5 July 2013

Egypt: The Opposition's Next Steps

JULY 4, 2013
STRATFOR

Egyptians cheer and wave national flags as airplanes fly past Tahrir Square, trailing smoke in the colors of the national flag on July 4 in Cairo. 

Summary

Egypt's Tamarod movement succeeded in its attempt to pressure the Egyptian military to expel former President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government from office. Now the question is whether Tamarod and the other elements of the former opposition can avoid the kind of fragmentation and divisive infighting that played a significant role in catapulting the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the first place. There are many challenges to overcome, not the least of which is that the military ultimately holds the keys to power -- something the Muslim Brotherhood learned the hard way July 3. Going forward, it will be difficult for the disparate blend of liberal, secular and Islamist parties united in their shared desire to see Morsi deposed to maintain their cohesion. 

Analysis

The Tamarod movement declared its existence and demands on May 1, and a little more than two months later it had gathered enough momentum to play a critical role in Egypt's military coup. The military essentially fulfilled all of Tamarod's demands -- besides removing Morsi from office, the Islamist-dominated Shura Council has been dissolved, the constitution has been suspended and the head of the Supreme Court, Adly Mansour, has been installed as Egypt's interim president. 

The Muslim Brotherhood's Shortcomings

Tamarod's meteoric rise was enabled in part by the failures of the Morsi government, and in part by structural problems that will plague Morsi's successor as much as they troubled the previous government. The Morsi government was never able to secure the loyalty of the country's police and Central Security Forces. In March, police and security officials held widespread strikes and sit-ins to demand better work conditions and benefits, more and higher-quality weapons and the resignation of then-Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy. Because of these strikes, the military was called on at times to act in the police's stead, a fact that severely undermined the government's credibility in the eyes of the military. Morsi's inability to establish independent command of police and security forces away from the military, combined with deteriorating economic conditions and an inability to manage the country with direct military involvement, made the Muslim Brotherhood an increasingly unpopular choice for the military to rule through.

The Muslim Brotherhood also never developed a working relationship with the Egyptian judiciary, much less asserted any kind of control over it. Many of the judges were appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak and remained loyal to entrenched interests and the military. The courts halted progress toward completing the constitution and holding new elections at every step. When Morsi tried to institute a younger mandatory retirement age, many of the judges saw it as a way to force them out of the system. And when Morsi overstepped his bounds Nov. 22 by trying to declare his actions beyond judicial review, he united the judiciary's anger with the frustration of much of the rest of Egypt's political landscape. Tamarod may have revealed itself to the world in May, but Morsi's actions helped galvanize much of the overall anger that eventually toppled him. Morsi's attempts to navigate around the limitations imposed upon him by the military and judiciary ultimately led to the sentiment that he was trying to seize power for the Muslim Brotherhood, and it was this sentiment that Tamarod was able to give voice to and ultimately upon which it capitalized.

Tamarod and Other Opposition Groups

Tamarod was not designed as a political party; on June 28 it announced the formation of its own political front (the June 30 movement), but for all intents and purposes, it has fulfilled its mission. The movement's stated desires have come to fruition, and if it wants to remain politically relevant Tamarod now will have to transform from a critical external voice to a bona fide functional political entity. However, it will be challenging to maintain its popular momentum during such a change, and it is not even clear that the movement's leaders desire a political future. One of the pivotal moments of the last few days in Egypt was when the supposed young leaders of Tamarod -- themselves former members of an opposition group known as Kefaya that was founded in 2004 to advocate political reform in the Mubarak system -- authorized Constitution Party President and National Salvation Front coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei to speak for them in negotiations with the military. At the time, the move demonstrated that the opposition was determined to maintain its cohesion and be disciplined in pursuit of its stated goals. But in the coup's aftermath, it also indicates that Tamarod has no real program or ideology of its own. 

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Recovers After Morsi's Ouster

JULY 4, 2013
STRATFOR


Muslim Brotherhood leaders Khairat el-Shater (R) and Mohammed Badie 

Summary

It is unclear what will become of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. In the short term, the world's oldest and largest Islamist movement will continue to denounce the coup and engage in protests which, coupled with the security crackdown on the Brotherhood, will likely result in violence. Eventually, however, the group will try to revive itself by re-assimilating into Egypt's political institutions, though it is in no hurry to attempt to reclaim the presidency.

Analysis

On July 4, Egyptian security forces continued to hold members of the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership, particularly those affiliated with its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. In addition to Morsi, who remains in what military authorities are describing as "preventative" detention, many key figures such as supreme guide Mohammed al-Badie; his deputy and the movement's top strategist and financier, Khairat El-Shater; and Freedom and Justice Party chief Saad El-Katatny have been taken into custody -- as have hundreds of others.

Some reports indicate that many of these top leaders will be charged with inciting violence during the civil unrest, and several pro-Muslim Brotherhood news agencies have been shut down. Meanwhile, security forces continue to clash with Muslim Brotherhood supporters throughout the country.

Thus, not only is the Brotherhood excluded from the military-led "roadmap," it is also the subject of what appears to be a systematic crackdown. The Brotherhood has little choice but to continue resisting the military; failure to do so would call its credibility into question, particularly among its membership.

The Brotherhood will use the fact that Morsi was ousted in a military coup to attack its opponents and galvanize its support base as it regroups. Its goal will be to use its longstanding social outreach networks to regain the influence it lost to the state and the opposition. However, the Brotherhood knows that there are limits to what it can achieve while pursing its goals.

Most important is the fact that the Brotherhood is a political party, not an armed revolutionary movement. By design, it operates in civil society and participates in the democratic process. In our 2011 Muslim Brotherhood report, we noted that the group is the largest political entity in the country yet does not even enjoy the fealty of all the country's Islamists -- let alone the diverse Egyptian population. This partly explains why Morsi fell after only a year of serving in office. Eventually, the Brotherhood will accept its fate and return to the political process.

Resolving Internal Issues

While it will try to extract as many concessions as it can, the Muslim Brotherhood cannot afford to be excluded from the post-Morsi political arena process for too long. The Morsi government's failure to compromise before the end of the 48-hour deadline set by the military likely will inform the Brotherhood's future moves and help it avoid any political miscalculation. But before it can take any action in that regard, its leadership will need to boost morale within its ranks.

It will do so by citing its 85-year history and point out that it has experienced much worse hardship, such as the massive crackdown by the Nasser regime in 1954. Brotherhood leaders will argue that if the group was able to survive that era, it can overcome the latest setback, which is taking place in a time when democratic space within the country has grown considerably. Indeed, internal criticism over the leadership's failures, rather than low morale, may prove to be a bigger threat to the group going forward.

The group has previously experienced internal dissent, most recently following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2012, when several prominent members and leaders left the movement to form other parties. The past week's events will likewise prompt people to defect, and there will be calls for leadership change, particularly in Freedom and Justice Party. The Brotherhood likely will heed these calls because it knows the current leadership, which is dominated by the group's old guard, has proved incapable of managing the transition from opposition movement to governing body. Because they had operated so long in in an autocratic opposition group, they simply were unaccustomed to working with political and ideological competitors in a democratic environment.

The Muslim Brotherhood will need to resolve internal issues before it can attempt to revive itself politically. However, its leaders will delay this resolution as they denounce and resist the military coup.

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Egypt's Atypical Military Coup ***

JULY 3, 2013

Egyptians salute armored personnel carriers upon their deployment on a street leading to Cairo University on July 3. 

Analysis

A debate is underway in Egypt on whether the move to oust President Mohammed Morsi is tantamount to a military coup. Considering that the Egyptian army is forcibly removing a democratically elected president in the wake of nation-wide unrest, the military intervention is indeed a coup. However, it differs from other coups in that direct military rule will not be imposed.

There is considerable public support for Morsi's removal, so the provisional authority that will replace him likely will be a broad-based entity that includes representatives of the nation's main political stakeholders. Indeed, the interim government likely will differ greatly from the one run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which governed the state after former President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in 2011 and until Morsi came to power in June 2012.

Herein lies the problem of the Egyptian military, which has been the mainstay of the regime since the founding of the modern republic in 1952. For most of its history, especially since after the end of the 1967 war, Egypt's military has never directly governed the country; rather, it ruled from behind the scenes, except for the year when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled. Until the fall of Mubarak, this was achieved by means of single-party rule where the now-disbanded National Democratic Party administered at the behest of the military. The destruction of the National Democratic Party was a major dilemma for the military, which no longer had a civilian partner. This was further complicated by the onset of a multi-party era.

As the single largest, most coherent political force in the country, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood was able to benefit from the electoral process. With the election of Morsi as president last year, it appeared as though the military had found a replacement of sorts for the National Democratic Party -- the ideological differences notwithstanding. What the military needed was a government that could manage the political economy of the country such that the state of unrest could remain limited.

Morsi's government failed to do that. His focus on consolidating power for his group is what triggered the current massive public backlash. As a result, the army is once again without a civilian partner. There are no alternatives to the Muslim Brotherhood because the opposition is a large protest movement without any coherent core. However, it is notable that the impetus for these protests was the liberal and secular opposition, who for the first time demonstrated an ability to establish a united front. It is unclear whether the opposition will coalesce and whether Tamarod's political wing, June 30 Front, represents a political alternative to the Brotherhood's established social networks in the country. Mohammed ElBaradei's appointment as the negotiator for much of the opposition could be a first step toward a political entity besides the Brotherhood that could wield civilian power.

The unrest generated by the opposition elements united under Tamarod, and to a lesser extent even among some Islamists, has forced the military to get rid of the Morsi presidency. After all, the president refused to resign, and the opposition would not accept his proposals for a compromise. But this is not the outcome the military preferred. It hoped Morsi could maintain control of the country while securing the military's economic and political interests.

Egypt: Military Coup Bodes Ill for Future Stability **

JULY 3, 2013

An Egyptian army helicopter flies over protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo's Tahrir Square on July 3. 

Analysis

Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced July 3 that the country's president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office in the wake of popular unrest. In a short media statement, al-Sisi, who was flanked by the three armed services chiefs, opposition leaders, the sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and the pope of the Coptic Church, announced that Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, has replaced Morsi as interim president. He also announced that the constitution has been suspended. Mansour's appointment is notable in that one of the key demands of the Tamarod protest movement was that he become president. The provisional government will be holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.

The arrangement was made without the involvement of Morsi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, or of anyone representing the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has effectively been thrown out of power, must now figure out how to respond. The group probably will not respond violently, but it will engage in civil unrest that will lead to violence. Though the Brotherhood is unlikely to abandon the path of democratic politics, Morsi's ouster will lead elements from more ultraconservative Salafist groups to abandon mainstream politics in favor of armed conflict.

The overthrow of Egypt's moderate Islamist government undermines the international efforts to bring radical Islamists into the political mainstream in the wider Arab and Muslim world. Ultimately, within the context of Egypt, Morsi's ouster sets a precedent where future presidents can expect to be removed from office by the military in the event of pressure from the masses. In a way, this was set in motion by the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, and it does not bode well for the future stability of Egypt.Send us your thoughts on this report.

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The Next Phase of the Arab Spring

JULY 3, 2013

A protester waves an anti-Morsi poster in Tahrir Square on July 3 

Analysis

The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation's thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again.

There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake. The uprising in Libya resulted in a Western military intervention that deposed former leader Moammar Gadhafi and replaced him with massive uncertainty. The uprising in Syria has not replaced Syrian President Bashar al Assad but instead sparked a war between him and an Islamist-dominated opposition. Elsewhere, revolts have been contained with relative ease. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy.

This is what makes Egypt so interesting. The Egyptian uprising has always been the most ambiguous even while being cited as the most decisive. It is true that former President Hosni Mubarak fell in 2011. It is also true that elections were held in 2012, when a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's election as president highlighted the reality that a democratic election is not guaranteed to produce a liberal democratic result. In any case, the now-deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, won by only a slim margin and he was severely constrained as to what he could do.

But the real issue in Egypt has always been something else. Though a general was forced out of office in 2011, it was not clear that the military regime did not remain, if not in power, then certainly the ultimate arbiter of power in Egyptian politics. Over the past year, so long as Morsi remained the elected president, the argument could be made that the military had lost its power. But just as we argued that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had been engineered by the military in order to force a succession that the aging Mubarak resisted, we can also argue that while the military had faded into the background, it remained the decisive force in Egypt. 

Modern Egypt was founded in 1952 in a military coup by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser was committed to modernizing Egypt, and he saw the army as the only real instrument of modernization. He was a secularist committed to the idea that Arab nations ought to be united, but not Islamist by any means. He was a socialist, but not a communist. Above all else, he was an Egyptian army officer committed to the principle that the military guaranteed the stability of the Egyptian nation.

When the uprisings of the Arab Spring came, Nasser's successors used the unrest to force Mubarak out, and then they stepped back. It is interesting to consider whether they would have been content to retain their institutional position under a Muslim Brotherhood-led government. However, Morsi never really took control of the machinery of government, partly because he was politically weak, partly because the Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to govern, and partly because the military never quite let go. 

Why do India, Pakistan bend before the US?

July 04, 2013

India and Pakistan that will not tolerate a sneeze from the other side without opening the entire paraphernalia of forensic science, stand like dummies when the US manipulates both at will, says Seema Mustafa.

It is really difficult to understand why South Asia continues to reel under a colonial hangover. For there can be no other explanation for the manner in which South Asian governments succumb to the new colonialists, the United States and its allies, on each and every issue. Even more difficult to comprehend is the attitude of the Indian government that seems to forget that it is backed by a powerful state, and need not bend and crawl when a firm handshake will do.

India and Pakistan that will not tolerate a sneeze from the other side without opening the entire paraphernalia of forensic science, stand like dummies when the US manipulates both at will. Pakistan barely squeaks about drone attacks, and the manner in which the US has over and over again violated its sovereignty, rushing to assure every official American visitor that Islamabad is an ally and a friend and should be treated as such.

But then Pakistan is a small country, weighed under bad policies that legitimised terrorism and violence over the years. After the war on terror, the Americans have strengthened their hold on Pakistan, strategic and otherwise, and governments in Islamabad will find it difficult to get out of the pincer grip.

What about India? We are a large country. We are a democracy. We are supposedly growing. Why do our governments forget this, and turn India turtle for a kick or a pat whenever the Americans so demand. This has become far worse under the United Progressive Alliance government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who seems to be in office just to deliver whatever the Americans ask for.

And the reason has little to do with him and the Congress party, and more to do with the masses of India that still have some dignity and self respect left, and are refusing to condone New Delhi’s bated breath admiration for the US.

It almost seems that the grapevine whisper that the minister of external affairs of India has to have the US support to survive has some substance to it. As there can be no other explanation for Salman Khurshid actually excusing the US for “snooping” and insisting that its intensive surveillance program was only a “computer an analysis of patterns.”

He went to the extent of supporting the US argument in the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations, that the surveillance had been used by the Americans to “prevent serious terrorist attacks in several countries.” This absurd support had embarrassed the government that fielded a joint secretary to counter the ministers remarks by admitting that the surveillance was a little more that computer analysis.

Media reports have been suggesting differences on this issue between Khurshid and the National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon who was reportedly in favour of taking up the issue sternly with the US. While this could not be ascertained, the fact remains that instead of a demarche that governments often issue at the drop of a hat, or strong censure, the UPA has decided to soft pedal the issue instead of examining the very serious ramifications of this surveillance.

A second shift in the Indian foreign policy position has become evident after the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to India recently. Khurshid has now announced that New Delhi was not averse to a role for the Taliban in the peace process in Afghanistan. He chose to make this announcement not in New Delhi or through a MEA statement, but while addressing the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in the Bruneian capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

“This dialoue,” the minister said, “must involve all sections of the Afghan society and armed opposition groups, including the Taliban.” This is a major departure from the Indian position that opposed such a dialogue, and insisted that there was no difference between the good and the bad Taliban, as Pakistan had been insisting. The process through which the government changed its position, and decided to support talks with the Taliban, has of course not been shared with the country leading to the assumption that this shift came at the instance of John Kerry.

A third indication of continuing US pressure was New Delhi’s immediate, in fact earlier than others, denial of asylum to Edward Snowden wanted by the Americans for blowing the whistle on its extensive surveillance program. India was on Snowden’s wish list of countries to which he had applied for asylum, but New Delhi denied this request within hours. This despite the fact that India has given political asylum to a large number of persons in the past, including the high profile Dalai Lama, Tamil separatists and others. In this case, however, the government did not want to sour relations with the US even though it is one of the countries that the Americans have placed under their surveillance scanner. But perhaps India is not in a position to argue as it is setting up its own surveillance centre to spy on its citizens, with the sovereignty of a nation getting lost in the rights of the individual.

The leeway given to the West is thus huge, and one cannot help think of how often Islamabad and New Delhi are at each others throats for a little out of sync word here, or a rude gesture there. War drums are beaten, threats and angry words are exchanged, before the two agree to ride over the obstacle one more time. But the US can bruise sentiments, override international law, kill citizens, frame individuals, and spy on South Asian missions without a murmur of dissent.

And then we say we are independent, we have thrown the British out, we are sovereign. Sovereignty is not just about territorial boundaries, it is about peoples and mindsets. And clearly our governments need to shed the mindset of the past to infuse new meaning into a term that has been overused and abused by the political class.

Battles within Islam: The sectarian divide

Friday, 05 July 2013 | G Parthasarathy 

India will not remain unaffected by the growing Shia-Sunni violent confrontation and other rivalries in the Arab world, as well as by the growth of Salafi fundamentalism to its west 

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid paid a visit to Iraq on June 19-21, as the first Indian Cabinet Minister to visit the country in over two decades. While New Delhi had a friendly relationship with the minority Sunni-dominated Saddam Hussein dispensation, there were naturally some anxieties about how the new dispensation would react to overtures from India. Mr Khurshid was, however, enthusiastically received by the Iraqi Government, which expressed warm feelings for India and readiness to expand cooperation in the energy sector, while recalling Iraq’s old connections with India, in areas ranging from education to defence. The Iraqis are unhappy with the direct dealings of US oil companies with the minority Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq. Moving dexterously, China has emerged not only as the major buyer of Iraqi oil, but has also been awarded rather lucrative exploration rights.

Iraq, which has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, has set ambitious targets to increase its oil production from its present level of 2.6 million barrels per day to nine mbpd in 2019. With Saudi Arabia producing oil to almost its full capacity, Iraq, with its huge surplus capacity, will be a crucial player in meeting future oil demands. But, Iraq is located in a dangerous neighbourhood, where old Arab-Israeli rivalries are giving way to a deadlier Shia-Sunni conflict, across the Muslim world, stretching from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the Maghreb. Under Saddam Hussein, sectarian differences were set aside, as Shia-dominated Iran and Iraq fought a bloody conflict.

Today, Iran and Iraq collaborate closely, as they confront an Sunni-dominated Turkey, once the occupying power in the Arab world, and which has now joined hands with an alliance of Sunni Arab states, backed by Egypt’s just-ousted Muslim Brotherhood Government of President Mohamed Morsi and the members of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Even in the Gulf, the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide in Bahrain pits the Shia majority population backed by Iran, against the ruling Sunni monarchy backed by Saudi Arabia, with some valuable assistance rendered by the Pakistani mercenaries.

The epicentre of this bloody sectarian conflict today is Syria, where the Sunni majority has, since the 1970s, been ruled by the secular and modern-minded but ruthlessly authoritarian Alawite (Shia) minority, with Kurds constituting a 10 per cent minority, at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment. Shia-Sunni rivalries exploded into a no-holds-barred conflict in April 2011, in which an estimated 1,00,000 people have since been killed. Both Israel and the US have viewed the growing ties between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia with considerable concern. Iran has been providing arms to members of the elite Revolutionary Guards to bolster the Syrian regime. Iraq is providing over-flight facilities to Iran and strengthening its border defences with Syria, to block the movement of Al Qaeda-linked Sunni fighters endeavouring to reinforce the resistance to the Assad regime.

To add to Israel’s discomfiture, the Hezbollah, which is the only Arab force to have successfully resisted Israel’s military might, has moved in significant numbers into Syria. In recent days, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah have scored notable successes in ousting Sunni insurgents from urban centres like the city of Qusayr.

Externally, the US has been reluctant to get directly involved in Syria, as it has seen how a military intervention without a clear political game plan can produce disastrous results like the Anglo-French misadventure in Libya. Even in Syria, the European meddling has been largely orchestrated by the Anglo-French duo, with Germany and others reluctantly expressing token support. While President Barack Obama has recently agreed to provide some military support to the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, (recognised by the Gulf Arab states), military support is being provided to the ‘Free Syrian Army’, which operates across the Turkey-Syria border, primarily by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Diplomatic efforts by the US to get the UN Security Council to condemn the Syrian regime and call for its ouster, have been thwarted by Russia, discreetly backed by China, which simultaneously makes some noises about the need for political change, to ensure that it does not earn the wrath of Saudi Arabia and its allies. Russia, with a naval base in Syria, appears determined to ensure that it remains a player in developments in West Asia and to back a traditional ally. It also has concerns about the impact of rapidly growing Salafi fundamentalism in Chechnya and its other Caucasian republics.

The Plight of the Hazaras in Pakistan

By Malik Ayub Sumbal
July 4, 2013

What sort of reaction would you expect from the international community if more than a thousand people belonging to a particular ethnic group were targeted for violent attacks within the span of a few months? Would it bring the international upholders of peace and harmony to the region? Would it spark a mass public awareness campaign for the rights of those targeted? Well if it were the Hazara people in Baluchistan, it apparently would do nothing of the kind.

In the most recent incident, an Imam Bargah (a place of worship for Hazara Shiite Muslims) in the Aliabad area of Hazara Town in Quetta was targeted last Sunday in an attack that left almost 28 dead and over 60 injured. The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and was followed by gunfire in the nearby area. It was not the first: two horrific incidents in January and February 2013 left nearly 200 dead and over 450 injured in the Hazara Town area of Quetta, Baluchistan.

The civil war-ridden, mineral-rich province of Baluchistan – already a target for all kinds of physical and social abuse – has long been known for military atrocities against the Baluch separatists. The increasing number of missing Baluch people has prompted their families to launch campaigns against the government of Pakistan on both national and international fronts. But now something more powerful and more damaging to the government has emerged: the Hazara genocide and the conspiracy theories that surround it.

The persecution of Hazaras is not a new phenomenon. Hazaras are historically residents of Afghanistan, where they form almost 19 percent of the population. Nearly one million Hazaras live in Iran, while more than 650,000 reside in Pakistan, mostly in Quetta. Almost all Hazaras belong to the Shiite Muslim community. Shiites form the majority in Iran but are amongst the minorities in Sunni-majority Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now the Hazara Shiite community find themselves at the center of an extremely volatile region, where the extremist Taliban and other fundamentalist sectarian terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sihaba were already quite active.

Hazaras have also been a target of ethnic cleansing, targeted killing and genocide in Afghanistan. The Afshar Operation, Mazar-i-Sharif massacre, the Robatak Pass massacre and the Yakawlang massacre of Hazara community in Afghanistan by the Taliban represent just a small slice of the historic ethnic grudge against the Hazara community.

Theories suggest the persecution of Hazaras in Quetta and Baluchistan are a continuation of these extremist sentiments, given that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the group claiming responsibility for most of the attacks on Hazara community, has had strong ties with al-Qaeda. Moreover Lashkar-e- Jhangvi (LeJ), though considered a terrorist organization by the Pakistan and U.S. governments, is believed to have some support among right-wing political parties in Pakistan. The support may also extend to Pakistan’s military, which has not taken any strong action against the terrorist groups and is rather busy with its own covert operations in Baluchistan.

Yet another aspect of the issue is the regional importance of Baluchistan for India, the U.S., Iran and Afghanistan. RAND scholar Christine Fair, a leading American expert on South Asia, said in a recent discussion carried by American journal Foreign Affairs that Pakistan has legitimate concerns about India’s involvement in initiating unrest in Baluchistan. She further contended that “Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar — across from Bajaur. Kabul’s motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India’s interest in engaging in them.”

Pakistan's Taliban Proxy and Afghan Power Sharing

C. Raja Mohan : Thu Jul 04 2013

As tensions between Kabul and Islamabad threaten the fragile peace process in Afghanistan, the Taliban's role as a proxy for Pakistan's interests has come back into sharp focus this week.

Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the head of the Afghan armed forces told the BBC in an interview that the prolonged war in his country can come to an end "within a week" if Pakistan stops supporting the Taliban.

On the face of it, Gen. Karimi's statement is not a shocking revelation. Despite repeated Pakistani that it controls the Taliban, few in the world question the reality of the Pakistan army's extraordinary influence on the militancy in Afghanistan.

The doubts, if any, have disappeared as Pakistan in recent months orchestrated the process of political reconciliation, by selectively releasing some Taliban leaders from detention, promoted the opening of their office in Qatar, and managed their communication and contact with the United States.

Karimi's decision to reaffirm the well-known truth about Pakistan's control over the Taliban comes amidst the reports that Islamabad is pushing for a power sharing arrangement in which the Taliban will control the eastern and southern provinces in Afghanistan.

Although Islamabad has denied these allegations, Kabul says that Sartaj Aziz, foreign policy adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, put across the proposal to the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad, Umer Daudzai in a meeting last week.

The Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister, Ershad Ahmadi pointed to "the elements within the Pakistan government who have a grand design for using the peace process as a means to undermine the Afghan state and establish little fiefdoms around the country in which the Taliban--its most important strategic asset in Afghanistan--play an influential role".

Ahmadi expressed his deep disappointment that the newly elected Nawaz Sharif government might be buying into the attempts by the ISI to weaken the Afghan state. He said federalising Afghanistan is part of an effort to win at the peace table what the ISI could not achieve on the battlefield with its proxy, the Taliban.

Interestingly, the Afghan Taliban too expressed its opposition to any form of federalism in Afghanistan. Cynics would say this is mere posturing. They argue that the Taliban in any case has no incentive to abide by any arrangement to share power once the international forces withdraw from Afghanistan and will seek to establish an Islamic Emirate in the nation.

C. Raja Mohan is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and a contributing editor for The Indian Express

Gilgit-Baltistan: Between the Rock and a Hard Place

July 1, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under Analysis

Senge H. Sering

Despite abundance of natural resources and geo-strategic significance, the largely Shia region of Gilgit-Baltistan continues to face economic stagnation and political isolation

Gilgit-Baltistan, a UN declared disputed region in the north of Pakistan, is known to the world as a mountaineer’s paradise. It is home to three world-famous mountain ranges namely the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush which meet near the valley of Haramosh. This confluence created some of the highest peaks in the world, as sixty of them measure over 20,000 feet above the sea. In addition, the longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions reaching up to seventy miles in length are also situated in Gilgit-Baltistan.

However, political volatility restrains the inhabitants from optimizing their earnings from mountain tourism. Both India and Pakistan claim Gilgit-Baltistan and have fought several wars over it. Despite the physical control since 1948, Pakistan has failed to gain sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan, which has gradually weakened its political leverage and increased her strategic vulnerabilities. The situation has led Pakistan to convert the region into a military garrison by stationing tens of thousands of troops. It has also forced the military to shut down many of the key tourist destinations in Astore and Baltistan, the two regions bordering Indian Ladakh and Kashmir.

Gilgit-Baltistan also shares a border with Afghanistan whose growing Talibanization has further negatively impacted the tourism industry. During the Afghan-Soviet war, the rugged valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan were vital to the coalition of USA, China and Pakistan where they stationed and trained the Mujahideen. Afterwards, the Chinese continued to use Gilgit-Baltistan as a transit route to support the Taliban government. Pakistan also uses Gilgit-Baltistan as a base to infiltrate Indian Kashmir and Ladakh. As NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan nears, the Taliban have announced an intention to revive Jihad in Kashmir. In this context, Gilgit-Baltistan is once again a strategic target for control. Many militants who were driven from the tribal belt of Waziristan by drones are establishing new bases in Gilgit-Baltistan. According to a June 24th Daily K2 report, speaker of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) Wazir Beg stated that many in Diamer district are sympathetic to the Taliban’s agenda and are providing refuge to the militants.

Apart from an age old ideological rift, which often drives the Takfiri militants to Gilgit-Baltistan to kill and torture the Shias; the Taliban desire to control Gilgit-Baltistan in the larger quest to infiltrate in India and northern Afghanistan. However, the presence of Shias and Sufis, who make up for almost 75% of the total population, has thwarted their efforts in the region. Local Shias, Nurbakhshis and Ismailia have resisted such effort to use Gilgit-Baltistan to promote terrorism. Local leaders maintain that the military and secret service foster ongoing sectarian polarization and Jihadi adventurism, something that weakens the society and hence not permitted by Islam. On occasions, locals have clashed with militants and forced the secret service to relocate.

With no luck at winning over the local Shias, secret service and Taliban are moving forward with a campaign of ethnic cleansing and religious conversions as the only remaining path to securing the region. They intend to spread Shia Sunni divide to first, create disunity and weaken the society, and secondly, to gain favor among local Sunnis to find more recruits. In the past, such a strategy was successfully employed in the Kurram Valley when militants attempting to infiltrate Afghanistan met resistance from the local Shias.

The range of tactics used to force demographic change varies from ethnic cleansing to economic strangulation. For instance, militants have driven Shias out of Gilgit-Baltistan by resorting to target killings. In 1988, the militants attacked and burned fourteen villages in Gilgit-Baltistan and killed hundreds of Shias. Locals accuse the military of providing support and supplies to the anti-Shia militants. The militants forced tens of thousands of Shias to flee who live as IDPs to this day. In 2004-2005, hundreds of Shias were killed and many of them lost lives when vehicles carrying Shia passengers were ambushed on the Karakoram Highway (KKH). Recently in 2012, Taliban and their affiliates attacked buses on the KKH and killed more than 100 Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan. Despite numerous massacres of Shias, no single assailant has been brought to justice. On occasions, locals have accused the military intelligence of protecting the alleged Shia killers. The situation has forced many Shia and Sunni families to flee Gilgit-Baltistan in the face of campaigns of terror. These tactics are reminiscent of those used by the Taliban in Kurram Valley, where Shias lived under siege for over three years under famine-like conditions and thousands were forced to flee the region.

To assist the militants, many Takfiri missionaries have also targeted Gilgit-Baltistan to hasten change in religious demography and to coerce Sufis into conversion. The fast pace of conversions threatens the very existence of the Sufis of Gangche district. According to many reports published in local newspapers, the Takfiri militants disrupt local customs and religious rituals to force adoption of a puritan form of Islam. One such clash during the winter of 2012 in Gahkuch led to injuries of dozens of Ismailis. At this time, Shias, Ismailis and Nurbakhshis are being forced to study extremist Jihadi syllabi in government schools.

West Stirred-up Muslims Terrorize Mumbai

by K. Gajendra Singh

How London's Sordid Love Affair with Muslim Brotherhood was Transformed into Washington's Unleashing of Fundamentalist Islam

Let us look at the history how Britain and then USA have promoted Islamic fundamentalism against popular, nationalist and socialist governments in Muslim countries to safeguard Western interests.

In his book "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam," Robert Dreyfuss paints a vivid picture of how the United States spent the last century taking over the British imperial apparatus in the Middle East ;sponsoring and manipulating Islamic fundamentalism to control and exploit petroleum resources and politics. Dreyfuss's book based on major academic literature and actors on the scene is an excellent survey of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various 20th-Century offshoots.

The United States, Dreyfuss argues, has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, "sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly," and is thus "partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon." He writes about U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood against Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, whose goal was to end Western domination and control in the Middle East. Western interests used the Islamic Brotherhood to destabilize the Nasser government. The Brotherhood remains active and continues to conduct terrorist activities in Egypt.

Britain's Imperial History of Divide and Rule in Middle East

Although the Muslim Brotherhood was formally launched in Egypt in 1928, the roots of the British-sponsored policy began in the last quarter of the 19th Century , when the British intelligence sponsored the career of a Persian-born Shia named Jamaleddin, later known as Jamaleddin al-Afghani (1838-97) to hide his sect. A British (and French) Freemason and a professed atheist, al-Afghani spent his entire adult life as an agent of British intelligence, fomenting "Islamist" insurrections where they suited British imperial goals. At points in his fascinating career, he served as Minister of War and Prime Minister of Iran, before leading an insurrection against the Shah. He was a founder of the Young Egypt movement, which was part of a worldwide network of British Jacobin fronts that waged war against Britain's imperial rivals during the second half of the 19th Century. In Sudan, following the Mahdi-led nationalist revolt and the murder of Britain's Lord Gordon, al-Afghani organized an "Islamist" counterrevolution in support of restoration of British colonial control.

Al-Afghani was backed by the British with funding, a publishing house and other amenities. Al-Afghani's leading disciple and fellow British agent was Mohammed Abduh (1849-1905). The Egypt born Abduh founded the Salafiyya movement, under the patronage of the British proconsul of Egypt, Lord Cromer. In the 1870s, al-Afghani and Abduh founded the Young Egypt movement, which battled against secular Egyptian nationalists.

In 1899, two years after al-Afghani's death, Lord Cromer made Abduh the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Abduh in turn, begot Syrian Mohammed Rashid Rida (1865-1935), his leading disciple. Rida founded the organization that would be the immediate precursor to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Society of Propaganda and Guidance and an Institute. It published a journal, The Lighthouse, which provided "Islamist" backing to the British colonial rule over Egypt, by attacking Egyptian nationalists as "atheists and infidels." In Cairo, under British patronage, Rida brought in Islamists from every part of the Muslim world to be trained in political agitation in support of British colonial rule.

Hassan al-Banna (1906-49), a graduate of the Institute for Propaganda and Guidance, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, which was an unabashed British intelligence front. The mosque in Ismailia, Egypt, which was the first headquarters of the Brotherhood, was built by the (British) Suez Canal Company, near a British World War I military base. During World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood functioned as a de facto branch of the British military. In 1942, the Brotherhood created the "Secret Apparatus," an underground paramilitary organization that specialized in assassinations and espionage.

Churchill on Afghanistan


In March 1898, a 23-year-old Winston Churchill published his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. In it, he advanced the best advice yet given on how an outside imperial power should deal with a country like Afghanistan. The young subaltern was, of course, referring to how Britain should approach the population of the Pashtun frontier beyond the Indian subcontinent, but he might just as well have been referring to how the early 21st century United States should do so. For much as its people and elites abjure the term, America is in an imperial-like position in much of the world.

Churchill intimated three courses of action. The first course, that of "bad and nervous sailors," essentially meant to withdraw entirely and henceforth have nothing whatsoever to do with the region. The second course, that of "'Full steam ahead,'" was to initiate a large military operation until the people of the frontier "are as safe and civilized as Hyde Park." Whereas the first course is irresponsible, the second is unfeasible, given the expenditure of resources required. Then there is the third course: "a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions." Churchill admitted that this third course is "undignified," nevertheless, he saw no alternative for a great power, recognizing that any grand strategy must marry goals with available resources. Thus, was a 23-year-old far wiser than many an elderly policymaker.

Churchill's third course does not fit exactly the proper direction of the United States in Afghanistan (geographical shorthand for Churchill's tribes of the frontier). But it is a starting point. The United States cannot withdraw utterly and thus have nothing whatsoever to do with the region -- an approach the United States adopted following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal with disastrous results. Indeed, the United States will have a continuing interest in preventing transnational terrorists from planning 9/11-style attacks from Afghan soil. And it has interests in the political direction of adjacent regions like Pakistan, Central Asia and Iran. Nor can the United States simply keep large numbers of forces in Afghanistan indefinitely until the political situation there is set to rights. There is simply no public support for such a policy, not to mention the financial cost. For that reason, the current attempt at negotiations with the Taliban is arguably less negotiations over the future of Afghanistan than merely an attempt to arrange a decent interval: so that the government of Hamid Karzai does not begin to crumble the moment the last American ground troops depart.

The United States will surely withdraw from Afghanistan, and yet it will be forced to remain behind at a far less visible level: with the ability to launch unmanned aerial vehicle strikes and special operations forces periodically, both made possible perhaps by CIA intermediaries with the frontier tribes, and more likely with Pakistani intelligence operatives who themselves have direct contact with the tribes. Such details are obviously open to serious debate, but the outline is apparent. The Obama administration will remove Afghanistan as a U.S. military dependency from the level of media discourse, even as it maintains at least a toehold there. Certainly, this is not precisely what Churchill had in mind, but it is a rough 21st century variation; even as Churchill's goal was military advance, while America's is retreat. The bottom line: What America must henceforth do in Afghanistan best approximates Churchill's third option.

Just as there are three courses of action for a country like Afghanistan, as expounded by Churchill, there are three directions in which a post-American Afghanistan might go. The first course is that Karzai -- or rather an elected, moderate successor -- will remain in power just as in the past, with an Afghan government supported by the international community even gradually gaining in legitimacy. This is possible but unlikely. The Afghan government, despite more than a decade in power, is thoroughly corrupt, suffers questionable legitimacy in large swaths of the countryside and is weakly institutionalized. Without American troops to properly support it, its prospects must be dimmer than beforehand. The second course is that the Taliban will relatively quickly overrun much of the country, as they did in the mid-1990s, following the mujahideen-inflicted anarchy: anarchy that, in turn, followed the Soviet withdrawal. This, too, is quite possible. With the Americans more or less gone, and the Kabul government's legitimacy highly problematic, the Taliban, though a different, weaker force than they were in the 1990s, might simply be the last man standing.

But such a scenario might, in turn, be simplistic. Afghanistan is an urbanized state to a much greater extent than it was in the 1990s. There is a feisty civil society that was altogether absent back then and that is often under-appreciated by those in the West; nor is there the vacuum in authority to quite the same extent as existed the last time the Taliban overran much of the country. History has rough equivalents, but rarely do situations repeat themselves entirely. Do not expect a precise replica of the mid-1990s.

Therefore, the third scenario presents itself: one that fits nicely with the third of Churchill's courses for dealing with the frontier tribes in the first place. This scenario can be described as semi-chaos. As the Taliban establish some control in parts of the Pashtun south and southeast of the country, a grouping of the Tajiks and Uzbeks re-establish some variant of the old Northern Alliance beyond the Hindu Kush, adjacent to former Soviet Central Asia. This will be complex and half-hearted, as the Pashtuns have forged alliances with parts of the Tajik and Uzbek north over the past decade. The Kabul government may not collapse so much as shrink or weaken a bit, becoming, once again, the enlarged city-state of Greater Kabul, with modest influence elsewhere in the country. As for the Talibanistan in parts of the south and southeast, that might be less a solid frame mini-state than an assemblage of loosely allied emirates of a sort, riven by different clans and criminal networks. Over time, that itself might encourage the ability of the ethnic Pashtun slice of western Pakistan to further distance itself from the central government in Islamabad, creating what a geographer might label Pashtunistan, even as the term itself went out of some fashion decades ago and thus will be vehemently denied by experts who concentrate on all the undeniable cleavages within the Pashtun tribal region.

Secret arms agents and sweetheart deals

Jul 05, 2013

When arms trade is conducted by private entities, who try to execute transfers independent of governments, with forged or no documentation, regulation can be a casualty

Last month, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper cited a British government report which listed an application for licences for the export of Israeli military equipment, which contained British components, to a number of countries, including Pakistan.

The British department of business, innovation and skills reported the application was for the export of Israeli Head Up Display (HUD) units and Electronic Warfare (EW) Systems to Pakistan.

HUDs are screens installed above the control panel and before the windscreen in the cockpits of typically military aircraft, especially fighters, which provide selected data inputs to pilots without requiring them to look down to check various data display screens and instruments. Israel manufactures the HUDs for its F-16 fighter aircraft, also operated by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in addition to the Chinese-built JF-17.

EW Systems is actually a broad term, and encompasses systems that form the backbone of operations in modern militaries. These are offensive and defensive systems, including directed energy, that work in the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum to identify, track, confuse, intercept, obstruct, jam or destroy enemy communications and electronic systems. Israel’s defence industry manufactures some of the most advanced such systems in the world.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli defence ministry jumped to deny any such transfers, saying, “The State of Israel strongly denies selling any military equipment to Pakistan,” and that, “Israel has a long-standing strategic relationship with India, a democracy that also understands what it means to fight terror, and a country we see as a strategic anchor in global affairs. The State of Israel would not do anything that could undermine India’s security.”

But the British department which authored the report does not strike one as likely to manufacture or otherwise falsify data and should not be easily dismissed. The Israeli statement tacitly acknowledged this, when it said, “The ministry of defence will be liaising with the UK department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) — the body responsible for export licensing — in order to receive the necessary clarifications regarding their official reports.”

How then, could an application be made for export licences for the transfer of Israeli military equipment to Pakistan? First, let’s examine if the Israeli government is likely to be behind such a planned transfer.

Defence trade with India is important to Israel because of the comparatively small size of their domestic market and the imperative to combat their regional threat perceptions with cutting edge technology. This is why Israel made the strategic choice to partner with a country like India with a large defence budget, market and requirements and a technology deficit, for joint development and funding of military equipment.

Today, Israel is a close second to Russia as the largest defence supplier to India, with around $1 billion in annual trade and total sales close to $10 billion. According to defence trade publication, IHS Jane’s, Israel’s arms sales increased by 74 per cent since 2008, riding on the back of deals with India and made Israel the world’s sixth largest exporter in 2012 with $2.4 billion of business.

For Israel, India is one of its largest export markets, which included systems like the Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), radar, HUDs, electronics and Barak missile. Israel also hopes to get orders for anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and long and medium range surface to air missiles (SAMs).

On the face of it, the size and nature of this trade appears to preclude any venture that could jeopardise it by antagonising India for the sake of hypothetical, but almost certainly smaller, deals with Pakistan. So, it is easy to believe the Israeli protestations.

That leaves the prospect of an arms transfer being attempted by a possibly freelance enterprise posing as the Israeli government or without its knowledge.

China IS the Asian Century

By Zachary Keck
July 4, 2013

It is often said that this will be the Asian Century. Indeed, there is good reason to think that it will be; according to a 2010 International Monetary Fund report, Asia will account for over 40 percent of global GDP by 2030.

But in reality it is not so much Asia's Century as China’s. This is not because China will be the only large economy if rosy projections of Asia’s rise come to pass, but rather because whether these projections come to pass at all will largely depend on China. Indeed, China could upend (or facilitate) the Asian Century in at least two crucial ways.

The first is by rejecting the liberal regional order and seeking to replace it with one of its own. Such a desire would hardly be unreasonable– after all, the U.S. didn’t accept the prevailing European-dominated colonial order it rose to prominence within, either within the Western Hemisphere or globally.

But trying to reorient the regional order would seriously impede Asia's rise whether China was ultimately successful or not. That's because such a move would be fiercely resisted by other regional and likely extra-regional powers. This resistance would create tensions, which would sap economic growth in a number of ways— by forcing states to divert more money to the military, reducing intra-regional trade, and scaring off investment.

The other way by which China will determine whether an Asian Century is realized or not is through the success or failure of its economic rebalancing. If the rebalance is unsuccessful and China experiences a hard landing or a lost decade or two, it will bring down most of Asia with it.

This is because China has become such an integral part of other Asian countries’ economies as a result of trade. Earlier this year, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest trading nation. This is reflected in regional trade flows. As John Lee recently pointed out on The Strategist, “China has become the largest trading partner for Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.” Increasingly it has become an important export market for these countries, many of which are export-driven economies. 

For example, in 2011 China was the destination of 25 percent of South Korea’s exports and in 2010 exports constituted 52.4 percent of South Korea’s GDP. Furthermore, China was the largest trading partner of 6 of the remaining 9 top ten trading partners of South Korea, and thus these would hardly be able to compensate for the drop off in China’s ability to consume Seoul’s exports.

As this suggests, the interconnectedness of Asian trade means that even countries which don’t count China as their largest trading partner would be nearly as affected as those that do. For instance, in 2011 Japan was Thailand’s largest trading partner (although China was its largest export market). But since Japan would be reeling from the significant drop in trade with China, its ability to trade on a somewhat equitable basis with Thailand would be hindered significantly. Tokyo would be hoping to further flood Thai markets with Japanese goods and services without an equal increase in the amount of Thailand’s exports it purchased.

Of course, Asia would hardly be the only region significantly impacted were China’s economy to implode. The energy exporting nations of the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as much of Africa’s and some of Latin America’s rising economies, would be in bad shape were such a scenario to occur. But owing to the greater interconnectedness of Asian regional trade, Asia would be the most adversely affected.