Thursday, February 22, 2007

A few notes about the situation in Iraq

There has been a lot of media attention focussed on the timetable for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. Many writers in the liberal British media are projecting this as a victory against what they term as Blair's blatantly illegal war. To their minds, Tony Blair's media machine has now been damaged and his exit from power is imminent. It is curious to note that there is no negative commentary on the British withdrawal from American sources. After all the British are withdrawing at a time when the Americans are keen on sending in more troops. So why aren't the Americans making a royal fuss about it as they did when Spain and Italy left? Our American friends are curiously silent.

It is quite interesting also to hear the British commanders speak with confidence about the ability of Iraqi national forces to hold Basra. However it is hard to forget that a just a few months ago, the British were actually at war with the Basra police. Some remarkable changes must have occured in Basra since then, as it appears the British now have a totally different take on things.

Speaking of a different take, ofcourse there is the Iran angle, how can there not be one? now we are seeing a very serious beating of the drums vis a vis Iran aren't we? As in any game of brinkmanship it is impossible to tell whether the Americans are serious about their threats and when the Israelis join in this chorus, the level of sheer amusement in this becomes beyond what can be had from even ordinary TV. This kind of media posturing is much more entertaining than the boring headlines in Pravda.

That leaves us with our Pakistani friends. We have now heard whispers in the media about Pakistan-Saudi nuclear ties and some ties between Pakistan and other Sunni states in the region. Now I have to whisper too, this is a subtle threat to the Shia of Iran but it is also a way of signaling Israel that Saudi Arabia will be second to none when it comes to going nuclear.

There is also a more open threat from the Saudis which suggests that if the American abandon the fledgeling democracy in Iraq to Shia hands, the Saudis will be forces to act. Also concurrent with this are media reports of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Basra training Hezbollah and Hamas operatives. Yet another fine thread that connects Israeli security to the mire in Iraq.

It is generally believed that as long as Israel sings in the American chorus, the Americans ensure that Israeli-Saudi disputes remain civil. If Iran openly declares hostility towards Israel, Saudi leadership of the Middle Eastern Islamicate, comes into question. Iran thus creates pressures on Saudi-Israeli relations as it forces the Saudis to be assertive. An old and tired dynamic, that is currently infused with the rhetoric of WMD and democracy.

Yes there are deeper threads in here that I have glossed over deliberately too I might add. Yet can someone explain to me why is it that whenever discussions on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline gain momentum, the war chorus becomes shrill. And while mouthing off about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the same experts put in a word or two about Iran obstinate behaviour on the oil market. Is the disconnect not apparent to the experts? if this is a terrorist axis of evil state? why do you want to buy oil from them?


At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yet can someone explain to me why is it that whenever discussions on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline gain momentum, the war chorus becomes shrill."

1)is the converse also true that whenever there is a talk of war the IPI pipeline gains momentum.

2)Some of us think that Iran becoming a nuclear state will be in our interests , there are many reasons
a) saudi-iran will be forever be tied in a game of one upmanship
b)iran-pakistan will too be forever be tied in a game of one upmanship.pakistan will never tolerate another islamic state with nuclear weapons
c)let the saudi & pakis face the music what they dish out to other.
d) our priorities should be to have peace around our borders that will help in India's rise.
all the above can be challenged.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi anonymous,

Is the converse really true? After all MSI was replaced for being too enthusiastic?

I think from India's perspective, the problem is not so much Iran going nuclear. Whatever Iran's contributions to Islam, it is impossible for an Indian to ignore Iran-India cultural interactions.

Sure having a nuclear Iran will complicate matters in the middle east and it could frustrate access to the persian gulf, but if we never enter the persian gulf to get oil, where is the question of disruption? yes if you have oil from Iraq, Bahrain, and Kuwait, okay this is a big problem for you, but if you never go there then what's the big deal?

Will there be problems for Saudi Arabia and Israel? yes most certainly, there will. As an Indian I would not wish this threat to hang on anyone. Who would Iran hate more? Israel with whom it has no cultural conflict? or Saudi Arabia, for whom Iran has a deep seated cultural angst? Why is it that a student in Iran can say that she does not bother to remember the prayers in Arabic because she feels Allah certainly speaks Persian?

The bigger question for India is what if any implication does this have for the NPT. It is correct to note that the North Koreans have torn a hole in the NPT, the Iran-Israel-Saudi Arabia combine will make that hole bigger, perhaps creating enough room for the US to say, the NPT is no longer effective to deter tests? Perhaps then the US could test its RRW citing the possibility of Allah's boys having a nuke? It could be.

Ultimately as Kalam Sahab said, and I quote,

"The motive behind technology denial and NPT and MCTR was to control the market forces and gain domination"

So when Iran gets a nuke, the domination relationship will change and with it the need to control market forces in a particular way will also change.

We all know that the NPT is outdated way of thinking about proliferation issues. Dr. Baradei himself has said such things, but ofcourse the ayatollahs of non-proliferation did not listen to him. The Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons will be another nail in its coffin.

If the desire is to handle Iran, then I feel the key thing to note about Iran is that whatever the internal divisions in Iranian society, the Iranians have a distinct sense of culture and will come together against an external aggressor. This makes them very different from Afghanistan or Iraq. People should understand that when dealling with the Iranians, using escalatory language is really counter-productive. There is a definete downside to letting the warriors do the talking in certain parts of the world. Not everyone likes seeing a centurian tell them what to do, it may work in Pakistan, but in a place with a little more sense of culture, a civil official is much better placed to handle things.

At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick,
1)I think that saudi arabia will the first country to lead a charge against Iran,Pakistan next and Israel last.
2)I am bit confused what is policy of pakistan vis-a-vis iran is? Are they following a policy of preventing iran from going nuclear or joining hands with Iran in preventing another war or is it they are following a policy of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds?
3)It is this policy of Pakistan vis-a-vis Iran that interests me?
Will nuclearisation of Iran help contain pakistan. Most certainly, but your comments will be appreciated.I may be very worng too.
4)If Iran nuclearises or not we will get affected. Ther are sizeable number of Shia and sunnis in India. I do not want them to be at each other throats!!!

At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick,
agree that an Iranian bomb will certainly drive a big nail in to the coffin of NPT.If that is the case then Iran must certainly go nuclear.It will be interesting to note your reaction to my earlier post.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger maverick said...


Yes Saudi Arabia will lead the way with Pakistani assistance.

With regards Pakistani actions in Iran, I think you present a very interesting question. I don't have an answer but I have a guess.

I think that Pakistan supports Iran's ambitions to the extent that Iran intends to rile up the US, Saudi Arabia or Israel. Beyond that the Pakistanis have little interest Iran.

I feel they may adopt a run with the hares and hunt with the hounds strategy here purely because it maximises the amount of information they can extract on Iranian intentions. From a US perspective, a Pakistani source on Iranian intentions would be valuable because of this reason.

I don't see how Iran going nuclear by itself will do anything significant to contain Pakistan. Please elaborate on your suggestion, I may be missing something obvious.

Will the Iranian nuclear expansion cause friction between Indian Shia and Sunni adherents? I don't know, it is too early to say, a lot will depend on how the celebrations are organised. However if Saudi Arabia leads the charge to counter Iranian nuclearisation, then yes the Sunnis will definetely have friction with Shias in India.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I have a very weird view of the NPT.

I don't really care about it so long as it does not get in our way.

If we get the nuclear fuel we need to make our reactors work without interruption and we get the technology we need to mass produce high quality reactor components, then I really have nothing bad to say about the NPT.

Global nuclear disarmament is a good thing, it is something we can participate in if our security concerns are met. The NPT in its current form has become an obstacle to global nuclear disarmament because it has provided P5 all sorts of excuses to avoid reducing the size of their aresenals.

The demise of the NPT would create much needed new thinking on the disarmament issue, but fundamentally unless it facilitates the supply of more nuclear fuel and technology to India, I see its end as being premature.

Ofcourse I see no sense to arrest Iran's strides towards civilian nuclear power. In this age of global carbon pollution, I find a desire for civilian nuclear power a perfectly rational civilizational impulse.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Pangloss said...

regarding Pakistan vis a vis Iraq, it's important to remember that Pakistan is joined to Iran through Baluchistan. If you review the news for the past couple of months you'll notice that Pakistan has been very interested in reducing the Baloch insurgency while essentially blessing the Taliban takeover of FATA and the Waziristans with a grant of independence. At the same time Musharraf is trying to shore up relationships with India on the Kashmir side. I read this as a Pakistani attempt to get on Iran's good side while readying themselves to oppose U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

In other words, Pakistan is protecting its flanks as it gets ready to join with Iran in an unconventional war against the NATO forces in Afghanistan.


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