Friday, September 23, 2011

The infamous White House Murder INC, assassinates Burhanuddin Rabbani....

The infamous White House Murder INC, assassinates Burhanuddin Rabbani....

The Taliban’s statement denying involvement in the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Council for Peace, is coming on the third day of the incident. Evidently, Quetta Shura thoroughly checked out with the various Taliban factions before coming out with this statement. Indeed, Taliban, uncharacteristically enough, was not on message this time. They are normally the first with a claim, but this time they weren’t.

A Guardian editorial, too, makes this important point: “Rabbani’s scalp would have been high on the target of the Taliban, who have turned to killing senior Afghan leaders, but for the fact that he was also the head of the high peace council. Bombing him would be akin to bombing the talks themselves, and there was no suggestion from the Taliban leadership that this is their aim.”

Indeed, Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s recent Eid message was widely interpreted as signifying a change of time, signalling that the future of the insurgency could lie in politics. A commentary by Ahmed Rashid is here. Another commentary by the US-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty virtually echoing Rashid’s mind is here.

A number of theories have appeared on who killed Rabbani, adding to all-round confusion, and the only good thing is that the needle of suspicion is moving by the day further and further away from the Taliban. But then, someone did order Rabbani’s killing, isn’t it? Who was it?

Continue digging deeper and deeper, and don’t allow oneself be distracted by the US’s drum-beating or sabre-rattling against Pakistan.

PM Manmohan Singh’s statement spoke volumes. He refused to rush to judgment as to whose hand it is that is red with Rabbani’s blood. Let me quote his message to Karzai:

“It is with great shock and sadness that I have learnt of the tragic death of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. This is a senseless act of terrorism which the Government and people of India condemn. I fondly recall my two meetings with Professor Rabbani in Kabul in May 2011 and in New Delhi in July 2011 during which he had shared with me his vision of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The best tribute the people of Afghanistan can pay to him is to carry on with the task that he had begun — securing a peaceful and safe future for the people of Afghanistan. Please accept my deepest condolences on the tragic loss. I wish to assure Your Excellency that India stands by you and the people of Afghanistan in this hour.”
Maybe, PM will inquire from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad when they meet in New York this week. Tehran is very well clued-in as to what is happening in the name of the war on terror in Afghanistan. Besides, Tehran was Rabbani’s very last port of call, from where he headed for Sharjah to spend a few days with his family members who live there.

That is, until he was asked to rush back to Kabul by an Afghan official who conveyed a message from the US and British embassies in Kabul that they had something of extreme importance to discuss with him urgently and he should get back. Which he, alas, did.

The Iranians would know what was on Rabbani’s mind as he walked into the sunset. Most certainly, Ambassador Mohsen Pak-Ayeen would be one of them who spent time chatting up Rabbani in Tehran. That was one of the two reasons why what Ambassador Pak-Ayeen said caught my attention.

The second reason was that he was my Iranian colleague when I served as ambassador in Tashkent. Those were the tumultuous days of the Northern Alliance and the anti-Taliban resistance. Ambassador Pak-Ayeen and I became great friends — and, boy, don’t I know if there is one diplomat in our region who knows Afghanistan like the back of his hands, it is him, it is him. What he said is here.


Deconstructing the death of Rabbani....
By M K Bhadrakumar

Afghans invariably had a twinkle in their eye when the "Ustad" came up in conversation. It was mirthful and respectful, it spoke of familiarity bordering on affection for a patriarch who was capable of frailties. Burhanuddin Rabbani was incomparable in the pantheon of Afghanistan's jihadi heroes.

Rabbani, 71, former president and head of the Afghan Peace Council, was assassinated in his Kabul home by a suicide bomber on September 20.

Rabbani evoked respect as an Islamic scholar, while his jihadi pedigree was impeccable. He was admired for the ease with which he criss-crossed Afghanistan's political and ethnic divides although he remained the tallest Tajik leader. Rabbani could be ruthless, but then, he was also incapable of guile and animosities. He amused onlookers with his vanities and his weakness for pomp and flattery.

But he was feared for his political skills and could also be fickle-minded to the point of being unreliable. Above all, he was widely respected as an Afghan nationalist.

Rabbani was a man of many parts. Unlike his Jamiat e-Islami (Islamic Society of Afghanistan) commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who remained in Panjshir through the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, Rabbani was based in Pakistan and was one of the "Peshawar Seven" during the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviets. This necessitated, or enabled, him to forge a close working relationship with Pakistan's military and security establishment.

This was so much so that when bitter rivalries over the leadership of the mujahideen government in Kabul erupted in early-1992, then-Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif anointed him as "interim president".

However, Rabbani became so accustomed to the presidency that he wouldn't vacate it as he had earlier vowed to do, and Islamabad tried all the tricks in its bag but couldn't dethrone him. Unsurprisingly, some bitterness followed when the Taliban forcefully drove him out of Kabul and seized power in 1996.

But a cordial relationship resumed nonetheless when after a lap of absence he visited Islamabad in his new capacity with the High Peace Council (entrusted with the mission to reconcile the Taliban). Pakistan's army chief Parvez Kiani hosted him in General headquarters in Rawalpindi as a mark of honor to someone, who, despite the ebb and flow of time, remained a familiar figure, after all.

Karzai is the 'loser'
Any attempt to deconstruct Rabbani's assassination should begin with a detached look at the bonds between him and Pakistan's military leadership. No doubt, it was a complex relationship, enriched by Rabbani's networking with the "Islamic" parties in Pakistan and the various jihadi elements in the region and beyond as well as with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Conceivably, Kiani saw Rabbani (an ethnic Tajik) as a potential interlocutor who could help Pakistan reach out to the non-Pashtuns, especially the Panjshiris. Rabbani had complicated equations with Massoud and the Panjshiris, and there were acute moments when the two sides barely tolerated each other.

What helped was that without Rabbani as figure-head, the Shura-e-Nazar - the supervisory council created by Massoud in 1984 that comprised about 130 commanders from 12 northern, eastern and central regions of Afghanistan - would have remained provincial. Massoud needed Rabbani politically, and the Ustad lacked military skills while the commander made up for it.

Again, his excellent ties with Iran, his sagacity to keep lines open to the Taliban, his virulent "anti-Americanism" - these were also of interest to Pakistan, whose military leadership showed pragmatism by accepting him as the point person in intra-Afghan dialogue. Pakistan assessed that if any non-Pashtun leader had a chance of bringing the Northern Alliance groups on board the reconciliation process and a broad-based settlement, it was Rabbani.

Suffice to say, the repercussions of Rabbani's assassination for Pakistan could be serious. One, the hawkish Panjshiris and other intransigent Northern Alliance groups will use Rabbani's death to block any accommodation with the Taliban, which indeed would mean a disastrous slide toward civil war.

Two, against the backdrop of the US-Pakistan standoff, an axis might develop at some point between these intransigent Northern Alliance elements and the United States on the basis of a congruence of interests. (The Northern Alliance suggested such an alliance in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.)

Equally, a polarization would further isolate President Hamid Karzai. The US agenda to corner Karzai receives a fillip in these changed circumstances. The deck gets cleared now for the US to mop up residual issues relating to the strategic agreement that it is keen to conclude before a peace conference begins in Berlin in December.

With the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance groups in rebellious mood, Karzai will have a hard time carrying forward the dialogue with the Taliban. He cannot easily find a replacement for Rabbani. The credibility of the High Peace Council was never really high, and it is literally in tatters today.

Besides, Karzai needs to focus on his own political survival as his isolation after the murder of his half-brother Wali Karzai becomes acute. His opponents in parliament challenge his constitutional authority; the government's functioning has suffered and the president is unable to get his cabinet posts filled.

On the other hand, he is pilloried for being "ineffectual" and an impression has been created that while he remains in office, the drawdown of US troops is hard to implement on the ground. It is actually more than a blame game.

The 'unknown unknown'
The US prefers to directly handle the reconciliation process with the Taliban and set its terms, without involving Karzai (or Pakistan). Surely, the biggest gain for the US from Rabbani's departure is that the idea of the "Afghan-owned" peace process that Karzai spearheaded (which Washington never really favored) has floundered for all practical purposes.

In sum, deconstructing the death of Rabbani produces strange patterns. Those who "gained" include the intransigent Northern Alliance groups and the "alien mercenaries of organized terrorism", as Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad pithily described. What is certain is that Karzai "lost" heavily. He needs to figure out a way forward. Pakistan is pressing him to pick up the threads and resume the joint Afghan-Pakistani peace process.

Some fingers have pointed at Pakistan for being responsible for Rabbani's murder - principally, these are irate Northern Alliance elements ("warlords") who are jostling for political space and are openly courting foreign sponsorship. The US, which is piling the pressure on Pakistan, refrained from linking the ISI with Rabbani's murder - the Taliban have denied involvement.

In Rabbani's last interview - with a Russian television channel - he admitted that he was skating on thin ice. The following excerpts become significant:
I cannot say that [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar has agreed to participate in the peaceful negotiations, or that he has denied this possibility completely ... the Taliban leadership has trends towards peace, and these trends do have a certain power. They realize that the country's security is in their interests as well.

No doubt, presently there are divisions within the Taliban leadership operating in the country as well as beyond ... We understand that there are issues within the movement, and there are certain forces that can cause problems ... Some forces intend to undermine the peaceful process and the negotiations with the Pakistani government.

Certainly, the people of Afghanistan do not want foreign troops to remain ... and we don't want our nation's security to depend upon a foreign military presence. It is unacceptable ... However, considering the critical security situation in our country, the lack of stability and the continuing armed clashes, we have to tolerate the foreign military presence.

We have received assistance as well as certain commitments from the countries of the region, especially Pakistan, and we expect it to start making some practical steps ... The biggest challenge ... is the issue of representation of negotiators and, again, a lot depends upon Pakistan's attitude ... As soon as the government of Pakistan decides that it is time to seriously tackle the issue of peace in Afghanistan and undertake the task of providing their assistance and protection to our country, I'm sure the peace process will be out of the deadlock.
It was a candid interview. Rabbani wasn't sure Mullah Omar was in the peace process, nor was he sure the Taliban supremo was rejecting it - the "unknown unknown", as former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld would say.

Rabbani said the Afghan people opposed foreign occupation, but he justified the US military presence and sidestepped the reality that the military presence was part of the problem. He hinted there were forces that resented his dealings with Pakistan, but he complained that Pakistan wasn't yet cooperating with the peace process - although it had mastery over the insurgents. Rabbani knew that a shroud of strategic ambiguity was inexorably surrounding him and the peace process.

The intriguing part is where he stood vis-a-vis the US, finally. His "anti-Americanism" was apparently mellowing, but his last port of call was Tehran. He juggled far too many balls in the air, which in today's Afghanistan meant inviting trouble - even for an Ustaz....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The age of "hunter-killer" fleet of MQ-9 Reapers, and the New bases extend US's drone wars into Asia, Africa and the GCC...

The age of "hunter-killer" fleet of MQ-9 Reapers, and the New bases extend US's drone wars into Asia, Africa and the GCC..., courtesy of the infamous white House Murder INC,....

The Reaper was not formally invited to the United Nations General Assembly annual bash in New York.

In ancient times, he used to be known as the Grim Reaper. Grim the wily fellow still is - always under many guises. Reinventing the concept of death from above, he may call himself MQ-9 Reaper and strut his stuff equipped with Hellfire missiles.

Or he may wear a business suit and incorporate the persona of the president of the United States.

Get me to the target on time
Barack Obama, from his UN podium, told the world, "Let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding."

Neo-Orwellian spin doctors could hardly top him on this one. Referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's operation of bombing Libya into democracy, Obama stressed, "This is how the international community is supposed to work."

Virtually on cue, that usual suspect, a "NATO official", leaked that the alliance had just extended its mission to bomb Libya for another 90 days before the green card expired next Tuesday. Of course, the smart NATO bombs only recognize bad guys, and don’t commit collateral damage.

As for the "international community" - which now comprises only NATO members and Persian Gulf monarchies, to the exclusion of everybody else - it will still "have to respond to the calls for change" in the Middle East, according to Obama. Signaled targets, not surprisingly, were Syria and Iran.

And then, also on cue, the usual "US officials" leaked that the Obama administration was assembling what the Washington Post described as "a constellation of secret drone bases for counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula". Signaled targets, already engaged, are Somalia and Yemen.

As for the excuse, no surprises; it’s that same old al-Qaeda bogeyman. Once again, industrial-military complex "defense contractors" started uncorking their Moet.

A killer low-cost airline
As these contractors know so well, Washington is now involved in no less than six wars - or "kinetic" whatever, as the White House defines them - in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

For our friend the MQ-9 Reaper, the sky, literally, is the limit. He’s expanding his footprint from AfPak to the whole of East Africa up to the Gulf of Aden. He'll now be based in Ethiopia as well as in the Seychelles, that lovely Indian Ocean archipelago famous for its fabulous beaches and 10-star resorts.

The "hunter-killer" fleet of MQ-9 Reapers - that is, capable in Pentagonese of both "surveillance" and "strike" - parked in a hangar near the main passenger terminal at Victoria, in the Seychelles, will bring to a whole new level the concept of low-budget airline.

Although they are being depicted as innocent toys flying over Somalia "to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts", bottles of supplemental Moet can be bet that sooner or later the exploits of this killer low-cost airline will hit the headlines.

Naturally, no MQ-9 Reapers will be bombing the al-Qaeda-linked Libyans formerly known as rebels who are now exercising total military control of Tripoli.

This will only happen after Libyan hardcore Islamists start getting into their Talibanization groove - be it as part of a Transitional National Council government or as a guerrilla force fighting NATO. The Pentagon always respects the motto of taking better care of its future enemies than its current friends.

In this newspeak-drenched "improved circles of surveillance" universe, there's hardly a thought about collateral damage. Even an establishment think-tank such as the Brookings Institution has stressed that for every "terrorist" killed, "10 or so civilians also died". More realistic estimates point to a ratio of 15 civilians to every "terrorist" biting the dust.

And this while the Pentagon-promoted, American Playstation way of war never ceases to be upgraded; Reapers or sons of Reapers will soon perform their chores by themselves, using just state of the art software and alien to human intervention.

Which bring us once again to Obama.

This freedom is not for you
At his UN pulpit, Obama stressed, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." This does not apply to Palestinians - because if he said it did the current president of the United States believes he would hit the unemployment lines in November 2012.

Obama also said, "Israelis have been killed by rockets and suicide bombers." Yet in his 47-minute UN opus he never even attempted to admit something along the lines of "Palestinians have been killed by airstrikes, smart bombs, dumb bombs, bulldozers, snipers, collective punishment and Reapers".

Obama also did not even try to mention, even in passing, the pre-1967 borders of a future Palestinian state - something that virtually the whole planet supports. No wonder, considering that recently Obama could not even persuade the Israeli government to stop building settlements on stolen land.

As far as Washington's position on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN is concerned, torrents of bites have tried to explain how the US must abide by Israel's demands while pretending it's not at Israel's beck and call.

On the eve of a showdown at the UN Security Council, Palestine had secured the nine votes out of 15 it needed to be recognized as a state - and thus win at least a resounding moral victory, even considering the inevitable US veto.

Significantly enough, the votes were by the five BRICS emerging powers - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - plus Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria. Germany, Colombia and the US were poised to vote against it. So inevitably Washington unleashed major hardcore pressure on Bosnia (a Muslim-majority country), Gabon and Nigeria (a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, OIC).

It does not matter that the idea of a Palestinian state is a virtual consensus among the international community - the real flesh and blood one, not that ghost brandished by Washington.

Yet a glance at the map, comparing the erosion of Palestinian land from 1946 to 2011, is enough to show Israel has already killed the two-state solution, regardless of what happens at the UN.

What matters are the "facts on the ground" of Israel as the supreme dominatrix of US foreign policy as well as the US Congress being Israel's bitch. What matters is Obama trying to entice Muslims with flowery rhetoric in Istanbul and Cairo just to meekly submit, and when the going gets tough, to feel the dominatrix whip.

And all this while from northern Africa to the Middle East multitudes are fighting for the same "freedom" Americans (and Israelis) apparently enjoy, but are forever denied to Palestinians.

Whatever happens at the UN, Israel's got the deal of the century. Under the cover of a return of the living dead "peace process", successive Israeli governments get to steal Palestinian land, build illegal settlements and procrastinate, while the US pays the heavy political price.

Washington not only pays for the settlements but fights virtually all of Israel's enemies, lethally antagonizes 1.3 billion Muslims all over the world, spends trillions of dollars and goes bankrupt deploying a "war on terror".

Which brings us to yet another impersonation by the Grim Reaper.

He may be a MQ-9 in AfPak or in the new Seychelles-Somalia killer route. He may be channeled by the president of the United States. And he may answer by the name of Bibi. He's here, there, everywhere. Fear the Reaper. Or else ...
New bases extend US's drone war...
By Jim Lobe

The age of the Reaper

WASHINGTON - As Somalia undergoes its worst famine in six decades and Yemen slides into civil war, the administration of President Barack Obama is expanding its network of bases to carry out drone strikes against suspected terrorists in both countries, according to reports published in two major United States newspapers on Thursday.

Based in part on newly disclosed US diplomatic cables recently posted by WikiLeaks, the Washington Post reported that the US military had been flying armed drones over both countries from a base in Djibouti and was planning to build a second base in Ethiopia.

The Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported that a base in the Seychelles that the US military has previously used to fly surveillance drones will now host armed drones capable of flying their lethal payloads the more than 1,500 kilometers that separate the Indian Ocean island chain from Somalia and the African mainland and back.

The "constellation" of drone bases will also include a secret new Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) base that the administration announced earlier this year would be situated somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula.

That facility will be hosted by Saudi Arabia, according to an unnamed "senior US military official" quoted in a report also published on Thursday.

"Operations in Saudi [Arabia] are [the] only new expansion to this plan," the official was quoted as saying. "The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP [al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula]," a Yemen-based affiliate which, according to recent statements by US intelligence officials, has been consolidating links with al-Shabaab, the Somali group which Washington claims also has ties to al-Qaeda.

Inter Press Service (IPS) calls to the Pentagon press office for confirmation that Saudi Arabia was hosting the new base were not returned. But a former US ambassador to Riyadh who has retained good ties with its government, Admiral Chas Freeman (retired), said the report was "highly plausible" given both the "close and robust" cooperation on counter-terrorism between the US and the kingdom and its geographical proximity to Yemen.

According to one of the authors of the Post report, the expanding network is designed to "avoid the mistakes of the past".

"When al-Qaeda fled Afghanistan into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, it took years before the CIA had assembled a drone program capable of putting the terrorist network under pressure," wrote Greg Miller on the Post's website. "That delay, and costly deals for air-basing access in neighboring countries, allowed al-Qaeda to flourish."

The reports come amid considerable controversy about the increased use by the Obama administration of armed drones, ominously named Predators, and the longer-range Reapers, in its counter-terrorism campaign.

In Pakistan, where the CIA greatly sharply increased unilateral drone strikes - to nearly 200 - against "high-value" al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in the first two years of the Obama administration, the tactic has contributed heavily to an increase in anti-Americanism. An overwhelming 97% of respondents in a recent Pew Research Center poll in Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is at an all-time high, said they viewed drone attacks negatively.

Indeed, none other than Obama's first top intelligence chief, Admiral Dennis Blair (retired), told an elite gathering of foreign policy and national security wonks in July that it was a mistake "to have [an air-only] campaign dominate our overall relations" with Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

"Because we're alienating the countries concerned, because we're treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us, we are threatening the prospects of long-term reform," he said. Such strikes should only be carried out with the consent of the host government.

But Obama's new Pentagon chief and former CIA director Leon Panetta rejected that criticism, insisting that the tactic had been and would continue to be "effective at undermining al-Qaeda and their ability to plan attacks [against the US]".

Panetta and the Pentagon have also reportedly led the charge in an ongoing debate within the administration to broaden the current target list in Yemen and Somalia from high-level leaders of AQAP and al-Shabaab, who are presumed to share al-Qaeda's global aims, to include low-level foot soldiers, whose motivation for joining such groups may be more parochial and less ambitious.

The drone has increasingly become the administration's "weapon of choice" in its efforts to subdue al-Qaeda and its affiliates, although it has been used far less frequently against targets in Yemen and Somalia than in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

At least six drone strikes targeted alleged militants in Yemen in 2010 and 2011, but that number may have risen recently due to the collapse amid the ongoing political turmoil of the central government's authority over various parts of the country. Militias that Washington believes are tied to AQAP have taken control of towns near the Gulf of Aden.

"There's an assumption that the US has used a lot of aerial strikes in recent months, but it's difficult to get verification," said Gregory Johnson, a Yemen expert at Princeton University.

In Somalia, where Washington has also used cruise missiles and heliborne Special Operations Forces (SOF) against senior al-Shabaab leaders, there are believed to have been only two drones strikes since 2007.

According to the Post and Journal accounts, Washington used a base in the Seychelles in 2009 and 2010 to fly drones for surveillance of both Somalia and Somali piracy activity in the Indian Ocean. According to the WikiLeaks cables cited by the Post, Seychelles President James Michel has concurred with the idea of arming the drones.

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali told the Journal that he did not object to armed drone attacks on members of al-Shabaab, provided that such operations were coordinated with his government, but that he opposed attacks on pirates.

The Post reported that the US had negotiated with Ethiopia, with which Washington also cooperates closely on counter-terrorism activities, for four years over building a base for armed drones on its territory. Fox News reported that the US had flown surveillance drones from several Ethiopian bases.

"There could certainly be a lot of internal discussion before they would agree to authorize the use of a base [for armed drones]," said David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Addis Ababa. "They don't want to be seen as a pawn of anyone."

Shinn, who teaches at George Washington University, said the use of armed drones should be highly constrained and warned against its becoming "the default policy for dealing with Somalia".

"I don't see a problem with using an aerial strike with a couple of huge caveats," he told IPS. "First, that you have intelligence which is 95% accurate or better on a high value target - which is a pretty tough standard - and, second, that there's little or no likelihood of collateral damage. If you're using these things willy-nilly on the basis of not very good intelligence, then it will be counter-productive."

Johnson voiced similar caution, noting that "Washington has drifted into this tactic, because it can't seem to find any other good options in Yemen".

"But it runs the very real risk of actually exacerbating the situation," he noted. "The problem with drones is that the US doesn't have a very good track record on killing who it's aiming at in Yemen. So it often ends up killing civilians, which drives their brothers, fathers, sons, nephews, etc into the hands of al-Qaeda and makes it easier for al-Qaeda to argue that Yemen is an active theater of jihad, no different from Iraq or Afghanistan."

He also expressed concern about the CIA building a base in Saudi Arabia. "One of the primary motivations for Osama bin Laden's jihad against the US were military bases housing US troops in Saudi Arabia after the end of the Gulf War [in 1991]," he wrote on his blog, Waq al-Waq. "Does the US think this current of thought no longer holds sway in Arabia?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sea frontiers and serious military confrontations loom from the Black Sea to the Med. to South China Sea to the Malvinas...with dire consequences...

Sea frontiers and serious military confrontations loom from the Black Sea to the Med. to South China Sea to the Malvinas...with dire consequences...

By Gwynne Dyer

The Indian Navy revealed recently that one of its vessels, the amphibious assault ship INS Airavat, was hailed by a Chinese naval officer demanding to know why it was in Chinese territory ― while it was actually off the Vietnamese coast heading for the Vietnamese port of Haiphong.

And it was reported that a Chinese spy ship was discovered in India’s Andaman Islands earlier this year.

A quarter of a world away, in the eastern Mediterranean, the consequences of Israel’s seizure of a Turkish aid vessel heading for Gaza in May 2010 continue to unfold. Israel steadfastly refuses to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks who were killed by Israeli commandos in the attack, and on Sept. 8, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that future aid vessels to Gaza would be escorted by the Turkish Navy.

If this sort of thing goes on, it is plausible to imagine a point at which countries with real military power ― Israel and Turkey, or India and China ― start shooting at each other. Moreover, all these countries except Turkey have nuclear weapons, though it is hard to imagine them being used in a conflict at sea. On the other hand, it is the sea and its slippery boundaries that make such confrontations possible.

The thing about maritime frontiers that makes them so much more dangerous than land borders is that they are often ill-defined, and almost always invisible. There are lots of disputed land frontiers in the world, but everybody knows where the actual line of control is, and there are usually troops or border police around to make sure that everybody observes it.

You can attack a land border if you really want to, but it is a very big decision with incalculable consequences: a declaration of war, in effect. Even the most arrogant or paranoid governments will think long and hard before embarking on such an action, and generally they end up by deciding not to do it. Whereas at sea, you can easily drift into a serious military confrontation that neither side intended.

Turkey recognized Israel in 1950, and in recent decades the two countries have been major trading partners and closely linked militarily. Only two or three years ago Israeli warplanes were still conducting military exercises in Turkey, and the latter was a major customer for Israeli weapons. But relations have cooled rapidly since Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel, and the attack on the aid flotilla last year was the last straw.

Early this month Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador, and Prime Minister Erdogan’s announcement that the Turkish navy will escort future aid convoys raises the prospect of actual military clashes between the two.

Erdogan cannot stand by and let any more Turkish citizens be killed, nor can he stop future convoys from seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel’s refusal to apologize for killing Turkish citizens makes it politically impossible for him to defy Turkish public opinion on this. And yet if Turkish warships escort the next convoy, it’s easy to imagine an outbreak of shooting.

All Israel’s wars hitherto have been with poorly armed and badly led Arab armies in non-industrialized countries; a war with Turkey would be a very different matter, even if it remained a purely maritime conflict. But Israeli politics will not let Netanyahu back down either ― and because it’s at sea, nobody really knows where the red lines are.

Israel attacked last year’s aid flotilla well beyond the limits of the blockade zone it had declared around Gaza, and might do so again. Israel would have local air superiority, but the Turkish warships would be on hair-trigger alert for an attack. This could end very badly.

Even that is small potatoes compared to the potential for a naval conflict in the South China Sea. China insists that virtually the whole sea is its territory, with claimed boundaries that skim the coasts of all the other countries that border the sea: Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

China bases its claim on its historic sovereignty over the clusters of low-lying islands in the middle of the sea, the Paracels and the Spratlys. But Hanoi says that Beijing never claimed sovereignty until 1940, and that the islands had actually been controlled by Vietnam since the 17th century. They were certainly under Vietnamese control until 1974, when China seized them by force, killing several Vietnamese soldiers in the process.

The Philippines also claims some of the islands, and all four Southeast Asian countries reject China’s claim to own the seabed rights practically up to their beaches. To make matters worse, there are now believed to be enormous reserves of oil and gas under the sea’s shallow waters.

Worst of all, the South China Sea is a maritime highway connecting Europe, the Middle East and South Asia with East Asia, and none of the other major powers is willing to let it fall under exclusive Chinese control. That’s why an Indian warship was visiting Vietnam last July, and why the United States is selling more warships and helicopters to the Philippines.

It’s a slow-burning fuse, but this is the most worrisome strategic confrontation in the world today....

[India is taking the same confrontational approach in the South China Sea, to the parasitical exploitation of weaker nations to harvest their potential energy resources, that Indian ally Israel is taking in the Eastern Mediterranean. Both India and Israel are risking major military confrontations in order to exploit their neighbor's (Vietnam, Cyprus) potential resources, by taking advantage of the fact that they have no or little capability to develop them on their own. It is obvious that the American pirates are starting to rub-off on their allies India and Israhell..., causing them to think just like American Imperialists, who have no moral compunctions against resource wars, barbaric assassinations and murder on a global scale.... I guess that we will have to cast our lot with China on this one, in hopes of seeing a Vietnamese/Indian failure in their joint endeavor.]

China reiterates its objection to India’s role in South China Sea exploration

By Times of India.

India will be infringing on “China’s sovereignty and national interest” if ONGC Videsh goes ahead with its plans to explore oil and gas in the South China Sea, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated on Monday. The Indian company has worked out plans to explore the sea area along with Vietnamese oil companies.

The statement comes after the Indian government indicated it has taken into consideration the position of China and Vietnam before allowing ONGC Videsh to enter into business contract with Vietnamese firms. China and Vietnam are locked in a dispute over ownership of islands in South China Sea, which has huge reserves of oil and gas. Even Japan, Philippines and Indonesia are involved in disputes over sea island ownership with China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said any move by countries outside the South China Sea region will “complicate and magnify the dispute” that Beijing has with the Vietnamese government. China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the concerned islands is based on full historical and jurisprudential evidence going back to the Han dynasty.

Any country wishing to explore for oil should closely study China’s position and obtain its permission before venturing to do so, he said....

Despite objections or harassment of China, India plans to sign several contracts with theU.S. , including oil exploitation contracts outside the U.S. continental shelf between OVL and Petrovietnam, the contract for the engineering camp opened in Vietnam, as well as increased borrowing to fund the U.S. implementation plans will be signed when Truong Tan Sang went to India in mid-October. In the recent U.S. visit, Indian foreign minister SM Krishna spoke a lot about treaties, trade, economic and technical cooperation between the two countries.
Oil exploitation contracts between OVL and Petrovietnam is considered strategic because the contract will challenge China on the so-called “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. Already here, India has asked China to terminate the planned game against oil on the East Coast of India OVL.
Ensure energy needs are paramount factors in the relationship between Vietnam and India, despite the Chinese threat. Part of the exploitation of oil OVL up to more than half the total amount of 400 million dollars of Indian investment in Vietnam.
Unmoved by Chinese objections, the ONGC Videsh Ltd

(OVL) and Petro Vietnam - state-owned exploration and production of Companies

India and Vietnam -are likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU ) on

Strategic Cooperation. Signing of the pact is expected to be one of the nhiều

outcomes in terms of Agreements khi

Truong Tan Sang Vietnam President visits India in the second week of October.

India will announce more cũng line of credit, above the existing Rs 300 crore
Besides opening and more information technology (IT) parks in Vietnam.

Many Agreements in the areas of trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological
Cooperation are likely to be Inked khi cũng Sang’s visit.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna Discussions with Sang long held on the
Entire Facet of the bilateral ties During His visit to Vietnam.

The MoU the between OVL and Petro Vietnam in the nature of a “Strategic
Cooperation “đồng nghĩa Undertaking of more exploration projects, mà can irk
China enjoys very little with its position “undisputed Territorial Sovereignty over
South China sea . “