How the current Kashmir crisis presents a strategic opportunity for Iran

Agha Hussain

Posted originally to Eurasia Future on 19 August 2019.

India de facto annexed Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month and heightened military tussles at the border with Pakistan have been a constant feature since then. India has sought to impose as much of a blackout in Kashmir as possible, albeit this hasn’t succeeded in stopping videos and testimonies of the repressionreaching global audiences. Awareness of the depth of the repression in Kashmir has been rising incrementally, making it increasingly difficult for anyone to ignore.

The possibly highly strategic dimension of the Kashmir conflict, however, and significance of the escalatory crescendo for Iran in particular is something that deserves special attention.

What’s unfolding in Kashmir and what it means for Iran

Following the martyrdom of iconic freedom fighter Burhan Wani in 2016, the Kashmiri Azaadi struggle entered a new phase altogether, with the amplified vigour driving the…

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Destabilizing Pakistan: Bookending Washington’s China Policy

Global Research, July 26, 2019

Much is being said of US activities aimed at China. Recent protests in Hong Kong together with a US-led propaganda campaign aimed at Beijing’s attempts to quell a growing terrorist threat in Xinjiang are aimed at pressuring the nation to fall back into line within Washington’s enduring unipolar international order.

The latter of these two campaigns in particular – claims of Chinese authoritarianism as Beijing attempts to neutralize US-backed separatists and terrorists in Xinjiang – has also been spun as China “targeting Muslims.”

This ignores the fact that one of China’s closest and oldest allies in Eurasia is Pakistan – a Muslim-majority nation. It also ignores the fact that in Pakistan, the US is playing the same game aimed at cultivating violent extremism, separatism, violence, division, and even the dissolution of Pakistan’s current borders.

Balochistan – the other Xinjiang 

While all the focus has been directed by the Western media on Xinjiang and a supposed “anti-Muslim crackdown” in the region, Pakistan faces the same problem in its southwestern province of Balochistan. In Pakistan – attempts by the government to root out violent separatists surely is not “anti-Muslim.” 

In Balochistan, the US agencies involved in fanning the flames of separatism and violence instead portray Islamabad and the Pakistani military’s efforts to restore order as simply trampling “human rights.” 

US interference in Balochistan is just as extensive as it is in China’s Xinjiang.

Despite the recent move by Washington to list the armed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a terrorist organization – Islamabad has long accused Washington of funding and arming it along with segments of the Indian government aligned with US interests.

The fact that otherwise ignored activities by Balochistan separatists are covered by certain Indian newspapers even as recently as this year seems to give credence to these accusations. NDTV’s article, “Pro-Balochistan Slogans Raised During Imran Khan’s Address In US,” and India Today’s article, “16 EU Members of Parliament write letter to Trump to intervene in Balochistan,” are just two such examples.

US support is much easier to track down.

US-based Stanford University’s Mapping Militant Organizations project admits that the BLA receives much of its financial aid from the Balochi diaspora. The project’s profile on the Balochistan Liberation Army notes:

Due to high community support for autonomy and independence from people of the Balochistan, many analysts suspect that a large amount of the BLA’s income and weapons supply come from donations from the Balochi people. Balochi leaders have also claimed that financial contributions from the Balochi diaspora make it possible to procure arms and ammunition through the black market.

Thus, even if the US is not directly arming and funding the BLA, it is openly supporting pro-separatists among the Balochi diaspora who even Stanford University experts admit are – in turn – funding the BLA’s terrorism.

The US move to designate the BLA as a foreign terrorist organization holds little meaning. The BLA will find itself beside organizations like Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria which is all but openly funded and armed by the United States and a large cross-section of Washington’s closest European and Arab allies.

Arming militants is only half of the overall strategy seeking to destabilize Pakistan. Subverting national institutions and replacing them with those interlocking with US special interests is the other half.

US NED Working Hard in – and Against – Pakistan  

The US State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various subsidiaries are busy at work in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province as well as China’s Xinjiang.

NED has been directly funding and supporting the work of the “Balochistan Institute for Development” (BIFD) which claims to be:

“…the leading resource on democracy, development and human rights in Balochistan, Pakistan.”

In addition to organizing the annual NED-BFID “Workshop on Media, Democracy & Human Rights” BFID reports that USAID had provided funding for a “media-center” for the Baluchistan Assembly to “provide better facilities to reporters who cover the proceedings of the Balochistan Assembly.” It can be assumed that BFID meant reporters are “trained” at NED-BFID workshops and at its USAID-funded center.

There is also Voice of Balochistan whose every top-story is US-funded propaganda, including op-eds by US representatives promoting Balochi separatism, foundation-funded Reporters Without Borders, Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, and a direct message from the US State Department.

Like other US State Department funded propaganda outfits around the world – such as Thailand’s Prachatai – funding is generally obfuscated in order to main “credibility” even when the front’s constant torrent of obvious propaganda more than exposes the game.

The “Free Baluchistan” movement is a US and London-based organizations. The “Baloch Society of North America” serves as a useful aggregate and bellwether regarding US meddling in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The group’s founder, Dr. Wahid Baloch, openly admits he has met with US politicians in regards to Balochistan independence. This includes Neo-Conservative corporate-lobbyist and National Endowment for Democracy board member, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Dr. Wahid Baloch considers Balochistan province “occupied” by both the Iranian and Pakistani governments – he and his movement’s humanitarian hand-wringing gives Washington the perfect pretext to create an armed conflagration against either Iran or Pakistan, or both, as planned in detail by various US policy think-tanks.

There is also the Baloch Students Organisation-Azad, or BSO. While it maintains a presence in Pakistan, it has coordinators based in London. London-based BSO members include “information secretaries” that propagate their message via social media, just as US and British-funded youth organizations did during the West’s operations against other targeted nations during the US-engineered “Arab Spring” in 2011.

And just as US-funded agitators in China’s Xinjiang region coordinate their activities with other US-backed groups across the rest of China – such as in Hong Kong and Tibet – other US NED-funded fronts in Pakistan also contribute to a wider campaign of dividing and undermining Pakistan.The US State Department funds Voice of America Deewa focused on Pakistan’s Pashtuns who inhabit Pakistan’s northwest region along its border with Afghanistan.

Despite VOA Deewa’s supposed area of focus, it is actually based in Washington DC. While many of the organizations it provides support for do not admit their US funding, organizations like “AdvoPak” are regularly promoted by VOA Deewa. US NED’s online publication, “Democracy Digest,” also promotes, interviews, and defends groups who appear to be funded by Washington and undoubtedly serve US interests in Pakistan.

This includes the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) which was featured by the Digest earlier this year in an article titled, “Pakistan’s military targets protest movement, stifles dissent.” While PTM doesn’t disclose its funding, it is regularly accused of receiving support from and working for both India and the US.The Democracy Digest article featured a video interview with a PTM member – Gulalai Ismail – who is in fact an NED Fellow. There is also NED’s “Tribute to Gulalai Ismail at the 2013 Democracy Award.”And all of this is just scratching the surface of US meddling in Pakistan’s internal politics and of organizations committed to creating synergies with US-backed separatists in Balochistan.

What Does Pakistan’s Balochistan and China’s Xinjiang Have in Common? 

Balochistan and Xinjiang both appear to be suffering from separatist movements, terrorism, and political destabilization. The common factor is clearly US backing behind both separatist movements – but what is the common denominator that has attracted US attention in the first place?Both Xinjiang and Balochistan are settings for massive Chinese-led infrastructure and trade initiatives. Western publications like the Business Insider note the importance Xinjiang holds in terms of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Many of the routes that lead out of China, across Central Asia, and eventually into the Middle East and Western Europe pass through Xinjiang. US attempts to destabilize the region in turn directly impact the viability of Beijing’s OBOR initiative and the economic wealth and influence it stands to grant Beijing.

Likewise, a significant leg of the OBOR initiative extends from China and across Pakistan from north to south, through Balochistan until reaching Gwadar Port. Thus, by destabilizing Balochistan, this essential corridor’s full potential is inhibited.

This is a truth US special interests and the media interests they own will never admit to. This is why – instead – diverse tales of China’s “anti-Muslim” crackdown and Pakistan’s “distain for human rights” in Balochistan are used to sell two different US-backed conflicts fuelled for a singular agenda – impeding China’s rise and that of its allies – including Pakistan.

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Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from NEO

Iran’s Relations with India and Pakistan. Couldn’t Be More Different — Astute News

Iran is becoming increasingly desperate after the US intensified the economic component of its Hybrid War on the country, and while Indian Prime Minister Modi snubbed the Islamic Republic’s top diplomat during his visit to the country earlier this month and humiliatingly sent him back to his homeland empty-handed, his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan warmly […]

via Iran’s Relations with India and Pakistan. Couldn’t Be More Different — Astute News

Trump And PM Khan Might Have Just Ruined Iranian-Indian Relations

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The American and Pakistani leaders independently took two very important and uncoordinated moves at almost the exact same time that might coincidentally have the same effect of ruining Iranian-Indian relations.

Iranian-Indian relations might be about to enter their worst-ever period in modern history as a result of two very important and uncoordinated moves undertaken at almost the exact same time by the American and Pakistani leaders. PM Khan just paid his first visit to Iran where he and his hosts announced that they’ll enter into a new era of anti-terrorist cooperation that geopolitical analyst Adam Garrie comprehensively analyzed in his recent piece on this breaking news event. The ball was indeed in Iran’s court to stop India’s anti-Pakistani Baloch terrorism like I wrote the other day, and to Tehran’s credit, its leadership finally understood this and decided to expand its military partnership with the global pivot state of Pakistan. This will greatly complicate India’s Hybrid War capabilities in clandestinely using Iranian territory to carry out terrorist attacks against Pakistan by proxy as it obsessively seeks to sabotage CPEC, meaning that PM Khan’s visit will have far-reaching and long-term geostrategic security consequences in the New Cold War.

In parallel with this, Trump decided that the US won’t renew its Iranian oil sanctions waivers and that Washington’s GCC partners of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will help the Islamic Republic’s energy customers replace their imports with Gulf resources instead. India was very vocal last year about its intent to defy the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran, but as I wrote in my piece at the time about the “Indian Illusion“, all of this was just rhetoric to hide the fact that New Delhi was quietly implementing its new American patron’s will. Trump just put Modi on the spot, however, and it might augur negatively for the Indian leader during the ongoing month-long electoral process if he publicly capitulates to the US’ demands and replaces Iranian resources with Gulf ones like I suspected he’s been planning to do since late last year after his summit in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As such, this American move might also be yet another “bad cop” tactic against Modi to get more strategic concessions out of India.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Trump and PM Khan might have just ruined Iranian-Indian relations for good when considering the combined effect of their latest moves to that relationship. The Pakistani leader exposed India’s Hybrid War terrorist plot during his talks with the Iranian leadership which probably explains why the two neighboring nations decided to take their military cooperation with one another to the next level, while the American leader is forcing India to stop importing Iranian oil under the threat of potentially crippling “secondary sanctions” and to replace its resources with those from the Islamic Republic’s hated GCC foes. Although Iran and India still have shared strategic interests in the Chabahar Corridor and North-South Transport Corridor, the trust that formerly defined their relations is broken and their ties will never be the same. The end result is beneficial to the US and Pakistan for different reasons and might even interestingly be a tangential outcome of their recent diplomatic cooperationin Afghanistan.

Pakistan And Iran Enter New Era of Anti-Terror Cooperation

By Adam Garrie
Source

Just as the PKK and its sister organisation PJAK are a mutual threat to both Turkey and Iran’s western frontier, so too are terror groups active on the Iran-Pakistan border a mutual threat to both countries that are best neutralised through joint efforts. This was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt when in February of this year a suicide bomber from Pakistan’s Balochistan frontier with Iran took the lives of 27 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers and likewise the message was made doubly clear when last week, terrorists based in the neighbouring Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan crossed into Pakistan disguised as soldiers and martyred 14 innocent people at point blank range after boarding a bus on the Makran Coastal Highway.

As the Makran Coastal Highway attack came days before Pakistani Prime Minister’s first visit to Iran, it may well have been a calculated provocation designed to inflame Pakistan’s relations with Iran during a season when both countries had already experienced a degradation in relations due to Iran’s hyperbolic reaction to the 13 February attack. Mohammad Ali Jafari, at the time the commander-in-chief of the IRGC made inflammatory remarks about seeking “revenge” on Pakistan for an atrocity committed by a non-state terror group proscribed as an enemy of Pakistan. Jafari’s unambiguous comments which blamed Pakistani state institutions for the attack on the IRGC cast a new narrative over the region which lead one to logically conclude that India’s investments in the Iranian port at Chabahar combined with a misunderstanding of Pakistan’s partnership with Saudi Arabia, led Iranian officials into saying things that should not have been said about a potentially strategically important neighbour.

By contrast, after the Makran Coastal Highway attack, Pakistan launched a formal diplomatic complaint to Iran and the Foreign Minister stated that the issue would be a top priority during Imran Khan’s meeting with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

News has now broken that a breakthrough has in fact been reached as Pakistan and Iran have agreed to form a joint border patrol “reaction force” that will see Pakistani and Iranian soldiers police an erstwhile porous border that has led to deeply unfortunate attacks on both countries from terrorists who have no regard for either Pakistani nor Iranian national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Even before the announcement of the joint reaction force, there were indications that Iran’s top leadership had realised the errors that were made in February in respect of blaming Pakistan for an attack that should have been a clear indicator of the fact the further cooperation was urgently needed. Yesterday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei relieved Mohammad Ali Jafari of his duties as the IRGC commander-in-chief and replaced him with Brigadier General Hossein Salami. It is likely that the change of the guard in this respect was motivated by internal factors but the timing of the announcement has the optics of a good will gesture to Pakistan as Jafari was among the most unhinged when it came to slandering Pakistani state institutions in February. As geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko wrote last week, “the ball is in Iran’s court” and it seems that this time Tehran did in fact make the proper decision to favour win-win cooperation over totally unnecessary lose-lose antagonism and suspicion.

Overall, Iran and Pakistan have the potential to be important strategic partners in areas beyond the all-important matter of cross-border security and counter-terrorism cooperation. In the long term, Iran could form an important part of a wider CPEC+. Such a Belt and Road based trading structure could potentially see goods originating from China before travelling across CPEC to Gwadar, then being shipped to Iran where they could then either travel to north-west Eurasia via the Caucasus or otherwise into the Mediterranean via Iran’s Turkish neighbour, thus bypassing the Suez region in which Israel and other enemies of Iran hold a great deal of influence.

In terms of energy cooperation, the long anticipated pipeline from Iran into south Asia is a project that has been stalled but nevertheless holds great potential for new win-win energy exchange in the region.

Finally, as geopolitical expert Agha Hussain recently pointed out, if Iran is to bolster its pan-Islamic credentials at a time when the country is facing unique challenges from the west, Israel and parts of the Arab world, it would behove Tehran to embrace the cause of Kashmiri justice just as the country has since its inception as an Islamic Republic, embraced the cause of Palestinian justice. Not only would this help demonstrate that Iran’s Islamic Revolution is more than just a single issue geopolitical development but it would help to eliminate many of the false stereotypes that some Pakistanis have about Iran and that some Iranians have about Pakistan.

The task now for both countries is to make sure that the reaction force is well-equipped and that cooperation along the border can help to create a new era of win-win relations for both neighbours.

The Ball’s In Iran’s Court To Stop Anti-Pakistani Baloch Terrorism

By Andrew Korybko
Source

Pakistan filed an official complaint against Iran just two days before Prime Minister Khan’s first visit to the Islamic Republic for its unwillingness to take action against Baloch terrorist groups like the one that claimed credit for the recent terror attack along the Makran Coastal Highway despite being informed by Islamabad about training camps and logistics bases within its borders, which therefore puts the ball in Iran’s court to stop this resurgent trend of transnational terrorism in the region and will obviously figure very high on the agenda during the Pakistani leader’s upcoming two-day visit.

An umbrella group of three Baloch terrorist organizations claimed credit for the recent killing of 14 Pakistanis who were pulled off of a bus traveling along the Makran Coastal Highway by fighters disguised as legitimate members of the security services and martyred in front of the other passengers. Pakistan filed an official complaint against Iran just two days before Prime Minister Khan’s first visit to the Islamic Republic for its unwillingness to take action against Baloch terrorist groups such as the one that was responsible for the latest attack, claiming that Tehran had previously been informed by Islamabad of training camps and logistics bases within its borders but hadn’t done anything to address this resurgent trend of transnational terrorism in the region. Although it’s not directly stated, the complaint heavily implies a high degree of hypocrisy on the side of the Iranian government which had previously resorted to over-the-top rhetoric back in February after a Baloch terrorist attack along the Pakistani frontier, even ridiculously hinting that an Indian-like “surgical strike” against Pakistan was one of the options on the table.

I wrote about that incident in a previous piece about how “Iran’s Being Tricked Into Making Balochistan The New Kurdistan” by India, but Tehran apparently doesn’t care all that much because it’s too obsessed with the carrot of potential “sanctions relief” that “Israel’s” new ally in New Delhi is dangling in front of it through the Chabahar Corridor even though “Iran Just Fell Victim To Blowback From The US-Indian Hybrid War On CPEC” back in December. I explained how India’s RAW (its version of the Mossad) is responsible for this upsurge in regional terrorism, which the whole world is already aware of after Pakistan provided evidence of this to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice following the capture of Hybrid Waragent Kulbushan Jadhav and his admission to operating out of Iran’s nearby Indian-owned Chabahar port. My analysis at the time mentioned that Iran had the chance to use that tragedy to strengthen anti-terrorist cooperation with Pakistan along their shared border and possibly establish an Iranian version of the “Overseas Pakistani Baloch Unity” initiative (OPBU, recently rebranded to PBU after dropping the first prefix) for reintegrating wayward Baloch into society.

It now looks as though Iran ignored that opportunity and is therefore indirectly responsible for the latest terrorist attack in Pakistan as a result of its negligence. It’s important to point out that the incident was probably timed to coincide with Prime Minister Khan’s first two-day visit to Iran just like the February one against the Islamic Republic was likely inended to provoke a crisis in bilateral relations precisely at the moment that India was planning its Bollywood-like “surgical strike” against Pakistan. Islamabad wisely isn’t biting the bait but it surely isn’t going to leave Iran’s irresponsibility to its neighbor unaddressed during the Prime Minister’s trip either, especially since last week’s terrorist attack was obviously meant to diminish international confidence in CPEC after targeting one of the global pivot state’s main transit routes connecting to the terminal port of Gwadar. As such, Iran’s IRGC are compelled to take decisive action against the Indian-backed terrorist groups on their soil if they themselves truly aren’t the “terrorists” that Trump claims that they are, thus putting the ball in their court and making Prime Minister Khan’s upcoming visit a defining moment in bilateral relations.

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