* Pakistani sucurity forces believe the US is overestimating how many al-Qaeda members are in Pakistan’s tribal belt. They complain that in 90 percent of cases, information supplied by the CIA and Centcom about targets lead to nothing when the Pakistanis follow up on them. Pakistani officials think there are only 30 to 50 al-Qaeda men at most in that area. This motley crew consists mainly of Chechens and Uzbeks, though a few may be Arabs. *Dawn* Reported that they are stuck. “They have been trapped there and don’t know where to go,” said one Pakistani official. The Pakistan security forces have captured about 500 of the 1,000 al-Qaeda fighters thought to have fled south from Afghanistan last year, and have turned about 450 of those over to the Americans.
*A UN official told me he had never seen someone humiliated as badly at the UN as Colin Powell was today by the comments in the Security Council. The French essentially accused him of not being truthful in his attempts to tie Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. (I am afraid the French are right about this one.) Everyone but the British wanted to give the inspectors more time. This individual thought that the meeting ended the prospects of a war on Iraq any time soon. I told him I disagreed. I very much doubt that Donald Rumseld cares what the Security Council thinks, and if he wants to go to war, he will. Hint: The World Bank, a UN institution, is refusing to send any representatives to Pakistan between now and early March for fear an Iraq war may break out in that period. Do they know something we don’t? A recent poll showed that most Americans want Bush to give the inspectors more time.
*Meanwhile, President Bush called Pakistan’s military “president,” Pervez Musharraf, and got Musharraf to agree that Iraq should voluntarily disarm immediately. (Musharraf still wants a second, explict UNSC resolution authorizing war on Iraq, though). At the same time, US Sec. of State Colin Powell was pledging he would ask Congress to waive possible sanctions on Pakistan for violating rules against dangerous technology transfer (they bought missiles from N. Korea) and democracy (the recent elections were only semi-democratic). The US has already forgiven $1 bn. of the $3 bn. Pakistan owes for loans, and the other $2 bn will probably be forgiven as well, if Pakistan goes along with another Iraq war. The official Pakistani position is that the inspectors should be given more time. Musharraf will probably cave, though many of the elected Members of Parliament in Pakistan, especially the fundamentalist MMA are hopping mad about US imperial interventions. They warn that Pakistan is next on Rumsfeld’s list (probably not true).
*Turkey is seeking at least $14 bn and possibly $25 bn. from the US as an incentive to cooperate in the Iraq war. They asked for $1 bn. in 1990, the US agreed, and then Congress refused to pay it. If I were the Turks, I would get the money in the bank before the war starts. Selling your soul is one thing; selling it and not ever receiving the payment is about the worst thing you could imagine. Egypt is also seeking extra aid to make up for the economic damage of the war to their economy (tourism is worth billions of dollars a year, and the tourists don’t go to Egypt when there is a war in the Middle East). And, the Israelis want an extra $2 bn. and $10 bn. in loan guarantees. Bush senior was ribbed because he was said to have rented out US troops to the Kuwaitis and Saudis, who largely paid for the Gulf War. But he was a better businessman than W., who is having to buy acquiescence to US military action in the Middle East, and not on the cheap, either.