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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.”
The topic was former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s this morning’s interview on the BBC in which he accused Pakistan of not bringing about any substantive policy changes toward Afghanistan. Even though Pakistan’s former officials disagreed with Karzai, my own take is that he is spot on in his criticism of Pakistan.
Please start listening from 6:41 on the counter. My interview is toward the end of this major story of this morning. Today’s broadcast opens with my statement.
The murder of the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo was a terrorist act, which should be condemned in the strongest possible words. However, I am equally worried about the rising tide of two types of fundamentalisms—one religious and the other secular—that are threatening to turn the entire world into a theater of war. It is easy to condemn religious fundamentalists belonging to all religions, for they not only grossly misrepresent their respective religions by spilling human blood, but also cause enormous anguish and embarrassment to their fellow believers, who have to explain to others why so much blood is being shed in the name of their respective faiths. Islam remains the focus of such troublesome attention.
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.