Sep 22, 2006

Diagnosis of Manmohan Singh's Stockholm Syndrome

By Stratfor.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in a "60 Minutes" interview, to be aired Sunday, that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the director of Pakistani intelligence in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that Pakistan would be bombed "back to the Stone Age" if its government did not cooperate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Musharraf's comments were made public a day after U.S. President George W. Bush said that U.S. forces will "absolutely" be sent into Pakistan to capture or kill al Qaeda leaders if they have actionable intelligence. Meanwhile, Musharraf has repeatedly insisted in recent days that Pakistani troops are capable of catching Osama bin Laden and his entourage on their own. While both sides are deliberately sparring over the issue of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty in the public realm, preparations appear to be under way for the United States to claim the capture or killing of another high-value al Qaeda target in the near future.

Both Bush and Musharraf are facing particularly sticky domestic situations. For Bush, the November congressional elections are rapidly approaching, and his administration is facing mounting criticism over the dragging U.S.-jihadist war. If Bush can claim another capture or killing of a high-value al Qaeda target, he might boost himself in the polls to help ensure that Republicans will maintain their hold over the House and Senate.

Musharraf is also desperate to boost his image at home. He hit one of the lowest points in his presidential career following the recent killing of a popular rebel leader that set off a fresh wave of domestic dissent. The United States took the opportunity to swoop in and deliver an ultimatum to Musharraf: give U.S. forces greater access to operate in the region, or be left to fend for himself against a growing opposition. In return for Musharraf's cooperation, the Bush administration would pull some strings to strengthen Musharraf's political standing and regain some lost clout in the government.

It appears that this deal between Washington and Islamabad is well in progress. Musharraf recently announced a peace agreement he made with tribal elders in North Waziristan Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which critics worldwide claimed would provide sanctuary to pro-Taliban militants. In spite of these concerns, the Bush administration went out of its way to praise Musharraf for his counterterrorism cooperation, and is even expected to give Pakistan a hefty discount on the sale of F-16 fighter jets and defense equipment during Musharraf's visit to Washington. Even India seems to have been enlisted in the Musharraf makeover; during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana earlier in the week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a pact with Pakistan to fight terrorism and move the peace process forward through high-level exchanges. This came, no doubt, in exchange for guarantees that the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear deal would be pushed through Congress before the session comes to a close.

Musharraf now must honor his end of the bargain, and is using his U.S. trip to set the stage for enhanced American operations on Pakistani soil. His mention of the threats issued against Pakistan by Armitage is damage control -- an attempt to spread the perception that he is standing up to U.S. intervention in the country and is fighting for Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. He is trying to create plausible deniability in the event of a major U.S. military action on Pakistani soil; he can later claim, he hopes, that Washington had threatened as much and conducted the operations on its own accord.

It is not likely to work. Musharraf has been able stay in power by holding himself up as the only one who can protect Pakistan from foreign aggression and navigate the troubled international waters after 9/11. A large-scale U.S. operation on Pakistani soil would nullify that perception, resulting in a severe political backlash. Musharraf would lose a great deal of support as Pakistanis rallied around a campaign to denounce him for selling out to the Americans.

In fact, Musharraf's comments have only confirmed the fear within Pakistan that he cannot protect the country's sovereignty. This means that, rather than getting a boost at home, he will look weak. Musharraf knows this -- and he still went ahead with the revelation, which means he saw that he has no good options and chose the lesser of two evils.

The countdown to U.S. midterm elections has begun, and the time for the Americans to strike is near. Musharraf feels he can't stall Washington any longer, so he is falling back to a defensive position and hoping he can weather the storm. If this were not the case, he would never have said what he did. After all, he has kept quiet about Armitage's threat for five years. To bring it up now looks like a sign of desperation.[Stratfor]

The above highlighted part is exacly as what I wrote in Apollo's blog on Sept 20, 2006.

My feeling is that we are under intense US pressure to tow their line on Pakistan if we want the nuke deal.

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