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The Iranians clearly benefit from an uprising in Bahrain. It places the U.S. 5th Fleet’s basing in jeopardy, puts the United States in a difficult position and threatens the stability of other Persian Gulf Arab states. For the Iranians, the uprisings in North Africa and their spread to the Arabian Peninsula represent a golden opportunity for pursuing their long-standing interest (going back to the Shah and beyond) of dominating the Gulf.  The Iranians are accustomed to being able to use their covert capabilities to shape the political realities in countries. They did this effectively in Iraq and are doing it in Afghanistan. They regarded this as low risk and high reward. The Saudis, recognizing that this posed a fundamental risk to their regime and consulting with the Americans, have led a coalition force into Bahrain to halt the uprising and save the regime. Pressed by covert forces, they were forced into an overt action they were clearly reluctant to take. --- George Friedman


Indeed, Bahraini security forces have been ruthless in their attacks against demonstrators, killing six. Given this alignment of forces, and the bloodshed that has already occurred in Manama's Pearl Square, the scenes from Cairo of protesters arm-in-arm with soldiers and hugging tank crews are unlikely to be replayed here. Moreover, whereas in Egypt, historically a stable country, 18 days of chaos were enough to convince the military to restore order by ousting Mubarak, Bahrainis have greater experience with social unrest than Egyptians or Tunisians do. Political instability is a way of life in Bahrain. From the turmoil in the 1920s, following administrative reforms, to labour protests in the 1950s, the country is accustomed to agitation. As a result, factional strife is unlikely to panic the rulers and is even less likely to persuade them that the king must abdicate to save the country. -- Barak Barfi


In the run-up to the IAEA's crucial board meeting, the U.S. believed that India was "engaged in a risky balancing act in its Iran policies." A cable sent off on September 2, 2005 (39738: confidential) noted: "While the GOI has no illusions about Iran's nuclear ambitions or support for terrorism, these concerns are subordinate in its foreign policy and economic considerations. New Delhi does, however, fear the consequences of being forced to choose between Iran and the US... if the nuclear standoff escalates. Against this danger, India sees Iran as an enormous actual and potential energy supplier, and a balancing power on Pakistan's opposite border. Thus, Indian policy tries to advance its interests with Tehran, appease the West, and largely ignore the looming crises." The challenge for Washington was to get India off the fence, especially when this would be seen in India as siding with the U.S. "An op-ed by a reliably anti-American reporter for The Hindu on September 1 encouraged the GOI to stand by Iran as the 'litmus test' of India's willingness to pursue an ' independent' foreign policy," the cable noted. -- Siddharth Varadarajan


Nik Gowing’s book, Skyful of Lies and Black Swans qualifies as a modern-day primer for today’s practitioners of political science across the divide from democracy to dictatorship to understand the “new art of war.”

Stephen Stern holds Nik Gowing’s analysis as daunting but completely dispelling. “Information now travels around the world so fast and in such quantities that all kinds of organisations – governments, businesses – are struggling to respond fast enough or effectively enough. As a result, there is a new vulnerability, fragility and brittleness of power which weakens both the credibility and accountability of governments, the security organs and corporate institutions. This often occurs at the height of a crisis, just when you need clarity from senior executives. No matter that the information – noise – which is being spread may be inaccurate, or only partly true. Leaders have to respond, and faster than used to be necessary. The new core challenge is the tyranny of the timeline.” Awash in money and resources and complacent about the expanse of their power, the Arab regimes were not geared to cope with the blinding speed with which information dissemination acted in the upheavals. -- Ikram Sehgal


In an interview with Taysir Alluni, head of the Al Jazeera network in Kabul, Osama bin Laden had said on October 20, 2001, “At that time (the war in Afghanistan during 1980s), the Soviet Empire was a mighty power that scared the whole world.” Stating that the Soviet Empire had become “a figment of the imagination”, he had added, “So the one god, who sustained us with one of his helping hands and stabilised us to defeat the Soviet Empire, is capable of sustaining us again and allowing us to defeat America on the same land (Afghanistan)... So we believe that defeat of America is something achievable — with the permission of god — and it is easier for us — with the permission of god — than the defeat of the Soviet Empire previously.”-- Hiranmay Karlekar


To put Libya in the same basket of other ‘revolutions' would be a mistake.

It's a slap that echoed around the world — and without exaggeration, struck fear in the hearts of dozens of regimes across it. Every cliché from ‘forest fire' to ‘dominos' to a ‘house of cards' has been used in the past weeks to describe what's happened in West Asia ever since 24-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi was pushed around by a policewoman in Tunis. The slap was reportedly the final straw of humiliation for the vegetable seller, already weighed down by inflation and the responsibility of caring for his mother and six brothers and sisters. Bouazizi protested in the most horrific way imaginable, setting himself on fire. That fire grew unbelievably quickly and within a couple of weeks claimed Tunisian President Zinedine Ben Ali's position and forced him and his family out of the country. -- Suhasini Haidar

The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, again highlights the rampant lawlessness in Pakistan and the impunity with which the "forces of violence" act against "whoever stands against their radical philosophy," to quote the late Mr Bhatti. These "forces" find fertile ground to operate in an atmosphere where calls to vigilante action are publically made and celebrated. We urge the government and its functionaries to swiftly apprehend charge, try and punish Mr Bhatti's murderers, and also to take immediate measures to curb this trend. We urge all political parties and parliamentarians to take a clear stand on this issue: No citizen has the right to cast aspersions at the faith and beliefs of any other citizen or to term someone else a `blasphemer'. We urge the federal and provincial governments, the judiciary and the security and law enforcement agencies to ensure protection for those, like former information minister Sherry Rehman, who are publicly threatened by extremists. -- Citizens for Democracy (CFD), Karachi


The very fact that the secular character of Jamia is enshrined in its basic Act contradicts this decision to declare it a minority institution. It was mooted at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar together, and nowhere is it mentioned that Jamia was created by the Muslims and for the Muslims only.

As a law-abiding and educated Indian Muslim, I feel reservation — a word misused by one political party or the other to cajole and fool Muslims — based on religion should end. In fact, it is time Muslims are dissuaded from reservation and persuaded to launch themselves into the mainstream by hard work.

Reservation degrades the universal concept of merit, logically as well as ethically. Reservation on the basis of religion is uncalled for in a secular polity. Let us not harm our future because of unequal treatment in the past. In light of their past contribution to the nation, be it in the field of sport, art or architecture or during the freedom struggle, Muslims must ask themselves what they can give to the nation and not just vice-versa. -- Firoz Bakht Ahmed

One has to grudgingly accept that restoration of minority status had become essential for Jamia Millia Islamia. It is a crutch on which the University must hobble on for quite a considerable period of time in future. Otherwise, in the mad race of merit, Muslim students will simply fail to get any place in the seats of higher learning in the capital city of India. But it would be better if the Jamia fixes up a timeframe for itself to remain a minority university. It maybe 25 to 35 years. Not beyond. Within this timeframe, the Jamia must set up a network of primary and high schools in the Muslim dominated areas in and around Delhi to serve as future feeding centres. These areas could be Okhla, Old Delhi, Mewat, the cities of Western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. -- Maqbool A. Siraj

Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university being granted a ‘minority status’ has been celebrated by many, including newspapers, as happy news and one which gives Muslims ‘due justice’. Some of Jamia’s teachers and staff even distributed sweets to mark the announcement, which will allow the university to reserve 50% seats for Muslims. As someone who’s lived all his life near the university and studied there, I don’t support this minority tag, despite the fact that the lobby supporting it is far stronger than I could imagine. If the aim of the minority status is to uplift the community from its backwardness, I think it’s only going to push the Muslims into a deeper ghetto. Inclusive growth is possible only with an eclectic diversity of students and staff. Jamia already has enough ‘Muslim’ character, and it does not need any legal status to ensure it. -- Yousuf Saeed

This reaction is the result of certain real and perceived apprehensions expressed by both ‘secularist’ and communalist quarters that the minority status would result in: A new process of Islamisation, which would strengthen the fundamentalist forces within the University; Ghettoisation of Muslims; and That with the minority status, University’s students will be branded and its degree would be suspect and downgraded. These are highly loaded rhetoric, which have already generated enough debate and there is a need to respond to these with necessary amount of maturity with an informed sense of history. In our opinion there is no need to be apologetic – minority status is very much democratic, constitutional, progressive, secular and realistic. And it is done within the constitutional provision. -- Neshat Quaiser


In short, there is a grand U.S. strategy toward Libya that needs to be clinically delinked from Mr. Qadhafi's horrific crimes. Aside from western companies' extensive interests, Libya happens to be a major supplier of oil to Europe, especially Italy, which is already facing economic difficulty. Any disruption in Libyan supplies can imperil Europe's economic recovery. Besides, NATO deployment reassures Israel, which increasingly faces regional isolation. Indeed, NATO has been raring to go to West Asia.

The irony is that non-violence in Libya becomes the rubric for militarisation of foreign policy. After referring Mr. Qadhafi to the ICC, shouldn't India sign the Rome Statute and become an ICC member-country? Ideally, we should also persuade Mr. Obama, who admires Gandhiji, to revoke his predecessor's decision to pull the U.S. out of the ICC. The 65 dead souls in Kunar deserve to get justice, too. -- M. K. Bhadrakumar


Transcript 1: Kakul Pathak, BJP’s media cell convenor in Godhra district

A key ‘witness’, Pathak blames police officers Noel Parmar, Rakesh Asthana and JK Bhatt for the ‘statement’ he signed. The TEHELKA sting caught him at a roadside dhaba in Godhra on 17 July 2007. Excerpts:

TEHELKA: When did you reach the station?

KP: At 8, 8.15...

T: People had left by then?

KP: There was no one there.

T: The Muslim mob? It had left?

KP: There were dead bodies all over the compartment. How many, even we didn’t know.

T: So you have not taken anybody’s name on your own accord?

KP: I did not write the statement on my own.

T: Along with you, there were six or seven more witnesses?

KP: Yes.

T: Who were they?

KP: The total number was 13...

T: Who were they? Was there someone with the surname Advani?

KP: No, I don’t know if there was any Advani... No, there was no Advani...

T: Some Sindhi?

KP: There were three Sindhis: Murli Mulchandani, Jiwat Bhai and Sonu.

T: The other 10-12 (witnesses) also did not see anything?

KP: Nobody was there....

T: So will you speak out?

KP: I can’t destroy my image... or that of the party (BJP).

T: But innocent people were named...

KP: Yes, innocent persons were named. -- A report by Ashish Khetan (Tehelka)

Saudi Arabia, an American ally and a Sunni nation that jousts with Shiite Iran for regional influence, has been shaken. King Abdullah on February 23 signalled his concern by announcing a $10 billion increase in welfare spending to help young people, buy homes and open businesses, a gesture seen as trying to head off the kind of unrest that fuelled protests around the region.

 “Iraq and Lebanon are now in Iran's sphere of influence with groups that have been supported by the hard-liners for decades,” said Muhammad Sahimi, an Iran expert in Los Angeles who frequently writes about Iranian politics. “Iran is a major player in Afghanistan. Any regime that eventually emerges in Egypt will not be as hostile to Hamas as Mubarak was, and Hamas has been supported by Iran. That may help Iran to increase its influence there even more.”

Iran could also benefit from the growing assertiveness of Shiites in general. Shiism is hardly monolithic, and Iran does not speak on behalf of all Shiites. But members of that sect are linked by faith and by their strong sense that they have been victims of discrimination by the Sunni majority. Events in Bahrain illustrate that connection well. -- Michael Slackman

Experts would agree that Indonesia is yet to realise its full potential, quite like India. As large democracies committed to inclusive development, they are natural partners. Their closer engagement can enable them to play a role suitable to their size on the world stage. This basic realisation, combined with lasting links of history, culture and shared philosophy of `unity in diversity,' drives the bilateral relationship.

In due course, President Sukarno and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru undertook a renewal of relations, infusing them with `the Spirit of Bandung'. Mrs Indira Gandhi retained special affection for Indonesians. I witnessed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, on his visit to Indonesia in October 1986, striving to impart a new momentum. In his banquet speech he used Tagore's words to great effect. The then President Suharto's Indonesia reciprocated warmly, with the presidential orchestra playing Sare jahan se accha Hindostan hamara to utter delight of our Embassy team in Jakarta. The present leaders are now carrying forward the tradition, buttressed by a whole new set of political and economic imperatives. The focus today seems to be less on personal equations of leaders and more on common approaches of the two countries as well as on insti tutionalising bilateral relations to an unprecedented extent. -- RAJIV BHATIA

The Mubarak regime attempted to act as a referee in recent years by pursuing isolated cases of corruption. This was a means to prove its claim to power via mechanisms of selective rule of law and to give the impression of independent jurisdiction to the rest of the world. The gentle military putsch of 2011 only ostensibly implies a radical change in the country's elites. Businessmen such as the former steel baron and NDP functionary Ahmed Ezz, whose political capital enabled him, via murky business practices and credit fraud (particularly with state banks), to control the Egyptian steel market while accumulating a billion-dollar fortune, will no longer play a role in the future; Ezz has made too many enemies within the ruling elite over the past few years. "Mubarak was replaceable. However, it is not yet clear what his departure means for the clientele system he headed’’. -- Thomas Demmelhuber


First, the Muslims of Delhi complained that the census workers were filling the forms with a pencil where as they have been given black ball pens to use whiling filling in information. On complaint, they argued that they were doing so only to avoid mistakes and assured that they will fill in the forms with pens when they sit in their office comfortably. But the most unfortunate part of all this is that some Muslim and Urdu speaking workers are doing the same thing without realising the damage their irresponsible act might do to their own community. According to a newspaper report, a Muslim lady teacher Kahkashan was also filling in the forms with a pencil and argued that she was using a pencil because her handwriting was not good and that she would fill in the form afresh in the office. -- Syed Yahya Rizvi,


There is also a major strategic reassessment going on in Washington, and it will almost certainly end by downgrading the importance of the Middle East in US policy. The Arab masses do not know that, but the regimes certainly do, and it undermines their confidence. The traditional motives for American strategic involvement in the Middle East were oil and Israel. American oil supplies had to be protected, and the Cold War was a zero-sum game in which any regime that the US did not control was seen to be at risk of falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. And quite apart from sentimental considerations, Israel had to be protected because it was an important military asset. -- Gwynne Dyer


Libya, Yemen and Bahrain are showing all the symptoms of the Tunisia syndrome. “Two down, twenty to go” is a slogan gaining currency on Arab streets. A demonstration in Jeddah is making the rounds in the blogosphere. Will the virtual spark in Jeddah set the whole desert on fire? Apparently, the ingredients necessary for a revolt (parties, unions, social movements) are missing. However, Saudi history is replete with mutinies, attempted coups d’etat, regional unrest, and struggles for reform. But the present Saudi dynasty has survived subversion every time. Will the House of Saud weather the storm?

But the democratic wave that has swept the Arab world is secular in outlook. Most importantly, it is peaceful as if the Arab world has learnt about the futility of Al-Qaeda methods. None of this is a good omen for the House of Saud. Even if it avoids another jolt, it will survive as a besieged fortress. -- Farooq Sulehria


Prospects for democratic reform appear to have gone up a notch across the Gulf states as the aftermath of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings continue to reverberate around the region. Meaningful change, however, will depend not just on shows of popular discontent but on the representative institutions in those countries taking on a much more significant role in challenging the government on the public’s behalf. Although generally regarded as feeble by international standards, the recent history of the parliaments in Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman highlights both the potential for and the challenges facing the development of participatory politics in the Gulf.

The parliaments need to develop positions in the administration of the state which make it impossible for governments to ignore them, and convince the public that they offer the best and most effective route to political empowerment. The potential undoubtedly exists, but if they are to seize the opportunities, the politicians will need to organize themselves better around issues of principle instead of only offering occasional resistance to the executive, and parliamentarians will have to become much better at utilizing their existing influence to secure more formal powers for their assemblies. -- Greg power

Normality is slowly being restored to downtown Cairo. In a café called "Al-Horreya" (Freedom) not far from Tahrir Square, a group of young Egyptians meets the poet and journalist Alaa Khaled. He has come to Cairo from the port city of Alexandria to form his own impressions of the situation. Outside, people are sweeping the roads and pavements; piles of rubbish have accumulated over the past two weeks. Others march through the streets in an expression of their joy at the departure of Mubarak.

More and more people are arriving at café "Al-Horreya". Some are taking a break from the huge clean-up operation outside. A group of young girls set aside their rubber gloves and brooms as they sit down. As she does so, one calls out revolutionary slogans and cracks jokes about the deposed president, who turned down an exile offer from Germany. That would have been a great present from Chancellor Angela Merkel to Egypt, says one of the other girls. "But it's too late now. We don't expect anything of the West anymore."-- Khalid EL Kaoutit


Pakistan certainly seems ripe for revolt. It is perpetually on a knife edge — extremists plot and explode bombs, senior politicians are assassinated, society seethes with discontent. A slim upper crust floats in a bubble of wealth and privilege — the local version of Hello! offers coverage of upper-class toddler parties — while the poor grind along under soaring food inflation and 12-hour power cuts. Regional tensions threaten to pull the country asunder. In Quetta, residents were shivering in their homes because the rebels had blown up the gas pipelines four times over the previous week.

“We're in a bad way,” one mournful lawyer told me before I left, glancing over his shoulder to see if intelligence officials were evesdropping.

Some analysts compare the mood to Iran in 1979, when a restive middle-class upended the American-backed Shah and opened the door to theocratic Islamic rule. Yet on the ground in Pakistan, the whiff of revolution is faint. For a start, the country is too fractured. Take Karachi, a sprawling megalopolis of 16 million people, about the size of Cairo. Control of the city is divided between a patchwork of political, sectarian and criminal gangs. All are heavily armed. Protests against Pervez Musharraf in the city four years ago pitted rival groups against each other, triggering a bloodbath. -- Declan Walsh

In 2009, President Obama called for a new beginning between the US and Muslims and spoke of the importance of freedom, justice and giving citizens the right to choose their own destiny. On 13 June 2009, hundreds of thousands of Iranians stood up against corruption in massive anti-government demonstrations after fraudulent elections that saw President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his cronies retain their iron grip on power. On 25 January 2011, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets demanding an end to 30 years of corruption, torture and fear at the hands of their oppressor, President Hosni Mubarak. In 2009, Western leaders, including American President Barack Obama, were quick to express their support for the anti-government protesters, voicing absolute condemnation of Ahmedinejad and the Iranian government -- Joseph Mayton

Feted alternately as a new father for a new Afghanistan, a liberator of Afghan women and a champion of democracy, Karzai, let us remember, was an all-round hero until very recently. Now that Karzai is doing what any self-respecting politician would do in his situation — making overtures to old adversaries, putting on a show for his constituency, and flexing his muscles to demonstrate how truly dangerous he can be — he is being painted as a heroin-user and a corrupt and unworthy ally…

Standing by the elected Karzai — no matter how cozy he becomes with Pakistan and the Kandahari Taliban — is the only way for India to affirm its status as a secure and truly powerful regional hegemon. Moreover, it is the only course of action that is consistent with the Indian democratic narrative. Standing in Karzai's way because Indian hawks are worried about Pakistani influence in Afghanistan would immeasurably short-sighted, because Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan is inevitable and organic. Besides, Karzai's ventality, corruption and incompetence should not be so strange for South Asians. Our South Asian politics is like this only. Karzai was, is, and will remain, one of our own. -- Mosharraf Zaidi


In 40 years of writing about the Middle East, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square. In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space — a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated — and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant. … After we walked across the Nile bridge, Professor Mamoun Fandy remarked to me that there is an old Egyptian poem that says: “The Nile can bend and turn, but what is impossible is that it would ever dry up.’ The same is true of the river of freedom that is loose here now. Maybe you can bend it for a while, or turn it, but it is not going to dry up.” -- Thomas L. Friedman

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