Monday 27 July 2009

Will Khamenei dump Ahmedinejad? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — Although both of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s victories in the 2004 and 2009 presidential races were courtesy of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the wily Ayatollah may be preparing to remove a head of state that has become an international cartoon and a domestic embarrassment.

Those who have worked closely with Ahmedinejad claim that his decision to appoint the brilliant – if abrasive – Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei as his deputy was cleared informally by the Supreme Leader, as was Mashaei's reference last year to the "Jewish people" as friends of Iran – for which he has been widely criticized.

Indeed, both the Arab and the Persian people have a much better record of treatment of the Jewish minority than states in Europe such as Poland and Germany. Until Khomeinism became the state religion in 1979, Jews had an honored place in Iran and contributed disproportionately to business.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s first Supreme Leader, forbore from targeting the Jewish people as such, reserving his verbal venom for the state of Israel. Even today, several thousand Iranians belonging to the Jewish faith live in Iran, and apart from the storm trooper brigade represented by organizations such as the Revolutionary Guard, few Iranians look askance at what is an educated and liberal community, proud of their Iranian heritage.

Monday 13 July 2009

Pakistan Army Seeks to Save Mullah Omar (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — The Pakistan army, through its spokesperson Athar Abbas, has publicly confirmed that it is in touch with the senior Taliban leadership, including Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden's protector. Abbas has helpfully suggested that the army would be happy to serve as the conduit for negotiations designed to facilitate a cease-fire in Afghanistan.

This cease-fire would give the Taliban unchallenged control over at least one-fifth of Afghanistan, a wedge of territory from which the terror group could send out its agents in preparation for future active hostilities. Thus far, despite the seemingly boundless faith of the Obama administration in the Pakistan army, the U.S. side has not accepted its offer to be a middleman in talks with the Taliban.

Those dealing with Taliban-linked terror groups in South Asia should keep in mind the example of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka. Aware that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam invariably called for a cease-fire and negotiations whenever it needed a respite, only to return to the battlefield after replenishing its oxygen, Rajapaksa ignored calls from Britain, India and Norway, among others, to declare an immediate cease-fire. Instead, he stopped the conflict only after the LTTE had been comprehensively defeated after two decades of war.

The Taliban is even more fanatic than the LTTE. Its cadres have zero intention of changing their chemistry to join the flock of Afghani and Pakistani politicians milling around the pickings of office. They seek the re-establishment of a medieval state, and regard terror as a suitable instrument of war.

A cease-fire with them – especially with the still-feared Mullah Omar – would demoralize the Afghan forces battling them alongside NATO forces, and scare more Afghans into acquiescence with their harsh primitivism. In particular, it would deal a blow to the hopes of women in Afghanistan, who dread the return of a misogynistic force that brutalized them at home and elsewhere.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Obama's Bold Game of Russian Roulette (UPI)


With the same confidence that allowed the junior senator from Illinois to launch a campaign for the presidency of the United States, Barack Obama has decided to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations, banking on the forward-looking vision he shares with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev.

For the U.S. president this has been a high-risk operation, given the undercurrent of suspicion toward Russia within the U.S. strategic community as well as the citizenry. But the benefits are clear. The securing of transit rights through Russian territory and airspace for U.S. military materiel to Afghanistan, as agreed Monday, will reduce Washington's current dependence on Pakistan.

A further warming of ties also may encourage the Moscow-leaning former Afghan Northern Alliance groups to stop sulking and participate in the war against the Taliban. Leaving this struggle to the ethnic Pashtun groups alone would be a mistake that could cost Afghan President Hamid Karzai at least one-fifth -- if not one-third -- of his country. The Taliban has to be rooted out of both Pakistan and Afghanistan if the region is to have a chance at rapid social and economic development.

NATO's substantial outsourcing of Afghan strategy to the Pakistan army has resulted in the neglect of former elements of the Northern Alliance, despite the group's experience in fighting the Taliban. This should be rectified through reconciliation between the former anti-Taliban fighters and NATO, a process that the Obama-Medvedev initiative begun in Moscow on Monday could accelerate.