Category Archives: ISIS

The Killing of Qasem Soleimani and the Insatiable Bloodlust of the US Military

Soleimani was known to have been one of the most powerful people in Iran, second only to the Ayatollah himself.

The airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, leader of the country’s elite al-Quds force, and also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander of Iraq’s Hashd-al Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, seems to have finally given a significant chunk of Trump’s support base a rude awakening: contrary to his claims, the current POTUS is no anti-interventionist. For all his dovish posturing and promises on the 2016 campaign trail to bring American troops home and withdraw from the “endless wars” in the Middle East (a position that arguably played a huge part in winning him the presidency of the United States), he may have just lit a fuse on a situation that even he will find impossible to contain. By killing Soleimani, Trump has chosen to take a drastic course of action that even Barack Obama, who engaged in continuous drone warfare throughout his presidency, and George W. Bush, who invaded Iraq, were loath to undertake out of fear that it would have catastrophic consequences for the United States and American presence in the Middle East.

This development signals a clear failure of the Trump administration’s so-called ‘maximum pressure’ strategy – which aimed to economically besiege Iran through sanctions to the point of bringing the country to its knees. And the irony is that it might actually have worked, too, given the wave of protests that took place across the country – had Donald Trump not jolted the country’s population into uniting in their grief after he decided to ruthlessly assassinate one of their most popular national figures. For the time being, national solidarity over what is being seen as an illegal assassination has quashed the popular protests that were taking place across the country. So Trump’s directive has backfired spectacularly, and if unfolding events are anything to go by, it looks like from here on out, the United States is set to face a tremendous amount of blowback for carrying out such an ill-advised operation so hastily. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Israel, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, The Middle East, United States

Iran crisis: ‘General Soleimani was on a peace mission’

After 1979, Iran created its own democratic brand of Islam … The major conflict is between Iran and Israel.

We at The Pakistan Inst­itute of International Affairs (PIIA) held a session on Saturday evening on the current developments in West Asia participated by three prominent individuals. Former foreign secretary of Pakistan Najmuddin Shaikh was the first speaker. Mr Shaikh began his presentation by mentioning the Ukrainian passenger plane that was mistakenly shot down by an Iranian-launched missile. Iran has acknowledged that this happened because of a mistake on the part of those who are involved in safeguarding Iran, and those who have fired the missile will be held accountable. There will be a demand for compensation. Perhaps a precedent will be followed when in 1988 an Iranian passenger plane was shot down by the US. President Reagan had expressed his regret and eventually the Americans decided that compensation would be given. Mr Shaikh said three countries are associated with the current developments: the US, Iran and Iraq. There is much confusion in the United States.

There is polarisation in the country, and within its administration. The Congress says that the authority of waging war lies with it and Trump will ignore it. Trump is unpredictable but one thing is not: anything that Obama did is [deemed] bad and has to be reversed. However, there is a deeper concern. The American secret state is still traumatised by the hostage crisis. It is driving the attitude towards Iran. Many think-tanks have written about how counterproductive it is. This is not the prevailing sentiment, though. The prevailing sentiment is that what happened to Qassem Soleimani is right but now we need to de-escalate. With reference to Iran, he said it did a wise thing of announcing that we have carried out our attack and that’s all we’re going to do. But they sent a message to the US that it should examine the precision of their missiles. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States

Foreign forces are to blame for Afghan conflict: Rustam Shah Mohmand

Former Ambassador to Afghanistan urges Pakistan to shift focus away from India.“The India-centric approach will have to be reviewed because it doesn’t deliver much” he said. Watch Video

PIIA recently held a talk on the Afghan conflict and this is Peerzada Salman’s news report of our event from Dawn. He said there is only one reason for the Afghan conflict: foreign forces. And if Pakistan and Afghanistan are to have good relations for a lasting peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan has to review its India-centric policy. This was the point that Rustam Shah Mohmand, former ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, gave significant emphasis to during his talk titled The Afghanistan conflict: emerging dynamics and impact on Pakistan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Wednesday evening. Mr Mohmand said what he was about to say might not be liked by some people. He then gave a robust historic perspective on the Afghan issue by asserting that most conflicts in the world were unnecessary, underlining that the country faced British imperialism in the 19th century, Russian invasion in the 20th century and US invasion in the 21st century.

Mr Mohmand said there were many theories about the 9/11 incident (who carried out the attacks and whether any Afghan was involved) that made the US invade Afghanistan. In 2001, the attack was launched and seven or eight months later President Bush announced that Afghanistan had been liberated, and “the liberation continues”. During the invasion unspeakable crimes against humanity were perpetrated. Taliban supporters were arrested, and 3,000 people (mostly innocent) were choked to death in containers. More than 200,000 civilians had been killed, villages decimated and markets blown up chasing invisible and visible enemy. Mr Mohmand asked: “What has the war delivered?” Ninety per cent of Afghanistan’s GDP comes from either foreign funding or spending by coalition forces inside the country. Domestic revenue is five to seven per cent of the GDP. Malnutrition in children is 39pc and unemployment is 45pc. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Balochistan, China, Disarmament, Discussion, India, ISIS, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Taliban

ISIS brides and the creation of second class citizenship in the UK

It is hard to attach the word ‘great’ with Britain because the citizenship of Reema Iqbal, Zara Iqbal and Shamima Begum has been revoked for national security reasons. But it is equally arguable that the UK has two classes for citizenship: one kind for the whites and another for children of immigrants. The two sisters left UK in 2013 and Shamima left in 2015 with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana and all of them married Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists. The most likely reason of the cancellation of their nationality is their Asian descent which is common in all the surviving three women. Had they been of white British origin the Home Secretary Sajid Javid would have taken a different line but he did not hesitate to make these misguided/confused women stateless. Significantly, these Asian British women were not directly involved in crimes against Britain’s national security. Overall, these were not even isolated cases of people travelling to join ISIS or becoming jihadi brides.

According to the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, UK’s national security is hampered by cyber crimes, espionage for other states, terrorism, organized crimes and spreading weapons of mass destruction. And of course as many as 350 jihadis have already returned to the UK after fighting in Syria. Are Reema, Zara and Shamima bigger threats than them? Shamima Begum was a minor when she left for Syria, therefore should she be held accountable for her actions? Albeit, we also heard Shamima justifying the Manchester bombing but that was a naïve statement by her. Those angry people who are supporting the UK government’s deprivation of her citizenship must know that Sajid Javid did not order the cancellation of the citizenship of white British jihadis supporting the terrorism and suicide bombing in the UK. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Statelessness, UK, Women

‘The Arab World in Turmoil’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.

The standoff in Yemen between the Saudis and Iranians shows that a high death toll and human suffering alone will stop neither side from trying to build up its influence in the region. In Syria, after a relentless war which has left countless innocent people dead, Iran’s influence is in the ascendency along with its old ally Russia. The fall of Ghouta confirms this point. It demonstrates the impotence of the West as a player in the Middle East. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, Iran quickly developed its importance in Iraq. Iran was also quick to protect its neighbour when ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014. Interestingly, John Bolton, who has been made Trump’s national security advisor after general McMaster was cashiered, wants to destroy the Iranian regime and advocates its replacement by Maryam Rajavi’s Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation, whose members had been proscribed as terrorists in many western countries. Mohammed bin Salman, who has recently been on a charm offensive and has been rubbing shoulders with Theresa May and schmoozing with president Trump making billion dollar deals, is now on a mission to win over support in Iraq.

The Saudi crown prince, who is on a quest to remake the Middle East, also says that Riyadh also has strategic interests with Tel Aviv despite the ongoing slaughter of the Palestinians by the Israeli military machine. Anyhow, the Wahabi Saudi regime is extending a hand of friendship to disillusioned Shias in Iraq who do not wish to align their interests with Tehran. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr, the stern leader of the Saraya al-Salam met Mohammed bin Salman in Najaf last year. Najaf is a natural place for the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to pan out further, of course Tehran has much more experience than Riyadh on the ground in Najaf and Southern Iraq. In these interesting times Pakistan’s former ambassador Karamatullah Ghori delivered lecture on The Arab World on Turmoil on 31 March, 2018 at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States

A Talk on National Security in Pakistan by NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua

Pakistan is misunderstood and underestimated. Pakistan and India cannot remain enemies forever. Ruling hearts and minds is the key to unlocking Balochistan’s problems. The world must take India to task over Kashmir. 

National security is more important than ever in an overheated global political environment and NSA Janjua addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 14 April 2017. Trump’s strikes on Syria, his use of the dreaded MOAB against ISIS/ISIL in Afghanistan, his deteriorating ties with the Kremlin and his standoff with North Korea are examples of global events that demonstrate spiralling volatility in international relations. Closer to home, the destruction of traditional secular power structures in the Arab world has resulted in extreme turmoil, innumerable civilian deaths and untold human misery. Stratospheric levels of terrorism have resulted in new military partnerships. The Saudi conceived Islamic Military Alliance – the “Muslim NATO” – is headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif. To see Saudi Arabia’s special forces marching alongside Pakistan’s military during last month’s Independence Day parade was one thing.

But to have also witnessed the attendance of China’s presidential guard of honour in Islamabad as a symbolic show of solidarity must have irked India where the present treatment of minorities must be making its secular founders turn in their graves. Regarding the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir, it is hard to surpass Arundhati Roy’s sublime conclusion that “India has no option but to colonise itself”. China is keen to show India that Pakistan has friends and that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important project for Beijing. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems quite secure against his rivals because of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision that, despite clearly unflattering parallels to The Godfather, he is not obliged to resign because of revelations about his wealth in the Panama Papers. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, BJP, China, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Syria, Trump, United States

Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking: A Talk by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister

‘The concept of the nation state is in turmoil’ … ‘Iran and Pakistan can reshape the region’ – Watch Video

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath transformed Iran from a “rogue” state once part of the so-called “Axis of Evil” to one which is now vastly influential in the volatile affairs of the region. The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and last summer’s JCPOA have meant that the once menacing image of frowning mullahs burning American, British and Israeli flags has now been replaced by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s famous “smile diplomacy”. The upshot is that the Iranians are no longer considered to be the pariahs of the international community that they once used to be. These days everyone is looking for economic opportunities in Iran and western businesses and banks are keen to interact with its vast markets which were disconnected from the mainstream world economy because of sanctions subsequent to the 1979 Revolution.

During his talk entitled Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 12 August 2016, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour said that Iran has more than a dozen neighbours but he remained unequivocal in his stance that Pakistan was a special country in the eyes of the Iranians. Dr Sajjadpour argued that Pakistan and Iran’s destinies are inextricably linked and that the two large neighbouring countries need to work together to combat security problems in order to neutralise the threat posed by terrorism. Detailed media coverage of our event with the Iranian dignitary can found below (see our earlier posts on Iran here and here and see further coverage here. Continue reading

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Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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The Middle East in Turmoil: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

The region is an ‘enigma wrapped in a riddle’ … the Saudi Arabia-Iran spat is ‘a hot potato’ … Pakistan should not lean to one side and should play the role of a conciliator, peacemaker.

When asked whether he agreed with Donald Trump that president Putin ate “Obama’s lunch” over Syria, former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghori replied “yes”. Ghori, who is retired and presently lives in Canada, served as Pakistan’s envoy in numerous Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Algeria. His talk was chaired by the chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Dr Masuma Hasan, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna and also as cabinet secretary. Ghori began his hour-long lecture, which packed the PIIA’s historic library, by emphasising that the Middle East is the most sensitive part of the world. The recent mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia, which demonstrate the sheer brutality of the regime in that country, remained his alternative point of departure. Alive to the “new” Middle East crafted by the western powers – which is based on a dictatorial model of capitalism – he noted that our relationship with the oil rich kingdom is important because of the remittances sent by 1.5 million Pakistanis employed there.

However, he did not think that it was enough to make Pakistan lean in Saudi Arabia’s favour. In a two-day visit, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Islamabad arrived on 7 January to discuss Pak-Saudi relations with Pakistan’s leadership. The visit, the second by the Saudi minister in the past 12 months, also explored Pakistan’s potential role in Saudi led alliance against ISIS and terrorism. It is an oddity that Continue reading

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Britain to Bomb ‘Islamic State’ in Syria

British MPs voted 397 votes to 223 – a majority of 174 – and approved airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and hours later the RAF was in action. Ministers predict British involvement in the conflict for at least two years.

How strange that David Cameron should so quickly and randomly shift his military focus from the Damascus regime to the “medieval murderers” of ISIS in Raqqa – the group’s nerve centre or the “head of the snake” which needs to be “crushed”. But given the frequency and scale of the attacks mounted by the extremist group, it is not surprising that the slippery British prime minister is finding it quite easy to cash in on the short-term counter-terrorism/foreign policy windfall options available to him. Proceedings lacked the sobriety one would associate with a decision to bomb another country, a decision that will inevitably kill innocent civilians. MPs cheered the vote to expand the war initiative but the parties remained divided. With emotions running deep, the British Parliament exposed its crusader proclivities and MPs who dared to vote against Cameron’s will were labelled as a “bunch of terrorist sympathisers” the night before the vote. Four Tornados from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus took part in the operation against ISIS near Omar oil fields soon after MPs voted to approve military action. Moreover, six Typhoons also arrived in Cyprus from Scotland.

The recent surge in terrorist attacks helped Cameron to obtain Parliament’s approval for the RAF to conduct air raids against ISIS in Syria. Here is a short list of some attacks. On 10 October, in Ankara more than a 100 people were killed at a peace rally by explosions. On 31 October, a bomb planted by the ISIS affiliated Sinai Province organisation brought down a Russian Metrojet over Sinai, Egypt killing all 224 passengers on board. On 4 November, also in Sinai, nine people were killed at a police club by Sinai Province. Continue reading

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