exact in July & August 2010 and February 2011
The Out Square is in orb from May 2010 to August 2011.
scroll down for the 2007-8 CONJUNCTION
SECTARIAN DIVIDE WIDENS
The 2007-8 Jupiter/Pluto conjunction had seen the most horrific scenes of violence in Iraq. How does this change at the Out square ? First it seems as if the sectarian divide widens. As the Out square comes into orb in May 2010 Iraq’s two main Shiite blocs seeking to govern the country sign an agreement that gives the final decision on all political disputes to top Shiite clerics – this further alienates Iraq’s Sunni minority, already feeling excluded by Shiite dominance and hoping that the recent election would boost their say in power. On May 10 mostly sectarian attacks kill 119 people across the country, the deadliest day in 2010. Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s new leader warns Shiites that “dark days soaked with blood” lie ahead and that a new campaign of attacks is under way. Within hours of the warning, a car bomb explodes outside a Shiite mosque south of Baghdad. This period also sees multiple attacks against the leaders of anti-insurgent Sunni forces known as Awakening Councils and the government backed Sahwa militia. In October gunmen wearing military uniforms raid the homes of anti-al-Qaeda Sunni fighters – whom they kill in an execution-style slaying near a town just south of Baghdad. Similar attacks take place in the following month.
The second change is the rise of crime in Iraq in the form of robbery. At the end of May there are 2 major robberies. On 25 May 17 masked gunmen shoot up a gold jewelry market in Baghdad, killing 15 people before fleeing with a large quantity of gold. Three days later robbers steal $5.5 million from a bank near Najaf. On June 9 masked gunmen kill three jewellers in Basra before fleeing with a large amount of gold. On June 13 gunmen trying to rob the central bank in Baghdad battle security forces for hours after bombs rip through a nearby area killing 26. Later in June gunmen raid a jewelry shop in Fallujah, killing four people before fleeing. On August 5 gunmen storm a Baghdad money exchange killing three staff. October sees a spate of robberies. On one day a lethal gunfight takes place between security forces and armed groups attempting to rob Baghdad jewelry stores. On another day masked gunmen steal more than $27,000 in cash intended for university workers’ salaries. On a third day in northern Iraq thieves armed with guns and hand grenades storm a jewelry shop killing 10 people.
Despite heightened security, attacks continue on Shiite pilgrims and their mosques around religious holidays. In the three days leading up to the 1st exact Out Square July 25 there are three attacks on mosques. The 2nd exact Out Square is on August 3. On Aug 15 Sunni Muslims are gunned down as they leave a mosque in Jurf al-Sakhr, south of Baghdad. The day after the victims are four Shiite pilgrims. In December pilgrims in a town north of Baghdad are killed as millions of Shiites head to ceremonies to mark Ashura.
ATTACKS TARGET SECURITY FORCES
But it is attacks on security officials and the army that are the most frequent and that appear to now become more deadly – in August sixteen are killed in a brazen attack in the capital – the attackers fly the black al-Qaeda flag over the neighbourhood afterwards. Then on August 17 comes one of the most lethal suicide bombings – the bomber sits for hours among hundreds of army recruits before detonating nail-packed explosives strapped to his body, killing 61 people ! On August 25 a coordinated string of attacks are launched at government forces, also killing a similar number. Finally in January 2011 a suicide bomber blew himself up this time in a crowd of police recruits in Tikrit, killing at least 65 people. A similar attack this time on the army takes place in March.
There is a third element of the population who are targeted. On October 31 an al-Qaeda attack on the Sayidat al-Nejat Syriac Christian cathedral (Our Lady of Salvation) in Baghdad leaves 68 people dead. On Nov 10 a sequence of lethal roadside bombs and mortar rounds hit Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad -repeated in December.
ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ (FORE-RUNNER OF ISIS) EMERGES
It is in October that a new terrorist force seems to emerge. On November 2 Shiite Baghdad neighborhoods are targeted in a series of bombings and mortar strikes – in total 91 people are killed and some 232 people wounded. It is a new group, the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq who claim responsibility. On 20 January 2011 56 people are killed and 175 wounded in triple suicide bombings at security checkpoints targeting pilgrims headed to the Shiite holy city of Karbala for rituals. A few days later car bombs strike Shiite pilgrims in Karbala, killing at least 26 people. On Jan 27 a car bomb rips through a funeral tent in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad, killing 51 people. 44 Shiite pilgrims are killed in Samarra on Feb 10 and 12. It is not clear which exact grouping was responsible for these sectarian attacks – though it seems reasonable to assume it is the very same new umbrella group.
THE ‘ARAB SPRING’ HITS IRAQ BUT IS OVERTAKEN BY ISIS
On February 25, 3rd and final exact Out Square date, a new force enters the equation. In cities across the country, thousands of Iraqis march on government buildings and clash with security forces in the largest and most violent anti-government protests yet. The ‘Arab Spring’ has hit Iraq spreading from nearby Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In March that popular wave will reach Syria. On what gets called the “Day of Rage” clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Mosul and the town of Hawija near Kirkuk leave 8 dead. It is across this very zone that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) spreading across the Syrian border will expand its control. As if to confirm this at the end of March in northern Iraq gunmen wearing military uniforms and suicide bomb belts storm a government headquarters in Tikrit in an attempt to take hostages. 57 people are killed and 98 wounded. Running North of Baghdad Tikrit, Kirkuk and Mosul will later define the area under control of ISIS in mid 2015
The Conjunction coincided with an explosive surge in Taliban violence with NATO airstrikes causing extensive civilian casualties. How does this change at the Out Square? The key events in chronological order: on July 26 some of the 91,000 secret US military documents on the Afghan war released by Julian Assange of Wikileaks include US intelligence reports alleging close connections between Pakistan’s spy agency and the Taliban; on August 11 the country’s Islamic clerics end a 3-day meeting calling on President Karzai to enact sharia or Islamic law; on Nov 20 2010 NATO nations meeting in Portugal formally agree to start turning over Afghanistan’s security to its military next year and give them full control by 2014.
TALIBAN ACTIVITY SURGES
There is an extension to Taliban violent acts – though the ISAF coalition manages to counter a surprising number of them. Unfortunately NATO’s reliance on airstrikes brings a surge in civilian casualties (see below). On May 19 insurgents launch a brazen pre-dawn assault on the giant US-run Bagram Air Field, killing an American contractor but ten militants are killed including 4 with suicide vests. On May 31 about 180 Taliban attack a police post in Farah province, triggering hours of fighting that kills over 15 insurgents. On June 7 Afghan special forces backed by US helicopter gunships battle insurgents for 12 hours in a remote Taliban-controlled region, killing 23 militants. On June 27 up to 150 Taliban insurgents are killed in battles along the Kunar border with Pakistan. On June 30 militants storm a major NATO air base outside Jalalabad – but 8 insurgents die in the failed assault.
(25 July 1st exact Out Square date) On August 2 coalition troops attack two villages in Nuristan province that had been held by Taliban fighters killing more than 30 insurgents. That same day a suicide car bomber blows himself up next to a police truck killing six children nearby (3 August 2nd exact Out Square date) On August 3 insurgents wearing suicide vests try to storm NATO’s largest base in the south, but fail to breach its defenses – all of the attackers are killed including several in suicide vests. On August 6 the bodies of 10 members of a medical team, including six Americans, are recovered. They had been shot and killed by militants as they were returning from providing eye treatment and other health care in remote villages. The Taliban claim it killed them for being “Christian missionaries.” But do these events suggest a real surge in Taliban attacks? Yes on August 10 a UN report states that the number of civilians killed in the war jumped 25 percent in the first half of 2010 compared with the same period last year – with insurgents responsible for the spike.
On 19 August 25 security guards are killed in a clash with Taliban fighters. On August 24 NATO says Afghan and international forces have killed an estimated 40 Taliban fighters east of Kabul. On August 28 in eastern Afghanistan 30 Taliban militants, some dressed in US military uniforms, are killed after launching pre-dawn attacks at NATO Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman. On October 1 NATO announces it has detained at least 438 suspected militants over the last month. On Oct 23 in western Afghanistan a suicide car bomber and three armed militants wearing explosives vests and dressed as women attack a UN compound, but Afghan security forces kill the attackers. On November 7 Afghan and NATO forces target insurgent strongholds in Kandahar province killing 15 and capturing 13. On Nov 13 in eastern Afghanistan suicide bombers try to storm a major NATO base on the edge of Jalalabad city, but are repelled. – 6 insurgents are killed, including two wearing suicide vests. On Nov 21 ISAF says more than 20 militants were killed in air strikes and fighting. On Dec 18 eastern Afghanistan NATO troops kill more than 20 insurgents in fighting.
On January 7 2011 a Taliban suicide bomber in Spin Boldak assassinates a police commander and kills 16 others at a public bath. On January 28 another suicide bomber kills 9 people inside a high-end grocery store in the heart of a heavily guarded district of Kabul, home to many diplomats and Westerners. On February 12 more suicide bombers kill 19 people in an assault on Kandahar city police headquarters. On Feb 19 in eastern Afghanistan gunmen and suicide bombers dressed as border police kill 38 people in an attack on a bank in Jalalabad. On Feb 21 a suicide bomber blows himself up at the entrance to a government office in Kunduz province, killing 30 people, many waiting in line to obtain government identification cards. (25 Feb 3rd exact Out square date)
NATO AIRSTRIKES CAUSE MORE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
On May 13 2010 three dozen insurgents are killed after two days of joint NATO and Afghan operations – but at the same time hundreds of protesters brandish sticks, throw stones and burn an American flag as they accuse NATO forces of killing many civilians in an overnight raid. On July 23, the day a bomb explodes inside a mosque it is reported that 45 civilians, many of whom are women and children, have been killed in a NATO rocket attack. (July 25 is the first exact Out Square date) On August 4 NATO operations kill as many as 26 civilians. (August 3 is the second exact Out Square date) On August 12 in eastern Afghanistan a crowd of about 300 villagers yell “Death to the United States” and block a main road as they swear that US forces had killed three innocent villagers. On September 2 President Karzai says 10 Afghan civilians were killed in a NATO air strike on three vehicles carrying election campaign workers in the north. On December 11 a NATO air strike kills seven road construction employees – the incident sends hundreds pouring onto the streets of Gardez in a protest that turns violent. On February 27 Afghanistan’s government says that its investigations have found NATO killed 65 civilians, many of them children, during recent operations in a northeastern militant stronghold. A few days later 9 young children collecting firewood die after an insurgent rocket attack on a military base prompts coalition forces to return fire.
ATTACKS ON SCHOOLS
Just days before the Out Square comes into orb 36 girls became sick at a school in Kunduz province and are hospitalised. Another 47 had complained of dizziness and nausea the day before. A strange odor in their classrooms, prompted an investigation into whether they were targeted by militants who oppose education for girls. The local health official suspects it was the result of a poison gas attack. On May 11 four teachers and nine students are taken to hospital after a bomb goes off at a boys’ school in the Khost province. On May 30 men using rocket-propelled grenades and bombs blow up a barely completed school in Khost province built with international aid at a cost of $220,000. On 28 Aug 48 schoolgirls, boys, and teachers are hospitalized in a case of suspected poisoning caused by an unidentified chemical substance. On Sept 1 the Afghan Health Ministry said blood samples taken from Afghan schoolgirls who collapsed in apparent mass poisonings showed traces of toxic chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides and nerve gas. On Nov 7 2010 gunmen set fire to the girls’ middle school in Laghman province, burning the entire structure and its contents.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH TALIBAN ?
On June 4 2010 a national peace conference urges the government to take formal steps toward negotiating with insurgents, boosting President Karzai’s plans to open talks with the Taliban. On September 4 President Karzai says an Afghan peace council to pursue talks with the Taliban has been set up. On October 6 it is reported that the President has begun those secret talks and sources say that for the first time Taliban representatives are fully authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization based in Pakistan, and its leader Muhammad Omar. On October 14 Afghan officials request NATO’s support in facilitating these peace efforts, including by halting military operations in areas where reconciliation talks may take place. A few days later three Taliban leaders secretly meet with the President – it appears with the principal aim of weakening the Haqqani network, a rival enemy to the coalition. However on November 15 Taliban leader Mullah Omar issues a statement that reports of peace talks between militants and the Afghan government are “misleading rumors”. On April 16 2011 President Karzai and Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani agree to boost joint peace efforts with the Taliban.
THE WORST HORRORS
On June 9 2010 a twelve year-old suicide bomber detonates his vest at a wedding party for a family with ties to police in the Taliban’s heartland in Kandahar province, killing over 40 people. On July 21 insurgents behead six policemen after attacking their checkpoint in Baghlan province. On August 9 Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears were sliced off last year to punish her for running away from her violent husband, gains worldwide attention when she appears on the cover of the prestigious Time magazine. On October 8 in northern Afghanistan the Kunduz provincial governor and at least 19 other people are killed by a massive bomb blast inside a packed mosque during Friday prayers. On March 14 a suicide bomber posing as an army volunteer strikes an Afghan army recruitment center in Kunduz province, killing 35 volunteers.
PRESIDENT ZARDARI ADOCATES ATTACKS RATHER THAN DIPLOMACY
The Conjunction saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto soon after lead to the removal of Pervez Musharraf as President. Now President Asif Ali Zardari, the man who had spearheaded the coalition which forced Musharraf to resign, is in the middle of his 2008 to 2013 presidency. Diplomatic relations with Afghan President Karzai have improved after Musharraf’s departure and with Zardari’s rise to power. In September 2010, Zardari and Afghan President Karzai meet in Islamabad and both advocate fighting insurgents rather than trying to end the war with diplomacy. Could this be the key development ?
However shortly after the Out Square comes into orb on June 13 the London School of Economics issues a new research report saying Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to arm and train the Taliban and is even represented on the group’s leadership council – despite US pressure to sever ties and billions in aid to combat the militants. These are allegations that never seem to lose their force. On September 1 the US government designates the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist group and accuses its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, of being behind a suicide bombing that killed 7 Americans at a CIA post in eastern Afghanistan.
Despite the Pakistan’s President advocating joint military aims, on September 30 Pakistani troops fire warning shots at NATO helicopters, which respond with a pair of missiles that destroy an army post, killing 2 soldiers. Pakistan retaliates by blocking a vital supply route for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. A few days later the US apologizes for the deaths of the Pakistani paramilitary troops and subsequently the 10 day blockade is lifted – during that period 150 NATO trucks are destroyed by gunmen. It is difficult to make sense of these events. In April 2011 as the Out Square ends Pakistan’s army chief General Parvez Kayani announces that his forces have broken the “backbone” of Islamist militants in the country. Can this be really true ?
US DRONES PLAY KEY MOVE
So how does the battle inside Pakistan against Islamic militancy fare during this eleven month period ? Pakistani troops, jets and helicopters gunships allied to US drone airstrikes at first sight appear to match the Pakistani general’s claim. The role of US drone aircraft cannot be understated – on each of the dates below US drone aircraft are reported to have targeted and killed militants – these strikes multiply exactly in this period – though they continue long past the end of the cycle stage. They are at their most frequent in September and November 2010 midway through the Out Square period.
May 3, May 9, May 11, May 15, June 11, June 19, June 27, June 30, July 24,[July 25 1st exact hit) (Aug 3 2nd exact hit) Aug 21, Sept 8, Sept 9, Sept 14, Sept 19, Sept 20, Sept 25, Sept 26, Sept 27, Sept 28, Oct 2, Oct 6, Oct 13, Oct 27, Nov 1, Nov 3, Nov 7, Nov 13, Nov 16, Nov 19, Nov 22, Nov 26, Dec 6, Dec 10, Dec 16, Dec 17, Dec 27, Dec 28, Dec 31
Jan 1, Jan 18, Jan 23, Feb 21, Feb 24, (Feb 25 3rd exact hit) March 8, March 11, March 13, March 17 (42 killed) , April 13, April 22
Pakistani troops and occasionally fighter jets kill sizeable numbers of militants especially in May and June 2010. Militant successes against NATO are chiefly against their vehicles and oil tankers but militant bomb attacks are considerably more lethal especially on August 3 in Karachi, September 7 in Kohat and October 17 in Karachi and on March 8 2011 in Faisalabad when dozens are killed in each attack.
SUICIDE ATTACKS SURGE
However it is suicide attacks which raise the carnage nearer to the level of of Iraq. Some 30 reported suicide bombings killing around 700 people take place on the following dates (fatalities and target where known in brackets):
May 1 (5 at Swat), May 18 (11) , July 1 (42 at Muslim shrine), July 5 (1), July 9 x 2 bombers (102), July 15 (5), July 20 x 3 (0), [July 25 1st exact hit) (Aug 3 2nd exact hit) Aug 23 (26 at Mosque), Sep 3 (35 at Shiite procession) , Sep 3 (65 in Quetta), Sep 6 (19), Sep 9 (3), Oct 7 (8 at Sufi shrine, Nov 5 (65 at Peshawar mosque), Dec 6 (43 at Mohmand), Dec 8 (15 at Kohat), Dec 10 (10 at Shiite hospital) , Dec 25 (45 Salarzai tribe),
Jan 25 (12 Lahore & Karachi), Feb 10 (31 Army Recruits), (Feb 25 3rd exact hit) March 3 (10), March 9 (36 at Funeral), Mar 30 (10 Swabi), Mar 31 (13 at Charsadda) , April 3 (44 at Sufi shrine 4), April 4 (7 at Bus station)
These suicide attacks are matched by frequent attacks on girls schools especially in border tribal districts where 90 schools have been destroyed
Though the days of crises in Northern Ireland may be thought long gone, the longterm and very close relationship of the Jupiter//Pluto cycle with this country always merits analysis.
THE ‘BLOODY SUNDAY’ INVESTIGATION BLAMES BRITISH SOLDIERS
The undoubted key match with this Out Square stage comes on June 15 just 10 days before the 1st Exact Out square date when an epic 12-year investigation into Northern Ireland’s biggest mass killing by British soldiers reaches its climax as relatives of the 13 Catholic demonstrators killed on “Bloody Sunday” begin reading a 5,000-page report into why the 1972 slaughter happened. (The January 30th 1972 massacre took place 15 days before an earlier Jupiter/Pluto 1st Exact Out Square), The investigation concludes that British troops were entirely to blame for the killings.
IRA DISSIDENT BOMBS
IRA dissidents have not accepted the Good Friday peace solution. On August 3, the very day of the 2nd exact Out Square, IRA dissidents detonate a bomb in a hijacked taxi outside a police base in Londonderry, damaging buildings but wounding no one. On Oct 10 another dissident IRA car bomb damages a hotel, bank and other businesses but causes no injuries. Days earlier one dissident had received a 20-year prison sentence for trying to buy guns and explosives. On October 8 police on both sides of the Irish border arrest over 15 dissidents and seize weapons and bomb components. On Oct 11 Irish police, uncover a major arms and explosives cache hidden in a wood in County Louth. On Oct 30 police seize a dissident IRA bomb packed into a beer keg in an area close to Belfast International Airport. On April 9 2011, a week after a Catholic police officer is killed by a bomb placed under his car in Omagh, a 500-pound van bomb is diffused near the border town of Newry. This sequence of ordinance finds and bombs not causing casualties is seen an a significant blow to dissident republicans
Compare these 11 months with the following three and a half years from April 2011 to October 2014. Between September 2011 and January 2012 there are just 2 bombs – defused and no casualties. In December 2012 and March 2013 there are two further defused bombs
On May 1, as the Out Square comes into orb, Arab nations endorse indirect peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. On May 3 the leaders of Israel and Egypt meet to discuss the renewal of the Middle East peace process. On May 5 US mediator George Mitchell after a break of more than a year launches the peace negotiations between a hard-line Israeli government and a Palestinian administration in control of only part of its territory. On July 6 President Obama meets with Israel’s PM Netanyahu – Netanyahu pledges concrete, “very robust” steps to revive the peace efforts.
On September 2 Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet in Washington and clear the first hurdle in the negotiations, vowing to try to settle core differences within a year. On September 12 Israeli PM Netanyahu reiterates his demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. On October 9 Palestinian President Abbas urges Arab leaders to press the United States to recognize a unilateral declaration of statehood should peace talks with Israel collapse.
Then on October 11 the Israeli government endorses a controversial bill requiring a national referendum be held before any withdrawal from occupied east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. PM Netanyahu spells out recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as his price for a renewal of a ban on construction in the occupied West Bank. The offer gets rejected out of hand by the Palestinians, who say it has “nothing to do with the peace process.”
On January 24 Israel’s foreign minister confirms he has drawn up a plan for the creation of an interim Palestinian state with temporary borders in the absence of a full peace agreement, That same day Palestinian protesters riot when Al-Jazeera TV airs what it says are leaked documents showing that Palestinian leaders had agreed to deep concessions on two of the thorniest issues in negotiations with Israel: Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. On March 8 further offence is caused when Israeli PM Netanyahu vows that Israeli troops would remain on the border between Jordan and the West Bank under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
On April 6 2011 as the Out Square goes out of orb, a group of prominent Israelis, many of them former defence chiefs, launch a new peace plan calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. At the 2013-2014 Opposition stage it seems likely that such a plan will encounter further obstacles as the hard-line Israeli administration maximizes the restrictions it has imposed on any peace deal
The issue of Israel authorizing Jewish settlements on land planned to be part of any independent Palestine surges at the Out Square. At the end of April 2010 Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s insists publicly that settlement building in East Jerusalem would not be stopped in the face of US pressure and on May 10 Israel confirms it will press ahead with these plans. In September Israel reiterates its refusal to extend curbs on settlement building that have reached expiration point despite US pressure and Palestinian threats to walk out of peace talks.
In October Israel signs off on the construction of 238 homes in east Jerusalem, bringing an end to an unofficial building freeze in the traditionally Arab sector of the city. Then to add to the situation work begins on 600 new homes in the largely Palestinian West Bank. Palestinian President Abbas states he will only resume talks once building restrictions are re-imposed, arguing there is no point negotiating while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
When in in November 2010 Israel says it is moving ahead with plans to build 1,300 new apartments in disputed east Jerusalem, President Abbas threatens to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Then in January 2011 Palestinians are enraged when Israeli authorities say they are moving ahead with a fresh proposal to build 1,400 apartments in the contested part of Jerusalem and in February the municipal council signs off on the first phase of their construction.
HAMAS & FATAH
Hamas’s position in the peace equation appears both threatening and positive – threatening because the militant rocket attacks against Israel which have partly held up the peace process lie largely under its control but positive in that if Hamas were to agree to a peace deal it would surely have a better chance of being agreed to by the majority of Palestinian militants. And during these 11 months as a move in that direction Hamas and Fatah begin a process of reconciliation.
But it starts badly when on May 6 Palestinian President Abbas accuses Hamas of smuggling large amounts of weapons into the West Bank as part of the militant group’s efforts to undermine his administration. Hamas is exercising its authority in a number of non military ways. On May 16 Hamas police wielding clubs beat and push residents out of dozens of homes in the southern Gaza town of Rafah before knocking the buildings down with bulldozers. On May 18 Hamas rulers execute 3 convicted killers dropping their bullet-riddled bodies at a hospital. On July 17 Hamas bans women from smoking water pipes in cafes, calling it a practice that destroys marriages and sullies the image of the Palestinian people. But Hamas military side is far from inactive – on August 2 a string of rockets are fired at the Israeli resort of Eilat by a Hamas group operating from Egypt’s Sinai desert.
On September 1 Palestinian security forces arrest more than 250 Hamas members in an overnight sweep throughout the West Bank after Hamas claims responsibility for shooting dead four Israelis on the eve of new Middle East peace talks. Later two of the Hamas gunmen are killed by Israeli troops. On October 20 Jewish settlers set fire to a girls school near the city of Nablus. On the same day a powerful explosion rips through a Hamas military compound in the Gaza Strip, wounding a dozen people. On Nov 3 a car explodes outside Hamas police headquarters in Gaza’s, killing a Palestinian militant. Yet on November 9 representatives of Hamas and the Fatah party start reconciliation talks in Damascus – though there is evidence of indirect attempts by Israel to undermine those talks.
The more positive moves continue in November when in the run-up to the Muslim festival of Eid Hamas orders the release of 284 prisoners. Moreover in January 2011 Hamas urges militants to halt their attacks, saying that continued violence will only invite Israeli reprisals – the other militant factions do agree to a period of calm. On March 15 thousands of Palestinians throng major squares in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to deliver an impassioned appeal to their leaders to end the long-running feud between Hamas and Fatah. On March 19, following an Israeli rocket strike on a Hamas training ground in Gaza, Palestinian militants fire 54 rockets into Israel, the heaviest barrage in two years. Which way will Hamas move at the cycle opposition stage in 2013-14 ?
JUPITER/PLUTO CONJUNCTION 2007/8 – exact on 11 December 2007
The Conjunction stays in a 10 degree orb from 12 March 2007 to 2 May 2007 and from 16 October 2007 to 2 Feb 2008. Given the unorthodox behaviour of this cycle – unlike the other 9 cycles it occasionally makes a clear match but does not fit the 10 degree orb – it is necessary to give it some leeway while accepting it does fail the rules. The Conjunction goes as far as 21 degrees on 9 May 2008 before turning back. On Sept 8 it comes back as near as 14 degrees but then makes its final separation passing 22 degrees separation on December 1 2008. (22 degrees seems to be the the most generous Fail point possible) Therefore we are focusing on the period 12 March 2007 to 2 Feb 2008 – with just a possible rule-breaking allowance of up to 22 degrees of separation up to the end of November 2008.
In what way is a transformation of society’s expectations over the next 13 years seeded during this time? We shall be looking to find new horizons in upheaval that begin to emerge which were simply not conceivable or anticipated before. As this book is only covering the conjunction stage of this cycle it will be significantly harder to perceive the pattern and the reader is invited to do a fair amount of theorising or guesswork to see what this cycle is going to amount to. Nevertheless a close study of the nature of events during the conjunction and their inter-relationship in theory should prove suggestive. The following geopolitical crises which erupt in this period appear to suggest a correlation with this cycle – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel/Palestine along with Northern Ireland. This cycle also appears to correlate closely with Assassinations and Kidnappings.
In February 2007 as some 20,000 additional US troops arrive in Iraq a US-led security drive begins in Baghdad. Despite this violent incidents fill each week across the country. In March 2007, as the conjunction comes into orb, insurgents detonate three trucks with toxic chlorine gas in Falluja and Ramadi, injuring hundreds. In a few days in April bombings in Baghdad kill nearly 200 people. Then in August 2007 comes the worst day of violence yet – truck and car bombs hit two villages of Yazidi Kurds, killing between 250 and 800 people – the deadliest attack since the 2003 invasion. 2007 is also the deadliest year for the US military since 2003, with 899 troops killed. However by December 2007 (Exact cycle conjunction date 11 December 2007) it is clear the number of violent civilian deaths is starting to drop – from over 29,000 in 2006 to 25,000 in 2007. Later figures for civilian deaths in 2008 from the independent source Iraq Body Count (IBC) will show a far steeper fall to 9,630.
WHILE TOTAL FATALITIES FALL SECTARIAN VIOLENCE RISES
However 2007 is estimated by IBC to have shown the greatest number of deaths per day from suicide attacks and vehicle bombs (22 per day versus 16 per day in the highest other year, 2006). and according to the same source the number of deaths per day from gunfire and executions was highest in both 2007 and 2006. Moreover though there is little doubt that this 11 month cycle conjunction period sees the start of a dramatic fall off in violence – the IBC figures for civilian deaths in 2008 is only 38% of the previous year – it also sees a rise in the proportion of civilian deaths attributed to sectarianism. And therefore this cycle correlation appears to be not about the rise and fall of deaths from anti-government or anti-coalition insurgency in Iraq but about the rise and fall (if it comes) of deaths from sectarianism.
A FAILURE TO BRING SUNNI LEADERS INTO THE ALLIANCE
Does this period see the beginning of a desire for a peace, is there in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and other Iraqi cities, in Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods, in the many blood soaked streets, family houses and markets, the rivers yielding handcuffed and tortured bodies, the mass graves, the torture centres, the death squad bases and the piles upon piles of masonry and dead bodies – is there revulsion? Among the ordinary people perhaps but not apparently among some of those with power. On the political front Kurdish and Shia leaders do form an alliance to support Prime Minister Maliki’s government but they fail to bring in Sunni leaders – will that failure echo at the cycle opposition in 2013-2014.
Looking at the nature of the violence rather than the volume the conjunction period sees a truly horrific panorama of cruelty and unbridled violence – horrific in the methods and the largely totally innocent targets including women and even very young children. And perhaps most amazing of all to contemporary Westerners (though not to their forebears), the proportion of the atrocities (and their severity) meted out by one branch of a religion onto another, quite frequently at an actual religious event or location.
AN ORGY OF VIOLENCE – “IT’S HELL MR PRESIDENT”
Just take the incidents in March 2007 alone. One week before the conjunction comes into orb as US soldiers pour into the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City a suicide car bomber kills at least 38 people in a blast that touches off raging fires. The following day two suicide bombers blow themselves up in a crowd of Shiite pilgrims streaming toward a shrine at Hillah, killing at least 120 people and wounding about 190. In south Baghdad gunmen pump bullets into a minibus, killing all eight passengers inside. On March 7 a suicide bomber in a café northeast of Baghdad kills 30. On March 11 a car bomb kills 31 Shiite pilgrims. On March 16 another ‘chlorine bomb’ forces some 350 Iraqi civilians to seek medical treatment. On March 27 two truck bombs rip through markets in Tal Afar, killing between 50 and 150 people. The next day Shiite militants and police enraged by these killings go on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there, killing as many as 60 people. On March 29 two suicide attackers blow themselves up in the Shalal market – at least 82 people are killed and over 100 wounded. As one American observer reports back to Washington without exaggeration – “Mr President, This is Hell”.
BOMBS KILL HUNDREDS WHILE BULLET RIDDLED TORTURED BODIES ARE FOUND
Incidents killing dozens occur almost daily. If we confine ourselves to incidents killing 50 people or more the conjunction period has many of these. On April 14 a car bomb blasts through a busy bus station near one of Iraq’s holiest shrines at Karbala, killing at least 47 people and wounding over 200. On April 18 a parked car bomb at a central Baghdad market kills some 140 people and wounds 148. On April 26 violence in Iraq kills at least 72 people, including the bullet-riddled bodies of 27 men dumped in Baghdad, victims of sectarian death squads. On April 28 a parked car explodes near one of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines in the city of Karbala killing 68 people. On May 13 a suicide truck bomber crashes into the offices of a Kurdish political party, killing at least 50 people. On May 22 at least 100 Iraqis are killed or found dead nationwide including 33 people found shot execution-style. On May 23 that lethal total repeats! On May 28 across Baghdad 57 people are killed in a wave of attacks and 33 bullet-riddled and tortured bodies are found. A few days later another 26 bullet riddled bodies, bearing signs of torture are found. Is ’Hell” an adequate word for this carnage ?
ATTACKS ON SHIA & SUNNI MOSQUES
As if to confirm that the thrust of violence is now almost wholly sectarian June and July see an orgy of attacks on mosques. On June 13 suspected al-Qaeda bombers destroy the two minarets of the historic Shiite Askariya Shrine in Samarra. In Basra there are attacks on the Kawaz, Othman, al-Abash and Basra Grand mosques. Four Sunni mosques near Baghdad are also attacked. The next day attackers break into the Hateen mosque in Iskandariyah and the Talha Bin al-Zubair shrine outside Basra planting bombs inside. On June 16 the Ashrah al-Mubashra mosque in Basra is raided and blown up. On June 19 a truck bomb strikes the Shiite Khillani mosque in central Baghdad, killing at least 87 people and wounding more than 200. On that day in all 142 people are killed or found dead through sectarian violence ! On June 20 gunmen blow up two Sunni mosques south of Baghdad in an apparent retaliatory attack
796 YAZIDIS DIE – 2nd MOST DEADLY ATTACK IN MODERN TIMES
On July 7 a bombing in Armili, a Shiite farming town, kills over 130 people. On July 16 twin suicide car bombings explode within 20 minutes of each other in Kirkuk, killing at least 85 people and wounding 150. On July 25 two suicide bombings kill at least 50 cheering flag-waving Iraqis celebrating the national soccer team’s recent victory On 1 August 50 people are killed when a suicide attacker explodes a fuel truck near a petrol station in western Baghdad. Altogether at least 142 Iraqis are killed or found dead on that day. On August 14 four suicide truck bombers strike simultaneously in Qahataniya killing at least 400 victims ! Estimates soon rise to over 500 and later to 796 !! This is a staggering figure approaching that of 9/11 – it is the deadliest single attack of the whole conflict and the 2nd deadliest terrorist attack anywhere in modern times. The victims are members of a small Kurdish sect, the Yazidis – al-Qaeda is blamed.
On Nov 17 a mass grave filled with at least 33 badly decomposed bodies is unearthed in Baghdad – a few days later another mass grave becomes the fourth to be found in Iraq. On Dec 8 US soldiers find graves containing 26 bodies next to what they called a torture centre where chains are attached to blood-spattered walls and a metal bed frame is still connected to an electrical shock system. This is truly hell ! On Dec 2, a week before the exact conjunction date, it is reported that the number of Iraqis killed in the previous month fell to 718. This can be compared to the 1,760 civilians killed in July and the 1,809 civilians killed in August. On Dec 16 British forces formally hand over responsibility for Basra, the last region in Iraq under their control. The cost ? 174 British lives and some $10 billion.
60% OF FOREIGN MILITANTS COME FROM SAUDI & LIBYA
On January 8 the US military alongside Iraqi forces launch Operation Phantom Phoenix to strike against al-Qaeda in Iraq. On Jan 18 heavy security is set up in Karbala with some 30,000 troops watching over hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims performing the culmination of Ashoura religious rites. On Jan 23 an explosion strikes an apartment building in Mosul killing more than 60 people and injuring over 250. This huge blast is later blamed on the Seifaddin Regiment – some 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters who entered Iraq from Syria a few months earlier. Is there some future significance in this geographical path ? In November US military officials had reported that about 60 percent of foreign militants fighting in Iraq have come from US allies Saudi Arabia and Libya but it is doubtful if they appreciated the longterm significance of this high proportion of foreign fighters.
MENTALLY DISABLED USED AS BOMBS, YOUNG CHILDREN TRAINED TO KILL
On February 1, as the conjunction goes out of orb, two female suicide bombers blow themselves up in separate attacks on Baghdad bazaars, killing at least 99 people. The attacks are the deadliest in the Iraqi capital since the 30,000 extra American troops arrived in the country just before the conjunction. In a uniquely despicable touch the suicide bombers used were both mentally disabled and their suicide vests were remotely controlled – surely a horrific new threshold in terrorist tactics. To add to this horror videos seized from suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq hideouts show militants training children as young as 10 to kidnap and kill. On Feb 24 (14 degs) a suicide bomber strikes Shiite pilgrims once again as they are resting in Iskandariyah on their way to a shrine in Karbala, killing at least 56 people and wounding 68. Thus ends one of the most horrific and blood-stained twelve months in modern history – there have been periods in Middle East history with as bad or worse incidents but not on the scale and with the frequency of this Jupiter/Pluto conjunction.
TALIBAN VIOLENCE IN RESPONSE TO NATO OPERATIONS
The conjunction period coincides first with an explosion of Taliban violence as NATO steps up its operations, moving into Helmand province. In late February the Taliban claim to have deployed 10,000 fighters for a Spring 2007 offensive. From this point the number and lethality of their suicide attacks rises. Additionally the Taliban conduct a concerted campaign to kidnap foreigners working for the coalition – Italians, French, German and South Korean – and carry out many executions and atrocities on police and on Afghans working for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces. For instance on March 17 Taliban guerrillas chop off the noses and ears of at least five truck drivers in eastern Afghanistan as a horrific punishment for transporting supplies to US-led troops. On Nov 17 Taliban militants torture five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and then hang their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to local villagers against working with the government. A few days later they behead seven more police officers.
NATO AIRSTRIKES CAUSE EXTENSIVE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
Secondly, in this period NATO starts to increasingly rely on airstrikes to target Taliban command centres. It also deploys from September 2007 the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the country. While this gives ISAF significant tactical advantage accounting for hundreds of Taliban killed – the strategic cost in the number of civilian casualties becomes highly damaging – especially in April, May and June 2007. For instance on May 8 airstrikes called in by US Special forces kill at least 19 civilians in Helmand province – the US military apologizes and pays compensation to the victims’ families. In Paktika province in June US jets target a compound that also contains a mosque and a madrassa, an Islamic school, resulting in the death of seven young boys. A trail of subsequent incidents leads to Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament passing a bill calling for a halt to all international military operations unless coordinated with the Afghan government.
MANY TALIBAN FIGHTERS COMING FROM PAKISTAN
It now becomes clear to ISAF commanders that many Taliban fighters are crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan. It is true the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan meet in this period and agree to share intelligence on extremist groups but it is far from clear how effective that will prove. In August 2007 Afghanistan and Pakistan pledge to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in their respective tribal regions and fight the opium trade which is financing Islamic militants. Yet later that month when US-led and Afghan troops strike Taliban positions inside Pakistan killing 19 rebels a Pakistani military spokesman denies any permission was given for this action. Yet the Taliban’s leadership is based in Quetta, Pakistan
MOST LETHAL BOMBS SO FAR
The exact Jupiter/Pluto conjunction (11 December 2007) comes midway between the most lethal bombs so far – a bomb attack on a parliamentary delegation in November 2007 in Baghlan province that kills 77, including 61 schoolchildren, and a suicide bombing at an outdoor dog competition in February 2008 in Kandahar that kills 80 people. These are the deadliest insurgent attacks since the US-led invasion in 2001 and on a par with the death tolls in Iraq.
LARGE SWATHES OF THE COUNTRY OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT CONTROL
Despite the undoubted military success of NATO’s operation in certain areas – of the 6,500 people killed during 2007 the majority are Taliban militants – large swathes of the country remain outside government control and the number of coalition forces force killed is the highest since the 2001 invasion. Though on Sept 30 President Karzai’s office says that there is “serious debate” among some Taliban fighters about laying down arms, a spokesman for the militants insists they will “never negotiate” with Afghan authorities until foreign troops leave. Could this new surge of conflict in Afghanistan mark the start of a 12 year cycle where upheaval affecting expectations maximize between mid 2013 and mid 2014 ?
PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF URGED TO QUIT
On March 9 2007 as the conjunction comes into orb Pakistan’s state media reports that President Pervez Musharraf has replaced Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Islamic nation’s chief justice, for “misuse of authority.” Chaudhry refuses to resign and mass demonstrations in his support soon follow especially from lawyers who boycott court proceedings, clash with riot police, and burn an image of the President.
By March 16th police are firing tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators and detaining scores of political activists, including an opposition party leader and a former national president. On March 21 thousands of protesters urge President Musharraf to quit over his removal of the top judge. On March 22 lawyers hold fresh protests as an inquiry into beating of attorneys by police gets underway. In the weeks that follow huge crowds of opposition supporters widen the protest. The fate of Pakistan is so bound up with the powers of its leaders and the way in which they alter, suspend or change its constitution. This cycle is to prove especially momentous in both ways for Pakistan
PROTESTS AGAINST RADICAL ISLAMIC MOSQUE & SEMINARY
But as important to the country’s history is the status of Islam in this 97% Muslim country. In April hard line fundamentalists start to seriously clash with the government and with more secular parts of Pakistani society. On April 6 Pakistani Mullah Abdul Aziz says he has set up a Taliban-style Islamic court at his mosque in Islamabad and pledges “tens of thousands” of suicide attacks if the government tries to shut it down. On April 15 some 100,000 people rally in Karachi against the radical Islamic mosque and seminary with its Taliban-style anti-vice campaign. On April 19 chanting “down with Talibanization,” hundreds of human rights activists march through Pakistani cities, urging the government to rein in clerics and their anti-vice campaign. As May opens in North Waziristan Islamic militants begin confiscating music cassettes and ordering shops to sell only CDs promoting jihad. On April 28 in northwest Pakistan a suicide attacker detonates a bomb as Aftab Sherpao, the interior minister, finishes speaking at a public meeting, killing over 28 people.
AS VIOLENCE RISES CLASHES NEAR RADICAL MOSQUE
On May 6 Chief Justice Chaudhry, Pakistan’s sacked top judge, declares in Lahore the “era of dictatorship is over” to cheers from tens of thousands. On May 12 gun battles and attacks over the sacking issue kill 41 people – the worst political violence in years. On May 15 a suicide bomber attacks a crowded restaurant in Peshawar near the Afghan border, killing at least 25 people. On May 18 President Musharraf acknowledges that Islamic militancy is increasing across Pakistan and says tough measures are needed to counter it – in a week in which religious students from a pro-Taliban mosque abduct four police officers. Then in Lahore on July 3 comes the first major eruption in this 11 month conjunction period. A large detachment of security forces clashes with militants outside their base, the radical Red (or Lal Masjid) mosque – the mosque had earned its name because of its red walls and interiors.
PAKISTANI COMMANDOS FLUSH MILITANTS OUT OF RED MOSQUE
In the stand-off one of the leaders of the radical-held Mosque is arrested while fleeing in a woman’s burqa and high heels. The government had offered amnesty to nearly 1,000 followers still inside the mosque which was largely accepted. But on July 7 Musharraf tells the remaining militants barricaded in the mosque to surrender or die. Then on July 10, after an eight day siege, 160 elite Pakistan army commandos flush out the militants, storming and taking control of the sprawling Red Mosque room by room in fighting that leaves about 70 militants and eight soldiers dead. Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the chief cleric of the Red Mosque is killed while Umme Hassan, the head of the seminary for female jihadists, escapes. In the days that follow Islamist protests in response to the army raid break out in several parts of Pakistan – with protesters burning effigies of the President in mass rallies.
TROOPS ATTACK MILITANT BASES BUT MANY ARE CAPTURED
In the militant Northwest Pakistani troops are deployed to meet an upsurge in bombings and rocket attacks – one suicide car bomber kills 26 soldiers and a further three suicide attacks kill more than 70. On July 27 in Quetta gunmen kill the spokesman for the provincial government. On Aug 7 in the lawless Afghan border region government forces attack two militant bases with helicopter gunships and artillery and later claim a month of fierce fighting has killed about 250 militants. Yet pro-Taliban fighters, led by Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban) commander Baitullah Mehsud, capture over 200 Pakistani troops in South Waziristan.
OPPOSITION LEADERS NAWAZ SHARIF & IMRAN KHAN KEPT OUT
On August 23 a Supreme Court ruling says former PM Nawaz Sharif, a key rival to President Musharraf, can return to Pakistan from exile. On Aug 28 a Pakistani cabinet minister and a ruling party MP say they have resigned in protest at President Musharraf’s plan to remain army chief. On Sept 1 former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto says in London that she plans to return to Pakistan even without an agreement. On Sept 4 suicide bombers attack a bus filled with government workers in a commercial area near Islamabad, killing at least 25 people. On Sept 10 Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan from a seven-year exile, hoping to campaign against the country’s military ruler, but he is immediately charged with corruption and deported to Saudi Arabia hours later. Days later allies of President Musharraf blocks another opposition leader Imran Khan from entering Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city.
MUSHARRAF ALLOWS BENAZIR BHUTTO TO RETURN FROM EXILE
On Sept 17 Pakistan’s Election Commission announces a rule change that would apparently allow President Musharraf to seek a new, five-year term while still serving as army chief – while he indicates he might quit the army if elected. On Sept 20 Osama bin Laden calls on Pakistanis to rebel against President Musharraf in a new recording, saying the President’s army’s siege of a militant mosque makes him an infidel. Outside the Supreme Court, hundreds of supporters of Pakistan’s biggest Islamic party hold an anti-Musharraf rally as judges hear petitions challenging his right to run for re-election. They are all dismissed. On Sept 27 Pakistan’s chief justice orders the immediate release of detained opposition members.
On October 1 a burqa-clad woman blows herself up killing at least 16 people at a crowded police checkpoint in the northwest – believed to be the first time a female suicide bomber has struck inside Pakistan. The next day Musharraf, in a move towards an alliance, issues a National Reconciliation Ordnance granting Benazir Bhutto amnesty on corruption charges and allowing her to return from years of exile. Then on Oct 6 he sweeps to victory in the presidential election boycotted by nearly all of Pakistan’s opposition.
ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF BHUTTO KILLS 136
On Oct 18 Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, makes a dramatic return to Pakistan, ending eight years of exile to reclaim a share of power with President Musharraf. Ahead of her arrival, Bhutto is warned suicide squads have been dispatched to kill her. More than 150,000 jubilant supporters gather in Karachi to greet her amid massive security. Then a deadly suicide attack kills up to 136 people and injures some 450. She however is not injured but the dead include at least 50 of the security guards from her party who had formed a protective human chain around her. Two attackers are involved and Bhutto’s security guards find a third man armed with a pistol and another with a suicide vest. On Oct 24 new troops are deployed to Swat, a mountain valley popular with tourists until violence flared there in the summer, to quell Maulana Fazlullah’s militant group TNSM, which has called for Taliban-style rule and a holy war against Pakistani authorities. Militants behead 7 civilians and 6 security officers after government troops launch an all-out assault on the TNSM hideout. Subsequent attacks kill 60 militants.
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED
On November 3 President Musharraf declares a state of emergency ahead of a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election win . Eight Supreme Court judges immediately contest the emergency, which suspends the current constitution. Immediately Pakistani police round up opposition leaders and rights activists. On Nov 5 police fire tear gas and club thousands of lawyers protesting the decision to impose emergency rule. More than 1,500 people get arrested in 48 hours.
MUSHARRAF PROMISES ELECTIONS AND WILL STAND DOWN AS ARMY CHIEF
On Nov 7 former premier Benazir Bhutto urges Pakistanis to hold mass protests against the state of emergency. The US administration, which continues to pay Pakistan some $1 billion a year for counter-terrorism efforts, warns President Musharraf that it expects him to “return soon” to the path of democracy. Musharraf promises elections will he held by mid-February. On Nov 13 Benazir Bhutto calls on President Musharraf to resign and rules out serving under him in a future government after she is placed under house arrest. The President announces he expects to step down as army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian, warning that Pakistan risks chaos if he gives into opposition demands to resign. In mid November Pakistan’s army masses some 15,000 troops, backed with helicopter gunships, for a major assault on Islamic militants in the northwest tribal belt. On Nov 21 in a move to soften the harsher aspects of his rule, Musharraf frees over 5,500 political activists and anti-government lawyers. Then on Nov 24 militants strike at the heart of Pakistan’s security establishment, killing up to 35 people in suicide attacks in Rawalpindi on a checkpoint outside army headquarters and a bus carrying intelligence agency employees. The next day Pakistan’s exiled former PM Nawaz Sharif returns home to a hero’s welcome.
A few days later Pervez Musharraf steps down as Pakistan’s military commander, fulfilling a key opposition demand. The next day he embarks on a new five-year term as a civilian president promising to quickly lift the state of emergency and restore the constitution. On Dec 8 Pakistan’s army claims it has cleared almost all militants from the north-western Swat valley after killing 290 rebels and arresting another 143. On Dec 10 a suicide car bomber strikes a bus carrying children of Pakistani air force employees to school at a northern army base – five children are wounded. (11 Dec 2007 Exact cycle conjunction). On Dec 13 twin suicide bombers kill five soldiers. Despite the rising frequency of suicide attacks, on Dec 15 President Musharraf lifts a six-week-old state of emergency. On Dec 21 a suicide attacker detonates a bomb packed with ball bearings and nails amid hundreds of worshippers at the residential compound of a former top security official near Peshawar, killing 56 people, one of the worst incidents in this period.
BENAZIR BHUTTO ASSASSINATED
Then on Dec 27, just 16 days after the exact Jupiter/Pluto conjunction date, comes the second key event in this period – Pakistan’s opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi. The attack also kills 20 others. Immediately the other opposition leader Nawaz Sharif announces his party will boycott next month’s elections – demanding Musharraf resign. The next day hundreds of thousands of mourners, weeping and chanting for justice, throng the mausoleum of Pakistan’s most famous political dynasty. Furious supporters rampage through several cities in violence that leaves some 40 dead. The government blames al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the assassination. On Dec 29 one Islamic militant group says it had no link to Benazir Bhutto’s killing and Bhutto’s aides accuse the government of a cover-up, disputing the official account of her death. On February 18 Pakistanis vote for a new parliament – the ruling party concedes defeat after opposition parties rout allies of President Musharraf. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) polls the highest votes and wins the most seats.
The storming of the militant Red mosque with some 70 dead together with the momentous assassination of Benazir Bhutto so close to the exact conjunction date underlines that developments in Pakistan show every sign of closely matching this Jupiter/Pluto cycle. Expectations of a transformation in Pakistani politics which had hinged first on whether Musharraf could serve another 5 year term as President and on the army containing conflict on the northwest frontier have been transformed by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. On 22 March, the PPP names former parliament speaker Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani as its candidate for the country’s next prime minister, to lead a coalition government united against Musharraf. But could this coalition damp down the tribal and sectarian conflict whose frequency and lethality has significantly risen throughout this conjunction period ?
BREAKTHROUGH DEAL FOR A POWER-SHARING ADMINISTRATION
On March 9 2007, three days before the conjunction comes into orb, election results show the polar extremes of politics have strengthened their grip on the province’s legislature, ensuring they will control any future Catholic-Protestant administration. Nevertheless on March 26 leaders of Northern Ireland’s major Protestant and Catholic parties, sitting side by side for the first time in history, announce a breakthrough deal to forge a power-sharing administration
Britain’s parliament unanimously passes an emergency bill to preserve the Northern Ireland Assembly and permit its Protestant and Catholic leaders to form this historic administration. On April 4 Protestant leader Ian Paisley shakes hands with Irish PM Bertie Ahern in public for the first time, marking another small step on the path to peace.
IAN PAISLEY & MARTIN McGUINNESS ALLIANCE !
On May 3 the Ulster Volunteer Force, an outlawed Northern Ireland group which for decades had attacked the province’s Catholic minority, renounces violence and pledges to disarm. On May 8 Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley and IRA veteran Martin McGuinness form a long-unthinkable alliance as power-sharing becomes no longer a dream but a reality.
BRITISH ARMY WITHDRAWS AFTER 38 YEAR MISSION
On June 25 the final British troops withdraw from the Northern Ireland borderland – long known as “bandit country” – ending a mission to keep watch over the IRA’s most dangerous power base. The effects of the peace process can be seen when on July 12 tens of thousands of Protestant hard-liners march without trouble through Northern Ireland’s streets in an annual event that used frequently to ignite conflict with Catholics. On July 31 the British army formally ends its 38-year security mission in Northern Ireland. In November 2007 the major Northern Ireland Protestant paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, announces it is formally renouncing violence – though the surrender of its weapons to international disarmament officials has yet to be agreed.
GETTING RID OF HATE MAY TAKE LONGER
However in this the world’s longest running crisis area violence and hate are unlikely to completely disappear for many years to come. Witness two horrific violent deaths in this time period. On April 23 2007 Brendan Cranston gets shot through both legs and beaten along with his partner. A brother-in-law of Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein deputy leader, is charged with kidnapping and assault in this IRA-style operation. On October 20th 2007 Paul Quinn, a young truck driver from south Armagh, is brutally beaten to death with iron bars and baseball bats studded with nails – allegedly for defying an IRA order to leave after quarrels in his village, Cullyhanna. There was even speculation that the shadow of this kind of violence could have contributed in 2007 to three 15-year-old high school classmates at a Northern Ireland school hanging themselves. Nevertheless this period shows a truly titanic upheaval in the collective expectation of Northern Ireland’s future. Its correlation with this cycle since 1969 has been extraordinarily close (see book) and this breakthrough coming at the start of this cycle promises to make the next 12 years one of healing – though several cycles may be needed to fully eradicate the hate
Much of what is now happening in Israel/Palestine correlates with the June 2006 to June 2008 Saturn/Neptune opposition (see Home Page link). However by 2016, this cycle’s In square, it is likely that so much effort will be going into a resolution of the Palestine problem that it would be a mistake to omit this country from this final Jupiter/Pluto conjunction – even if subsequent events show the correlation not to be true. It will be seen that the key issue at this stage is the militant group Hamas’s dealings not just with the Israeli government but with its rival Fatah.
PALESTINE STATEHOOD DISCUSSED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 6 YEARS
On March 15, three days after the conjunction comes into orb, a new unified Palestine government, in principle supported by both Hamas and Fatah, takes over – but Israel immediately says that it will not deal with it – principally because the partners do not recognise the Jewish state’s right to exist. And yet on April 15 Israeli and Palestinian leaders discuss the outlines of Palestinian statehood for the first time in six years – despite the almost daily skirmishes that are taking place in Gaza and the West Bank.
FIGHTING BETWEEN HAMAS AND FATAH GETS FIERCER
On April 24 Hamas militia fire a barrage of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza toward Israel saying the five-month truce with Israel is over. But on May 13 it is fighting between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip that leaves 20 people dead. In reaction on May 24 before dawn Israeli troops in the West Bank round up a Palestinian Cabinet minister and 32 other Hamas leaders. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah gets fiercer in June. On June 12 a rocket-propelled grenade hits the home of the Hamas PM while his fighters capture several positions from Fatah.
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED
On June 14 Palestinian President Abbas declares an emergency after Hamas effectively takes control of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses say the victors dragged vanquished gunmen into the street and shot them to death execution-style. 25 fighters and civilians are killed. Overall the internal clashes in Gaza leave an estimated 116 people dead and over 500 wounded.
ISRAEL MAKES MOVES TO BOOST PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT ABBAS
On the first day of its full rule in Gaza, Hamas grants amnesty to Fatah leaders, signalling that it is seeking conciliation. Meanwhile Israel, anxious to boost Palestinian President Abbas, promises to free 250 Palestinian prisoners and to transfer millions of dollars worth of tax funds to the new Palestinian government allowing it to pay its workers in full for the first time in a year – while omitting those who work for Hamas in Gaza. On July 11 Hamas boycotts the opening of the new Palestinian parliament. On August 6 Ehud Olmert becomes the first Israeli PM to visit a Palestinian town since the outbreak of fighting seven years ago, meeting under heavy guard with President Abbas to talk specifically about the creation of a Palestinian state.
BLOODIEST DAY OF INTRA-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
Difficult relations between Hamas and Fatah are far from resolved. On Sept 7 Hamas security forces armed with rifles and clubs beat Fatah supporters trying to hold street prayers to protest Hamas’s rule in Gaza. On Sept 11 a Palestinian rocket explodes in an Israeli army base, wounding more than 40 soldiers as they sleep in their tents. Israel’s initial response is to declare the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” in order to cut off power and fuel supplies. But there is no unified Palestinian response. Indeed on Nov 12 Hamas security forces open fire at a rally by the Fatah movement – 7 people are killed and 85 wounded in the bloodiest day of intra-Palestinian fighting since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip.
ISRAELI TANKS & BULLDOZERS BACKED BY PLANES ENTER GAZA
On Nov 19 the Israeli Cabinet approves the release of 441 Palestinian prisoners in a further gesture to President Abbas, but stops short of US demands to halt West Bank settlement construction. On Dec 11 Israeli tanks and bulldozers backed by attack aircraft move into the southern Gaza Strip, in the widest operation in the territory since Hamas took over. (11 Dec 2007 Exact cycle conjunction). The next day the arranged peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians start but get off to a rocky start. On Dec 18 Israeli aircraft launch an assault on the radical Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza, killing the group’s commander and nine other militants. The next day Hamas makes it clear they are seeking a cease-fire but their approach is rejected by Israel. Despite this on Dec 27 the two PMs Olmert and Abbas hold their first summit.
FEW CAN SEE THE BASIS FOR ANY PEACE AGREEMENT
On Jan 1 2008 Gaza’s ruling Hamas group launch a new crackdown on the rival Fatah movement, arresting dozens of activists and banning public gatherings. On Jan 15 Israeli tanks and helicopters raid Gaza killing as many as 17 Palestinians. On Feb 4, as the conjunction goes out of orb, a suicide bomber blows himself up in Dimona, the town that houses Israel’s secretive nuclear reactor though only one Israeli is killed. The Israeli response kills more than a dozen armed Hamas men. The number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2007 had actually shown a 45% drop on 2006 but with Hamas having taken control of Gaza expectations are heading in the opposite direction and few can see what the basis will be for a Middle East peace agreement. However if the conflict between Hamas and Fatah can be kept under control perhaps at the cycle Opposition discussions on Palestinian statehood may maximise.
Except in four of the countries we have covered in detail – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel/Palestine there is no continuing correlation of this Jupiter/Pluto cycle with Terrorism across the world. The link with global terrorism seems to disappear. The conjunction is the start of a new cycle, one in which global deaths from terrorism may well fall – even if the localised violence in the countries we have been examining may be set to rise. As if to confirm this the National Consortium for the study of Terrorism and the Responses to Terrorism sees 2007 as the year in which rising numbers of deaths from Global terrorism dating from 2000/2001 finally start to dramatically fall.
Outside of the four countries we have correlated with this cycle the following countries experience a significant amount of reported terrorism in this period though it does not correlate with the timing or meaning of this cycle conjunction – Colombia, East Timor, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, Turkey and Yemen. Sri Lanka is in the final stages of a war whose end in 2009 will not correlate with this cycle.
To a lesser degree than in the last cycle there is a correlation with assassinations or attempted assassinations (of major political figures). On March 4 in India communist rebels assassinate lawmaker Sunil Mahato as he watches a soccer game. On April 21 in Iraq Sami Abdul-Amir al-Jumaili, the chairman of Fallujah’s city council, an outspoken critic of al-Qaeda, who took the job in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold after his three predecessors were assassinated, is himself killed in a drive-by shooting. On June 10 in Afghanistan Taliban militants fire rockets close to a school where President Hamid Karzai is meeting with local leaders but no one is hurt.
On Sept 1 in Iraq gunmen on a motorcycle assassinate Muslim al-Batat, a deputy to the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. On Sept 13 Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the most prominent figure in a US-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaeda in Iraq is assassinated by a bomb claimed by an al-Qaeda front. On Nov 28 in Sri Lanka rebels make an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate a government minister in Colombo. On Dec 12 a car bomb attack kills Lebanon’s Brigadier General Francois Hajj, a top Maronite Catholic and considered likely to be the next head of the military. On Dec 27, just two weeks after the exact conjunction date, Pakistan’s opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi (see above).
On Jan 8 2008 a Sri Lankan government minister, D.M. Dassanayake, is assassinated by a bomb blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels. On the same day the Maldives president survives an assassination attempt when a boy scout grabs the knife of an attacker who jumps out of a crowd of people greeting the president. On Jan 14 2008 in Iraq gunmen assassinate Sunni Judge Amir Jawdat al-Naeib as he heads to work in Baghdad. On Feb 11 rebel soldiers shoot and critically wound East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta, and open fire on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in a failed coup attempt. On Feb 12 Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian tycoon, is found dead in his mansion near London – in his homeland he had led anti-government protests.
There appears to have been a surge in reported kidnappings in the conjunction period. According to Mapreport certainly the only other year that has a comparably high total is the previous one, 2006. The emphasis is on reported kidnappings as some countries such as Colombia and Mexico have thousands of kidnappings every year which do not get reported internationally. The massive surge in kidnappings in Nigeria shows every sign of also becoming continuous and those reported in this period are included in the analysis.
In February 2007 in Iraq a German woman Hannelore Krause and her son are kidnapped. The militants holding them hostage demand that Germany withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. A video posted on the internet in March shows the woman and her son weeping and pleading for help. The woman is freed in July. February also sees eight Ethiopians kidnapped along with five European tourists – later all are released unharmed. At least 12 people are reported kidnapped in Nigeria though double that number from previous abductions are released in that month. March sees a further 9 kidnappings there. Then on March 12 Alan Johnston, a BBC reporter, is kidnapped in the Gaza Strip by a group called the Army of Islam. His captivity leads to many protests worldwide and his terrifying ordeal has been well publicised. In the end in the wake of the conflict within Gaza between Hamas and Fatah it is the victors Hamas who put immense pressure on the Army of Islam, to release Johnston. On 4 July he is freed, taken to meet Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh before leaving Gaza with British diplomats.
In early April in Nigeria there are another 4 kidnaps while in Afghanistan the Taliban kidnap a female French aid worker to demand the withdrawal of French troops. On April 19 in a grisly story the heads of seven men kidnapped by Muslim extremists on a southern island are delivered to a Philippine army detachment. On May 3 2007 in one of the most reported kidnaps in recent history Madeleine McCann, a four year old British girl, disappears from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia de Luz, Portugal. Her parents were out eating not far away at a bar with friends leaving Madeleine and her two younger siblings alone in the apartment. Despite extensive searches across Europe and beyond and extraordinary publicity and media attention the little girl has not been found.
May sees 44 kidnaps in Nigeria. On May 29 five British workers in Iraq – 4 bodyguards and a finance expert are kidnapped from the Iraqi Finance Ministry in Baghdad. The kidnappers wear police uniforms and arrive in up to 40 police vehicles – surely the most overt kidnapping in modern history. In Nigeria June and July each see another 8 kidnaps – the most reported being on July 5 when the three-year-old daughter of a British expatriate worker is kidnapped by gunmen on her way to school in Port Harcourt. On July 19 Taliban gunmen kidnap 23 members of a South Korean church group in Afghanistan. The Taliban demand the release of some of their group and the withdrawal of South Korean troops from Afghanistan. When their demand is not met they kill two of the hostages – the rest are later freed.
On August 1 the bodies of 4 Afghan judges, kidnapped in July are found in Ghazni province. On Aug 14 gunmen in Nigeria abduct the mother of a state lawmaker, the latest in a spate of kidnappings targeting the children and elderly parents of local politicians. On Aug 18 a German woman is kidnapped in the Afghan capital, Kabul, the first foreigner to be abducted in the city for more than two years. She is an aid worker and Is abducted while having lunch with her husband at a restaurant – a day later she is freed.
In September in Nigeria gunmen disguised as soldiers kill a Colombian oil worker and abduct two other foreigners Then in October armed militants attack an offshore oil platform and seize seven foreign workers and one Nigerian. On Oct 8 a Japanese tourist is abducted in a region of Iran bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan as he heads out from his hotel – he is later released. On Oct 18 in Mogadishu, Somalia the local head of the UN World Food Programme, Idris Osman. is abducted by government troops – leading to the UN ceasing to distribute food there. On Dec 2 Sergio Gomez, a Mexican singer, the founder and lead vocalist of a musical group, is kidnapped and murdered. On Feb 6 in Nigeria armed men kidnap the wife of a prominent politician in Port Harcourt – she is released days later. On Feb 22 2008 In Tunisia two Austrian tourists are kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM).
The correlation with Hijackings, prominent in the last cycle, disappears.
There are other definite but minor correlations with the Jupiter/Pluto cycle – such as Euthanasia – which are only explored in the book.