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. Continue reading “If the United States Eradicates ISIS, the Real Winner Will Be Iran”
The Abbotabad Commission Report, in some corners of Pakistan, is depicted as “scathing,” while another school of thought calls it a mere whitewash. The fact of the matter is that it is both. It is scathing in its criticism of some security institutions and practices, such as the lack of coordination. However, its only whitewash is either ignoring or soft-pedaling the real culprit, the possible involvement of the higher ups in either approving the presence of Usama Bin Laden (UBL) in Pakistan or being a party to it. Continue reading “The Abbotabad Commission Report and the United States”
We now know for sure that, not just Americans, but the whole world is under the constant surveillance of the “Surveillance State of America.” However, if you are living in Congo, Guatemala, China, or another autocratic hell, you will not be surprised by this news, because most of us have assumed that the “security state” is everywhere. Continue reading “The Surveillance State of America, Part II”
In America, there is a season for everything. There is a season to be thankful, to be good to your loved ones, to be jolly, or to feel contemplative, and so on. Now is the season for taking a close look at the Muslims at large, who, in the minds of a majority of Americans, are still linked with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. That link is more symbolic in nature, but its power is being felt as this country approaches September 11, 2011. I accentuate the notion of symbolism related to this issue because very few Americans bothered to study its nuances. Even though writing about Islam and Muslims’ attitudes and feelings has become a cottage industry in the post-9/11-era inside the United States and in other countries, quite a few of those projects contain nonsensical explanations by the authors who have little knowledge of Islam and Muslims, or who have barely travelled to any Muslim country, much less lived in any of those countries for a long period of time. Steven Kull’s essay, “Why Muslims are still mad at America” and his book, Feeling Betrayed: The Roots of Muslim Anger At America, are exceptions to that rule. He is an academic from the University of Maryland, and has spent a lot of time interviewing Muslims for his book.
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.
Long before Usama Bin Laden’s death in Pakistan, al-Qaida had become irrelevant as an organization that could bring about political change in the Arab or Muslim world. The Arab awakening, on the contrary, was very much in the driving seat of bringing about political change toward the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. Al-Qaida and its followers could cause enormous amounts of violence in West Asia, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula, but it could never topple any regime. One reason might be because, unlike the Arab awakening, it never was a social movement. As an organization that was galvanized on the basis of a highly exclusivist ideology (Islamic puritanism and an excessive use of violence), al-Qaida always had limited appeal in terms of creating massive numbers of “foot soldiers.” Continue reading “Al-Qaida versus the Arab Awakening: The Muslim World’s Past and Future”
The recent assassination of the Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab, the most populous state of Pakistan and the state that formulates a large chunk of its Army, raises that perennial question: Is religious moderation dying in Pakistan? Assassin’s bullets are notorious about leading to major cataclysmic events, and one should be careful about reading too much into such events. However, in Pakistan’s case no amount of broad sweep of analytical thinking may be regarded as exaggeration. Continue reading “Is Religious Moderation Dying in Pakistan?”
The author of a book entitled, The Audacity of Hope, has issued another audacious document in the form of his first National Security Strategy (NSS). That document will be known more for its marked departure from strategic issues, which were emphasized by George W. Bush in his NSS, than for its continuity. In doing that, it remains highly mindful and pragmatic about the emerging new order of the 21st Century in which the United States has to find its niche, either as a leader or as a declining hegemon.
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 these two countries have remained tense since then. Iran, under the Ayatollahs, has consistently and virulently opposed the U.S. hegemony of its region. It has viewed that strategic affair as threatening to its stability and, indeed, to its very survival. The most recent cause of conflict between the two antagonistic countries is Iran’s nuclear research program. A regime change brought about through a social movement might also be the best news for Israel, who wishes to maintain its own nuclear monopoly, which has remained an ignored reality. However, that reality has created an ostensibly permanent military asymmetry between the states of that region and Israel. The Arab states have remained silently resentful of it. Iran, on the contrary, has decided to challenge it by staring its own nuclear research program.
The United States went through a near-miss terrorist attack during the Christmas holidays. A Muslim, this time a Nigerian Muslim, was involved. Consequently, the country is going through another silly season whereby a number of “experts” with diarrhea of the mouth are eagerly expressing their idiotic views. At the government level, there is an outcry for finding who (which bureaucrat or which bureaucracy) was sleeping on the job, or who failed to “connect the dots.” The process of condemning Muslims is on with a vengeance. One suggestion is that the United States should abandon the attitude of political correctness and racially profile every Muslim traveler. After all, they say, Israel is doing that as a matter of course. However, no one stopped to think that Israel is an island, a small and insignificant nation, compared to the lone superpower, which claims not to be at war with Islam and Muslims. Sarah Palin, who desperately tries to sound intelligent and coherent in order to peddle her book, made the news by stating that profiling Muslims is quite appropriate.