December 23, 2011, midday

The Supreme Court of Pakistan now holds the cards for the future of U.S./ Pakistan relations.

Yesterday, Dec. 22, 2011, Pakistan’s prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said there was a conspiracy by the army and Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to stage a coup. Today, the military chief Ashfaz Parve Kayani, denied it.

U.S. State Department deputy Mark Toner said the issue will be resolved through the democratic process.  Cute idea.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s Supreme Court, backed by military and the principal opposition party led by Nawaz Sharif , is investigating the claim that President Asif Ali Zardari’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, with the help of businessman Monsoor Ijaz, conveyed a memo to the then Chief of Staff Mullen, seeking U.S. help to prevent a coup by the military and the I.S.I. after Osama bin Laden was killed in May.

Zardari claims that the investigation by parliament of the matter was sufficient and Supreme Court action is unnecessary.  Haqqani was dismissed after all.  But the Supreme Court proceeds. The military wants more. What? What could the Supreme Court do -- determine crimes were committed and arrested people?   Arrest Zardari.  It does smack of some sort of extreme reliance upon a foreign power to intervene -- Zardari's asking the U.S. to preserve him from his own military after the U.S. invaded his country and took out bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is not going to save Zardari's honor by apologizing.  The U.S. military’s investigation into the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a “friendly fire” incident on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on November 26, 2011, has determined that poor coordination between American and Pakistani forcers caused the deaths. Specifically the report states there was miscommunication about the true location of the Pakistan military forces. The Pakistan military disagrees, stating the U.S. fired on the men without provocation in order to intimidate Pakistan into dropping its opposition to covert U.S. operations against insurgences taking refuge within Pakistan. The Pentagon has promised to correct matters to prevent such deaths from friendly fire in the future. The U.S. Department of Defense expressed its "deepest regret" and "sincere condolences" but will not meet Pakistan's demand for a full apology. After all, Pakistan did not cooperate in the investigation.

Moreover, the Pakistan military wants President Obama himself to apologize. That would create some precedent -- Obama would be apologizing every other week as innocents are dying as a result of "collateral damage" or "friendly fire".  Prime Minister Gilani says future cooperation with the U.S. will be subject to terms decided by the Pakistani parliament -- that leaves all options open. Hopwever, Gilani wants a guarantee that the U.S. military in Afghanistan will respect Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty.  He wants an end to CIA drone strikes within Pakistan, and finally he wants pledge that the U.S. not launch any unilateral military action in Pakistan. In short, he wants all U.S. options to take out the Pakistan nukes should things get awful, off the table. In short, he wants Pakistan to be a safe haven for al Qaeda and others vis a vis Afghanistan and even the U.S. or Europe.

Pakistan and the U.S. had conducted joint counterterrorism operations until 2010, when they stopped.  Will that ever happen again?  The U.S. wants its drones to continue to take out “terrorists” such as the Haqqani network in within Pakistan.  The U.S. drone program is addictive to the American public -- no U.S. casualties occur  from it -- so far. 

At issue is the Pakistan military's and I.S.I's best pal  -- Haqqani network located in eastern Afghanistan with backing in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Haqqani network has been an ally of Pakistan's military since the 1980s war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Haqqani helped end the fighting between its allies and Pakistani military in tribal regions in 2006, so that the Pakistani military could take out Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan insurgents.  The Haqqani issue will not be resolved if the military and I.S.I. control the country.

Still, Pakistan is angry about the November 26, 2011 deaths of its soldiers. It has not lifted its closure of Pakistani roads to trucks carrying supplies to forces in Afghanistan. The  (ISI) is not sharing intelligence about insurgents with the CIA. The ISI is still sharing intelligence, however, about Al Qaeda in the tribal regions. Pakistan has not halted U.S. military flights over the country. Pakistan is still deployed 147,000 troops in the tribal regions.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan holds the cards.  Will it hold them?  Or will it fold them?


On Monday, December 26, 2011, the first batch of 50 Arab League monitors will arrive in Syria to determine whether Damascus is abiding by the Arab peace plan to end its crackdown on protestors.  An advance team of monitors setting up logistics has already arrived.

The monitors will have a little fear in their hearts. On Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, two suicide car bombs exploded in Damascus, hitting a security compound and central intelligence building and killing 44 and wounding 166 in the in the bloodiest violence since the revolt began nine months ago. The Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that Lebanon warned that al-Qaida had infiltrated from its territory. 

The head of the Arab League monitors is Sudanese general Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. Al-Dabi was a Sudanese army officer from 1969 to 1999, head of military intelligence since June 20, 1989, the day Omar al-Bashir took power in a coup, until August 1995. He headed Sudan’s spy agency from 1995 to 1996, served as ambassador to Qatar from 1999 to 2004. He held four positions in the Darfur region, when fighting broke out in 2003 between non-Arab rebels and the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime. He served as ambassador to Qatar from 1999 to 2004. He was Sudan’s point man for dealing with the U.S. Security Council Resolution 1591 on sanctions related to this conflict.  Sudan’s President Bashir is being sought by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

Assad will allow Dabi's team to access “hot zones” but not sensitive military sites. The United Nations says Assad's crackdown has killed 5,000 people.  The monitors have a lot of work to do even in regard to these deaths alone.

The advance team Arab monitors have visited the sites of the bomb explosions. No one claimed responsibility for the two car bombs. Syria's state TV said security forces have arrested a suspect.

 Assad has promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as constitutional reform. But Syrian pro-democracy activists skeptical of Assad’s promises. The question for Assad is can he implement the Arab peace plan by stopping his crackdown on protestors and still keep power. It is likely this peace plan will doom his regime which is heavily reliant on crackdowns to control the country.

Under the Arab peace plan, all armed forces are to be withdrawn from fighting the protestors and all protestors in prison are to be released.

Only the two biggest cities, Damascus and Allepo have been relatively untouched by violence – that is until the two bombs went off in Damascus on Friday. Will Assad simply give up and follow the Arab peace plan? His state media is spewing propaganda that the people reject outside interference and support Assad.

By blaming al Qaeda for the two bombs, Assad is playing to section of Syrian society who fear a takeover by the Sunni majority, some of which are Islamic radicals. Assad is an Alawite. However, the economy is collapsing in the midst of violence and fear of economic collapse under Assad may trump fear of radicalization. Assad’s military is engaged in live-fire maneuvers, asserting he is in charge of the country. So far, his military has not engage in any large-scale defections. Alawites control the military but most of the soldiers are Sunni.

Assad controls Damascus through his ultra-loyal Fourth Division, commanded by his younger brother Maher.

It appears Assad is going to play along with the Arab League monitors while he continues to covertly destroy the opposition and blames al Qaeda and terrorist for the violence throughout the country.

The monitors will have a tough immense task.  By January there will be a few hundred in the country.  They will have to monitor hundreds of trouble spots, jails and detention centers set up Assad's 17 security agencies.

The first question for General Dabi and his monitors. Who did the two bombings? The Free Syrian Army, affiliated with the Syrian national Council, says it conducts only defensive, not offensive operations.  Who knows? An independent cell or group could have done the bombings. These suicide car bombings are similar to those al-Qaeda has done in neighboring Iraq, and Al-Qaeda feeds on failed states which it uses as operating bases. However, al Qaeda has no record of operating inside Syria.  Always a first time?  Some are claiming that Assad himself did the two bombings to keep the Arab League monitors busy investigating the bombings in Damascus, rather than branching out throughout the country to investigate and inspect Homs, an area of Assad’s crackdown, which is on the monitors’ immediate agenda. No security or intelligence officials were hurt by the bombs, although buildings they used were attacked. Assad is said to favor Dabi, the head of the Arab League monitors because Dabi is a close confidant of President Omar Bashir and a friend of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's officers, including the Al Qods Brigades commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Look at the pattern.  On Friday, two bombs went off in Syria killing Shiites and on Thursday, bombs went off in Iraq killing Shiites. Thus, there is a new round of Sunni-Shiite struggle starting in both countries. The struggle is between two sides. The first side is Shiite based -- Iran, the rulers of Syria and of Iraq, Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas and Jihad Islami. The second side is Sunni-based -- the Muslim Brotherhood and elements or associates of al Qaeda and the “Awakening Councils” .  These council are part of the Iraqi Sunni tribal areas’ military, which were originally set up by Gen. David Petraeas (now CIA Director) to fight al Qaeda in Iraq. This second side is backed by Sunni Arab regimes -- Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Libya.

Since Assad, although an Alawite, and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki share the same backer, Tehran, the spate of terror which erupted this week was not just a trigger for civil war in both their countries but signaled a wider, new and violent round in the Sunni-Shiite struggle for control of the Middle East.


Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)

ROM the forests and highlands
We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
Where loud waves are dumb,
Listening to my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,
Listening to my sweet pipings.
Liquid Peneus was flowing,
And all dark Tempe lay
In Pelion's shadow, outgrowing
The light of the dying day,
Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni and Sylvans and Fauns,
And the Nymphs of the woods and the waves,
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
And the brink of the dewy caves,
And all that did then attend and follow,
Were silent with love, as you know, Apollo,
With envy of my sweet pipings.
I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the dædal earth,
And of heaven, and the giant wars,
And love, and death, and birth.
And then I changed my pipings--
Singing how down the vale of Mænalus
I pursued a maiden, and clasp'd a reed:
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus;
It breaks in our bosom, and then we bleed.
All wept -- as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood--
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

                            Waterhouse, Magic Circle