As much as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been demonized in the American media, it has managed to emerge as the chief benefactor of America’s 2001 war against the Taliban regime of Afghanistan as well as its 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s rule. In each instance, Iran’s own activities were aimed at ensuring that the United States’ presence in Afghanistan and Iraq would not irreparably damage its strategic interests. In both instances, Iran took ample measures to sabotage American military objectives, while ensuring that its actions did not trigger a retaliatory response from the US military. As the Obama administration starts its campaign, first to degrade and then to destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Iran should not be surprised if it were to once again emerge as a victor if America succeeds in obtaining that objective. (more…)
The emergence of ISIS/ISIL/IS is just one more example—albeit a significant one—of the passage of an era of Western dominance of the Arab/Muslim world. President Barack Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy (which is anything but a strategy) and his war on that entity in Syria and Iraq should be examined in that context. The most prominent members of Obama’s coalition to bomb ISIS are Arab monarchies of West Asia, whose very survival remains under constant threat not only from the Islamists, but also from the anti-authoritarian forces that played a crucial role in initiating the Arab Awakening in December 2010. As much as the Arab Awakening has become a somewhat dormant force, its turbulence is still being felt on a daily basis in Yemen and Jordan. As much as the Saudis succeeded in suppressing the rebellion of largely Shia masses against the Sunni rulers of Bahrain, no one really knows how stable that sheikhdom is likely to remain and for how long. The Arab states are experiencing the worst form of turbulence, in general, since the outburst of the Arab Awakening in 2010. (more…)
As the Obama administration is busy forming a coalition to fight-eradicate the Islamic State (IS) or (ISIS/ISIL), the evolving coalition that gathered last week in Paris was a far cry from the one put together by George H. W. Bush in 1991 to fight and expel Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. Today’s participants of the coalition of the “reluctantly willing” are probably thinking, but not voicing, that defeating the IS will be a difficult, if not impossible, challenge for a variety of reasons.
As much as the American and Indian strategic thinkers emphasize the commonality of democracy in the United States and India to emphasize the prospect of a strong and “natural” alliance, the fledgling alliance itself, if it were to be called that at all, is an unruly and rambunctious one. From the US side, the chief reason for that is their old habit of attempting to dictate a “code of conduct” to its allies for them to live by. Needless to say, of all the countries in the world, India is the last country to be expected to behave like a supplicant, especially of a declining superpower. From India’s side, the chief reason is the very rambunctious nature of its democracy, which has a long tradition of being suspicious of the United States. In the heyday of the Cold War years, the United States made the mistake (from India’s vantage point) of siding with Pakistan in the long-standing “cold war” of South Asia. Consequently, aside from developing its own stout framework of dependence on a highly accommodative Soviet Union for its defense needs, India also found the leadership of the “non-aligned movement” (NAM) to constantly lecture the mandarins of the United States’ foreign policy about the “immorality” of the Cold War. That Indian role was music to the ears of every single Soviet dictator. India’s “payback” to the former Soviet Union for its strategic partnership was a sustained manifestation of affinity and friendship toward it, even the former Soviet Union committed the worst faux pas of its existence by invading and occupying Afghanistan in 1979. India was the only democratic state that was not critical of that action.
Published in Asia Times Online, 28 Jul 2014: http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-280714.html
Israel’s use of “made-in-the-USA” death machines over the skies and on the ground of Gaza are raining hellfire on its civilian population, especially its women, children, and elders. No Arab State has had the guts to denounce that brutality.
Only the newly elected Pharaoh of Egypt, Fattah al-Sisi, has spoken out on the issue, but only to manifest his utter contempt for the Islamic Brotherhood of Egypt by condemning Hamas for its brutal firing of rockets on Israel and to beseech it to arrange a ceasefire. However, Hamas was not interested in a ceasefire that did not also end the Israeli embargo. Egypt could have negotiated that concession from the Israelis, but it did not. It only wanted to play a symbolic role to appease its US paymaster’s crony, Israel. (more…)
Published in Asia Times Online – 28 July 2014: http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-03-280714.html
Pakistan’s Proclivity for War
For the past 15-plus years, Pakistan has been the unenviable focus of a variety of unflattering depictions of its state of affairs in scholarly and journalistic narratives. It appears as if various authors are in competition to select increasingly ominous phrases to describe that country and its cataclysmic state of affairs.
Some called it “the most dangerous place”, “a country that is descending into chaos”, a county that possesses a “Kalashnikov” culture, a “garrison state”, or a “hard country”.
As if following the same tradition, T V Paul’s book, The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, adds one more phrase, “warrior state”, to portray it as a country where the security state has outgrown all other institutions and activities and where radical Islamization and its attendant obscurantism have been the consequences of state policy.
If you thought that the American neoconservatives (aka “chicken hawks”) of the George W. Bush administration—persons who brought us the Iraqi invasion based on a mission to destroy the imaginary arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussain was hiding—you would be wrong. They are very much alive and are coming back through cyberspace and the airways trashing President Barack Obama’s handling of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. When they are reminded of the atrocious mess originally created in Afghanistan and Iraq by Bush and these very same neocons, they deny this linkage and then quickly proceed with their warmongering rhetoric. A factor to keep in mind about these neocons is that none has actually fought in a war. However, their palpable penchant for war—as long as someone else’s son or daughter is going to die in it—has rightly earned them the pejorative depiction “chicken hawks.” Their proclivities are very much alive; they are itching for another war.
Iran, an erstwhile member of the invented “axis of evil,” and the United States, or “the great Satan,” are faced with the difficult proposition of finding ways to snatch the regime of Nouri al-Maliki, and the integrated Iraq along with it, from the jaws of the murderous ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Sham). However, no one should kid him/herself that a meeting of the minds on that issue—if not a rapprochement—will happen anytime soon. There has been a yawning chasm of bad blood and ill-will in Tehran and Washington since 1979. The US bitterness toward Iran has oozed out in the past two days in Washington in a public disagreement between two top national security agencies of the United States: the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Defense (DOD). While Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed prospects for the consideration of all options involving Iran to save Iraq, a spokesman of the DOD categorically rejected such a possibility. That does not mean, however, that either the DOS or the DOD has final say over the matter. In the Obama presidency, it is Barak Obama himself who decides the modalities of the twists and turns of America’s foreign policy.
When George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, he supposedly had big plans to revamp the entire Middle East to kowtow to the strategic priorities of America and Israel. The highly touted “shock and awe” created by the superior US forces that initially crushed the rag-tag army of Saddam Hussein, later on met the Iraqi version of shock and awe—a quagmire created by Iraqi insurgents from which Washington almost did not get out with its dignity intact. But thanks to the Sahwa movement of the Iraqi Sunnis and General David Petraeus’ adroit implementation of the counterinsurgency doctrine in 2007, the United States was spared from experiencing another Vietnam-like defeat, something that Saddam Hussein always wanted to deliver to the American military.
The Financial Times of June 12, 2014 reported “rumors of an army takeover” in Pakistan. Reports of this nature have been periodically surfacing in different Western outlets. But when the Financial Times reports it, one has to sit up and pay attention.
The question is why are such rumors are circulating? Is there any truth to them, or is the army general headquarters busy conducting a strategic campaign to take a pulse of the Western reaction by leaking them? Alternatively, are such rumors created to send warnings to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to close his reported disagreements with the army over negotiating with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, the Pakistani Taliban) terrorists?