Obama asks Arabs to target ISIS before Netanyahu rants on Iran


The appointment of Rashad Hussain, an American of Indian origin as the new coordinator of counter terrorism communication, popped up in the course of a three day summit at the State Department on violent extremism. President Obama went out of his way to correct the impression that the US was at “war with Islam”. That, he emphasized, in an “ugly lie”. A Home Ministry official represented New Delhi at the Summit.

The President’s panacea for all nations present at the meeting was to put an end to violence by “expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue.”

Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, have in an analysis in the New York Times quoted Elisa Massimino, President of the advocacy group Human Rights First who attended the meeting: “We’re sitting in that room with representatives of governments who are part of the problem – if the President believes what he’s saying, then the actions that these governments are taking are undermining our supposedly shared agenda. That has to stop. Or we can have summits every month, but we’re not going to win.”

There is another problem. Autocratic regimes have taken advantage of the war on terror by settling scores with their internal opponents in the guise of fighting the war. The obvious example is the Egyptian military regime cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood. The reverberations of such a crackdown will be felt wherever there is a sizeable presence of the Brothers – Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Gaza. Recruiting agents of the ISIS then go into action.

Prominent among Obama’s audience was Bahrain. It has a mind boggling human rights record. The regime treats 90 per cent of its population as the “opposition”. Years ago, about the time that the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, US diplomats had brought about a possible rapprochement between Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Shaikh Salman, leader of the Shia opposition. Before an agreement could be inked, Saudi Armoured Personnel Carriers rolled down the 37 kms causeway linking the oil bearing Qatif region of Saudi Arabia with Bahrain.

It must be billed as an important Summit, but the White House will have to cope with a degree of credibility deficit with whatever US says on the Arab world these days. Misadventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya have all left US reputation in tatters.

Consider Syria for a moment. The Syrian opposition was falling apart and there was still no sign of the promised regime change in Damascus. Having learnt a hard lesson in Iraq, the US, one thought, would be realistic in Syria. Instead we had the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, demand with an imperious wave of the hand, “Assad, move out of the way”.

The US had occupied Iraq for a decade, destroyed all the instruments of the State, killed Saddam Hussain, only then was it able to depart, leaving a once perfectly, efficient dictatorship in a disgraceful mess. How then did Washington imagine that fierce and brutal cross border terrorism alone would affect regime change in Damascus?

Last June when the ISIS appeared with the suddenness of revelation, why did Obama drag his feet? Asked why he delayed taking action against the ISIS, he did not mince words. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, had fallen foul of the US because he would not sign an open ended agreement exempting US troops from Iraqi law. He had to be shown the door. ISIS was at that stage advancing unchecked towards Baghdad. “Our strikes against ISIS at that stage would have relieved pressure on Maliki.” Military action against the ISIS picked up only after Prime Minister Haider al Abadi had replaced Maliki. Did the ISIS for that brief spell become a political tool? So, under certain circumstances terror is a diplomatic asset?

Then why blame Prince Bandar bin Sultan who for sheer audacity takes the cake. Having failed to affect regime change in Damascus, he turned up in Moscow on a hush-hush mission. He took Vladimir Putin’s breath away with his blandishments – take everything under the sun but give me Assad’s head. Then he made diplomatic history. The President of Russia would be able to hold winter Olympic games in Sochi without any fear of Islamic terrorism. Most terrorist groups, Bandar promised Putin, were under his control.

The incorrigible Prince’s continued excesses caused the Kremlin to leak the confidential minutes to a Lebanese newspaper.

Clearly, one purpose of the Washington summit was to focus on ISIS, Al Qaeda and other Salafi groups as the principal targets for his Arab coalition. There has been some dithering on who the real enemy is. Obama would like to settle this matter. He has administered something of a fait accompli. This would preempt his bete noire, Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington to address the US Congress, completely bypassing Obama. Netanyahu has found a willing partner in the Speaker of the Congress, John Boehner, who, in fact, has issued the cheeky invitations.

A foretaste of what the US Congress will hear was available to a select audience in New Delhi. Israeli Defence minister Moshe Ya’alon spent the evening persuading his listeners that all the world’s problems emanate not from ISIS or Al Qaeda but from that fount of all evil, Iran. This when there are rumours galore that a nuclear deal with Tehran is on the cards.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Changing American views on Israel may determine peace outcome


To win the March 17 Israeli elections or to postpone them (because he may lose), Benjamin Netanyahu is turning heaven and earth. Last month’s Israeli air strikes killed six Hezbullah commanders and an Iranian General in the Syrian town of Quneitra.

The purpose was to invite retaliation. Warlike atmosphere would block Secretary of State John Kerry with his skates on towards a nuclear deal with Iran.

What will be his next gambit? Some big skirmish in Gaza or Southern Lebanon or further afield. But after his March 3 meeting with Obama?

One may be forgiven for asking what came of the meeting of 21 world leaders in London, who swore to fight the ISIS? Those fighting the ISIS on the ground are Iran, Syria, Hezbullah, precisely last month’s Israeli targets. And now Jordan has been dragged in. At what possible cost? American public see the ISIS is the biggest threat to US interests, not Iran as Netanyahu does.

Whether Netanyahu wins or loses, Israel for the time being looks the most secure real estate in the region. But how long does a nation look safe when everything around it is falling apart?

Israel was once a softer place, with gentle Kibbutz and, in the shadow of Mount Hermon, Fa Giladi seemed a wonderful place to read, reflect, write. Peace was broken occasionally by shelling from Habbariya in Southern Lebanon. Both, Palestinian resistance and Israeli determination, seemed reconcilable – at some future date.

Then, suddenly, everything began to look irreconcilable once the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. Even before that date, Ariel Sharon had moved into Lebanon. That was the beginning of the gradual decline of the world’s most elegant city – Beirut. Nabi Beri’s Shia Amal gave way to the religious, militarized Hezbullah. So, Israeli action splintered Lebanon into its religious components.

A decade later when Bosnian brutalities were daily fare in the global media, a senior French official told me in Paris: “The balance of power had shifted against the Christians in Lebanon; it was now shifting against the Muslims in Bosnia.”

At the time that Sharon was in Lebanon, the Soviets were in Afghanistan. Began the biggest manufacture in history of Islamist Jihadists on a scale that would match Pope Urban’s crusades beginning 1095. Zbigniew Brzezinski said he would not worry about some “stirred up Muslims” so long as the West won the Cold War.

That may have been Brzezinski’s perspective. But various world capitals, New Delhi included, were gripped by deep anxiety. The Indian Foreign office, like the rest of the establishment, was split down the middle. The Foreign Secretary was waiting for the coup to succeed in Moscow, while his colleagues celebrated when Boris Yeltsin appeared atop a tank in Moscow.

The inauguration of bandit capitalism in Russia was a benign act, we were told. The other day I saw Bill Clinton sharing his deep understanding of Russia with Fareed Zakaria. “Yeltsin was a much better President than Vladimir Putin”. The entire New York Times reading public of the free world would agree.

Was it Western triumphalism or pique, I cannot be sure, but one by one targets were picked from among the Arab states once in the Soviet bloc. Saddam Hussain’s picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine as Hitler. He may have been worse than Hitler, but the thousand mile road he laid from Amman to Baghdad was like a continuous billiard table. Hospitals, schools, colleges, universities thrived.

The best fish in the world, Masgouf, caught from the Dajlah (Tigris) and roasted on open fires along the river is now a delicacy lost. When I looked for my favourite Masgouf hut two years ago, I was told they now get their fish from a nearby lake because the river fish had turned scavenger. This was discovered by a customer who found a baby’s finger in the stomach of the fish.

I would not miss my delicacies if there were other compensations. But no. Totally secular Baath socialism was replaced by acute Shia-Sunni divisions.

After a decade of what Obama thought was a pointless involvement in Iraq, he was, at work again, this time in Damascus and then in Tripoli, destroying a secular and a moderate society to be replaced by rampaging Islam.

Nothing will ever measure upto Beirut, but Damascus too was quite a “markaz” for gracious living. Tripoli would not be boring if it had bistros and bars lining up the splendid boulevard. But it could boast being a city without Mullahs; the most educated in the neighbourhood could lead the Friday prayers. Its military academics for women, an efficient cradle to grave welfare system were not to be sniffed at.

Iraq, Syria, Libya, possibly because of their earlier Soviet affiliations, needed to be cleansed more thoroughly. In the new landscaping of the region, Israel looks fine. But, is it really? Surrounded by dysfunctional societies which were once the region’s most efficient states. Dictatorships, yes, but functional, unlike Afghan democracy where the winner is declared CEO and the loser, President.

Israel must know that a sort of fatigue is setting in all around at its persistent intransigence. I commend to my Israeli friends that they read Shibley Telhami’s opinion poll on shifting ideas in the US about Israel, something even Thomas Friedman is worried about. There may be a shaft of light.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Political terrorism travels to India


I will be failing in my sacred duty if I do not sensitize my countrymen to the phenomenon of political terrorism. The progenitor of this terrorism is the Western World. Earlier in the Cold War era, regime changes in target countries by the intelligence agencies like the CIA and KGB were effected by assassination of leaders, who could not be bought, blackmailed or intimidated.

As democracy proliferated, external agencies began to manipulate its very basics to cause instability in the target country for furtherance of economic, religious, social and geo-strategic agendas. These basics include the right to dissent and oppose. The dissenters or protestors are paid and prodded to go to such a limit that the State is forced to resort to ‘minimum force’ to restore order and stability. This is then exploited to cause destabilization through the paid agents. Such agents come in form of ‘Kejriwal’.

Can you imagine any political player in US, UK or Germany coming to India before elections in their respective countries for unstated political purpose or for garnering political funding? How many times has Kejriwal travelled abroad for these purposes under various garbs like lectures and awards? How does the West benefit from his lectures? How does the West or Dubai benefit from giving him awards for which he travels executive class? This is hard to explain because Kejriwal as is apparent is endowed with rare cunning but little or no intellect or administrative and political experience.

Now look at the level of manipulations by the West. On assuming the real power in India, Sonia Gandhi constitutes a National Advisory Council (NAC). The members of NAC are all ultra-leftists running NGOs on foreign money. These NGOs specializing in economic and social inadequacies in India do not have the sensitivity of addressing grave social and economic problems in their benefactor countries. That the abuse of step-daughters by their fathers is rampant in US, that one out of every three women in the same country have been victims of rape, does not make their hearts bleed. Rightly most of these foreign funded NGOs are now under the scanner of the government. The mentor and longtime colleague of Kejriwal was a prominent member of Sonia Gandhi’s NAC. Thus, Kejriwal had access to Sonia Gandhi.

Madam Sonia wrote to the government that Arvind Kejriwal serving in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) should not be posted outside Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal’s wife has also been serving only in and around Delhi for more than 20 years as an IRS Officer. This cannot happen without his proximity to powers that be. It may be mentioned that Kejriwal’s wife has a monthly salary of nearly Rs.1.5 lacs, yet her husband says that he cannot afford a decent shirt (Aap Ki Adalat) and his cars have been provided as gifts by his admirers. Indian democracy as far as conmen are concerned could not have hit this low. By these standards, even Arun Gawli, the underworld don, who made a political bid, seems better.

Now look at the temerity and superciliousness of the Europeans in dealing with Indian democracy and institutions. When trial of Binayak Sen, charged for conspiracy against the State for his links with the Naxals, was being conducted, members of the European Commission descended on the Court at Raipur. Their presence was overbearing. Some shameless Indians facilitated their trip. No sooner was he granted bail, he was appointed as a member of the Health Committee in Planning Commission. It was done at the behest of the same powers. It also showed the link between the Naxals and the most powerful person in the country during UPA regime. Therefore Kejriwal’s nexus with Naxals are not mere allegations!

It is pertinent to mention that the CPI (Maoists) in India has become a model for international communist movement. An international conference in support of Peoples’ War in India was organized in Hamburg on 24-November-2012, which was attended by two dozen countries, which included Italy, France and Germany. French and Italian tourists have been held in India for nexus with Maoists.

When there is an unconstitutional arrangement of a real Prime Minister and a working Prime Minister, it provides a field day for creation of political leverages by various vested and inimical interests. Issues such as ‘environment’ are used to kill projects and let inimical powers steal the march. This is because of inherent political vulnerabilities of such abnormal ruling arrangements. The political party that such elements ride on in the name of ideology and tradition, is only a tool for remaining in power. Such individuals obviously cannot share their international blackmail or agenda with their closest colleagues. It is here that organizations like the NAC come in handy. Two strong pulls in opposite direction, i.e. one towards the Naxals, and the other towards overbearing superpower was evident. Both the pulls have been brought to bear on Kejriwal.

A series of scams had hit the UPA regime, therefore an extraordinary method had to be found to wriggle out of the situation. It is at this juncture that Kejriwal, who had been nurtured by some members of the NAC was unleashed on credulous India. He and his goons attacked every institution. The issue of black-money abroad, which had gained unprecedented momentum was obliterated and was supplanted with a complicated ‘Jan Lokpal’. There was never a demand for the same in the public sphere. As the movement started, Kejriwal’s main benefactor slipped out of the country. The benefactor’s son was granted a rare appearance in Parliament against all rules. The script was very clear, i.e. bury the old party and create a new one … a secret to be shared not with the party but only in the family and few NAC members.

Till today Kejriwal has not uttered a word against his chief benefactor and the son. He did target the son-in-law, but so did the benefactor’s favourite TV channel. It was intriguing. It later emerged that the son-in-law was targeted to put him in his place, when he had just begun to develop political wings.

Complicit in the entire script were some television channels. Some of the TV channels displayed inexplicable hysteria in covering the ‘Jan Lokpal’ movement, throwing all economic considerations to winds. The anchor of the most hysterical channel later joined the Kejriwal’s political party and is a blot on journalism. Unfortunately the noble profession of journalism in India has been hijacked by a few extortionists, beholden to foreign powers.

In the run-up to Delhi Assembly elections, one senior journalist of a TV channel is believed to have said in an editorial meeting that Kejriwal’s victory has to be ensured by hook or by crook in order to save democracy. Regular news TV viewers can easily decipher this channel, as it is now not even pretending to be a news channel but a political propaganda machine for Kejriwal. Some of the other subverted channels are little more guarded. These are the same channels, which in run-up to the Lok Sabha elections constantly bombarded the audience with the photographs and questions as to who would be next Prime Minister – Rahul, Modi or Kejriwal? It was another matter that Kejriwal’s party was not in the wildest calculus.

The moot question is that a party, which enjoys the support of ‘Aam Aadmi’, why should it resort to funding from abroad?

The Western countries harp on ‘march of democracies’. It is not for any altruistic reasons. In their reckoning it renders countries vulnerable for political manipulations and regime changes. On the eve of the Republic Day in 2014, Arvind Kejriwal as Chief Minister of Delhi had asked for permission to stage ‘Dharna’ in Jantar Mantar. India being a democracy allowed him to do so. Who then allowed him to change his dharna venue from Jantar Mantar to the nerve center of Republic Day Parade? Who facilitated his dharna by allowing him supply of food, mattresses and blankets? Who allowed him to abuse the very institution of ‘Republic Day Parade’? Who allowed him to target the home minister and say that it is he, who as Delhi’s CM would decide where ‘Shinde’ will sit? Was it a ploy to decimate the oldies of a particular party and supplant it with new one by Kejriwal’s chief benefactor?

Kejriwal had given a call to lacs of people to congregate at the dharna site with the clear objective of taking over the nerve center of Delhi’s governance, i.e. the area of North Block, South Block and Rastrapati Bhawan. It was the honourable President Pranab Mukherjee who saved the day by issuing an ultimatum.

What Arvind Kejriwal and his benefactors have demonstrated that how the entire democracy of India comprising 543 elected members of parliament representing a huge country like India can be held hostage by one party and his goons at the best of external and internal inimical powers. This methodology has been witnessed in many parts of the world in the recent years.

Whether Arvind Kejriwal is elected CM or not, he will hold the Central Government and the country to ransom in a similar way as he did in January 2014. His tirade against the Election Commission and EVM machines is a part of that plan in case he loses the elections. He will try to create mayhem, if he loses the elections.

The country, especially Delhi must realize the nature, extent and scope of political terrorism, and anybody who subverts the system of ‘for the people, of the people and by the people’ during elections or after, needs to be treated as anti-national. Such anti-nationals, in power or outside, are dangerous to integrity and stability of India.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military PerspectiveandMilitary Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)