The Reasoned Review

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Posts Tagged ‘international

At War With…. Everyone

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The New York Times’ jingoist At War blog gives us a fantastic proposition, starting with the observation that Yemen is not the only “haven” out of which Al Qaeda might operate.

But there is nothing new about Yemen. It has long been a base for Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s family comes from Yemen, the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in Yemen in 2000, many Yemeni fighters were either killed or captured in Iraq, and, during the last decade, the US has helped the Yemeni government fight.

As a side note, will we ever forget this USS Cole incident? It happened a decade ago, and only killed 17 soldiers. I’m willing to bet more die per year in just run-of-the-mill accidents. Taking that aside, this intrepid blogger continues:

But there are many havens for radical militants who follow the violent tenets of Al Qaeda — from North Africa to Europe to Asia.

Today, the front line of the war against terror can be anywhere in the world. Mr. Abdulmutallab was radicalized, recruited and trained in three continents before attempting to explode the Detroit-bound plane.

Yes, that is the solution – instead of rethinking our parameters in this “war against terror”, we must infinitely expand them! But of course this would not be The New York Times without the assumption of the justice of our goals:

The war against terror did not begin with the Bush administration and it will not end during President Obama’s. The battle has started, but I do not see any end. The release of Guantanamo’s prisoners has not helped to deter attacks. President Obama’s use of soft power, the withdrawal plan from Iraq, his Cairo speech, his alteration of the semantics of war, by dropping the term “war against terror,” have not stemmed the flow of would-be suicide bombers.

Imagine! A slight change in semantics (following no real change in murderous policy) failed to staunch the anger against the US! Who would have thought?

Of course, all this war-mongering must have some kind of internationalist counterweight, so our intrepid blogger throws this line in at the very end:

The U.S. cannot unilaterally wage this war. The war against terror is universal; it has no specific zone because the entire world is its war zone. Who will be the next: Yemen or Somalia or Nigeria, or…….? It is a long list.

This is one of the most insidious articles I’ve ever seen out of the Times.

Written by pavanvan

January 7, 2010 at 11:29 am

India: A Political Vignette

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The city of Hyderabad shut down yesterday as secessionists declared a general strike and took to the streets, demanding their own state within India. Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as its capital, encompasses three separate regions – of them, Telengana has agitated for separate statehood for almost forty years. The issue has flared once again, and the new leader of the separatists, K. Chandrashakar Rao, is on day four of a fast-undo-death.

The situation has roused much anger and has bitterly, though unevenly, divided Hyderabad. Telengana separatists point to a laundry list of grievances against the Andhra government, claiming theft of water, land, and employment opportunities. Andhra supporters point to the lack of industry in Telengana, and allege that Telengana would not be a viable state.

Andhra’s capital happens to fall square in the middle of Telengana, further complicating the issue. A great majority of Andhra Pradesh’s industry lies in Hyderabad: its whole IT sector, construction, government, and much else. Most of the state’s wealth is concentrated in this city. The Telenganists are split on the matter – some propose to make Hyderabad a “neutral city” and capital of both states, others take a less compromising attitude and say Andhra should find a new capital.

General strikes have continued for a week, and the situation turned violent after K.C. Rao began his fast. The man is old, frail, riven with diabetes, and a chain-smoker to boot. No one expects him to last longer than a few more days. When rumors went round that his condition was critical, students of Osmania, the local university, went berserk and began torching cars and buildings. Since then several small riots have occurred, and upwards of 40 businesses were burned in a single night. Four students have also committed suicide in protest, one lighting himself ablaze.

Today, the central government flew a paramilitary force into Hyderabad to quell any further unrest. Mobs of students met them, and they engaged in a brief stone-and-baton battle, which produced 15 wounded, including five journalists. The city is on tenterhooks, wondering what will happen next. K.C Rao is now on the ninth day of his fast, and wild rumors now circulate as to his condition. Everyone knows that his death will only lead to rioting.

Written by pavanvan

December 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Dealing with the Axis

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Iran has agreed, at least in principle, to export its proto-nuclear fuel to Russia for inspection and enrichment. The deal would have Russia “re-format” Iran’s un-enriched nuclear fuel into a form which might be used for medical purposes. Although it still has yet to be finalized, most observers are hailing this development as a “positive step” in US-Iran relations.

According to The Huffington Post:

[The deal] would commit Iran to turn over more than 2,600 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. That would significantly ease fears about Iran’s nuclear program, since 2,205 pounds (1,000 kilograms) is the commonly accepted amount of low-enriched uranium needed to produce weapons-grade uranium.

So the deal would force Iran to export almost exactly the amount of LEU (low-enriched Uranium) required to make a bomb. Of course this would not prevent them from acquiring even more LEU at a later date, nor is it clear precisely how much LEU Iran currently has. Leaked reports of the deal suggest Iran would export almost 70% of its Low-Enriched Uranium, but this still remains to be seen.

The decision to send the Uranium to Russia also comes off as a bit strange. It is well known that Russia has been providing Iran with nuclear secrets at least since the 1990s, though they claim to have stopped.

From the Mid-East Monitor:

Russian-Iranian cooperation has been driven less by parallel aspirations or a common worldview than by reciprocal accommodation on certain issues. In the 1990s, Russia began providing Iran with arms and assistance building its nuclear program, while shielding it from the threat of multilateral sanctions. In return, Tehran largely acquiesced to heavy-handed Russian domination of the six predominantly Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Central Asia, in spite of its strong religious ties to the region (Azerbaijan, like Iran, is majority Shiite; the rest are majority Sunni), as well as significant ethnic and linguistic links (ethnic Azeris constitute a quarter of Iran’s population, Tajikistan’s official language is a dialect of Farsi)

So it’s easy to see why Russia would still want to have its finger on Iran’s nuclear program.

Ultimately I think this deal, assuming it passes, would constitute less of a victory for the US than its cheerleaders would suggest. But it does present a welcome change from the sheer bellicosity we have heard from the US on Iran of late.

Written by pavanvan

October 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Spinning in Iran

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The discovery of a second uranium enrichment site in Iran has again ignited the “debate” over nuclear strategy regarding that thorn in the Middle East. Once again, the conversation centers upon how best to prevent Iran from acquiring those dastardly weapons – no mention is given to why Iran should so badly wish to join the nuclear club, nor does our mainstream even entertain the notion of what might happen should they succeed. Iran must be prevented from “going nuclear” at all costs, according to the US media. Instead of a rational debate as to the causes and possible effects of this development, the newspaper-reading citizen is treated to a variety of doomsday scenarios and chest-puffing from our sensationalists-in-chief.

For instance, here is British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, doing his best impression of John Wayne:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, and called the Iranian facility “a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” Added Mr. Brown, “The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”

The Wall Street Journal’s front page features an essay entitled: “Israel’s attack plan for Iran”, while The Washington Post’s cryptic headline reads: “President’s focus shifts from engaging Iran”. We are left to guess what he is shifting to, although the article hints at “sanctions” and possibly “military action.”

Amid the bellicosity spewing from the western media, the question of why, after all the threats, after all the entreaties to the contrary, Iran should continue to desire a nuclear weapon remains unanswered. The unspoken reason is given to be sheer madness: Ahmadinejad is a “tyrant”, a “madman”, a crazy holocaust denier who wishes nothing more than the obliteration of Israel. That, and only that, is the reason for Iran’s nuclear ambition, and, as Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu thundered at the United Nations this week,

“The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

But let us suppose, merely as an intellectual exercise, that Iran is not run by lunatics, but instead by reasonably sane politicians who, like all politicians, seek only the continuation of their own power. Then, a few very good reasons to pursue nuclear arms come quickly to light:

1) Insurance against invasion

It is an unspoken rule amongst policy planners that “nuclear weapons states do not invade one another”, a fact most recently illustrated by the delicacy with which the United States has treated North Korea. Nuclear weapons are the greatest safeguard against regime change. Considering that Iran is still part of the “axis of evil”, and especially in light of the fact that the US currently occupies the countries directly to its east and west (Iraq and Afghanistan), there should be no surprise that Iran seeks some sort of insurance against a US invasion. Particularly when one considers what happened to Saddam – who, after all, did not posses nuclear weaponsthe choice to acquire nukes should not be a difficult one.

2) Deterrence against Israel

Unlike Iran, who has had to enrich their uranium surreptitiously, Israel, by the good graces of the US, has been allowed to acquire nuclear weapons quite in the open. They now posses a stockpile of unknown quantity, nearly all aimed at Iran, and the American and Israeli media abound with aggressive articles that rather plainly state Israel’s intentions toward Iran.

3) Domestic Prestige

Similar to India in 1974 and Pakistan in 1998, a nuclear detonation is generally a splendid propaganda coup for a ruling establishment which finds itself losing its grip on popularity. The Ahmadinejad regime, by any reasonable assessment, has only a slippery grasp on its population, if the massive protests a few months ago are any indication. Add to the mix skyrocketing inflation, massive unemployment, and a general feeling of mismanagement, and it is not difficult to see why Iran’s leaders should wish to bolster their domestic standing with a nice show of power.

4) Energy

Most scoff at this reason as mere propaganda, but it is a fact that Iran, like everyone else, is seeking alternative forms of energy. But as this is likely the least of their motivations, I have placed it last.

Taken together, these reasons do not quite justify a nuclear Iran, but they surely help to see the situation from their point of view. If we are to seriously understand the stakes of this issue we cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by poor caricatures from our yellow press.

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