I’m not surprised that a film trailer which insults the Prophet Mohammed is being blamed for an assault on the US consulate in Benghazi which reportedly killed the US ambassador to Libya.  When viewed through the prism of religious fanaticism, the deadly attack appears to be just another knee-jerk, emotional reaction to a slight against Islam.

If only it were that simple.

While the film is undoubtedly being exploited by religious opportunists to win popular support, it is NOT the spark that ignited the firestorm against western interests in Libya.  If it was, a frenzied mob would have stormed the US consulate, not a well- trained, well-equipped militia.  This attack was lucid and well planned—most likely in advance.  Executing it during a wave of popular fury over a film trailer was merely good PR.  Moreover, this was not the first time western diplomats in Libya have been targeted by extremists.  Back in June, the British Ambassador to the country narrowly escaped with his life when his convoy was rocketed approximately three hundred meters from the gates of the consulate in Benghazi.  A week before that, a bomb was lobbed at the US mission in the city.

Peel back the veil of religious indignation and the true motive of these assaults is all too clear. Islamic extremists in Libya want power and having lost out at the ballot box, their only recourse now is to seize it forcibly from the western-backed government in Tripoli. Continue reading

Indian Gold for Iranian Oil: How Far Will America Go to Defend the Dollar?

The world became a far more dangerous place last night after reports surfaced of a gold-for-oil deal between Iran and its second biggest oil exporting market, India.

According to an Israeli-based news website, New Delhi has agreed to purchase Iranian oil in gold while Tehran’s second largest export market, China, is poised to do the same.   By cutting out Wall Street and The City of London, the gold-for-oil deal allows New Delhi (and Beijing if it follows suit) to ensure a steady flow of energy while circumventing US and EU sanctions punishing financial institutions that do business with Tehran.   The biggest beneficiary of this new oil pricing model though is undoubtedly Iran. Not only does it make a laughing stock out of US-led sanctions; it has the power to severely curtail America’s death grip on the global economy.

Forget sabre rattling in the Strait of Hormuz; gold-for-oil poses the greatest threat to America’s influence on the world stage.  The lynchpin of US power isn’t its massive military. It’s the dollar’s role as global reserve currency; a position it owes to a 1973 decision by OPEC to only accept dollars for oil.  Every country which depends on oil (i.e. every industrialized nation on the planet) must keep dollar reserves both to secure their energy needs (the engine of economic growth) and defend against speculative attacks on their home currencies.   This ‘dollar hegemony’ comes with serious perks, like paying cut-rate prices to borrow money on global debt markets despite running up a 15 trillion dollar national debt.

Now, imagine the fallout if the US dollar were de-linked from oil…    Continue reading

A Breakup of Pakistan: Good or Bad for The West?

Pakistani Military Post
Heading for a Yugoslavia-style bust up?

The assault last night on Mehran Naval Air Base in Karachi that left at least a dozen soldiers dead and destroyed anti submarine/ marine surveillance aircraft is the strongest evidence to date that Pakistan is losing the battle against home grown militants. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani described this latest attack by the Pakistani Taliban as a “cowardly act of terror”. While I certainly don’t condone the militants’ actions, as someone with 23 years military experience, I can say without reservation that last night’s raid was hardly cowardly.  Unlike previous attacks, the Pakistani Taliban did not detonate a vehicle borne explosive device or take a few pot shots and run away.  They staged a direct ground assault on a secure military installation.  An operation of that nature takes supreme confidence, good organization and a healthy dose of fearlessness.

This is an extremely alarming development, especially given that Pakistan’s military installations have been on high alert since the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad earlier this month. Because if the country’s security forces can’t stop insurgents from penetrating a well-fortified military base, why should anyone believe they can defend the nation’s nuclear assets against terrorists?  It is more important than ever now that we examine the goals and motives of Pakistan’s insurgent groups and how the pursuit and/or realization of those goals would impact western interests in the region. Continue reading

bin Laden’s Death: A Game Changer in Pakistan

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US forces will no doubt bring closure to many throughout the world who’ve lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror campaign. But far from signalling the end of the battle for supremacy in South Asia, bin Laden’s demise only marks the end of the beginning.

The United States reportedly launched the attack on bin Laden’s luxury, Pakistani hideaway without informing the Pakistani authorities. The failure to gain prior consent lays bare the lack of trust which has characterized relations between Islamabad and Washington since the beginning of the War on Terror.  Speculation has been rife for years that Pakistan has been playing a double game with the West – posing as a cooperative ally in the war in neighbouring Afghanistan while secretly aiding the Afghan Taliban which gave bin Laden sanctuary.  Classified US documents posted online by Wikileaks repeatedly accuse the ISI, Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency, of supporting the Afghan Taliban. Continue reading

I’m not a Libya expert, nor are you, Mr. Cameron…

I’ve never made breakfast for myself in Libya (the litmus test for claiming ‘expert’ status on a nation).  Indeed, I’ve never visited the country nor interacted with its various tribal groups; hence why I would never be so arrogant as to believe I could manipulate the outcome of a military intervention in Libya to my advantage.  If only Downing Street would admit the same.

Even before the first western missiles rained down on Gaddafi’s military infrastructure, my gut reaction to the no-fly zone operation was that it will compromise British national security. Though my heart goes out to the innocent Libyans who’ve been persecuted and oppressed by Gaddafi’s regime, I am not prepared to endorse airstrikes that could very well invite revenge attacks on British interests and open Libya to exploitation by anti-British, anti-western elements.  Continue reading

The Bigger Threat from Pakistan

New York City caught a break this week after a car bomb failed to detonate in Times Square.  The alleged attacker, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born American citizen, reportedly claimed he learned his terror craft at a training camp in North Waziristan; an insurgent stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal belt. America, Britain and Europe have understandably grown fearful of tribal belt insurgents exporting violent jihad to western shores and this latest incident has garnered considerable media attention, not to mention, a deluge of official reaction from some powerful players.  Scary as Shahzad may be though, obsessing about a disgruntled, young militant with poor bomb-making skills strikes me as misplaced considering what’s really at stake in Pakistan. Continue reading