US generals: Saudi intervention in Yemen ‘a bad idea’

Yemenis use slingshot to down Saudi F-15 fighter jet.

Yemenis use slingshot to down Saudi F-15 fighter jet.

Analysis: Some top officers question Washington’s support for Riyadh-led intervention, which they say is doomed

By by

John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has accused the Obama administration of going soft on Iran’s regional ambitions in pursuit of what he sees as a bad nuclear agreement with Tehran, and has praised “our Arab partners” for intervening in Yemen. “The prospect of radical groups like Iranian-backed Houthi militants” was “more than [U.S. Arab allies] could withstand,” he said. But a large contingent of senior U.S. military officers believes the Saudi-led military operation will fail, and possibly turn into a quagmire.

The fact that the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen was planned and launched independently of the U.S. was, in McCain’s eyes, a rebuke of the administration’s policies. “These countries, led by Saudi Arabia, did not notify us nor seek our coordination or our assistance in this effort,” he said during a March 26 committee hearing, “because they believe we are siding with Iran.”

A senior commander at Central Command (CENTCOM), speaking on condition of anonymity, scoffed at that argument. “The reason the Saudis didn’t inform us of their plans,” he said, “is because they knew we would have told them exactly what we think — that it was a bad idea.”

Military sources said that a number of regional special forces officers and officers at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) argued strenuously against supporting the Saudi-led intervention because the target of the intervention, the Shia Houthi movement — which has taken over much of Yemen and which Riyadh accuses of being a proxy for Tehran — has been an effective counter to Al-Qaeda.

Michael Horton, a Yemen expert close to a number of officers at SOCOM and a consultant to the U.S. and U.K. governments, picked up on this debate. Within days of the Saudi intervention’s start, he said in an email that he was “confounded” by the intervention, noting that many in SOCOM “favor the Houthis, as they have been successful in rolling back AQ [Al-Qaeda] and now IS [the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] from a number of Yemeni governorates” — something that hundreds of U.S. drone strikes and large numbers of advisers to Yemen’s military had failed to accomplish.

Later, in a telephone interview, Horton expanded on that. “These constant reports that the Houthis are working for the Iranians are nonsense, but the view is right out of the neocon playbook,” he said. “The Israelis have been touting this line that we lost Yemen to Iran. That’s absurd. The Houthis don’t need Iranian weapons. They have plenty of their own. And they don’t require military training. They’ve been fighting Al-Qaeda since at least 2012, and they’ve been winning. Why are we fighting a movement that’s fighting Al-Qaeda?”

‘These constant reports that the Houthis are working for the Iranians are nonsense, but the view is right out of the neocon playbook. The Israelis have been touting this line that we lost Yemen to Iran. That’s absurd. The Houthis don’t need Iranian weapons. They have plenty of their own.’~ Michael Horton, Yemen expert

One reason for U.S. support may be the diplomatic logic of tamping down Riyadh’s opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran by backing an aggressive Saudi-led response to what a number of U.S. allies in the region portray as rapidly expanding Iranian influence in Arab countries. But another is the view among some U.S. military commanders that countering Iran takes strategic priority over combating Al-Qaeda and ISIL.

Continue reading

Toyota to move Corolla production from Canada to Mexico to cut costs

canadaToyota to move Corolla production to Mexico to cut costs

(Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T, the world’s biggest automaker, plans to move production of its Corolla compact cars to a new factory in Mexico from Canada to benefit from lower costs, the Globe and Mail reported, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Costs at Toyota’s assembly plants at Cambridge and Woodstock in Ontario are higher than at its U.S. factories and it makes sense to produce the more expensive vehicles in Canada, the newspaper quoted sources familiar with the matter as saying.

Sources told Reuters that Toyota will spend $1 billion to build a car factory in Mexico, which is expected to begin functioning from the summer of 2019, ending a self-imposed three-year freeze on new investments. Toyota also plans to announce a new car factory in Guangzhou, China, this week.

Continue reading

Qatar prince ready to invest Rs 1 lakh crore in 10 smart cities

PM Modi

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘smart cities’ project has caught the attention of the prince. The investment will be made over the next five years,” said the person.

Has formed JV with Delhi businessman and held meeting with UP, AP CMs

By BS Reporter

The government may be inviting the Americans, Chinese and Japanese to invest in India, but just one person is ready to put in Rs 1 lakh crore over the next five years.

Enthused with the new government’s spirited approach towards new investment, a prince of Qatar, Hamad Bin Nasser A A Al-Thani, member of the ruling family, is looking at investing the sum in at least 10 smart cities.

The 51-year-old has already tied up with a 31-year-old Delhi-based businessman, Mitesh Sharma, for taking the investment forward through projects in real estate, sea ports and airports, besides smart cities. According to a person working for Hamad, the two recently registered a company, NRS Enterprise Pvt Ltd, in India through which the investment would be routed.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘smart cities’ project has caught the attention of the prince. The investment will be made over the next five years,” said the person.

The investment announcement came after the two partners met Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on November 20 and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, Chandrababu Naidu, on November 22.

The focus of this huge investment is on 10 smart-city projects in a first phase, besides power, solar energy, infrastructure development, health care and education. They are aiming for the first project to take off by February-March 2015.

The Union government has decided to support the development of 100 in the country. According to the high power expert committee (HPEC) on investment estimates in urban infrastructure has assessed a per capita investment cost of Rs 43,386 for a 20-year period. Their estimates cover water supply, sewerage, sanitation and transportation.

Continue reading

The award-winning bridge connecting Iranians

Pol-e-Tabiat has won three awards in Iran and picked its first international recognition from Architizer on April 14 [Mohammad Ali Najib/Al Jazeera]

Pol-e-Tabiat has won three awards in Iran and picked its first international recognition from Architizer on April 14 [Mohammad Ali Najib/Al Jazeera]

Project dubbed as ‘the third symbol of Tehran’ earns international recognition for architect Leila Araghian.

Ted Regencia

As an architecture student, Leila Araghian, 31, recalls roaming the sycamore-lined boulevards of her hometown, Tehran, looking for the next adventure. Once, she and a friend were passing by a bridge along Zafar Street, when they spotted a brown leather sofa outside a building.

So they got an idea, and dragged the sofa onto a small bridge, one of many that dot the creeks running through Tehran. As they sat there watching the water flow beneath them, they thought how much better it would be, if people could actually hang out on bridges, rather than just cross over them.

That friend, Alireza Behzadi, would become Araghian’s collaborator in her most important project so far, the Pol-e-Tabiat, or Nature Bridge, which opened in late 2014, and is now being called “the third symbol of Tehran“. The pedestrian bridge has won three awards in Iran.

And on Tuesday, it picked its first international recognition, winning a 2015 A Popular Choice prize in highways and bridges category, from a New York-based architectural organisation, Architizer. A panel of international jurors also nominated it as one of the top five finalists in architecture and engineering category.

Araghian recalled that late afternoon stroll with Behzadi many years ago, as she explained the inspiration behind her project, which she designed when she was only 26.

“Usually, bridges are designed in a straight line. And that straight line will produce a one point perspective that will tell you to just go. But we want to keep people on the bridge,” she told Al Jazeera.

“The bridge is not just a structure to connect from one point to another, but also a place to stay and enjoy.”

Soaring 270m across Modarres Highway, Pol-e-Tabiat, which connects two parks in the northern district of Iran’s capital, reflects her aspirations about Iranian architecture, Araghian said.

Mohammad Mohammadzadeh, an architect, author and critic, told Al Jazeera that projects like Araghian’s “reveal a huge capacity in the emerging generation of architects, who have been willing to form a progressive trend in Iran”.

Read more » Aljazeera
See more »

Chinese president to visit Pakistan, hammer out $46-billion deal


ISLAMABAD: Chinese President Xi Jinping will launch energy and infrastructure projects worth $46 billion on a visit to Pakistan next week as China cements links with its old ally and generates opportunities for firms hit by slack growth at home.

Also being finalised is a long-discussed plan to sell Pakistan eight Chinese submarines. The deal, worth between $4 billion and $5 billion, according to media reports, may be among those signed on the trip.

Know more: Pakistan to buy eight submarines from China.

Xi will visit next Monday and Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign office said.

“China treats us as a friend, an ally, a partner and above all an equal – not how the Americans and others do,” said Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the parliament’s defence committee.

Pakistan and China often boast of being “iron brothers” and two-way trade grew to $10 billion last year from $4 billion in 2007, Pakistani data shows.

Xi’s trip is expected to focus on a Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, a planned $46-billion network of roads, railways and energy projects linking Pakistan’s deepwater Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China’s far-western Xinjiang region.

It would shorten the route for China’s energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime.

If the submarine deal is signed, China may also offer Pakistan concessions on building a refuelling and mechanical station in Gwadar, a defence analyst said.

China’s own submarines could use the station to extend their range in the Indian Ocean.

“China is thinking in terms of a maritime silk road now, something to connect the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean,” said a Pakistani defence official, who declined to be identified.

For Pakistan, the corridor is a cheap way to develop its violence-plagued and poverty-stricken Balochistan province, home to Gwadar.

China has promised to invest about $34 billion in energy projects and nearly $12 billion in infrastructure.

Xi is also likely to raise fears that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are linking up with Pakistani militants, and he could also push for closer efforts for a more stable Afghanistan.

Earlier, the Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday announced that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Pakistan from April 20 to April 21 on a two-day state visit.

“I can confirm that the Chinese president will be visiting Pakistan from April 20 to 21,” FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said during a weekly media briefing in Pakistan.

Continue reading

Al Qaeda captures major airport, seaport and oil terminal in southern Yemen

Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Al Qaeda seized control of a major airport, a sea port and an oil terminal in southern Yemen on Thursday, consolidating its hold on the country’s largest province amid wider chaos pitting Shiite rebels against forces loyal to the exiled president and a Saudi-led air campaign.

Military officials and residents said Al Qaeda fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen’s largest brigades outside Mukalla, a city the militants overran earlier this month and where they freed prison inmates. The militants then seized control of the Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city’s main sea port, which is also an oil terminal.

The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.

The latest advance marks a major gain for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, which has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. and is widely seen as the global network’s most dangerous franchise. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on a French satirical magazine earlier this year.

The group has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where Shiite rebels, along with allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, captured the capital in September and have been advancing despite a three-week Saudi-led air campaign.

The rebels are staunch opponents of Al Qaeda but are currently locked in fierce battles with forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia last month.

The southeastern city of Mukalla is the capital of Yemen’s largest province, Hadramawt, where Al Qaeda has long maintained a presence despite U.S. drone strikes and Yemeni counterterrorism operations.

Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance.

“They are consolidating their hold of the city and will paralyze the whole coast of Hadramawt,” he said.

A politician in the city, Ali al-Kathiri, said Al Qaeda and local tribal leaders had been negotiating with the brigade commanders to ensure a peaceful handover. But some fighters, suspected of being loyal to Saleh, clashed with the militants.

A smaller air defense brigade handed over its camp to Al Qaeda, apparently to avoid clashes, al-Kathiri said.

A Saudi-led coalition has been striking the Houthis and their allies from the air since March 26, but has carried out no attacks on Mukalla or other Al Qaeda-controlled areas.

Yemen’s exiled Vice President Khaled Bahah said the militants in Mukalla are “sons” of the province who have become extremists, adding that he hopes they don’t turn it into an “Islamic province.” In other parts of Yemen, local militias have been the main forces fighting against the rebels’ advances.

Bahah, speaking from Riyadh, also called on the Houthis and pro-Saleh military units to end their offensive on the southern port city of Aden, saying that ground fighting must halt ahead of any peace initiatives.

He said the rebels and troops should adhere to the U.N. Security Council resolution passed earlier this week that calls on Yemen’s rivals to end the violence and return to U.N.-led peace talks. Bahah also called on all military units to stop fighting for Saleh and return to the fold of the legitimate government.

The U.N. resolution makes no mention of an end to the airstrikes, now in their fourth week.

“We consider Aden to be the key to peace, the key to the solution,” Bahah said. “We will not talk about any initiatives until we see the war machine has stopped in Yemen, and in Aden in particular.”

Hadi had set up a temporary capital in Aden, Yemen’s largest city, before fleeing to Saudi Arabia last month.

Bahah was speaking for the first time since Hadi appointed him vice president on Sunday. He said Hadi will return to Aden when the security and political situation improves. For now, he said a small government will operate out of Riyadh, focusing on organizing and coordinating humanitarian efforts.

The Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds and seized the capital, Sanaa, in September. Iran supports the Shiite rebels, but both Tehran and the rebels deny it has armed them.

Ground fighting has been fiercest in Aden, where rebels and pro-Saleh military units are trying to take control of the city.

Humanitarian groups have struggled to meet the needs of a population that was already struggling with food security, water scarcity and fuel shortages.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that at least 364 civilians are reported to have been killed since the start of the airstrikes on March 26, including at least 84 children and 25 women. This is in addition to hundreds of fighters killed.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said at least 31 civilians were killed on March 31, during repeated coalition airstrikes on a dairy factory located near military bases operated by the Houthis and their allies.

Read more » Fox News
See more »

Deaths in South Africa as mobs target foreigners

At least five killed in Durban since last week in violence that has left hundreds stranded, unable to return home.

Violence against immigrants in South Africa has killed at least five people since last week in one of the worst outbreak of violence against foreigners in years.

Hundreds of migrants mostly from other African countries had been forced out of their homes, authorities told the Associated Press news agency on Tuesday.

Khadija Patel, a South African journalist, told Al Jazeera there have been previous instances of violence against foreigners.

“Hundreds of foreign nationals were displaced in Isipingo [20km south of Durban] late last month, when a group of South Africans attacked foreigners living and working in the area. The victims of that continue to reside in a makeshift camp at a sports ground in Isipingo,” Patel said.

Continue reading

Canada’s oil-dependent economy stalled and likely didn’t grow at all


Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

Poloz reiterates bright outlook as Bank of Canada holds key rate


OTTAWA — Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz says there’s a brighter future ahead if people can look beyond an economy that’s teetering on the brink of outright contraction.

The central bank kept its key overnight lending rate unchanged Wednesday at 0.75 per cent, even as it released a new forecast showing Canada’s oil-dependent economy stalled and likely didn’t grow at all in the first three months of the year.

The no-growth forecast is a sharp downgrade from the 1.5-per-cent annual growth rate the bank predicted just three months ago, when Mr. Poloz rattled financial markets with a surprise quarter-percentage-point rate cut.

But Mr. Poloz insisted the economy would snap back in the second half of the year as the shock of the oil price collapse fades – optimism that suggests more interest rate relief likely won’t be needed.

“By the middle of the year we should be seeing only the good stuff,” Mr. Poloz told reporters in Ottawa.

The Canadian dollar rebounded, gaining 1.2 cents to 81.30 cents (U.S.), as investors bet that Mr. Poloz’s upbeat tone makes another rate cut this year less likely.

Some analysts aren’t convinced Mr. Poloz is right. He got the first quarter wrong and now he’s overoptimistic about what the rest of the year will bring, said Ben Homsy, a fixed-income analyst at Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel in Vancouver.

“The impact from low oil prices on the Canadian economy is not a one-quarter event,” Mr. Homsy said. “We’ll see that reverberate through the second and third quarters.”

He pointed out that dismal factory sales, which fell for a second consecutive month in February, suggest the lower Canadian dollar isn’t yet helping non-energy exporters.

Read more » The Globe and Mail
See more »

Murphy’s Law: Why Arabs Need Their Foreign Mercenaries

saudiSaudi Arabia recently bought 72 Typhoon jet fighters from Britain. The manufacturer, BAE Systems, is energetically recruiting qualified maintenance personnel to keep these aircraft flying. Few Saudis will be recruited, most of these technicians will come from the West. Why is that?

The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia is 12 percent, but many of those men are unemployed by choice. Arabs tend to have a very high opinion of themselves, and most jobs available, even to poorly educated young men, do not satisfy. Thus most Saudis prefer a government job, where the work is easy, the pay is good, the title is flattering, and life is boring. In the non-government sector of the economy, 90 percent of the Saudi jobs are taken by foreigners. These foreigners comprise 27 percent of the Saudi population, mostly to staff all the non-government jobs. This means most young Saudi men have few challenges. One might say that many of them are desperate for some test of their worth, and a job in the competitive civilian economy does not do it, nor does the military.

The Saudi employment situation is not unique. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has foreigners occupying 99 percent of the non-government jobs. The unemployment rate is 23 percent, but only a tenth of those are actually looking for a job. A survey indicated that most of the unemployed are idle by choice. Kuwait is more entrepreneurial, with only 80 percent of the non-government jobs taken by foreigners. The other Gulf Arab states (which have less oil) have a similar situation.

While the thousands of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles and other high-tech systems Saudi Arabia has bought in the last decade look impressive, the actual impact of all this lethal hardware depends a lot on the skill of those using it. In this department, the Saudis have some serious problems. And it is generally very difficult to get Saudis to even discuss the situation.

Continue reading

Pakistan should stay away from military intervention in Yemen

Raheel Sharif

Pakistan’s decision of playing a conciliatory role instead of being party to Saudi and Arab wishes was prudent and courageous. If it has been misunderstood or misinterpreted, it is unfortunate. If the Arab countries do not take Pakistan’s and Turkey’s advice of seeking a political solution in the right spirit, then it is only a matter of time they will find out who will be paying the price for it.

By Talat Masood

The question that was on everyone’s mind is: is Saudi Arabia really threatened by Yemen’s internal turmoil? It couldn’t be: probably the determinants influencing the Saudis were a fear of Iranian expansionist policy and the possibility of events in Yemen spilling over and having a destabilising impact on the Saudi regime. After all, the rationale that launching a military invasion was necessary to restore Abu Mansour Hadi, is only half the truth. Finding little support from the masses and under military pressure from Houthis, Hadi fled the country. There is no international law or practice which suggests that a country may take upon itself the right to invade another when its government is removed by internal public unrest or a coup. If that is the criterion, then Pakistan should have been invaded several times as military rulers have overthrown many democratic governments. After 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan was UN-mandated and enjoyed legal cover. When the US, as an unchallenged superpower, unilaterally invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, it was practising the doctrine of exceptionalism. In case of Yemen, the military operation under international law can be termed an aggression.

Continue reading

The Gargash guff

UAEBy Shahzad Chaudhry

Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s junior minister for foreign affairs, has sent Pakistan a warning – of there being serious consequences of our ‘neutral’ stance on the ongoing war in Yemen. In simple words, the minister is angry that Pakistan has declared in its consensus resolution by parliament that it will not join the GCC coalition against the Houthis in Yemen.

One can understand the minister’s anguish. By his count it was a done deal that when a sheikhdom beckons, Pakistanis only ask: ‘how soon?’ There can never be another response; at least none other than a wholesome submission to the wishes of our Gulf masters – till now that is.

The minister seems to have missed the point altogether. This is what the resolution means: That Pakistan sees no imminent threat to the security of Saudi Arabia in this ongoing strife. That the Houthis, in the flush of initial success, seem to have momentum on their side but are severely restricted in their capacity to overwhelm the entire length and breadth of Yemen. They can hardly be a threat to the Saudi landmass. That, unresolved and un-ceased, the internal factional strife in Yemen, with the visible propensity of its neighbours to fish in Yemen’s troubling waters, has the making for a more permanent divide in the Muslim world. That, Pakistan would not ever be a party to such consequence of divisions and fissures that over time will become irreparable. We would rather be the voice of unity and cohesion. Itself a composite society of Muslims with different denominational attachments, it remains of vital essence to Pakistan to remain united in the war against terrorism. It cannot afford to invite disaffection.

Continue reading

Et tu, Pakistan?

Paki2By Faisal J. Abbas

The record needs to be set straight on a few issues relating to the recent Pakistani parliament vote to remain neutral with regards to the war in Yemen.

First and foremost, Pakistan is a sovereign country, a close ally, a dear friend and a strategic partner to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in general. Now, there might be a few question marks around PM Nawaz Sharif’s commitment from the beginning and his decision to take the matter to parliament; however, the Pakistani people representatives have spoken and they decided that this is not their war, full-stop.

On the other hand, it is quite understandable that the decision might have shocked many observers; given the enduring belief (or myth as it turned out to be) of Islamabad’s bottomless commitment as a military ally of the Gulf, one must also put things in perspective and not over-estimate the impact that such a decision might have on Operation Decisive Storm itself or other geo-political realities relating to Pakistan and the GCC.

As accurately pointed out by Saudi military spokesperson Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri last Friday, Pakistan’s participation would merely be an “addition to the coalition”; however, Islamabad’s non-participation “wouldn’t affect the coalition work.”

Indeed, Saudi Arabia – with more than a 100 fighters jets deployed – is very much capable to continue the airstrikes unilaterally if needed be, and the presence of three (or even a dozen) Pakistani fighter jets, a few vessels will not really make a difference.

The only situation where Pakistan’s participation might have been useful would have been if a ground operation was decided. However, as pointed out numerous times by General Asiri, there are no indications, whatsoever, at this stage that boots on the ground are required. (And if there was such a need, then Pakistani troops would certainly be an addition, but would definitely not affect the mission if Islamabad declines.)

Now as for PM Sharif’s cryptic statement yesterday, which on one hand said that Pakistan “doesn’t abandon friends and strategic partners,” but on another, upheld his parliament’s vote to remain out of the war in Yemen; such statements are similar to the meaningless ones repeated by other ‘allies’ who huffed and puffed pledging over the past few weeks not to allow any harm to fall upon Saudi Arabia and to defend the Kingdom at any cost.

Such heroic statements are certainly heart-warming, but putting aside the lip-service, what needs to be made clear is that Saudi Arabia doesn’t need help in defending itself against a militia which – if put together in one place – might struggle to fill the recently inaugurated al-Jowhara football stadium in Jeddah.

Continue reading

How Pakistan should respond

pakistan-federal-assemblyBy Mosharraf Zaidi 

Pakistanis have become so accustomed to walks of shame that we surprise even our closest and dearest friends when we walk away, instead of getting in the wrong bed at the wrong time.

The GCC military operation in Yemen is the wrong bed at the wrong time. Ever since hostilities between Houthi rebels and government forces roped the Saudi-led coalition into action, the assumption in the GCC capitals was that Pakistan would be Pakistan: irrationally loyal friend, to the end. Here at home, with Operation Zarb-e-Azb still on, a complex war of attrition with many terrorist groups only beginning, and an opposition that keeps smelling blood, the assumption was that Pakistan had to focus on Pakistan: first, second and third.

What seemed to be common sense to many in Pakistan simply didn’t read the same way to the Saudis or the Emiratis. Reactions to the historic parliamentary resolution opting to stay out of Yemen clearly indicate that what seemed to be common sense in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, didn’t read at all that way here in Pakistan.

PM Sharif could have easily manoeuvred Pakistan into a domestic crisis by choosing to dive in all the way with the Saudi call to arms from day one. Instead he set out on a painstaking and intricate series of steps that have led to the difficult and correct decision of choosing not to commit troops to Yemen. So now what?

Well, now, in the great tradition of all heroes, our leader finds himself in the thankless position of having to follow up his courageous gambit with a series of even more difficult and complex decisions. Pakistani democracy has created an unprecedented opportunity for itself, no matter how much of it we may ascribe to GHQ. History may or may not remember PM Sharif for the grandness of the decision to not go to Yemen, but it will probably not forget or forgive him if he allows this opportunity go a-begging.

The opportunity? To transform both our relations with the GCC and wider Arab world, and more importantly, to transform our fiscal and economic decision-making culture. Here are the five things PM Sharif needs to get to work on, all urgent and inescapable, to make this decision count.

First, he needs to assuage the Emiratis and the Saudis. If we expect our Saudi and Emirati brothers to be understanding of Pakistan opting to not heed a call to arms from the GCC, then we can certainly find it in our hearts to be understanding of Anwar Gargash’s angry tweets. Over-the-top over-reactions to a single official’s tweets are going to make a bad situation worse.

Continue reading

Kuwaiti daily launches scathing attack on Pakistan

Gulf countries do not need Pakistan, Pakistan needs them: Kuwaiti daily

Gulf countries do not need Pakistan, Pakistan needs them: Kuwaiti daily

Islamabad’s stand on Yemen crisis has exposed ‘blackmail masks’, editorial says

Manama: A Kuwaiti daily has come out with a stinging criticism of Pakistan, accusing its leaders of political blackmail and of failure to deliver on their pan-Islamic pledges, in an unprecedented attack.

“The Pakistani stance that was adopted through the parliament’s decision to remain neutral has dropped the blackmail masks about protecting sacred Islamic sites and sharing a common destiny with Muslim countries,” Ahmad Al Jarallah, the editor-in-chief of Al Seyassah daily, wrote in a front page editorial on Sunday.

“The slogans were merely political blackmailing tools and Pakistan thought it could use them to feed its crisis-hit economy. The Gulf countries were well aware since the beginning that the assistance it providing to Pakistan was merely to help quell the rampant extremism there and to help Islamabad overcome the poverty that has largely contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups that are a strategic threat to the Gulf and Islamic security,” Al Jarallah wrote.

The editor said that Pakistan had bowed to Iran amid concerns it would suffer a defeat at the hands of the Iranian religious leaders whom he accused of expertise in generating terrorist groups.

“There is no doubt that the Pakistani leadership has made a mistake by betting on Iran, and even its fear from Tehran is not grounded in reality since the Iranian claims about military and missile capabilities and the nuclear programme are not more than a game,” Al Jarallah said.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries do not need Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan needs them in various areas. The GCC can defend its security, particularly following the alliance with other countries such as Jordan and Egypt. Pakistan needs to look carefully at the Iranian plots, especially its attempt to scare the world with its military capabilities.”

The Pakistani parliament last week voted not to take part in the Saudi Arabia-led military operation to defeat Al Houthi rebels and restore Yemen’s legitimate government.

Read more » Gulf News
See more »

To His Excellency Mr. Anwer Gargash from an Average Pakistani!


His Excellency Mr Anwar Gargash,

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs,

The United Arab Emirates.

Dear Mr Gargash,

All of us Pakistanis are in receipt of your expression of outrage over the decision of our sovereign Parliament, to NOT bend over this time, grab our ankles, and allow a conflict with which we have no connection whatsoever, to pummel us senseless.

Your dire warning of “grave consequences” has left us all shaken. Terrified. We’re literally quaking in our f***g boots. Now, we will no longer be able to enjoy your largesse, probably. No more swanky residences in Jumeirah, I guess. No more penthouse apartments in Burj Khalifa, either. Probably no more visits to the Dubai Cup, or the Desert Classic. Wait…I just remembered. NONE of those things applies to the lives of a vast majority of Pakistanis, anyways. It applies, at best, to the handful of political cronies, stooges, and yes-men of yours who have ruled our blighted country over the ages. Whew. Thank God. Your thinly-veiled threat of “grave consequences” doesn’t matter the SLIGHTEST f*** to the majority of us, after all.

The few of us who HAVE visited the Middle East, have been duly received with scorn, disdain, and disrespect…as if we were borderline untouchables. So, in a way, I’m glad that you’re showing off your ugly – and very REAL – side to all of us. Before this announcement of yours, we were actually in two minds as to whether we mattered to you as “Muslim brethren”. I think no one amongst us harbours any such illusions, any longer.

In a way, I am glad, too, that our young men will no longer be able to build your glittering cities, our toddler children will no longer race your smelly f***g camels, our womenfolk will not act as your maids, our people will not perform duties as servants and lackeys, and generally, do all those duties – as bonded labourers – that you and your ilk are incapable of doing, simply because you’re lazy, smug, self-aggrandising, pompous, inefficient, incapable, and have actually no clue about how much you’re derided, scorned, and made fun of. Clearly, the lack of intellect that prompted your personal vitriolic outburst, comes into play in us formulating a poor f****g opinion of you, and others like you. So…good riddance, Sir. Have a nice f****g day.

Sincerely…an Average Pakistani.

P.S. Lay off our endangered wildlife too, you b***ds.

P.P.S. That last line was from an Average Houbara Bustard of Pakistan.

Courtesy: Baaghi
Read more »

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to be a game changer

Pak3Update on 12 April 2015

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Secretary Saifullah Chattha has said several mega projects, including the Gwadar Economic Free Zone, West Bay Expressway and Gwadar airport, would be inaugurated during the Chinese president’s visit to Pakistan on 20-21 April.

Update on 11 March 2015

KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Karachi on Wednesday to inaugurate the first phase of the Karachi-Lahore (M-9) Motorway, which will cost Rs. 36 billion. M-9 will facilitate people commuting between Karachi and major cities including Sukkur, Badin, Ghotki, Rohri, Dadu, Pannu Aqil, Abro, Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Zahir Pir, Jalalpur Peerwala, Abdul Hakim, Mamu Kanjan and Nankana Sahib.

Industrial parks and special economic zones are part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) memoranda of understanding recently agreed between the leaders of the two countries.

The key pre-requisite for the establishment of these zones are resolution of the energy crisis and building of a competitive infrastructure in Pakistan.

Energy and infrastructure

The first phase of the economic corridor is focused on $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects. China’s state-owned banks will finance Chinese companies to fund, build and operate $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years, according to Reuters.

Continue reading

Putin lifts ban on delivery of S-300 missile systems to Iran

launchThe Russian president has repealed the ban prohibiting the delivery of S-300 missile air defense systems to Iran, according to the Kremlin’s press service. The ban was introduced by former President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.

“[The presidential] decree lifts the ban on transit through Russian territory, including airlift, and the export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the territory of the Russian Federation, both by sea and by air, of air defense missile systems S-300,” says the information note accompanying the document, RIA Novosti reported.

The decree enters into force upon the president’s signature.

Read more » RT
See more »

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s befitting response to UAE’s Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash

It is alarming that UAE's minister is threatening Pakistan, says Interior Minister Ch Nisar

It is alarming that UAE’s minister is threatening Pakistan, says Interior Minister Ch Nisar

Nisar rebukes UAE’s minister over remarks ‘hurting self-respect’

ISLAMABAD: (Dunya News) – Interior Minister of Pakistan Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has on Sunday rebuked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister over remarks that has ‘hurt the self-respect of Pakistanis’. He said that Pakistan is an honorable nation and “it is alarming that UAE’s minister is threatening Pakistan”, reported Dunya News.

In a befitting response to UAE’s Foreign Minister for State Anwar Gargash, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that Pakistan had brotherly relations with the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, but the statement made by UAE’s minister was in contradiction with diplomatic norms. He said that the statement was unacceptable and equivalent to hurting Pakistanis’ self-respect.

Read more » Dunya News Tv
See more »

UAE Minister Threatens Pakistan: Twitter reactions

By Malik Omaid

Late night yesterday, UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash responded on the Pakistan parliament’s resolution to stay neutral in the Yemen crisis. The minister was literally throwing tantrums on Twitter on this decision and threatened Pakistan for its consequences. Pakistani twitterati responded to his tweets and gave their views. Some are selected for our readers.

Read more » PakTeaHouse
See more »

To Win Its War in Yemen, Saudi Arabia May Have to Split Yemen in Two

clashesBy Peter Salisbury

Aden is a forlorn port city in the south of Yemen. It has been the capital of both a British colony and the Arabian peninsula’s only socialist state. It was once the busiest port in the world. And it is probably best known today as the place where the USS Cole was bombed 15 years ago.

In October of 2014, I was lounging on dirty carpet and musty cushions spread over the dirt yard of a nondescript concrete building in the Khormaksar district of Aden. The ragtag group of young men around me, who had formed a kind of militant neighborhood watch, called the yard where we were sitting their “Operations Room.”

The men claimed that they made up the backbone of Yemen’s so-called Southern Resistance. “We are planning the revolution,” a young man named Ali* said as we sweltered in the humid night air. “We want our country back.”

One day, the men said, they would control Yemen’s south, ending a 25-year-old union of two separate states that created modern Yemen. But it was hard to take them seriously. Aside from a couple of older, hard-looking men, the group of about 30 looked like a gaggle of wide-eyed overgrown boys, and they seemed no different from many others in Yemen’s notoriously disorganized and chaotic southern secessionist movement.

But they were different, they insisted. They would one day lead the south to independence.

* * *

Six months later, the same young men are now running through the streets of Aden, fighting for their lives with battered Kalashnikovs they are not trained to use and for which they do not have enough bullets. They are dying in droves as they battle a far more experienced, better-supplied enemy that already controls much of Yemen’s northwest and western seaboard. It is an enemy that has proven willing to indiscriminately shell the city in an attempt to bludgeon the nascent resistance movement into acquiescence.

Continue reading

UAE slams Pakistan vote on Yemen – Warns of heavy price for ambiguous stand.


“Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries,” says Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash. — Reuters/File

Dubai — The UAE on Friday strongly condemned a Pakistani decision to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Houthi rebels.

“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash tweeted after a unanimous resolution passed by a special session of Pakistan’s parliament.

The resolution, however, backed the government’s commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict.

Gargash said Pakistan is required to show a clear stand in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf cooperation Council, as contradictory and ambiguous views on this serious matter will have a heavy price to pay.

“This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand,” Gargash said, criticising identical views held by Turkey and Iran about the armed conflict in Yemen, as affirmed by the Turkish foreign minister, who had said a political way out of the crisis is the responsibility of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries, Gargash added. “Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” Gargash said.

“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries.”

The Pakistan parliament resolution turned down long-standing ally Riyadh’s request for troops, ships and warplanes, saying: “Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen.”

“Parliament of Pakistan…underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” the resolution said.

“(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”

Read more » Khaleej Times
See more »
– – – – – –
More details » DAWN 
See more »

Clinton Accuses Israel of Being Occupying Force

Hillary ClintonNew book takes aim at Israel, angers pro-Israel community


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accuses Israel of being an occupying force in her new memoir Hard Choices and claims that the Jewish state denies “dignity and self determination” to Palestinians in the West Bank.

Clinton recalls being surprised by what she termed “life under occupation for the Palestinians,” according to the book.

Pro-Israel officials and insiders on Capitol Hill have called Clinton’s comments tone deaf and said that her claim that Israel is an occupying force reveals a bias against the Jewish state.

“When we left the city and visited Jericho, in the West Bank, I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians, who were denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted,” Clinton writes.

Clinton’s comments demonstrate that she supports the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure and marginalize Israel, which current Secretary of State John Kerry recently accused of becoming an “apartheid state,” said one senior GOP Senate aide, who worked with Clinton when she was at the State Department.

Continue reading

Saudi request for help in Yemen sparks political crisis in Pakistan

saudiAnalysis: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has to walk a thin line between Saudi pressure and Pakistani fears


During the first Gulf War in 1991, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, dispatched Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia, where they became a part of the U.S.-led coalition confronting Saddam Hussein. At the time, the decision was unpopular at home, with criticism coming not just from the political opposition but also the then sitting army chief.

Sharif is prime minister AGAIN and faces a similar dilemma: whether to accede to a Saudi request for Pakistani combat troops, fighter jets and warships to join its 10-nation coalition assembled to stop the Houthi revolt in Yemen and thwart the ambitions of their alleged backers in Iran. This time, Sharif is confronted with almost as much hostility as he was a quarter century ago. The target isn’t the U.S., but the opaque and one-sided nature of Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Since Monday, Pakistan’s parliament has been raucously debating the Saudi request, with a usually fractious opposition uniting against a Pakistani intervention. Several speakers said they consider Saudi Arabia a “brotherly” country but bridled at the suggestion that Pakistan should be dragged into a possibly ruinous foreign war that could worsen relations with Iran and risk further inflaming sectarian tensions at home. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a member of the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, was angry at the suggestions that the Pakistan army were mere mercenaries. “My army is not a rent-an-army,” Bilour said.

Sharif is also on the defensive after a flurry of reports from Saudi news sources claiming Pakistan had already agreed to be part of the coalition. The reports,  which Islamabad has not explicitly denied, sparked concerns that Sharif’s government had made a commitment to the Saudis without informing the Pakistani public.

“We demand Nawaz Sharif tell us the truth,” Imran Khan, the former cricket legend turn opposition leader, told reporters outside parliament this week. “I don’t know what agreement Nawaz Sharif has done in Saudi Arabia. But I do know that the Pakistani people’s needs are more deserving than Saudi Arabia’s territorial boundary.”

Continue reading

Piketty Says EU Politics Risks Driving Greece Out of Euro


Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose 2013 book on wealth inequality became an international bestseller, said he sees a risk of politicians in the European Union forcing Greece out of the euro area.
“The attitude of a number of people in Brussels and Berlin looks like: push Greece out,” Piketty said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Paris.
Greece, Europe’s most-indebted state, is negotiating with euro-area countries and the International Monetary Fund on the terms of its 240 billion-euro ($259 billion) rescue. The standoff, which has left Greece dependent upon European Central BANK LOANS, risks leading to a default within weeks and its potential exit from the euro area.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more »

Countering Iran: Hekmatyar vows to send fighters to Saudi Arabia

taliban_gunmenBy Tahir Khan

ISLAMABAD: Former Afghan prime minister and Hizb-e-Islami’s chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has said his movement is ready to send thousands of fighters to Saudi Arabia to counter “Iran’s interference in Yemen.”

Hizb-e-Islami is seen as the second largest resistance group that is fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan. “If there is a possibility, thousands of Mujahedin will be ready to go to Saudi Arabia to frustrate the Iranian sinister designs in Yemen,” Hekmatyar said in a Pashto-language statement.

The group’s spokesman, Haroon Zarghoon, read out the statement by telephone from an undisclosed location. Hekmatyar accused Iran of “creating the current unrest in Yemen” and said his movement fully supports the position of Saudi Arabia and Arab countries to prevent Iran’s interference in Yemen.

If there is a possibility, thousands of Mujahidin (Taliban) will be ready to go to Saudi Arabia to frustrate the Iranian sinister design in Yemen. ~ Hizb-e-Islami chief, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

“Iran had earlier interfered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon and has now started interfering in Yemen. Afghans condemn Iran’s policy in Yemen,” he said.

Whereabouts of Hekmatyar are unknown; however, he routinely issues video messages and responds to journalists’ queries.

Continue reading

War on Language: In Balochistan

Flag of BalochistanBy NAZIHA SYED ALI

WHILE visiting Balochistan, one becomes aware of just how removed that province is from mainstream Pakistan. And it’s not only the obvious things — such as the dire lack of development, the air of oppression or the stories of enforced disappearances and dumped bodies. There’s also the more subtle issue of language.

According to Article 28 in the chapter on fundamental rights, the Constitution says: “… any section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture shall have the right to PRESERVE and promote the same and subject to law, establish institutions for that purpose”. Most of the national conversation on this is centred on the fact that many private schools, at least in urban areas, do not teach the relevant provincial language in contravention of provincial laws to the effect.

In Turbat some weeks ago, I learnt that the situation is quite the opposite in Balochistan. This is the only province where government schools do not teach either Balochi or Brahui, the two most widely spoken native languages outside the Pakhtun-majority areas in the north of the province. Balochi is only taught in a few private schools here.

Public schools in Balochistan teach neither Balochi nor Brahui.

One of the most devastating weapons of repression EMPLOYED by a state is the suppression of a native language.History is replete with examples of forcible assimilation of a people in this manner.

To exclude the teaching of a native language while imposing on its speakers the language of the dominant polity is exactly what it sounds like — an act of cultural warfare. Language is an inherent part of a people’s identity, the repository of their history and culture, a record of epic battles fought and of heroic exploits for its generations to emulate.

Continue reading

What’s behind Saudi Arabia’s air strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels?

Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Yemen’s Houthi rebels

BEIJING, April 5 (Xinhua) — It has been two weeks since the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the Houthi fighters in Yemen.

Sending bombers to Yemen was by no means an impulse decision by Saudi leaders, but reflects their strategic consideration in various aspects, said Wu Yihong, a Chinese expert on Middle East.

Firstly, Saudi Arabia has already felt the pressure from the spillover of terrorist activities in Yemen, and the insurgency of Houthi fighters in Yemen aggravated its security concerns.

Secondly, the offensive is also good to divert domestic attention away from the increasingly fierce power struggle among the royals, and provides the new leader a chance to establish his authority.

Thirdly, the military action in Yemen could also raise oil prices, and that could consolidate Saudi Arabia’s market share. Oil revenue accounts for about 35-40 percent of the country’s GDP, and keeping the country’s market share is crucial to its future.

Continue reading

Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ China does not buy Saudi position on Yemen.

pak-chinaPakistan’s all-weather friend counsels caution

By M.K. Bhadrakumar

The opinion of an “all-weather friend” should always count. Will Pakistan take China’s estimation of the Yemen situation seriously before crossing the Rubicon to meet Saudi Arabia’s expectations from it? Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who just returned from a visit to Riyadh leading a military delegation, told the parliament in Islamabad on Monday, “Saudi Arabia has asked for combat planes, warships and soldiers.”

Yet, in an extraordinarily frank assessment, Xinhua news agency flagged over the weekend that Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen is motivated by its narrow self-interests and do not rest on any principles. The commentary attributes four motives to the Saudi intervention, which it says, was “by no means an impulse (sic) decision by Saudi leaders, but reflects their strategic consideration in various aspects.”

One, heightened security concerns over a possible spillover of terrorist (read al-Qaeda) activities in Yemen would have worked on the Saudi mind. Two, the intervention in Yemen serves “to divert attention from the increasingly fierce power struggle among the royals, and provides the new leader (King Salman) a chance to establish his authority.” (Emphasis added.)

Continue reading

Top UK business leaders back Tony Blair’s warning over possible EU exit

Tony Blair has warned of the chaos the prospect of an EU referendum could cause.

Tony Blair has warned of the chaos the prospect of an EU referendum could cause.

Business for New Europe says vote to quit could force some companies based in Britain to leave UK and delay investment due to uncertainty


A business group backed by the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest companies has thrown its weight behind Tony Blair’s warning about the effects of a referendumon the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Business for New Europe (BNE) said a vote to quit the EU could force some companies that use Britain as a European base to leave the UK. The group warned that businesses will hold back on investment in Britain because of the uncertainty created by the prospect of the referendum.

Business leaders on BNE’s advisory council include Sir Michael Rake, the chairman of BT, Chris Gibson-Smith, the chairman of the London Stock Exchange, and Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland. BNE is non-partisan and campaigns for Britain to stay in a less bureaucratic EU.

Blair said in a speech on Tuesday that the prospect of Britain leaving the EU would cast a “pall of unpredictability” over the economy, threatening jobs and investment. He warned that a vote to quit the EU would cause the worst instability and anxiety for business since the second world war.

David Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017 if the Conservatives form a government after next month’s election. He has pledged to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership before the referendum.

Read more » the guardian
See more »

US okays attack helicopters, hellfire missiles for Pakistan under $1 billion sale

heliWASHINGTON The US State Department has okayed Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles as part of around one billion dollars deal.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to US foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said on Monday. The helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia, the defence agency noted. This proposed sale will provide Pakistan with a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes. By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.

Islamabad had requested a possible sale of 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters, 32 T-700 GE 401C Engines (30 installed and 2 spares), 1000 AGM-114 R Hellfire II Missiles in containers, 36 H-1 Technical Refresh Mission computers, 17 AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight Systems, 30 629F-23 Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency Communication Systems, 19 H-764 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, 32 Helmet Mounted Display/Optimised Top Owl, 17 APX-117A Identification Friend or Foe, 17 AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems, 17 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets, 18 AN/APR-39C(V)2 Radar Warning Receivers, 15 Joint Mission Planning Systems, and 17 M197 20mm Gun Systems.

Also included are system integration and testing, software development and integration, aircraft ferry, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $952 million. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractors will be Bell Helicopter, Textron in Fort Worth, Texas; General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts; The Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama; and Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland.

Meanwhile, in a reference Islamabad’s close ties with major powers, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the US defence companies are engaged in a three-way tussle with Russia and China to sell weapons to Pakistan, complicated by the need to avoid upsetting neighbor India and its even larger arms’ import market.

News courtesy: Daily Times
Read more »

CANADA – Former prime minister calls past decade’s approach ‘an absolute disgrace’


Former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin calls Conservative economic plan ‘an absolute disgrace’

Paul Martin blasts Conservative economic plan ahead of budget

By Evan Solomon, CBC News

Dismissing the Conservative economic plan as “an absolute disgrace” and “nonsensical,” former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin has leapt into the debate over Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s newly announced April 21 budget.

In an interview on CBC Radio’s The House, Martin told host Evan Solomon Canada is facing a “very serious” economic situation and he accused the government of doing nothing about it.

“[The government] is not doing the right things now and we have not been doing the right things for the last decade,” Martin said.

Taking a cue from Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who suddenly cut Canada’s key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.75 per cent and said recently the first quarter results in Canada will be “atrocious,” Martin called on Joe Oliver to kick start a fiscal stimulus program.

“Fiscal policy and monetary policy have to work hand in hand, they cannot contradict each other,” Martin said. “If the governor of the central bank is talking about the need for monetary stimulus, he also understands there has to be changes made in the [fiscal policy] and those changes have to be investments.”

Read more » CBC
See more »

Greek PM Tsipras to meet with Putin in Moscow.

Russia, Greece to discuss EU sanctions, economy in Moscow

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plan to discuss economic ties and the European Union’s sanctions against Moscow when they meet for talks next week, a Kremlin spokesman said on Friday.

Russia wants the EU to lift the sanctions imposed over Moscow’s role in the turmoil in Ukraine and hopes to get support from some EU member states, notably Hungary and Greece.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was too early to talk about any possibility of Moscow providing financial help to the cash-strapped Greece before the talks.

“Relations between Moscow and the European Union will be discussed in the light of Brussels’s policy of sanctions and Athens’ quite cold attitude to this policy,” Peskov said.

Greece’s new left-wing government has said it will not seek aid from Moscow but has so far failed to reach a deal with its EU/IMF creditors to unlock fresh funds.

Putin and Tsipras will meet in Moscow on Apr.8. It will be Tsipras’ first visit to the Russian capital after his leftist Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election in January.

Tsipras visited Moscow in May, 2014, and attended a conference on ties between Russiaand Greece, as well as being received by senior Russian state officials. Five other members of the Greek delegation now also hold senior government roles in Athens. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin)

News courtesy: Reuters
Read more »