Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sharif's Offshore Co Defense; India Threat to Bangladesh Water; Sykes-Picot Centenary

How was Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's parliament speech defending his family's offshore assets received in Pakistan? Was he perceived as sincere? Was his speech effective? Did it answer the 7 key questions posed to him by the combined Opposition? Or did it raise many more questions than it answered? How will Panama Leaks impact Pakistani politics and governance going forward?

How severe is India's drought? Will India's massive $400 billion project to divert Brahmaputra and Ganga Rivers solve India's water crisis? How will it impact Bangladesh? Will it devastate the livelihoods of 100 million Bangladeshis living downstream? Does Bangladesh have any recourse with India similar to the mechanisms built in India-Pakistan Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to protect Pakistan's interest?

What is Sykes-Picot accord that was signed between Britain and France in May 1916 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire? Why is ISIS bulldozing the Middle East borders created by Sykes-Picot? And why do the Kurds share this goal with ISIS? Has the colonial-era Sykes-Picot contributed to the rise of ISIS today? What about the contribution of subsequent events like the creation of state of Israel and western invasions of the Middle East to the rise of ISIS?

What happened to EgyptAir Flight 804 flying from Paris to Cairo? Did an act of terror bring it down? Or was there a fire on board due to a technical failure like an electrical short-circuit in the cabin? Why was there a smoke alarm on board prior to the crash? Was it a bomb? Why has there been no claim of responsibility by any terrorist organizations so far?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Sharif's Offshore Co Defense; India Threat to Bangladesh Water; Sykes-Picot Centenary from Ikolachi on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Panama Leaks Impact on Pakistan

India River Projects Impact on Bangladesh Water Security

Sykes-Picot Centenary and ISIS

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #NawazSharif to Have Open-Heart #Surgery. Had Heart Surgery in 2011 for Rapid Hearbeat, Hole in Heart.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, who has been facing increased political pressure over the extent of his family’s wealth, will undergo open-heart surgery next week in London, his daughter and government officials said Friday.

It will be the second open-heart operation for Mr. Sharif, 66, who has been treated for heart problems over the past five years.

Mr. Sharif left for London last Sunday for a medical checkup and had been scheduled to return this week. In his absence, Ishaq Dar, the finance minister, a relative of Mr. Sharif’s, is managing the day-to-day running of the government.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the defense minister, said Mr. Sharif would return to Pakistan one week after the surgery, if allowed by his doctors.

Details of the prime minister’s impending surgery were reported Friday by his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, in a series of postings on her Twitter account.

Ms. Sharif said a team of surgeons had advised her father to undergo the surgery after scans and tests, but she did not describe precisely what the surgeons would do. She said Mr. Sharif would be on medication for the next three days and undergo the operation on Tuesday.

The prime minister first underwent open-heart surgery in 2011 after a cardiac procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate, resulted in a perforation of his heart, his daughter said. He has required regular medical checkups since.

In April, Mr. Sharif abruptly went to London in the middle of a political crisis over revelations in leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm, known as the Panama Papers, that his family had amassed secret offshore wealth. The London visit led to rumors, which proved unfounded, that Mr. Sharif might not return.

The leaks revealed that three of Mr. Sharif’s children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London.

The revelations have caused an uproar in Pakistan, an impoverished country with a history of corruption and malfeasance, and opposition politicians have pressed Mr. Sharif to resign.

Mr. Sharif, whose family’s riches were made primarily through dealing in steel, has denied any wrongdoing and has offered to be investigated.

But differences persist between the government and opposition political parties over how an investigation would be done, and lengthy negotiations are taking place between the two sides to establish the terms.

Riaz Haq said...

Two centuries of oppression in #Kashmir. #India misrepresents protests as #Pakistan sponsored #terrorism @AJENews

The furious protests that erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir on July 8 are a poignant reminder that popular sentiment cannot be ignored merely because it does not fit in with the nationalist narrative of an unrepresentative government.

That is especially true where popular sentiment is grounded in the cause of a unique identity.

In the absence of legitimate political forums, such sentiment foments unrest which builds until circumstances provide a martyr such as Burhan Wani, the young rebel whose killing by Indian security forces has ignited the protests in Kashmir.

Often, such protest movements are acts of desperation without a chance of success, so they ebb and flow in cycles linked with angry violence and inconclusive attempts at political engagement.

The outcome is more violence between armed occupiers and young activists who become increasingly militant over time.

Unsurprisingly, the emergent generation of stone-pelting young Kashmiris identify with their Palestinian counterparts and are calling the new wave of protests an "Intifada".

Another similarity is that the situation in Kashmir is a mess created by departing Western colonialists.

In drawing up the map for the division of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947, the British viewed Kashmir entirely through the spectacles of recent history.

Riaz Haq said...

#Hollywood's Oliver Stone’s #American History: ‘We’re Not under Threat. We Are the Threat’ via @grtvnews #terrorism

As he launches his new TV series offering a critical view of US overseas exploits, the film director tells MEE he didn’t always see it that way

American controversies are Oliver Stone’s forte.

The Hollywood movie director has turned his cameras on the assassination of John F Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the 9/11 attacks.

But, when researching his television series, The Untold History of the United States, it was American exploits in the Middle East that left him with the most lasting impression, he told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

“When I studied the untold history, one thing that really hit me hard was the history of our involvement in the Middle East,” Stone said.

“It was a nefarious involvement.”

Stone traces Washington’s hand in the region back to the 1930s, but he says it reached a peak when President George HW Bush sent hundreds of thousands of US troops to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

The Soviet Union had recently collapsed and the region was wide open to a lone superpower, he said.

“We never got out of there. Once we were in, we’re in forever,” Stone said.

“We’ve destabilised the entire region, created chaos. And then we blame ISIS for the chaos we created,” he added, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group that now rules swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Stone researched and wrote the series and book with Peter Kuznick, a scholar at the American University who specialises in the US nuclear strikes on Japan that ended the Second World War.

“It’s all about the oil. You remember the bumper sticker: What is our oil doing under their sand?” Kuznick told MEE.

Washington’s hunger for fuel underpins its alliance with Saudi Arabia, the CIA-backed coup against Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and its support for anti-Soviet religious militants in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said.

“We create these messes, then we have a grand military plan to solve them. And the military solutions just don’t work,” he said.

The views of Stone and Kuznick are not likely to raise eyebrows on the streets of Cairo, Moscow or Paris.

But in the US they are not mainstream.

The way Stone tells it, Americans live in a bubble and are spoon-fed information by a school system, politicians and a media that portrays the US as a beacon of stability and a force for good in the world.

In one famous example, former President Ronald Reagan called the US a “shining city on a hill”.

“It’s very comforting to be an American,” Stone said.

You get the sense that you are safe and have prosperity of material goods, and that you have enemies everywhere – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

You get into this cocoon where you have a big country, two oceans, but that you’re always under threat.

Stone says he understands this well because he lived it himself.

He was raised in New York, the son of a Republican stockbroker, Louis Stone. He was always creative – he often wrote short plays to entertain his family – but never questioned how his history teachers puffed up the US, he said.

“I had only gotten a part of the story, which emphasised American exceptionalism, America as a selfless and beneficial country to the world,” he said.

In 1967, Stone volunteered to fight in the US Army and served in Vietnam. He was wounded twice and was honoured with a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart for his service.

“I came back from Vietnam puzzled, completely confused about what was going on there,” he said.

“But I did get a heavy dose of the doublespeak, the militarese talk.”

He started asking questions and reading up on “progressive history” at the same time as he studied filmmaking at New York University under Martin Scorsese and other teachers, he said.

These ideas fed his politically orientated filmmaking in the 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

#CIA Interrogator Reveals Saddam Hussein Predicted Rise of #ISIS & #America's Failure in #Iraq … via @democracynow

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman in conversation with former CIA analyst John Nixon, author of the new book, "Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein."

JOHN NIXON: Yes, I was. Back in 2002, 2003, I believed that if we removed him from power and then made Iraq a better place, that the Iraqis would—you know, that would be better for Iraq and that we could help turn the country into a functioning, hopefully democratic, country that, you know, would be as good as what the Iraqi people deserved.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you change your view?

JOHN NIXON: A hundred percent. When people ask me, you know, "Was it worth taking him out of power?" I say, "You know, look around you. Show me something that is positive that happened." Iraq, right now, is a country that has 2 million displaced people. Parts of its territory are held by ISIS. You have a dysfunctional government that is probably more corrupt than Saddam’s government was. And if ask the average Iraqi—Sunni, Shia or Kurd—you know, "Were things better back then? Were services better? Did the government do more for you?" I think they would say yes. I can’t find one thing. And if you said, "Well, maybe, what about the Kurds? They’re almost independent now," that was happening already. I can’t find one thing positive that came out of his removal from power.


AMY GOODMAN: Did Saddam Hussein predict the rise of ISIS?



JOHN NIXON: Yes. He had—there’s a passage in my book where he talks about, you know, saying that Sunni jihadism is going to—Iraq is a playing field for this, and it’s—now that he’s out of power, it’s going to be made worse, and that we’re going to have to deal with this issue. He was very concerned. Saddam was not afraid of almost anything, but he was very concerned about the threat that Sunni jihadists had for his regime, largely because they came from within his own community, and it was harder to sort of get—through tribal networks, it was harder to kind of root them out than it would be if they were from the Shia or the Kurds. And also, he understood that this current of Wahhabism that emanated from Saudi Arabia had been infiltrating Iraq for some time, and he was less and less powerful to do something about it. And he also knew that—Saddam was not a jihadist himself, and he didn’t have any alliances with al-Qaeda or—you know, or Sunni fundamentalists. But—

AMY GOODMAN: What did you feel when you continually heard the U.S. media repeat this, making no distinctions and saying he was a haven for terrorists?

JOHN NIXON: It’s ridiculous. You know, it is—and I even asked him about this, and he just—he just kind of laughed. And he said, "You know, these people are my enemies. And, you know, why would you think that I’m allied with"—and then he would use this counterfactual. He’d say, "Well, who was on the plane that flew into the World Trade Center? How many Iraqis were on that plane? But who were they? There were Saudis. There were Egyptians. There was an Emirati. Those are all your friends. Why do you think that they’re doing that?" And then he would also say—one of the things that was most compelling was he would say, "You know something? When I was a young man, everybody admired America. Everybody wanted to go to America." You know, he used to say he would see at the American Embassy in Baghdad people lining up to get visas. And he said, "And now, look at you. Look at—you know, no one likes you. No one trusts you." And that was based on the policies of our government.

Riaz Haq said...

Trump's national security advisor Gen Michael Flynn has said the rise of Islamic State was “a willful decision” and defends accuracy of US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) 2012 Memo:

In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.”


While holding up a paper copy of the 2012 DIA report declassified through FOIA, Hasan reads aloud key passages such as, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
Rather than downplay the importance of the document and these startling passages, as did the State Department soon after its release, Flynn does the opposite: he confirms that while acting DIA chief he “paid very close attention” to this report in particular and later adds that “the intelligence was very clear.”
Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime:

(Aljazeera's Mehdi) Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?
Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be.
The early reporting that treated the DIA memo as newsworthy and hugely revelatory was criticized and even mocked by some experts, as well as outlets like The Daily Beast. Yet the very DIA director at the time the memo was drafted and circulated widely now unambiguously confirms the document to be of high value, and indicates that it served as source material in his own discussions over Syria policy with the White House.
As Michael Flynn also previously served as director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during a time when its prime global mission was dismantling Al-Qaeda, his honest admission that the White House was in fact arming and bolstering Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria is especially shocking given his stature.

Riaz Haq said...

#WW1 may have ended a century ago - but not for #MiddleEast.The secret Sykes-Picot Treaty of May 1916, is blamed for drawing up the "artificial" borders. Actually it happened a year after the #Armistice in the San Remo Treaty of 1920. via @MiddleEastEye

In reality what 11/11/1918 meant for Middle Easterners was that each individual’s borders of belonging would be reconfigured, since the empire that had ruled them and their ancestors since they could remember had collapsed. For many Arabs a search for identity would ensue, once a search for survival had been satiated, having endured famines and dislocations from Lebanon to Iraq during the conflict.

One example of these shifting identities would be my grandfather's. As of 11 November 1918 he would have thought of himself as a Muslim from Najaf who happened to be a subject of the Ottoman Empire. He did not resent the Ottomans because they were Turks and he was an Arab. The latter described "ethnic" differences – a newly minted word he had not heard in the Arabic language in those days. Nonetheless, by the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire, which he belonged to, had relinquished its claims to the lands in which he lived.

My grandfather would have lived in a territory that was in limbo, waiting to see what fate the British occupiers had in mind.

When the British declared the formation of the Iraq Mandate in 1920, my grandfather picked up a rifle and joined the 1920 Iraqi Revolt, launched by a growing number of "Iraqis" disenchanted with the occupation after the armistice and willing to sacrifice their lives to expel the British. It was opposition to British rule that made him an Iraqi.

The Arab Revolt
Having lived as an Arab in Turkey, I had often heard the phrase that "the Arabs stabbed the Turks in the back" during World War I, referring to the Arab Revolt of Lawrence of Arabia. Popular historical memory traces the beginning of Arab nationalism to the revolt. Both of these assumptions are shrouded in myth, challenged recently by Turkish and Arab historians.

For example, Arab soldiers fought tenaciously on behalf of the empire during the Battle of Gallipoli. In 1916, 102 out of 132 of Ottoman prisoners of Arab origin refused to make a deal with their British captors to join the Arab Revolt, perhaps out of loyalty to the Ottoman Empire, or just weariness with the fighting.

Most Arab officers of the Ottoman military stayed loyal to the empire throughout the war, yet were jobless as of 11 November 1918. During the British mandate of Iraq, the new state had a pool of around 600 former Ottoman officers available to join the new army. Of this number 450 served in the Ottoman military throughout the duration of the 1914-18 war, while 190 defected to serve in the anti-Ottoman Army of the Arab revolt.