La Marseillaise Versus the Quranic Verse 5:32

The ISIS-sponsored terrorist attacks of Paris of November 13, 2015 popularized two phenomena.  The first one was the public singing of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, which embodies the free human spirit, even under an environment pregnant with fear, blood, tyranny and their related gore.  The French soccer fans were singing it while exiting the soccer stadium, where the Islamist terrorists had let loose a torrent of bloody attacks on innocent human beings.  They were murdered as revenge for the French government’s air campaign in the ISIS-controlled areas of Syria.  The demented soldiers of ISIS were killing them because they were Christians.  The unnoticed aspect of those murderous attacks was that all human beings in that stadium and elsewhere in Paris—Christians as well as Muslims—were their targets, since they had no clue about the religious identity of any of their victims. (more…)

Is the ‘Dead’ Arab World Really Waiting to be Led by Iran?

Reading Boualem Sansal’s recent interview in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, was a stimulating experience. In that interview, Sansal, after depicting the Arab world “in terms of history,” as “dead,” thinks that Iran “is well armed intellectually, scientifically and economically, and could one day lead Islam globally.” He is also of the view that “…soon the Sunni Arabs will accept the domination of Shi’ite Iran, because only Iran enjoys recognition from the West, and even instills fear in it.” He regards Iran’s nuclear program as “proof” of Iranian “capabilities.” He also regards “Western Islam” as a “serious rival” of Iran. Western Islam, in Sansal’s estimation, “too could one day compete for the right to lead the Muslim world.” (more…)

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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.