Connect with us


Big Power Rivalry in the Gulf Requires a US Strategy Rethink

Dr. James M Dorsey



Gulf Rivalry

Last updated on October 10th, 2019

As French, Pakistani and other leaders seek to engineer a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, big power rivalry could rack up tension in the waters of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

With prospects for a face-to-face encounter between presidents Donald J. Trump and Hassan Rouhani slim at best, attention is likely to focus on beefing up the security of key Saudi oil facilities after drone and missile attacks, blamed by the kingdom and the United States on Iran, and identifying an appropriate response that minimizes the risk of a full-fledged military confrontation.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, days after the attacks severely damaged oil installations, joined a US-led coalition to secure the Middle East’s waterways. Earlier, Britain, Bahrain and Australia pledged to participate in the coalition.

Japan declined to join but said it was considering sending its Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) on information-gathering missions in the region. It said it would coordinate with the US-led coalition and would include the Strait of Hormuz in its operations if Iran agreed. Japan has unsuccessfully sought to mediate between the United States and Iran.

The US Defense Department, meanwhile, in response to a request from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in an effort to reassure Gulf allies said last week that it was sending an unspecified number of troops and equipment to the two countries to bolster their defences.

Iranian Brigadier General Ghadir Nezami, head of international and diplomatic affairs of his country’s armed forces, raised the stakes by saying that the Iranian navy would be holding joint exercises with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.

General Nezami, who is believed to have recently accompanied chairman of the Iranian Joint Chiefs of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri on a visit to China, gave no date for the exercises. Chinese and Russian media have yet to report the planned exercise while spokesmen in the two countries declined to confirm or deny the Iranian announcement.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said in July that the Russian and Iranian navies would be conducting a joint exercise within a matter of months to boost military cooperation.

Russian and Chinese hesitancy to confirm the exercise may be designed to avoid hiking tensions as efforts at the United Nations to mediate between the United States and Iran proceed.

Moreover, Russian president Vladimir Putin is likely to want to avoid a shadow being cast over his planned visit to Saudi Arabia in October. Mr. Putin has urged the kingdom to proceed with the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system that was agreed in principle two years ago.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met this week with his Saudi counterpart Ibrahim Assaf at the United Nations to discuss the visit.

Russia and China may also not want to undermine a Chinese-backed Russian proposal for a collective security agreement in the Gulf that would replace the US defence umbrella at a time that Saudi Arabia, uncertain about American reliability, may reach out to other countries for support in protecting its oil assets.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency last week reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had requested South Korean assistance in the strengthening of the kingdom’s air defense system.

Gulf concern about US reliability, dating back to US president Barack Obama’s negotiation of an international nuclear agreement with Iran and reinforced by Mr. Trump’s transactional response to the recent attacks on Saudi oil fields, leaves the Saudis and the Americans with no good choices.

Middle East scholar and former advisor to the US Defence Department Bilal Y. Saab argues, against the backdrop of a widespread feeling in Gulf states that the United States is gradually reducing its commitment to their defense as Washington focuses on Asia and the Indo-Pacific, that the United States in particular is caught in a Catch-22.

Its options of reducing commitment without surrendering its umbilical defense cord and making way for America’s rivals are limited.

Mr. Saab believes that the United States should focus its security cooperation less single-mindedly on arms sales and more on building the Gulf states’ institutional national defense infrastructure. Failure to do so, would risk regional tensions repeatedly spiraling out of control and ultimately prevent a gradual US drawdown.

The problem is, in Mr. Saab’s words, that what the United States should be doing to “responsibly reduce its security burden and footprint in the region” while safeguarding opportunities for lucrative arms sales would likely reinforce perceptions of America as unreliable and willing to sacrifice its friends – a perception that dates from the 2011 popular Arab revolts when Washington ultimately backed the toppling of Egyptian president and US ally Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Saad is the first person to admit that his proposition may be pie in the sky.

“It would mean building and empowering institutions that have the guns, and thus the ability, to conduct coups. Only a foolish Arab autocrat would be interested in that. It would also mean liberalizing or professionalizing national-security ministries and intelligence agencies. Few Arab leaders would voluntarily undermine the favourable clientelistic networks that are run by their governments. In short, defense reform requires political reform,” he says.

Moreover, institution building would bring the different threat perceptions of the Gulf states and the US into sharp relief and force Gulf states to rethink their arms acquisition policies and grant the United States access to their jealously guarded most secret data and programs.

Said Mr. Saab: “There is no shortage of problems on the US end or on its partners’ end when it comes to security cooperation. But it will be impossible to address any of those without making a total switch on how the United States thinks about security cooperation.”

That would require a US president who thinks in strategic rather than transactional terms.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s.


India Cheers Trump-Modi as They Pat Each Other’s Back in Ahmedabad

Mirror News Desk




Setting in the world’s biggest cricket stadium in India, the US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed a sea of crowd, as they took the centre stage in Ahmedabad. Dubbed as “Namaste Trump” — “welcome Trump” in English — the Trump-Modi union invited more than 125,000 people on hand, who danced and chanted names of the leaders.

“America loves India, respects India,” said Trump as he stepped out to address the rally, to roars of approval. “India gives hope to all of humanity,” he added.

Donald Trump, having recently been acquitted of impeachment charges, landed in India just at the right time to showcase his cross-border popularity. Meanwhile, for Modi, it was an equivalent opportunity to prove India’s standing to the world, amidst economic slowdown.

The stage was, therefore, perfectly set for the two populists, who enthusiastically displayed friendly relationship at “Namaste Trump”. President Trump at first emanated how Modi is an “exceptional leader … and a man I am proud to call my true friend,” adding that “everybody loves him but I will tell you this, he is very tough”.

“You are not just the pride of Gujarat, you are living proof that with hard work, Indians can accomplish anything they want,” Trump said.

At the same time, Modi seemed equally exuberant in his compliments for the US President and said: “India-US relations are no longer just another partnership, it’s a far greater and closer relationship.”

Putting their friendship at display, Trump-Modi were also spotted at Sabarmati Ashram, alongside first lady Melania Trump. It was home for 13 years to the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in Gujarat. Trump and first lady even tried their hand at the charkha or spinning wheel, which was a mark of India’s growing resistance to foreign products during the British Raj.

But amid the fanfare, it seems little significant that any deal would be signed between the US-India in Trump’s 36 hours stay in the Asian nation. Even in his speech, Trump made no major mention about signing an accord with India, as he continuously flipped between references to Bollywood, famous cricket players, Diwali, Mahatma Gandhi and Modi’s “moving” rags to riches life story.

What’s Happening in India?

India and especially the nation’s capital Delhi, has been a hot-bed of protests since December, when the government of India passed the controversial citizenship law. The ruling gives citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants of three neighbouring nations.

The action has prompted protests across the nation, with critics accusing government of making the Muslim minority of India feel marginalized. Only yesterday, in a fight between those in favor of the citizenship law and those against it, resulted in a death of police officer in New Delhi.

The moves have also raised questions over Modi’s leadership, with the Prime Minister accused of fueling insurgency via his decisions. Yet, little harm has it done to his popularity, as he and his Hindu-nationalist government have still surged and announced new policies that they deem as beneficial to India. Where the people have been protesting for their rights in past few weeks, the Trump-Modi reunion in Ahmedabad reflected the Indian authorities’ lack of concern for the civilians’ issues. Trump’s visit to India has only made it evident that the bigotry fight in the country is ought to continue for more than just a while.

Continue Reading


Diamond Princess: Americans Evacuated While Others Still Wait in Cabins

Mirror News Desk



Diamond Princess

A growing global health issue, novel coronavirus has become a vexatious threat for thousands of people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is docked in Japan from past two weeks. A couple of passengers got relief on Sunday night, when a powerful nation came to their rescue. But the frustration doubled up for many, who still remain under a mandatory quarantine, and are stuck in their cabins on the cruise ship.

Two charter aircrafts from the US arrived in Japan, evacuated their citizens from the cruise and left on Sunday. All the passengers were put through rigorous tests before they were allowed to board the flights. Besides, those infected with the virus were transferred to a Japanese hospital for treatment. The planes were expected to arrive in the US later Monday morning.

The Diamond Princess was docked-off at the Yokohama port on February 3, with nearly 3,600 people on-board. However, it was put into quarantine after disembarking, as an 80-year-old man was diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-19 coronavirus. A citizen of Hong Kong, he went on the ship in January. The outbreak has since hit 356 people, with 70 cases announced on Sunday.

The cruise now possesses the largest concentration of coronavirus cases outside the mainland China. Earlier this month, experts casted doubt over Japanese government’s decision of keeping the passengers of the Diamond Princess in quarantine. They also warned that it was not the best way to deal with the situation. On February 7, there were 61 cases on the ship, which rose to 356 in merely 10 days.

“I don’t understand why they have to be kept on a ship,” stated Peter Hotez, of the Baylor College of Medicine. “We’re employing what I call 14th-century approaches and ethics to individuals with transmissible disease.”

The controversial quarantine period of the passengers on-board was expected to end on February 19, prior to which the US sent an email to its citizens recommending them to “disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring”. There were 428 Americans aboard the Diamond Princess, 44 of which were reportedly tested positive of the epidemic.

Passengers had to choose, if they wanted to return to the US on the airplanes. However, they were required to undergo another 14 days of quarantine. “We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease,” email from the US embassy read.

Moreover, the American passengers, who chose to not take the flight were obligated to remain in quarantine for addition 14 days in Japan to ensure being symptom-free before returning to the US.

While the US has already evacuated its citizens from the Diamond Princess, countries like Australia, Canada and Hong Kong are also expected to follow the suit.

Although appreciated, the decisions by these nations have come too late to save people from the spreading virus. What began with a single infected person on the cruise, has now affected hundreds of others in a matter of few days. Had the screening and evacuations taken place on February 3 itself, the statistics would have been different on the Diamond Princess.

Continue Reading


Trump’s India Visit: Leaders of the Two Nations Unite on Division Wall

Mirror News Desk



Trump’s India Visit: Leaders of the Two Nations Unite on Division Wall

President Trump’s India visit will soon be taking place, and Prime Minister Modi is ready to welcome him in a total Trump-way!

Seclusion and suppression— the idea of two political leaders reached a common ground of thoughts, maybe in a mere coincidence. The like-minded, US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon be meeting in person for the first time on the Indian soil.

Last week, the White House confirmed that the President will be accompanied by the US First Lady Melania Trump. The two-day trip on February 24 is likely to “strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership” that has been bruised by trade disputes.

The US President is scheduled to visit New Delhi, the Indian capital, and Ahmedabad, the city in PM Modi’s home state Gujarat. “This visit is a very special one and it will go a long way in further cementing India-US friendship,” Modi wrote in a tweet, on Wednesday.

However, in his efforts of “cementing” India’s ties with the US, the Indian PM took a decision of concealing certain localities of his home town, which are apparently disturbing his sight, but not his powerful position. Inspired by Trump, PM Modi, who claims to be a man for public, decided to leave an estimate of 800 families behind a wall.

Over 150 masons in India are working “round-the-clock” to build a 400-meter-long and seven-feet-high wall in Ahmedabad, so that the US President does not catch a glimpse of the large slum district.

The move was defended by a senior government official, who said that the wall was instead being built for security reasons. However, a contractor constructing it confirmed that it was a part of a “beautification and cleanliness” drive, and that the Indian government “did not want the slum to be seen” during President Trump’s India trip.

Indian PM’s decision proved to be a quick call for criticism from hundreds of people, who pointed out Modi’s hypocrisy of laying the “Gujarat model” of development and concealing the underdeveloped areas. In 2017, Modi introduced a model dedicated to the development and enhancement of Gujarat’s infrastructure. After two years, the plans appear unachieved.

“Modi is building the ‘Wall’ so he can hide slums when Trump visits his ‘Gujarat Model’,” wrote Ashok Swain, a professor of Peace and Conflict Research in Sweden.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has also been a stern president for most time since taking office, where his demand for a Mexico border wall was a constant agenda. Consequently, Modi’s wall against slum is being considered a replica of Trump’s wall against migrants.

“Mexican didn’t pay but Modi pays for Trump’s Wall,” tweeted Swain.

Trump’s India visit will mark the first day at Ahemdabad’s Sardar Patel Stadium for an extravaganza dubbed “Kem Chho Trump” (“How are you, Trump”). Organized on the similar lines of the “Howdy Modi” event, it will be attended by a crowd of more than 100,000 people who will welcome the US President.

It would be interesting to see what the two leaders, who divide by walls, will achieve after ten days, when they unite.

Continue Reading


War in Yemen: Spree of Hostilities Surround as Militias Down War Jet

Mirror News Desk



War in Yemen: Spree of Hostilities Surround as Militias Down War Jet

From bloodshed to famine, the war in Yemen once again marked destruction after a Saudi fighter jet crashed in the war-torn nation, the Saudi-led military coalition backing the government said.

A coalition spokesman affirming the news said that a Saudi Tornado fighter jet had “fallen” whilst orchestrating a support mission near Yemeni army units. No official word on the number of causalities was made public.

The responsibility for the attack was taken by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who via Houthis’ al-Masirah television channel claimed that the plane was shot down using an advanced surface-to-air missile.

However, the very next day after the Houthi’s shot down the plane, multiple reports emerged on Saudi-led coalition’s airstrike in the Houthi dominated area. The bombing has reportedly left 31 civilians dead, the United Nations said.

The war in Yemen has been a center point of destruction since the unrest began five years ago. The political conflict that has drawn multiple foreign parties to restore peace, has resulted in more deaths and carnage instead.

While the Saudi-led coalition – backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – appears to be fighting Houthi militias to restore the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has actually made Yemen a proxy war playground.

The fighting has already surpassed 10,000 deaths, with civilians suffering because of the lack of food, sanitation, medicine and other basic amenities. There have also been multiple reports on Yemeni’s surviving on boiled leaves, and some even starving to death because of food scarcity. Ironically, to top it the airstrikes have also become a regularity, inflicting wounds and inviting catastrophe at large.

The foreplay in Yemen has left the nation in evil hands, having no control over their ill-deeds. Meanwhile, the alliance in Saudi-UAE and the opposition in Houthi’s have shown no backing down. And the support of western nations including, the US and UK for the supply of weaponry, has made matters worse than ever before.

“So many people are being killed in Yemen – it’s a tragedy and it’s unjustified. Under international humanitarian law parties which resort to force are obligated to protect civilians. Five years into this conflict and belligerents are still failing to uphold this responsibility. It’s shocking,” Lise Grande, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator in Yemen said.

Only on Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition assumed responsibility to put on trial the personnel suspected of carrying out unlawful airstrikes on Yemeni civilians. Forgetting which, three days later, they killed another 31 in a war that has set ablaze the worst humanitarian crisis ever witnessed.

Continue Reading


Australian Fires Put 113 Animal Species on the Verge of Extinction

Mirror News Desk



Australian Fires Put 113 Animal Species on the Verge of Extinction

In a tussle for survival, the fittest can overcome all the odds. But with Australian fires, the resistance has reached a breaking point even for the most suited. Facing the menacing impact following wildfires, more than 100 species of animals in Australia stand on the verge of extinction, a new study has revealed.

As per a panel of experts appointed by the Australian government, as many as 113 native animal species are in need of help to bypass the problems caused by the Australian fires. Some of these are also classified as facing imminent extinction. Besides, almost all of the 113 species have already lost at least 30 per cent of their habitat, while some have lost even big numbers.

As reported, the list of species under threat includes 13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, five invertebrates, 22 spiny crayfish, and 17 freshwater fish species. The panel informed that it still has not been able to establish the full extent of damage because many areas still remain out of reach.

Researches earlier said that Australian fires had taken the lives of more than 1 billion animals living across forests and grasslands in its swathe. However, a provisional list released on Tuesday, reduced the count whilst handpicking those in urgent need for help.

The Greater Risk

Of the 113 species identified by the government panel, Kangaroo Island dunnart, the northern corroboree frog, the Blue Mountains water skink, and the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo are at greater risk. Meanwhile, Kangaroo Island situated off the coast of South Australia, suffered an even bigger blow after the fire eliminated tens of thousands of Koalas.

A Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy report released last month found that 272 plant species are also prone to vanquishing as a result of fire crisis. Other than animals being wiped out by the fire, the crisis is also having a bad impact on a lot of unconsidered factors.

“All the animals that have survived not only have no place to go back to, they don’t have food sources left. In a fire the insects get wiped out too, the smaller animals who eat ants and other insects won’t have food. Possums and gliders, if there are any left – most of them have been killed – they eat leaves and fruit, which have all been destroyed,” University of Sydney ecologist Doctor Valentina Mella said.

Raising Money for Bushfires

There have been various campaigns to raise funds for the Australian fires. And a match between Ponting XI and Gilchrist XI featuring legends of cricket was recently played for the same cause.

The Great Britain women’s hockey squad also took the big step to raise the funds for bushfires. The 26 players in the squad reportedly signed a brand new stick and said that the winning school or club will receive the prize from their behalf. The team also informed that prize will be shipped worldwide so that “everyone can make a difference”.

Social media has also come to the aid, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram being the difference makers. As reported last month, Facebook alone had helped raise $73 million for the fire relief work.

You can also do your bit and make a big difference!

The best thing about social media is that it is accessible to one and all just the same and reaches every part of the world, ensuring that help comes from every nook and corner of the world. By visiting the given link(s), you can also contribute to a great humanitarian cause.

Continue Reading