Category Archives: Palestine

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

Drone Wars: Prospects, Proliferation and Emerging Challenges

As noted in our post The Iran Deal: Diplomacy Update, Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme may be outpacing New Delhi’s. Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon’s study, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, argues that our country has been producing 20 nuclear warheads annually in comparison to India’s five. (Presently, Islamabad has 120 warheads in comparison to New Delhi’s 100.) They estimate that at this rate Pakistan will, within a decade, join the ranks of Russia and the US in the league table of states possessing the largest nuclear arsenals. We also touched upon the copious use of drone strikes, by American and British forces, in Future Trends in Syria’s War and this post sheds further light on this important issue – one which chronically affects Pakistan. Emerging research suggests that apart from the US, Britain, Israel, China, and Iran – which have developed drones for military use – numerous Asian and European countries are pursuing drone programmes to reap the rewards of this unique class of weapon.

This post looks into the proliferation of drones and examines new trends emerging in this field. It has been reported that there have been 15 US strikes in Pakistan this year and only last week (6 September 2015) the Pakistan army confirmed that it killed three high profile militants in a first ever indigenous drone attack (by a UAV named “Burraq”) in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. Such successes aside, one thing is for sure. The ethical, legal and tactical dilemmas thrown up by drone warfare will only intensify as their use becomes more and more widespread. Technically known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have become the weapon of choice for carrying out clinical target killings Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Drones, India, Iran, ISIS, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, Syria, Taliban, The Middle East, United States

Editor: Sir Zafrulla Khan on Palestine

Now that Israeli slaughter is underway yet again, it is an appropriate moment for Pakistanis to show solidarity with Palestinians by recalling what Sir Zafrulla Khan – the author of the Pakistan Resolution – had to say about the “partition” of Palestine in the year of the Nakbah. Lamentably, due to the predicament of our own country under the second amendment, Sir Zafrulla Khan (KCSI, 1893 – 1985, our first foreign minister, representative at the UN, judge at the ICJ and of course the Pakistan Resolution’s draftsman), an adherent of the reformist Ahmadi Muslim community, would be considered a “non-Muslim”.

Yet the perversion of the meaning of the word “Muslim” to appease the mullah street is incapable of denting Sir Zafrulla’s arguments in support of Palestinians. It remains very much the case that Sir Zafrulla wrote Palestine in the U.N.O. as a Musalman. Of that there is no doubt. Equally, he wrote to expose the truth about what happened in the UN.  But in the context of our own country, no doubt much to his torment, Sir Zafrulla also lived to see his (and Mr Jinnah’s) dream of a secular Pakistan being destroyed. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, ICJ, Israel, Palestine, United States

Professor Gilbert Achcar: Never Again

The lessons from Auschwitz must be understood from a radically anti-nationalistic, anti-racialist and anti-ethnocentric perspective.

For a person of Jewish descent, there are two ways of drawing lessons from the Nazi genocide of the European Jews: one leads to saying “Never again to us, the Jews”; the other “Never again” tout court.

The former conclusion stems from a narrow ethnic outlook, reversing the Nazi perspective by taking the side of “the Jews” against the rest of the world. In both cases, “the Jews” are singled out as a particular group of people with extraordinary features: whereas the Nazis saw them as the embodiment of evil to the point of trying to annihilate them, the holders of the Jewish ethnocentric perspective believe that the defence of “Jewish” interests – which like all brands of collective interest, whether national or class or whatever, is a hotly disputed notion, with rare occasional unanimity on what it could mean – is a value superseding all others. In the name of this defence, they end up denying the humanity of the victims of Israel, the purported “State of the Jews”, just as most oppressors throughout history have denied their victims’ humanity.

The latter conclusion – “Never again” tout court – is the only true repudiation of the Nazi Weltanschauung; not its symmetric reversal, but a radical rejection of all its underlying assumptions. Continue reading

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Discussion, Europe, Palestine, Politics, The Middle East

Interview with Cherie Blair (Cherie Booth Q.C.) about Women’s Rights

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women was set up in September 2008 in response to Cherie’s experiences meeting women around the world and her realisation that, with the right support, women could overcome the challenges they face, and play an important part in the economies and societies in which they work and live. Today the charity invests in women entrepreneurs, so they can build and expand their businesses – and in doing so benefit not only themselves but also their families and communities.

Her Foundation focuses its efforts on Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, in countries where women have made strides in education and have the potential to succeed in business, but lack the necessary support. We caught up with Cherie and found out why investing in women isn’t just good ethics, it’s sound economics…

What inspired you to get involved in supporting women’s rights?

I was inspired because of my background, both personally and professionally in my legal work, and my experiences when my husband was at Number 10. I have learnt that you never know what is around the corner and if, as a woman you don’t have financial independence and the ability to support yourself, life can become very difficult. Continue reading

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Filed under Cherie Blair, Kenya, Palestine, Women