Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pakistan plans major reshuffle in army

by Tarique from NNN-PTI

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Islamabad will not allow troops from any country to operate in its territory and was capable of dealing with terrorist elements. "We will never allow any country to violate our sovereignty and integrity," he said. Aziz said Pakistan was cooperating with the world in fighting terrorism and believed in strong coordination among the countries. "We believe in intelligence-sharing, cooperation and coordination with friendly countries that are committed to fighting this scourge". Referring to the statements of US Presidential candidates about attacking Pakistan and holy places of Muslims, Aziz told Al-Arabia channel that Pakistan has reacted to these statements strongly. He said no Muslim country will tolerate the attack on the Muslim's holy places. "Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are very close strategic partners and we will never sit back if anybody try to harm Saudi Arabia or holy places". On the reports of presence of Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan he said "we will do whatever it takes to prevent terrorism. But we cannot and will not accept the presence of any foreign troops in Pakistan." "If we will share credible, quantifiable and identifiable intelligence, then Pakistan will act, we have the capacity and capability to act."

U.S. Trying to Soften Saudi Hard Line toward Maliki Government

Gregory Gause III interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman from The Council on Foreign Relations

Sometime around the turn of the year after the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, there was a decision in Riyadh that the Americans were going to get out of Iraq eventually and they were going to leave behind a government that’s an Iranian client regime. At that point the Saudis basically started to play a more active role in Iraqi politics through contacts with Iraqi politicians and with Iraqi groups. Obviously Sunni groups would be the place they would have the most influence. So they’re playing a little more actively in Iraq and in ways that Washington doesn’t like. First and foremost, they don’t like the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They think it’s just an Iranian client regime. They’ve been pushing for alternatives. There have been reports the Saudis are funding former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s efforts to put together an alternative coalition. The fact that the major Sunni bloc in the government, the Accordance Front, is threatening to withdraw from the government might have something to do with increased Saudi opposition to the Maliki government.

Saudi Arabia attracts $18.3b foreign investment in 2006

by Habib Shaikh from The Khaleej Times

There has been a remarkable increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Saudi Arabia, according to the Saudi Arabian General Investments Authority (Sagia). "The Kingdom has continued to attract foreign investments from countries such as the United States, Japan and the European Union," Awad Al Awad, undersecretary of the Sagia governor said in Press statement issued in Riyadh recently, which was made available to Khaleej Times here. Al Awad said that the investments from countries other than the US, Japan and EU have rose from 38% in 2000 to 47% in 2006 ... In a related development, foreigners will now be able to invest in such a sectors as insurance services, wholesale and retail trade, air and train transport, and communication services in Saudi Arabia following a recent landmark decision by the Supreme Economic Council (SEC). The Kingdom continues to ban foreign investment in sectors such as oil exploration, drilling and production.

The Major Diplomatic and Strategic Evolution in Iraq

by George Friedman from Stratfor

Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare would be watching Iran become the dominant power in Iraq or southern Iraq. It cannot defend itself against Iran, nor does it want to be defended by U.S. troops on Saudi soil. The Saudis want Iraq as a buffer zone between Iran and their oil fields. They opposed the original invasion, fearing just this outcome, but now that the invasion has taken place, they don't want Iran as the ultimate victor. The Saudis, therefore, are playing a complex game, both supporting Sunni co-religionists and criticizing the American presence as an occupation -- yet urgently wanting U.S. troops to remain ... No one power can resolve the security crisis in Iraq -- as four years of U.S. efforts there clearly demonstrate. But if the U.S. and Iran, plus Saudi Arabia, work together -- with no one providing cover for or supplies to targeted groups -- the situation can be brought under what passes for reasonable control in Iraq. More important for the three powers, the United States could draw down its troops to minimal levels much more quickly than is currently being discussed, the Iranians would have a neutral, nonaggressive Iraq on their western border and the Saudis would have a buffer zone from the Iranians. The buffer zone is the key, because what happens in the buffer zone stays in the buffer zone.

U.S.-GCC Arms Deals: Snags in Store?

by Riad Kahwaji and Barabara Opall-Rome from

Shoshana Bryen, a veteran military analyst at the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, criticized the Bush administration and the Israeli government for ignoring the potential dangers of a strengthened Saudi Arabia in their mutual quest to counter Iran. “The U.S. and Israel see entirely eye-to-eye on the threat Iran poses to the region, both nuclear and Shiite Islamist fundamentalism,” Bryen wrote. “The State Department and the Israeli government also appear to see eye-to-eye on including Saudi Arabia in [the alliance of moderates]. ... But while Saudi Arabia is happy to climb on the anti-Iranian bandwagon, the U.S. and Israel should be clear on the fact that Sunni Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to both countries through the funding of al-Qaida, the export of fighters to Iraq and the export of violent, anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideology around the world. “The enemy of my enemy can also be my enemy,” she added.

Burns to discuss arms deal with Israel

by Herb Keinon from The Jerusalem Post

Israeli officials have been lobbying over the last few months for some restrictions on the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into "smart" precision-guided bombs, that the US wants to include in the package to the Saudis. An informed source said that while the military assistance to Israel and the sale to the Saudis were not linked, but rather part of an overall American package to the Middle East aimed at keeping Iran in check, "the deals are not closed yet. It is still not totally clear to Israel, the Americans and Congress exactly what we are talking about." The visit by US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, according to this source, is part of the process of "fleshing out the details."

Reinforcing the Sunnis (and Israel, Too)

by Michael Moran from The Council on Foreign Relations

Congress, which will have to approve these new expenditures, did indeed lash back, with over 100 House members signing an Aug. 2 letter to President Bush vowing to block the Saudi sale on the grounds that it poses a threat to Israel ... Eyebrows abroad also rose. Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram, noting Rice and Gates came to the Middle East ostensibly to promote President Bush’s idea for a peace conference, wrote: “Drowning the Middle East in arms … seems a peculiar way to promote peace.” Yet the United States argues Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates need this military upgrade to face down and deter an unpredictable, increasingly reckless Iran. Politically, U.S. officials note, the U.S. bases these Gulf nations host -- at great discomfort to some local regimes -- must be maintained if Washington is to maintain a credible threat of force against Iran.