Tag Archives: European Union

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Israel, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, The Middle East, 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

1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Trump and Darroch: Johnson’s Hints on Leadership

Johnson is presenting himself as too keen to please the US President.

Donald Trump’s diplomacy is known for not following any traditional rules. Last week, he refused to work with British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch. This ‘expulsion’ happened after diplomatic cables were leaked that gave away Darroch’s opinion of the US President. In the cables, Darroch called Trump ‘insecure’, ‘inept’ and ‘incompetent’, and the White House as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’. Taking offence, Trump announced that he would not want to work with the British ambassador. Darroch was dis-invited from a banquet and thereafter was unable to attend an event with a minister. He was not only expelled, but also resigned from the post on July 10. In his resignation letter, Darroch wrote: “The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” There are several things that are not new about this situation. Kim Darroch’s opinion of Trump and how he is running the White House does not come as a surprise. Rather, diplomats have expressed solidarity with it. Secondly, such diplomatic cables and them getting leaked are not a new phenomenon.

Examples include Wikileaks, going as far back as 2010. Thirdly, Trump’s diplomacy has already adopted a different style altogether, with his opinions coming through on Twitter. This has become known as ‘twitter diplomacy’. What is interesting in this saga, however, is how Boris Johnson has responded to Trump’s decision to expel the British ambassador. Johnson is most likely to be Prime Minister in less than two weeks. He was accused by MPs for not supporting Darroch, leading to his decision to quit. Johnson appeared in a leaders’ debate on television, where he is blamed for not backing the British ambassador. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Europe, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Trump, UK

US-Iranian relations at a crossroads

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

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion, Iran, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Syria, United States

Power Politics in the Middle East: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

A number of speakers drew emphasis on the United States’ unilateral, militaristic adventurism in the Middle East …

Trump has been threatening Iran and has imposed further major sanctions. He says that he abandoned military strikes so as to save the lives of 150 people who would have died had he not retracted his orders to attack Iran, which he claimed will be obliterated if it did not behave itself. On 22 June 2019, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs hosted a roundtable talk (11:00 am – 1:00 pm)  to discuss the causes, implications and factors pertaining to the heightened volatility in the Middle East, with respect to the string of recent events at the Library of the Institute. This roundtable talk was attended by academics, retired generals and brigadiers, defence analysts and diplomats. One of the main speakers was Iranian Third Consul Mr Mehdi Amir Jafari, who underlined Iran’s respect for peaceful, political initiatives with regard to conflict-resolution but simultaneously stressed that the need for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions must be shared mutually by all actors involved. 

Some of the most important themes that were brought up with regard to the incumbent power politics of the Middle East included thought-provoking questions concerning the place for morality and ethical considerations in realpolitik, the inherent ties of the United States’ military-industrial-complex in shaping American foreign and defence policy and the emergence of a new world-order. General (Retd.) Sikander Hayat specifically highlighted what this new world-order entails, stating that it concerns the rise of China as a giant in international political economy. This point was analysed from an array of perspectives with regard to the Middle East, most notably from an economic, political and defence perspective. Dr. Moeini Feizabadi went into the history of the military-industrial complex and its significance in shaping the United States’ Middle East policy as well. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under China, Discussion, Events, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Sanctions, United States

The Ongoing Iran-America Standoff: A Dangerous Gamble?

Donald Trump tweeted that Iran made a very big mistake! but has now backed off regarding the shooting down of the US drone. In this post Urooj Hanafi examines the earlier attacks on the Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair. 

Tensions have escalated as regional and global rivalries have come into play due to the recent attacks on the Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair on 13 June near the Persian Gulf. The incident demands that two vital questions be addressed: who committed the deed? Who benefitted the most from the attacks? Iran has been adamant in its denial of the attacks, but the US, citing rather blurry photographic and video-based evidence unequivocally blames the former believing that the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) use of limpet mines caused the explosions on the two tankers. The Trump administration appears to be taking a gamble: use a “maximum pressure” strategy to force Iran in line with its wishes or risk a conflict in an already volatile region. In December 2018, the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) while additionally bringing an end to any sanction waivers that allowed certain countries to import oil from Iran.

The economic effects have been dire forcing the Iranian economy into a slump as the finance sector and oil revenues have taken a serious hit. However, the US policy of “maximum pressure” is highly questionable because inciting forced radical change is likely to lead to an eventual backlash. Even if Iran were to capitulate to US demands, most likely through the imposition of US-leaning leaders implementing western ideals, the people would retaliate possibly leading to a second Iran revolution setting rapprochement with Iran decades behind. It comes as no surprise that Saudi Arabia, a current US favorite due to its purchase of US weapons and a buffer against Iranian influence in the Middle East, loyally stands by US claims and has generously promised to increase oil production along with the UAE in order to help re-stabilize global oil prices. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under China, Disarmament, Discussion, Iran, Pakistan Horizon, United States

Identity Politics and Problems in the 2019 European Parliament Elections: Remembering Charles de Gaulle

Caught right off guard or simply unwilling to process the implications that these results may pose, Europe – it may be argued – is visibly unsettled. The results of the European Parliament Elections of 2019 usher in a transformative, albeit disconcerting era where 25 per cent of the European Parliament’s seats are expected to be occupied by the euro-skeptic, far-right, ultra-nationalist parties that have been generating notorious headlines across Europe. Despite the traditional, centrist parties just about managing to scrap the majority in the elections, the question still remains – what can one make of the ruffling victory of the euro-skeptics? Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party of France, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord (Northern League) party of Italy and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party of Hungary made impressive breakthroughs, with Le Pen most notably managing to win 25 per cent of the vote over incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, which stood at 21.3 per cent. Salvini, too, confidently and resolutely secured 34 per cent of Italy’s vote.

The momentum that the far-right has picked up within contemporary European politics is a contemplative political development which may be tied down to a diverse range of mutually inclusive and exclusive factors. One of the most pertinent causes for this rise can be linked to the mainstream, centrist, social-democrat parties becoming increasingly influenced by the neoliberal ideological framework – this is most notably encompassed through the economic policies of Emmanuel Macron. Marine Le Pen’s late father, the infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen, had explicitly mentioned the strategy of galvanizing on the disenchantment on the left-leaning supporters who had consistently cast their votes for the social-democrats, stating: ‘Left-wing voters are crossing the red line because they think that salvation from their plight is embodied by Madame Le Pen. They say ‘no’ to a world that seems hard, globalized, implacable. These are working-class people, pensioners, office workers who say, “We don’t want this capitalism and competition in a world where Europe is losing its leadership.’” Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Europe, Pakistan Horizon

Is the UK’s self-winding foreign policy taking a nosedive in the 21st Century?

Brexit becoming paralyzed indicates for the country being steered towards danger due to the absolute challenges yet to come.    

Theresa May never envisioned for Britain to contest in the European Parliamentary elections, 2019 with it being around the corner. All political parties are fighting for it inevitably as a proxy quest for Brexit. The recent local elections have been expounded in the same imprudent way the decisions on Brexit results were interpreted. Yet it would be an extent to make-believe that for the first time in the history of Britain, the European Elections of UK are truly focused on Europe’s and Britain’s position in the contemporary world. The reality is extremely less gratifying. The elections can be comprehended with a holistic understanding of another occurrence in the state and particularly the Conservative party’s distress due to the significant deterioration of British influence as the referendum was a short-term highlight. Therefore the elections are dubious to be therapeutic and purgative. On a conflicting note, the vote of 2016 has hauled the Brits into an entrenched melodrama.

The case regarding Brexit is one that is inescapable. It is binding for leaders and political parties to engage in it. The more it persists, the further the country goes beyond any endeavor to make a thoughtful, far-sighted decision about the actualities that shape its contemporary presence. The argument concerning Brexit is so severe that we fail to perceive lucidly enough the self -injury Britain is inflicting upon itself, regardless of the temporary consequence of the clashes that presently preoccupy the activists’ of the parties. Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP who is also in favor of a soft Brexit was of the opinion that they have become dangerous in the sense; the European Union’s conventional partners are not willing to exert any burdens any longer stated by Charles Grant, who is a pro-European veteran. In past Britain was considered Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Europe, Pakistan Horizon, Politics

Is Venezuela No More?

One should not be wonderstruck if many Venezuelans crave to live elsewhere because the economic, political, and overall human rights situation in Venezuela is nothing short of a disaster. What used to be a robust economy not more than a decade ago, has slipped into grave peril inasmuch food has become a source of conflict among the poor families, and women are selling their ‘hairs’ in order to satisfy their families’ appetite. Indeed, the basic provisions, such as toothpaste, milk, or bread, which we all take for granted are what Venezuelans yearn for and beg for. Many people are spending hours just to try to find something to eat from the ‘food waste’. In its heyday, given the colossal oil reserves, Venezuela had reaped a lot of benefits and was able to export 100,000 barrels of oil, per day to Cuba only. Due to relying specifically and excessively on oil, the latter accounted for 95 per cent of the Venezuela’s export.

Hugo Chavez, the former president, with a desire to make the most out of the country’s oil production, sweepingly nationalized the private companies which as an attempt went into a tailspin after the oil prices started to tumble. Hence, the corruption and mismanagement became rampant and the hyperinflation inevitably followed. Worst, all the money was spent, and no money for further production was left. Now the situation at its best is chaotic, and some say, at its worst, worse than the great depression of the United Sates. However, the experience of this economic downfall in practice is more frightening. A cup of tea costs 7000,000 bolivars in Venezuela and people prefer to exchange goods instead of paying or receiving cash. Since this crippling economy and the grave humanitarian crisis are the upshot of political dysfunction and mismanagement of the institutions, many experts believe it is ‘socialism’ at its end in Venezuela. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Accountability, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, United States, Venezuela