Tag Archives: Iraq

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The Only Realistic Solution to Afghanistan Is Fixing it

by Ehsan Ahrari on July 5, 2011, 1 Comment

Former Secretary of State Collin Powell famously told President George W. Bush before he invaded Iraq, if you send troops to that country "you are going to own it."  That is otherwise known as the "the Pottery Barn rule," "You break it, you own it."  Now, the United States "owns" Iraq as well as Afghanistan.  Even though President Barack Obama publicized the fact that he read Gordon M. Goldstein's book, Lessons in Disaster, in order to learn how to avoid them before implementing the troop surge of his own in Afghanistan, no one told him that each major conflict has obdurate realities that forces the sitting U.S. President to commit idiosyncratic faux pas of his own.  The problem is not knowing how each major U.S. military deployment is going to be different from the previous ones.  Somehow, President Obama thinks that, if he were to announce a rational timetable to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, the conflict would remain highly manageable. (more…)
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The Only Option Worth Pursuing: Negotiate, Negotiate, or Negotiate with Iran

by Ehsan Ahrari on April 18, 2010, No Comments

I don't like to make predictions, for predictions are mostly for soothsayers or palm-readers. But in this case, I will make an exception, based upon my reading of a number of clues. My prediction is that the first (or at least one of the major) foreign policy crisis of the Obama administration is likely to be Iran. In a style much more benign than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama has been incessantly harping on the nuclear issue involving Iran. Such a presidential near obsession develops its own blinders that can easily make a military option much more feasible than it really is. One of his top national security advisers, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, insists that all options – including military ones – are on the table. That persistence forces one to think that there is more involved about Iran than meets the eye. Obama's National Security Advisor, General Jones, has issued a comprehensive memo reported by the New York Times. That m
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‘Plus ça Change’ Factor of the QDR 2010

by Ehsan Ahrari on February 12, 2010, No Comments

Reading the pre-final draft of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2010, one is reminded of the old adage, "plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose," in the Pentagon's handling of asymmetric war, counterterrorism, and other related issues. The ghosts of the Vietnam War, of how not to lose another war, are also very much alive. Since the QDR is usually long on the details of weapons systems–in its making, the four Services fight the bare-knuckle war of pushing their preferred weapons platforms, notwithstanding their commitment to joint warfare–and short on the discussion of strategy, it is seldom clear whether ample attention will be paid to strategy when it becomes operational. (more…)
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Iran’s Ominous Social Movement

by Ehsan Ahrari on January 27, 2010, No Comments

The Iranian protest as a social movement The mounting protest against the Islamic Republic in Iran is in the process of becoming a social movement. Sidney Tarrow, a specialist on the subject, defines a social movement as collective challenges (to elites and authorities) by people with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interactions with elites, opponents, and authorities. He specifically distinguishes social movements from political parties and interest groups; and that is an important distinction. Social movements in the context of this essay are not known for bringing about incremental political changes in the existing political system. More often than not, they result in radical changes leading to regime change. If the Iranian government is facing a rising tide of social movement, then that can be the best news for the United States, which has always despised the Islamic Republic for humiliating it through the "Iranian hostage crisis" in 1979. The ties between thes
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Can Beijing and Moscow Help with Tehran?

by Ehsan Ahrari on January 4, 2010, No Comments

Published in Foreign Policy in Focus (30 Dec 09) - Click on link to read entire article The real test of President Barack Obama's dealing with China and Russia will be whether he can persuade them to support U.S. pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Obama is reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached the topic with Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies wanting to join the nuclear club, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
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Obama’s Impending “Lessons in Disaster”?

by Ehsan Ahrari on December 29, 2009, No Comments

Dear President Obama: As a student of presidential decision-making, I read with utmost interest Gordon Goldstein's book, Lessons in Disaster. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that there was a great deal of hoopla that, before making a decision about committing additional troops in Afghanistan, you, along with your advisers, read this book to ensure that right decision was made on that issue. In other words, you were reportedly resolute about avoiding the mistakes of your predecessors before committing the United States in another major conflict of our time. (more…)
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Afghanistan as Obama’s “War of Choice”

by Ehsan Ahrari on December 2, 2009, 1 Comment

President Barack H. Obama's announcement of his new strategy on December 1, 2009, conclusively makes the war in Afghanistan "Obama's war of choice." The President spoke from one of the hallowed symbols of America's military power--the United States Military Academy at West Point. Gone is the rhetoric of the wastefulness of Bush's war of choice in Iraq, when candidate Obama was "speaking truth to power." (more…)
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Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran

by Ehsan Ahrari on November 27, 2009, No Comments

The real test of President Barack H. Obama's dealing with China and Russia will emerge in his success to persuade those countries to support the U.S. in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations.  Obama has reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies having such aspirations, but Washington has no faith in those denials. (more…)
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“National” and “Global” Political Islam: A Response to Hroub’s Review of Roy’s Books

by Ehsan Ahrari on October 12, 2009, No Comments

Professor Khaled Hroub's review of Olivier Roy's three books–The Failure of Political Islam; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah; and The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East–published in your Journal, New Global Studies (Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2009, Article 6), is interesting but leaves the reader wanting more analysis. (more…)
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A New Strategy or Following Your Own Advice

by Ehsan Ahrari on October 9, 2009, 1 Comment

As President Barack H. Obama is edging toward making up his mind about accepting, partially accepting, or not accepting General Stanley McChrystal's advice to insert more troops in Afghanistan, I hear an abundance of metaphors flying.  One metaphor was used by the candidate Obama himself during the presidential campaign, when he described starting the war in Iraq to driving a bus into ditch.  That metaphor is being reprinted (recently by the New York Times).  Rory Stewart, a Professor at Harvard and an opponent of the option of increasing the troops, is using the metaphor "driving off a cliff."  Steven Biddle, a Fellow at CFR, calls it "a war that is worth waging, but only barely." John Nagle, who built his reputation by being one of General David Petraeus' assistants, and a person whose doctoral dissertation was on counterinsurgency (and a very good read), calls the war in Afghanistan "a better war."  The debate within the Principals Committee in the White House is reported to be