Friday, 30 August 2019

Macron tempts Rouhani to meet President Trump (Pakistan Observer)

THOSE in the US who argued for the toppling of Saddam Hussein were correct that the Iraq strongman had been an adversary of several US allies in the Middle East. The time for such an operation was during Desert Storm in 1990, when President George H W Bush pounded the Uraqi army to dust in his throwing out of Saddam’s men from Kuwait. Instead of taking matters to a stable conclusion, Bush halted operations against the Iraq military once Kuwait was cleared of them, he refused to allow the US military to march into Baghdad and capture Saddam. Worse, Bush not only allowed the dictator of Iraq to continue in office, he effectively gave him freedom to bomb and strafe the only ethnic group in Iraq that was overwhelmingly pro-US, the Kurds. In a short while, we will find out if President Donald J Trump will repeat the betrayal of the Kurds first carried out by George H W Bush.
Given that the Kurds have provided most of the muscle for the overthrow of much of the Daesh “caliphate” in Syria, such a betrayal would be on an even bigger scale than that of the 1991 green light given to Saddam Hussein by President Bush to kill as many Kurds in their enclaves as he was able to. President Erdogan has repeatedly made his views clear about the Kurdish enclaves in Syria, and his intention to take them over and establish Turkish military control over the population. In an illustration of the Bourbon tendency to continually repeat past mistakes, President George W Bush (the son of George H W Bush) switched his attention from Afghanistan to Iraq before the US military was able to eliminate those forces they were at war with since 9/11.
This enabled these fighters to recuperate, regroup and re-establish control over much of the country. It is estimated that the numerous groups that go by the label of the Taliban controls over 70% of Afghanistan. It is for this reason that the leaders of that heterogeneous but motivated group consider the Ashraf Ghani government to be the “Government of Kabul” and not the Government of Afghanistan. Presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in a hurry to sign an agreement with select Taliban leaders that would provide an excuse for the 17,000 US forces still in Afghanistan to leave the country, and those aware of his work claim that such an agreement would be ready by the first week of next month. It would be a repeat of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988, the event that more than anything else made international opinion regard Moscow under Gorbachev as a toothless tiger.
Returning to Saddam Hussein, getting rid of him after the Iraqi dictator had surrendered his WMD and almost the whole of his offensive armed capability was a warning to others in the region not to trust in Washington’s assurances of safe conduct. Muammar Kaddafy of Libya panicked after seeing what had happened in Iraq, and surrendered his own WMD stockpile nine months after Saddam was defeated by President George W Bush on the conventional battlefield. So long as Kaddafy had some kind of nuclear device in his possession, even a “dirty” bomb, he would have been safe from attack. No NATO force would dare to expose thousands of its men and women in uniform to the risks involved in the use of WMD by an opposing army. However, once it became clear that Kaddafy was as helpless as Saddam Hussein became after the WMD and most of the conventional military capability in his possession got removed, France and Britain led the charge in 2011 to remove a man from power whose only threat to them was to their clearly fragile egos.
All that Kaddafy had left was verbiage and he continued with his volleys of verbal invective against the NATO member States instead of being meek and respectful as they expected. In particular, he launched into a long speech against the US and its allies at the UN, thereby sealing his future death warrant. Any world leader who abused the then Sole Superpower ( now joined in the title by China) needed to be eliminated, lest others get encouraged to follow Kaddafy’s example, and the Arab Spring gave an excuse for NATO leaders to eliminate Kaddafy. In the process, they destroyed Libya and took away vast amounts of property owned by Libyan nationals in Europe (especially Paris and London) and huge reserves of cash that belonged to the Libyan state. This money has been swallowed up since Kaddafy was ruthlessly killed with the help of the French, who revealed his location to gangs backed by them that were hunting down Kaddafy’s men. The media seems to be not at all interested in who has stolen the cash and property of Libyan citizens and the state.
The UK, France, the US and Germany were planning the same fate for Bashar al-Assad, but China and Russia have ensured not just his survival but the victory of his armed forces over those funded by NATO (especially Turkey) and the GCC. So the attention has now moved to Iran, where the focus is to ensure that not just nuclear capability but missile capacity and other offensive weapons get removed. Once this happens, the calculation is that Iran can be attacked in conventional war and defeated. The problem for NATO is that Iran is not Iraq, Libya or Syria. Should Teheran come under attack, proxies across the region will leap into action, creating chaos and confusion across the region, especially in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
President Macron invited the Foreign Minister of Iran, who had accepted the promises made by the countries that he negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) with. Of course, eager to show that there was still hope for a deal that is effectively dead, Jawad Sharif came to Biarritz for meaningless discussions with French officials. President Macron was hoping to host a surprise meeting of Presidents Rouhani and Trump, but the Iranian leader refused to take the bait. He demanded the end of sanctions before he met Trump, a condition impossible for the US President to give effect to. At the same time, so long as Iran retains its WMD, the US will not attack the country. So far, both the Europeans as well as India are too respectful of President Trump’s commands to buy Iranian oil. However, the sooner they do this, the better for global stability. The JCPOA was the best deal NATO could get, as the military option in the case of that country is not feasible, given the cost to the attacking armies. President Trump tore up the Iran deal without a Plan B. The world is now paying a heavy price for that decision, in terms of higher oil prices and instability in the Middle East.

Friday, 23 August 2019

PM Modi launches move against VVIP corruption (Pakistan Observer)

PRIME Minister Modi is known to do what he believes is right, although only at a time of his own choosing. He will not follow the timetables of others, but act only when he regards the time to take a particular action has having arrived. Judging by recent events, it is clear that a major drive against VVIP corruption has begun in Modi’s second term. This is welcome, for unlike the situation in China and Pakistan, where several high-level politicians have been sent to jail on corruption charges, in India, the record of taking action against corrupt VVIPs during the first five years of the Narendra Modi government was not exemplary. Although the BJP leveled charge after charge of wrongdoing against several members of the Manmohan Singh government (that was in power: 2004-14), thus far not a single member of that government has been prosecuted and jailed by the BJP government.
Even the Manmohan Singh government sent to prison one of its own Cabinet Ministers, A Raja. Another Cabinet-level Minister, D Maran, was on track to follow the example of Mr.Raja when the Congress-led government was defeated in the 2014 parliamentary election by the BJP led by Narendra Modi, who was and remains by far the most popular politician in India. It was expected that several of the ministers in the previous government would be sent to jail by Modi, but this didn’t happen. Even Maran, who was earlier headed for jail, was spared. Of course, his business interests suffered. An Airline that his relatives controlled, Spicejet, was sold at a very low price to some investors, who have since converted the Airline into a success story. However, the seeming immunity from prosecution of the central ministers of the Manmohan Singh regime has been ended by the prosecution of the former Union Finance Minister, P Chidambaram.
The high-octane politician from Tamil Nadu state is known to be a maestro in placing friends and supporters in high positions. The only politician who has bettered him in this game of ensuring good jobs for friends and supporters is the BJP politician Arun Jaitley, who has been close to Prime Minister Modi for decades, but who has excellent relationship with top leaders of opposition parties as well. Although Jaitley himself lost in the polls, he was speedily accommodated in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and entered the Union Council of Ministers in charge of Defence, Finance and Company Affairs. He was far and away the most powerful individual in the country after Modi himself. The quality that those close to him appreciate is that Arun Jaitley can be relied upon to never forget a friend or a supporter.
If you are a friend or supporter of Jaitley, he will make sure that you get accommodated in some position that is comfortable. Many of his supporters are in high positions all over the country and some even abroad as a consequence of the recommendation of Arun Jaitley, who has had tremendous influence in the national capital no matter who comes to power either in the government or in the BJP. Jaitley was as close to former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee as he is to PM Narendra Modi. A man of extraordinary charm, Jaitley has built a formidable network of supporters throughout the government. He is now in very poor health, and many are praying that he will recover and get back to active politics, a field in which he has had as outstanding a degree of success as he has achieved in the legal profession.
The only other politician who has a similar network of supporters placed in high positions is another senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India, P Chidambaram. The former Union Minister for Finance ensured that bureaucrats who could be trusted to do his bidding got hold of key jobs that involved decisions which could affect the way millions and billions of dollars could flow to one individual or the other. A major stock exchange in India, the National Stock Exchange (NSE), was run by those having direct access to Chidambaram, who is said to have ensured that a rival exchange was destroyed in order to protect the interests of the NSE. Friendly bureaucrats saw to it that the promoters of that exchange were put in prison, a situation which continued even after the new government took charge in 2014, as several officials in the Chidambaram network continued in high positions despite the change in government, and despite the way in which they had bent and broken procedures in order to do the bidding of the powerful politician who was in charge of portfolios as important as Home and Finance.
Those officials who were facilitators of the wrongs committed under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who followed a policy of seeing no evil in his colleagues within the coalition government except in the rare cases when public pressure forced him to act, as in the case of Maran and Raja) worked silently to ensure that corruption allegations against their former bosses were never seriously investigated. A comprehensive inquiry would have revealed their own role in such shenanigans, as a minister can make corrupt cash only with the help of equally corrupt bureaucrats and not by himself. While Prime Minister Modi was sincere in his effort to clean up corruption, not everybody in the government cooperated with him. However, in his final year in the first term, Modi succeeded in charge sheeting P Chidambaram, only to have the judicial system grant the former Union Finance Minister stay upon stay of arrest.
The number of serially unbroken stay orders on arrest in favour of Chidambaram issued by courts in India would probably qualify for the Guinness Book of Records, if such an entry were to be made. However, finally the investigating agencies have built up a sufficient case to convince an upright High Court judge that Chidambaram needed to be subjected to custodial interrogation. It remains to be seen of the Supreme Court will once again ensure that he remains at liberty. If this does not happen, and if the High Court order is upheld by the Supreme Court, the Modi government will have sent for the first time a Union Cabinet Minister from the previous government to jail. It is unlikely to be the last. Investigations are ongoing as to how state carrier Air India procured dozens of aircraft during the Sonia-Manmohan decade at prices much above those paid by rival carriers Go Air and Indigo.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Jeffrey Epstein : a convenient “suicide” (Pakistan Observer)

That several conspiracy theories are simply theories unsupported by evidence does not detract from the fact that conspiracies do exist. The assassination of President John F Kennedy remains a mystery, despite the voluminous report submitted by the politician-turned-jurist Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Warren Commission claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone, and was motivated by hatred for the political ideology represented by Kennedy. Also, that Oswald was not “normal”, whatever that phrase means in a world where there are such divergences between persons.
A surmise that remains in currency is that the killer was acting on behalf of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba, which was angered by the effort (during the initial days of the Kennedy Administration) to overthrow Castro through an invasion by emigres from Cuba. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster, and was among the reasons why President Kennedy developed a distrust of the military as well as the intelligence agencies. Both had been pressing Kennedy to substantially raise troop levels in Vietnam, a policy option that the US President was resisting. Once Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson took charge on the death of Kennedy, the way was cleared for the disaster that Vietnam represented for the US. Returning to Cuba, had it been a fact that Castro had ordered the killing of Kennedy, his Island would have been overrun within months by the military under instructions from the Pentagon. Among the ( it must be admitted, many) admirable traits of the US is that the other cheek is never turned when a hard slap gets administered by a rival. Instead, a much more violent blow gets landed, as took place in Afghanistan after 9/11. Indeed, the 2003 Iraq war of George W Bush has been seen as motivated by reports accepted by the then President that Saddam Hussein had tried to kill George H W Bush, the father of the then President, as revenge for operation Desert Storm. There is no way that any US Administration would have permitted Castro to continue to rule Cuba, had Oswald genuinely have been sent by the Cuban authorities to kill Kennedy in Dallas, a city that will always be known as the location where John F Kennedy was shot to death.
How did Oswald escape the security sweep that precedes any presidential visit? Why was the Book Depository building not sanitized, nor Oswald stopped on the way to an empty room carrying a high-powered rifle? Why did Jack Ruby, with no previous history of violence, kill Oswald, that too in the midst of a scrimmage of police officers? The death of Kennedy changed US foreign policy for the worse, and removed the threat to the Military Industrial Complex ( General Eisenhower’s description) and the intelligence agencies pressing for a substantial expansion of US military involvement in Vietnam. It must be noted, however, that while President Johnson followed the path prescribed by the Military Industrial Complex on Vietnam, in the matter of racial justice, he implemented the measures that had been initiated by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, finally doing justice to African-Americans a century after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation
And now comes another death, this time of millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who seemed to have a fascination for girls who were young enough to be his grandchildren. Not merely that,Epstein introduced such girls to those who were his friends, including the brother of the Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, as well as Bill Clinton. The latter is known to be unable to resist even the skirt of a woman fluttering on a clothesline, and records show that he was a frequent visitor to the Epstein abode. Money makes a man popular, and several VIPs frequented the home of an individual who apparently committed grave crimes by exploiting girls who were below the age of consent. Had he been produced in court, several of the VIPs who shared his tastes may have become known. There would therefore have been a strong motivation to ensure that Epstein remained silent, and there is no more effective way of ensuring this than to take away the life of the possible whistle blower. Neither has Epstein’s body been produced nor has any believable explanation been given as to how a man subjected to 24/7 surveillance in a prison cell could have hanged himself to death.
Why have images of the dead man not been released? Who brought the rope to Epstein? In the case of Hermann Goering, who killed himself before being hanged as a war criminal in 1946. The cyanide capsule was hidden inside a fountain pen, which Goering asked a guard to retrieve for him, offering him his wrist watch in exchange. Goering swallowed the cyanide and cheated the hangman. In the case of Epstein, there was no record of depression or any suicidal tendencies in the sexual predator, and the world may have to wait several decades before the circumstances behind the death become known. What is clear is that several VIPs, including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, will now be able to sleep comfortably without taking a sleeping pill, aware that Epstein has been silenced. The present highly regarded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Ranjan Gogoi, once told a bail petitioner that prison was a “very safe place”. Such a view is debatable in any circumstance, as has most recently been proved by the “suicide” of Jeffrey Epstein.
Those seeking to forget the matter and move on are calling those who doubt the police version of unassisted suicide as “conspiracy theorists”. Unfortunately, there are many situations when “ conspiracy theories” later get revealed to be true. In the Epstein case, such a development seems unlikely. It has been too convenient a death for any overturning of the cover story to be allowed to take place. The exposure of the activities of Jeffrey Epstein revealed yet again that those with an excess of money and power ( or usually both) often come with a deficit of conscience and good conduct.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The invisible hand that's pushing Pak's rant against India on Article 370 (PGurus)

What does Pak hopes to achieves by opposing abolishing of #Article370, Prof Nalapat reveals the invisible hand that pushes the narrative around the world which was followed by UK, US MPs 

Friday, 9 August 2019

Japan must ensure harmony with South Korea (Pakistan Observer)

JAPAN is a country that has reached the front rank of nations through the quality of its leadership as well as the quality of its people. The Japanese economy has weakened ever since a decision was made by Tokyo from the late 1980s till the middle of the 1990s to surrender to US demands on trade and investment rather than adopt the stance China has these days, that of resisting rather than accepting Washington’s demands. Any other country would have witnessed rising levels of social unrest as a consequence of the steady fall in average incomes during the extended period of deflation that Japan has faced. Instead, the Japanese people have stoically accepted their fate, and there has been no turmoil at all as a consequence of the much slower pace of the Japanese economy. Despite the fact that Administrations in the US made Tokyo agree to measures that serve the interests of the US at the expense of Japan, there has not been any vacillation in the manner in which successive Administrations in Tokyo have supported the US-Japan alliance.
While in the past, owing to its pacifist constitution, Japan was unable to militarily assist the US in numerous theatres of conflict across Asia. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working hard on making changes to the constitution and the laws that would give a future government in Tokyo the freedom to intervene militarily if needed. It needs to be mentioned that the Japanese “Self Defence Forces” are a formidable force that contains a powerful army, navy and air force. It is also no secret that Japan is “just a screwdriver away” from having its own nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry is highly developed in Japan, and several companies in that island country are leaders in the field. The only blind spot of the Shinzo Abe government is its inability or unwillingness to recognize that the pre-1945 history of Japan still remains in the collective memories of the people of several countries, notably China and South Korea, in both of which the Japanese ruled, and not very gently. While China is now a superpower and can fend for itself, South Korea is still an economy smaller than that of Japan. The country was occupied by Japan for a considerable period of time, and as with most colonists, the people of Korea were exploited by the authorities in Japan in a manner that cannot be forgotten, even if it gets forgiven eventually. For this to happen, the Shinzo Abe government needs to adopt a much more understanding line towards Seoul than has been the case thus far. The latest example is the use of the trade weapon to attempt to force through concessions from South Korea. This is similar to what President Trump is doing in the case of China.
Both South Korea as well as Japan are not just democracies but neighbours of each other. The bitter memories of the decades under Japanese overlordship remain in the historical memory of not just South Korea but North Korea as well. It is no secret that Pyongyang is paying careful attention to the development of missiles and their payloads as would inflict significant casualties on the Japanese people in the eventuality of conflict between North Korea and Japan, which would need to come to the assistance of the US were President Trump to decide to tackle the North Korean issue through military force, hopefully an option that will be avoided. Just as there are several South Koreans with a negative view of Japan, there are many Japanese whose antipathy even extends to their even refusing to travel in a South Korean car when abroad, even though some of the South Korean models are better and more cost effective than many of their European competitors.
Playing to such sentiments is a political tactic that has been followed by both President Trump as well as his close associate, Prime Minister Abe. The consequence has been a souring in relations between Seoul and Tokyo that can damage both. The move by the Japanese government to block the sale of essential minerals to South Korea will be seen by the latter as an effort to weaken South Korean companies that are competing with Japanese entities across the world. The sudden rise in trade frictions across the world carries the risk of setting off a fall in global economic activity. Such a situation would increase the chances for unrest and chaos in several countries. It is no accident that the “Arab Spring” of 2011 took place in those countries where citizens battled high levels of inflation and unemployment, and spared those countries where the economies were strong and the life of citizens more comfortable. Prime Minister Abe is the leader of a country with a long tradition of noble conduct in the past, and he should keep that in mind while dealing with frictions caused by South Korean politicians.
In times past, the US would intervene in such situations, but President Trump has been so harried and pre-occupied by the Mueller probe into Russian influence among those close to Trump that the effectiveness of much of US policy has been compromised. Far from promoting the national interest, Robert Mueller and the Clinton Machine that backed him has harmed US interests substantially by weakening the hand of President Trump and diverting his attention and his energies from national causes to self-preservation in the face of an assault of unprecedented scale that has been designed to force him to quit or to create the circumstances for a successful bid to impeach him. There is almost no doubt that the Clinton Machine will succeed in the beginning an Impeachment Hearing in the US House of Representatives, that would further divert the attention of the President. Rather than following the example of politicians in the US, Prime Minister Abe needs to act with the grace and nobility shown by Emperor Naruhito of Japan, and work out a conciliation with the Moon Jae-in regime in Seoul rather than continue a conflict that is harming both East Asian democracies and tipping the world further into a global trade war of the kind that was last seen in the 1930s. Over to Shinzo Abe.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Trump Republicans gravitate to the race card (Pakistan Observer)

IT would be less than fair to call President Donld J Trump a racist. It is correct that he has in the recent past been unrestrained in his invective against Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ayaana Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Representative Elijah Cummings and Jessie Jackson. None are of European ethnic origin. However, Trump has been equally dismissive about Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, not to mention others of European ethnicity. However, the Republican Party that functions under President Trump is unrecognizable from the oarty that Abraham Lincoln twice led to victory in the presidential elections. Of course, where racial justice is concerned, the crime laws passed under President Bill Clinton and vociferously backed by the then Senator Joe Biden resulted in targeted injustice to African American youths. The repeal of the Glass Steagal Act, again by Clinton to applause from Biden, played a key role in creating the conditions for the “Greed Recession” that followed the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. Barack Obama, under prodding from the Clinton machine (to which he was subservient for years) stood aside while millions lost their homes, even as he and Nancy Pelosi approved bailouts of nearly a trillion dollars to the hyper rich.
Democrats have therefore been no different from Republicans where it comes to cosying up to money. However, these days there is an increasing volume of no longer subliminal ethno-centric slogans of the Republican Party, which is now unabashedly distant from the days when Abraham Lincoln got signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to an audible gnashing of those who in substance strayed so far from the teachings of Jesus Christ as to consider slavery of those whose ethnic origin was Africa, the natural order of things. Slaveholders and those who tolerated or encouraged such a vicious system used to go to church every weekend, and regarded themselves as “Good Christians”, just as the practitioners of apartheid did in South Africa a century later. During Lincoln’s time, the Republican Party got transformed into an instrument of social change because of the influence of Lincoln and others of European extraction who took seriously the motto that “all men are created equal.
These days, the Republican Party is indistinguishable from what the Democratic Party was in Lincoln’s time, a Party which had adopted 150 years ago the creed later carried out in practice by Adolf Hitler to murderous effect, that there were “Herrenmensch” (Master Races) and “Untermensch”, (Inferior Races). There are risks in ignoring the fact that ability is unrelated to ethnicity or faith. The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) led by Hitler considered atomic physics to be “Jewish science”, as most of those researching the subject were of that faith. While many such experts were criminally killed by Hitler’s NSDAP thugs, enough escaped to the US to bring to the attention of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ( the third most consequential US President after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln) to the possibility of developing weapons of such power that their use would ensure victory in war. With help from Jewish scientists, Roosevelt launched “Tube Alloys”, the project which resulted in the first ever detonation of a nuclear device on 16 July 1945.
Many believed that the 1933-45 experience of Germany (whose “Herrenmensch” were thrashed into pulp during 1943-45 by the Russian “Untermensch”) would have prevented policymakers across the world from regarding ethnicity as the key to success. However, it did not. The European Union, for instance, kept its doors closed for the most talented individuals of cities in India such as Chennai and Hyderabad, while its western members welcomed into their millions from Eastern Europe who had rudimentary education and capabilities, in the (silently expressed) belief that a European – any European – was preferable to any Asian. The drive to block immigration into the European Union from countries in Asia was led by Germany, although it must be said that under Angela Merkel, the character of the country was permitted to change completely as a consequence of the entry into Germany of what will easily cross two million new citizens from North Africa and other locations outside Europe, without any test or screening whatsoever. Within two generations, Germany will have an entirely different chemistry as a consequence of the bold decision by Chancellor Merkel.
Angela Merkel changed Germany by welcoming migration into the country. Trump is changing the chemistry of the US by blocking migration in ways that are often disturbing, although it must be said that similar scenes occurred during the Obama years, although the media did not pay a tenth as much attention to them as they do to the situation under President Trump. There is a swagger among under-educated and under-employed heterosexual males of European descent, a distinct feeling that the US belongs to them and others of the same complexion, so that those with a permanent tan should be kept out. Such a stance goes against the currents of demographic change and the Zeitgeist (spirit) of the 21st century. The Republican Party is going back to where much of the Democratic Party was in the 1950s, and it is not a pretty sight, ad while it may ensure that Trump win his second term in the 2020 polls, in the longer run, bias towards a particular race will cost the Republican Party heavily in a country where demographic change is impossible to stop or even slow down.