Liberal Views


I have always considered myself as a “liberal”, not in political terms, but in terms of maintaining and sustaining a very open mindset towards receiving and assimilating contrarian views. Occasionally I have veered towards conservative or rightist opinions, because I thought the thought process behind those opinions were valid and resonated with my own thinking.

But on most issues, I have been a liberal – very open, not toeing the majority line, building my own logic for arguing the strengths of my case, and always receptive to other peoples’ opinions – whether they are conservative, liberal, right wing or left wing. I always thought that the charm of a liberal thinker is his or her ability to keep an open mind at all times.

However, I found that I could be severely challenged in the midst of a group of close friends, it happened recently to me when all their guns were individually and jointly trained on me. Initially, I took it in my own way – not very seriously, raising points of contention and questioning their rationale. As the noise increased incessantly over WhatsApp, I had to keep pressing my points, because I believed strongly in my views on humanity.

The issue on hand was Kashmir. I have no problem with India trying to integrate Kashmir finally in its own fold firmly – I think it is the right thing to do after 70 years of vacillation. Kashmir people will get access to investments, job opportunities and increased tourism. And, many other benefits that Indian citizens are entitled to.

However, I believe firmly that violence and retaliation to violence both should fully stop. Military deployment by India should not lead to completely avoidable things such as pellet shooting at protesters and even at common people going about their daily tasks. The counter-argument of my influential group of friends is simple: terrorists do not deserve any sympathy and must be dealt with even by brutal means, and collateral damage is unavoidable when dealing mostly with Kashmiri terrorists.

There are 7M Kashmiris living in Jammu & Kashmir State. Most of them are just normal folks like us. If the idea of integration with India is to bring these people into an Indian warm embrace, where is the need to treat all of them as violent terrorists?

I sent out the media coverage on Kashmir from WSJ, CNN, BBC, etc., and my friends pooh-poohed all the global media publications – slandering them as anti-India. So far, I have not seen negative media coverage by the Indian mainstream media, with the exception of few online publications. I agree that CNN is mostly anti-India and somewhat pro-Pakistan. But the others are generally well balanced, though upset with India’s total lockdown of Kashmir.

In a nutshell, here are my two cents: Kashmiris are surely going to protest loss of their freedom, and need to be strongly persuaded on India’s rationale for the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. This cannot be done with machine guns and bayonettes, and requires finesse with big heart and big commitments from Indian Government. Kashmiris should be made to feel like they are fully Indian citizens.

My friends would not buy this approach, and I know it. For them, appeasement of any minority community is totally unacceptable. According to them, it is the failed policies of the previous many Congress governments that resulted in the current chaos. But the difference is stark: Kashmir is a border state with two adversaries staring at India – Pakistan and China. Pakistan trained terrorists keep sneaking into Kashmir to create chaos. With what India has done now, it is not difficult to fathom the mind of the average Kashmiri.

Pakistan and China are hard at work trying to internationalize the Kashmir problem. India is ignoring them, and that is the right approach. India’s challenge is all internal – it has to convince Kashmiris of its genuine good intentions and fully integrate them into India. It is not going to be easy at all, and in the meantime, Pakistan is bound to create all kinds of problems for India. As emotions appear to be high, there may be attacks by Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Given the current political support for the Indian government’s actions, it is unlikely that India will accommodate any views contrary to its actions and plans that it will further implement. So it is a dead end for either party, and Pakistan should not expect anything positive as it has unilaterally downgraded relations, ejected the Indian Ambassador, compared Mr. Modi to Nazis, and so on and so forth. India will not show the hand of friendship to Imran Khan.

So, coming back to the idea of this blog post, “liberal” views are not “separatist” views, as one of my close friends hinted. Liberals are not siding with “anti-national” forces. Liberals are just expressing their views with their own logic, and I am no different. Unnecessary killings, blinding and maiming of ordinary citizens – even those who have sympathetic views on separatist efforts – have to be completely avoided at all costs, thereby eliminating potential global concerns on police atrocities. By this statement, I do not mean that India should keep its hands tied when encountering terrorism.

Let us see how the Kashmir situation unfolds in the coming days and weeks. I do hope it will turn out positive for both ordinary Kashmiris and India as a whole.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th August 2019

Rude Awakening


For thousands of Kashmiris it was a rude shock last week to abruptly discover that the Indian Government had overnight changed the status of the Jammu & Kashmir State. The Home Minister passed a resolution in the Upper House of the Parliament, in effect voiding Article 370 and associated clauses and amendments.

Without getting into too much details and nuances of law, suffice to say that the Indian Government nullified the special status granted to Jammu & Kashmir State and integrated that state effectively into India as a Union Territory, directly to be administered by the Central Government. The resolution cancelled all the special privileges accorded to Kashmir, such as separate laws, separate flag, approval of Kashmir legislature required for central government laws, discrimination against Indian citizens settling down in Kashmir, et al.

Of course, this abrogation of Article 370 goes against the premise under which the Jammu & Kashmir kingdom joined the Indian Union way back after India’s independence from the British. This is another instance when the British walked away from the mess that they had created in the first place, among many other things in the Indian subcontinent.

Pakistan lodged a vehement protest against the changes that India had promulgated. Kashmir is considered as an occupied and disputed territory by Pakistan, and India’s position, obviously, is opposite. India claims the whole of Kashmir, including the Pakistan-occupied region as well as the China-occupied region.

Like the Israel-Palestine dispute, this one is never going to be resolved during our lifetime.

Let us now see where India stands on this entire matter. India is very clear that Kashmir belongs to India as a whole. It is just another state of India, and therefore, there should be nothing special – it should have as much rights and obligations as any other state. Moreover, the Indian government wants to bring in more private investments into Kashmir, integrate it better with the rest of India, settle more non-Kashmiris in the state as that would bring more integration and investments, etc., The BJP Government had outlined its principles on Kashmir integration very clearly in its election manifesto earlier this year, before the conduct of the Indian Parliamentary elections, so it says that it is just implementing its manifesto commitments.

Pakistan does not see it that way. I was watching Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.N., being interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN yesterday. I have to acknowledge one thing – Ms Lodhi was suave and articulate, perfectly balanced in her delivery to the questions: I would say that she did a great job as an individual interviewee with a tough journalist. However, her scathing remarks on India startled even Ms Amanpour. At the end of the day, it does not matter – whatever Ms Lodhi does at the U.N. or U.N.S.C., is not going to change the ground situation in Kashmir or the will of the Indian government.

From my own personal perspective, I am bothered more about the bottled up feelings and reactions of millions of Kashmiris who are likely to burst out and protest after the curfew is lifted. The government or the military cannot control an entire population by the lockdown imposed – eventually, it has to be lifted. People have to get back to their daily routines, offices have to function, schools have to start, markets have to work, internet has to be restored, phone connections have to be re-established, et al………the Indian Central Government cannot pursue the approach of non-stop military intimidation against ordinary Kashmiris who are not terrorists. Sympathies cannot be used as excuses for such aggressive lockdown – ordinary Kashmiris will have their own sympathies lying with protesters, and antipathy against government machinery. Can that be changed for the better? for the benefit of India as a whole?

Things could easily get out of control when protests begin again. Police and para-military forces may not have much choice, and they are prone to commit grievous mistakes under pressure of assault by protesters. Pakistan will try to exacerbate the volatile situation by sending in official terrorists. The Indian government will take very aggressive police actions which would lead to human rights abuses and cries for international intervention. Thousands of people are likely to be killed or maimed.

So, the Indian Government has to think very, very carefully about escalating the situation. It needs to use social media and TV/Radio/Newspapers to communicate its approach lucidly and elaborate on its first 90-day plan to improve the lot of the common people of Kashmir. It also needs to explain its plans for the huge investments being planned, the jobs that can bring to Kashmiris, the improvements envisaged in the education system, the increased potential of tourism in a peaceful state, and so on and so forth. I do not see any evidence that such things are being planned.

The other thing that should happen is a global campaign by India to explain its actions on Kashmir and bring to light the atrocities committed by Pakistan-based terrorists over the past 3 decades in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Why not a roadshow in the top 10 nations of the world and at the U.N. itself (though it is a useless organization in my opinion)?

It is critical for India to (a) strengthen its defences along the actual Line of Control separating the two Kashmirs; (b) launch a campaign to explain its principled position to the global audience; (c) strictly avoid human casualties going forward; and (d) directly communicate to the Kashmiris via social media on the benefits of integration with India.

Police or military atrocities in Kashmir will not be a good idea at all, irrespective of the provocations, as that will lead to continued alienation of all Kashmiris from mainstream India.

Hope Mr Modi and Mr Shah will think through the consequences extremely carefully.

Cheers, and have a great long weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th August 2019

Edging towards a Conflict


The U.S. is “itching” for the next war in the Middle East, and is edging towards a potential conflict with Iran. Very soon. Not at all good for the U.S. Hopefully the President of the U.S. will now take a better quality decision based on real facts on the ground, instead of getting prodded by Saudi Arabia, which has been itching to eliminate its only major religious enemy in the Middle East, which is Iran.

When the U.S. has gone to war, its cabinet has always managed to cook up an excuse. If the excuse is credible, like what appeared to be in the case of Iraq (when the evidence was presented in the U.N.), then the U.S. Allies would join in a common cause against a common enemy. But now we know that the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) excuse cooked up by the U.S. was non-existent in Iraq – and Colin Powell sullied his name and reputation forever, along with George W Bush and other officials. Collectively, they created a major fake excuse to wage a war on a defenseless country, which has caused probably close to a million deaths over the past 15 years, and not less than USD 2T in cost to the American taxpayers (which could have been invested on U.S. infrastructure). A totally unnecessary war, which fed the appetite of the war-hungry defence manufacturing companies, and which managed to create a huge backlash via the ISIS formation, and subsequent blowbacks. Let us also not forget the fact that over 5,000 U.S. servicemen sacrificed their lives. I do not have the count of how many allied servicemen died in the Iraqi war (which started in 2003).

A similar thing happened in Vietnam when a fax communication from a U.S. warship was construed as an excuse to attack Vietnam, which then caused huge miseries on both sides of the conflict. All in the name of eliminating Communism, which was considered an arch-enemy of Democratic Capitalism in the Sixties and Seventies………but Communism is still not dead. Vietnam is still a Communist country, so is China, Russia, Cuba and several other nations. The main issue is the calamity of deaths caused by wars.

I agree with President Donald Trump on one thing: the U.S. should not take up the role of the world’s policeman, and should withdraw from unnecessary conflicts. It is up to the individual countries affected to forge an international opinion and a coalition if needed. The U.S. is a very large country and the world’s #1 economy, and it should worry more about China than any other nation on earth (not even Russia!). President Trump is absolutely right to say that the U.S. actually does not benefit from any war situation (apart from selling more arms to Saudi Arabia!), and should not get drawn into any new conflict.

The jury is out on Iran, of course. Without the U.S., the rest of the signatories to the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran are not able to make much progress – they are, in fact, struggling to talk to Iran and contain the fallout of the U.S. pullout from the JCPOA. Iran has set ultimatums, and is now on the verge of breaking free from several commitments made in that agreement. If it does so, and enriches Uranium to a weapons-grade level with more advanced centrifuges (which it has the capability to manufacture and run), then all hell will break loose. The Europeans will have no stomach to continue their support for Iran. The U.S. will then get its “allies” back in any potential conflict with Iran. Look at how this story is playing out!

Well, none of us would like to have yet another useless war in the Middle East, which, apart from more casualties and destruction of a very ancient Persian culture, would also lead to oil breaching the USD 100 per barrel price point. This will lead to huge inflation in all oil-consuming countries, including the U.S. We cannot also forget the real fact that Iran is a much stronger adversary than Iraq (and Saddam Hussein), with significant resources at its disposal. And further, any UN Security Council resolution on waging war on Iran will most certainly be defeated by BOTH Russia and China (who have now banded together against the U.S. for good). I am also not sure if Germany, France and the U.K. will support such a resolution, given the world’s very fragile situation.

We should hope that wiser counsel influences the White House and the U.S. Congress. I support President Trump’s call for negotiations with Iran. I am surprised that the Iranian Government rejected it during their meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week in Tehran. It does not show positive intent to avoid a looming conflict, which Iran should avoid at any cost. While national pride and self-respect are very important to any nation, it is also critical to avoid unnecessary bloodshed against the most powerful country in a completely avoidable war. I hope the Iranians see the point and start talking via their usual interlocutors – any positive communication will be sure to get an overtly and strongly positive tweet response from President Trump. He can then go on to demonstrate how good a negotiator he is and work out a new agreement with Iran.

We all know that if he solves the North Korea, Israel-Palestine and Iran problems, he is destined to get the Nobel Peace Prize! Does he deserve it? I don’t know, but then he is the most powerful guy on this planet and is surely capable of getting things done and solving intractable problems faced by the world. Every U.S. President tries to do so, the only difference now is the occupation of the White House by one of the most unique Presidents ever, who is trying a completely different undiplomatic approach in a very public manner. Let us give him a chance!

Welcome to the continuing world of “seat of the edge conflicts” with a romantic mix of diplomatic tweets thrown in. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th June 2019

The “Wellbeing” National Budget


How do you measure the success of a nation state?

From 1930’s, the single most popular measure has been the GDP, or the Gross Domestic Product, which purports to measure the economic output of a country. It is widely used as an economic growth parameter, and a continuously growing country is supposed to create wealth for its citizens. This has generally been true, and the economically prosperous countries also have some of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

But do economic measures such as GDP and GNP truly reflect the state of “wellbeing” of a country’s citizens? Do these measures accurately portray poverty levels, education standards, homelessness, mental health and healthcare status of citizens? Does every citizen benefit from the national economic growth of his or her country? Do citizens feel happy, or constantly complain about rising costs which affect their daily livelihood? Do citizens think that enough of the national budget is being allocated for education, healthcare and eliminating the scourge of poverty? What is the extent of inequality in a developed country – is it low enough to be ignored? Do citizens feel safe and secure?

The simple and rather simplistic answer is a NO.

There are very few nations which focus on the above non-economic measures to ensure that their citizens are well taken care of. The Nordic countries such as Finland come to mind. Education is completely free, and kids get free lunch at school. We cannot dismiss the Finnish model as a “nanny” state, which it is not. Norway, Sweden, Denmark all have higher status as “happiness” producing countries in the minds of their citizens. Unfortunately, there is no Asian country in the top 10 happiest countries – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong do not make the cut. Bhutan is a happy country, being the first in the world to have a Gross National Happiness index, but did not make it to the global top 10 ranking in the 2018 report. According to the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations, New Zealand comes in at the 8th place, which is already great.

Now, New Zealand has become the first country in the world to actually publish a “wellbeing” National Budget. The focus is on a set of “wellbeing” priorities which will be adopted by all the ministries. According to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the indomitable Jacinda Ardern, it is more critical to measure the health, satisfaction and safety of the citizens, than to just constantly fixate on GDP growth as a wellbeing measure.

I totally agree.

Though I cannot understand one thing: why do the Kiwis feel that their country is not a happy one? Why are they having one of the highest suicide rates in all of OECD (the league of economically developed Western countries)? Why is domestic violence so high in New Zealand, and yet the United Nations chose to place NZ in its 8th global rank on the world happiness report?

Nevertheless, this initiative to build the entire national budget around wellbeing of citizens is a fantastic one, a new concept, which will be closely watched by the rest of the developed world. NZ needs to ensure that it succeeds in implementation. Otherwise, it will be considered as a flash in the pan, with no measurable impact in creating a sense of well being and reducing levels of poverty and homelessness.

We have to wait and see the impact. In whichever manner we see it, the “wellbeing” budget is a novel concept focused on certain clear national people-centric priorities, which should, with effective implementation and followup, generate a significant sense of wellbeing in NZ citizens. My two cents is that PM Ardern has a new strategic thinking and should be commended for taking the risk to release such a budget to the scrutiny of the public and economic analysts.

All the best to her and her forward-thinking government.

Note: I visited NZ on a family vacation many years ago and came to the conclusion it is one of the best in the world, and my family has always wanted to return to NZ for a second vacation.

Cheers, and have a great weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th June 2019

The Nuclear Disaster


I saw the “Chernobyl” miniseries on HBO recently. This huge nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant happened in 1986 in what is now Ukraine – it was part of the USSR (Soviet Russia) at that time.

Almost everyone knows what could have happened to completely decimate the European Continent if things had been allowed to further deteriorate from the precipice at which the Chernobyl nuclear power plant found itself on the 24th April 1986. Most of the western part of Russia and Western Europe would have become uninhabitable for at least a hundred years.

I am not going to delve into the technicalities of the nuclear disaster itself, which pertains to the faulty Russian design of the specific type of reactor (there are still some 10 such reactors in operation in Russia even today, can you believe it?).

What puzzled me the most while viewing the Chernobyl miniseries (which had 5 episodes) was the arrogance of the power plant management hierarchy which refused to see or believe what really happened, and tried to hide behind the Soviet Communist Party hierarchy, blaming various technical folks for their mismanagement. The other more critical aspect was the absolute loyalty that the Party and the Government expected of its managers, rather than the scientific analysis that was put in front of them by one of the most seasoned nuclear veterans in the country (who was almost thrown to the dogs by the KGB in 1988). All the occurrences depicted in the play may not be true or accurate, but I would expect a close adherence to what the witnesses stated in many depositions over the years, and that was surely the case.

Communism was and is never a form of government that can be suitably justified – there have been a long string of failures of Communist governments, the still ongoing examples being that of Cuba and North Korea, and several others. Communism depended on an absolute commitment to respecting and serving a dilapidated party hierarchy, which was far removed from the realities on the ground (or, which chose to remain isolated). Compare the Chernobyl nuclear disaster with the The Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the U.S. – you can immediately see the vast difference between the transparency and accountability of a Democratic dispensation and an autocratic functioning of the Communist form of government.

It is no wonder to infer that the Chernobyl disaster eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, though the Communist Party survived. Russia became a bit more transparent as a result, after several countries broke away from its orbit. Gorbachev did the right thing of bringing in “Glasnost” or transparency in the way that USSR operated, he realised that he needed Western technology and assistance. As we see in this miniseries episodes, Gorbachev made the right decisions as the disaster unfolded with total support to the effort to contain it.

I am not commenting here on the way that Russia had progressed ever since, but am still bothered that the Chernobyl-kind of reactors still operating in Russia have not yet been decommissioned. The big issue with nuclear power is that it is not fool-proof, and also the very damaging and life-threatening effects of any disaster involving a nuclear power plant are not contained within the country which operates the plant. It could be a disaster for the entire world. Lack of transparency and accountability are the key areas of concern under an opaque system of governance, and these issues have not gone away. Thousands of lives could have been saved if stupid administrators of the power station and party-driven bureaucrats had done their job in the case of the Chernobyl disaster.

I am not giving a clean chit to democratic countries however. They are also eminently capable of hiding problems, but if a problem is likely to explode beyond their control, they instantly become totally transparent. They would seek cooperation across the government. Not like the manner in which the noted Soviet nuclear scientist Legasov was treated by the Soviet government bureaucracy with apathy and disdain.

There are good and capable scientists on both sides – there is no doubt about it. However, scientist operate in only one way, seeking the underlying truth and addressing the problems. Exactly like the way Legasov approached the Chernobyl disaster with a series of solutions while explaining the fundamentals of nuclear fission to Communist party officials. Democracy or Communism – these ideologies are not going to change science, but they can undermine science by relegating scientific findings to the backyard of trash, exactly like what U.S. President is doing with the science of Climate Change, which he refuses to understand or appreciate, while the outcomes of climate change are spreading throughout the world.

So, if we learn one lesson from Chernobyl, it is respect for science and its findings. It cannot be cost optimisation due to lack of budget, which is a key reason why the Soviet nuclear reactor was badly designed and implemented, with no regard to safety. It is also the reason why the Chernobyl Reactor No. 3 was run at low power for 12 hours, instead of its rated power, and the reactor design was not suited to long hours of low power operation, etc…….there were several reasons why the nuclear core exploded, and there is a lot of physics and chemistry involved!

See the HBO miniseries – it will have a serious impact on you, and let me tell you that you can neither ignore the power of science nor the stupidity of politicians or bureaucrats.

Excellent!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

08 June 2019

The Cruelty of Separations


Governments seem to take pleasure in separating even young children from their parents, with no plan to eventually reunite them. I am referring to the border crossing across the Mexico – U.S. border, wherein thousands of migrants have crossed over into the U.S. territories. These migrants are from various South American countries which are impoverished, plagued by violence, or having other serious problems, pushing their long-suffering citizens out of their respective countries. Many of them seek political asylum, fleeing from political persecution.

While this kind of migration into the U.S. is not unusual from across its southern borders, the Trump Administration’s vigorous opposition to admitting even asylum seekers, and to allowing the migration to continue unabated has stunted the migration. The push towards building Trump’s favourite border wall, the strengthening of border security operations, and other actions have frightened the would-be migrants. Trump constantly attacks the migrants and the migrant convoys as we have seen over the past year or so.

However, what is really cruel is the forced separation of young children from their parents at the border by U.S. border officials. Apparently, there is no proper accounting or tracking of these children, scaring off the parents as to their whereabouts and well-being. The intent seems to be to scare the parents as such examples would completely put off the would-be migrants on the way to the border. The idea behind the separation is to initiate proceedings against the parents for their illegal entry into the U.S., while their children are kept somewhere under foster care.

While Trump has since rescinded this cruel family separation policy in June 2018 under intense public pressure and judicial scrutiny, separations continued for a few months after this official suspension. More than anything else, multiple official agencies of the U.S. government have not been able to account, reconcile and reunite the children with their parents.

This very cruel practice of separating children from even asylum seekers (who should enjoy a higher status than just any illegal migrant seeking better economic status) is very unusual and does not reflect the high-ground moralistic American values. We know that such values have been taken to the laundry by the Trump Administration’s rather inconsistent policies and incoherent policy execution by rather incompetent Cabinet secretaries.

I am reminded of the Nazi Concentration Camps and the herding of children into rickety trains carrying all of them to the camps. Such a comparison is not appropriate, but I am not able to remove the images in my mind from some of the gruesome movies that I saw, after I saw pictures of “cages” in which the separated children were kept at the U.S. border. How can you cage children? Where is the conscience of the border protection people? We of course, know that Trump’s Cabinet members mostly lack conscience. Comparisons are inevitable unfortunately, and it is a huge irony to compare the actions of the U.S. Government with the most cruel government that ever existed on this planet. But then, intentionally separating a migrant family fleeing their own country and thereby causing much more fear and anxiety in that family is a very serious international crime. Further, there might be no possibility of the family reuniting with their children, due entirely to the fault of the U.S. government agencies, for which they need to be prosecuted. In combination, the blame needs to fall squarely on the big shoulders of President Trump, who intentionally aggravated this unnecessary crisis at the border with his poorly conceived zero tolerance policy.

There is no other country in the world which is facing such a huge immigration problem as the U.S. faces today. Most of the migrants are from Central American countries which are impoverished with hardly any economic opportunities for their people. Parents want a better life for their children, and so they undertake the arduous, long journey to the Mexican border with the U.S. Not unusual, but the scale of migration has stepped up over the past couple of years.

Whatever be the reason, it is not proper for a government to separate children from their parents, whether the separation occurs at the border or elsewhere. Parents will be totally desperate and completely anguished when their children are forcibly taken away, and the children will be confused, hungry and messed up totally due to lack of access to their parents. One does not need to learn human psychology and sociology to figure this out. Simple common sense will be adequate.

Things seem to be getting better at the Mexican border with less and less number of separations happening. However, the Trump Administration needs to ensure that each and every child is reunited with his/her parents as mandated by a federal court order. No child should be left alone in foster care or in a federal shelter in a cage.

Governments can be firm and tough, but they cannot be harsh, they cannot be mean, and they cannot be heartless. It is a simple policy which the Trump Administration officials can learn to adopt as they run their government.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th May 2019

The “rogue” nation?


Is the U.S. becoming a “rogue” nation?

Unbelievable, but not out of the ordinary, as the U.S. still remains the only real superpower in the world, and possesses immense capacity to “twist” facts as per its convenience, and to the detriment of everyone else. Most of us would recall how Colin Powell, then Secretary of Defence, “proved” to the U.N. Security Council in 2003 that Iraq possessed WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in a totally false manner, which allowed the U.S. to invade Iraq. The U.S. could pull this off on even a rather suspecting UNSC; it did not matter in the end. The U.S. was anyway preparing to attack Iraq under a false pretext that Saddam Hussein was preparing to unleash WMD on Western nations. It sounded eerily similar to the false pretext (in the form of a fax received from a U.S. warship off the coast of Vietnam) that precipitated the hugely destructive Vietnam war in the Sixties. Over 400,000 lives have been lost in the Iraq war and the U.S. spent some couple of trillion dollars (don’t have the exact number, sorry!).

All this to prove a point, which was false anyway to start with.

Now we are seeing a similar scenario being enacted in preparation to wage a war against Iran. As before, there are war hawks in the U.S. Cabinet who are precipitating the crisis. It is primarily the most hawkish blood-thirsty John Bolton, the National Security Advisor to President Trump, who wants to attack a series of countries – North Korea, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Iran,………He is ably supported by the bully who is Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Both of them hate the Middle East, except the close allies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the U.A.E.

The phrase “international community” is often used by U.S. Government spokespersons in support of whatever actions being contemplated – however, in the current situation, not even the closest ally of the U.S., viz., the U.K. wants to support military action against Iran. France, Germany, Russia, and China are totally opposed to any kind of military adventure. It is entirely possible that a pre-arranged set of actions will be conceived and executed by the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies, to precipitate military action against Iran.

While Iran is not entirely guilt-free, as of now it appears that it is not engaged in any military ventures against the U.S. or its allies. Till recently, it was keeping its compliance to the joint nuclear deal intact, though the U.S. walked out about a year ago from the deal which was concluded amongst the major powers. The U.S. then imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran (not approved by the UNSC), and issued waivers to countries like China and India so that they could continue to import oil (at a cheaper price) from Iran. Recently, those waivers were withdrawn.

So, here we have the world’s only superpower which does not wish to conform to international treaties and agreements, does not wish to respect the wishes of the UN or even its close Western allies, imposes unilateral sanctions aimed at choking Iran’s economy (it is doing so on North Korea as well), threatens countries which do business with Iran, has moved its mighty ships very close to Iran, and has been issuing threatening statements intended to provoke Iran.

Of course, Israel is quietly enjoying the show. Israel wants to finish off Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities once and for all, they have made no secrets about it.

Now we are challenged. Who is indeed the “rogue” nation? Is it Iran or the U.S.? Who wants a war? And that too, another Middle Eastern war in a region which is totally fatigued with conflicts over the past couple of decades. Who is going to benefit from such a war with Iran? Who is going to be affected? Why is all this happening when we have other powerful nations and the United Nations? Why is almost every country keeping to their counsel and maintaining radio silence?

The reasons are not too difficult to find.

The U.S. has had an antagonistic relationship with Iran from 1979. It does not matter what Iran does or does not do – successive U.S. administrations have questioned the rationale for the Iranian theocracy as a responsible member of the international community. Except President Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry. The joint nuclear deal was the result of their intense focus on finding a solution to the Iranian nuclear imbroglio. They succeeded. But within 3 years, the U.S. walked out of the deal due to the fact that President Trump hated whatever Obama had accomplished.

Of course, Iran played its hand in Yemen, Syria, and several other countries, and has been pitched against Saudi Arabia for regional hegemony. That conflict cannot be resolved.

With a big population of 81M people, and a strong military on the ground, Iran will not be a walk in the garden even for the U.S. which will rely predominantly on airpower and its naval forces. But then, the world will seriously question its rationale for the war when Iran has not committed any egregious act attacking U.S. interests or its allies. Further with its population density, thousands of people will die even during the first week of war. And, to what purpose? Apart from testing its latest ammunition and missiles, and feeding its arms industry, what is that the U.S. is planning to accomplish in a war with Iran?

Nothing.

No regime change which seems to be the sole objective of John Bolton. If there are no U.S. boots on the ground in Iran, how will regime change happen? The U.S. has to invade and occupy Iran in order for it to throw out the theocrats ruling Iran. That is not going to happen. The U.S. will not have the appetite for such an occupation. Neither will the close allies of the U.S. support such a war and an invasion of a sovereign country. The collective international community will rebel against the U.S., whether there are sanctions or no sanctions. The Security Council will veto U.S. resolutions on Iran. The U.S. Congress will vote against the war.

In a nutshell, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are herding President Trump towards an unwanted and hugely destructive war with Iran, and they both need to be stopped in their tracks. Only President Trump can do that, as there is not much wisdom and not any wise men left in the White House, and the U.S. Congress seems to be on the verge of impotency against the constant railings of the Trump Administration which is refusing to cooperate with the Congress on many issues.

So, our bet now is on President Trump!!!

Can you simply believe the irony???

Let us see how he plays this game – his missteps could have a huge negative impact on the world and destroy world peace forever.

Cheers, and have a good weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

18th May 2019