Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shadows of the Great Game

A series of depressing incidents including the killing of a tribal leader, Sardar Akbar Bugti has opened a new debate about the future direction of this region. Asia has been a focus of the geopolitics for centuries. The Great Game was used as a term to describe the struggle between Briton and Russia which were vying to colonize this region since Tsarist Russian Empire in early nineteenth century. Britons were kicked out of Asia after a successful freedom movement resulting in the creation of Pakistan. However, Russians under a communist regime, continued to colonize Muslim countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in Central Asia.

Americans displaced Briton after its demise in the Second World War to start the New Great Game. Americans forged a close alliance with Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey during the Cold War to contain Russians. People of this region turned against Americans because of their support for dictators. A power vacuum was left after the demise of the King of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi because of a popular uprising under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. Russians invaded Afghanistan to fill this power vacuum but their defeat in Afghanistan led them to free several Muslim countries colonized in Central Asia.

The Russian withdrawal from Central Asia has created another power vacuum. As a regional power, Pakistan is in an important position to fill this vacuum with the help of its cultural and historical links with Central Asia.

Meanwhile, China started to rise as an economic superpower. It will become the biggest economy of the world almost in a decade if it continues to grow at the current pace. Americans did not like the rise of China. They took advantage of the September 11 and surrounded China by invading Afghanistan. They also established bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Americans are trying to build an alliance against China in Asia with the help of Japan, Australia, and India. Chinese reacted to this alarming situation and signed various treaties with neighbouring countries such as Pakistan. China also accelerated the development of Gawadar port with the help of Pakistan as a wider strategy to counter the American influence in the region.

China is also trying to counter the American influence in Asia by building new alliances such as Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). It consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, while Iran, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan have an observer status. SCO asked the USA to set a timeline to withdraw its military from the region in 2005.

On the other hand, Americans are trying to intervene in the Middle East to control oil supplies vital for China’s growth. Meanwhile, Iran has emerged as a stronger player after Israel’s defeat in Lebanon by increasing its influence in the Middle East. The current situation in Balochistan can also be seen in the context of an American attack on Iran.

Central Asian countries and West China are closer to occasion through Pakistan. The new port of Gawadar is one of the best routes to import and export their goods. Indian economy is also growing rapidly and it is heavily dependent on Pakistan to import cheap energy. If Pakistan refuses to allow Indians to go through its territory then they will not be able to have a workable land link with the Middle East or Central Asia. Gawadar is under constant focus of global powers because of its strategic location.

It would be harder for Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Central Asian countries to negotiate with economic giants. European countries were facing the same problem and they formed the European Union (EU) to overcome this problem. However, the West does not like to see other races and regions to prosper. The West will try to twist the idea of collaboration among Asian Muslims as an attempt to revive caliphate. Its propaganda machine will use the usual themes of “war on terror” as an excuse to halt progress in Asia. It will also try to encourage its puppets to divide Asians on ethnic and sectarian lines.

Continuous hurdles are created to stop Turkey becoming a part of the EU. If Turkey joins the EU then it will have a huge impact on the Western policies because of its big population joining millions of Muslims already living in the EU. Muslims have to be integrated into regional organizations such as the EU to share economic benefits or they will be forced to form their own union. One-way or the other Muslims will share economic benefits around the world. The Western attempts to marginalize Muslims will eventually fail.

If Turkey is left out of the EU then it will have no choice but to join an Asian union. The union of Asian Muslims can be called caliphate in a cultural sense or an Asian union in a secular sense. The name does not make any difference. The main goal is the prosperity of Asian Muslims.

Anti-Asian forces are trying to destabilize Balochistan to harm Asian’s interests in the region. The best option for Pakistan is to try to resolve current situation by using political means to avoid further complications. It is obvious that the pace of development cannot be stopped and the people of Balochistan will be the primary beneficiary of this development. However, there is a need to explain this to Balochis so they can join the wave of development with enthusiasm. Once the suppressed masses of Balochistan feel the taste of an economic prosperity then no one will be able to turn the wheel of the time back to old days of suppression.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cricket under siege by Islamophobes

Xenophobes in Australia are morphing into Islamophobes because of a late swing after September 11. However, this late swing is not because of ball tampering rather it is due to the paranoia caused by invisible beamers. Schizophrenia, which causes paranoia, delusion, and hallucinations, is the most likely illness for seeing unreal objects or actions.

The former Australian cricketer, Dean Jones became berserk because of paranoia. He called the South African Muslim cricketer Hashim Amla “the terrorist” during second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, while he was commenting live on air. He said, “the terrorist has got another wicket” when Alma took a catch. Ten Sports owned by Abdul Rahman Bukhatir sacked him immediately. However, his Australian employer 3AW Radio refused to sack him.

If controversial Australian umpire, Darrell Hair cannot prove that there was a case of a ball tampering in the Oval Test then he will fall in the same category along with his compatriot Dean Jones. Former England captain, Ian Botham said, “They needed to make a statement specifying exactly why the ball was changed, what they had seen, who was involved and how often.” Hair needs to answer all of these questions before he is allowed to supervise any match. It is vital to find out the history of xenophobia in Australia to understand the nature of characters involved in these matters.

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard refused to call Dean Jones a “racist” and said, “you cannot be too careful in relation to links between one particular racial or religious group and terrorism”. What Howard will say if a former South African cricketer becomes less careful and calls an Australian cricketer a “White Terrorist” for killing innocent Iraqis and native Australians (Aboriginals)?

Australia has a long xenophobic history of more than two centuries. When English colonised Australia, they declared it a “Terra Nullius” - a no man’s land, so they could occupy the land of Aboriginals without offering any compensation. “Terra Nullius” applies when a piece of land is unoccupied or uncultivated according to European law. However, Aboriginals occupied Australia and they were using the land for day-to-day survival. English settlers used European law to justify colonisation.

These settlers committed the genocide by killing most of Aboriginals in Australia. The legacy of genocide is still hounding Aboriginals and they are in dire circumstances. They have high levels of unemployment and low life expectancy. Further, they have low levels of income, education, and health. White settlers used to take away Aboriginal children by force from their parents so children can be westernised. Aboriginals were not considered as a citizen of Australia until 1967. They were required to take permission before travelling in any part of Australia. They were converted to Christianity by force and they were not allowed to use their own language to eliminate their culture.

The Boxer, Anthony Mundine is one of distinguished Aboriginal sport stars. He converted to Islam, however he paid a big price for his conversion. The World Boxing Council (WBC) stripped Anthony Mundine of his ranking because of his remarks about September 11. Mundine said, “They call it an act of terrorism, but if you understand the religion and our way of life, it is not about terrorism, it is about fighting for God's laws and America brought it on themselves what they have done in the history of time”.

He was a rugby player, but he left the game because of continuous racism and discrimination. He decided to follow the footsteps of his father and decided to become a boxer. However, becoming a boxer does not mean that discrimination will stop. He faced a barrage of abuse by racist crowed which was supporting a white boxer named Danny Green. Street brawls erupted after the match in which dozens of people were involved. Many victims suffered severe injuries and ended in hospitals.

The tradition of racial slurs and discrimination is common in Australia. The former Opposition Leader of New South Wales, John Brogden described the wife of former premier Bob Carr as “mail order bride”, because she was a Filipino. Australian Prime Minister, John Howard is not strange to controversies. He is extremely conservative, pro-war, and an ally of the American President, George Bush. He is a populist and tries to exploit fears of people by talking about terrorism and unauthorised arrivals of immigrants.

Dean Jones labelled Muslims as “terrorists” and his Australian employer did not sack him. But, when Mundine criticised the USA, the World Boxing Council stripped of his ranking. This is a classical example of double standards. Islamophobia and discrimination are widespread in the Western societies. It is exercised in all areas of life such as education, housing, and employment.

Islamophobes can act in the presence of thousands of people and live cameras. Imagine what they will do when no one will be watching them. Think of a situation where a Muslim dares to seek a job in an institution in which Dean Jones have to make a decision to award the job. Jones will kick out the Muslim after labelling the Muslim jobseeker as a “terrorist”. Jones should stop commenting on cricket and become the President of the USA because he fulfils all requirements.

Current events pose a greater responsibility on Pakistani cricketers. Islamophobes are out there to get them. However, Pakistani players should be assured that they have done nothing wrong. The whole nation is supporting them to protect their reputation. They have to fulfil their responsibilities as role models by upholding higher standards of conduct. Pakistani players can handle any situation through their dignity and wisdom. This nation will always protect them from Islamophobes who believe in discrimination and racism.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Iran in the new Middle East

A clear picture has started to emerge after the cessation of hostilities in the Middle East. The USA after losing its global propaganda war has started to lose its proxy wars in the Middle East while its Deputy Sheriff, with all of its military might, has failed to muster its will on Hezbollah. This leaves limited options available to Americans to counter their demise in the region, as their dream of “the new Middle East” has collapsed spectacularly. This dream has turned into a nightmare and it has been buried beside the infamous “New World Order”.

This conflict has changed the dynamics of the region. It will force Americans to think hard before dealing with Iran. However, history shows that Americans have failed to learn lessons form their debacles. What would be effects of this conflict on the American strategy to deal with Iran?

Iran has emerged as a stronger player after Israel’s defeat meanwhile Iran has also increased its influence in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki also criticised Israel for its actions in Lebanon, which is a clear sign of his pro- Hezbollah stance. He cannot afford to annoy Iraqi Shias by supporting Israel. Americans are trapped in a quagmire of “the new Middle East”. If they try to attack Iran then they will face strong opposition in Iraq because of radical pro-Iranian elements.

Americans also know that in case of a ground invasion of Iran they will be hunted down by Iranian guerrillas. Like Israelis were hunted down by Hezbollah’s. Iran has more population and resources than Hezbollah. Americans will not like to create another Vietnam. Public opinion in the USA is turning against the policies of the Bush Administration. The defeat of the pro-war, pro-Israeli, three-term incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, in Democratic Senate primary, by a novice politician Ned Lamont is a clear indication of a new trend.

The former US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage said, “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defence Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million”, according to US Journalist, Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker magazine. Hersh also broke the story about Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.

Further, a European intelligence officer told Hersh, “The Israelis have been caught in a psychological trap. In earlier years, they had the belief that they could solve their problems with toughness. But now, with Islamic martyrdom, things have changed, and they need different answers. How do you scare people who love martyrdom?” Iran has the same “psychological trap” ready for Bush. Is he prepared to encounter it?

The other trap, which Bush should be worried about, is regarding oil prices. Oil prices will go through the roof because of an attack on Iran. It will have a profound effect on the world economy. High oil prices will lead to a worldwide recession.

The Western people usually spare their politicians for killing hundreds of thousand innocent civilians around the world. But, they will not digest a global recession because of the American adventurism in Iran. They are very particular about the effects of political decisions on their income.

Before the Israeli defeat, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was pushing the idea of “the new Middle East” where every move would be made with the permission of Americans. She used all tricks available to delay a cease-fire. So Israelis could crush Hezbollah to reduce Iranian influence in the region. Do these tricks show true intentions of Americans behind their plan of “the new Middle east”?

During this war, Americans supplied weapons to Israel to kill civilians in “the new Middle East”. However, the American President, George Bush was trying to cover it up by diverting the attention of the world away from the reasons of the conflict. The reason behind this conflict is the Israeli occupation of the Arab land and the American desire of a regime change in Iran. Bush said, “we've launched a forward strategy of freedom in the broader Middle East .... But they also know that young democracies are fragile and that this may be their last and best opportunity to stop freedom's advance”.

The forward strategy of freedom is an American ploy to suppress people in the Middle East with the help of dictators to secure oil supplies. Therefore, Israeli attack on “young democracies” of Palestine and Lebanon is a way to stop “freedom’s advance” in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Bush kept on spinning the truth by claiming that Israelis had won the war against Hezbollah to show that Iranian influence had declined. However, Israeli public opinion does not agree with Bush’s claim about a victory.

Israelis are shocked that they cannot defeat Iranian ally. Infighting and calls for heads to role have intensified in Israel after the cease-fire. Israeli army's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, sold his shares hours before he went to advise the Government to go for a war. Why he sold his shares? Did he worry that effects of war would reduce the value of his shares? One of the most prominent Israeli newspapers Haaretz called for an “immediate resignation” of Halutz for failing to defeat Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert also confessed the defeat by saying that "there have been failings and shortcomings” and “we must ensure that next time things will be done better."

It is obvious that the American plan of “the new Middle East” has collapsed. However, Americans and Israelis can learn a lesson from this experience by allowing Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination. They can also avoid confrontation with Iran and resolve outstanding issues within the framework of established international standards. This time a preemptive war against Iran will cause an irreparable damage to the USA.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blair’s Dilemma of Future Foreign Policy

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s speech to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles was full of rhetoric and historical errors. He failed to address the issue of forming a coherent foreign policy in his wide-ranging speech. Surprisingly, he talked about the political and economic demise of the West. He also echoed the clash of civilisations, while asserting that the Western values were superior, hence, these values should be imposed on the Muslims. The focus of his speech was on the ways to suppress anti-imperialist sentiments and desire for true democracy among the Muslims.

Blair conceded setbacks in the “battle against global extremism” and said, “the US has suffered heavy losses ... in Iraq and in Afghanistan.” Interestingly, he did not mention “war on terror” and wished to defeat “reactionary Islam” before the political and economic demise of the West. Blair appeared to be in a dispute with the American President, George Bush and neo-conservatives, who preferred a hawkish response.

Blair’s dilemma is about achieving strategic goals without putting the prestige and resources of the West on the line. In fact, Blair has conceded a setback by showing “willingness to negotiate or compromise”. He tried to conceal his weakness by using tough language and sounded like a politician delivering a concession speech after a landslide electoral defeat.

Blair said, “The purpose of terrorism - whether in Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon or Palestine is never just the terrorist act itself. It is to use the act to trigger a chain reaction, to expunge any willingness to negotiate or compromise. Unfortunately it frequently works, as we know from our own experience in Northern Ireland, though thankfully the huge progress made in the last decade there, shows that it can also be overcome.”

Apparently, he used abstract language to convey message to aggrieved parties. Moreover, he showed the “willingness to negotiate or compromise” without mentioning any party, while using Northern Ireland as an example. Who he wants to negotiate with and what issues he likes to compromise on? However, it seems that his “willingness to negotiate or compromise” is too little, too late. He should have courage to show his cards and come clean on this issue.

Blair predicted the demise of the West and said, “the future in which Europe and the US will no longer, economically or politically, be transcendent.” The West will not be a major player in the world affairs due to the rise of China, India, and other Asian countries. This will happen partly because of the aging population in the West and transfer of jobs to Asian economies. This raises an important question about the maximum limit of time left for the West to enforce its will on the Muslims. “Within 20 or 30 years” China and India will emerge as major powers according to Blair. The West does not has much time left to implement its will on the Muslims.

Blair made a huge assumption that the Muslims around the world have short memory and that somehow using fanciful language can fool them. His speech was full of contradiction and historical errors. He vigorously defended the Israeli policy in the Middle East. He also praised the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who was responsible for Sabra and Shatila massacre in which thousands of civilians were killed in Lebanon in 1982.

Because of their brutal policies, USA and UK suffered heavy losses in many parts of the world such as the Middle East and Afghanistan. The West in general and USA in particular, were under the impression that they could impose the “New World Order” without any opposition, after the end of the Cold War. However, it is impossible to take control of the world’s affairs due to its dynamic nature. The West comes to grips with the reality due to the resistance presented by the Muslims and the rest of the world against its unilateralism.

The focal point of Blair’s speech was the “changing the values systems” in the Muslim countries and to convince the Muslims to adopt the Western values. He echoed the controversial theory of the “Clash of Civilizations” by Samuel P. Huntington by saying that “our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair”. However, it is obvious that most of the Western policies are unjust and brutal. Is Blair trying to defend the Western policies of neo-imperialism and Islamophobia?

The claim about the superiority of the Western values can be tested by looking at the economic, political, and social conditions of the minorities in the West. It is evident that minorities in the Western countries are in a dire situation. The existence of ghettoes in the Western cities is a living example of these policies. These ghettoes are full of non-white minorities such as Arabs, Africans, and Asians. They have high levels of unemployment, low-income and low-literacy rates. Does Blair want to promote these policies in the Muslim countries?

The West has successfully suppressed non-white communities currently living in the Western countries. It has also tried to do this to the rest of the world as well, regardless whether they are Muslims or Non-Muslims. Due to these policies, suppressed countries regardless of their colour and religion are united against the West. Because it wants to suppress any country, which dares to disagree, North Korea and Cuba are good examples. The West tries crude ways of aggression and war if it cannot control the situation by suppression. The killing of millions of civilians in Vietnam and spraying of chemical orange is a vivid reminder of this brutal policy.

Blair also talked about promoting “democracy” in the Muslim countries. However, by looking at the history, it is obvious that the West has played an active role in suppressing people around the world by supporting dictators such as Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Ferdinand Marcos, and Augusto Pinochet. Nowadays, most of the dictators in the Middle East are regarded as close allies of the West because they are ensuring unrestricted supply of oil to the Western countries.

The West has always championed the cause of the democracy. Nevertheless, it has refused to accept the democratic verdict of Palestinians to elect Hamas as a governing party. The West put economic pressure on the Palestinians to accept its will. However, Palestinians refused to budge and as a result a go ahead was given to Israel to attack the Palestine and reoccupy parts of Gaza strip. This is not the only time when the West rejected a democratic verdict. Islamic Salvation Front won the elections in Algeria in 1991 but the military cancelled second round of the elections and Islamic Salvation Front was banned, however, the West did not take any action in support of the democracy in Algeria. The West accepts the democratic verdict of the people only if pro-Western parties are elected.

It clearly shows that the Western values are not just and fair in case of the Muslims. It is obvious that the West has very limited room for manoeuvring under current geopolitical conditions. What options are available to the West to implement its agenda? It can go on a confrontational path and invade countries like Iran and Syria. But, the question is whether it is worthwhile to go for an invasion. The other issue is, how much it will cost in terms of money and human life. Is the Western population willing to go for a war and sacrifice?

If the West goes for a war to implement its will on the Muslims then it will become weaker due to huge costs involved. If it does not go for a war and try to maintain the status quo then it will be bogged down into current conflict until its eventual demise. The chances are that the status quo will hasten its demise.

Therefore, the only feasible option for the West is to learn to co-exist and resolve grievances of the Muslims as soon as possible to slow down its eventual demise.

The West got a very ambitious agenda, which it was unable to implement during centuries of colonization. What makes it think that it can be implemented now? Perhaps, the thought of the ultimate demise has triggered the desire to impose its old agenda.