Tales from the Trail

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.

But Israel has already cautioned Obama against talking to Iran, which it said would be a seen as a sign of weakness in efforts to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear programme. And Obama's suggestion that the United States should try to help resolve the Kashmir dispute has raised hackles in India, which resents any outside interference in what it sees as a bilateral dispute. That could make the two countries important allies in combating -- or at least reshaping -- any attempt to remould U.S. strategy. 

India and Israel have already built close defence ties, as underlined by this Times of India article.  And according to this Asia Times article by former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar, India's growing relationship with Israel, combined with U.S. pressure, is pushing Delhi to break off what was once a strategic partnership with Tehran. "At the root of it lies unprecedented US-Israeli interference in India's Iran policy," he writes.

Palin sees debate with Biden as ‘quite a task’

WASHINGTON – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sounds a bit wary about her upcoming debate with her really, really, really experienced Democratic rival.
 
“Senator (Joe) Biden has a tremendous amount of experience,” she told Fox News. “I think he was first elected when I was like in the second grade.”
 
If her running mate John McCain, 72, wasn’t hoping to be the oldest person to begin a first term as president, one might think Palin was suggesting Biden, 65, was old. 
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“He’s been in there a long, long, long time,” Palin said. “So he’s got the experience. He probably has the sound bites. He has the rhetoric. He knows what’s expected of him. He is a great debater, also.”
 
“So yes, it’s going to be quite a task in front of me,” she said.
 
Palin also said she didn’t mean to insult Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in her nominating speech when she belittled his experience as a community organizer. 

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” she told the Republican convention.
 
“I certainly didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Palin told Fox News. “Didn’t mean to offend any community organizers either.”
 
She said she did it because Obama had taken a shot at small town mayors.
 
The Alaska governor, little-known before being chosen as McCain’s running mate, said she respected former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton but disagreed with her on the issues.
 
Clinton has been campaigning on behalf of Obama since losing the Democratic nomination, but she has avoided direct confrontation with Palin.
 
Clinton planned to speak at a demonstration against the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, near the United Nations which convenes its annual General Assembly next week but she canceled the appearance on Wednesday after learning Palin would also address the crowd.
 
A Clinton adviser said the protest had not been billed as a partisan political event.
 
Organizers of the demonstration subsequently announced Thursday they had decided not to let any American political personalities appear.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Bush appeasement comment stirs up U.S. political race

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush stirred up the U.S. presidential campaign Thursday by suggesting that Democratic front-runner Barack Obama’s pledge to talk to Iran’s leader amounted to “the false comfort of appeasement.”

“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Bush said in a speech to the Israeli parliament marking Israel’s 60th anniversary.

Without mentioning Obama by name, he compared “this foolish delusion” to the appeasement of the Nazis ahead of World War Two.