Islamic Militants Get Clean Slate
Vol: 4 Issue: 27 Sunday, January 27, 2002
A convenient fire at the Pakistani intelligence headquarters has destroyed hundreds of records on Islamic militants, the ISI sorrowfully announced. The Shahid-E-Millat building in Islamabad caught fire on Jan. 15. The building houses the offices of the Pakistani Interior Ministry, including the ISI and is the location of all the Islamic militants in the country. The fire was deliberately set on the top floor of the building by ISI agents out to protect its Islamic networks from the crackdown ordered several days earlier by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The Pakistani leader banned five extremist groups linked to attacks in Kashmir and India.
Pakistan has taken some steps to control the 20 militants sought by the Indian government for their role in cross-border terrorist attacks. Fourteen of the militants are Indian nationals and six are Pakistanis. Musharaff’s cooperation is welcomed by New Delhi and Washington, but has deeply fractured his own Islamic government.
Weapons For India Delayed
Musharraf began to see some fruits from his cooperation with the West in the war on terror when the sale of Israeli/Russian airborne warning and control aircraft to India was ordered delayed until after tensions with Pakistan subside. The transfers are not now expected to take place until later this year or early next year.
Manufacturers of the A-50 system, which include the IL-76 airframe combined with Israeli Phalcon electronics, announced last week that the sale would take place after the United States dropped its objections. As part of arrangements, the United States urged all the parties involved to hold off on the sale because of the high tensions between the two nuclear-armed Southwest Asian states. Washington also said its approval of the sale is based on limitations being imposed on the capabilities of the electronics. Three of the jets will be sold to India at an estimated cost of $1 billion.
The Phalcon is based on a phased-array radar built by the Israeli firm Eltra. The jets are comparable to the U.S. AWACs airborne warning and control aircraft that provide real-time coverage of targets and warning of enemy aircraft. They are considered the backbone of modern aerial combat capabilities. Israel canceled the sale of similar AWACs planes to China in 2000 at the urging of the United States. U.S. defense officials fear the sale would tip the balance of power against Taiwan.
Arafat Feeling The Heat
Yasser Arafat, once the darling of the Arab world, stares at his phone, hoping somebody will call. But Arab diplomatic sources said that not one Arab leader has telephoned Arafat over the last five weeks since Israeli restrictions that have trapped him in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The boycott includes that by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Palestinian diplomats, including the Palestinian envoy to the Arab League, Mohammed Sbeih, have confirmed the boycott on Arafat. Mubarak, Arab diplomatic sources said, was angered by the Palestinian attempt to smuggle a ship full of Iranian weapons through the Suez Canal, owned by Egypt. Washington, in its communiqu to Cairo on Wednesday, presented evidence that PA officials bribed Egyptian customs officers to allow the Karine-A through the canal.
A perfect diplomatic solution, allowing Mubarak plausible deniability while explaining how a shipload of weapons could both pass through the Suez and then enter the port of Alexandria. Improbable, but it lets Mubarak off the hook.
Where Is The $25 Million Man?
Osama bin-Laden appears to have vanished. Is he dead in a cave? Did he escape? If he did get out of Afghanistan, who would be stupid enough to take him in? Some intelligence sources say his best bet is Chechnya. Russia has a weaker grip on the breakaway republic than ever before and Bin Laden would probably never get caught among the tens of thousands of Islamic combatants. Western intelligence sources said President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to defeat the Chechen insurgency is more distant than ever.
Islamic resistance is stronger than it has even been since the Russian offensive began in 1999. Russian casualties are said to be highest since 1996, the low point of the military campaign and when troops were virtually driven out of the republic.
Osama’s best option would be to head into Chechnya’s mountains. A huge area, it is completely in the hands of the Chechnyan rebels. Russia sends in troops, but they don’t come out. The only way Russia would be able to get bin-Laden – or anybody else — would be to employ search-and-destroy operations that would kill civilian and rebels alike. Even if Moscow could kick its demoralized army into shape and convince it to march back into the Chechnya meat-grinder.