Defiant Iran Has Its Achilles’ Heel

It is hard to say that there is an “open season” on berating, hating, and ridiculing Iran in the West, because that season has never ended since the Iranian revolution of 1979.  Despite all the odds against it, Iran remains a formidable Middle Eastern state with a lot of clout and popularity stemming from its support of the Palestinian cause and for supporting the Hezbollah Lebanon, a political as well as a paramilitary organization that withstood the fury of Israeli attacks during the July-August 2006, a reality that remains intensely popular in Arab streets.  Still Iran’s Achilles’ heel remains the growing unpopularity of its government from within.

The Islamic Revolution brought an end to the rule of “America’s Shah.”  Even President Jimmy Carter, who has evolved as America’s best ex-president, attempted to encourage the Iranian Army to bring an end to the revolution.  Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, openly sided with Iraq in its aggression against the Islamic Republic.[1]  Iran has long been depicted as a “pariah” or a “rogue” state by Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.  Bush’s Secretary of State, Condy Rice, in her quest for new phrases of affront, once characterized it an “outpost of tyranny.”  Continue reading “Defiant Iran Has Its Achilles’ Heel”

The Ghost of Pakistan

Considering the extant huge economic progress differentials between India and Pakistan, one would think that the former country would do its very best to ignore the latter, especially during moments of glory that the visit of Barack Obama bestowed upon it.  Alas, that was not the case.  Even during moments of celebration, the ghost of Pakistan was looming large.  That was quite obvious during attempts made in India to drag the American president into the swamp of mudslinging that has been the sine qua non of the regional politics of South Asia. 

President Obama was briefed well enough in advance to make sure that he went to Mumbai, the place where Pakistani terrorists launched a bloody attack on the citizens of that city in 2008, and to the Taj Mahal Hotel, which bore the brunt of that attack.  To further ensure that his hosts understood America’s own sensibilities regarding the commonality of threats related to extremism, President Obama made ample statements soothing India’s justifiable concerns on that issue. Continue reading “The Ghost of Pakistan”

The North Korean Brinkmanship and Sino-American Maneuvers

Authoritarian regimes are so hard to predict in terms of why they make specific decisions; when there is likely to be major shifts in their foreign policy, even on issues of high politics; and especially how candid those regimes are in dealing with each other. These are some of the bewildering issues involving North Korean-Sino relations, especially the modalities of their ties.  We know that North Korea is heavily dependent for its survival as a state on China’s economic assistance.  However, it is anyone’s guess how much leeway Beijing has granted to Kim Jong Il.  North Korea specialists in Washington do little better than their Kremlinologist counterparts did during the Cold War years in understanding and their prediction of the decisions taken by the leaders of the Soviet Union.  However, every North Korea or China specialist inside the U.S. was awe-stricken when, on November 23, 2010, North Korea shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow China Sea, which is only 50 miles off the South’s northwestern coast.  Continue reading “The North Korean Brinkmanship and Sino-American Maneuvers”

The Candid But Perilous World of Diplomatic Cables

The recent tranche of cables from WikiLeaks is as revealing as it is sobering about Pakistan, its status as a nuclear weapons power, its ties with the lone superpower, and its current President, Asif Ali Zardari, who extracts little respect from his countrymen as well as at least one head of a foreign government, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  But Saudi Arabia is not just another foreign government.  It has been a powerful financial and political supporter of that country for several decades.

These cables uncover an unsuccessful U.S. effort since 2007 to transfer highly enriched uranium from a highly secretive Pakistani nuclear reactor.  Americans remain fearful that the uranium might be diverted for the production of an “illicit nuclear device,” meaning a device manufactured by al-Qaida. According to the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan, Ann W. Patterson, that country was not even willing to schedule a meeting with the American nuclear technicians for a possible discussion, fearing that such a meeting would be misconstrued by its mass media as America’s attempt to take nuclear weapons from Pakistan.  Continue reading “The Candid But Perilous World of Diplomatic Cables”

The Measure of Power of the “World’s Most Powerful People”

 Forbes Magazine’s list of the “most powerful people” in the world is interesting because of its tongue-in-cheek gossipy style.  It is also appealing in the sense that it reflects the changing global reality.  Every time that list is released, it captures the attention of gossip columnists and talk show hosts alike.  It is decidedly influenced by the current buzz in the world press.  But it is not important in the sense that one is left to figure out the basis of determining who is powerful to do exactly what.  This is an important question in the context of the “interesting times” that in which we live.

China’s President, Hu Jintao, is ranked as number one on the list, while President Barack Obama is listed as number two, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as number three.  Continue reading “The Measure of Power of the “World’s Most Powerful People””