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  1. A good read, how ISI played a very negative role in the region, how Shias been always the victims of powers and politics and how ISI is trapped now. Anyhow, the conditions are set for Pak-Iran ties, even Afghanistan to cooperate and maintain peace in the region. Send Arab Jihadists with all Saudis dirty money and fundings to Libya, Egypt and Tunisia and ask the Western selfish partners not to provoke them against their neighbors and against their own citizens anymore. The Persian connection Wajahat S Khan Monday, October 31, 2011 In 2006, a leaked British defence ministry report said it. In June 2008, Afghan officials furious about an attempt on Hamid Karzai’s life said it. The next month of the same year, the Indians, angry about the attack on their own embassy in Kabul, said it repeatedly. In May 2009, then US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said it very smoothly on CBS’s 60 Minutes. In July 2010, tons of leaked Wikileaks cables said it without the veneer of diplomatic parlance. The London School of Economics said it in a well-circulated discussion paper published last fall. The Brookings Institute and the New York Times said it just a couple of weeks ago. And before he said it in September to the US Senate, Admiral Mike Mullen also said it in April, 2011, on his 25th (or was it 26th or 24th) visit to Pakistan, but not as seriously. Now, a recently aired BBC documentary titled Secret Pakistan – Double Cross is saying it to worldwide audiences: Gather your arms! Sound the alarm! Mount your horses! For the Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence, that 10,000 man strong group of shadow warriors has ‘ties’ to the Taliban. And/or the Haqqani Network. And/or the Sandman. And/or the Martians. And/or whoever else is responsible for the all trouble in Afghanistan. It’s a charming narrative, one that never fails to make global headlines. The counter narrative, however, gets lost, tangled up in its own spin even when it comes from important corners. Last week, Secretary Clinton professed her inadvertent respect for the ISI, admitting to a platoon of Islamabad’s TV anchors that there was no hard evidence of the Pakistani spy agency’s linkage with the recent US embassy attacks. Even cutely disclaiming Admiral Mullen’s “veritable arm” accusations by acknowledging that “every intelligence agency has contacts with unsavoury characters”. But that just made the local news. No fancy documentaries were commissioned there. Too bad. So let’s change things around. Let’s turn the tables. How about a narrative, on the narrative, about Pakistan’s fabled spies, by Pakistan’s fabled spies? “It’s propaganda. Our media can make hundreds of such type interview movies. Regards”. That was the message received upon pinging a ranking ISI official on the day the BBC’s revelations made the news this week. Not an earth-shattering, paradigm shifting response. In fact, it was the expected reply from an intelligence professional, with more counter-intelligence nuance than the ISPR, which had made a longer but similar statement (“highly biased...”) and less passionate than the foreign office’s take (“rubbish...purely a fabrication...”) the same day to rebut the documentary’s claims. So I pushed forward for more. Same agency; different sources; different ambits. Why now, I asked? Aren’t we “back to business” again with the Americans? Hasn’t the “talk-talk” approach won some “operationalised” ground against the “fight-talk” doctrine? We are supposed to be “90-95 percent on the same page”, aren’t we? Heck, aren’t we trading with the Indians now? So why persist with targeting Aabpara? Why play nice with Pakistan, while remaining tough on the ISI? Why separate the agency from the centre? Why the difference? “This is the ISI they [Americans] used in Afghanistan. This is (the) ISI that they deployed to bury the Soviets. Now, the ISI is becoming larger than life for them. They’ve done the same thing to Iran. They declared Iran’s [intelligence] agency rogue after 1979, because it was not reporting to them, but to Iran itself. Same thing is happening now.” Interesting. It’s not often that you hear the ISI compare itself to the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MISIRI), formerly known as SAVAMA, the bureau which replaced that old, feared shadow police of the Shah’s regime, the SAVAK. But how is Iran, that lukewarm entity Pakistanis admire but don’t really understand, all of a sudden figuring prominently into Islamabad’s security narrative? The intelligence official’s take was self-evident. “America has forced us for a while [about ties with Iran]. Over years, they have created an unannounced tension between us and Iran. They forced us to remain in the Saudi camp for decades. The “Shia kaafir hai” slogan (“Shi’ites are Infidels”) that created tensions, unannounced tensions, with Iran was raised here in Zia’s time with American approval. Since then, America has wanted us to hurt Iran. No more. Not with our borders and our role in the region. No more.” This is critical. Though it’s debatable how much America “forced” Pakistan, what is for certain is that the self-obsessed, India-centric and America-focused lot that we are, Pakistanis tend to get lost in a narrative of ‘Af-Pak’ that crucially misses out on Iran. But clearly, there is a Persian connection with Pakistan in this strategic conflict. And by the looks of things, it’s getting very sophisticated, much to America’s chagrin. Evidence indicates that the unexpected spike of recent high-level visits between Islamabad and Tehran has put the two neighbours on the same page on several security and economic matters. Iran’s rare recognition, just last week, that there have been no attacks in the last 10 months from the Pakistani side by the separatist group Jundallah, which is known to operate out of Balochistan, is a pat on Islamabad’s back that Tehran has not conceded in a long time. Looking at the list of Jundallah leaders recently nabbed or delivered with Pakistan’s help, it is clear that the ISI has seriously clamped down on its Farsi-speaking neighbour’s Baloch detractors. Additionally, as Jundallah is also reputed to be America-backed, the ‘forced evacuation’ of US intelligence operatives working in this country (in a post-Raymond Davis/post-OBL Pakistan), thus mitigating American potential to covertly threaten Iran, has had a big role to play in the newly invigorated Islamabad-Tehran nexus. Just the very fact that Tehran maintained decorum and silence instead of screaming bloody murder after Burhanuddin Rabbani’s recent assassination, despite close ties with the former Aghan president – unlike Kabul, which outright blamed Islamabad for the killings – shows that Pakistan and Iran, after a while, might finally have strategic congruence in their separate Afghan policies. The cornerstone of which, for both countries (one nuclearised, the other definitely interested in that status), is a quick and comprehensive US/Nato withdrawal from the region. Thus, America is in trouble. In Iraq, the US lost its prospects for a permanent or long-term military presence as the Shi’ite political elite, entrenched in Iran’s corner, didn’t give way. In Afghanistan, the Persian factor, this time delicately gift-wrapped in Pakistan’s khaki cotton, threatens to dismantle the US plans for a permanent military berth in the region. Thus, as the Afghan endgame draws to a close, expect to hear more on this narrative, that the Iranians and the Pakistanis have much to gain from each other. Fighting for its own rights, Pakistan can be inspired by Iran’s famous strategy of loud defiance and discrete regional diplomacy. Iran, on its part, must learn from Pakistan’s shrewd and multilateral dynamism: Keep talking to everyone, and keep everyone else guessing. The writer is former Shorenstein Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a broadcast/online journalist. @wajskhan on Twitter.Email: wajahat_khan@hks.harvard. edu TheNews
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