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ÿþWill Iran be attacked?

Dr. Paul Craig

WASHINGTON has made tremendous preparations for a military assault on Iran. There is speculation that Washington has called off its two longest running wars–Iraq and Afghanistan–in order to deploy forces against Iran.

Two of Washington’s fleets have been assigned to the Persian Gulf along with NATO warships. Missiles have been spread amongst Washington’s Oil Emirate and Middle Eastern puppet states. US troops have been deployed in Israel and Kuwait.

Washington has presented Israel a gift from the hard-pressed American taxpayers of an expensive missile defence system, money spent for Israel when millions of unassisted Americans have lost their homes. As no one expects Iran to attack Israel, except in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran, the purpose of the missile defence system is to protect Israel from an Iranian response to Israeli aggression against Iran.

Juan Cole has posted on his blog a map showing 44 US military bases surrounding Iran. In addition to the massive military preparations, there is the propaganda war against Iran that has been ongoing since 1979 when Washington’s puppet, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown by the Iranian revolution. Iran is surrounded, but Washington and Israeli propaganda portray Iran as a threatening aggressor nation. In fact, the aggressors are the Washington and Tel Aviv governments which constantly threaten Iran with military attack.

Neocon warmongers, such as David Goldman, compare the Iranian president to Hitler and declare that only war can stop him. Washington’s top military officials have created the impression that an act of Israeli aggression against Iran is a done deal. On February 2 the Washington Post reported that Pentagon chief Leon Panetta believes that Israel is likely to attack Iran in two to four months.

Also on February 2, Gareth Porter reported that General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed the Israeli government that the US would not join Israel’s aggression against Iran unless Washington had given prior approval for the attack.

Porter interprets Dempsey’s warning as a strong move by President Obama to deter an attack that would involve Washington in a regional conflagration with Iran. A different way to read Dempsey’s warning is that Obama wants to hold off on attacking Iran until polls show him losing the presidential election. It has generally been the case that the patriotic electorate does not turn out a president who is at war.

On February 5, President Obama cancelled Dempsey’s warning to Israel when Obama declared that he was in “lockstep” with the Israeli government. Obama is in lockstep with Israel despite the fact that Obama told NBC that “we don’t see any evidence that they [Iran] have those intentions [attacks on the US] or capabilities.” By being in lockstep with Israel and simultaneously calling for a “diplomatic solution,” Obama appeased both the Israel Lobby and Democratic peace groups, thus upping his vote.

As I wrote previously, this spring is a prime time for attacking Iran, because there is a good chance that Russia will be in turmoil because of its March election. The Russian opposition to Putin is financed by Washington and encouraged by Washington’s statements, especially those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Whether Putin wins or there is an indecisive result and a run-off election, Washington’s money will put tens of thousands of Russians into the streets, just as Washington’s money created the “Green Revolution” in Iran to protest the presidential elections there.

On February 4 the former left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, reported a pre-election protest by 120,000 anti-Putin demonstrators marching in Moscow and demanding “fair elections.” In other words, Washington already has its minions declaring that a win by Putin in March can only signify a stolen election. The problem for Obama is that this spring is too early to tell whether his re-election is threatened by a Republican candidate. Going to war prematurely, especially if the result is a stiff rise in oil prices, is not an aid to re-election.

The willingness of peoples around the world to be Washington’s puppets instead of loyal citizens of their own countries is why the West has been able to dominate the world during the modern era. There seems to be an infinite supply of foreign leaders who prefer Washington’s money and favour to loyalty to their own countries’ interests.

As Karl Marx said, money turns everything into a commodity that can be bought and sold. All other values are defeated–honour, integrity, truth, justice, loyalty, even blood kin. Nothing remains but filthy lucre. Money certainly turned UK Prime Minister Tony Blair into a political commodity.

The power of money was brought home to me many years ago. My Ph.D. dissertation chairman found himself in the Nixon administration as Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security affairs. He asked if I would go to Vietnam to administer the aid programs. I was flattered that he thought I had the strength of character to stand up to the corruption that usually defeats the purpose of aid programs, but I declined the assignment.

The conversation was one I will never forget. Warren Nutter was an intelligent person of integrity. He thought regardless of whether the war was necessary that we had been led into it by deception. He thought democracy could not live with deception, and he objected to government officials who were not honest with the American people. Nutter’s position was that a democratic government had to rely on persuasion, not on trickery. Otherwise, the outcomes were not democratic.

As Nutter saw it, we were in a war, and we had involved the South Vietnamese. Therefore, we had obligations to them. If we proved to be feckless, the consequence would be to undermine commitments we had made to other countries in our effort to contain the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Union, unlike the “terrorist threat” had the potential of being a real threat. People who have come of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union don’t understand the cold war era.

In the course of the conversation I asked how Washington got so many other governments to do its bidding. He answered, “Money.” I asked, “You mean foreign aid?” He said, “No, bags of money. We buy the leaders.” He didn’t approve of it, but there was nothing he could do about it. Purchasing the leadership of their enemies or of potential threats was the Roman way. Timothy H. Parsons in his book, The Rule of Empires, describes the Romans as “deft practitioners of soft power.” Rome preferred to rule the conquered and the potentially hostile through “semiautonomous client kings which the Senate euphemistically termed ‘friends of the Roman people.’ Romans helped cooperative monarchs remain in power with direct payments of coins and material goods. Acceptance of these subsidies signified that an ally deferred to imperial authority, and the Romans interpreted any defiance of their will as an overt revolt. They also intervened freely in local succession disputes to replace unsuitable clients.”

This is the way Washington rules. Washington’s way of ruling other countries is why there is no “Egyptian Spring,” but a military dictatorship as a replacement for Washington’s discarded puppet Hosni Mubarak, and why European puppet states are fighting Washington’s wars of hegemony in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy funds non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. It is through the operations of NGOs that Washington added the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to Washington’s empire, along with the Baltic States, and Eastern European countries.

Because of the hostility of many Russians to their Soviet past, Russia is vulnerable to Washington’s machinations. As long as the dollar rules, Washington’s power will rule. As Rome debased its silver denarius into lead, Rome’s power to purchase compliance faded away. If “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke inflates away the purchasing power of the dollar, Washington’s power will melt away also.

Armed Forces & Balochis’ uplift

S. M. Hali

DESPITE being the richest in mineral resources and having a 750 Kilometre coastline, offering tranquil beaches and abundance of marine life, Balochistan is the most neglected province of Pakistan. Subsequent governments have not only left the Balochis in gross neglect but plundered its riches, leaving the inhabitant in shabby and decrepit condition. Besides the federal government, the provincial governments of Balochistan and the feudal lords of the state have been complicit in this criminal abandon. In the decade 2000 onwards, various development projects were launched to improve the plight of the Balochis but this is a case of too little, too late. Decisions that should have been taken in the seventies and eighties are being taken now, which does little to alleviate the misery of the people. Resultantly, the Balochis have been exploited to fuel insurgency and strife. Most of their grouse is genuine but taking up arms was not the prescribed action.

In the near past, the armed forces of Pakistan have taken up the cudgels for the uplift of the Balochis. The main areas of concern have been education, health and means of livelihood to wean away the disgruntled elements into lives of normalcy. Both the Army and Navy have spearheaded projects in induction of the Balochi youth into their respective services as well as setting up educational and medical institutions. As regards recruitment in the Armed Forces, there have been adequate vacancies, but less number of Balochi youth preferred this profession, mainly because of illiteracy and ignorance. Resultantly, there has been less representation of the Balochi youth in the Armed Forces of Pakistan. In order to create awareness among the Balochi youth about the military, and subsequently choosing it as their profession, over the past few years, the Armed Forces have started a massive awareness campaign and concession package all over the province. The Army’s campaign met overwhelming successes. Thousands of the Balochi youth appeared for the recruitment in various Army recruitment centres. 4,000 Balochi recruits of this massive recruitment campaign have completed their basic military training on October 29, 2010 and joined various units of Pak Army as soldiers; prior to this, a batch of 10000, Baloch were inducted into the Army. Induction of these soldiers in large numbers is a major milestone and a historical occasion for their families and province. Additionally, 10,000 Balochi recruits still undergoing basic military training in various training institutions are likely to join the prestigious service in the near future.

Pakistan Navy (PN) has launched the “N” Cadet scheme in which Balochi youth are being inducted in different cadet colleges through a sponsorship system in which the youth will be able to join PN after completion of their studies. In a fast track scheme, Balochi youth are being taken directly into PN as officers without undergoing the rigours of ISSB. Two years after commissioning, they will have to undergo the selection process by ISSB, by which time they will be better equipped to pass the tests. Similar schemes are being undertaken for induction into PN’s other ranks. Different branches of Bahriya schools and colleges are being set up in the province, while simultaneously, local schools are being sponsored by PN where school books, furniture, sports gear and development funds are being provided.

On its part, local Army units have been assigned by the COAS to arrange educational classes for the children of poor people who cannot afford the heavy expenses of imparting the education to their kids as well as bearing the expenditures of the children locally as well as studying elsewhere. Their boarding, lodging and tuition fee is borne by Pak Army from its own resources. Army’s contributions in the social progress of Balochistan including Chamalang Education Program, Sui Education City, and Gawadar Institutes of Technical Education are remarkable projects. Measures have been taken to sustain these projects which are contributing positively towards better education and creation of jobs for common people particularly in remote areas of Balochistan.

Health has received no less attention. Both the Army and PN have set up medical centres and hospitals, where not only do Balochis receive free treatment but medicines are also provided on gratis basis. PN Hospital Darmanjah at Ormara with a 100-bed facility and state-of-the-art medical equipment is a matter of pride for Pakistan. Additionally, serious patients are transferred to major facilities in Karachi and other metropolitan centres if required. These facilities also provide employment opportunities to Balochi boys and girls. The contribution of Armed Forces in bringing the Balochi youth into mainstream through their induction process is commendable.

Help wanted

Yu Lintao

ON one will doubt the purpose of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent official visit to China. Under the backdrop of the severe European debt crisis, China could have a major impact on the troubled European economy.

Chinese analysts said Merkel’s visit, from February 2-4, aimed to seek long-term cooperation with China. China reacted positively to Europe’s concern on its debt issue. However, besides lending money, increasing mutual investment and trade between China and Europe should be more effective approaches to addressing the debt crisis. China’s response is also a positive signal to a stable and better Sino-German relationship, they added.

At a joint media briefing after talks with the visiting German chancellor, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China is considering involving itself more deeply in efforts to address Europe’s debt crisis through channels like the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism. But Europeans’ own efforts must play a vital and fundamental role in resolving the crisis.

“This is by far the clearest attitude of China toward Europe’s debt issue. China is willing to help but will not take the lead,” said Feng Zhongping, Director of the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).

Soon after Wen’s words were reported, the euro rose about half a percent against the U.S. dollar.

Lending a hand

The current European sovereign debt crisis could easily remind people of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. At that time, rich European countries did not show their mercy and generosity to their poor Asian friends. Should China, a still developing country, “rescue” rich, troubled Europe?

China doesn’t plan to stand by with folded arms. As an economic engine, Germany is not an ordinary country in Europe. Sino-German relations therefore have iconic significance for Sino-EU relations. Before the visit, it was widely reported in the Western media that Merkel’s visit to Beijing was for the task of seeking help from China in addressing the European debt crisis. Thus the whole EU attached great importance to the trip.

When meeting with Merkel, Premier Wen said it is urgent and important to solve the European debt crisis and China attaches great importance to the issue from a strategic perspective as the global economic situation remains grim.

With about $3.18 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China is one of the major countries that could lend a hand to the troubled euro zone.

“Merkel’s visit to China has various considerations. Germany doesn’t emphasize short-term capital flow in addressing the debt crisis, but has a long-term view. In the short term, China has large foreign exchange reserves; in the medium term, China has a huge market; and in the long term, China, with a relatively rapid development speed, is surely a reliable economic and trade partner for Germany and Europe,” said Cui Hongjian, a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

“China’s response to the EU’s concern on the debt crisis is a positive signal for Sino-German relations,” said Li Weiwei, Deputy Director of the Department for EU Studies at the CIIS. “The German chancellor stressed long-term cooperation during her recent trip to China. For example, the German side advocated cooperation on social security with China. I think this aims at a guaranteed Chinese market with huge purchasing power.”

Economic and trade relations lay the foundation of the Sino-German relationship. China is the most important trade partner and export destination for Germany. By the end of 2011, despite the severe euro-zone crisis, bilateral trade volume had reached $169 billion, an 18.9-percent increase from the previous year.

Germany accounts for about one third of China’s total trade with the EU, amounting to the trade volume of China with Britain, France and Italy combined. Leaders of the two countries agreed last year to work together to raise bilateral trade volume to $280 billion by 2015.

While meeting with Merkel in Beijing, Premier Wen stressed that the EU should keep pushing ahead with financial reforms to put forward a consistent and clear-cut solution to the debt crisis. To the surprise of Western media and EU officials, Wen didn’t ask Merkel to persuade the EU to grant China market economy status or lift the arms embargo on China. But he required the EU to improve its investment environment.

China’s support to Europe is completely from a strategic and long-term perspective. China should help stabilize the European market, which is actually helping China itself, because Europe has been both China’s largest export market and biggest source of technology imports, Wen said.

Expanding investment

Yao Ling, a researcher on European studies at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said, “The European debt issue is a problem of rich countries. China is only a developing country by per-capita income. It is paradoxical that a poor country should rescue a rich one. We might provide help as our capacity allows. The crisis should be solved fundamentally based on the efforts of euro-zone countries.”

“There are multiple ways for China to help Europe address its debt crisis, including purchasing the sovereign debt of European countries and increasing imports from the EU and investment to the EU,” said Yao.

Based on statistics of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, China’s imports from the EU in 2011 increased 25 percent year on year, while its investment in the EU nearly doubled that of the previous year. So in that sense, China has already begun its practical action in helping Europe.

Last December, China’s Three Gorges Corp. won a bidding contest to buy a stake in Energias de Portugal, the country’s dominant power company. The deal was considered a forerunner of other potential asset sales to China by debt-stricken euro-zone economies. Also, the State Grid Corp. of China has recently acquired a 25-percent stake in Redes Energéticas Nacionais, Portugal’s national power grid.

Since last year, with the debt crisis becoming increasingly fierce, many EU countries including Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy began big privatization programs to raise funds. Germany, Britain and France showed interest in foreign investments. For China and Chinese enterprises seeking to go global, the debt crisis presents many opportunities.

In a speech delivered at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences during her latest visit, Merkel said Germany welcomes Chinese companies to increase investment in Germany and will open its market wider to China.

However, China’s investment in Europe has often encountered non-economic barricades. An article in The Economist in June last year pointed out that China’s investment makes Europeans nervous because they feel that China intends to buy Europe’s jewels with its giant savings at knock-down prices.

In July 2011, the European Council on Foreign Relations criticized enlarged investment to Europe from emerging market economies, including China, in a report titled The Scramble for Europe.

“There are still doubts about Chinese investment in Europe. Therefore, discriminatory measures still exist,” said Feng of the CICIR.

Li of the CIIS suggested Chinese companies should do more research before investing in Europe. “Because of cultural differences, Chinese enterprises should be very cautious in investing in Europe. Try to learn more about the investment environment, especially the local legal system,” Li said.

During a meeting with representatives of Chinese and German entrepreneurs, Premier Wen encouraged Chinese enterprises to invest in Europe. He also called on the European side to create a positive investment environment for Chinese enterprises.

This was Merkel’s sixth official visit to China as German chancellor. In the last five trips, each time the two sides signed large cooperation and trade agreements. However, this visit was an exception.

“It only demonstrates that Sino-German economic and trade relations are mature and stable. But it is new that Merkel called for more cultural exchanges. This shows Germany’s intention to enhance deep mutual understanding and promote strategic cooperation with China,” said Li of the CIIS.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Sino-German diplomatic relations. A Chinese Culture Year featuring a series of activities such as concerts, exhibitions and film festivals is being held in Germany.—BR

Propaganda about defence budget debunked

Mohammad Jamil

ADDRESSING reporters at the Shahbaz Airbase, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani said that the Pakistan army is criticised for consuming a large part of the country’s annual budget. He clarified that the country’s defence budget was only 18 per cent and not 70 per cent. “Even out of that paltry 18 per cent only 8-9 per cent of funds trickle down to the sentinels of the country, which was a matter of serious concern,” he said during an informal chat with reporters. According to 2011-12 budget Rs. 495.2 billion were allocated to defence out of which Rs.206.4 billion were salaries for personnel of armed forces, Rs.128.2 billion for operational expenditure and Rs.117.5 billion for acquiring physical assets – military hardware etc. In fact, allocation for debt servicing – payment of interest and installments of loans – amounted to Rs. 1034 billion. So defence allocation was less than 50 per cent of single largest allocation for debt servicing. In budget 2011-12, total receipts were estimated Rs. 2732 billion – tax revenue Rs.2074 billion; non-tax revenue Rs. 658 billion; thus allocation of Rs. 495.2 billion for defence is exactly 18 per cent of budgeted receipts.

In print and electronic media, some economists and politicians express their concern that military consumes 70 per cent of the budget, and hardly anything is left for development expenditure and social sector allocations. Debate is also raging whether economy first or defence first; but in fact both are inter-related. It is true that strong economy begets strong defence; however conversely is also true that strong defence makes it possible to ward off internal and external threats, which creates climate conducive to investment. Having that said, Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir cannot be undermined at any cost, as our agriculture depends on the rivers that stream from the Indus Basin situated in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. In view of hostile neighbours on eastern and western borders of Pakistan, no one in his right sense would suggest reduction in defence expenditure because our survival hinges on strong defence. The focus should therefore be on controlling corruption and rationalizing the cost of doing business with a view to increasing economic growth and thereby generating revenues to meet the defence needs.

It is true that Pakistan is facing economic challenges and faces fiscal deficit, trade deficit and current account deficit. The major problem is energy shortfall, prohibitive cost of energy and deteriorating law and order situation, which have made many industries unviable, and new investment is not forthcoming. In the last budget, the government reckoned 4.3 per cent economic growth, but how it is possible with load shedding for 12 hours a day. In this backdrop one can not envisage to surpass the last year growth figure of 2.4 per cent. In real terms, there is going to b e no growth in the current year because of increase in population, as the small growth is nullified with the increase in population. It has to be mentioned that for higher growth there has to be sizeable increase in investment. The present rate of savings to GDP is around 14 per cent, which is lower if compared with the developing countries and emerging economies. To give a boost to the economy, investment ratio to GDP savings should be 20 per cent of the GDP, and even more when foreign investment has declined. Pakistan and the US being at loggerheads, the chances of aid from any quarter are also slim.

Another problem is that inflation hinders the capacity to save, as it erodes the incomes of the people, especially salaried class and fixed income groups. And secondly increase in indirect taxes leads to further impoverishment of the people. While the State Bank of Pakistan’s first quarterly report for the fiscal year 2012 paints a cautiously optimistic picture of the state of the economy, it seems to emphasise the government’s relative lack of a strategy in actually improving the state of the nation’s economic health. The government is resorting to heavy borrowing from the private sector with the result that private sector does not get the liquidity to run business effectively. According to the SBP report, government borrowing from the banking system was Rs737 billion, up by 119% compared to the same period last year, during the first five months of the fiscal year. “This amount includes Rs391 billion borrowed from the banks to retire Public Sector Enterprises debt, which has now been transferred on to the government’s books. Reportedly, currency notes are being printing, which results in runaway inflation.

It is an established fact that the country cannot sustain a strong army with weak economy as it has to rely on foreign loans and aid, and it is because of dependency syndrome that Pakistan has to buckle under pressure as it did after 9/11. However, the most serious aspect of our dire economic situation is the growing public debt, which on one hand limits the capacity to build strong defence and on the other limits fiscal space to invest in human development and infrastructure. The threats faced by Pakistan have to be understood in the light of fast changing regional and international situation, which add urgency to revive the economy so that adequate resources could be allocated to counter them. It is unfortunate that despite being a resourceful country, Pakistan has public debt more than 65 per cent of the GDP. The question is how Pakistan has piled up such a huge debt; and secondly how it would be able to manage when the payments of installment and interest on the additional loans would start from this year. The government should restructure the public sector enterprises, control wastages, corruption, loot and plunder, which is estimated around Rs.1000 billion per year.

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