Category Archives: United States

The Israel-Lebanon Conflict Reignited

The United Nations has cautioned against the escalation of this conflict by calling for both sides to exercise maximum restraint.

As Israel launched a number of airstrikes along the Lebanese-Syrian border on Sunday (25 August) morning, President of Lebanon Michel Aoun labelled the Israeli provocation as a ‘declaration of war.’ With the Israeli media identifying the objective behind this attack as targeting a group led by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a preventive measure against an impending ‘kamikaze-style’ armed drone attack on Northern Israel, these airstrikes were also said to have resulted in the death of two Hezbollah operatives: Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher. However, it must be noted that the airstrikes were not simply an isolated incident – they were followed by an Israeli drone attack on Beirut. It was reported that alleged Israeli drones had also crashed in Lebanon’s capital, suburban city, eliciting a strongly-worded condemnation from the Lebanese government and from Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s incumbent Secretary General. ‘I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard. Wait for us one, two, three, four days,’ exclaimed Hassan Nasrallah to his supporters during a rare public appearance on Sunday.

‘What happened in Syria and Lebanon last night is very, very dangerous.’ He further added that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ‘would be mistaken if he thinks that this issue can go unnoticed. The time at which Israeli war jets used to strike targets in Lebanon while the usurping entity in Palestine kept safe has ended… Be prepared and wait for us.’ President Aoun too, accused Israel of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty during his meeting with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. ‘What happened was similar to a declaration of war which allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty,’ the Lebanese president’s office quoted him as saying on Twitter, on Monday. He went on to say that ‘We are a people seeking peace, not war, and we don’t accept anyone threatening us in any war.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Palestine, Politics, The Middle East, United States

Kashmir Conflict: No End In Sight

The historic Kashmir dispute is an extremely complex problem; policy recommendations and their subsequent implementation might take a considerable period of time to reap constructive results and there is no end in sight to the ongoing human rights violations of the Kashmiri people. 

UN Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) recommended three steps to resolve the Kashmir problem, i.e. (i) Pakistan had to withdraw its nationals that entered Kashmir to fight, (ii) India had to progressively reduce its military forces to the minimum level required for law and order, and (iii) India had to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite. Pakistan adhered to its part of the bargain but India has consistently refused to live up to the obligations it agreed to and it has instead created a grave human rights tragedy by its violent and merciless actions against Kashmiri civilians. Article 1(1) of the UN Charter is very clear that the purpose of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” Significantly, by virtue of resolution 47 (1948), as the mightiest nation in the world, the USA was given a key role to play by the president of the Security Council, Mahmoud Fawzi Bey of Egypt.

Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the White House for his long-awaited meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday, 22 July 2019. The meeting was of immense importance, precisely because it was Imran Khan’s “first one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.” Hence, it was an incredible opportunity to renew diplomatic ties. Even though, the meeting was quite an important development in international politics, nevertheless, it might be worthwhile to look into the contemporary relevance of the meeting, especially with regard to the recent events in Kashmir. Perhaps one of the integral issues discussed during the meeting was that of Kashmir. During the meeting, President Trump offered “to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.” He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him if he (President Trump) could be an arbitrator in the Kashmir issue. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Trump, United States

Women and US-Taliban Peace Talks

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

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Peace building, Politics, Trump, United States, Women

India’s tit-for-tat policy in its trade war with the United States: A master stroke or miscalculation?

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

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Filed under Discussion, Economy, India, Pakistan, Politics, Trump, United States

PIIA Roundtable on Iran with Dr Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour

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. Watch Video

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

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Filed under Discussion, Events, Iran, Nuclear Energy, Peace building, PIIA, The Middle East, UK, United States

Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” Doctrine: A Terrible Miscalculation

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

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Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Iran, Politics, Syria, The Middle East, Trump, United States

NATO: Disagreement continues to dog US-Turkey relations owing to S-400

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

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Filed under Discussion, Russia, Turkey, United States