Category Archives: Syria

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

‘The Legacy of Barack Obama’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

Obama was a man of consensus … Trump is Obama’s antithesis and is like a bull in a China shop – watch video

His blackness and Muhammad Ali antics and punchy talk endeared him to poor non-white folks everywhere. Many whites loved him equally. But the black president who set out to do so much achieved alarmingly little. His administration conducted more drone attacks than his predecessor George Bush and he deported more immigrants than any other president. He was spineless on Syria and failed to close down Guantánamo Bay. A very ugly aspect of Obama’s legacy is that his failing administration ultimately came to be replaced by Trump’s extremists who are determined to erase all signs of his blackness from the White House. But at least he did not make personal attacks on journalists. For historian Simon Schama, Trump’s America points to Kennedy’s nation of migrants being afflicted by a “split personality”. Yet Schama also stresses “the moral stench of xenophobia is nothing new in US history.” Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees and the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer, says “the refugee embodies fear, failure and flight”. Despite opposing Trump, he argues with some vehemence “it is un-American to be a refugee”.

Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, a leading proponent of Brexit and an influential right-wing pundit, called Trump a “cruel jester” not long ago. More recently he wrote: “Trump’s style makes other politicians feel that he is almost as dangerous a friend as an enemy”. Moore said May was “embarrassed in Ankara” while meeting Erdoğan as she knew nothing of the Muslim ban affecting dual British nationals but weirdly claimed a “special relationship” with America. But now John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has embarrassed her by stating that Trump is “unfit” to address MPs. Continue reading

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Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Drones, Europe, Human Rights, Iran, Islamophobia, PIIA, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Middle East, UK, 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

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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Filed under Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Human Rights, Immigration, ISIS, Islam, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East

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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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Human Rights, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, UK, United States

‘The Future of Syria’: A Talk by H.E. Ambassador Radwan Loutfi

Everyone has strategic interests in Syria … Syria was enjoying a lifestyle like nowhere else in the Arab world. We were almost free

Syria was once the underlying bedrock of Arab nationalism; it used to be a source of pride for Arab secularists. At least in Arab eyes, it was a bastion of resistance against Israeli tyranny and American imperialism. But these days the country that exerted such significant political and military clout in the bloody Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) is mortally wounded by its own apocalyptic war, nothing short of a Jihād. On 27 November 2015, the Syrian ambassador in Pakistan, HE Radwan Loutfi gave a talk entitled The Future of Syria in the historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The astute diplomat was unforgiving in his denouncement of foreign interests plaguing the survival of his country. But eager to build unity among his fellow Syrians, he explained: “I am Sunni, but I will be the first to protect the shrine of Sayeda Zainab.” Urging world leaders against further warmongering, he called for an immediate ceasefire followed by a strong willed political process “that would leave only Syrians to discuss” and decide the future of their annihilated homeland.

Yet the diplomat explained that a ceasefire in Syria remained “impossible” until the terrorists were rooted out. He also accused Turkey of having trade links with ISIS. His talk comes against the backdrop of the terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 130 and wounding hundreds of others, and the downing of the Russian Metrojet airliner in Egypt causing 224 fatalities. Insofar as military action is concerned, these days an “ISIS first” mentality prevails because its extremists in Raqqa are the “head of the snake” and must, of course, be “crushed”. Despite the rhetoric constantly pouring out of London, Paris and Washington Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Iran, ISIS, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Sanctions, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, 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