As a show of anger, Pakistan ordered the CIA to vacate drone operations at Shamsi Air Base in southwestern Baluchistan and closed both the Khyber and Baluchistan supply routes into Afghanistan, cutting off 70 per cent of NATO's supplies. It was the worst such incident since 9/11.
This is not the first time NATO helicopters attack Pakistani soldiers or that Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass. A US airstrike in 2008 killed 11 soldiers and last year two, prompting Pakistan to shut the Khyber Pass for 10 days in protest against the almost daily, illegal and unsanctioned US air strikes that since 2004 have killed 2,780 people, 83 per cent civilians, among them 72 soldiers.
However, this time the rhetoric is full blast. Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani announced Pakistan would boycott the crucial Bonn II conference on Afghanistan this week, fatally undermining it. Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani call the attack a "blatant and unacceptable act", and Interior Minister Rehman Malik insisted on Sunday that the "NATO supply line had not been suspended but permanently stopped."
US has killed 72 Pakistan troops in 3 yrs by AP
That is highly unlikely, but this could be the trigger for a political earthquake against a despised national government. MP Ahmed Khan Bahadur from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial Awami National Party told CNN, "This is the time to be united as a nation and to punch NATO with a fist. NATO could never dare if we were united." Politically ambitious media star Imran Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, said it was time for Pakistan to pull out of the US-led "war on terror". Hundreds of thousands have rallied in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to protest government corruption and the alliance with the US.
The Muslim world could easily bury Israel if the spark to light it were to spontaneously appear. So, just as forest rangers light strategic fires to clear brush and prevent uncontrolled fires from erupting, the US must light fires around Israel which burn themselves out. The tribes and conservative Islamists in Libya, and the Christians, Alawis and Sunnis in Syria will soon be tearing each other up, "part of the Turkish sphere of influence, aligned with NATO and non-hostile to Israel. In other words, another Pakistan," quips analyst Come Carpentier.
The Arab Spring is the logical conclusion of the carving up of the Middle East following WWI&II, creating regimes which from the start were subservient, or, in the case of say Egypt under Nasser, brought into line after a brief rebellion. As for Pakistan, from the start, it too was very much an imperial-controlled forest fire. Britain's most pressing problem following WWII was trying to control the march to independence in India, to prevent it from aligning with the Soviet Union. Sectarian India and Pakistan were created thanks to British intrigue, and the latter has been a faithful ally of empire ever since.
Thus, the cool reaction by the US to the Pakistani fury, which just barely hides the implicit racism of imperial fiat. That Pakistan is a failed state, its elite totally dependent on US handouts, means that the occasional closing of the Khyber Pass or even the attack on the US embassy in Kabul by a certain Pakistan-based (Haqqani) resistance group can be tolerated. US officials sometimes chide their Pakistani colleagues with "playing a double game", a warning not to push the boundaries too far, but the planners on all sides know that all the players are playing at least several roles in the geopolitical play-off now underway, the winner being the one who sees that extra move ahead and is able to plan for it.
In a sense, the game has become incredibly complex, with supposed allies of empire -- from Mubarak and Gaddafi to mujahideen and, increasingly, Pakistan soldiers -- moving from ally to enemy in the twinkling of an eye. The Arab Spring is even now being subtlely and not-so-subtlely manipulated from Washington, with daily briefings and financial aid to Egypt's ruling generals ("more democracy but not if it harms Israel"), daily bombings for others (Libya, Syria, Iran, Pakistan), or a blind eye to cruel autocracies which are able to crush their opposition and continue to faithfully serve the cause (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain). This apparent complexity and chaos is not complex or chaotic at all, but the realisation of contingent strategies in pursuit of clear goals. Egyptian analyst Mohamed Heikal calls it the new "Sykes-Picot agreement".
The goals and rules of the game are in fact age-old. In the first place, the US dollar and profit, followed by military might and its transformation into political soft power, used to buttress the dollar and ensure the flow of profit from the colonial (now neocolonial) periphery to the imperial centre.
So the huffing and puffing of even generals in the periphery can be tolerated, since they must inevitably bite the imperial bullet so it doesn't explode in their faces. Similarly, the tens of thousands of deaths resulting from "collateral damage" or the inevitable uprisings against the vicious reality of neocolonialism, now dubbed the Arab Spring.
Also very simple for the sports fan to understand is how the game will end. History shows conclusively that empires inevitably fall, the victims of overreach. Just as the US lost in Vietnam, leaving it bloodied and destroyed, so it will lose in Afghanistan and will eventually leave Pakistan, both devastated, but in the long run, beholden to empire. The Vietnamese communists supposedly triumphed -- a rare win against empire -- but three short decades later are now allying unashamedly with the empire against holdout China. The logic in AfPak is presumably to pack up and leave AfPak a series of sectarian, feuding entities (states?), whose new elites similarly will be reaching out to the empire in the face of holdout Iran.
America's increasingly unwilling Pakistan ally is increasingly turning to both. In the wake of the collapse of US-Pakistani relations, Pakistan confirmed its gas pipeline project with Iran would be online by 2013, flouting US pressures to nix the deal and instead wait for the trans-Afghanistan pipe dream (excuse me, pipeline). Iran need not drop bombs or invade its neighbours (it ended any imperial pretensions in the 17th century), but like China, seduce them economically. The pipeline will also export gas to Turkey, Armenia and even Iraq. Iran has excellent relations with nearby India, Russia and, of course, China. But of course, Pakistan's main lifeline is still the US.
Whether the Western intervention in Libya and Syria will turn them into willing (if conservative Islamic) allies of imperialism a la Saudi Arabia, Morocco or, yes, Pakistan, is yet to be seen. But this is the game plan, and the seemingly bizarre friendly fire on its lapdog ally, as happened last week, is from Washington's point of view merely a blip in the old-fashion regional radar it inherited from Britain. Unless of course Pakistan has its 25 January moment.