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 ATol Specials

Iraq: In all but name the war's on 
(Aug 17, '02)


Kabul Diary
    by Pepe Escobar
    Nov-Dec 2001
4Iran Diary
    by Pepe Escobar
    May-June 2002

Iraq Diary
by Pepe Escobar
    March-April 2002
War and Terror

By July-August 2001, it was clear that something dramatic was about to happen. Pepe Escobar, our "Roving Eye", was
traveling in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. The rumor was that US forces were about to use Pakistan to launch a raid into Afghanistan. Escobar's article, published by Asia Times Online on August 30, 2001, was headlined  Get Osama! Now! Or else ... Our Karachi correspondent, Syed Saleem Shazad, was meanwhile filing articles like Osama bin Laden: The thorn in Pakistan's flesh (August 22, 2001) ...

June 2003

Descending into the quagmire
The numbers just don't look good. Even by conservative calculations, the United States, if it is to maintain order in Iraq, will have to commit more troops to the country, and for a longer period than expected, even though this formula failed miserably in Vietnam. (Jun 30, '03)

Damage control and blame games
With the realization in many quarters of the Bush administration that it failed to prepare adequately for the occupation of Iraq comes the need to explain away this lack of foresight, especially as presidential elections draw ever closer. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 30, '03)

   Now, all Iraqis need food aid

Musharraf hits the 'Israel' button
By suggesting that Pakistan review its non-recognition of Israel, President General Pervez Musharraf stirred up a hornet's nest of angry people swearing that they would never acknowledge the existence of the Jewish state. And this is probably exactly the response that the wily general wanted.
(Jun 30, '03)

US shooting in the dark in Afghanistan
The escalating resistance war in Afghanistan is proof enough that the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain unbroken, despite the arrests of several key people. Indeed, the resistance movement has fully reorganized. And, efforts to accommodate the Taliban notwithstanding, the US has little idea what is going on. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 27, '03)

THE FACES OF ISLAM (Book reviews)
(Jun 27, '03)

Islam Under Siege by Akbar S Ahmed
Ahmed, one of the world's leading authorities on Islam, explains what is going wrong in his society by referring to Islamic history and beliefs and raises important questions of relevance to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, while also providing a route to dialogue between civilizations. - Ahmad Faruqui

Who killed Daniel Pearl?
Qui a tue Daniel Pearl?
by Bernard-Henri Levy
The book has already caused a stir in the French-speaking world. It is likely to create an even bigger sensation once the English-language version comes out as Levy airs some awkward theories on the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl at the hands of Islamic extremists - if it even was them. - Pepe Escobar

Washington fails post-war Iraq examination
A report from the influential Council on Foreign Relations delivers a sharp vote of no-confidence on Washington's approach to date on post-war Iraq, suggesting among other things "mid-course" adjustments and a far greater role for the United Nations. Apart from its criticism, what is also significant about the report is its authors. - Jim Lobe (Jun 26, '03)

Hell starts now
Iraq is a perfect replay of Afghanistan. In both cases there was no mass capitulation, but a sort of strategic retreat. Like the Taliban, Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime also did not surrender: it retreated with many of its best weapons intact. And as in Afghanistan, the struggle continues. -
Pepe Escobar (Jun 26, '03)

   Alarm bells over attack on British soldiers

Before and after the Musharraf-Bush meeting President George W Bush had some encouraging words for Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf - and a US$3 billion aid package - during their meeting this week. But given certain events that took place in Pakistan before the meeting, the accolades might be a bit premature. - B Raman (Jun 26, '03)

Sleeping forces stir in Iran
With the recent arrest in France of a number of its members, the People's Mujahideen, an Iranian opposition group on Washington's terror list, sprang into the headlines. It is in Iran, though, that the Mujahideen plans to make the news, with a little help, perhaps, from the US. -
Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 25, '03)

Veteran neo-con advisor moves on Tehran
Michael A Ledeen, a fixture of Washington's neo-conservative community for many years, has very strong views that war and violence are integral parts of human nature. And when it comes to Iran, it's war he wants - a conviction that he is all too keen to share with President George W Bush's closest advisor. -
Jim Lobe (Jun 25, '03)


Round 2 in Middle East charm offensive
The US has entered a second phase of public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world after the failure of the first attempt. Unless Washington officials address why the initial one backfired, though, they may produce the same result, but with greater consequences.

$1bn sweetener for trade plan
The United States will invest US$1 billion in "trade capacity-building" in Arab countries prior to negotiating free trade agreements with them as a first step toward setting up an overall US agreement to cover up to 20 nations in the Middle East. 

   Iraq to be 'opened to the world'

Global peace movement still vibrant
The US-led war on Iraq spurred a peace movement of unprecedented size and breadth that bought together people and ideologies. Now that the war is over, Marco Garrido examines the movement that continues to challenge the world's lone superpower. (Jun 24, '03)

Musharraf's little secret for Bush
Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf and President George W Bush will have a lot to talk about when they meet at Camp David on Tuesday, especially in light of the on-going "war on terrorism" and the poor security situation in Afghanistan. At that point, Musharraf might be squirming in his chair. -
Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 23, '03)

An Iraqi 'quackmire' in the making
The war on Iraq has seen more than its fair share of people in senior positions, who should know better, shooting off their mouths. Which makes a lot of people nervous. -
Jim Lobe (Jun 23, '03)

The case against aimless anarchy
It's one thing to change a regime, and the United States has had quite a bit of experience doing this over the years. It is entirely another thing to put in place a viable alternative, in which the US has very little experience. Yet it nevertheless still seems hell-bent on change in Iran. -
Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 23, '03)

US finds a communist ally against Iran
Of the many anti-cleric and secular Iranian exile groups opposed to the Islamic regime in Tehran, the most effective are the communists and other left-leaning groups, which is why the US is very interested in courting them. And also why Pakistan takes on added importance. - B Raman (Jun 20, '03)

A revolution short of a leader
Even if the calls of Iranian students for a secular democracy spread into a popular movement for fundamental change, the drive still needs a trusted leadership. Perhaps then some of the 250 Iranian intellectuals who have called on the country's supreme leader to resign could help out. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 20, '03)

Iran muddies Afghanistan's waters
All indications suggest a rapid escalation of fighting in Afghanistan over the next few weeks, with both guerrilla resistance and US-led forces intensifying their operations. The struggle is taking on a new dimension, though, with a beleaguered Iran adding to Afghanistan's already tortured security situation. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 20, '03)

   US losing the peace in Afghanistan

Iraq democratizing Iran?
There has been much talk that the Shi'ites in Iraq, now that they have been released from the yoke of the Sunni-dominated political system of Saddam Hussein, will turn to Iran for inspiration in the establishment of a new system for their country. It could be, though, that Iran could learn a lesson or two from the Iraqis. - Pepe Escobar
(Jun 19, '03)

US wages war from within Iran
United States intelligence officers and dissident Iranian agents have expended millions of dollars in recent weeks to foment trouble throughout Iran, while a determined effort has begun to subvert the country's security and armed forces. The mullahs are not sitting idly by, though. - Richard M Bennett (Jun 19, '03)

Thailand: Terrorists and spin doctors

Thailand, which only recently was pooh-poohing suggestions that terrorists might be roaming the country, has now uncovered a plot to bomb embassies in Bangkok during the upcoming APEC summit, as well as a separate plot to make a "dirty bomb". Fortuitously, these discoveries coincide with the government's efforts to cozy up to the Bush administration. (Jun 19, '03)


Taking the Iran regime by the horns
Iranian students have defied beatings to continue their pro-reform demonstrations, but to date the conservative administration has managed to prevent their dissent from spreading to broader sections of society - beyond the token honking of horns, which is not the stuff of which revolutions are made. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 18, '03)

Vigilantes join the fray
Pro-reform protesters in Iran haven't just got the police and security forces to worry about. They also face beatings from motorcycle-riding hardliners wielding clubs and chains. Who are these so-called plainclothes vigilantes?
(Jun 18, '03)

India dithers over Iraq dilemma
The United States has placed India on the spot by asking it to send troops to Iraq. There are persuasive arguments for both acceding to the request and rejecting it. Torn over making such a weighty decision, the best that New Delhi can do is buy some time. - Sudha Ramachandran (Jun 18, '03)

Washington moves to checkmate Pyongyang
The United States' latest gambit to cool tensions on the Korean Peninsula is to threaten North Korea with a naval blockade, which would devastate the nation's already moribund economy. The Hermit Kingdom vows to strike back and, with China, Russia and South Korea against any blockade, Washington might have to settle for a draw.- Alan Boyd (Jun 18, '03)

Beware the Gorbachev experience 
Middle Eastern rulers know only too well that the first result of major political change is that its major instigators are swept aside. So, in the case of Saudi Arabia, the US will have to accept  that the monarchy will continue its haphazard and half-hearted campaign of eradicating al-Qaeda while preserving its own existence. The alternative to monarchical rule would not suit the American game plan at all. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 18, '03)

Integrity, ethics and flawed intelligence
Lacking on-the-ground substantiation in Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction, the US administration has tried two tacks simultaneously, with a third in reserve, in an attempt to preserve its integrity, even if its arguments are not very ethical. (Jun 18, '03)

Washington plays into Iranian clerics' hands
With student demonstrations in Iran continuing, the United States has been quick to convey its support to the protesters, whose initial grievances against university reform have expanded into a more general pro-democracy rally. American support, though, is exactly what the students don't need. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 16, '03)

Deja vu as Bush pushed aside
President George W Bush might have thought that he had an understanding with Ariel Sharon over the Middle East peace process, but recent events indicate that the Israeli prime minister is not yet ready to dance entirely to Washington's tune. - Jim Lobe (Jun 16, '03)

US turns to the Taliban
With no end in sight to the guerrilla war raging in Afghanistan against foreign troops, and with the political situation in Kabul far from stable, the United States has had to turn to the one force essential to bringing any form of stability to the country: the Taliban. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 13, '03)

Pentagon steps closer to 'GloboCop' role
The Pentagon is moving fast to re-deploy US forces and equipment around the world, with forward bases located all along what it calls an "arc of instability". Coincidentally, this arc corresponds well to regions of great oil, gas and mineral wealth. - Jim Lobe (Jun 13, '03)

Iranian students have their day
To date, this week's student demonstrations in Tehran have remained just that - localized student discontent with the pace of political reform in Iran. For there to be any change in the country, the protests will have to spread to a far wider segment of society. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 13, '03)

'Where do you think I am from?'
At least one Iranian would welcome a US invasion of his country, and would see the US troops as liberators. But then, he is a "Persian". Todd W John met him in a Bangkok guesthouse, where he was en route to realizing his dream of freedom. (Jun 13, '03)

Smoking guns and mushroom clouds
In the run-up to the attack on Iraq, the US administration gave short shrift to any experts (even some of their own) who questioned the official evidence on weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war. But the dissenting voices just won't go away. - Jason Leopold (Jun 12, '03)

Ominous removal of America's 'tripwire'
The rationale for stationing US troops near the Demilitarized Zone had been that they would serve as a tripwire in case North Korea attacked the South. But the decision to reposition those US troops has left pundits wondering whether the third member of the "axis of evil" might now be at the top of Washington's hit list. (Jun 12, '03)

Assassination and the license to kill
Over the years, the assassination squads of the Israeli intelligence services - which operate under the philosophy of Israel "first, last and always" - have learned a few tricks of the grisly trade, many of which they have passed on to the British. Now the Americans are keen to learn. (Jun 12, '03)

Smoking guns and mushroom clouds
In the run-up to the attack on Iraq, the US administration gave short shrift to any experts (even some of their own) who questioned the official evidence on weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war. But the dissenting voices just won't go away. (Jun 12, '03)

Japan's military: No killing, please!
Help is on the way for Japan's bored Self-Defense Forces, whose main role in the US campaign to make the world safe for us all has been to operate a floating gas station for other nations' warships in the Indian Ocean. The SDF could soon find itself in Iraq itself, performing such tasks as dismantling weapons of mass destruction - which so far looks like a risk-free task. - Axel Berkofsky (Jun 11 '03)

More killing, please!
History, most notably the American Civil War, teaches us that most of the killing in war typically occurs long after rational calculation would call for the surrender of the losing side. In which case, for there to be peace in the Middle East, many more lives will have to be lost.
(Jun 11 '03)

Questions over Bush's Mideast commitment
To the surprise of many observers, President George W Bush appears to be lending his full weight to the Middle East road map for peace. But as surprisingly, so is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At which point, doubts arise. - Jim Lobe (Jun 11 '03)

North Korea throws the dice, again
Like a gambler who keeps betting double or nothing even though he loses on every throw of the dice, Pyongyang has issued a declaration that it is building nuclear weapons. Stephen Blank examines the regime's motives in the ongoing multi-power minuet in and around the Korean Peninsula - and whether the Hermit Kingdom has put itself on a collision course with just about everyone. (Jun 11 '03)

Afghanistan: Enduring terrorism
The recent fatal suicide attack on German peacekeepers in Afghanistan is a graphic illustration that the country is far from delivered from terror, and that this will remain the case for as long as the terrorists are allowed safe haven and passage in neighboring Pakistan. - B Raman 
(Jun 11 '03)

Lowering the nuclear threshold
Recent moves by the United States - including the possible development of smaller, more usable nuclear warheads - create a feeling that the country is determined to establish its nuclear hegemony, a perception that is virtually guaranteed to trigger a new nuclear arms race involving China and Russia. And at the same time, a loud and clear message is being sent to Iran, which Tehran can choose to ignore at its peril. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 10, '03)

The Taliban revisited in Pakistan
Whether or not President General Pervez Musharraf had hoped to give the religious political parties enough rope with which to hang themselves is debatable. But in North West Frontier Province the clerics have taken all the slack they can with the introduction of Islamic law. As one legislator put it, "The blood of Taliban has borne fruit." (Jun 10, '03)

The ever-growing US military footprint
From I/FONT United States intelligence officers and dissident Iranian agents have expended millions of dollars in recent weeks to foment trouble throughout Iran, while a determined effort has begun to subvert the country's security and armed forces. The mullahs are not sitting idly by, though. - /ASTRONG Whether or not President General Pervez Musharraf had hoped to give the religious political parties enough rope with which to hang themselves is debatable. But in North West Frontier Province the clerics have taken all the slack they can with the introduction of Islamic law. As one legislator put it, raq to Oman, from Georgia to Uzbekistan, the United States has steadily increased the number of countries in which its forces - air, sea and land - are stationed in the Middle East and Central Asia. And there is no end in sight. -
David Isenberg (Jun 9, '03)

The Pentagon's paradigm shift in Asia
The recent announcement of a redeployment of US troops based in Korea is part of an overall strategic realignment by the Pentagon of its forces in Asia. Published reports of these plans provoked an outcry recently, but by all indications the US is in no hurry to carry out its program. Asian governments hoping to cash in on the US moves, however, need to be cautious. - Phar Kim Beng (Jun 9, '03)

US plays matchmaker to India, Israel
The United States has indicated that it values an Indian military that is "capable of operating effectively alongside its American counterparts", and that this is an important goal in their defense relationship. In which regard, Israel becomes an important factor. (Jun 9, '03)

Pressure grows over US killing of journalists
In the light of new evidence indicating that the death of two journalists killed by US fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad two months ago could have been avoided, a Spanish judge has been asked to file formal extradition charges against three US military officers, at which time Washington's response will be keenly monitored. - Ian Urbina (Jun 6, '03)

Loss of key aide another setback for Powell
With the resignation of the US State Department's director for policy planning, Richard Haass, a champion of "hard-headed multilateralism", Secretary of State Colin Powell has lost an important ally and counterbalance to the hawks in the Pentagon. - Jim Lobe (Jun 6, '03)

Iraqis prefer to remain armed
Less than a week after United States authorities in Iraq began a two-week gun amnesty aimed at restoring safety in the country, only a few hundred weapons have been turned in - a tiny fraction in a country teeming with guns. (Jun 6, '03)

The Bali bombers' real crime
Like Nazi Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann before them, the perpetrators of the October 12 bombing tragedy in Bali have proved again that an empty mind is truly the devil's playground. Misplaced loyalty, in this case to a distorted understanding of Islamic law, achieved nothing but senseless suffering and death. - Phar Kim Beng (Jun 6, '03)

EU and Iran talk trade, not war
Even as it plays lip service to the United States policy of isolating Iran, the European Union is pushing ahead with negotiations to conclude a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Tehran, with which it also wants to strengthen political and security ties. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 6, '03)

A long and tortuous road
Authorities, political councils, ministerial advisors, assemblies, American overlords and interim ministers. It's all getting a bit confusing trying to set up even a semblance of an administration in Iraq, let alone a democratic government. And Iraqis are losing patience. - Pepe Escobar  (Jun 5, '03)

   Strident call for 'Islamic order'

Iran's clerics take the first round
Although Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had promised to quit if his two reform bills were blocked by the watchdog clerics, he's still there despite the bills being rejected (he's a politician, after all). But how much longer he can stay in power given this setback is now being seriously questioned. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 4, '03)

Now, the ugly America
It is not that people don't like Americans, they just don't like the country's current policies (or its leader) much, according to a new global survey that finds that the image of the United States is far more negative in Europe and the Muslim world than a year ago. - Jim Lobe (Jun 4, '03)

The neo-cons' Islamist conspiracy
Forget about Washington's neo-conservatives being influenced by German Jewish political philosopher Leo Strauss. The real truth is that at the heart of the neo-con cabal there lurks the one religion that can best fight idolatry. And it's not Judeo-Christianity.

Setting the global strategic agenda
No longer an international relations neophyte, in the past week US President George W Bush has met with leaders from Russia, Europe, China and the Middle East to push his agenda. While the majority of the leaders with whom Bush met may not agree with his vision for the world, they have little choice but to work with him. - Ehsan Ahrari

Iraq: No quick fixes
The US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, is shifting his attention to the economy after putting off immediate plans to share power with some form of Iraqi administration. The shift highlights uncertainties as to how much power Washington plans to share with Iraqi leaders, and when. (Jun 4, '03)

The US problem with solving problems
Never mind the weapons of mass destruction, and beyond the oil, the United States picked on Iraq for the "huge" reason of extricating itself from Saudi Arabia, which it is now in the process of doing. But in true unintended consequences fashion, another problem has now arisen. (Jun 4, '03)

The truth, and nothing but ...
As speculation grows - and it's not a "French" or "European left" plot - about deliberate distortion of the facts, the time is drawing close when some in the Bush administration will have to reconcile their extravagant claims about weapons of mass destruction with the ground reality in Iraq. - Jim Lobe (Jun 3, '03)

Why Saddam was doomed, WMDs or not
Two days after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the writing was already on the wall for the Saddam Hussein regime. Justification for the war would come later. In fact, the world is still waiting for it.
(Jun 3, '03)

US shadow clouds Iran's internal tussle
Debate in Iran between the government and the public on what political road the country should take has in the past centered on a more open society and the press. Now, with the United States looming large, this debate has taken on strong new undertones. (Jun 3, '03)

  Enter the Iraqi Islamic Republic. Not quite yet

US military in East Asia: Winds of change
As the clamor over reports that the United States is considering plans to restructure its military forces in East Asia causes anxiety among both allies and rivals in the region, pundits wonder what message the US really wants to send to Pyongyang and Seoul. - Ralph A Cossa (Jun 3, '03)

America's 'unsinkable aircraft carriers'
Japan and Australia's unwavering support for the George W Bush administration is necessary for US plans to shift its military bases. But whether the price of being "unsinkable aircraft carriers" for the world's lone superpower will end up being too high for Tokyo and Canberra is another matter. - Purnendra Jain and John Bruni (Jun 3, '03)

One fewer reformist voice in Saudi Arabia
In sacking the editor of an anti-extremist newspaper, Saudi officials have plainly shown that when it comes to the voices of reform, their ears are closed. And will remain so, no matter how loud the cries become, if anyone else dares, that is. - Ian Urbina (Jun 2, '03)

US support emboldens Musharraf
Pakistan, as a key piece in the South Asia security puzzle, has been fully welcomed into the United States camp despite its less than spotless record on the democracy front. This tolerance could be significantly tested as President General Pervez Musharraf moves to avert a domestic crisis. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Jun 2, '03)

Running circles around Iran
Although the reports have been officially denied, news that Azerbaijan and Georgia could be used as launch pads for a United States military strike against Iran have not gone down very well in Tehran. Nor in Moscow, for that matter. - Hooman Peimani (Jun 2, '03)

A threadbare emperor tours the world
Despite the smiles and sycophancy that will greet President George W Bush as he swings around the world, all is not well within the empire, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. And there's trouble on the home front, too. - Jim Lobe (Jun 2, '03)

May 2003 

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