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Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair In Syria

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Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair In Syria

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By Saeed Naqvi

 Like Henry Kissinger, New York Times columnist, Thomas L Friedman, belongs to a growing tribe of strategists who insist that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been overshadowed, indeed overwhelmed, by a much bigger, Shia-Sunni faultline.

 Even though Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 hijackers, Wahabism, Salafism, are all traced to Saudi Arabia, the US, Israel and the West in general have developed a high comfort level with Saudi Arabia regardless. In this framework, the West has placed the Shia world in opposition to it.

 Was it always like this? Consider this recent historical perspective.

 “As we approach the season of the Nobel Peace Prize, I would like to nominate the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for this year’s medal.” The recommendation came from NYT ace columnist, Friedman. For emphasis, he added: “I’m serious.”

 This was in 2005. Friedman, was “in” with George W. Bush. In ecstatic pieces for the world’s most powerful newspaper, the NYT, he repeatedly described the occupation of Iraq as history’s greatest effort at democratization.

 Americans had come against Saddam Hussain, a tough Baathist and atheist by belief and a manufacturer of weapons of mass destruction. Remember Saddam invoked “Allah” for political mobilization only after the 1992 operation Desert Storm. He had Allah o Akbar inscribed on an otherwise secular emblem as an afterthought.

The eclipse of Saddam brought great relief to Shias in the South – around the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala and oil rich enclaves neighbouring Basra. For the first time the world realized that Shias were an overwhelming majority in all of Iraq.

 A triangular situation had emerged – the occupying Americans, Sunni (plus Kurdish) minority and the Shia majority. The Shias, led by Ayatollah Sistani, played a straight political hand. Once occupation had taken place, he encouraged the occupiers against his tormentor, Saddam Hussain.

 That is when Friedman was moved to write:

“If some kind of democracy takes root here (Iraq), it will also be due in large measure to the instincts and directives of the dominant Iraqi Shiite communal leader, Ayatollah Sistani.”

 “It was Sistani who insisted that the elections not be postponed in the face of the Baathist-fascist insurgency. And it was Sistani who ordered Shiites not to retaliate for the Sunni Baathist and Jihadist attempts to drag them into civil war by attacking Shiite mosques and massacring Shiite civilians.”

 Friedman proceeded to compare the Ayatollah with other icons who helped bring democracy to their respective countries – Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev.  The quality of democracy that obtains in Russia, Iraq and South must be left for Friedman to applaud.

 Rightly or wrongly, Friedman extrapolated from his experience in Iraq. This is at a variance from the fraud Bush’s Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney sought to perpetrate on April 9, 2003, when he had the marines pull down Saddam Hussain’s state at Firdous square and attributed the event to a popular uprising.

Friedman zigzagged along shifting convictions, until by August 2015, he began to show the first signs of tolerating something so totally different from Sistani as to take one’s breath away. In a conversation with Barack Obama he appeared to be nodding agreement on a kind of positive ambiguity about the ISIS.

Sudden and exponential growth of the Islamic State was something of a mystery. It is in the nature of the post colonial media that the views of Developing country elites particularly in the Arab world (except allies like Saudi Arabia, other GCC countries and Jordan) never get reflected in the media. How did the elites in Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iran and other Muslim countries view the IS phenomenon. Without exception, they described it as an American, French, British, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish cooperative effort. I know first hand. Ask the ambassadors in New Delhi.

If this is what they thought, why were they silent? They were not silent, but their protestations were ignored by the global networks. So hopelessly one sided is the global media, that even shining stars of independent journalism like Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk are killed by a simple trick of being ignored.

 Writing on Donald Trump’s proposed visit to the centres of semitic religions, Riyadh, the Vatican and Jerusalem, Fisk satirically speculates: “Trump will be able to ask Netanyahu for help against the IS without – presumably – realizing that Israel bombs only the Syrian army and the Shia Hezbollah in Syria but has never – ever – bombed IS in Syria. In fact, the Israelis have given medical aid to fighters from Jabhat al Nusra which is part of Al Qaeda which attacked the US on 9/11.”

 By universal consent, Fisk is among the most knowledgeable journalist who has lived in West Asia for decades. But the Imperial Information order keeps him outside the ken.

Truth however has a way of surfacing. Let us revert to Friedman’s interview with Obama. Friedman asked Obama why he delayed taking action against the IS when it was in its nascent stages?

Obama replies: “That we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as the IS came in was because that would have taken the pressure off Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki.”

 In other words, by the US President’s own admission, the IS at that stage worked as an asset to apply pressure on Maliki who was in bad adour with the US because he had refused to sign the Status of Forces Agreement with the US ironically on the advice of exactly the person Friedman was recommending for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 – Sistani.

Lo and behold, in his recent column, Friedman is advising Trump to give up the pretense of fighting IS – because that is not in the US (and presumably Israel’s) national interest.

 He wants “Trump to be Trump – utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias.”

 “In Syria” Friedman recommends, “Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache.” In other words, let the IS be a western asset.

 A recent cartoon with a most succinct message shows one Saudi ask another:

“We finance wars all around us, when shall we bomb the Jewish state?”

 “When it becomes Shia.”

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Bear takes 400 selfies with a sensory camera in USA’s Colorado, Twitter user amused

According to reports, the OSMP authorities had installed nine cameras to cover and click images of the wildlife land which is situated and spread out across 46,000 acres.

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The notion of clicking selfies has transgressed and gone beyond species as an amusing story has come to light from USA’s Colorado’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) where a bear hijacked a sensory camera and took 400 selfies. According to reports, the officials of Space and Mountain parks in Colorado had installed a camera in order to shoot the wildlife activities.

It was reported that when the officials took out the snaps that the sensory camera had clicked, they learnt that 580 images were clicked and out of the 580 images, the 400 of the images were selfies taken by a bear.

According to reports, the OSMP authorities had installed nine cameras to cover and click images of the wildlife land which is situated and spread out across 46,000 acres. The sensory cameras work on motion sensing and when an animal steps in the frame, the camera automatically captures the pictures of the subject that is in front of it.

The cameras also have features of taking pictures at night by using infrared light which cause less disruption to the animals who can get irritated by the flash.

The Tweet shows the images of the bear posing from all angles as it, for a moment, seems to be a model that is accustomed to pose for pictures.

See Tweet here:

Twitter reactions

After the tweet showing the selfies of the bear surfaced, many users came forward to add their take on the incident as one user wrote and said this pose by the bear looks to be inspired from the film Lolita.

One user wrote and praised the posing skills of the bear as the user wrote and said that the bear looks good and could be a professional model. Another user also amusingly added and wrote that they used to be as handsome as the bear a while ago. The user also wrote and said that nature is the champ.

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US intervention prevented India-Pakistan nuclear war post 2019 Balakot strike: Mike Pompeo

A timely intervention by the Trump administration prevented a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan after the 2019 airstrikes, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has claimed in his new book.

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former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo

A timely intervention by the Trump administration prevented a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan after the 2019 airstrikes, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has claimed in his new book.

In his book, “Never Give an Inch”, a memoir of his time as a top diplomat in Donald Trump regime and earlier as the CIA chief, Pompeo writes that the world doesn’t properly know how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over into a nuclear war in February 2019.

The Indian Air Force on February 26, 2019 launched targeted airstrikes inside Pakistan targeting terrorist training camps of terror outfit of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

India’s response came after 41 CRPF men were killed in a suicide bombing in Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019.

India shot down an F-16 during an aerial combat in which an Indian warplane was shot down by Pakistan and the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured.

Pompeo, seen by many as a potential future presidential contender, reveals that he was in Hanoi for a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, when he woke up to an urgent call from a senior Indian official.

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The official told Pompeo that he believed that Pakistan was prepping their nuclear weapons for a strike and India was preparing its own response.

Pompeo says he told the official to give the US time to sort things out and eventually US diplomats managed to convince the arch rivals that neither of them was going for the nuclear option, thus deescalating the situation.

The former Trump diplomat in his book says he believes that Pakistan “probably enabled” the Kashmir attack. Pompeo says he spoke to the Pakistan’s “actual leader” then army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, alluding to the weakness of civilian governments in the country.

Pompeo says that no other nation could have done what the US did that night to avoid “a horrible outcome.”

Pompeo had publicly defended India’s right to act during his stint as US secretary of state.

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India invites Pak foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto to SCO meet

India has reportedly invited Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, to attend in the foreign ministers’ and chief justices’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

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Pak foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto

India has reportedly invited Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, to attend in the foreign ministers’ and chief justices’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

As per reports, India, who was appointed to chair the regional grouping in September 2022, has sent the invitations to Bhutto and Bandial through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

The invites come as a surprise to many as bilateral ties between the two subcontinental neighbors are going through a rough patch in recent times.

India is set to host key ministerial meeting summit in Goa in the first week of May of the nine-member Asian grouping which also consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and its new member Iran, which will attend its first SCO meeting as a full member.

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The last meeting of the SCO was held in Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

Pakistan has yet to respond to the invite and if Bilawal Bhutto accepts, it will be the first such visit from a Pakistani foreign minister in nearly a decade since Hina Rabbani Khar paid a visit to India in 2011.

India-Pakistan ties have been at an all-time low since 2019 when the Centre abolished Article 370 which formerly bestowed special status upon the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad is seeking its restoration and considers the Kashmir issue, a burning point between the two nations.

Making matters worse, last month, Bilawal Bhutto sparked a row when he called PM Modi the “butcher of Gujarat”.

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