The British, the Middle East and Radical Islam
As the American government, led by the Bush Administration, fights its so-called "War On Terror" with plans to invade and overthrow Iraq, America's steadfast ally in this endeavor continues to be the British government of Tony Blair. The following study will take a look at the history of the region that America has become entangled in, a region that used to be, and to some degree still is, almost entirely controlled by Britain. Is this current "War On Terror" truly a war to bring freedom to the region and to promote traditional American ideals, or is it a power-play to solidify global American hegemony? And what does Britain have to gain?
Britain appears to be our greatest ally but it must be understood that British geo-strategists are the masters of political manipulation and subversion. Even as the physical British colonial empire was declining in the first half of this century they were already building the framework for a completely global empire based on the legacy of Cecil Rhodes utilizing the resources of the super-capitalists and financiers of New York and London. These elites may be predominantly British and American in nationality, but they reject democracy and the American Constitution and work against the best interests of British, American and international citizens. By studying the history of the Middle East, and the elitist manipulation of it, we can perhaps predict what is to come after this last final push of the American Empire.
I. Britain Takes the Middle East
II. Britain and Egypt
III. The Overthrow of Iran's First Democracy
IV. The British War Against Nasser
V. Islam Turns Against the West
VI. Afghanistan, Pakistan, the ISI and the BCCI
VI. Afghanistan, Pakistan, the ISI and the BCCI
On July 3, 1979, at the insistence of advisors such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter signed a directive authorizing covert aid to the fundamentalist opponents of the ruling communist regime in Afghanistan (1). This move was understood as one that would likely lead to direct Soviet intervention and that is exactly what happened on December 24 of that year when, after being invited by the Afghani government, the Russian military took up positions to protect government assets from rebel attacks.
From the beginning of the Afghan War the CIA partnered with Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) and funded the rebel mujahedin fighters. Today it is generally understood that radical Islam received its biggest boost as a result of the mujahedin's successful jihad against Soviet forces, and when the Soviets retreated from Afghan territory in early 1989 the country was left with tens of thousands of unemployed Islamic mercenaries who then turned their attention to the West.
The history of Afghanistan has always been closely connected with Pakistan, a region formerly colonized by Britain. British involvement in the subcontinent goes back as far as the early years of the seventeenth century when British East India Company merchants were allowed to establish trading posts by the the Emperor Jahangir of the Islamic Mughal Empire. Direct British rule in India is generally seen as beginning in 1757 when BEIC forces led by Robert Clive defeated the army of the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plessey. In 1803 British control over the subcontinent increased even further when the rulers of the Mughal Empire became pensioners of the BEIC. The Indus River Valley, the center of modern Pakistan, was brought under British control through the successful campaign of 1848-1849 that conquered the Sikh empire, giving the British the Punjab. Since then the regions that are today India and Pakistan were ruled by Britain continuously until the British Empire withdrew and created the two nations in 1947.
When Britain withdrew a number of British officers remained behind to help shepherd (and control) the emerging Pakistani Army. One of these was Major General Walter Joseph Cawthorn who, as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army established Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1948. Cawthorn was an Australian-born British Intelligence (MI-6) agent who had directed operations in the Middle East, Indian, and Southeast Asian bureaus from 1939-1945. He became Sir Cawthorn in 1958 when he was knighted by the British Crown, and later he served in Australia as head of their Secret Intelligence Service (2). Pakistan's ISI was originally a military intelligence agency created to help defend Pakistan in the early wars against India over Kashmir and other border issues, but over the years it has grown to become Pakistan's version of the CIA, and it has continually maintained close ties with British Intelligence.
The power of the ISI increased for its first twenty years until the emergence of Pakistan's first popularly elected civilian leader, the socialist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1971. Bhutto immediately displayed the same nationalistic characteristics as Nasser, Mossadegh and the Shah and his regime fell out of favor with the British government and the West. In 1972 Bhutto withdrew his country from the British Commonwealth of Nations and he pursued closer relations with Russia, China and the Arab states.
In 1977 the inevitable coup took place, and President Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia Ul-Haq, who had been appointed to Chief of the Army Staff by Bhutto in 1976 at the insistence of Gulam Jilani Khan, the longstanding Director General of the ISI. Bhutto comments at great length on his constant struggles with, and betrayal by, the ISI in his book If I Am Assassinated, penned from his Pakistani prison cell. He also relates how Kissinger threatened him for pushing forward on Pakistan's nuclear power program, telling him, "We will make an example of you!" He was. Bhutto was executed in 1978 after being subjected to a sham trial, despite the objections of heads of state from around the globe. (3)
A radical spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood had this to say several years later, "The Brotherhood has taken over in Iran and Pakistan. Bhutto stood for intrusion of the West into Islam. Bhutto was everything that Pakistan was not. That is why we killed him. And we will use his death as a warning to others." (3a)
Britain's relation with the Pakistan underworld becomes clear with a look back at the BCCI scandal. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International was the first Third World multinational bank, created in 1972 by Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi. It was initially funded by Sheik Zayed of Abu Dhabi, and from a $2.5 million operation it grew to be worth $23 billion when it was finally shut down in 1991. It was created just in time to take advantage of the river of cash that was flowing into the Middle East through the oil industry.
One of BCCI's early moves to gain international influence was its purchase in 1976 of 85% of the Banque de Commerce et Placements (BCP) of Geneva, Switzerland. After the BCCI took over this bank it installed Alfred Hartmann as manager. Hartmann then became the chief financial officer for BCC Holding and thus one of BCCI's most influential directors. Hartmann was a member of the British banking establishment through his connections with the Rothschild family, being a member of the board of directors of N.M. Rothschild and Sons, London, and president of Rothschild Bank AG of Zurich. (4)
BCCI was initially incorporated in Luxembourg, famous for its lax banking restrictions, and soon branches and holding companies sprouted up around the globe: in the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Washington DC and just about everywhere else. However, by 1980, when the BCCI finally applied for and received a license from the Bank of England, there were already more branches in the UK than in any other nation. In fact, one of BCCI's primary economics advisors was the former British Prime Minister (1976-79) Lord James Callaghan (5). The BCCI may have been created by a Pakistani, but in the end it was a British-based and British-controlled bank.
Over the years the BCCI became involved in just about every type of illicit transaction that a bank could be involved in including drug money laundering, weapons dealing, bribery, fraud, etc. It was used extensively by the CIA throughout its history, it played a part in the Iran-Contra scandal, it was a bank used by the Medellin Colombian cocaine cartel, and a branch was even set up in Panama for the cash that Manuel Noriega was funneling out of his country. After BCCI was shut down the UK's The Guardian newspaper reported that the terrorist Abu Nidal had maintained BCCI accounts. Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, the Time reporters who covered the scandal write,
"According to The Guardian's sources, the Nidal group had long used a London branch of BCCI to move the money it used to mount attacks on Western targets, and MI5 -- the English equivalent of the CIA -- had known about the accounts. There seemed to be no doubt that the BCCI bankers knew exactly who they were dealing with: One of the bankers at the London branch described how anxious they had been to provide every service to the terrorists in order to keep their multibillion-dollar accounts." (6)
However, the main purpose of the BCCI, and the reason behind its meteoric rise, was its connection to the ISI and the mujahedin fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After Zia replaced Bhutto as Pakistan's president he appointed his friend Fazle Haq to be the governor of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province in 1978. This is the area that borders Afghanistan through which tons of drugs and weapons were smuggled over the Khyber Pass. Fazle Haq was an important friend and backer of BCCI's founder Abedi, and the BCCI was used to launder untold millions of ISI narcotics revenues (7).
Coincidentally, in 1983 the British-based World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) suggested that two national parks be created in Pakistan's northwest, and although rather thin in natural wildlife the preserves proved to be excellent for poppy growing and for staging mujahedin incursions into Afghanistan. (8)
Former Senate investigator Jack Blum said this about the BCCI's connection to the Afghan war during his testimony to the U.S. Congress,
"This bank was a product of the Afghan War and people very close to the mujahideen have said that many Pakistani military officials who were deeply involved in assisting and supporting the Afghan rebel movement were stealing our foreign assistance money and using BCCI to hide the money they stole; to market American weapons that were to be delivered that they stole; and to market and manage funds that came from the selling of heroin that was apparently engineered by one of the mujahideen groups." (9)
When General Zia took over Pakistan all of the pieces were in place to begin the massive drug running, fraud and swindling operation that was the Afghan War. According to Beaty and Gwynne, Zia already had a "close and cooperative relationship" with BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi when he took power (10). The triangle of General Zia's government, the ISI (who had empowered Zia) and the BCCI then proceeded to run the Afghan mujahedin uprising for the CIA, with input from above from British Intelligence. Over the course of the Afghan war up to $5 billion of American taxpayer aid was funneled into the war effort, and through the duration Pakistan's ISI trained about 83,000 Muslim mujahedin fighters.
Britain's role in promoting the Afghan experiment was crucial, although now it is often overlooked. Almost immediately after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Lord Nicholas Bethell, a career British Intelligence agent, formed Radio Free Kabul as a voice for the mujahedin. Bethell had been involved with Russian and Mid-East operations his entire career, and he was a close friend of British spy Kim Philby. Other members of Radio Free Kabul included Winston Churchill III, former Foreign Secretary Baron Chalfont, Lord Morrison of Lambeth the former head of the Foreign Office, and British Intelligence official Ray Whitney. In 1981 Lord Bethell accompanied Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on a tour of the U.S. to drum up support for the resistance, and together they met with over 60 congressmen and senators, eventually leading to the creation of the US-based Committee for a Free Afghanistan which continually lobbied in support of the mujahedin. (11)
Another British creation was Afghan Aid UK, first set up in Peshawar, Pakistan by the wife of British journalist John Fullerton. This group's primary sponsor was Britain's Viscount Cranbourne, who later testified before the U.S. Congress Special Joint Task Force on Afghanistan to lobby for US support. His organization was granted substantial funding by the British government and by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (11)
Britain lobbied to create a war in Afghanistan, they wanted American taxpayers to pay for it, and they manipulated the financial situation so that they might profit from it. The BCCI was shut down by the Bank of England in 1991 only after the Russian withdrawal, and only then because of the courageous campaigning of a handful of American investigators. Beaty and Gwynne write,
"Though the Bank of England had pulled the trigger on BCCI on July 5, 1991, and had thereby started a global chain reaction that had smashed Agha Hasan Abedi's brainchild into tiny pieces, it had done so only reluctantly and only after waiting an extraordinary amount of time. It had been cowardly rather than heroic; it had moved only when forced to do so by a formidable U.S. alliance between the Federal Reserve Bank and the Manhattan district attorney." (12)
The final U.S. congressional report on the BCCI affair states,
"By agreement, the Bank of England had in effect entered into a plan with BCCI, Abu Dhabi and Price Waterhouse in which they would keep the true state of affairs at BCCI secret in return for cooperation with one another in trying to avoid a catastrophic multibillion-dollar collapse. From April 1990 forward, the Bank of England had now inadvertently become partner to a cover-up of BCCI's criminality." (13)
BCCI was the favored bank for Middle Eastern terrorists and arms and drug runners, South American drug cartels, organized crime lords, and even for intelligence services such as the ISI, Mossad, MI6 and the CIA. In fact then-CIA assistant director Robert Gates once referred to BCCI jokingly as the "Bank of Crooks and Criminals" (14). For at least a decade British authorities allowed it to run amuck out of their living room and after it's fall important records were sealed away and kept from American investigators. When the scandal broke the media backlash focused primarily on BCCI's American links and the CIA, but only because of the British establishment's secrecy and expertise in damage control. It's likely that the whole truth will never be known.
As the war in Afghanistan wound down and the Russian withdrawal became inevitable, the situation became much more complex. American support for the mujahedin dropped off as the CIA tried to resist the establishment of a fanatical Afghani government. New warlords emerged and other avenues of drug smuggling were increasingly utilized, through Iran and through the southern Soviet republics. The dwindling supply of U.S. Government money and arms, coupled with a decreasing supply of drug cash, helped along the BCCI decline.
This brings us to focus on the drug industry and the impact it has had in shaping Afghanistan. Peter Dale Scott, Alfred W. McCoy and Michael C. Ruppert are three authorities in this area. In brief, the conclusion reached by the experiences and research of these men is that drugs (most notably cocaine and heroin) are controlled commodities, just like oil, gold and diamonds, with intricate Western-supported systems of production, distribution and cash flow. Today the global drug industry generates about $600 Billion a year, and the vast majority of this cash is funneled (laundered) into Anglo-American banks and/or Wall Street. These researchers allege that one of the most important tasks of Western intelligence services has been to make sure that the flow of drug cash back into the Anglo-American financial system continues unimpeded. (And yes, the London-based BCCI was, for all intents and purposes, an Anglo-American bank.)
Whatever the case may be, it is worth pointing out that when Britain and the CIA became involved in Afghanistan the production of opium skyrocketed. From an estimated harvest of only 100 tons per year in the early seventies, opium production went up to 300 tons in 1982 and then to 575 tons in 1983. By the late eighties, near the end of the war, Afghani opium poppy production had reached an estimated 1600 tons per year. (15)
The CIA's drug racket was so successful that by 1981 Afghanistan supplied about 60% of America's heroin from contributing an almost negligible amount just two years previously. The crops were grown in Afghanistan, synthesized into heroin in labs on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, and then smuggled into the US and Europe. General Zia's government was drowning in a sea of heroin as well, despite the international accolades he was receiving for simultaneously reducing the poppy crop on his side of the border, and Pakistan's heroin-addict population grew from about 5,000 in 1981 to over 1.2 million by 1985. (16)
It is also worth noting that the US-led war on the Taliban regime occurred after one of the most successful poppy-eradication programs ever seen. In July of 2000 Mullah Omar placed a ban on poppy growing and by February of 2001 UN drug control officials were able to confirm that poppy production had come to a virtual standstill in Taliban-controlled areas. Was the expected loss of drug-revenue an added incentive for the West to remove the Taliban? Does this explain why Afghan farmers have had little resistance in their quick return to their favorite cash crop after the Taliban's demise? (17)
When the CIA became involved in Afghanistan they were almost entirely dependent on their ISI contacts within Pakistan for intelligence and for guidance in directing the war effort. As the war evolved American support was channeled, at the behest of the ISI, to a group of seven independent Afghani mujahedin warlords who became known as the Peshawar Seven.
Eventually one of the seven, a warlord by the name of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, emerged as the primary recipient of American aid, despite his communist past, his radical view of Islam and his blatant anti-Americanism. Hekmatyar had been an engineering student at Kabul University, and then he had trained at the Kabul Military Academy before being kicked out. Hekmatyar became affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the early '70s, and by the time of the Afghan war he had emerged as the leader of a group called Hezb-i-Islami, or Party of Islam, even though he had never received a classical Islamic education. Over the years his followers became known for their strict Muslim fanaticism (they were notorious for throwing acid on the faces of women who refused to wear a veil), and Hekmatyar became Afghanistan's biggest opium producer. He possessed thousands of acres of poppy fields and, according to McCoy, he owned at least six heroin laboratories on the Pakistan side of the Khyber Pass. (18)
In March of 1990 the US House Republican Research Committee of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare submitted a 19-page report that criticized the CIA for its dealings with Hekmatyar's "Party of Islam" and for covering up the problems that his group had created. Over time it has emerged that Hekmatyar was an ISI asset who laundered his money through BCCI, and also cooperated with the Russian KGB to ensure his status as the most powerful warlord among many rivals. Jeffrey Steinberg of EIR sums it up,
"Although American diplomats and intelligence officers posted in Pakistan often warned of Hekmatyar's strong anti-western and pro-Iranian views, speculated about possible Soviet KGB links, and even acknowledged his undisputed status as Afghanistan's "heroin king," his forces received the largest portion of American and other international military support throughout the Afghan War. Intelligence reports back to Washington about the progress of the war were notoriously biased, and filled with disinformation portraying Hekmatyar's mujahideen as the most successful fighters. Often the reports to the Pentagon and the CIA were identical to the reports prepared by British intelligence—complete with the same spelling and typographical errors. More reliable on-the-scene reports indicated that Hekmatyar spent more time and effort fighting rival mujahideen groups than battling the Soviets." (19)
The ISI's spin on the situation comes through in the book Afghanistan: The Bear Trap, in which Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, the former head of the ISI's Afghan Bureau, (co-written with a former British Army officer), describes Hekmatyar as "scrupulously honest" and the toughest and most vigorous mujahedin leader. Yousaf was the ISI's director of the mujahedin and he argues that the war was drawn out longer than necessary because the United States did not give Hekmatyar and the Islamists enough support, which began to fade in the late '80s while the Soviets still occupied Afghanistan. Yousef resents the fact that the CIA did not give the Islamists an overwhelming victory, even though the Taliban eventually emerged after several years of civil war. (20)
Yousef's point of view can be compared to the 1990 US House Republican Report which is covered in this article by journalist Imran Akbar of The News International, which also details the suspected KGB links maintained by Hekmatyar.
After the Taliban took power Hekmatyar was forced to flee to Iran. In February of this year the Iranian government shut down his operations in Iran and expelled him back to Afghanistan. Hekmatyar has been as outspoken as ever in his anti-American views, offering reward money for the killing of American troops and calling the new US-installed Afghan government illegitimate. In May the CIA reportedly tried to assassinate him with a missile fired from an unmanned Predator drone as he and his entourage journeyed near Kabul. This ISI favorite remains one of the most dangerous players in Afghanistan today. (21)
In his book Yousef also goes to great lengths to make it clear that American personnel were never involved in training any of the Afghan mujahedin,
"Up to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early 1989, no American or Chinese instructor was ever involved in giving training on any kind of weapon or equipment to the Mujahideen. Even with the heavier and more sophisticated weapons systems... it was always our Pakistani teams who trained the Mujahideen. This was a deliberate, carefully considered policy that we steadfastly refused to change despite mounting pressure from the CIA, and later from the US Defense Department, to allow them to take it over. From the start the Americans wanted to be directly involved with the distribution of the weapons, the operational planning of operations and the training of guerillas. From the start, until the last Soviet soldier quit the country, we successfully resisted." [emphasis added] (22)
Other than being financier and armament supplier, the American CIA was out of the loop. It was Yousef's ISI that ran the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, and it was the ISI that channeled CIA support to the most undesirable Afghan warlords. What becomes clear after reviewing the record of this era is that the ISI's agenda, and that of the Afghan War in general, was set to a far greater degree by the British than it was by the CIA. The British had formulated and promoted the plan for American involvement; they maintained close relations with the ISI that ran the war; they controlled the bank that largely benefited from it; and when the war was over they welcomed into Britain the many mujahedin veterans who applied for British asylum.
Osama bin Laden was one of these veterans and in early 1994 he purchased an estate and lived for a short while in the London suburb of Wembley. During his time in London he established his Advice and Reformation Committee to oversee his economic network, and he solidified his propoganda links to the Western world through his connections with London's Sheikh Omar Bakri and with Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of al-Quds al-Arabi, one of the most influential Arabic-language newspapers in the world. Yossef Bodansky, author of the best-selling biography of bin Laden writes that, "By the time bin Laden left London, he had consolidated a comprehensive system of entities with a solid -though clandestine- source of funding. This London-based data-dissemination system still works efficiently." (Written in 1999). (23)
Section Notes and Sources
August 11, 2002