Anwer Sher at PostGlobal

Anwer Sher

Dubai, UAE

Originally from Pakistan, Anwer Sher is based in Dubai and writes for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and Emirates Today. His varied career experience includes banking, consulting, and real estate development. He has a Masters degree in International Relations. Close.

Anwer Sher

Dubai, UAE

Originally from Pakistan, Anwer Sher is based in Dubai and writes for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and Emirates Today. His varied career experience includes banking, consulting, and real estate development. He has a Masters degree in International Relations. more »

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June 24, 2009 10:42 AM

Our Choice in Iran: Silence or Condemnation

The Current Discussion: What do your heart and head tell you as you look at pictures, videos, and other kinds of stories from Iran? Should the world help the protesters--and how?

Iran is passing through a defining moment, a moment where either the desire for change will triumph or the conservative forces that have shackled progress will win yet again. Iran has had two reformist presidents in the past; while their impact may have been limited, both Rafsanjani and Khatami laid the foundation for Mir Hussein Moussavi to be able to appeal to Iran's youth on a platform of change.

Images from the demonstrations powerfully convey Iran's agony, but there is a bigger issue here. Moussavi is not the charismatic leader who can lead a revolution. His message and appeal has been widespread, but the fire that is needed for the reformists to make that change is simply not there. Rafsanjani's voice, while many see it as powerful considering that he heads the Assembly of Experts, is a liability for Moussavi: Rafsanjani represents huge business interests and sees the Moussavi movement as a means to protect those interests. Ayatollah Khameni, too, has a large business and political base that he wishes to protect. This battle is not just Ahmadinajed versus Moussavi, but more a bigger battle for spiritual control of Iran.

I believe the most important voice in all this is that of Ayatollah Montazeri. He is highly revered as a spiritual leader, perhaps with the best standing to be the Grand Spiritual Leader of Iran, and he has already spoken out against the arrests of people who are expressing dissent. He has criticized the government in its handling of the elections and has questioned whether Ayatollah Khameni is taking sides. The most powerful impetus for the movement for change would be for Ayatollah Montazeri to come out onto the streets of Tehran in support of the people asking for fairness and justice. I believe this is would be the most defining moment for Iran and the Iranian people. Most importantly, the Qom Clergy will follow Montazeri more willingly than Ayatollah Khameni; while Montazeri may agree to moving more power to the elected representatives, he will bring back the clergy into a more spiritual role.

The world has been relatively silent about Iranian affairs over the last few months. The Arab world is somehow suggesting that it will be unaffected by change in Iran, or lack thereof, forgetting that Iranian influence in the Gulf region is of paramount importance. An imploding Iran dragged into chaos will not benefit anyone, and clearly a massive change on the back of the Moussavi movement will also mean that a push towards more democratic reforms will be the order of the day. We all forget that Iran is the only Muslim country in the Middle East where "one man, one vote" results in an elected parliament. No matter how the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leaders roles plays into the structure of government, it is nevertheless a power of the people and it is the frustration of that rigged election that has sent people into the streets.

The United States not saying too much about the election is good, because the last thing that the Moussavi camp needs is to be accused of working for the United States. President Obama's statements were spot on: his wish for the Iranian people to make their OWN choices is important. The test is whether this choice be expressed. World leaders can press upon Iran the need for restraint and calm and to allow the peaceful expression of opinion to continue. However the lines are being drawn hard and even peaceful marches will be met by government forces. The world community will have to decide whether silence or condemnation is the answer. Will we continue to say that this is an internal matter for Iran? Whatever happens, my belief is that the Iranian people are very strong and very politically motivated and I am sure they will have the final say.

May 12, 2009 4:53 PM

Obama's Open-Minded Middle East Solution

The Current Discussion: Are Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama on a collision course over Iran and the Palestinian problem? What would be the consequences of a breach between the United States and Israel?

One of the assurances that Israel has always had is the unwavering support of Washington, both when Israel is harmed and when it acts to harm others in response to its own perception of threat. President Obama, it would seem, is taking a slight detour from this established principle of U.S. foreign policy; keeping Israel as the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East, but effectively seeking a dialogue with Iran and at the same time wanting to push both Israel and the Palestinians to work out peace. While on the face of it there is nothing new in this approach, look at it in the rhetorical context of how past American administrations have handled Middle East policy. President Obama's approach is more open-minded and more interesting. His call to lead the world through example and deeds rather than simply by bullying has resonated well with many countries.

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May 4, 2009 2:26 PM

Beware the Coming Intolerance Epidemic

The Current Discussion: How can we reduce our vulnerability to risks posed by global interconnectedness - from swine flu to financial contagion to terrorist threats? What risks do you see on the horizon?

We are often reminded that we live in a fragile world. At any moment, any of the nuclear armed countries could simply destroy all that is known to exist for humankind and take us back into the Dark Ages. That remains the greatest threat to human progress and determines how nations, societies and people make decisions. The pressure on countries seeking nuclear weapons has increased, but the willingness of existing nuclear states to seek disarmament has decreased.

The moral argument that some states are mature to possess nuclear weapons and others are not is nothing but social snobbery and conceit. We should actively seek total disarmament from nuclear weapons for ALL states. As Utopian as that may sound, the presence of nuclear weapons has actually increased limited wars and conflicts since 1945. Armed conflict has engulfed societies in a more fundamentally damaging war of attrition between nations, societies and religions. This battle for the minds of the next generation is being fought not on the streets and in the trenches, but on the Internet through the quiet subtle manipulation of the minds of young people. This has brought more intolerance to the world, whether right-wing fanatics in the U.S. or Israel or Kalashnikov-toting fanatics in Afghanistan, Pakistan or many countries in Africa.

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March 18, 2009 11:58 AM

America Must Talk With All Players

The Current Discussion: With President Zardari forced to reverse his bans on political opponents, is Pakistan on the brink or is this a positive sign? What, if anything, can the West do to help maintain stability and democracy?

When General Musharraf deposed the Chief Justice back in 2007, my reaction was that if the General did indeed have evidence of wrongdoing, he should have asked the Supreme Court itself to adjudicate their colleague rather than fire him. So the issue of reinstatement is not about whether Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is corrupt or not, but simply a matter of what is constitutionally right.

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March 2, 2009 11:51 AM

Washington's Short-Term View of Iraq

The Current Discussion: The Obama administration has finally set a date for withdrawing U.S. troops for Iraq. If ethnic strife returns there, raising again the specter of civil war, should the U.S. send troops back in?

The promise of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a welcome sign, even though one would argue that leaving behind 30,000 troops is less of a disengagement and more of an acknowledgment that the rebuilding of Iraq's political and security apparatuses is an indefinite process. The past six odd years have not yielded the political and social stability that was planned for Iraq, with civil strife, sectarian hate and political malaise all thrown into the pot. The reasons for this are varied. Do countries with extreme dictatorships suddenly transform themselves into democracies overnight? Whether we like it or not, the fact is Iraq's history was more as a secular Arab country than an ethnically and religiously divided country, with a strong central government ensuring the secular nature of the social fabric.

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February 18, 2009 2:21 PM

Arab Expulsion Is a Moral Trap

The Current Discussion: Israel's real "existential question" is whether or not to disenfranchise its Arab minority, says Fareed Zakaria in his column this week. Is he right?

The sad aspect of people like Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party that controls a crucial block of seats in the Israeli Knesset, is that they have forgotten history. The question of expelling Israeli citizens who are Arabs should not even be considered - especially because it is a grim reminder of the laws and actions of Nazi Germany. While the idea may not be as harsh as the Nazi Nuremberg laws of 1936, the moral equivalent is exactly the same that citizens who have not broken the law are being expelled merely because of their ethnicity and perhaps their religion.

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February 2, 2009 12:33 PM

Restored Confidence in 2010

The Current Discussion: The mood at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year was decidedly gloomy, which seems a fair reflection of economic conditions. Let's look forward: tell us what the bright spots might be in the world economy this time next year.

Here are the bright spots that I can see a year from now:

1. The Obama plan will have brought back confidence to the job market and the base economic activity will have improved, in the U.S. and elsewhere.
2. China will have turned to spending more and with its large population, consumer-led demand growth will offset the weakness in large capital expenditures.
3. A psychological return to normalcy will have occurred, with people shedding their fears as they have done with the crash of '87, the 9/11 impact and many more such disasters. People forget, as they have in the past.
4. While the long term financial health of the banking system will take a while to improve, some of the banks will take the lead in supporting consumer credit and corporate lending to ease the pressure of the crunch.

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January 16, 2009 2:29 PM

Obama Must Bring Middle East to the Table

Obama's biggest mistake would be failing to bring the warring parties in the Middle East to the table. While the Arabs must also show their willingness to trust Obama, and be willing to allow him the time to settle down, they will also have to moderate their position if they want peace. On the Iraq front the conditions for a substantial U.S. withdrawal, even if incomplete, is more likely then ever before. Afghanistan will be a bigger challenge as confrontation has never worked in the long and checkered history of the country, and I am not sure that the Obama camp completely understands the complexities of that tribal land.

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January 12, 2009 1:31 PM

Hamas Will Weaken, But No One Will Win

For Israelis to allow their government and army to kill so many civilians in Gaza is pure and simple genocide. I am not condoning Hamas's rocket firing; in my eyes, both acts of violence are wrong and misplaced. However, it has always seemed to me that Hamas has been shooting these rockets more to bolster its own image among its own people than to inflict serious damage on Israeli citizens.

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December 15, 2008 7:19 PM

Pakistan's, and India's, Terror Trap

The killing of any human being is not something one should gloat over, justify or otherwise praise, and in this vein the attacks in Mumbai are horrific to say the least. It would also seem, based on evidence so far, that some militant groups based in Pakistan carried out this attack, and Pakistan has offered to prosecute these people and some arrests have been made.

While India may suggest that Pakistan is not doing enough, the fact that there has been a state of turmoil within Pakistan for over a decade suggests that reining in these militant groups is not exactly as easy as it sounds. The charge that elements within Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have had inks to militant groups could well be true -- but is not necessarily proved beyond a shadow of doubt.

I do not think war-mongering or taking a page out of U.S. policy of retaliatory strikes is the answer in this situation.

First of all, Pakistan has its own problems with its home grown terrorist threat, losing a Benazir Bhutto to one such attack, the culprits behind which still remain at large.

Secondly, Pakistan's society is fragmented, and divided, especially in the northwest, where more of the population lives in fear of the next terrorist strike than of the next U.S. missile strike. In this atmosphere of strife, it is easy both for militant groups to operate with relative immunity and for militants wanted by foreign governments to hide.

Thirdly, while this tragic attack against the people of Mumbai was perhaps largely carried out by Pakistani men, one cannot simply say India's entire history with terrorist attacks rests on Pakistan's doorstep, as we would be forgetting that earlier bombing attacks on the Mumbai stock exchange and elsewhere were carried out by India's own home grown brand of terrorists. In 2007, a terrible bombing of a train linking India and Pakistan, in which 63 people were killed mostly Pakistanis, was linked to an Indian group in Indore.

Sensible people on both sides of the border have to accept that terrorism is not a state sponsored act insofar as these two countries are concerned. While Pakistan has not been able to control the groups operating within its own territory for the reasons cited, it would be naive to assume cross border raids will achieve much more than to raise tensions between two countries who can ill afford a war at this stage.

The answer is to increase cooperation between the two countries, and to deal with the problems more proactively, and to create a framework of trust between each nation's secret service organizations. In reality, Pakistan gains little from sponsoring terrorist attacks against others when when its own militants are harassing the country from the inside. We must understand and appreciate that militant attacks of this sort are a problem for both India and Pakistan and that dealing with them by more saber rattling will achieve nothing but tension.

Pakistan must also work harder to clamp down on these groups, which have caused so much damage within and outside the country. It cannot just go on hoping the problem will go away with time. It is important that sanity prevail at moments like. We must find peace at these moments, not more deaths.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.