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Trump Will Have to Tread Cautiously While Engaging With Russia

Trump will have to find new ways of engaging with Russia, with which US has had a blow-hot-blow-cold relationship.

Published
World
7 min read


Traditional Russian wooden dolls  depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, hours before   Trump is to be sworn in as president,  St. Petersburg, Russia, 20 January 2017. (Photo: AP)
Trump Will Have to Tread Cautiously While Engaging With Russia

The Shia Muslim population in the world is around 200 million and they constitute only 10 percent of Muslims and 2 percent of the entire world population. They are in majority only in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain. Most of the world ignorantly perceives Shias as the followers of Late Ayatollah Khomeini and current Iranian supreme religious leaders Ayatollah Khamenei, both hardcore religious fundamentalist leaders known for their hatred against the US.

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US’ Indifference and Tackling Conservatives

It is a fact that since 1979, these two leaders had brutally controlled Iran and made a rabid anti-US and anti-Israel stance a hallmark of the Iranian policy. Their hatred for the US stems from the belief that it was the US which propped up a highly repressive and allegedly ‘anti- Islamic’ Shah regime, responsible for widespread oppression of the general Iranian public. It must be noted that Ayatollah Khamenei is not recognised as the supreme religious leader of the entire Shia population of the world.

Unlike the Sunnis, the Shias have a natural urge for modernity, liberal lifestyle and education, with special emphasis on science, technology, female education, and Islamic obscurantism of current religious leadership was unlikely to survive for too long after the death of Ayatollah Khamenei. There are more female graduates in Iran than males.

Shia’s holiest cities, Karbala and Najaf, are located not in Iran but in Iraq and are the seat of Iraq’s supreme Shia religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who unlike Khamenei, is more scholarly and a moderate, and not inimical to the West. The US must understand that it is not a favourite of Muslims and even a slightest hint of US’ animosity against a regime in Muslim countries could make even the most moderate and a secular Muslim stand in support of a most cruel regime in a Muslim country.

Thus, given the declining public support for the conservatives in Iran, an indifferent US attitude would be more helpful in slow obliteration of radical and conservative leadership with Iran gradually progressing towards liberalism.

Also Read: For Trump, Destroying Pakistani Terror Networks Should Be Priority

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 Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has compared talk of renegotiating its nuclear accord to “converting a shirt back to cotton,” and says US President-elect Donald Trump’s talk of doing so is “mainly slogans.” (Photo: AP)
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has compared talk of renegotiating its nuclear accord to “converting a shirt back to cotton,” and says US President-elect Donald Trump’s talk of doing so is “mainly slogans.” (Photo: AP)
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Hezbollah, the Shiite Terror Group

Other than Hezbollah, not many Shiite terrorist groups have been found active around the world. There is no report of Shiite terrorist groups carrying out any direct major terrorist action in the US or Europe. Shiite religious practices do not approve of suicidal attacks and thus there is a general abhorrence for suicide attacks. Even Hezbollah’s main focus is on targeting Israel and preventing it from spreading its influence through Lebanon and in other neighbouring countries with Shiite regimes.

It is a fact that few decades back, Hezbollah had carried out deadly attacks against US personnel in Lebanon but that was because Hezbollah considered that Israel has been targeting them with US help. Outside the Middle East, few terrorist incidents which are attributed to Iranians and Hezbollah had been against Israeli targets. These incidents have never been fully solved and the involvement of Hezbollah and Iran has never been completely established.

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Threats from Iran’s Nuclear Programme

The CIA and other US intelligence agencies have been accusing Iran of helping Al-Qaeda, but to independent observers, these appear to be unsubstantiated allegations. All the Sunni terrorist groups consider Shias as a bigger enemy than even Jews.

The Iranian Nuclear programme has been seen as a threat to global peace. The Iranian supreme religious leader has denounced WMDs including nuclear weapons as being against Islam, though the USA and its allies are not willing to believe it. Fears of the Iranian nuclear programme were aroused because of its clandestine attempts to enrich uranium. Realistically speaking, Iran, a Shia country, has no utility for it. It cannot use it against its Muslim enemies in the neighbourhood, and the US is too far away to be threatened.

The only country against which it could use the nuclear weapons is Israel, which Iranian rulers had vowed to destroy. But unlike Sunnis, neither the general population nor the rulers harbour any suicidal tendencies. Iranian rulers are fully aware that Israel is an undeclared nuclear power, which would destroy Iran before it could even go ahead with the nuclear strike. It is also aware that the US and other western countries would totally destroy it if it thinks of any misadventure against Israel.

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Russia versus the US

Russia has no territorial dispute with the US and both countries are not at war with each other and could not be described as adversaries, though both are competing for influence in the world. A positive relationship between the world’s two major powers could be a good sign for world peace and the international community would welcome the same. Russia is no longer a socialist state but is ruled by a not-so-honest oligarchy comprising of bureaucrats, businessmen and mafia.

Suffering from a lot of sub-surface economic discontent, Russia is in no position to expand its influence across the world, but feeling threatened by hostility of the West, it is trying hard to secure its periphery with regimes that are less hostile to it and could be influenced by the US. While NATO might have some other utility, it has lost its relevance about its original objective of thwarting the possible Soviet aggression in Europe as Russia today is an old, emasculated and tired ‘bear’ incapable of threatening Europe. Trump’s gesture of friendship with Russia could bring stability in the international arena and strengthen the fight against Islamic terrorism, which is the biggest threat to humanity.

Also Read: Security, Terrorism & Foreign Affairs Challenges For Trump Govt

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Alleged Manipulation by the Democrats

To subvert Trump’s presidency, the outgoing Obama administration is sparing no effort to project Russia as an enemy country. This was quite evident when WikiLeaks published emails stored in DNC server, which reflected partisan manipulation by the Democratic establishment of the party’s Presidential nomination process.

After Trump’s victory, the Democrats have diverted discourse from the wrongdoing of the pro-Hillary Clinton cabal in the Democratic Party to manipulate the Presidential nomination, to one of Russia’s alleged cyber offensive at the behest of Putin to help Trump. While there is no hard evidence about these allegations, it is no secret that Putin strongly detests Hilary Clinton personally for her stance against him.

No country, including the US, would like to have an unfavourable leadership assuming power in a country of its interest. The US tries to influence the political processes in virtually every country, including by illegal funding of rival political parties. Obama has virtually intervened in the referendum in the UK by asking the British public to remain in the EU as the US would give no priority to England in trade agreements which would be required by the UK in case the public opted for Brexit.

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Why the US Can’t Ignore China

Today, China poses a major threat to not only international peace but also to US’ economic well-being. As a visitor to the US, I was shocked to find that 90 percent of the stuff in US shopping malls has been manufactured in China, whether it is clothing, belonging to the biggest brands or electronic gadgets or computers. China, which has a huge trade surplus, uses its economic muscle for geo-political influence.

Unlike in the past, the third world countries do not look towards the US for economic assistance; rather it is China, which, having huge trade surpluses, volunteers to make massive investments on highly profitable terms for itself while suppressing other economies of big and small countries by deliberately devaluing its currency from time to time.

To maintain its hegemony, it keeps on discovering newer and newer territorial claims to suppress smaller countries in the region, be it Vietnam, Cambodia or Philippines. Most dangerously, China is supporting countries which promote Islamic terrorism mainly to keep the US on the defensive. Good relations with Russia and India would help the US in curbing ever expanding Chinese influence around the globe. China’s economic power and quest for destroying competition is facilitated by near slavish exploitation of its populace which must be exposed and should be sanctioned.

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Tensions with North Korea

North Korea is the noisiest enemy of the US. The prime obsession of Kim Jong-un, who is also considered psychologically unstable, is to use daily threats against the US, Japan and North Korea by conducting tests of its missiles virtually every fortnight and several nuclear test annually. The narrative surrounding North Korea is that it is the most brutal regime in the world and its entire population is experiencing the worst kind of slavery.

While the southern half of Korea is one of the most developed countries in the world, North Korea is one of the most poor countries and the dictator is aware that even a slight loose end would lead to a revolt with the public being very keen to join its southern part. CIA files would show that the entire nuclear programme of North Korea was with the collaboration of Pakistan and China assisting in its missile development programme. North Korea, ruled by a crazy dictator, supported by China, poses real threat to the US and its allies in the region.

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(The writer is a former Special Director, Intelligence Bureau. This article is the second part of a three-part series. You can read the first part here and second part here. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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