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In the Name of God بسم الله

Raza Mehkeri

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  1. The Rise of New Bloody War in the Middle East The advent of democracy and equality of citizens in the Middle East is not only a bad news for the current dictators of the Arab world, Al Qaeda and its Wahhabi affiliates are equally worried. Also in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wahhabi share one common characteristic with the current Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia, i.e., acute hatred for Shia who they consider infidels. The events of the Arab Spring have heightened long-standing tensions in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. Just three days after large-scale protests started in Bahrain on 2011, protests began in the Eastern Province, which is a 30-minute drive across the causeway from Bahrain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Saudi interior ministry vowed to crush the protests with an "Iron Fist" and has unleashed a media-smear campaign against protests and the Shiites in general. While protests subsided over the summer, they started again in October and have become larger ever since, leading to an ever more heavy-handed response from the security forces. The Eastern Province is home to virtually all of Saudi Arabia's oil and to a sizeable Shiite majority, or around 30 percent of Saudi Arabia's citizen population. The Wahhabi creed of Salafi Islam that the state sponsors in Saudi Arabia has developed a special hostility toward the Shiites. Saudi Shiite citizens in turn have long complained of discrimination in religious practice, government employment, and business, and overall marginalization. For decades, opposition groups formed by Saudi Shiites, both leftist and Islamists, as well as hundreds of petitions by Shiite notables, have had the same demands: an end to sectarian discrimination in government employment and representation in main state sectors including at the ministerial level; more development in Shiite areas; the strengthening of the Shiite judiciary; and an end to arbitrary arrests of Shiite for religious or political reasons. None of these demands would significantly undermine the position of the royal family, or otherwise threaten the integrity of Saudi Arabia. They would rather cement the current political system and buy the allegiance of two million people living on top of the kingdom's oil. The perception of systematic discrimination has led some Saudi Shiites to embrace revolutionary ideologies over the decades. While pro-Iranian groups still exist amongst Gulf Shiites, they are not the most powerful amongst Saudi Shiites and had largely renounced violence as a political tool since at least the mid-1990s. But Saudi Arabia's repressive response to the protests and the zero-concessions policy are providing fertile breeding ground for future opposition groups. A repetition of post-1979 Shiite politics, when hundreds of young Shiites left Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to become active in regional revolutionary movements, seems possible. As the protests in Bahrain and particularly in Qatif receive only limited attention on Gulf-owned channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, local Shiites are forced to watch the Iranian-sponsored Arabic-language Al Alam channel, Lebanese Hezbollah's Al Manar, Iraq's Ahlul Bait TV, or increasingly other pro-Assad channels to receive updates on the situation in their areas. The new cold war in the Middle East has turned into a fully-fledged media war, in which media outlets are either with the protests in Bahrain and Qatif and for Assad's regime, or with the protests in Syria and against the allegedly sectarian protests in Bahrain and Qatif. The situation for Saudi Shiites in the Eastern Province is no secret. The U.S. State Department's Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom for the second half of 2010, the period immediately predating the Arab Spring, records arbitrary detentions, mosque closures, and the arrest of Shiite worshippers. U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks revealed that U.S. diplomats, and particularly the staff at its consulate in Dhahran, have an incredible amount of information on the local Shiite communities and seem almost obsessed with grievances they deem legitimate. But the specific problems of the Saudi Shiites almost never come up at high-level meetings with Saudi officials. This is not only due to the close Saudi and U.S. alliance. Americans sometimes share the suspicion of the Gulf Shiites, which permeates some of its allied regimes. This suspicion is partly to do with Iran, but also has its roots in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen. Nine Shiite prisoners have been incarcerated since 1996 for their alleged membership in Hezbollah al-Hijaz and their involvement in the bombings. They were indicted in the United States in 2001, but as U.S. foreign policy priorities changed after September 11 they became "forgotten," the name they are known by amongst Saudi Shiites. The indictment hints at the involvement of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran but no evidence has ever been made public. At the time some Americans called for retaliation against Iran as a response to this bombing. But after September 11, fingers began to point toward al Qaeda as involved in the attack, raising questions about the guilt of these prisoners. The Shiite prisoners cannot hope ever to be "rehabilitated" in one of the government's much advertised de-radicalization programs. It seems to be justified to at least ask for a public trial, a move repeatedly endorsed by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. But such a trial does not appear to be on the foreign-policy agenda of the United States. The behavior of the Saudi leadership only allows the conclusion that repression of the Shiites is a fundamental part of Saudi political legitimacy. The state does not want to change the position of the Shiites and Shiite protests are used by the state to frighten the Sunni population of an Iranian takeover of the oilfields with the help of local Shiites. Similar narratives have been propagated in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) media for months, at the cost of further deepening the sectarian divide in the Gulf States. The GCC intervention in Bahrain has severely worsened sectarian relations in the Gulf and beyond to levels not seen since the Iranian Revolution. But this open Saudi sectarianism has already had negative repercussions in Iraq, as well as in Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait. Bahrain looks set for years of sectarian conflict, community relations have broken down completely, and the state is conducting a campaign of what Shiite activists call "ethnic cleansing." Rather than completely alienating the Shiites, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain should negotiate a social contract with them. Failing to do so will lead to years of instability with uncertain outcomes. And it is far from certain that other Saudis will not be encouraged by the Shiite protests, as a recent statement by liberal Saudis from all over the kingdom denouncing the crackdown in Qatif has shown. The West should press its allies, above all Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, to stop simply shooting and arresting their Shiite citizens and brandishing them as Iranian agents and traitors. The alienation of Shiite youth foments a perfect breeding ground for a new Gulf Shiite opposition movement. Even without external help for the local Shiite protesters, the area looks ripe for a return to the tense sectarian politics of the 1980s. The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States', interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.
  2. Anatomy of a Massacre Dateline SBS Australia What really happened on the night of March 11 when 17 Afghan civilians were massacred in Kandahar province? Many Afghans, including some of the survivors that night, believe more than one U.S. soldier was present in the two villages where the killings took place. With unprecedented access to Afghan military investigators, Yalda Hakim travels to the villages where the massacre took place and interviews survivors of the attack, as well as Afghan guards at the US military base that housed the alleged gunman. US soldier Robert Bales is in custody, facing charges of mass murder, but Afghan investigators suspect there may have been at least one other killer involved. INTERVIEW WITH YALDA - Yalda Hakim explains to SBS Radio's World News Australia how she was able to get such unprecedented access to the massacre investigation. Posted March 30, 2012 http://youtu.be/gnueG4I7Q9g
  3. yes, indeed part of the article is from Mr Akhter Ali, and this was not my intention to hide his name, he is very famous writer and i do respect him very much. yes, indeed part of the article is from Mr Akhter Ali, and this was not my intention to hide his name, he is very famous writer and i do respect him very much.
  4. CNG is made by compressing natural gas (which is mainly composed of methane [CH4]), to less than 1% of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 200–248 bar (2900–3600 psi), usually in cylindrical or spherical shapes. Pakistan currently has the highest number of vehicles running on CNG in the world followed by Argentina, Brazil and Iran. Pakistan also has the highest number of CNG stations in the world. Majority of private vehicles have converted to CNG because of cheaper price as compared to petrol. Only luxury cars and official vehicles now run on petrol. Almost all car manufacturers in Pakistan (except Honda) now produce company fitted CNG kit versions. The genie of CNG has been strengthened, if not created, by the present government by adopting a policy of making Diesel more expensive and levying more taxes on it than petrol. In almost all economies of the world, Diesel is kept cheaper than Petrol due to the obvious reason of its use in the public transport system. It also shows how quickly the market adapts to the price signal. Public transport system appears to have converted itself to the CNG, Diesel having been made expensive both due to taxation policies and as well as due to higher international market prices. It is not, however, easy for government to absorb the loss in revenue, keeping in view the already low receipts and budgetary deficits. It finances the subsidies on Electricity, partly, from the oil taxation and levies. Petroleum taxation has been considered desirable in most countries as a source of revenue. It has been classically considered taxation on luxury, pollution and road user charge. This has worked earlier when international oil prices were low. In that regime, sometimes importing countries’ governments earned more revenue than oil producing and exporting countries. No more, today oil prices affect the lives of the poor more than any body else. In the longer run scenario, barring transitional periods such as those prevailing these days, it may be advisable to adopt zero-energy taxation, whereby for example, oil taxation income balances subsidies elsewhere, say in electricity and perhaps vice versa. It may be worthwhile to have a fresh look at the petroleum pricing policy. Taxes and levies on Diesels may be reduced and eliminated making it cheaper. Also a seasonal pricing policy making Diesel further cheaper in winters than in summers. One may have to revert to quarterly or half yearly revision of petroleum pricing as opposed to the monthly one, in order to implement a seasonal policy. There are limits to the enhancement of CNG tariff, as the recent CNG strikes and later negotiations have shown, as a result the CNG tariff enhancement had to be halved.CNG business interest would, however, resist reduction in margin which would decrease their market share. On the other hand government’s right and role of making public policy in the interest of larger good cannot be done away with under political pressure. Political conditions may be different next time. However, quick reversal in an entrenched market is neither feasible nor politically advisable. Long term signals should be recognized by the CNG business interests and refrain from bribing their way into getting more licenses despite a ban. Ban in fact increases the margins of the graft. CNG sellers should see the writing on the wall. At current prices they enjoy a gross margin of 100%; natural gas is sold to them at Rs 651 per Million Btu , which they sell at Rs 1384 per Million Btu. If imported LNG is sold to CNG stations , it would cost the latter around Rs.1600/- per Million Btu. Assuming a gross margin of 100%, CNG price would be Rs.3200/- per Million Btu, as against the current retail price of Diesel at Rs.2739/-,16.8 % higher than Diesel. If by some magic, their gross margin is kept constant at Rs 650/- per MBtu, CNG price would come down to be Rs.2250/- per million Btu, 17 % lower than Diesel. Practically, there would be no CNG-Diesel price differential, as the gross margin would go up. By the same token, LPG may not be able to acquire a reasonable market share at the prevailing price differential, unless Auto-LPG chain becomes more efficient. It appears that LPG has been successful in Europe due to high taxation on Gasoline and Diesel, making LPG attractive. Due to low income of consumers, high taxation on Petroleum should not be expected or recommended. In India also, high taxation on Gasoline and cross subsidies have, perhaps, made LPG viable. Also, GOP may have to develop an Exit policy for CNG stations. For example, CNG stations which have already worked for ten years may be delisted from supplies, so as to give opportunity for newer investments to recoup their money. Such stations may be given licenses for Auto-LPG, if it becomes viable. CNG businessmen, however, have a valid point. They argue that CNG sector would accept its share of burden and difficulties as other users would in case of hire prices and lesser availability. It should be done proportionally and that CNG sector should not be closed down arbitrarily. Investments have been made on the instance of the government policy. It may, however, be noted that only a few countries have followed the CNG band wagon in a low price and abundant gas regime and most of the world has stayed away from it .In fact ,countries like New Zealand have opted out of it. There is, however, a redeeming and legitimizing feature of CNG which falls in the domain of public transport in urban areas. CNG is a clean fuel. Under subsidies, it can be a vehicle for organizing an affordable and pollution free public transport. Eventually CNG appears to be surviving in that limited role.
  5. From the beginning the United States has been directly behind the unrest in Syria. In fact, America's involvement in destabilizing Syria began years before the admittedly US-engineered Arab Spring (2) even unfolded in a premeditated plot to upturn the entire Arab World and reorder it according to their own corporate-financier and hegemonic geopolitical interests. In a 2007 speech given to the Commonwealth Club of California (3), US Army General Wesley Clark would state that in 1991, then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz said the US had 5-10 years to clean up the old Soviet "client regimes" before the next super power rose up and challenged western hegemony. Clark claimed that this, along with the aftermath of 9/11 constituted a policy coup where Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the other members of the of Project for a New American Century had hijacked US foreign policy to destabilize and turn the nations of the Middle East upside down - much the way they are now. Clark would go on to say that shortly after September 11, 2001, while at the Pentagon, a document handed down from the Office of the Secretary of Defense indicated plans to attack and destroy the governments of 7 countries; Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon and Libya. Clearly the United States has already "attacked and destroyed" Iraq, which in 2003 was invaded and subsequently occupied for nearly a decade at the cost of nearly a million lives including over 4,400 US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. Likewise Libya was destabilized and invaded by proxy through a combination of US-led NATO forces and US State Department listed terrorist organizations including the (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (listed #27) lead by Abdul Hakim Belhaj.
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