The New York Times

Day three of the Times cables coverage focuses on Pakistan—firstly with a long report by Jane Perlez, David E. Sanger, and Eric Schmitt detailing America’s delicate “dance” with the controversial south east Asian “frenemy” over an expired promise to allow the U.S. to remove enriched uranium from the country; and secondly, with a smaller piece detailing the diplomatically sensitive release from a Pakistani prison of an infamous nuclear dealer. The latter is a short snapshot of secret diplomacy in progress; the former, an insight into “nuclear gamesmanship” that reveals a fascinating diplomat at work.

What’s most interesting about “Nuclear Memos Expose Wary Dance With Pakistan,” the Times’s main story for the day, is not so much the central narrative—Pakistan’s reneging on a 2007 agreement for America to remove uranium being held at an ageing research nuclear reactor—but the blunt assessments issued by then U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson. While many of the cables we have been reading this week show diplomats aren’t shy of the odd colorful jibe or scandalous piece of gossip—voluptuous blondes, etc—there has been some timidity when it comes to frankly assessing meatier situations and relationships between countries. Not so with Patterson who goes so far as to step away from the D.C. consensus.

In one cable, Ms. Patterson, a veteran diplomat who left Islamabad in October after a three-year stint as ambassador, said more money and military assistance would not be persuasive. “There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support for these groups, which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India.”

In a rare tone of dissent with Washington, she said Pakistan would only dig in deeper if America continued to improve ties with India, which she said “feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir focused terrorist groups.”

And she provides some zingers likely to rile Islamabad’s man in charge.

“Pakistan’s civilian government remains weak, ineffectual and corrupt,” she wrote on Feb. 22, 2010, the eve of a visit by the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III. “Domestic politics is dominated by uncertainty about the fate of President Zardari.”

While the report is frontloaded with the uranium story and this kind of cabled intrigue, an equally interesting revelation comes at the backend. A year before the Obama administration acknowledged as much, the embassy was receiving credible reports of that the Pakistani Army was abusing and killing prisoners it collected while fighting Al-Qaeda in the Swat Valley. (The Times also links to a video released this year showing one such case of abuse). Cables show it was a calculated decision to remain quiet on the matter. It feels deserving of a bigger story.

“The crux of the problem appears to center on the treatment of terrorists detained in battlefield operations and have focused on the extrajudicial killing of some detainees,” the cable said. “The detainees involved were in the custody of Frontier Corps or Pakistan army units.” The Frontier Corps is a paramilitary force partly financed by the United States to fight the insurgents.

“Post advises that we avoid comment on these incidents to the extent possible and that efforts remain focused on dialogue and the assistance strategy,” the ambassador wrote. This September, however, the issue exploded into public view when a video emerged showing Pakistani soldiers executing six unarmed young men in civilian clothes. In October, the Obama administration suspended financing to half a dozen Pakistani Army units believed to have killed civilians or unarmed prisoners.
Also in the Times today, a short but fascinating play-by-play of the diplomatic moves around out-of-favor Blackwater’s move into pirate hunting in the Gulf of Aden—“…would appreciate Department’s guidance on the appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater,” the Djibouti ambassador cables back to D.C.—and a colorful, gossipy look at the pro-American French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his entourage of “loyal but intimidated underlings.” - Joel Meares


The Guardian

CJR Staff is a contributor to CJR.