Brewing Conflict Between The Islamic Horns

Included in the group was Sheik Nimr al- Nimr, a prominent Saudi Shia imam and monarch critic whose execution brought worldwide condemnation, most notably from Iran, a majority Shia nation.
Included in the group was Sheik Nimr al- Nimr, a prominent Saudi Shia imam and monarch critic whose execution brought worldwide condemnation, most notably from Iran, a majority Shia nation.
Swift reaction filled the streets of Iran over the cleric’s death that culminated in the ransacking and torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Saudis severing diplomatic ties with Iran. Around the world observers are looking at the tensions with more questions than answers.
“Why now?” asked Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam. “The timing for these executions is questionable. They knew these executions would cause a great upheaval in Iran. Just as the sanctions against Iran are being lifted, just as the nuclear deal with America is going into effect, this happens. “Why execute a cleric who didn’t throw one bomb or commit a terrorist attack? Now countries are taking sides causing more division in the Muslim world … this was a strategic mistake,” Mr. Muhammad said.
Some political analysts say another trouble source between Saudi Arabia and Iran are proxy war engagements in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain and abroad in Africa where critics have accused the Saudis of financing and backing chaos. Reports say Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa, has joined Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan in either severing relations or expressing discontent with Iran following the protest at the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
“We have to understand all of the recent events between Iran and Saudi Arabia in a geopolitical context,” said Eric Draitser, political analyst and founder of
“This is not a conflict that has just simply arisen in the last few weeks, this is something that has been going on for quite a long time,” he added.
“There is a global proxy war ongoing between Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other side,” Mr. Draitser told The Final Call.
Abayomi Azikiwe, a political commentator and editor of Pan Africa Newswire, agrees and sees the move as part of a broader strategy to fuel destabilization in the Muslim World.
“I think that the Saudi monarchy is working hand and glove with the United States and other imperialist forces and it was a deliberate attempt to incite further sectarian violence and division in the Muslim World,” said Mr. Azikiwe.
“We see it in what’s been happening in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen and Saudi support for the Islamic State and other so-called extremist organizations,” he explained.
American-Saudi relations go back to the kingdom’s beginning in the 1930s with U.S. businessmen drilling for oil. However strained lately with U. S. nuclear negotiations with Iran—which the Saudis oppose—and U.S. advances toward normalizing relations with Iran—broken since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled an American puppet regime there at the time.
The fall out of Saudi Arabia and Iran is not limited to the Middle East, but extends into Africa. Thousands of miles away in Nigeria, people are watching these events very closely. On Dec. 13, Nigerian forces raided and arrested Shia cleric Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. The raid destroyed property and scorched part of his home. There is speculation that Saudi Arabia and Qatar partly financed the operation in Nigeria.
Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi
“Since then the Saudis and the Qataris have been pushing their power projection all throughout Africa,” Mr. Draitser said. The bloodshed in Nigeria reflects that, he said.
“Sheikh al-Zakzaky is seen by the Saudis as essentially, a proxy of Iran,” Mr. Draitser said. He’s also been accused of dissent, just like Sheik Nimr.
The Saudis are “striking back at what they perceive to be their growing instability and loss around the world,” Mr. Draitser insisted. Mr. Draitser believes the execution of Sheikh al-Nimr and the attacks on Sheikh al-Zakzaky are part of a larger “counter move” by Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Iran’s successful engagement in the Syrian war. Iran, allied with Russia, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, is proving successful in countering efforts to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in partnership with America, Turkey, Israel and other Western neo-colonial powers.
“It’s the same in Yemen where the Saudis have waged an illegal war massacring thousands upon thousands of innocent Yemenis … reaching no strategic objective and finding themselves in a total quagmire,” Mr. Draitser.
The Saudis blame Iran who they accuse of backing Houthi rebel fighters the kingdom is fighting in Yemen.
In the wider scheme “they are in fact working to create these conflicts” and a pretext for intervention by America, NATO, Israel and others in the region, North Africa, Asia or “where ever they can benefit and exploit the divisions,” said Mr. Azikiwe.
For many in Iran, the Saudis are a problem and the execution of Sheik Nimr al-Nimr was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “It started earlier in 2015 with the sexual abuse of two teen boys at the airport in Jeddah, next the thousands of Iranian pilgrims killed during the stampede at hajj, and finally the Saudi’s hate Shias,” international activist Ali Mehrabi told The Final Call from Iran.
Mr. Mehrabi believes the executions were done to set Iran up to show anger and then face more isolation from the international community.
“Saudi doesn’t agree with the Iranian nuclear deal. They are pessimistic and want (Iran’s isolation) now more than ever. Our reaction was predictable. People here are fed up. Saudi wants everyone in the region to be like them. They want to show their power so they got other countries to condemn us also.”
“The Muslim World is in desperate need of leadership to solve this Sunni-Shia conflict. We have a divided ummah (community). It’s very negative and it’s going to get worse if immediate attention is not given to the situation. Iran had asked for Sheik Zakzaky’s release,” Imam Douglas Owen Ali told The Final Call. He is living in Nigeria as a consultant to the government.
“The leadership that is necessary has to come from the West, from the Muslims in the best position to bring guidance to these dark times. I think those Muslims are the converts who understand how to build bridges of understanding,” said Imam Ali.
Revolution is brewing everywhere. I woke up to the news this morning of the split between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia on one side, Iran on the other and many Arab Muslim nations have pulled their ambassadors away from Iran and now it is like a state of war exists between Muslims,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in a recent interview with The Final Call newspaper. (See edited excerpts from the interview.)
He has expressed concern about continued division in the Muslim world, the toll it will take and how the inability of Muslims to reconcile has the potential to ignite the region. He also called for an understanding of what is unfolding as the world watches and the enemies of Islam foment division.
“I think in Time and What Must Be Done, No. 34 (a groundbreaking 52 week video series released in 2013), I mentioned war in the Middle East. I mentioned that area will be drenched in blood, and the blood that will be shed in that area of the world is for the purification of that part of the world for the Real Children of Israel, the People of God, to come back and occupy that part of the world. It belongs to the Original People of the earth, and it is written that the Messiah would lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land,” he said.

Deterrence Assures Mutual Destruction Revelation 15

Wed, 13 Jan 2016, 01:36 AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, obsessed with his Holocaust fears and motivated by his political agenda, could not resist Tuesday hinting what has been so clear to the rest of the world for two decades – the fact that the Israeli submarine fleet was mainly established for the purpose of deterrence and, according to foreign reports, to grant Israel the capability of a second nuclear strike.
On Tuesday, the Israel Navy’s fifth submarine anchored at Haifa Port after a 3,000 kilometer voyage from the German shipyards in Kiel where it was built.
“Above all, our submarines serve to deter enemies that aspire to destroy us,” Netanyahu stated at the ceremony.
The decision to build a significant submarine fleet was a result of strategic thinking and advantage of the circumstances.
In the 80s, Israel feared, as it does today, that the Middle East was going nuclear with Iraq’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. At the same time, Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during the first Gulf War in 1991.
It turned out that German companies had supplied Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, with technology and materials for a suspected chemical weapons program.
To cleanse its conscience, Germany agreed to finance the manufacturing of the first new Israeli submarines.
According to foreign reports, this led to further German consent to subsidize more submarines for Israel as long as they were built in the Kiel shipyards, thus also helping the German economy.
Thus, fat Germany financed half the cost of the Israeli submarine fleet.
Navy experts, led by the late admiral Avraham Botzer, estimated that it would require at least nine subs to make the Israeli navy strategically effective. They argue that at any given moment three subs will be on routine missions, three at docks for maintenance and three always available to carry out strategic assignments.
Indeed, until recently, the Israel Navy was on its way to accomplish its strategic vision and mission as Germany agreed to subsidize the manufacturing of the sixth sub, according to foreign reports.
But then a new reality emerged. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, under budgetary pressure, decided to postpone the purchase of the sixth sub – a decision that was only natural since it coincided with recent developments regarding Iran since the naval build up was primarily aimed to be a deterrence against Iranian efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities.
Once Iran’s aspirations were suppressed by the nuclear agreement reached last summer with the world powers, Israel had more leeway and breathing space, so it was decided that the purchase of sixth sub would be delayed to take place by 2020.
In the meantime, the submarine fleet will continue to perform its other capabilities in long-range intelligence and clandestine missions in the Mediterranean, and according to foreign reports, in the Red Sea and even the Indian Ocean leading to the Persian Gulf.

North Korea To Expand Its Nuclear Arsenal (Daniel 7:7)

North Korea calls for expansion of nuclear arsenal

kim jong un
KCNA/ReutersKim Jong Un addresses commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in this photo released April 2, 2014.
Last week’s nuclear test was North Korea’s fourth, although the United States and experts doubt the North’s claim that it was of a more powerful hydrogen bomb, as the blast was of about the same size as that from an atomic bomb test in 2013.
“(Kim) called for bolstering up both in quality and quantity the nuclear force capable of making nuclear strikes at the US-led imperialists any time and in any space … if they encroach upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and make threatening provocations,” the official KCNA state news agency said.
The North’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Kim “set forth the important tasks to be fulfilled to bolster up the nuclear force,” it said, and called for the “detonation of more powerful H-bomb in the future.”
Kim was speaking at a ceremony to award scientists and others behind last week’s nuclear tests, which North Korea has been touting in state media as a major achievement.
In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese nuclear experts have warned that North Korea may have 20 nuclear warheads and the capability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to double its arsenal by 2016. That estimate exceeded most previous US assessments, which ranged from 10 to 16 bombs at the time.
On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to pass legislation that would broaden sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Babylon Moves Into Tactical Nukes (Daniel 8)

JANUARY 11, 2016
As North Korea dug tunnels at its nuclear test site last fall, watched by American spy satellites, the Obama administration was preparing a test of its own in the Nevada desert.
A fighter jet took off with a mock version of the nation’s first precision-guided atom bomb. Adapted from an older weapon, it was designed with problems like North Korea in mind: Its computer brain and four maneuverable fins let it zero in on deeply buried targets like testing tunnels and weapon sites. And its yield, the bomb’s explosive force, can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage.
In short, while the North Koreans have been thinking big — claiming to have built a hydrogen bomb, a boast that experts dismiss as wildly exaggerated — the Energy Department and the Pentagon have been readying a line of weapons that head in the opposite direction.
Mr. Obama has long advocated a “nuclear-free world.” His lieutenants argue that modernizing existing weapons can produce a smaller and more reliable arsenal while making their use less likely because of the threat they can pose. The changes, they say, are improvements rather than wholesale redesigns, fulfilling the president’s pledge to make no new nuclear arms.
But critics, including a number of former Obama administration officials, look at the same set of facts and see a very different future. The explosive innards of the revitalized weapons may not be entirely new, they argue, but the smaller yields and better targeting can make the arms more tempting to use — even to use first, rather than in retaliation.
Gen. James E. Cartwright, a retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was among Mr. Obama’s most influential nuclear strategists, said he backed the upgrades because precise targeting allowed the United States to hold fewer weapons. But “what going smaller does,” he acknowledged, “is to make the weapon more thinkable.”
As Mr. Obama enters his final year in office, the debate has deep implications for military strategy, federal spending and his legacy.
The B61 Model 12, the bomb flight-tested last year in Nevada, is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise.
Already there are hints of a new arms race. Russia called the B61 tests “irresponsible” and “openly provocative.” China is said to be especially worried about plans for a nuclear-tipped cruise missile. And North Korea last week defended its pursuit of a hydrogen bomb by describing the “ever-growing nuclear threat” from the United States.
The more immediate problem for the White House is that many of its alumni have raised questions about the modernization push and missed opportunities for arms control.
It’s unaffordable and unneeded,” said Andrew C. Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense and former director of the Nuclear Weapons Council, an interagency body that oversees the nation’s arsenal.
He cited in particular the advanced cruise missile, estimated to cost up to $30 billion for roughly 1,000 weapons.
“The president has an opportunity to set the stage for a global ban on nuclear cruise missiles,” Mr. Weber said in an interview. “It’s a big deal in terms of reducing the risks of nuclear war.”
Last week, Brian P. McKeon, the principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, argued that anyone who looks impartially at Mr. Obama’s nuclear initiatives in total sees major progress toward the goals of a smaller force and a safer world — themes the White House highlighted on Monday in advance of the president’s State of the Union address.
“We’ve cleaned up loose nuclear material around the globe, and gotten the Iran deal,” removing a potential threat for at least a decade, Mr. McKeon said.
He acknowledged that other pledges — including treaties on nuclear testing and the production of bomb fuel — have been stuck, and that the president’s hopes of winning further arms cuts in negotiations with Russia “ran into a blockade after the events in Ukraine.”
He specifically defended the arsenal’s modernization, saying the new B61 bomb “creates more strategic stability.”
Early in his tenure, Mr. Obama invested much political capital not in upgrades but in reductions, becoming the first president to make nuclear disarmament a centerpiece of American defense policy.
In Prague in 2009, he pledged in a landmark speech that he would take concrete steps toward a nuclear-free world and “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” The Nobel committee cited the pledge that year in awarding him the Peace Prize.
A modest arms reduction treaty with Russia seemed like a first step. Then, in 2010, the administration released a sweeping plan that Mr. Obama called a fulfillment of his atomic vow. The United States, he declared, “will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities.”
The overall plan was to rearrange old components of nuclear arms into revitalized weapons. The resulting hybrids would be far more reliable, meaning the administration could argue that the nation would need fewer weapons in the far future.
Inside the administration, some early enthusiasts for Mr. Obama’s vision began to worry that it was being turned on its head.
In late 2013, the first of the former insiders spoke out. Philip E. Coyle III and Steve Fetter, who had recently left national security posts, helped write an 80-page critique of the nuclear plan by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group that made its name during the Cold War, arguing for arms reductions.
American allies and adversaries, the report warned, may see the modernization “as violating the administration’s pledge not to develop or deploy” new warheads. The report, which urged a more cautious approach, cited a finding by federal advisory scientists: that simply refurbishing weapons in their existing configurations could keep them in service for decades.
“I’m not a pacifist,” Mr. Coyle, a former head of Pentagon weapons testing, said in an interview. But the administration, he argued, was planning for too big an arsenal. “They got the math wrong in terms of how many weapons we need, how many varieties we need and whether we need a surge capacity” for the crash production of nuclear arms.
The insider critiques soon focused on individual weapons, starting with the B61 Model 12. The administration’s plan was to merge four old B61 models into a single version that greatly reduced their range of destructive power. It would have a “dial-a-yield” feature whose lowest setting was only 2 percent as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The plan seemed reasonable, critics said, until attention fell on the bomb’s new tail section and steerable fins. The Federation of American Scientists, a Washington research group, argued that the high accuracy and low destructive settings meant military commanders might press to use the bomb in an attack, knowing the radioactive fallout and collateral damage would be limited.
Last year, General Cartwright echoed that point on PBS’s “NewsHour.” He has huge credibility in nuclear circles: He was head of the United States Strategic Command, which has military authority over the nation’s nuclear arms, before serving as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a recent interview in his office at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, General Cartwright said the overall modernization plan might change how military commanders looked at the risks of using nuclear weapons.
“What if I bring real precision to these weapons?” he asked. “Does it make them more usable? It could be.”
“Mr. President, kill the new cruise missile,” read the headline of a recent article by Mr. Weber, the former assistant secretary of defense, and William J. Perry, a secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton and an author of the plan to gradually eliminate nuclear weapons that captivated Mr. Obama’s imagination and endorsement.
The critique stung because Mr. Perry, now at Stanford, is a revered figure in Democratic defense circles and a mentor to Ashton B. Carter, the secretary of defense.
Mr. McKeon, the Pentagon official, after describing his respect for Mr. Perry, said the military concluded that it needed the cruise missile to “give the president more options than a manned bomber to penetrate air defenses.”
In an interview, James N. Miller, who helped develop the modernization plan before leaving his post as under secretary of defense for policy in 2014, said the smaller, more precise weapons would maintain the nation’s nuclear deterrent while reducing risks for civilians near foreign military targets.
“Though not everyone agrees, I think it’s the right way to proceed,” Mr. Miller said. “Minimizing civilian casualties if deterrence fails is both a more credible and a more ethical approach.”
General Cartwright summarized the logic of enhanced deterrence with a gun metaphor: “It makes the trigger easier to pull but makes the need to pull the trigger less likely.”
Administration officials often stress the modernization plan’s benign aspects. Facing concerned allies, Madelyn R. Creedon, an Energy Department deputy administrator, argued in October that the efforts “are not providing any new military capabilities” but simply replacing wires, batteries, plastics and other failing materials.
“What we are doing,” she said, “is just taking these old systems, replacing their parts and making sure that they can survive.”
In a recent report to Congress, the Energy Department, responsible for upgrading the warheads, said this was the fastest way to reduce the nuclear stockpile, promoting the effort as “Modernize to Downsize.”
The new weapons will let the nation scrap a Cold War standby called the B83, a powerful city buster. The report stressed that the declines in “overall destructive power” support Mr. Obama’s goal of “pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
That argument, though, is extremely long term: Stockpile reductions would manifest only after three decades of atomic revitalization, many presidencies from now. One of those presidents may well cancel the reduction plans — most of the candidates now seeking the Republican nomination oppose cutbacks in the nuclear arsenal.
But the bigger risk to the modernization plan may be its expense — upward of a trillion dollars if future presidents go the next step and order new bombers, submarines and land-based missiles, and upgrades to eight factories and laboratories.
“Insiders don’t believe it will ever happen,” said Mr. Coyle, the former White House official. “It’s hard to imagine that many administrations following through.”
Meanwhile, other veterans of the Obama administration ask what happened.
“I think there’s a universal sense of frustration,” said Ellen O. Tauscher, a former under secretary of state for arms control. She said many who joined the administration with high expectations for arms reductions now feel disillusioned.
“Somebody has to get serious,” she added. “We’re spending billions of dollars on a status quo that doesn’t make us any safer.”

Prepare For The Bowls Of Wrath (Revelation 15)

JANUARY 12, 2016
“We know the Indians,” Pakistan army chief Pervez Musharraf told the civilian government while briefing them about the Kargil War in 1999. “They will negotiate seriously only under maximum pressure,” he said, according to an account of the briefing given by then-Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz in his memoirs. However misguided that calculation proved to be, it is a view that continues to resonate today in the Pakistani security establishment, as shown by this month’s attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force base. Whether the attack was ordered by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), or was an independent initiative by militant groups who are allowed to operate openly on Pakistani territory, the basic principle remains intact. Pakistan, in the eyes of the military, must stand up to what it sees as Indian hegemony and continue to assert its claim on Kashmir. The history of relations between the two countries since they conducted nuclear tests in 1998 suggests this is unlikely to change in the near future. Pakistan has relied on its nuclear weapons to deter Indian retaliation while actively supporting militants friendly to the Pakistani state, even as others turn against it. The effect has been to seal Pakistan within its own dysfunction, making it more, rather than less, insecure. Thus for all the genuine hopes of peace among ordinary people in both countries, the far greater likelihood is for more attacks on Indian targets — the assault at Pathankot was followed by an attack on the Indian consulate in the Afghan town of Mazar-e-Sharif. That in turn raises the risk of Indian retaliation — not immediately but in the course of this year or next — leading to a fresh crisis in South Asia.
The Kargil War set the tone for what has become a persistent strategic blindness in the Pakistani security establishment. In the winter of 1998–1999, Pakistan moved troops across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir into mountain positions on the Indian side above the towns of Dras and Kargil. Seen from Pakistan, the move appeared to make sense — in the army’s eyes, mirroring an Indian move in 1984 to occupy passes leading into the Siachen glacier, which lies in uninhabited high mountains beyond the end of the LoC. But the timing, coming so soon after the nuclear tests, showed how little Musharraf and the small group of generals around him understood how the outside world would react to what it saw as a reckless act of nuclear brinksmanship. Just as misguided was the calculation that India would negotiate more seriously under pressure. The Kargil operation coincided with a peace initiative by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who travelled to Lahore in February 1999 to sign a peace treaty with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. The intrusion was not specifically designed to scuttle Vajpayee’s peace initiative — plans for Kargil were set in motion before that. Accounts differ on exactly when the plan was given former approval — ranging from within weeks of Musharraf becoming army chief in October 1998 to the middle of January, according to Musharraf’s own ghost-written memoirs. But the sequence of events was such that it looked to the Indian public like a deliberate act of sabotage. Since the winter ends late in that region, the Pakistani intrusion across the LoC was not discovered until May. A furious India sent its troops up into the mountains to evict the Pakistanis, backing them up with air and artillery strikes of such intensity that the initial Pakistani plan for a quiet push across the LoC became untenable. The United States — alarmed by the prospect of the conflict escalating into a nuclear war — threw its full weight behind India for the first time since 1947 and gave Delhi unequivocal diplomatic support. It insisted Pakistan must withdraw its troops. With the military tide beginning to turn against it, and no international cover, Pakistan was forced to order its troops to retreat. Underlining how poor the military’s judgment had been, in the Kargil War Pakistan found no support even from China, a country it considers its closest ally.
Along with strategic blindness is a deliberate looseness in command and control that is intended to provide plausible deniability to the Pakistan army about the actions of Pakistan-based militant groups. This applies to different degrees. By managing militant groups through the ISI, which includes retired officers paid off the books to liaise with these organizations, Pakistan has been able to promote the idea of “rogue” intelligence agents following their own agenda. That argument is questioned by those who say that in an organization like the ISI, staffed by army officers and subject to military discipline, no one could operate independently for long without being held to account. Even if it is true that some operations are supported at the line level rather than by ISI leadership, the officers giving the go-ahead and providing resources are believed to be acting in accordance with broad guidance from above. This arrangement reduces control, but provides enough cover to introduce an element of doubt, making it harder to pin specific acts of terrorism on the military leadership. Further down the chain of command is the relationship between the ISI and the militant groups, which in turn are trying to follow their own agendas while retaining friendly enough ties with the Pakistani state to give them space to operate. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), involved in the 2008 assault on Mumbai, has generally been held on a tighter leash. The Jaish-e-Mohammad, blamed by India for the Pathankot raid, and possibly also linked to the attack in Mazar-e-Sharif, has historically had more of a tendency to go its own way. Few outside Pakistan believe the attack on Mumbai — which required months of intensive combat training and logistical help from Karachi — could have been planned without the Pakistan army leadership being aware that something was in the works. But the extent to which it knew of the details remains unclear. The pattern described by former officials from the region and the West is one where the military leadership would decide it was time to turn up the heat on India. It would then issue that directive through the ISI to different militant groups without getting too heavily involved in the precise choice of targets or timing. This makes it relatively hard to control even when intervening events change the international environment. A case in point was the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, blamed by Delhi on the Jaish-e-Mohammad and which, by some accounts from Pakistan, took even Musharraf by surprise. One possibility is that the wheels for an increased tempo of attacks on India were set in motion after a failed summit between Musharraf and Vajpayee in Agra in July 2001, and allowed to keep turning even after Sept. 11 radically changed the regional environment. If correct — and very few are privy to conversations between militant groups and their handlers in the ISI to say for sure — it adds yet another layer of complexity in any efforts to lower tensions between India and Pakistan. India responded to the attack on parliament by mobilizing its army along the border with Pakistan, bringing the two countries to the brink of all-out war in 2001–2002.
If strategic blindness and loose command and control play a powerful role, a possibly even bigger problem lies in the Pakistan army’s own view of domestic security. Pakistan has been losing control of the jihadis for years — such was the global scale of transnational terrorism that grew out of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, the ISI could not possibly hope to manage it all. Its solutions have been short-term fixes — as strategically shortsighted as the Kargil operation — that have simply perpetuated the problem. First of all it tried to divert the attention of militants to India, Kashmir and Afghanistan to prevent them turning against the Pakistani state. Secondly, it has cultivated militant leaders who remain friendly to the Pakistani state in the hope they can help rein in the others and focus their energies on objectives aligned with Pakistani security state interests. Masood Azhar, founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, is one such leader. Azhar has always been close to the ISI — he was sent by Pakistan to try to restore order among Kashmiri militant groups in 1994, arrested and imprisoned by India and then sprung from jail after what Delhi says was an ISI-masterminded hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999. Soon after his release, he set up the Jaish-e-Mohammad in what looked like an effort by the ISI to bring different jihadi groups to heel. Both he and LeT founder Hafez Saeed live openly in Pakistan and could not survive without support from the Pakistani military. But Azhar — more than Hafez Saeed — is also the glue that holds together the Pakistan-backed, India-focused militants with transnational jihadis like al Qaeda. In 1993, Azhar is believed to have traveled to Kenya, acting as a link between al Qaeda and Somali militants who later that year killed 18 American soldiers in street battles in the Somali capital Mogadishu dramatized in Mark Bowden’s “Black Hawk Down.” One of his closest relatives, the British jihadi Rashid Rauf, was seen by Britain before his death in a drone strike as a major player in al Qaeda attempts to attack the UK. The Pakistan army and the ISI have been trying to unstick that glue for more than two decades. Sometimes the security establishment appears to be succeeding and violence falls. After an attack on an army school in Peshawar in 2014 that killed 144 people, most of them schoolchildren, the army has gone all out against the Pakistani Taliban and violence within Pakistan has come down considerably. But as long as the “good jihadis” remain in play they preserve the milieu in which “bad jihadis” can flourish, threatening the security of the region and of Pakistan itself. Yet in one of the many paradoxes that has made this such an intractable problem, the more insecure Pakistan becomes, the less likely it is to turn against those militant leaders who remain friendly to the Pakistani state for fear of losing control altogether. Conversely, when violence within Pakistan comes down, the security establishment believes it has got the jihadis under control and would feel more comfortable being adventurous. The obvious comparison is with addicts who believe they have their addictions under control. The only solution would be a radical change in the worldview of the Pakistan army to the point that it drops its attempt to compete with India, uses its well-established ability to manage the media to change public opinion, including on Kashmir, and begins deep surgery to uproot all militant groups. There is no sign of that.
Indeed the actions and language of the current Pakistan army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, suggest instead that almost nothing has changed in the military outlook since the days of Musharraf. In January 2014, Masood Azhar resurfaced in public to pledge revenge for Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri hanged by India in February 2013 for his role in the attack on the Indian parliament. In May 2014, Gen. Sharif revived an old line that Kashmir was the “jugular vein” of Pakistan. At the end of May, Prime Minister Sharif attended the inauguration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and promised to pick up the threads of the agreement he had reached with Vajpayee in Lahore in 1999. The Pakistan army has never accepted the Lahore Declaration — all the more so since it contains a reference to implementing in letter and spirit the Simla Agreement, a peace treaty forced on Pakistan after its defeat in its 1971 war with India. Sure enough, the efforts made by the civilian prime minister to open talks with India went nowhere. In July 2015, gunmen who India said were sent by the LeT attacked a police station in Gurdaspur district in Indian Punjab, and also tried and failed to blow up a passenger train. On Christmas Day 2015, Modi made a short stopover in Lahore to meet Sharif, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan since Vajpayee. For the briefest of times, hopes were raised of an improvement in India–Pakistan relations. By then, though, the wheels were already in motion for the attacks in Pathankot and Mazar-e-Sharif.
For now India appears to be banking on putting pressure on Pakistan to arrest those it blames for the Pathankot attack while holding out the promise of further talks. In doing so the Modi government is following a pattern set by his predecessor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of reaching out to the civilian government in the hope of strengthening the pro-peace constituency in Pakistan. India and Pakistan should hold talks, just as the United States and the Soviet Union talked during the Cold War, because both have nuclear weapons and need to minimize misunderstandings. But, unfortunately for those who hope such talks will lead to peace, there is no clear evidence that dialogue is more effective than threats of retaliation in producing a reduction in overall violence. For example, the Indian military mobilization in 2001–2002 — though criticized within India for its erratic roll-out and ill-defined aims — did help bring down violence in Kashmir, in part thanks to U.S. pressure. Once again alarmed by the prospects of a conflict escalating into a nuclear war, Washington leaned on Pakistan to curb infiltration across the LoC. That in turn helped to create enough space for India to hold reasonably fair state elections in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in late 2002. These remained an exercise in managed democracy, with Delhi heavily influencing the competing political parties, but nonetheless served India’s aim of bringing Kashmiris into the political process. India has subsequently held two more state elections. In contrast to the outcome of the mobilization, peace talks between envoys of Prime Minister Singh and Musharraf — which came the closest to sketching out of framework to resolve the Kashmir dispute — ended with the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. According to testimony given by the American David Headley, who has admitted scouting out Mumbai for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, he made his first surveillance trip to the Indian city in September 2006 — right when the talks appeared to be nearing a breakthrough.
In the years between 2003 and 2016, nearly 60,000 Pakistanis have been killed in militant violence, according to figures collated by the Delhi-based South Asia Terrorism Portal. Pakistan has seen foreign investment fall and economic growth braked as it tried to shake off an international reputation as a failing state. Yet with every worsening year, the Pakistani military continued to cling to militant proxies as the best hope of ensuring its international and domestic security, backed by nuclear weapons to deter retaliation. If it did not change even when thousands of its own citizens were killed, including its own soldiers, there is little reason beyond wishful thinking to suppose that any real transformation is in the offing. Even though Pakistani public opinion is turning against the use of non-state proxies, the underpinning ideology of the state as defined by the military — as one in competition with and threatened by India — remains intact. The army continues to count on “good jihadis” to try to shape the direction of militancy. It is developing tactical nuclear weapons to deter any Indian retaliation — even though the only plausible reason for India to drop its focus on expanding its economy and risk military action against Pakistan would be if it were to face another big Mumbai-style attack, or series of smaller attacks, by Pakistan-based militants.
In such an environment, another major crisis in South Asia similar to those seen during the Kargil War and the 2001–2002 standoff remains a serious risk. U.S. options in heading this off are limited. It can apply some pressure by making its financial support for Pakistan contingent on action against militant groups that thrive on Pakistani territory, as argued by Alyssa Ayres. In doing so, it should consider drawing up a checklist to judge whether the military is making a genuine change in policy. Too often in the past the United States has accepted tactical moves by the army — for example by temporarily rounding-up militants or putting their leaders under house arrest — that reduce international pressure while leaving the militant infrastructure intact. Rather than focusing on action against individual militants — who more often than not are eventually released — it should examine how far the ideology has changed. How far, for example, has public opinion been shifted towards a less confrontational attitude to India? Where does the rhetorical position stand on Kashmir? What efforts have been made to prepare the public, through journalists and media known to be friendly to the army, for a compromise on Kashmir or a broader peace agreement with India?
Washington also needs to calibrate its public rhetoric far more carefully. Comments such as those of the State Department spokesman last week — effectively lending U.S. credibility to Pakistan’s stance that it is going after all terrorist groups — are unhelpful. While this language might maintain good relations between Washington and Islamabad/Rawalpindi, such provision of U.S. diplomatic cover to Pakistan is likely to aggravate India, making a crisis more rather than less likely. In Indian eyes, experience of the past couple of decades suggests the only time the United States has been willing to put serious pressure on Pakistan — for example in Kargil — was when Delhi used or threatened military force. Washington should be very careful not to reinforce that assumption.
Beyond that, the United States should ensure that despite the multiple distractions in the Middle East, it is properly prepared for a fresh crisis. China has been helpful in the past in managing Pakistan — though a strategic rival of India, China has no interest in seeing a major war on its doorstep. The United States should build on that, while continuing to encourage nuclear confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan. In other words, it needs to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It will be in a stronger position to do that if it remains very clear-sighted about how little has changed since those days of the Kargil War. With every new army chief that takes office, Washington somehow convinces itself Pakistan has turned a corner. It never does.