Pseudo-analysts advocating Pakistan-Israel ties

Substituting relevant knowledge and the ability to accurately gauge geopolitical circumstances, when combined with false notions of the nature of Pakistan’s relations with the Middle East and the ‘Arab world’, has tended to sometimes produce odd conclusions by some Pakistani analysts regarding our ‘need’ to recognize Israel. The reasoning provided seems to continuously incorporate themes imported from ‘intellectual’ circles with a history of ignorant, fraudulent commentaries on the Middle East, the ‘Arab world’ and Israel and a healthy dosage of knee-jerk logic that suggests just any sort of change from a past policy would be a good thing. The ‘we must recognize Israel’ line of thinking – and I don’t mean to imply that it is coherently and seriously represented in terms of lobbying, or academia, or in the media or any similar niche – represents a waste of time and yet the need to nip this reactionary trend in the bud is perhaps greater at this period where Pakistan potentially begins a series of wide-ranging foreign policy shifts. Misconceptions toward a region as intrinsically important to Pakistan as the Middle East should be amended, what with so much having happened there since Pakistan itself came into being in 1947 with Israel arriving on the scene a year later.

‘Pakistan has done so much for the Arabs, they did not return the favour’

It seems reactionary pseudo-analysts wish for the country’s policymakers to think along the same vein that they do. I will allow the realization of the myth of the ‘Arab world’ (air quotes) as a singular, politically homogenous bloc beyond just the Gulf regimes to be absorbed through the rest of this piece. And thus the notion that Pakistan helped all of them in any serious way to subsequently dissipate as well.To think that anti-Israeli, anti-colonialist nationalist governments such as those of Gamal Abdel Nasser or Hafez al Assad are somehow the same thing as Sheikhdoms and monarchies planted by the colonialists is objectively ludicrous. I do not offer a commentary on how effective it would have been to cast our lot with these states; merely that it is senseless to assume they are the same to the Gulf regimes.

To then go on and state that Pakistan cozying up to every one of these planted monarchies and Sheikhdoms who in turn do nothing to oppose Israel (what a surprise, Western vassal states not protecting Gaza from bombardment, how utterly shocking) was somehow Pakistan doing ‘the Arabs’ a favour is even more ridiculous. To then proceed from this starting point of complete ignorance of Middle East affairs and cite the Gulf regimes’ moral bankruptcy as a reason to ‘cease to stick up for the Arabs against Israel’ sets perhaps a world record in ignorance. Pakistan has always been close to those Muslim states which bore the Western seal of approval. It has not forged relationships based on affinity for the Arab peoples or the Arab leaders who took principled stances against the Zionist entity.

It is important, to state here, that Pakistani nationalists are also guilty of peddling the myth that Pakistan is a stronghold of Muslim unity, citing its closeness to regimes any pan-Islamist with their wits about them would advocate the dismantling of as their justification.

The Lebanese resistance Hezbollah that pushed Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 after a bloody, brutal 18 year occupation featuring several slaughters of Arabs of all sects and religions received no support from Pakistan. Nor did it receive any when it defeated the Israelis in open war in 2006. The al Qassam brigade of Hamas is not armed by Pakistan, but by Iran. The same goes for groups such as Islamic Jihad and the PFLP. Pakistan was busy joining Western-led military pacts such as SEATO and CENTO that were created in the 50s and 60s as a response to nationalist upheavals in Arab countries such as the Iraqi revolution of 1958 which removed the puppet monarchy there and the United Arab Republic experiment of Syria and Egypt in 1958. The message had unfortunately been sent by Pakistan, that it cast its lot with those who oppressed Arabs. This may have not been the message Pakistan intended to send, but one can hardly fault Arab leaders such as Nasser for criticizing Pakistan for such foreign policy moves. The point is also not to castigate a country like Pakistan whose hands are full with security dilemmas in its own region, but delusions about its role in the Middle East in history must not be entertained.

 ‘Saudi Arabia recognizing Israel represents the need for Pakistan to do so as well’

This comes up very often. I will assume that this ridiculous reasoning hints at some manner of ideological shift redefining relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and thus which could potentially redefine relations between Pakistan and Israel and not merely ‘the Saudis are doing so and thus we should to’. The latter would, of course, run contrary to the ‘Pakistan’s interests first!’ slogan that this clique of pseudo-analysts loves to refer to when advocating our recognition of a hyper-aggressive apartheid state.

How anyone, let alone from a country with geographical proximity to a number of important players in the Middle East, could assume that Saudi Arabia, a state that has remained a Western vassal since the early days of Ibn Saud’s collaboration with the British against the Ottomans (in exchange for personal wealth, not a unified Arabia as other less dishonourable anti-Ottoman Arab leaders had demanded) would ever truly be enemies with Israel is hard to fathom. At least for those who follow affairs in the Middle East closely and not sit back and make reckless assumptions with strong undertones of the vastly discredited ‘Clash of Civilizations’ mentality that would deem any Arab state would be opposed to Israel for the sake of it being Israel. Saudi Arabia was always pro-West whether it was rising against the Ottomans and then consolidating rule over the Hejaz with a pro-Western regime, combating the Arab nationalist uprising in Yemen in the 1960s inspired by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, being the de facto leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council filled to the brim with Western military bases and which ensured the strength of the US in financial markets via the petrodollar or providing the ideological fuel to the violent Wahabi radical militants the West – and Israel – employed in the Middle East throughout history to curb Arab nationalism or Iranian influence such as the Ikhwan ul Muslimeen, Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS in more recent times.[1]

The knowledge that a Western vassal state which depends so heavily on the West for security, whose elites invest heavily in the West and which is a major purchaser of Western weapons has never been a rival to Israeli ambitions in the region should come fairly easily to any analyst worth their salt. Furthermore, the recent bringing-to-the-forefront of Saudi-Israeli relations in a more official way is driven, quite obviously, by strategic considerations. Saudi Arabia’s been on the losing side in major conflicts it involved itself in with regard to Syria (where Iran backed the government and Saudi Arabia the rebel-terrorists) and even Yemen which has seen a more unified military response rise against the Saudi bombing campaign and numerous failed advances by the Saudis and their allies against the Middle East’s poorest country. Iran has risen as a regional power, in contrast, and without any serious shaking up of its internal political apparatus as was done by Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia with his purging of several important officials last year. The Saudi attempt to kidnap Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Harriri and stir up conflict in Lebanon was acknowledged as a joint Israeli-Saudi ploy to destabilize the brittle state and target Hezbollah whose political ascension was fast eroding the power of the pro-Saudi and pro-West Harriri bloc in Lebanon.[2] The Israelis and Saudis had also signed a memorandum of understanding regarding military cooperation in 2014, information that was not made immediately public.[3]

Backdoor diplomacy has been a feature of GCC-Israel relations in the previous decades, but we can expect the rapid upgrading of open relations to continue and for specifically strategic interests. Nothing to do with cultural or social change as some erroneously suggest.

‘Israel is the main power in the Middle East and Pakistan must concede!’

Israel gets tens of billions of dollars worth of unconditional aid every year and the ability to sway US policy in a decisively pro-Israel direction via a network of rich and powerful lobbying organizations present there (many of which pre-date the setting up of a Jewish state in Palestine). It has also had, up till the relatively recent and remarkable rise of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, no real rivals to its policy of expansion, be it through the continues, racist settlements it constructs or active territorial annexations via pre-planned warfare. It stole the highly-enriched uranium it required for building nuclear weapons from the US in the 1960s – an operation its current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was personally involved in.[4] Israel finally being able to neutralize its first major rival in Egypt, a post-colonial state, took false-flag terrorism in the form of the ‘Lavon Affair’, a joint France-UK-Israel invasion of Egypt’s Suez Canal in 1956[5] an Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 with the intent of blaming Egypt and securing a US attack on Egypt[6]. The neoconservative movement – a movement of Israel-loyal Jews in the US with interlocking personal, academic and journalistic careers that ascended into important Pentagon positions during the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations – would ensure yet again Israel utilizing the US against a major enemy; this time, Saddam Hussein’s powerful Iraq. These officials, called by Collin Powell ‘the JINSA crowd’, referring to a think tank established in 1976 staffed by individuals obsessed with Israel’s objectives as opposed to those of the US[7], ensured that Israel yet again had the US to use as a bludgeon and cash cow for fighting its enemies.

The long-term result, however, of plunging the US into conflict repeatedly hasn’t strengthened Israel’s position and Israel’s main target – and thus, that of the US – since the Iraqi threat was mostly neutralized in 1991, which is Iran, has grown stronger in terms of its regional influence and presence. Iranian-recruited forces filled the void left by the Iraqi military’s collapse against ISIS in 2014 and are almost solely to be credited with the defeat of the terrorist group on the Iraqi front, which was supported and invested in heavily by the US, the GCC and Israel as a weapon against mainly Bashar al Assad in Syria.[8] Qatar has been driven into Iranian arms, Turkey maintains cordial relations with Iran and a tripartite team with it and Russia to politically resolve the Syrian conflict and the independent Kurdistan movement has taken blow after blow across Iran’s geopolitical backyard as well. There is not a pro-Israel government in place in Baghdad, and the Nuri al Maliki era saw Iranian influence reach deep into Iraq and gradually erode that of the US or the GCC. Hezbollah and its allies occupy more parliament and cabinet seats in Lebanon than at any time before and most of Syria is still under the control of the government, an Arab nationalist government allied with Iran and Hezbollah.

The Middle East is destroyed, who else to work with?’

As made obvious before, the defeat of huge terrorist groups created via recruitment from all around the world is a positive achievement for a bloc that is united by opposition to Israel. Syria has undergone immense suffering because that is what happens in a massive war; a country such as Pakistan which has had to wage war against terrorists alone (albeit not always against terrorists with the capability of waging protracted war and pitched battles) should respect that. Several enemies of the Zionist entity are much stronger than they’d been in previous years, despite the ability of Israel to continuously ‘easily move’ American policy against them, as Netanyahu smugly stated many years ago.[9] Turkey is barely an enthusiastic collaborator with NATO anymore after a series of large conflicts-of-interest with it and enjoys good relations with Iran without compromising upon them because Israel desires it to. Iran co-exists with Russia amicably enough given the vast amounts of influence it has managed to cultivate throughout the Levant and even among its neighbours’ large Shia communities. The Russians maintain their anti-terrorist global crusade, the main motivating factor for the September 2015 intervention in Syria and which may now expand to Afghanistan via partnership on that issue with Iran and Pakistan. More EU member states display a slightly growing will to resist the sanctions on Iran demanded by the US, which were being largely pushed by Israel’s lobbyist AIPAC even during the JCPOA days.[10]

The most viable partners for Pakistan to work with in the Middle East do not include a country that supplies terrorists in Balochistan to attack Pakistan’s emerging partner Iran[11], which openly allied in Syria with inherently anti-Pakistan groups such as ISIS[12], very deep relations with the Indian BJP government and which knows only the language of force in its foreign policy. Pakistan has begun to construct meaningful relations with states such as Iran, Russia and China and the Israelis’ objection to Pakistan as a militarily powerful, nuclear armed state is open knowledge as well. Pakistan is a direct beneficiary of the gains made by Israel’s adversaries, and in very obvious ways.

Pakistan stands at a political crossroads, with much cause for optimism. There is a new government expected to not be at odds with other vital institutions of the country, a charismatic new leader, strides being made against corruption and a chance to formulate a properly-thought out foreign policy. Recognizing Israel and creating bilateral relations with it remains as ridiculous a suggestion as it was during the 1980s when Israel and India planned airstrikes against Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

Pakistan’s policies are changing for the better and its best that we learn to acknowledge that Pakistan never had any properly thought-out Islamic unity-driven approach to the Middle East or out of affinity toward actors who had the interests of their besieged peoples at heart. The dark years of unhealthy collaboration with the Gulf-US combo have been over for some time now and a proper reformation of our policy toward countries that are predominantly Muslim should be cognizant of the mistakes of the past.

Pan Islamism cannot truly ever be removed from the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people and one cannot castigate Pakistan excessively for being leveraged in the past by ‘unhealthy partners’. A new outreach toward new Muslim partners in the Middle East, such as Iran and Turkey as well as the Syrians and Iraqis, could mark the beginning of a new era of Pakistan as a positive actor in the affairs of Muslim countries. For those with even a slight understanding of Israel’s ruling elite and their approach to geopolitics, they will know well that it has revolved largely around destabilizing regional countries in order to ensure military competitors with Israel do not rise. Exploiting ethnic and sectarian faultlines and cultivating alliances with the most ill-fated and toxic movements and ideologies – be they Kurdish separatism or transnational Takfirism – has been part and parcel of Israeli strategy for a long time now. Al Qaeda, recently known better as Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS, have, as former MOSSAD director Efraim Halevy put it, never been an Israeli adversary.[13]

I can hardly say that appeals to Pakistan. Or to anyone, really.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

[2] https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-tells-its-envoys-to-back-saudis-hariri-against-hezbollah-iran-report/

[3] https://ahtribune.com/world/north-africa-south-west-asia/815-saudi-arabia-israel-in-joint-training.html

[4] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-linked-to-nuclear-technology-smuggling-ring—fbi-files-164155046.html

[5] https://www.wrmea.org/003-may/half-a-century-ago-it-was-washington-restraining-france.html

[6] https://www.wrmea.org/1992-july/the-lavon-affair-when-israel-firebombed-u.s.-installations.html

[7] https://mondoweiss.net/2008/10/and-much-of-mccains-braintrust-has-ties-to-jinsa-so-this-is-a-pro-jinsa-anti-jinsa-election-remember-when-cool-waspy-hubs/

[8] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180718-israel-weapons-found-in-daesh-arms-depot/

[9] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/16/netanyahu-in-2001-america_n_649427.html

[10] https://www.timesofisrael.com/aipac-backed-us-house-bill-seeks-to-broaden-iran-sanctions/

[11] https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/01/13/false-flag/

[12] https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Syrian-army-finds-Israeli-made-weapons-in-IS-hideouts-507668

[13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vweHtxqnh-Y

Understanding Syria: The Lebanon Link

Little attention seems to be given to understanding the regional circumstances that prevailed in the lead-up to the massive and multifaceted war launched against Syria by a wide (albeit now much-fragmented) coalition of states seeking regime change there. One effect of the Syrian War has been to generate broader discussions on geopolitics, regional dynamics and historical contexts spread across the tumultuous region. Despite references and comparisons being correctly made between the Iraq War and the Syrian War – and the beneficiaries and promoters – there seems to be little emphasis on the inextricable link between the conflict in Syria today and Lebanon in the relatively recent past.

The February 2005 assassination of prominent Sunni Lebanese politician Rafik Harriri was followed by a justice process crippled by politicization, U-turns and fraudulent investigations headed by individuals with known political connections to groups with vested interests in fracturing the growing Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis.[1] With Hezbollah immediately warding off accusations and highlighting an Israeli hand in it, the immediate outcome was accusations against Syria under a great deal of pressure from the US, Saudi Arabia and pro-Western political factions within Lebanon. The Syrians, with close ties to Hezbollah and its Christian allies, had acted as a deterrent to Israeli military ambitions in Lebanon. The ensuing diplomatic pressure against the Syrians under President Bashar al Assad would result in Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon a few months later.

Aside from the many holes pointed out in the UN’s investigative process on the assassination, ranging from inconsistencies in the explanations of the explosion that took Harriri’s life and the lack of motive for either Syria or Hezbollah to have him killed, the usefulness of the event to Israel’s ambitions was obvious. Syria’s importance as the link between Iran and Hezbollah – who was singularly responsible for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 after 18 years of occupation – was and is paramount. As elaborated in the famous ‘Clean Break’ 1996 strategy paper[2] by the neoconservative-Israeli Likud Party coalition that devised the ‘new’ Israeli approach to its security and foreign policy, the Syrians had to be removed from Lebanon to facilitate an Israeli conquest of the country so as to purge Iranian influence. The Syrian withdrawal allowed the Israeli-US-Saudi nexus to enhance its war against Hezbollah with an Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 2006.

The ensuing defeat of Israel in the war signalled a need for the nexus to recognize the incremental rise in Hezbollah’s military prowess as well as socio-political clout in Lebanon where it now has a cooperative Christian President, a large cabinet presence[3] and a powerful multi-religious political alliance[4] compared to the worn-out Harriri dynasty and its allies. Continuing to attempt to take over Lebanon was proving to be a waste of effort at a time when new theatres of conflict could be explored. Since the strategy toward Lebanon adopted by the hardliners in Israel, the US and their allies had been carefully crafted over the years, adjustments had to be made to the general approach adopted toward the region in general. Failed insurrections against Hezbollah by the Harriri faction in 2008 (led by Rafik’s son Saad) also seemed to dovetail with the increasing diplomatic and political depth of Iran in Iraq. More than just ‘rolling back’, Syria had to be the target itself for regime change now that taking out the Lebanese resistance seemed impossible. The developments in the Middle East, especially the Levant region, had been favouring the Iranians far too much for the same strategic approach to work. Dissecting the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis would require a new approach.

As explored by Seymour Hersh in 2007, the ‘redirection’ of the US foreign policy in the post-2006 Lebanon War period involved greater strategic engagement with countries deemed ‘the Sunni bloc’, such as Jordan, Turkey and the Gulf States for containing Iran.[5] Iran and the Shia Hezbollah were largely the reason for this. In reality this approach entailed a lot more than the simplistic ‘New Middle East’ proposals voiced by high ranking US officials such as Condoleezza Rice out in the open. It involved utilizing extremist terrorist groups that had acted as useful proxies for foreign powers in the past as well (in the Balkans, Central Asia etc). To put it simply, the environment for targeting Syria utilizing so-called ‘Sunni allies’ – which bordered Al Qaeda-plagued Iraq, US-aligned Jordan and NATO member Turkey – was ideal.

Notwithstanding the opportunities this volatile situation, embraced in such open terms by the West, provided to provoke chaos in Syria, efforts to convince Syria – a majority Sunni country – of the need to join the ‘Sunni bloc’ had been entertained for some time by the coalition of states that would soon seek regime change in Syria post-2011. Israeli demands for Syria cutting its ties with Iran would, however, meet rejection by President Assad in negotiations, notably mediated by Turkey, and attempting to pull Syria away from the Iranian dominated alliance seemed to be futile.[6] The stage was set for a push to remove the Syrian government.

Whether playing the Sunni card was a genuine attempt to lure Syria into the bloc of useful countries firmly within the Western sphere such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar or a ruse is a question that one can plausibly answer by remembering that 2006 was also the year, as leaked cables publicized by Wikileaks revealed, that the US intention to invest in Syrian Kurdish secessionism to destabilize the country.[7] The centrality of Israeli interests to the new Western approach toward Syria, including the short-lived attempts to lure the Syrians into the ‘Sunni bloc’, has been documented well and is of little surprise considering the fact that the authors of the original Israeli doctrine vis-à-vis Syria, Lebanon and Iran have all found important policy positions in the last two decades or so.[8]

The road to understanding conflict in one part of the Middle East has always run through other various other parts of the region. The destinies of Syria and Lebanon have been inseparably linked for many decades, and understanding the push for regime change in Syria requires due attention to be paid to factors in Lebanon as well.

 

[1] https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-rafik-hariri-assassination-was-israel-involved/22825; Attorney General Detlev Melhis, closely tied to pro Israeli think tanks clamouring for war against Iran and Hezbollah, led the charge in accusing Syria of the assassination of Rafik Harriri in February of 2005

[2] https://www.irmep.org/PDF/3-27-2003_Clean_Break_or_Dirty_War.pdf; soon-to-be influential policymakers in the US and Israel devise a new, more aggressive Israeli approach toward regional states in 1996

[3] http://www.newsweek.com/hezbollahs-latest-conquest-lebanons-cabinet-541487; Hezbollah continues political ascendance in Lebanon

[4] http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/241807; Hezbollah reiterates support for long-standing alliance with the Future Patriotic Movement

[5] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection; US and allies seek out a ‘Sunni coalition’ against Iran

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-israel-iran/syrias-assad-dismisses-israeli-demand-on-iran-idUSL2722321320080527

[7] https://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html; Wikileaks reveals US destabilization plans for Syria utilizing Kurdish ambitions dating back to 2006

[8] http://newobserveronline.com/clinton-destroy-syria-israel/; Clinton emails from 2012 reveal the move to oust Assad in Syria as an Israeli objective

Iran Frustrates Trump Administration’s Plots

With Trump appointing vehemently anti-Iranian warmongers Mike Pompeo and John Bolton – with the latter being famous for praising the 2003 Iraq War as a positive event – to the most important US foreign policy formulating posts it becomes prudent to look into what resulted in the frustrations pertaining to ‘containing Iran’ that likely lead to the enhanced aggression from the American side.

Trump’s election ran some highly contradictory themes. In comparison to Hillary Clinton’s unabated push for war with Russia, Trump advocated the only sane stance on Syria, which was to concentrate on ceasing support to ‘moderate rebels’ (Al Qaeda dominated foreign proxies since the very beginning, as confirmed by the DIA back in 2012[1]) in Syria. He insisted on cooperating with Russia to wipe out ISIS, something that did not sit well with the Clinton-affiliated propaganda network that orchestrated the media debacle regarding alleged Russian interference in US elections to favour Trump.[2] Before he could adequately be portrayed as a revolutionary conservative seeking to end ill-intentioned US militarism abroad, however, he would stick to the most right wing section of the mainstream US (or more appropriately, Zionist considering the lobbying for Bolton’s promotion to National Security Advisor by Trump’s major election campaign financier and Israeli partisan Sheldon Adelson[3]) establishment narrative on Iran and insist on ‘tearing the JCPOA into shreds’. The contradiction between pushing for a sane Syria policy and an insane Iran policy may, among other things, have shown Trump’s confusion about how ‘containing Iran’ actually works. Tracing the political will for regime change in Syria (a policy Trump look actual steps to roll back[4]) goes back to stakeholders in pushing the US to combat Iran – the neoconservative strategy espoused in 1996 in tandem with Israel’s right wing Likud Party[5] and its direct consistency with what was revealed by Wikileaks in 2012 regarding US State Department intentions in Syria vis-à-vis it’s ally Iran.[6] Actually ceasing support to violent rebels in Syria, carrying out military campaigns against ISIS unlike the Obama administration and abandoning the secessionist Syrian Kurds – a base for US military presence in Syria – to their fate at the hands of the Turks acted as strategic bonuses for the Iranian side. It may be hard to decipher whether these moves in Syria validate the idea of Trump as an isolationist conservative on a secret mission to disintegrate the USA’s militarism, and by extension conflict with Iran, abroad or Trump and his foreign policy team as reckless and foolhardy in dealing with their Iranian enemy. A look at their foreign policy record in other areas relevant to Iran may help make the distinction.

The Qatar crisis of early 2017, a period where Syria and its allies including Iran made rapid gains in their war against terrorists such as Hayat Tahrir al Sham and ISIS, presents yet another foreign policy blunder by the US under the Trump administration. The sanctions and embargos imposed upon Qatar by its former Gulf allies and Saudi-aligned states such as Egypt and Jordan were meant to force it into clamping down on ‘support for terrorism in Syria’ (blatant scapegoating), roll back its relations with Iran and cut off all support to Hamas in Palestine (a group with ties to Iran as well).[7] The clumsy move seemed yet again to be self-defeating and made the US administration look like a mess; Trump immediately expressed support for Saudi Arabia while sharply contrasting with the then Secretary of State (and John Bolton’s predecessor) Rex Tillerson’s advocacy of neutrality.[8] The outcome of this was to push Qatar into the arms of Iran and provoke military support for Qatar from the increasingly Russian-aligned Turks[9]. The fact that it had come from Trump’s famous son in law Jared Kushner, a close personal friend to Iran-obsessed and anti-JCPOA Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and partner of Mohammad bin Salman and the UAE in now having Tillerson replaced with the more appropriately anti-JCPOA and hawkish John Bolton[10] meant that the most well placed Israeli partisans in the US establishment had committed another blunder to the favour of Iran and its regional influence. To add salt to the wound, Kushner was recently stripped of his White House security clearance thus curbing his ability to effectively act as a behind-the-scenes conduit between Israel and the new Gulf coalition minus Qatar.[11]

The Israeli-Saudi collaboration during Mohammad bin Salman’s consolidation of authority late last year and arrest of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Harriri to force coerced accusations against Hezbollah (who follow the Iranian clerical leadership) in Lebanon was revealed as a joint effort to stir up chaos in the country not soon after.[12] That this coincided with a number of aforementioned strategic defeats in the Middle East for Israelis and Saudis, such as the Qatar debacle and the Syrian government recapturing most of its territory from Israeli and Saudi backed proxies, it was clear that a lot of hope had been pinned by the Likud Party on shifting the theatre of conflict from Syria back to Lebanon where Hezbollah and its political alliances stabilized the country. With Saad Harriri’s return to Lebanon and subsequent de-escalation of tensions with Hezbollah and Iran, including an acknowledgement despite years of rivalry of Hezbollah’s importance as a defense force,[13] the strategy had failed yet again. Hezbollah’s political clout in terms of influence in the Lebanese cabinet[14] leading up to the country’s first parliamentary elections in years and history of resisting Israeli aggression means Iranian influence is strongly embedded in Lebanon.

Testing times surely approach regarding the fate of the JCPOA, but it seems that there is little the US administration and deep-state establishment seem to be doing right when it comes to containing Iran. Iran’s close relations with several Middle Eastern states seem to continuously act as a means for the country to remain locked in pursuing the objectives enshrined in the brand of religiously-inspired politics that form the core tenets of its foreign policy principles. That the US has lost out on major former strategic partners such as Qatar and Turkey contrasts sharply with Iran’s own diplomatic gains since the Trump administration took power.

 

[1] http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf; DIA document obtained via the Freedom of Information Act in 2012 confirming the fraudulence of the ‘moderate opposition’ mantra of the US and allies

[2] https://consortiumnews.com/2017/12/15/protecting-the-shaky-russia-gate-narrative/; Robert Parry deconstructs Russiagate

[3] https://www.mintpressnews.com/sheldon-adelson-and-the-zionist-lobby-push-for-hr-mcmasters-ouster/238513/; reported rifts between Trump and McMaster exploited by Adelson and pro Israel lobbyists to move John Bolton into the National Security Advisor role

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/world/middleeast/cia-arming-syrian-rebels.html; Trump ends covert aid to Syrian rebels

[5] http://www.knutmellenthin.de/artikel/archiv/usa-neocons/dokumentation-a-clean-break-a-new-strategy-for-securing-the-realm-1996.html; the relevance of Iran to long term efforts by neoconservatives for regime change in Syria

[6] https://www.rt.com/op-ed/362819-clinton-emails-syria-wikileaks/; Syria’s relevance lies in Iran and Hezbollah’s prowess

[7] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/arab-states-issue-list-demands-qatar-crisis-170623022133024.html; the Qatar crisis and demands pertaining to Iran

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/arab-countries-place-dozens-on-new-qatar-terror-list-deepening-dispute/2017/06/09/fd727fab-e750-4fdd-ac23-26256e8e0493_story.html?utm_term=.8251b5155ec9; Trump and Tillerson differ on Qatar

[9] https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/06/analysis-turkey-deploying-troops-qatar-170607174911372.html; Turkey deploys more troops to Qatar soon after sanctions from Saudi bloc

[10] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5524363/Saudi-prince-boasts-got-Jared-Kushner-Rex-Tillerson-fired.html; Kushner-MbS partnership at work in replacing Tillerson with Bolton as another example of Israeli-Saudi collaboration out in the open

[11] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/02/28/jared-kushner-has-gotten-away-with-security-clearance-omissions-that-typically-fell-less-influential-federal-employees/?utm_term=.9489dacbb052; Kushner loses his White House security clearance

[12] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/israel-instructs-diplomats-support-saudis-cable-171110134749905.html; Israel instructed diplomats to support Saudi Arabia on the Harriri-Hezbollah issue

[13] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/lebanese-pm-hariri-backs-hezbollah-despite-saudi-pressure-1534683808; Harriri acknowledges Hezbollah’s importance to Lebanon’s well-being

[14] http://www.newsweek.com/hezbollahs-latest-conquest-lebanons-cabinet-541487; Hezbollah’s March 8 Alliance dominates Lebanese cabinet

The unscathed legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle against India

The deterioration of the situation in the Indian-occupied part of Kashmir after the selection by the Indian nation of a Hindu extremist party[1] to govern the country in 2014 has arguably provided some semblance of an increase in attention to the woes of the Kashmiris residing on that side of the de facto ‘border’ line between India and Pakistan. It may, however, regrettably encourage the assumption that it is the current Indian government that has provided some manner of fresh political and ideological impetus for the human rights abuses committed by the Indian occupation forces against the Kashmiri people. The Indian occupation of Kashmir – not even recognized as an occupation despite Kashmir being one of the most militarized regions on the planet – has remained brutal throughout its history regardless of the government in charge.

It is not uncommon for states guilty of oppression to attempt to hide their crimes behind a shroud of legality or to seek to define where history begins and thus what to bring to the discussion table. The myth of the ‘UN creation of Israel’ pushed around by proponents of Zionism rings a bell.[2] Indian propaganda on Kashmir attempts to portray the beginning of India’s militarism in the region as technically having been a response to Pakistani armed incursions seeking to annex the prized land. It also regurgitates common lies regarding the legality of India’s claim to Kashmir in order to provide an apparently legal cover to its military presence in Kashmir whenever criticism of its brutality against the people is raked up.

Kashmir was one of the many princely states that was free to join either India or Pakistan after the creation of the two newly independent countries out of British India in early August of 1947. Its ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, had strong pro India leanings. His violent crackdown against his Muslim subjects in his state had been facilitated by India before Pashtun tribesmen from the Pakistani province of NWFP had entered Jammu and Kashmir on 22 October 1947 to put an end to the tyranny when contacted for help by contacts in Kashmir. The Indian version of history seeks to portray its own ‘official’ armed entry into Kashmir on the 27 October of the year as having been a ‘response’ to the Pakistani ‘violation’. True to the tradition of oppressors when it comes to starting the story wherever it suits them, Indians ignore the contribution of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist party in India) workers, Indian armed forces and also Sikh and Hindu refugees from Pakistan in helping the Maharaja’s state forces massacre Kashmiri Muslims.

As reported in The Times newspaper in London on 10 August 1948, 2,37,000 Muslims were slaughtered in a violent genocide by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja and aided by RSS members, Hindu and Sikh refugees from various parts of territory now owned by the newly created Pakistan.[3] The famous RSS ideologue, Guruji Golwalker, had been present in Kashmir since the 17 or 18 October 1947, motivating the Maharaja’s violent repression of his Muslim population.[4]The invasion by the Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan had indeed been triggered by news of the massacres of Muslims in Kashmir. Poonch, one of the sites of state violence against Muslims by the Maharaja with support from India (in the form of both RSS and regular armed force members[5] from the Maharaja of Patiala in India whose deployment in Kashmir was completed by 18 October), was not a communal uprising by Muslims against Hindus as Hindu nationalists such as Golwalker had claimed but as a reaction to draconian governance on the part of the Maharaja regime:

‘Despite the reforms imposed upon the State of Jammu and Kashmir by the British during those years after 1889 when they were in effective control of its affairs, Maharaja Hari Singh in 1925 inherited a regime in which the Muslim majority of the population endured considerable hardships in their daily lives. The system begar for example, the conscription of the local people for various public works including service as porters, was deemed particularly objectionable by the Government of India even though many a British traveller, unofficial and official, had found it extremely convenient and had not hesitated to exploit it to the full.’ – From ‘Kashmir, a disputed legacy’ written in 1997 by Alastair Lamb, renowned British historian and professor.[6]

Complete with agitation, stoking of communal tensions and exploiting present systematic biases against Muslims, India clearly acted as an aggressor in Kashmir since the very beginning. The important factor of Indian armed presence in Kashmir prior to their ‘official’ date of entry on 27 October 1947 and certainly prior to the attack by Pakistani tribesmen (the Pakistani military itself would join much later in 1948) on 22 October is crucial to understanding that Indian propaganda myths about ‘defending against Pakistani aggression’ are, well, propaganda myths.

Regarding the issue of the mystical Instrument of Accession the Indians claimed they had procured from the Maharaja before militarily intervening in Kashmir on 27 October 1947, Alastair Lamb writes in ‘The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir – A Reappraisal’:

‘It is now absolutely clear that the two documents (a) the Instrument of Accession, and (c) the letter to Lord Mountbatten, could not possibly have been signed by the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir on 26 October 1947. The earliest possible time and date for their signature would have to be the afternoon of 27 October 1947. During 26 October 1947 the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir was travelling by road from Srinagar to Jammu. His Prime Minister, M.C. Mahajan, who was negotiating with the Government of India, and the senior Indian official concerned in State matters, V.P. Menon, were still in New Delhi where they remained overnight, and where their presence was noted by many observers. There was no communication of any sort between New Delhi and the travelling Maharajah. Menon and Mahajan set out by air from New Delhi to Jammu at about 10.00 a.m. on 27 October; and the Maharajah learned from them for the first time the result of his Prime Minister’s negotiations in New Delhi in the early afternoon of that day.’[7]

There are no doubt many audiences in the world community today sane enough to recognize that the cover of legality does not ultimately make state oppression lasting decades understandable or justifiable. For those, however, who are citizens or supporters of states guilty of such barbaric oppression, denial via scrutiny of their right to seek to justify the injustice based on the alleged possession of important legal documents from history is important for the advocates of justice for the oppressed.

Not much needs to be said regarding the conduct of India in Kashmir. The usage of gangraping as a means of subduing the population has been an oft used tactic by the Indian military in Kashmir; the rape of around 40 Kashmiri women in the 1991 Kunan Poshpora incident provides perhaps the most horrendous example of Indian state brutality against Kashmiris.[8] The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, applied to Kashmir since the early 1990s, provides Indian military forces the constitutional blessing to raid homes, declare people ‘separatists’ at will and shoot to kill, to delay without arrest and to destroy any property used by ‘insurgents’, ‘terrorists’ or ‘separatists’.[9]

The current Indian army chief Bipin Rawat is on record having praised the usage of human shields (a war crime by international law)[10] by an Indian officer in Kashmir. As would be expected, the move generated considerable popularity among the Indian public with a local businessman working for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party printing T shirts exalting the Indian armed forces for the act.[11] Perhaps the most telling statement, however, to come from the Indian elite regarding Kashmir, is Bipin Rawat’s January 18 statement stating that the ‘Kashmiris cannot get what they want’.[12]

It seems rather bizarre to call a region held on to by force an ‘integral part’ of your country and yet to acknowledge that its people despise the tyranny keeping them tied to India.

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/narendra-modi-massacre-next-prime-minister-india; Narendra Modi’s complicity in large scale communal violence against Indian Muslims

[2] https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/10/26/the-myth-of-the-u-n-creation-of-israel/; remembering the lies regarding Israel’s birth

[3] https://scroll.in/article/811468/the-killing-fields-of-jammu-when-it-was-muslims-who-were-eliminated; the complicity of the Indian RSS in slaughtering Muslims in Kashmir prior to the invasion by tribesmen from Pakistan

[4] https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=ifuxzl9NM5sC&pg=PA263&lpg=PA263&dq=golwalkar+rss+kashmir+october+1947&source=bl&ots=xGecuP8KLd&sig=h6djTlPQBWbC_IxUpzWOSEMqul8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4ttT80LHZAhVELY8KHdVrAS8Q6AEIcDAL#v=onepage&q=golwalkar%20rss%20kashmir%20october%201947&f=false; page 263

[5] http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/who-sent-army/158470.html; citing page 129-132 of Alastair Lamb’s ‘Incomplete Partition’ written in 1997

[6] http://lostkashmirihistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1991-kashmir-a-disputed-legacy-1846-1990-by-lamb-s.pdf; page 96

[7] http://www.mofa.gov.pk/documents/related/Myth.pdf; The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir (1994) by Alastair Lamb

[8] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/kunan-poshpora-a-forgotten-mass-rape-case-of-2-kashmir-villages/story-1rmD1TqawPnMMB11LQzgyJ.html; Kunan Poshpora mass rape in 1991

[9] https://thediplomat.com/2015/07/indias-controversial-armed-forces-special-powers-act/; AFSPA

[10] http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/human-shield-row-army-chief-bipin-rawat-praises-major-gogoi-117052900052_1.html; Indian army chief praises officer who used human shield in Kashmir

[11] http://risingkashmir.com/news/now-bjp-leader-makes-money-by-promoting-armys-human-shield-act-on-t-shirts; human shields and T shirts

[12] http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/kashmiris-have-realized-they-cannot-get-what-they-want-army-chief/159270; Bipin Rawat statement on Kashmiris

Why Pakistan just doesn’t get it

Pakistan recently announced to shut down more than 20 NGOs, which included the notorious George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, thus evoking memories of the time the CIA utilized a polio vaccinations programme almost a decade ago run by international NGOs to spy around Pakistan’s tribal areas apparently looking for Osama bin Laden. The increasingly pro-India US continues to express its opposition to the country’s much needed strategic shift toward Russia and, even more so, Iran. For Pakistanis who’ve been paying attention to history and how it connects to the crises Pakistan has dealt with and helped create in more recent times, this can only mean that the country is showing signs of actually learning from its failures. It must not, however, distract us from the fact that we are at a crucial phase in history, with a chaotic series of events expected to take place in our region which demand an advanced Pakistani narrative, cognizant of the nature of geopolitics, borne out of genuine introspection on our historical failures. Such has always been missing from the Pakistani media, the intelligentsia and most importantly, the leaders. The key area of focus is our relationship with the USA and our history of ‘working’ with it, why it has been continuously disastrous for us and why it seems our nationalistic crowd fails to diagnose the issue accurately.

Pakistan’s modern day circumstances can be traced back to the deepening of its engagement with the USA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s and the period that began for the countries since then has consistently been an awful one. Grasping the reasons behind Pakistan’s turmoil – mainly pertaining to terrorism – seems not to be anyone’s strong suit and represents a seemingly widespread naivety among the populace regarding grand regional imperialist strategies and designs. While everyone loves to condemn the US, it seems policymakers and the populace alike seem unable to use an ample pool of known content and information to properly indict the destructive regime. Suffice to say, with the coming war against CPEC, the entire nation requires a serious look into how it got into the politically, economically and strategically weak position it finds itself slowly escaping from at last with its foreign policy tilt. Weak discourse and empty narratives must be discarded as useless baggage and better ones adopted.

As regurgitated by the country’s National Security Advisor, retired Lietenant General Nasir Janjua, at a speech in a seminar on 18 December 2017 organized by the Centre of Global and Strategic Studies in Islamabad, the USA was ‘failing to achieve peace’. It was not ‘recognizing Pakistan’s contribution to its war against the USSR’ and had created problems for Pakistan by ‘abandoning’ Pakistan at the end of the USSR war. It had callously ignored Pakistan’s ‘services in triggering the end of the bipolar world and the fall of the Berlin Wall’. The rest contained the usual and unfortunate‘we are peaceful mantra’ and a view of the bonuses of ‘regional cooperation’ and Chinese Belt and Road Initiative as a conduit to peace.

In studying the speech by the senior government official, one can easily spot out a number of glaring issues with how Pakistani policymakers weigh the benefits and downfalls of who we choose to cast our lot with or work with. Without opening the Pandora’s box of hardcore evidence regarding the true nature of US foreign policy around the world, notably the Middle East, one can easily label the ‘mistakes’ and ‘failure to achieve peace’ narrative as too fraudulent for anyone to still be using. Even while making direct reference to the USA’s stubborn approach toward diplomacy with the Afghan Taliban, the NSA seemed unwilling to call out the war in Afghanistan for what it was. There was, quite obviously, no mention in the speech of the Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the communist regime in Afghanistan in 1978 that mandated Soviet military intervention in the country to protect its ally. Doing so would, after all, lead to the ‘uncomfortable’ territory of highlighting the USA’s intentional baiting of the USSR into the war as opposed to the US/Pakistani propaganda of ‘saving Afghans from the invaders’. The communist regime was violent, as was any regime in the history of Afghanistan, yet its overthrow did not necessarily make the brewing of an ideal situation for massive chaos worth it.

While these statements may be attributed to a heavy reliance on clichés and dusty old narratives that have become procedural, the ensuing equation of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (who have murdered in excess of 50 000 Pakistani civilians) with the Afghan Taliban by the NSA was beyond self sabotaging and suicidal for a number of reasons. The reason behind this would be clear only to those who valued the strength of discourse and matching hostile propaganda narratives; it has been longstanding US and Indian propaganda to portray Pakistan as a lunatic state financing those who murder its own people. That too, for the hope that they would attack the US or India! Mullah Omar, founder and chief of the Afghan Taliban until his death a few years ago, had distanced himself from the TTP to avoid conflict with Pakistan in 2007 as reported in researcher Antonio Giustozzi’s (Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit) book ‘Decoding the new Taliban: insights into the Afghan field’.(Giustozzi, 2009) Why the guilt? Was it ever required of Pakistan to be overly concerned with the welfare of the Afghans, whose attempts to antagonize it had been continuous since 1947 including even a failed invasion of our tribal areas in 1962? The soft stance Pakistan has shown toward Afghanistan may simply be ignorance of history and delusions of how well religion can bridge the gaps between the neighbours.

The NSA could have made mention of the need for Pakistan to maintain ties with the Afghan Taliban as would be any country’s right when made target of a proxy war by its enemies using Afghanistan as a base. Even making mention of the grand regional designs against CPEC did not seem to allow a connecting of the dots and recognizing the need for proactive involvement in hybrid warfare as everyone else seems to be doing these days.

Are Pakistani strategic circles even capable of forging the right narrative and address the US for what it is? A look back at the USSR war in Afghanistan and how the Pakistani role is perceived there by our people would be adequate. How do those Pakistani leaders who participated in the war against the USSR view the event? As a ‘Jihad’, or as the time our country was used as a launch pad for chaos in the region? To get an idea of the significance of Pakistan’s region, one may take a passage out of the famous Henry Kissinger’s 1982 book, Years of Upheaval:

“The southern rim of Asia — Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan — is a region of the world that may seem remote and strange to Americans, and yet it is a pivot of the world’s security. Within a few years of my 1973 journey, it became an area of upheaval. From the Iranian Revolution to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the Iran-Iraq war, events dramatized the vulnerability of the Persian Gulf — the lifeline of the West’s oil supply. The vital importance of that region had been one of the themes of the shrewd strategic analysts I was to visit next: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.”(Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, 1982)

That’s quite an important placement Pakistan has. Have the country’s policymakers ever been appreciative of this fact in the pre-Belt and Road era? Or do they continue to grasp only a small part of it, given Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal’s odd comment at a public speaking event in Islamabad on 19 December that the ‘era of geopolitics is over and that of geoeconomics has started’? Salvation from the naivety lies quite obviously in deciphering which policies in the past still contribute to suffering for the nation today, and the Soviet-Afghan war remains the best case study.

Anyone who listens to the ‘analyses’ offered up by Pakistani proponents of the ‘Jihad’ narrative, unwilling to admit that the poisoning of the Af-Pak region and serving of a wider imperialist agenda for no real gains to Pakistan, will know very well their obliviousness regarding the strategy that the US had in place for the region. The fact their position as ideologues of the Pakistani right wing and thus opponents of foreign hegemony over Pakistan makes their romanticization of the USSR war ironic and self contradictory. Reading Zaid Hamid’s book ‘from Indus to Oxus’ on the USSR war, in which he participated and still heavily promotes, one gets an accurate summing up of the geopolitical naivety that still seems to plague us; the author lavishes praise on the ‘Afghan Mujahideen’ and General Zia ul Haq.(Hamid, From Indux to Oxus, 2012) He entertains the almost insane delusion that an army bolstered by the influx of extremists from throughout the world (opportunistic dumping by Arab states of their criminals and terrorists, in truth, to Afghanistan) would be able to form a ‘unity government of Mujahideen’ after the USSR withdrawal. Religious extremism brought into the region and the well was perpetually poisoned. To think that ethnic strife already present in Afghanistan would not be compounded by adding layers of extremism on top of it means that proponents of the ‘Jihad’ narrative are unable to come to grips with the actual purpose the war against the USSR had served.

The late General Hameed Gul, the vehemently anti-US former ISI chief who directed the siege of Jalalabad in 1989 by Pakistan-backed factions in Afghanistan, had always demonstrated love for the Afghan Taliban in various interviews with foreign and local media. Romanticizing their horrid governance as ‘Islamic rule’ can only be seen as bizarre. The late Colonel Imam, an iconic figure for Pakistani nationalists and prominent military trainer of Afghan rebels since the 1970s, offered a more nuanced view of the Afghan war (as well as of the ideological ambiguity of the Taliban and thus potential persuasion to moderation compared to radical Salafist groups) yet still insisted on idea of an ‘Islamic government’. Based on whose belief system? Does this not represent misplaced priorities? Or is it part of a pattern of cognitive dissonance and inability to admit the imperial agenda Pakistan served as a pawn for? While not doubting the patriotism of such men, we must critique their sudden turn toward suspicion of the US as being too late and too little. Indeed, in a 2009 interview, Imam expressed surprise at the US’ lack of interest in securing an acceptable settlement to the Afghan situation at the end of the war despite clearly holding a consistent belief in the untrustworthiness of the US.(Imam, 2009)

Similar to the humanitarian lipstick plastered across Western interventionism after the start of the 21st century was the appeal to the fascination the Pakistani establishment had with ‘Jihad’ and Islam by Brzezinski in 1979:

“We know of their deep belief in god – that they’re confident that their struggle will succeed. – That land over-there is yours – and you’ll go back to it some day, because your fight will prevail, and you’ll have your homes, your mosques, back again, because your cause is right, and god is on your side.”(Brzezinski, 1979)

It is all too easy to bait into subservience a country which pays no heed to who it deals with and for what purpose it deals with them.

To raise a few eyebrows among our military elite today whose discourse still revolves around words such as ‘cooperation’ and ‘stability’, one may present a passage from a 1998 interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski with Le Nouvel Observateur:

“And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?”

“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.”(Brzezinski, 1998)

The intentional poisoning of the precious ‘Jihad’ effort using already-available radical elements from the Arab world, as the MSNBC reported in 1998, was always going to happen:

“The CIA, concerned about the factionalism of Afghanistan … found that Arab zealots who flocked to aid the Afghans were easier to “read” than the rivalry-ridden natives. While the Arab volunteers might well prove troublesome later, the agency reasoned, they at least were one-dimensionally anti-Soviet for now. So bin Laden, along with a small group of Islamic militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian refugee camps all over the Middle East, became the “reliable” partners of the CIA in its war against Moscow.”(MSNBC, 1998)

Anyone with a basic grip on history – which apparently means none of the military personnel from Pakistan who eagerly embraced Operation Cyclone and shook hands with Brzezinski – would be well aware of US opposition to secular, effective governments in the Muslim world and usage of radical groups to oppose them. The Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al Nusra, the list goes on and on and the circumstances for their strategic utilization seem to persist continuously.

Brigadier Mohammad Yousuf, working for the ISI during the Soviet-Afghan war, makes no mention of Brzezinski or the overarching US stratagem for the region in his famous book ‘Afghanistan, the bear trap: the defeat of a superpower’ either.

To pontificate about how the US ‘abandoned’ Pakistan after the USSR war is almost juvenile and epitomizes the chronic short sightedness of the country’s policymakers. What should be dwelled upon is why we did not see the ‘abandonment’ coming, why we expected better from a criminal US administration whose character was laid bare in the 1980s with the Nicaraguan Contras affair and why we still continue to bring this up time and time again.

One can be sure that the US-Indian alliance is going to throw the kitchen sink at Pakistan just as the NATO/Israel and Gulf alliance threw it at Syria. Let us recognize the urgency of the situation that is brewing and alter our tone and the quality of our discourse. To still be unable to have a national consensus on the extent to which we were used during the 1980s by a criminal US administration led by strategists of mass violence is a sad state of affairs for the country.

Brzezinski, Z. (1979). Retrieved from http://imperiya.by/video/uKjQ3oTczBp/Zbigniew-Brzezinski-Taliban-Pakistan-Afghanistan-pep-talk-1979.html

Brzezinski, Z. (1998). (P. Le Nouvel Observateur, Interviewer)

Giustozzi, A. (2009). Decoding the new Taliban: insights into the Afghan field.

Hamid, Z. (2012). From Indux to Oxus.

Imam, C. (2009). (I. Ahmad, Interviewer)

Kissinger, H. (1982). Years of Upheaval.

MSNBC. (1998).

 

As Pakistanis, we need to stop comparing Iran to Saudi Arabia.

 

This is going to be a slightly unorganized and unstructured post, so bear with me in that regard.

To put it bluntly, Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) despise each other. The two countries themselves are different in every way that determines their geopolitical position in the grand scheme of things, and by grand scheme of things I mean war and conflict in the Middle East. The Western narrative on the Middle East – thoroughly and intentionally lacking truth, as is painfully clear to anybody keeping a track on events in the region – simply loves to play up the sectarian conflict between Shias and Sunnis in the region. It is sad, irritating and ultimately ironic that the Pakistani viewpoint on the Middle East and Iran and KSA’s role in it actually mirrors Western propaganda. A country such as ours with a large population of youths full of enthusiasm for the ‘Muslim Ummah’ has quite a few facts to reconcile to in order to escape the beyond-stupid narrative that emanates from Pakistani right wingers, nationalists and ‘analysts’ such as Zaid Hamid or Orya Maqbool Jan on the Middle East. After all that has happened in the region – with no war or conflict occuring as an isolated event – it is necessary that we Pakistanis adjust our naive, childish views borne out of a nonsensical fascination with the Muslim world which leads to us seeing all Muslim countries as similar to us and thus formulating their national policies in ways different to us. What comes after this insanely ridiculous assumption is the cliche’d, political-sectarian-correctness style narrative of ‘Iran and KSA are destroying the Muslim Ummah with their proxy war, Shia and Sunni must unite!’. Lazy thinking mixed with a weak, almost cowardly will to keep some sort of ‘balance’ between ‘Shia Iran’ and ‘Sunni KSA’ is something to be seen whenever we discuss events in the Middle East. It is high time to rip this narrative to shreds and remove the sectarian bias from our eyes. How this seemingly considerate stance is itself indicative of a sectarian bias on the part of Pakistanis will become apparent soon enough. This post is, obviously, tailored toward a Pakistani audience and anyone hosting similar juvenile misconceptions about the nature of the conflict between Iran and the GCC in general. Note: I do not intend to use this post to substantiate the completely abhorrent role of the West and Israel (strong emphasis on the latter) in every situation of war in the Middle East; the entirety of that would need a different post altogether and thus lays as an assumption for this particlar post. Needless to say, I am referring to the Iran-Saudi enmity which began after the former’s revolution in 1979.

Iran experienced its Islamic Revolution in early 1979, establishing an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini by April that year. It ended a long dictatorship by the Shah (Raza Pahlavi) of Iran, a Western puppet who ruled the country with an iron fist in a way beneficial to the West whose oil companies valued their stranglehold on the heart of Iranian economy. The CIA had orchestrated an overthrow of the democratic Iranian government led by Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 after he had dared to nationalize the country’s oil, something it admitted in declassified documents released in 2013, and thus brought a pro Western dicatorship to the helm. Iran experienced very little progress in terms of basic human development during its time under the Shah and had no political sovereignty. The harsh and strict yet focused Islamic Revolution would take over the reigns of the country with popular support because of the resentment of the Shah and his usage of the feared SAVAK, the secret police and intelligence agency he had raised with CIA help, to curb dissent using torture and intimidation. The Islamic Republic was inherently hostile to the West and the reversal of Iran from a vassal state to an enemy state would take place at breakneck speed. The seizing of the American personnel in the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 by Iranian religious students and the botched and rather embarrassing attempt by the US in April 1980 to rescue the hostages taken from the Embassy (Operation Eagle Claw) using helicopters which wound up destroyed one way or the other set the tone for the relationship between the US and Iran in the years to come. Sanctions, policies of isolation toward Iran from countries alligned with the West, proxy wars and much more would be the norm from then on.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 by British patronage of the al-Saud family in reward for its service to the colonial power against the Ottoman Empire in World War 1 and consolidation of British power in the Arab lands after the collapse of the Ottomans as well. By the time the war was over and the British emerged among the powerful victors, the Arabian peninsula comprised three main authoritative Arab figures; Sharif Hussain Ibn Ali of Hijaz in the west, Ibn Rashid of Ha’il in the north and Ameer Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Najd in the east. As narrated by Yemeni-English independant researcher and historian, Numan Abd al-Wahid, Sharif Hussain Ibn Ali had been the most vital Arab ally for the British, having turned against the Ottomans who controlled the Arab lands in 1916 after a promise by the British to grant the Arabs a unified Arabian state from Gaza to the Persian Gulf after the war. Ibn Saud’s own contribution in the war effort against the Ottomans had been meagre compared to Sharif Hussain’s, but nonetheless they both found themselves on the same side by the time the latter decided to press for the British to live up to their promise. The Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 and the Balfour Declaration in 1917 (the latter being, in legal terms, simply a letter albeit to a powerful individual) amounted to the British spitting in the face of the Arabs eager, and no doubt foolishly and naively so, to have their own country after years of living under non Arab rule. The British had gone back on their word and began to not only draw borders for the Arab world based on their own – and French- whims but also promised Jews a homeland in Palestine. Sharif Hussain rejected these designs and adopted a stance of no-negotiations toward the British. The British, after exhausting their attempts to persuade or coerce him into acquiescing peacefully to the new political order of the Arab world, began funding and arming Ibn Saud and his army of fanatical followers, known as the Wahabis. Ibn Rashid, whose stance mirrored that of Sharif regarding the British and their broken promises, would be subdued by an invasion by Ibn Saud in 1921 and his territories added to Ibn Saud’s. After a drawn out process of attempts at ‘diplomacy’ with Sharif Hussain, Ibn Saud was finally unleashed on the Hejaz in 1924 and by late 1925 had conquered it in its entirety, driving Sharif Hussain away and making Ibn Saud the de facto ruler of the Arabian peninsula. His army of Wahabis had committed horrible acts of massacre throughout the campaign, notably killing Islamic scholars and burning books and literatures on Islamic jurisprudence wherever they could find them. The violent, takfiri ideology of Wahabism thus took centre stage as the dominant socio-political code of life in the new territory which the British would name ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ in 1932. KSA was born courtesy of patronage by the British. The short-sightedness of the Arabs who sided with and trusted the British against the Ottomans was not limited to Ibn Saud, but his readiness to continue to serve the British after their deceit and receive territorial and financial reward for it contrasted starkly to the opposition of his peers to the violation by the British of their promise of a unified Arab country.

The birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran was thus as an anti Western state existing largely off its own resources and exercising sovereignty in politics and foreign policy while the birth of KSA was as a Western puppet in the Arab world after turning cloak for the sake of selfish, tribalistic ambitions and monetary reward.

I saw an illustration posted to the Facebook page, Pakistan Defence, social media’s most popular and thriving stronghold for Pakistani nationalists which seems hell bent on proving to the world just how stupid we are when it comes to anything unrelated to India or, perhaps, Afghanistan. It depicted Arabs as being ‘forced’ to take shelter under the diabolical Western umbrella because of Iran which the West was using to ‘threaten’ them. Never before had I seen something so profoundly stupid and nonsensical, so completely removed from reality and so blatantly an example of an anti-Shia bias seeking to hide the fact that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, created in 1981) states in particular were complete Western surrogates, rentier states who used their natural resource wealth to purchase skilled labour from abroad to handle their economy as well as unskilled labour from the third world. The petrodollar system, formed in the early 1970s as a pact between the US and KSA which guaranteed sale of oil by the GCC in dollars only while the US provided them military security, cemented the relations between the US and the GCC. There exists no such understanding between Iran and the US (whose twisting and turning regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015 which even European states show interest in upholding demonstrates how beholden Washington is to the anti-Iran Zionist lobby) and it has only found itself for brief periods on, technically, the same page as Iran in matters where neither had to bend to accomodate the either. An example of this may be the two countries’ opposition to the Taliban in Afghanistan; it is true, however, that Iran largely had its own reasons to despise the Taliban after they murdered its diplomats in Kabul in 1998, forcing Iran to mass its forces on the border and almost invade the country. The famous Iran Contra affair , a complex, far reaching and multifaceted plot extending far beyond the allaged and Jimmy Carter-approved objective of getting Iran to return the US hostages from the 1979 sacking of the US Embassy, also comes to mind, whereby using clandestine methods Israel and elements within the US establishment sold weapons to Iran in the 1980s. Iran was fighting a war imposed on it by Iraq under Saddam Hussein, who the West and GCC had turned from enemy into ally for the sake of crushing the much poorer Iranian nation which only had support from 2 or 3 countries. One of the objectives of the Iran Contra strategy was also to manage to bleed both Iran and Iraq, considering Iraq had been the most economically and militarily powerful, self sufficient and prolific Arab country before the war with Iran. The GCC was as happy as the West in supporting Saddam as he went about gassing Iranians and sustaining the most pointless war in recent history.

By the time it became clear the war wasn’t going to have a clear cut victor, KSA and the GCC were all too happy to participate, with the blessing of the US of course, in the wrecking of Saddam’s economy by collapsing the price of their own oil to abnormally low levels and thus ensuring Saddam – and the Soviet Union who he was militarily and economically aligned with – found it extremely hard to sustain their own oil exports in their respective war efforts in Iran and Afghanistan. But, wasn’t KSA simply supporting ‘Sunni’ Saddam (secular, in actuality, and only anti-Shia because of Iranian Shia influence after 1979) against Shia Iran? Perhaps the same strain of foolish ‘sectarian’ analysis would lead to us assuming so. A fun fact: the majority of Saddam’s armed forces were Shias themselves.

The very formation of the GCC itself, with KSA its (oil) richest country and long time Western ally, was intended to ensure that a pro-Western monopoly over most of the world’s oil in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf was created. The dollar would be strengthened all the more and sanctions thus turned into a serious weapon for the West. It would take away power over the world’s oil markets from OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and Arab countries not firmly aligned with the West and headed by Arab nationalists such as the Baathists whose ideology was intrinsically anti-colonial and anti-Zionist as well. Perhaps one could attempt to awkwardly explain Saudi Arabia’s antithetical position toward genuine Arab nationalist movements, be they the Baathists in Iraq and Syria or Nasserites in Egypt, could be explain by the ‘Shia Sunni’ analysis?

If KSA is really a sovereign and powerful ‘Sunni’ country and not a complete rentier state with its rich living as uncultured, luxury loving despots who have no political substance and could never craft any sort of national narrative against the West? Even the much hyped King Faisal was not anything out of the ordinary regarding potential threat to Western control over KSA’s role in geopolitics. We won’t ever see a revolutionary insurrection against the pro-Western monarchy in Saudi Arabia as we saw successfully happen in Iraq in 1958 against the pro-Western Hashemite monarchy of King Faisal II? A country with a ridiculous, senseless form of Sharia in place to go with the ‘biddah’ filled lifestyles of the wealthy princes and sheikhs, thousands of political dissidents in jail and a female population suppressed and kept out of political life for the most part cannot compare to the Iranian nation which, after its revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq which cost both sides hundreds of thousands of young, able bodied men, actually governed itself with a religious regime that invested heavily in basic human development aspects such as education and health, implemented family planning programmes (what would Wahabis think of that!) and produced a society much better off in most ways than it was under the Western-backed Shah. Each religious government has its flaws, in my opinion, and a greater pressure on it to ‘loosen up’ as time progresses, but to compare Iran to KSA is plain ridiculous. When Iraq was a powerful nation under Saddam before his suicidally reckless campaign against Iran, the country was renowned for its cultural and educational prowess, not just its vast wealth in oil. I emphasize the capability of these nations to be able to follow their own sovereign goals so as to make clear that it is KSA who tows the Western line – largely managing to be accomodating to the House of Saud’s own small-scale tribalistic politics – while Iran opposes it. These countries are not equals when it comes to the role they play which interests us Pakistanis the most, i.e as Muslim players in geopolitics. KSA does not care about the Muslim Ummah, while Iran has continued to maintain a strong touch dimension of pan-Islamic unity in its foreign policy and has shown no sectarian bias of any real sort in who it crafts alliances with; Sunni Palestinians under secular PLO or religious Hamas, or Lebanese Shias under Hezbollah; if the enemy is a shared one then Iranian support comes in any way.

Nobody can doubt the sectarian aspect of KSA; Wahabism does, after all, declare Shias to be kaafirs and worthy of death to go alongwith many other of its wonderful teachings. It does the same for non-Wahabi Sunnis but good luck explaining that to admirers of KSA in our naive country. The highest Shia authorities in Iran – and Iraq – do not condemn Sunnis in any way (or the Sahaba; can’t forget that now can we) while you can get plenty of takfiri fatwas out of KSA regarding Shias. What my point is that when it comes to subduing Wahabism – or forsaking the facade of Sunni unity – for the sake of the interests of its Western masters, KSA is all too willing. Let’s not forget that Wahabi movements have, in the past, directed their anger toward KSA for whatever reasons, be it the presence of a monarchy there or the eventual capability of their slow-working brains to figure out the KSA is a Western puppet state. The Saudis had to curb Ikhwani uprisings soon after the creation of the Saudi state and largely wish to keep true Wahabism out of the lives of their wealthy elites, exporting it instead around the world via funding to madrassahs such as in the case of Pakistan during the Soviert War in Afghanistan. How does one try to describe Saudi Arabia as having concern for Sunnis when Saudi-affiliated terrorist groups readily butcher them as willingly as they do Shias?

Iran is indeed a Shia power and it does not shy away from seeking out relations with Shias in other countries. Those attempting to compare Iran’s Shia politics – which are not in any way a negative ploy seeing as they are effective in establishing transnational links of political, religious and ideological unity and thus facilitate Iranian power against Zionism and the West – to Saudi Arabia’s spreading of its vile, divisive, dangerous ideology around the world do us a disservice and make us look stupid. Pakistan has no reason to respect KSA; culturally, religiously, geographically and even historically even a slight amount of research would reveal our closeness to Iran compared to the Arabian peninsula or whatever other strange connections Pakistanis feel they have with the ‘Khadim e Haramain’ (a position they achieved through no competence of their own). Iran also does not seek to shun Sunni allies. Hamas, owing to its Qatari patronage and Qatar’s initial support for the terrorist-mercenary war waged with multilateral funding against Syria from 2011 onwards (accompanied by a promptly and comprehensively debunked trainwreck of a propaganda narrative by the West and media based in the GCC such as Al Jazeera about a ‘popular revolution’ or ‘moderate rebels’ or ‘Syrian regime using chemical weapons’), turned on its long time supporter in the Syrian government headed by secular Arab nationalist Bashar al Assad in 2012 and supported the terrorists (Jabhat al Nusra, FSA, Ahrar al Sham, ISIS etc) against his government. Syria had, like Iran, supported the Palestinian cause albeit from much earlier on considering the civilizational, ethnic and cultural links Syrians have with Palestine and Syria’s continuity of national anti-colonialist and anti-Western narrative. Iran, quite obviously supporting Assad throughout the conflict alongwith its Lebanese partner in Hezbollah (perhaps the most powerful armed group in the Levant, with an impressive military victory registered over Israel in 2006), could have found this as an ideal excuse to not only shun Hamas but build up the notion of Sunnis as untrustworthy. Instead, Iran would restore relations with Hamas in 2017 as the Syrians and their allies closed in on victory after having cut them off during the war. Iran would then also begin reconciliation between Syria and the new Hamas leadership.

I’ll cut it short here, seeing as this is my first post on WordPress, and seeing as it is after all a truly simplistic fallacy I wished to address. There’s a lot more examples of how KSA serves its Western masters and collaborates continuously with Israel, but this information itself should suffice in demonstrating that Iran combats an enemy of whom KSA is merely a puppet. Saying that Iran-KSA ‘Shia Sunni’ conflict is what’s wrong with the Middle East is plain stupid and wrong.