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
Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Israel, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, The Middle East, United States
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
Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States
“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
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
The Kurdish Question warrants a more comprehensive examination
Seemingly intractable, positively complex – the question of the Kurds has been an area of contention in Middle-East politics, dating back to the Kurds’ frequent rebellions against the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s decision to launch ‘Operation Peace-Spring’ (the third major Turkish military operation in to Syria since 2016) in Syria on October 9, 2019 has been subject to polarising reception. Amid the volatility and added layers of developments, it is imperative to be familiarized with the roots of the conflict in a bid to get to the heart of the dilemma. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, new states such as Turkey and Iraq, as well as Iran and Syria inherited the unresolved issues of Kurdish quests for autonomy. Notably, according to a TRT report, “almost 10 per cent of the Syrian population, 15-20 per cent of the Turkish, 20 per cent of the Iraqi, and 10 per cent of the Iranian populations are Kurdish.” With respect to Turkey, the modern roots of the conflict resurfaced after the 1919–1923 Turkish War of Independence but took a more violent turn after the establishment of the Kurdish militant and political organization, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê).
Clashes between state forces and the PKK piqued in 1984 and the 1990s amid the organizations’ declared goals of establishing an independent state in south-eastern Turkey through armed-struggle. The Turkish state’s enactment of more unitary and assimilationist policies – with the endeavour to promote and cultivate a unifying, national identity – have often been at the centre of the debate pertaining to ‘reactionary’ and ‘radicalized’ Kurdish nationalism and militancy. What often goes amiss in discussions focusing on a clash of competing nationalisms in Turkey is the considerable integration of Kurdish communities in Turkish society. Those communities adamant on their rejection of social-integration and assimilation gave way to militancy, with the rise of the PKK. Continue reading
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.
In order to resolve the current crisis in Kashmir, Pakistan should engage in active diplomacy. This was one of the points raised by university students who took part in a youth conclave to discuss the recent developments in India-held Kashmir at a great event organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Karachi, on Thursday evening. The programme began with PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan giving the background of the situation who showed maps of the region and then informed the audience about articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. She said Article 370 gives autonomous status to Kashmir under which Kashmir had its own flag, assembly, local laws, and complete control over its area except in three fields: defence, foreign affairs and communications. That has now been scrapped. Article 35-A, she said, protected land rights of the Kashmiri people. It has also been scrapped. She then showed video clips of two Indian women who recently spoke against the Indian government’s decision.
After that, students were invited to the podium to speak on the topic. The first was Turfa Irfan of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST). She said, “We cannot trust India. If we withdraw our army, will India hold a referendum there?” No one should think about occupying that piece of land [Kashmir]. We should be thinking about providing their people with basic facilities and amenities. Momina Jamil of FUUAST said what India is doing in Kashmir shouldn’t surprise anyone. We knew that the Modi government with its second term would make life difficult for Muslims of India by making anti-Muslim laws. But there is a bright side to it: India is being divided by Modi, and there’s a civil war-like scenario there. Our government, on the other hand, was caught napping. Political governments in Pakistan have seldom tried to resolve the Kashmir issue. Continue reading