Tag Archives: The Middle East

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

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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Dr Mohammad Moini: Iran-US tension has reached a turning point

If there is an attack on Iran, it won’t be an attack on just Iran but the entire region will be destroyed as a result. Thankfully, Iran has a good defence strategy.

This is the report, by Shazia Hasan, in Dawn on our recent event. Power politics in the Middle East with a focus on Iran, Saudi Arabia and the superpowers was the main cause for concern among the participants in a round-table discussion held in the library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday. Dr Mohammad Moini, an academic from Iran, said that there have been tensions between Iran and the United States for many years but it has reached a turning point now. But he also said that the US no longer had it in them to go to war against any country. “The US economy has become addicted to war, fighter crafts, drones and other weapons created by them for killing but raging war is not so easy for them anymore. When the US used to spend money on their military and development of weapons, their economy moved but another war means recession for them. Their economy would simply burst,” he said.

Speaking about the other side — his side — Dr Moini said that Iran, meanwhile, did not underestimate the firepower of the US. Former ambassador Syed Hasan Habib said that the region can become very hot. “One wrong move by anyone can become fatal. But it is a complex situation. It remains to be seen if the US and Russia will commit all their resources in the conflict. I believe they are looking for some kind of symbolic but substantial action,” he said. “But there is Iran, which is not making errors while Saudi Arabia is gung ho and ready for action. It has already punished Qatar. The underlying reason for it is also that Qatar has fossil fuels and gas and Saudi Arabia has oil, a resource that will decrease gradually. So there is also an inter-country rivalry in the region,” he pointed out. Continue reading

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Analysis: Iran and the Drone Standoff

If Iran plays its cards wisely, it may gain more prestige than the US out of this incident … Iran, the scapegoat for Trump’s goals, has admirably held its ground in the face of a greater power.

The world breathed a sigh of relief when President Trump called off US airstrikes on three Iranian targets this Friday in response to the shooting down of the US Global Hawk surveillance drone. “I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” he said, adding that he was “in no hurry” to confront Iran. It is rather ironic that the US should present the sparing of human lives as its key point in calling off the attack when it has profited by selling millions of dollars’ worth of arms to different states involved in regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. When trying to understand US behavior it is worth considering two factors: Trump’s short-sighted focus on re-election coupled with the fact he’s a businessman in the guise of a politician.

Trump is trying to strike what he believes is a “better deal” while also benefitting powerful American military interests. But the ongoing standoff is increasing global volatility, making war almost inevitable. It is also no secret that the US accounts for 34% of all global arms sales selling more than double the amount of weapons than Russia (the second largest exporter of arms). With such a lucrative industry in place and Trump’s business acumen, it stands to reason he would highly benefit by creating a situation that would escalate conflict till just below the threshold of war inspiring enough fear and tension for states to buy arms from the US. On the surface Trump appears to be making good on his promises: a tougher stance on Iran while also not committing any ground troops in foreign lands. He is well aware that the age of conventional warfare is over: the US has been striking back by employing sanctions, engaging in surveillance via drones and launching cyber-attacks. Continue reading

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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

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

Reportage on PIIA’s Peace in South Asia Conference 2017

“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.

Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.

His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Continue reading

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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

‘To describe the Rubaiyat’s quatrains as the epigrams of an epicurean is to misunderstand Khayyam’ explains Dr Reeza Hameed.

As rendered by Fitzgerald, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has remained an enduring favourite among poetry lovers all over the world. Khayyam is a poet for all seasons. Khayyam was undoubtedly one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers to come out of the Islamic world of the middle ages. He was a contemporary of Ali ibn Sina, known to the West as Avicenna. Khayyam was a polymath in an era which produced polymaths by the dozens, many of whom are known to the West only by their Latinised names, but Khayyam’s name survives in the Arabic original. Khayyam had mastered many disciplines. In addition to mathematics and astronomy, he was fluent in philosophy, medicine, geography, physics, and music. Ibn Sina taught him philosophy for many years. He also learnt medicine and physics from that great man. Another contemporary was Al-Zamakshari, well-known for his commentary of the Quran. Since Khayyam was one of the greatest astronomers of the Middle Ages, in recognition of his contributions a crater on the Moon was named after him. 

In mathematics, he virtually invented the field of geometric algebra. His treatise on Algebra was used in Europe as a standard text even as late as the nineteenth century. He was not known for his poetry, until he was reborn as a poet in the second half of the nineteenth century in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of his Rubaiyat, which catapulted him to poetic stardom. Had it not been for Fitzgerald, Khayyam’s fame might have rested on his contributions to astronomy, mathematics or the development of the Jalali calendar to replace the Julian calendar. He alludes to his involvement in the calendar in one of his verses.

 Ah, by my Computations, People say,
Reduce the Year to better reckoning?

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