Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THE IRAQI TILT (1982-1990)

Excellent discussion in Wk 1 in my Spring 2014 UMUC class on the 1991 Gulf War. Arguments for and against the Iraqi Tilt - the US support of Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War - have been laid out well.
The mandate in this class is to understand history from the perspective of policy analysis. Would events have occurred differently had a certain policy not been followed? Would Saddam Hussein been enboldened to invade Kuwait in 1990, if he had not previously received the green light to carry on his invasion of Iran? Clearly, he mis-read the situation entirely, as Clovis Maksoud points out. He also knew that that a similar Iraqi incursion into Kuwait in 1960, had been met with disapproval from the West. The UK sent troops to the border of Kuwait and Iraq to prevent a border war. On the other hand, the West mis-read Hussein, by providing him funds that he used to build up his military, but expecting at the same time that he would 'stay in his box'.  The West' policy was that of 'the enemies (Iraq) of my enemies (Iran) are my friends."
The question before the class in terms of policy analysis is: should  potential long term consequences of supporting a dictator be evaluated? Or should short term goals (defeating Iran) remain paramount? One student pointed out the ethical dimensions of foreign policy.  As a democracy and signatory to various human rights treaties, should the US adhere to human rights norms in choosing allies...or is that simply not a realistic strategy?
In 1987, the neoconservative Daniel Pipes correctly saw how the Iraqi Tilt might backfire:
"A more serious argument against a tilt toward Iraq is the danger that a victorious Baghdad would itself turn against pro-American states in the region — mainly Israel, but also Kuwait and other weak states in the Persian Gulf region. "
Hindsight is not 20/20 always...since Daniel Pipes clearly saw the danger involved in the Iraqi Tilt while it was in effect.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I believe that a referendum of the people of Kashmir is the only way to solve this kind of ethnic/territorial dispute.  A referendum has been the proposed solution for Kashmir since 1949:

"On 5 January 1949, UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolution stated that the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite. As per the 1948 and 1949 UNCIP Resolutions, both countries accepted the principle, that Pakistan secures the withdrawal of Pakistani intruders followed by withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces, as a basis for the formulation of a Truce agreement whose details are to be arrived in future, followed by a plebiscite; However, both countries failed to arrive at a Truce agreement due to differences in interpretation of the procedure for and extent of demilitarisation one of them being whether the Azad Kashmiri army is to be disbanded during the truce stage or the plebiscite stage. "

Referendum (plural would be Referenda?) have been used more widely than is supposed. Kyrgystan held a referendum in 2010:

"Rosa Otunbayeva, the country's acting leader, said she had won overwhelming support for her plan to create a new parliamentary system. "The new constitution of the Kyrgyz republic has been approved," she said in the capital Bishkek, adding: "We are proud of our country, which made this choice at a difficult hour."
Today's ballot was designed to legitimise the current government and to replace the country's abuse-prone presidential system."

A referendum can serve to defuse a potential civil war, but as with any public vote, it has to be perceived as fair and free.

The UN sponsored a referendum 30 August 1999 in East Timor, in which the vast majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. This was followed by a violent attack against pro Independence forces, but ultimately the will of the East Timorese prevailed.

This year, Crimea was annexed to Russia following a pro-Russian referendum vote in Crimea.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Good question this week in my INTL 5665 Central and South Asian Studies Masters class...what are the relations between the US and Turkmenistan? Here you would start by looking first at US policy regarding this country.
During the administration of GW Bush, the focus was on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, in order to obtain military bases re: NATO-US war against Taliban 2001-now.
Under Obama, there has been rapprochement (a French term used in diplomacy which means attempting new relations after either hostilities or neutrality). Obama wants to focus on energy cooperation (the TAPI pipeline) and so Turkmenistan became important, as well as Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest producer and exporter of oil (Turkmenistan is the region's largest producer and exporter of natural gas.)  But Turkmenistan wants to diversify export routes of its gas - and this is its key foreign policy objective.
Obstacles in the way of the US being a prime economic ally of this country are these:
1) Hegemonic influence of the USSR - still a major holdover from the days of the USSR
2) Turkmenistan sees China as a major consumer, and this has resulted in extensive Sino-Turkmenistan energy cooperation.
3) Because the US is promoting democracy and human rights in Central Asia, the US State Department cannot take the government of Turkmenistan's abysmal human rights record, lightly.  Amnesty International noted that in 2013, in February, "President Berdimuhamedov was re-elected with 97.4% of the vote. The OSCE did not send election monitors, citing limited political freedom in Turkmenistan.
In March, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that although Turkmenistan showed a “new willingness” to improve its human rights record, a disparity between legislation and implementation persisted."
The US must still, according to its energy objectives, attempt rapprochement. A 2013 Congressional Research Service report states that US has provided and $6.02 million in FY 2013, and has requested $6.455 million for FY 2014 - excluding amounts from Defense and Energy Department funding. 



Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol

Specialist in Russian

and Eurasian Affairs

December 12, 2013