Political Concepts

Views on the News – 27 May 2010

Obama doctrine to make clear ‘no war on Islam’

President Barack Obama’s new national security doctrine will make clear that the US does not consider itself to be at war with Islam, a top adviser said on Wednesday. The White House on Thursday plans to roll out Obama’s first formal declaration of national security goals, which are expected to deviate sharply from the go-it-alone approach of the Bush era that included justification for pre-emptive war and alienated many in the Muslim world.

Previewing parts of the document, John Brennan, Obama’s leading counter terrorism adviser, said, “We have never been and will never be at war with Islam.” “The president’s strategy is unequivocal with regard to our posture – the US is at war. We are at war against al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates,” he said in a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Brennan’s words dovetailed with Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, where the US image under former President George W Bush was hurt by the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and his use of phrases like “war on terror” and “Islamo-fascism”.

Israel said to offer N-arms sale

Israel described as baseless on Monday reported findings in a new book that it offered to sell nuclear warheads to South Africa in 1975.Britain’s Guardian newspaper said documents, uncovered by a US academic researching Israel’s ties with South Africa’s then-white minority government, provided the first official documentary evidence that the Jewish state has nuclear arms.Israel is widely believed to have built more than 200 atomic warheads at its Dimona reactor but it maintains an official policy of “ambiguity” over whether it is a nuclear power.The Guardian said documents declassified by South Africa’s post-apartheid government at the request of the academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, included top-secret minutes of meetings between senior officials of the two countries in 1975.Those papers, the newspaper said, showed that South Africa’s defence minister at the time, P.W. Botha, asked for nuclear warheads and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres, now Israel’s president, offered them in “three sizes”. Speculation about Israeli-South African nuclear cooperation was raised in 1979 when a US satellite detected a mysterious flash over the Indian Ocean. The US television network CBS reported it was a nuclear test carried out by the two countries. But the US Central Intelligence Agency, in a document written in 1980 and released in 2004, said the United States could not determine “with certainty the nature and origin of the event”.

US naval base in Bahrain set for $580m upgrade

A US naval base in Bahrain is set to undergo a $580m upgrade, which will double its size. The revamp of the Naval Support Activity Bahrain base, which is home of the US Navy 5th Fleet Command, started on Wednesday and is slated to be completed in four phases over five years. The move will enable the US to better withstand the growing number of threats in the region’s strategic waterways, UAE daily The National reported. “What you see today is a commitment to staying in the region. Anybody who suggests that we are getting afraid or nervous or losing our resolve just has to take a look at what we are doing here today,” said Adam Ereli, the US ambassador to Bahrain in comments published by the paper. The 5th Fleet area of operation encompasses about 6.5 million sq km of water, spanning the coastlines of 27 countries, including the Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. Plans for expansion of the base had been in the pipeline since 2003 as operational requirements increased after the September 11 attacks. The first phase of the upgrade is set to be completed in the autumn of 2012.

US troops in Afghanistan outnumber those in Iraq

There are more US troops in Afghanistan than Iraq for the first time since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003, officials say. New Pentagon figures show there are currently around 94,000 troops in Afghanistan compared to 92,000 in Iraq. President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August. Up to 50,000 are expected to remain there until the end of 2011 to help train and equip Iraqi forces. In December, Mr Obama announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The total number of American troops in the country is expected to reach around 100,000 later this year, while Nato allies contribute another 47,000 soldiers.

US seeks Pakistan crackdown on Taliban

Two top Obama administration officials have told Pakistan that it has only weeks to show real progress in a crackdown against the Pakistani Taliban, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. The U.S. has put Pakistan “on a clock” to launch a new intelligence and counterterrorist offensive against the group, which the White House alleges was behind the Times Square bombing attempt, according to the official. White House national security adviser James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta delivered that message to Islamabad last week, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

 As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the high-ranking U.S. delegation presented the Pakistanis with evidence they believe proves that Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad was trained and funded by the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, as the Pakistani Taliban are known. Shahzad is accused of attempting to ignite what turned out to be a poorly constructed car bomb in Times Square.The evidence also showed that two TTP members escorted Shahzad to a training base in the lawless tribal area of Waziristan, where he received some instruction in how to build explosives, the U.S. official said.The visiting delegation reminded Pakistani leaders that President Barack Obama had sent them a letter in November, asking for a tougher crackdown against al-Qaida and its affiliates like the TTP, the official said. The official said those in the delegation to Pakistan were hopeful the Shahzad case may spell the difference because the U.S. is asking Pakistan to crack down on a group that is a sworn enemy of Islamabad.

May 27 2010