Friday, June 16, 2017

Western Arms And Islamic Terrorism: An Endless Spiral

Western Arms And Islamic Terrorism: An Endless Spiral
                                                                      Saeed Naqvi

“Udhar rakeeb, idhar hum bulaye jaat hain
Ki daana daal ke murghe laraye jaate hain”
(I am invited, so is my enemy – at the same time.
Sprinkle some grain in the middle:
and the scene is set for an almighty cockfight)

It would be bad form to describe Saudi kings as fools, but the temptation is vastly enhanced by the brazenness with which the Americans dive into Saudi coffers at will and wink at each other.

It turns out that there is a competition on between the Trump administration and its predecessor, the Obama team, as to who made greater fool of the Saudis.

Last month, Trump and his cohorts, after their revelries in Riyadh, announced they had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with their Saudi allies.

Promptly came a rejoinder from a Clinton adviser, Bruce Riedel, now a specialist at Brookings, that President Obama sold the Saudis $112 billion in weapons in 2012 is a single deal negotiated by Defence Secretary, Bob Gates. He then furnished incontrovertible proof that Trump was bragging about a Saudi arms wishlist but no real deals had been concluded.

Riedel’s other argument is a real clincher:
“You will know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for a package to keep the Israeli Defence Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.”

What seems to be on its way are a billion dollars worth of munitions to help the Saudi Air Force to continue its nearly two year old bombardment of the Arab world’s poorest country – Yemen.

It will take the Saudis millennia to build a civilization like the one they are destroying in Yemen.

And in this destruction, the US is as enthusiastic a participant as the Saudis will ever have. In the vanguard of the US supporters of the Saudi war machine is Republican Senator, John McCain. Thumping the table he told Al Jazeera, “We are in a war.” Then he clarified, “The Saudis are in a war in Yemen and they need weapons.” So Americans must provide (sell) these weapons to the embattled Saudis.

Even though Riedel described the Trump’s arms deal with Riyadh as “fake news”, Trump continues to cast himself as a great salesman.

The last time Trump overplayed his salesmanship was with South Korea. After aggravating tensions with Kim Jong-un in North Korea, he proceeded to be a defender of South Korean interests by promising the state of the art missile defence system. Before his altruism could sink in, he flourished a billion dollar bill for Seoul to pay. The South Koreans promptly voted an anti American President in Seoul. But it would still be premature to cast Trump as a latter day Willy Loman in The Death of a Salesman. Just look at the masterly double dealing he is attempting in Qatar.

Creating confusion, Trump’s patented style of diplomacy (and salesmanship), is on show in Qatar yet again.

After having blessed Saudi king Salman’s so called Sunni Armed Front, Trump watched the Saudi-Qatari falling out with both anger and glee. (Saudi-Qatar antipathy is historic and requires separate treatment.)

Since Trump imagined he had swung a huge arms deal with the Saudis (since debunked), he felt obliged to call the recalcitrant Qatar names. He called it “a high level sponsor of terrorism.”

While he was spewing his anti Qatar expletives, his Defence Secretary, James Mattis was signing a $12 billion arms deal with his Qatari counterpart, Khalid Al Attiyah. The scene is being set for a perfect cockfight, as my opening couplet suggests. Egg the Saudi on to break with Qatar, promptly dispatch Mattis to Doha to squeeze yet another deal with the nervous Qataris. This would prompt Saudis come running for more arms – and so on.

I have always maintained that Americans, protected by the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, will continue to enhance their dependence on what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

Retaliatory consequences of their arms sales in the form of increased terrorism will be borne by Europe which has land and Mediterranean Sea links with areas in West Asia most affected by the post 9/11 wars. Manchester and London Bridge are only the most recent manifestations of terrorism as revenge.

When I told a senior French official in Paris recently that terrorism in Europe would be unstoppable so long as Saudis have the money to buy US, French, and British arms, he shrugged his shoulders. “When US arms giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon sign mega deals with the oil rich GCC, our governments come under pressure from our arms industry which says – please don’t let us fall behind in the global competition.” It is an endless spiral.

Is “revenge” terrorism in the West different from terrorism elsewhere? For instance, 150 members of Afghan police, army and foreigners were killed by suicide bombers outside the German Embassy in Kabul soon after the Manchester attack. The dynamic here is different. Afghan collaborators with a 16 year old US occupation of Afghanistan are under attack from Taliban, falling back on Afghan nationalism.

What is common in Islamic terror everywhere is the technique: suicide bombing.

This genre was patented by Wahabi, Takfiri thought and will continue until the West lays the blame where it belongs. No Iranian or Hezbollah or indeed Shia militant has yet been found to be a suicide bomber.

#          #          #          #

Friday, June 2, 2017

Corbyn Closes Gap: Will He Go Past?

Corbyn Closes Gap: Will He Go Past?
                                                                Saeed Naqvi

Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, have been pitted against each other on a host of issues but nothing has caught the popular imagination more than terrorism, as I discovered after recent interaction with students, teachers and social workers in Manchester. Terrorism has acquired urgent saliency after the recent Manchester bombing in which 22 youngsters, including children, lost their lives.

The tailwind would have been behind the Prime Minister in another era – say, when George W. Bush, dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld were embarked on full spectrum global dominance before Lehman Brother’s collapsed. Theresa May, alas, is mandated to unclasp one hand from Europe and attempt to clasp Mr. Trump’s with the other. But Trump is perpetually on a high wire act of unpredictable spins and turns. How to clasp that hand? His dizzying performances, most recently at the G7 and NATO summits have caused event the dour Angela Merkel to throw up her hands. He is too unreliable; Europe has to fend for itself, she suggested.

Even as she said, this, the new French President, Emanuel Macron, was embracing Vladimir Putin at Versailles Palace. “We have to fight terror together.”

This is not as straightforward a commitment as it sounds. If he is to follow through on “fighting terror” with the Russians, he will come immediately into conflict with the Deep State in Washington with tentacles in Paris as well.

There is a huge difference of opinion on Syria, to begin with. How to separate militant outfits like Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda and the IS from the so called Syrian opposition. According to the Russians, their merger and separation depend on alliance tactics.

Since it is becoming difficult even for western intelligence agencies to keep so many balls up in air, a brazen new theory is being floated: the US must not waste its time fighting groups like the Islamic State and its affiliates in Syria.

This theory was spelt out by Thomas Friedman, ace columnist for the New York Times. He says the IS’s targets are not the US or Israel. “IS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro Shiite Iranian militias.”

Friedman wants “Trump to be Trump – utterly cynical and unpredictable.”

Columns of this nature are not written to advise the state. They are written to generate a wider debate.

It is prescient of Merkel’s advisers to have picked up the scale of “unpredictability” already in the works in Trump’s Washington.

The theory being promoted by Friedman has theoretical application in India’s vicinity as well. After, his recent meeting with Sunni and Israeli leaders, the Saudi’s may well exert every muscle to create Shia-Sunni chaos between Pakistan and Iran. The US cannot be indifferent to the potential of this upheaval which could disrupt the Pakistan-China economic corridor, a key link in China’s mega One Belt-One Road project. But all game plan, are not implementable because international relations do not proceed in straight lines.

Weigh May’s and Corbyn’s stands on the issue of terror in this balance. May’s Security Minister, Ben Wallace is flailing his arms against “duplicitous social media firms”. They are failing to halt terror. “Their data encryption is allowing Jihadist cells to emerge unnoticed.

May has been talking of a full-fledged commission, upgradation of police, intelligence. Corbyn has no quarrel with any of this. But to insulate Britain against terrorists – in this instance with Libyan link – foreign policy will have to obviate military interventions which destroy local structures and leave behind terror breeding grounds.

Outspoken though Corbyn is, even he had to measure his words just in case the media supportive of the ruling party give it an anti-national or an Islamophobic spin.

It is clear as daylight even to the ubiquitous taxi driver: if you destroy countries, kill millions, render many more homeless, by what logic do you consider yourself exempt from the fury of revenge?

It is one of the ironies of our time that the cult of suicide bombing is, in a sense, a gift of the US, Saudi, Pakistan alliance which ousted the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. But when, at George W. Bush’s behest, Gen. Musharraf turned upon the very Afghan’s which Pakistan had groomed as double-distilled, ferocious Islamists, the suicide bomber mushroomed. Brilliantly brain washed, he was convinced of his pre-paid passage to paradise. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of Pakistan’s Jamiat e Ulema, once told me a chilling story. At a Majlis e Shura, meant only for the elders, he was surprised to see a young man approach him with some urgency: his parents both seriously ill, were eager for their son to go to paradise while they still lived. Could the Maulana help him jump the queue of Suicide bombers?

Corbyn dare not cast Salman Abedi, the Libyan suicide bomber of Manchester, in that kind of stark drama, but he did link faulty foreign policy to acts of terror at home. Immediately, the Prime Minister was on his case: Corbyn is making excuses for terrorism. Her campaign has consisted of attacks on Corbyn, while he has focused on issues – foreign policy, for instance.

As the popularity gap between the candidates narrows, papers, like the Guardian, spot a comparison with Bernie Sanders. But situations differ. I had written then: “if the establishment makes Sander’s impossible, it makes Trump inevitable.” In British elections, if the establishment (media) makes Corbyn impossible, well, you have a lack luster May, one who can barely eclipse Corbyn.

#          #          #          #

Friday, May 26, 2017

French Communist Office: “Does Anyone Live Here Anymore?”

French Communist Office: “Does Anyone Live Here Anymore?”
                                                                                   Saeed Naqvi

Imagination conjures up sounds of the organ as I stand in the shadow of that brooding architectural wonder. It feels like I am at a service for the repose of the dead.

I am brought back suddenly, as in an abrupt Bunuel sequence, by a bearded, kindly looking receptionist, directing me almost in slow motion, towards the elevator to the fifth floor where Laurent Perea, from the International Department of the French Communist Party, a tall, burly man, ushers me into a room, which overlooks a terrace with puddles and bird dropping and torn awnings.

Intimations of mortality are not in the DNA of political parties – unlike, human beings. When the great Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, builder of Brasilia, set about diligently building the iconic headquarters of the Communist Party of France, from 1967 to 1981, he was firmly in possession of the party’s self-esteem. The great Georges Marchais was the party General Secretary towards the end of the architectural enterprise. The nine floor giant arc, dominates Place du Colonel Fabien, a legendary figure of French resistance against the Nazis. Nearby, to this day surprisingly, is the Stalingrad square.

Faded associations came alive suddenly when the Left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, sprinted so fast on the straight that he found himself among the top four candidates. He was a rank outsider. And yet, 600,000 more votes and he would have been among the two candidates for the crucial run-off. French history could have taken a turn.

Well, the cookie crumbled differently. A 39 year old Emanuel Macron mostly old wine in a new, opaque bottle, won. He heads a movement, En Marche, March Forward but does not have a party. Come the critical June 10, elections to the 577 member National Assembly, all the defeated parties with residual cadres will rush to help Macron block Marine Le Pen, who does have motivated cadres in the drill for tar right politics.

To use a football image, does Melenchon have to be “marked” in the assembly elections? He is fielding candidates in most of the constituencies. Most people outside France appear not to have registered a cardinal point: French Communist Party is also running helter skelter to field as many candidates as Melenchon.

How have cooperative relations during the Presidential election given way to conflict? There are deep differences in interpreting the mandate. Melenchon believes that the 19.6 per cent vote he received as Presidential candidate, should be credited to him. The party places some of the credit at the door of its cadres.

It is a complicated tussle. Let me explain. There are, for instance, 101 “departments” – a department is greater than a district and smaller than a state.

Laurent Perea, who greeted me on the fifth floor, happens to be the Mayor in Dordogne which has four assembly seats. Melenchon insists his influence in Dordogne is paramount and therefore all four seats must go to him. CPF says they should split two seats each. At this level of bickering, talks between Melenchon and CPF collapsed last week.

The appeal of Melenchon, like that of Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, comes not from having timidly followed some party discipline but for pitching it audaciously for unambiguous change, within the left framework but innovatively, without being hemmed in by rules.

In the Indian context, if, say Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU union, were to break loose from the CPI affiliations, he would have the Pablo Iglesias-Melenchon potential. By universal consent, Melenchon is the best speaker in French public life. Kanhaiya Kumar, likewise, has left even right wing audiences mesmerized by this oratory.

Rather than stride along the straight and narrow, Melenchon projected himself as a friend of the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela; he incorporates into his rhetoric Cuba, the Bolivarian revolution. While the romance was on, CPF tolerated Melenchon’s Bolivarian flourishes. But today the comrade from Pondicherry, P. Dassardane openly chastises President Maduro’s “dictatorship”. Forgotten are the “machinations of US imperialism” against the Venezuelan revolution.

With this level of hostility between the party and the candidate, even their respective sympathizers are not expecting more than a handful of members in the Assembly.

If Melenchon ends up with respectable double digit figures in the House, it will be to the credit of La France Insoumise or Unbowing France which he launched late last year. The one lakh CPF membership was called into urgent session to consider the critical issue: should CPF support Melenchon? Party Secretary General, Pierre Laurent threw his vote behind Unbowing France. Never did he suspect that it was “Unbowing” Melenchon the party was supporting.

Should Melenchon zoom ahead of the party which once supported him, Pierre Laurent will, from the loneliness of the Secretary General’s room, once occupied by Marchais, contemplate the future of the party and the building.

Mirza Rafi Sauda’s description of a deserted palace, shares the mood of Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Sauda describes a voice echoing through the corridors:
“Does anyone live here anymore?”

#          #          #          #