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Pakistan Press ( 29 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Abdullah Abdullah, Imran Khan and Donald Trump: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 September 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

29 September 2020

• Imran Khan: Peace Is Within Reach In Afghanistan, A Hasty International Withdrawal Would Be Unwise.

By Imran Khan, Prime Minister Of Pakistan

• Abdullah Abdullah the Harbinger for Peace?

By Ikram Sehgal

• A Different Prime Minister – With a Massive and Prevailing Narrative

By Syed Nazir Gilani

• Building Pakistan’s Intellectual Capital

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

• Trump-Engineered Chaos in the Middle East

By Shahid Javed Burki


Imran Khan: Peace Is Within Reach In Afghanistan, A Hasty International Withdrawal Would Be Unwise.

By Imran Khan, Prime Minister Of Pakistan

September 26, 2020


An Afghan Army soldier flashes the peace sign from an armored vehicle during a training excercise in Herat on Sept. 24. (Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)


We have arrived at a rare moment of hope for Afghanistan and for our region. On Sept. 12, delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban finally sat down in Doha, Qatar, to begin negotiations toward a political settlement that would bring the war in Afghanistan to an end.

With the exception of the resilient Afghans themselves, no people have paid a higher price for the conflict in Afghanistan than the people of Pakistan. Through decades of conflict, Pakistan has dealt with the responsibility of taking care of more than 4 million Afghan refugees. Guns and drugs have also flowed into our country. The wars have disrupted our economic trajectory and radicalized fringes of our own society. The Pakistan I had known growing up in the 1960s and 1970s changed in some deeply unsettling ways.

This experience taught us two important lessons. First, that we were too closely intertwined with Afghanistan by geography, culture and kinship for events in that country not to cast a shadow on Pakistan. We realized Pakistan will not know real peace until our Afghan brothers and sisters are at peace.

We also learned that peace and political stability in Afghanistan could not be imposed from the outside through the use of force. Only an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process, which recognizes Afghanistan’s political realities and diversity, could produce a lasting peace.

So, when President Trump wrote to me in late 2018 to ask for Pakistan’s assistance in helping the United States achieve a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, we had no hesitation in assuring the president that Pakistan would make every effort to facilitate such an outcome — and we did. Thus began arduous rounds of talks between the United States and the Taliban, which culminated in the February U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. This agreement, in turn, has laid the groundwork for talks between the Afghan leadership and the Taliban.

The path we have traveled to get here wasn’t easy, but we were able to press on thanks to the courage and flexibility that were on display from all sides. The United States and its allies facilitated the prisoner exchange between Kabul and the Taliban. The government of Afghanistan and the Taliban responded to the Afghan people’s yearning for peace.

The intra-Afghan negotiations are likely to be even more difficult, requiring patience and compromise from all sides. Progress could be slow and painstaking; there may even be the occasional deadlock, as Afghans work together for their future. At such times, we would do well to remember that a bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield.

All those who have invested in the Afghan peace process should resist the temptation for setting unrealistic timelines. A hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise. We should also guard against regional spoilers who are not invested in peace and see instability in Afghanistan as advantageous for their own geopolitical ends.

Pakistan will continue to support the Afghan people in their quest for a unified, independent and sovereign Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. Pakistan believes that peace negotiations should not be conducted under coercion and urges all parties to reduce violence. Just as the Afghan government has recognized the Taliban as a political reality, it is hoped that the Taliban would recognize the progress Afghanistan has made.

Like the United States, Pakistan does not want to see Afghanistan become a sanctuary for international terrorism ever again. Since 9/11, more than 80,000 Pakistani security personnel and civilians have laid down their lives in perhaps the largest and most successful fight against terrorism. But Pakistan continues to be the target of attacks launched by externally enabled terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.

These terrorist groups pose a clear and present danger to global peace. We hope the Afghan government will take measures to control ungoverned spaces inside its territory from where terrorist groups are able to plan and carry out attacks against the Afghan people, the international coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, including Pakistan. Like the United States, we do not want the blood and treasure we have shed in the war against terrorism to be in vain.

It is also time to start planning for the “day after” — how can the world help a postwar Afghanistan transition to sustainable peace? How do we create conditions that will enable the millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and other countries, to return to their homeland with dignity and honor?

My vision for Pakistan prioritizes development and prosperity for my country and our region through connectivity and economic diplomacy. Our recent investments in key economic connectivity projects can be harnessed to complement efforts for regional integration between South and Central Asia. Our initial discussions with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation on these issues have been encouraging. It is heartening that the United States and Pakistan are of one mind on the importance of a “peace dividend” for ensuring a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

For Pakistan, regional peace and stability remain key to realizing the collective aspirations of our people for a better future. We are committed to multilateral collaboration to achieve this.

The first step toward that peace has been taken in Doha. Not seeing through the Afghanistan peace process or abandoning it for any reason would be a great travesty.


Imran Khan is prime minister of Pakistan.


Abdullah Abdullah the Harbinger for Peace?

By Ikram Sehgal

September 29, 2020


Abdullah Abdullah a three-times presidential contender.


The total military expenditure in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 is $822bn,this includes the US Department of Defence, State Department, USAID and other government agencies. The real costs might be much higher. The considerable human cost includes2,300 US soldiers killed and 20,660 wounded, not counting those traumatised who cannot find their place in society again. According to Ghani since he became President in 2014 more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces and over 100000 civilians have been killed, not counting the casualties of the Taliban.

After Daud Shah toppled his cousin King Zahir Shah and declared himself the first President of the Afghan Republic in 1973, relations with Pakistan became tense. To counter with this emerging threat on its western borders Pakistani President Z A Bhutto tasked Commander IGFC Brig (later Maj Gen) N K Babar. A number of Afghan students were given training by one of my childhood friends Maj (later Lt Col) Salman Ahmad of SSG in two camps in Pakistanin 1974, among them Ahmad Shah Masood. Along with Salman in the Kandahar region during the Afghan war was Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, now the Taliban’s political leader heading their delegation in the peace talks in Doha. Trained in the Indian Military Academy, he was commissioned in the Afghan Army. Joining the Mujahidin during the 80s he was in their Military Committee set up by Salman (codename “Col Faizan”). More than any other Pakistani serviceman in our history Salman has fought multiple times more battles for Pakistan in East Pakistan in 1971 and during the entire Afghan war against the Soviets. Hesays among all the Afghans Stanikzai accompanied him most in military operations against the Soviets. Incidentally Salman took Sandy Gall making his famous BBC documentary, “Allah Against the Gunships”.

The peace between the Taliban and the US signals a rigorous withdrawal of US forces from Afghan soil in line with President Trump’s policy of ‘America first’. Not happy with the situation the US military would like to keep a foot in the Afghan door by leaving behind some troops

A distant dream for many years, peace is now within reach. In February 2020 the US reached a pragmatic agreement with the Taliban, while also signing a declaration with the government of Afghanistan to start an intra-Afghan peace process. Notwithstanding the structure of the peace agreement and its fault lines, without the help of Pakistan as a go-between this agreement would not have been reached. With its own stake in the civil war in Afghanistan Pakistan had also to learn its lesson. Pakistani politicians and military professionals have been putting their money and effort on the Pashtun horse in the race for changing the power balance has cost our country dearly. A flood of Afghan refugees created economic turmoil that has adversely affected our growth rate and other economic indicators. In addition, the militarization of our society fed by stolen US weaponry meant for Afghanistan took a new turn. Flourishing in Pakistani seminaries, ”Jihadism ”financed with external funds resulted in the rise of a Pakistani Taliban force as an off-spring of the Afghan movement. Instead of recognizing the danger that was brewing in the underdeveloped and unruled tribal areas Pakistani military and intelligence put their trust and money in the Pashtun component of the Taliban movement, thus alienating the Taajik and Uzbek elements of Afghan society.

To add to this a cruel and selfish newcomer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was sent into the war in the 1990s by Pakistani intelligence, Basically a Karuti from Paktia Province, Hekmatyar alienated Ahmad Shah Masood and others, at various times fightingboth against and aligning himself with almost every other group in Afghanistan. He ordered frequent attacks on other rival factions to weaken them in order to improve his own position in the post-Soviet power vacuum. His internecine rivalry led to his arranging the arrest of Ahmad Shah Masood in Pakistan in 1976 on so-called spying charges. Masood and Hekmatya ronce agreed to stage a takeover operation in the Panjshir valley-Hekmatyar at the last minute refused to engage his part of the offensive, leaving Masood open and vulnerable. Masood’s forces barely escaped with their lives.

India is not the friend Afghans would like to believe, Afghanistan only used them as a means to an end, a convenient platform for conducting a proxy war at someone else’s expense, first at Soviet Union’s cost and then the US, with Afghanistan taking the brunt of the death and destruction that ensued. Afghans cannot seem to perceive the ruling BJP’s hatred of muslims in India, incidentally most of whose ancestors came from Afghanistan.

The Pashtun-Tajik problem started in 1929 when Habibullah Kalakani, as Tajik leader who was a kingmaker and the power behind the Afghan throne whose advice was binding on the king, overthrew King Amanullah Khan because he would not scale back his reforms openingthe Afghan society to western norms. Because of differences with Amanullah Khan, the long time C-in-C Nadir Shah had earlier gone into exile. From the border areas, now mostly comprising Pakistan, Nadir Shah created a Mehsud and Waziri tribal Lashkar and defeated Habibullah Kalakani’s forces. He then executed Kalakani and many members of his family by firing squad. Unfortunately the Lashkar then went on a rampage north of Kabul in the Tajik area, pillaging and looting, they committed many atrocities. The bloodfeud has lasted nearly a 100 years. It is time to heal the wounds of the past. With a mixed parentage ofa Pashtun father and Tajik mother, Dr. Abdullah Abdullahis best equipped to do this.

Our unwise policy in Afghanistan during the 1990s allowing the US to use our ports, roads, air bases and other amenities added to our human and economic cost and alienated the Taliban also within Pakistan, Pakistan is still having to bear the residuals of this failed policy. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s remaining influence was still enough to help bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Just a week ago after another period of harsh negotiations, the peace talks between the Taliban and the Ghani government, there are severe doubts if the two sides can agree on anything – that much was immediately clear during the very first meeting. The severe attacks of Taliban groups at Afghan soldiers and security personnel only displays the continuing rift between the two. An additional difficulty is the fact that the anti-Taliban side is divided in itself; Both the first and the second presidential election – both severely marred – brought a close run for power between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. While Ashraf Ghani returned to Afghanistan after 24 years in December 2001 after leaving his posts at the UN and World Bank to join the new Afghan government as the chief advisor to President Hamid Karzai on 1 February 2002. Abdullah Abdullah was a senior member of the Northern Alliance working as a close adviser to Ahmad Shah Masood before 2001. After serving as the Foreign Minister for nearly five years he stood against President Karzai and Ashraf Ghani even twice (last time in 2019) and every time came second according to the official counting. Based on the doubts that the handling of the election and the vote counting were manipulated he rejected the official results and got himself has sworn in as separate president.

During the “Afghanistan Re-Connected” dialogue series organised during the 2007-2012 period by the prestigious US think tank East West Institute (EWI), I was designated as the EWI Director for Brussels and Berlin, I was privileged to have long conversations with both Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Both have tremendous grasp of both domestic and international issues, while Ghani tends to be abrasive at times Dr Abdullah was always more cool, suave and accommodating. On a flight back from Berlin to Dubai, Dr Abdullah was by coincidence sitting next to me. When asked why he did not constructively engage with Pakistan, his reply stumped me, “Even if we want to, will Pakistan talk to us?” When I approached the powers-that-be in Pakistan about Dr Abdullah Abdullah being far more pragmatic than other Afghans but seeming to have a genuine grievance with Pakistan that needed assuaging, I was given a “shut up” call!.

In the aftermath of the first several controversial days of peace negotiations Dr. Abdullah Abdullahis now visiting Pakistan. As a young doctor he served briefly in Pakistan in 1985-86. This belated visit gives us unique opportunity to rethink and perhaps rectify our former Afghan policy. Pakistan needs a peaceful Afghanistan, they are our neighbours and this fact won’t change at any time in future. As the connecting link to Central Asia and Russia. Afghanistan plays an important role in the water and energy policy of the region and without peace no progress in those domains is possible. CPEC (and its extension to Iran) makes Afghanistan a vital link to Central Asia. Most of the 2 million or so Afghans would go back home if there was peace and a chance for a better life, this would certainly ease our economic burden.

The peace between the Taliban and the US signals a rigorous withdrawal of US forces from Afghan soil in line with President Trump’s policy of ‘America first’. Not happy with the situation the US military would like to keep a foot in the Afghan door by leaving behind some troops. In the aftermath of US withdrawal, fighting might still go on. We cannot afford the existing govt structure in Afghanistan to collapse and return to a vacuum in governance, so a fair-sized contingent of US troops must remain for some time. Ashraf Ghani serves the USbetter than Abdullah Abdullah and that is why the vote counting came out in his favour. However Abdullah Abdullah is more a ‘son of the soil’ than Ghani, who sooner or later will return to the US. It would also suit Afghanistan and the region if it had a rather independent government. In a growingly interconnected world the present peace process, with India attempting to sabotage it by all means possible, is not only in the interest of all the countries of the region but is certainly justified in our interest.

The Foreign Office (and more so the ISI) must be applauded for arranging this extremely important and tremendous breakthrough.As the possible harbinger for peace, welcome to Pakistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah!


Ikram Sehgal is a defence and security analyst


A Different Prime Minister – With a Massive and Prevailing Narrative

By Syed Nazir Gilani

September 29, 2020


Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan


Chinese representative Mr. Hsueh said at the 1012th meeting of the UN Security Council held on 15 June 1962 that, “Let me express the hope that the people of India and the people of Pakistan will face the problem of Kashmir not only with warm hearts, but also with cool heads”. A warm heart and a cool head, of course would see India and Pakistan through the present and future estrangement. Engagement is the final instrument used in the settlement of disputes.

India has wronged the people of Kashmir living on its side of cease fire line and according to a test of compliance laid down by Netherlands at the 611th meeting of the Security Council held on 23 December 1952, it has “loaded upon itself a very grave offence, against the other party (Pakistan), against the United Nations and against the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination”. Therefore, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan had to be different at the 75th Session of UN General Assembly on 27 September 2020.

Prime Minister was different to his first address made at the 74th session of UN General Assembly held on 27th September 2019. He was different in style and his narrative on Kashmir was massive and prevailing. His team in the PM house and in the foreign office had worked hard to make it, more than the old flex of the diplomatic routine.

We have not challenged India on her agreements made with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir before going to UN Security Council and have not called out Government of India on the conditions under which a temporary admission into Kashmir had been granted to its forces

The UN – Kashmir desk in the foreign office and people in other intra-agency disciplines working on Kashmir, did not repeat the copy paste habit but have been very imaginative. Prime Minister quoted “reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, communications from the Special Rapporteurs of Human Rights Council, statements from human rights and civil society organizations” in making a case for the besieged people of Indian occupied Kashmir.

It was for the first time that various constituents in the broad constituency of evidence against India were flagged by the Prime Minister. One could see a refreshed input in the statement. It is important that we acknowledge and present the broad spread of evidence. Acknowledging OHCHR, Special Rapporteurs, human rights and civil society organizations (NGOs) has been a commendable and smart move. It dignifies the merits of the narrative, in Kashmiri’s favour. India of course would not have such constituents to back up her case.

Pakistan could not and as admitted by Human Rights Minister, Mme Shireen Mazari, has failed to follow upon the Prime Ministers address made at the 74th session of UN General Assembly in September 2019. Genuine concerns and criticisms were made in Kashmir and in Pakistan. Even the Kashmir Committee has failed to take its first concrete step. There is no doubt that we do not have a comprehensive policy on Kashmir except ticking the old dotted lines. If we perpetuate it and fail to construct a robust follow up on the speech made by the Prime Minister at the 75th session of UN General Assembly on 25 September 2020, we would be allowing India an easy nudge pass and landing ourselves in a cul de sac.

India would be at the UN Security Council from First January 2021 and has a chair for two years. Imagine, if the case would have been the “Jammu and Kashmir Question” India would have considered many options to outmanoeuvre Pakistan. It is a gift from those leadings minds at the UN SC who changed the title to “India-Pakistan Question” at the 231st meeting of the Security Council held on 22 January 1948, that India can’t consider any options to wrong the Kashmir case. It does not however, mean that India does not have options and would not invoke the political philosophy of Chanakya.

Prime Minister of Pakistan has set out the Kashmir case. It entails our serious follow up and this could be a distributed follow up from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad, Civil Society Organizations, Diaspora and taken to every Kashmiri living in any part of Jammu and Kashmir and in any part of the world. The challenge at hand is to find a ‘proportionate’ and a ‘pointed’ response to vacate the Indian unlawful actions of 5 August 2019 and thereafter.

We need to reconsider that while petitioning the UN Security Council under article 35 of the Charter, both parties have averred that their bilateral engagements under article 33 had failed. It was not correct. The remaining important mechanisms of “arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements or other peaceful means of their own choice” have not been exhausted. We have not challenged India on her agreements made with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir before going to UN Security Council and have not called out Government of India on the conditions under which a temporary admission into Kashmir had been granted to its forces.

There is an urgent need that we seek the rehabilitation of Entry Permit required for Indian citizens for visiting Kashmir which was unlawfully rescinded by the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 31 March 1959. We have an experienced Ambassador Munir Akram at the UN in New York and he could start opening up on this demand. We would help him to construct a narrative.

The other most important work which needs our immediate attention is the advice given by Canada at the 235th meeting of UN Security Council held on 24 January 1948, “that we should afford security to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. Canadian representative General McNaughton proposed, “to afford security to the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir under some authority which will be recognised by everyone concerned as strictly impartial”.

Prime Minister, his team in PM House, people in the foreign office and in the intra-discipline agencies have come out very cool and prevailing at the UN General Assembly. There has to be a well distributed follow up. India would not sit idle.


Syed Nazir Gilani is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations


Building Pakistan’s Intellectual Capital

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

September 29, 2020

The intellectual capital is one of the three main forms of capital that includes physical capital and financial capital. Where physical capital (buildings, equipment) and financial capital (stocks and bonds) are important for establishing a company, the intellectual capital moves the company forward. Intellectual capital comprises of three broad categories. They are human capital, relational capital, and structural capital.

Human capital includes knowledge and skills, experience, competencies, vocational qualifications, employee engagement, emotional intelligence, education, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit among others. Relational capital includes formal and informal relationships, social networks, partnerships and alliances, trust, brand image, customer loyalty and engagement, licensing agreements, and joint agreements. Structural capital comprises organizational culture including values, social capital, and management philosophy; processes followed to achieve goals, and intellectual property including brand name, confidential data, patents and copyrights, and trade secrets.

It is imperative to see that all these three forms of capital: physical, financial, and intellectual needs to be interconnected to achieve organizational goals. A company may function with a combination of physical and financial capital but it will only grow and progress when intellectual capital is added to the equation. Pakistan is blessed with a large number of youth including the millennials who are pursuing their higher education at universities and business schools. Therefore, the need of the hour is to produce such business graduates who know how to build a company and make it a successful enterprise.

Today, with several specializations being offered in MBA programs, students are focused on studying the degree program of their interest. This calls for a holistic approach to streamline the academic disciplines that provide new avenues for the students to explore

In this regard, close attention must be given to developing the students’ cognitive capabilities and their understanding of how to apply their learning. The concept of rote learning must be abolished for good. It leads to nowhere except for enabling students to earn good grades. Interestingly, grades have become a secondary concept in the 21st century practical framework. Companies require an intellectual capital that can utilize their skills to add value to the many facades of an organization and take forward its operational and strategic objectives. Universities and business schools must restructure their curriculum to include more courses that have a practical outlook. The curriculum should include only twenty percent of classwork. The remaining eighty percent should be a combination of real-life case studies and students performing practical work. This practical work akin to a final-year Capstone Project should be part of the second year bachelors’ curriculum. Until the students do not enter the field, hold discussions over various topics with industry experts and professionals and understand what is happening outside of their textbooks, they will not comprehend what they study during their degree programs. As we head into 2021, the objective of universities should not be to produce graduates but intellectual capital that helps the corporate sector evolve their business operations.

During the 1940s to 1990s, students were compelled to rote learn course content and reproduce them in examinations. The objective was to secure a job. Today, with several specializations being offered in MBA programs, students are focused on studying the degree program of their interest. This calls for a holistic approach to streamline the academic disciplines that provide new avenues for the students to explore. Moreover, the educational infrastructure of the intermediate level must be revamped. Students must undertake one subject in their second year that is based on practicalities. For instance, the students must be asked to choose any company situated in their city of residence in Pakistan and study its structure. The course could be termed as “Corporate Relationship Management” which enables students to undertake a research study on a company, interview its key people, study the organizations’ mission and vision along with what benefit they are providing to the customers. This will help students step out of their comfort zone, interact with industry professionals, and prepare themselves to handle the similar activities they will be performing when studying BBA or BS degree programs. A complete streamlining of academic processes and course structure needs to be developed in this regard. It will revolutionize the academic sector and add value to the students’ learning.


Muhammad Omar Iftikharis an independent researcher, author and columnist


Trump-Engineered Chaos in the Middle East

By Shahid Javed Burki

September 28, 2020

Geography matters a great deal for Pakistan. Its own creation was the result of geography working with two other developments that needed resolutions before the British could leave their Indian colony. These developments were the renewed strength of ethnicity defining nationhood and geopolitics. When the British after the conclusion of the Second World War recognised that with their reduced global presence they could not continue to administer a large colony such as India, they decided to leave. They left in a hurry in the summer of 1947, dividing the Indian colony into two parts: a predominantly Hindu India and a predominantly Muslim Pakistan. But religion as the basis of nationhood did not lead to stability.

The new Pakistani state found that religion could not create a nation; ethnicity was a much more powerful factor in determining nationhood. A quarter century after Pakistan was born with two wings — East and West — on either side of India, the eastern side left to become Bangladesh. With little left to bind itself to South Asia, Pakistan began to search for other attachments. Still not convinced that religion was at best a weak way to support nation-building, it turned to the Middle East to anchor itself. But the Middle East had its own weaknesses; these were revealed in detail in the way Donald J Trump looked at this part of the world.

There are some analysts who believe that Trump is not beyond creating a foreign crisis to shore up his chances in the elections. The Middle East is one geographic space where he may be contemplating some kind of military play. China could be another but that would involve a costly confrontation Trump’s America may not be prepared to embark on. It will be in the Middle East that Trump is most likely to strike. In the Middle East, if Trump acts to have a foreign adventure help him in the elections, Iran will be the most likely target.

As Jackson Diehl, a Washington Post contributor, wrote foreign leaders read polls and some of them are sprinting to take advantage of Trump’s willingness to tolerate initiatives they know would be unacceptable to Joe Biden if he were to move into the White House. “None are running faster than Benjamin Netanyahu — who, along with Vladimir Putin, has already been the biggest international beneficiary of the Trump administration.” The Israeli Prime Minister fighting hard at home to escape being formally charged for corruption is also looking for foreign adventures to divert domestic attention. He is already involved in two activities, both audacious and risky. One is to annex 30% of the West Bank it occupied in 1967 under the guise of President Trump’s dormant Middle East plan developed by Jared Kushner, Trump’s devout Jewish son-in-law. The other involves Iran, a favourite Trump target and also that of his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

In the past few weeks, according to Post’s Diehl, “Israel has apparently been conducting what amounts to a slow-motion, semi-covert military campaign against Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, and perhaps other industrial and infrastructure targets as well. Mysterious explosions and fires have struck a key centrifuge production facility, a military base where missiles are produced, as well as power plants, aluminum and chemical factories, and a medical clinic. Last week, a fire erupted at the port of Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, destroying seven ships.” The Israelis were not particularly shy about distancing themselves from these activities. “I’m surprised the Israelis have not been more circumspect about this,” said Dennis Ross, a former senior Middle East expert in several past Washington administrations.

On September 15, 2020, the Trump administration took a long step in the attempt to reshape the Middle East. On the lawn of the White House it signed an agreement between Israel and the Persian Gulf states of Bahrain and the UAE. These were called “Abraham Accords”. They were aimed primarily against Iran. Liberal commentary in the United States saw the accords bringing trouble to the Middle East. The most consequential result of the policy the accords represented would be “reinforcement of harsh authoritarian rulers; the deepening of US entanglement in a sectarian conflict among Sunni and Shiite regimes; and the marginalisation of the issue on which Israel’s future most depends: relations with the Palestinians,” wrote The Washington Post in an editorial titled, “A Lopsided Middle East Strategy”. The newspaper continued with its assessment of Trump’s approach to the Middle East. “More than any other previous president, Mr Trump has lavished attention and support on the Arab monarchies. He has backed their disastrous war in Yemen, sold them weapons over congressional objections, and excused their brutal domestic oppression. To Mr Netanyahu, he gifted the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem without asking anything in return.”

Would this policy succeed in bringing about change in the way Trump has conducted himself in the Middle East? Most experts see trouble. With all the hostility Washington has shown towards Tehran, there has been no change in the approach the Islamic regime has pursued in its neighbourhood. Not only that, Iran has quadrupled its stockpile of enriched uranium in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the multinational accord limiting its nuclear programme. Iran is now closer to going nuclear than ever before. If that happens, it would start a nuclear race in the Middle East.

The next big step Trump would like to see taken is to bring about a “dawn in the new Middle East” is for Saudi Arabia to follow its small neighbours and sign a peace with Israel. But the kingdom may not be ready for this: it has an attachment for the Arab Peace Initiative it sponsored in 2002 that promised statehood for Palestinians.

Several experts expect more trouble in the Middle East: perhaps an October surprise such as military action against Iran. To quote from Cohen again: “Trump is about mirages, not new mornings. His October surprise could include an American military clash with Iran that serves to strut Trump’s stuff.”



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