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UN Watch
  Make no mistake. On the current trajectory, the US is losing the war against the Islamic State (IS). The reasons are clear.
 
As we mark the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, disclosures of mass human rights violations have highlighted the need for greater accountability
 
By S P Seth       The good news is that the November 20 deadline for working out a long-term nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers that include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, China and Russia) and Germany has been extended for seven months to June 30 next year. The bad news, though, is that there are still serious gaps between the two sides, with the US and other dialogue partners wanting to curb Iran’s nuclear capability to suddenly breakout into making an atomic bomb. How and whether these gaps will be bridged during the extended period will be a difficult, if not an improbable, exercise. The opening premise of the negotiations in which Iran is considered a culprit of sorts pursuing a nuclear weapons programme in contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is seriously challenged by Tehran. Iran maintains that its nuclear research and technology programme is for peaceful purposes as per the NPT charter. The one-year interim agreement signed last year, which virtually froze Iran’s nuclear programme, was a stopgap arrangement to curtail Iran’s nuclear capability until a long-term arrangement was worked out. In return, Iran was given limited relief from some of the sanctions imposed on it.   The US’s intelligence on Iran’s nuclear capability did not detect that Tehran was working on a nuclear bomb, which enraged Israel. It is quite clear that despite all the sanctions it has suffered and is still suffering, Iran insists that it will not give away its ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme as it is a matter of national sovereignty. Even if it were to accept a low level of enrichment capability at 10 percent or below — an unlikely prospect — it still would not be acceptable to the Zionist lobby in the US that, with Israel, has a veto of sorts when it comes to Iran’s nuclear programme. They are unlikely to let it go through, with threats of more sanctions. For them, the only real solution is the dismantling/destruction of Iran’s nuclear capability because Tehran cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement.   Israel is simply dead set on stopping Iran from a nuclear path, peaceful or otherwise. It believes that Tehran will use its nuclear capability against Israel. Therefore, it has sought to subvert it by all sorts of subterfuges. For instance, it infected the programme with a computer virus targeted at Iran’s nuclear centrifuges to enrich uranium, possibly with US help/involvement. In the process, it was reported to have, at the time, ruined almost one-fifth of the centrifuges, thus seriously complicating and slowing the programme. But Iran apparently was able to fix the damage.   Israel has also reportedly been behind the killing of some of Iran’s nuclear scientists. Israel had reportedly tried hard to persuade the Bush administration to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities but it did not succeed as the US was already bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and did not have the stomach to buy into another adventure with all sorts of unpredictable consequences. Israel would have liked to do this on its own but wanted US help and backing that was not forthcoming. The US, however, made it clear that all options, including military action, were on the table if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. Israel is not satisfied with such assurances. One thing though is clear. Whether or not Iran’s nuclear programme is legitimate, Israel certainly does not have any political/moral case to oppose it, being the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the region and said to have an arsenal of a few hundred bombs.   Israel is not the only regional country strongly opposed to Iran’s nuclear programme. Among Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is in the vanguard of such opposition, though it does not seem coordinated with Israel. It is part of the larger sectarian conflict in the Muslim world between the Sunnis and Shias and the attendant geopolitical rivalry. Iran is believed to have ambitions to destabilise the Arab world and establish its dominance. One way to do so would be to stir up support among Shias in Arab countries, like in Bahrain where there is a majority Shia population ruled by a Sunni monarch, in the restive Saudi oil producing eastern province with a Shia majority, and in Yemen. Iran’s nuclear status would enhance its regional position and further stir up Shias in Arab countries, with direct or indirect support from Iran. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners are, therefore, strongly opposed to any US nuclear deal with Iran.   Of course, the US has no intention of facilitating an Iranian nuclear programme. That is why there are so many obstacles in doing a deal. It has to be so foolproof that Iran will not be able to ‘breakout’ into making a bomb through its existing nuclear facilities. Hence, the need for the US to keep Iran’s capability to enrich uranium to the lowest possible level and to keep its nuclear facilities under strict and widest scrutiny and surveillance. While Iran is willing to accept reasonable curbs and be transparent about its programme, it is not willing to let international inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) roam around anywhere and everywhere to demand instant inspections and interview its scientists. In return for accepting curbs on its nuclear programme, Iran wants economic sanctions lifted substantially, if not completely. The US, on the other hand, would like any lifting of sanctions to be limited both in scope and time to Iran’s compliance to Washington’s satisfaction, thus keeping it on life support. It is, therefore, not difficult to see what a maze the nuclear dialogue is between Iran and its six dialogue partners, particularly the US, UK, France and Germany.   However, last year’s interim agreement was a breakthrough of sorts between Iran and the US, though a limited one. John Kerry admitted that some progress was made in recent negotiations but not enough to clinch a deal. Serious gaps remain in their respective positions. The extended time schedule is meant to iron out and bridge those gaps, which is a big task. One thing, though, is clear: without Iran’s constructive involvement, the Middle Eastern region is likely to remain volatile, even more so after the runaway success of the Islamic State (IS). There is considerable scope for the US and Iran for cooperation against the IS, and some of it is already happening informally in Iraq. Indeed, John Kerry described recent Iranian aerial sorties against the IS as “positive”.   Although Saudi Arabia remains opposed to Iranian involvement and/or any cooperation between it and the US, Riyadh is not unaware of the serious threat IS poses to the Saudi regime by seeking to destabilise and/or overthrow the monarchy. The threat would probably have to be more concrete before Riyadh considers any opening with Iran. However, for Iran to become part of the Middle Eastern geopolitical solution against IS and a range of other issues, a deal with Iran on its nuclear programme is imperative.     (The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia. He can be reached at sushilpseth@yahoo.co.au)   The Daily Times, December 10, 2014   
 

Russia is facing its most difficult challenges since the 1990s. The economic slowdown — driven by corruption and lack of reforms that resulted in capital outflow and fall in investments — had already started last year. However, this year has added two more major and unusually strong headwinds.

 

Several Bangladeshi-British youths have recently been indicted in Britain for their alleged links with the ISIS. Twenty-year-old Mahdi Hassan -- whose parents had migrated from Bangladesh -- was one of the six former students of a private British school to have joined the ISIS, and the fourth one to be killed recently while fighting at Kobane, Syria.

 

Muslims have traced a recent trajectory they can’t decipher. Their states have become unstable after seeking to transition from authoritarianism to democracy. The world thought this transition would lead to some kind of Muslim enlightenment and called it their spring. It was an Arab Spring to begin with, but it could be called a Muslim Spring too.

 

Amenacingly armed political entity has risen over the horizon in the Middle East. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (the region consisting parts of modern Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon) or ISIL, also known as ISIS, the acronym derived from its Arabic name, AD-Dowla Al-Islamiyyafil Iraq wa as-sham announced its arrival in June this year. 

 

It is amazing how fast the global strategic balance is changing. What this means is that since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ascension of the US as the only global superpower in the 1990s, the world is transiting into a state of multi-polarity. 

 

The most important and decisive moment of Pakistan’s history came during the first, and the only free and fair general elections of 1970. If ever there were any chance for Pakistan to become a democratic, progressive and pluralistic country, it was at this moment.

 

In the last few years, Syria and Iraq have emerged as new hotbeds of international militancy and terrorism. The ability of the terrorist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to attract foreign fighters has created new challenges for global peace and security. 

 


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Review
 
 
 
 
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The words of Ho Chi Minh  “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty” rang true for the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan when, with increasing brutality, the West Pakistani oppression spread across the land, writes Anwar A Khan from Dhaka
 
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In a significant boost to New Delhi's Act East Policy, India and Japan set up the Act East Forum on Tuesday as agreed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India this year for the annual bilateral meeting that would help to focus and catalyse development in India's Northeast.
 
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  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated on Friday Washington's warning that “all options are on the table” to meet North Korea's nuclear threat while offering to keep the lines of communication with Pyongyang open.
 
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What is commonly referred to as the “border dispute” between India and China manifests itself in two distinct and separate areas of contention. One is Aksai Chin, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert expanse of about 37,000 square kilometres. The other is what is now the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh,
 
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The first thing that one sees when a flight approaches New Delhi is thick smog that envelopes the city and its lack of greenery.  In almost all other major cities of India lack of greenery is the most obvious sight that one sees when approaching it by air.
 
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Pakistan has agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate after holding talks with the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) on the country's economy.

 
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Two major global changes in the past year; the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the advent of Donald Trump, writes Sandeep Kaur Bhatia

 
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It is also imperative for India to explore other regions for markets. Its trade deficit with Latin America has been narrowing. Also, its trade with Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala has increased, ...

 
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Over the last 25 years, India's explosive economic growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world's emerging major powers. Long plagued by endemic poverty, until the 1990s the Indian economy was also hamstrung by a burdensome regulat...

 
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Title: A Ticket to Syria; Author: Shirish Thorat; Publisher: Bloomsbury India: Pages: 254; Price: Rs 399

 
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Gorichen, a majestic peak in the Eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 22,500 feet, is the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. Beautiful to look at and providing a fantastic view from the top, it is extremely tough climb for mountaineers.

 
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It is often conjectured if the reason for long-standing conflicts and insurgencies, in the developing world, especially South Asia, is not only other powers fishing in troubled waters but also the keenness of arms industries, mostly Western, to...

 
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Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699