Two months ago, Nicholas Schmidle caught the nation’s attention with his sensational piece for The New Yorker that presented a made-for-Hollywood re-telling of the Abbottabad operation. Now, a new thriller appears in the Financial Times, this time by a Pakistani. But, like Mr Schmidle’s earlier piece, this one, too, may not appear to be all that it seems.
The piece in question today is by Mr Mansoor Ijaz, and the author takes no time letting readers know his agenda in the title of his column, ‘Time to take on Pakistan’s jihadist spies’.
ISI embodies the scourge of radicalism that has become a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistani state that undermines global antiterrorism efforts at every turn.
But Mr Ijaz is not here to bury the ISI only. Actually, he’s brought a little bit for everyone’s tastes, and he cleverly begins his column not by attacking ISI head on, but by telling a most incredible tale about the civilians also.
According to Mansoor Ijaz,
Early on May 9, a week after US Special Forces stormed the hideout of Osama bin Laden and killed him, a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned me with an urgent request. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, needed to communicate a message to White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels.
The message? “He needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup – and fast”.
That’s right. Fearing an imminent coup, Pakistan’s president wanted to get a message to the President Barack Obama. So he called a diplomat and asked him to call…Mansoor Ijaz? Even Nicholas Schmidle had the humility not to name himself as the killer of Osama bin Laden.
If Nicholas Schmidle was writing the screenplay for Hollywood’s next war thriller, though, Mr Ijaz has penned a worthy sequel.
In a flurry of phone calls and emails over two days a memorandum was crafted that included a critical offer from the Pakistani president to the Obama administration: “The new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.”
The memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen at 14.00 hours on May 10. A meeting between him and Pakistani national security officials took place the next day at the White House. Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs, it seems, neither heeded the warning, nor acted on the admiral’s advice.
Not only was Mr Ijaz the preferred messenger between President Zardari and President Obama, but he was also closely tuned in to the high-level military and intelligence discussions that were carried out over the next days. Amazing, no?
Before we go any further into this exciting tale, perhaps we should pause for a moment to ask, just who is Mansoor Ijaz?
According to his by line, Mansoor Ijaz is an American of Pakistani ancestry who “negotiated Sudan’s offer of counter-terrorism assistance to the Clinton administration”. Apparently, Mansoor Ijaz is not Pakistan’s Nicholas Schmidle, he’s Pakistan’s James Bond!
Writing for an American newspaper in 2001, Mansoor Ijaz claimed that “President Clinton and his national security team ignored several opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden and his terrorist associates”. And how does Mr Ijaz know about this high-level American intelligence failure? “I know because I negotiated more than one of the opportunities”.
Mr Ijaz claimed in 2001 that he was secretly negotiating between the governments of Sudan and the United States. Unfortunately, America’s National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States says otherwise.
Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Ladin. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment out-standing.
In 2001, though, Mansoor Ijaz was not a humble “American of Pakistani Ancestry” who secretly negotiated between foreign governments. At that time, his by line identified him as “a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is chairman of a New York-based investment company”.
Mansoor Ijaz is not a passive investor. Writing about his alleged links with Sudan in the 1990s, The Washington Post reporter David B. Ottaway noted that Mr Ijaz uses politics to advance his financial interests1.
Wealthy and well-connected, Ijaz was more than willing to pitch in. By Election Day in November, he had raised $525,000 for the Democratic cause, including $250,000 from his personal funds and $200,000 donated by guests at a fund-raising reception for Vice President Gore at Ijaz’s New York penthouse in September, according to Federal Election Commission records, White House documents and Ijaz.
Now Ijaz is trying to reap what he has sown. Having earned access to the Clinton administration through his fund-raising prowess, Ijaz has met with a succession of senior officials in the White House, State Department and Congress to further his business interests through changes in U.S. policy toward Islamic countries, particularly Sudan, a government long accused of sanctioning international terrorism.
A 2006 by line appearing in The National Review gives little more information about Mansoor Ijaz’s ‘business interests’.
Mansoor Ijaz is chairman of Crescent Investment Management LLC, a New York private equity firm developing homeland-security technologies related to Internet security, air and seaport-cargo security, and airship-surveillance technologies.
In addition to investing heavily in both politicians and security technologies, Mansoor Ijaz finds the time to write rather prolifically. Benador Associations, a PR firm representing Mansoor Ijaz as an ‘expert’, was also involved in managing media in the lead up to the 1992 invasion of Iraq.
The newly-formed Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) sits at the center of the PR campaign, which is coordinated closely with other groups that are actively promoting an attack on Iraq, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, Project for a New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, Hudson Institute, Hoover Institute, and the clients of media relations firm Benador Associations.
CLI sends its message to American citizens through meetings with newspaper editorial boards and journalists, framing the debate and providing background materials written by a close-knit web of supporters. CLI also works closely with Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials to sponsor foreign policy briefings and dinners.
Nor is this the first time that Mansoor Ijaz has written about the need for America to take on the ISI. Writing in June of this year, Mansoor Ijaz wrote a piece strikingly similar to his latest:
The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting off the political and financial support that gives life to an organ of the Pakistani state dedicated to undermining global anti-terror efforts. The ISI embodies the scourge of radicalism and Islamist terror that emanates from the soil it runs roughshod over.
No mention then of the author acting as secret liaison between Islamabad and Washington, though. Perhaps he forgot? One thing Mansoor Ijaz did remember back in June is that not only did he negotiate with Sudan and the US, “He was also involved in the negotiation of the ceasefire in Kashmir between militants backed by ISI and Pakistan’s armed forces and Indian security forces in August 2000″. Is there no crisis that Mansoor Ijaz has not either created or solved?
Actually, the ISI is not Mr Ijaz’s only recommended target. Recently, writing for The Washington Post, Mansoor Ijaz encouraged Obama “to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty at every future opportunity it gets”. His credentials when trying to create this crisis, though, were that he was not only involved in negotiations between Kashmiri militants and Indian security forces, he “was the joint author of the blueprint for a ceasefire”. No, I’m not making this up.
Mansoor Ijaz is, like James Bond, an ‘International Man of Mystery’. In the 1990s, Mansoor Ijaz carried out secret negotiations between the government and Sudan and President Clinton to give Osama bin Laden to the Americans, but Washington wouldn’t listen. In 2000, he secretly negotiated a ceasefire between Kashmiri militants and Indian forces. And, once he remembered that he forgot, he was a secret messenger between Islamabad and Washington following the Abbottabad operation. His missions were so secret that nobody knew about them but him.
Mansoor Ijaz is also, like Nicholas Schmidle, a storyteller. In 1999, he told News Hour that “his father was a founder of the Pakistani nuclear program”. In 2004, he recited a tearful memory of how his father could not “fulfill his dream of helping his country become a peaceful nuclear power”.
In 2007, Mansoor Ijaz wrote that Benazir Bhutto, “looted the treasury, sparked conflict with India in Kashmir to cover her financial misdeeds and ignored the fundamental needs — jobs, education, basic healthcare — of her people”, and said that “Pakistan requires a revolution, not a bunch of has-been, corrupt politicians who self-servingly and halfheartedly claim they want to fix what they themselves tore apart.” After her death a few months later, his story took a different tone.
“But I firmly believe that she loved Pakistan, and for all her faults, had returned there this time to turn a new page in its troubled political history. We should remember her for her courage to stand up in the face of incalculable odds to bring some semblance of sanity to the disaster that Pakistan has become.”
His latest revelations come at a curious time. Just when America’s and Pakistan’s agencies appear to be turning around what was a souring relationship, along comes Mansoor Ijaz who remembers what he had forgotten the last time he wrote the same article attacking ISI – that they were sold out by the civilians in Islamabad.
It’s hard to question a man who wrote in 2003 that “the growing body of publicly available evidence offers sufficient proof of Baghdad’s mendacious designs to warrant the immediate use of force”. But maybe this time, before anyone rushes to judgment, we ought to ask for a little more proof.
1. Ottaway, David B. ‘Democratic Fund-Raiser Pursues Agenda on Sudan’. The Washington Post. 29 April 1997.