While the world looks on, France’s political class has come to an agreement on the principle of military intervention in northern Mali against a coalition of “Islamists,” “jihadists” and extremists. Those critical of the French government for going it alone concede that the decision to take action is “just”. French President Francois Hollande, who appeared lost at the head of a rudderless government, has gained new prestige and refurbished his image as a statesman — and as a military leader dedicated to “destroying the enemy,” to “putting him out of action”. Thus northern Mali seems fated to become the mirror in which France admires the image of its strong and determined president.
Believe it or not, Israel, led by the arrogant Israeli leader Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been dealt two American slaps in the face in the last few days, a blow it has never experienced since President Dwight Eisenhower compelled Israel and its two European allies, Britain and France, to withdraw their occupation forces from the Suez Canal during their 1956 war against Egypt.
This time around Israel and its influential allies within the US Congress and some lobbyist in the American Jewish community were shocked to learn that the popular Al Jazeera TV network has managed to buy an American television network allowing it to access 46 million American homes in the near future.
For the last 60 years or so, the relationship between the US and the Gulf states can be likened to a Catholic marriage. Both were in need of each other and kept supporting each other in times of difficulty. During the oil crisis, the Gulf states came to the help of the world economy by pumping more oil into the market. As a result, the world economy stabilised, including the US market.
Similarly, at the time of security threats in or around the Gulf, the US was ready to support softly through diplomacy on the world arena, or if needed even by force. The US needs a steady flow of relatively cheap oil to its allied markets and the Gulf states need security. That is what made diplomats and politicians describe this relationship as a — hard to end — Catholic marriage. However, things have changed recently and taken a new turn.
To say that corruption is endemic across Pakistan is neither new nor an understatement. But last week, a statement by President Asif Ali Zardari’s handpicked head of the main anti-corruption body stunned even those Pakistanis who have become relatively immune to graft.
According to an estimate by the so-called National Accountability Bureau (NAB), led by Admiral (retired) Fasih Bukhari, corruption worth a staggering seven billion rupees (Dh263.3 million) takes place across the South Asian country every day. However, hidden behind these headlines were two other relatively obscure, but significant pieces of information.
It is not true at all that all Arab armies are merely private militias at the beck and call of the rulers. Some of them are real national armies and quite a few have turned out to be more nationalistic than others during the Arab Spring. Although it has been reported that the deposed Tunisian president, Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, had ordered the army to launch air strikes against certain revolting areas in the country during the Tunisian revolution, the army commander refused to obey his orders. Instead, he called upon the president to leave the country. And when Bin Ali found out that the army was not going to put down the revolution, he had no choice but to succumb to the people’s will. He left Tunisia for Saudi Arabia. Had the army tried to quell the revolution, it would have taken much longer than four-and-a-half weeks to succeed, if at all.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis — those 13 days in October 1962 that were probably the closest the world has come to a major nuclear war. President John F. Kennedy had publicly warned the Soviet Union not to introduce offensive missiles into Cuba. But Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to cross Kennedy’s red line surreptitiously and confront the Americans with a fait accompli. When an American surveillance plane discovered the missiles, the crisis erupted.
Some of Kennedy’s advisers urged an air strike and invasion to destroy the missiles. Kennedy mobilised troops, but also bought time by announcing a naval blockade of Cuba. The crisis subsided when Soviet ships carrying additional missiles turned back, and Khrushchev agreed to remove the existing missiles from the island. As then US Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it: “We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
It is one year this week since the Palestinians applied for UN membership. President Mahmoud Abbas’s impassioned plea to the UN General Assembly for support of the We Palestinian case on September 23, 2011, won him much praise — even from his detractors. But it came to nothing.
Any possible US military action in the Gulf would not be supported by American voters as they look for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, according to this year’s edition of Foreign Policy in the New Millennium, a wide-ranging survey of American public opinion conducted by the non-partisan Chicago Council on Global Affairs, writes Francis Matthew.