The Geneva Talk has provoked controversies whether to make a nuclear deal with Iran or not. Iran’s nuclear project dates back to the shah’s era. The New York Times publishes the chronology of the nuclear development to present a historical overview of the ongoing negotiation.
It is well known that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi envisioned a post petroleum Iran, and the nuclear power plant project was a crown jewelry to sustain high economic growth during the Pahlavi era. Since the 1950s, the United States provided generous technological aid for Iran, and the shah joined the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968.
Things have changed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The project restarted in 1984 to reconstruct the plant in Bushehr. In the late 1980s, Iran joined the Khan Network to develop nuclear weapons. Also, Russia signed the nuclear contract with Iran in 1995. Though Russian President then Boris Yeltin pursued post Cold War coexistence with the West, his administration did not accept the American request to stop selling nuclear technology to Iran. In 2002, Iran’s opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq revealed the secret plan for nuclear bomb. The following map shows main nuclear facilities.
Despite continual crisis, UN sanctions started so late in 2006. Quite interestingly, Israel made a secret request to the Bush administration to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2008, as it did to stop Saddam Hussein’s program in Iraq. Instead, the Bush administration began cyber attacks to Iran along with Israel. The Timeline is helpful to understand the development of the decades long Iran nuclear crisis. I would like to talk about Iran’s nuclear threat furthermore later.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Geneva Talk has provoked controversies whether to make a nuclear deal with Iran or not. Iran’s nuclear project dates back to the shah’s era. The New York Times publishes the chronology of the nuclear development to present a historical overview of the ongoing negotiation.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
The Obama administration faces political deadlocks too frequently, like sequestration and government shutdown. Partisan divide among the American public arose during the Bush era, and that has grown tremendously ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated. The Tea Party movement emerged as widespread backlashes to the Obama presidency. Regarding frequent sequestration and current shutdown, experts tend to discuss ideological split and fiscal policy, but I would rather focus on public hatred to un-American aspects of Barack Obama himself.
No other Presidents have been called so offensively as Obama is. People call him a socialist, communist, Muslim, etc. Still, many of them suspect that Obama was not born in the United States, which disqualifies him to be the president by the constitution. Some racist sentiment may lead to those profanities, but public hatred to Obama’s un-Americaness is much deeper than this. As shown in his speeches at the inauguration, in Prague, and in Cairo, Obama’s apologetic foreign and domestic policy views are at odds with traditional American values.
Since his inauguration, or even during the election campaign for his first term, it was predictable that the division of the American public would be intensified if Obama took office. However, the media praised and dramatized him, simply because he would be the first Black American president in history. They went along with anti Bush atmosphere without giving consideration to political implication of Obama’s victory. Conservative popular backlash as typically seen in the Tea Party movement is an inevitable consequence of it. Regarding popular protests, I would like to mention two key points. First, they want to defend America of the constitutional value, which is assuring freedom from the government. Second, they stand against any actors that pose danger to their homeland of lofty constitutional ideals, and Islamic terrorists are the most critical threat for them. Popular profanities to Obama illustrate their emotion to him. Politics is not always a rational debate of a certain policy, and I would like to argue these two points, mainly based on Facebook and Twitter massages.
It is often understood that the Tea Party is a rally of fiscal austerity as it advocates a small government. This is quite superficial. Most of the participants and supporters of the rally are not experts but grassroots public. Rather than technical issues on the budget and welfare, their primary agenda is an America of constitutional ideals. Obama care is a symbol to attack his big government. Some experts like Timothy Gaston, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposes that Republicans focus on fiscal policy rather than Obama care (“Time to Compromise? How Republicans and Democrats View the Government Shutdown”; FixGov; October 3, 2013). It makes sense when the partisan battle is simply on the economy. That is not the case with Tea Party conservatives. Obama care is a symbol of his big government policy as northern spotted owl was in the Pacific North West forest in 1994 and polar bear is on global warming at present.
Constitutionalists are loyal to national foundation ideals, and they are very patriotic and affirmative to America. Certainly, unlike neoconservatives, they are no proponent of America as the world policeman. In Syria, they opposed the war not because of the budget, but the fear of helping Al Qaeda among the rebel. They may be isolationist when the US homeland is safe, but another Pearl Harbor attack like 9-11 makes them interventionist to defend the constitutional homeland of America.
From this perspective, fear of Islam among grassroots conservative is quite important. A typical case that illustrates such a sentiment is popular responses to Nina Davuluri, the winner of Miss America 2014. She is the first Indian American to win the title, but numerous offensive comments were tweeted on Twitter. For example, "Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you", "More like Miss Terrorist #MissAmerica", and so forth (“20 Racist Tweets About the New Miss America”; Indian Country; September 16, 2013).
Those tweets show ignorance and vulgar racism, as India is a key ally for the United States in the War on Terror. Moreover, some rulers of Islamic dynasties in India during the Middle Age were so extremist that they repressed Hinduism brutally, and even exterminated Buddhism. However, I would like to stress that such ignorance and vulgarity illustrate popular feeling much more vividly than splendid academic articles. The media and experts talk about antipathy to long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they dismiss voices against possible help to Islamic extremists Syria and profanities to Obama are deeply related to such sentiments.
Obama cannot manage such popular antipathy to his domestic and foreign policy. Even his fellow Democrats express dissent to Obama. Fifteen Democrat senators, including Michael Bennet, Jeff Merkeley, and so forth are frustrated with the political deadlock by the Obama care dispute, as they have elections in 2014 (“Obama Moves to Quell Democratic Dissent Over Health-Care Rollout”; Bloomberg News; November 7, 2012). According to the poll by Quinnipiac University, Obama’s approval rate has fallen to 39%, which is the lowest since his inauguration (“President Obama's approval rating drops to lowest yet in Quinnipiac University poll”; FOX News; November 12, 2012). Alex Roarty, Staff Correspondent for the National Journal, points out that the president who does not run for reelection has not recovered from the drop in approval rate (“Why Obama won’t Bounce Back”; National Journal; November 12, 2013).
On the global stage, it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who takes the top position of Forbe’s Ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People, and Obama comes to the second, followed by Chinese President Xi Jingping to No.3, German Chancellor Angela Merkel to No. 5, and British Prime Minister David Cameron to No. 11 (“Forbes Releases 2013 Ranking Of The World's Most Powerful People”; Forbes Magazine; October 30, 2013). Does this imply that the United States is no longer the superpower? Seeing the ranking carefully, you will understand that many American public officials and businessmen such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Microsoft founder Bill Gates occupy high positions on the list. It is not American decline but Obama’s poor leadership that has led to such a result. In a parliamentary cabinet system, a leader like him would have already gone. Remember the government functioned during the Bush era, though approval rate plunged after the global financial crisis.
Though having three years left to end his term, Barack Obama has become a lame duck president virtually, and it is time for American watchers to think of the next president after Obama. From current ruling Democratic Party, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is supposed to be the most likely candidate. However, the Benghazi Gate will give her heavy blow. This incident deterred Former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice from assuming the position of the Secretary of State, in the face of vehement opposition from Republicans on the Hill. In view of widespread naïve fear of Islam among the grassroots, this is a critical disadvantage. Will the Democratic Party still nominate her or someone else?
Also, it is vital to see whether the Republican Party rolls back or not. Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center at the Heritage Foundation, comments critically that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s cheer leading to Obama will harm the image of the Tory Party among its fellow American conservatives. In addition , Gardiner sends a reminder message that Conservative Cameron has little to learn from Democrat leftist Obama (“Cameron worships Obama, but Barack's win won't help Dave in 2015”; Daily Telegraph; 8 November, 2012). Gardinier’s comment is insightful even to Socialist French President François Hollande, as Obama has already become a lame duck. Can the Republican Party overcome the split between interventionist defense hawks and America first Tea Party? This is the key to their roll back.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Chinese authority arrested five Uyghurs for the bombing at the Tiananmen Square. But are they really responsible? Historically, Xinjiang or East Turkestan is the route to Afghanistan and Pakistan from mainland China. However, see the map of Al Qaeda franchise below.
The success of the surge in Iraq in 2008, Al Qaeda was supposed to be defeated. However, the Obama administration’s decision to pull out US troops from Iraq and subsequent Arab Spring helped Al Qaeda resurge and spread in Africa, including the Sahel, Kenya, and Somalia, and also throughout Arab nations. Their strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan are still formidable. The Boston bombing was inspired by their affiliates in Chehchnya. But Al Qaeda has not penetrated in Central Asia and the Chinese Xinjiang (“The al Qaeda Franchise Threat”; Wall Street Journal; April 30, 2013).
The Chinese authority says that Uyghur “terrorists” are trained in Syria. Are the suspects related to Syrian war rebels? No information has been provided. Alim Seytoff, Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, comments that it is quite unlikely that Uyghur citizens attack such a tightly secured place (“Rights Groups Doubt Uyghur Involvement in Tiananmen Attack”; Diplomat Magazine; October 30, 2013). Rabiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, argues furthermore that China can do anything to manipulate Uyghur “terrorism”, in order to repress independence movements in East Turkestan. On the other hand, Ilham Tohti, China based Uyghur economist, says that Uyghurs have no other measures except violence as Beijing took away all the channels for their self expression (“China suspects Tiananmen crash a suicide attack, sources say”; Reuters News; October 30, 2013).
Is China fixing up terrorism, or is Al Qaeda intruding to Xinjiang? At this stage, it is suspected that the Communist Party manipulates the terror attack.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Why does Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan make a problematic deal with such a notorious company? The Erdoğan administration pursues independent foreign policy from the West. But this is not the only reason for selecting the Chinese missile system over American and European rivals. China is more willing to meet Turkey’s requirement for technology transfer than the West (“WhyTurkey’s Buying Chinese Missile Systems”; Diplomat Magazine; September 30,2013). I would like to call an attention that copyright protection in China is loose, and they use stolen technologies from the West, Russia, and Israel. Therefore, I raise a concern that generous codes for technological transfer can help terrorists to acquire cutting the edge technology. Remember some terrorist organizations like Hezbollah are more well-armed than sovereign states, and the Erdoğan administration is helping such a dangerous company make money.
In addition to technological transfer, Turkey explores economic opportunities in the New Silk Road area through deepening relations with SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) nations. A landmark deal was made in 2010 between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese Prime Minister-then Wen Jiabao to boost bilateral trade. President Xi Jinping reaffirmed it in 2012 before he was inaugurated. Quite alarmingly, Anna Beth Keim and Assistant Professor Sulmaan Khan at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University points out that Turkey and China share concern with American supremacy, as a substantial portion of Turkish people regard the United Sates as an oppressive superpower.
However, Turkey’s position in Eurasia is complicated. Turkey’s membership in NATO is incompatible for full membership to SCO. Also, the Uyghur problem is a hurdle for Turkey to develop real partnership with China (“Can China and Turkey forge a new Silk Road?”; New Turkey; February 6,2013). One Uyghur activist in Japan was disappointed to hear the missile deal as it would help the repressive regime of China. Like America and Europe, Turkey accommodates some leaders of the World Uyghur Congress. Pro-Chinese foreign policy just in quest of independence from the West will ruin Turkey’s Afro-Eurasia policy which is closely associated with Turkic kith and kin.
The Turkish-Chinese missile deal symbolizes China’s aggressive marketing of arms export. In 2012, China has overtaken Britain to become the 5th largest defense exporter ("For China, Turkey missile deal a victory even if it doesn't happen"; Reuters News: October 2, 2013). Coincidentally, South Korea makes a similar deal with China as President Park Guenhye is pursuing more Asia-oriented foreign policy than her predecessors, which distresses the United States and Japan. It is not just a “Great Leap Forward” of Chinese arms export. China drives wedge into America’s Atlantic and Pacific alliances, and it targets the weakest link of both groups.
Like Yukio Hatoyama in postwar Japan, Erdoğan is an exceptional prime minister in modern Turkish history. Both of them defy their national fundamental of “datsu-a nyu-oh”, that is, to boost national power through joining the West and become first class civilized nations. But Hatoyama’s dream of the East Asian Community failed miserably, and so did Erdoğan’s good neighbor policy in the Middle East. Is Turkey making another mistake? That simply irritates NATO allies and their fellow Uyghurs. China may appear to be a powerful and reliable partner for Erdoğan, but it has no power projection capability in Turkey’s neighborhood. Only American and European allies can help Turkey in the Syrian crisis. Erdoğan must learn a lesson from Japan’s failure to ally with Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Nazi Germany had no power projection capability in the Pacific region, and Japan fought the war virtually alone.
Turkey’s primary partner is the West, and there is no alternative. AKP associates its political ideal with that of Christian Democrats in Europe, in order to placate the fear of Islamism among the EU public. Also, Turkey has no choice but abide by the Copenhagen criteria on human and minority rights, particularly with regard to the Kurdish problem. Finally, I would propose that Japan act with NATO allies to stop Turkey’s missile deal with China, because it is coincided with South Korea’s similar deal. The Abe administration advocates proactive pacifism and global-oriented diplomacy, and therefore, Japan, along with Western and Asian allies, should not allow China to target the weakest links.
Posted by Σ. Alexander at 3:05 AM
Monday, September 30, 2013
It is ironical. In the early 20th century, the West was overconfident to assume “white man’s burden”, which led to the zenith of imperial capitalism, and ultimately, the most devastating World Wars in history. But today, a reluctant and self denying West is responsible for global disorder. It is not just Obama’s superpower suicide. In Britain, the House of Commons rejected R2P action to Syria, which gave a blow to Cameron’s ideal of inheriting Blairite liberal interventionism. Also in Germany, people turn less willing to endorse European integration in view of the burden of helping financial crisis of Greece and Cyprus.
During the Cold War, a solid Transatlantic alliance was the anchor of the Free World. This helped American alliance spread across the Asia Pacific and the rest of the world. After the Cold War, NATO expanded their mission to Afghanistan, in order to manage globalized threats out of the Euro Atlantic sphere, typically Al Qaeda terrorism. But currently, both America and Europe are hesitant to use their hard power and soft power for global and regional public interest, and pursue their own recluse happiness. What happened with the West?
Both in the United States and Britain, people are tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Partisan politics and weak economy hurt their global policemanship. Autocracies like Russia and China, and terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda make use of such annoyance for their favor (“The weakened West”; Economist; September 21, 2013). The heir of Greco-Roman civilization and the creator of universal liberal norms is disposing the burden for global public interest.
Let me see country by country to explore why the West has become so reluctant to take leadership roles. First, I have to talk about the United States. In view of public hesitation to attack Syria, President Barack Obama remarked that the United States would not act as the world policeman on September 10 (“Team America no longer wants to be the World’s Police”; Washington Post; September 13, 2013). In an interview with France 24 TV on September 27, Xenia Dormandy, Senior Fellow at the Chatham House, commented that American military and economic power still overwhelm others, but the problem is how to use them and whether it sustains the will to use them for global interests. See the video below.
Despite the war wary atmosphere among the public, some American leaders are keenly aware of benefits of Pax Americana for the world and America itself. Senator Marco Rubio comments “History teaches us that a strong and engaged America is a source of good in the world. History also teaches us that the best way to preserve the peace is to have the military power to win any war. Our foreign policy should sustain and deepen our relationships with our allies, including those who are threatened because of their willingness to stand with America” (“Putin Is Wrong”; National Review Online; September 12, 2013). What Rubio mentioned here is the vital lesson of 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Then, I have to talk about Europe. At the World Economic Forum in 2008, Europeans questioned if Japan was a forgotten power on the global stage. However, I would like to remind them that their post imperial mindsets lower global public attention to Europe as well. For example, the media in Japan pay far more attention to South Korea than the EU and major European powers. Considering their political, economic, military, and cultural power, this is absurdly unbelievable. That is primarily because Europeans are too self-critical of assuming global responsibility, and become too inward-looking.
Even in Britain, that boasts a global power status through the special relationship with the United States, the House of Commons rejected intervention to Syria. Quite importantly, some Tory MPs such as Davis Davis, Crispin Blunt, and Julian Lewis voted against the Cameron administration for fear of an escalation of the war and confrontation with Russia (“Dozens of Conservative MPs defied David Cameron over Syria” Daily Telegraph; 30 August, 2013). Polly Toynbee, Columnist of the Guardian, comments that the decision at the Commons illustrates a farewell to Britain’s imperial legacy and Blair styled liberal interventionism (“No 10 curses, but Britain's illusion of empire is over”; Guardian; 29 August, 2013). But what is Britain that hesitates to police the world with America, detaches from the EU, and rejecting the imperial legacy?
Reclusive isolationism is on the rise in Germany as well. Despite the victory of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the last election, its neo liberal coalition partner Free Democratic Party lost seats (“Early results give FDP 4.7 percent, short of representation in Bundestag”; Deutsche Welle; 22 September, 2013) for fear of the borderless economy across the globe and within Europe. Germans chose Merkel because they are content with relative stability and prosperity in a continent of debt crisis and youth unemployment coupled with resurgent nationalism (“Why Germans May Stick With Merkel’s Steady Hand”; Bloomberg News; September 21, 2013). German voters are not so much interested in greatness, strength, and regional obligations of their nation, judging from their self-defensive response to the Greek and Cypriot financial crisis. This is a problem, considering Germany’s historic contribution to European integration.
I shall never endorse “white man’s burden” idea in the old days, but in presentday context, Europeans should play more proactive roles to manage global problems, and they should not be forgotten. The fatal consequence of such a reclusive and self-indulged West is a growing assumption among challengers like Russia, China, and Islamic terrorists, that neither America nor Europe is capable of boasting their primacy. An understanding of “Western decline” provokes them to behave more assertively and defiantly to current global system. As a result, the clash between the West and the rest of the world will be intensified. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent contribution to the New York Times (“A Plea for Caution From Russia”; New York Times; September 11, 2013) is an apparent declaration against American, and more broadly, Western preeminence.
The chasm between the West and the rest will place intermediary nations like Japan, India, and Turkey in awkward positions. These non-Western democracies are regional powers closely associated with the West. Japan and Turkey are too well known for successful modernization through the Meiji Restoration and the Kemal Revolution. After the World War II, both nations are natural member of the Western alliance. On the other hand, India has been assuming itself a leader of the Third World. However, since the inauguration of the Singh administration, India has been deepening economic ties with the West. The War on Terror has made India's relations with the West ever closer.
In view of a reluctant West and aggressive challengers, should intermediary nations act independently? Remember the failure of detachment from the West by the Hatoyama administration of Japan and the Erdoğan administration of Turkey. Quite interestingly, both Hatoyama and Erdoğan thought emerging economies in their neighborhood were more prospective partners than the West. But Yukio Hatoyama’s initiatives for the East Asia Community stalled due to China’s autocratic and expansionist policy. So did Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogul’s blueprint of “Turkey at the heart of the Afro-Eurasian sphere”, as Turkey failed to improve relations with Iran, Syria, and Iraq, and Islamic populist Morsi administration of Egypt was overthrown. Turkey realizes that NATO is the only reliable partner to manage the civil war in neighboring Syria, just as Hatoyama’s Japan learned the real meaning of US deterrence against Chinese threats. From this point, Japan’s former ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was wrong to manage the Sino-Japanese diplomacy through the instinct based on his businessman background.
The West is predominant in capability of setting universal norms and founding a global regime, which is deep rooted since the Greco-Roman, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment era. Seemingly powerful, challengers simply defy the West, but not thinking of supplanting its global supremacy. Russians claim their preeminence in the Eurasian heartland, Chinese do in the Pacific area, and others do accordingly. What intermediary democracies like Japan and India, need to do is to explore how to share burdens with the West, rather than to detach from it. The failure of Istanbul’s bid for the Olympics symbolizes fatal consequence of Erdoğan’s “independent” foreign policy. Rather, proactive engagement by intermediary powers will bolster the confidence of the West to assume global responsibility, and this is more constructive than the Hatoyama- Erdoğan initiatives.
Posted by Σ. Alexander at 11:51 PM
Sunday, September 15, 2013
When we talk of widespread unrest in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, we must not dismiss Iraq after US troop withdrawal in December 2011. The Obama administration failed to found a sound partnership with Iraq, which led to resurgence of Al Qaeda and growing sectarian violence there. Furthermore, worsening security in Iraq inflicts tremendous negative impacts on Syria. Sunni extremists from Iraq join the civil war, and Iran uses Iraqi air space to support the Assad administration. Moreover, Iraq experiences pose psychological constraints to R2P intervention in Syria. Therefore, it is necessary to assess security in Iraq after US withdrawal and its spill over effect in the neighborhood, including Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
To begin with, we must understand the overview of security in current Iraq. The public in the United States and the most of the world regards that the war in Iraq is over, but Senator John McCain endorses deep engagement with Iraq after December 2011. Retired General Jack Keane of the US Army and Director of the Critical Threat Project Frederick Kagan at the American Enterprise Institute, both of who are the architects of successful surge to defeat insurgents in Iraq, explored strategic implications of the unrest in Iraq along with Senator McCain. Let me mention their panel discussion at the AEI on March 19. See the video below.
In this panel, Senator John McCain, Retired General Jack Keane, and Director of the Critical Threat Project at AEI Frederick Kagan, assessed security in Iraq. The three panelists are top architects of the Iraq War and the surge to defeat insurgents, and they stress that Iraq policy must be beyond the partisan storm in a tea cup. While the public regards the war in Iraq is over after the withdrawal in December 2011, sectarian conflicts still continue there. In view of this, the three panelists argue that policymakers must learn lessons from Iraq and define the role of the united States.
For the lesson, we must understand that current turmoil in Iraq is a consequence of poor security coordination under the Obama administration. When the Bush administration signed the security pact with Iraq in 2008, the Maliki administration was ready to accommodate US 20,000 troops. However, quoting a comment by General Martin Dempsey, McCain said that the Obama administration “cascaded down” the troop level to 3,000, and such tiny scale was no worth for Iraq to maintain security. The problem is not just total pullout of US forces. The Los Angels Times reports poor contacts between Iraqi tribal leaders and US troops in the Gulf area allows the rise of sectarian violence and penetration of Iranian influence (“Ten years after Iraq war began, Iran reaps the gains”; Los Angels Times; March 28, 2013). The United States failed to show enduring will to defeat insurgents, and that has invigorated the enemy. Successful intelligence against the enemy is another lesson to be learnt from Iraq. Misinformation about Saddam’s nuclear weapons gives rise to psychological hesitation for active intervention, and helps widespread annoyance of war grow among the public.
As to the role of the United States, Keane pointed out that the Obama administration failed to respond to the Arab Spring, unlike in past historical cases like the collapse of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein’s invasion to Kuwait, undermines American leadership in the Middle East. Quite devastatingly, Iraq has become Al Qaeda’s new safe haven and Iran’s pathway to provide chemical weapons for Syria. Those weapons can be handed to extremists like Hezbollah from Assad. The spillover effect of Iraq so great that it is necessary to assess how much reliable Baghdad is as an ally of the United States.
The most critical issue to Iraq’s neighborhood is Iranian military aid to Syria through Iraqi air space. When Secretary of State John Kerry met Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to stop arms supply from Iran on March 24, he was simply frustrated because the Iraqi side was not so cooperative (“10 years after Saddam, is Iraq a U.S. ally?”; Foreign Policy—Passport; April 9, 2013). This is primarily due to insufficient armament and training of the Iraqi security forces. Former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker comments that the Obama administration’s precipitous pullout has ruined achievements made by the surge from 2007 to 2008, and Al Qaeda has come back to refound their bases in Iraq. Crocker says the clash in Hawija near Kirkuk on April 23 this year very illustrative, because Sunni protesters harbored insurgents against the security forces. Some Al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq like Jabhat al-Nusra, sends combatants to Syria to prevail extremist influence among the rebel (“Iraq on the brink, again”; Washington Post; May 1, 2013).
The number of casualties rose dramatically since then. Emma Sky, Political Advisor to General Ray Odierno of the US Army, says similarly “Driven by an imperative to end the war, the U.S. strategy for Iraq became lost in the transition as America disengaged rather than changing the basis of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship to a nonmilitary one,” in a commentary piece for the Center for a New American Security (“Iraq’s Sectarian Violence: Bombings Plunge Country Into Deadly Spiral”; Time; May 21, 2013). In July, the death toll number exceeded 1,000, which I the highest record since 2008 (“Over 1,000 Iraqis killed in July, highest monthly toll since 2008: U.N.”; Reuters; August 1, 2013). See the table below.
As Hezbollah does in Lebanon, a Shiite power broker Abu Mehdi Mohandis acts to help Iranian influence grow in Iraq. A proxy like him raises critical concerns among Iraqi politicians and Western diplomats (“Ten years after Iraq war began, Iran reaps the gains; Los Angels Times; March 28, 2013). For Iran, Syria has been the only consistent ally since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Most of the Iran’s Arab neighbors supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iran Iraq War, for fear of Shiite revolution expansionism. Iran gives military and financial aid to Syria, including chemical weapons program, because Iran needs an ally along with Hezbollah to resist the United States and Israel, according to Karim Sadjapour, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (“Iran’s Unwavering Support to Assad’s Syria”; Combatting Terrorism Center; august 27, 2013). Considering such indispensable strategic interest, there is every reason for Iran to conspire unrest in Iraq to maintain the passage for Syria.
A destabilized Iraq poses spillover effect to another big neighbor Saudi Arabia. Domestic sectarian conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites are brought to Saudi Arabia. Economic inequalities intensify Sunni-Shiite clashes in Saudi Arabia. Shiites reside in oil rich Gulf areas, rather than in urban areas like Riyadh and Jeddah. However, they are marginalized to live in mud brick houses, while oil companies earn petro-dollars. Quite alarmingly, Shiites are more loyal to their religious leaders than to the state of their citizenship (“Iraq conflict reignites sectarian rivalry in Saudi Arabia”; Baltimore Sun; April 27, 2013). This implies that insecurity in Iraq can prevail throughout the region, and the rise of extremist populism as seen in Egypt can augment the crisis furthermore. The Geostrategic importance of Iraq must be understood from historical perspectives. Abbasid caliph al Mansur moved the capital to Bagdad in 762 to expand the sphere to Iran and the Mediterranean area, while maintaining contacts with the Arabian Peninsula.
In order to improve security in Iraq, Former Ambassador Crocker suggests that the United States strengthen the leverage on Iraq through providing training and armaments to the Iraqi security forces, and facilitate secretarial level communications based on the Strategic Framework Agreement between both countries. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari visited Washington mid August in view of the worst death toll record since 2008 in July, and said “There is greater realization in the Iraq government that we should not shy away from coming and asking for some help and assistance”. He is critically concerned that Sunni terrorists from Iraq join the rebel to fight against Allawite Assad regime (“Iraq seeks help from U.S. amid growing violence”; Military Times; August 16, 2013).
The experience in Iraq has made the global public reluctant to intervene Syria. In an interview with BBC, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair comments that the Commons vote against the attack to Syria gave a blow to the alliance with the United States and R2P mission in the face of mass murder with chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Unlike Iraq, the use of chemical weapon is apparent in the case of Syria. Therefore, Blair focuses on the problem of extremist participation as he talks about psychological hurdles for intervention (“Tony Blair: Iraq War made UK 'hesitant' over Syria intervention”; BBC News; 6 September 2013). Actually, war opponents in the US Republican Party are extremely concerned that Obama’s attack against Assad will help extremists rather than pro-Western freedom fighters. The rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt startled conservative citizens in the West as Morsi enacted the Sharia law.
Regarding the Iraq effect on Syria, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfovitz also says the use of chemical weapons is apparent in Anderson Cooper 360 of CNN on September 4. He advocated that America act in accordance with the Reagan Doctrine to assist those who are fighting for the American side, and help their endeavor by arming them. Wolfovitz says that “boots on the ground” is not necessary in Syria, in reply to war annoying public opinion. Quite importantly, he said that the United States should have responded to Saddam’s repression against the Kurds shortly after his loss in the Gulf War. This is a critical point to think of the moral case for American interventionism. See the above video.
When we talk of the risk of intervention in global crises, we must also consider the risk of non -intervention. Obama’s disengagement policy in Iraq worsens the civil war in Syria and political transition in the Middle East after the Arab Spring. Considering the geostrategic position, stability in Iraq is the key to the war in Syria, democracy promotion after the Arab Spring, and American preeminence in the Middle East. Furthermore, comprehensive Middle East strategy is necessary, rather than acting on stopgap and country specific basis.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
In face of chemical attack to noncombatant citizens in Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a resolution to protect them to the UN Security Council (“Syria crisis: UK puts forward UN proposal”; BBC News; 28 August, 2013). However, as a result of the revolt by Tory rivals and backbenchers (“Dozens of Conservative MPs defied David Cameron over Syria”; daily Telegraph; 30 August 2013), the Cameron administration lost the vote on military intervention in Syria at the House of Commons by 285 to 272 (“UK's Cameron loses parliamentary vote on Syria action; Reuters; August 29, 2013).
As widely argued, Iraq experience casted a shadow on Syria. Also, I have to mention psychological gaps between cabinet and party executives who believe in Britain’s burden as a major power, and non executive MPs who regard domestic accountability and much more important than national power and prestige on the global stage. Let me talk about it briefly. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minister Cameron and Lord Paddy Ashdown who chairs Liberal Democrats General Election Team worry that the House vote precluded Britain from harnessing the world’s 4th largest military power in such an international crisis, which will diminish its global influence. On the other hand, Labour leader Ed Miliband said that Britain adopt nonmilitary measures to pressure the Assad administration to abide by international norms. See the videos below.
Prime Minister Cameron
Labour Leader Ed Miliband
Cameron blamed Miliband for siding with Russia and ruining the alliance with the United States. Though Cameron stressed that Britain explore to bring maximum pressure on Syria through international organizations (“David Cameron accused Ed Miliband of 'siding with Russia' over Syria”; Guardian; 30 August, 2013), the rise of isolationism within the Conservative Party makes Britain reluctant to overseas engagement, which pleases authoritarian opponents like Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin (“Britain and Syria”; Economist; August 30, 2013). Lord Paddy Ashdown laments that their defiance to Tory leadership has isolated Britain from both the United States and Europe.
Prior to the vote in the Commons, the British government issued a report on chemical weapons use in Syria, in order to assume the burden to stop proliferation of such destructive arsenals from Syria. Isolationist Tories rejected Cameron’ moral case for military intervention (“The heir to Blair: PM makes 'moral case' for attack on Syria”; Independent; 28 August 2013). By refusing to assume a special role as a major Western democracy and simply shaming the incumbent administration, what sort of Britain do they want?
Posted by Σ. Alexander at 10:32 PM