Things are coming unglued for Washington in Middle East

Saturday » November 3 » 2007
Since this has been posted there has been further ungluing with Musharaff declaring a state of emergency. This perhaps explains why Bhutto decided to visit her family in Dubai at this particular time!
The hypocrisy of the US over the PJAK is transparent. There are bad (Al Qaeda), neutral (PKK) and good (PJAK) terrorists. The distinction is based not upon their terrorist actions but on their relationship to US policy.

Things are coming unglued for Washington in Middle East

Jonathan Manthorpe
Vancouver Sun

Friday, November 02, 2007

The signs are everywhere that a new, unpredictable and dangerous phase is beginning in Washington's "war on terror" and the fallout from the invasion of Iraq.

In the Middle East, much of the carefully balanced structure of alliances and loyalties has been thrown into confusion by NATO member Turkey's political imperative to confront Kurdish separatist terrorists operating out of northern Iraq.

The outcome, which could see an alliance between U.S. ally Turkey and Washington's "axis of evil" enemy Iran to battle their common irritant, the Kurds, will depend on a meeting between President George W. Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

If Bush cannot give Erdogan an absolute commitment that American troops in northern Iraq will hand over the 150 or so key leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who have been sending terror teams over the border in recent weeks, the Turkish leader has a mandate from parliament to go after them himself, and he has the troops to do it.

Washington has tried this week to dilute its refusal to hand over PKK leaders -- despite labelling them "terrorists" -- by giving Ankara intelligence information about the disposition of the PKK camps.

But Washington is in a fix because the Kurdish region of northern Iraq is the only part of the country that is relatively secure.

Yet hypocrisy blossoms even here. At the same time as Washington considers the PKK "terrorists" it is arming and supporting another Kurdish separatist group, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

In Washington's eyes the PJAK are freedom fighters, not terrorists, because they are seeking autonomy for the Kurdish regions in northern Iran, America's enemy.

So it is hardly surprising the Turkish foreign minister flew to Tehran this week to lay the groundwork for an alliance with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad is at the top of his game of sowing dissent and confusion, even as the Bush administration makes increasingly feeble-sounding threats of war to prevent Tehran developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons.

Russia and China have criticized as unhelpful a new raft of unilateral sanctions by the Bush administration against the Iranian leadership. And the director of the International Atomic Energy Authority, Mohamed ElBaradei, has told the White House to cool its rhetoric about an impending "World War III" because Iran is nowhere near being able to make a bomb.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, whose return from exile two weeks ago was meant to herald a new era of stable democracy, has fled back to her family in Dubai.

Her hasty departure on Thursday follows the opening up of a new front by the Taliban.

About 700 people have died in suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan's cities since July when, at Washington's urging, government forces began concerted attacks on Taliban bases in the vast and inhospitable tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

The Taliban, like their supporters in Pakistan and Afghanistan where Canadian forces are battling them around Kandahar, are largely ethnic Pashtun, though they continue to attract hundreds of would-be jihadists from Muslim countries elsewhere.

One result of the Pakistani government military operations has been to solidify Pashtun ethnic loyalties and provoke the Taliban into taking the suicide bomb war into the heartland of the country.

At least 123 people were killed at a rally marking Bhutto's return on Oct. 19. On Wednesday seven people died in an attack at the military headquarters city of Rawalpindi and Thursday eight people were killed when a bomber rammed an air force bus in Punjab province.

Pakistan is on a knife edge awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court on the legality of Gen. Pervez Musharraf's selection as president last month. Musharraf seized power and established a military dictatorship in 1999, but is attempting to become a civilian president as part of the U.S.-brokered deal with Bhutto, who would be prime minister.

But with the strong possibility that the court will rule against him, and in the face of the Taliban's nationwide insurrection, Musharraf is known to be contemplating a declaration of martial law and ditching the Bhutto deal.

Bhutto may well view family life in Dubai with renewed fondness.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.


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