ATol Specials


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

Iraq Diary
by Pepe Escobar
    March-April 2002

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) ...

September 9 - July 20, 2002

Why Arabs are forced to back Saddam
Most Arab League countries have enough problems already, from political unrest to economic woes, and the last thing they need is US aggression in their region. Trouble is, no one in Washington is listening. - Hooman Peimani (Sep 9, '02)

   Reform grinds to a halt

The new Afghan jihad is born
The redoubtable Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan, successfully rallied diverse forces in the jihad to drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. In his new jihad against US-led soldiers he is doing the same, this time with the help of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Sep 6, '02)

   Afghanistan back to dog Bush

Inside Saddam's security network
Over the decades, Saddam Hussein has erected a vast and complex spider's web of security organizations, all of which have one aim in common - keeping the Iraqi dictator in power, at any cost. - David Isenberg (Sep 5, '02)

Russia rooting for a quick hit on Saddam
A former Iraqi leader used to say that it is possible to rent an Arab, but never to buy him. The Russians understand this well, which is why they want a quick US strike against Saddam Hussein, lest a protracted occupation of Iraq upset Moscow's oil strategy. - John Helmer (Sep 4, '02)

Washington betrays China's Uighurs
The recent US decision to include the East Turkestan Islamic Movement on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations may win it some short-term favors from China, but at a heavy price. The move gives the green light to further persecution of the Uighurs of western China, driving peace-loving but desperate people into the terrorist camp. (Sep 4, '02)

Hard rain in the desert
Saudi Arabia is a land caught in a roil of contradiction that must somehow be reconciled if the kingdom is to survive. And the day is fast approaching when the Saudis must choose. Will they follow Wahhabism? Will they join the West? Or will the world soon witness the fall of the House of Saud? (Sep 4, '02)

South Asian blowback
With Pakistan and Afghanistan both still fragile, the new great game in South Asia is far from won. Despite US victories, Islamic militants have found relatively immune sanctuaries in both countries, from where they can be expected to extract a steep price for the American presence. - Stephen Blank (Sep 3, '02)

Kabul: Rocking, rolling and 'carpet bombing'
Saucy parties, foreign movies, female emancipation, buzzing bazaars. Kabul is a sea change removed from the stifling capital it was under the Taliban. Or is it? Under the surface, the cracks that have existed in the blighted country for decades are widening, despite - or because of - the best intentions of the US and the West. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 3, '02)

The 'Ugly American' fights back
Although some view it as another brash attempt to impose its views, the US State Department is pushing ahead with a meeting of leading academics and government officials tasked with exploring the roots of anti-Americanism and finding ways to better sell America overseas. - James Borton (Sep 2, '02)

   Extremists in the ascendancy

Georgia and Russia square off
Georgia, emboldened by the presence of US "military advisers" on its soil, is increasingly unsettling neighboring Russia, to the extent that they could soon be exchanging blows, not just angry words. - Hooman Peimani (Sep 2, '02)

Al-Qaeda tales: The North African connection
With al-Qaeda still active across the globe, it is the cell in North Africa - with tentacles in Mauritania, Somalia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt - that is today most dangerous, most energetic and in the best position to strike at US interests. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Aug 30, '02)

Osama is in Kunar, but the US can't get him
Afghanistan's claims that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan are a smokescreen - he and senior al-Qaeda (now called Fath-e-Islam) members are busy plotting in Kunar province in the wilds of northeast Afghanistan - and the US can't do a thing about it. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 28, '02)

Russia flirts with US's axis of evil ...
When it comes to looking after its own interests, Russia is quite prepared to go against the US - as amply evidenced by Moscow's friendly dealings with Washington's axis of evil - Iran, Iraq and North Korea. - Ehsan Ahrari (Aug 28, '02)

... as buildup ends the US-Russian honeymoon
The expanding American military presence in Russia's proximity will contribute significantly to a strategic rift between Moscow and Washington, with serious regional and global implications. - Hooman Peimani (Aug 28, '02)

Israel ready for war with Iraq
Israel expects to be targeted by Iraqi Scud missiles - possibly carrying chemical or biological warheads - as soon as full-scale war breaks out. Stopping the Scuds in flight is difficult, so Israel is ready to strike hard at launch sites near the Jordan border, with nuclear weapons if necessary. - Marc Erikson (Aug 27, '02)

Pakistan in the shadow of terror
The US is way off the mark when it says that the hundreds of captives at its prison in Cuba are the "hardest of the hardcore" al-Qaeda fighters. The real heavyweights have regrouped in Pakistan, and they have terror on their minds. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 27, '02)

Paving the road to hell
By now, Kashmiris of every religious persuasion have figured out the intelligent response to news that a well-intentioned Western diplomat is on his way to "de-escalate tensions" in the region. Run for cover. - Paul Belden (Aug 27, '02)

Tribal land, Taliban land
From bearded, gun-toting fighters to clean shaven citizens, many Taliban have simply melted into the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan - but they are just as deadly, as one of their leading intelligence planners reveals to Pepe Escobar (Aug 26, '02)

The Bush family's phony wars
An entire region, from Jordan to Iran, is on the brink of catastrophe as it awaits one man's decision on how he will pursue his family's vendetta against Saddam Hussein. K Gajendra Singh, India's former ambassador to Jordan, looks inside the Pandora's Box which George W Bush has in his hands. (Aug 26, '02)

US will delay attack on Iraq at its peril
As Iran and Saudi Arabia intensify efforts to draw together those opposed to a US attack on Iraq, the Iraqi ambassador to Pakistan offers his views on the real reasons for Washington's obsession with ousting Saddam Hussein. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Aug 22, '02)

Unintentional SAARC-asm

When the subject of terrorism came up at the meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Nepal this week, the organization's spokesman had an answer ready: "Everyone is opposed." There was no obvious sarcasm in his voice. - Paul Belden  (Aug 22, '02)

Terror stalks Musharraf
Terror in Pakistan has demonstrated that it won't spare churches, consulates or schools. And it will try its best to strike at Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whom the al-Qaeda forces gathering in Pakistan have declared their number one enemy. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 21, '02)

Pakistan's heart of darkness
The situation in Pakistan's isolated Balawaristan, where total control is exercised by Islamabad through the army, makes the region an ideal and secret place for the relocation of the dislocated hub of international terrorism - including al-Qaeda. (Aug 21, '02)

Inside information
Saddam Hussein knows that his most potent weapon is an information war which, to be effective, must begin well before the onslaught of a US military campaign - and it has. - Ehsan Ahrari (Aug 21, '02)

Bahrain turns to Iran
Bahrain is no heavyweight in the Arab world, but its recent strengthening of ties with Iran is a discernible tilt in influence in the energy-rich Persian Gulf away from Washington and toward Tehran. - Hooman Peimani (Aug 21, '02)

Washington goes to war over war
Washington's Republicans are at war with themselves, fighting for the heart and mind of President George W Bush and what he decides to do about Iraq. The war is being savagely fought in the press, pitting the likes of former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell against Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. (Aug 20, '02) 

Kashmir: Democracy in the shadow of terror
Journalists and others observing next month's state elections in Indian-administered Kashmir will note the grim cycle of violence that has led to the deaths of scores of politicians this year alone. They should also note where this violence originates so that the culprits can be brought to book - Pakistan. (Aug 20, '02)

Seven fallacies of US plans to invade Iraq
It is widely put about that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction. There is simply no proof of this, and it's just one of the fallacies in Washington's justifications for an attack on Saddam Hussein. (Aug 19, '02)

Musharraf braces for jihadi backlash
Under pressure from the United States, President General Pervez Musharraf had little choice but to crack down on jihadi groups based in Pakistan - but he has still to pay the full price for what the groups view as a betrayal. - Aijazz Ahmed (Aug 19, '02)

Iraq: In all but name, the war's on
"Wait and see," George W Bush said when asked how he would oust Saddam Hussein. Wait no longer: the US in fact has been waging real war on Iraq for some time. Marc Erikson details the action. (Aug 16, '02)

Saudi Arabia next in line?
Saudi Arabia is well aware that the "regime change" the US is planning for Iraq has nothing to do with evil governments - it's all about oil - and Washington's designs on the region will therefore not stop with the ouster of Saddam Hussein. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 16, '02)

Al-Qaeda and the skimming scam
Al-Qaeda is far from a spent force, with reports of a significant regrouping in Pakistan, and the use of a tried and tested credit card "skimming" scam to move money around the world to fund its activities. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Aug 16, '02)

The ties that bind Iran and Saudi Arabia
From bitter foes to collaborators on sensitive security issues, Iran and Saudi Arabia have come a long way in recent years - a clear indication that they are dancing to their own tune, not to that of the United States. - Hooman Peimani (Aug 15, '02)

Washington sets sights on Iran, Saudi Arabia
Iran and Saudi Arabia have emerged as targets of a US attempt to sow turmoil in countries that have the clout to upset Washington's plans for war with Iraq - but neither Tehran nor Riyadh is sitting passively by. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Aug 14, '02)

Al Jazeera: Qatar's secret weapon?
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television station rocked the world with its Osama bin Laden exclusives, but now some some Arab countries are the focus of its hard-hitting broadcasts - and they don't like it. (Aug 14, '02)

Important distinctions - the many faces of Islam
A growing number of neo-conservatives in the United States are calling on Washington to deem Saudi Arabia an enemy because of the Wahhabite form of Islam it practices. These Americans have unlikely allies: Asia's moderate Muslims. (Aug 14, '02)

India ready to sacrifice Iraq for the US
Even though Delhi has close ties with Baghdad, the United States can rest assured that India won't raise too much of a fuss in the event of an attack on Iraq. - Sudha Ramachandran (Aug 13, '02)

ARF breaks new ground
The ASEAN Regional Forum, the Asia-Pacific's premier security organization, has been criticized as little more than a talking shop, long on rhetoric but short on concrete action. That changed at the group's recent meeting, which committed the region to a specific battle plan in the war on terrorism. (Aug 13, '02)

Lake Arabia
All the attention on Saudi Arabia's King Fahd and his vast entourage in Switzerland, where they are on a spending binge, cannot deflect from the fact that the monarch and his inner circle might have more on their minds than shopping. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 9, '02)

Terror in the Land of the Thunder Dragon
Kashmir may get the headlines, but it is far from India's only source of cross-border separatist terrorism. From bases high in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, an array of loosely allied splinter groups has proved quite capable of causing trouble on both sides of the mountainous border. (Aug 7, '02)

The oil factor in an attack on Iraq
The United States has already taken measures to protect itself from oil shortages in the event of an attack on Iraq. Not so well placed are Japan and Europe, which rely heavily on supplies from the Persian Gulf. - Ehsan Ahrari (Aug 6, '02)

Avoiding the clash of civilizations
There's no doubt that religion has become a decisive force in the contemporary world, but the precise nature of that force remains an open question. Will it be the wellspring of peace and harmony? Or the launch pad of endless crusade and jihad? The world must choose. If religion fails to become a part of the solution, it will surely remain a part of the problem. (Aug 6, '02)

Asian security: China seizes the moment
US foreign policy and its anti-terrorism campaign as outlined by Colin Powell hardly won a ringing endorsement during his recent trip to Asia. And with impeccable timing, China jumped into the fray as an unlikely power broker between an increasingly unilateralist United States and an increasingly jittery Association of Southeast Asian Nations. - Alan Boyd (Aug 5, '02)

Instability - Afghanistan's only constant
A renewed US offensive against Taliban guerrillas, increased Pakistani intelligence activity and ever-troublesome warlords add up to only one thing for Afghanistan - another long period of instability. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Aug 5, '02)

Shoot the dog
Faithful "puppy dog" British premier Tony Blair will seemingly do anything that his master George W Bush commands, even if it means joining in an attack against Iraq and turning a deaf ear to the leaders of the many countries who refuse to jump through the hoops for the US. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 5, '02)

PART 1: A plan is hatched
The United States' plan to invade Iraq is complicated by a lack of accurate intelligence about Baghdad's weapons programs, including its chemical, biological and even nuclear capabilities.  (Jul 29, '02)
PART 2: Military preparations
Apart from the United Kingdom, the US will essentially be on its own once it decides to attack Iraq. Still, the tacit support of regional allies will be of crucial importance. 
(Jul 30, '02)
PART 3: Iraq prepares
Iraq has responded to the threat of war by appeasing its hitherto antagonistic neighbors, and by plotting a military strategy that will certainly not be as naive as the one it adopted in the previous war with the US more than a decade ago. 
(Jul 31, '02)
PART 4: Voices of opposition
The United States is unlikely to pay much heed to countries that oppose its plans to attack Iraq. What is far more worrying to Washington is that the opposition within Iraq to Saddam Hussein's regime may be of little use in any change of regime. (Aug 1, '02)
PART 5: The aftermath
Assuming that a US attack on Iraq succeeds on removing Saddam Hussein, the problems involved in ensuring subsequent stability in the country and in the region will be far more challenging than the attack itself. (Aug 2, '02)

The (Rumsfeld) show must go on
Although the US is diplomatically isolated, with its military far from ready for a strike against Iraq any time soon and the chance of such a strike reaping the desired results doubtful, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld continues to rattle the sabre. - Pepe Escobar  (Jul 31, '02)

The lonely diplomat
Secretary of State Colin Powell is the top diplomat in a US administration that values militancy over diplomacy. And ironically, during his current trip to Asia, he has had to concentrate on strengthening the coalition against terrorism - the very focus that has undermined his own power since September 11. (Jul 30, '02)

The Iraqi street could pay the price for war
Caught between George W Bush and Saddam Hussein, ordinary Iraqis could find themselves in a desperate position when Operation Desert Something becomes reality. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 30, '02)

Malaysia and Iran: Axis of reason?
A recent meeting between Iran's pragmatic president, Mohammad Khatami, and the champion of the modernization of Islam, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, could have far-reaching implications for a war against terrorism that looks beyond US-style militarism and goes to its very roots. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jul 29, '02)

Japan's ambivalence on war with Iraq
A not-so-secret meeting of Japanese Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials has discussed the option of extending Tokyo's military backing for the US-led war on terrorism to include logistical support for a US attack on Iraq. That it is even being considered has raised plenty of eyebrows in Japan. - Axel Berkofsky (Jul 24, '02)

Jul 19-Jun 21, '02

  For earlier articles,
  please go to:

Jul 19-Jun 21, '02

Jun 20-Apr 9, '02

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