Muslim allies break ranks with U.S., "facing total meltdown"

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Hyperlink: http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,574918,00.html

Muslim allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan break ranks with US over bombing

Matthew Engel in Washington, Tuesday October 16, 2001

The Guardian

Relations between the US and two of its core allies in the war against terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, approached crisis point yesterday after the Saudi interior minister, Prince Naif, attacked the assault on Afghanistan while Pakistan pressed Washington to ensure that its bombing campaign would be short-lived. In the latest and most public of a series of disagreements that have evidently taken the US by surprise in the five weeks since the September 11 attacks, Prince Naif told the official Saudi Press Agency that the kingdom wanted the US to flush out the terrorists without bombing. "This is killing innocent people. The situation does not please us at all."

Officially, the state department in Washington remains "very satisfied" with the Saudi approach to the crisis, but this masks increasing alarm not merely about the governmental response but about potential insurrection that could endanger theSaudi regime. Prince Naif's comments add to the diplomatic pressure being felt by the US in its attempts to maintain support in the region for its policies.

The secretary of state, Colin Powell, who holds talks with General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad today, took further steps yesterday to bolster Pakistan's support for the war, promising military-to-military contacts. The sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear test in 1998 still prevent the US selling the country any weaponry or equipment, but by moving towards direct military relations Mr Powell was clearly holding out the prospect of future rewards if the Musharraf regime continued to play ball.

But with strikes ordered across the country by Islamist groups in protest at Mr Powell's visit, Mr Musharraf is aware that his support for the US action can go only so far. "The prolongation of the campaign will be a source of concern to us," the Pakistani foreign ministry said last night.

Further underlining the tension that now racks the region, Indian troops broke a 10-month ceasefire with Pakistan last night when they fired shells into disputed territory in Kashmir, killing a woman and wounding 25. A clearly worried President George Bush upbraided the two nuclear powers when he said: "I think it is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan and, for that matter, for ever."

In the most extreme language to emerge from Tehran since September 11, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said that the US air strikes were "dragging the world into a war". The warning was in stark contrast to a New York Times report today which revealed that Iran sent a secret message to the Bush administration on October 8 agreeing to rescue any US military personnel in distress in its territory.

At the top of Washington's in-tray of anxieties relating to its coalition partners, analysts now believe that Saudi Arabia - where few western journalists are allowed - may be turning into the gravest challenge. "It's unbelievable how the feeling here has changed from sympathy to anger in such a short time," a Riyadh-based westerner quoted by Reuters said yesterday. Another resident compared the mood there to that of Iran before the overthrow of the Shah.

Since September 11, Riyadh has refused to allow attacks on Afghanistan from its bases; Prince Abdullah, the country's crown prince and day-to-day ruler, has avoided meeting President Bush; Muslim clerics within the once-monolithic country have issued fatwas against the Americans; and, beneath the bland assurances of amity, there has been growing US frustration about the extent of Saudi cooperation with this investigation too. U.S. feeling was expressed in a powerful editorial in Sunday's New York Times, which described Saudi behaviour as "malignant" and said the "deeply cynical" bargain between the countries, which for decades had offered American protection for the regime in return for an uninterrupted flow of oil, was now "untenable".

David Wurmser, director of Middle East studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said yesterday: "The US's entire foreign policy structure in the region has been anchored in the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

If everything we're hearing is true, then we're facing a total meltdown. "The whole war as currently conceived would have to be reconsidered, because Pakistan won't hold if Saudi support starts collapsing. "You can't really separate Bin Laden from the Saudi establishment," Mr Wurmser said. "There are conflicting forces there, and part of the establishment has been working with the Bin Laden faction to embarrass the other half."

However, the state department spokesman, Philip Reeker, yesterday repeated the "very satisfied" mantra that his colleagues have been using for some time. He noted that Prince Naif had said the situation did not please the Saudis. "I think that quite reflects the attitudes we've been expressing for five weeks now. This situation, clearly, doesn't please us. We would certainly rather be able to focus on other things in our foreign and defence policy."

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Ltd., Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 16, 2001

Answers

The average Saudi citizen would have been better off under Saddam? Clearly the Saudis suffer from Amnesia.

-- Steve McClendon (ke6bjd@yahoo.com), October 16, 2001.

If everything we're hearing is true, then we're facing a total meltdown. "The whole war as currently conceived would have to be reconsidered, because Pakistan won't hold if Saudi support starts collapsing. "You can't really separate Bin Laden from the Saudi establishment," Mr Wurmser said. "There are conflicting forces there, and part of the establishment has been working with the Bin Laden faction to embarrass the other half."

Yes, there is a lot of internal pressure from the muslim world on these regimes. Demonstrations are building and the potential for significant internal strife builds.

However, don't confuse retoric that is meant for local/regional consumption for what is agreed to in private -- by any one.

The Saudi regime -- faced with their complicity in funding Bin Laden and Al Quadi -- is also afraid of backlash from the non-muslim world as well as that of the muslim world.

As for Pakistan, they have asked the US to stick with the air campaign and HOLD off on the ground attacks in order to help make ready a coalition government to take over for the Taliban and keep the Northern Aliance in check. IF they are willing to take the time to "fine tune" what is going on, going forward, they must not be too desperate to end this too soon.

JB

-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), October 16, 2001.


Don't have the URL handy, will look.

The Air (only) war is winding down and we should see ground action soon.

JB =====================

Air Attack Tactics Change -- Ground Assault Days Away?

Tuesday October 16, 8:41 PM

ISLAMABAD, Oct 16 (AFP) - The US and Pakistan on Tuesday sketched in the outlines of a post-Taliban administration in Afghanistan, as US forces flew their first low-level missions over militia strongholds, indicating ground troops may soon go into action.

... Residents in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, said intense US raids continued throughout Tuesday morning, with planes buzzing overhead and repeated explosions heard around the southern city. The day raids followed night-long attacks involving for the first time "a couple" of US AC-130 gunships, a heavily-armed plane able to circle slowly over targets pounding them with thousands of shells. US defence officials said the AC-130 attacked a Taliban headquarters and troop complex in Kandahar during some of the heaviest air strikes of the US campaign so far.

The use of a low-flying, relatively slow gunship rather than high- altitude bombers is a sign that US planners are confident Taliban air defences have been crushed and marks a significant change of tactics. The plane uses television, infrared and radar sensors to lock onto ground targets, on which it unleashes fierce torrents of cannon fire. It is often used to provide close air support for special forces. Experts said deployment of the AC-130 was a further sign that the United States was moving towards sending ground troops to hunt down Osama bin Laden, the Saudi multi-millionaire alleged to have masterminded the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

A Taliban spokesman said the overnight raids killed 33 civilians in Kabul, nine near Kandahar and 19 others in two outlying villages close to Taliban military bases.But claims of large civilian casualties were rejected in Washington by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who on Monday called Taliban leaders "accomplished liars". Rumsfeld denied Taliban reports that more than 200 civilians had died in a US raid last week on the eastern village of Kadam, where the militia took reporters from international news organisations to tour the ruins. Rumsfeld said US forces hit tunneled-out caves, not the village. General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the village displayed no bomb craters and photo reconnaissance showed Kadam had not been densely occupied, if at all, at the time of the strike.

... After two days of crucial talks, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed any government that may replace the hardline Taliban regime in Kabul must be broad- based, multi-ethnic, "friendly" to Pakistan and set up with no outside interference. Speaking at a joint press conference with Musharraf in Islamabad, Powell said: "There is no doubt that we both have a common goal to see that the Afghan government is one that will represent all the people of Afghanistan and a regime that obviously will be friendly to all its neighbours, including Pakistan." Musharraf said they had agreed durable peace in Pakistan's western neighbour would be possible only through a "broad-based, multi-ethnic government", established without outside interference.

Powell said all components of ethnically and linguistically diverse Afghanistan must join talks on the country's future, including the opposition Northern Alliance and "southern tribal leaders." This was an apparent reference to the majority Pashtun -- the ethnic group currently represented by the Taliban -- to which many Pakistanis also belong.

Musharraf said moderate elements of the religious militia could also be involved. His foreign ministry said on Monday Islamabad did not consider the Taliban to be terrorists. "Extremism is not in every Taliban," Musharraf said. "I wouldn't like to get into the details of who are moderates but we know for sure there are many moderates in the Taliban." Pakistan was a major supporter of the militia and remains the only country to still recognise the Kabul regime.

With a US air campaign to flush out bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network in its tenth day, the Taliban sheltering them appeared to have an increasingly shaky hold on power. "Every neighbour has turned against (the Taliban)," Powell told reporters after the press conference. But he added: "I cannot tell you when that pressure will cause it to collapse. I just cannot put a time on that." As Powell spoke, anti-Taliban forces grouped under the banner of the Northern Alliance claimed they were closing in on the key militia stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif and could capture the town within days.

After his talks in Islamabad Powell travelled to New Delhi for talks with Indian officials, who want Washington to expand its anti-terror campaign to Kashmir and Pakistani-backed Islamic separatists. Kashmir's top Muslim cleric, Omer Farooq strongly rejected a recent statement by bin Laden in favour of Kashmiri Muslims. The statement demanded that the United States stop supporting Hindus in the disputed Himalayan territory. "It is an irresponsible statement," Farooq said. "Storming planes or killing innocents are clear acts of terrorism. No-one can justify such acts no matter how big the cause is. The struggle in Kashmir is a genuine struggle for Kashmiris' right of self-determination and it has no link whatsoever with the al- Qaeda group," he said.

... In Geneva, UN aid agencies told governments to "put their money where their mouth is", complaining that attempts to head off famine in Afghanistan were blighted by the failure of world capitals to stump up the 270 million dollars they had promised. "You made promises, so please implement your promises," World Food Programme spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said, warning that the agencies faced a race against time to get supplies to the seven million AFghans at risk before winter.

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said his country would "shortly" step up support for the US-led anti-terror coalition, including military support.

-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), October 16, 2001.


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