Friday, January 23, 2015

Obama's India Visit; Iran-Saudi Proxy War; Pakistan Fuel Crisis

What is President Barack Husain Obama's India Visit Agenda? Will India-Pakistan tensions and Afghanistan be at the top of the agenda? Will it lead to improved cooperation in South Asia? 

Is Iran behind the Yemen crisis? Will it intensify Saudi-Iranian proxy war in the Middle East? How will the death of Saudi King Abdullah affect it? How will it impact Pakistan? 

Has the fuel crisis in Pakistan further weakened Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PMLN government? How will PTI and Imran Khan benefit from it?

ViewPoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these and other issues with panelists Ali H CemendtaurMisbah Azam ( and Riaz Haq (

Obama's India Visit; Iran-Saudi Proxy War; Pakistan Fuel Crisis from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Kerry-Modi Meeting

India Financing Terror in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif's Poor Governance

Viewpoint From Overseas Vimeo Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said...

From WSJ:

As Mr. Obama takes a three-day trip aimed at showcasing the expanding ties between New Delhi and Washington, he is likely to raise with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue of how the two nuclear-armed neighbors can resume dialogue and reduce their hostilities, administration officials and analysts say.

The pursuit of dialogue “is something that the United States has consistently supported, and we will continue to do so,” said Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national-security adviser, at a briefing Wednesday.

India and Pakistan blame each other for starting the exchanges. Dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides have died in the bombardments, which have continued on and off since October.

Adding to their tensions, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief, this week delivered the most strongly worded attack on India since Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in June 2013, warning of “India’s dangerous desire to create a space for war.”

“Relations between India and Pakistan are in tatters,” said Sherry Rehman, a former Pakistani information minister and ex-ambassador to Washington. “I haven’t seen anything this bad since the Mumbai attack,” she said, referring to the storming in 2008 of the Indian city by a squad of militants from Pakistan that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

India now is on alert amid concern that Pakistan-based militants may stage headline-grabbing attacks during the U.S. president’s visit.

Joshua White, an analyst at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, said that as long as India and Pakistan aren’t talking there is a heightened risk that a terrorist attack in India, or a spiraling border skirmish, could spark a crisis.

“President Obama is likely to urge Prime Minister Modi to resume some kind of dialogue with Pakistan,” said Mr. White. “To avoid being seen as chiding his host, the president probably intends to deliver this message behind closed doors.”

Pakistan, a key ally of Washington through the Cold War and a partner in the U.S.-led war on terror after the September 2001 attacks, has looked on anxiously at warming U.S.-India ties in recent years.

Mr. Obama’s decision to visit India without coming to Pakistan is so sensitive to Islamabad that he called Mr. Sharif in November to explain why, according to officials in Washington and Islamabad.

“We don’t view these relationships as taking place at the expense of the other; that we can have a good relationship with India and we can have a good relationship with Pakistan,” said Mr. Rhodes, the White House adviser.

Still, Indian observers see Mr. Obama’s visit as a sign the U.S. administration is ready to engage New Delhi without a tit-for-tat outreach to Islamabad.

“India’s relations with the U.S. are no longer hostage to what happens with Pakistan,” said Baijayant Panda, an Indian member of parliament.

India and Pakistan have fought three major wars in the past, and Washington has long called for the two countries to normalize relations. But hopes of a rapprochement diminished in recent months.

New Delhi has taken a much harder line on Pakistan since Mr. Modi’s hawkish government assumed power in May last year, accusing Islamabad of not taking enough action against terrorists.

Planned peace talks were called off by New Delhi in August after Pakistan’s ambassador to India met with separatist political leaders from the Indian part of Kashmir, and India has since rebuffed attempts by Pakistan to revive dialogue.

Mr. Sharif, an advocate of improved relations with India, has seen his power shrink following a protest movement that saw him effectively cede control of foreign policy to his country’s military. Analysts say that New Delhi’s reluctance to engage in talks has also helped Pakistan’s military reassert its traditional antagonism toward India. India has also been calling for the planners of the Mumbai attack to be brought to justice in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

“There’s a lot of issues bubbling under the surface that they’re not talking about publicly,” said John Sifton, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization based in New York.

Mr. Obama has raised none of those issues explicitly before the visit. Instead, he has emphasized the improvement in ties, citing rising trade, more joint military exercises and cooperation on counterterrorism and counterproliferation issues.

Riaz Haq said...

In the secret world of intelligence, where trust is a commodity best not discussed, the US and India have emerged as very unlikely partners. The US is today the most important supplier of intelligence and information to India, from being a rival until a few years ago, sources across intelligence and security agencies say.

That doesn't mean that all is forgiven and all information is fully trusted. The Indian establishment is divided over the quality of information flowing from US agencies.

Cooperation picked up after the 911 attacks in 2001, when the AB Vajpayee government opened up its secret chests containing credible terror information from Af-Pak belt. Until then, there were periods of highs and lows. The shadow of the Cold War, when both sides distrusted each other, hung heavy. "Among our foreign partners the biggest flow of information is from US agencies.Many a times they're highly credible. I won't say always," says a retired chief of one intelligence agency.

Contacts between intelligence agencies of both sides are now almost institutionalized, with visits of senior RAW officials to CIA 's Langley headquarters almost part of the drill. Such contacts exist between other agencies too.

In New Delhi, liaison meetings between intelligence officers of both countries happen often. In fact, many concede the most frequent contact is with US officials.

Much of the information that comes from American intelligence agencies deals with terror. It's now a habit for Indians to expect regular inputs from the US on terror-related developments in Pakistan."It's not always a good sign. We shouldn't get so addicted to their information," says a former intelligence officer.

In most cases, these inputs transform into alerts that invariably become public, causing international concern.Many analysts caution that unfounded alerts have the possibility of adversely affecting India's image of being a stable investment destination.

Even as the two sides boost cooperation, some are also beginning to get worried. "US is one foreign power with the biggest vested interest in the region. We should be wary," one official says. Another argues that in a large number of US inputs, the information was found to be unreliable. "It's tricky and it's advisable to be cautious," he said.

For many in the security establishment, developments of the past decade, such as that of a senior RAW officer defecting to the US in 2004, have added to questions on the US's real motives in India.Their concerns have deepened with revelations surrounding David Coleman Headley.

Such concerns may not be officially placed in the quiet intelligence agency meetings.But for US agencies to enjoy free access deep into the Indian security establishment, their real motives will forever remain the biggest challenge.

Riaz Haq said...

A day before the Republic Day celebrations, Srinagar has turned into a fortress, with barricades and checkpoints coming up all over the city and hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel patrolling the streets.

The presence of armed forces in Kashmir is increased before every Republic and Independence Day, but this time security in the sensitive State capital has been tightened further due to U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to New Delhi. In the absence of an elected government in the State, Governor N.N. Vohra will take the salute on Monday at the Maulana Azad Memorial Stadium in Jammu, which has been put under multi-tier security and made out-of-bounds for any civilian movement.

Riaz Haq said...

The Pakistani government had sharp words as President Barack Obama concluded his three-day trip to neighboring India, issuing a statement saying it had “taken careful note of statements made and agreements reached” in New Delhi.

On the top of the list: U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation. During the visit, the United States and India announced a breakthrough in their discussions on the implementation of a pact on nuclear power. But the agreement, signed in 2008, has been a cause of concern for Islamabad, which argues it will destabilize the strategic balance of power between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistani officials say Islamabad should not face discrimination in access to civil nuclear technology and materials.

“Pakistan is not averse to civil nuclear cooperation … provided it is based on the principles of nondiscrimination and objective nonproliferation criteria,” said Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs.

Mr. Aziz also reacted to calls during the last week for Pakistan to do more to fight terrorism on its soil.

“Pakistan rejects any insinuation or aspersion over its commitment to fight terrorism,” he said in a statement issued by the foreign ministry. “Condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations should not be based on selectivity or double standards.”

Terrorism has clouded relations between India and Pakistan for decades, escalating after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which militants from Pakistan killed 166 people. Tensions were high between India and Pakistan ahead of Mr. Obama’s arrival in Delhi Sunday, with both sides trading fire for weeks across the border in the Kashmir region.

Adding fuel to the rhetorical fire on Sunday, Hafiz Saeed, head of an organization linked with the Mumbai attacks, held a public rally that attracted thousands. Mr. Saeed criticized the United States and India in his speech, accusing them of conspiring against Muslims and asking his supporters to “take action.”

The United States has offered a maximum reward of $10 million for his information leading to Mr. Saeed’s arrest for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks and other terrorism-related offenses.

U.S. and Indian officials say his organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is a front for the Laskhar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the Mumbai attacks.

Riaz Haq said...

According to an article published by Bloomberg on Monday, Obama may lose six hours from his expected lifespan after inhaling toxic air in New Delhi during his three-day visit to India (Bloomberg, Post). A World Trade Organization report from last year states that the air quality in New Delhi is the worst in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 -- toxic particles that cause respiratory ailments and other diseases. In preparation for Obama’s visit, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi ordered 1,800 Swedish air purifiers (PRWeb). Speaking to reporters at a briefing in New Delhi on Monday, John Podesta, Obama’s climate counselor, said: “We weren’t concerned about bringing the president here for these meetings… The president has traveled to many places where the air is bad for one reason or other” (Economic Times).

Riaz Haq said...

As the United States forges closer ties to India, neighboring Pakistan is looking for some new friends. Officials hope they have found one in Russia — a budding partnership that could eventually shift historic alliances in South Asia.

In recent months, Pakistani military and political leaders have reached out to Moscow, seeking to warm ties that have been frosty since the Cold War. In November, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Islamabad and signed a military cooperation agreement with Pakistani generals. Pakistan is now hoping to finalize plans to buy three dozen Russian Mi-35 helicopters and more closely coordinate efforts to counter terrorism and narcotics. Pakistan also wants Russian assistance to stabilize chronic energy shortages.

The moves come as Pakistani leaders grow increasingly nervous that their traditional alliances could erode, if not crumble, in the coming years. For much of its history, Pakistan has been an ally of the United States, while Russia had stronger ties to India, even backing it during that country’s 1971 war with Pakistan. But now that most NATO troops have left next-door Afghanistan — and the Pakistani army is straining to overcome Islamist militants on its western border — officials here fear that the United States’ regional interest is tilting toward India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbor and archrival.

“Of course we are concerned,” said one senior Pakistani military leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The balance of power is being tipped toward India, and that is not good, and it’s been done with the help of the Western World. That is why we are looking at various markets, because conventional [military] parity is the only recipe for peace and stability.”

Pakistan’s efforts to kindle ties with Moscow come as relations between the West and Russia continue to worsen, which may prompt it to look for new trading partners in Asia. Pakistanis are also worried the Indian army is moving toward dominance in the conventional arms race.

In another sign of the unease, Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Raheel Sharif, traveled to China last weekend to solidify long-standing military and economic ties between the two countries. China is Pakistan’s largest arms supplier, having sold or transferred it nearly $4 billion in weapons since 2006, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which monitors arms sales.

The United States, with about $2.5 billion in arms sales to Pakistan over the past nine years, is the country’s second-largest arms supplier. In December, Congress also authorized $1 billion in additional funds to Pakistan for its continued support of counter-terrorism operations. But it is unclear how much American aid will flow to Pakistan in the coming years.

Tasnim Aslam, spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan doesn’t want to “put all of its eggs in one basket.”

Rifaat Hussain, an Islamabad-based defense expert, said the West should not underestimate the potential for a realignment of strategic ties in Asia.

“There is now a visible strain with Moscow’s relationship with the United States, and Moscow has moved much closer to China, which I think facilitates Pakistan’s relationship with Russia,” Hussain said.

Riaz Haq said...

BEIJING, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday that China would continue to work on expanding friendly exchanges and cooperation with Pakistan at all levels and in various areas.

Li made the remarks here during a meeting with Pakistan's National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Chinese government.

Li spoke highly about the relationship and friendship between China and Pakistan. He emphasized that China always attaches priority to expanding relations with Pakistan and firmly supports the country's effort to safeguard its sovereignty, independence and integrity of its territories.

Li said that the development of the China-Pakistan economic corridor had provided a strategic framework for the two countries to carry out practical cooperation. He expressed the wish that the two sides would further expand and deepen practical cooperation and jointly advance development of the economic corridor so as to benefit more people.

Li also expressed the hope that the Pakistani side would continue to adopt effective measures to protect the safety of Chinese projects and persons in the country.

Li said China is ready to work with Pakistan and other relevant parties to maintain regional peace and stability and promote development and prosperity.

Sadiq said the friendly relationship between Pakistan and China has erected a model for international relations. Noting that the two countries will jointly celebrate the year of friendly exchanges this year, he said Pakistan is ready to step up friendly exchanges and cooperation with China in all areas. He expressed the readiness to jointly build the Pakistan-China economic corridor so as bring about greater benefits for people of the two countries and people in the region.

Riaz Haq said...

All those who regularly bash Saudi Arabia should should listen to Ali Khedery who explains how US post-911 actions (eliminating Saddam and Taliban) have aided Iran's rise in the Middle East and now Iran poses a serious threat to US allies in the Middle East.

Riaz Haq said...

India reacted to U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments during the National Prayer Breakfast address in Washington D.C. on Thursday, where Obama said that religious intolerance in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi (BBC, Business Standard). While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government did not officially react to the comment, individual party members responded, with Indian Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley saying: “The best example of India's tolerance was the Dalai Lama sitting next to Obama” (NDTV). Another BJP leader, GVL Narasimha Rao, said: "I think President Obama's comments are not in reference to any community. He was referring to general intolerance" (NDTV).
Political opponents of the BJP also reacted to Obama’s comments. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, said: "I think Mr. Modi will answer this, they are very good friends" (Firstpost) The Congress Party’s Manish Tewari tweeted: "Did the Prime Ministerial Tea reinforce Barrack's understanding of the revival ism & intolerance intrinsic in the BJP govt Another stinker? (sic)." Obama had tea with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to India.

Riaz Haq said...

President Barack Obama on Friday vowed to work with Pakistan for achievement of strategic stability in South Asia and viable peace in Afghanistan, as the United States underlined its strong and vital relationship with the country.

“We will continue to work with both India and Pakistan to promote strategic stability, combat terrorism, and advance regional economic integration in South and Central Asia,” Obama vowed in his administration’s second National Security Strategy delivered to Congress on Friday.

In acknowledgement of Pakistan’s role for regional stability, including peace efforts in Afghanistan, Obama said: “We will also work with the countries of the region, including Pakistan, to mitigate the threat from terrorism and to support a viable peace and reconciliation process to end the violence in Afghanistan and improve regional stability.”

At the State Department, spokesperson Marie Harf emphasised the importance of US having a close relationship with Pakistan.“We have a relationship with India, with Pakistan, they are both strong, they are both vital to our strategic interests and they stand on their own,” Harf explained in response to a question vis-à-vis the US relations with the two South Asian neighbours.

In Afghanistan, the new White House strategy notes that the United States has ended its combat mission and transitioned to a dramatically smaller force focused on the goal of a sovereign and stable partner in Afghanistan that is not a safe haven for international terrorists.

This has been made possible by the extraordinary sacrifices of our US military, civilians throughout the interagency, and our international partners. They delivered justice to Osama bin Laden and significantly degraded al-Qaeda’s core leadership. They helped increase life expectancy, access to education, and opportunities for women and girls.

Going forward, the White House strategy says, we will work with partners to carry out a limited counterterrorism mission against the remnants of core al-Qaeda and maintain our support to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The US, the security framework says, is working with Nato and other partners to train, advise, and assist the ANSF as a new government takes responsibility for the security and well-being of Afghanistan’s citizens.

With respect to partnership with India, Obama says, in South Asia, we continue to strengthen our strategic and economic partnership with India. “We support India’s role as a regional provider of security and its expanded participation in critical regional institutions.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Impending Clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Iran recently marked 35 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought to power Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The cleric’s radical religious teachings, which are based on government in the hands of mullahs and a foreign policy of exporting the Islamic Revolution, still define Iranian policy today.

Khomeini set the tone for Iranian-Saudi relations in the first decade of the Islamic Republic, challenging the legitimacy of the Saudi regime to serve as the protector of the Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina. In 1987, Khomeini declared that Mecca was in the hands of a “band of heretics” and characterized the Saudis as “vile and ungodly Wahhabis.” For the current Iranian leadership, Khomeini’s remarks remain authoritative and frame the way Iran views Saudi Arabia.

In a meeting held a few weeks ago with the commanders of the Air Force, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterated his loyalty to Khomeini’s ideas and repeatedly stressed the pillars of the Islamic Revolution – namely, the independence of the Islamic regime and the constant battle against foreign forces who seek to impose their hegemony in Islamic territory and intervene in it. In an implicit reference to the Arab Spring, Khamenei said that jihad is an essential component of any revolution against a tyrannical regime, and without it the revolution will fail.

Khamenei’s words, as well as those of other senior officials who made similar remarks recently, outline the ideological boundaries of the “charm offensive” that accompanied the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finished his second term. Khamenei’s remarks indicated that whatever understandings might be reached between Iran and the West on the nuclear file, Iran has no intention of retreating from its efforts to establish its hegemony in the Middle East.

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

Clash of #Iran & #SaudiArabia. #Khomeini called Saudi rulers “band of heretics”, “vile and ungodly Wahhabis.” #Yemen …

From Israel-based Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

The Impending Clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Iran recently marked 35 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought to power Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The cleric’s radical religious teachings, which are based on government in the hands of mullahs and a foreign policy of exporting the Islamic Revolution, still define Iranian policy today.

Khomeini set the tone for Iranian-Saudi relations in the first decade of the Islamic Republic, challenging the legitimacy of the Saudi regime to serve as the protector of the Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina. In 1987, Khomeini declared that Mecca was in the hands of a “band of heretics” and characterized the Saudis as “vile and ungodly Wahhabis.” For the current Iranian leadership, Khomeini’s remarks remain authoritative and frame the way Iran views Saudi Arabia.

In a meeting held a few weeks ago with the commanders of the Air Force, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterated his loyalty to Khomeini’s ideas and repeatedly stressed the pillars of the Islamic Revolution – namely, the independence of the Islamic regime and the constant battle against foreign forces who seek to impose their hegemony in Islamic territory and intervene in it. In an implicit reference to the Arab Spring, Khamenei said that jihad is an essential component of any revolution against a tyrannical regime, and without it the revolution will fail.

Khamenei’s words, as well as those of other senior officials who made similar remarks recently, outline the ideological boundaries of the “charm offensive” that accompanied the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finished his second term. Khamenei’s remarks indicated that whatever understandings might be reached between Iran and the West on the nuclear file, Iran has no intention of retreating from its efforts to establish its hegemony in the Middle East.

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan sends plane, frigate to evacuate citizens from #Yemen via @MailOnline Pakistan has sent a jumbo jet and a naval frigate to evacuate its citizens and diplomatic staff stranded in war-torn Yemen, as Saudi-led air strikes hammered Shiite Huthi rebel targets, officials said Sunday.

Pakistan's ambassador to Yemen Irfan Shami told state television that 482 Pakistanis will be evacuated on the first flight.

"The plane has landed at Hodeidah and boarding has started. On seeing the plane landing, stranded Pakistanis expressed their happiness by clapping," the ambassador told Pakistan Television. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was personally monitoring the evacuation and had directed the officials to ensure safe return of every citizen, a spokesman of Sharif's office said.

Earlier, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) spokesman Hanif Rana told AFP that a 747 aircraft had been flown to Hodeidah.

A second, smaller plane with a capacity of 230 passengers was also being kept on stand by in Pakistan, he said.

A frigate had also been sent to assist.

"A Pakistan navy frigate today left Karachi to rescue stranded Pakistanis in Yemen," a naval spokesman told AFP.

The frigate will remain on stand-by in the Gulf of Aden with full preparedness and, if the need arose, will participate in the evacuations, he said.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said late Saturday that around 3,000 Pakistanis lived in Yemen with some 1,000 trying to leave the country.

A convoy of 16 buses was carrying stranded Pakistanis from the capital of Sanaa to Hodeidah, he said, while some remained stranded in the southern government stronghold of Aden and were awaiting a lull in the fighting so they too could be rescued.

Restating Islamabad's staunch support for the Gulf kingdom, Chaudhry said a Pakistani delegation would soon leave for Riyadh, but rejected reports that the country would join the Saudi-led coalition bombing mission.

Pakistan is a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia with close military ties, but Islamabad has not yet committed to the operation, which has drawn strong criticism from its neighbour Iran, the major Shiite Muslim power.

Riaz Haq said...

The story with India and Pakistan is they still have growing nuclear arsenals. These limited technical agreements have not produced the kind of foundation for that broader relationship that some of the analysis talking about Iran seems to expect.

SIEGEL: What do you make of the argument that countries that acquire nuclear arsenals, even if they sound remarkably belligerent before that time, tend to behave fairly responsibly once they do have nuclear arsenals?

O'DONNELL: Well, I mean, to that I can only say look at the example of North Korea. You know, it's one of the most irresponsible states in the world. It's always making nuclear threats. If a state has nuclear weapons, that doesn't automatically guarantee a certain format of behavior.

SIEGEL: And the India-Pakistan conflict - I mean, do you think of it as one that actually has the potential of turning into a nuclear exchange anytime in the even distant future?

O'DONNELL: I don't see that getting to the level of a nuclear exchange. However, what concerns me is that there is not a sustainable, ongoing dialogue to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. What has happened in recent years is that both sides adopt a tough stance and start escalating, and they both wait for the United States to come in and provide both of them the face-saving exercise that the United States will intervene and bring them both down. There are not mechanisms to de-escalate once a crisis emerges.


O'DONNELL: That is what I find most concerning about the situation there.

SIEGEL: That addressing the question of nuclear weapons can be a remarkably compartmentalized and technical development and really have no implications for a more peaceful relations between countries.

O'DONNELL: I think that India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons out of both of their own sense of security threat. And for there to be some measures of reducing nuclear tensions, this has to be part of a broader political dialogue involving what both of their own threat perceptions are, and also, I argue, including China as well because China is very much part of the South Asian strategic environment. It's very much a player in the region.

SIEGEL: Do you see any parallels between Iran today and Pakistan and India at the point where they were intent on developing nuclear weapons?

O'DONNELL: The main parallel I see with Iran - up until really the Obama administration came in, the activities it was conducting up to that point seemed to me very reminiscent of what India was doing - the position it had up until it conducted testing in 1998. For a long period - say, from about the mid '80s and up until 1998, what India did was it had the capability. It had all the material. It had the knowledge. It had, you know, the missiles all sitting disassembled in its basement. By doing that, it meant that it would not be sanctioned as it was after 1998 for conducting the nuclear tests. However, it could in some ways behave like a nuclear-weapon state. It could throw its weight around a bit more. And I wonder if Iranians who are, you know, running the program did look at India's experience as a guide.

Riaz Haq said...

(Sectarian conflict in Pakistan) coincided with the onset of the Islamic Revolution of Imam Khomeini in Iran and the threat its “export” posed to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states across the Gulf.
Pakistanis invariably blame Saudi Arabia and Iran for the violence since the two countries funded and trained the partisans of this war. Both are aware that Pakistan was subjected to someone else’s “relocated” war. Much of the internal dynamic of this war remains hidden from public view. A kind of embarrassment over the phenomenon of Muslim-killing-Muslim has prevented Pakistanis from inquiring frankly into how the two hostile states were able to transplant their conflict in Pakistan.
Sectarian violence has drawn its strength from the past too. The schismatic past was concealed behind two important layers of governance. First, the Raj was able to almost completely uproot the Sunni-Shia confrontation during its tenure from 1857 to 1947. A refusal to recognise the jurisprudence of takfir (apostatisation) and a competent encoding of the Muslim Family Law, separating the two sects, almost buried the conflict that had its seeds in the 7th century.
The Pakistan Movement in India that resulted in the creation of Pakistan against the wishes of Great Britain and the secularists of India was spearheaded by the two sects together. The movement carried the promise of a finally successful coexistence and possible integration of the two sects. Early governance in Pakistan was in some ways an extension of the secular impartiality of the Raj. However, after Independence in 1947, two developments took place that sowed the seeds of sectarianism that were to bear fruit later on.
Pakistan began to look for its identity in the stance its representative political party, the All-India Muslim League, had adopted during its competition with the secular and much larger All-India National Congress. Because of the early military conflict with India in 1947, Pakistan’s nationalism began to coalesce positively around Islam and negatively around India. Its textbooks sought their exemplary personalities in historical Muslim “utopias” and imagined “golden ages” that highlighted the particularism of Muslim identity instead of its “liminal” cross-fertilisation with Hinduism at the cultural level.
Pakistani textbooks went back to pre-Raj days and selected periods of Muslim rule where pluralism was at its lowest, and highlighted instead the separation of Hinduism from Islam. (Liberal Mughal kings who treated the Hindus well also accepted the Shia as Muslims.) Most of this selection turned out to be sectarian. While it set Muslims and Hindus apart it also emphasised the conflict between Sunni and Shia communities. In the early period of Pakistan’s history, ignorance of the schism – or amnesia induced by the Raj interregnum – allowed this bias to go unnoticed.
During the Saudi-Iranian standoff in 1980, Pakistan was drawn to the Saudi side for a number of reasons. It had a large expatriate labour force stationed in the Arab Middle East, particularly in the region of the Gulf where the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed in 1980 to ward off the Iranian threat. Before 9/11, almost 80 percent of Pakistan’s “foreign remittances” were earned from this region. Saudi Arabia was also the most important ally – after the United States – in “frontline” Pakistan’s war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nationalism Without A Nation
By Christophe Jaffrelot

Chapter 4 by Mariam Abou Zahab on sectarian conflict in Pakistan after the Iranian Islamic Revolution and Zia's Islamization in 1980s.

Iran funded scholarships for Pakistani rural Shia to study its version of Islam in Iran then return to Pakistan while Saudi Arabia funded sunni madrassas in Pakistan.'s%20sectarian%20agenda&f=false

Riaz Haq said...

From Washington Post:

It has long been rumored that the Saudis expect the Pakistanis will help them to acquire an arsenal. However, Pakistan has of late asserted its independence from Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by their refusal to aid Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Such a move would exacerbate tensions not only between Islamabad and Washington, but Riyadh and Washington as well. If Pakistan is not willing to provide sensitive nuclear assistance to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh will have to pursue it on its own.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an extremely limited nuclear infrastructure. It does not even possess a research reactor and only obtained small quantities of nuclear material through the IAEA. It has plans for building up to 16 reactors, but the first will not go online until (at least) 2022. The Saudis have also signed an agreement to purchase American-designed reactors from South Korea. The U.S. maintains that if such reactors were to be sold, KSA would have to sign what is known as a “123 agreement” that would shut down domestic enrichment and reprocessing. Given its weight in international oil markets, the Saudis could call the Americans’ bluff and enrich anyway. However, this would be a tremendous gamble that would likely jeopardize U.S. security guarantees.

Riaz Haq said...

The Parachinar sectarian massacre appears to be part of the ongoing Iran-Saudi proxy war in Pakistan. Both are using using Pakistani citizens to advance their agendas. Reuters reported that a Shiite unit of Pakistani fighters known as the Zeinabiyoun were joining the war against Islamic State in Syria. Many come from Parachinar, which has a large Shiite population, unusual in Sunni-majority Pakistan.,-injures-70/7024888

Riaz Haq said...

#Iran warns of "divine vengeance" as #SaudiArabia breaks relations with #Iran

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran on Sunday amid the furor that erupted over the execution by the Saudi authorities of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair told reporters in Riyadh that the Iranian ambassador in Tehran had been given 48 hours to leave the country, citing concerns that Tehran’s Shiite government was undermining the security of the Sunni kingdom.

Saudi Arabian diplomats had already departed Iran after angry mobs trashed and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran overnight Saturday, in response to the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr earlier in the day.

Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.

Riaz Haq said...

The #Obama Doctrine: "#Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their #Iranian foes" #SaudiArabia #Iran #MidEast …

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.

Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

His frustration with the Saudis informs his analysis of Middle Eastern power politics. At one point I observed to him that he is less likely than previous presidents to axiomatically side with Saudi Arabia in its dispute with its archrival, Iran. He didn’t disagree.

“Iran, since 1979, has been an enemy of the United States, and has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism, is a genuine threat to Israel and many of our allies, and engages in all kinds of destructive behavior,” the president said. “And my view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.”

But he went on to say that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes. “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” he said. “An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”

Riaz Haq said...

the conflicts between Arabs and Persians can be traced back to the pre-Islamic past of West Asia when Arab tribes, proud of the richness and eloquence of their language Arabic, used to look down upon all the non-Arabs in general, and Persians in particular, as Ajam or deaf. Spreading Islam and building their vast empire in the later years with more worldly pursuits they started regarding themselves as a natural ruling race. They came to enjoy a certain sense of religious and racial superiority. Even the latest statement of Saudi grand mufti called Iranians “children of Magi” in a clear reference to the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion of Iran.

On their Part Iranians have been very proud of their rich and ancient civilisation. The classic epic of Persian literature ‘Shahnameh’ written by poet Firdousi one thousand years ago poignantly depicts this pride. The epic denounces the Arab conquest of Persia in 651 AD as an effort by Arab Bedouins to occupy the sacred throne of Kian (named after Kowyani, a heroic character from ancient Persian mythology).

Although Persians converted to Islam but they could never develop fondness for Arab domination and in keeping with founding tradition of the Persian empire they aspired for revival of their imperial glory and regarded Arab expansion as an encroachment on their sphere of influence. With the passage of time Iran gradually turned into a centre of Shi’a Islam competing with Arabs in its different incarnations. Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State in his famous book ‘ World Order’ writing about Iranian resilience says, “Persia retained its confidence in its cultural superiority. It bowed to its conquerors as a temporary concession but retained its independence through its world view, charting “great inner spaces” in poetry and mysticism and revering its connection with heroic ancient rulers recounted in Book of Kings. Meanwhile , Persia distilled its experience managing all manners of territories and political challenges into sophisticated canon of diplomacy placing a premium on endurance, shrewd analysis of geopolitical realities, and the psychological manipulation of adversaries.”

Riaz Haq said...

For Arab Gulf States, Israel Is Emerging as an Ally

Sunni monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, increasingly see the Jewish state as a partner in a common struggle against Shia Iran

For decades, rejection of Israel—sometimes mixed with outright anti-Semitism—has been a defining theme of Arab politics, uniting bickering countries against a common foe.

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was deposed in a 2013 coup, had gone on TV three years earlier to brand Jews as “descendants of apes and pigs.” In 1988, the Palestinian militant group Hamas adopted a covenant that cited the notorious anti-Semitic forgery known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as proof of a global Jewish conspiracy.

But attitudes are beginning to change in some parts of the Arab world. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, a Saudi-based global organization that has been accused of spreading extremism, recently pointed to a lesson in coexistence from Islam’s past. “The neighbor of the Prophet [Muhammad] was a Jew, and when that Jew was ill, the Prophet visited him and gave him kind words,” said Mr. al-Issa, who is also a former Saudi minister of justice. “The hard-liners don’t wish to know that.”