Sunday, September 1, 2013

Syrian Situation, Taliban Talks, Indian Rupee and Zardari's Exit

Can Nawaz Sharif exploit TTP leaders' split on talks offer? Will Obama order US military strike against Syria after chemical weapons attack? Why is Indian rupee falling sharply? How did Zardari do as Pakistan's president?

Syria Chemical Weapons Attack:

I have a strong suspicion that Bashar Al-Asad's forces are responsible for chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. Chemical weapons are not easy to use....especially when it comes to widely dispersing chemical agents for mass casualties like the recent incident in Syria. Syria has admitted to having a stockpile of such weapons which require a level of sophistication usually not present in terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. The only known incident of sarin gas use involving a non-government group  is the 1995 Tokyo subway attack by Aum Shinrikyo which claimed only 13 lives in multiple releases in 5 different trains....far far lower than the over 1400 dead in Syria recently.

Like Sadam Husain in Iraq, Asad family has a long history of brutalizing the people in Syria. Bashar's father Hafez flattened large parts of Syrian town of Hama and killed its entire population back in 1982. I see what's happening now as a continuation of Hafez's brutal legacy in Syria.

Obama wants to act against Assad for crossing a US red line by allegedly using chemical weapons. But he has a dilemma: Syrian opposition has significant presence of Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria which would pose a much more serious threat to US and Israel. Will Obama risk regime change until favorable opposition emerges to replace Asad?  Or will Obama just do a token cruise missile strike to send a message to Assad to desist from using chemical weapons again?

Indian Rupee Decline:

India's imports cost about $500 billion a year and its exports amount to only $300 billion worth of stuff, leaving a trade gap of about $200 billion.  Much of this deficit had until recently been financed by foreign capital flows into India.

Many investors had been borrowing money in US dollars at extremely low rates to invest their borrowings for higher returns in emerging markets like India.  With  US economic recovery beginning to take hold, the US Fed has signaled that it may reduce or end its bond purchases of $85 billion a month. As a result of this change, foreign investors are retrenching from the emerging markets to take advantage of better returns in US and frontier markets. This is depleting India's foreign exchange reserves and hurting the Indian rupee.

In contrast to big declines in emerging markets like India and Indonesia, some frontier markets such as the UAE, Bulgaria and Pakistan have returned over 50 percent this year in dollar terms, according to Reuters. Unlike in the big emerging economies, listed companies in Kenya or Pakistan tend to be true plays on the emerging market consumer. Earnings growth estimates for this year have risen sharply almost everywhere to 10-15 percent (versus the 9.8 percent average in emerging markets).

Taliban Split on Talks Offer:

Talks offer by Prime Minister Sharif has caused a significant rift in the  Pakistani Taliban leadership.  While Punjabi Taliban's leader Asmatullah Muawiya has welcomed the offer, leaders of the Pashtun Taliban have rejected it. The split has become more serious with the Pashtun Taliban's decision to remove Muawiya from his position as the leader of the Punjabi Taliban.

"The Taliban decision making body met under Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and decided that Asmatullah Muawiya has no relation with the TTP," Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told news agency AFP. In response, Muawiya  has told The Associated Press that the Taliban shura had no authority to remove him because the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group. He said his group has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters.

This split among the Taliban leadership should be seen by the Nawaz Sharif government as an opportunity to further divide and eventually defeat the various terrorist groups operating under the banner of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Bye Bye President Zardari:

President Zardari has pursued politics of reconciliation. He has strengthened democracy and his government's legislative accomplishments are undeniable. Unfortunately, the people of Pakistan have seen their situation deteriorate significantly terms of basics like access to jobs, electricity, water and sense of security in the last 5 years. Fruits of democracy have been harvested by the politicians, the judges and the media but remain out of reach of the ordinary people. As a result, the people have dealt a heavy defeat to President Zardari's Pakistan People's Party, and sent him packing.

VPOS Video: 

Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses with Riaz Haq, Sabahat Ashraf, Ali H Cemendtaur situation in Syria, Nawaz Sharif Government’s possible talks with the Taliban, Zardari’s accomplishments as President of Pakistan, and Indian Rupee's decline in the following video:

Pakistani Taliban Split; US Strike on Syria; Indian Rupee Crisis; Zardari's Exit from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Divide and Conquer Pakistani Taliban

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 


Anonymous said...

leaving a trade gap of about $200 billion. Much of this deficit had until recently been financed by foreign capital flows into India.

Services + Remitances +FDI(excluding reinvested earnings) >100 billion so the gap is roughly 75 billion in a 1.7 trillion dollar economy.

FII of around +75 billion is required every year which is not happening so negative FII flows is leaving a gap of about 80-85 billion.

This is causing the rupee to depreciate BUT exports are booming 12% growth and accelerating.

All in all a classic case of self correcting markets.

The thing which will screw all energing markets will be a war in syria and oil @ 150+ /barrel...

Shams said...

Right before your eyes Muslim world is being re-colonized, and you cannot f----- see it. You have your hare-brained "suspicion" of Bashar having launched a chem attack, based on scant evidence and out-of-your-ass logical reasoning.

On the other side, against my strong desire to see no harm to the Muslims (or others for that matter)I am seriously hoping that Obama launches a few Toms at Damascus, and knowing Putin through his history, he will level the f----- Saudi Arabia once and for all.

Your approach and "suspicion" is as f----- hare-brained as was Prince Bandar's threat to Putin in a face to face meeting, to unleash Chechnyans upon Moscow Winter Olympics if Putin didn't line up behind a Syria attack.

Under money influence of the US and the Saudis, a number of Bashar's generals defected to the rebel fighting groups. Couldn't they have taken the chems with them? May be building Sarin is not building paper airplanes, it is also not rocket science. The Tokyo monks had their lab on the slopes of Mount Fuji, not in a chemical plant.

Look who is against Bashar - the all Muslim-loving US, UK, France and Israel, and those f---- Arabs who cannot even take a sh-- if a white man does not tell them to take a sh--.

You keep disappointing me a lot more than your few scanty articles here and there.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "You have your hare-brained "suspicion" of Bashar having launched a chem attack, based on scant evidence and out-of-your-ass logical reasoning."

Yours is a knee jerk bigoted reaction in support of Bashar Assad who is a brutal dictator and a criminal. As to Russia leveling Saudi Arabia, I think you have your head up your ass. Russia has neither the desire nor the capacity to mess with US militarily.

Watch the video to learn more about my position on US intervention

Mike Z. said...

Riaz Haq Sahib,
I enjoy your discussions. Honest judgments and assessments of your group, however diverse it may be, are the core value of these engagements.
Keep up the good work and the data crunching, I may just need you one day

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Sen McCain challenging Fox News' Islamophobic host:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blasted Fox News host Brian Kilmeade for linking a commonly-used Arabic phrase to terrorism, during an appearance to bolster his case for a strong military response to Syria President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The Arizona senator has long called on the Obama administration to arm the rebels fighting the Assad regime and is pressing Congress to adopt an broad-based use of force resolution.
On Tuesday, Kilmeade pushed back against McCain’s requests by arguing that American weapons could flow to extremists or terrorists in the region linked to Al Qaeda. He then played video of rockets slamming into government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs and pointed to opposition group members chanting “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar” as the rockets hit, implying that a reference to the Arab word, which is mainly used by Muslims to refer to God in Islam, betrayed ties to terrorism.
“I have a problem helping those people screaming that after a hit,” he proclaimed. Watch it:

“Would you have a problem with an American person saying ‘thank God? Thank God?’” McCain asked, clearly irritated. “That’s what they’re saying. Come on! Of course they’re Muslims, but they’re moderates and I guarantee you they are moderates.” Kilmeade didn’t respond to McCain and quickly moved on with the interview.

Anonymous said...

Moderates are they!!ROFL

They are Al quaeda affiliated Saudi and Qatar funded sunni extremists.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not it breaks the Shia arc, most critics agree that the end of the Alawite rule will be followed by years of chaos and mayhem. Are then the potential strategic gains worth the risk? Some insist that Israel, and by extension the US want to have 'controlled chaos' on the other side of its concrete fence. But then, there is little doubt that this chaos will breed more violence and extremism. Moreover, Israel has been surviving next door to the Alawites since the 1970 and in fact, the present period is the only time in its history when it felt least threatened by its almost dormant neighbor. Israel has anyways successfully insulated and fortified itself from its neighbors. Why would Israel want to upset the cart in Syria, especially when its results are unpredictable?

Hopewins said...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn Op Ed by Sakib Sherani on Pak economy and rupee valuation:

Unlike the dramatic falling-out-of-the-sky of the Indian rupee, which has lost 18pc of its value against the dollar since January, the Pakistani rupee’s flirtation with, and eventual move beyond, the 100 to a dollar barrier almost seemed like an airliner’s gentle glide path on “long finals”. (This is also borne out by the fact that in 2008, the balance of payments crisis unfolded over a few short months, with monthly foreign exchange reserve depletion averaging, at $900m, nearly twice the level in the current episode.)

Even though many of us have been taught to think of the exchange rate as “just another price”, the decline beyond 100 still left a lot of people with a sinking feeling. For one school of thought, the exchange rate is a reflection of the overall health of the economy, and in Pakistan’s current circumstances of capital flight of every kind, especially from Karachi, the rationalisation that the rupee’s slide will be good for our balance of payments and longer-term investment prospects may be overly simplistic and a touch too optimistic.

It has taken the Pakistani rupee 66 years to get here. But, as most readers would be aware, the rupee has really been on a slippery slope since the 1990s. From an exchange rate of Rs21.85 to a US dollar on July 1, 1990, the rupee has lost nearly 80pc of its value. In comparison, the Indian rupee has lost roughly 60pc of its value, and the Bangladeshi taka approximately 51pc over the same period.

The bulk of the precipitous erosion in the rupee’s value has occurred since mid-2008, with the currency losing roughly 40pc. The severe pressure on the rupee in 2008 (and continually since then) occurred due to a number of factors. Briefly, these included:

• A strong overvaluation of the rupee, brought on by the Musharraf government’s policy of keeping the exchange rate stable over a long period of time;

• Imports rising faster than exports due to the nature of policies pursued in the 2003-7 period;

• The “super spike” in international oil and commodity prices since 2006-07;

• A sharp fall in foreign direct investment (FDI) from its peak;

• A steep reduction in net transfers from external sources;

• Persistent capital flight;

• A loss of export markets due to Pakistan’s internal security and energy situation.

Going forward, the fall in the rupee’s value can be arrested in the medium term by undertaking meaningful economic reforms which will improve our external competitiveness. A number of concomitant measures will be needed to stabilise the external payments position.

Reducing dependence on expensive energy imports by rationalising the fuel mix will be increasingly important in keeping pressure on the balance of payments in check. (It will also be a critical element in improving the competitiveness of Pakistan’s exports.) Agricultural productivity will play a crucial role as well, both in reducing the bloated food import bill and in generating exportable surpluses.

Riaz Haq said...

Syria ’s Assad May Be Losing Control Over His Deadly Militias.. rise of Shabiha with chem weapons?

One regime official tells TIME that what bothers him most about the long-term prognosis for Syrian stability is not the collapse of the regime, but the rise of Assad’s militias, commonly referred to as shabiha. Says the official: “After this crisis, there will be a 1,000 more crises — the militia leaders. Two years ago they went from nobody to somebody with guns and power. How can we tell these shabiha to go back to being a nobody again?”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET Op Ed on Iran-Pakistan ties and Syria:

It cannot be easy being Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s president has lost his brother-in-law, and some would say, his sanity to the civil war raging across the country. Yet, he continues butchering his people. Syria’s been ‘booted out’ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), one of the many little wrist-slaps the regime has somehow survived. But at the OIC’s last emergency meeting, Assad found sympathy from unlikely quarters.
President Asif Ali Zardari urged “a policy of non-interference” in Syria, then repeated himself in Tehran. In the routine outrage that followed though, commentators felt less strongly about Pakistan supporting the blood-splattered Assad than what several felt was a sop to Iran, Syria’s insurance in the Middle East. Whatever Pakistan’s motives, Iran is one of Pakistan’s most pressing cross-border headaches — even if no one likes talking about it.
The careers of the fellow Islamic Republics have been diverging for a while. And whereas Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda is defined hazily at best, Iran is not nearly as conflicted about the role it seeks for itself in the world. It patronises Hamas, the Palestinian party running the Gaza Strip. It throws its weight around in Iraq, the prime minister of which took refuge in Tehran during the Saddam years. And it extends a veritable lifeline to Hezbollah, now a force to be reckoned with in Lebanon.
Granted, Persian Empire 2.0 it is not, nor does Pakistan concern itself much with these states anyway (by itself a policy failure). But in places that Pakistan has bothered to create a stake for itself, like Afghanistan and post-uprising Bahrain, it quickly becomes evident that not only are the ‘brother countries’ on opposite sides, their proxies are also pitted directly against the other’s.
That is not to say there is no potential for improvement. Pakistan and Iran are bound by historic, linguistic and cultural ties. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fondness for cheap grandstanding commands a bizarre respect from the Pakistani street. Both sides remain committed to building the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, despite several stupid attempts at persuading Pakistan otherwise. But between Hezbollah, Assad’s Alawis, and the Shia-majority states of Bahrain and Iraq, most of Iran’s associates gel well with Tehran’s regional ambitions. By comparison, Pakistan’s credentials are not that good: armed with nuclear warheads, longstanding ties with Iran’s Arab archrivals and a series of ad hocisms in place of a foreign policy.
This bleeds into what was always a confused relationship. In 2005, Iran’s nuclear chief coincidentally let slip that “pieces of centrifuges” were received from Pakistan. Pakistan has accused Iran of arming militant Shia groups operating in the country. And unlike the old days when the Shah would ply the original PPP regime with Cobra gunships — for mowing down Baloch tribesmen — today’s Iran blames Pakistan for ignoring Sunni outfits like Jundullah in Balochistan.
Yes, everyone knows that Pakistani policy requires coherence. But Iran’s officialdom needs to grow up. Ever since the revolution, Iranian diplomacy has reduced its range to vary from petulance to hostile petulance. Unfortunately, proximity to Pakistan is not akin to either Israeli anger or American sanctions; it cannot be manoeuvred around or weathered through. A better relationship can only serve Iran....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on chemical weapons used in Syria:

Details buried in the United Nations report on the Syrian chemical weapons attack point directly at elite military formations loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people.

The inspectors, instructed to investigate the attack but not to assign blame, nonetheless listed the precise compass directions of flight for two rocket strikes that appeared to lead back to the government’s elite redoubt in Damascus, Mount Qasioun, which overlooks and protects Mr. Assad’s presidential palace and where his Republican Guard and the army’s powerful Fourth Division are entrenched.

“It is the center of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese Army and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.”

In presenting the data concerning two rocket strikes — the significance of which was not commented upon by the United Nations itself — the report provides a stronger indication than the public statements to date of intelligence services of the United States, France or Britain that the Syrian military not only carried out the attack, but apparently did so brazenly, firing from the same ridges from which it has been firing barrages of high-explosive conventional munitions for much of the war.

Looming over a tense capital and outlying neighborhoods bristling with anger and fear, Mount Qasioun is Damascus’s most prominent military position. It is also a complex inseparably linked to the Assad family’s rule, a network of compounds and positions occupied by elite units led by members of the president’s inner circle and clan.

The units based on the mountain are “as close to the Assad regime as it’s going to get,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Mr. Hokayem added that theories that the chemicals had been launched by a rebel mole seeking to discredit the government were unlikely because of the solidity and tight control of those units.

Mr. Assad’s government and its ally Russia have continued to claim publicly that Syrian rebels were responsible for the attacks, which killed hundreds of people, many of them children, in the most lethal chemical warfare attack in decades. But the United Nations data, if accurate, would undercut that claim and appear to erase some of the remaining ambiguity.

Rebel forces have never penetrated the major military installations of Mount Qasioun. In tactical and technical terms, they would almost certainly have been unable to organize and fire sustained and complex barrages of rockets from there undetected.
Speaking on Tuesday in New York, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, took pains not to express publicly any conclusions about culpability that could be drawn from the report, noting that assigning blame was explicitly beyond the United Nations’ mandate.

The investigators’ mission, Mr. Ban noted, “is to find out facts and whether or not chemical weapons were used; if used, to what extent.”

“It is,” he added, “for others to decide whether to pursue this matter further to determine responsibility and accountability.”

Pressed later about whether he thought those responsible should be referred to the International Criminal Court, Mr. Ban was unequivocal. “The international community is firm and I am firm that any perpetrators who have used these chemical weapons under any circumstances under any pretext must be brought to justice,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Syrian President Assad's regime is waging a PR campaign to spread stories that discredit its rivals and distract from its own crimes. Aided by gullible networks and foreign media, it has included tales of rebels engaging in "sex jihad" and massacring Christians.

One prime example is the legend of orgies with terrorists: The 16-year-old presented on state TV comes from a prominent oppositional family in Daraa. When the regime failed to capture her father, she was abducted by security forces on her way home from school in November 2012. During the same TV program, a second woman confessed that she had submitted to group sex with the fanatical Al-Nusra Front. According to her family, though, she was arrested at the University of Damascus while protesting against Assad. Both young women are still missing. Their families say that they were forced to make the televised statements -- and that the allegation of sex jihad is a lie.

Suhail said...

It is now confirmed that Pakistan has received USD 1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia. Does this seem to you the right price for supporting Syrian rebels?

Riaz Haq said...


Most Pakistani governments, with the sole exception of Zardari's last administration, have had very close ties with Gulf Arabs for mainly economic reasons. The GCC nations host a very large number of Pakistan workers who send home billions in remittances. They are Pakistan's large trading and investment partners and provide hundreds of millions of dollars every year in aid for various infrastructure projects. When push comes to shove, I think Pakistan will lean toward the Gulf Arabs in all international matters of diplomacy and security.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times Op Ed by a former Afghan Jihadi on "foreign fighters" in Syria:

The numbers certainly demand our attention. Of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters in Syria, as many as 2,000 are said to be European nationals, as well as some 100 Australian citizens and several dozen American passport holders, according to published sources. While some are fighting alongside “moderate” rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army, most have reportedly joined the ranks of the militant Jabhet al-Nusra and the formerly Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

I know the mentality of these nationless combatants. I fought beside them.

As a teenage Afghan refugee living in Pakistan in the 1980s, I joined the anti-Soviet resistance. I took up arms in a cause we called jihad, or holy war — but one focused on liberating our homeland, not exporting an ideology. War came to us through Soviet invasion: We hated it, and we wanted to live through it to see a free Afghanistan at peace.

Pitting a small, impoverished Muslim nation against an infidel invader, Afghanistan’s conflict attracted up to 20,000 foreign fighters in the 1980s, the largest contingent drawn to any Muslim country in modern history. Made up mostly of Saudis and Pakistanis, the army of volunteers also included Egyptians, Tunisians and Indonesians, among others.

Make no mistake: The Afghan mujahedeen, equipped with Western arms, won that war. International volunteers played a marginal role in sealing our victory, their numbers notwithstanding.
With an estimated 1,500 groups fighting in Syria, the conflict is clearly far more complex than the Afghan war. Europeans and Americans of Syrian heritage are fighting to liberate their homeland from the murderous Assad regime. Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and Libya have been drawn by their solidarity with coreligionists.
The build up to intervening in Syria is all too similar to the run up to Iraq in 2003. Farivar underestimates foreign fighters by some 6,000...
In an attempt to understand the foreign fighters, some Western experts have crafted caricatures — the revenge-seeker, the status-seeker, the identity-seeker and so on — but the legion of fighters with varied and often overlapping motives defy easy stereotypes. As the scholar Thomas Hegghammer observed: “In reality, most foreign fighters never engaged in out-of-area operations, but fought in one combat zone at the time.”
In Afghanistan, hundreds of veterans stayed behind and followed in Osama bin Laden’s footsteps to later infamy. Others, gripped by religious fervor and martial wanderlust, went on to cause mayhem in places like Algeria and Egypt during the 1990s.

But not all did, of course. For some, their adventure concluded, quiet civilian lives beckoned. I befriended a young Arab-American from New York who was happy to be heading home at the end of the war. A Harvard-educated British convert I knew went on to become a distinguished war correspondent. I, too, became a writer and journalist. You might say that in the end, we were more closely allied in peace than we had been in war.

Riaz Haq said...

Terror group #ISIS & #Egypt's Sisi flipsides of same coin?Religious vs Secular autocracy in #Arab World? #Iraq #Syria …

Here's a Tom Friedman Op Ed on ISIS vs Sisi models of governance in the Arab world:

The past month has presented the world with what the Israeli analyst Orit Perlov describes as the two dominant Arab governing models: ISIL and SISI.

ISIL, of course, is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the bloodthirsty Sunni militia that has gouged out a new state from Sunni areas in Syria and Iraq. SISI, of course, is Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the new strongman/president of Egypt, whose regime debuted this week by shamefully sentencing three Al-Jazeera journalists to prison

ISIL and SISI, argues Perlov, a researcher on Middle East social networks at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, are just flip sides of the same coin: one elevates "God" as the arbiter of all political life and the other "the national state."

Both have failed and will continue to fail - and require coercion to stay in power - because they cannot deliver for young Arabs and Muslims what they need most: the education, freedom and jobs to realize their full poten ..

Riaz Haq said...

From Wall Street Journal:

(Shia) Militia groups have been accused of a plethora of human-rights violations, including mass shootings of prisoners and Sunni civilians and the forced displacement of Sunni families on a scale approaching ethnic cleansing.
Shiite fighters boast about executing enemy soldiers after they surrender. In Jurf al-Sakher, some Al Qara’a members hurried out of a meeting with a reporter for The Wall Street Journal to deliver the severed head of an Islamic State fighter to relatives of a slain militia member before his funeral ended.
Each battlefield victory also wins Shiite militia groups more political power, which could deepen sectarian tensions across the Middle East and make it harder to hold Iraq together even if Islamic State is driven out. Some politicians in Baghdad already refer to the militia groups as a “Shiite Islamic State.”
In official Iraqi media, militias are celebrated as heroes, and their leaders make televised victory speeches next to Iraqi army generals. One of the deputies to Hadi al-Ameri, leader of the Iranian-backed Badr Corps, recently was elected Iraq’s interior minister. He oversees police and a government office responsible for monitoring militia groups.