By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
This might look like victory, but it's really a trap. Far from strengthening NATO, a large U.S. presence would drive a wedge between Central Asia and Europe, probably the main reason European nations like Germany and Italy were backing away from the U.S. early this week. By the same token, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan will try to use U.S. support as a lever against Russia.
It's always possible that this sort of makeshift intervention would benefit U.S. oil interests in the Caspian Sea. While oil reserves there are probably not as large as originally projected, they nonetheless are of considerable size, with the natural gas especially important because western Europe has become so dependent on it. U.S. control of Afghanistan might encourage the building of a pipeline from there to Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent. The problem would be that fundamentalists in Pakistan could just blow it up from time to time.
The lasting effect of trying to transform Afghanistan into a Western proxy is probably counterproductive. Last week, a Moscow paper, Komosomolskaya Pravda, published this interesting take on the situation: "Possibly, the [terrorists'] leadership is deliberately 'exposing' certain Islamic countries, such as Libya, Iran, or Iraq, which are suspected of sympathizing with, or supporting, Muslim extremists, but which nevertheless are inclined to have normal relations with the West. The probable acts of retribution against such countries by the Americans will destabilize the situation in them and lead to a change of the regimes there in favor of more radical ones."
The only bright spot on the horizon is the very dim prospect of a rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. People there wore black in mourning for the New York attack, signed books of condolences, and left flowers at makeshift shrines. The mood was grim and sorrowful. Religious police unsuccessfully tried to break up a vigil for New York victims. Soccer fans at a stadium for a major game in World Cup competition stopped for a moment of silence. A government official close to President Khatami told the Voiceover the weekend, "There is a unique consensus in the world because of this tragedy. Islamic and non-Islamic countries have found an unprecedented will to fight terrorism. The official position of the Iranian government is that it welcomes NATO's call for collective action on this problem."