The past year has seen a spate of dangerous brinkmanship in the Persian Gulf, with Iran and US naval forces along with those of the Gulf's oil-rich Arab mini-states playing chicken over the strategic choke-point of the Strait of Hormuz. But in addition to this show-down over a global oil outlet, the Gulf has seen escalating militarization in the guise of narcotics enforcement. Bahrain's Gulf Daily News on Nov. 26 ran a story boasting of the exploits of a 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces group, based at the petro-kingdom's sprawling US Navy base and commanded by Capt. Robert Slaven of the Royal Australian Navy. While it claims to have "considerably reduced the number of terrorist attacks in the region" over the past decade, it's most concrete gains are hashish and heroin seizures.
Sixteen accused militants were hanged Oct. 26 at Zahedan prison in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province, on the Pakistani border—in apparent retaliation for the deaths of 14 border guards in an ambush just the night before. Officials blamed the attack outside Saravan on "anti-revolution guerrillas"—an apparent reference to the armed Baluch Sunni group Jundallah. But loca parialment member Hedayatollah Mirmoradzehi named a new Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, as responsible for the attack. The BBC's Kasra Najisaid the mass execution "smacks of revenge killing by the judiciary."
Over the past year of growing violence and chaos in Pakistan, the Karachi Stock Exchange has surged more than 44%, placing it among the world's top-performing stock markets according to Bloomberg. (NYT, Oct. 3) On Sept. 29, a bomb placed in a Peshawar marketplace killed more than 40 and injured over 100. (BBC News, Oct. 1) On Oct. 3, Taliban militiants attacked the headquarters of local chieftain Nabi Hanafi Karwan in Spin Thall, Bulandkhel district, Orakzai agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A car bomb and suicide attacker overwhelmed the guards, and gunmen followed, killing 17. Nabi Hanfi has been leading an anti-Taliban militia. (The News, Pakistan, Oct. 4; AP, Oct. 3)
Following last month's murky claims about al-Qaeda biggie Sulaiman Abu Ghaith having been sheltered by Iran, Canadian authorities now want us to believe that two guys busted by the RCMP—Chiheb Esseghaier in Montreal and Raed Jaser in Toronto—were plotting to blow up a Via Rail passenger train under the "direction and guidance" of al-Qaeda agents in ...Iran. At their hearings April 23, the men denied the charges. Iran's foreign ministry said groups such as al-Qaeda have "no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields." (National Post, Canadian Press, April 23) This is rather obvious given the bitter sectarian war on Iran's borders with Iraq and Pakistan. Yet the RCMP portrays a "state-sponsored" terror plot.
A Pakistan court on April 5 extended by six days the bail granted to former president Pervez Musharraf, who faces charges of detaining judges during his time in office. The Islamabad High Court also ordered Musharraf to post bond for Rs 500,000, or just over $5,000, and to appear for his next hearing scheduled for April 18. Musharraf has also been named as a suspect in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, and may face charges in connection with the murder of Baluch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2007.
Tehran and Islamabad will sign an agreement March 11 for Iran to build the largest refinery in Pakistan, a $4 billion facility at Gwadar in the country's southwestern Balochistan province. (See map.) The refinery, projected to handle 400,000 barrels per day, will be linked to the planned Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline, with an extension to western China envisioned. China last month took over operational control of Gwadar's port, where a major expansion is planned. China's Great United Petroleum Holdings Company (GUPC) has agreed to conduct the feasibility study for a "petrochemical city" project in Gwadar. A pipeline from Gwadar to China would reduce the time and distance for oil transport from the Persian Gulf to Chinese markets. (Asia Times, March 6)
Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and al-Qaeda's one-time media voice Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was seized by CIA agents and taken to the US after Turkey deported him to Jordan this month, it was revelaed March 7. AFP reports that Abu Ghaith was seized by Turkish authorities last month at a luxury hotel in Ankara after a tip-off from CIA, and was held there despite a US request for his extradition. Turkey apparently deported Abu Ghaith to Jordan on March 1 to be sent back to his native Kuwait, but he was seized by CIA agents in Jordan and taken to the United States. In a revelation that could be convenient for the slowly mounting war drive, it appears that before arriving in Turkey, Abu Ghaith had been in Iran...
Shi'ites in Quetta, capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, spent three nights in freezing cold with the bodies of their slain loved ones at one of the city's main intersections—in defiance of their own traditions of speedy burial—to demand action in the face of a wave of terror taregting their community. The bodies were those of 83 people killed last week in coordinated bomb attacks on a Shi'ite neighborhood—the latest in a wave of such attacks across Pakistan. The bodies were finally buried Jan. 14 under heavy security, as mourners chanted slogans against the security forces for their failure to protect them.