Category Archives: United States

‘Fundamental uncertainty’: Keynesian economics and COVID-19

With the colossal scale of the crises looming over the global economy, perhaps now is as crucial a time as ever to revisit the Keynesian notion of ‘fundamental uncertainty’

‘By uncertain knowledge,’ wrote John Maynard Keynes in 1921, ‘I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain from what is only probable…There is no scientific basis to form any calculable probability whatsoever. We simply do not know.’ Upon reading these words (written in the middle of the worst influenza pandemic in history, the Spanish Influenza!) in our contemporary setting, there is a pertinent case to be made that the global crisis that is taking the world by a storm necessitates a re-examination of Keynes’ foundational concept of ‘fundamental uncertainty.’ Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its mammoth economic consequences for the global economy, a string of crises erupted that have not only rattled the foundational basis of the incumbent liberal world order but is, according to professor of economics Timofey V. Bordachev, ‘living its last days.’ Alain de Benoist describes the pandemic as a ‘catalyst’ with regard to the decline and disintegration of this liberal world order, arguing that this new economic and social crisis could give rise to a new financial crisis, one that ‘has been expected for years.’ 

Of all the unprecedented financial blows of 2020, the news concerning the extraordinary decline in global economic activity leading to the United States’ oil prices falling below a jaw-dropping $0 for the first time in history is set to be one of the most unprecedented by-products of this pandemic. Termed one of the most debilitating quarters for oil prices in the history of the ‘oil revolution,’ this recent development comes in the midst of the oil-price ‘war’ initiated by Saudi Arabia against Russia in early March. A sharp decline in factory output and transportation demands following the early stages of the 2019-2020 COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a decrease in oil demands, leading oil prices to plummet. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Economy, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United States

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

‘It is the will of the Kashmiri people that we have to defend’

Let some intellectual contribution on Kashmir be generated from Karachi

The pre-lunch session on the second and final day (Thursday) of the conference on Kashmir organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) proved to be an extremely engaging one. Eminent journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman, who presided over the session, said if issues were left [like that], they became permanent. In his view, Kashmir is primarily a humanitarian issue. Kashmir today was one of the most magnificent and marvellous struggles for self-determination. We should salute the spirit of freedom that had inspired people [in Kashmir]. It’s the issue of Kashmiris, not of India or Pakistan. Pakistan at best was their counsel. Mr Rehman said the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution was not a sudden thing. Modi and his party had announced that they’re going to do that much earlier. Did we listen to them? We reacted only when it had been done. “We must remember that it is the will of the Kashmiri people that we have to defend.”

Mr Rehman said we were repeating our arguments to ourselves. “Have we examined India’s arguments? More importantly, have we examined what the other countries are saying?” In order to understand the situation we must realise that today in Kashmir there’s a national struggle for self-determination. It’s a national struggle and we shouldn’t communalise it. “How many delegations have we sent to countries which are opposing us? It’s a long haul. It’s not going to be solved tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We should be patient.” Mr Rehman asked, with reference to the talk about President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between Indian and Pakistan, whether Trump had commented on Article 370. “Has Mr Trump taken a position on what India has been doing? He would only tell you baba jo ho gaya woh theek ho gaya.” It’s not a matter which would be resolved emotionally. Let’s not give juvenile responses, he argued. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Discussion, Human Rights, Immigration, India, Islamophobia, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

Kashmir: India never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution

There has been no fundamental change in India’s attitude towards Pakistan. It has never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution.

This was one of the points made by Riaz Khokhar, former Ambassador and Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, on 29 January 2020 in his keynote address in the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Kashmir, the Way Forward’, organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Mr Khokhar started his speech by saying that the subject could not be looked at in isolation because it involved a number of factors: the situation in South Asia in the geopolitical and economic context, the world order was in flux, the rise of China, Russia reasserting itself, the US still believing in its superiority as an exceptional power, the US-India strategic partnership and flashpoints such as Afghanistan and the Middle East. He rejected the notion that the Pakistan government was caught napping when Modi made his move [in Kashmir]. “We were following his election very carefully, and there was a genuine understanding that if he was to return with a massive majority then we should expect him to do things. The Pakistani government did handle the first phase of the problem coolly.” Watch Video

Mr Khokhar said in order to analyse the situation we needed to see what Modi did: he basically abolished articles 370 and 35(A). And why at this time? There were several reasons, he argued. First, as the leader of the BJP and a deeply committed RSS man, he was committed to the concept of Hindutva. Secondly, he was convinced that if he did that, it would be a popular move [among Hindus]. Thirdly, he was convinced that the international community was not with Pakistan. Fourth, after the February 2019 skirmish he was convinced that Pakistan was not entirely strong –– he saw it politically fractured, economically weak, but militarily strong. He also realised that Pakistan was financially in a difficult situation; if there was a war we would have difficulty in financing it. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, ICJ, India, Islam, Karachi, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, UK, 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

Dr Bengali: Pakistan needs to take back its economic sovereignty

“Pakistan is facing a major economic crisis for which we need to take urgent steps. But first we need to take our economic sovereignty back,” said economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, while proposing to ban all non-essential consumer imports in order to promote local industry. He was speaking at an interactive session on ‘Contemporary Economic and Security Issues in Pakistan’ at the library of The Pakistan Institute of Inter­national Affairs on 5 December 2019. “Pakistan has a lot of internal pressures that are resisting adopting the demands that FATF [Financial Action Task Force] is making. Over the past 40 years, we have created vested interests in this country that think that they are above the law. This is across the board. Today’s news is very interesting. Malik Riaz’s assets of 190 million pounds have been seized. Before that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had said that he would be paying Rs460 billion to the state (watch video and view photographs). 

Whether he would have paid this or not is another matter. What’s significant is that his assets were seized by the UK’s National Crime Agency. “And here we have to ask, why is it that Pakistani criminals are always convicted abroad? Why aren’t they ever convicted here? Many decades ago, there was this Pakistani actor who spent five years in a London jail for drugs smuggling. We never caught him here. Similarly, there were some two or three Pakistani cricketers who also did time in UK jails for spot fixing. We didn’t catch them. In 2005’s earthquake there was this building which collapsed in Islamabad, and its owner is comfortably sitting abroad, not convicted. The owners of the Baldia factory, in which 289 workers burnt to death, are also sitting in Dubai. We have created a criminalised state. We don’t catch our criminals,” said Dr Bengali. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Economy, Events, Pakistan, Politics, United States

The Fate of Bolivian Democracy: US Coups, Intervention, and Interests

The US is culprit to much of the strife that currently tolls Bolivia, and much of South America for that matter.

The recent coup, protests, and military violence in Bolivia have been a stark reminder of US global hegemony. The Bolivian military has recently forced the resignation and exile of their democratically elected President, Evo Morales. Despite the US media’s coverage of these events as a return to democracy, all visible evidence goes against this conclusion. This is not a majority of the population ousting a leader they do not believe represents them or their interests, this is the military and opposition parties getting rid of the leader that has been giving back to his people for the past 14 years. The US has a vested interest in conveying this as a righteous movement led by the people and for the people rather than as what it is, a military, right-wing party taking power by overthrowing the existing government. US interests lie in trying to cover up their latest involvement in an unpopular coup of a democratic government that went against the US’s best interest, not that of the Bolivian people, and subsequently creating massive unrest and turmoil within the country that has had its ability to vote and choose their own leader, taken away.

The US has a long history of instigating coups and revolutions in countries that they rely on for cheap trade once the country starts taking a socialist turn in order to provide social services and better conditions for the citizens of its country and then heralding these violent upheavals as somehow for the betterment of a people the US does not have a care for and Bolivia is just the latest. Bolivia has been in a state of turmoil and unrest since the contested elections held in October. Unrest had been sowing for months leading up to the elections as Morales narrowly lost the votes for a constitutional resolution that would allow him to run in these latest elections, but then won an appeal in the Supreme Courts which removed term limits altogether. Continue reading

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Filed under Bolivia, Chile, Discussion, Politics, South America, United States

Foreign policy in world politics

A successful foreign policy refers to the exercise of a spirit of idealism to keep the events under control.  The lack of a global hegemonic authority often leads to many unanticipated changes in international relations. To meet such variants a state always keeps flexibility in foreign policy directives. Contemporary history tells us how nations survive in exigent situations by taking daring decisions. They took timely decisions to tackle challenges that not only dealt with the dangers posed for their existence, but also set examples for thriving nations.  Although these decisions were not easy for nations, sometimes cost too much, yet they laid down the path for their grandeur in the history of mankind. Modern history glorifies that Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter at the cost of disbanding colonialism. Charles De Gaulle gave Algeria independence, reducing France’s status from world power to regional power in order to strengthen its socio-economic gash. The United States also had to depart from the Monroe Doctrine for over a century because of coercion in the pacific theatre and jumped into World War II.

The exercise continued in the post Cold War era as India and China revisited their decades long firm commitments to the socialist economic systems. The Pakistani leadership that surfaced after the assassination of the country’s first prime minister and defense minister Liaquat Ali Khan had to prefer valediction to neutrality in foreign and strategic diplomacy against latent Indian aggression and expansion of Soviet influence. Thanks to the Korean War, the United States desperately needed to contain soviet influence in Asia. The experienced civil and military bureaucracy of a newborn Pakistan was adapted to the American requirements due to its western administrative structure and spirit. Thus under the new doctrine envisaged by the defense minister and then Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan, Pakistan was determined to turn out to be part of the great game and entered the US bloc as a regional military force. Apart from the SEATO, the CENTO and the RCD, bilateral agreements with the United States made Pakistan a strong pro-US military force in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Discussion, Politics, United States

The Iran-Saudi standoff and the future of the Middle East peace process

Russia is fast emerging as a major power broker in the Middle East.

The world reeled from shock after two successive missile attacks targeted the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oilfield in the Saudi desert last month. The real drama unfolded the morning after – thick smoke billowed from the wreckage, blotting out the early morning sun, and with it perhaps any hopes of restoring some amount of normality to Iranian-Saudi relations, at least for the foreseeable future. Over half of all the crude oil excavated in the Saudi kingdom is processed at Abqaiq. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that crude oil prices surged by 20 percent as global markets grappled with the biggest oil supply shock in decades. The Kingdom’s oil production is already running a historic low as its natural reserves face depletion, and the attacks at Abqaiq and Khurais managed to cut down global oil supply by a further 6 percent. Saudi Arabia called the September 14 attacks an act of war, and Iran stands accused of masterminding the offensive, a charge it vehemently denies. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned what he called Saudi attempts to provoke Iran into a full-blown military confrontation. The country remains economically besieged; heavily sanctioned by the US, with inflation in the country hitting new highs every week under the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy. Zarif holds the Houthi rebels responsible for the attack, based on a statement released by the rebel faction in Yemen. Nonetheless, Tehran has not been able to produce any concrete evidence apropos of the claim. The Saudis, meanwhile, have alleged Iranian involvement after examining misfired missiles that they claim were sourced from Iran. Less than a month after the attacks on the Aramco facilities, an Iranian oil tanker, the Sabiti, was attacked while cruising the Red Sea, just off the coast of Jeddah, causing oil prices in London to surge to 60 US dollars a barrel. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Russia, Saudi Arabia, The Middle East, United States, Yemen

The Yemen Question?

The turning point was when the Houthis took control of Sanaa, the capital in 2014 and from there they started to expand to the west and east of Yemen.

In order to fully understand the current state of Yemen, it is important that we zoom into history and try analyzing what went wrong and where. For much of the past century, the country has been divided into The Yemen Arab Republic in the north and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south. Ottoman and British rule managed to keep the two separated but in 1990 these were unified under one flag and this was the beginning of crisis. If we look at the cultural and political divisions, these two parts are way different in two aspects. For almost a thousand years, the north  had been under the theocratic rule of the Zaidi Shiites (the Zaidi sect of Islam is almost wholly present in Yemen and they believe that Muslims should only be ruled by the Imams – those who are the descendants to the Prophet), as opposed to this, the south was transformed from a scratch by the British during their rule. These differences took a conflicting turn after the two were united in 1990.

Looking at the religious division more closely the Zaidi Shiites predominate the north, with a minority Ismaili sect, whereas, the Sunni sect of Islam dominates elsewhere. Sectarianism was not really a problem until recently. Previously, a more tolerant society prevailed. Indeed, various exchanges between the two communities had been observed and inter-community marriages were normal and considered a routine in Yemen. However, the rise of political Islam led to an upsurge of tensions and with the emergence of radicalism, groups like Muslim Brotherhood and Zaidi Houthis emerged and expanded. With the spread of Salafi ideology in the predominant Zaidi areas, the expansion of Houthis was needed. Initially Houthis emerged as a theological revivalist movement in 2004 fearing the spread of Salafi ideology in the dominant Shiite areas.

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Saudi Arabia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States, Yemen