Senator Sehar Kamran
Feb 08, 2020
You can’t have occupation and human rights.”? Christopher Hitchens
Last week, the US President Trump unveiled a 181-page Middle East peace plan. This much hyped and long-awaited plan was termed as the “deal of the century” by the American President. It has been crafted by Jared Kushner, Trump’s inexperienced son-in-law who is also currently serving as the senior White House advisor, along with Jason Greenblatt former lawyer in the Trump Organisation, and David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel famous for his pro-settlement stance.
It didn’t come as a surprise when this much touted but one-sided peace plan which has been in the making since President Trump took office was declared dead on its arrival by the Palestinian authorities. The credibility of this plan was evident from the fact that Palestinians were kept out of the negotiations and deliberations, and only the Israeli leadership was facilitated. US President hosted both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political opponent Benny Gantz at the White House, for discussions. Despite being the most important stakeholder to the conflict, the Palestinian leadership was not consulted, thereby leaving a big question mark on the credibility and viability of this proposal.
The plan as envisioned by President Trump retains the concept of the two-state solution previously pitched by the American administrations. According to an image of the concept map, tweetedby the American President on the social blogging website Twitter, showed an even shrunk version of the state of Palestine than that proposed in the 1993 Oslo peace agreement.
It proposes making Jerusalem the capital of undivided Israel, whereas Palestinians would be allowed a form of sub-capital on the outskirts of the city, handing over control of over some 30 percent of the West Bank including the Jordan Valley to Israel.
The most contentious points of the plansuggeststhat on the West Bank, Israel would stop building new settlements for four years if Palestinian authorities recognize Israeli sovereignty over the existing settlements, which have been deemed illegal under the international law. During this timeframe, a Palestinian statehood will be ‘negotiated’. It should be noted that since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, approximately 140 settlements have been built in which more than 600,000 Jews reside.
In addition, this plan which resembles the talking points of Israel’s administration ‘offers a path to some form of Palestinian statehood but with no army.’ So much so that sovereignty over Gaza’s territorial waters is proposed to be handed over to Israel. The preconditions to a Palestinian independence also include “complete dismantling of Hamas”, which governs Gaza. It also refuses the Palestinian refugees their “right of return” to their homes, in areas now comprising Israel, as a result of Palestinian territory loss in previous conflicts.
At best, this half-baked, one-sided proposed peace plan seems to have no future apart from the fact that it may help President Trump in his reelection bid, later this year. The timing of thisproposal is significant as it intends to target one of the strongest voting blocks of Republican Party and President Trump himself – namely the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the evangelical Christians and conservative Jewish Americans. Also, it may provide a temporary relief to both the US President Trump from his ongoing impeachment proceedings, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who is facing three sets of corruption charges.
It is notable that President Trump’s peace plan has received a lukewarm response from the United Nations andthe European states. While the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Arab League have rejected Trump’s proposed peace plan, the Arab states reaction can be best described as muted and divided.
Despite maintaining some reservations, important Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Morocco have come out in support of the US President’s efforts to establish peace in the Middle East, but have withheld their endorsement of this proposal. On the other hand, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Tunisia, and Algeria have categorically rejected it.
Pakistan has always demonstrated its support and firm position for the “establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally-agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital”. It is significant that Islamabad continues its diplomatic support for the cause of Palestine and stands with the Palestinian brethren in their time of need in the global arena.
This latest diplomatic treachery against the cause and people of Palestine will not be the last one, the onus lies on the international community to recognize its commitments and United Nations resolutions made on Palestine.
It is no secret that the Middle East peace process will only be successful when the grievances of the people of Palestine are acknowledged and international resolutions regarding the Palestinian issue, honored. Palestinians are an equal party to the conflict, and any proposal which legitimizes Israel’s occupation will not be accepted by Muslims around the world. It is not an exaggeration to state that there is no future to this proposed Middle East peace plan, as it will only fuel resentment and anger in the already troubled region.
Same version of this article is posted on The Financial Daily
The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies Islamabad (CPGS) organized a Round Table Conference at Islamabad on 10th January 2020, in the wake of rising tensions in Middle East after a series of skirmishes between Iran and the United States (US).
Middle East is on the verge of full scale war due to rising military tensions between Iran and the US following a series of events including limited use of weaponry and tirade of words . The gravity of issue forced the world leaders to speak out to defuse the tensions.
The US claimed that its bases and personnel in Iraq were being targeted by Iran backed militia, and an s attack on military base in Kirkuk had claimed life of a civilian US contractor and left a number of US troops wounded on 27th December 2019. In response, the US carried out airstrikes against the militia outfit on 29th December 2019 in the border region of Iraq and Syria. The deadly airstrikes left more than 20 persons dead and about 50 wounded.
In the follow up, the US accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on US facilities in Iraq while Iran denied its involvement in any such incident. However, on 31st December 2019 US embassy in Baghdad was stormed by the protesters chanting slogans in favor of the people killed in the US airstrikes earlier. Even though no loss of life was recorded at the event but it was enough to put US in the compromising position. Trump administration vowed to make Iran pay for the audacity while Iran once again denied the accusation and stated that the attack on US embassy was a reaction by people of Iraq.
In the gravity of events, on 3rd January 2020, a US drone strike killed General Soleimani of the elite Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) when he was leaving the Baghdad airport in Iraq. Killing of General Soleimani pushed the relations of Iran and the US to the breaking point. The action was met with mixed response from allies and rivals of the US. Iran vowed to avenge the General’s death while President of the US Donald Trump reiterated time and again that retaliation from Iran will result in devastating consequences and even threatened to target the cultural center s of Iran.
On 8th January 2020, Iran launched ballistic missiles targeting the largest US military base in Ain al-Asad, and another in Erbil, in Iraq. In the follow-up, US denied any casualties and announced to impose further sanctions on Iran threatening that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear technology. The two countries refrained from further military engagement but the danger is still looming over the region.
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ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad-based Think-Tank says the Middle East (ME) peace plan presented by US President Donald Trump will have a negative impact on Kashmir issue.
A concept paper issued by Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) states that US president’s plan for ME legalises state terrorism, brutal suppression and demography change by Israel and the same was being carried out by India in held Kashmir.
CPGS President Nasir Sheerazi said the US patronage had already encouraged the incumbent Indian government to give constitutional cover to their illegal occupation of Kashmir.
“Only two countries, Israel and India, behave in this manner in occupied Palestine and occupied Kashmir respectively,” Mr Sheerazi said.The concept paper highlighted that Pakistan’s stance on Palestine conflict had been clear from the beginning.
“Pakistan does not recognise Israel and has always been vocal for the rights of Palestinians and public sentiments in Pakistan have always been with the people of Palestine,” the paper said.
Support for Palestinian cause is deeply rooted in the ideological basis of Pakistan as it was with the Kashmir issue.
CPGS said like Palestine, Kashmir is also under illegal foreign occupation.
The paper said Pakistan had never conceded Indian claim on occupied Kashmir, and it did not recognise Israel as a state.
Pakistan has always reiterated that it supported a two-state solution to Palestine conflict as conceded by multiple UN resolutions.
The CPGS slammed the recent move by US president saying the so-called “Deal of Century” has the potential of initiating political crisis leading to diplomatic failure and violence.
The paper said that pro-US bloc in Middle East will be weakened because peace plan will be represented as a historic compromise. “It will invite chaos and disorder in population of Middle East even if the governments choose to support the plan,” it added.
CPGS president said taking recent history of Middle East into account, public pressure does not sit well with regimes in Muslim world and chaos becomes inevitable in the region.
The Palestinian cause was taken by Muslims as a religious issue and a large number of civil activists consider it a humanitarian issue; similar situation was visible in Kashmir and the conditions could open doors to repetition of violence and conflicts.
Same version of this Article is published in Dawn News
Published on: Feb 4, 2020
After much to and fro controversy, Pakistan decided to not participate in the fifth Kuala Lumpur Summit held in Malaysia in December 2019. The decision was received with criticism at home and abroad. On one hand it was interpreted as safe decision to avert rift in Muslim world. On the other hand the decision was criticized as a foreign policy debacle that could possibly lead to Pakistan’s isolation in Islamic world. Although events play an instrumental role, but international politics are not bound by isolated events. Along with other interests, relations between Muslim states are also formed on strong ideological, religious and cultural values. The foremost reason that Pakistan lies at the helm of Muslim world is its ideological background. It is the only Muslim state that was founded in the name of Islam. Moreover, Pakistan is the sole nuclear power among Muslim states and provides a sense of pride to the Muslim world. Similarly, geographically Pakistan lies on crossroad of Muslim world. It is located on the doorstep of Muslim states region of Middle East as well as Central Asia. Pakistan itself does not have any rivalry in Muslim world and thus can manage neutral position among even rival Muslim countries. Similar situation was observed regarding KL-Summit. Given the importance of Pakistan, champions of KL-Summit looked forward to participation of Pakistan to increase the weightage of forum. While top powerful influential Muslim countries viewed Pakistan’s participation in KL-Summit as decisive factor that could create rift in Islamic world. In the following paragraphs, in the light of Pakistan’s relations with Malaysia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Turkey, Qatar and Iran it will be briefly discussed that absence of Pakistan from KL-Summit is not tantamount to rift in Islamic world, nor did Pakistan has missed out exclusively on the forum. Instead, Pakistan managed to preserve its relations with all Muslim countries involved in forum, and that too without averting those who opposed it.
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Published on: Feb 3, 2020
The long awaited Middle East peace plan promised by United States (US) President Donald Trump has finally been revealed. President Trump himself has referred to the plan as the “Deal of Century” and associates promising future to both Israelis and Palestinians. The proposed map according to the President Trump’s peace plan sparked a new debate across the region and world whether it is the ultimate opportunity to achieve the long sought peace, or it will ignite another long standing spill of violence and unrest in the region. In the following paragraphs we will discuss the issue briefly.
The 80-page plan issued by White House describes the solution that Trump administration looks forward to implement to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine.
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Commentary by Senator Sehar Kamran T.I.
Jan 22, 2020
“Peace is the virtue of civilization; war is its crime”: -Victor Hugo
The year 2020 started with a literal bang. Blazing fires across Australia and the US and Iran tensions, with the two countries almost at the brink of a war captured the news headlines across the globe, for the first half of January. The raging clouds of war seem to have simmered away, as of now, but the tension continues to linger in the Middle East. With every passing day, the uncertainty and confusion is gaining momentum, and the world is waiting with a bated breath to see where this heightened tension in the US-Iran relations is heading towards.
It is no secret that Iran has been under severe international pressure and sanctions, directly for the last two decades at least. Tensions in the US-Iran bilateral relations have been simmering since last year, when the US unilaterally abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the P5+1 in 2015 following over a decade long diplomatic endeavors, and imposed strict international sanctions against Iran which have crippled its economy.
The US drone attack which resulted in the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, of the elite Quds Force, in Baghdad on 3rd January has not only amplified the strain in the already tense US-Iran relations but also depicted how fragile the regional peace is. What is more shocking is the fact that two attacks were planned on the day General Soleimani was killed. The other attack was targeted against Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Iranian Commander, in Yemen but it remained unsuccessful. These two simultaneous events jolted not only Iran but also the region and the whole world because it was seen by many as an intentional act of war.
In retaliation to the American drone strike, Iran fired 22 missiles targeting two American bases in Iraq. Initially the US President and Pentagon denied any injuries or deaths, the US military on 16th January stated that 11 of its soldiers were wounded, as a result of the retaliatory strikes by Iran.
Iran’s Defense Minister issued a statement on 17th January asking the US not try to test the Iranian people’s resolve because the missile attack on the US base was just a “warning” and “in self-defense,” and Iran was “prepared to give a powerful response to any adventurism.”
Following the Iranian attacks, President Trump in a live televised address to the nation threatened to “target 52 Iranian sites” including cultural centers, and announced more “punishing” economic sanctions against the country. However, the US officials later back-tracked and President Trump toned down the war rhetoric by tweeting “all is well”.
When it seemed that the war cries had slowed down, a Ukrainian commercial airliner in Tehran was accidently shot down by the Iranian military on 8th January consequently worsening the already tense situation. The passenger jet was carrying 176 persons on board who were all killed. Initially, Tehran denied the news and dubbed the allegations as a part of US’s “psychological operations” against Iran. However, on 11thJanuary, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that an Iranian internal investigation had found that the missiles had been fired due to human error, and described the missile attack on the plane as an “unintentional” and “unforgivable mistake”. Many observers viewed this statement as a step on part of Iran towards de-escalation in the tensions in the region. However, the situation continues to be tense and remains explosive warranting serious and meaningful diplomatic efforts. What cannot be denied is the fact that the 176 people who died in the air crash were the unwarranted victims of the US-Iran tensions.
Another factor that needs to be examined in this ‘heating of tensions’ scenario is the upcoming Presidential election in the US. It seems that President Trump intends making anti-Iran rhetoric as part of his campaign. Echoes of starting a new war are being heard in Washington, and as a result the US Congress led by Democrats, passed a resolution on 9th January, to curb President Donald Trump’s powers of waging war against Iran. Although it doesn’t carry the force of law, the measure calls for President Trump to stop use of military force against Iran within 30 days if he does not have congressional approval. On 11th January, 13 US lawmakers including Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, introduced a “No War against Iran Act”, which would deny the Pentagon of any funds for unauthorized use of military force against Iran.
However, there is one certainty that the proxy war in the Middle Eastern theatre is likely to intensify in the coming days especially in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. US’s Middle Eastern allies will be on high alert because there is a danger of Iranian backed militants’ attacks on strategic targets and US bases across the region. Due to retaliatory attacks, it will cause further chaos and instability in the region and the world.
Iran is Pakistan’s Western neighbour and the two countries share a 959 km long border. Though Pakistan has stated that it will not “take part in anyone else’s war”, and will stay neutral, but it is quite possible that in case of an armed conflict between Washington and Tehran, the country will be badly impacted. Pakistan cannot take sides in the war between its strategic partners including the US as well as its consistent Middle Eastern allies and its brotherly neighboring country, Iran. Moreover, Pakistan houses the second highest Shia population in the world. With fragile economy, burning domestic issues and societal divide, the country cannot afford to take sides in a conflict which can ignite a sectarian warfare inside its borders.
Furthermore, Islamabad is already engaged on its Eastern border with India and has tense Western border with Afghanistan, and it cannot get involved on another front. In addition, the country is already grappling with the menace of violent extremism and radicalism, another misadventure by global powers will only make matters worse, for the entire region. The region which is already in turmoil cannot afford to have another armed conflict.
In the light of these events, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister undertook a whirlwind tour of Iran, KSA, and the US to defuse tensions and discuss the Middle East crisis, but there is a limitation as to how much and how effective a role can Pakistan play to defuse the tensions in these crucial times.
In a statement and press talk Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stressed on Islamabad’s commitment toward “security and stability” in South Asia as he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and held talks on various issues, including regional security and stability, the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East. However, the recent tweet of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reads, “Enjoyed meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI today. We discussed countering Iranian aggression, the Afghan peace process, trade ties, and regional stability”.
The Tweet message of Secretary Mike Pompeo has raised concerns and generated new debate in Pakistan on US’ anticipation about Pakistan’s role “countering Iranian aggression”. Moreover, it is sad that there is no mention of ‘Kashmir crisis’ in the Pompeo’s message.
People of Pakistan are not ready to face another crisis and accept a US “Do More” mantra. It is high time for Pakistan to focus on domestic issues, maintain internal stability, promote political and institutional harmony, evolve national unity and elicit public trust. At the same time, it is significant that the country stays away from regional quagmires which will only bring more problems.
The international community needs to play its role to avert any such misadventures by big powers which will destabilize the entire world. War is in nobody’s interest. The world is already burning. The world needs no reminders how devastating a war can be, and how it can hamper international peace and security. Humanity needs to come together and prevent another disaster in the making. Sanity must prevail, otherwise the fate of this world will be nothing but death and destruction.
The writer is the founder and Patron in Chief of a non-partisan think tank; the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, academician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. She has served as an elected Member of the Upper House of Parliament of Islamic Republic of Pakistan from 2012-2018, until May 2019 she was the Member Senate of Pakistan Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also remained the member of Senate committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and the convener of the Pakistan-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Group at the Senate of Pakistan. Twitter @SeharKamran
ISLAMABAD:Though American Congress has limited the powers of Donald Trump for any attack on Iran, any act by the president anticipating that it might help him in the US presidential election would be disastrous for the region, including Pakistan.
This was stated by Senator Sehar Kamran while speaking at a roundtable: ‘US-Iran escalation in Middle East: implications and way forward for Pakistan’ organised by Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS).
The senator said experts globally believed that skirmishes in the Middle East would continue but the world could face the worst scenario if President Trump decides to hit any of nuclear installations in Iran.
She said in any case Pakistan had to remain neutral and should not repeat past mistakes.“We need to stay firm with public trust and support of parliament and all institutions,” she said.
The discussion focused on the future of the region in case the conflict was widened. It was observed that a weak government in Iran would eventually allow the opponents of that country to encourage insurgencies and separatist movements in vulnerable areas in Iran.
Among such territories is Sistan province of Iran and any large scale insurgency there would have a negative impact on Balochistan province too.
Assistant Professor Dr Qamar Abbasi from Comsats University Islamabad lauded the decision of the government to remain neutral in the crisis while trying to defuse the tension.
He hinted that the US action was a diversion from the local issues and said the speech of President Trump reflected that he was addressing threats from the internal front.
“It is clear that US policies are led by oil, arms and pharma lobby. But the other key factor is the imperialistic approach – the psychological supremacy that the US leadership wants to impose – and Iran is resisting.” Head of International Relations Department at National Defence University (NDU) Dr Lubna Abid Ali said religion played a role in maintaining unity among the people. “But it has to be coupled with nationalism and economic interest of the nation.”
Dr Lubna said contrary to the expectations of US policymakers the killing of Gen Qasem Suleimani had actually united the people of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
She referred to participation of a large number of Christians in his funeral procession in Iraq. “He is remembered for liberating a centuries-old church in Faluja which would have been destroyed by ISIS.”
She said a major challenge for Muslim world was the corrupt leadership and people were critical of the clergy too and Pakistan was also facing both internal and external threats, therefore, a cautious approach was needed to deal with the current situation in the Middle East.
CPGS President Nasir Sheerazi said discussions on sensitive issues were needed in Pakistan and their deliberations should be food for thought for the policymakers.
Same version of this Article is published in Dawn News
Published on: Jan 10, 2020
3rd January 2020 witnessed a watershed event as American forces in a kinetic strike, assassinated General Qassem Soleimani, Head of Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, commonly known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy Head of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) of Iraqi Army as the former landed in Baghdad to meet Iraqi premier. Immediately after the assassination, America officially confirmed the incident by declaring it as a pre-emptive strike in self-defense. Secretary of State Pompeo described the act as defensive action to protect United States (U.S) personnel and interests abroad. He repeatedly reaffirmed in number of tweets U.S resolve to stay committed to de-escalation in the region. American decision to assassinate a serving General, visiting another sovereign country to meet its Prime Minister (as announced by Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi himself) is considered by many as a reckless violation of international law and an effort to disrupt the international system to garner domestic support in the wake of upcoming U.S General Elections and ongoing impeachment process.
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