Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It’s Time to Block Bush’s Iran Adventure

By: Nicholas von Hoffman
Date: 2/19/2007

Regardless of which side of whatever issue she may take, Senator Hillary Clinton still has a slimy-politi cian problem: Does she mean it, or will she do anything for votes—and will the anythings she may do entrap the United States in yet new disasters?

Her Feb. 5 speech at a dinner meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) underlines the subliminal mistrust in which she is held by some. This account in the Internet edition of The Jerusalem Post makes the point. The site quoted her as saying that “US policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. As I have said for a long time, no option should be taken off the table.
“But the United States should first try to engage Iran in dialogue,” she continued. “I’m not sure anything positive would come out of it.” That should have been enough to satisfy AIPAC, but perhaps it wasn’t. The Jerusalem Post went on to opine:
“Observers say Clinton has made strides as a vocal supporter of Israel during her six years as a senator, even though she still may be a tough sell to those who have not forgiven her embrace and kiss with Suha Arafat in November 1999—just after Arafat had accused Israel of poisoning Palestinian babies.”

How far this vocal supporter, once installed in the White House, would go to wipe away the memory of that kiss is anybody’s guess, but a politician’s interest and the national interest can be two very different things. If Senator Clinton may pose a problem for those who will be invited to vote for her, she is hardly the first and not the worst.

Take the example of Dick Armey, the House Republican Majority Leader from 1995 to 2003. When queried by Dave Montgomery of the McClatchy Newspapers on whether he voted to go to war in Iraq, Mr. Armey replied: “I did, and I’m not happy about it. The resolution was a resolution that authorized the president to take that action if he deemed it necessary. Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively. I had a tough time reconciling doing that against the duties of majority leader in the House. I would have served myself and my party and my country better, though, had I done so.”

This man was no backbencher, some hick Congressman nobody had ever heard of and paid no attention to; he was the Republican Majority Leader. We can speculate that, had Mr. Armey done what he thought was right for America, though perhaps wrong for the Republican Party, his country might have been spared Iraq, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost and the unquantifiable misery endured by millions.

It is entirely possible that if Mr. Armey had “been true” to himself and “opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively,” George W. Bush might well not have been able to have his war. Certainly, it would have been politically much more difficult to attack and invade Iraq with his own House Majority Leader against him—not to mention the other Republican members who would have followed Mr. Armey’s lead. They, joined with anti-war Democrats, might have defeated the war resolution.

Mr. Armey has retired from Congress and, it appears, from the slime business in favor of public breast-beating. Senator Clinton is still active, voicing no such regrets as she does the weasel chant of the contrite, formerly pro-war Democrats who, like her, voted for the Iraq invasion: “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way,” she said.

The next big military event may come without the President asking Congress to vote beforehand. This, of course, would be an attack on Iran—but only because we will have been so sorely provoked that nothing less than a month or two of aerial bombardment will do.

Every day brings new accusations against the Iranians from Washington, more unsubstantiated stories of alleged Iranian hostile activities, more effluents pumped out of the think tanks about Iranian plans to take over the Middle East. Here and there, a sensible voice tries to make itself heard to tell us what the probable consequences (all bad) of American armed aggression against Iran would be.

So maybe it is time for another vote in Congress. This might be a binding resolution aimed at preventing George W. Bush from military action against Iran.

It couldn’t be done in the Senate, where Mrs. Clinton has too many like-minded colleagues. It could, however, be done in the House. Nancy Pelosi is no Dick Armey: She does do what she believes in—when she is not doing herself political harm by asking for private jet-airplane service from the Pentagon.

She could and she might lead an effort to pass a resolution which would declare to the President that if, in the next six months, he attacks Iran, his doing so will be considered a “high crime,” as the term appears in Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution. The resolution would state that if the President does commit such a high crime, impeachment proceedings would immediately be started.

Only the House can impeach. It doesn’t need the Senate to concur, so such a threat is a real one. Whether or not the impeachment goes anywhere past the House Judiciary Committee, the proceedings are a nightmare for any President. Everything in the White House must stop in order to deal with the committee. It is no idle threat, and yet a resolution like this one, which takes effect for only six months, is limited and reasonable. If, after six months, the furor over Iran hasn’t died back, the resolution can be renewed.

The question boils down to how many Hillary Clintons and how many Dick Armeys there are in the House. Can a majority be found who will, in Mr. Armey’s phrase, serve their party and their country by doing what they know is right, instead of what is safe and easy?

copyright © 2006 the new york observer, llc | all rights reserved | all rights reserved

Tensions are the Empire’s Coin of the Realm

Putin's NATO Beef

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives are upset over critical remarks made by Russian President Putin about the U.S. Empire and its interventions and abuses all over the world. Not surprisingly, they’re resorting to attacking Putin for hypocrisy rather than considering the distinct possibility that what he is saying about the U.S. government might be true.

After all, let’s not forget that the U.S. government has attacked and occupied a country that never attacked the United States, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people in the process, and is threatening to do the same to Iran and North Korea. It is a government that claims the right to attack any other country on earth as the self-proclaimed enforcer of the GBOT (global war on terror). And that it claims the right to torture, abuse, and execute any suspected terrorist found anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenry, without any judicial involvement.

The Los Angeles Times pointed out in an editorial yesterday a classic case of U.S. foreign-policy double-dealing and double-cross.

The Times points out that at the end of the Cold War, a deal was struck between Russia and the U.S. in which Russia would accede to German reunification and a withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe in return for the U.S. commitment to not expand NATO to Russia’s borders.

As the Times editorial points out, “That is precisely what followed…. Within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.”

How many Americans are aware of this? I’d bet 0.01 percent (about the same number that know about the CIA’s secret, illegal ouster of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister in 1953 and the installation of a brutal dictator that tortured his people until extremist Iranian revolutionaries succeeded in ousting him from power in 1979). It’s how the U.S. Empire has operated for decades — in secrecy so that they can “play the innocent” when there is retaliatory blowback.

Why wasn’t NATO, whose mission was to protect against a Soviet attack, dismantled after the dismantling of the Soviet Union? Good question! Maybe because if it was dismantled, it could not be used to increase tensions with Russia.

After the Cold War, U.S. officials turned on their old partner and ally Saddam Hussein and made him the bad-guy poster child of the 1990s to scare Americans to death. Throughout the 1990s, they poked hornet’s nests in the Middle East with their Persian Gulf intervention, their brutal sanctions against Iraq, their stationing of troops on Islamic holy lands, their no-fly zones, and their foreign aid to both Israel and Arab governments.

That produced terrorist strikes on American ships abroad, U.S. Embassies, the WTC in 1993, and of course the 9/11 attacks.

By increasing tensions abroad, the Empire had finally provided the Pentagon with its new mission — the GWOT — and its new justification for ever increasing budgets (and debt, inflation, and taxes) for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against.

Will Americans finally see through the big-government, big Empire foreign-policy scam before it’s too late?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

They've sent Helbig after me

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Felicity Arbuthnot, The Ecologist

Roger Helbig, a man with an unhealthy obsession: he believes that depleted uranium (DU) waste from the nuclear fuel cycle, which is used in munitions and bullets – is safe.

I received an unsolicited email from him, entitled ‘The Real Doug Rokke’ in response to an article I had written for The Brussels Tribunal.

It read: ‘I see that you have been taken in by Doug Rokke, who really does not know much about anything, let alone depleted uranium. It is sad that a Phd has so little real knowledge. I also see you claim to be a journalist.

What newspapers, radio stations or TV stations have you actually worked for, or are you like Bob Nichols, a self-described journalist with no actual journalistic experience?’

His tirade continued: ‘Rokke’s military records and part of his PhD thesis are attached.

You will note he has no real expertise in depleted uranium and his claims about the Middle East are pure fantasy, yet you inflame the Arab street with them. You ought to learn more about what is before telling the world all about it.’

I had written in the article: ‘Depleted uranium from shells fired by British and American forces during the Balkan wars has found its way into the food chain and has been detected amongst the civilian populations of Kosovo and Bosnia.

A study of the local population in three locations in the two Balkan regions has found samples of the highly radioactive particles in the urine of all those tested.’

Helbig had highlighted the excerpt, commenting: ‘This is pure bullshit and you know it. Where are the actual test results? I presume you don’t choose to read the United Nations Environmental Programme report – it is only about 300 pages, well documented instead of scientific myth!’

Lieutenant Colonel Roger Helbig, USAF, Rtd (it appears) is one of a small Pentagon-inspired group devoted to denigrating and undermining the efforts of those drawing attention to the dangers of DU, which three UN Sub-Committees have designated a weapon of mass destruction.

Rokke is just the latest in a long line of Helbig targets. Journalist Bob Nichols, Project Censored award winner for his DU coverage, writes, ‘Individuals on web sites throughout the United States have complained about the abusive and aggressive actions of an Air Force Lieut. Colonel named Roger Helbig’.

David Lindorff, another award winner and the (UK) Observer’s David Rose, have also suffered a barage of abuse for stories exposing the dangers of DU, which poisons the environment, thus entire food chain regionally where used, for four-and-a-half billion years.

Nichols cites Helbig ‘attacking hundreds of sites and harrassing web moderators.’

Informative DU sites (such as and – the latter’s meticulously researched alerts included the chilling warning of US military in Iraq reagrding bathing in shower water taken from Tigris river:‘GI’s Beware Radioactive Showers’) are also victims.

Researcher, John Ervin, posted on ‘They’ve already sent Lt. Colonel Roger Helbig after me.’

Leuren Moret, President of Scientists for Indigenous Peoples and City of Berkeley (Ca) Environmental Commissioner states: ‘Helbig has been harassing me nonstop for two to three years.’

Moret travels the world warning on the dangers of DU, working with a group of independent scientists( and submitted a paper on DU to a UN Sub-Committee,one of the ones which led to DUs designation as a weapon of mass destruction.

The picture Helbig paints of his latest target Rokke is unrecognisable from the truth.

Major (Dr) Doug Rokke, Former Director of the US Army Depleted Uranium Project (, principal author of the Pentagon regulations and procedural guidelines (US Army Regulation 700-48 And US Army PAM 700-48) on the dangers and handling of DU affected areas: tanks,structures, terrain, equipment and personnel, civilian and military.

Rokke, whose team led the (impossible) clean up in Kuwait in 1991 after the first Gulf War, was so horrified by what he found, he finally spoke out – at cost.Sick from DU poisoning himself, he has suffered ongoing ‘physical,psychological and economic threats’ from Helbig and other US government representatives since.

Rokke has crucial, credible, hands-on knowledge, thus, writes David Lindorff, the effort to discredit him, label him ‘a fraud’, demote him to ‘Lt.’ by Helbig, has been vicious and tenacious.

This is the same Doug Rokke whose Army evaluation report, dated July 30th 1994, cites the then Captain Rokke as being Project Director and primary technical expert and specialist adviser to US Army major commands, the US Army Chemical School and contractors during training, development and test implementation.

In 1995 he was cited for a ‘meritorious service’ medal, for work on DU. He left the army when none of his health warning reached the troops.

Rokke and another former Pentagon advisor, Dr Asav Durakovic, whose CV and list of peer reviewed papers runs to 52 pages, Canadian expert Professor Hari Sharma (who wrote to NATO and world leaders of the dangers of DU), Dr Garth Nicholson and others have demanded appropriate testing and treatment of all affected – soldiers and civilians – and rigorous DU clean up, where used or tested ‘as already required by the US Department of Defence regulations...’,states Rokke.

The polluter pays. But the cost would be stratospheric; so Helbig’s group stalk the internet to insult and intimidate.

‘The use of uranium munitions is an act of terror,’ Rokke says. In context, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority ‘selfinitiated’ a report for the British government on DU shortly after the 1991 war.

If 50 tonnes of the residual DU dust remained, they estimated that there wiuld be in excess of half a million cancer deaths in the region by the year 2000. The Pentagon admits to 325 tonnes remaining and other estimates are as high as 900 tonnes. In 2003 a further two thousand tonne DU burden has been admitted to.

Iraq and the region’s cancers have become a tragedy equalling Chernobyl.Oddly, when the US/UK military allowed the looting of every Iraqi State building, all medical records of this unique war crime was destroyed.

Helbig is excercised by a memo from Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, from a Lt. Colonel Larson to a Major Ziehman. It is dated the day after the 1991 onslaught on Iraq ended (1st March 1991.)

Headed ‘The Effectiveness of Depleted Uranium Penetrators’, it reads: ‘There is a relatively small amount of lethality data for uranium penetrators... The recent war has likely multiplied the DU rounds fired at targets by orders of magnitude...

‘There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal.’

Thus, ‘we should assure their future existence’ otherwise may stand to lose them. He continues, ‘I believe we should keep this sensitive issue in mind, when, after action, reports are written.’

US tanks damaged by DU rounds in 1991 were taken to a nuclear decontamination plant at Barnwell, North Carolina, reportedly constructed the previous year solely for this purpose. Those beyond decontamination were buried in specially licensed landfill sites.

In June 1995 the US Army Environmental Policy Institute wrote of DU: ‘DU is a radioactive waste and therefore should be deposited in a licensed repository’. The poisoned chalice of breaking the news that Kuwait had been turned in to an unlicensed one, fell to the luckless British Ambassador.

Helbig’s email cites the United Nations Environment Agency Report. There were two UNEP Reports on Balkans contamination. The first was cut – underalleged US/UK pressure – from 72 pages, to two.

An impeccable source on the second, to which Helbig refers, stated that in spite of considerable obstacles placed in their way, a list of the most contaminated sites to sample was compiled. On arrival, the multinational forces excluded visits to those sites.

As Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Sunderland University (UK) writes in his article ‘Most Toxic War in Western Military History’, regarding Iraq in 1991: ‘at every level, investigation into illness, birth defects, contamination has been blocked and bedevilled by ... a pervasive myopia which sees lack of evidence as proof.’

Last September, Lieutenant Colonel Helbig, of Richardson, California, was in Court. Complex, inter-connected cases, heard also in June and July, due to resume in December, involve Helbig’s neighbour, Jamahl Feres, of Syrian origin and his Swiss wife Katherine.

They allege suffering three years of harrasment including the last year, in which Helbig covered all windows in his house which faced theirs, with Israeli flags. Leuren Moret and Bob Nichol will be witnesses for the Feres’s.

It now transpires that Helbig (whose scorn for on-line journalists and journals is boundless) has posted varying rants on in the name of ‘Natalie.’ You have been warned.

How America Marginalizes Millions

RALL 2/13/07

NEW YORK--In the Soviet Union, political dissidents vanished with chilling efficiency. While the gulags starved and worked "enemies of the state" to death, bureaucrats purged their names from government records, newspaper archives, and school transcripts. Their personal possessions were sold or destroyed. It was as if these "unpersons" had never existed.

In the United States, the government doesn't "disappear" individuals it doesn't like (unless they're of Middle Eastern descent). That job falls to the media. The other difference is that the targets aren't individuals, but entire categories of people: African-Americans, Muslims, Asians, and those with political views to the left and right of the two major parties. The lords of print and broadcast media marginalize these groups to the extent that they have no place in the national conversation. They're born, they have children and they die--but they may as well not exist.

They are America's unpersons--and there are tens of millions of them.

The media's current swooning over Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid serves as an unintentional reminder that the white majority, which controls top positions in journalism and politics in disproportionate numbers, remains prejudiced against blacks more than four decades after the zenith of the civil rights movement.

But Senator Obama is black! Well, yes and no. His biracial heritage differs from the vast majority of American blacks, who are descended from slaves. If you're one of the tens of millions of African-Americans whose personal and family histories are scarred by centuries of segregation and systematic racism, you may admire Obama's personality and politics. But you don't see yourself in him--not exactly.

Rather than call him biracial (Kenyan-American? African-American-with-an-asterisk*?), however, media reports ask: "Are Americans ready for a black president?" One can't help recall 1995, when General Colin Powell thought about seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Powell too is an African-American* (his parents were born in Jamaica), yet the white-run media repeatedly describes him as black or African-American. Are whites ready to elect a black* president? Maybe. A black one? None have come close.

Decoy politics--slapping a label that doesn't really fit on a person or thing--is the media's principal method of group marginalization. White media executives can brag that they're so liberal and open-minded that they're promoting the presidential candidacy of a black* guy! Yeah, Obama is "black"--but in a relatively arcane way. You're a jerk if you notice and worse if you say so.

Speaking of liberals, the 21 percent of Americans who call themselves liberals suffer from a near total lack of representation in government.

True, the Democratic Party, which controls both houses of Congress, has become a synonym for "liberal" or "leftist" in the media's lexicon. But that doesn't make it so. Only one Congresswoman, Barbara Lee of California, voted against going to war against Afghanistan after 9/11.

Even Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist, went along with the Republocratic mob. Sanders serves as yet another hollow symbol of the system's supposed openness to unorthodox politics. Sanders plays a socialist on TV, but he also voted for a Bush-backed resolution supporting the troops as they invaded Iraq. He has neither joined the Socialist Party nor promoted socialist views.

A true socialist, even one from Vermont, wouldn't have made it to the Senate.

Millions of left-of-center Americans oppose both the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, favor socialized healthcare and oppose NAFTA and other "free trade" agreements. But they don't have a single vote in Congress. Meanwhile both right-wing pundits and mainstream journalists continue the classic red-herring gambit of dubbing center-right figures such as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore "liberal."

A number of big-name commentators are overtly or tacitly marketed as progressives, liberals or even lefties: Alan Colmes of Fox News, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Al Franken and his colleagues on Air America Radio (inevitably "Air America Radio, a liberal network" in press accounts). Like their counterparts in Congress, they're leftie in name only. None opposed the Afghan war, none favor an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and none can honestly be called left of center.

If Spin and CBS and mainstream moviemakers and the National Education Association are "far left," where are Mother Jones, Pacifica Radio, Robert Greenwald and MoveOn? Logically these entities must be somewhere beyond even the "far left," well into "loony fringe" territory--i.e., those not even worth thinking about, much less mentioning. And so they aren't.

Several other segments of the population are routinely squelched from our national debate. When's the last time a libertarian (200,000 registered voters) was invited to speak on a political talk show? Asian-Americans have concerns and opinions on a variety of subjects. Can you, based on what you see on TV, even guess what they are? For a nation that prides itself on being the world's melting pot, our public life is remarkably homogenous.

No group suffers from marginalization-by-mislabeling more than Muslims. Only extremist Islamists and token figures like Somali-born author Hirsi Ali, a self-described atheist who cashed in her rejection of Islam to be embraced as a media darling, get airtime. To the right, "Muslim" = Osama bin Laden. For what passes as the left, it's fringe individuals like Ali. Meanwhile the millions of Muslims who keep their faith and live their lives without blowing up buildings watch a ludicrous debate that has no resemblance to reality, doomed to live as American unpersons.

(Ted Rall is the author of "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next foreign policy challenge.)

Carl Bernstein on the Bush Administration

More from 'Frontline' Interviews: Carl Bernstein on Nixon vs. Bush

By E&P Staff

Published: February 14, 2007 12:15 PM ET


"I think what we're talking about with the Bush administration is a far different matter in which disinformation, misinformation and unwillingness to tell the truth -- a willingness to lie both in the Oval Office, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the office of the vice president, the vice president himself -- is something that I have never witnessed before on this scale."


Bush at Press Conference Wednesday Contradicts Sunday's "Anonymous" Briefing on Iranian Weapons

Bush at Press Conference Today Contradicts Sunday's Briefing on Iranian Weapons

By E&P Staff

Published: February 14, 2007 1:45 PM ET

NEW YORK At his press conference this morning in ice-covered Washington, D.C., President Bush was pressed by reporters on U.S. officials' claims at a Baghdad briefing on Sunday. These unnamed officials charged that not only were weapons from Iran killing American soldiers in Iraq, they were being used on orders from top Iranian leaders.

The New York Times and Washington Post, among other papers, featured these charges on the top of their Web sites and front page on Sunday and Monday. Since then, skepticism has grown, with even Gen. Peter Pace saying that he knew of no evidence linking Iranian leaders to any use of such weapons.

So the question came up at today's press conference. Here is an excerpt.

QUESTION: Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq -- specifically about WMD -- that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran.

Is that the case?

BUSH: I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops.

And I'd like to repeat: I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of government.

But my point is: What's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it's happening?

And so we will continue to protect our troops.

We -- our strategy is comprehensive in order to resolve problems that will affect our own peace and the peace in the world.

And the biggest problem I see is the Iranians' desire to have a nuclear weapon. And, as you know, we've been dealing with this issue ever since you've been covering me, and pretty much ever since I've been the president.

And we've made it very clear to the Iranians that, if they would like to have a dialogue with the United States, there needs to be a verifiable suspension of their program.

I would hope that they would do that. I would like to be -- have been -- given a chance for us to explain that we have no desire to harm the Iranian people.

But my focus is on making sure that this weapon is dealt with, the program is dealt with in a constructive, peaceful way.

And we'll continue to work toward achieving our common objectives, with other nations in the world, in a peaceful way....

Q I want to follow up on Iran one more time. Are you saying, today, that you do not know if senior members of the Iranian government are, in fact, behind these explosives? That contradicts what U.S. officials said in Baghdad on Sunday. They said the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind this.

It also -- it seems to square with what General Pace has been saying, but contradicts with what your own press secretary said yesterday. What...

BUSH: Can I -- let me -- I can't say it more plainly: There are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds Force.

As you know, I hope, the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds Force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there.

And I intend to do something about it.

And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops.

Q But given some of those contradictions, Mr. President...

BUSH: There's no contradiction that the weapons are there and they were provided by the Quds Force...

Q What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?

BUSH: We know they're there. We know they're provided by the Quds Force. We know the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. I don't think we need who picked up the phone and said to the Quds Force, "Go do this," but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government.

What matters is, is that we're responding. The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous. My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple.

Now, David says: Does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops. That's what that's means. And that's what the family members of our soldiers expect the commander in chief and those responsible for -- responsible for our troops on the ground.

And we'll continue to do so.

E&P Staff (

Russian Bear Growls At U.S. Hypocrisy

Feb 14, 2006

By K Gajendra Singh
Indian ambassador (retired)

" The war in Iraq is a historic strategic and moral calamity undertaken under false assumptions-- undermining America's global legitimacy --collateral civilian casualties, -- abuses, -- tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability." Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to US President Jimmy Carter

At the 43rd annual International Security Conference held in Munich on 10 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the importance of the role of United Nations , U.S. missile defense, NATO expansion, Iran's nuclear program and the Energy Charter. He accused Washington of provoking a new nuclear arms race by developing ballistic missile defenses, undermining international institutions, trying to divide modern Europe and making the Middle East more unstable through its clumsy handling of the Iraq war.

Ever since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended the cold war in 1989 , more out of naiveté than misplaced goodwill which after USSR's collapse the US ruling elite claimed as the victory of the capitalist West over Socialist Russia ,this is the first blunt criticism of US unleashed rampant forces trying to coerce the whole world to its will for total domination while using brazen lies and illegal , brutal and inhuman means .

While calling a spade a spade Russian leader Putin was only articulating what a majority of peoples in the world think of US policies .A BBC poll covering more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, including the U.S., held in November - January, found that 49 % believe U.S. playing "mainly negative" role in the world, compared to 32% who said it was "mainly positive." In 18 countries asked the same question earlier , which had called U.S. influence positive, it fell from 40 % in 2005, to 36 % last year, to 29 % in 2007. In Germany and Indonesia, nearly 3 out of 4 respondents had a mainly negative opinion of U.S. influence while it was 69 % in France and Turkey.

Nearly 73 % disapproved of Washington's role in the Iraq war. In Egypt, France, and Lebanon where more than 3 out of 4 respondents "strongly disapproved" , while more than 68 % said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents."

Even in US , 57 % disapprove of their government's handling of the Iraq war and of the Israeli-Hezbollah war; while 60 % disapproved of its handling of Guantanamo detainees; and 53 % believed the U.S. military presence provokes more conflict than it prevents. A plurality of 50 % in U.S. disapprove of the government's handling of Iran's nuclear program,

"These days the U.S. government hardly seems to be able to do anything right," said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland who co-ordinated the poll.

In last November elections US electorate trashed Bush's policies by trouncing his Republican party in the Senate and the House and disapprove of Bush's policies by 2 to one .But instead of course correction , also recommended by Baker –Hamilton Iraqi Study Group, there is now the so called policy of "surge" in Iraq , with only a massive surge in deaths and destruction in Iraq , specially Baghdad , where the new policy would be implemented .

Then there are multifarious accusations against Tehran without proof and threats to use force , even nuclear weapons .Such an irrational and immoral attack if carried out, most experts and people believe would plunge the world into hell like turmoil for decades. You just have to look at the quagmire in Iraq with daily massacres and almost total destruction of the Iraqi state with a burgeoning civil war triggered by Washington .

Putin's speech marks a new era in Russia's new found confidence after 7 years of his rule which has brought stability and economic strength .He is now visiting Saudi Arabia ,Qatar and Jordan , first ever visits by a Russian head of state. With Middle East in a state of flux and USA bogged down in Iraq with no clear cut exit policy , Saudi Arabia and others in the region are looking elsewhere to counter irrational US policies.

"I see in -- Putin a statesman and a man of peace and fairness," Saudi King Abdullah

Unlike 1991 , when Gorbachev's peace initiative to help resolve the problem of Iraqi occupation of Kuwait , was brushed aside by Washington ,Moscow is now better positioned to play a vital and constructive role in the region. Exchange of Presidential visits with Syria two years ago , writing off of old Syrian debts of almost $10 billion and supply of missiles to deter arrogant Israeli jets buzzing the Presidential Palace in Damascus have almost restored the old relationship . Historical enemies Russia and Turkey have made up and have booming economic exchanges

Moscow is now ready to play a role of reliable and honest broker in Arab Israeli dispute with its excellent relations with Tel Aviv and PLO and even Hamas which was received in Moscow , soon after it was elected to power. Moscow's strengthened relations with Tehran with its support at the UN , supply of missiles and arms and building of nuclear power plants and possibly create an informal gas OPEC give Russia an important role .And Putin has worked towards it assiduously.

"I see in ... Putin a statesman and a man of peace and fairness," said Saudi King Abdullah according to official Saudi Press Agency. "That's why the kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends a hand of friendship to Russia." Qatar has the world's third-largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran while Russia is second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia. They could consult each other on oil and gas prices.

Putin's warm reception in Riyadh ,Qatar and Amman is harbinger of Russia's growing influence in the region and desire of the unnerved states in the region for a bulwark against USA's destructive policies , which could unleash a terrible Shia-Sunni conflagration in the region and beyond .The Arabs and Muslims have seen through US policies!

Middle East and the Muslim world is learning to trust Putin's Russia It was granted observer status in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 2005, and in 2006 the Russia-Muslim World Strategic Vision Group was established.

Before embarking on his tour of the Middle East , in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV , extremely popular in Arab and Islamic world , Putin said that the new U.S. strategy in Iraq will work only if a date for withdrawal of foreign military forces was agreed upon .The U.S. has officially declared that it plans to hand over full authority, primarily in the law enforcement and security areas, to Iraqi agencies.

Putin said, "But I think this won't work if we don't decide beforehand when the foreign contingent should be withdrawn. Because, as it happens in any conflict and in any country, people should know that they have to be prepared to take on full responsibility inside the country by a certain date. When they do not have a definite date and when it is unclear when the maturity of relevant organizations in this country should reach a certain appropriate level, then everything is shifted off to the foreign contingent."

Putin's Munich Discourse;

Putin's audience in Munich comprised of dozens of Western ministers and policy makers , including the new US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, and the hawkish Republican Presidential contender, Senator John McCain.

Putin stated ; "Today we are observing unrestrained, hypertrophied use of force in international affairs, a force that plunges the world into an abyss of recurring conflicts." "I am convinced that the UN Charter is the only legitimate decision-making mechanism for the use of military force as a last resort," he said.

"The UN must not be replaced either by NATO or the European Union," declared Putin.

On NATO's eastward expansion , Putin said that it has nothing to do with its modernization and would affect Moscow's relations with the Alliance.{Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - joined NATO in 2004. Georgia and Ukraine , which saw US franchised street gangs, financed , trained and supported by Washington and its so called democracy promoting institutions and NGOs , install US puppets in power ( both are in trouble now ) are being encouraged to join NATO .Russia strongly objects to the deployment of NATO bases on the territory of newly admitted member nations. Reports suggest that Romanian and Bulgarian bases could be used if Iran was attacked. }

"It is evident that the process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernizing the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it is seriously eroding mutual trust," the Russian leader said. "Why do they have to move their military infrastructure closer to our borders?" Putin wondered, "Is this connected with overcoming global threats today?"

Putin added that the main threat facing Russia, the U.S. and Europe derives from international terrorism, which can only be fought jointly.

"What is a uni-polar world? No matter how we beautify this term it means one single centre of power, one single centre of force and one single master," clarified Putin .

He stated that deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe could trigger a new spiral of the arms race. US reasons for deploying a missile defense system in Europe are not convincing enough, since launching of North Korean ballistic missiles against the U.S. across western Europe would be in conflict with the laws of ballistics. " Or, as we say in Russia, it's the like trying to reach your left ear with your right hand," he clarified.

Putin pledged to amend Russia's military strategy. "All our responses will be asymmetric, but highly effective," he said.

This riposte was in response to US plans to install a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile interception system in Poland,' to protect itself against a potential threat from Iran.' Recently Washington has also shifted its largest sea-based missile defense radar in the Pacific from Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands, not far from Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

Putin affirmed that Moscow is committed to its obligations on the reduction of nuclear warheads by 2012. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, signed on May 24, 2002 by Putin and Bush in Moscow, and expiring December 31, 2012, limited both countries' nuclear arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The treaty has been criticized for a lack of verification provisions and the possibility of re-deploying stored warheads.

Putin hoped that "our partners will also act in a transparent manner and will not try to stash away an extra couple hundred nuclear warheads against a rainy day."

Moscow has prepared a draft treaty on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space. Putin said , "It will be submitted to our partners as an official proposal in the very near future."

He also called on the international community to resume dialogue on nuclear non-proliferation. "Russia speaks for the resumption of dialogue on this most important issue. It's necessary to preserve stability of the international legal disarmament base, and ensure the continuity of the nuclear arms reduction process," he said.

"We are seeing increasing disregard for the fundamental principles of international law," said Putin. The United States had repeatedly overstepped its national borders on questions of international security, a policy he said had made the world less, not more, safe.

"Unilateral, illegitimate actions have not solved a single problem; they have become a hotbed of further conflicts,"

"One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way ," asserted Putin.

Putin added that force should only be used when the option is backed by the United Nations Security Council. "This is very dangerous. Nobody feels secure any more because nobody can hide behind international law," he said.

Putin also said the increased use of force was "causing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons." He did not name the countries but quite obviously these are north Korea, even Iran and many Arab states to counter Israel's arsenal of hundreds of nuclear bombs and means to deliver them . [While sanctions were passed against India and Pakistan in May, 1998 , after they went nuclear ,any enquiry forget any action against Israel is regularly vetoed by USA in New York and Vienna.]

Energy Charter

Russia is already cooperating with European countries on the basis of principles agreed in the Energy Charter, a mechanism for cooperation between Western and Eastern Europe on energy issues and signed at The Hague in 1991. [West now wants its investors free access to Russia's vast oil and gas deposits and export pipelines , but is unwilling to grant similar facilities to now petro dollar rich Russia to invest in European downstream business .Remember how US refused China , which has saved one trillion dollars by over exporting to US , investment in UNOCAL or a Dubai company a contract for handling of US ports .US led West wants only one way freedom in investment. }.

On Energy Charter Putin declared, "We have stated on numerous occasions that we are not against coordinating the principles of our relations with the European Union in the energy sphere. But we find the [Energy] Charter itself hard to accept." He said Russia's EU partners themselves are not observing the Charter, citing the nuclear materials market, which is still off limits to Russia. "No one has opened it up for us. There are also other issues that I would not like to bring up just now," he said.

Putin stated that Russia-EU energy relations should not be included in a new basic agreement replacing the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. "I do not think we should [include these relations in the basic agreement], as there are other [important] spheres in our interaction with the European Union, besides energy," he said.

Russia and the EU were to begin talks on a new framework at the Russia-EU summit in Helsinki in November 24 last year, but Poland vetoed the negotiations over Russia's ban on its meat exports and Moscow's refusal to sign the Energy Charter. [Vice President Dick Cheney accused Moscow of using its energy resources as "tools of intimidation or blackmail." Many members in the Bush Administration belong to the energy interests to which they will revert back and are cheesed off that Russia does not allow freedom to exploit they have in Saudi Arabia , Gulf kingdoms and elsewhere.]

Putin recalled that Germany shortly after the end of the Cold War had sought to reassure Moscow (its historic enemy) that it would never send its military forces outside its borders. Berlin now has troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan. "Where are those guarantees now?" Putin demanded , arguing that Europe was attempting to set up new "virtual" barriers to replace the Berlin Wall.

Rubble from the Berlin Wall was "hauled away as souvenirs" to countries that praise openness and personal freedom, he said, but "now there are attempts to impose new dividing lines and rules, maybe virtual, but still dividing our mutual continent."

Putin rightly dismissed European complaints about Russian threats last year to cut off energy supplies to its neighbors, saying Moscow was only seeking market prices and stable, long-term contracts with countries including Ukraine and Georgia, which in the past had received subsidized supplies. Even friendly Belarus had to agree to market related prices. [US does it every day .It wants India to vote against Iran on the nuclear question and not have an energy security agreement either .Why ! because it is signing an agreement on nuclear power cooperation .India had its first nuclear explosion way back in 1974 and needs nuclear deterrent to protect its 1.1 billion citizens against nuclear blackmail. So does north Korea .And so think many others now that the biggest proliferators and violators of NPT are the 5 nuclear armed NPT members, also wielding veto power in UNSC}

Human rights;

Putin rebuffed criticism of his country's human rights record by the head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch , who said the world was seeing an "increasingly uni-polar government in Russia, where competing centres of influence are being forced to toe the party line."[US leaders routinely denounce HRW's critique of Abu Ghraib , Guantanamo and other violations.]

Putin responded that Russia was taking steps to stop foreign governments clandestinely using Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to influence Russian policy.

On the killings of a few Russian journalists during his Presidency, Putin retorted that it was in Iraq that most journalists were killed doing their job.

Kosovo and Serbia;

Putin declared "Only the Kosovars and Serbs can resolve this." "Let's not play God and try to resolve their problems."

Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership have failed to reach agreement on the province's future. Serbia demands that the province remain its part, while Kosovo's ethnic Albanians want independence. U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari last week unveiled a proposal, backed by the U.S. and European Union, for an internationally supervised statehood for Kososvo. The plan — which needs U.N. Security Council approval to take effect — does not explicitly mention independence, but spells out conditions for self-rule, including a flag, anthem, army and constitution, and the right to apply for membership in international organizations. Kosovo's Serb minority would have a high degree of control over their own affairs.

Serbia has rejected the plan, while Kosovo's leaders welcomed it.

Moscow has said a solution imposed against Serbia's consent could serve as a model for other separatist provinces elsewhere in the world. Washington maintains that the Kosovo situation is a "one-off" because the province has been under U.N. rule since 1999, when Serbian forces were ejected after a two month NATO 's illegal war on Yugoslavia, which destroyed its industry and infrastructure. Yugoslavia, a nation of southern Slavs and closer to Russia was broken up by USA and West Europe . Orthodox Serbia has close ethnic and religious affinities with Russia. But West opposes independence for South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Transdneister .


On Iran , Putin stated that unlike many countries including in Europe ,Russia did not pass missile technology to Iran. "I have no evidence to show that Russia, in the 1990s, helped Iran create its own missile technology. Other countries acted there. Technology was transferred through different channels. We have proof, and earlier I passed it directly to the U.S. president," Putin said.

"Technology is coming from Europe, from Asian countries. Russia has nothing to do with this," he said. "Russia supplied much less weaponry there than the U.S. or other countries did," he said, Russia has provided Iran with air defense systems with an effective range of 30 to 50 kilometers. "We did that so that Iran would not feel driven into a corner," he explained.

But Putin clarified that Iran has no missiles that could threaten Europe. "As regards [fears that] Iran has missiles that could threaten Europe, you are wrong. Iran has missiles with a range of 1,600-1,700 km. Calculate how many kilometers it is from the Iranian border to Munich," he asked.

Iran has been under US led campaign after it resumed uranium fuel enrichment in January 2006, which some Western countries claim is part of a covert nuclear weapons program. Moscow shares the concerns of the Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, but the agency has not found a nuclear weapons program. Although Tehran has repeatedly affirmed its program is peaceful, the UN Security Council under US pressure did adopt a resolution in December imposing sanctions on Tehran ,but much diluted under insistence from Russia and China.

Russia, Iran's neighbour and a key economic partner has consistently supported Tehran's right to nuclear power under NPT. On February 23, the IAEA would report on the UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program. IAEA's chief El Bardai has asked all sides 'to take time out' and cool down and revert to negotiations. Bush Administrations accusations have not been taken seriously by newly empowered Democrats and many others , who accuse Bush administration of having used similar ratcheting tactics before invading Iraq , when all its accusations on WMDs, Iraq's connection with Al Qaeda and efforts to obtain Uranium ore were proved to be lies.

During the question period after the address, Putin made some soothing gestures and remarks.
Putin said President Bush had told him that the U.S. assumed the two countries would "never be enemies again, and I agree with him." "I really consider the president of the United States my friend." "He's a decent man, and one can do business with him," Putin said.

Inter-fax quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov telling state Russian TV Channel that the building of a good relations between Moscow and Washington was "not easy-- probably the most difficult partner."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the President's speech in Munich was not "confrontational" and attributed his blunt words to the sense that the number of conflicts fomented by Washington "was constantly growing" and that international law was being undermined by such actions.

"It is in the interest of the United States, the European Union and other countries that international law is upheld, not further destroyed," Peskov stated.

Before Putin's sermon ,Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany , which holds the European Union's rotating presidency had praised Russia, saying it would be a reliable energy supplier to Europe. She called for closer relations between the EU and Moscow to enhance stability on the continent.

"How relations between the EU and Russia evolve will have a crucial impact on how security in the region will develop," said Merkel She also said that the international community is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Tehran needed to accept demands made by the U.N. and the IAEA , she added.

On the sidelines of the conference, Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani defended his country's nuclear program as peaceful, saying: "We are no threat to our region or other countries," while indicating a willingness to return to negotiations.

Western reaction;

Having seen Putin being lectured to even by leaders of pidddling Baltic states ,now part of EU ; US and European leaders were stunned at the candour of his speech .While US officials mostly played it down as empty rhetoric divorced from the real world,( Did not US Sen Barbara say recently, "The president[Bush] is living in a dream world.'') but European leaders are worried and felt that West must square up to a brash and combative new Russia.

"We should take him at his word. This was the real Russia of now, and possibly in four or five years time it could go further in this direction," declared Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in Munich." We have to have a dialogue with Russia but we must be hard-nosed and realistic. We must stand up for our values."

Karl Schwarzenberg, the new Czech Foreign Minister, said it was none of Moscow's business whether Prague hosted the radar facilities for the US missile shield. "We have to thank President Putin [who] clearly and convincingly argued why Nato should be enlarged," he quipped to applause. "Some people have not noticed that the Soviet Union no longer exists."

"I do not see how we can negotiate a new partnership pact on this basis," said German Green Angelika Beer, a member of the European Parliament. "We need Russia for energy and Kosovo. He knows that - but perhaps he is going over the top," she said.

The European Union wants to negotiate a new partnership agreement with Russia but its hand is weakened by its dependence on Russian energy supplies. The other alternative is Iran. Any takers!

"This Munich conference is normally about the Americans and Europeans bitching at each other," said Ron Asmus, executive director of the Transatlantic Centre think tank in Brussels. "It will be interesting to see whether Putin actually managed to bring us together."

US & Europe need Moscow's support in UN to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear question and in securing independence for the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he was disappointed by Putin's statement that alliance enlargement was "a serious factor provoking reduced mutual trust." "I see a disconnection between NATO's partnership with Russia as it has developed and Putin's speech," he said.

"Who can be worried that democracy and the rule of law are coming closer to somebody's border?" Scheffer asked. [ Yes, de Hoop Scheffer. USA and NATO are spreading democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and international law by illegal invasion of Iraq.]

Putin's Munich growl came a day after a similar speech by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov - a possible successor to Putin ,to his NATO counterparts meeting in Seville, Spain.

"One Cold War was quite enough," US Defence Secretary Robert Gates .

Robert Gates sat through Putin's speech stone faced. A former CIA chief , as is the usual US trait when demonizing Putin they refer to his KGB background ( rarely mentioned when George WH Bush , a former CIA chief ,was Vice President or President ) Gates replied next day, "As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time," He paused for effect before adding, "Almost."

"And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking," Gates said. "However, I have been to re-education camp — spending four and half years as a university president and dealing with faculty." His remark drew laughs and applause.

"Russia is a partner in endeavors," Gates added. "But we wonder, too, about some Russian policies that seem to work against international stability, such as its arms transfers and its temptation to use energy resources for political coercion." [ Really , What about invading Iraq to grab energy ?]

"All of these characterizations belong in the past," Gates said, and he listed some of them: "The free world versus those behind the Iron Curtain. North versus South. East versus West, and I am told that some have even spoken in terms of 'Old Europe' versus 'New.'" (It referred to remarks by his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld on Europe)

"The distinction I would draw is a very practical one — a realist's view perhaps," Gates said. "It is between alliance members who do all they can to fulfill collective commitments, and those who do not." He urged NATO allies to increase their military spending to meet the benchmark of two percent of gross domestic product set by the alliance; only six of NATO's 26 members fulfill that standard.

Digging old ghosts ie NATO's success in facing the Soviet threat, Gates stated that "it seems clear that totalitarianism was defeated as much by ideas the West championed then and now as by ICBMs, tanks and warships that the West deployed," Gates said. The alliance's most effective weapon, he said, was a "shared belief in political and economic freedom, religious toleration, human rights, representative government and the rule of law. These values kept our side united, and inspired those on the other side."

Gates added that the interceptor missiles and radar installations planned for Poland and the Czech Republic were not directed against Russia - it offered no protection against the Kremlin's arsenal of nuclear-tipped intercontinental rockets. Article continues

"This umbrella of protection unifies the alliance rather than divides it," he said.

Throughout his reply to Putin's commanding performance , Gates asked how America's European allies must help rebuild Afghanistan ( There are few takers for South Afghanistan.) and remain vigilant in the fight against global terrorism. He mentioned Putin only once by name ,to say he had accepted his invitation to visit Moscow.

Gates also referred to China, saying, "Looking eastward, China is a country at a strategic crossroads. All of us seek a constructive relationship with China, but we also wonder about strategic choices China may make. We note with concern their recent test of an anti-satellite weapon."

If the United States and its partners fail in Iraq, and chaos tears the nation apart, Gates warned, "every member of this alliance will feel the consequences" of regional turmoil and terrorism. He acknowledged the damage done to America's global standing by its conduct in the campaign against terrorism.

Sen. John McCain who was present in Munich described Putin's remarks as "the most aggressive speech from a Russian leader since the end of the Cold War." During his formal remarks later, McCain echoed the sentiments of several Americans in attendance, that Russia appeared to be turning more autocratic and its foreign policy was standing increasingly in opposition to Western democracies.

"Today's world is not unipolar," McCain said, disputing Putin's main theme. "In today's multipolar world, there is no need for pointless confrontation." [Sen. McCain remains a hawk on Iraq war ]

Reaction in Washington;

US spokesman Kurt Volker said he listened to Putin with a sense of disconnect from reality. "That was like a parallel universe. The rest of us were in there talking about common challenges," he said. Gordon Johndroe, President Bush's national security spokesman was "surprised and disappointed" by Putin's remarks. "His accusations are wrong," said Johndroe. But "We expect to continue cooperation with Russia in areas important to the international community such as counterterrorism and reducing the spread and threat of weapons of mass destruction," added Johndroe.

Stephen Sestanovich, Clinton's ambassador-at-large to states of the former Soviet Union said ;"Most Americans are not aware of how heated and agitated the Russians' discussions are about their relationship with the West." He added, "It may come as a surprise to Americans, but for the Russians, the rhetoric on these questions tends to be pretty grim, among the experts and regular folks, about the deterioration of the relationship.

"The theme is, 'We're tired of American hegemony, we're tired of being treated like a former superpower doormat, and we're back, and we're mad,' " Sestanovich said.

Prof Charles A. Kupchan of Georgetown University remarked "It's not just about U.S. foreign policy." "It's also about growing self-confidence in Russia, and Putin's determined effort to conduct a more muscular foreign policy, which is at least in part a byproduct of oil revenue," he said.

Why Russians dislike Washington;

The Soviet Union's collapse was ruthlessly exploited by US led West when its capitalist controlled media sang praises of economic reforms and democratization bringing economic disintegration and ruination to Russia .The worst kind of depression in modern history with economic losses more than twice those suffered by USSR in World War II. Russian GDP was trimmed to half and capital investment fell by 80 percent. People were reduced to penury and misery, death rates soared and the population shrank. And in August 1998, the Russian financial system collapsed.

Putin was appointed Prime Minister in 1999, then acting president. In the 2000 election, Putin took 53% of the vote in the first round and, four years later, he was re-elected with a landslide majority of 71%. After Putin took charge he arrested the decline , brought stability and security and consolidated the disintegrating core of the Russian state . The rise in energy prices , natural and a consequence of Iraq war has benefited Russia immensely .

Since 1999 Russian economy has averaged 6 to 7 annual growth, its gold and foreign currency reserves are the world's fifth largest. Moscow is booming with new construction, frenzied consumption of Western luxury goods , but over 60% Russians live below the poverty line. Still Putin's rule has brought stability and restored some sense of pride , and he remains very popular.

Stephen F. Cohen in an article "The New American Cold War " wrote in 10 July 2006 issue of US Magazine ,'The Nation" that since 1990s ,Washington has followed hypocritical policy of "strategic partnership and friendship," with Presidents being on first name basis but underneath, all US administrations have followed a ruthless policy of undermining Russia " accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions. USA has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to the Soviet Communist Russia."

" A growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases, which are already ensconced or being planned in at least half the fourteen other former Soviet republics, from the Baltics and Ukraine to Georgia, Azerbaijan and the new states of Central Asia. The result is a US-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations.

" A tacit (and closely related) US denial that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside its own territory, even in ethnically akin or contiguous former republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia." Richard Holbrooke, Democratic a democrat Secretary of State in waiting roundly condemned Russia for promoting a pro-Moscow government in neighboring Ukraine, where Russia has centuries of shared linguistic, marital, religious, economic and security ties and declared ' that far-away Slav nation part of "our core zone of security."

"Even more, a presumption that Russia does not have full sovereignty within its own borders, as expressed by constant US interventions in Moscow's internal affairs since 1992. They have included an on-site crusade by swarms of American "advisers," particularly during the 1990s, to direct Russia's "transition" from Communism; endless missionary sermons from afar, often couched in threats, on how that nation should and should not organize its political and economic systems; and active support for Russian anti-Kremlin groups, some associated with hated Yeltsin-era oligarchs.

It was even suggested that Putin be overthrown by the kind of US-backed "color revolutions" carried out since 2003 in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and attempted this year in Belarus. US corporate media 'increasingly call the Russian President "thug," "fascist" and "Saddam Hussein," one of the Carnegie Endowment's several Washington crusaders assures us of "Putin's weakness" and vulnerability to "regime change." (Do proponents of "democratic regime change" in Russia care what it might mean destabilizing a nuclear state?)

" Underpinning these components of the real US policy are familiar cold war double standards , condemning Moscow for doing what Washington does - such as seeking allies and military bases in former Soviet republics, using its assets (oil and gas in Russia's case) as aid to friendly governments and regulating foreign money in its political life.

"More broadly, when NATO expands to Russia's front and back doorsteps, gobbling up former Soviet-bloc members and republics, it is "fighting terrorism" and "protecting new states"; when Moscow protests, it is engaging in "cold war thinking." When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is "promoting democracy"; when the Kremlin does so, it is "neo-imperialism."

" And not to forget the historical background: When in the 1990s the US-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia's elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was "democratic reform"; when Putin continues that process, it is "authoritarianism."

US has attempted by exploiting Russia's weakness, to acquire the nuclear superiority it could not achieve during the Soviet era. Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, in order to create a system capable of destroying incoming missiles and thereby the capacity to launch a nuclear first strike without fear of retaliation. US coerced Russia to sign an empty nuclear weapons reduction agreement without actual destruction of weapons or verification , but allowing US development of new ones, which Washington has announced.

" The extraordinarily anti-Russian nature of these policies casts serious doubt on two American official and media axioms: that the recent "chill" in US-Russian relations has been caused by Putin's behavior at home and abroad, and that the cold war ended fifteen years ago. The first axiom is false, the second only half true: The cold war ended in Moscow, but not in Washington."

"The crusade to transform Russia during the 1990s, with its disastrous "shock therapy" economic measures and resulting antidemocratic acts, further destabilized the country, fostering an oligarchical system that plundered the state's wealth, deprived essential infrastructures of investment, impoverished the people and nurtured dangerous corruption. In the process, it discredited Western-style reform, generated mass anti-Americanism where there had been almost none - only 5 percent of Russians surveyed in May (2006) thought the United States was a "friend" - and eviscerated the once-influential pro-American faction in Kremlin and electoral politics."

US leaders and media pretend that Washington has a "well-intentioned Russian policy," but "a Russian autocrat ... betrayed the American's faith." After a decade of broken US promises and Yeltsin's boozy compliance, Kremlin declared four years ago, in a Radio commentary "The era of Russian geopolitical concessions [is] coming to an end." (Looking back, the commentator remarked bitterly that Russia has been "constantly deceived.")

In the undeclared cold war now there are no structures for any substantive negotiations and cooperation, .The "dialogue is almost non-existent ," in regard to nuclear weapons after US's abandonment of the ABM treaty and real reductions, its decision to build an antimissile shield, and talk of pre-emptive war and nuclear strikes which had kept the nuclear peace for nearly fifty years are now open . Reportedly, Bush's National Security Council is contemptuous of arms control as a "baggage from the cold war." US editorial pages are dominated by resurgent cold war orthodoxies, with incessant demonization of Putin's "autocracy" and "crude neo-imperialism". It reads like a bygone Pravda on the Potomac.

So the discourses at Munich should surprise no one except hypocritical US leaders , its media and its Trojan horses in EU like, UK , Poland and the Czechs. Those in the Baltics and East Europe ,who decry past Soviet domination , would they have preferred Nazi victory and rule .In any case USA was not prepared to expend men and material to liberate East Europe and the Baltics from the Nazis. It were the Soviet people and its armed forces which destroyed 80% of Nazi military machine and sacrificed tens of millions of its citizens and military men. Hollywood only makes films of great US victories.

Arabs welcome Putin's Middle East visit;

Arab world has welcomed President Putin's Middle East visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan .Arab experts feel that the primary aim is to "send a message" to the US that Moscow has a key role to play in this vital region and that it is high time for Washington to give up its policies of domination and destruction.

"By carrying out this exceptional trip, I believe Putin is at pains to dispatch a message to the United States that the Middle East is not a backyard for Washington, but a vital area for the whole world," Faisal al-Rofou, head of the political science department at the University of Jordan, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. (In Jordan and most Arab countries such comments have the governments' approval)

Al-Rofou remarked that the Russian leader's Munich comments indicated Moscow was "fed up with the domination polices of George Bush. "

"Putin is heir to the legacy of a great state - the Soviet Union - and although Moscow's role has receded over the past few years, the Russian leader wants to say that it is high time for Moscow to play that great part again in the affairs of the Middle East and the world at large," he said. "Therefore , his Middle East trip seeks to drive the idea home that we are present in this part of the world and the United States should recognize others' interests in the region," he added.

Putin's visit would "add significance" to the agreement concluded in Mecca with Saudi brokerage between the key Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas. (Against Israeli protests Moscow had received a Hamas delegation , soon after it won in a free democratic election.)

"I believe the accord will figure largely in Putin's talks with Saudi leaders and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas," he said. Abbas is scheduled to meet with Putin in Amman on 13 February. Palestinian diplomats expected the Mecca declaration to be high on the agenda during the meeting.

"We count on the Russian support for ensuring a lift of the Western embargo that was imposed on the Palestinian Authority in March" in the wake of the landslide victory scored by Hamas , al-Rofou said.

During the last Mideast Quartet meeting in Washington at the beginning of this month, the Russian delegate urged a speedy end of the boycott of the Hamas-led government which he said came to office through the ballots. [US led West remains opposed to Hamas as only pro-West puppets are acceptable. So much for Western proclaimed love for democracy.] Besides Russia, the quartet also includes the US, the E U and the U. N.

Qadri Saeed, at the Cairo-based al-Ahram Strategic Studies, believes that Moscow "stood a good chance of influencing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through its balanced ties with both Fatah and Hamas on one side and between the Palestinians and Israel on the other".

"In face of the receding US influence in the region due to setbacks in Iraq and other areas, the Russians now feel they can occupy the ensuing vacuum in the region," he concluded.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:

Quote of the Day

I thought I was dreaming when I read this:

"After the Iran war, we'll probably be walked back and shown that President Bush never really said that the Qods force was giving these weapons to the people using them against US troops. He didn't fib. We just didn't listen closely enough. He was just saying that the Qods folks gave them to someone. But he wasn't saying who. So before all our soldiers die and before the president makes yet a million more screw ups for which we'll pay for decades into the future, let's look closely at what he's actually saying."

-- Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is the publisher of, and He also writes a weekly column for capitol hill newspaper The Hill.

His articles on politics, culture and foreign affairs have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers such as The American Prospect, The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Post, The New York Times, Salon and Slate. He has appeared on CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, FOX and MSNBC and is a frequent guest on radio stations across the country.

Previously, he was a contributing writer for The Washington Monthly and the Washington Editor of The American Prospect.

Marshall graduated from Princeton in 1991 and holds a doctorate in American history from Brown.

After five years living in Washington DC, he recently moved to New York City, where he lives with his wife Millet and their dog Simon.

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India, Russia, China for positive contribution to peace Hindu
India, Russia, China for multi-polar world, discuss Iran India
India, Russia, China for multi-polar world, discuss Iran Telugu Portal
From India's perspective, Russia's resurgence as an assertive player on the global scene and Iran's preference to foster energy cooperation with the Asian market open up the prospects of a unified Asian market for gas. Washington, though, can be expected single-mindedly to try to scuttle Indo-Iranian energy cooperation, while Moscow will encourage such cooperation and offer to be party to it.

Feb 14, 2007

By M K Bhadrakumar
M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years

While the United States has been stealthily finessing a pretext for launching a military attack on Iran, it has also been prevailing on its close allies and friends to stay clear of bilateral political exchanges with Tehran. Isolation and containment of Iran and a "regime change" in that country have become the leitmotif of US foreign policy in the remaining two years of the presidency of George W Bush.

But Washington either made an exception for India, or India after all didn't belong in the gallery of Washington's close or "natural" allies. At any rate, New Delhi acted in its best interests when Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee paid a two-day visit to Tehran on February 6-7.

The timing of the visit was indeed sensitive. It was only five days earlier, in testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski made an astounding statement accusing the Bush administration of plotting situations to justify war against Iran.

Someone of the stature of Brzezinski, who has close connections with the US intelligence community and security establishment, wouldn't have made an irresponsible allegation. Yet Mukherjee went ahead with the visit. He also made it unequivocally clear in his media comments that India is opposed to any use of force against Iran.

Most importantly, apart from underlining that expansion of relations with Iran is important for India, Mukherjee described Iran as a factor for stability in the region. That is to say, India disregards Washington's propaganda that Iran is aiding and abetting terrorism and is threatening regimes in neighboring countries.

Equally, Mukherjee called for the Iran nuclear file to be sent back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the competent forum to handle the issue. "A solution based on talks and a peaceful approach can be realized through close cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. Besides, both sides should be flexible," he said. In sum, Mukherjee made out with great poise and resoluteness that New Delhi has its own independent foreign policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

The main purpose of Mukherjee's visit was to set a political climate in India's bilateral relations with Iran that will be conducive to the advancement of energy cooperation between the two countries. Coming weeks and months should testify whether the proposals for a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan and a 25-year deal on liquefied natural gas (LNG) will gather pace or not. Difficulties still lie ahead. Principally, Washington can be expected to do all that is possible to ensure that New Delhi is arrested on its current path. Subtle pressure tactics seem to have already begun.

Speaking in Washington last week, the powerful new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos, who is well known for his pro-Israel political stance and has consistently warned India publicly in the past against cozying up to Iran, fired a public salvo to the effect that New Delhi must "fulfill its promises". He said Delhi must keep its side of the bargain, "which India is not doing", over the nuclear deal with the US and that it is imperative that "we have to work on that issue". Lantos said even a "small country like Finland, for example, is sticking to whatever promises it has made", and, naturally, it behooved a "great country like India" to deliver on its promises.

The pro-Israel think-tank Heritage Foundation also chipped in by calling for a robust intervention by the Bush administration in the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan peace process in general, as otherwise, "the US-India civil nuclear deal has the potential to contribute to deepening tensions in the region". The think-tank called on the US administration to take up with New Delhi the issues of human rights, economic development and good governance in Jammu and Kashmir.

Curiously, the author of the Heritage report, Lisa Curtis, is a former foreign-policy aide to Senator Richard Lugar, the erstwhile Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and she previously worked as a political analyst on South Asia in the Central Intelligence Agency, apart from serving in the US embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad in the 1990s.

In addition, unnamed US officials have begun sounding impatient about the lack of progress in the negotiation of the so-called 123 Agreement between India and the United States - the final lap of the Indo-US nuclear deal. There seem to be fears in Washington that India may be dragging its feet and, in the process, Russia may steal a march over US companies in supplying nuclear plants to India. It is estimated that the nuclear deal will generate US$80 billion in downstream business.

How these tricky undercurrents play out will have a bearing on the incipient Iran-India energy cooperation, assuming that New Delhi will be plucky enough to press ahead regardless of concerted US opposition. Indeed, there are larger dimensions. In fact, India-Iran energy cooperation forms a crucial vector of emergent Asian security.

This became apparent during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi on January 25-26, where the focus was on all-around cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh characterized energy security as "the most important of the emerging dimensions" of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership.

He said, "Russia's position as a global leader on energy issues is widely recognized. We look forward to long-term partnership with Russia in this vital field." Two working groups were constituted to examine both upstream cooperation (access for Indian participation in the funding, exploration and development of oil and gas fields in Russia) and downstream cooperation (participation by Russian companies in marketing oil products and LNG in India).

Moscow has repeatedly shown interest in taking part in the financing and construction of the Iran-India gas pipeline. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who accompanied Putin to New Delhi, stated, "We are pegging big hopes on the Gazprom-GAIL [Russian and Indian gas companies] strategic partnership, including joint efforts in building the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline."

For Pakistan's part, President General Pervez Musharraf was recently in Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and according to media statements, the gas-pipeline project was discussed. "Now that the pricing mechanism has been worked out between Iran and Pakistan, the two countries will discuss early implementation of the pipeline project," Ahmadinejad said.

Russian companies are evidently conscious of the huge volume of business generated through the transportation of Iranian gas to the rapidly growing South Asian market, apart from the highly lucrative distribution and retailing of the gas in India and Pakistan. By a rough assessment, for receiving the gas coming through the $7 billion pipeline, infrastructure development within India alone will generate business close to $40 billion in immediate terms.

But energy cooperation among Russia, Iran and India has a much wider backdrop than business opportunities. Energy security, inevitably, is a subject where politics mixes with economics. India is keenly watching the tectonic shifts in the Eurasian gas market. Iran has proven gas reserves of about 28 trillion cubic meters, while its gas output increases by 10% annually. At present, Iran uses almost its entire gas production in its domestic market. About 100 billion cubic meters (bcm) is supplied to domestic consumers, including 35bcm for power plants, while 40bcm is pumped into the country's oil beds for maintaining the well flow rate. In other words, Iran's export capacity is poised to grow dramatically in the near term.

New Delhi is aware that many of Europe's plans to diversify its gas supply involve Iran. In other words, a competitive struggle for Iranian gas between the European market and the Asian market is becoming inevitable in the near future as Europe faces an acute gas shortage by 2015, even if Russia keeps up its supplies and the Northern Gas Pipeline becomes operational.

India has been watching with interest Ahmadinejad's proposal to Putin on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit last June that Iran is prepared to determine gas prices jointly with Russia and the main routes of gas pipelines. The Russian-Iranian energy dialogue has significantly advanced since then, culminating in the proposal by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to Putin on January 28 that the two countries must cooperate along the lines of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Nations. To be sure, New Delhi has taken careful note that the prospects for the merging of Russian and Iranian gas-transportation networks have distinctly brightened.

Taking matters further, the Iranian Supreme Leader's adviser on international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, visited Moscow last week and held discussions with Putin. Velayati said on his return from Moscow that Tehran sees the present juncture as a "turning point" in Iran's strategic cooperation with Russia. He alleged that Washington is trying its utmost to disrupt the emerging Russian-Iranian strategic cooperation in the transit of energy, as it will impact phenomenally on the correlation of forces internationally.

With Russia controlling 27% of the world's gas reserves and Iran 15%, cooperation between these countries is bound to have huge potential in terms of global gas distribution. It is only natural for a major potential gas consumer like India optimally to exploit the opportunities arising out of the matrix of energy cooperation between these two countries with which it has traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations.

From the Indian perspective, Russia's resurgence as an assertive player on the global scene and Iran's preference to foster energy cooperation with the Asian market open up the prospects of a unified Asian market for gas, involving the Central Asian countries as well.

China, which has a gas deal with Turkmenistan for the supply of 30bcm of gas annually with effect from 2009, is already anticipating the enormous implications of these developments for its energy security. Last June, coinciding with the SCO summit, the Beijing Morning Post gave a detailed description of China's prospective plan for developing its domestic gas-pipeline network during the next 20 years in anticipation of gas supplies from Russia and Central Asian countries. According to the report, China's 24,000-kilometer gas-pipeline grid will be expanded to 36,000km by 2010.

New Delhi has no alternative but to partake of the emerging Asian market for gas if it is to get anywhere near seriously addressing its energy-security problems. In comparison, the Indo-US nuclear deal will have a very long gestation period before it makes any real impact on India's energy map. Nuclear energy will remain a marginal player in the Indian economy in the foreseeable future.

In the geo-economic context of energy security, Indian and US interests are far apart at the moment. Whereas the US favors European projects for diversifying gas supplies that will reduce the West's dependency on Russian supplies, India has a definite interest in Tehran's preference to direct the bulk of its gas resources to Asia. India cannot attach credibility to the US counsel to trust the market instead of trying to "lock in" energy supply when Washington is actively promoting various oil- and gas-pipeline projects heading toward the European market from the Caspian and Central Asian regions.

Without doubt, Russia will be actively supportive of the warming of Indo-Iranian ties, which went through a rough patch after India's vote against Iran at the IAEA in October 2005. Curiously, a meeting of the foreign ministers of India, Russia and China in New Delhi set for February 24 closely follows Mukherjee's visit to Iran. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Beijing that the three foreign ministers will discuss cooperation in the economic field and that their meeting will "help the three countries to expand common ground and push forward trilateral mutually beneficial cooperation".

India and Russia share deep apprehension over Washington's aggressive stance against Iran. Any US military attack against Iran will threaten to have adverse consequences for India's energy supplies. Again, while Washington can be expected single-mindedly to try to scuttle Indo-Iranian energy cooperation, Moscow will encourage such cooperation and offer to be party to it.

Finally, while Washington may have plans for inveigling India as a counterweight to China, Moscow hopes to foster greater Sino-Indian understanding within which an Asian market of energy producers and energy consumers could flourish.

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings including ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

Enemies at the borders

Right Web | Profile | Iran Policy Committee: "...the IPC paper maintains that the Bush administration should find a role for “the Iranian opposition in Iraq to build a national compact among the Iraqi factions.” For the IPC, the “Iranian opposition in Iraq” is represented by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been identified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist group. "


An explosion in the south-eastern Iranian city of Zahedan should give pause for thought about wider instability in the Middle East.

February 14, 2007 5:17 PM

Ian Black

It's bombs in Baghdad that tend to hit the headlines these days, but a deadly explosion in the south-eastern Iranian city of Zahedan should give pause for thought about wider instability in the Middle East, who is targeting whom and why.

Reports from the scene, close to the Pakistani border, confirmed at least 11 revolutionary guards killed by a car bomb that destroyed their bus. Iran's official media reported that the attack had been claimed by a Sunni group called Jundullah (Soldiers of God), which Tehran has linked both to al-Qaida and the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan. Zahebad is the capital of the province where Iran's own Baloch minority is concentrated.

Predictably, given current tensions over Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions, an official Iranian source was quick to charge that the attack had been perpetrated by a group "with support from the US."

It's hard to be certain about the truth of these claims in the swirl of propaganda and misinformation that surrounds such incidents, always grist to the mill of conspiracy theorists. But there is common sense in the view of one strategic analysis website that this is part of a much wider conflict.

"The US-Iranian standoff over Iraq has reached a high level of intensity," commented (subscription only) Stratfor, supplier of intelligence to the international business community. "While the hard-line rhetoric and steps toward negotiations absorb the media's attention, a covert war being played out between Iran on one side, and the United States and Israel on the other, will escalate further. While Israel appears to be focused on decapitating Iran's nuclear programme through targeted assassinations, the United States has likely ramped up support for Iran's variety of oppressed minorities in an attempt to push the Iranian regime toward a negotiated settlement over Iraq."

Much hangs on that tentative word "likely".

Jundullah has been blamed in the past for kidnappings and killings in this wild border area, where drug-smuggling is a big preoccupation for the Iranian security forces. It was accused last year of killing 12 people as well as a security guard protecting the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The alleged al-Qaida connection also makes nonsense of the occasional suggestion in the west that Tehran is somehow in cahoots with Osama bin Laden.

It is not the first time that Iran has linked trouble in its border regions to its enemies. Tehran regularly accuses the US and Britain of fomenting separatism in Khuzestan, the oil-rich, ethnic Arab majority area in the south-west. That was where, on the eve of the 1980 war, Saddam Hussein backed the young men who took over the Iranian embassy in London - triggering the famous siege by the SAS in 1980.

And there have been unsubstantiated claims that the US is using the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) - banned as a terrorist group in the US and EU - as a proxy to mount attacks in both Baluchistan and Khuzestan.

Iran's Balochs form part of the country's 9% Sunni Muslim minority, so it was heartening to see a swift appeal from a local religious leader to avoid sectarian revenge attacks. Sunni Saudi Arabia, banging the drum over the "Shia crescent" and rising Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, has repeatedly made clear in recent days that fomenting sectarianism can cut both ways. The Zahedan bombings might have been an illustration of that point.

Ian Black is currently the Guardian's leader writer on foreign affairs and has previously been its European editor in Brussels (2000-2004), diplomatic editor in London (1993-2000) and Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem. (1984-1993).