Trump administration wants ‘Iran out of Syria’ but no clear strategy yet

Trump administration is signaling a counter-Iran strategy. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2017

Trump administration wants ‘Iran out of Syria’ but no clear strategy yet

WASHINGTON: As it prepares for its first counter-Daesh summit on March 22-23, the Trump administration is also signaling a counter-Iran strategy in its efforts in Syria.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, in remarks on Wednesday night that addressed the lingering conflict in Syria said, “We have got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we have got to make sure that, as we move forward, we are securing the borders for our allies as well.”
Analysts, however, point to the fact that beyond Haley’s statement, there is no clear strategy for the US government yet on how to achieve such goal.
Amidst diplomatic speculation that UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura might be on his way out, Haley renewed US confidence in de Mistura’s efforts. She said, “The United States absolutely supports de Mistura and the work that he is doing. We support the UN process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue.”
Haley, known for her blunt criticism since she took the job in January of Russia and Iran, said the Syria question “is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists.”
But Syria watchers voiced skepticism over Trump’s roadmap to execute such a goal and drive Iran with its many proxies from Syria.
Joseph Bahout, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that Haley’s sentiment “will only be considered a departure from the last eight years of US policy on Syria under the Obama administration, if the Trump team has thoroughly thought of a new policy as a whole. We must see if this is only an isolated statement, like Haley’s own Russia’s statement a few weeks ago.”
On the ground in Syria, the “US has been so far toothless on this issue of pushing Iran out,” but if there are plans in that direction, Bahout said, “it is easier to do it in Syria than in Iraq.”
He said that in Syria, unlike Iraq, “it is via proxy and less face to face than Iraq where US troops are on the ground, and Iran is a co-owner of the country” following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The Russian influence in Syria could also drive attempts by Washington to peel it from Iran, added Bahout. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed Iranian influence in Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he is expected to meet Turkish President Recep Tayib Erdogan Friday.
The questions that drive skepticism around Trump vision to oust Iran from Syria, relate to the new US administration not having a clear strategy for the conflict, nor a complete staffed team that is addressing the issue. Michael Ratney, the former US envoy for Syria, has been promoted to deputy assistant secretary last month, and is directing both the Syria file and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process according to the State Department.
The State Department also confirmed Thursday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host on March 22-23 a 68-nation meeting in Washington to discuss the next moves by the coalition fighting Daesh.


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”