The ability of the United States to dictate the actions of foreign governments appears to be unravelling worldwide.   The increasingly strange case of US embassy officer Raymond Davis in Pakistan is reportedly about to lead to a virtual suspension of relations between Washington and Islamabad.   Davis, an employee of the Consulate in Lahore, shot and killed two robbers on motorbikes who attacked him and his vehicle after he had made a bank withdrawal.  Or at least that is his account.  He is being held by the Pak authorities.  According to the press coverage he is on a diplomatic passport, as is almost everyone these days who travels for the US government, but he is identified as technical and administrative staff.  That means he is not on the diplomatic list and if you are not on the diplomatic list your rights vis-a-vis the local government are somewhat limited because the Pakistani Foreign Ministry has not agreed that you are a diplomat in a full sense.  Also, Consulate employees, even if they are considered diplomats, are generally only granted immunity when they are actually engaged in consular business.  I am familiar with the limited status because I was technical and administrative on one tour with CIA, in those days traveling on an official passport, and I remember well how we were briefed that we were not protected by the Geneva conventions on diplomats. 

That Davis was armed is also interesting.  It suggests that he could be an intelligence officer who might have been out performing some operational act.  If that is the case, one would have expected the Pakistani service the ISI to intervene to free him, unless the relationship with CIA has become so bad that the favor could not be asked.  There have also been Pakistani media reports that the two “robbers” were actually ISI officers who had been observing whatever operational act Davis might have been performing, possibly meeting an agent or otherwise communicating with a source.

The US is insisting that Davis has diplomatic immunity and has to be freed and I am wondering why Obama is turning this into a major international incident when it seems to me that the Paks pretty much are in the right even if they are handling it badly. But the hard line suggests that there is much more to the story.