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. Continue reading “Burying the Hatchet is the Precondition for US-Iran Rapprochement”
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. Continue reading “Anti-ISIS War Underscores the End of Western Dominance”
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.
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.
The US government’s intelligence services are either getting too imaginative or simply too paranoid about the “revival” of Usama Bin Laden, who, they know, is dead. Now they are imagining him coming back to life as a “virtual” Bin Laden or as a new “avatar” of Jihadism. In this ostensible flight of imagination, the American intelligence “experts on Islam appear eager to show their sheer ignorance and stupidity about the religion itself. Consider the following statement from the study that was commission by no less than the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the highest intelligence agency of the United States. It states:
Imagine that jihadist supporters create a detailed avatar of
Usama bin Laden and use his many voice recordings to
animate the avatar for up-close virtual reality experiences
that could be used to preach, convert, recruit, and propagate
dogma to the media. The Bin Laden avatar could preach
and issue new fatwas for hundreds of years to come, as
the fidelity of his likeness would be entirely believable
and animated in new ways to keep him current and fresh.
One cannot blame the intelligence agencies for being imaginative and proactive; however, those activities should be driven on the basis of their knowledge of Islam itself, since al-Qaida’s interpretation of that religion plays a crucial role in what they have been doing and what they will continue to aspire to.
There is no doubt that Bin Laden is held in high esteem among the self-styled Jihadists, and they would use his speeches and statements to make their points for the in-crowd. However, assigning the status of an avatar (a secular version of a saint) has no room in the Wahhabi ideology that drives all self-styled Jihadist organizations.
In order to fully grasp the entire background of this outlandish scenario one should realize that there are large numbers of people in the DOD, other intelligence agencies, and various defense contracting companies (which have mushroomed in and around Washington, Tampa, and other places with large military facilities inside the United States) who do nothing but develop such scenarios. However, almost all of those scenario developers have very-little-to-no knowledge of Islam, and a lot of them are unadulterated Islamophobes. When you pay enormous amounts of money to individuals
to develop imaginative (aka moronic) scenarios, one can expect nothing but those of low quality like the avatar scenario, which are substantially divorced from the realities of the streets of countries where the self-styled Jihadists are active.
After denigrating such scenarios, let me offer my own thinking on the subject of Bin Laden’s legacy. As much as he has been lionized by the United States’ national security community, even after his death, his real claim to fame was that he endorsed an audacious action plan of the magnitude of carrying out terrorist attacks on the United States’ homeland. Then, after dismantling the Taliban regime and cornering Bin Laden and his cohorts in Tora Bora in November 2001, he managed to escape into the chaotic area of Pakistan only as a result of the sheer Keystone-Cop-like thinking (and actions) of US officials like Donald Rumsfeld (George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense) and General Tommy Franks (Commander of the US forces that invaded Afghanistan). More than ten years after that incident, the United States failed to locate Bin Laden, even after spending billions of dollars and focusing the brunt of its electronic intelligences’ attention on Pak-Afghan borders, where he was expected to be hiding. He seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Those ten years were more crucial in making a legend out of Bin Laden by the US intelligence community.
After the assassination of Bin Laden in May 2011, a decision was made not to bury him anywhere. The Americans were fearful that his grave would become a gathering place of most, if not all, self-styled Jihadist groups. However, even if that were the case, how that potential would have become a constant source of the regeneration of Jihad is beyond me. Even without Bin Laden’s grave or without the benefit of his “fatwas,” which the aforementioned study gives great significance, the self-styled Jihadists are having a field day in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, etc., in their resolve to destabilize the existing regimes with the objective of eventually capturing power. However, they also know that the United States would not allow them to take control of the government anywhere. Syria seems to be an exception to that US rule, but the Obama administration has not taken any military action against them for two reasons. First, the self-styled Jihadists have the blessing and active support of the Saudis and the Qataris. The United States is not opposed to their objective of regime change in Syria, knowing full well that once the Assad regime is ousted, it (US) will swoop in to play an active role in the negotiations aimed at establishing a new regime in Syria, which is not hostile to the US and Israel.
By developing the “virtual Bin Laden” scenario, the US intelligence community is demonstrating a panicky state of mind. In the aftermath of the Arab Awakening, Washington appears to be less and less in charge of managing events in such countries as Libya, Egypt, and even Syria. That might be one reason why a new practice of “outsourcing” of US foreign policy to Riyadh and Doha has become a hallmark of the Obama administration. Now, we will have to wait and see what type of policies will emerge from the virtual Bin Laden scenario in the coming months. My best guess is that they are likely to be equally bizarre as the virtual Bin Laden scenario.
Happy new year to all my global friends and contacts!
2013 has been an okay year for the United States, in terms of its foreign policy in the Middle East and in the Asia-Pacific. Continue reading “So Long, 2013; Welcome 2014â€¦I Think!”
The US-Iran nuclear deal of November 23, 2013, putting a temporary freeze on Iran’s nuclear program, is likely to turn out to be the beginning of an historic development. The most celebrated aspect of this agreement is that the top diplomats on both sides are now engaging in a highly intricate dialogue, instead talking at each other through the media. Continue reading “The US-Iran Interim Nuclear Agreement: Auspicious But Potentially Fragile”
Here is the link of my latest interview on the Hawaiian TV.
In his second inaugural address in January 1997, President Bill Clinton stated, “America stands alone as the world’s indispensable nation.” Since then, that phrase has been used on a regular basis. America, as an indispensable nation, underscores its dominance in resolving conflicts of all portions since the end of World War II. It has been a major enabler of global economic stability and prosperity of Western Europe and Japan, and, most important of all, it contained the former Soviet Union–playing a crucial role in bringing about its eventual implosion. Continue reading “The Synonymity Between Dispensability and Decline”
The government of Bishara al-Assad, while predicted to have fallen many months ago, is hanging on, and is causing an agonizing dilemma on the part of the United States and Israel. Both of them want to see the end of Assad’s regime; however, neither of them wants to see Assad replaced by a nexus of Islamists and pro-AQ Jihadists in that country. The sustained hesitation of the United States regarding Syria made John Kampfner of the Guardian wonder whether this is the first conflict of “the post-superpower era.” My sense is that Kampfner is not far off the mark, especially since the PRC is reported to be demonstrating a heightened interest in playing some role in the PLO-Israeli conflict.