Tag Archives: bashar al assad

Pakistan’s ‘Role’ Defined for Resolving the Syrian Crisis

Map of Pakistan

Map of Pakistan (Photo credit: Omer Wazir)

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Pakistan and Syria are the countries that used to share the same silk route. This served as a ‘communication link’ between the two countries. Consequently, religious connection was further strengthened by the ‘civilization exchange’ and trade. Regional diplomatic ties of Islamabad and Damascus resemble slightly, keeping in view the tension between Syria and Israel on one hand and the inherent rivalry between India and Pakistan on the other. The extremism fomenting within their boundaries, also, has a common ‘Al-Qaeda connection’. Crudely, there is foreign intervention in both the countries to curb terrorist activities.

Islamabad had supported its spiritual partner during the Ramadan war (Yom Kippur War) of 1973 by sending military personnels to Syria. Economic and military assistance continued even after the war. In addition to this, the Syrian stance over Golan heights was supported by Pakistan in the United Nations in 1974. Oil was imported from Syria by Pakistan, where as Pakistani wheat and rice were sent there. However, ties between the two countries wavered when General Zia ul Haq rejected Hafez Al Assad’s (father of Bashar al Assad) plea of absolving Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from the trial or at least with drawing the death sentence in 1979. The former premier of Pakistan, was hanged. He is known for reorienting Pakistan’s foreign policy by flinging open the Eastern window and joining hands with the Middle East. Hafez al Assad was discontent with the way his plea was rejected altogether. He was, perhaps, the second person after Colonel Qaddafi to chant the loudest against General Zia ul Haq’s adamant stance over Bhutto’s trial that led him to the gallows.

This chequered diplomatic faux pas was healed after Hafez al Assad’s son, Bashar al Assad, now the protagonist of the Arab spring rose to power in the year 2000. In 2005, Pakistan and Syria agreed to cooperate in the field of science and technology. An interesting involvement of Syria is linked with the historic 2006 unification of India and Pakistan under the umbrella of Non-aligned movement (NAM). This was the 14th meeting of this movement that has done little to implement the long list of declarations against US hegemony. However, Syria was appointed as the Deputy Chairman during this meeting. The distinctive characteristic of NAM’s 14th summit was regional economic blockade formed by Brazil, Russia,India, China and South Africa (BRICS). 40% of the world’s population and 25% of the global GDP is represented by BRICS.

Since then, multi polarity and regional alliances have been essential components of NAM (although that is contrary to its original purpose of formation). Pakistan,Iran and Saudia Arabia are also member states of the NAM. However, Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to be the persuader on behalf of its Western ally, the United States, for resolving the Syrian crisis. On her visit to the US , Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar is expected to land at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on January 1, 2013 for an abbreviated visit. As Pakistan assumes the rotational presidency of United Nations Security Council, the oil rich Kingdom along with the West, wants Islamabad to convince Beijing and Moscow in return. The role for Pakistan has been defined, but it is contrary to the stance adopted by Iran (which also has the presidency of NAM now). Brazil, India and South Africa have already supported China and Russia in the UN Security Council. This explicitly indicates that negotiating with Moscow and Beijing circumvents BRICS. Considering the pliancy of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the past, it is likely that the ruling party will bend in favour of the United States, but any diplomatic strangle with BRICS and Iran cannot be afforded. As regional isolation may lead to severe repercussions for Pakistan.



Posted by on January 4, 2013 in International Affairs


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Democratisation of the Arab World and the ‘US Foreign Policy’

President Barack Hussain Obama accepted nominations for second term during the Democratic Convention of 2012, while settling the crown for a “better U.S” on his head. The speech delivered by his ‘democratic comrade’, Bill Clinton, somehow reinforced the notion that; ‘Obama might be bad, but anyone else can be worse’. Clinton gave what Obama earnestly wanted in order to restore his confidence, especially among the ‘white voters’. As expected, the motif of the convention revolved around a rebuttal of allegations against the incumbent president. However, the first black president of the U.S amplified his ‘foreign policy’ as a successful one. The long ‘to do’ list included the most prominent volition of ‘spending less’ on ‘war’ and ‘investing more’ in ‘nation-building’. A dignified end to war in Afghanistan in near future, getting rid of Osama Bin Laden, putting Al Qaeda on the road that is leading to defeat and the promotion of democratic values was used as a persuasive force to endorse his existing policies. The democratic rhetoric of ‘fairness’, ‘equality of opportunity’, ‘promotion of democracy’, ‘gender equity’, missed out the billows of ‘Arab spring’ (which is an insatiable aspirant of ‘democracy’).

Little had been mentioned about the political transitions burbling in the Arab world. The ‘Arab Spring’ and the myriad ‘liberal protesters’ of Middle East are intertwined with the U.S foreign policy. The initial focal point of Obama’s policy with regards to Middle East was the resolution of ‘Arab-Israel’ conflict. Compared with its predecessor, the Obama administration placed negligible emphasis on promoting democracy abroad. The administration’s priority, instead, was strengthening government-to-government relations, something that Obama administration officials felt had suffered unnecessarily under the Bush administration. The common thread throughout the statements and speeches of Obama and his senior advisers, till 2011, was the target to achieve institutional reform, economic development, and poverty alleviation first, and free and fair elections later. In other words, ‘democracy promotion’ was a secondary motive followed by ‘dignity promotion’. The reasons can be various, from the preservation of the U.S interests in the region to the fear of ‘rapid’, ‘untidy democratisation ‘ of the Arab World. Contrary to the administration’s desired policy, Arab uprisings, pushed it to a position where it had no other choice than to purport the struggles of ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’.

President Obama had to celebrate the triumph of protesters calling for change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. On the other hand, Obama’s move to celebrate along with the pioneers of ‘Arab Spring’ was considered an ‘ominous sign’ by the monarchs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Obama was seen by the Kings as an instigator, who is backing protests around the Arab world. To ensure support of Washington’s allies in the region, people of Bahrain were deprived of their right to become the creators of their destiny. Leaders in some parts of the Middle East weren’t compelled to give up their dictatorial pursuits like Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. The United States tried to reassure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allies that it stood behind them. Obama’s apparent success in Libya was neutralized by the volatile situation in Syria. The chorus which demands for a democratic dispensation in which people’s voice synchronises with that of the rulers is swelling up in the Middle East. This is likely to continue regardless of who wins the next presidential elections in the U.S.

The region yearning for democracy (the belt running from Tunisia through Libya to Egypt) has already established an unprecedented example for the Arab world to follow. The new regime of Jibril in Libya will look towards Tunisia and develop links with the recovered Tunisian economy. Secular-minded liberals will have to adjust with the Islamists in Egypt, which is likely to rise as the most organized example of ‘democratic switch over’. With Muslim Brotherhood leading a compromise with the secular way of life, an appeal of extreme Islamists such as Al – Qaeda will also fade away from the Arab world. Morsi’s idea of ‘United States of Islam’ is a difficult, yet attainable target. Furthermore, upheavals will continue in other parts like Algeria, which won’t be impervious to resentful calls for change. Royals of Jordan and Morocco will be pushed by their subjects to expand the operational premises of politics within their respective regions. The iridescent, oil-rich Gulf will also be swayed by the demand for democracy. United Arab Emirates and Qatar can manage to hold back their people. However, an increased number of young educated Arabs will question their rulers that ‘why democracy is being denied by them at home’, while support is being granted to it in regions like Libya. Saudi Arabia, the giant of the Gulf will also find it difficult to satisfy the impatient and well-informed, mobilized middle class. The only solution to sustain the kingdom will be to bequeath power to a younger generation. Religion-driven conflicts, a characteristic feature of Middle East politics, will also join the bandwagon of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.

Whether Obama or Romney, both of them will have to attend to the inconsistent developments in the political arena of Middle East. The resonance of discord and dissent cannot be bottled for the sake of Republicans or Democrats. A recent study of Global Attitudes by Pew Research Center concluded that; most Muslims want democracy, personal freedoms, and Islam in political life, while few believe that the U.S backs democracy. Support for an institutionalized democracy and a re-orientation of the U.S foreign policy in order to negotiate with the Islamists is pertinent. Democratisation of the Arab world has turned the tables over, now, what Arabs ‘want’ carries more weight as compared to what governments have to ‘do’.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in the October (2012) issue of Jahangir’s World Times.

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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in International Affairs


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A US – led Syria and Beyond. . .

The Syrian massacre has flooded the news items all around the world. It’s been a year since Obama administration, for the first time, called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and let Syrians have their right of self-determination. However, the obdurate dictator turned a deaf ear to this call. The clash between the ‘regime loyalists’ (supporters of Assad) and myriad rebel factions has claimed thousands of lives in Syria for almost seventeen months. The roots of this ongoing civil war can be traced to Benghazi, Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi refused to surrender in front of the rebels. His forces were ready to fight and what they couldn’t resist was the ‘overreached’ retaliation by NATO which had entered the conflict on behalf of the rebels. China and Russia allowed the resolution which gave NATO such sweeping powers to pass, but Russia along with South Africa criticized NATO’s role after the death of Qaddafi. This dispute in the UN Security Council created an unpleasant atmosphere as there was a disagreement between the members at a time when an agreed response to violence in Syria had to be chalked out. It was Russia which insisted on quelling the pressure from Assad’s regime and including the President while deciding any future political set up for Syria. This was the reason for the appointment of Kofi Annan (the U.N.-Arab League joint envoy to Syria) in February 2012 who worked on ”mission impossible” (as he himself quotes it). After failing to devise an ‘agreed’ plan, for a political transition that did not explicitly require Assad’s departure, Annan has now resigned. The persistent efforts of Washington to dislodge Assad through negotiations have failed utterly, especially after the resignation of Kofi Annan. The U.S blames Russia and publicly denounces it for purporting a dictatorial regime. On the other hand, Annan blames the Security Council giants (big western states) for name-calling Russia and China. Other than the obviously disgruntled, Moscow and Beijing, the U.S shouldn’t ignore Brazil, India and South Africa which are also in the list of dissenters this time. All four of them are established democracies.

From the Geneva recommendations to the six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, nothing was endorsed with consensus. It is interesting to highlight that both the drafts had a common agenda which favoured a democratic transition at the cost of dismantling authoritarian rule. For this purpose, the notion of a government of ‘national unity’ (which allows the opposition and those already in the government to share power) was presented. This clearly indicates that the U.S isn’t ready to back a complete ‘regime change’ and wants to maintain some of the institutions in Syria which will have to abide by its standards of ‘human rights’. Moreover, there is an unattended question which inquires about the composition of Syrian opposition factions. The most ripe option is that of ‘rebels’ being fed by Washington’s Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the infiltration of Al-Qaeda jihadis, increased involvement of Turkey, influx of arms and intelligence support from the U.S, Assad is likely to depart especially after the defection of Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab. There is nothing better for the U.S. other than deciding an abominable fate like that of Qaddafi for Assad or pushing him behind the bars like Hosni. However, the focus is now on the post-Assad Syria that is a more daunting task, orchestrated a decade ago.

U.S General Wesley Clerk, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, is on record informing US journalist Amy Goodman that within weeks of the terrorist atrocity on 11th September 2001, the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo describing “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran,” (after invading Afghanistan). This seems to be somewhat ‘real’, but delayed plan in the wake of all that is being done to carve out the fate of Syria. However, the failure in Iraq and the 2006 Israeli defeat in Lebanon has compelled the U.S to alter the old ‘core strategy’ of direct occupations. It has now embarked upon the mission of encouraging destabilisation, clandestine operations and feeding civil strife in the targeted regions.

Syria is the latest victim in the grip of a bitter conflict in which Al Qaeda-type terrorists have established a foothold similar to the one in neighbouring Iraq. It nurtures armed thugs and terrorists being indirectly supported by the U.S. The long Turkey-Syria border is one of the main routes for smuggling armed men and weapons into Syria. The Syrians represent the heart of what Jordan’s King Abdullah called the “Shia crescent”: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is the opposition of this crescent against Israel which irks Washington and the ‘advocates’ (Egypt and Jordan) of Israel in the Arab world. Lebanon was bombed and invaded in a US-backed Israeli invasion in 2006, but was repelled by Syrian-backed Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah. Efforts are now also being made by Saudi Arabia to weaken Hezbollah, the Shi’ite organization that is being backed by Iran. Iraq is disintegrated and bleeding heavily, with daily sectarian terrorist atrocities. Iran is the target for which Israel and the U.S are bloodthirsty in order to ensure Israel’s hegemony in the region. The post- Assad Syria driven by ‘U.S aspirations’ will not only be worse than Iraq, but will also allow the accomplishment of anti-Iranian proxy war under the U.S, Saudi, Qatar leadership, with the easy consent of Britain, France and Israel.
Not to forget what the naïve rebels who initiated the peaceful uprising wanted- a democratic transition ‘without’ any foreign intervention no matter how well-intentioned it might be. A ceasefire and political adjustment can include the rebels into the process of negotiation, who are being deliberately turned into terrorists. The idea of militarisation is still strongly condemned, even by the democratic organizations in Syria. The Syrians must accept the fact that they are still not the decision-makers of their country. A glittery illusion from the U.S in the name of human-rights has turned their homeland into a battlefield tilting in favour of Israel.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in Jahangir’s World Times- September 2012

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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in International Affairs


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