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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) ...

December 2003

Iraq reconstruction's bottom-line
A lack of electricity, a severe gasoline shortage and massive unemployment highlight the failure of the US-led reconstruction of Iraq. While insecurity and incompetence are partly to blame, the problems could be better explained by the US and its contractors' determination to hang on to as big a portion of the post-war bounty as possible. - Herbert Docena (Dec 24, '03)

US draws a bead on Pakistan, Saudi Arabia With the resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan showing no signs of weakening, the United States has developed a bold strategy to cut the supply lines to the guerrillas in these countries, starting with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Dec 24, '03)

Will Iraq survive the Iraqi resistance?
If the devastating anti-coalition strikes continue, Washington's moment of triumph following Saddam Hussein's capture will fade into a debilitating crisis of policy. Iraqi resistance will no more disappear than Russian resistance in World War II would have disappeared had Josef Stalin been captured. (Dec 23, '03)

Who needs WMD when there's Saddam?
Finding those weapons of mass destruction - remember the driving reason to invade Iraq - is now no big deal. "So what's the difference?" asks President George W Bush, now that the WMD myth has been exploded. And the faster Congress and the voters forget why they went to war ... the better. - Jim Lobe (Dec 19, '03)

Halliburton unscathed by flap
Despite a scandal involving overcharging US taxpayers for fuel in Iraq, the world's second-biggest oilfield services company - Dick Cheney's old firm Halliburton - is doing very nicely, thank you. Group revenues surged and the subsidiary that overcharged registered a stunning 80 percent rise in revenue. - Hussain Khan (Dec 19, '03)

Out for Saddam's blood 
For Iraqi Shi'ites and Kurds victimized by Saddam Hussein, his capture cannot compensate for the years of terror suffered at his hands. In their minds, Saddam has already been tried and convicted, and he deserves only one sentence - death. Some Sunnis agree. (Dec 19, '03)

Howard's deft political decision on Iraq
After avoiding involvement in America's unpopular war in Iraq, the leaders of Japan and South Korea have now been forced to get involved in the even more unpopular occupation in order to preserve their security alliances with the US. Australian Prime Minister John Howard's decision to do it the other way around has proved politically insightful. - Jeffrey Robertson (Dec 19, '03)

Assassination 'windfall' for Musharraf
Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, caught between an interfering United States on the one hand and an increasingly restive and powerful political opposition on the other, sorely needs an excuse to assert himself. The latest attempt on his life, therefore, could not have been better timed even if the general had ordered it himself. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Dec 18, '03)

Part 1: How Saddam may still nail Bush
The United States has caught its rat, but like any rat worth its name, Saddam Hussein can be expected, once he comes to trial, to deploy every dirty trick in the book to expose his captors. And he certainly has some incriminating stories to tell, reports Pepe Escobar in the first part of a two-part series. (Dec 18, '03)
Part 2: Why the resistance will increase
From tribal sheikhs to businessmen, from Sunni and Wahhabi religious leaders to cashiered soldiers to foreign jihadis, the Iraqi resistance has many faces, yet these disparate groups have a truly common agenda: a war against the US occupation of Iraq.   (Dec 19, '03)

Central Asia's great base race
Russia and the United States are fiercely competing for military bases, economic power and spheres of influence in Central Asia. Add the ambitions of China, India, Pakistan, the arms trade, the drug war, the rise of terrorism and pervasive misrule - and watch out. - Steven Blank (Dec 18, '03)

Baker's mission impossible
United States special envoy James Baker has elicited some positive responses from France and Germany over restructuring Iraq's massive forei/atimes/Asian_Economy.html4td vAlign=top align=left width=510/AFONT color=#999999 size=1/STRONGRussia and the United States are fiercely competing for military bases, economic power and spheres of influence in Central Asia. Add the ambitions of China, India, Pakistan, the arms trade, the drug war, the rise of terrorism and pervasive misrule - and watch out. - gn debt. But the going is likely to get much tougher, with the issue of reconstruction contracts for Iraq certain to be a part of the bargaining process, as well as Baker's vested financial interests therein. - Hussain Khan (Dec 17, '03)

Saddam's embarrassing lapse 
For Sheikh Mahmoud Nidda, head of Saddam Hussein's tribe, the good times have been over for a while. They just got worse. Now he wishes Saddam had had the pride to kill a few of his American captors before being killed himself. After all, dead men don't tell tales or embarrass their tribespeople. (Dec 17, '03)

India hush-hush on Saddam's capture
As India nurses its wounds over being excluded by the United States from bidding for Iraqi contracts, it's no surprise Tuesday's historic win by India's cricket team over Australia garnered more attention from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee than the capture of Saddam Hussein. - Siddharth Srivastava (Dec 17, '03)

Rumsfeld and his 'old friend' Saddam
Amid the jubilation over the capture of Saddam Hussein, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld might spare a moment to reflect on his cheery meeting 20 years ago almost to the day with the then all-powerful Iraqi president, and how that meeting helped shape the events that led to the dictator's ultimate demise. - Jim Lobe (Dec 16, '03)

Goodbye Saddam, hello ...
The capture of Saddam Hussein does not change the fact that the United States still needs the global community to close ranks behind its plans for the transformation of Iraq. - Ehsan Ahrari (Dec 16, '03)

Strategic trade-offs in Iraq
The success of the United States' hardline military policies in Iraq will hinge on the strategic balance that is struck between protecting US forces attempting to secure the region, and the levels of alienation and oppression felt by the Iraqi citizenry as a result of these actions. (Dec 16, '03)

Peace, but no stability

Saddam is history, but
who is the real enemy?

Neither the US Commander in Chief, President George W Bush, nor the commander of the US forces in Iraq, believes that the capture of Saddam Hussein will bring about a quick end to the Iraqi insurgency. But what should become clearer is whether the insurgency consists largely of Saddam and Ba'ath loyalists, as the US administration insists. - Jim Lobe and Peyman Pejman (Dec 15, '03)

A tale of two tyrants
With Saddam Hussein now finally in captivity and octogenarian Azerbaijan ruler Heydar Aliyev succumbing to a long illness, the rule of two of the world's dictators is officially over. Yet while Saddam is reviled by the Bush administration, it has nothing but praise for the Azeri hardman. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 15, '03)

A stroke of good fortune for Koizumi
Saddam's capture could not have been timed better for Junichiro Koizumi. The event, on the heels of an eloquent speech by the Japanese prime minister defending his decision to send troops to Iraq, will help him clinch his place in his country's history. - J Sean Curtin (Dec 15, '03) 

(Dec 12, '03)
Indian firms fight back for $10bn Iraq 'prize'
Indian companies, hoping to cash in on Iraq's reconstruction program to the tune of as much as US$10 billion, have been dealt a hammer blow by the Pentagon's restrictive policy. But the firms, and the government, are fighting back on all fronts, and their pressure could result in an about-turn in Delhi's policy of not sending troops to Iraq. - Siddharth Srivastava

Bush dangles another carrot
Undeterred by the storm created over the decision to bar "anti-war" countries from participating in the rebuilding of Iraq, US President George W Bush has offered offended nations another chance to have a slice of the $18.6 billion reconstruction pie other than by supplying troops.

Washington's axis of incoherence
Incoherencies in US policy toward Iraq, most recently highlighted by the decision to allow only "allied" countries to bid for reconstruction projects, reflect the disturbing lack of an underlying strategy behind which the key factional interests back in Washington could unite. - Jim Lobe

When regime change meets reality
Evident from the stream of problems faced by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington is coming to realize that it may have bitten off more than it can chew, making regime change in Iran and North Korea - much to the displeasure of the soup-slurping neo-cons - a far-away dream. - Ehsan Ahrari (Dec 12, '03)

Radicals may yet rue tackling Turkey
Turkey, with its secular orientation, relationship with the US, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its strategic alliance with Israel, was an obvious target for Muslim extremists in last month's suicide bombings. Nevertheless, attacking Turkey might still turn out to be a serious miscalculation. (Dec 12, '03)

New battlelines drawn in Iraqi sand
Just as United States-led forces have adopted a more aggressive, heavy-handed approach to the resistance in Iraq, the guerrillas have carefully honed their tactics to achieve maximum results with the least risk to their core units. In this new phase, the next few months will be critical for both sides. - Marc Erikson (Dec 11, '03) 

The bad news that just won't go away
From the United States failing to achieve its strategic goals to the deterioration of key indicators that point to a failed state, a number of new reports paint a bleak picture of the Iraqi occupation, and all conclude that the US is caught between Iraq and a hard place. - David Isenberg (Dec 11, '03)

The voice behind the intifada
Since famously launching the Palestinian intifada in 1987 from the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Dr Mohammed al-Shiekh Mahmood Sayam has traveled the world promoting his unbending views on the struggle, which he shares with Syed Saleem Shahzad. (Dec 11, '03)

US, Spain caught in Libya missile mixup
A missile shipment from North Korea that was intercepted a year ago by Spain has turned up in Libya, apparently with the quiet approval of the United States. Spain says Washington, which had already embarrassed its ally Madrid over the initial interception, has some serious explaining to do. (Dec 11, '03)

   Missiles go missing in Moldova

War critics lose out on $18.6bn bonanza
The Pentagon, citing "national security" reasons, has barred critics of the war on Iraq, such as France, Russia and Germany, from bidding for 26 reconstruction contracts in Iraq worth up to US$18.6 billion. (Dec 10, '03)

On the precipice in Afghanistan
United States-led Operation Avalanche is a display of military might not seen in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban two years ago. When the dust settles, though, the path of destruction could be significantly different from that envisaged by the US. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Dec 10, '03)

Iraq and Vietnam: Battles of will
The guerrillas fighting the occupation forces in Iraq can never defeat the mighty US military, but that is not their intention. Like their predecessors in Vietnam, they are seeking to sap the will of the American people to let their troops be killed in a far-off land. (Dec 9, '03)

Brothels and bombs in Saudi Arabia
The reasons for the suicide attack on a residential compound in Saudi Arabia on November 9 in which a number of foreigners were killed could  have a lot more to do with local social issues than political global ones: The compound was known as the "Arab brothel of Riyadh". - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Dec 8, '03)

When rabbis liked Hitler: A moral tale for the Mideast
The question of why the Muslim world views Jews in a fashion reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's can be answered by taking a look at pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany, a time when even the rabbis of Berlin sympathized with the fuhrer in his disdain for the moral decay running rampant in society. (Dec 8, '03)

Lessons of a bloody Sunday in Samarra
Intense debate over the veracity of the official version that United States forces killed 54 paramilitary Fedayeen forces in the northern Iraqi town of Samarra two Sundays ago provides an important pointer to the way in which the occupation is headed. - Jim Lobe (Dec 8, '03)

NATO's help comes with a price tag
Given the poor security situation in both Afghanistan and Iraq, about the only option that the United States has to enhance multinational troop commitment in these countries is to go to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Such help, though, will have a cost. - Ehsan Ahrari (Dec 8, '03)

Confessions of a failed jihadi
A well-educated and respected Pakistani teacher decides to give his life as a jihadi in the Kashmir Valley. But on the way to the fulfillment of this ultimate sacrifice, the man's commitment is undermined by the cynical manipulation he sees on the part of the soldiers who would send him to his death. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Dec 5, '03)

The US military: A creeping civilian mission
With every exception Washington makes to its own laws, the barrier keeping the United States military out of civilian activities is lowered, eerily echoing a fictional 1992 article depicting a post-coup America in which the military has full power in the White House. - David Isenberg (Dec 4, '03)

Fight authoritarianism to fight al-Qaeda
Authoritarian regimes are close, inward-looking, paranoiac, driven by the personality cult of the ruler and intellectually suffocating. Tackle Muslim countries with such systems, which spawn discontent, and the battle against al-Qaeda will really begin. - Ehsan Ahrari (Dec 4, '03)

The other side of radical Islam
The concept of radical Islam, as understood in the West, differs from what is generally perceived in the Muslim world, as Syed Saleem Shahzad finds out in discussions with Syed Munawar Hasan, a leading figure in Pakistan's largest fundamentalist party, the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan. (Dec 3, '03)

   Cracks in Pakistan's crackdown

Explosions, not fireworks: Turkey at 80
The four Islamic suicide bombers who carried out Turkey's worst terrorist attacks on the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the secular republic nudged the country one step closer into its own war of civilizations, pitching an increasingly religious underclass against the entrenched elite, guardians of the secular state. - Iason Athanasiadis (Dec 3, '03)

The American client
To call Uzbekistan a failed state is perhaps somewhat generous, given its political repression, bankrupt economy and insidious corruption. But the country ruled with an iron fist by Islam Karimov does have one thing going /FONTGoodbye Saddam, hello ... BR for it - it's firmly on side with the United States. (Dec 3, '03)

More power to the Ba'athists
It is obviously in the interests of the United States to end the jihadi problem in Iraq, but handing over provisional power to the Iraqi Governing Council, which has very little visibility or credibility, is not the answer. Bringing back former Ba'ath Party members is. - B Raman (Dec 3, '03)

    The Jordanian-Chechen jihadi connection

Oil on the flames of civilizational war
"The most dangerous book of the decade" features the writings of German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig, who in the 1920s predicted the struggle between Christianity and Islam. It comes at an important juncture, providing sophisticated intellectual support for the anti-Islamic gut instinct of American Christians. (Dec 2, '03)

Deaths add to Koizumi's dilemma
Domestic opposition in Japan to troop deployment in Iraq has intensified following the killing of two Japanese diplomats, further compounding Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's problems. - J Sean Curtin (Dec 2, '03)

Washington keeps its Iraq bases covered
Inviting the United Nations into Iraq appears to be the logical next step for the United States, now that it plans to transfer full power to an Iraqi government. But Washington's reluctance to do this may revolve around key strategic resources, making the prospect of US military bases in Iraq too enticing to pass up. - Jim Lobe (Dec 2, '03)

US intelligence under the microscope
The US government is in the midst of reassessing its intelligence community, a process some say is long overdue given its past and present blunders, and which is likely to see a softening of some earlier judgments about foreign arsenals. - David Isenberg (Dec 2, '03)

November 2003 

  For earlier articles,
  please go to:

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003

July 2003

June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

February 2003

January 2003

Dec 24-Nov 11, '02

Nov 10-Oct 11, '02

Oct 10-Sep 10, '02

Sep 9-Jul 20, '02

Jul 19-Jun 21, '02

Jun 20-Apr 9, '02

Apr 9-Jan 2, '02

Dec 31-Jul 26, '01



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