We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.
The standoff in Yemen between the Saudis and Iranians shows that a high death toll and human suffering alone will stop neither side from trying to build up its influence in the region. In Syria, after a relentless war which has left countless innocent people dead, Iran’s influence is in the ascendency along with its old ally Russia. The fall of Ghouta confirms this point. It demonstrates the impotence of the West as a player in the Middle East. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, Iran quickly developed its importance in Iraq. Iran was also quick to protect its neighbour when ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014. Interestingly, John Bolton, who has been made Trump’s national security advisor after general McMaster was cashiered, wants to destroy the Iranian regime and advocates its replacement by Maryam Rajavi’s Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation, whose members had been proscribed as terrorists in many western countries. Mohammed bin Salman, who has recently been on a charm offensive and has been rubbing shoulders with Theresa May and schmoozing with president Trump making billion dollar deals, is now on a mission to win over support in Iraq.
The Saudi crown prince, who is on a quest to remake the Middle East, also says that Riyadh also has strategic interests with Tel Aviv despite the ongoing slaughter of the Palestinians by the Israeli military machine. Anyhow, the Wahabi Saudi regime is extending a hand of friendship to disillusioned Shias in Iraq who do not wish to align their interests with Tehran. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr, the stern leader of the Saraya al-Salam met Mohammed bin Salman in Najaf last year. Najaf is a natural place for the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to pan out further, of course Tehran has much more experience than Riyadh on the ground in Najaf and Southern Iraq. In these interesting times Pakistan’s former ambassador Karamatullah Ghori delivered lecture on The Arab World on Turmoil on 31 March, 2018 at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States
The region is an ‘enigma wrapped in a riddle’ … the Saudi Arabia-Iran spat is ‘a hot potato’ … Pakistan should not lean to one side and should play the role of a conciliator, peacemaker.
When asked whether he agreed with Donald Trump that president Putin ate “Obama’s lunch” over Syria, former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghori replied “yes”. Ghori, who is retired and presently lives in Canada, served as Pakistan’s envoy in numerous Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Algeria. His talk was chaired by the chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Dr Masuma Hasan, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna and also as cabinet secretary. Ghori began his hour-long lecture, which packed the PIIA’s historic library, by emphasising that the Middle East is the most sensitive part of the world. The recent mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia, which demonstrate the sheer brutality of the regime in that country, remained his alternative point of departure. Alive to the “new” Middle East crafted by the western powers – which is based on a dictatorial model of capitalism – he noted that our relationship with the oil rich kingdom is important because of the remittances sent by 1.5 million Pakistanis employed there.
However, he did not think that it was enough to make Pakistan lean in Saudi Arabia’s favour. In a two-day visit, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Islamabad arrived on 7 January to discuss Pak-Saudi relations with Pakistan’s leadership. The visit, the second by the Saudi minister in the past 12 months, also explored Pakistan’s potential role in Saudi led alliance against ISIS and terrorism. It is an oddity that Continue reading
Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, Russia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States
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
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
Filed under Discussion, Drones, Iran, ISIS, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Sanctions, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States
President Putin has sent military assistance to Assad and is being dubbed “kingmaker” in any future transition to a new administration in Syria.
Speaking on a European tour mostly overshadowed by the refugee crisis and military escalation in the Syrian conflict, the US secretary of state John Kerry said that Russia’s newfound resolve to fight Islamists may present an opportunity to find a desperately needed political settlement for the war-torn country. After meeting Philip Hammond in London yesterday, Kerry said that they “agreed completely on the urgency of nations coming together in order to resolve this war that has gone on for much too long”. He explained that the Syrian war is the “root cause” of the refugee crisis. In Berlin he announced that the US would take 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. On 14 September, American officials said that Russia had sent a dozen of its most modern T90 tanks, 200 marines and other military hardware to reinforce an airbase near the Assad regime’s coastal stronghold of Latakia. It is now said that 28 aircraft and 28 helicopters have been dispatched and 2,000 personnel will be deployed. Russia has been flexing its vast military muscles in the Middle East again. All eyes are on Putin, an unlikely messiah. For him, in comparison to the jihadis of ISIS, the murderous Assad regime “is the lesser of the two evils.” (See update here.)
The Russian President, who is internationally alienated because of his despotic interference in Ukraine, quickly riposted allegations of wrongdoing by arguing that his administration aims to support the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression and is merely offering it necessary military-technical assistance. He is said to be the “kingmaker” in any future transition to another administration taking power in Syria. “Without Russia’s support for Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees Continue reading
Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, ISIS, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, Russia, Syria, Taliban, The Middle East, United States
“The image conjured up by the name Persia is one of romance – roses and nightingales in elegant gardens, fast horses, flirtatious women, sharp sabres, jewel-coloured carpets, melodious music,” explains Michael Axworthy in his book Empire of the Mind. “But in the cliché of Western media presentation, the name Iran conjures a rather different image – frowning mullahs, black oil, women’s blanched faces peering from under dark chadors, grim crowds burning flags, chanting ‘death to …’,” he argues further. Considered to be public enemy number one and part of the “axis of evil” just a few years ago, a resurgent Iran is fast becoming the envy of historically pampered American allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much to their dismay, Iran, the classic rogue state looks set to become America’s ally in the “war on terror”. Barack Hussein Obama’s Iran deal, symbolising the great thaw in relations with the Ayatollahs, is arguably as historic as Nixon’s deal with the Chinese.
As expected, Republican efforts to kill the deal were blocked by Democrats in the US Senate, securing a major foreign policy victory for President Obama; he will not have to veto any moves against the deal that reforms Iran’s nuclear programme. Republicans remained two votes short of the 60 needed to take the resolution to a final vote. “This vote is a victory for diplomacy for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said. In the run up to Obama’s triumph, likening the Vienna Agreement (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)) to a football match, a jocund President Hassan Rouhani posited that Iran had won the game by three goals to two. Continue reading
One year after he took a stand on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Obama finds himself trapped in his own rhetoric:
The world set a red line when governments representing 98 per cent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons was abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. That was not something I just kind of made up, I did not pluck it out of thin air.
When United States President Barak Obama said this at a news conference in Stockholm last week, it sounded like he was trying desperately to justify the off-the-cuff comment he made a year ago. In August 2012, he had given a clear message to the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad: that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would change the ‘calculus’ and the ‘equation’.
It may seem a bit strange that the President is clarifying what he meant by something he said a year ago while the whole world is on edge waiting to find out how the US House of Representatives will vote on a proposal by the White House to take ‘limited military action’ to ‘punish’ President Assad for ‘using’ chemical weapons on his own people. That is because Obama is finding it increasingly difficult to sell another war to the majority of the American people and their elected representatives, who will decide on his proposal. Continue reading
In March 2011 the despot Bashar al-Assad probably never imagined that a small demonstration would eventually turn into an insurrection. The Arab Spring has paved the way for political transition in Tunisia, Libya and perhaps more questionably in Egypt. Concurrently, it also provoked the Syrian people against the authoritarian regime of Assad. The ongoing civil war has intensified a lot: the whole world has seen the abhorrent images of chemical weapons attacks. This galvanized major powers (the US, France and Great Britain) to take military action against the Assad regime but on 29 August 2013, the British House of Commons voted against possible military intervention which only left France and the US as the main backers of the military option.
Syria’s regime is one of a handful of UN members – including Angola, North Korea, Egypt and South Sudan – who are not a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling on the Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction drawn up in 1992 (administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or OPCW). Israel (which is thought to possess chemical weapons) and Myanmar are signatories to the Convention but since they have not ratified it the OPCW considers them to be “non-member states”.
Bahrain is one of the earliest lands to have converted to Islam. It has a rich history and has been ruled by the Persian Empire, the Portugese, the Safavid Empire. Subsequently, the Bani Utbah tribe captured Bahrain from the Persians: the island has been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family since. With a population of 1.4 million people of which the majority are Shia Muslims, Bahrain has been experiencing a political crisis for a few decades.The Arab Spring has heightened political activism in the Middle East. Consequently, the political crisis has turned into a popular political uprising in Bahrain.
Like the world’s historic revolutions and uprisings (e.g. the Iranian Revolution), Bahrain’s fragile political structure and suppression by its monarchy were two considerably important reasons for unrest. Shia Muslims always demanded a share in power as they constitute the country’s majority population. In 1973, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain promulgated a constitution that allowed an elected parliament and created an opportunity for maximum participation in politics by Bahrainis, but it only lasted for two years. Salman Al Khalifa dissolved the Assembly and imposed State Security Law. Continue reading
The Pakistan Horizon is the flagship Journal of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs which we have published continuously since 1948. The July and October 2011 issues have been dedicated to the Arab Awakening and Pakistan’s relationship with China over the past six decades. The contents of the two latest issues of our journal are set out below. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org should you want more details.
THE ARAB UPRISING, Volume 64, Number 3, July 2011
- Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Survey, Staff Study 1
- The Arab Awakening, Ana Marija Bešker 7
- The Arab Spring: How Will It Blossom? Karamatullah K. Ghori 13
- US Democracy Promotion and Popular Revolutions in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities, Muhammad Ijaz Latif and Hussain Abbas 25 Continue reading