Was the timing of the British arrests in the latest terrorism plot driven by US politics, as (update) a blogger on Daily Kos and Michael Froomkin suggest, interpreting an NBC Web report of US-British disagreements before the operation?
The chaos and improvisation last week in British airports tends to confirm other reports (eg Juan Cole – a long page, search for “Rashid”) that somebody or something forced the hands of Scotland Yard and MI5 before they, or the terrorists, were ready. It could be a little hard to get convictions in a real court based on text messages, airline timetables and bottles of bathroom chemicals.
The trigger seems to have been the August 9 arrest of one Rashid Rauf, brother of one of the alleged plotters, by Pakistan intelligence (not the regular police), “outside an internet shop in Zhob, in the border region of Baluchistan”. From there on, the explanations diverge. Juan Cole describes the British “official narrative” as denying that British intelligence wanted the arrest. Perhaps the Pakistanis were acting on their own; Rauf is a thug with a history – he’s wanted for murdering his uncle in Birmingham – so there were plenty of grounds to pick him up. Or, as NBC claims, Pakistan was acting under US, not British, pressure.
According to The Independent, the operation was helped by a British police informer; now blown (perhaps prematurely), but we know the Bush administration doesn’t worry about this sort of detail.
There are basically two theories of history: conspiracy and cock-up. The Bush administration combines them so well that in any given case, it’s hard to decide.