The Envoy
  • Former Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)

    Former Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani has been caught in a showdown between Pakistan's army and civilian leaders, and now says he fears for his safety.

    Haqqani was recalled to Islamabad in November amid accusations by a Pakistani-American businessman of involvement in the delivery to American officials of a memo accusing the Pakistani military of plotting a coup. The former ambassador has since sought refuge in the home of Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani out of concern for his security, Reuters reported Friday.

    "I just want my media trial and harassment to end," Haqqani, a former scholar at Boston University, told Yahoo News by email Friday. "If anyone thinks they can file charges against me, I will face them in court with due process. But to keep claiming that I somehow jeopardized Pakistani national security by joining an individual in sending a memo consigned by its recipient to the dustbin is absurd and unjust."

    On Thursday, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (Ind-Conn.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) issued a statement expressing alarm at reports of harassment and threats against Haqqani.

    "We are increasingly troubled by Ambassador Haqqani's treatment since he returned home to Pakistan, including the travel ban imposed on him," the statement read. "We urge Pakistani authorities to resolve this matter swiftly and consistent with civilian rule of law and to prevent the judicial commission investigating Ambassador Haqqani from becoming a political tool for revenge against an honorable man."

    A travel ban has been imposed on Haqqani while a Pakistan judiciary commission undertakes an investigation into the affair. It was launched by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who alleged an October Financial Times op-ed that he had delivered a memo to American officials in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden last year seeking to stave off a Pakistani military coup.

    The memo, Ijaz has subsequently asserted in various, sometimes-conflicting accounts, was delivered to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen on behalf of Haqqani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. It reportedly sought help in sidelining units of Pakistan's military and intelligence service sympathetic to jihadi militants. Haqqani has denied numerous aspects of Ijaz's account. But Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence leaders have seized on it to further pressure and intimidate Pakistan's weak civilian rulers.

    "Watchers of Pakistan's sordid history of military intrusion into civilian affairs understand the rich irony of this current saga," Pakistan expert C. Christine Fair wrote at Foreign Policy Friday. "Not one of the generals who have overthrown varied governments has ever been charged with treason."

    "So let's call the devil by his name," Fair continued. "Memogate should be understood as a sophisticated attempt by the Army and intelligence agency to use the court to bring down this government, not just a titillating imbroglio involving Husain Haqqani."

    Read More »from Pakistan’s former U.S. envoy now fears for his life
  • Iran Pres. Ahmadinejad talks with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) ahead of a meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister January 5, 2012. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)Turkey's foreign minister said on a trip to Iran Thursday that he had delivered a western offer to resume talks on Iran's nuclear program, and his Iranian counterpart had accepted. But a European official told Yahoo News Thursday that Iran had still yet to formally respond in writing to a proposal for a new meeting.

    "We are waiting for a good result coming out of the willingness of the two parties to go back to the negotiating table," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a joint news conference with Iran's foreign minister in Tehran Thursday, which was broadcast on Iran's Press TV with English translation, Reuters reported.

    "As far as negotiations over Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program, we hope that we will gain good results and the unfavorable conditions that have emerged, we hope that they will go away," Davutoglu added.

    Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi "confirmed Iran was ready to return to talks with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (P5+1) at a time and place agreed by both sides," Reuters wrote, adding that Salehi proposed Turkey as a preferred host for the talks.

    However, a spokesman for the top international Iran nuclear negotiator, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told Yahoo News Thursday that Ashton has still not received a written Iranian response to her October proposal for a new round of nuclear talks.

    "We still await [Iran's] response to [High Representative] Ashton's letter of October," a spokesman for Ashton said Thursday. "We are open to talks on confidence-building measures without preconditions . . . .  But it's up to Iran to respond in writing."

    Observers have noted that Iranian officials had given several indications in recent days they were interested in returning to negotiations. But they said that it's not clear whether Iran or other international powers had laid the groundwork for successful negotiations.

    "This meeting has long been in the making and [there are many reasons to] think it is going to happen," Iran analyst Trita Parsi told Yahoo News Thursday in a telephone interview. "The only thing is: Will it be a real negotiation or just another exchange of ultimatums?"

    On the one hand, Iranian leaders "are under some pressure," Parsi noted. On the other, "they think they have some interesting cards" to play in a resumed set of talks.

    Read More »from Turkey envoy says Iran, West ready to resume nuclear talks, but EU still awaits Iran RSVP
  • President Barack Obama joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon Thursday to roll out a new U.S. defense strategy calling for a leaner, more agile army--in an unprecedented briefing by an American president at the Pentagon podium.

    The new defense strategy document--entitled "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense"--calls for cutting the size of the U.S. Army over the next decade to 490,000 troops--about 10,000 more troops than the United States had at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It also reflects the Obama administration's recently announced intention to reorient America's national security focus towards Asia, while continuing to reduce its heavy post-9/11 footprint in the Middle East in the wake of the end of the Iraq war and the planned draw-down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2014.

    "The question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need long after the wars of the last decade are over," Obama said at the Pentagon Thursday.

    "As we look beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the end of long-term nation-building with large military footprints -- we'll be able to ensure our security with smaller conventional ground forces," he continued. "We'll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems," while investing in "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction" and means to operate in difficult environments.

    "Our military will be leaner," Obama continued, "but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats."

    Military analysts said the proposal to cut the overall size of the Army is unsurprising in the current budget environment. But some conservatives were critical of the proposed cuts, while advocates countered maintaining the current posture and force size poses other risks.

    "The budget math is pretty unforgiving," Tom Donnelly, military analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Yahoo News Wednesday by email.  "But strategically speaking, it's as though we learned nothing from what's happened since 9/11; it's one thing to have made the mistake the first time, quite another and more serious to make it a second time."

    "Even if we didn't have a financial crisis, we would redo the strategy," countered Larry Korb, former Reagan administration Pentagon assistant secretary and a national security expert at the progressive Center for American Progressive, in an interview with Yahoo News Thursday.

    The strategy review reflects former Defense Secretary Bob Gates' comment last year that any Defense Secretary who again recommends sending ground forces in another land invasion of choice ought to have his head examined, Korb noted.

    Read More »from Obama, Panetta unveil new Defense plan for leaner, more agile force

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