The phenomenon—of governments keeping special departments for criminal activity—is not confined to Iran. In the Financial Times, Mansoor Ijaz recently revealed the existence of “Section S” of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. The purpose of this office, sometimes known as “S-Wing,” is to maintain relations to the Taliban and Haqqani network, writes Ijaz, a Pakistani-American who once negotiated with Sudan for the Clinton administration. Shortly after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May, he was approached by a representative of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, seeking a meeting with the White House. At this meeting Pakistan, having hitherto denied the existence of Section S, would offer to shut it down in return for concessions! It was by this means among others that Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was able to determine that the ISI was shopping on both sides of the Afghan street, and that the United States was helping finance the murder and sabotage of its own troops and allies.
Again, it is the sheer absence of embarrassment that takes the breath away. We have been betraying you, and now wish to be further bribed to stop doing so. (Didn’t Flaubert have a banker who was so corrupt that he would willingly have paid for the pleasure of selling himself?)
I notice that reporting of Pakistani double-dealing has improved since Zardari came clean in this way. We can even read first-hand accounts of Pakistani shelling of American and Afghan forces, launched directly across the border in broad daylight. We also have the impossibly arrogant Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayhani, Pakistan’s uniformed satrap, saying that he will need to keep the Haqqani network armed and on his official payroll even as coalition forces try to mount an orderly handover and withdrawal.
Finally, since mentioning Bernard-Henri Levy’s celebrated timeline of Pakistani perfidy from May 2005 I have received several requests to make it easier to find. It can be read here. It is the record of an extraordinarily successful effort to deceive Congress, and to manipulate American aid and strategy, over a distressingly long period of time. Again, the principal method was the horse-trading in Taliban and al-Qaida figures against whom Islamabad only claimed to be fighting.
There is a common lesson in all these examples: Never assume that the totalitarian or terrorist enemy is smart enough to conceal his traces. Indeed, don’t always assume that he is even interested in doing so. The utter nerve of it is often part of the strategy in the first place.