Category Archives: Palestine

‘The Dynamics of Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and US Relations’: A Talk by Javed Jabbar

No crisis today remains regional. There is no such thing as isolated or insulated regions … watch video

The fragmentation of the Middle East into a collection of interest groups has become a defining feature of the region’s political economy. “Palestine is essentially an Arab country, and must remain so,” was the uncompromising response given by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 to requests made by Albert Einstein, at the behest of Zionist leaders, to support the creation of the state of Israel. Seven decades later the atmosphere is rather different and Modi has comprehensively cemented ties with Israel by becoming the first Indian prime minister to make an official visit to Israel, a premier supplier of arms and military technology to New Delhi. The passage of seventy years has resulted in the rise of new power brokers such as the Saudis who are accused of being the primary supporters of state sponsored terrorism in an official report, the publication of which is deliberately being withheld by the British government as it does not want to damage booming arms sales to Riyadh: bombs used to kill innocent civilians in Yemen. All this squares up poorly with Trump’s claim that Iran is the foremost pariah state.

The ongoing ostracism of Qatar shows that the Saudis want to call the shots on everything on their terms. In a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Javed Jabbar gave an insightful talk on the mechanics underpinning Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US. The event was widely reported in the media and extracts of the reportage are available below. Jabbar bemoaned Saudi hegemony and recalled that the 13 sweeping demands that Saudi Arabia had made of Qatar sounded frightfully similar to a power point presentation conjured up by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company – a favourite of King Salman bin Abdulaziz. According to Jabbar, one cannot ignore the fact that only six years ago, Saudi Arabia and Qatar jointly invested in an Israeli company called IDA Holdings. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, The Middle East, Trump, UK, United States

Adviser Sartaj Aziz: The Role of Russia and China is Vital for Regional Changes

Nawaz Sharif’s first contact with Donald Trump was a very pleasant one. India is trying to isolate Pakistan. Islamabad will give a befitting reply to New Delhi on every front. Ties with Afghanistan remain complicated.

Sartaj Aziz is a renowned figure in politics. He used to be a senator and also served as the finance minister and foreign minister under past administrations. He spoke to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 11 February 2017. These days he is the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, who is also the present foreign minister. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the architect of Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution, was prime minister and foreign minister simultaneously from December 1971-March 1977. Mimicking the slain premier, who was judicially murdered during the Zia years, the present prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has held the office prime minister and foreign minister since 2013; a trait he is at times vehemently criticised for. We have a tormented constitutional history indeed. The fall of Ayub Khan and the martial law of Yahya Khan meant that the judiciary’s role was tried and tested beyond what one may consider “normal”.

Pakistan’s 1962 Constitution provided that the speaker of the National Assembly should become the acting president until a new president was elected but Abdul Jabbar Khan did not become acting president because the dictator Yahya Khan disgracefully usurped power. In A History of the Judiciary in Pakistan, Hamid Khan describes the period from 1968 to 1975 as “turbulent times”. According to him, Hamoodur Rahman CJ tried to steer the ship as best he could but he was unable save the judiciary from adversity. “During those seven years, the judiciary lived through the political movement against Ayub Khan, the martial law of Yahya Khan, the civilian martial law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Bhutto, Brexit, China, Constitution 1973, Disarmament, Europe, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Russia, 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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Filed under CPEC, Cyber Security, Discussion, Europe, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Sanctions, Syria, The Middle East

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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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, Russia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States

Viewpoints: UNGA’s Seventieth Session

As noted in earlier posts, big hopes were riding on the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). And as expected, the session was dominated by events in the ruined country known as Syria – once the beating heart of Arab nationalism – which we have discussed in recent posts here, here and here. Despite the veneer of cordiality, world leaders could not conceal the tensions between them. They are divided over the future of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. President Putin had thrown himself in the limelight in advance of the session by flexing Russia’s military might in the historic – without notice – style of the former Soviet Union. Predictably, on 28 September, he opportunistically presented himself as the missing link in the Syrian puzzle. The clever Russian president did not conceal his intentions in an impassioned speech which provided him the ideal opportunity to announce his future plans. Putin’s fans, like his blunt instrument in Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, rejoiced when military action ultimately became a reality and requested to be sent in as a ground force to fight (preferably hand-to-hand) the jihadis of ISIS.

After Putin had set the stage, just a couple of days later, on 30 September 2015, when Russia initiated airstrikes in Syria the west responded negatively and US defence secretary Ashton Carter accused the Kremlin of “pouring gasoline on fire”. However, unlike some others (e.g. Great Britain) Russia took military action with the consent of its parliament and at the invitation of a sovereign government – albeit the collapsing, murderous and much hated regime in Damascus. But Russia is nonetheless being condemned for attacking the Free Syrian Army Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Israel, NATO, Pakistan, Palestine, Peace building, Politics, Russia, Taliban, The Middle East, UK, United States

The Changing Balance of Power in Syria

With news of Russian drones humming over Syrian skies, the Kremlin’s military operations in Syria appear to be in full swing. And Russian president Vladimir Putin looks set to address the UN General Assembly next week on Monday 28 September 2015 where he will reiterate his intentions to fight ISIS and support the battered regime of Bashar al-Assad. Equally, it appears that Putin’s American counterpart Barack Obama, who will also be attending, has approved meeting him in New York to bury the hatchet over Syria and Ukraine. Both the White House and the Kremlin confirm the meeting but the Obama administration stressed that it has huge differences with Putin and that the meeting had been called on Russia’s request. It is the first time the two leaders will be meeting in a year and the event signals an end to American attempts to diplomatically alienate Putin for his annexation of Crimea. Representing a significant propaganda victory for Putin, these rather interesting developments come off the heels of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent remarks that: “We have to speak to with many actors. This includes Assad but others [US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia] as well.”

So building a coalition to save Syria from ISIS is on the cards and these events will dominate the agenda during next week’s UN meeting – the 70th session of the General Assembly. Meanwhile, it is reported that Putin will take unilateral military action in Syria if the west does not support him. Like America’s message on the war on terror in 9/11’s aftermath, there is an “either you are with us or against us” ring to it all and world leaders are taking care to avoid unnecessary confrontation with Russia. Explaining that Russia does not plan to “occupy” Syria Continue reading

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Filed under China, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Politics, Syria, The Middle East, United States

‘Kingmaker’: Putin’s Syria Strategy

President Putin has sent military assistance to Assad and is being dubbed “kingmaker” in any future transition to a new administration in Syria.

Speaking on a European tour mostly overshadowed by the refugee crisis and military escalation in the Syrian conflict, the US secretary of state John Kerry said that Russia’s newfound resolve to fight Islamists may present an opportunity to find a desperately needed political settlement for the war-torn country. After meeting Philip Hammond in London yesterday, Kerry said that they “agreed completely on the urgency of nations coming together in order to resolve this war that has gone on for much too long”. He explained that the Syrian war is the “root cause” of the refugee crisis. In Berlin he announced that the US would take 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. On 14 September, American officials said that Russia had sent a dozen of its most modern T90 tanks, 200 marines and other military hardware to reinforce an airbase near the Assad regime’s coastal stronghold of Latakia. It is now said that 28 aircraft and 28 helicopters have been dispatched and 2,000 personnel will be deployed. Russia has been flexing its vast military muscles in the Middle East again. All eyes are on Putin, an unlikely messiah. For him, in comparison to the jihadis of ISIS,  the murderous Assad regime “is the lesser of the two evils.” (See update here.)

The Russian President, who is internationally alienated because of his despotic interference in Ukraine, quickly riposted allegations of wrongdoing by arguing that his administration aims to support the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression and is merely offering it necessary military-technical assistance. He is said to be the “kingmaker” in any future transition to another administration taking power in Syria. “Without Russia’s support for Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees Continue reading

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Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, ISIS, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, Russia, Syria, Taliban, The Middle East, United States