Thursday, January 20, 2011

Russian president’s visit boosts Palestinian relations

Palestinians received a badly needed morale boost on Tuesday from the leader of a superpower, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

At a time when Palestinian morale was very low with the stalemate in the peace process and a feeling of abandonment from the Obama administration, Medvedev came to the rescue.

First, Medvedev made a special visit to the Palestinian territories, coming this time from Jordan, not Israel. Previously, visitors coming to Israel spend two or three days in the county meeting all kinds of officials and visiting all kinds of places. And while they are in Israel, visiting officials usually pay a complimentary and very short visit to the Palestinian areas meeting only with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office for two or three hours.

Medvedev was going to do the same thing, but a strike by Israeli foreign ministry employees who refused to facilitate his visit forced the Russian president to cancel his trip to Israel. But he insisted at the same time to keep his part of the visit to the Palestinian areas and decided to make his trip coming from Jordan therefore bypassing Israeli foreign ministry protocols.

Medvedev realized the importance of this step to Palestinian morale. Addressing reporters at a news conference with his Palestinian counterpart Abbas in the ancient West Bank city of Jericho, where Medvedev spent the day, he said that “this is the first visit for a Russian president to the region and Palestinian territories that is not tied to a visit to a neighboring country.”

While the Russian president did not name the neighboring country, it was clearly understood to be Israel, and a big applause by the audience in the hall was a witness to that.

Second, the Palestinians needed all the help they could muster from a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the Middle East peace quartet as they prepare to ask the Security Council to vote in favor of a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories.

The U.S. has already informed Palestinians that it will not support that resolution, and therefore the Palestinians are hoping for support from Russia and other permanent Security Council member states to offset a possible U.S. veto.

Medvedev did not say if his country will vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution or not, but he did blame the political stalemate on Israel’s settlement construction.

“Without a decision to stop settlements,” he said, “there will not be movement forward.”

He said, “We all are not happy with the situation of the peace process. Today, there is a stalemate, a crisis. There is no movement and this negatively affects the situation in the Middle East.”

Abbas said he discussed with Medvedev “possibilities to get the peace process out of its jam and what role Russia can play toward that.”

Medvedev’s third boost was his affirmation that Russia’s late 1980s recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders has not changed.

“Russia’s position from the Palestinian issue has not changed and remains the same,” he said. “Russia made its choice in the late '80s, and it supports the right of the Palestinian people to have their viable and contiguous state with East Jerusalem as its capital. A Palestinian state is a win to everyone: the Palestinians, Israel and the entire Middle East. This should be our goal,” he said.

Russia has the West in it's fingers on control of dominance and leadership with its superpower status

Despite losing the cold war some 20 years ago, Russia has regain superpower status without concessions to a new world order. The policy issue for Canada and others is this: how far to tolerate Russia’s aggression in the name of good relations? And: will it change, if criminal behavior is accommodated?

The state, under President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, controls virtually all aspects of domestic affairs:

Business shenanigans are legion, best exemplified by the lengthy incarceration of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s former energy czar. Most of Russia’s wealth is controlled by oligarchs favoring the state. Those who do not, like Boris Berezovsky, must flee.

Liberties at home are declining and aggression towards neighbours is rising as Russia, once again, pursues its 19th century imperialist doctrine of Czar Nicholas I “autocracy, orthodoxy and nationalism”.

Following the West’s Cold War victory which liberated some 500 million people and 15 states plus the satellites, from the concentration camp that was the Soviet Union, Russia was in no better position to negotiate terms than post-war Germany. Yet, some--Stalin’s moniker for Western apologists of the USSR had been “useful idiots” -- lobbied hard to stop the “humiliation” of Russia and blessing its unilateral claim to a new “near abroad” empire. To this end, Ukraine and Kazakhstan were threatened with aid withdrawal if exclusive control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal were denied Russia. And when NATO membership support was nearing 70 percent in Ukraine, Western democracies sided with Russia’s nyet rather than admit the largest European country-- a fledgling democracy aiming to embrace the West--into its fold. The pattern persists: there was tepid consternation rather than outrage as Putin threatened Ukraine and Georgia with nuclear annihilation were NATO membership to be granted.

Russia appeasement is alive and well as short-term interests get in the way of principles and strategic goals. This gets France technology transfer contracts for Russia’s naval fleet enlargement. Germany’s Angela Merkel--with roots in East Germany where Mr. Putin served as a KGB operative, speaks Russian at official bilateral meetings and works hard to be on the right side of Russia’s energy policies. The United States may have a new START agreement, open bases in Kyrgystan and cooperation in dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat but at what price? Russia leads the world in nuclear arsenals in defence and they will develop what is the best interest for their country.

Meanwhile, Russia’s strategic goals are gaining ground. It is expanding its hegemony in the neighborhood; participating in Europe’s security deliberations; increasing control of global waters; seeking trade access via WTO membership; and demanding respect while expanding its criminal empire. Cold War victors applaud-- da, da kharasho--and throw in the Winter Olympics and the World Cup into the bargain.

Historian Eerik-Niiles Kross reminds how George Smiley (John le Carre’s fictional character in his Cold War novels) was fond of saying that “bargaining with the Russians tends to result in giving away the crown jewels in return for chicken feed.”

Ukraine is a particularly fine gem. The largest country in Europe, with outstanding assets--agriculture, metallurgy, aerospace, with considerable Europe reach via river networks and into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through the Black Sea, it is key to yedynyj ruskyj mir, the one Russian world, as its current rhetoric has it.

Pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych leads the charge in Ukraine, while the West, in deference to Russia, throws the proverbial pearl to the pigs. From an impressive near 90 percent support for independence from Russia- dominated USSR in 1991, Ukraine reverted to a narrow pro-Russia presidential victory in 2010. Unquestionably Russia was guiding developments there; buying Western hearts and minds, by besmirching its state politics, claiming “Ukraine fatigue” and “political instability” to ensure the results it wanted. Instead of mounting robust fights, the West caved and Ukraine is, for the time being, sliding back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

The West’s Russo-centric optic is historic and due, in part, to ignorance of the Slavic world. Canada’s historian Margaret MacDonald underscores this in her “1919: The Versailles Treaty” as Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George split Ukraine between Poland and Russia.

And, nearly a century later, as the U.S.S.R. collapses President George H.W. Bush admonishes Ukraine for breaking with Russia! Current opinion leaders chatter about “Russia’s Crimea.” Similarly, centuries of Ukraine’s incessant struggles for independence are dismissed as “300 years of Russian rule,” thus legitimizing the hope of the czarist doctrine: Ukraine never was, is not now and never shall be and playing into Putin’s hand.

Pro-Russia thinking is evident globally. Despite its lawlessness, it is a bona fide member of the G-8 and G-20; it is courted by NATO. And, if Christopher Westdal’s writings are indicative, more Russia accommodation is in the works. “Make no mistake” he says “…new boundaries of Europe and Russia will be drawn. … the Caucasus is not European…neither is Ukraine European--enough.” And, if history is a measure, the West just may allow Russia to prevail.

Pro-Russia thinking is evident globally. Despite its lawlessness, it is a bona fide member of the G-8 and G-20; it is courted by NATO. And, if Christopher Westdal’s writings are indicative, more Russia accommodation is in the works. “Make no mistake” he says “…new boundaries of Europe and Russia will be drawn. … the Caucasus is not European…neither is Ukraine European--enough.” And, if history is a measure, the West just may allow Russia to prevail.

It is chilling that the West may bargain away yet another crown jewel-- NATO’s Western self-determination-- in return for cooperation in Afghanistan and Iran. Mere chicken feed? Delusionary trust? Or both?

A good predictor of future behavior is past performance. The United States and Canada, for instance, should continue to have good relations, given some 200 years of peace and prosperity. The future in Russia’s neighborhood and the rest of the world will be turbulent unless pressured to change. In the last century, Russia invaded the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Georgia. There is mischief making in Armenia and Transdnistria, cyber attacks on Estonia and interference in the Kyrgyz Republic. Gratuitous butchery in Chechnya contrasts sharply to the way Canada, for example, handled Quebec’s independence aspirations.

Russia’s aggression calls for deterrents rather than rewards. Yet in April, Obama and Medvedev signed the New START Treaty to reduce nuclear power of both countries. Some fear it will ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal cannot overwhelm Russia’s and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia reserves the right to drop out of the pact if it believes U.S. missile defense plans for Europe threaten its security.

In this uncertain world, Canada is doing its part.

During the recent visit to Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew heavily on Canada’s foreign policy pillars: security within a stable global framework and projection of Canadian values.

Harper spoke in Kyiv, but his words were heard in Moscow and around the world. He called for the rule of law, respect for human rights and the importance of free media. He paid homage to victims of both Nazi and Communist regimes in this blood-soaked land with the message that admission of past atrocities is a deterrent to future genocides. His performance was statesman like, in the best Canadian tradition and one which virtually all Canadiansare proud to support.

It surprises that some would have him -- Canada-- silenced because such positions are “tailored to suit…Russia-phobe diaspora voting blocks in Canada.” Moreover, dismissing Canada’s concerns regarding Russia’s territorial claims in theArctic as being “…equivalent to bald men arguing over a comb” is perplexing given the suspected massive oil and gas reserves in the Arctic and Russia’s enhancement of its navy capacity by some 50 vessels and the new military budget by 650 billion dollars.

Of course, having Russia closer to Canada, NATO and other Western democracies is desirable and current convergences would be good news were they accompanied with democratization. The reality is different. Russia glorifies its bloody imperial and Soviet past and shows little progress in becoming a rule of law state. It remains a repeat offender, a danger the West dismisses at its peril.

Monday, September 6, 2010

NATO wants Russian superpower but Russia says no

More than 60 years after the foundation of the Alliance, NATO has reached a turning point. The fears of the Cold War era have been swept away, and a changing, global world holds new challenges and risks. A new Strategic Concept for the "modernized Alliance" will serve to lay the groundwork for the long term.

1. Public Image

Let’s make it clear: NATO has an image problem. The Alliance began its operations in 1949 with the aims of providing safety and protecting freedom. It has had great success, making an excellent contribution to the creation of a world of peace, security, stability and prosperity for its member states. However, since the end of the Cold War, some are asking why it still exists. In a world of steady budget cuts, taxpayers want to know exactly how their money is being spent and what NATO can provide better than others. The Alliance must provide answers to these questions in order to avoid an identity crisis.

The work of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division must be expanded. Right now, the Division concentrates too much on specialist circles and not enough on the general public. The NATO/NewsMarket Channel project, for example, marks a step in the right direction. Here it is also important to let the public know that NATO has a Civilian Structure. The Civil Emergency Planning Committee (CEPC) and Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) have helped on many occasions of natural disasters.

2. Military Reform / Nato Response Force

The world has moved on in military issues. In the days of the Cold War, creating large bodies of troops was a sensible military tactic: they achieved deterrence and signaled military superiority in a war that was more than likely to take place on the territory of a member state. Today, military operations are usually out-of-area missions and threats require flexible, technically advanced troops. Interoperability is just as important as tactical logistics capacities. For that reason, the NATO Response Force (NRF) was founded. However, two serious problems may be seen in this case.

First, the current NRF troop strength is inadequate: 25,000 soldiers are far from sufficient. In almost all countries that contribute troops to the NATO Response Force, technology and interoperability requirements cannot be met. It is necessary for member states to rethink the practice of funding large standing armies which are no longer contemporary for modern warfare, where quality holds priority over quantity. NATO’s member states, especially the European members, should considerably reduce the number of their troops (as has been recently discussed in Germany), allowing existing troops to be trained and equipped in the best possible way.

Second, there is a problem with financing. Donald Rumsfeld has already demanded the joint-financing of NATO missions and a more equal cost distribution. But NRF military operations are still financed according to the principle of "costs lie where they fall," which means that each member state pays for its own contribution. As it is, there are often firm commitments for financial support that are never realized, as NATO lacks an instrument to create pressure to fulfill financial obligations.

3. Bring in Russia

The NATO-Russian Council kicked things off, but in the long term, NATO needs to seriously consider membership for Russia. This solution will not of course be achievable in the next few years, as the Georgian conflict and some of the comments at this year’s Munich Security Conference have reflected too much of the old rivalries. Why is it nevertheless preferable to think about it?

There is no doubt that NATO member states and Russia hold different opinions on a number of points. Still, there are far more issues where NATO and Russia share strategic priorities and face similar challenges: counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the expansion of radical Islamism, just to name a few. In Afghanistan, Russia’s geostrategic situation and its previous experience gives it an advantage in dealing with the challenges there. Obama’s dream of global zero can only come true with the cooperation of Russia: membership could simplify or remove the need for nuclear deterrence. NATO eastern expansion will also require Russian cooperation. Last but not least is the issue of China. The emerging superpower may be on its way to a dominant position in international and economic relations - NATO needs Russia on its side. The Alliance must ask itself now whether it can risk giving the cold-shoulder to Russia any longer.

Klaus Spiessberger studied political science, law, philosophy, organizational psychology and economics in Munich and Hagen. He is a member of the German Council on Foreign Relations and is currently working for PHOENIXgroup.

Russian superpower on route of nuclear delivery to Iran

Such is the case with Russia who is holding out on a 2007 contract to sell Iran S-300, an advanced air defense system, worth $800 million dollars, using this as a playing card with the West for its own gain. And such is the case when a country is dependent on a superpower for help and protection. In the following, I hope to analyze two independent but inner-related narratives, when connected, will demonstrate how and why we have reached this point. The hand that fed us the poison is also holding the antidote.

The key word is industrialization, which is a process of social and economic change through technological innovations and manufacturing for mass consumption. England was the first innovator of such an idea out of need, starting in North-West to Midlands in the eighteenth century. It spread to Europe and North America in the 19th century and to the rest of the world in the twentieth century. In pre-industrialization the availability of food was a major issue. Great Britain experienced a massive increase in agricultural productivity by mechanization. Abundance of food resulted in population growth which in turn provided the labor needed to run newly fashioned industries as development expanded. With division of labor and specialization of skills, plus assembly production lines, they were able to design and produce heavy equipments which included military modernization.

Japan was the first to learn how a superpower may lean on a less developed nation, imposing it’s will, because of lack of respect. In the convention of Kanagawa, US Commodore Matthew C. Perry issued a treaty with Japan to open the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade. Japan signed this reluctantly with “unequal treaty system”, which was characteristic of the West and Asia’s relations at the time. The Japanese government found it necessary to make dire reforms in the country’s capabilities in order to prevent such an insult from the West again. The feudal system was abolished; military reform was initiated to modernize it, which resulted in industrialization of the country. In the 1870’s Meiji government energetically promoted technical and industrial development that eventually changed Japan to the powerful country that it is today.

Russia suffered the same fate during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. In 1918 Allied forces of fourteen nations moved into Russia with the initial goal to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, to secure military supplies in Russian ports, and to re-establish the Eastern Front. At the end of WWI, allies fearful of Bolshevism openly intervened in the Russian Civil War, supporting the pro-Tsarist, Anti-Bolshevik White Forces. It took a general uprising against the Allies which eventually withdrew out of North Russia and Siberia in 1920. Again that prompted the Soviet Union, which had a centrally controlled economy, to invest a large portion of its resources in industrialization and infrastructure to assure this from never happening again.

Now that we have seen how Europe, America, Russia and Japan moved in a new direction in civilization, what happened to the Middle-East? Why didn’t they follow suit, like everyone else? After all, the initial scientific knowledge such as mathematics and geometry, the unique architecture, literature and poetry, the original civilizations first known to mankind, came from this region. How did they become so oblivious to the changing world around them? The answer lies in the second stage of industrialization. To manufacture, one must have raw material. And to keep the factories going and to secure jobs, one must have market to sell them. That is when Africa and the Middle East came into the picture. European’s industrial jump-start advanced rapidly due to competition among themselves. Then it became a competitive foray to the “Less Developed Countries” (LDC) for raw commodities. The pattern for operation then as it is today; a company offered to invest on a particular natural resource to develop it at a predetermined contract. Often, the contracts were enormously advantageous to them far beyond their capital investment. What is more, once they had their feet in the door, they began to interfere with the internal politics and manipulation, for their own benefit. In the course of Europeans competition with one another, a regional strategy developed, far bigger and complex, beyond the capabilities of the small nations to control their own destinies. At times they loaned money to a kingdom of a one man rule, where the money was wasted, resulting in the ruler becoming dependent on the foreign influence for its continuance, protection and economic existence. Emergence of Colonial Empires, became equivalent to stagnation of under developed countries. The strategy was to keep them poor, ignorant and dependent on the foreign power for its existence. Today it is called: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The struggle still continues between the LDC’s and OECD. The following history of Iran during the period of industrialization well demonstrates this scenario, much to our dismay.

The Qajar dynasty was established by Agha Mohammad Khan, who had defeated all his rivals, including Lotf Ali Khan of Zand Dynasty by 1794. He reasserted Iranian sovereignty over former Iranian territories of Georgia and Caucasus in northern Iran. He established his capital in Tehran near the ancient city of Ray and was crowned in 1796. But he was assassinated in 1797. This was the last time the Persian Empire restored its territorial integrity. He was succeeded by Fath Ali Shah, his nephew. Shortly after, Russia attacked southward defeating Ali Shah in two wars which resulted in two treaties: Golestan in 1813 and Turkamanchai in 1823. The result was Iran giving up Georgia and Northern Caucasus. This in turn led to the losses of what had remained north of the Aras River, which was Armenia and Azerbaijan. He died in 1834 and was succeeded by Mohammad Shah. This Shah fell under Russian influence, and with their encouraging tried twice to take back Herat in Afghanistan and failed. He died in 1848 and was succeeded by his son, Naser-o-din-shah. No sooner Iran had entered the 19th Century; they lost a portion of Northern Iran. Imagine why? They did not have a reliable military trained leader, the 19th Century military equipments, and training to answer the Russian aggression.

Naser-o-din Shah was able and willing to serve the country. He set out to bring western science, technology and education methods. He began modernization. He tried to play off Great Britain verses Russia for Iran’s independence. But these two had other ideas to weaken Iran. In 1856 when the Shah tried to reassert his position to regain Herat, which has always been part of Persian Empire, Britain prevented him and Herat was given to Afghanistan to create a new country to serve as a buffer between Russia and the British Indian Colonies. Then the Russians in 1881 once again mobilized to take the remaining territories in the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Also once again Britain forced a trade concession on Iran which practically gave them the control of Iran’s economy. Naser-o-din Shah was assassinated on May 1, 1896. Again, these guerillas stayed on Iran’s back, taking control, taking territories and preventing Iran from helping itself. There is a bright and noteworthy historic event that took place during this Shah’s reign that set the foundation for future Iran. His name was, Mirza Taghi Amir Kabir, advisor and constable to Naser-ol-Din Shah who later awarded him the position of Prime Minister. At this time Iran was bankrupt with a weak central government, and almost all the provinces operating autonomously. In his next two and half years he set out a major reform in all sectors of society. He slashed government expenditures and made a distinction between what was public purse or private. He overhauled the Central Administration and personally took charge of all bureaucracies. He curtailed foreign interference to the extent possible and encouraged trade. His most significant accomplishment was building the first modern University Dar-ol-fonoon on the edge of the city for future expansion. His intent was to train a new cadre of administrators with Western skills. He brought in French, Russian and Iranian teachers, instructing Languages, Medicine, Law, Geography, History, Economics and Engineering. Unfortunately court politics led to conspiracy which was to the detriment of the nation. You cannot do this much reform without antagonizing those who benefited during the chaos. They formed a coalition against him, with mother Queen on board. She convinced the Shah that Amir wanted to usurp the throne. In October 1851, he was dismissed and sent to exile in Kashan, where he was murdered. This time in the absence of foreign interference, they shot themselves 0n the foot.

Things got worse when Mozaffar-o-din Shah took the helm. He was a typical prince born with a silver spoon in his mouth who didn’t have the least idea on his responsibilities for the nation, being ravaged by foreign elements. He was weak and extravagant. The government treasury was empty with no source of income. Twice he borrowed a large sum of money from Russia, travelled to Europe and spent it. To obtain the funds, he made economic and mineral concessions to the Europeans which brought outrage to the Iranians to a boiling point. Protest broke out all over, led by the clergy, merchants, scholars and common people. He had reneged on a promise of a National Assembly. Instead he engaged on a crack down to quash protesters unlike anything experienced before. Many protesters had to take refuge in mosques and about 10,000 others, mostly merchants, in June found refuge in compound of British legation in Tehran. In August he accepted a decree to a Constitution. In October an elected assembly wrote the Constitution whereupon placed a strict limitation on Royal Power, establishment of an elected Majles with power to represent the people, and a government with a cabinet subject to confirmation by Majles. This was signed on December 30, 1906, recognized as Constitutional Revolution of Iran. He died five days later. In 1907 additional laws were written granting the people freedom of press, speech and association, and Security of life and property. One might say this ended the medieval period in Iran, but the constitution still becomes a dead piece of paper as evidenced by following events.

Mohammad Ali Shah, son of Mozaffar-o-din Shah, took the helm in 1907. As an 11 year old he was under the influence of Russians. In June 1908 he used the Russian-officered Persian Cossacks Brigade to attack and bomb Majles, arrested many deputies and shut down the assembly. Iranian supporters of the constitution responded in July 1909. Many marched from Rasht and Isfahan to Tehran. This resulted in re-establishment of the constitution and Shah’s exile to Russia. Now the freedom loving Iranians thought the constitution would provide the foundation for Independence. Russians move their forces into Iran in 1910 with the intention of re-installing the Shah. But the British would not allow them to have it all. They executed the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, whereby Russia took control of the north; the British took the south and east, with a buffer zone at the center, for both to compete for economic advantage. However it must be said the division was more based on areas of influence and not annexation of territory. The government still functioned as such. At this time the government had hired the services of an American, Morgan Shuster to reform the Treasury General and finances. He sent Gendarmerie, a tax department police force, to the Russian zone to collect taxes from Iranian officials who were under Russian protection. Russia demanded the removal of Shuster and moved forces already in the country to occupy the capital, this was 1911. An opportunistic group, Bakhtiari chief and their troops surrounded Majles, and forced acceptance of Russian ultimatum, and shut down the Majles, Once again the constitution was shelved. Morgan Schuster was loved by Iranians for his courage and services, in comparison to what Russian and British had dished out to Iranians. In later years he wrote a book “The Strangling of Persia” in which…”he expressed his admiration for the moral courage and determination of the people he worked with in the period of Constitutional Revolution”. During World War I, British, Russians and Ottoman forces occupied Iran from 1914-1918, sealing this shah’s fate.

Reza khan, an officer in the Iranian army staged a successful coup-d’Ă©tat in February of 1921. He marched his Cossack Brigade from Gazvin to Tehran and seized the city with little resistance. Later, he encountered numerous opposition groups which he defeated, and by October 26, 1923, he seized control of Iran and forced the Shah to flee to Europe. He became the Shah of Iran in 1925 as Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was a strong man with vision. For the first time after over 100 years, we found a leader who loved his country, who diligently tried to stop exploitation of Iran by inexorable super powers. He engaged in a wide array of modernizations, building large scale industries, road constructions, Trans-Iranian Railroad, National Public Education System, establishment of University of Tehran, and improving health care. He had the vision of a centralized government run by educated personnel. He sent many to Europe for education including his son. In such a short time, Iran became an industrial, urbanized country. His boldest move was the Women’s Awakening program and removal of Hijab. He changed the country’s name from Persia to Iran in 1935. Reza Shah was a patriotic man but perhaps not a good politician. During his reign he ran an autocratic government with little use for Majles or the Constitution. He arrested, imprisoned and murdered many upper echelon politicians due to paranoia. He massacred demonstrators in Mashhad, committed repression against intellectuals and censorship on newspapers. He even caused dissent in his military. That is why when his time came, he was standing alone.

Iran’s industrialization required foreign technicians. He avoided the British and Soviets and awarded many of the contracts to Germany, France, Italy and other Europeans. In 1939 with WWII looming, he announced Iran’s neutrality. The allies demanded that Germans be expelled as spies. The Allies real motive was to use Iran as a corridor to ship arms and supplies to Russia. When he refused on the grounds that it would interfere with the country’s progress, in 1941 once again Britain and USSR invaded Iran, arrested Reza Shah and sent him to exile in South Africa. They took control of communication and railroads. American military forces came to Iran in 1942 to maintain and operate sections of the railroad system. Winston Churchill called Iran “The Bridge of Victory”. I have seen a picture of him in exile, wearing a drably suite, gazing down sideways, with face of a bewildered man, hopeless and lonely, nothing to do, but waiting to die. Reza Shah died from a heart ailment on July 26, 1944. (A number of years later when his body was returned to Tehran from Egypt, I was in Elementary school. They took all of us children out of school for that day. We were taken to a large wide avenue, lined up along the edge of sidewalks. We stood on our feet for several hours when finally his body passed before us, it was a short glimpse. Now after so many years, this memory seems more like a dream!).

This is how the end came: They made him an offer that he could not refuse. “Would His Highness kindly abdicate in favor of his son, the heir to the throne? We have a high opinion of him and will ensure his position. But his highness should not think there is any other solution.” – His son, Mohammad Reza Shah took the throne on September 16, 1941. Iran’s political system was moving along nicely and in January 1942 Britain and Russia signed an agreement respecting Iran’s independence, and to withdraw six months to the end of the war. Then in the 1943 Tehran Conference, U.S. reaffirmed the agreement. When time came to leave in 1945, again the Soviets reneged and would not leave eastern and western sides of Azerbaijan. It took considerable negotiations and pressure from the other two powers to get them to withdraw in 1946. Now for first time Iran had some breathing room to exercise constitutional politics. In 1944 a true election for Majles took place with competition among candidates. As time went on people began to think of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company that was pumping Iranian oil with little return to Iran. The nationalization of the Oil Industry became the centerpiece of Iranian Nationalism. The Shah under Constitutional Monarchy was to defer the governmental decisions to a parliamentary government. He interjected himself in decision making process and marginalized the parliament. As the result he was always in challenge with his Prime Ministers. He revived the army and kept it under Royal control as a power base. The Nationalization of Iranian Oil industry took place in 1951 with the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddeg, who was voted to become prime minister by Majles. British resorted to threats and sanctions and tried to get the backing of the US, under President Truman, unsuccessfully. Mosaddeg was a nationalist and extremely popular with the public. During the challenge of oil nationalization, he was backed by all factions including Hezbe Tudeh (Communist Party). So when it came time for US and Britain to take him down, he became an easy target of accusation as a communist. Meanwhile his confrontation with the Shah heated up more. He took up an inflexible position in negotiations for market, which led to a global boycott of Iranian oil. His position on International injustice made him an Anti-imperialist hero to the developing world. He demanded the Shah give up control of the military which the Shah refused. In anger he resigned, but he was re-instated after a popular riot broke out. He also initiated a referendum to dissolve the parliament for being under the Shah’s influence. All of this was too much for those who wanted to control Iran, so Mosaddeg had to go. By this time General Eisenhower became president of United Sates. In 1953 the British SIS acquired the help of the CIA and proceeded with a plan for a coup. In reality it was a poorly planned and executed operation which almost failed. The Shah fled to Iraq. Not so resolute, they had to convince him to hang in there to the end. Mosaddeg made some strategic mistakes with his supporters and opened the door for General Zahedi to crush the sparse resistance and arrested Mosaddeg. This ended the last stand of an Iranian patriot for Iran’s Independence. (At this time I was 15 years old, and a typical teenager. School and play was my priorities. Aside from going school, I played soccer for a club north of Tehran, and flew pigeons from my rooftop).

In conclusion, this was a fascinating, but painful history of Iran in the past two centuries, which found it difficult to make the transition to a modern era of industrialization and modern warfare. The Soviet Union and Great Britain became a paradigm of oppression with proclivity to oppress, conquer, manipulate, ravage and plunder resources with indignity and without shame. We were unlucky with the succession of incompetent leaders, who trampled and discarded the Constitution lasting to this century. There remains an unfulfilled dream of a Constitutional Democracy. And whenever we had a leader with a strong resolve to win our independence, they cranked up the propaganda machines, accused one for being a Nazi sympathizer and the other a communist, and put them into pasture. To pour salt on our wounds, the 1979 Revolution became a source of disillusionment and disappointment politically and economically, which does not ensure Iran’s Independence in the future with bellicose politics of the Islamic Republic.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Islamic Leader requesting cooperation of Superpowers

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said cooperation between independent governments can be a countermeasure against global totalitarianism.

"The only way to change the oppressive relations in the world today is through the formation of closer ties between independent states," the Leader declared on Sunday.

"Superpowers have defined vertical relations in the world which places a superpower at the top. These relations must be changed and their change is possible," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The remarks were made in a meeting with visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the eve of the G15 summit in Tehran. The meeting was also attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The US and Russia have billed Lula's visit as Iran's "last chance" at avoiding a fourth round of tougher UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

In an allusion to the US ultimatum, Ayatollah Khamenei said Washington is unhappy to see the expansion of cooperation between independent states and their influential role in world affairs.

"One blatant example of this is the commotion created by US over your visit to Iran. It is because they are opposed to such relations," the Leader told Lula, who is in Tehran to work with Iranian official on a possible nuclear fuel swap deal that would render the US-pursued sanctions unnecessary.

Lula reiterated his support for the Islamic Republic's right to pursue technological progress and said bilateral ties could help turn Tehran and Brasilia into political and economic poles.

"Brazil believes Iran has every right to defend its independence and seek progress and development," highlighted Lula, whose country is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Another non-permanent UNSC member, Turkey, has also signaled readiness to enter trilateral talks on finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

Washington and its European allies have accused Iran of harboring a covert military nuclear program and are pushing to pass a US-drafted sanctions resolution.

Iran has repeatedly rejected the accusations, arguing that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has the right to a civilian nuclear program aimed at electricity generation and medical research.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Russian Federation has made big deals with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus & Kazakhstan

Moscow and Kyiv have put together a plan to incorporate the Transdnistrian region of Moldova into Ukraine, according to U.S. analyst Paul Goble. The move, which would offer a solution to one of the more protracted issues in Europe, needs more verification, but it would be in keeping with Russia's current tendency to engage in great-power politics.

Russia has become an activist player on the European stage. A foreign policy statement, issued on the Internet before President Dmitry Medvedev took office in 2008, indicates Russia's desire to reverse some of the setbacks of the past two decades and reassert its influence in its "neighbourhood."

An opportunity has been provided by several unrelated factors. Most notable has been the change of presidency in the United States. George W. Bush's program of enforcing democracy by threats or military action was perceived widely as a failure. It alienated former allies and caused acute anxiety in Russia.

Yet Barack Obama has neglected to offer any firm initiatives in foreign affairs, which is tantamount to a policy of isolationism. Obama is surely justified in rejecting his predecessor's branding of regimes according to an "axis of evil," but his lack of policy has created a vacuum. In Europe it is one that Russia intends to fill.

Linked to the inertia of the United States in Europe has been the preoccupation of western powers with the struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Russian authorities are well aware of the problems of warfare in that country and the likelihood that western occupation will end in failure. It is in Russia's interests that NATO forces remain there as long as possible.

A second factor has been this year's change of presidency in Ukraine. Practically from the moment Viktor Yanukovych took office, he has been under pressure from Moscow to take on the role of junior partner, and Russia has exploited Ukraine's economic predicament to acquire some key concessions.

In addition to the extension on the lease of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol until 2042, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested a merger of Gazprom and Ukraine's main energy company, Naftohaz. Ukraine is still mulling the proposal, which would have the effect of allowing Gazprom to control Ukraine's energy supplies, as well as transit of gas to Central Europe.

Russia has also acquired permission to re-establish the presence of its security forces -- the FSB -- in Crimea. Last week, the Crimean parliament resolved to elevate Russian to the status of an official language, to be used alongside Ukrainian in business and education. The peninsula is a potential tinderbox, though its residents firmly backed Yanukovych in the presidential election.

Earlier this year, Russia formed a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, two states that have been ruled by authoritarian leaders since the early 1990s: Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, respectively. Neither, currently, is an acolyte of Moscow and their strategies can be described as "evasive action" to avoid being dragged into the Russian sphere.

Belarus, however, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, is taking part in prolonged military exercises with Russia. Last year, Operation Zapad (West) simulated a response to a NATO attack on Kaliningrad by the supposed advancement of forces into Latvia before repelling the aggressor. The Latvian government, unsurprisingly, was less than amused by the exercise.

Currently, the oddest setback for Russia's strategy has been the fate of deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who lost his presidency after an uprising in Bishkek in early April. Moscow has been manoeuvring for some time for a friendly government in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiyev came to office in 2005 after the "Tulip Revolution" had removed his predecessor Askar Askayev, who fled to Kazakhstan but has resided of late in Moscow.

Bakiyev, however, found his way to Minsk where he and his family have been recipients of Lukashenka's hospitality. Moreover, the Belarusian president has ignored requests for his extradition and incensed Moscow by declaring that Bakiyev should return and take part in a referendum on his presidency. Lukashenka appears to be genuinely afraid that a dictator could be removed by a popular revolution. But in protecting Bakiyev he has, temporarily at least, upset the plans of the Russian leaders.

The Eurasian map is thus a virtual chessboard of moves and countermoves with the involvement of Russia as the constant factor. What it cannot gain through threats or force it can perhaps acquire by economic pressure through the giant, state-owned company Gazprom, of which President Medvedev is former chair of the board of directors.

However, Russia is punching above its weight. Though a major power in the region, it is overstretched militarily. Its armed forces could pacify the Georgians in 2008, but are in no position to assert themselves in larger countries. Moreover, the machinations of the Russian leadership are so blatantly transparent that all Russia's neighbours -- even Yanukovych's Ukraine -- cannot help but be wary.

Two other factors also have an impact on Russia's foreign policy goals. First, although the economy has recovered well from the recession, it remains focused on oil and gas and is helplessly subject to price fluctuations.

Second, the population of Russia has declined at an alarming rate since 1991, with low life expectancy, poor health care and a weak social infrastructure. In 2009, a small population increase was recorded, but Russia has fallen well behind countries such as China and India in human growth.

Russia's deep fixing on its economy has returned it to superpower status but it remains deeply enbedded improving its country with the status quo.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Russia stays clear to reform its democracy its way

A superpower in the past and a superpower of the present, Russia is undergoing a transition towards democracy but not American style democracy but a Russian style democracy as Russia wants to be its own government to the world and remain a global superpower.

This was the general understanding about Russia at a seminar titled ‘Russia’s Transition towards Democracy and Market Economy: The EU’s Responses’, organised by Area Study Centre for Europe (ASCE), University of Karachi (KU), in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), Islamabad, at the LEJ Digital Library of KU on Wednesday.

Director Dr Axmann compared Russia with a casino where people with money and power could come and play games to their hearts content. “Corruption and mismanagement is on the rise and it seems that Putin’s Russia is unknown to me. Over 22 government security agencies are controlling the country and all of the officials are, in one way or other, connected to Putin. Cronyism is rife there. The biggest country in the world that occupies nine per cent of the earth surface, Russia is super and mega. It will come to the fold of real democracy in the course of time,” he added.

Associate Professor and Head of Department Strategic & Nuclear Studies department of the National Defence University, Islamabad, Dr Noman Omar Sattar spoke on ‘Russia’s transition from a reluctant power in 1990s to an aspiring world power of the new millennium: with focus on its foreign policy”. He pointed out that Russia had many hurdles in achieving this objective, stating: “The identity crisis and struggle between the democratic and anti-democratic forces in the country were the major factors that were de accelerating the progress of the country. Relation with USA, the sole superpower, was a challenge and Russia was facing it with various pacts and acting wisely during Balkan and Kosovo crises. Russia fears that the USA is making inroads in its backyard in the garb of war on terrorism.”

An Associate Professor, at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA Karachi), Dr Mahnaz Fatima spoke about “Economic and Trade Relations between Russia and the European Union: Problems and Prospects” and informed the audience that there was an imbalance in trade between Russia and EU from 1999 to 2009. It was 19037 million Euros in 1999 and 49706 million Euros in 2009. This entire deficit for EU coming from the import of petrol and gas from Russia. And EU is concerned about this dependency.

Dr Shabbir Ahmed Khan from the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, discussed the “Challenges to Democracy and Political Reform in contemporary Russia: The EU’s response to successes and failures” and pointed out that President Yelstin was interested in changing the centralised economy to market-based economy for Russia and for that he took many steps that were considered inappropriate at the time but later they proved to be right. A widely prevalent perception in the west is that there has been no genuine political and democratic transformation in Russia.

This issue has become a major obstacle in the establishment of closer relations between the EU and Russia.

Earlier, Dr Naveed Ahmed Tahir, Director ASCE, talked about the Russian concept of USA and the west and reminded the audience that Russia sees USA as an innovator but not a model for democracy.