• Wednesday 21st August 2019

Sri Lanka terror, Ukraine elections and blast from Iran’s past

  • Published on: April 23, 2019

  • By M.R. Josse

    GAITHERSBURG, MD: Although the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses to nominate party candidates for the November 2020 presidential election are a distant nine months away – and with at least 20 Democrats either considering to run or have officially declared their candidatures – a new campaigning mode is becoming discernible, according to pundits.
    Living rooms are becoming a 2020 campaign stage with private individuals opening their homes to host would-be presidential nominees.
    Currently, Democrats are perceived grasping for an electoral strategy to defeat President Donald Trump who has taken the initiative after the Mueller probe report into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.
    While the Democrats are divided on whether to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, he is charging full-steam ahead, a manifestation of which is his announcement that all countries importing Iranian oil will be subject to sanctions.
    This brings me to the state of U.S.-Iran ties – a relationship that plunged from an all-time high during the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to its nadir, following the Shah’s forced exile in 1979, and the tyranny of Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime that replaced it.
    Having recently perused the absorbing “Faces in a Mirror: Memoirs from Exile” by Princess Ashraf Pahlavi (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Eaglewood Cliffs, N.J., 1980), I wish to share a smidgen of revelations contained therein.
    The author, twin sister of the Shah, tells an extraordinary, panoramic story of events that led to the Shah’s ouster and the take-over by Khomeini, revealing details of her meeting with Joseph Stalin, during the heyday of the Cold War, when Iran faced an existential threat from the Soviet Union.
    She charges that the Western failure of understanding “led many nations, America in particular, to assume that if the Shah was removed the path would be clear for ‘instant democracy’…And it was on this basis of this assumption that the Carter Administration – in its betrayal of the Shah – unleashed on Iran, on itself, and on the rest of the world one of the most serious political crises since the end of World War II.”
    She argues – credibly – that “the most significant aftermath of the (1943) Tehran Conference was the friendship between Stalin and Roosevelt, a political misalliance that would give Stalin the green light to begin his infiltration of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.”
    “We made a firm decision to form an alliance with the United States at the expense of Russia, a decision that colored the entire history of our country for decades and ultimately paved the way for the recent revolution.”
    She reminds that at a press conference in 1959 – following Tehran’s rebuff, at President Eisenhower’s behest, of Moscow’s offer of a non-aggression pact – Premier Khrushchev thundered: “He will not succeed through pacts with the United States to save his rotten throne. He treated us as if we were Luxembourg and he will be sorry.”
    She sheds light the creation of SAVAK, the Iranian secret police during the Shah’s time, thus: “SAVAK was in fact a cooperative effort with our American friends. Its operatives were trained by the CIA, with some assistance from MOSAD, the Israeli secret police. Its main function was to help the Shah hold the line against Communist infiltration – a strong and ever-present danger in Iran for decades.”
    By now, the sickening dimensions of Sri Lanka’s Easter morning terrorist carnage will be widely known: in eight coordinated blasts across the country that struck three churches and three hotels nearly 300 people were killed and 500 injured – the worst violence the country experienced since the end of the civil war in 2009.
    While a flood of condemnations, messages of condolences and so forth continue to swirl around vis-à-vis this mega-tragedy, one must focus on why, although reportedly police had about 10 days earlier alerted security officials about an impending terror assault on churches by a radical Islamic group, the government was so flagrantly unprepared.
    With Prime Minister Ranil Wickresinghe publicly confessing that neither he or any minister were brought into the loop, there is strong possibility of a rift within the government or the security agencies. A hitherto little-known group, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, is reportedly the perpetrator.
    Plainly, given the scope and coordination of the attacks, it must have received help from better organized/funded groupings; the U.S. says the attacks were ISIS inspired. This leads at least to two streams of thought: that ISIS being vanquished at home-base has decided to move to other pastures, preferably where counter terrorism capability is minimal; and to why Sri Lanka was chosen instead of, or in addition to, India and Pakistan.
    Churches in India and Pakistan have been targeted in the past; there is no dearth of radical Islamic sympathizers there; besides, India is in the throes of a multistage general election which, one imagines, would suck all, or nearly all, available security oxygen, leaving vacuums of vulnerability.
    There are many weighty, seminal lessons to be drawn from the fact that political neophyte Comedian Volodyndr Zelenskiy not only defeated Ukraine’s incumbent president Petro Poroshenko but indeed did so in a massive landslide.
    It requires no great political mettle to conclude that the vote was a resounding rebuke of the status quo and a response, if multiple media reports from Kiev are anything to go by, to the perceived corruption within the political establishment – not to mention the lackluster economy and the ongoing conflict with Russia.
    Will one now see a cordial chapter in Ukraine-Russia relations? It’s hard to say. What’s significant is that while the U.S. has congratulated Zelenskiy and praised the peaceful nature of the polls, outgoing president Poroshenko cautioned that Ukraine may return to Russia’s orbit.
    Will the Indian voter go with the incumbent government or will there be a massive mandate for change, a la Ukraine? Let’s see.


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