The surrealism of the US-Pak relationship

The surrealism of the US-Pak relationship

Adam Entous and colleagues report for WSJ:

About once a month, the Central Intelligence Agency sends a fax to a general at Pakistan's intelligence service outlining broad areas where the U.S. intends to conduct strikes with drone aircraft, according to U.S. officials. The Pakistanis, who in public oppose the program, don't respond.

On this basis, plus the fact that Pakistan continues to clear airspace in the targeted areas, the U.S. government concludes it has tacit consent to conduct strikes within the borders of a sovereign nation, according to officials familiar with the program.

Read the whole thing.

Egypt, Pakistan, the US and the "right side of history"

Congress is going ahead with plans to make aid to Egypt, including military aid, contingent on Egypt’s relations with Israel and a successful transition:

Reflecting concerns about uncertainty within the Egyptian government, the bill would restrict $1.3 billion in security assistance to Cairo and $250 million in economic assistance until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that Egypt is abiding by a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, military rulers are supporting the transition to civilian government with free and fair elections and “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion and due process of law.” 

These and other restrictions — notably on the Palestinan Authority and Pakistan — carry “national security wavers” — meaning the Secretary of State can easily lift them. ( Read more: Congress moves to restrict aid to Egypt, Pakistan )

Meanwhile Mamoun Fendi says Egypt could be come worse than Pakistan and underlines Tantawi’s experience in that country during the abominable reign of Zia al-Haq:

The past experience of three major players on the Egyptian political scene ― the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the US Embassy and Islamists ― suggests that Egypt may soon come to resemble Pakistan.

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Tantawi, eating his words

From the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, in a report on Wikileaks US Embassy cable reports on Pakistan: 

The dismissive attitude towards Pakistan is, however, not limited to Western governments. In a cable dated December 21, 2009, Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi told US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair that Egypt encountered the same suspicions from Pakistan as the US did. Pakistanis, he said, “don’t trust Egyptians either.” He went on to say that “while the Pakistanis were ‘difficult’… Egypt was still trying to ‘work with them.’” According to the cable, Mr Tantawi, who has previously served as the Egyptian Defence Attache to Pakistan, also pointedly noted that “any country where the military became engaged in ‘internal affairs’ was ‘doomed to have lots of problems.’”

Priceless.

Tantawi's history as Egyptian Defense Attaché in Pakistan in the 1980s — probably as a major conduit in the Saudi and US-led effort to send mujaheddin to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — deserves a closer investigation. The relationships Tantawi must have developed with key actors in that semi-covert war (which Egypt backed, with even al-Ahram carrying advertisements to "join the jihad" in Afghanistan) such as Prince Bandar. Hence the long-held rumor that not only Tantawi has close relations with the al-Sauds, but also that he is a religious conservative whose views would not be out of sync with the Muslim Brothers. 

Bin Laden finally dead

A bittersweet moment: he deserved to die, but it took so long  to track him down, despite all of the billions spent in intelligence and high-tech defense gear, that by the time he died it seemed almost irrelevant to the wider problems of the region. Also, to think of all the time and lives wasted, and the unnecessary, criminal ventures like the war on Iraq that were justified in the name of fighting Bin Laden. But I'm a believer in revenge, and symbolically this is important for the US, and for the families of the victims of 9/11. Let's hope this might be used as an occasion to turn the page in US foreign policy. 
Several things do strike you, though. First, outside of Pakistan and the US this won't be much of a big deal — and it probably wouldn't have been either at any point in the last decade, which goes to show how the alarmism about Bin Laden being some kind of popular figure in the Muslim world was misplaced. Secondly, where's Ayman Zawahri? And thirdly, the amount of Pakistani complicity with Bin Laden really seems beyond the pale. From the NYT:

The strike could exacerbate deep tensions with Pakistan, which has periodically bristled at American counterterrorism efforts even as Bin Laden evidently found safe refuge on its territory for nearly a decade. Since taking office, Mr. Obama has ordered significantly more drone strikes on suspected terrorist targets in Pakistan, stirring public anger there and prompting the Pakistani government to protest.

When the end came for Bin Laden, he was found not in the remote tribal areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border where he has long been presumed to be sheltered, but in a massive compound about an hour’s drive north from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. He was hiding in the medium-sized city of Abbottabad, home to a large Pakistani military base and a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

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Biggus Dickus

Oh, the joy of this reporter:

A high level Pakistani diplomat has been rejected as Ambassador of Saudi Arabia because his name, Akbar Zib, equates to "Biggest Dick" in Arabic. Saudi officials, apparently overwhelmed by the idea of the name, put their foot down and gave the idea of his being posted there, the kibosh.

Akbar Zib is no newcomer to politics, in fact you could say he's a pretty big deal. This long-ranging high level diplomat has worked with some of the largest members of world governments, players charged with negotiating the outcome of the world's current events.

Other GCC countries have refused [Ar] his credentials, too. Via Anonymous Arabist.

A wonder of a book

If you're still looking for Christmas presents, I recommend Daniyal Mueenuddin's quite amazing In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. The book is a collection of linked short stories (characters that are central in one, will flitter through the background of another). Two of them had appeared previously in the New Yorker, and they are both magnificent. Mueenuddin is a great talent: his writing seems to overflow with wonderful, memorable images; his stories take swift, striking turns. For example, describing a secondary character, an old man: "The oversized head had settled heavily onto the shoulders, like a sand castle on the beach after the sea has run in over it." The book has received many positive reviews. The stories are set in Pakistan, between the 1970s and the present. Mueenuddin presents a view of Pakistani society that is deeply divided between haves and have-nots, absolutely ruthless, and in which sex is a form of leverage and romantic love is often a delusion and the beginning of a downfall. Yet--despite the fact that almost everyone involved is fighting desperately for a foothold of some sort, and generally losing that fight--there are moments of beauty, hope and tenderness. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda writes that "Because of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry, to mention just a few of the most prominent authors, American readers have long been able to enjoy one terrific Indian novel after another. But Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is likely to be the first widely read book by a Pakistani writer." Yet as Amit Chaidhuri, in a review of Nadeem Aslam's latest book, points out, Pakistani writing has had a growing international audience for some time now:
What is Pakistani writing? Whatever it might be, it seems to have taken up newsprint lately. Things have been changing quickly and irrevocably over the last seven or eight years: a great symbol of American capitalism was destroyed by two aeroplanes; this was followed, some years later, by a crash in the market no less resounding and sudden; in South Asia, Pakistan (marginalised and nearly abandoned by post-Cold War politics) has been veering between being a frail democracy and becoming a basket case. In no obvious way connected to all this, a handful of Anglophone writers has recently been emerging from that country. Most of them are young, and have written one or two or three books; some, like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammed Hanif, have successful careers and lives elsewhere. Their work is not part of the long 20th century; they are not a necessary component of a post-colonial efflorescence, as Indian Anglophone writing appeared to be in the 1980s; they are not in any clear way a part of a national literature; they do not bring with them the promise of offering to the reader the ‘sights and sounds’ of what used to be, in Kipling’s time, North-West India. They are a 21st-century phenomenon, appearing at a time when the new supposed fundamentals of this century – free-market dominance, the end of history, the clash of civilisations – suddenly seem frayed and ephemeral. Pakistani writers are interestingly poised: implicated in both the unfolding and the unravelling of our age.
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Links for 10.26.09 to 10.27.09

LRB · Nicolas Pelham: Diary | Nic Pelham's diary about Gaza. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Talks Youth | Second in a series on youth and the NDP in Egypt: “We have to use the Internet, especially with so many people trying to turn our achievements into failures and to tarnish the reputation of public symbols. We have to be present online to correct those misconceptions.” Now who could they be talking about? ✪ Almasry Alyoum| Gamal Mubarak: Nepotism "Unknown To Private Sector" | In this story, Gamal says nepotism "is part of Egyptian culture." You don't say. ✪ Chomsky Receives Highest Pentagon Honor | Chomsky book "Interventions" banned in Gitmo. ✪ YouTube - Slackistan Trailer | This is a good and funny idea - you could do it in the Arab world, too. ✪ Inanities: The Gamal Show | About Gamal's Sharek event: "The Gamal Show is Gamal Mubarak’s attempt to convince us that he’s Barack Obama." ✪ Bakchich: Interroger des… interrogatoires | Accounts of police interrogations of non-fasters in Morocco, interrogates them about Abou Bakr Jamai (prominent editor forced into exile), and more. Thoroughly depressing. ✪ Arab Media & Society | The end of the beginning: The failure of April 6th and the future of electronic activism in Egypt | About online activism, its failure so far, and how to move beyond cynicism. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Gamal Mubarak And The Power Of Web 2.0 | First in a series of articles about the NDP's efforts to attract young Egyptians to politics. This one focuses on Gamal Mubarak's "Sharek" (Participate) online Q&A event. ✪ J Street's Ben-Ami On Zionism and Military Aid to Israel - Jeffrey Goldberg | A very revealing interview of J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami which conirms my doubts about the whole project. ✪ Morocco press freedom on the decline, RSF study shows (Magharebia.com) | A marked increase in fines, imprisonement and intimidation of the press. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - A Presidential Battle without Candidates | Muhammad Salah on the Egyptian presidency.
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Links for 10.13.09

Essay - The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate - NYTimes.com | Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, this is pretty cool. ✪ BBC NEWS | Europe | 'Al-Qaeda-link' Cern worker held | Terrorist attack of potentially cosmic proportions: "The suspect had been working on the LHC Beauty (LHCb) experiment, which is investigating the slight differences between matter and anti-matter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark"." ✪ Kurdistan Halts Oil Exports - NYTimes.com | Over payment dispute with central government. ✪ AFP: Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail | In other words, a Hamas member is treated like an Egyptian. ✪ Erotic Poet Cavafy’s Trace Fades in Egypt’s Mythic Alexandria - Bloomberg.com | The usual nostalgia for cosmopolitan Alexandria. Do visit the Cavafy museum when in Alex, though. ✪ Loonwatch.com - "The Mooslims, they're heeere!" | A newish website that tracks Islamophobia, with a particular lookout for the kind of people who write for Middle East Forum and other reflexively anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sites. ✪ Middle East: a Belgian solution? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | This is a funny, surreal headline but Khaled Diab is very misinformed about Belgian politics: the Belgian model is not pragmatic compromise, but rather wasteful deadlock. ✪ Ben Barka: Le dossier secret de la gendarmerie - affaire ben barka - leJDD.fr | Ben Barka's body said to have been incinerated outside of Paris. ✪ Tariq Ali: Ahmed Rashid's War | Nasty attack on Ahmed Rashid by Tariq Ali. Don't know if any of this is true, but Ali alleged Rashid operates on behalf of Hamid Karzai. ✪ Middle East News | Egypt detains 24 Muslim Brotherhood members | More zero-tolerance in Egypt towards people protesting in solidarity with Palestinians. ✪ Algerian Islamists in the Era of Reconciliation « The Moor Next Door | On the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brothers, and their relationship with the regime. ✪ New Statesman - Textbook injustice in Gaza | Gazan children go back to school with few textbooks, and anything else for that matter. ✪ FT.com / UK - Airline flies on natural gas | Qatar experiments with natural gas-derived kerosene, which makes sense for the country with the world's biggest gas fields. ✪ Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis - Yahoo! News | One day there will be many trials ya Bibi... and until then Israeli officials will be less and less able to travel abroad. ✪ Palestinian Memo says Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated' Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "JERUSALEM, (AP) – An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians."
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Links January 29th and February 3rd

Automatically posted links for January 29th through February 3rd:

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Links January 7th and January 8th

Automatically posted links for January 7th through January 8th:

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Links for November 29th

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Links for November 24th

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Del.icio.us links for November 21st

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