June 26, 2017

CPEC: Economic designs and human rights in South Asia


by Claudia Waedlichon 24 Jun 20174 Comments

The state of Pakistan signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) along with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and has been in force since 3 January 1976. Participating states have the right to ask for advice and help from the UN General Assembly on appropriate measures to realise these rights.


The Covenant commits its parties to the granting of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) to Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, and, to certain individuals, rights regarding labour, health, education and an adequate standard of living.


The ISESR is part of the International Bill of Rights, along with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Pakistan both signed and ratified this. The state of Pakistan claims a general reservation to interpretation of the Covenant within the framework of its constitution.


If we can take a more specific view on Part 3, Articles 6 to 15, in which the detailed rights are listed and how they refer to the present situation in Balochistan; a state extant de jure, occupied de facto, as a province of Pakistan.


According to the legal standard of International Law, Pakistan has no right to interfere in Balochistan and accordingly uses this “situation” to disregard the signed and ratified rights by this Covenant, arguing their reservations as per their constitution. In my opinion, to profit from, yet to refuse to own its obligations to Balochistan, is criminal exploitation at its worst. Pakistan is abusing the Covenant, which has no regulatory legal powers, to abnegate its obligations to occupied territories.


Pakistan’s obligations towards occupied territories include the right to work under just and favourable conditions with the right to form and join trade unions, social security and social insurance. There is no evidence that Pakistan applies these rights to Balochistan.


An adequate standard of living, including basic food, water, clothing and housing should be everyone’s right, but the reality in Balochistan today is a horror story of poverty, starvation, with no access to water now in Gwadar, burnt-out houses, increasing since the implementation of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), and no possibility of a life with security, peace and dignity. Pakistan wages permanent war through the actions of their armed forces on the civil population of Balochistan.


The improvement of living conditions, promised by the contract of CPEC, is applied only to the Chinese, some Punjabis and some Sindhis working on the projects. Balochs have no access to the projects or benefits; the only access is to security workers close to the puppet regime in Quetta.


A worse situation refers to the standard of physical and mental health in Balochistan. For example, the population, in the area of Chagai hills where Pakistan set off the atomic bomb in 1998, are suffering from unknown diseases without any medical or financial assistance or care.


Moreover, the abduction and torture of Balochs in the Pakistani army camps of Pakistani has been proved.


The very culture of Balochistan is being denied by the Pakistani regime as it tries to wipe out the language of the Balochs in schools, closes bookstores and forbids books in Balochi and Brahui in schools and universities; instead the regime has opened madrassas teaching extremism leading to the radicalisation of the former secular society.


Pakistan has the task of securing that the CPEC treaty encounters no opposition or setbacks and thus there are an increasing number of military operations along the CPEC routes, with shocking evidence of a growing genocide of the Balochistan people. This silent genocide will change the demography of Balochistan to forward Pakistan’s strategic needs and ensure no resistance from the population.


The Balochistan population is seen as a political problem. Once a people rise up against oppression, like the Balochs are doing, authoritarian governments, such as Pakistan and China, resort to violence and criminal means to suppress it. These abhorrent regimes are instigating and exacting appalling acts of cruelty every day on the people of Balochistan.


Henry Kissinger once said: “Who controls the food supply controls people, who controls the energy, can control continents, who controls money can control the world.”


Food is being used as a weapon in the areas surrounding the CPEC routes, water too, and China plans to invest in, or take over, farmland in the Pashtun areas. They seek to lease agricultural land, to increase harvests through the introduction of pesticides and effectively control the supplies of food in the area. “[There are] one billion starving people in all Asia, where the lack of water has resulted in unprecedented food shortages that threaten the continent`s ability to feed its growing population.”



The goal of the CPEC treaty is a one-sided profit by China with Pakistan trying its utmost to capitalise on the back of it. Balochistan and the other deprived nations in their way will pay the hardest price for it. China and Pakistan have fomented a war over dwindling resources, to exploit oil and gas in Balochistan, and on food and water to sustain their own populations and remain in power. All at the cost of Balochs and Pashtuns.


Article 1 of the Covenant states:

All people have the right of self-determination.

For this right, the Covenant should be informed about all the injuries suffered by the Balochs and their country, under the rule of Pakistan.


Although the status of Balochistan is an occupied country, there is a case for a de jure existing state which Pakistan exploits to its own advantage. However, it can be interpreted that Pakistan is obliged to adhere to the covenant and uphold the rights of the Balochs because of the lack of a freely elected government of a state of Balochistan.


Concerning the rights of Balochs in the context of the Covenant Article 1, paragraph 2: “Freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources, based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law”.


The people of Balochistan are being denied their rights and it is a question of distributive justice which is not guaranteed now by the illegal contract of CPEC.


As in my former speeches regarding the legal aspects of CPEC, I maintain that this contract should be renegotiated by the participation of freely elected Balochs and the Covenant should be informed about all illegal aspects of CPEC which contradict the rights of the Covenant Pakistan signed and ratified.


Respected Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your attention to my speech.


Speech at side event during 35th Regular session of UN Human Rights Council on 12 June 2017

June 25, 2017

Why spies like scientists


Stumbled on one interview, I wanted to share with you. In a sense, it is also suited to the site — these people have made.

Why spies like scientists

Scout-illegal Andrey Bezrukov, "If you behave like James Bond, you have enough for half a day."

Donald Heathfield owned a consulting company in the United States, was educated at Harvard and raised two children with his wife. He was quite successful American citizen. Hardly anyone of his friends and colleagues could have imagined that Donald Heathfield real name is Andrey Bezrukov and he is the head of the Russian reconnaissance. Bezrukov worked abroad under cover from the end of the last century and during that time did not utter a single word in Russian. Two years ago he issued a traitor, after which he returned to Russia.

Help PP

Andrey Bezrukov Born in Kansk Krasnoyarsk Territory. He studied at the Tomsk State University. Together with his wife, Elena Vavilova, more than twenty years was in hiding, doing intelligence work. In 2000 he graduated from the Harvard School of Public Administration, John F. Kennedy with a Masters degree. In the summer of 2010, was arrested in the United States and with the other defendants in the spy scandal, including Anna Chapman, was sent home in exchange for four Russian citizens convicted of spying for the U.S. and the UK. Now working for the company "Rosneft".

"You can not use the native language even at home …"

For starters will specify what to call what you do in the United States. Spying?

This is the same than the U.S. security services in Russia. You know, there's a difference in concepts. English 'spying' translates as spying, but in Russian language spy has two meanings: "spy" and "scout". Can be understood in different ways. Not for nothing in the Soviet Union, its called good word "scout" and enemies — "spies."

They say that for all the work you have not uttered a word in Russian. Is that true?

It is true. This feature of the illegal work. You can not use the native language even at home, all the while being under strict self-control. Although after a few years it becomes quite natural. Even dreams are dreams in other languages. My wife and I now speak mainly in English and in French.

And your wife to work with you? She, too, was under the cover?

Yes, my wife Helen also a professional scout, and we worked together abroad from the first to the last day.

You have lived a long time in the country, actually working against it, right?

You know, intelligence is not determined by those against whom you work. Exploration is defined by those for whom you work. "Working against anyone" — it can not be a reference, the tasks may change. As a scout you work to benefit the country. The offense can be against someone, and exploration activities are as patriotic character.

And then you perceive the people around, if not as enemies?

As the main object of study. It is a country that you should know is the people you want to understand in order to help guide the country to make the right decision.

That is a scout — it's something like a scientist undercover?

Yes, very often raises questions of knowledge, understanding of the issues. I would even say this: in order to win, we need to understand in order to understand the need to love. That is, you have to love the country in which you work. The presence of a person who can in spite of misinformation on the site to understand what is going to be a positive stabilizing factor. In order to prepare for and protect themselves, sometimes quite critical nuggets of information. I would say that intelligence is essentially a defensive measure.

You could fall in love with the United States?

I will not say that I love this country. Culturally, I lived in a more interesting world than the United States. But I certainly respect the Americans. I love many of the features of the American people, such as optimism, resourcefulness, willingness to necessary changes, ability to fairly and quickly recognize and correct their mistakes.

Where do you like to live: after the exchange in Russia or the United States?

Frankly, I'm more interested now live in Russia. First, it's my culture. But most importantly, in Russia, I have witnessed the historic moment — the process of establishing a new country. The process is difficult, painful, but extremely interesting, especially for me, whose job was to understand what is really happening and what are the forces behind it.

"I'm an expert on the formation of the future"

You can elaborate? You have worked in the U.S. since 1999, and before that?

I can not comment on it.

What kind of business you have had in America?

I am a specialist in strategic forecasting, to shape the future. My research papers and patents relate generally to this field. I have worked with leading corporations and government agencies in several countries, including the United States. But as a consultant I have worked in other areas: managing change in corporations, to organize the fight for major contracts and so on.

Money, a business that should be conducted — it's a whole life abroad …

Yes, of course. In general, if you look from a professional point of view, when a man in my situation is abroad, he must completely and build a new life in material terms and in terms of family. The man actually begins life anew. You can say, you feel like a different person. My wife and I flew away on a business trip with a suitcase. I had to re-get an education, find a job, build a business, and not one. Without assistance and with minimal means — do you remember what the situation was in the country at the time. And while watching our main thing — to carry out the tasks.

How did you get into Harvard University?

At Harvard, I received a master's degree of public administration. When you receive a detailed passed the qualifying procedure, like other candidates, including tests, motivational letters recommendations. I had already had a diploma and MBA and a degree in the global economy, and the experience of development and business management. That is, the degree of preparation of the other candidates I was no different.

"Exploration — this is the most romantic profession"

Scout needs acting talent?

I think so.

And they themselves were never going to be an actor?

No. Just when the actor transforms a certain time, and then returns to his life, then there is a gradual transformation, but a deeper, comprehensive. You actually become a man of another nation, another language, but not other ideas.

It happened that the psychological fatigue, if it was, reached a critical level, so that you were ready to give up everything?

No, it did not happen, because I really loved my job. I feel very happy man. I'm in the shower was and still am a romantic. Exploration — this is the most romantic profession. My colleagues and associates — those whom I know personally and whom heard — people are amazing, talented, imaginative, often h
umanly complex. These are people striking purity. Their fates are often difficult on a personal level, it is possible to write the book. And that is a pity, and tragically, the best of them, we often learn only after they die, and if ever … you know, working in an irregular situation clears people communion of something higher — the bustle just do not have time.

USA. 1997. Family picnic. Bezrukov son did not even know that his parents — Russian agentsfrom the archive A. Bezrukov

What qualities are important for a scout? What is the principal?

I think patriotism. This and only this is the whole meaning of the work. Money can not be a sense of exploration. Only the devotee ideas people can do their own thing, knowing that the rest of life can spend in jail. No material benefits do not justify it.

Work like a spy James Bond films? What it is: routine or still a real risk?

I will say this: intelligence work is not built for it failed. That is, the risk is clear, and decisions are made so as to minimize this risk. Exploration — this is not an adventurous adventure. If you behave like Bond, you have enough for half a day, the maximum for the day. Even if we imagine that there is a magic safe in which lie all the secrets, tomorrow half of them will become obsolete and useless. Upper class intelligence — is to understand what your opponent will think tomorrow, not what he was thinking yesterday.

"My family tree goes back to the times of Ermak"

What does it mean for you, the word "patriotism"?

I think patriotism — understanding your place in the world as a part of Russia. These are my friends, my parents, this is my family tree that goes back to the times of Ermak, when my praprapraroditeli came to Siberia. For me, forget it — it means being left with nothing. To me as a historian of the first, Russian, education is especially close to the idea of a great and tragic history of my country, those fractures through which it has passed, its endless, painful search of itself between the East and the West.

It turns out that such a national spark is there for everyone. But is not it just a dressing for cold political struggle?

No. So, let's talk about the national idea, not even touching the political struggle. The national idea — is to realize what in the world is your country, that we as a nation want to be able to accept, and what we can not. If we have a commonality and understanding of who we are, where we are going, what principles underlie the — that's what brings people together, is what is called a national idea. The ideas that have been used to unite us, more are not. They are gone. Russia is now in the process of formation of new ideas. The political struggle over how is the future of Russia — is evidence of the ongoing process of crystallization of the national idea, the element of creation.

How would you characterize the current period in the history of Russia?

I think it is very interesting stage, when we are involved in the formation of a new country. This is a painful period of time that many countries have passed. The main thing — to themselves it does not spoil. Not destabilize the country, and to find common ground and decide which way to grow. We do not have consensus, but as a nation we need to give an answer that does not turn the boat in which all sit.

"We purposely identified children in the French school"

Your children are now 18 and 22. They were born abroad, right?

Yes, our children were born and raised abroad. Grew up there like normal children, of course, not knowing a word in Russian.

They lived there all his life. Perhaps they have more American?

The fact that in them before coming to Russia was nothing Russian — that's a fact, but the typical American, I would not call them too. Knowing how American cultural melting pot melts all a common model that we purposely identified children to a French school. So they kept the European, open, broad minded instead of simplistic clichés and empty political correctness. And, of course, tried, so they can have as many opportunities to see and compare different countries, by the conclusions. It is obvious that living in another country, you can not join the Russian values. But you can instill if not love, because they do not know the country, then at least respect.

USA. 2005-2006. Together with his wife, also a scoutfrom the archive A. Bezrukov

As children experienced what happened to you, in particular the arrest?

We were arrested during the celebration of the birth of our oldest son. A few minutes the kids thought it was just drawing — a crowd of people in dark suits on black cars … Of course, for them it was a shock. But out of this shock helps that as parents we are constantly kept them good spiritual contact, open dialogue in the family, mutual understanding and trust. After our arrest, they flew to Russia, at our request, not knowing who they meet and what to expect … When, after the exchange, we finally met with them in Russia, and they learned the truth about our profession, the first month we spent the night in conversation about life and history. I think in the end they began to understand why we made certain choices in life. Despite all the difficulties of adaptation in adulthood, in Russia they have something that has never happened before — grandparents, family with its long history, which they love.

And if you offer them some sort of ideology?

No, we were just trying to bring them decent, honest people, open to new ideas, open to the world. That they are humanists in the long run.

Is emerging as their fate? It turned out they integrate into Russian society?

They are in the process of integration, which is now very difficult. Russian language, of course, is not the easiest to learn. Them for two years managed to travel around the country, and was most impressed by their nature produced, especially Siberia. Do sons their plans, which are not connected with politics or intelligence. Older are more interested in the business, especially the financial sector.

"He has until the end of life, and so it will be quite nasty …"

Your group uncovered after you betrayed by one of the officers of the Foreign Intelligence Service. What would you say to him, if met?

Well, I think he's in any case, this type Pot, would try to meet with me …

What if? Just imagine.

You know, I would not say anything to him. There is no need. In my opinion, it is the end of life, and so it will be quite lousy. Betrayal, as an ulcer, if it is in you, she'll eat it. You can not save some emotional balance in your life when you realize that someone has betrayed or killed. And his father was a hero of the Soviet Union. He betrayed not only himself — he killed the memory of their parents. Whatever money he paid no, I agree with Vladimir Putin, who said his life is difficult to envy. He or sopetsya, or just longing eat: wake up every morning and remember what you did. You know, the CIA and FBI treachery Poteeva very happy, but by the attitude of the traitors, as elsewhere, the ugly. After two years in the U.S., he is probably already felt. He is tir
ed of them. He no longer needed them. Like a squeezed lemon.

What are his motives were?

I think this is the person for whom the homeland and intelligence were minor things, which means that a small change. Add to that the unsatisfied ambitions and a taste for money, and he is ready to sacrifice principles for a price.

Have you encountered with the scouts that were overbought or been recruited by?

No, I have not come across. I have not heard about any of this professional, and even more so about the illegals, which can be had been recruited by. My impression about the traitor Poteeva was just what he is weak as a professional. In the exploration was a random person, and here is the result.

When you opened, trying to outbid, to recruit?

No. And from Poteeva traitor, and from their own observations, they knew it was useless. To me and to my wife, FBI agents after his arrest treated as professionals by professionals — stressed respect.

Can you talk a little more about what happened after you opened? How did you feel at that moment?

Immediately after the arrest remember a state of total domestic mobilization, even the purely physical. It was as if all the old life, all the plans suddenly gone on the back burner to some fog. The main concern was the desire to understand the cause of the failure and find a way to contact his wife and children. Was the realization that the old life is over and begins another stage — the stage of the struggle over the new rules, which may last for many years. This state is fully prepared every minute of that is going on for ten days, until it became clear that the high-level negotiations for our release.

"The American politicians Russia occupies a marginal position"

As you are an expert, a historian who knows the country people see America?

U.S. is in a difficult period when a superpower becomes normal strong country. Maybe a leader in certain areas but not unconditional. In the U.S., it is perceived quite painful. There are people who ask the question of what the United States will take place in the world. Interestingly, many of these people — military intelligence, a very educated layer that can really assess the situation of the country. These offer the U.S. military to take a position that focuses more on cooperation in solving global problems, not only the country but also the world, such as the slowing of economic growth, instead of supporting its position by force wherever it may be. But they are in the minority. This dialogue about the future of America is just beginning, but we need to keep an eye on him, as it influences and Russia, how they see us — as the enemy or, more realistically, as one of the strongest players in a multipolar world.

And how Americans perceive Russia?

In general in the American media and American politicians Russia occupies a marginal position. After the Soviet Union is gone, they really only care about the theme of our military capability, which is still a risk. I do not think that American politicians are interested in some other aspect. It all comes down to the dies: Russia is imperfect, does not play by the rules, is undemocratic. Russia seems to them so weak and uninteresting, not worthy of a real partnership dialogue. It's like the relationship between human beings: to be respected by others, we must first respect themselves.

You were born in one country, worked in the one that competed with the first, but returned in the third …

The fact that I left the country, which was called the Soviet Union and returned to the one that is called Russia, does not affect me. For me, this is one country. My country

Quote of the day: Bezrukov on Intelligence

The best kind of intelligence is to understand what your opponent will think tomorrow, not find out what he thought yesterday.


Technology, jobs, and the future of work


By James Manyika

Full Report (PDF–147KB)

Automation, digital platforms, and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of work. Understanding these shifts can help policy makers, business leaders, and workers move forward.

The world of work is in a state of flux, which is causing considerable anxiety—and with good reason. There is growing polarization of labor-market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment especially among young people, stagnating incomes for a large proportion of households, and income inequality. Migration and its effects on jobs has become a sensitive political issue in many advanced economies. And from Mumbai to Manchester, public debate rages about the future of work and whether there will be enough jobs to gainfully employ everyone.

The development of automation enabled by technologies including robotics and artificial intelligence brings the promise of higher productivity (and with productivity, economic growth), increased efficiencies, safety, and convenience. But these technologies also raise difficult questions about the broader impact of automation on jobs, skills, wages, and the nature of work itself.

Many activities that workers carry out today have the potential to be automated. At the same time, job-matching sites such as LinkedIn and Monster are changing and expanding the way individuals look for work and companies identify and recruit talent. Independent workers are increasingly choosing to offer their services on digital platforms including Upwork, Uber, and Etsy and, in the process, challenging conventional ideas about how and where work is undertaken.

For policy makers, business leaders, and workers themselves, these shifts create considerable uncertainty, alongside the potential benefits. This briefing note aims to provide a fact base on the multiple trends and forces buffeting the world of work drawing on recent research by the McKinsey Global Institute and others.


Table of contents

Developments in employment, income, and skills

How automation and technology are affecting work

The challenges of digitization—and possible solutions

Iraq’s remaining Kurdish Jews look to the future with both hope and scepticism



Kurdish Iraqi Jews now have a representative in government, but few remain from a once vibrant community

Taha Smith, pictured at the Erbil Citadel, where his grandparents used to attend synagogue. Smith is now open about his faith, and has a Star of David tattoo (Matt Alesevich/MEE)

Matt Alesevich

Sunday 25 June 2017 14:48 UTC

Erbil, Iraq - Growing up in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Taha Smith and his best friend were inseparable.

Long neighborhood days of football and tag evolved into international adventures - as teenagers they vagabonded around Europe, eventually finding jobs and staying a few years.

Lifelong confidants, it was not until recently each revealed one anecdote: He was Jewish.

“He never told me. I never told him,” says the 30-year-old Smith, who revealed his ancestral religion to his best friend only before marrying the man’s sister earlier this year. “It was crazy for me. We were so close.”

The scenario would perplex Smith’s ancestors.

Jews have inhabited Mesopotamia for over 2,500 years and throughout the rise of Islam and into the twentieth century, mosques and synagogues, like the one Smith’s grandparents attended in central Erbil’s Citadel, enjoyed a cordial coexistence.

Centuries of amicability decayed, however, when in early June 1941 Nazi-inspired anti-semitism in Baghdad encouraged rioters to loot and destroy Jewish homes and shops during the Jewish Shavuot festival.

Known as the Farhud, the two-day pogrom left nearly 200 dead and a community traumatized.

A few years later, the establishment of Israel fanned the embers of anti-semitism in Iraq. In response, Israel organized Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, a 1951 airlift that granted Israeli citizenship to Iraqi Jews who felt threatened.

In just two years, around 120,000 Iraqi Jews fled to Israel - all but a few thousand.  

Today, Jews in Baghdad number in single digits at most, with the BBC reporting in 2011 that just seven remained.

This figure stood at 80,000 just 100 years ago, according to a 1917 Ottoman census.

Hidden congregation

In Iraqi Kurdistan, which prides itself as a bastion of tolerance in the region, and which will vote in an independence referendum in September, a higher, yet debated, number reside.

As many have converted to Islam and Christianity over the years and others pose as Christians and Muslims, statistics are unclear and call into question what defines a “Jew.”

Mordechai Zaken, historian and former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said that most of the several dozen families that had some distant family connection to Judaism immigrated to Israel in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Read more ►

The Zoroastrian priestesses of Iran

“Most of these people are Muslim Kurds who perhaps have a grandmother or great grandmother of Jewish origin who converted to Islam two or three generations ago,” he told the Jerusalem Post.

Decades into life without a Jewish support system - synagogues, rabbis, collective holiday celebrations - the once flourishing sense of Jewish community has faded.

Additionally, incidents reminding Jews to proceed with caution haven’t been consigned to the 20th century.

In 2012, Mawlud Afand, the publisher of the now discontinued Israel-Kurd magazine, which one Sulaimaniya man remembers buying covertly “like [he] was buying was cocaine,” was kidnapped and imprisoned in Iran after repeated warnings to cease publication, according to those close to him. He was released in 2015.

Law of Minorities

A seemingly progressive development came in 2015 when the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) passed the Law of Minorities, which gave a handful of minority religions - Zoroastrianism, Yarsanism and Judaism among others - the right to official representatives in the KRG through the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs.

The Jewish representative appointed by the KRG was Sherzad Mamsani, a man who claims to have lost his right hand in a 1997 bombing in which he says he was targeted for his faith. 

My father was so happy he cried at the first mention of a Jewish representative

- Anonymous, Kurdish Jew

Chief among his goals, he says, is the restoration of the region’s Jewish historical sites, erection of synagogues, and the carrying out of a public relations effort to improve the perception of Jews.   

One Kurdish Jew, who did not want to give his name, remembers vividly his father's reaction when he first heard the news of Mamsani’s appointment.

“My father was so happy he cried at the first mention of a Jewish representative,” he says.

Sherzad Mamsani, pictured in his office at the Kurdish Jewish Community's office in Erbil (Matt Alesevich/MEE)

“I want to remove the bad image for the Jews,” says Mamsani, at an Erbil cafe in April.

“I want people to know that Jewish people are not dangerous.”

But two years into his post, Mamsani has struggled with his own image in Jewish communities.

I want people to know that Jewish people are not dangerous

- Sherzad Mamsani, Jewish representative in the KRG

Just months after his appointment, Zaken told the Jerusalem Post that Mamsani was “someone who does not distinguish between truth and lies in his eagerness,” adding that his “publicity campaign” is “causing confusion” and “damaging the KRG.”

Zaken, the author of Jewish Subjects and Their Tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan, accused Mamsani of inflating the number of Jews in Kurdistan for political gain.

Controversial census

Most recently, Mamsani has controversially undertaken a mission to conduct a census of Jewish families in the region by aggregating documents, an initiative he once described in a 2016 Times of Israel interview as “insanity” and an idea that would let “enemies find us and kill us little by little.”

“Information can be bought in Iraq,” worries one Jewish man with his information, given over by a family member, now on file. 

While some families have cooperated, others have balked at what they see as a double standard initiated by a leader who claims to have, but hasn’t proved to have, Jewish roots and official connections.

KRG’s Director of Relations and Religious Coexistence, Mariwan Naqshbandy, confirmed to MEE that Mamsani was granted his post, which is unpaid, without presenting paperwork or community input, but simply after putting himself forward for the role.

“We didn’t turn over paperwork. I haven’t seen good or bad things yet - I just don’t trust him,” says one Jew who has met Mamsani, speaking on behalf of his family.

An X strikes through a Star of David on a wall in Sulamaniyah (Matt Alesevich/MEE)

“Lots of Jewish people are asking who he is. They don’t want to show their documents - they want proof [of who he is] before coming out.”

But confirmation won’t be coming from what many believe to be the most validating source: Israel.

“Sherzad is not an Israeli citizen, has no (sic) an Israeli passport and has no connection to the Israeli government or any official standing in Israel,” writes Margalit Vega, the director of Israel’s Gulf States Department at the Foreign Ministry, in an email to MEE.  

Earlier this year, Mamsani temporarily stood down for what he called “some reasons,” and he himself admits to having many critics.

“Most of my community [is] anti-Sherzad,” admits Mamsani, who repeatedly stresses that he’s not a politician.

The Jewish representative seems to be most favourably viewed on foreign trips and in external publications, where he is painted as a brave champion for religious minorities who, as Mamsani puts it, “stands in the centre of the fire among radical Islamic countries.”

Murder plots?

Many interviews mention his claims that there have been multiple attempts at his life, one which he says is the reason he has a prosthetic right hand.

Last year CNN featured Mamsani in a review of Iraq’s “Minorities on the edge of extinction.”

Also last year, in a New York Times piece summarizing a Kurdish delegation’s lobbying trip to Washington, Mamsani, who attended, is named a “top official” taken “in an open appeal to build support in Israel for the Kurdish effort.” (According to Mamsani, he exchanged gifts - a yarmulke for an American flag - with Arizona Congressman Trent Franks.)

For progressive Kurds, eager to applaud KRG steps toward improving minority relations (for example, five parliamentary seats - out of 111 -  must be filled by each Turkmen and Christian parties and minimum of 30 percent of all seats must be held by women), appointments like Mamsani’s set Kurdistan further apart from rigid Iraq.

A Jewish volunteer creates a Holocaust photo wall before an event at the Kurdish Jewish Community's office in Erbil (Matt Alsevich/MEE)

“I saw [Mamsani’s] work on Facebook and Instagram and what he does for Jews - how he presents for Jewish people,” says Aria Youssef, a Syrian Kurdish women’s rights advocate who attended one of Mamsani’s Jewish shabbat dinner gatherings in Erbil.

“It was interesting to see the reality - not photos - of how he can present Jewish people in Kurdistan.”

While Kurdistan is currently enjoying a period of peace, decades of on-again-off-again conflict - in less than 30 years Kurds have lived through the Iraq-Iran War, Saddam Hussein’s massacre of Kurds, two American invasions of Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State group - has disciplined many to default to caution.

Kurdish people love Jewish people and our government loves Israel

- Taha Smith, Kurdish Jew

Even the now open Smith, who sports a Star of David tattoo on his right arm, acknowledges a future of unknowns.

“I trust my government. I trust the [Kurdish] Peshmerga [military forces]. Kurdish people love Jewish people and our government loves Israel,” says Smith. “But of course, we don’t know what is going to happen next.”

Israeli support

Israel is a vocal, and much welcomed, supporter of Kurdish independence and Kurdistan is sometimes dubbed “Second Israel.”

Americans are also held in high esteem by Kurds, increasingly so since American bombs deterred ISIS’s advance toward Erbil in the summer of 2014.

With strong international alliances, and a well-policed, checkpoint-heavy interior, it is not everyday security that concerns religious minorities here, but the area’s susceptibility to random volatility, and the spread of violence from outside.

In 2014, after a few years’ lull in anti-Yazidi violence, Kurdistan’s Yazidis faced a sporadic and barbaric genocide at the hands of ISIS. 

A sign for the Jewlakan Mosque in Sulamaniyah. The area is still known by its now much diminished Jewish population (Matt Alesevich/MEE)

“If someone sees me comment on a [Jewish] Facebook page, maybe the time will come [when that causes a problem], god forbid,” says one man. “Kurdistan is like a nest of spies and moles.”

While Kurdish Jews feel protected as Kurds, they would welcome further support from Israel and the US, collectively home to around three-quarters of the world’s Jewish population.

“We hope we can make a connection with the US or Israel. We don’t need to go there,” says one Jewish Iraq-Iran War veteran, distancing himself from Kurds who’ve posed as Jews to gain Israeli citizenship over the years.

If Israel sent just two rabbis to Kurdistan, you would see a line in front of the Ministry

- Anonymous, Kurdish Jew

“Even if we have our name at the US embassy [in Erbil]. Even if they give us a piece paper that gives us protection if something happens again—that is enough.”

In terms of spiritual foundations, however, it’s clear which nation has the best shot of bringing the community out of the woodwork.

“If Israel sent just two rabbis to Kurdistan, you would see a line in front of the Ministry [of Religion]. They could say we are official. Here is our passports. Here is our ID,” argues one Erbil Jew. “If that happened, you’d see a crowd like never before

18 Israeli fighter jets landed in Saudi Arabia to prevent coup


June 22, 2017 - 5:19 PM News Code : 838110Source : FNALink: (AhlulBayt News Agency) - 18 Israeli fighter jets along with two Gulfstream aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to prevent any hostile or military moves by former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz who was replaced with Saudi King Salman's son. 

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced on Wednesday his decision to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman. 

After the decision was announced, the Israeli air force sent 18 of its fighter jets, including F16I, F15CD and F16CD, along with two Gulfstream aircraft, two tanker airplanes and two C130 planes, special for electronic warfare, to Saudi Arabia at the demand of the new crown prince bin Salman to block his cousin (bin Nayef)'s possible measures. 

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday. 

Saudi media announced that King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night. 

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince. 

Just days ago, the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority. 

In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position. 

Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister. 

Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy. 

The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015. 

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne. 

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members. 

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively. 

Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump. 

According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown. 

"Since Uncle Sam's satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact," Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba' news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote. 

He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington's support. 

Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said earlier this month that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington's support for the Yemen war with $200bln. 

"Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen," Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA. 

"This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown," he added. 

According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy. 

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister. 

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen. 

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. 

According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster. 

Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. The Al-Saud aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories. 

The WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

June 24, 2017



Espionage History Archive





Directorate S, also known as the Illegals Directorate, was the elite of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence). Journalist Konstantin Kapitonov was able to interview one of its chiefs, Lt. Gen. Vadim Alekseevich Kirpichenko (1922-2005) about his time at the head of the Illegals Directorate during the 1970s.

In March of 1974 Kirpichenko was called to Moscow to report to KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. With discretion Andropov asked about what was happening in Egypt and how Soviet-Egyptian relations would unfold.

The briefing took place in the Kuntsevo Hospital, in the very same room where Andropov spent no minor part of his life, and to where Kirpichenko subsequently often had to go for the resolution of ongoing service matters.

Two days later Andropov again requested Kirpichenko, this time to his office at Lubyanka. The call was unexpected, since he had just met with the chairman and given a full briefing on the work of the residency in Egypt, to where he was about to return.

Lt. Gen. Vadim Kirpichenko

“At 12:00 I was invited into Andropov’s office,” Vadim Alekseevich related. “Yuri Vladimirovich shook my hand and proposed that I sit. His handshake was soft, his hand large and warm. The traditional tea with lemon in glass holders was brought in. Andropov became used to economizing on time and that of his interlocutor; he therefore immediately began with the main topic. “We deliberated,” he said, “and made the decision to appoint you the deputy chief of intelligence and the chief of Directorate S.”

In Kirpichenko’s words, for him this was a completely unexpected turn of events. The proposal, it seemed to him, wasn’t connected by any logic to his previous work. Therefore, having thought about it, he began to politely but rather decisively refuse. He thanked the chairman for his trust. he said that this was a major state post. And he emphasized that he had undergone his formation as an intelligence officer and specialist on Arab countries and Africa. He especially emphasized that his conception of illegal intelligence was weak.

Andropov didn’t like Kirpichenko’s answer. After a short pause, he firmly pronounced:

You have no choice. This is our final decision. Therefore, return to Cairo and pass on your cases. In a month begin work.

He made another pause, and then, laughing, he said:

We tested you in conditions of war and crisis situations. You didn’t flinch. You went against the current when in the Politburo we believed in Sadat. And you alone were firing off telegrams that he had sold out to the United States. You’ll endure – you have the ability, and you’ll calmly stand up to the stress.

After the conversation with Andropov, Kirpichenko went to Cairo to transfer his cases and bid farewell to friends.

From Kirpichenko’s diary:

Upon returning from Cairo, I waited a long time for a meeting with Leonid Brezhnev. The visit to the General Secretary took place on April 25th, 1974. The General Secretary was affectionate, languid, not in a hurry, and he unaffectedly told jokes. He clearly spoke at Andropov’s prompting and in his words – about how illegal intelligence is special work, that the most stoic, brave, strong people, without any weaknesses or defects, served there. The Party valued this collective, and I had been entrusted with a great task. Remembering the strict instructions given by Andropov on the way to Brezhnev – “Don’t even think about refusing the position during your meeting with the General Secretary” – I thanked him for the advice and appointment. But I myself was thinking with great apprehension about what I’d have to do, where to start, whether I’d manage, and why such a fate befell me.

Kirpichenko worked over five years in his new position, five years that flew by, in his words, momentarily. These were years of illegal intelligence’s drawing closer to the essential tasks of Soviet intelligence. They were years of tenacious searching for new forms and methods of work, the infusion of youth into the collective, of genuine creativity, humble victories, and also the grief and disappointments inescapable to any intelligence service. But fate in those years was kindly inclined: when Kirpichenko was head of the Illegals, there were no betrayals or major misfires.


During one of our meetings I asked Vadim Alekseevich to tell something interesting from the life and work of illegals, or suggest a theme for publications. He was silent for a long time, and then said, as if of something decided long ago:

To speak on concrete matters of illegal intelligence, including in the past, is extremely difficult. This is a specially guarded subject. Preparation of a genuine illegal intelligence officer, supplying him with reliable documents, and sending him abroad for practical work is extremely arduous business and demands unheard-of efforts by specialists of various profiles. And although much about this activity is known to foreign intelligence services, I will nonetheless not risk mentioning concrete names and facts and give them my evaluation. Information that left us and leaked through various channels to the West and the East is one matter, but statements by the former director of the Illegals are another.

And nonetheless, what kind of people were they, the illegals, and where did they come from?

Who is an illegal? What is illegal intelligence? Much is spoken and written about this, and there’s many fantasies and fables here… Illegal intelligence is likely intelligence in its pure form – classic intelligence. If our “legal” intelligence officer goes abroad on his own documents, the documents of our state, an illegal officer goes under foreign documents. Already he is not a citizen of our country; he’s a foreigner. And he has a different citizenship and a different nationality. Overall, over many years of training, he transformed into a person artificially created by us, a different person. He even begins to become unaccustomed to his native Russian language. And returning to Russia years later, he begins to speak with an accent.

This profession is romantic and complex. A heroic profession, I’ll risk saying. We trained illegals and train them, as Andropov liked to say, in a unique way.

Famed KGB illegals Ashot Akopyan, Konon Molody, and Rudolf Abel (William Fisher).

If you can, in more detail…

We search for candidates and find them ourselves, selecting through hundreds and hundreds of people. The work is indeed one-of-a-kind. In order to become an illegal, a person should possess many qualities. Bravery, focus, a strong will, the ability to quickly forecast various situations, hardiness to stress, excellent abilities for mastering foreign languages, good adaptation to completely new conditions of life, and knowledge of one or several professions that provide and opportunity to make a living. Enumeration of personal qualities necessary for an illegal intelligence officer could be continued into perpetuity.

And so, finally, you have found a suitable person. What next?

Even if a person who has the attendant training and the enumerated characteristics to one or another degree, this in know way means that he’ll make an illegal officer. Some certain traits of nature are also needed, ones that are elusive and hard to transmit into words, a special artistry, an ease of transformation, and even a certain well-controlled inclination to adventure, some kind of reasoned adventurism.

The transformation of an illegal into another person is often compared to the role of an actor. How is it in reality?

It’s one thing to become someone else for an evening or a theatrical season. And it’s something totally different to turn into someone who once lived or a specially “constructed” person, to think and dream in another language and not think of oneself in the real dimension. Therefore we often joke that an illegal going out into the operational arena could already be given the rank of people’s artist.

The labor of an illegal intelligence officer is incomparable with the work of an officer in a regular residency. However tense the day of an intelligence officer working, say, under the cover of an embassy might be, in the evening he nonetheless returns to his family and forgets the day’s worries. An illegal has no native “cover,” no place where he can relax and forget himself, and often there’s no family nearby. He is, as the expression has become fashionable, socially unprotected, and unprotected in general. All of his salvation is in his head and in the precise work of the Center.

How is an illegal intelligence officer trained?

Over the time of his training, an illegal acquires much: wide-ranging knowledge, in particular on political and economic matters, a few professions, foreign languages. But he also sacrifices much. In these conditions it’s difficult to arrange family affairs. A wife, children, and parents are the crown of endless complications. And one rarely manages to resolve everything more or less satisfactorily.

There’s still another moment. An illegal is trained for work cellularly by a narrow circle of instructors and trainers. Limited communications are a negative moment. We always tired to compensate the loss of contact of young illegals from remaining officers with the creation of a friendly microclimate where people would be psychologically compatible, as in a space crew on a long flight. And we succeeded in creating a friendly, family atmosphere around our illegals.

Could you name an illegal officer who made a significant contribution, so to say, to the general cause?

I could give the names of many brilliant intelligence officers. Although to calculate the significance of each is extraordinarily difficult.

Rudolf Abel (William Fisher) became well-known. He worked, of course, very hard, both in the acquisition of nuclear weapons secrets as well as collecting political information. Though perhaps some other intelligence officer acquired no less information that Abel. But Abel not only was capable of collecting information; he demonstrated tremendous bravery in prison. He gave nothing away and posed as another person. His stoic behavior in prison multiplied his glory.

There was another illegal, Iskhak Abdulovich Akhmerov. He worked before and during the war and did much. If we were to weigh what he acquired, it may be that it would turn out more than what Abel had.

Foreseeing your question, I composed a small directory on famous intelligence officers. I put Nikolai Kuznetsov in first place. A legendary, heroic person. A full-blooded Russian who mastered German to perfection and posed as a German. That already means something…

Legendary Soviet illegal Nikolai Kuznetsov, who posed as Wehrmacht Lieutenant Paul Siebert.

Other names: Konon Trofimovich Molody, also known as Gordon Lonsdale. He was a resident of our intelligence in England and acquired materials on NATO activity. With Lonsdale-Molody there worked the Kroger spousal pair, the Cohens, that is, Peter and Elena. He was an American Jew with roots somewhere in Belorussia. She was an immigrant from Poland. They also, by the way, worked with Rudolf Abel in the United States.

Maria de las Eras Africa, or as we called her, Maria Pavlovna. She was a Spaniard. She tied her fate to Soviet intelligence back in 1937. After the war, from 1945 to 1967, she was doing illegal work in Latin America. I was familiar with her, and participated in awarding her the Order of Lenin. Until the end of her days she trained our illegals. Colonel Africa passed away in 1988.

And if we go deeper into history, then we can list such names as Dimitry Aleksandrovich Bystroletov, Vasily Mikhailovich Zarubin, Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Korotkov.

They always were working “in the field.” Some of them became intelligence chiefs.

Of course, this in no way means that the people I’ve named were the most productive. To say that would mean to unintentionally offend others.

And another very important circumstance. The foreigners who worked in our intelligence service were usually adherents of socialist ideas. In the eyes of these people, even if they saw its shortcomings, the Soviet Union was at that time the one focus of these ideas. After Hitler’s coming to power, there appeared in the West even more people who helped Soviet intelligence.

At the beginning of the discussion you said that in materials on intelligence there are many fantasies and fables…

Yes, there’s a lot of that. Especially in recent years. Including various types of defectors and traitors. These people asserted that illegal intelligence was the structure of the KGB that carried out acts of retribution, killed traitors, poisoned, shot, and stabbed with umbrellas. Indeed, in the far-off 1930s, Soviet intelligence, including the illegals, was charged with actions to destroy opponents of the regime and enemies of the state. These cases are well-known. Take just the assassination of Leon Trotsky, which was prepared and executed by Soviet intelligence. But now there’s nothing like that.


Kirpichenko (center) with the leadership of KGB Directorate S. Yuri Drozdov is on the far left.

Heading up illegal intelligence, Kirpichenko often had to see off young spousal pairs to their missions and regularly meet with mature officers and veterans who became educators to their young colleagues. Most of all the worries came with the rookies. Problems of their training, their family affairs, their documentation as foreigners, and employment abroad. Sometimes he had to act in the unusual role of either a priest or director of registry to sanction a marriage.

Young illegals being sent on their missions reminded him of people who, having just learned how to swim, are immediately sent far out to sea. Additionally, it was never known whether they’d have the strength to overcome the long distance. And all those who worked with the young illegal or married pair at the Center could not escape their anxiety and alarm until the illegals sent the signal that they reached their destination and that everything was fine.

“For me the years working in illegal intelligence were a time of the highest moral-psychological tension, when it seemed that your nervous system was on the brink of the impossible,” admitted Vadim Alekseevich to me one time. “Neither before nor after have I experienced such stresses.”

Kirpichenko didn’t have to work in this field for too long. But for his whole life, there remained a great satisfaction from work in an extraordinary unit of Soviet intelligence as well as enormous respect for all of his comrades and colleagues in this difficult trade. And especially, of course, for the illegal apparatus – the golden resource of the KGB.

Work Translated: Капитонов, Константин. Египтолог из внешней разведки. М.: Алгоритм, 2008.

Translated by Mark Hackard


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Yuri Drozdov: The man who turned Soviet spies into Americans

By Kevin PonniahBBC News

23 June 2017

 From the sectionEurope

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Image copyrightSVRImage captionYuri Drozdov had a legendary reputation in Soviet and Russian intelligence circles

Yuri Drozdov once said it could take up to seven years to train an "illegal", the Soviet spies planted abroad under false or assumed identities, sometimes for decades.

As former chief of the KGB intelligence agency's Directorate S, which managed the illegals programme, Drozdov knew more than most about what it took to prepare someone for the task.

He had to train Soviet agents to talk, think and act, even subconsciously, like the regular American, Brit, German or Frenchman they would become from the moment they touched down on foreign soil.

KGB agents in the US and elsewhere would wander around cemeteries in search of children who had died that would have been a similar age as recruits being trained. It was a useful way to steal a real identity in a pre-internet age.

A detailed "legend", or biography, would be devised, and a birth certificate printed. Churches would be paid off to erase the death record.


It was expensive, painstaking work. Some would-be illegals were trained for years, but ultimately judged unsafe to deploy.

Speaking Russian in one's sleep was grounds for a promising recruit to be dismissed.

'There should be no contact'

Drozdov died on 21 June at 91 years of age. It was the end of the life of a man who spent decades in the upper echelons of the KGB and carved out a legendary reputation from his time heading one of the most secretive and infamous programmes in Soviet intelligence.

Unlike "legal" spies, who were posted abroad under diplomatic or other official cover, illegals were on their own - working normal jobs, living in suburbs and operating without the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by other agents should they be caught.

Have you got what it takes to be a spy?

The KGB spy who lived the American dream

In a 2010 interview, Drozdov described a pair of illegals - a man and a woman - deployed to the US via West Germany and posing as a couple.

"When I worked in New York, I would sometimes come around their house. I would drive past, look up at their windows," he told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper.

But he didn't go inside - the risks being too great for such face-to-face meetings. There should be "no contact with illegals", he said. "None."

Media caption"This kind of double life wears on you"

Information gathered by these "deep cover" agents was funnelled back to handlers through clandestine means - including dead-drops, by radio, or covert meetings abroad.

Announcing Drozdov's death, the cause of which was not specified, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, described him as "a true Russian officer, a decent man, a wise commander".

But much remains unknown about his life and operations he was part of, the details hidden in Russian security archives.

Bridge of Spies

Drozdov was "a legend" in the KGB First Chief Directorate, and still is considered as such in the SVR, says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and an expert on Russian security affairs.

His father was in the Bolshevik worker militias known as the Red Guards and he served in the Second World War as an artilleryman.

Graduating from the Military Institute for Languages, a key finishing school for Soviet spies, Drozdov joined the KGB in 1956.

Rudolf Abel, the most famous illegal, was arrested in New York in 1957 and later famously exchanged with the USSR in return for the captured US pilot Gary Powers on a Berlin bridge in 1962.

Yuri Drozdov, then a young KGB agent based in East Germany, helped organise the swap, the subject of Steven Spielberg's 2016 thriller Bridge of Spies.

Rudolf Abel: The Soviet spy who grew up in England

Image copyrightAFPImage captionThe 1962 swap took place on the Glienicke bridge, which connects West Berlin and Potsdam

Later, in 1975, after a stint in China, he became the "rezident" - or chief KGB officer - at the Soviet Union's UN office in New York, before taking up his position as head of Directorate S in Moscow four years later. After retiring in 1991, he ran a consulting firm.

The Bridge of Spies episode was not the first time Drozdov would be on the ground for a key moment in Cold War history.

In December 1979, he led KGB forces that stormed the Afghan presidential palace toppling President Hafizullah Amin, paving the way for the Soviet invasion.

"This was a guy who spanned the ultra-cerebral world of the spymaster and the action man world of Spetsnaz [special forces]," Mr Galeotti says.

He would later, in 1981, instigate the creation of a new KGB special forces unit called Vympel.

Behind enemy lines

Drozdov's penchant for "hands-on" work is clear. "I would not give top marks to Nato's Special Forces, nor to the American system of training," he said in a 2011 interview. "What they do is try to carry out their special operations without 'getting their hands dirty', and that, to my mind, is a rather dubious business."

He also described caches of equipment hidden in "a number of countries" for sleeper agents to use behind enemy lines in the event of a crisis.

"Whether they are still there [or not], let that be a headache for foreign intelligence services," he said.

Image copyrightAFPImage captionIllegals operate without diplomatic cover and blend in like ordinary citizens

Much remains secret about the illegals programme, including the number of people involved. It is estimated that hundreds may have been planted in total by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Vadim Alekseevich Kirpichenko, Yuri Drozdov's predecessor at the top of Directorate S, described them as agents "artificially created by us", who return to Russia after years of covert service abroad and often speak their native language with an accent.

🔴What recruiters looked for in an illegal was "bravery, focus, a strong will, the ability to quickly forecast various situations, hardiness to stress, excellent abilities for mastering foreign languages, good adaptation to completely new conditions of life, and knowledge of one or several professions that provide an opportunity to make a living," he told the journalist Konstantin Kapitonov, according to the online Espionage History Archive.

But other traits, "ones that are elusive and hard to transmit into words, a special artistry", are also required to be able to forget one's identity and become someone else.

Long read: The spy with no name

While the deployment of deep-cover agents to try and obtain information and get close to powerful people makes much less sense in today's digital world, the demise of the Soviet Union did not signal the end of the illegals programme - and Drozdov's legacy lives on to some extent.

In 2010 a group of 10 Russian "sleeper agents" were arrested in New York. Some lived as couples and had grown-up children.

The story inspired hit US TV show The Americans, which portrays the life of a Russian spy couple working as travel agents in American suburbia by day and setting honey traps and assassinating people by night.

Image copyrightAFPImage captionAnna Chapman was one of the "sleeper agents" sent back to Russia from the US in 2010

The group caught in real-life have been mocked for their ineptitude, however, and were reported not to have actually obtained any secrets.

They were later swapped with Russia for four Russian nationals said to have worked for Western intelligence.

But other alleged modern-day illegals have popped up elsewhere, including in Spain.

"It's certainly a diminishing aspect [of Russian spycraft]," says Mr Galeotti, "but obviously where you have people already in place, unless you have a reason to do so, you leave them there just in case."

Trump administration abruptly shutters diplomatic office on Pakistan and Afghanistan policy


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the White House on April 20. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

By Anne Gearan and Carol Morello June 23 at 5:33 PM

The Trump administration has moved to close the stand-alone State Department office devoted to policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that was the brainchild of diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, current and former State Department officials said.

The Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan office will be absorbed into the larger State Department division responsible for South and Central Asia, the officials said. The decision was announced to some office staff Thursday evening and took effect Friday, according to the officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a decision that had not yet been announced.

Friday was also the last day of work for the office’s current leader and her deputy.

The closure had been expected as part of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s planned downsizing and restructuring of the department, an effort that is also expected to result in the closure of other stand-alone offices or special envoys.

[White House frustration grows with Tillerson over jobs for Trump allies]

But the sudden timing and the lack of permanent, experienced diplomats in the top jobs overseeing policy for both countries leave the State Department without experienced hands for a region where the United States has been at war for 16 years, former employees said.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The decision to close the office comes as the administration is conducting a lengthy review of policy toward both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as the Pentagon prepares to send thousandsof additional U.S. forces to the war in Afghanistan.

“Whether by design or mismanagement, it leaves the department with no institutional memory on Afghanistan-Pakistan at the very moment when we are on the cusp of surging militarily,” said Dan Feldman, a former director of the office under President Barack Obama. “It’s a recipe for deeper military involvement with no political strategy.”

But the SRAP office, as it was known, had shrunk to about a dozen employees — from nearly 100 at its height — before the end of the Obama administration. Its mission had narrowed, too, from the main diplomatic player overseeing strategy associated with Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and troubleshooting the difficult U.S. relationship with Pakistan to a group of specialists managing ongoing U.S. programs.

Some Obama administration officials and State Department rank and file had considered the office redundant and advocated closing it years ago.

Vikram Singh, who was a deputy of the office under Holbrooke, said it makes sense to fold the position into the South and Central Asia Affairs bureau now. But the timing, he said, betrays a lack of strategy and is symptomatic of a vacuum in critical positions throughout the State Department.

“I don’t think there’s only one way to run a war,” he said. “But you should have a game plan and staff it accordingly.”

Singh and others pointed to vacancies in the top positions at the South and Central Asia Bureau, among other open diplomatic jobs. Meanwhile, an expanded military plan for Afghanistan appears to be going forward separately.

“We’re adding troops, but we’re doing nothing to advance the diplomatic or political steps necessary to find a solution,” Singh said. “This is not just baffling. It’s the height of irresponsibility.”

The office was created during the first year of the Obama administration in 2009 as a perch for Holbrooke, a blustery and talented diplomat who was one of several special envoys named by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Holbrooke had argued that the U.S. relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan needed an overhaul and that the porous border with Afghanistan and the presence of U.S. forces there necessitated a cohesive strategy for both countries.

In her State Department memoir “Hard Choices,” Clinton wrote that the difficult portfolio “seemed in need of his outsized talents and personality.”

Holbrooke set about recruiting “the best minds he could find from inside and outside of government,” she wrote, including academics, development experts, diplomats and specialists from other federal agencies.

Holbrooke died suddenly in December 2010, after suffering a torn aorta during a meeting with Clinton in her State Department office.

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On Friday afternoon, the small suite of offices housing the special representative looked normal. Two young men sat at desks in the anteroom, a television set was turned to news and no moving boxes were in sight.

One of the men said the acting director, Laurel Miller, was unavailable to talk to a reporter. Miller did not return a phone call to her office later in the afternoon.

James L. Dobbins, a veteran diplomat who ran the SRAP office from 2013 to 2014, said the Obama administration had begun plans to shutter the office after the 2016 presidential election, when the incoming Trump administration indicated it planned to do away with the SRAP and other adjunct special envoys. That decision was later put on hold, but Dobbins said it was no surprise that the office would eventually close.

“It’s absolutely normal for any new administration to do away with ad hoc special arrangements the previous administration had, and then do their own,” said Dobbins, a senior analyst at Rand Corp.

He added, however, that “every administration says it wants to do away with special envoys and they end up having 30 of them by the time they’re through

Will roll out the red carpet for Modi’s US visit, says White House


Varghese K. George

WASHINGTON, JUNE 24, 2017 07:44 IST

UPDATED: JUNE 24, 2017 11:27 IST


Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Trump and Narendra Modi to spend five hours together; new areas of anti-terrorism cooperation to be announced during the visit.

The White House will “roll out the red carpet” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, a senior administration official said on Friday, making it clear that the Donald Trump administration will carry forward the agenda set by the previous Obama administration for U.S.-India relations.

Both leaders will spend nearly five hours on Monday, starting with a one-on-one meeting at 3.30 pm, followed by a delegation level meeting, a cocktail reception and a working dinner, the official said, briefing on background. Mr. Modi will be the first foreign dignitary to be hosted by Mr. Trump for a White House dinner, the official added. Mr. Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for state dinners at his private golf resort Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

The President considers India a critical partner in dealing with a variety of global challenges, the official said, adding that defence partnership between the countries will flourish under the Trump administration. “We believe that a strong India is good for the U.S.,” said the official.

“President wants to build on that,” the official said, referring to the previous administration’s measures to promote defence cooperation with India. The Obama administration had designated India as a ‘major defence partner,’ an undefined term. The White House official said there will be some “concrete expression of that description,” during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the U.S. capital. Mr. Modi will arrive on Saturday evening.

Accelerated defence cooperation

While defence cooperation will be accelerated and enhanced, cooperation in energy, particularly natural gas, will be a new thrust in bilateral ties under the Trump administration, the official said. New areas of anti-terrorism cooperation will be announced during the visit.

The official gave clear indication that the pending Indian request for 22 unarmed Guardian drones would be cleared during the visit, saying no comments could be made before the U.S. Congress is notified on any arms sales.

Meanwhile, the CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, manufacturers of the UAV, told Defense News that the sale has been cleared. “We are pleased that the U.S. government has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian Government,” said Linden Blue. “Guardian provides the endurance and capability required to significantly enhance India’s sovereign maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is standing by to support the U.S. and Indian Governments throughout this process.”

Indian defence orders support thousands of jobs in the U.S. and the Indian student population supports another 64,000 jobs in the U.S. The White House official pointed out that Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi were two leaders with a large number of Twitter followers and both were innovative in their thinking.

Both leaders will read out a brief statement each after the one-on-one, but the they would not take questions from the media, a departure from usual White House practice after the President’s meeting with a foreign dignitary. Usually, both leaders take questions from the press.

The official indicated this was done at India’s behest. “Don’t read too much into it,” said the official, when reporters pressed why questions will not be allowed.

The official recalled that the President had expressed his admiration for the Indian American community during his campaign last year. “He had then said India would have a true friend in the White House if he wins,” the official said, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech at a gathering of Indian Americans organised by Shalabh Shalli Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC).

‘Ties with India and Pakistan not a zero sum equation’

America’s ties with India and Pakistan are qualitatively different, and they are not a zero-sum equation, a senior White House official said. The official said America’s defence cooperation with India does not threaten Pakistan. 

“U.S. relationship with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits. We don’t see a zero-sum relationship when it comes to U.S. relationship with Pakistan and U.S. relationship with India. We are certainly eager to deepen the strategic partnership with India but we are also interested in continuing our co-operation with Pakistan,” the official said.

According to the senior administration official, the Trump administration is concerned about tensions between India and Pakistan and “would like to see the normalisation of relations between the two countries.” At the same time, the official made it clear that it would not offer to mediate between the two. “…we very much encourage India and Pakistan to engage in direct dialogue,” the official said. 

“We seek to have an effective partnership with each country. We see India’s role and influence growing. We like to encourage that. With Pakistan too, we seek to work together but frankly the priorities are very different. The nature of the relationships are different. We would like to move forward in both cases but we understand that the pace and scope in both cases is going to be very different,” said the official

"H1 B visa non-issue at this point"

A discussion on H-1B visa is not likely when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump meet on Monday. The White House official said a review of the visa programme is underway and nothing has changed materially yet. 


“On the visa issue, there is no plan for it to come up specifically. But you know, if it’s raised.... the administration has signed some executive orders related to work visas and immigration which directs the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labour and Secretary of Homeland Security to propose potential reforms to the H-1B program. Right now, nothing has changed with respect to application or issuance procedures. We’re not in a position to pre-judge what the outcome of that review might be. There’s really been no changes at this point. There’s no changes that target any specific sector yet,” the official said. 

Though there has been much rhetoric about it, the Congress-mandated visa programme cannot be unilaterally amended by the executive. The review currently underway could make some changes that could be done through executive action, and recommend other changes to Congress. Any radical changes in the programme will have to be undertaken through a legislative process. The Trump administration has also indicated that the larger questions could be added on to the immigration reform debate, in which case, any change would be long drawn and difficult