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NewsFlash: As Iraqi war escalates the U.S. installed and protected regime in Baghdad today closed Al-Jazeera.


"The dilemma for Musharraf is that many of his army officers are still
deeply sympathetic to al Qaeda, Taliban militants and the Kashmir
cause.... Many retired and present ISI officers retain close links to al
Qaeda militants hiding in various state-sponsored places in Pakistan
and Kashmir as well as leaders from the defeated Taliban regime. They
regard the fight against Americans and Jews and Indians in different
parts of the world as legitimate jihad."

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 7 August 2004: At the moment the CIA is swarming all over Pakistan and the government of General Musharraf is not only kept in power by the Americans but is clearly frightened by what could happen if the American connection and protection were lost.

But with General Musharraf so isolated and vulnerable the Americans are risking an eventual backlash revolution in Pakistan as happened in Iran after so many years of U.S. backing for the terribly repressive and unpopular Shah.

As tensions and fighting in Iraq and Palestine continue, and with new sanctions and attacks on Syria, Iran, and Lebanon quite publicly threatened, the situation in the greater Middle East could become far more tense and the 'crucial countries' of both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could indeed 'fall' from the American grip setting off even more dangerous and unpredictable political and military explosions.

The Americans know of these possibilities of course; and no doubt they are preparing. Op Eds and articles of the following kind pointing the finger at both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia don't appear out of nowhere. These days such Op Eds and articles are quite often the result of purposefully leaked tidbits, disinformation, and propaganda. And here too the Americans, and their Israelis friends, are pouring much money and effort into manipulating if not directly controlling the popular 'media'. Their own publicly financed operations beaming new TV and radio broadcasts to the region are just the visible tip of the growing propaganda iceberg.

Just in the past few days this outfront harsh attack on Pakistan from long-time columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave and from the pages of the Financial Times this further link-up between the Saudis and the Pakistanis when it comes to looming nuclear weapons quagmire now threatening the region as never before.

Real terror culprit

By Arnaud de Borchgrave*
Published August 2, 2004

The September 11 commission found troubling new evidence Iran was closer to al Qaeda than was Iraq. More importantly, and through no fault of its own, the commission missed the biggest prize of all: Former Pakistani intelligence officers knew beforehand all about the September 11 attacks.

They even advised Osama bin Laden and his cohorts how to attack key targets in the United States with hijacked civilian aircraft. And bin Laden has been undergoing periodic dialysis treatment in a military hospital in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province adjacent to the Afghan border.

The information came to the commission's attention in a confidential report from Pakistan as its own report was coming off the presses. The information was supplied with the understanding the unimpeachable source would remain anonymous.

Pakistan still denies President Pervez Musharraf knew anything about the activities of A.Q. Khan, the country's top nuclear engineer who had spent the last 10 years building and running a one-stop global Wall-Mart for "rogue" nations. North Korea, Iran and Libya shopped for nuclear weapons at Mr. Khan's underground black market. Pakistan has also denied the allegations by a leading Pakistani in the confidential addendum to the September 11 commission report.

After U.S. and British intelligence painstakingly pieced together Mr. Khan's global nuclear proliferation endeavors, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage was assigned last fall to convey the devastating news to Mr. Musharraf. Mr. Khan, a national icon for giving Pakistan its nuclear arsenal, was not arrested. Instead, Mr. Musharraf pardoned him in exchange for an abject apology on national television in English. No one in Pakistan believed Mr. Musharraf's claim he was totally in the dark about Mr. Khan's operation. Prior to seizing power in 1999, Mr. Musharraf was -- and still is -- Army chief of staff. For the past five years, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief has reported directly to Mr. Musharraf.

Osama bin Laden's principal Pakistani adviser before September 11, 2001, was retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief who, since the 2001 attacks, is "strategic adviser" to the coalition of six politico-religious parties that governs two of Pakistan's four provinces. Known as MMA, the coalition also occupies 20 percent of the seats in the federal assembly in Islamabad.

Hours after September 11, Gen. Gul publicly accused Israel's Mossad of fomenting the plot. Later, he said the U.S. Air Force must have been in on it since no warplanes were scrambled to shoot down the hijacked airliners.

Gen. Gul spent two weeks in Afghanistan immediately before September 11. He denied meeting bin Laden on that trip, but has always said he was an "admirer" of the al Qaeda leader. However, he did meet several times with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader.

Since September 11, hardly a week goes by without Gen. Gul denouncing the United States in both the Urdu and English-language media.

In a conversation with this reporter in October 2001, Gen. Gul forecast a future Islamist nuclear power that would form a greater Islamic state with a fundamentalist Saudi Arabia after the monarchy falls.

Gen. Gul worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when he was ISI chief. He was "mildly" fundamentalist in those days, he explained after September 11, and indifferent to the United States. But he became passionately anti-American after the United States turned its back on Afghanistan following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, and began punishing Pakistan with economic and military sanctions for its secret nuclear buildup.

A ranking CIA official, speaking anonymously, said the agency considered Gen. Gul "the most dangerous man" in Pakistan. A senior Pakistani political leader, also on condition of anonymity, said, "I have reason to believe Hamid Gul was Osama bin Laden's master planner."

The report received by the September 11 commission from the anonymous, well-connected Pakistani source, said: "The core issue of instability and violence in South Asia is the character, activities and persistence of the militarized Islamist fundamentalist state in Pakistan. No cure for this canker can be arrived at through any strategy of negotiations, support and financial aid to the military regime, or by a 'regulated' transition to
'democracy' ".

The confidential report continued: "The imprints of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from September 11 -- where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan -- to major acts of terrorism across South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as major networks of terror that have been discovered in Europe.

"Pakistan has harvested an enormous price for its apparent 'cooperation' with the U.S., and in this it has combined deception and blackmail -- including nuclear blackmail -- to secure a continuous stream of concessions. Its conduct is little different from that of North Korea, which has in the past chosen the nuclear path to secure incremental aid from Western donors. A pattern of sustained nuclear blackmail has consistently been at the heart of Pakistan's case for concessions, aid and a heightened threshold of international tolerance for its sponsorship and support of Islamist terrorism.

"To understand how this works, it is useful to conceive of Pakistan's ISI as a state acting as terrorist traffickers, complaining that, if it does not receive the extraordinary dispensations and indulgences that it seeks, it will, in effect, 'implode,' and in the process do extraordinary harm.

"Part of the threat of this 'explosion' is also the specter of the transfer of its nuclear arsenal and capabilities to more intransigent and irrational elements of the Islamist far right in Pakistan, who would not be amenable to the logic that its present rulers -- whose interests in terrorism are strategic, and consequently, subject to considerations of strategic advantage -- are willing to listen to. ...

"It is crucial to note that if the Islamist terrorist groups gain access to nuclear devices, ISI will almost certainly be the source. ... At least six Pakistani scientists connected with the country's nuclear program were in contact with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden with the thorough instructions of ISI.

"Pakistan has projected the electoral victory of the fundamentalist and pro-Taliban, pro-al Qaeda Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the November elections as 'proof' the military is the only 'barrier' against the country passing into the hands of the extremists. The fact, however, is that the elections were widely rigged, and this was a fact acknowledged by the European Union observers, as well as by some of the MMA's constituents themselves. The MMA victory was, in fact, substantially engineered by the Musharraf regime, as are the various anti-U.S. 'mass demonstrations' around the country.

"Pakistan has made a big case out of the fact that some of the top-line leadership of al Qaeda has been arrested in the country with the 'cooperation' of the Pakistani security forces and intelligence. However, the fact is that each such arrest only took place after the FBI and U.S. investigators had effectively gathered evidence to force Pakistani collaboration, but little of this evidence had come from Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Indeed, ISI has consistently sought to deny the presence of al Qaeda elements in Pakistan, and to mislead U.S. investigators. ... This deception has been at the very highest level, and Musharraf himself, for instance, initially insisted he was 'certain' bin Laden was dead. ...
"ISI has been actively facilitating the relocation of the al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and the conspiracy of substantial segments of serving Army and intelligence officers is visible. ..."

"The Pakistan army consistently denies giving the militants anything more than moral, diplomatic and political support. The reality is quite different. ISI issues money and directions to militant groups, specially the Arab hijackers of September 11 from al Qaeda. ISI was fully involved in devising and helping the entire affair. And that is why people like Hamid Gul and others very quickly stated the propaganda that CIA and Mossad did it. ... "
"The dilemma for Musharraf is that many of his army officers are still deeply sympathetic to al Qaeda, Taliban militants and the Kashmir cause.... Many retired and present ISI officers retain close links to al Qaeda militants hiding in various state-sponsored places in Pakistan and Kashmir as well as leaders from the defeated Taliban regime. They regard the fight against Americans and Jews and Indians in different parts of the world as legitimate jihad."

The report also says, "According to a senior tribal leader in Peshawar, bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of ISI if not of Gen. Pervez Musharraf himself."

The same source, though not in the report, speculated Mr. Musharraf may plan to turn over bin Laden to President Bush in time to clinch Mr. Bush's re-election in November.

* Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for The Washington Times and for United Press International.

Saudi cash joins forces with nuclear Pakistan
By Roula Khalaf, Farhan Bokhari and Stephen Fidler

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Financial Times, London - August 4 2004
A week before Pakistan's maiden nuclear tests in May 1998, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif received a late night telephone call from a Saudi prince. India, Pakistan's arch-rival, had conducted nuclear tests that month and Mr Sharif was weighing the consequences of following suit.

As Mr Sharif told a hurriedly organised meeting of senior officials, the Saudi prince had offered to provide up to 50,000 barrels of oil a day to Pakistan for an indefinite period and on deferred payment terms. This would allow Pakistan to overcome the impact of punitive western sanctions expected to follow the tests.

According to a former aide to Mr Sharif, the message from Saudi Arabia, delivered on behalf of Crown Prince Abdullah, the de-facto ruler, had once again bailed out Pakistan at one of the most difficult moments in its history.

“It is possible that Pakistan may still have conducted its nuclear tests without the Saudi oil. But the tests would have been done with the knowledge that the economic fallout was going to be far more severe,” says the former aide to Mr Sharif.

The telephone call illustrated the intimacy between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, a relationship that receives little international attention but has so far proved, for both sides, probably more profound and secure than any other.

A year after the tests, Prince Sultan, the Saudi defence minister, visited the uranium enrichment and missile assembly plant at Kahuta, then run by the now disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul-Qadeer Khan. He thus became the first foreign official known to have visited a Pakistani nuclear research facility.

Saudi financial support has fuelled suspicions of nuclear co-operation between the two countries. A senior US official says Saudi finance helped fund Pakistan's nuclear programme, allowing it among other things to buy nuclear technology from China.

Officials discount the possibility of Pakistani help to build an indigenous Saudi nuclear weapon: Saudi Arabia does not appear to have the necessary technical infrastructure. But they say there could be a sort of “lend-lease arrangement” that would allow weapons from Pakistan to be made available to Saudi Arabia. “The argument that they have options on Pakistan's arsenal are more likely,” the US official says.

Both Saudi and Pakistani officials vehemently deny the existence of any such deal. “We've never given money aimed at nuclear research and development and so we never asked or received privileges to nuclear weapons programmes,” insists Prince Turki al-Feisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief who worked closely with Pakistan in the 1980s to channel Arab militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Nawaf Obeid, a Saudi security consultant close to the government, however, suggests the kingdom enjoys Pakistan's security umbrella without any formal agreement. “We gave money and they dealt with it as they saw fit,” he says of the Pakistanis. “There's no documentation but there is an implicit understanding that on everything, in particular on security and military issues, Pakistan would be there for Saudi Arabia.”

Though some security analysts doubt Pakistan would jeopardise its own security by jumping to Saudi Arabia's defence, the relationship has been thrown into sharp focus again in recent months with the uncovering of a clandestine nuclear network led by Mr Khan. This sent investigators in search of the so-called “fourth customer” beyond the three to which Mr Khan confessed: Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Diplomats close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency say Mr Khan had tried to find customers all over the Middle East but they have yet to find evidence to implicate a fourth country.

So far, there is no suggestion that Saudi Arabia purchased nuclear equipment or expertise from the Khan network. But the network's ability to outsource important elements of a nuclear weapons programme would make it easier for any country even one without much technical infrastructure to start weapons development.

To be sure Saudi Arabia has plenty of reasons and the financial muscle to seek nuclear weapons. Saudis live in a dangerous environment, surrounded by rivals. They include Israel, whose undeclared nuclear arsenal Saudi Arabia criticises as the main block to a nuclear-free Middle East, and Iran, Saudi Arabia's strategic competitor suspected by western governments of developing nuclear weapons.

In the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein was considered a close friend of Saudi Arabia, Iraq's military strength was seen as protection for the Sunni Muslim monarchies of the Gulf against the ambitions of a revolutionary Shia regime in Iran.

After Mr Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, however, Iraq became the main threat in the Gulf and the Saudis called on the US for protection. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, gradually improved over the past decade, though remain beset by suspicion.

Nearly all US troops stationed in the country since then were withdrawn last year following the removal of Mr Hussein's regime, leaving a few advisory and support units. Political ties with the US also became strained in the backlash from the September 11 attacks, carried out by mostly Saudi militants.

“Saudi Arabia is in strategic limbo with the US security commitment being called into question or being redefined and with Iran's nuclear programme,” said Wyn Bowen, a lecturer in war studies at Kings College, London.

Against this troubled background, the link with Pakistan has become all the more important. “It's probably one of the closest relationships in the world between any two countries without any official treaty,” says Prince Turki, now ambassador to London. “Just the fact there's a friendly voice heard from time to time is very pleasant in today's world,“ he adds.

Reports of Saudi nuclear ambitions have been around since the 1970s in spite of the consistent rejections by the government. In 1975, according to one report, Saudi Arabia opened a nuclear research centre in a desert military complex, later closing it down.

In 1986-88, Saudi Arabia bought 30 or more intermediate-range DF-3 Chinese missiles, a type used by Beijing to carry nuclear weapons. Both Chinese and Saudi officials said they were adapted to carry conventional warheads, even though their inaccuracy would make them ill-suited for this purpose. In response to US pressure following the purchase, Saudi Arabia signed the non-proliferation treaty and legally foreswore nuclear weapons.

These obsolete missiles may soon have to be replaced. Robert Einhorn, a senior arms control official in the Clinton administration, said Saudi Arabia's missiles came up in US discussions aimed at curbing Chinese sales of long-range missiles in the autumn of 2000. China wanted, he said, to be able to fulfil some pre-existing servicing arrangements. “It became clear they were talking about Saudi Arabia,” he said.

In 1994, a Saudi defector who worked for the kingdom's United Nations mission claimed the Saudi government had paid up to $5bn to Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear weapon and provided funds to Pakistan in return for security guarantees. A visit to Pakistan last year by Crown Prince Abdullah also fed rumours of a new nuclear deal but the allegations were dismissed by the US State Department.

Saudi officials say the country's leaders always considered the acquisition of nuclear weapons a taboo that would bring the kingdom more controversy than comfort. Last year, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, senior princes considered a strategic paper that offered them three options: to acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent, maintain or enter into an alliance with a nuclear power that would offer protection, or work to rid the region of banned weapons. Prince Turki insists the paper “died in its place”.

Mr Einhorn says that, in fact, there is little hard evidence that Saudi Arabia is pursuing the bomb: “It's like a suspected crime where you have a motive but not much more than that.”

Over the years, however, Saudi Arabia's ties with Pakistan gained strength and the discreet but deep inter-dependency has kept suspicions of nuclear co-operation alive.

Rooted in co-operation between military generals and intelligence operatives, the relationship survived repeated political upheavals in Pakistan. The two countries also have been drawn together by religious ties: the Saudis, custodians of Islam's two holiest sites, have been eager to protect a country, also governed by Sunni Muslims, that was born on the basis of its religion. Moreover, the kingdom has also poured money into religious schools - madrasas - spreading its puritanical brand of Wahabi Islam throughout Pakistan.

“When Pakistan was formed (after the 1947 partition from India) we were losing Palestine. So it seemed in public minds that the establishment of a Muslim state out of a colonial past was somehow a recompense for the losses of the Muslim world in Palestine,“ says Prince Turki.

Saudi officials say Pakistan probably received more Saudi financial aid - which started in the 1960s - than any other country outside the Arab world. In return the Saudis received military and diplomatic assistance. In the 1960s, Pakistani instructors were dispatched to Saudi Arabia to train Saudis on the use of newly acquired British aircraft. In the 1970s, an agreement was reached with Pakistan to second 15,000 military personel to the kingdom. They pulled out in 1987, an era of depressed Saudi oil revenues.

“When we had a large military contingent deployed in Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani government happily noted that the payments for keeping our troops there helped us to pay for a part of our defence,” says a former senior Pakistani military officer who served in Saudi Arabia. “The principle of our relationship is that the Saudis would not let Pakistan sink”.

In the 1980s and 1990s the two countries found common cause in arming the Arab fighters who helped drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. After the Soviet withdrawal and Afghanistan's descent into civil war, both the Saudis and the Pakistanis favoured the Taliban militia which emerged from the Wahabi religious schools in Pakistan.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani analyst on defence and national affairs, says Saudi Arabia paid for a batch of 40 F-16 fighter aircraft bought by Pakistan in the 1980s from the US for approximately $1bn. “Not only did the Saudis pay for the aircraft but they also lobbied for Pakistan with the US government,” he says. “The Saudis have played a critical role for Pakistan. Consequently, that has won them tremendous influence in Islamabad”.

Ali Awadh Asseri, the Saudi Ambassador to Islamabad for almost four years, is widely seen as one of the most influential diplomats in Pakistan, though major policy discussions are carried out directly between key officials and leaders in Riyadh and Islamabad.

“Asseri has the kind of access to the Pakistani president and the prime minister which few other ambassadors receive. Maybe the US ambassador falls in the same category” adds Dr Rizvi.

Such is Saudi influence in Pakistan that Saudi officials, including the ambassador, also play a mediating role in Pakistani politics. A year after Pakistan's nuclear tests, Mr Sharif was removed from office in a bloodless military coup and then sentenced to life imprisonment on a controversial charge of ordering the hijacking of a Pakistani airliner.

But he found himself exiled to Saudi Arabia in 2002 for a 10-year period, under a deal struck between General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, and the Saudi regime. The deal assured a life of comfort for the former Pakistani leader and saved him from the prospect of a long jail term. “The Saudis may not have the ability to change Pakistan's strategic profile in that they don't have a military which can support Pakistan and they're not an arms supplier. But they have the means to make things happen,” says Teresita Schaffer, head of the south Asia program at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2004/8/1047.htm