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International Poker

Saudi Arabia
Controlled by a family ruling clique, which siphons off money from the state into personal accounts held abroad, and many of them indulge in sybaritic pleasures abroad, while professing a puritanical form of Islam called Wahabbism at home. Rising budget deficits, population and expectations with suppression of many basic human rights and lack of say in government by all common people, makes this a dangerously unstable state. In the past, it has hired a whole regiment of Pakistani armed forces, to be the Praetorian Guard to protect the Royal family.

Since Nawaz Sharif was involved in that and the Mujaheddin cum terrorists training in Saudi funded Madresseh, Saudis pressured Musharraf into pardoning and exiling Sharif to Saudi Arabia. To divert the attention of the domestic public and to propagate abroad the image of being devout Muslims and defenders of the faith, they matched USA in financial support to set up Taliban, the pawns of the Pakistani drug and smugglers mafia, as the governing body in Afghanistan. Saudis encouraged their own radicals, like Osama Bin Laden and his followers to set up shop in Afghanistan, so that they would not create problems at home. Even till today, Saudis have not co-operated fully and permit funds to reach terrorists via so called charitable foundations, created by rich Saudis probably to pay protection money and or bankroll the extremist groups. They also promote Islamic causes and fundamentalism in India, Old Soviet Republics and Bangladesh.

A corrupt government not elected freely, rising population, poverty and unemployment, dependent on annual billions of dollars subsidy from USA, are some of its problems. It chose the path of exporting its domestic dissidents and terrorists abroad, especially to Afghanistan. They joined up with Bin Laden's group and the terrorists from Algeria, Indonesia, Philippines etc. 

Zia the military dictator in the eighties, who hanged the former President and prime minister Bhutto, had a policy of allowing entry without passport or visas to all Muslims wishing to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. He was killed in a plane crash and Bhutto's daughter Benazir and Nawaz Sharif were playing musical chairs as prime ministers, presidents, while they and their cronies systematically looted the country and developed nuclear weapons, which triggered US sanctions and further downward spiraling of the economy, with exhaustion of foreign reserves and inability to meet debt service obligations. Musharraf as chief of armed forces and obsession with taking over Kashmir planned and executed the Kargil infiltration, even as President Sharif was embracing Indian prime minister's Vajpayee, at his peace initiative to Lahore. Sharif was trying to kill Musharraf to prevent a military coup, after having been forced to abort his Kargil misadventure, due to pressure from the Clinton presidency.

India and Israel 
Democratic states with nuclear weapons, which because of the historic circumstances of their birth are hamstrung by large fissiparous Moslem minority populations, who often become fifth columnists for their neighboring enemy states. Both have pursued misguided, unenlightened policies towards these minorities, whose fanatic obsession has been to live in one state, while having allegiance to the neighboring enemy state. India is a secular and Israel is a Jewish state. The former has little or no influence, while the latter has considerable clout over USA, its patron. I lumped them together, because they are both likely to be the losers in this high stakes poker game, even though they have not been given a seat at the table. 

The omnipresent, omnipotent, but far less than omniscient Lord and puppet-master, which has faced its first successful, massive terrorist attack and is notoriously shortsighted in its foreign policy. It has the unfortunate habit of seducing its fiances and at the crucial time, abandoning them at the altar, as the Shah, Marcos, Thieu, Mobutu, Suharto, Bangladeshis, East Timorese, Kurds, Shias of Southern Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the most eloquent Sirik Matak of Cambodia realized too late. His partially paraphrased words to Kissinger – 

"...I thank you very sincerely for your letter and your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and particularly for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people, which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave; and my wish is that you and your country may find happiness under this sky. But mark it well, that I shall die here on the spot and in my country, that I love, because we are all born and must die one day. It is too bad I have committed this mistake of believing in you, the Americans". 

He had the Eastern habit of believing in personal honor and integrity, which is not the way foreign policy and war are approached in the West, since the time of the wars of the British in India and Lord Palmerston's classic statement, that nations have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Washington and Adams set a perfect example, in their dealings with the British and French in the early decades of United States.

The Taliban became a cohesive group, when after their frustration with the internecine warfare in post-Soviet withdrawal Afghanistan, they used the weapons and money of the drug and smuggled goods transport mafia of Pakistan, to buy, intimidate and overcome warring factions to clear the roads from Quetta to Turkmenistan and Iran for the passage of trucks laden with contraband. Pakistani armed forces and intelligence provided money, materiel and manpower for their successful conquest of much of the country. In return, they provided the drug lords of Pakistan with opium and roads for transport and smuggling to the West. To the Pakistan government, they provided training camps and terrorists to fight in Kashmir and "strategic depth" to base Pakistani planes, armor, ammunition in a "neutral" third country safe from Indian retaliation, in the event of a war. Mere arm-twisting is hardly likely to be persuasive enough, for Kashmir obsessed Musharraf, to throw away the high card of Taliban in favor of an American card, especially at the cost of the severe civil disorder and alienation of its population and being labeled as a pariah Islamic state. The chances are that he has been offered substantial financial incentives or support to his claim to Kashmir. If one or both are not given in the future, it would lead to fragmentation of Pakistan or a coup with Islamic terrorist types gaining access to nuclear weapons. 

America is unlikely to abandon the bride again at the altar. It will remain neutral in the Kashmir dispute, while underwriting Pakistani debts to jumpstart the economy and allowing Musharraf to suppress dissent and pursue terrorism in Kashmir. India is unlikely to obtain American support in listing Pakistan as a terrorist state or condemning its behavior. USA will give India a pat on the back, the engine for the indigenous fighter and helicopter and some non-military commercial agreements. Only if things do not work out and Pakistan disintegrates or suffers a coup by hostile factions, is America likely to openly team up with India. If India decides to covertly attempt to precipitate such a scenario, it must be ready to preemptively strike and destroy all Pakistani nuclear facilities. USA may even assist at such a time or perhaps Israel may be even more helpful. These are unfortunately WW3 or Huntington's clash of civilizations scenarios, because at such a time, much of the Arab world would suffer collapse of monarchies and replacement by hostile popular Islamic governments. 

Israel is likely to lose, because grudging half-hearted Egyptian, Arafat and Saudi co-operation is likely to have been obtained by promise of a Palestinian state, which though fair, is not in the strategic interest of Israel. It is likely to be too near, too belligerent and bound to become bigger and stronger by the inevitable collapse of the weak Jordanian monarchy, and the merger of its current boundaries with the new Palestinian state. The only clear choices for Israel and India are to keep pressure on USA, not to give too much and to co-operate more extensively with each other, to dam the swirling waters of the Arab world, if there is another flood. If the volcano erupts, contain the lava by creating deep channels, so that lethally dangerous, volatile fluids are quarantined in the Persian Gulf, leaving the Greater Indian ocean, Red and Mediterranean seas uncontaminated. USA has to prevent the disintegration of Pakistan, alienating of India and form a coalition government in Afghanistan, which is acceptable to Pakistan and will not harbor terrorists. The last time such a problem had to be solved, the Lord was looking for less than a handful of upright good persons in another biblical area. We all know, what the omnipotent Lord ended up doing then!   


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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