikely to be ending any time soon.

The US was banking on bringing the military aspect of its invasion to an end through co-opting the various factions to lay down their arms in return for positions in the US constructed political system. This would have brought the violence down to a more manageable level which would have allowed the reduction in US troop levels. This has not happened and all of this places the US in a much weaker position compared to when it went into Iraq. In fact the world today is much different to the global situation when the US invaded Iraq. Today the US military has been humbled and is considered overstretched. This has allowed countries such as Russia and China to become much more aggressive and confident in challenging US in different regions in the world.
The timing of this announcement takes place with approval ratings of Obama at historic lows, the ‘hope for change' has evaporated and Obama even struggled to get through his one success - the healthcare bill, which ever since has been fraught by restrictions by elements form his own party. Obama makes this speech with mid-term elections due on the 2nd November 2010, with the democrat's chances looking increasingly dim and with the Republicans on the rise due to Obama's apparent failings, it appears Obama may for once not be able to talk his way of this one. (Islamic Revival)

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Obama threatens Iran



At a White House briefing Wednesday, President Obama personally joined the growing chorus of war threats against Iran coming from Washington and its allies.

Recent threats include remarks from US Defense Secretary Gates, who argued against “another war in the Middle East” in 2008, but stated last month that the US does “not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was “still time for sanctions,” but that “at a certain point, we should realize that sanctions cannot work.”

It was against this backdrop that the White House called in selected journalists for a press briefing on Iran. They reportedly discovered only after arriving that the “briefer” at this apparently routine event was none other than the president himself.

Obama’s purpose was to deliver a blunt warning to the Iranian government: it could either surrender to US demands that it abandon its nuclear program, or face US attack.

Obama said that Iranian officials “should know what they can say ‘yes’ to.” If “national pride” drove Iran to develop nuclear weapons, Obama continued, “they will bear the costs of that.” He said “all options” were open, in order to “prevent a nuclear arms race in the region and to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Fearing that certain journalists had misunderstood Obama’s empty phrases about diplomacy as indicating plans for new negotiations with Iran, senior White House officials later spoke to one of the reporters there, well-known pro-war journalist, Robert Kagan, to set the record straight.

In a Washington Post column, Kagan criticized journalists who asked US officials about diplomacy with Iran: “This put the officials in an awkward position: they didn’t want to say flat out that the administration was not pursuing a new diplomatic initiative, because this might suggest that the administration was not interested in diplomacy at all.”

Kagan commented, “As one bemused senior official later remarked to me, if the point of the briefing had been diplomacy, then the administration would have brought its top negotiators to the meeting, instead of all the people in charge of putting the squeeze on Iran.”

In fact, the Obama administration’s policy has never been to negotiate with Iran, but to present Tehran with a list of humiliating, nonnegotiable demands. These were presented in the context of a two-track policy: a campaign of sanctions and war threats could either lead to Tehran’s capitulation, or lay the basis for US military action.

Last June, the Obama administration unsuccessfully tried to arrange a pro-US regime in Tehran, by overturning Ahmadinejad’s election. The US tacitly backed the so-called “Green Revolution,” led by defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and billionaire tycoon Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and supported by sections of the middle class in Iran. However, Washington was thwarted when these forces, drawn from the wealthier layers of Iranian society, failed to gain broader support.

The administration still believes that some form of internal “regime change” may be possible. Kagan noted that White House officials hoped that the political forces behind the Green Revolution could connect with recent strikes of merchants in the bazaars, and the combination “would pose a real threat to the regime.”

However, the Obama administration now seems increasingly set on war as the only way of securing its policy interests in the region. It considers that a US victory in the standoff with Iran is now critical to maintaining Washington’s prestige and hegemonic role in world affairs.

A report by Obama administration advisors at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) notes that “American credibility…would be seriously diminished if, after repeatedly issuing warnings to the contrary, it permitted Tehran to cross the nuclear threshold,” that is, to acquire nuclear weapons. It finds that the US must be prepared for “extraordinary action” to preserve its credibility as the world’s greatest military power, and calls for “visible, credible preparations for a military option.”

The US campaign against Iran’s nuclear program is a political fraud. Washington has mounted no such campaign against nuclear-armed India, because it views the Indian army as a US strategic asset in the region. In the case of Iran—seen by Washington as a strategic adversary—the country’s nuclear industry, which Iran insists is for only for energy, becomes a pretext for a US campaign to isolate and beat it into submission.

It is virtually impossible for the Iranian regime to demonstrate that the US should not treat it as a threat, short of total political self-emasculation. Iran has ties to political and military forces in US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip; it is a major supplier of oil and gas to world markets, including to key US competitors such as China; and it has developed a significant nuclear program.
To get a lasting deal with Washington, Iran would have to publicly renounce supporting parties or resistance movements in regions oppressed by the US or Israel, grant US firms access or control of its oil fields, and submit to invasive controls of its nuclear program. This would amount to a public declaration by the Iranian government that it is a lackey of American imperialism.

As suspicions grow that Tehran may not make such an offer, views are hardening in Washington in favor of war. There are even calls for a press campaign to soften up public opinion for war. The BPC report called for “public discussion of military options,” while the French newspaper Le Monde recently asked whether the public might be “psychologically prepared for the scenario of war with Iran.”

US threats, issued in an unannounced meeting covered by a handful of reporters, underscore the Obama administration’s contempt for public opinion. Elected as a result of mass opposition to the Bush administration’s policy of aggressive war, Obama now threatens to start a war that would dwarf the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and threaten to engulf the entire region. (WSWS)

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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Opposition to Afghanistan war mounts as US intensifies offensive


Popular hostility to the Afghanistan war among the American people has hit a record high, even as the US military launches a major new offensive and the Obama administration warns that few US troops will be brought home next year.

The latest Gallup opinion poll released by USA Today shows support for the Obama administration’s war policy has fallen to 36 percent, down from 48 percent in February. Moreover, a record 43 percent say that it was a mistake to launch the war, which began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington DC and was sold to the American people as retaliation against terrorism.

The apparent sharp growth in antiwar sentiments follows back-to-back months of record US casualties, with 60 American troops killed in June, and 66 in July. It also comes in the wake of the posting by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of previously secret documents exposing US killings of civilians, Afghan government corruption and the general debacle engulfing the nearly nine-year-old US military intervention.

By the end of this month, Obama’s “surge” that sent 30,000 additional US troops into Afghanistan will be complete, bringing the total US force to nearly 100,000, with an additional 50,000 troops deployed by NATO and other countries.

The delayed offensive against Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, with a population of approximately half a million, and a center of support for the anti-occupation insurgency, is expected to intensify in the coming weeks.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that “US and Afghan troops have begun to challenge the Taliban in the lush Arghandab Valley and other districts around Kandahar.” It adds, however, “US officers in southern Afghanistan say villagers are reluctant to cooperate with the Americans and their Afghan partners because they fear the Taliban will take retribution against them once the Americans have gone. The villagers simply don’t trust the Afghan police to fill the security gap.”

The Washington Post reported from Kandahar, “Checkpoints supervised by US soldiers have been erected on all major roads leading into the city.” Contractors working for the US military, meanwhile, have installed 7,000 eight-foot-wide concrete slabs—blast walls—around strategic points of the city. And, in another act of “population control,” the US occupation force is trying to compel residents to get biometric identification cards that include retina scans and fingerprints.

“If you don’t have control of the population, you can’t secure the population,” Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, director of operations for NATO’s regional command in southern Afghanistan, told the newspaper.

The Post also reported that in the offensive in the Arghandab Valley, soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division are finding that vineyards and pomegranate groves have been laced with anti-personnel mines, resulting in the maiming of a number of troops. Commanders, according to the Post, are considering razing the fields to get rid of the mines, at the cost of further enraging local farmers.

“Counterinsurgency doctrine says you don’t want to turn the population against you,” one US officer told the paper. “But at how much of a cost does that make sense.”

The depth of the crisis confronting the US-led occupation was made clear in the Post’s description of the difficulty confronting US commanders in their attempts to cobble together a local puppet government to assist in the offensive. An attempt to fill 300 civil service jobs—in a country plagued by massive unemployment—turned up just four qualified applicants, even after the requirement of a high school diploma was dropped.

Among the solutions being considered, according to the Post, is housing those hired for government jobs in fortified compounds with secret entrances to conceal their identities and protect them from the armed groups fighting the occupation.

Even if they were able to recruit local Afghans under these conditions, it is difficult to imagine how these officials could perform any significant function. And without such personnel, a key element of the US counterinsurgency strategy—winning over the local population by providing enhanced public services—is unviable.

An estimated 30,000 US-led troops are being mobilized for the Kandahar offensive, which is being widely described as a make-or-break operation that will determine the future of the US war.

Even as the operation begins, however, there are persistent reports that the offensive by 15,000 occupation troops, led by US Marines, in the Marjah district of neighboring Helmand Province last February has failed to achieve any lasting results.

An article by Afghan journalists posted by International War and Peace Reporting states that residents are speaking of “growing insecurity and fear the insurgents could re-establish themselves there.”

The report states that residents are too afraid to go to work and that they had never seen so much violence in the area, which is a sparsely populated farming region.

“I have not gone to my shop for 10 days,” shopkeeper Haji Abdul Samad told the reporters. “There, bullets drop like rain from the sky. The cattle and sheep die like flies. I swear there is no humanitarianism and no humanity.”

A local resident who took a job on a local US-funded reconstruction project said he quit after threats from the Taliban. “There are Taliban on every road and intersection, but few of them carry guns,” he said. “Some are monitoring the situation, collecting intelligence and information about the American patrols. And some armed Taliban stay at home and prepare for attacks.”

A Taliban spokesman cited in the article said that the movement remained very strong in the area and had no intention of ceding control to the US-led forces. “People help us,” he said. “They give us food and support us, and that is why our operations go so well.”

Attacks by insurgents have grown both in frequency and audacity. On Tuesday, six resistance fighters attacked the Kandahar air base, a US-controlled facility just outside the southern city that houses tens of thousands of military personnel. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in an attempt to breach an opening in one of the base’s gates, while others fired rockets into the facility and engaged in an hour-long gun battle. One soldier and several civilians inside the facility were reported wounded and the base’s operations were disrupted as civilians were evacuated.

Popular hostility toward the occupation boiled over in Kabul last Friday following a traffic accident in which an SUV driven by Dyncorp International security contractors for the US Embassy slammed into a car, killing and injuring several people on the road connecting the embassy to the airport. There were reports by witnesses to the incident that the contractors emerged from their vehicle firing their weapons. The crash provoked a riot, with hundreds of Afghans chanting “death to Americans” and “death to Karzai.” After a second Dyncorp vehicle arrived, Afghans swarmed over the vehicles, setting them on fire and attacking the contractors.

And on Sunday, several hundred Afghans marched in Kabul under a banner denouncing the US occupation and calling Washington “the guardian and master of [the] ruling mafia in Afghanistan.” Protesters carried placards bearing photographs of maimed Afghan children.

The march was called to protest the incident Friday as well as a recent US missile attack, which, according to the Afghan government, killed 52 civilians.

“We poor people are not just here to be killed,” Rabia, an older woman participating in the demonstration, told the Washington Post. She said she had seen the angry response to Friday’s car crash. “The people were so emotional. They were throwing stones at the Americans’ vehicles. If the police hadn’t taken the Americans away, the people would have torn them to pieces. If I had the chance to do that, I would do the same thing.”

In a further indication of the crisis gripping the US occupation, Washington’s ostensible ally, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, told the French daily Le Monde that the US “is losing the war against the Taliban.”

In an interview published Tuesday, Zardari said that Washington had “lost the battle to win hearts and minds” and had “underestimated the situation on the ground” in Afghanistan. The Afghan insurgents, the Pakistani president said, “have time on their side.” He added, referring to the US-led occupation, “The entire approach seems mistaken to me. The population does not associate the coalition intervention with an improvement of their lives.”

Faced with mounting opposition and a deteriorating military situation, the Pentagon’s response appears to be a ratcheting up of force that will inevitably mean an even greater number of civilian casualties.
Senior US commander Gen. David Petraeus issued the first order stemming from his promised review of “rules of engagement” set by his predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which were ostensibly aimed at reducing the number of Afghan civilians killed by US troops by restricting the use of air strikes and artillery.

Petraeus posted a set of general “counterinsurgency guidelines” that largely echoed those laid down by McChrystal, stressing the need to win over the local population. However, he also provided a more concrete “clarification,” allowing soldiers to call in air and artillery support against insurgents firing from what one senior officer described to the Wall Street Journal as “dilapidated former dwellings.”
The original order specified that commanders were authorized to use such overwhelming force for the purpose of “protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat.” Any loosening of this restriction will undoubtedly send a signal that the gloves are coming off.

This perception was strengthened by some of the language in the general guidelines, which called upon US troops to “pursue the enemy relentlessly.” It urged them to “get our teeth into the insurgents and don’t let go. When the extremists fight, make them pay. Seek out and eliminate those who threaten the population … Target the whole network, not just individuals.”
This last reference apparently includes the so-called targeted killing, or assassination, of reputed Taliban leaders, which has become an increasingly central element of US strategy in Afghanistan.

While support for an end to the war is growing within the US, the Obama administration is making it increasingly explicit that the president’s pledge to begin withdrawing US troops in July 2011 is worthless. Obama had included the date as part of his attempt to sell the public on the 30,000-troop surge last December.
Appearing on the ABC News program “This Week” Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “I think we need to reemphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011. We are beginning a transition period. Drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers.” (WSWS)

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Drums of War: Israel and the “Axis of Resistance”

Part 01: Media Releases;

The Israeli-Lebanese border is exceptionally calm and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason: fear that a new round of hostilities would be far more violent and could spill over regionally.

Drums of War: Israel and the “Axis of Resistance”, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines developments since the indecisive 2006 confrontation. It focuses on the de facto deterrence regime that has helped keep the peace: all parties now know that a next conflict would not spare civilians and could escalate into broader regional warfare. However, the process this regime perpetuates – mutually reinforcing military preparations; enhanced military cooperation among Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah; escalating Israeli threats – pulls in the opposite direction and could trigger the very outcome it has averted so far.

“Today, no party can soberly contemplate the prospect of a war that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted”, says Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Project Director for Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. “But underlying dynamics of the logic of deterrence carry the seeds of a possible breakdown”.

Should hostilities break out, Israel will want to hit hard and fast to avoid duplicating the 2006 scenario. It will be less likely to distinguish between Hizbollah and the Lebanese government and more likely to take aim at Syria – because it is both a more vulnerable target and Hizbollah’s principal supplier of military and logistical support. Meanwhile, the Shiite movement is bolstering its military might and, as tensions have risen, the so-called “axis of resistance” that it and its allies form has intensified security ties. Involvement by one in the event of attack against another no longer can be dismissed as idle speculation.

Beneath the surface, in short, tensions are mounting. The key to unlocking this situation is to restart meaningful negotiations between Israel on the one hand and Syria and Lebanon on the other. Short of that, it is hard to see why any of the actors would alter its calculations or how the underlying roots of the conflict (Syrian and Lebanese fears regarding Israel; Israeli anxiety at Hizbollah’s ever-growing arsenal) might be addressed.

Prospects for such a development remain at best uncertain, so shorter-term steps are needed to minimise risks of renewed hostilities. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted in the wake of the 2006 fighting, has played an important part in maintaining quiet but has lost momentum. Reviving it requires pushing for an agreement leading to Israel’s withdrawal from the northern (Lebanese) part of Ghajar village and bolstering the size and capacity of Lebanon’s armed forces in the South. More effective consultative mechanisms between the parties in conflict also would help defuse tensions, clarify red lines and minimise threats of an accidental confrontation.

“Lebanon’s problems for the most part are derivative of and tied to broader regional tensions”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “Until serious efforts are mounted to tackle these wider issues, the risk of conflict will persist. In the meantime, the world should cross its fingers that fear of a catastrophic confrontation will continue to be reason enough for the parties not to provoke one”.

Part 02: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS;

Of all the explanations why calm has prevailed in the Israeli-Lebanese arena since the end of the 2006 war, the principal one also should be cause for greatest concern: fear among the parties that the next confrontation would be far more devastating and broader in scope. None of the most directly relevant actors – Israel, Hizbollah, Syria and Iran – relishes this prospect, so all, for now, are intent on keeping their powder dry. But the political roots of the crisis remain unaddressed, the underlying dynamics are still explosive, and miscalculations cannot be ruled out. The only truly effective approach is one that would seek to resume – and conclude – meaningful Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese peace talks. There is no other answer to the Hizbollah dilemma and, for now, few better ways to affect Tehran’s calculations. Short of such an initiative, deeper political involvement by the international community is needed to enhance communications between the parties, defuse tensions and avoid costly missteps.

Four years after the last war, the situation in the Levant is paradoxical. It is exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason. The build-up in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalisation, are effectively deterring all sides. Today, none of the parties can soberly contemplate the prospect of a conflict that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted.

Should hostilities break out, Israel will want to hit hard and fast to avoid duplicating the 2006 scenario. It will be less likely than in the past to distinguish between Hizbollah and a Lebanese government of which the Shiite movement is an integral part and more likely to take aim at Syria – both because it is the more vulnerable target and because it is Hizbollah’s principal supplier of military and logistical support. Meanwhile, as tensions have risen, the so-called “axis of resistance” – Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah – has been busy intensifying security ties. Involvement by one in the event of attack against another no longer can be dismissed as idle speculation.
Other restraining elements are at play. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 led to a thickening of the Lebanese and international armed presence in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war, which has constrained Hizbollah’s freedom of action while simultaneously putting the brakes on any potential Israeli military ambition. Even as both sides routinely criticise and violate the resolution – which concurrently called for the end of arms transfers to Lebanon’s non-governmental forces, disarmament of its armed groups and full respect for the country’s sovereignty – they continue to value the framework defined by it as an integral component of the status quo.

Hizbollah’s enhanced political status in Lebanon is an additional inhibiting factor, discouraging it from initiatives that could imperil those gains. Israel’s current government – its reputation notwithstanding – appears less inclined at this point to take the risk twice taken by its more centrist predecessor of initiating hostilities, seeking to prove it can maintain stability and worried about a more hostile international environment. Despite voicing alarm at Hizbollah’s military growth, it has displayed restraint. U.S. President Barack Obama, likewise, far from the one-time dream of a new Middle East harboured by his predecessor, has no appetite for a conflagration that would jeopardise his peace efforts and attempts to restore U.S. credibility in the region. All of which explains why the border area has witnessed fewer violent incidents than at any time in decades.

But that is only the better half of the story. Beneath the surface, tensions are mounting with no obvious safety valve. The deterrence regime has helped keep the peace, but the process it perpetuates – mutually reinforcing military preparations; Hizbollah’s growing and more sophisticated arsenal; escalating Israeli threats – pulls in the opposite direction and could trigger the very outcome it has averted so far. If Israel would not like a war, it does not like what it is seeing either.

It is not clear what would constitute a red line whose crossing by the Shiite movement would prompt Israeli military action, but that lack of clarity provides additional cause for anxiety. Unlike in the 1990s, when the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, operating with U.S., French and Syrian participation, ensured some form of inter-party contacts and minimal adherence to agreed rules of the game, and when Washington and Damascus were involved in intensive dialogue, today there is no effective forum for communication and thus ample room for misunderstanding and misperception.

Meanwhile, an underground war of espionage and assassinations has been raging, for now a substitute for more open confrontation. The parties might not want a full-scale shooting war, but under these circumstances one or the other could provoke an unwanted one. Further contributing to a sense of paralysis has been lack of movement on any 1701-related file, from the seemingly easiest – Israel’s withdrawal from the northern (Lebanese) part of the village of Ghajar – to the most complex, including policing the Lebanese-Syrian border, resolving the status of Shebaa Farms, disarming Hizbollah and ending Israeli over-flights. Such paralysis feeds scepticism that anything can be achieved and, over time, could wear down the commitment of contributors to the UN peacekeeping force (UNIFIL).

The key to unlocking this situation is – without neglecting the central Israeli-Palestinian track – to resume meaningful negotiations between Israel on the one hand and Syria and Lebanon on the other. This is the only realistic way to shift underlying dynamics and, in particular, affect Syria’s calculations. Without that, Damascus will continue to transfer weapons to Hizbollah, the Shiite movement will successfully resist pressure to disarm and Israel will keep on violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.

There is scant reason for optimism on the peace front, however. That means little can be achieved, not that nothing can be done. The most urgent tasks are to restore momentum on 1701 by focusing on the most realistic goals and to establish consultative mechanisms to defuse tensions, clarify red lines and minimise risks of an accidental confrontation. Better channels of communication would help. At present, the U.S. is talking mainly to one side (Israel), keeping another at arm’s length (Syria), ignoring a third (Hizbollah) and confronting the fourth (Iran). The UN might not have that problem, but it has others. It has too many overlapping and uncoordinated missions and offices dealing with Lebanon and the peace process and thus lacks policy coherence. One option would be to empower its mission in Lebanon so that it can play a more effective political role.

Nobody should be under the illusion that solving Ghajar, beefing up the UN’s role or even finding new, creative means of communication between Israel, Syria and, indirectly, Hizbollah, would make a lasting or decisive difference. They undoubtedly would help. But Lebanon’s crises for the most part are derivative of broader regional tensions; until serious efforts are mounted to resolve the latter, the former will persist. In the meantime, the world should cross its fingers that fear of a catastrophic conflict will continue to be reason enough for the parties not to provoke one.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the U.S. Government:

01. Intensify efforts, including at the presidential level, to re-launch Israeli-Syrian and, as a consequence, Israeli-Lebanese peace negotiations in parallel to Israeli-Palestinian talks, persuading Prime Minister Netanyahu to reiterate the commitment made by past Israeli leaders to a full withdrawal to the lines of 1967 assuming all other Israeli needs are met.

02. Initiate a high-level and sustained dialogue with Syria aimed at defining both a clear and credible pathway toward improved bilateral relations and a compelling regional role for Damascus in the aftermath of a peace agreement.

03. Press, in the context of resumed peace talks, Syria to halt weapons transfers to Hizbollah and Israel to cease actions in violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

To the UN Security Council:

04. Ask the Secretary-General to review the various missions and offices dealing with Lebanon and the Middle East peace process, with the aim of developing a more coherent and comprehensive policy and enhancing coordination among them.

To the UN Secretariat:

05. Consider, in the interim, consolidating implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 in the office of the Special Coordinator (UNSCOL), with a view to more effective engagement with the various parties.

To the UN and the Governments of Israel and Lebanon:

06. Revive momentum toward implementation of Resolution 1701, focusing on the most immediately achievable goals, by:

a) pursuing discussions toward resolution of the status of Ghajar, under which Israel would withdraw from the northern (Lebanese) part, and UNIFIL would assume control, with a Lebanese army presence; and

b) using such discussions to initiate talks on conditions necessary for attaining a formal ceasefire.

To UNIFIL troop contributing countries, particularly those in Europe:

07. Reaffirm commitments to maintain the current level of troop contributions.

08. Pursue a policy of active patrolling, in order to prevent any overt Hizbollah presence in its area of responsibility, while conducting outreach efforts to the civilian population.

09. Investigate, publicly condemn and take appropriate action against flagrant violations of Resolution 1701, particularly attempts to resupply Hizbollah and Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.

To the UN and the Governments of the U.S., France, Turkey, Israel, Syria and Lebanon:

10. Consider establishing a Contact Group or, alternatively, more informal consultative mechanisms, to discuss implementation of Resolution 1701 and address potential flashpoints, focusing on:
a) a commitment by relevant parties to refrain from provocative statements and actions;

b) an end to implicit or explicit threats to harm civilians or damage civilian infrastructure in any future war;

c) a halt to targeted assassinations; and

d) immediate intervention in the event of a violent incident so as to de-escalate the crisis.

To the Government of Lebanon and Hizbollah:

11. Make every effort to discourage and prevent hostile action by the civilian population against UN personnel and property.

To the Government of Lebanon:

12. Substantially increase the number of troops deployed in the South and provide them with enhanced training and equipment. (Ends/)

Download full Report: here

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