It hits the fan in Pakistan —as pipeline talks open with Iran

In an unusual move, the US State Department has protested the police sweeps of opposition politicians in Pakistan over the weekend. “Some of this is troubling and we’ve certainly told the Pakistanis,” Condoleezza Rice told Reuters. The detainments come as Pakistan’s Supreme Court is hearing challenges by critics of strongman Pervez Musharraf, who say he is not eligible to stand in scheduled presidential elections. Police clashed with protesters outside the court in Islamabad Sept. 24. (BBC, Sept. 24) That same day, high-level talks opened between Pakistan and Iran on an Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline to export natural gas from the Islamic Republic to the Subcontinent. (Tehran Times, Sept. 25)

We are just cynical enough to believe the US pushed Musharraf to make the arrests (which included Islamist leaders as well as pro-democracy dissidents, after all), and then used them to put pressure on Islamabad—implicitly, over the Iran deal. We aren’t quite cynical enough to think the CIA had a hand in inflaming the protests for exactly this purpose. Not quite.

See our last posts on Pakistan and the regional pipeline wars.