The Underpublicized Maneuvers of the GCC States

Leave it to two Israeli writers to make a point, which is mostly missed inside the United States, regarding the diplomatic adroitness and political savviness of the States of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to the United States last March and tried to embellish the mutuality of interests between the Gulf States and Israel toward the then impending US-Iran nuclear deal, everyone thought that a political nexus between Israel and the Gulf States was in the process of sprouting. (more…)

Burying the Hatchet is the Precondition for US-Iran Rapprochement

A lot of ink is being spilled analyzing the pros and cons of the recently concluded US-Iran nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+ 1 countries (4 permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), and there is ample show of emotions about this deal involving different actors. The Arab states are upset because they concluded that its successful implementation would lead to an era of US-Iran rapprochement in which Iran, more than the Arab states, would be the focus of America’s attention. The Israelis are mad because they see the emergence of a nuclear Iran in the distant future as a result of it. More to the point, Israel’s Prime Minister , Benyamin Netanyahu, envisions that deal as the first historical step toward bringing about an end to Israel’s own preeminence, related to its nuclear deterrence in the region. A study prepared for the RAND Corporation addresses precisely that point when it notes, “Nuclear weapons would probably reinforce Iran’s traditional national security objectives, including deterring a U.S. or Israeli military attack.” The American side—mainly the Obama officials and pro-nuclear-deal Democrats in the US Congress—is hoping that it has succeeded, at least in postponing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons aspirations into the distant future. The American neocons and the Republican legislators, on the contrary, think that Iran has fleeced the Obama administration into lifting the economic sanctions without giving up anything of substance. (more…)

Whose Version of Political Order in the Middle East?

Given the rising tide of instability and disorder in the Middle East, Henry Kissinger’s longing for a new world order is more real than it is given credit for, everywhere except in the United States and perhaps in Europe.[i]  Such a world order defends the Westphalian principles created in Europe.  The most relevant feature of the Westphalian system for this discussion is that each nation-state exercises sovereignty over its territory and in its conduct of domestic affairs.   Throughout the Cold War years, the United States established an impeccable record of enforcing that principle in its defense of states of Western Europe against a potential encroachment of the Soviet Union.

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The Pakistan Army’s ‘Perpetual’ War Against India: A Review of C. Christine Fair’s Book, “Fighting to the End”

The division of the Indian subcontinent into two countries—a larger India and a considerably smaller Pakistan with its East and West Pakistan wings that were about 1,000 miles apart—was anything but a happy story.  Millions of people were either killed or forced to migrate to and from those countries.  Even now, when the events of that blood-drenched tragedy have become a distant memory, both India and Pakistan appear incapable of freeing themselves from the ghosts of those dark days and continue to depict each other as archenemies.  This statement is more correct for Pakistan, because at least India is focused on the enormously intricate task of emerging as a rising power.  Pakistan, on the contrary, is still wallowing in the injustices of the past.  I agree with Ms. Fair that It “Pakistan did get the short end of the stick in terms of the division of fixed assets, because the bulk of the infrastructure was located in India.” (p. 56)  Pakistan “believes that it was deprived of key Muslim majority areas in the Punjab as well as of the Muslim-majority princely state of Kashmir; thus, that Partition was and remains incomplete.” (p. 41) India, on the contrary, emerged as “a territorially satisfied state.” (p. 65)

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A Passage to India and Dubai

The best part of international travel is returning home safely and then telling your friends and acquaintances what you have learned from your travels.  In that sense, our travel to India and Dubai was quite joyful as well as instructive.

Every time I go to India, I am full of high hopes about finding progress that I read so much about in the Western press.  But every time, I come back not exactly overwhelmed by the evidence of said progress.  Since I look at India from the grassroots level, I see more evidence of continuity than change.  But that is not to say that progress is totally absent.  Surely not.

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The American Century Is Far From Over: A Review Essay

One of the ostensibly interminable debates about foreign policy is whether the United States is a declining power, or whether it has already retrogressed into a “has-been” superpower.  From the vantage point of this perspective, the issue of America’s decline is not yet complete. The advocates of this perspective appear open to the proposition that America’s waning can be reversed.[1]   However, the pessimist regard America’s decline as virtually complete and may even be irreversible.[2]   Needless to say, this perspective remains very much open to challenge.  In any event, the issue of America as a declining power is not only multidimensional, but it opens up spirited and engaging discussions among its exponents and opponents.

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Do US-Iran Strategic Interactions Have a Promising Future?

The realignment of forces in the different regions of the globe at times start with some significant events whose import remains a matter of speculation among strategic thinkers until it eventually becomes a major development.  On other occasions, that force realignment springs from minor events that suddenly transform into a major force for change.  Applying this observation to the Middle East, current strategic interactions between the United States and Iran belong in the former category.  Even though it is only in its initial stages, it may have a great future, especially if Washington and Tehran can agree on a mutually acceptable nuclear deal.  The Arab Awakening, which started in December 2010 and later swept three long-standing dictators out of power, belongs in the latter category.  Even though that potentially revolutionary change seems to have fizzled out since the 2013 restoration of the military dictatorship in Egypt, the sudden outburst of another wave of Arab Awakening–especially in the wake of what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen–remains one likely possibility.

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US-Iran’s Nuclear Conflict and the Exercise of Arab/Iranian Realpolitik

The partisan circus in the US Congress involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3, 2015 speech condemning US-Iran nuclear negotiations is over, while the assessment phase of that speech over the prospects of a nuclear deal continues.  If Netanyahu wanted to minimize, if not kill, the chances of a deal that is acceptable to the United States and Iran, he may have succeeded, at least in making its emergence difficult.  What is left to be seen is how resolute American and Iranian negotiators will be about concluding a nuclear deal.

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Obama’s Paradoxical Choices: Negotiating with Iran and Handling Bibi

Relations between the United States and Israel have been hitting a new low, especially after the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, issued an invitation to Prime Minister Benyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu to address a joint session of the US Congress.  Such invitations to foreign leaders, as a matter of long-standing protocol, are cleared by the White House before they are issued.  But Boehner’s decision to snub the White House was just another indication of the deteriorating relations between the Congressional Republican leadership and the Democratic administration.  And since President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been increasingly coming under Republican attack, Boehner decided to take on the President by using the hot-button issue of the US-Iran ongoing nuclear negotiations.[1]  That is also an issue on which Netanyahu is betting that he will improve his chances for reelection on May 17, 2015.  Realizing the potential payoffs, Netanyahu promptly accepted the invitation to deliver his speech on March 3, 2015.

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The 2016 Republican Presidential Debates: Forums for a Failed US Strategy toward ISIS

As we watch the very early stages of the Republican potential candidates expressing their interest in becoming President of the United States, the most troubling feature is the mediocrity and venomous nature of their blabber that is aimed at criticizing and even questioning President Barack Obama’s love of the United States.[1]  Conservative Republicans are upset about Obama’s refusal to connect violent extremism with Islam. President Obama’s position is that “he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by ‘radical Islam’ because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.”[2]

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