Musharraf is America’s trump card in her plan to confront Iran

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With most of the world transfixed on the EU and American talks with Iran over its nuclear programme, Musharraf the American stalwart in the region is ready to pull the carpet from under the feet of the negotiators.

Musharraf’s admission in late February, that his country’s scientists had transferred some centrifuge parts to Iran has come as a blessing for the Bush administration. Bush and his courtier of advisors have been trying to paint Iran’s nuclear capabilities as a threat to US interests, but have so far lacked physical evidence to substantiate their claims.

However, Musharraf’s confession together with the announcement made by his Foreign Minister Kasuri that Pakistan will handover parts of used centrifuges to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given American officials a newfound opportunity to put an end to EU’s dialogue with Iran and press the UN Security Council to take action against Iran.

With the US offering measly economic incentives to Iran to surrender its nuclear programme and the sudden manifestation of Pakistani centrifuges, the EU’s strategy of engaging Iran looks to be heading towards a dead-end.

If Musharraf’s smoking gun turns out to be true, then the EU will be hard pressed not to support America’s position of raising the matter before the UN Security Council. And then the world will be engrossed in a rerun of the events that preceded the Iraq war. We can expect UN resolutions, intrusive weapon inspections, and Iran’s ‘full-compliance’ followed by a declaration of war.

But none of this would have been possible without Musharraf’s dogged support for American foreign policy. Besides the handover of centrifuges, Musharraf has painstakingly used Pakistani assets to pave the way for a possible US assault against Iran. He has exploited the long-running insurgency in Balochistan to build fresh military installation and has deployed thousands of troops. This unprecedented step plus the surrender of DalBaladin (Balochistan) airbase, which was given to Americans after 9/11, is intended to bolster US fighting capabilities. In January 2005, he also helped the American forces familiarise themselves with the terrain of Karachi city by facilitating joint exercises between the Pakistani and the American army. The aim of the exercises was to help American soldiers become well acquainted with the landscape of Karachi which resembles Tehran in many ways.

Besides this , some press reports indicate that the level of cooperation between Musharraf and Bush administration is much deeper than what Musharraf’s is prepared to acknowledge publicly. Richard Sale, the intelligence correspondent for United Press International, wrote that Musharraf had allowed Iranian anti-regime fighters to operate from Pakistan’s Balochistan province that abuts Iran. Earlier, this year, Seymour Hersh published an article, which stated that, Pakistani scientists and US commandos were operating deep inside Iran.

Such reports seem to be highly credible when measured against the backdrop of the military activity in Balochistan and Musharraf’s recent statement on Iran, when he said,” We hope the US doesn’t attack Iran. In the event of an attack, Pakistan will remain neutral."

Indeed, Musharraf has become the first Pakistani leader who has an unyielding desire to put American interests before Pakistani interests. It was Musharraf who made it possible for America to defeat the Taliban and then helped America reduce the threat posed by the Pushtun tribes towards Karzia’s leadership. He did this by conducting numerous operations in the tribal administered areas. It was Musharraf who helped America achieve a close relationship with India. He terminated the jihad, pulled backed the troops from LOC, abandoned the Kashmiris and gave India the upper hand over Kashmir. Now Musharraf is preparing to abandon Pakistan’s relationship with Iran in return for a few dollars and some F-16s. No wonder Condoleeza Rice described America’s relations with Pakistan as the best ever.

Some people think that Pakistan’s inability to stand up to America is due to its weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s reliance on Pakistani assets such as its intelligence, army, security forces, air bases, airspace and nuclear weapons clearly highlights America’s weakness and demonstrates Pakistan’s strength.

Without these strategic assets America could not have confronted the Soviet Union, proliferated nuclear weapons, removed the Taliban from power, forged a closer relationship with India and deployed Pakistani troops under UN’s mandate to safeguard her interests around the world.

Pakistan’s weakness to confront America has more to do with her insincere leadership then the limitation of her strategic assets. If Musharraf had shown one iota of sincerity for Pakistan he could have done many things to prevent America from consolidating its grip over Pakistan. For instance, he could have negotiated economic self-sufficiency in return for providing military assistance. By Pentagon’s own admission Pakistan suffered a $10 billion loss as a result of supporting America’s war on Afghanistan. To date, Musharraf has neither asked for this amount to be reimbursed nor demanded that Pakistan’s foreign debt, which stands at $38 billion to be retired. Instead, Musharraf settled for a meagre sum of $3 billion dollars. This amount is to be paid in instalments and is tied to Pakistan forsaking its Islamic ideology in return for adopting western values.

Musharraf could have followed the example of Turkey who at the height of America’s belligerence towards Iraq rejected America’s offer of $22 billion to open up its border with Iraq. Instead, Musharraf has not only opened up Pakistan eastern and western flank to India and America, but is preparing to grant US access to Pakistan’s border with Iran.

But, of all the options Musharraf could have used to resist American demands, the threat of using Pakistan’s nuclear weapons was the most effective and the most obvious. This has worked very well for North Korea. She has managed to protect her strategic assets as well as her integrity. Rather than learning from the example of North Korea, Musharraf has done the exact opposite and has used the nuclear issue to help America frame another Muslim country.

Musharraf, like his predecessors has ruined Pakistan. The leaders of Pakistan – be they civil or uniformed – have left no stone unturned and have placed every asset at the service of their American masters.

As for those who yearn for Pakistan’s strategic assets to be used for the benefit of the Muslim ummah must now realise that this can never be accomplished within the ambit of secular politics.

The only way for the people of Pakistan to regain these assets, and use them for the benefit of Muslims is to work for re-establishment of the Caliphate. The Caliphate will produce leaders that are sincere to its own people and never surrender their assets to the imperialist powers.

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