India World

US President Trump steps back from air attack on Iran

 US President Donald Trump wages wars of trade and words, but he has pulled back from an air attack on Iran that could have led to an armed conflict — an actual war.

Countermanding the hawks surrounding him, Trump aborted air strikes on Iran in retaliation for Tehran shooting down an unmanned American surveillance drone a mere 10 minutes before its launch on Thursday.

He tweeted on Friday: “We were cocked and loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. One hundred-fifty people, sir, was the answer from a General. Ten minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone”.

Trump laying down proportionality as a factor is a marked departure from previous administrations.

Both the Bushes, senior and junior, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as collateral damage in their wars.

This picture of Trump caring for 150 Iranian lives may seem incongruous, but he is a man of complex psyche. Despite his bluster and threats – even to annihilate North Korea – he appears reluctant to start a military war, perhaps having learnt the lessons of the US wars of the last half a century and is against military adventures abroad.

Iranians can retaliate causing widespread economic harm by disrupting traffic in the Gulf region by shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, the area where they had shot down the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone on Thursday, claiming it was over their territory, which Trump has denied.

Tehran has shown that it can almost masochistically absorb pain, as during the war with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or through years of international sanctions.

It is estimated that about 20 per cent of the world’s total crude oil passes through this choke point, about 40 kilometre at its narrowest point. India, which relies for much of its energy needs on the region, has sent two Navy ships to the region to protect its shipping.

The area presents other risks of immense magnitude for unintended escalation. In 1988, the US shot down a civilian Iran Air passenger Airbus killing 290 people, including 10 Indians, while it was over Iranian territory. The US made the fantastic claim that it had been mistaken for an F-14 Tomcat jet fighter.

A businessman by profession, Trump instead prefers to wield the economy as a weapon to beat down his foes. He has imposed painful sanctions on Iran – which causes collateral damage to countries like India and Venezuela. He earlier prevailed on Russia and China to more closely observe the UN sanctions on North Korea.

He has repeatedly said he doesn’t want war with Iran. Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a rare agreement with Trump said: “I don’t think the President wants to go to war. There’s no appetite to go to war in our country”.

Even before he ran for President, he called the Iraq war “a mistake” after supporting it in the initial phase. He said during his election campaign that he would bring home US troops from Afghanistan.

While in office, he pulled back US forces from Syria leading to a public break with his Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned in protest.

Before his decision to call off the air strikes, Trump had created wiggle room to avoid military action. He hinted that the Iranian leadership may not be behind it, saying: “I imagine someone made a mistake” – someone “loose and stupid”.

Earlier this month, two petroleum tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. The US blamed Iran for the attacks but Tehran has denied any involvement. Trump later downplayed the incident, too, tamping down the calls for retaliation.

He is surrounded by hawks like National Security Adviser John Bolton, whom he once said would have gotten the US involved in many wars if he had his way, and Secretary of State Pompeo.

Bolton wants regime change in Iran and Venezuela – and possibly most countries around the world and a display of US might.

In reality, the US does not have the power that Bolton imagines – or if it did, it has squandered it away.

Iran is larger and even more complex than Afghanistan or Iraq.

Trump also realizes that a large segment of his base – which contributes a sizable part of the US military personnel – is wary of wars, even if they sometimes sound jingoistic nationalists.

Iran is not entirely off the hook either even if it has avoided US retaliation this time. “I am in no hurry, our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump tweeted.

The current tensions began after Trump renounced the multinational agreement with Iran to stop nuclear proliferation and lift sanctions on Tehran. He then reimposed the sanctions.

On Monday, Iran said that it had increased production of low-grade uranium and would exceed the limits set by the nuclear pact unless the Europeans, who were co-signatories to the agreement intervened.

The Shia Islamic leadership’s continuing response may be to test Trump, while his hawks look for or engineer provocations.




India, Saudi Arabia to work for credible steps against terrorists

India and Saudi Arabia on Monday agreed to take “irreversible, verifiable and credible” steps against all terrorists without any discrimination, in an apparent message to Pakistan, which has been linked by New Delhi with last month’s Pulwama terror attack.

The development came during the visit of Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir here, as a follow up of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s India visit last month.

Al Jubeir met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in his over four-hour working visit.

He conveyed the greetings of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince to Prime Minister Modi.

Modi thanked the Saudi Arabian leadership for expressing solidarity with India’s fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Saudi minister also briefed the Prime Minister on the follow up of the outcomes of the historical visit of the Crown Prince.

Both the countries have taken significant steps to boost trade and investment and to achieve $100 billion investment from Saudi Arabia into India, which was announced during the visit of the Crown Prince.

During his meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the third between the two leaders in about a fortnight, Al Jubeir took note of the “significant developments” after the visit of the Crown Prince.

She reiterated that “immediate irreversible and verifiable action” was essential to to dismantle terror infrastructure.

“It was agreed that Saudi Arabia and India should work together for irreversible, verifiable and credible steps against all terrorists without any discrimination,” an official release said.

India and Saudi Arabia have close and multifaceted relations underpinned by historic, cultural, religious and economic linkages which have been elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The two countries have agreed to set up the Strategic Partnership Council at the earliest.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner and second largest supplier crude oil to the country.



IAF takes ‘necessary steps’ for nation’s security; Minister

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said the Indian Air Force (IAF) has taken “necessary steps” for the nation’s security after Pakistan claimed that Indian fighter jets struck inside Pakistan.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given full freedom to the forces,” the Human Resource Development Minister told the media.

“IAF has taken the necessary steps for the security of the nation. The entire country stands with the forces,” the Minister said in what was the first official statement by the government hours after Pakistan claimed that Indian jet crossed the Line of Control (LoC).

Foreign Secretary Vijay K. Gokhale will brief the media at 11.30 a.m.

The Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Asif Ghafoor, tweeted early on Tuesday that the IAF planes dropped a payload near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before leaving as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) scrambled its war planes.

IAF takes 'necessary steps' for nation's security: Minister



Take steps to end attacks on Kashmiris; Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police (DGPs) in states and union territories to take prompt action to prevent threat, assault, intimidation and boycott targeted at Kashmiris, especially students, in the wake of the February 14 Pulwama attack.

It also issued notice to the Centre and 11 states on a public interest litigation (PIL) by Tariq Adeeb that urged for attention to the incidents, including a call for boycott of Kashmiris by Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy, in the aftermath of the deadly atatck on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy that left 40 troopers dead.

“So that all acts of assault, threats, intimidation and boycott of Kashmiris and other minorities can be brought to the notice of nodal officers and necessary steps must be taken,” a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, asking the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to give wide publicity to advisories issued to the states.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the nodal officers have already been appointed in the states since 2016, and a list of these officers were furnished before the bench.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has already issued the advisories, Venugopal told the court, explaining that it could not issue directions as law and order is a State Subject.

The court said the nodal officers must act and take steps to curb the incidents of violence, discrimination and other foreseeable acts against people from Jammu and Kashmir, particularly students, and those belonging to other minorities.



World must take firm steps against terrorism, supporters; Modi

In an apparent message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asserted that the time for talks was over in the wake of Pulwama suicide bombing and said the global community should unite and act firmly against terrorists and those supporting it.

His tough words came after discussions with visiting Argentine President Mauricio Macri at the Hyderabad House when India and Argentina came down heavily on the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir which killed more than 40 CRPF troopers.

“President Macri and I are agreed that terrorism is the a very big threat to world peace and stability. The Pulwama terror attack shows that the time for talks are over. Now the entire world needs to unite and take firm steps against terrorism and their supporters,” Modi said.

“Hesitation in taking firm measures against the terrorists and those against humanity also amounts to encouraging terrorism,” he said.

Modi said it was important for G-20 countries to implement the 11-point agenda of Hamburg Leaders Statement. India and Argentina will issue a special declaration against terrorism later in the day, he added.

The Prime Minister welcomed Argentina as a new member of the International Solar Alliance.

Macri, in his remarks, condemned the terror attack. “I firmly condemn it. We condemn every kind of terrorist attack. This goes against healthy co-existence. I am pleased to be able to work together to fight this scourge of mankind.”

Macri is on three-day visit to India at the invitation of Modi. Accompanied by his wife Juliana Awada, Macri arrived in India on Sunday. He received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday morning in the presence of President Ram Nath Kovind.

This was the fifth meeting between Modi and Macri and the Argentine leader said it “speaks of the very good chemistry we had since our first meeting”.

Macri said Asia was seeing profound transformation and India had enormous importance in Asia and increasingly so in the world.

He said that visit of Rabindranath Tagore to Buenos Aires in November 1924 was “a milestone in the relationship.”

On a personal note, Macri said he stayed in the same house for five years where Tagore was hosted by an Argentine woman, Victoria Ocampo. “I am imbued with Tagore’s spirit to deepen the links.”

Modi termed Argentina as an “agriculture powerhouse” and said India had set a goal of running 30 per cent of vehicles on electricity by 2030.

“Argentina is part of Lithium triangle and has 54 per cent of Lithium reserves,” he said, adding that work had started in the field of mineral extraction in Argentina by a joint venture.

Modi said the two countries have given a “strategic partnership” to their relationship to boost ties.

The two sides signed 10 agreements including on agriculture, defence, tourism and broadcasting content.