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UPI hears ..

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Insider notes from United Press International for May 22 ...

Even as India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee declared Wednesday that the time had come for the "decisive battle" against Pakistani-backed terrorism, U.S. and Russian officials are discussing how this week's Moscow summit between Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin could produce a joint initiative to stop an Indo-Pak nuclear war. Earlier comforting assumptions that there would be no war until September, after the searing summer heat and the monsoon, have been jolted by India's escalating rhetoric and military preparations, including this week's order to all military units to consult their war book. "India is forced to fight a war thrust on it and we will emerge victorious. Let there be no doubt about it," Vajpayee told cheering troops along the Kashmir border Wednesday. Britain's Tony Blair, who is sending his foreign secretary to the region next week and has now pulled all non-essential British diplomats from Pakistan, is urging Bush and Putin to intervene directly with the Indian and Pakistani leaders.

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High U.S. officials are saying that the next three weeks would be the ideal time for India to mount cross-border attacks in retaliation for militant action in Kashmir. They add that Vajpayee is out of options; the unification of the Indian command structure and expelling of the Pakistani ambassador are precursors to war. Defense Intelligence Agency assessments say initial Indian attacks would most likely be air strikes against militant camps in Azad Kashmir. They hope India would think twice about using commando raids, for which Indian Special Forces have limited airlift and support. A Pakistani response is deemed certain, either through limited air strikes or a replay of the 1999 Kargil operation. The risk of escalation is deemed "high" and various aid and humanitarian non-governmental organizations have issued instructions to their staff to evacuate.

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Gaza's Gang of Five is emerging as the post-Arafat Palestinian leadership. They are the PA's head of Preventive Security Muhammad Dahlan; NGO Minister Hassan Asfur; negotiator Saeb Urayqat; Muhammad Rashid; and Nabil Sha'th. They are all from Gaza and they've long represented a particular stream of leadership within the PA. They want a return to the Oslo format of direct negotiations with Israel, an end to the intifada, especially armed attacks, and the restructuring of the PA's security into a single organization headed by Dahlan, supported by the CIA but also by the intelligence agencies of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. These guys acted as conduits for visits with Powell and Arafat, and Rashid was a key player in the Church of the Nativity stand-off. They have put the West Bank faction of Jibril Rajoub in the shade, and Dahlan's men have even roughed up squads of Rajoub's bully boys.


President George Bush headed toward Berlin Wednesday with 10,000 police mobilized and waiting to protect him from threatened anti-American demonstrations, which have organized under the slogan: "We don't want your wars, Mr. President." The organizers are the ex-Communist Party of Democratic Socialism -- which shares power in Berlin with the Social Democrats, the party led by Bush's host Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. For the ex-Communists, this will be a trip down memory lane. Twenty years ago, we now know from the old East German files, the Soviet politburo sent a letter on April 20, 1982, urging a campaign to "counter the plans for Reagan to visit West Berlin. ... If democratic forces in the city were to succeed in a comprehensive preparation of anti-American events, this could lead the United States to abandon a visit to West Berlin or would at least destroy the propaganda effect of such a visit." The East German secret police, the Stasi, was given the job of organizing the protests and street battles duly took place in West Berlin during the Reagan visit in June. Stasi boss Erich Mielke proudly reported to Moscow in November that "well-directed large-scale measures were co-organized and devised in West Germany and West Berlin in response to the European tour of U.S. President Reagan." An important part of the Stasi success was in rallying West Berlin's Young Socialists, whose local leader was one Peter Strieder, against the Reagan visit. Strieder is now chairman of Berlin's Social Democrats and city minister for urban development.

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Bulgarians are getting nervous about this week's visit by Pope John Paul. The Rev. Bojan Saraev, sometimes called the Bulgarian Billy Graham, has worried the faithful by claiming "everywhere he goes apocalyptic natural disasters occur. They already started in the Plovdiv region. We had two earthquakes in April already, and I cannot imagine what will happen on the day of his arrival." Interesting that the celibate pope can make the Earth move, but Saraev is toeing the line of the Orthodox Church as laid down by the Moscow Patriarchate, which suspects the pope and the Roman Catholic Church of religious imperialism. No problem, says the Bulgarian government. It can be seen as a political visit by the head of the tiny Vatican state.


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