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INTELTRENDS: While all eyes are fixed on Egypt, is anyone watching Pakistan?

February 1, 2011 Comments off

©  Inteltrends
By Steve in Wisconsin
February 1, 2011
 

The popular uprising currently underway in Egypt is grabbing the world’s attention, but it is also grabbing the attention of Muslims in other states.

Some media commentaries mention nearby regimes in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen, and speculate as to whether or not they will follow suit. However, analysts are largely overlooking Pakistan — a tinderbox and U.S. ally — whose people are also facing price increases in food and fuel, shortages of goods, utilities and services, plus growing unemployment. These are the same catalysts that launched rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Public dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s pro-Western (seemingly spineless) President Zardari and his government’s inability to stem U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, coupled with a growing interest in fundamentalist Islam have brought Pakistanis’ tolerance level of the status quo to just below simmering. Keep in mind, also, that if there were ever a country that could mobilize hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people at the drop of a hat, it’s Pakistan.

Pakistan is very technologically advanced: cellphones, high-speed internet, and a sizeable blogging network need only to be inspired to rapidly mobilize the masses. Additionally, ever since Pervez Musharraf’s departure it is my opinion that current Pakistani leadership cannot discount the threat of a military coup, or elements of the security services (police and military) joining a popular uprising — with their weapons. Even if the government shuts down internet and cellphone service, Pakistan’s high-density urban population will continue to communicate using simple methods of decades past: vehicle-mounted loudspeakers and bull horns.

Pakistan’s security forces are likely sufficient to contain even large-scale uprisings, but not without substantial civilian casualties and property loss. This is assuming, of course, that elements of these services refrain from joining the rebellion.

The United States (from a purely self-serving standpoint) is making a mistake in turning its back on long-standing regional allies as this sends a message to other rulers and their security services that the U.S. may stand aside and allow events to run their course. America should also reconsider encouraging opposition forces through the use of social networking sites. [See: Inteltrends’ Special Report: The role of social networking websites in global unrest, and, as a further example, Google Launches Service Letting Egyptians Tweet by Phone.

An editorial in today’s Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan) takes note of the simmering situation there. It reads, in part:

One should in any case be cautious in dismissing the possibility of a movement of the people in Pakistan. However, there is another dimension to the situation here, which could be the cause of great concern. After four decades of nurturing of jihadis and extremists, any popular revolt will be at risk of being hijacked by extremist forces, who have recently rallied together on the issue of the blasphemy laws and are not in a mood to arrest the momentum of their campaign against the government. In these circumstances, the people of Pakistan have the sorry option between an inept and corrupt political leadership and the entire spectrum of right-wing forces from centre-right to extreme right. The decline of the liberal, democratic and progressive community is at the heart of this crisis. Unless these forces strengthen their cadre, induct fresh blood into their ranks and mount a challenge to the extremists, Pakistan has little hope of salvation.

Recent history has shown that countries which have overthrown unpopular dictators are not necessarily pro-Western once a new government replaces them. [See Stanislav Mishin’s analysis: How the Muslim Brotherhood Saved the U.S. Dollar.]

[End.]
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Steve in Wisconsin is a former deputy sheriff with travels in Africa, Asia and Central America. His primary blog is inteltrends.wordpress.com.

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Categories: ALG, CIA, EGY, inteltrends, JOR, PAK, USA, WORLD, YEM

INTELTRENDS: The role of social networking websites in global unrest

January 29, 2011 Comments off

©  Inteltrends
By Steve in Wisconsin
January 29, 2011
 

Introduction

During the anti-government protests following Iran’s 2009 election it was reported that protestors were using social networking sites, such as Twitter, to muster their forces. Iran accused Western powers of having a hand in the rebellion and coordinating these activities via the internet. The same social networks played a role in ‘color revolutions’ in Europe and elsewhere.

Allegations that Facebook, Twitter, and Google in particular, serve the interests of intelligence agencies abound; Twitter serving primarily in rapid communications of short messages and instructions.

Social networking played a role in ousting Tunisian president Zine Al Ben Ali. So much so, in fact, that Egyptian authorities quickly shut down the internet at the onset of the uprising there this week.

Social networks as assets of the authorities

As a former law enforcement officer I see the investigative advantages of social networking sites, particularly Facebook.

Facebook links individuals with their friends, family members, acquaintances and social circles. Photographs of all of these people are available – having been voluntarily submitted by the people themselves. The worldwide popularity of Facebook extends to young and old alike, rich and poor, successful or impoverished. From simply a police perspective, a fugitive, drug dealer or criminal can be quickly linked to family and friends — intelligence that can point to his or her whereabouts, criminal associates, and those likely to hide him from authorities. Top this off with high-resolution photos of everyone involved and you have an indispensible investigative tool that extends from the local level up to global intelligence.

Google complements social networks in collecting information

With regard to Google, does anyone but me think it’s unusual that a “search engine” engages in satellite photography (Google Earth) and photographing city streets and neighborhoods (Google Street View)? Google’s acquisition of Blogger, Feedburner, and other web assets help to assemble pieces of an intelligence puzzle, i.e. the subscriber lists to blog newsfeeds and emails, the identity of blog owners, which blogs link to other blogs having common political or ideological interests, etc. Recent allegations that Google was involved in collecting information about home wireless networks shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Could social networking backfire on the West?

The same networks that were instrumental in fomenting Iran’s anti-government protests now appear to have been used by Tunisians and Egyptians seeking to overthrow their respective governments. The recent article in Algeria’s Ennahar newspaper, titled “Facebook, a U.S. program to bring down Arab regimes“, may have it all wrong. Rather than being used by America to ‘bring down Arab regimes’ it appears that Facebook and Twitter may have been harnessed by the masses to bring down pro-U.S. regimes instead.

The inherent danger of social networking sites is the ability to use this format for secret communications.

I bought a book in South Africa in the early 1980s, set during the waning days of Rhodesia’s white rule, wherein the phrase “See you in November” was used in telephone conversations to convey the message that a covert SAS operation was a “go” – the phrase itself being so innocent when used in general conversation that anyone listening in would be oblivious to what was being communicated. The same applies to social networking sites today. Instructions can be conveyed to hundreds or even thousands of individuals by posting messages of seemingly innocent nature. This may yet come back to bite the West in the backside.

America has long associated freedom of speech and internet access as indicators of the level of democracy in foreign lands. Governments such as China, for example, are routinely condemned for blocking access to Facebook, Google and YouTube. However, it is precisely because these governments are aware of the threat posed by these sites that they are blocked. China learned the power of the internet first hand when the Falun Gong religious sect mobilized 10,000 followers at a moments notice to protest against the government. This was a wake-up call for the Chinese who promptly banned the sect and blocked their website.

Using social networks to implement regime change

The full extent of social networking sites’ ability to topple governments has yet to be seen but it is likely that pro-Western authoritarian regimes will be targeted. As I wrote in an earlier article (deleted when Blogger/Google closed down my previous newsblog, hence I’m on WordPress now) the unrest in North Africa, the Caucasus, Middle East and Central Asia must be viewed within the larger context of an Islamic Caliphate, rather than as mere regional conflicts within the Islamic world. Until analysts see “the big picture” the situation will continue to deteriorate and Western interference in these conflicts will only exacerbate the problem.

UPDATE: See also:
Google Launches Service Letting Egyptians Tweet by Phone
Al-Manar, 01.Feb.2011
Egypt: Google executive will become a ‘hero’ of the revolution upon release
AKI, 07.Feb.2011
Twitter, Facebook look engaged in U.S. policy, Armenian blogger says
PanARMENIAN, 07.Feb.2011
Egypt:  Google ‘very, very proud’ of cyber revolutionary
Telegraph, 16.Feb.2011

[End.]
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Steve in Wisconsin is a former deputy sheriff with travels in Africa, Asia and Central America. His primary blog is inteltrends.wordpress.com.

Revised since originally posted.

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Categories: ALG, EGY, inteltrends, MOL, TUN, USA, WORLD

Selective Reporting: Shaping public opinion by using “The Spike”

November 13, 2010 Comments off

Inteltrends.
By Steve in Wisconsin
November 13, 2010

Back in 1980 former Newsweek reporter Arnaud de Borchgrave collaborated with Robert Moss and wrote a fictional novel titled “The Spike”. In addition to being a story about Russian shenanigans, the underlying thread running through the novel is how newspaper editors are able to shape public opinion by using “the spike” — the spindle on which news articles are impaled when “killed” instead of being published. Exaggerating the importance of some articles (by putting them on the Front Page, for example) while relegating other (more important) articles to obscure locations in the middle of the newspaper — or simply not publishing them altogether — can shape public opinion in a particular direction. This can then influence elections, domestic and foreign policy, government funding, etc. as the citizenry rallies in support or against certain issues or positions.

My purpose in publishing Inteltrends is to overcome “the spike” and allow readers access to news and commentaries that offer different viewpoints not widely reported in mainstream media. Ideally, Inteltrends should be used in conjunction with your favorite news publications and sources. In most cases there are at least two sides to every story — and readers deserve an opportunity to access as much information as possible when formulating their opinions.

A case in point…

Today the BBC website featured the headline Afghanistan: Taliban insurgents in attack on Nato base. The article reads in part:

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said 14 suicide bombers had been involved.

“They entered the airport. Some of them have blown themselves up,” he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

It is interesting that the BBC mentions Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (but this is all that they wrote about him}. What the BBC does not mention, however, is that Mujahid’s statement was taken from a Taliban press release titled “37 American invaders along with 35 puppets killed, 11 enemy aircrafts destroyed in Jalalabad battle”. I don’t normally republish military reports of this nature, but I’ll make an exception here simply to prove my point. Here is the full text of the statement as obtained by Inteltrends:

37 American invaders along with 35 puppets killed, 11 enemy aircrafts destroyed in Jalalabad battle
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
13 November 2010  10:42

NANGAHAR, Nov. 13 – More than 37 U.S. invaders and 35 puppets were killed with 9 U.S. attack helicopters and 2 unmanned aerial vehicles or drones destroyed in a large scale attack carried out by Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate on Jalalabad airbase early Saturday morning at around 6:00 am, Zabihullah Mujaid reported from the area.

According to the details, a group of 14 martyr-seeking Mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms and explosives vests rocked the airbase. Witnesses told Zabhullah Mujahid that Mujahideen divided into different groups some of them kept attacking the enemy outside the airbase, while the others carried attacks using heavy and small fire drawing the enemy into firefight and conducted martyrdom attacks targeting the U.S. invaders and Afghan cowardly soldiers inside the airfield, however one group of Mujahideen began targeting the helicopters and the fighter jets.

As many as 37 U.S. invaders were killed and 35 Afghan cowardly soldiers were killed or wounded during the face-to-face fighting and martyrdom operations, while 7 of the enemy trained dogs were killed.

11 of the group of 14 martyrdom-seeking Mujahideen became martyrs carrying martyr attack on the enemy and in gun battles, whereas 3 Mujahideen have made a safe return.

[End.]

Last Updated (Saturday, 13 November 2010 14:01)

The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan released the following official statement of the incident (as linked from the BBC article):

ANA, ISAF Repel Insurgent Attack
ISAF Joint Command – Afghanistan
2010-11-IA-160 2035
For Immediate Release

KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 13, 2010) — Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Forces repelled an insurgent attack on an ISAF forward operating base in Behsud district, Nangarhar province Saturday.

The forward operating base received small arms fire from an unknown number of insurgents and after gaining positive identification of insurgent fighting positions, an ANA and ISAF quick reaction force was sent to the area.

According to initial reports, eight insurgents were killed by the combined force. One was wearing a suicide vest.

Initial reports indicate no ANA or ISAF servicemembers were killed.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

Which version is true?

It is likely that each version contains some elements of truth. Ironically the ISAF version reports 8 insurgents killed, while the Taliban put their losses at 11. So 11 is probably correct. Both the BBC and ISAF fail to report losses on the coalition side, but it seems improbable that 11 suicide bombers failed to inflict any casualties whatsoever during a martyrdom operation. The extent of the losses are likely being withheld.

Regardless, the point I am making is that you, the reader, deserve an opportunity to read different versions of the same encounter. This is really what press freedom is all about.

As you read the daily newspaper or watch the news on TV, keep in mind that “the spike” continues to be used today — probably more now than ever — and the glaring omissions in the BBC’s reporting of Mujahid’s statement are proof positive.

[End.]

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Categories: inteltrends