"The board is set, the pieces are moving"
Let's start with Friday's headline, White House downplays talk of imminent US-Pakistan fighter deal:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush is not expected to announce a deal on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan when he meets this weekend with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, the White House said.
Do you remember that one of the demands of Daniel Pearl's kidnappers was the resumption of a halted US shipment of F-16 fighters to the Pakistani government? (Coincidentally, as they say, the demand was made during an earlier visit of Musharraf to the United States.) One might be forgiven for thinking it an odd and even extraordinary demand from hostage takers, particularly alleged members of al Qaeda.
But it seems altogether less extraordinary when we remember it was al Qaeda/Pakistani ISI double agent Omar Sheikh Saeed who laid the trap for Pearl. Sheikh Saeed was also the middle man in the infamous - to those who know about it - $100,000 wire transfer to Mohammed Atta in the summer of 2001. He had been authorized to wire the money by the chief of the ISI, General Mahmood Ahmed. Ahmed, of course, was in Washington for high-level meetings at the time of the attack. But perhaps even more significantly, he was allowed to retire quietly when the story broke of his financing the 9/11 hijackers, and was not sought for questioning, let alone justice, by US authorities.
In Who Killed Daniel Pearl? Bernard-Henri Levy writes:
Isn't that, incidentally, what President Pervez Musharraf himself said when, the day after the murder, in an astounding, angry outburst, he exclaimed that Daniel Pearl had been 'over intrusive' - too curious, sticking his nose in places he shouldn't have? Didn't Musharraf give it away when, in a comment cited in the Washington Post (among others) on 23 February 2002, he dared to declare, "Perhaps Daniel Pearl was over inquisitive; a mediaperson should be aware of the dangers of getting into dangerous areas; unfortunately, he got over-involved in intelligence games."
So the question then becomes: Why? What had Pearl discovered, or what was he in the process of discovering, that condemned him to death? What is the stolent secret that, for his captors, was out of the question for him to walk away with?
The relationship between al-Qaeda and the ISI, of course. The tight web of relations between the two organizations, the two worlds.
Which leads us to today's headline, Bush Mum on Pakistan's Bin Laden Efforts:
WASHINGTON - President Bush offered no criticism Saturday of Pakistan's role in the still-unsuccessful hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, even though Pakistan's army is pulling back from the region where the terrorist mastermind is believed hiding.
Karl Rove won't hang up the banner for this one, but never has a mission been more accomplished.
And let's pay some attention to Russia, where this story from Monday's Moscow News was barely covered in the Western press, though it's arguably the most sobering of the week: Foreign Intelligence Involved in Beslan Hostage Crisis — Russian Parliament:
Russia’s parliamentary commission investigating the September Beslan hostage crisis has announced evidence of the involvement by a foreign intelligence agency, underlining earlier speculations that foreigners — not just Chechens — played a large role Russia’s worst terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of 330 people in a three-day siege. “For the moment the evidence that we have of this involvement is indirect, so I consider it premature to name exactly which special service it is,” Interfax quoted commission head Alexander Torshin as saying.
Torshin, deputy speaker of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, said that “when we gather enough convincing evidence, we won’t hide it.” Earlier the parliamentary commission sparked concern when it said that the truth about Beslan was “too scary” to reveal.
Can we make an educated guess as to which foreign intelligence agency Russia's parliamentary commission believes implicated in the Beslan atrocity? And where are these dots leading?
Look at this story from the end of the week: Russia May Launch Anti-Terror Strikes
MOSCOW - Russia may use its strategic bombers to unleash preventive strikes against terrorists outside its borders, the commander of Russia's air force said Friday.
Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov's comments to the ITAR-Tass news agency aired on Friday were the most direct yet in Russia's rising rhetoric on attacking terrorists abroad. Mikhailov did not specify what targets the air force could potentially go after.
And where is Putin now? Why, visiting India, Pakistan's mortal enemy, signing huge energy and arms deals:
On his first stop, New Delhi, Putin could win political and financial support for his coup de grace against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the sale of Yukos core production unit Yuganskneftegaz, if India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation agrees to take part in the auction. Putin will also be looking to sign arms sales and cooperation deals with India, which last year surpassed China as Russia's No. 1 arms customer.
Putin's visit comes a day after Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov -- in India on a three-day visit since Tuesday -- and his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, said they had agreed on new investments on developing weapons systems together.
"We are moving from a buyer-seller relationship to the joint development of new military technology," Ivanov told reporters in India after meeting Mukherjee, Reuters reported Thursday.
The world seemed to be holding its collective breath for several months before November 2, crossing its fingers and toes as it awaited the outcome of the US election. Now that the sham has been played out and the fascist hand strengthened in Washington, suddenly a lot of pieces are moving on the Grand Chessboard. One trend is the emergence of a core bloc of Russia, China, India and Brazil, which seems to be taking shape as a counterbalance to Bush's America.
The great test will be Iran. Will their challenge - and ours - be enough to deter the neocons from their long-sought prize of Tehran? I don't know. But I'm convinced we'll find out the hard way.