President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia last Saturday came with a decision to dramatically expand America’s covert programme to assist the Free Syria Army - it remains to be determined what type of weapons will be transferred or whether Washington will accept that Riyadh hand over shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (to rebels),” reports the press in the Arabian Gulf.
Political observers in Pakistan are speculating that since Riyadh made a massive grant of $3 billion recently to Nawaz Sharif’s government, it might press, and even secretly demand, that the Pakistani government provide the surface-to-air missiles to FSA via Jordan. Indeed, this speculation is not without merit given the history of Pakistan’s diplomatic-military engagements in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Incidentally, the international media has reported that John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has told the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, that Pakistan’s army is producing more missiles than it needs. Political analysts in Pakistan, fearful of US soft diplomacy, see an intriguing intervention here, with the purpose of creating a rift between civil-military leadership, as well as making a case for the transfer of surface-to-air missiles on an urgent basis if Riyadh makes such a demand.
Writing on the issue of Russia’s legitimate annexation of Crimea, Tariq Ali commented in a recent article: “Rape, torture, homeless refugees and tens of thousands of dead was the fate of the Chechens. In the calculus of Western interests… Chechens, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis are of little importance. Nonetheless, the contrast between the West’s attitude to the Chechen war and Crimea is startling.”
Graham Greene, the world-famous British novelist, in his 1965 novel “The Ugly American,” recounts the tale of covert US intervention and politically motivated intrigues in Vietnam in preparation for the American military. It is to be noted that US history of destabilizing foreign countries in Latin and South America stretches back over decades and the Musaddeq democratic regime in Iran was overthrown as far back as 1954.
The US has maintained that its legitimacy comes from manifest destiny - God given “exceptionalism.” Another concept evoked to legitimize US foreign political-military interventions is Morganthau’s national self-interest doctrine. Since the end of the Second World War, the Americans have added the strategic notion of national security when intervening in the affairs of foreign nations. And recently, the US claims that “preemptive” military strikes against foreign countries are justifiable on the basis of human rights violations and promoting democracies in foreign lands.
One would have to be a perfect US apologist to admit the complete legitimacy of the American claims and its foreign intervention doctrines. But in a world that is less-than-perfect containing vested interest leaderships (mostly in the Third World), the US keeps getting away with its political-military incursions through manipulation. These days, US strategic focus is to exploit the sectarian divide and religious sentiments and to promote indigenous political, ethnic and gender conflict as a foreign-policy doctrine to further its geo-political interests.
The fact of the matter is that the “Ugly Americans” are back again to advance their agenda of global military-political domination. The present international political system is under severe threat of further destabilization by the US and its EU allies’ “New World Order” strategic doctrine (break the Third World up into small countries). Indeed, Pakistan will be affected unless we prepare ourselves to deal with the consequences of the new US push, and plan how to manage a constructive counter-action strategy for “Real Politik” engagement.
In Islamabad, it is understood that every American President in the middle of his second term starts carefully contemplating the historical legacy of his presidency: what will the historians, the political analysts and academics say about his political accomplishments, domestic economic achievements and above all, the successes or failures of foreign policy initiatives.
Barack Obama is no exception to this rule; he wants historical immortality in the annals of American history. Consequently, Obama does not want to leave office with another American war in the heart of Europe. Here is what Obama said he will not do over the Crimea crisis: “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine.” In Obama’s recent meeting with the Saudi monarch, “Obama confided that he would insist (on) securing an iron clad accord with Iran.” For Obama, peace negotiations and an agreement with Iran is central to his diplomatic legacy. So far, he has not directly intervened in the Syrian conflict for fear of being castigated in the future for his military policy (though it might change now because of Putin’s challenge to US-NATO over Crimea). Obama has already failed in keeping his presidential campaign promises of creating a fundamental “change” in America. The outgoing American President cannot afford any new political or military adventures. Obama is now dependent on foreign goodwill for his historical legacy.
And herein lies the opportunity for Pakistan: Islamabad should not give military assistance or military equipment to FSA no matter how much pressure is applied. Islamabad should send a special emissary to Tehran to assure it of its lasting friendship and start renegotiations on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline, no matter how much this displeases the Americans. Pakistan should assist the Afghan Taliban’s integration in their country’s mainstream political process, no matter how much the US opposes it. Islamabad should not attack its own citizens no matter how much the US insists on it. And above all, Islamabad should take a leading role in the political reconciliation process in the Islamic world - no matter how many obstacles are put in its way.
And Islamabad should tell John Kerry it is none of his business how many missiles are produced by the Pakistani army. Let us finally take the bull by its horns.
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.