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Why Would Woodward Leak Confirmation of US-Pak Collaboration on Drone Strikes While Sharif Was in DC?

Obama and Sharif enter the Oval Office yesterday.

Obama and Sharif enter the Oval Office yesterday.

On the same day that Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, spoke to the press alongside US President Barack Obama in Washington, Bob Woodward teamed with Greg Miller to release confirmation that Pakistan’s government has agreed to and collaborated in choosing targets for the US “secret” drone program inside Pakistan. Participation by Pakistan, and especially its military, has long been known by close observers and the regular insistence by Pakistan’s government that drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is viewed cynically as the government’s need to provide domestic political cover.

On first thought, the timing of this revelation seems to break the basic tenets of what Marcy describes as the Bob Woodward Law that applies to classified information being leaked to Woodward:

As explained by John Rizzo in the context of the Obama Administration’s leaks to Bob Woodward, they can and do insta-declassify stuff for their own political purposes all the time. They can do it to make the President look important; they can do it to lie us into an illegal war; they can do it to ruin the career of someone who might expose the earlier lies.

The timing of this leak seems to be aimed more at embarrassing Obama than making him look important. The description of the joint appearance by the New York Times is quite interesting if one assumes that Sharif and Obama were aware that the leak was about to be published:

But Mr. Sharif said after the meeting that he had asked Mr. Obama to halt American drone strikes in Pakistan, broaching an issue that has aggravated tensions. The president did not respond publicly, saying only that the two sides needed to find ways to fight terrorism “that respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, that respect the concerns of both countries.”

So Obama would not address the drone issue directly in his public remarks. But it seems that Sharif was not particularly enthusiastic in his obligatory public denouncement of drone strikes: Read more

US Negotiators Leave Pakistan, Supreme Court Commission Blames Husain Haqqani for Memo

There are two separate major developments coming out of Pakistan in the last 24 hours. First, US negotiators have left Pakistan without reaching an agreement on reopening NATO supply routes. Both sides appear to be trying to gloss over the obvious conclusion that this represents a major breakdown in the process, but since it appears that Pakistan is insistent on a real apology over the killing of 24 Pakistani troops last November and a stop to US drone strikes in Pakistan, there is no reason to continue the lower level talks on details of route reopening until the larger political issues are settled.

On a separate front, the commission appointed by Pakistan’s supreme court has finally delivered its report and it places blame squarely on former ambassador Husain Haqqani for authoring the memo that sought US help in avoiding a military coup days after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Haqqani has been ordered to return to the country, but he is rightly pointing out that the commission’s findings are not the result of a judicial process and that he has not yet presented his defense.

Dawn provides a summary of the breakdown in negotiations:

The Pentagon said on Monday the United States was pulling its negotiators from Pakistan but the State Department said the team could go back at an appropriate time.

Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington, Sherry Rehman, also indicated that the talks would continue.

But diplomatic observers in the US capital noted that “no spin can hide the fact that relations between the two countries are at their worst now”, as one of them said on an American news channel.

“I believe that some of the team left over the weekend and the remainder of the team will leave shortly,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told a briefing in Washington. “This was a US decision.”

The Express Tribune offers more details:

Officials familiar with the development said the two sides have almost worked out technical details on the resumption of Nato supply lines but the deal could not be finalised due to political issues, including the US refusal to offer an explicit apology for the Salala raid and halt drone strikes.

“Unless the US offers something that resembles an apology, it is very difficult for Pakistan to reopen Nato supplies,” said an official familiar with the development.

“We want to have a package deal and the issue of apology is still included … there will be no compromise on it,” the official added.

The US appears to be taking a very hard line at this point. Reuters quotes a “senior US government official”: Read more

In Memogate Cross-Examination, Ijaz Claims to Have Transcript of Zardari, Kayani Phone Conversation

Following up on his original video deposition from late last month, Mansoor Ijaz, once again by video link from London, was subjected to cross-examination yesterday and today by the judicial commission investigating the Memogate scandal. Ijaz reiterated his primary claim he has made from the start, that his actions were prompted by a strong belief that a military coup was imminent on the heels of the US action that killed Osama bin Laden in May, 2011.

Although he did not list the countries, Ijaz claimed to have been briefed by intelligence agents from four different countries. He submitted multiple documents as his proof. The Express Tribune described the documents as including a transcript of a phone call between Pakistan’s President and Army Chief:

After Haqqani approached him first, Ijaz said, he used his contacts with intelligence agencies of various countries to obtain documents, including travel records of Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, minute-by-minute Pakistan Air traffic Control flight monitoring of US helicopters which infiltrated Pakistani airspace for the May 2 raid, and a transcript of a call between President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Interestingly, Dawn’s coverage of the cross-examination doesn’t specifically mention Zardari and Kayani by name as being in the transcripts, although it comes close:

During the cross-examination before the judicial commission investigating the case, the Pakistani-American businessman said he had been briefed by at least four intelligence networks of different countries after the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, last year.

He said he had obtained the information about actions and reactions of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari and the military secretary to the president after the incident, details of foreign visits of the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and transcripts of conversation between air traffic control staff and the pilots of the US helicopters which raided Osama’s compound.

/snip/

He also claimed to have the transcripts of conversations between the President’s House and the Army House on the operation.

How is it that an American citizen of Pakistani descent would have access to intelligence agencies of so many countries?  And, especially, how could Ijaz come into possession of a transcript of a call between Zardari and Kayani? Read more

Mansoor Ijaz Rejects Security Arrangements, Does Not Go To Pakistan for Testimony

Today is the day on which Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz was scheduled to provide testimony before a judicial commission in the Memogate controversy that has heightened tensions between Pakistan’s civilian government and its military. In many ways, Ijaz stands as the central character in the case, as he was the first to mention the existence of the memo at the heart of the controversy and was responsible for delivering it to US authorities. Remarkably, although the memo seeks US help in supporting the government’s removal of top leaders in Pakistan’s military and intelligence forces, and despite Ijaz’s claims that he and former Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani are close friends who worked together to produce and deliver the memo, Ijaz now claims that he wants military protection if he is to return to Pakistan and that he fears the government will seize and destroy important electronic evidence in his possession. Such a change of apparent allegiance is not surprising, given Ijaz’s controversial past.

The Express Tribune provides a short description of Ijaz’s refusal to come to Pakistan:

Despite assurances on full security from the judicial commission probing the Memogate scandal, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has once again refused to come to Pakistan to record his statement, Express News reported on Tuesday.

Ijaz’s counsel, Akram Sheikh had earlier today – on the directives of the commission – written an email to his client to inform him that the commission had given assurances that he would be given full security on arrival.

Sheikh later distributed copies of Ijaz’s email response to the three judges.

A much longer article on the latest developments is carried in Pakistan Today, in an article that opens with the statement that the “government finally succeeded in scaring away Mansoor Ijaz”:

The counsel for Ijaz, the Pakistani-American businessman at the centre of the memo controversy, expressed his reservations on the security arrangements meant for his client’s appearance before the judicial commission, saying his client would be ready to record testimony before the commission either in London or Zurich. Read more

Gilani to Appear Before Pakistan Supreme Court Jan 19 on Contempt Charges; Early Elections Likely

Pakistan’s Supreme Court stopped just short of declaring Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani unfit for office today, and instead found him in contempt of court. He is to appear personally before the court on January 19 to answer the charges. He could be thrown out of office at that proceeding. In the meantime, the Guardian is reporting that early elections are beginning to look likely. This would appear to be the only way out for a government that is facing a military that doesn’t want it in office along with two serious proceedings against it underway in the Supreme Court.

The Express Tribune reports on the contempt finding:

The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a contempt of court notice to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday and directed him to appear personally before the bench on January 19, Express News reported.

During the proceedings, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Fasih Bokhari tendered an unconditional apology to the court, on which the court said that a written apology should be submitted.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio said that he will inform the government about the court’s verdict and admitted that the contempt notice is not something to be taken lightly.

A bit further along in the article, the Express News describes the six options that the Supreme Court had outlined last week as its possible courses of action on the NRO case. Here is the entry on a contempt finding:

Option 2: Contempt proceedings

The bench said the prime minister and the law minister could face contempt proceedings for “persistently, obstinately and contumaciously resisting” to implement the judgment. A possible conviction may entail a disqualification from being elected as a member of parliament for five years, the bench warned.

In a meeting of Zardari and Gilani’s PPP political party, it appears that Gilani has offered to resign if that is what is needed for the country: Read more

Zardari Returns to Pakistan; Liaison Officers Return to Border Centers; Stage Set for Haqqani as Double Scapegoat

Two major steps toward stability in Pakistan and restoration of relations with the United States have taken place, as President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan yesterday while liaison officers have now returned to the border coordination posts from which they were withdrawn as part of the response to the November 26 NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops. NATO supply routes remain blocked, however.  In a very interesting move, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has been forced to submit a statement and to appear before the Abbotabad Commission. The Commission is seeking information on visas issued by the Washington embassy during his tenure as Ambassador.

Despite the earlier statements that Zardari would take two weeks of rest before resuming his duties, Zardari yesterday returned to Pakistan from Dubai:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned home from medical treatment in Dubai to face rising tension between his civilian government and the military over a memo accusing the country’s generals of plotting a coup.

It’s not clear when the deeply unpopular leader who has uneasy ties with the army will return to work. He flew into the southern city of Karachi after treatment for a heart condition.

It would appear that Zardari immediately took up at least ceremonial duties:

State television showed him at his residence, looking relaxed as he met senior provincial officials.

Multiple media reports had addressed the fact that Zardari and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani had talked on the phone prior to Zardari’s return. An article today by Dawn provides more details on that conversation: Read more

Zardari Released From Hospital, Remains in Dubai; Memogate Reply Delayed

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari was released from the hospital in Dubai on Wednesday, but has not returned to Pakistan. His reply to Pakistan’s Supreme Court investigation into the Memogate scandal had been expected today, but could be submitted tomorrow since the deadline has been extended.

Reuters gives us details on Zardari’s release from the hospital:

“President Zardari has been discharged from the hospital and he has moved to his residence in Dubai,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The article also has more information on the ongoing question of whether Zardari suffered a stroke:

Zardari’s office had released a statement earlier on Wednesday from his doctor saying the president had been admitted to hospital with numbness and twitching in his left arm and had lost consciousness for a few seconds.

“All investigations are within normal range and he was kept for observation for a few more days,” Khaldoun Taha said, adding that Zardari would now rest at home and continue with his regular heart medications.

Zardari likely suffered a transient ischemic attack, senior sources in Zardari’s party said last week, an ailment that can produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage to the brain.

Admitting to a TIA appears to thread the needle nicely in providing a few symptoms consistent with the widespread rumors of a stroke while avoiding any long-term stroke damage which would be obvious should Zardari return to public life. With Zardari now out of the hospital, his need for “rest” begins to look more suspicious, especially with the rest taking place in Dubai. I’m having a hard time seeing how Zardari can take two weeks of rest outside the country at a time when such crucial questions are facing Pakistan’s government and then come back and resume his duties.

One immediate crisis facing Zardari is the investigation into Memogate being carried out by the Supreme Court. Read more

The Checkered Neocon History of Mansoor Ijaz, Instigator of Pakistan’s “Memogate”

As I noted yesterday, Josh Rogin has been doing outstanding work on the issue now rocking Pakistan, a memo purportedly sent from the highest levels of the Pakistani civilian government seeking US support for shutting down the branch of Pakistan’s ISI that deals with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and weakening Pakistan’s military.  Now that Rogin has confirmed existence of the memo (and today has even provided a copy of it), I’d like to return to the figure who got this whole scandal started, Mansoor Ijaz.  Here is information Rogin dug up regarding Mansoor Ijaz back on November 8, when Michael Mullen was still denying existence of the memo:

This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.

Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between U.S. officials and former Pakistani Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton‘s White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.

In the mid-1990s, Ijaz traveled to Sudan several times and claimed to be relaying messages from the Sudanese regime to the Clinton administration regarding intelligence on bin Laden, who was living there at the time. Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security AdvisorSandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz’s allegations “ludicrous and irresponsible.”

Those are some pretty damning allegations.  Before moving to the detail from the source Rogin linked on Ijaz’s attempt to get $15 million from Pakistan in return for securing a positive vote in the House of Representatives for the Brown Amendment back in 1995, it’s worth getting the context for this bill.  From the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Read more