June 21, 2019

Playing the Trump Card in Iran

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Before we consider why Iran may or may not have attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week (it definitely did), whether it attacked four other tankers in international waters near the United Arab Emirates last month (it probably did), and why it shot down a United States drone this week that it claimed had entered Iranian airspace (which it likely did, but the U.S. denies), let’s talk about the man in Tehran who calls the shots on decisions like these: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

You probably know that Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, meaning he has the final say on all matters of state. You probably know that he has been running the country from the shadows for 30 years, that he preaches moderation in public, and that he routinely denounces Western-style capitalism as corrupt. What you probably don’t know is that as the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration bite further into Iran’s economy, Khamenei — along with his fellow ruling imams and a small group of state-connected cronies — are desperate to have their fellow countrymen focus on anything but them.

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June 5, 2019

What Jordan’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Can Teach the Rest of the World

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 1949, three years after I traded my United States Army uniform for civilian clothes, and three months after I sold my half of a successful war surplus business I had started to my partner, I hopped aboard the Queen Elizabeth at the dock in New York City to move to Paris. Arriving in France two weeks later, the damaged road I took into the City of Light was the first visible sign that Europe was still recovering from the war that had taken more than 40 million European lives from 1939 to 1945. But it wasn’t until I tried to start a business exporting food to Germany that I came to understand that for millions of people, the horrors of that war continued to live on, but in different ways.

One in five German homes had been destroyed during the war, leaving 20 million Germans homeless, the vast majority of which were women, children, and the elderly. Another eight to ten million former prisoners of war, slave laborers, and death camp survivors had set out by foot to find food and shelter at war’s end, only to settle in refugee camps on German soil for as many as five more years, as most nations — including the U.S. — refused to grant visas or extend quotas to let in victims of the war. What I remember today as mass misery, history remembers as the largest mass migration in human history.

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December 6, 2018

Erdoğan is Not Our Friend

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-In 1941, Uncle Sam made a new friend.

His name was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam and Uncle Joe shared the same goals. Uncle Sam was determined to beat the Nazis; so was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam was making huge sacrifices on the battlefields of Europe. So was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam was powerful enough to define the world order that emerged from World War II. So was Uncle Joe.

There was just one problem: Uncle Joe was Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator whose iron rule led to mass imprisonments and executions at home. But when Stalin joined the Allies to fight against the Nazis, common cause soon led Americans to overlook Stalin’s cruelty and forget his signing of a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany. It was FDR who began to call him“Uncle Joe.” Hollywood churned out pro-Stalin movies. One Department of Defense propaganda poster showed a smiling Russian soldier, captioned: “this man is your friend.”

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October 11, 2018

What Pakistan Can Learn from India

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON – When a 12-year-old Indian prodigy defeated an 18-year-old Italian champion in chess this past June, he didn’t just win the game. He also became the second-youngest grandmaster – the highest rank possible – in chess history.

It was the latest development in what has become a “chess renaissance” for India over the last 15 years, as the country has rocketed to the game’s top ranks after decades of mediocrity. This transformation has paralleled a more symbolic one, as India – the world’s largest democracy – has risen steadily since the end of the Cold War into the ranks of geopolitical grandmasters, skillfully using its size, strength, and strategic location to expand its global presence. It’s a fitting rise for the civilization where chess first originated.

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March 23, 2018

A New Report Says America is Being Duped in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-Fifteen years ago this week, the United States invasion of Iraq began.

Before the statues of Saddam Hussein came down and U.S. forces transitioned to an occupation force two months later, a highly-decorated Special Forces colonel was asked to identify what it would take to stabilize Iraq and turn it into a functioning democracy. In the prescient report that he and his team delivered to U.S. Central Command, Colonel Tim Heinemann (Ret.), the Green Berets commander, was frank in his assessment. He argued that the U.S. military hadn’t developed the “street smarts” it needed in Iraq, hadn’t built relationships with the real power brokers on the ground, and hadn’t done enough to prevent Iraqi military officers from going underground as insurgents. The surest way to develop the insights necessary to stave off chaos, the report argued, was to engage tribal leaders in a massive counterinsurgency effort to build trust – in his words, “not just to share tea one-on-one with local leaders, but to share tea 10 times until they opened up.”

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December 13, 2017

Why is Siamak Namazi Still in An Iranian Prison?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—Today in Iran, a good man, an American citizen, is languishing in a brutal Tehran prison. And so is his 81-year-old father.

Siamak Namazi is a friend of mine. An Iranian-born American with dual citizenship who loves Iran and considers it one of his two homes, Siamak has spent years going back and forth to Tehran as a businessman and a humanitarian, helping Westerners establish businesses on Persian soil that provide jobs and incomes for Iranian citizens. He sought me out early on, and I came to know him as a deeply thoughtful and honest man who is committed to improving the lives of the Iranian people while smoothing the relations between our two countries.

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November 24, 2017

The Rise of American Sharia in Alabama

by Stanley A. Weiss

An Islamic fundamentalist, using his faith as a club, declares his belief that faith should override secular rule of law and advocates for a form of Islamic law, called Sharia law—which some Muslims interpret as commanding that drinkers of alcohol be whipped and homosexuals and those who criticize the faith be put to death. In the face of such extremism, voices in western countries harshly criticize Muslim leaders, asking why there isn’t a loud chorus within the faith to shout him down.

We’ve wondered how people could tolerate and support extremists in positions of power who ignore civil law in the name of their radical religious values. What many Americans don’t realize is that it has happened here—and if we are not vigilant it will happen right here again: religious fundamentalists, much like the ones we criticize in the Middle East, who use their faith to subvert our Constitution.

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September 5, 2017

How to Solve Afghanistan – Permanently

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—He was an army chaplain serving in the war in Afghanistan.

The Reverend G.H. Gleig had seen battle after battle – and he emerged deeply disillusioned with what he saw. The war in Afghanistan was “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity,” he wrote after his return. “Not one benefit, political or military has been acquired with this war.”

Reverend Gleig’s words are more relevant today than ever — which is remarkable since he wrote them almost 175 years ago. Gleig was a chaplain in the British army. The war he participated in was the First Anglo-Afghan War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842. Like countless other foreigners whose warnings about fighting in a country known as “The Graveyard of Empires” have gone unheeded, Gleig’s words had little effect: Britain would go to war in Afghanistan two more times before realizing the futility of its efforts and withdrawing permanently.

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September 1, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Influence on Indonesia’s Growing Islamic Extremism

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—It went up in July, a 100-foot-tall testament to the fearless and fearsome warrior who became a god. And now it’s wrapped in a gigantic white sheet.

The statue of Guan Yu – a third-century Chinese General revered for his bravery and loyalty – met its undignified fate last month in the Indonesian province of East Java. Because of Guan Yu’s significance to Buddhism and Confucianism, which worship him as a god, hardline Islamic groups called it a blasphemous behemoth, took to the streets, and threatened to remove it. In response to the controversy, leaders at the Chinese Confucian temple where the statue stands decided to cover it.

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March 3, 2016

Where Have You Gone, Harry Truman?

by Stanley A. Weiss

Seventy years ago this week, in a quiet corner of Iran, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union began in earnest over a missed deadline. For four years, American, British, and Soviet troops had been stationed in Iran, invited by the government there to help protect Persian oil fields from Hitler’s army. But there was an important caveat, agreed to in a 1942 treaty: all troops had to be gone within six months of the end of World War II. As the war wound down, Washington and London successfully pressed Tehran for oil concessions, and withdrew troops on time. But Moscow, denied the oil it believed it was due, found an excuse to stay – coming to the aid of Iranian Kurdish rebels in the northern regions of Iran. That’s where Soviet troops still sat when deadline day came and went on March 2, 1946, to the great displeasure of the person who mattered most – U.S. President Harry S Truman.

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