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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Nawaz Sharif’s jejune address

Richard Nixon’s book “leaders” is a stunner; the book expounds upon the men that changed the world. Probably, all those leaders on whom  Nixon dwelt were men with immaculate traits. One hallmark which was common in almost all was their ability to speak with authority. Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle and Douglas MacArthur spoke with such panache that all were awe-inspired. Forget about the likes of Churchill or Yoshida for that matter; let us talk about the man at the helm in Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. For the sake of simplicity, the piece will not even try to compare Sharif’s oratory prowess with that of the above-mentioned leaders, but will instead shed-light on his much-awaited speech to the nation, especially his “strategy” as regards power crisis and terrorism.
The man in question took over  the coveted crown of premiership for the third time in June this year. This was possible because his party overpowered not only the PPP but also PTI,  led by cricket legend, Imran Khan Niazi.  A lot has happened since then: the spate of terrorism has gained momentum; the menace of load shedding is seemingly not near its end. The nation was waiting for the veteran’s speech. Finally, the ice has been broken now.  For us to analyze his speech, there is a need to find out his oft-repeated sentences and/or claims that he made in pressers and interviews.  His speeches and interviews always had extensive references of the Kargil conflagration and Vajpayee’s  highly -touted bus journey to Lahore. Thankfully and much to my delight he eschewed or probably forgot to allude to these incidents.
Sharif started-off by needlessly reminding us that he was elected PM in June this year, but much to his credit admitted that lambasting from outside is easier than facing the bullets in the battlefield. Yes PM, governance is not a dime a dozen!
“On the one hand, terrorism threatens our nation. On the other, load shedding has destroyed us. Negligence of past is to blame.”  One cannot disagree with Sharif over this statement, but don’t we all know that these issues have marred the progress of our country? What was the need to rue on the blemishes made by previous regimes? Those who voted-out the Pakistan People’s Party knew that these issues existed and that they were not resolved. The voters wanted panaceas for these issues, not a diagnosis of the problem. As the English idiom goes that there is no use crying over spilt milk, Sharif should have hit the bull directly by giving plausible solutions, which he did but not before flaying the previous governments. Announcements as regards the completion of Nandipur  and Neelum-Jhelum projects were good additions in his speech, for they were solutions and political point scoring. His resolve to inaugurate electricity projects in Gaddani was another conspicuous part of his speech, which had little interest for the public. Let us not get into the merits and demerits of these projects, but one thing that is evident from the speech  that Sharif was talking gingerly on the issue. He looked unsure as to when his “team” will alleviate the grave and ever-brewing power crisis. This part of his address  should not make us upbeat at all!
Now, let us analyze his thoughts on counter-terrorism.  He , like any other Pakistani said that his heart goes out for the people who have lost their lives owing to brazen attacks by terrorists. Neither he was daring enough to name death squads like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LEJ ) and others, nor he delved on a broad strategy to put an end to this epidemic.  One can understand that tactical matters are not delved-upon in these addresses, but a policy is delineated. He vowed to end terrorism by talks or by coercion shows that talks will be the mainstay of his government’s CT policy. Negotiations require an assortment of tactics, wherein you show the other party your strength. Mahinda Rajapakhsay famously said that “I will negotiate with Tamils, but not Tamil Tigers”.  It is not hard to figure out the importance of being in a strong position during any kind of negotiations.  There is hardly anything to talk about with those recalcitrant beasts who take pride in killing 50,000 Pakistanis. The talks will inkle towards a victory for the TTP, for talks tantamount to a failure to uproot non-state-actors.  Army officers at the Staff College and the National Defense University are bombarded with sayings that “never reinforce a failure”. Dialogues, be it in Shakai , Bajaur or Swat failed to deliver the goods. The very areas were cleared by military operations. But operation is not the only panacea; military action is a just a part of a comprehensive CT strategy , something which the incumbent government  has not devised as of now. “We can’t let Karachi fall to terrorists.” Agreed; we must not allow but how will the government impede the terrorists, if I may ask Mr Sharif?
I am glad that you showed cognizance and concerns as regards Balochistan, but many like me must have been left in a huff, for you gave no direction as to how Balochis would be mollified and BLA would be pummeled or cut to size?
In sum, Nawaz Sharif’s speech leaves a lot to be desired for. The speech accentuated on problems rather those much-needed solutions. If he actually wanted to enumerate the impediments to us becoming the Asian Tigers then certainly the target killings of shias and Ahmedis; India’s nefarious activities, both on the borders and inside the country also merited his  attention.
I don’t mince my words and would therefore vociferously and unequivocally say that this speech has left me in a huff.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

India must hold her horses.

The trajectory of Indo-Pak relations has been pretty simple: a collision course has been followed by both these neighbors over the past 66 years.  Let’s not go into the main conflict and the crises that emanated from that. The piece will shed light on a few sardonic antics shown by the Indian defense forces and government/opposition off-late. In the  process this piece will  deride some hollow arguments made by the ever-growing clique of liberals in Pakistan.
Civilian supremacy is something that many of us covet; often Indian Army is given credit for being truly professional, for they haven’t as yet subverted the government. Yes indeed, it is something creditable however; we need not compare the milieus of both the countries. The difference was there for all to see. Had Nehru appointed General P N Thappar as defense minister, for instance sake , things might have been very different. One can disagree with many of the assertions made by General Ved Prakash Malik in his book “Kargil: from surprise to victory, but one remark is striking and thought-provoking as regards the Indian Army being apolitical .   “The credit goes not only to the military and its traditions , but also to the political leadership …….. The political leaders or the party members did not make any attempt to politicize the armed forces.” This is what our liberals and Army bashers should understand. However , the Indian military has  out of her own accord  sabotaged the peace process on a few occasions , be it putting their foot down over the Siachen Accords or Brasstacks or even Cold Start for that matter. For instance, in December, 2012, the  then commander of the Northern Command, Lt Gen K T Parnaik disparaged Kayani on his overture of withdrawing from the Siachen Glacier. Things took shape for the worse amidst façade of peace-building and conflict-resolution efforts.
It was 4th January, 2013 when the green shirts under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq defeated a formidable Indian side in the 2nd ODI to take an unassailable lead in the ODI series. Just after a few hours the Indian Army resorted to unprovoked firing on the Line of Control (LOC), which resulted in the martyrdom of Naik Aslam of the Pakistan Army. However, it was seldom reported in our otherwise-vibrant media. Probably, they were showing too much fidelity to the cause of Aman Ki Asha. However, on the 8th the Pakistani troops allegedly beheaded an Indian soldier in the Meander sector. The Indian media known for its  war mongering , launched a virulent attack on Pakistan day-in day-out. Is it conceivable that troops from any side can cross the LOC and behead a soldier, given the fact that there are bunkers and barbed wires on both sides of the LOC? If the alleged beheading turns out to be true then it is not only barbaric, but shows the ineptitude of India’s Northern Command, which was then commanded by Lt- Gen K T Parnaik. As expected, things conflagrated with a hostile statement from the Indian Air Chief, Browne; a 2-hour long press conference of General Bikram Singh. However, the General cleverly dubbed these issues as “tactical in nature”. But talks of effective vigil and dress down of local formation commanders meant that India was up to something. The leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj demanded 10 Pakistani heads. Sense prevailed on our side, as we did not see our military counterparts giving such statements. Politicians from our side were seemingly not concerned! The low-profile response from Pakistan was a good move, for statements carry weight in the Indo-Pak theatre. A localized skirmish at the LOC has every likelihood to escalate to the international border, especially keeping in view India’s Cold Start Doctrine, something which merits another write-up.  The scuffle of January showed that Indians were utterly aggressive and Pakistan was acting gingerly.
Fast-forward to May, Nawaz Sharif even before becoming PM for the third time made his intentions clear as regards his India policy. Not only he invited his Indian counterpart on his oath-taking ceremony, but also decided to institute an inquiry commission on the infamous Kargil face-off. Many critics raised eyebrows over these benign overtures made by Sharif, since India had again shown that how much they value a proven terrorist: Sarabjeet Singh was given a grand funeral. Nonetheless, the border spats in Ladakh kept the Indian establishment busy for some time and moreover, both PM’s agreed to meet during next month’s General Assembly Session of the UN.
Now, finally let’s delve on the current and ever-increasing crisis. Pakistani Army allegedly crossed the LOC and 5 miles inside Indian Poonch ambushed an Indian Army patrol and killed 5 soldiers. The Indian Defense Minister oscillated at the whims of hawkish elements of the Indian opposition and media. His initial statement called the attackers as terrorists, dressed in army uniform. Within 48 hours Antony took a 360 degree turn against Pakistan. In other words he played to the gallery. He said “It is now clear that the specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in this attack when a group from Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) side crossed the LoC and killed our brave jawans,” Furthermore, he said that these acts will alter their approach and posture on the LOC. “"We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan side of LoC without support, assistance, facilitation and often, direct involvement of Pakistan Army," Antony said. The visit of the Indian Army Chief to the LOC with a mandate for a calibrated tactical response is showing its effects. The Indian Army and BSF resorts to unprovoked firing daily . It is not about the LOC only, but over the past few  weeks the BSF have been  violating  the sanctity of the Working Boundary in Sialkot and Shakhargarh, injuring innocent Pakistani citizens. What will India gain from these skirmishes, recriminations; vandalizing PIA offices; attacking the High Commission in Delhi and blocking the “Dosti Bus”?  India’s overall strategic designs are beyond the scope of this article. However, the fact is that these aggressive signals would not be a boon for South Asia’s strategic stability. Pakistan has been far more cautious in its approach and rightly so. As nuclear powers both country’s should act responsibly. It does not mean that we will reach a nuclear threshold over this hyped and spiced-up LOC ingresses, but the fog of war is a reality, to say the least.
A quote for all commanders, especially those of the  Indian Army.
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Helmuth von Moltke.
Hawkish plans will be countered with more hawkish ones.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Iranian Nuclear Program: Issues, solutions and views of Pakistan.


American foreign policy is based upon the infamous Monroe Doctrine and in fact more importantly on the ideas of President Woodrow Wilson. Before, going into that let’s first establish the fact that the international system is anarchic, brutal and based upon national interest. Thus, the realist worldview takes primacy over liberalism, which calls for cooperation, diplomacy and disarmament. Woodrow Wilson always aspired America to put more weight in the international system , but the rationale was for humanitarian purposes  and the endorsement of democracy. However, it is imperative to fathom the fact that America has always looked after her geo-strategic interests under the garb of liberalism. For instance the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine were not enunciated due to any love lost for Greece, Turkey and other European countries, but because the Americans had to counter Communism. The reason why American foreign policy is being discussed here is that it has a direct bearing on the Iranian Nuclear conundrum. The program which began under the aegis of the “Atoms for Peace” program made great strides before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Things turned for the worst not only between USA and Iran, but the latter’s nuclear program was also hampered. Iran has maintained her stance of developing a peaceful nuclear program; Iran considers herself well within the ambit of the Nuclear Non –Proliferation Treaty of 1968. This paper will shed-light on the Iranian Nuclear Program; the suspicions attached to it; the approach of the United States and Israel. Lastly, Pakistan’s view, albeit a bit insignificant would be the mainstay of the paper. The paper will be divided into 3 sections. The first will deal with nuclear weapons and deterrence, so as to provide a conceptual framework for discussing Iran’s penchant for the bomb, if any. The second part will succinctly trace the genesis and development of the program to-date. The last part will look at the views of other countries, to include Pakistan. Apart from that some portion will look into negotiations, sanctions and possible surprise attacks.

Nuclear Deterrence:

Karl Von Clausewitz said that war is an extension of diplomacy by other means. He was very right, but the Clausewitzian war accounts for the  horrors  of war through the  famous concepts of fog and friction. Before going into the realm of nuclear bomb, it is imperative to talk about wars and battles.  A war is a series of battles fought between states with a clash of vital interests. Battles are fought in different Forward Defended Localities on or near the border. A war can be limited or all-out, conventional/ sub-conventional or a counter-insurgency. All these kinds of wars are fought by conventional means: forces and weapons employed to target the enemy on the battlefield. Threat perceptions compel countries to maintain conventional forces; however, when an adversary becomes numerically too superior, a country feels insecure. The concept of security dilemma comes into the equation. What do nuclear weapons do? Without going into intricate details, we should only focus on the concept of deterrence for the consumption of this paper.
Deterrence is the ability to dissuade an adversary from doing something repugnant to the security interest of the state. This is done through the possession of credible capability of causing unacceptable damage to the adversary. Deterrence is based upon willingness, capability and communicating the very capability to the nemesis, so that it believes that a likely action would be fatal.  The types of deterrence are listed below:
1.       Sufficient Deterrence (MAD with multiple capabilities)
2.       Extended Deterrence (Nuclear umbrella to allies)
3.       Graduate Deterrence (proportionate to threats)
4.       Minimum Credible Deterrence
5.       Existential Deterrence (Deterrence as policy vs condition)
6.       Non Weaponized Deterrence [1]
Deterrence primarily hinges upon second-strike capability, which happens to be the ability to withstand a surprise or a pre-emptive strike, and then be able to retaliate with a nuclear strike. Hence, the safety and security of the arsenal becomes imperative, to say the least. Furthermore, an efficient command and control system is needed to be in place, so as to channelize all nuclear-related activities.
The late Keneth Waltz was always a great proponent of nuclear weapons, for he believed that it induced caution.  There are plenty of stabilizing factors of the nukes, to include acting as a power equalizer. Internal Balancing is or should be preferred over external balancing and bandwagon approach. States go nuclear because of three themes as identified in the book Eating Grass: the making of the Pakistani bomb. The themes are national humiliation, national identity and international isolation.[2]

The genesis of the Iranian Nuclear Program:

Iran is an all-important country of the Middle East; it has a geo strategic importance of its own. Proximity to waterways and rich resources of gas and oil has made it an important country in the foreign policy calculus of the superpowers. This is true because the first ever covert CIA operation  overthrew Mosaddegh in 1953, ostensibly on nationalizing the oil company.[3] Till 1979, the United States championed the Shah of Iran.  Shah was known to be the protector of American interests in the region. All said and done, let’s expound upon the nuclear history of Iran. It was Dwight Eisenhower who gave a historic “Atoms for Peace” speech at the UN General Assembly session. This set in motion the Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program. It was agreed that any country having any kind of nuclear expertise or material would donate it to International Atomic Energy Agency, which would in turn  help any country which wanted a nuclear program for civilian purposes. The United States was actually serious about promoting peaceful uses . Iran began to settle down after the coup of 1953; it became economically stable enough to be trusted with nuclear technology. Thus, in 1957 we  not only saw a nuclear training center shift from Baghdad to Tehran, but a bilateral agreement was signed between USA and Iran. Moreover, the “Atoms for Peace” exhibit was opened in the city. The program thus kick started from then on wards. The bilateral agreement predicated upon a few terms and conditions. The stipulation was that Iran will stick with the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The Americans provided Iran with enriched uranium and a 5 Megawatt light water reactor. Hence, nuclear power was born in Iran and America was the midwife.[4]
The impetus was given, but Iran with its scant scientific prowess could not capitalize on the platform. The light water reactor was not put to use; it was seen as a showpiece at the Tehran University. The course of the program changed in 1965. A young scientist by the name of Akbar Etemad came back to Iran in the very year. He is deemed as the father of the Iranian nuclear program.  He yearned Iran to become a technologically advanced  country, hence he went on with full heart and soul. Shah of Iran after seeing his credentials mandated him to work at the Tehran University. Within a few years he handed over the 5 MW Reactors to the University. It was ironically working on a critical level. Soon, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) was created so as to streamline all nuclear-related activities. A significant development took place in 1968, which perhaps remains the bone of contention between Iran and the West. Iran signed the Non Proliferation Treaty in 1968. This implied that Iran agreed on not to make a bomb and only has a right for a peaceful nuclear program.  Shah’s penchant for embarking on the nuclear program was there for all to see. In 1974, Shah told Etemad that we needed nuclear power (not weapons) for economic reasons; he believed that nuclear power was the perfect conduit for economic growth. However, there were some ulterior motives, such as royal glory and a drive into modernity. As early as 1960,  Shah told the outgoing Majlis that Iran could no longer afford to live in the middle Ages. One can make out that  Pehlavi wanted a great leap forward through the so-called peaceful nuclear program. The journey continued under the tutelage of Etemad . Two developments are noteworthy before the revolution of 1979, one that the Bushehr nuclear reactor was 85% complete, thanks to the tireless efforts of Etemad . Then Gerald Ford signed an agreement with Iran, which allowed it to buy US-built reprocessing facility to extract plutonium. In fact the deal was for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. The extracted plutonium also can be easily diverted from civilian to military purposes; therefore this was a momentous development. Iran had always remained averse of the bomb; however, it is imperative to understand that the civilian and military side can never be divorced, due to the ease of diversion. Iran has always been vociferous, though.  There were however, inklings that the Shah vied for a bomb to show his grandeur. The NPT was signed, but there were voices against it from the very outset; Etemad also saw it as an infringement of national sovereignty. The revolution changed things drastically, to say the least. Ayatollah Khomeini infamously said that nuclear bombs are UN Islamic. This dissuaded Iran from going overtly nuclear, for Imam Khomeini was and is still revered.  The program was stifled by the ramifications of the revolution, to include the Hostage Crisis.  A brief discussion on the post revolution nuclear odyssey would be pertinent.  The international community began to turn a deaf ear to Iran; France and the US stopped the supply of Highly Enriched Uranium. Despite, efforts of rapprochement, the damage had been done due to the potent Hostage crisis; the predicament led to the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw. The program came under the scanner; the Kraftwerk stopped working on the Bushehr plant, owing to the intensification of war. Thus, Iran had to cobble-up everything all by herself. Imam Khomeini always viewed all international organizations with a great deal of skepticism. The organizations were advancing the cause of Western hegemony.  The way the IAEA reacted over Iraqi attack in 1984 gave lot of credence to this notion. The Iranian Foreign minister questioned the dubious role of the IAEA, for he believed that it was playing in the hands of  world powers.  Adversity brings resolve; a sense and urge of self-sufficiency was evident. One can term it as Nuclear Nationalism. The program continued with zest and zeal; the Iranians considered it as a national duty to tirelessly strive to complete the program. Meanwhile, the Americans did all what they could to thwart a perceived threat from an Islamic Republic.  Before going into the actualities of the crisis, let’s briefly scan-through, the remaining journey. Iran had time and again made a clear stance as regards the bomb. David Patrikarakos in his book “Nuclear Iran” has given a very good account of Iranian views on weapons and theories of deterrence within the lens of Islamic rubric.  Ghahvechi , the Iranian representative to the UN gave a lengthy speech where he expounded upon deterrence and weapons unambiguously. However, things were not that straight-forward. In close circles, there were talks about going for the bomb. Khamenei believed that a nuclear deterrent was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of  its enemies, as a prelude to the rule of Imam Mehdi.[5] This was not the first inkling for the idea of bomb-making; even during the tenure of Reza Pehlavi , there were indications that a bomb option was on the table. This can be corroborated by just one statement of the Shah in wake of India’s so-called peaceful explosion in 1974. The Shah said “ Pakistan and India talking about nuclear strength might force Iran to reconsider its options” the point that one needs to make is that the concerns of the West are not that concocted; there are plenty of reasons for them to be wary of Iran. One should not go into the debate of the NPT, for America has quite obviously flouted the treaty by signing the NFDR with India. The program was shrouded in mystery from 1989 to 2002, not that it is all clear now, but these years were deemed as lull before the storm.  
The Iran-Iraq War had left an indelible imprint on the minds of the Iranian establishment and government officials. Rafsanjani’s ascendancy to power gave the program a fresh lease of life. He was able to seduce Iranian scientists working abroad, to include Reza Khazaneh. The period from  1989 to 2002 was marked with significant augmentations, both overt and covert. The former included Russians working at the Bushehr. There were serious reports of Iran pursuing the first and the second stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. The stages pertained to extracting uranium ore to produce yellow-cakes and then converting them to UF6. Moreover, the fact that Iran had the Par-1 and Par-2 centrifuge components added to suspicion. Now, going by nuclear theory, it is imperative for a nuke to be supplemented by a delivery system. One can really not decipher whether Iran went after missiles for conventional or strategic purposes. However, the presence of sophisticated Ballistic missiles would have only created skepticism.
All in all, Iran had not only suggested to go for the bomb, but had started to crack deals to get equipment; it had centrifuges, sites, yellow cakes and most importantly, delivery system: missiles. The cats were set among the pigeons. Suspicions may well be true, but the issue will probably reach what we call a “ripe moment” in the jargon of conflict resolution. A brief summary of the unfolding crisis is needed.

The conundrum:

Nuclear program like we all know is of two kinds, civilian and military. The former is typified with Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNE’s). The civilian program is used for economic purposes such as energy and medicinal. As mentioned earlier, Iran signed the NPT way back in 1968. That meant that Iran vowed not to go for the bomb, and remain under the ambit of the civilian nuclear program. The program was to be under the strict control of the IAEA. The crisis relates and is predicated to an alleged cat and mouse game between Iran and the IAEA. It was in 2002, that an enrichment site was unveiled at Natanz. Furthermore, a heavy –water plant was instituted at Arak. The site at Arak had the potential to churn-out plutonium. Both, these sites were not illegal as per the terms of the NPT. However, there are other stipulations which ought to be followed. The IAEA must be informed 6 months prior to the establishment of a site. As the international comity saw the reports in awe, the crisis was underway. The Iranians were reticent to show IAEA other sites and workshops, but ultimately acquiesced. The delay was enough for the West to raise eyebrows. Soon a resolution was passed which baulked Iran from uranium enrichment. There was a furor in Tehran. There were cleavages within the Iranian  high-ups; some wanted to halt the program, while others wanted the country to go ahead even with a weapon option. Hasan Rowhani came up with his 5-step plan. First, he wanted to keep the crisis under control and deter threats. Second, the need to safeguard nuclear facilities was important. Other plans included, turning threats into opportunities; enhancing capabilities and legal clout. Tehran subsequently signed the Tehran and Paris agreement, which manifested good faith on its part.  The spirit of the treaty called for Iran to sign on additional protocols and cease enrichment. The issue has conflagrated since Ahmedinejad took over. He ordered the resumption of activities at Natanz, which was seen as a blatant breach of the Paris Agreement. Things moved in the direction where they stand today because of the hawkishness of Ahmedinijad. There are two important things which should be brought to the attention of readers. These anecdotes, so to speak will be a harbinger of something grievous. Satellite images outside the sacred city of Qom were shown to Obama. The site was huge, located on the mountainside of a military base and protected by Anti-Aircraft guns. This highly-protected and deeply-dug site certainly rung alarm bells among the American ranks. Secrecy increases suspicion.[6] Then, America offered. During the talks in Geneva, Iran made a somewhat ironic excuse of not stopping uranium production because they needed to keep the Tehran reactor running ostensibly for medicinal purposes. Robert Einhorn, an expert  on proliferation got a food for thought. He said “why not offer to ‘swap’ much of Iran’s HEU , with specialty fuel for the research reactor”? This put Iran in a catch-22 situation; however, they agreed, but the Supreme Leader refused. This shows that everything is not that straight-forward when it comes to Iran’s intention to go for the bomb.[7]

Diplomacy vs Military strikes and the views of Pakistan:

Diplomacy is a vital cog in conducting international relations. It is a process of asserting one’s power and national interests by overtly benign means of persuasion and not coercion. As of now, the Iranian nuclear crisis is in the “ripening process”, it has not yet reached the threshold of a “ripe moment”. Diplomacy has been thus far used to bell the cat. Much to Bush’s credit, that despite initiating the preemption doctrine, he opened the door for direct negotiations after a lapse of 30 years. He launched the famous 1st June offer. In this section, let’s focus on Obama’s tryst with this challenge. What has been the mainstay of Obama’s policy as regards Iran? Before going into that, it is imperative to mention that there are voices against diplomatic engagements, not only by Obama’s erstwhile rival, Mitt Romney, but others too.
Dore Gold with this vast experience in the UN has tried to explain the dangers associated with diplomatic engagements, in his new book, “The Rise of Nuclear Iran”.[8] Obama made his intentions very clear even before his inauguration that he will prioritize the Iranian issue, and would talk to so-called rogue states. Obama made benign overtures right from the very outset. He gave a video message on Nowruz with Persian subtitles; this was ostensibly done with a view to broach upon the fact that the US wanted to resolve all issues.  This talk overture directly to the Iranian leadership came after 30 long years. With the election of the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, pressure began to pile-up on Obama. The latter wanted diplomatic maneuvers to be given a change to work.  The Israelis were left in a huff when Hillary Clinton talked about extended deterrence. The Americans at that stage and even now aim to slow down the process of uranium enrichment; they are mainly concerned with the site at Natanz. The talks at Geneva were of great significance, for they were the first after 30 years. Iran agreed to ship 75% of LEU abroad. However, Obama’s diplomacy was perhaps making Iran bolder; Ahmadinejad , in a press conference unveiled new centrifuge designs, which were capable of enriching at a faster rate. He also signaled that two new enrichment plants will be built by March, 2011. Thus, the US and the Europeans felt that they have been duped. A round of sanctions ensued; Resolution 1929 is just one example of many sanctions that have been imposed on Iran.
Obama’s penchant for diplomacy was matched by Israel’s aplomb for punitive action against a prospective nuclear-armed state. Now, it is not about diplomacy alone; it is about a pre-emptive strike or “Olympic Games” on   Natanz. In a nutshell, Olympic Games alludes to a joint project of USA and Israel. A computer worm “Stuxnet” is destroying the centrifuges at Natanz, in the process it has really slowed the otherwise vigorous enrichment process. Israel’s Mosad is groping for Iranian scientists; in fact they killed Majid Shahriari in broad day-light. Netanyahu visited the United States and  both leaders talked about all options that were available. Netanyahu always favored the strike option; however, Obama has not yet bought that  argument. The quagmire in Afghanistan; internal economy and the ability of Iran to retaliate, makes an attack highly unfeasible.  With his focus on diplomacy, Obama has not entirely ruled out the war option, in fact war games and simulations take place, so as to make contingency plans.  Israel has stretched a Red Line of 90% enrichment, if that is crossed, then it will take due note and reprisals will be witnessed. However, it is imperative to be savvy of the geopolitical compulsions, while thinking over this dangerous course of action. Iran will retaliate to anything offered to her, be it a surprise attack or mere diplomatic aggression. It is better to continue with sanctions and Olympic Games because history tells us that adversity has also given Iran an impetus to fight back.

Pakistan’s stance:

Before ending this paper, let’s us touch upon what Pakistan has to say regarding this crisis. A country beset with problem galore, to include terrorism, political and economic decay can probably have no weight in international politics, for only power is currency. However, Pakistan has power when it comes to nukes. Being the 7th and the fastest growing nuclear power in the world, it has a stature of its own. Pakistan helped Iran in wherever it has reached today. Indeed, the Par-1 and Par-2 centrifuges supplied by the clandestine Khan Network provided Iran with much-needed exposure and expertise. Pakistan has not spoken vociferously regarding the program; one can call it safe play or neutrality. One can understand this ambiguity taking into account the Saudi clout in the country. Former Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz along with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Iran. Both leaders persuaded Ahmadinejad to change the firm stance on nukes , for his attitude would not benefit Iran and the whole region. Pakistan has given categorical foreign policy statements as regards the Iranian nuclear program. Ex Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met the Iranian Vice President. Gilani declared wholehearted support for the Iranian nuclear program , provided it was used for peaceful purposes . Shah Mehmood Qureshi delivered a lecture at Harvard University as foreign minister. There , he made strongly-worded statements against alleged Iranian endeavors towards the bomb. Qureshi said that Iran had no rationale to go for the weapon, for it had no immediate threat perception, like Pakistan had. Qureshi wanted Iran to accept US overtures and avoid a confrontation in the region. This is what Pakistan has said, and rightly so.  The bomb is not yet out, and nobody has issues with the civilian program. Only time will tell how this saga pans-out.


 Cheema, Zafar Iqbal.  “Pakistan’s Posture of Minimum Credible Deterrence: Current Challenges  and Future Efficacy,” in Nuclear Pakistan: Strategic Dimension, edited by  Zulfiqar Khan, 43-78 . Karachi: Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2012.
Khan, Feroz. Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. Stanford Security Studies, 2012.

Kissinger, Henry.  Diplomacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994
Patrikarakos, David . Nuclear Iran: the birth of an Atomic State.London: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012.
Gold, Dore. The Rise of Nuclear Iran. Regnery Publisher, 2009.

[1] Zafar Iqbal Cheema, “Pakistan’s Posture of Minimum Credible Deterrence: Current Challenges  and Future Efficacy,” in Nuclear Pakistan: Strategic Dimension, ed. Zulfiqar Khan( Karachi: Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2012), 43-78.
[2] Feroz Khan, Eating Grass : The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Standford Security Studies, 2012).
[3] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994).
[4] David Patrikarakos, Nuclear Iran: the birth of an Atomic State (London: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012) 16.
[5] Ibid, 121.
[6] David E. Sangers, Confront and Conceal Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising use of American Power ( New York , Crown Publishers, 2012).
[7] Ibid, 183-184.
[8] Dore Gold, The Rise of Nuclear Iran ( Regnery Publishers, 2009).

Friday, 15 March 2013

Why History?

History is often thought of as a benign and laborious field of study, more so in our part of the world. This is primarily because we inter change history with rhetoric, long and glorified anecdotes brimming with statistical data. Hence it is only natural that this unease about history has been created. We, being a rare breed in academic circles of Pakistan have to have few readymade answers up our sleeves regarding why of all the subjects have we chosen a “useless” and “scope less” subject. Hence we found it imperative to answer this basic question in the inaugural History Department newsletter.
We often have to make choices; some of them directly affect our future. Electing, history as a major field of study was never a hard decision for us, for something important occurred to us. Perhaps, we realized that history embraces something beyond dates and plain narratives. It is a documentation of human experiences. Descartes gave a very befitting example regarding our preconceived notions. “ And yet what do I see from the window but hats and coats which may cover automatic machines? Yet   I judge these to be men…” we have fathomed the very fact that history is different and all-important, to say the least. William Dalrymple  in his new book “ Return of the King” has extensively synthesized the First Afghan War with the current and on-going Afghan War. This shows the importance of history; even a war fought in 1839 should be taken into account, while studying this war-cum counterinsurgency.  How can we possibly analyze the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, until and unless we shed-light on the dictatorial rule of Hosni Mubarak? We Pakistanis have to bear the bitter pill; our country is lagging behind amongst the comity of nations. We have had a long, and directionless odyssey of 65 years; being oblivious of one’s history leads to waywardness. If we think that the current chaos in the country can be examined to its full, without knowing the happenings of past; some of which continue to have an indelible impact on today’s socio-economic landscape. Past is certainly a prologue; it can never be ignored, even while simply studying academic subjects. One can never understand the British constitution without understanding its historical evolution. Probably, we can proffer lessons from our past. It is imperative for the youth to be well versed or rather conversant with history, for significant enough reasons.  A leaf   should be taken out of America’s book; we need to study their history to see to their dramatic yet methodical rise up the ladder. Why can’t we start rationalizing things by studying about the past?
Having discussed the academic side of it, let’s now turn to the “business front”. As the saying goes that money makes the mere go, we need to look at the advantage of studying this subjective as regards jobs and careers are careers. The study of history as a discipline inculcates in us the ability to think critically; develop arguments, and debate with reasoning and evidence.  All these qualities are the need of the hour in all walks of life. In a recent survey, Forbes Magazine revealed that America’s top business tycoons had mostly studied history as a major in their academic life. So we thereby, advise all aspirants not to worry about jobs, whilst studying history.
History . . . is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Edward Gibbon

Saturday, 2 March 2013

What were the incendiary forces of the first Great War?

History is replete with accounts and anecdotes of wars; those wars which changed the course of history in more ways than one.  As far as international relations is concerned, the 30-year old war, and the ensuing Treaty of Westphalia was very imperative, to say the least.  After the inception of the Westphalian system of state sovereignty, concepts like national interests, balance of power and in a way security dilemma began to take shape. However, Cardinal Richelieu gave the concept of Raison d’état even before 1648.  Britain was astute enough to pitch the weak against a comparatively mighty power, in a view to maintain balance of power. A Semblance of protracted peace was evident in the 19th century; however, something was cooking-up. Nationalist movements, coupled with revolutions and feuds, resulted in the unification of Italy and Germany. Soon, at the fag end of the 19th century, things took a new course. Eventually, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand triggered the war. But that event was just a tip of the iceberg; there were reasons beyond this single act of lunacy, which caused the powers to go dagger drown in 1914. Penny and penny make up many; it is difficult to ascribe one factor as a major cause of the war. “On the one side we should have to trace the influence of Prussia on the creation of the Reich, the political conceptions of Bismarck, the philosophical tendencies in Germany, and the economic situation – a medley of factors which transmuted Germany’s natural desire for commercial outlets, unhappily difficult to obtain, into a vision of world power.” (Hart 1972)  For the consumption of this piece, let’s shed-light on a few evident causes, and then try to pick out one most significant. The causes under question are imperialism, arms race, alliances and discrepancies in philosophy. Let’s discuss the causes one by one.

Intricate Alliances

Alliances are made ostensibly to bolster national security against threats. This is sometimes referred to as external balancing. Pakistan allied itself in West-sponsored military pacts, to baulk the threat perception from India, veritable or not, that is not the focus of this piece.   The Europeans made alliances galore, especially after the unification of Italy and Germany.   In 1873, Bismarck enunciated the Three Emperors’ League of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. After strenuous efforts to keep the cleavages between Russia and Austria-Hungary, the Three Emperors League broke in 1890. Soon, Austria and Germany came closer. In fact, the Germans and Austrians had hobnobbed way back in 1879. Russia was seething in frustration. Soon, we saw the emergence of the infamous Triple Alliance with the inclusion of Italy.  The Triple Alliance panned-out in favour of Bismarck. He was thus able to kill two birds with one stone.  Firstly, the induction of Italy was a death knell for France, owing to rivalry over Tunis and secondly, it strengthened German alliance system. (Mahajan 1965)  If these countries were thinking, that their alliance would go unnoticed, then they were utterly wrong.  Russia, after getting a rough deal from their previous entanglement, groped for other allies. In short, Russia entered into an alliance with France in 1893-94. Soon, Britain and France signed the Entente Cordiale; this treaty tried to mitigate the rivalries caused by imperialism.  With the Anglo-Russian alliance, the Triple Entente came into being. So there were two camps prior to war.  Germany, Austria-Hungary , Turkey and Italy was in one camp, whilst, Britain, Russia, France and Japan were in the other. There is no need to further delve into these alliances. Let’s analyze the significance of the alliances as a cause of this war. At the most these alliances, all by themselves were able to give a feeling of war. Indeed, there were intra-European tensions; the alliances had delineated friends and foes.  The only reason that the alliance system caused war is that, since the camps were pitched against each other, they were looking for excuses to fight; a snowfall or a domino effect certainly worked. Perhaps, the allies pushed each other for launching attacks; like Germany was encouraging Austria post June 1914. However, I beg to differ with those who give primacy to this cause. Alliances are made to bolster one’s capability against an enemy or a bloc of enemies: NATO and Warsaw is an archetypical example. Alliances are made either to deter opponents from launching war, or in case of war, giving the ability to fight. The alliances were fostered to enhance power and isolate France, in case of Germany. Russia allied itself, owing to the fact that it was literally ousted by Germany/Austria from the Three Emperors’ League. Similarly, France had her own reasons to cobble-up. Mere alliances can possibly do nothing; they have to be backed up by arms and ammunitions and perhaps a genuine Casus belli. Scepticism, paranoia and gimmicks of diplomacy caused these groupings. Indirect war mongering, arms race, especially between England and France; imperial rivalries in Africa and the Middle East were other factors, which contributed towards war. Alliances were ostensibly made to thwart the impending threats; these surreptitious hobnobs advanced the war, but did not initiate it. And even otherwise, alliances are formed after enmities.


We often talk about and find out, the bone of contention between states. In the Indo-China scenario, we single out the NEFA and Sikhim crisis as an apple of discord, for instance. Certainly, the scramble for colonies was a stumbling block in intra-European relations. I would say that the Scramble for Africa was the major bickering point. Some rivalries originated from the quest for imperial expansion. As Kissinger pointed out “the new Austro-Hungarian Empire had no place to expand except into the Balkans. Inherent in this policy was conflict with Russia.” (Kissinger 1994) We see that, frictions were caused by overseas expansion.  Italy was averse to France because of a stake in Tunis as aforementioned.  Foreign lands were used to extend European rivalries. There are instances galore, which could have erupted in major spats. The infamous Fashoda crisis took place in 1898 just near the Nile River. Both, Captain Merchand and Kitchener diffused the situation sagaciously, though. After this incident, both countries came that close to each other, that an Entente was reached, which culminated in the Triple Entente.  Germany, after the epoch of Bismarck became Britain-centric, to say the least; imperialism was used to good effect against England. The Kruger Telegram must have irked Britain. Kaiser took the incendiary step of writing a congratulatory letter to Kruger on ousting British sorties from Transvaal in the Boer War. Serious tensions emerged between Russia and Austria after the Bosnian Crisis. There were other imperialism-related fissures; however, they need to be discussed here. Why was imperialism one of the causes of war? Indeed, as aforementioned, penny and penny make up many. Imperialism in certain cases, generated rivalries, and while in others simply exacerbated them. The Anglo-German rivalry augmented due to the so-called Scramble for Africa. Certainly, I will not deem this as the most significant cause of war. Conflicts over colonies were localized, and were sorted-out; in fact, we saw hostilities turning into friendship (Anglo-French). All those disputes were papered-over amicably; even if we the Kruger Telegram, we can’t gauge the impact with precision. Imperialism certainly added to fury, but still there were a host of other factors, which conflagrated the situation, to include arms race. People attribute arms race to imperialism, however, I take it differently; arms build-up was initiated by Kaiser as a continuation of German bellicosity; Britain had to follow suit.

Arms Race

At the heart of any military lies arms and ammunition. Offensive realists rename balance of power as balance of military power. (Griffiths 2007). As of this writing, the most intense arms race is seen in the Indo-Pak theatre, but it has ushered in a semblance of strategic stability. We cannot compare this arms race with that of the England and France, for nuclear weapons have brought new concepts, to include deterrence and stability-instability paradox, which need not be sifted upon   here. The concept of security dilemma can explain the fierce naval rivalry between England and Germany.  William 11 outlined the German policy in these words:  “Germany’s future lies upon the water.” (Mahajan 1965) Kaiser deputed Tirpitz to manufacture Trident; this was seen with scepticism by the British. Soon, a fierce race began. British Naval expansion was in response to the hawkish attitude of William 11. The naval race was the main corollary of the arms race prior to World War 1. Conciliatory missions flunked to stop the process; only a trigger was needed to put these weapons on the FDL’s. The Dreadnought was built by both countries with impunity, to say the least.
As mentioned above, arms race brings about a few things as offshoots. The concept of security dilemma states that, a country’s security will only be bolstered by endangering the security of the adversary. Certainly, the security dilemma was an element to consider pre 1914; both the great power tried to outnumber each other qualitatively and quantitatively. What the arms race did was not only to instigate a fresh patina of animosity, but to give strength to both camps to fight when the time comes. Indeed, the contribution of the frenzy for arms is more than the previous two causes. Alliances made two separate blocs, and the acquisition of weapons, provided those blocs something to fight with. The wherewithal of war was complete; a small incident was needed to start a colossal war.  The induction of arms in the cache was one of the major causes of the First Great War, for it aggravated paranoia and make a warrior his toolkit. However, the way these weapons were proposed to be used at the strategic and tactical level, also brought about war.

Conceptual/Attitudinal /Philosophical reasons

As a layman in sociology and philosophy, I don’t have much to speak about. However, I can read a warrior’s mind. War is caused by the bellicose attitude of human beings. The international system has, in my opinion has no room for morality and all liberalism-related concepts. It is a brutal system, typified with anarchy, balance of power and the primacy of power and national interests.  War cannot be resisted when war mongering is at its peak. Austria-Hungary was groping for power after becoming an independent Empire; Austrian policies not only provoke Balkan nationalism, but also made Russia a perpetual enemy.  Let’s try and focus on the mindset of the Germans at length. Germany was obsessed with power, ever since the unification; it left no stone unturned to enhance power and preponderance. Bismarck strengthened Germany through benign   diplomacy, by making alliances, to include the Triple alliance. He succeeded in thwarting the French threat by isolating France. The adept diplomacy of Bismarck was supplanted by the hawkish and jingoistic policies of William II. At first, he did not try to address Russian scepticism regarding Austria, which resulted in Russia’s parting of ways. “German leaders after Bismarck threatened every other European nation with absolute insecurity, triggering countervailing coalitions nearly automatically. There were no diplomatic shortcuts to domination; the only route that leads to it is war.” (Kissinger 1994) one can corroborate this claim further by citing German nefarious activities in South Africa (Kruger Telegram); refusal to ally and instead launch a naval competition with Britain. The Schlieffen Plan will vindicate all those who blame Germany for the outbreak of the First World War. England entered the war because going by this plan , Germany trampled upon Belgian neutrality. Similarly, William II was encouraging Austria to take stern actions against Serbia. As far as Great Britain is concerned, impeccable restraint was shown by her; even during the naval rivalry, Britain tried to diffuse the crisis. The Russians changed their camp owing to Germany and Austria; although they were in deep internal quagmire; the aftermaths of the 1905 revolution were in full swing, but still, bolstered by French and English, they probably wanted the diversionary theory of war to work for them. It proved a death knell for the Tsar.
Thus, we see that there were marked differences in attitudes, which were briefly touched-upon above. These attitudes, especially that of Germany is for me the most imperative cause of the First World War. The German quest for power compelled her to make aggressive alliances, use bullying tactics, ameliorate the military and pitch one against the other. Why does a country embark upon imperialism? To gain power and preponderance; same goes for armament and alliances. Had Kaiser been not ambitious, he would have not started the naval race or for that matter dissuaded Austria from making a mountain of a mole.  Clausewitz said that war is an extension of diplomacy by other means. The German desire for war resulted in alliances and counter-alliances; Dreadnoughts and more Dreadnoughts. Russia was seething for war too, only because it felt insecure from German attitude. War mongering led to stockpiling of weapons, alliances and the conception of hawkish military strategies. All the above mentioned causes emanate from war hysteria or fondness for war, for that matter.


No single factor can be ascribed as the principal cause of the First World War; all powers and their hawkish policies pitched-in to the tragedy. Having said that, some factors  generate other factors. Here, the warlike attitude of great powers, especially and most certainly, Germany was the most conspicuous cause of the power. When there is no will to augment power, then alliances are not made; navy is not built; territories are not captured. Let’s take arms build-up as a cause. Why would a country add deadly weapons to its cache? Armament is not done  either to start a war, or to prevent from being taken for a ride in a war. Hence , the desire to become militarily strong leads to weapon development/acquisition. The first three causes are hence subservient to the fourth one.