Women of Afghanistan are still hopeful about a better future …
On the surface, our world leaders protrude an aura of optimism when asked about the US-Taliban peace Talks. They talk about a world where the viral spread of terrorism by the hands of such militant groups is nothing more than a distant nightmare. An example of such portrayal is present in an interview given by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who said, that ‘For the first time, the possibility for peace is really at hand. The aim of the South Asia strategy is not to perpetuate war; it is simply put as a staple of understanding within a secure South Asia’. Recently, the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump said that he ‘believes that great nations do not fight endless wars. He wants to end 18 years of war and bring back the US military group from Afghanistan.’ The outlook of the peace talks is believed to be positive, it creates an illusion that our world is moulding into a suburban utopia where everything is perfectly conjoined with one another to make a seemingly flawless wonderland.
However, we forget that even the said utopian wonderland tends to break under the visual perfection of its existence. Upon closer inspection into the US-Taliban peace talks we observe how society causally undermines the suffering of the silent half of the Afghan population, the Afghani women. Prior to the Taliban take over and the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan was a relatively progressive country when addressing the rights of women. Afghan women made up 50% of government workers, 70% of schoolteachers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul. After the fall of the Taliban regime, things started to look a bit better for the Afghan women, at least on paper. In the year 2004, a new constitution was approved, and the country held its first presidential elections, proclaiming that Afghanistan is henceforth a democratic state that provides equal rights to men and women. Continue reading
India has long had a field day putting tariffs on American products. No longer acceptable!
Because the G-20 failed to restore the international trade order, on 9 July 2019 American President Donald Trump fired off yet another Twitter attack. This tweet from the US President was posted after a few days of the G-20 Summit, when he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the sidelines of the G-20 Summit late last month, where the two leaders agreed upon further meetings to resolve the escalating matter of trade disputes which included import quotas on agricultural goods and to put price caps on medical devices. The other hindering topics included: outsourcing of intellectual property protections on generic drugs. Moreover, ever since taking office, President Trump has focused on reducing bilateral trade deficits to reduce national security impact of steel and aluminum imports, however, a deadlock was avoided up until the recent but significant change in Prime Minister Modi’s approach after getting elected for a second term.
The decision to revoke India’s status for special trade treatment and the slap back tariffs by India on US goods and services has quickly led Washington and New Delhi towards an impasse. The desire 0f the Modi government to please domestic constituencies has further aggravated the situation to a tit-for-tat stand-off and India has escalated a trade battle by slapping new tariffs on American goods, a battle that was never worth fighting and may now indeed backfire. Furthermore, India had announced retaliatory tariffs back in June last year, but they were recently implemented. The 120% tariffs on US goods and services are limited in nature and largely symbolic but show a shift from restrain to a tit-for-tat policy by India. Modi government’s shift backward on market openness, with increasing tariffs on a few dozen goods, new regulations on e-commerce and a push for data localization in its growing digital economy is what has upset the Trump administration. Continue reading
On Friday, July 19 2019, Dr. Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, President of the famous Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), visited us at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) for a roundtable on Iran’s relationship with the United States and how it is influencing the course of events in the region. He said that in order to understand the question of why Iran is the way it is today, it is important to comprehend three integral factors – the United States’ contradictory policies with Iran, the resulting state of bitterness, and an uneven assessment of the available possibilities. By laying emphasis on the contradictory policies of the United States, during very tense times, Dr. Kazem sought to explain how certain inconsistencies in the harsh policies of the United States have been a significant source of tension between the two countries, especially when pursuing negotiations and settling agreements.
He said that negotiations between the United States and Iran continued for twelve years before the Americans decided to withdraw itself from further negotiations. In this regard, Dr. Kazem explained how Iran wasn’t doing anything wrong and it was in fact merely abiding by the negotiations. Even now, he expressed that Iran is willing to negotiate, however, in this era of nationhood and nationalism, Iran has to defend itself – its integrity and sovereignty. Hence, according to him, maximum pressure from the United States is likely to bring maximum resistance from Iran as well. He also explained that contradictory American policies have resulted in a state of bitterness where one has to choose from the limited alternatives available, that is cooperation and confrontation. Talking about Pakistan and Turkey and their relationship with Iran, Dr. Kazem said that Iran, Pakistan and Turkey are all regional players. He further explained that they all have stakes in the region, and are connected through a regional perspective. Continue reading
Trump represents the height of dysfunction in the US and the negative consequences of blindly pandering to a pro-Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex’s interests.
While the US and Saudi Arabia continue to accuse Iran of creating instability in the region, it would benefit Trump greatly if he turned his gaze inwards to demonstrate some degree of reflection. When one considers the current crisis and its motivations, it is fairly reasonable to reach the conclusion that Trump instigated a crisis in order to carry out his “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran. Trump incorrectly predicted that his move would be successful in causing the Iranians to capitulate to US demands for Iran to stop funding proxy wars and discontinue its ballistic missiles program. A victory of this nature would have boosted Trump’s credibility in the upcoming US elections while showing that a mediation-oriented leftist approach is wrong. However, Trump’s simple-minded plan has clearly failed as Iran has not backed down and continues to challenge the US on an almost equal footing.
Iran has retaliated in response to the earlier seizure of Grace I (by the UK on the directions of the US) by attempting to halt a UK ship and then by towing the Panamanian-flagged tanker, Riah, to its port for technical repairs in response to a distress signal issued by the tanker. While it is likely that the Riah did not have technical issues, Iran is coating its retaliatory efforts in strategic statements in a similar vein to those of the British who claimed that the reason for the seizure of Grace I was due to EU sanctions against Syria. It is worth noting that the EU sanctions have been placed on Syria since 2014 yet it is only now in the midst of tension that they seem to be remembered in the case of Iran exporting its oil. Continue reading
In light of the history of US-Turkey relations, it might not be very difficult to decipher the crux of the developing differences between the United States and Turkey, and to understand the rationale behind the actions and intentions of the two countries.
The ongoing tension between the two NATO allies, the United States and Turkey, recently took a pivotal course when Turkey received its first shipment of “the Russian S-400 air defense system”, its parts and components, in Ankara, at the Murted military airbase on Friday, 12 July. Subsequently, the United States reportedly put forward plans to penalize Turkey for its purchase of a Russian air defense system. Before the actual delivery, Turkey was already being warned that it “could face possible sanctions and a block on its participation in the US-made F-35 fighter jet programme because of the Russian deal.” On Wednesday, 17 July, the United States officially cancelled the delivery and sale of the F-35 aircrafts to Turkey. According to The New York Times, “The White House informed Turkey on Wednesday that would not sell F-35 stealth fighter jets to its NATO ally, in retaliation of the country’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.”
A country’s actions and its relationship with other countries could be a demonstration of an interrelated and a convoluted web of several national and international experiences and developments. Hence, it might be interesting to observe how countries could be viewing and handling different issues in a variety of ways according to their economic, political, and social backdrop. Perhaps, the recent break in relations between the United States and Turkey could be analysed in a similar way. There is no doubt that disagreement continues to dog US-Turkey relations owing to the delivery of the Russian S-400 system to Ankara. The other side of the coin is that Trump is inherently against the NATO alliance and does not wish that the US should disproportionately bankroll the historic alliance which Turkish leaders cleverly joined in 1952. Continue reading
Everybody is boxed in but so far Iran has been the party suffering the most due to sanctions. Tehran strongly feels the way EU has dealt with US sanctions on Iran is a violation of EU’s commitment to the JCPOA.
Under the cover of darkness, thirty Royal Marines under the direction of the Royal Gibraltar Police boarded a ship using a Wildcat helicopter and rigid inflatables and seized the ship. The sea may have been calm, but the capture of the Grace I of Iran which was sailing in international waters was surrounded by police boats and has caused a diplomatic storm. This event took place just two weeks after Iran shot down US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone and has further escalated tension. The Grace I is believed to have been loaded with Iranian oil of the coast of the Gulf and made it as far as Gibraltar, a British overseas territory located at the entrance of the Mediterranean. The incident has added fuel to fire and has put United States and Iran at a crossroads again. Spain revealed that United States had been monitoring the Iranian ship and passed information on to the Gibraltar government. Gibraltar government released a statement saying they have reason to believe the ship was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria.
The Baniyas refinery is a property of an entity that is subject to European Union (EU) sanctions against Syria. The EU does have sanctions against Syria. Spanish authorities were aware of the operation which was demanded by the United States to the United Kingdom, signatories of the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015 before the US withdrew from the deal May 2018. All this was part of the US “maximum pressure” strategy to force Iran to renegotiate the deal. Iran claims the interception was illegal and condemned the action and summoned the British ambassador to Tehran. The US national security advisor, John Bolton called the interception and detention “excellent news.” The Iranians’ are threatening retaliation by seizing a British oil tanker. The British have made their move and sided with the US. Continue reading
If there is an attack on Iran, it won’t be an attack on just Iran but the entire region will be destroyed as a result. Thankfully, Iran has a good defence strategy.
This is the report, by Shazia Hasan, in Dawn on our recent event. Power politics in the Middle East with a focus on Iran, Saudi Arabia and the superpowers was the main cause for concern among the participants in a round-table discussion held in the library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday. Dr Mohammad Moini, an academic from Iran, said that there have been tensions between Iran and the United States for many years but it has reached a turning point now. But he also said that the US no longer had it in them to go to war against any country. “The US economy has become addicted to war, fighter crafts, drones and other weapons created by them for killing but raging war is not so easy for them anymore. When the US used to spend money on their military and development of weapons, their economy moved but another war means recession for them. Their economy would simply burst,” he said.
Speaking about the other side — his side — Dr Moini said that Iran, meanwhile, did not underestimate the firepower of the US. Former ambassador Syed Hasan Habib said that the region can become very hot. “One wrong move by anyone can become fatal. But it is a complex situation. It remains to be seen if the US and Russia will commit all their resources in the conflict. I believe they are looking for some kind of symbolic but substantial action,” he said. “But there is Iran, which is not making errors while Saudi Arabia is gung ho and ready for action. It has already punished Qatar. The underlying reason for it is also that Qatar has fossil fuels and gas and Saudi Arabia has oil, a resource that will decrease gradually. So there is also an inter-country rivalry in the region,” he pointed out. Continue reading