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Guardian: Muslim allies break ranks with US; Alliance wobbly
By Guardian

17/10/2001 1:33 pm Wed

Muslim allies break ranks with US

Key Muslim allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan break ranks with US over bombing

Matthew Engel in Washington Matthew Engel in Washington

Tuesday October 16, 2001
The Guardian

Relations between the US and two of its core allies in the war against terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, approached crisis point yesterday after the Saudi interior minister, Prince Naif, attacked the assault on Afghanistan while Pakistan pressed Washington to ensure that its bombing campaign would be short-lived.

In the latest and most public of a series of disagreements between the countries that have evidently taken the US by surprise in the five weeks since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Prince Naif told the official Saudi Press Agency that the kingdom wanted the US to flush out the terrorists without bombing. "This is killing innocent people. The situation does not please us at all."

Officially, the state department in Washington remains "very satisfied" with the Saudi approach to the crisis, but this masks increasing alarm not merely about the governmental response but about potential insurrection that could endanger the whole Saudi regime.

Prince Naif's comments add to the diplomatic pressure being felt by the US in its attempts to maintain support in the region for its policies. Secretary of state, Colin Powell, who holds talks with General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad today, took further steps yesterday to bolster Pakistan's support for the war, promising military-to-military contacts. The sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear test in 1998 still prevent the US selling the country any weaponry or equipment, but by moving towards direct military relations Mr Powell was clearly holding out the prospect of future rewards if the Musharraf regime continued to play ball.

But with strikes ordered across the country by Islamist groups in protest at Mr Powell's visit, Mr Musharraf is aware that his support for the US action can go only so far. "The prolongation of the campaign will be a source of concern to us," the Pakistani foreign ministry said last night.

Further underlining the tension that now racks the region, Indian troops broke a 10-month ceasefire with Pakistan last night when they fired shells into disputed territory in Kashmir, killing a woman and wounding 25.

A clearly worried President George Bush fired off a salvo to the two nuclear powers when he said: "I think it is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan and, for that matter, forever."

And in the most extreme language to emerge from Tehran since September 11, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said that the US air strikes on the Taliban were "dragging the world into a war". At the top of Washington's in-tray of anxieties relating to its war against terrorism coalition partners, analysts now believe that Saudi Arabia - where few western journalists are allowed - may be turning into the gravest challenge.

"It's unbelievable how the feeling here has changed from sympathy to anger in such a short time," according to a Riyadh-based westerner quoted by Reuters yesterday. Another resident compared the mood there to that of Iran in the late 70s, before the overthrow of the Shah.

Since September 11, Riyadh has refused to allow attacks on Afghanistan from its bases; Prince Abdullah, the country's crown prince and day-to-day ruler, has avoided meeting President Bush; Muslim clerics within the once-monolithic country have issued fatwas against the Americans; and, beneath the bland assurances of amity, there has been growing US frustration about the extent of Saudi cooperation with this investigation too.

American feeling was expressed in a powerful editorial in Sunday's New York Times, which described Saudi behaviour as "malignant" and said the "deeply cynical" bargain between the countries, which for decades had offered American protection for the regime in return for an uninterrupted flow of oil, was now "untenable".

David Wurmser, director of Middle East studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said yesterday: "The US's entire foreign policy structure in the region has been anchored in the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. If everything we're hearing is true, then we're facing a total meltdown. The whole war as currently conceived would have to be reconsidered, because Pakistan won't hold if Saudi support starts collapsing.

"You can't really separate Bin Laden from the Saudi establishment," Mr Wurmser said. "There are conflicting forces there, and part of the establishment has been working with the Bin Laden faction to embarrass the other half."

However, the state department spokesman, Philip Reeker, yesterday repeated the "very satisfied" mantra that his colleagues have been using for some time. He noted that Prince Naif had said the situation did not please the Saudis.

"I think that quite reflects the attitudes we've been expressing for five weeks now. This situation, clearly, doesn't please us. We would certainly rather be able to focus on other things in our foreign and

Bombing must be brief, Powell is warned

American's visit aims to bolster shaky support for coalition

Rory McCarthy in Islamabad
Tuesday October 16, 2001
The Guardian

Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, flew into Islamabad last night to shore up Pakistan's increasingly shaky support for the military campaign in Afghanistan.

General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, will today tell Mr Powell that the bombing against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's network must be brief and must not deliver the opposition Northern Alliance into power in Kabul.

"The prolongation of the campaign will be a source of concern to us," Riaz Mohammad Khan, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, said. "You can always expect mishaps in which innocent lives will be lost and nobody in Pakistan and the United States would like to see that happen."

General Musharraf will tell Mr Powell to prevent the Northern Alliance, which is backed by Pakistan's great rival India, from taking power in Kabul alone. "A move by outsiders to impose a group on Afghanistan will not help the situation," Mr Khan said.

The general has threatened to withdraw his support for the US bombing campaign if Washington breaches a tacit understanding to limit its help for the alliance.

Pakistan has already been reluctant to share too much of its intelligence on the Taliban and Bin Laden with the US, according to sources close to the military leadership.

Islamabad, which backed the Taliban from the day they first appeared in 1994, is desperate to have a friendly government in Kabul, which may include moderate Taliban.

Even now the military regime is reluctant to break its ties with the religious hardliners in Kandahar. "The Taliban are not terrorists," said Mr Khan. "They continue to control a very large part of Afghanistan. We continue to deal with them."

Mr Powell said the UN would play a leading role in forming the next government. "No one government will be able to handle it," he said on the flight to Islamabad.

His trip is also intended to defuse tensions between Pakistan and India, the world's newest nuclear powers, in the disputed state of Kashmir. After visiting Islamabad Mr Powell will fly to New Delhi for talks. "Just give me a chance to listen to them, to hear their assessment, hear their concerns and see how we can be helpful," he said.

Islamist religious groups in Pakistan ordered a nationwide strike yesterday to protest at Mr Powell's visit and the arrival of US troops last week in Pakistan, but few protesters took to the streets and few businesses decided to close.

"We have asked our followers to exact pressure on the Pakistani government to force Musharraf to send American troops back to their country," said Maulana Sami-ul Haq, an Islamist cleric who taught many Taliban leaders in his mosque in north-western Pakistan.

In Quetta, scene of violent protests in the last week, and in Jacobabad, a remote town in the south where US troops are now based, nearly every shop was closed.

At least 100 people from Islamist groups were arrested in Jacobabad and pickets were set up around the Shahbaz airfield, where US forces are preparing to provide logistics support for special forces operations in Afghanistan.

"At this critical juncture, Colin Powell is coming to visit Pakistan to sprinkle salt on the wounds of Muslims," a group of 11 Islamist parties said in a statement. "The nation will not tolerate his unholy steps on the soil of Pakistan."

There was a heavy deployment of police and soldiers across the country. In the larger cities of Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore the strike was largely ignored.

In Islamabad three special envoys from Zahir Shah, the former Afghan king who lives in exile in Rome, met Pakistan's foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, to discuss the shape of a future government for Kabul.

The elderly king has emerged as a likely figurehead for the new government, although it is still not clear which groups would hold the key powers in the next administration

The Independent, London

Powell in Pakistan to shore up 'wobbly' alliance

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington

16 October 2001

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, arrived in Pakistan yesterday to attempt to shore up the critical but increasingly wobbly diplomatic front in America's drive to stamp out Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

The headlines scream war, and television screens are full of missiles, jets and anthrax alarms, of retired generals and experts on bioterrorism. But the long-term prospects of the campaign will largely hinge on preserving a semblance of support in an Islamic world growing edgier by the day. If that is to be achieved, then General Powell's less visible endeavours will be critical.

Cynics would be tempted to define his trip, first to Pakistan, then to India, as "Mission Impossible". Simultaneously, he must shore up Islamabad's reluctant support for the campaign against Mr bin Laden and the Taliban regime it once protected, and seek regional agreement on the shape of a post-Taliban Afghan government on which Pakistan and India have very differing views.

At the same time, General. Powell is urgently seeking to lower the temperature between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir - this latter at the very moment India launched an artillery barrage at Pakistani positions on the other side of the line of control in the disputed territory.

Too accommodating a line towards Pakistan, and there will be howls of protest from Delhi, with which Washington is trying to forge a new strategic relationship but which believes the Taliban and Mr bin Laden have been complicit with Pakistan in fomenting the Islamic terrorist attacks across the line of control.

But if General Powell is perceived by Pakistanto be tilting towards its arch foe, then he risks further weakening President Musharraf, who has risked the wrath of the radical Islamic elements inside his country by siding with the US against the Taliban.

According to a poll this week, 83 per cent of Pakistanis back the Taliban in their showdown with the US, and General Musharraf has from the outset not concealed his impatience for the bombing campaign to end as soon as possible.

The eve of General Powell's arrival brought a bizarre indication of how frayed nerves have become with an "interview" given by President Pervez Musharraf to USA-Today and CBS radio in which he urged Washington to "take out" Mullah Mohammad Omar. Hours later however, the Pakistan government strongly denied the interview ever took place.

In another ominous development, the Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif criticised the bombing campaign, saying that Riyadh, another important but deeply ambivalent ally of Washington in its anti-terror coalition, was "not at all happy" with the bombing campaign.

The remark may have been for domestic consumption in a strict Islamic country but it was emblematic of how the relationship between the world's largest oil producer and its US military protector has come under intense strain since the bombing started on October 7 - and only adds to the delicacy of General Powell's mission.

Not only has yesterday's most senior American soldier turned into its most senior diplomat. What he needs to achieve in his new role may well eclipse in importance anything he accomplished in uniform -- even the successful organisation of the war against Saddam Hussein. "The bombs are important," said one retired four-star general here, "but this war will be won by men in striped suits." And he might have added, by the war of ideas and propaganda.

Never has a conflict been more 'assymetrical.' Huge US aircraft carrier groups prowl the Arabian Sea. But American planes rain down not just precision guided bombs and missiles upon an enemy whose only aim is to survive, but also humanitarian food packages and leaflets.

At home, public opinion is gripped not by fear not of invasion by a human enemy, but by millions of spores of deadly anthrax which may, or equally possibly, may not have been let loose by that enemy. All the while the Bush administration, starting with General Powell today in Pakistan, must convince moderate opinion in the Islamic world that the terrorists are the enemy, not the US.

Belatedly "public diplomacy" has become a buzzword in Washington. This week the campaign for Muslim hearts and minds started in earnest, with senior officials - yesterday the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, today - the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - being wheeled out for interviews on the al-Jazeera satellite TV news network based in Qatar, which last week carried videotaped statements by Mr bin Laden and another al-Qaeda spokesman.

But as he embarks on perhaps the most critical mission of his nine months as Secretary of State, General Powell is reaping the bitter fruits of years of neglect and underfunding of the State Department, and the main government information agencies. Nowhere have the repercussions been more evident than in getting out Americaís message to the Muslim world.

Voice of America for instance puts out only seven hours of programmes to Arab countries which are heard, it is estimated, by just 2 per cent of the their populations.