Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian bomber involved in an anti-terror mission against the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group means that Ankara has effectively sided with IS.
By Roy Greenslade
“What irreconcilable opposing interests do Russia and the west have? Excuse the naive question, but can someone better informed than me say why Russia’s the enemy and (Erdogan’s) Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar are staunch allies?” - samwisehere
It’s a fair question and reminded me of a challenging op-ed article in the New York Times last Friday, Saudi Arabia, an Isis that has made it, by Kamel Daoud.*
He contrasted the behaviour and culture of Isis (black Daesh) with the state ofSaudi Arabia (white Daesh). He began: “The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things.”
But the west wages war on one while shaking hands with the other and forgetting that the kingdom “relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimises, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.”
Daoud described Wahhabism as “a messianic radicalism that arose in the 18th century” which “hopes to restore a fantasised caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.” He continued:
“The west’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: it salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture.The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.”
He accepted that Saudi Arabia was a possible target of Daesh but that “overlooks the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness.”
For Daoud, the maintenance of good relations with Saudi Arabia undermines “western democracies’ thunderous declarations regarding the necessity of fighting terrorism...
“Since Isis is first and foremost a culture, not a militia, how do you prevent future generations from turning to jihadism when the influence of Fatwa Valley and its clerics and its culture and its immense editorial industry remains intact?”
And he concluded by observing:
“Daesh has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost.”
I concede that much of this has been said before. But not often enough, I’m afraid.
Saudi fighter jets have carried out a new round of attacks on residential areas in four provinces in northern Yemen, killing more than a dozen people.
Yemen’s al-Masirah TV said on Monday that Saudi fighter jets launched attacks on various districts in two provinces of Jawf and Sa’ada, killing 15 people.
The report said 10 of the victims were members of a family in Jawf. Five others were killed in attacks which targeted a marketplace in the city of Haydan in Sa’ada, a major stronghold of the Ansarullah movement and a repeated target of Saudi strikes over the past months.
Attacks were also reported in northern province of Sana’a, where several people were injured after Saudi warplanes bombarded houses and shops in Bani Zabyan. Bombs were also dropped in Hamdan city in the same province, with no immediate details available on the potential casualties.
Further to the northwest in Hajjah Province, Saudis attacked at least three cities, namely Mustaba, Hayran and Harad, with reports saying most of the attacks targeted trucks carrying food and agricultural products in the area.
Yemeni forces continue retaliatory attacks
The attacks came as fighters of the Ansarullah, backed by forces of the Yemeni army, continued to launch retaliatory raids on positions of the Saudi forces south of the kingdom, with a report saying that the allied forces managed to destroy an Abrams tank in al-Shurfah region in Jizan Province. The Ansarullah said on its Twitter page that attacks were also launched on al-Faridhah military camp, in south of Saudi Arabia.
Yemen has been witnessing relentless airstrikes by Saudi Arabia since March 26. The military aggression is meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and bring back to power fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The Yemeni Civil Coalition, which monitors the crimes committed during the Saudi aggression against Yemen, says nearly 7,500 people have lost their lives in the Saudi raids. However, the United Nations has put the death toll at 5,700, including 830 women and children.
Wesley Clark: ISIS "Serving Interests Of Turkey And Saudi Arabia," "Someone's Buying The Oil ISIS Is Selling"
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark explains that the existence of the Islamic State helps Sunni countries Turkey and Saudi Arabia geostrategically, by countering the shi'ite powers: Iran, Iraq and Syria. "All along there’s always been the idea that Turkey was supporting ISIS in some way… Someone’s buying that oil that ISIS is selling, it’s going through somewhere, it looks to me like it’s probably going through Turkey, but the Turks haven't acknowledged that." “Let’s be very clear: ISIS [ISIL] is not just a terrorist organization, it is a Sunni terrorist organization. It means it blocks and targets Shia, and that means it’s serving the interests of Turkey and Saudi Arabia even as it poses a threat to them,” Clark said. "There’s no good guy in this, this is a power struggle for the future of the Middle East," concluded Clark. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/11/25/wesley_clark_isis_serving_interests_of_turkey_and_saudi_arabia_someones_buying_the_oil_isis_is_selling.html
Frustrated by Pakistan’s efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has decided to stealfrom former president Hamid Karzai’s playbook, and cozy up to India. One potential consequence? Weakening ties with Pakistan, ties that are likely necessary for peace in the region.On Nov. 7, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s National Security Adviser, visited New Delhi to secure the delivery of four Mi-25 attack helicopters to support the struggling Afghan security forces — a move likely to irk Pakistan. Further, Deputy Afghan Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai said on Nov. 19 that Atmar provided his Indian counterpart with a military equipment “wish list” at a recent defense cooperation meeting. The delivery of the Russian-built attack helicopters represents India’s first attempt to provide sophisticated weaponry to Afghanistan since the two countries signed a strategic partnership in 2011. In addition to the helicopter request, Afghanistan submitted a proposal for Afghan Special Forces to receive training in India.
Ghani’s push to seek assistance from India comes at a time of increased strain and tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan — a situation reminiscent of Karzai’s gambit in 2014 to seek out India’s support.
In 2014, at the tail end of his time in office, Karzai reached out to India after failing to convince Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Reeling from a failed 2013 summit in Brussels between Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, then the Chief of Staff of Pakistan’s army, Karzai requested the sale of 105-mm howitzer artillery pieces and medium-lift transport helicopters from India to assist Afghan forces in casualty evacuation operations.
Only a few months later, President Ghani switched gears. He opened his administration with hopes of renewed relations with Pakistan, including the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries to share intelligence, a controversial move that received considerable backlash from former Karzai staff and Afghan citizens.
The initial attempts to heal the rift between Pakistan and Afghanistan appeared to be paying dividends on July 8, 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan, at the opening of the first public peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government. But after the revelations of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death two years earlier and collapse of the peace talks, relations went south, with accusations that Pakistan leaked the news of Omar’s death to stymie peace efforts. Following the collapse of these negotiations, the fractious Taliban movement, under the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, made impressive territorial gains, sacking Kunduz on Sep. 28 and taking over large swaths of territory in northern Helmand province including Musa Qala and now Zad.
Ghani’s discontent with Pakistan increased following this year’s brutal spring and summer fighting seasons, which witnessed a record number of Afghan and civilian casualties, coupled with the fall of Kunduz, the first major provincial capital since the Taliban’s overthrow during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
The October 2015 announcement that a Pakistani operative was the focus of U.S. airstrikes on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) facility in Kunduz only widened the rift between Pakistan and Afghanistan, lowering expectations for any future reconciliation between the Taliban and Kabul. American intelligence analysts had tracked an alleged Pakistani operative to the MSF facility, believing this individual was working for Pakistani intelligence and coordinating battlefield efforts for the Taliban in Kunduz. Pakistan has staunchly denied any involvement in the Kunduz operation, rejecting accusations linking its government to direct aid of the Taliban.
No longer willing to rely on Pakistan to end its interventionist policy in Afghanistan, Ghani has decided to revive his predecessor’s strategy and approach Pakistan’s longtime foe, India. It is anyone’s guess whether Ghani’s bold move will pay off, though it is sure to generate anxiety in Pakistan.
But Islamabad has failed to grasp what Afghanistan stands to gain from a stronger relationship with India.
For Kabul, the benefits of strengthened ties between Afghanistan and India go well beyond military hardware. Afghanistan provides India access to Iran’s port of Chabahar, providing India with a direct route to Central Asian markets and facilitating North-South transit trade throughout the region, creating “the Asian roundabout, a key hub of in the revival of the Silk road[sic],” as Ghani said at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, earlier this year. Strengthening trade ties with Afghanistan allows India to project economic power in the region and demonstrate that its foreign policy is not dictated by Pakistan and China.
By granting India access to the port of Chabahar and the Delaram-Zaranj road, which connects the Afghan-Iranian border town Zaranj to major Afghan roads, Afghanistan offers it an alternative to the Gwader port, a mere 72 km (44 miles) away but under the control of China and Pakistan. It also provides India with a surveillance post to monitor Chinese and Pakistani warships in the region. India and Afghanistan will have to gauge whether the cost-benefit analysis of drawing closer will be worthwhile in the long run. Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is vital to achieving peace in the region. India has suffered heavily for interfering in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, as evidenced by the 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that left 54 dead. Afghanistan must also be careful of possible responsive Pakistani actions. An October 2015 Congressional Research Service report supports Afghanistan’s claim that Pakistan interferes with Afghan internal affairs and supports proxy elements fighting an undeclared war against Afghanistan. The report states that Pakistan’s objectives in Afghanistan seek to utilize militant groups to counter Indian influence and create strategic in-roads for Pakistan.
Increasingly, Congress and the Obama administration are validating Afghan claims that Pakistan supports militant groups inside Afghanistan. Washington is growing weary of the Islamabad government and its repeated overtures to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Prior to the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif this fall, the White House levied threats to pull its financial assistance to the Pakistani military. However, senior American officials reported prior to the prime minister’s visit that the United States would sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighter jets to assist in its counterterrorism efforts, highlighting the regional importance of Pakistan to the United States, and its understanding of Pakistan’s vital role in the Afghan peace process.
It is too soon to tell if Ghani’s India gamble will pay off, though the pressure on Pakistan to change course has certainly been ramped up. With Pakistan’s recent move to invite India’s foreign minister to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan next month, Pakistan is surely feeling the heat.
ALI AFZAL SAHI
The white crescent and star bordered by the green in the Pakistani flag has waned over time and rightly so; have our actions ever been in alignment to the pledge made to the people of the crescent and star (the minorities)? Sadly, the answer to this vexed question is a blunt no. While we are staunch believers of our principles of morality, what we fail to understand is that this morality is somewhat a product of our distorted sense of righteousness. However, beneath the veneer of our self-proclaimed righteousness is a reality inescapable: the hypocrisy of our society. Just how two-faced we are is vividly apparent in the way we treat our minority community. The minorities have always borne the brunt of sectarian violence and discrimination and during the entire course of events we have not been able to choose for ourselves the right sentiment about peace and freedom. We do vouch for being a patriotic, patient and peace-loving nation; however, we have never been able to live up to the true meaning of these notions. When Pakistan was created, we pledged to confer upon the minorities’ equal treatment as that of the Muslims; we vowed to protect and shelter them. Sadly, the reality is far from these flowery promises made at the time of need.
However, our history is laden with bloody instances of honour killings and sectarian violence, enough to swiftly set back any positive development that we might be proud of. Pakistan has long been stigmatised of the menace of stereotyping religious communities and marginalising them in the name of majority’s interpretation of religion. In addition, the recent perilous trend of “mob justice” is really worrisome and should be dealt with priority. While reading the newspaper yesterday, I came across the news “mob sets Jhelum factory ablaze over blasphemy allegations”. Not to my surprise, the factory owner was an Ahmadi. Without delving into the religious aspect of these debates, one must, at the very least, condemn the atrocity. As per the reports, several people were in the building while it was set on fire. It seems as if history is repeating itself; the acceptance of the Ahmadi community is still a hazy dream we all wish would come true.
The 1970s witnessed the worst examples of sectarian violence in Pakistan that led to the widespread violence against Shia and Ahmadi communities in the country. Children were butchered, graves destroyed, women raped and killed and men slaughtered in the most inhumane ways imaginable. The unlettered and benighted constituted a major faction of those who supported and perpetrated this savagery towards the minorities. The elites and the liberals chose to raise their voices in favour of protecting these communities in order to uphold the very promises Pakistan was established on. However, no action was taken to actually stop the violence.
The situation might have decreased by a notch in the physical sense of violence; however, the verbal abuses and attacks are ever increasing, with emphasis on hurting the sentiments of the minorities on every occasion possible. Is this really the dream we set out to achieve in order to stand strong as one united front, as one nation, Pakistan? What are the requirements that a minority should fulfill to escape the social tyranny at the hands of incognizant people? We have seen countless examples of Christian and Shia communities bribing their way into protecting their lives.
In certain instances, minorities have also been forced to forge their names in order to camouflage themselves with the majority populations so that they may be treated with equality and given opportunities as other people of their caliber.However, it should have been our responsibility to prevent the situation from escalating to such an unprecedented mess. Even if we consider them to be wrong in their practice of religion and social life, these acts cannot be warranted under the guise of religion. Just like we expect the West and our “hostile neighbour” to safeguard the interests and sanctity of life and property of the Muslims, others expecting the same attitude from us towards our minorities, is fully justified. Failing to meet such expectations just indicates our deep-rooted hypocrisy.
As strange as it may sound, Ahmadis have never been a part of any notorious plan of exacting revenge for the persecution that they have suffered at the hands of bigots, yet we, the majority, have always tainted this community with allegations of blasphemy and hence cornered it. This country was built on the foundations of a promise, which spoke for religious and social egalitarianism. It is time that this promise is duly paid heed to and that this trust which binds the varying sects in our society, is honoured. Ahmadis deserve to be fought for and protected. It’s time we raise our voice towards injustice and dedicate our time and energy as well as our tweets and Facebook statuses to start a campaign against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Or would this underprivileged community have to become Syrian, French or Burmese to get noticed for suffering such a monstrosity?