Of thousands killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, less than one third of the victims have been identified, including a record low number of ten last year, according to an international investigation.
A UK-based not-for-profit organization revealed the figures in the framework of their “Naming the Dead” project. Initially created for tracking US drone strikes in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, the project seeks to identify casualties, calling for accountability for the attacks.
According to project data, of 2,494 people confirmed killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, only 729 have been identified. In 2015 the names of those killed was extremely small – only ten of 60 allegedly killed by drones.
Five of ten victims were pronounced members of Al Qaeda, another three were named Pakistani Taliban fighters and the last two were aid workers from Western states.
The US carried out 13 drone attacks in Pakistan in 2015, killing about 60 people. While unnamed sources revealed to Naming the Dead that the vast majority of victims in the six attacks were Uzbeks, the data on the rest of those killed remains scarce.
In 2015, Pakistan authorities declined to assist in the identification process of victims, for the first time since the US launched its drone campaign.According to Common Dreams, ISPR, the Pakistani military propaganda division, could have banned the release of data pertaining to the issue. Islamabad has started a military campaign against terrorists and other non-state groups in Waziristan in 2014, preventing data from being leaked.
ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, is reportedly keeping secret the names of those murdered in drone attacks across the state’s tribal areas. Before 2015, the agency used to provide reporters and officials with the lion’s share of information on casualties, including those caused by American unmanned aerial vehicles.
ISI is still providing journalists with the names of Taliban and al Qaeda members murdered by US drones in Afghanistan.
But, as the Bureau announced, both Afghan and Pakistan officials tend to underestimate the number of casualties in bordering regions. They reported on 700 killed in drone attacks in 2015. In reality, Naming the Dead says at least 100 more people were killed.According to Washington, a total of 411 air and drone strikes were conducted in Afghanistan last year. But that’s all the authorities announced, leaving no specific information of number of killed people there.
pakistan-army_140093kPakistan has become an intermediary between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran against the background of increasing fears that a prolonged bilateral confrontation could potentially have serious consequences for the entire region. With a view to resolving the conflict, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan visited Riyadh and Tehran in January 2016. Both capitals responded favorably to the visits of the high-level guests, the tone of the Iranian leaders changed, the world stood still in anticipation of the detente… but no miracle happened. A few days later Riyadh firmly rejected both the mediatory role of Islamabad and the possibility of a dialogue.
Iran-Saudi tensions were escalating throughout 2015. Riyadh’s irritation grew after diplomatic missions of the Kingdom in Iran were raided, as well as in connection with the lifting of sanctions against Tehran by the United States and the European Union on January 16, 2016, which immediately promised to supply considerable stocks of crude oil to the world market to restore the status of the main hydrocarbon competitor of the KSA.
The mediatory role of Islamabad was quite understandable. Firstly, its concern was caused by the request of the Foreign Ministry of the KSA for the military establishment in Pakistan not only to send land forces into the zone of a potential conflict, but also to use nuclear weapons, the development of which had been actively financed by Riyadh for many years. In the past, Islamabad repeatedly declared the inadmissibility of a military intervention in a conflict on the side of any state within the Muslim Ummah.
Secondly, it was caused by Iran’s reaction to the establishment of an anti-terrorist alliance under the leadership of the KSA in December 2015. Islamabad was registered as its member, but it learned about it from statements of officials in Riyadh. The list included 34 more states, with the exception of Iraq, Iran and Syria. As the Saudi authorities explained later on, these countries had not been invited because of a lack of confidence in them.
Thirdly, Islamabad feared another surge of Sunni-Shiite massacres in its country, especially after the wave of protests that swept neighbouring Iran in early January 2016 in connection with the execution of the well-known Saudi Shiite preacher Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr by the leadership of the KSA on January 2, 2016.
Pakistan demonstrated impartiality during the growing tension between the two countries. It did not openly condemn the actions of Iran in connection with the attack on the diplomatic mission of the KSA, but it did not sever diplomatic relations with it either, as did a number of countries of the Persian Gulf; it stressed its neutrality even during the visit of the Foreign Minister of the KSA to Islamabad in mid-January this year.
Riyadh’s request to send several thousand Pakistani soldiers at the disposal of the authorities of the KSA changed the subsequent course of events. Islamabad immediately canceled a visit of the civilian Defense Minister H. Asif to Tehran in mid-January this year. In a short time, the Pakistani military and, in particular, the Army Chief of Staff General R. Sharif, initiated a project of mediation in the Iran-Saudi conflict.
On January 18 this year, two Sharifs (the namesakes – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General R. Sharif) visited Riyadh with a mission to settle disputes by peaceful means in the interest of the unity of the Muslims in these difficult times. The leadership of the KSA was sympathetic to the mission of Islamabad and handed over a list of items to the Pakistani delegation to be further discussed with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, assuring the guests from Islamabad that if the Islamic Republic of Iran showed positive signs, diplomatic relations could be restored.
The next day, on January 19, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan arrived in Tehran. It is fair to say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the first world leader who visited Iran after the lifting of sanctions. As reported by the Pakistani media, he managed to obtain a positive response from the Iranian leadership in respect of initiating the Iran-Saudi dialogue and regulating the issue of coordinators, whose mission, as planned, was to maintain business contacts with officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mediation of Pakistan yielded positive results. On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly condemned the attack on the embassy of the KSA in Tehran for the first time.
It seems that Riyadh and Iran heard each other thanks to the efforts of the intermediary. But instead of a triumph, Islamabad’s diplomacy failed once again. On January 25, 2016, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the KSA Adel Al Dzhubeir said that Tehran was pursuing a hostile policy towards the Arab world, and interfered in the internal affairs of foreign countries inciting religious strife and supporting terrorism. Of course, the efforts of Islamabad turned out to be useless against this background.
Riyadh’s refusal of Islamabad’s services in the development of dialogue with Tehran is due to several factors: the change in the overall political and military situation in the Middle East, the intensification of the military cooperation of the KSA with the United States and India (Indian military and, consequently, their arms are taking up the positions of Pakistani military trainers stationed in Riyadh under the previous agreements) and Islamabad’s repeated refusal to send land forces at the disposal of the KSA. We should recall that in late March 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised the Saudis to send his troops at the disposal of Riyadh, but in early April the parliamentarians, under pressure of the generals, refused to send their troops to fight against the Huthis in Yemen.
The mediation failure of the civil and military leadership of Pakistan to establish Iran-Saudi dialogue means that this time Riyadh excluded Islamabad from the list of its allies for a long time, and it will greatly reduce the amount of financial assistance and expand trade and economic, military and other contacts with its old rival – New Delhi.
The domestic policy of Pakistan is also in anticipation of change …The issue of the extension of the term of office of the Chief of Army Staff General R.Sharif (official retirement in late November this year), that has long been discussed in the country, has already been decided. On his return from a tour of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refused to extend General R.Sharif’s term of office. The army commander had nothing to do but to publicly declare his refusal to continue service and his retirement upon reaching the retirement age. The generals of Pakistan are one of the strongest and most masterful government institutions and have seized power in the country four times; the Army Chief of Staff is the de facto first person in the state. Thus, the completion of the anti-terrorist campaign initiated by General R.Sharif delivered has been jeopardized.
Reprieve – January 23, 2016
Today marks seven years to the day since President Obama’s first drone strike in office, which he was reportedly informed afterwards had killed innocent civilians.
Faheem Qureshi, was 14 years old at the time of the strike. It killed several members of his family and left him without his left eye and severely burned.
At the time, Faheem was a high school student whose favourite subject was chemistry. Several of his cousins and uncles were killed in the strike, which Faheem survived only because he was able to drag his body far enough away that people felt it was safe to provide aid. Faheem was hospitalised for 24 days in Peshawar before he was recovered enough to leave. To this day, he still requires medical treatment for head injuries suffered in the attack.
During his time in office, President Obama has significantly expanded the CIA’s covert drone programme in Pakistan and Yemen, launching over 500 strikes in those two countries alone. He has never fully acknowledged the programme’s existence nor apologised to any of the hundreds of Yemeni and Pakistani civilians who have been killed since the drone programme began. Analysis of data by international human rights NGO Reprieve in 2014 found that 1,147 people – including women and children – were killed in attempts to target 41 men, raising serious concerns about the ‘precise’ nature of strikes.
Last year, US citizen Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were mistakenly killed in a US drone strike. For the first and only time, President Obama admitted the US’ error and publicly apologised to the families of the two men. Attempts by Pakistani and Yemeni victims to get a similar apology have been met with silence.
Speaking about his ordeal this week to international human rights organization Reprieve, Faheem Qureshi said:
“On January 23rd 2009, a hellfire missile tore my family’s lives apart as they sat down to dinner. The drone strike – President Obama’s first – killed three members of my family. As the sole survivor, I lost my left eye and suffered serious head injuries. I was only 14 years old at the time, but I can still remember as if it was yesterday the feeling of my body burning and how I had to crawl from the rubble to get help. I am told reporting has since revealed that the President was told, almost immediately, that a mistake had been made. He had killed innocent civilians – my family – in the strike.
“In the years since, I have witnessed hundreds of drone strikes in my community that have killed many more innocent civilians. People became scared to go to funerals because drones targeted them. They became scared to remove bodies from the aftermath of a drone strike in case another strike hit. The constant threat from drones dominated every minute of our lives. And yet, seven years on, President Obama will not even fully acknowledge the existence of the covert drone program. The only ‘mistakes’ he acknowledges are an American and an Italian he accidentally killed last year.
“What about the hundreds of innocent Pakistanis who have also lost their lives in drone strikes? What about my family? President Obama knows we were innocent and yet we’ve never received an explanation for why we were targeted, much less an apology. As President Obama prepares to leave the White House, he needs to bring his drone programme out of the shadows. It is past time he face up to what his drones really do and apologise to me, to my family, and to all the other innocent people who have been killed by these terrible weapons.”
Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at international human rights organization Reprieve, which investigates civilian casualties from drone strikes, said: “For seven years, secret drone strikes have been President Obama’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. Taken covertly in places where the US is not at war, these strikes have killed and injured hundreds of innocent men, women and children just like Fahim. Yet, even as is own Generals warn how counterproductive the programme is, President Obama has refused calls for even basic transparency.
This is a legacy no president should want to leave. President Obama needs to bring a halt to this illegal and counterproductive programme. He needs to open it up to scrutiny and he needs to extend the same apology to the innocent Pakistani and Yemenis he has killed, as the one he extended to the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni La Porto. Fahim deserves nothing less.”
The United States in the past year dropped more than 20,000 bombs on Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
In an article published January 7, Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at CFR, states that since January 1, 2015, the United States has dropped an estimated 23,144 bombs in those six countries: 22,110 in Iraq and Syria; 947 in Afghanistan; 58 in Yemen; 18 in Somalia; and 11 in Pakistan.
“This estimate is based on the fact that the United States has conducted 77 percent of all airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, while there were 28,714 US-led coalition munitions dropped in 2015. This overall estimate is probably slightly low, because it also assumes one bomb dropped in each drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, which is not always the case,” Zenko writes.
Despite dropping tens of thousands of bombs over the past 17 months, Washington’s strategy has failed to defeat Daesh and other Islamic militant groups, Zenko observed.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban control more territory than at any point since the 2001 US invasion, according to a recent analysis in Foreign Policy magazine.
Zenko notes that the primary focus of Washington’s counter-terrorism strategy is to kill extremists, and that far less attention is paid to prevent a moderate individual from becoming radicalized.
As a result, “the size of [Daesh] has remained wholly unchanged,” Zenko writes.
In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency estimated the size of Daesh to be between 20,000-31,000 members. On Wednesday, Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, estimated the group at 30,000 members, despite Pentagon claims that 25,000 Daesh members have been killed in US air strikes.
At the same time, the Pentagon claims that only six civilians have “likely” been killed in the course of the bombing campaign.
Pakistanis have taken to the streets in Islamabad to express their anger at the government’s decision to join a Saudi-led coalition allegedly set up to counter terrorism.
Protesters presented a memorandum to the Pakistani Foreign Office, calling on Islamabad to withdraw from the Saudi-led alliance.
The demonstrators said Islamabad had agreed to join the Saudi-led coalition for money.
“Neither the Pakistan army nor the nation is for rent, we will oppose any attempts to sell the army to the House of Saud for a few billion riyals,” Gul-e-Zahra, a senior activist, said in an address to the rally.
Last December, Saudi Arabia said it had formed an alliance of 34 countries to combat terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Syria.
The kingdom has long been accused of supporting terror groups operating against the Damascus government.
Meanwhile, some of the key countries in the coalition have said they were surprised by inclusion in the group without their knowledge.
At the time when the coalition was announced, Pakistan reacted cautiously and said it needed further details before deciding the extent of its participation.
In a U-turn following the two-day visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Islamabad said Thursday it would join the Saudi-led coalition.
“Pakistan welcomes Saudi Arabia’s initiative and supports all such regional and international efforts to counter terrorism and extremism,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.
Pakistanis are also angry at the Saudi regime’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
On Friday, people staged a demonstration, chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia. They had staged another demonstration a day earlier to protest Saudi foreign minister’s arrival in Islamabad.
The establishment so wants everyone else to unfriend Trump supporters on Facebook. There’s even an app to block them. That’ll teach them!
Yes, Trump plays a bully boy and is appealing to populist (good), nativist, xenophobic, racist sentiments (bad). Those things need to be meaningfully addressed and engaged rather than dismissed by self-styled sophisticates, noses raised.
Focusing on the negative aspects of his campaign has blinded people to the good — and I don’t mean good like, oh, the Democrat can beat this guy. I mean good like it’s good that some of these issues are getting aired.
Trump is appealing to nativist sentiments, but those same sentiments are skeptical of the militarized role of the U.S. in the world — as was the case of Pat Buchanan’s 1992 campaign.
The New York Times recently purported to grade the veracity of presidential candidates. Of course by their accounting, Trump was off the scales lying. But he recently said the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State “killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity…. The Middle East is a total disaster under her.” Now, I think that’s pretty accurate, though U.S. policy in my view may be more Machiavellian than stupid, but the remark is a breath of fresh air on the national stage.
But I’ve not seen anyone fact check that, because that’s not an argument much of establishment media wants to have. Of course, a few sentences later Trump talks about the attack on the CIA station in Benghazi, causing Salon to dismiss him as embracing “conspiracies,” which is likely all many people hear.
Shouldn’t someone who at times articulates truly inconvenient truths be noted as breaking politically correct taboos? Trump says such truths — like at the Las Vegas debate about U.S. wars:
We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.
Which I think is a stronger critique of military spending than we’ve heard from Bernie Sanders of late.
But Trump — or Rand Paul’s — remarks about U.S. policies of regime change and bombings are often unexamined. It’s more convenient to focus on our kindness in letting a few thousand refugees in than to examine how millions of displaced people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali might have gotten that way because of U.S. government policies.
People say Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants is unconstitutional. News flash: the sitting Democratic president has bombed seven countries without a declaration of war. We’ve effectively flushed our constitution down the toilet. Does that justify violating it more? No. But the pretend moral outrage on this score is hollow.
And there’s a logic to the nativist Muslim bashing. It’s obviously wrong, but it’s rational given the skewed information the public is given. Since virtually no one on the national stage is seriously and systematically criticizing U.S. policy — it’s invasions, alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel — then it makes sense to say we’ve got to change something and that something is separating from Muslims.
Some sophisticates slam Trump for acting in the Las Vegas debate like he didn’t know what the nuclear triad is. Well, I have no idea if he knows what the nuclear triad is or if he was just acting that way. But I’m rather glad he didn’t adopt the administration position of saying it’s a good idea to spend a trillion dollars to “modernize” our nuclear weapons so we can efficiently threaten the planet for another generation. People may recall that for all the rhetoric from Obama on ending nuclear weapons, it was Reagan who apparently almost rose to the occasion when Gorbachev proposed getting rid of nuclear weapons. But Reagan is totally evil, so “progressives” have to hate him and so we’re not supposed to remember that.
So much of our political culture just lives off of hate. People hated Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, so they backed anything GW Bush wanted. People hated GW Bush, so they backed Kerry or Obama or whoever without condition, no matter where it lead. People hated Assad, so they helped the rise of ISIS. People now hate ISIS — some apparently want to nuke ’em — that will almost certainly lead to worse. John Kasich — the great reasonable Republican moderate — says “it’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose” — who cares if that brings us closer to nuclear war. Many demonize Trump — at last, someone from the U.S. who some in the mainstream label a Hitler. Hate, hate, hate, hate. Can we just view people for who they are with clear eyes, assessing the good and bad in them?
Trump calls for a cutoff of immigration of Muslims “until we can figure out what the hell is going on” — which, given our political culture’s seeming propensity to never figure out much of anything, might be forever. Then again, he’s raising a real question. Says Trump: “There’s tremendous hatred. Where it comes from, I don’t know.” Now, a reasonable stance would be to say let’s stop bombing until “we can figure out what the hell is going on.” But Trump — unlike virtually anyone else with a megaphone — is actually raising the issue about why there’s resentment against the U.S. in the Mideast.
Virtually the only other person on the national stage stating such things is Rand Paul, though his articulations have also been uneven and have been a pale copy of what his father has said.
Of course, what should be said is: If we don’t know “what the hell is going on!” — then maybe we should stop bombing. But that doesn’t get processed because the general public lives under the illusion that Obama is a pacifistic patsy. The reality is that Obama has been bombing more countries than any president since World War II — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
At the Las Vegas debate, Trump said: “When you had the World Trade Center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia.” Which is totally mangled, but raises the question of Saudi Arabia with relation to 9/11.
Half of what Trump says is boarderline deranged and false. But he also says true things — and critically, important things that no one else with any media or political access is saying.
Yes, Trump says he’ll bomb the hell out of Syria, as does virtually every other Republican candidate. But Obama’s already bombing the hell out of Syria and Iraq — but it’s quiet, so people think it’s not happening. So they reasonably think passivity is the problem.
What people are right in sensing is that Obama, Bush and the rest of the establishment is playing endless geopolitical games and they’re right to be sick of it. The stated goals — democracy in the Mideast, getting rid of WMDs, stability in the right and protecting the U.S. public are obviously not going to be achieved by the policies of the establishment. They in all likelihood are pretexts and the planers have other, unstated, objectives that they are pursuing.
Trump touts his alleged opposition to the Iraq war. Some of us launched major campaigns to try to stop the 2003 invasion. I don’t remember seeing Trump at any of the anti-war rallies in 2002, but he apparently made a few remarks in 2003 and 2004. Certainly nothing great or courageous. But it’s good that someone with the biggest megaphone is saying the Iraq war was bad. People who are getting behind him are thus reachable on the U.S. government’s proclivity toward endless war.
And perhaps think for a minute about what a Trump-Clinton race would be like, given that she voted for the invasion of Iraq.
Now, Trump may well be no different if he were to get into office. But he conveys the impression that he will act like a normal nationalist and not a conniving globalist. And much of the U.S. public seems to want that. And that’s a good thing. He’s indicating that there’s a solution to constant war and that he’s different from everyone else who has signed on to perpetual war. It’s good that that’s energizing people who had given up on politics.
Trump — apparently alone among Republican presidential candidates — is saying that he will talk to Russian President Putin. Having some sense that the job of a president is to attempt to have reasonable relations with the other major nuclear powered state is a serious plus in my book. He conveys the image of being a die-hard nationalist, but — unlike most of our recent leaders — not hell-bent on global domination. People who want a better world should use that.
No prominent Democrat has taken on the position that we should really seriously examine the root causes of anger at the U.S. government. The public is never presented with a world view that does that. The only one on the national stage in recent memory to have done so in recent history was Ron Paul — and he was demonized in ways similar to Trump by much of the liberal establishment in 2008.
Bernie Sanders has of course rightly touted his vote against the Iraq invasion in 2002 and has very correctly linked that invasion to the rise of ISIS. But Sanders had a historic opportunity to address these issues in a debate just after the Paris attack on Nov. 13, and actually didn’t seem to want to talk foreign policy. Now he’s complaining about a lack of media coverage. Yes, the media are unfair against progressive candidates, but you don’t do any good by refusing to engage in what is arguably the great, defining debate of our time.
Even more troubling has been that Sanders has adopted the refrain that we need to have the Saudis “get their hands dirty.” That’s exactly the wrong approach and one shared with most of the Republican field. Even at the liberal extreme, Barbara Lee has declined to take issue with the U.S. arming with Saudi Arabia as it kills away in Yemen.
In terms of economics, Trump is alone in the Republican field in defending in a progressive tax. Tom Ferguson has noted: “lower income voters seem to like him about twice as much as the upper income voters who like him in the Republican poll.” Trump has “even dumped on some issues that are virtually sacred to the Republicans, notably the carried interest tax deduction for the super rich.” Writes Lee Fang: “Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree.”
Can progressives pause for a moment and note that it’s a good thing that someone who a lot of people who have checked out of the political process are backing someone saying these things?
It’s important to stress: I have no idea what Trump actually believes. Backing him as person is probably akin to picking a the box on The Price is Right. He could of course be even more authoritarian than what we’ve seen so far. The point I’m making is what he’s appealing to has serious elements that are a welcome break from the establishment as well as some that are reactionary.
I have no personal love lost for Trump. Truth is, I lived in one of his buildings when I was growing up in Queens. His flamboyance as my dad and I were scraping by in a one bedroom apartment rather sickened me. I remember seeing the recently completed Trump Tower in Manhattan for the first time as a teen with my father and my dad bemused himself with the notion that he’d own one square inch of the place for the monthly rent checks he wrote to Trump for years.
And Trump for all I know is a total tool of the establishment designed to implode, as some of critics of Bernie Sanders have accused him of Sheepdogging for Hillary Clinton, so too Trump might be doing for the Republican anti establishment base. Or he might pursue the same old establishment policies if he were ever to get into office — that’s largely what Obama has done, especially on foreign policy. Trump says “I was a member of the establishment seven months ago.”
The point is that the natives are restless. And they should be. It’s an important time to engage them so they stay restless and funnel that energy to constructive use, not demonize or tune them out.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry says he was surprised that Saudi Arabia included Pakistan in a so-called anti-terror coalition whose formation Riyadh recently announced.
The foreign secretary said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s decision on the inclusion of Pakistan in the 34-country coalition, adding that Riyadh never gained Pakistan’s consent for the move.
Chaudhry said he was surprised to read the news a day earlier that Pakistan will be part of the Riyadh-led coalition with an alleged goal of combating terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani foreign secretary has asked the ambassador to Riyadh to get a clarification from Saudis on the matter. In addition, a later report on the website of the Dawn daily quoted a Pakistani Foreign Office statement as saying that Pakistani officials are awaiting details from the regime in Riyadh to decide whether to participate in the coalition.
Pakistan’s army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said Islamabad’s policy is not to look for any involvement ‘outside our region.’
This is the second time in a year that Pakistan regrets Saudi Arabia’s uncoordinated naming of the country in a foreign military mission. In April, Islamabad announced that it will not join a group of Arab countries in the Saudi deadly campaign against Yemen.
Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the formation of the military coalition, saying countries such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several other African and Persian Gulf states form the coalition. Saudi state television said the headquarters of the alliance will be based in Riyadh.
This comes as Saudi Arabia is known as the main supporters of terror groups like Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
Pakistan says its import of gas from Iran through a pipeline is the best option as the stalled project is given new impetus with anticipated lifting of sanctions on Tehran.
The energy crisis in Pakistan which suffers about 12 hours of power cuts a day has worsened in recent years amid 4,000 megawatts of electricity shortfall which the Iran gas pipeline is being fostered to cover.
Iran has completed its part of the project with more than $2 billion of investment but Pakistan has fallen behind the target to take gas deliveries in the winter of 2014.
Addressing a seminar on business opportunities in the clean energy sector in Washington Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khaqan Abbasi said he hoped sanctions on Iran would be removed soon.
“The Iran gas line project is the best option for Pakistan. But as long US sanctions are there, we cannot buy gas from Iran,” the website of the Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.
The remarks came as Turkmenistan’s leader last month ordered construction of a $10 billion rival pipeline to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan to begin despite questions about the project.
The US has long lobbied against the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, promoting Turkmen over Iranian natural gas even though the route requires the extra distance of more than 700 km across Afghanistan.
Western giants such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Total have held off on committing to the project all the more because of Afghanistan’s insecurity and the region’s complex geopolitics.
Contractually, Pakistan has to pay steep fines to Iran for failing to build and operate its section of the pipeline by the winter of 2014 but Abbasi shrugged off the postulation.
“Not our fault. We made several attempts in the last 18 months to complete the project on our side. But no investor, no builder came forward,” the minister claimed.
“Once the sanctions are lifted, we will work on this project. A pipeline is always more reliable than other options,” he added.
Besides the expected lifting of sanctions, the bolstered prospects of the Iran gas pipeline arise from China’s $46 billion investment project dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Officials say up to $2 billion has been earmarked as part of the package for the Iran pipeline extension, running from Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar to the Nawab Shah district.
The energy-starved country imports about 100 megawatts (MW) of Iranian electricity for to the areas near their border. The government has said it was in final stages of negotiations to increase electricity imports from Iran to 1,000 MW.
Trade between Iran and Pakistan plunged to $217 million in 2014 from its peak of more than $1.3 billion in 2009.
World demand for gas is growing faster than any other energy source, and will grow by a third in the next 25 years, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The growing demand opens up great opportunities for increasing production and exports of gas. At the same time, it’s a major challenge, because there’s a need to dramatically accelerate the development of new deposits, modernize the refining capacities, expand gas transportation infrastructure, bring into operation additional pipelines and make new LNG routes”, said Putin at a Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Tehran on Monday.
According to Putin, Russia seeks to increase its gas output by 40 percent by 2035, reaching 885 billion cubic meters. One of the biggest tasks ahead of Russia is to boost the supplies of gas to China, India and other Asian countries from the current 6 percent to 30 percent, said Putin. Kremlin also intends to triple the LNG supplies. He added that Russia would be able to deal with all these tasks.
During his visit, Putin is meeting with Iranian leaders. He’s talked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about energy cooperation, Syria and other key issues. Putin’s also meeting Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.
The recent events in Paris were undoubtedly horrific, and our thoughts are with those affected by these atrocious acts. The victims and their families, innocent people who did not volunteer to fight in any war, these defenseless civilians were attacked in the most heinous way possible.
And while the world’s media turns its gaze to Paris, there is another act of terrorism happening every day that the corporate media chooses to ignore.
It seems the main export of the USA and UK is terrorism, but sugar coated and wrapped in the PR-friendly guise of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘protecting our freedoms’, making the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians easier to swallow, or more frequently, completely ignore.
Perhaps ironically then, is the fact that these acts are of course illegal and a violation of international law, and the sad truth is that these rouge nations, the USA and UK themselves are the biggest threats to freedom and democracy. We are witnessing doublespeak in action.
To date, the USA has been responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people since the end of World War II, in 37 nations. A report by James A. Lucas of Counter Currents explains:
This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also responsible. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.
These figures do not include the full figures of more recent violations, such as drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Statistics obtained by the Bureau Investigates reveal that approximately 2,464 – 7,177 people have been murdered in these nations. It is also estimated that 90% of those killed in these attacks are innocent civilians.
Make no mistake, each one of these 500-plus drone strikes is nothing less than a tax-payer funded terrorist attack.
At the time of publication, there are also a high number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the illegal invasions, which has cost in excess of a staggering $1,500,000,000,000.
This means nothing to the corporations who profit from global terrorism.
While the little amount of corporate media coverage that is devoted to exposing profiteering remains largely focused on oil firms, there are trillions of dollars being made in the supply of arms.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems as well as many others – often with government connections, are raking in billions of dollars from government contracts.
For example, Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in contracts in a single year.
So while my heart goes out to the victims and families of those affected by the despicable acts carried out in Paris, should we not also turn our outrage and contempt for these cowardly acts towards our own governments – who not only obliterate innocent lives on a daily basis, but actually allow profiteering from mass-murder, resulting in a never-ending cycle of destruction that we’re funding with our taxes.
The ending of terrorism begins with us.
The Financial Times recently reported that Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama has conducted ten times more drone strikes than his predecessor George W. Bush. As far as we can tell, that number is somewhere in the ballpark of 500 strikes and spans a wide array of countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. We can’t know for sure exactly how many drone attacks have taken place, who is conducting them, how many people have been killed by them, or how many other countries have been victim.
It’s important to Obama that the extent of his drone wars remain secret. His peaceful veneer would quickly disintegrate if we had an accurate Obama-death-toll. Drone wars have been kept so secret, in fact, that Obama’s former Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, revealed that he was instructed not to acknowledge or discuss their existence. A handful of investigative journalist groups like The Long War Journal have been left conducting important but difficult guess work about Obama’s drone wars, as if putting together a large puzzle one small piece at a time.
All the while, the American public is left clueless as to the activities being conducted in their name. Obama proclaims that “a decade of war is over,” while behind the scenes he expands the scope of the War on Terror. As a result of our being kept largely ignorant of our government’s actions, we are all the more astounded when the consequences of such wars come to fruition.
The phenomenon of blowback results from the American government’s actions abroad which cause tremendous resentment within local populations. When retaliation for these actions arrives at our shores or against Americans abroad, as it inevitably does, the American public is shocked and appalled, wondering what could possibly prompt such heinous actions. Hungry for answers, Americans are then fed simple explanations by politicians, such as, “they hate our way of life,” or “their religion commands them to commit such acts.” Never are we provided the context in which such reprisals occur. And because so many Americans willingly accept the state’s spoon-fed version of events, they largely tolerate a domestic police and surveillance state that is said to keep them safe from such “terrorists.”
Tribal areas of Afghanistan surveyed about the psychological effects of drones reveal a people living in terror, unable to sleep, with children often kept home from school for fear they’ll be targeted. Though generally out of sight, drones can constantly be heard buzzing overhead, creating a persistent state of fear. Despite our being told of the precision of drone strikes, subject populations have described massive civilian casualties and widespread destruction of property.
Consequently, large swaths of these foreign populations living under drones view the United States in a negative light. One Pew Research Center study found that three quarters of Pakistanis now view Americans as the enemy. One would expect similar numbers from the many other countries across the Middle East and Africa in which America now conducts drone strikes. Blowback is not limited to those directly terrorized by drones either. General Stanley McChrystal stated “resentment created by [drones] … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Though it’s shrouded in secrecy, this new form of American warfare will be Obama’s legacy. The “sanitization” of war offered by drones (introduced on a grand scale by Obama) all but ensures America will never again be without foreign conflict at the hands of crazed politicians. As drone technology continues to improve, the rest of the world will be more at risk of attack by the American war machine, and Americans less safe as a result. As Obama’s time in the White House winds down, let’s remember that he escalated the War on Terror. He’s offered his successors the safety of precedent to fall back on and opened new frontiers for American military demolition. Barack Obama had the opportunity to curtail America’s destructiveness around the world, and instead, he amplified it.
Seven months ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron lamented the “sickening murder” of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kaseasbeh by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). President Barack Obama also decried the “viciousness and barbarity” of the act. In his home country, al-Kaseasbeh was remembered as a “hero” and a “martyr” by government officials. Obama even declared his murder demonstrated ISIS’s “bankrupt” ideology. The killing was seen by the Western coalition and allied Arab monarchies fighting ISIS as a symbol of the evilness of their enemies, and by contrast the righteousness of their own cause.
The act that precipitated such a strong outpouring was the purported execution of the 26-year-old al-Kaseasbeh. He was burned alive inside a cage after several months in captivity. As part of ISIS’s propaganda campaign, they posted the video on Youtube. The authenticity of the video has since been questioned, but there is no doubt that regardless of the method used, he was indeed killed.
Al-Kaseasbeh was not an innocent civilian. In fact, he was a pilot in the Royal Jordanian Air Force who was bombing territory controlled by ISIS in an F-16 fighter jet. That is to say, he was an active combatant in military hostilities. His combatant status would be equivalent to an ISIS pilot (if they had an Air Force) apprehended after bombing New York City or London. Though it was reported in the British newspaper The Telegraph that al-Kaseasbeh was “kidnapped,” a military combatant engaged in armed conflict on the battlefield cannot be kidnapped. He was captured.
According to the Geneva Conventions, Prisoners of War enjoy protected status that guarantees their humane treatment and eventual release at the end of hostilities. “POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities. Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict. They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities,” writes the International Committee of the Red Cross.
ISIS would have no legal grounds to kill al-Kaseasbeh, but it was cynical and sanctimonious for the Western coalition to react with such outrage when he was killed. Those same countries have embraced and celebrated summary assassinations and executions on a scale far more massive than anything ISIS could ever be capable of.
Several weeks ago, Cameron ordered the assassination of two British citizens in Syria alleged to be ISIS militants.
“The strike against British citizen Reyaad Khan, the ‘target of the strike,’ was committed without approval from Parliament. British citizen Ruhul Amin, who was killed in the strike, was deemed an ‘associate’ worthy of death,” writes Kevin Gosztola in Shadowproof.
The British government has not declared war on Syria and has not released any legal justification for its actions. Naturally, any legal documentation they did produce would be merely psuedo-legal cover that would never withstand real judicial scrutiny.
Cameron’s actions in ordering the murder of his own citizens follows the well-treaded path of Obama, whose large-scale drone program in as many as seven countries (none of which the US Congress has declared war on) have killed more than 2,500 people in six years. The President has quipped that he is “really good at killing people.”
By any measure, the drone assassination program has been wildly reckless and ineffective. One study determined that missile strikes from unmanned drones, launched by remote-control jockeys in air-controlled trailers in the American desert, kill 28 unknown people for every intended target. In Pakistan, a study revealed that only 4% of those killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda.
Among the victims have been 12 people on their way to a wedding in Yemen, and a 13-year-old boy who said that he lived in constant fear of “death machines” that had already killed his father and brother before taking his own life.
“A lot of the kids in this area wake up from sleeping because of nightmares from then and some now have mental problems. They turned our area into hell and continuous horror, day and night, we even dream of them in our sleep,” the now-deceased boy, Mohammed Tuaiman, told The Guardian.
Before Cameron did so, Obama also targeted citizens of his own country for assassination without trial. The most well known case is of Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a drone strike in 2011. The government claimed he was operationally active in al-Qaeda, but this was never tested in court.
“It is likely the real reason Anwar al-Awlaki was killed is that he was seen as a radicalizer whose ideological activities were capable of driving Western Muslims to terrorist violence,” writes Arun Kundnani in The Muslims Are Coming!.
In other words, the Obama administration decided his speech was not protected by the 1st amendment to the US Constitution, and rather than being obligated to test this theory in court they unilaterally claimed the right to assassinate him, the way King John of England would have been able to order the execution of one of his subjects before signing the Magna Carta 800 years ago.
Three weeks later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was killed in a drone strike. An Obama adviser justified the strike by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.”
Writing on his blog, former British security services officer Craig Murray claims that in light of the decision 20 years ago by the European Court of Human Rights that targeted assassinations when an attack was no imminent were illegal, the British government cannot claim its drone strike in Syria “is anything other than murder.”
“For the government to claim the right to kill British people through sci-fi execution, based on highly unreliable secret intelligence and a secret declaration of legality, is so shocking I find it difficult to believe it is happening even as I type the words. Are we so cowed as to accept this?” Murray writes.
So what makes ISIS’s killing supposedly morally outrageous compared to the US and British drone strikes?
Was ISIS’s killing less morally justified? Al-Kaseasbeh was a combatant who had been dropping bombs on the people who eventually killed him. That much is beyond dispute. The US and UK kill people through drone strikes merely for being suspected militants who might one day seek to attack those countries.
Were ISIS’s methods less humane? Certainly burning a human being alive is sadistic and cruel. But is it any less so to incinerate a human being by a Hellfire missile? Former drone operator Brandon Bryant told NBC News that he saw his victim “running forward, he’s missing his right leg… And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” Is a drone strike less cruel because the operator is thousands of miles away from the bloodshed and watching on a screen rather than in person?
Were ISIS’s actions terrorism while the US/UK actions were not? As the late Mohammed Tuaiman attested, he and his neighbors were terrified by the omnipresence of the “death machines” that could at any second of the day blow him to pieces without warning or the possibility of escape. Were the people in ISIS controlled territory as terrorized as Tuaiman by the burning of the Jordanian pilot, who was specifically targeted because he had been caught after bombing the same people who now held him captive? Surely they were not more terrorized, though perhaps they might have been equally so.
It would by hypocritical to justify one form of extrajudicial killing while demonizing another. Yet that is exactly what happens when one form of violence is undertaken by a state and another is not. The New York Times is indicative of broader public opinion when it decries the “fanatical vision” of ISIS that has “shocked and terrified the peoples of Iraq and Syria,” while accepting Obama’s rationalizations of deaths via drone strikes as collateral damage, maintaining only that he should “provide a fuller accounting” to enable an “informed debate.”
The apologies for state violence enable the shredding of the rule of law as a method of accountability for those in power, while other states take advantage of technical advances to proliferate their own sci-fi violence against their own citizens and others.
“Pakistan is the latest member of a growing technological club of nations: those who have successfully weaponized drones,” writes Spencer Ackerman in The Guardian. “In addition to the US, UK and Israel, a recent New America Foundation report highlighted credible accounts that Iran, South Africa, France, China and Somalia possess armed drones, as do the terrorist groups [sic] Hamas and Hezbollah. Russia says it is working on its own model.”
One day in the not too distant future, the skies across the world may be full of drones from every country dispensing justice from Miami to Mumbai via Hellfire Missiles, relegating the rule of law and its method of trial by jury to the ash heap of history. And it will not be because of terrorist groups like ISIS that governments and the media are so forceful to condemn, but because of governments themselves and their lapdogs in the media who refuse to apply the same standards in judging violence to states that have their own Air Forces.