President-Elect Trump was far from the White House in beautiful Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, last week. And he was already getting bombarded with huge issues to add to his headaches. The expulsion from the US of the many Russian operatives being sent back home, accused of hacking and spying activities. Russia firing back, but Vladimir Putin, not to be outsmarted by President Obama, says he will not as a tit for tat throw out the American operatives in Russia. He wants to wait for Trump to take over and take his chances with him. Checkmate!
The UN vote on the settlements against Israel is the other biggie. Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama firing their parting shots at Israeli President Netanyahu. Trump commenting that the UN has potential, but is being used in the wrong way and is a “waste of time and money.” Even Prime Minister Theresa May in England hitting back at Kerry, saying he should not lecture a country or its democratically elected leaders. Madam PM, now who’s lecturing to Kerry! This is the first time that the US abstained, instead of using its veto power to stand with Israel as it’s always done. Not to say that the US did not do the right thing, but this pushed Trump to issue a statement via his Twitter to Israel that January 20 is not far, “stay strong.” He is digging a hole for himself. The New York Times had a story recently that the majority of American Jews believe in not making settlements on Palestinian territories. In their opinion, denying the creation of a two-nation state — Israel and Palestine — is a dangerous development that can get the Cold War brewing once again between Russia, Israel and America. Trump has been pushed into a corner on this one very tricky situation.
American democracy has prided itself for decades past on a smooth transition that today it appears to be in a mess and every day to follow. It’s turning out to be a cat and mouse political game. Why in the last two weeks of the Obama presidency is all this happening? Is it calculated pot shot at Trump? Or is it to embarrass him by “boxing” him leaving no wiggle room for Trump to operate when he is the president? Surely, the Russian spies and hackers have been at this game for a long time. One has to question the timing of all this. Why has Obama now felt the need to strike at the Kremlin?
Trump trashes US intelligence agencies; instead he believes Julian Assange who says that Russia didn’t provide WikiLeaks with the hacked information. What if the intelligence community in the US had kept this under wraps until his inauguration and then hit him with their intel bombshell? Trump would then find himself between a rock and a hard place! As Putin’s avowed admirer and a fawning fan, would Trump have punished his idol for the hacking? It would have been the first test of Trump’s diplomatic statesmanship, probably showing the Americans and the world his level of competence at handling world affairs. Or maybe Trump’s puffery for Putin would have disarmed the Russian autocrat?
January 20 brings a new Republican President. One who is not even the most popular in his own party, and got elected without a majority vote. This newbie is supposed to build a wall along Mexican border; send the 11 million undocumented Hispanics back to their respective countries; create jobs; kill the IS; push back Russia; deal with Israel, Netanyahu and the world; repeal Obamacare and ban the 1.7 billion Muslims from entering the US in addition to setting up a Muslim registry for those already living in America.
The office of the President of the United States is a powerful position to be in. Power of the Office of the President also brings with it loneliness and isolation. Who can you trust? Who do you count on? They say it is very lonely at the top, and no one is lonelier than the man who is going to be in the White House in exactly two weeks. Hopefully the insomniac grabs some nightly sleep and sweet ($$) dreams instead of brewing a Twitter storm of taunts every waking hour of his presidential term.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, another storm will soon be brewing in the Prime Minister’s House when the Supreme Court opens up yet again the Panamagate hearings. We are being told that the incoming Chief Justice, Mian Saqib Nisar, wants an early resolution of the case that has been in the doldrums for many months. It involves the offshore properties and bank accounts in the name of Nawaz Sharif’s three children. Tax evasion is a crime that gets people thrown in jail. Those probing Panama should zero in on the tax evasion by 200 odd Pakistanis, including the three children of Nawaz Sharif. Obviously, their millions must have arrived from somewhere; they must have their source of earning somewhere. Did the money arrive in foreign banks from Pakistan? Was it ‘earned’ in Pakistan?
The case has dragged on and most fear the money trail may have already gone cold. We even had a smoking gun last year. Remember the sudden dash of the prime minister to London on the pretext of getting his ticker checked immediately after Panamagate. A few days later, our PM, looking robust, was spotted in a London’s high-end store eyeing designer watches his millions could buy. Perhaps he wanted to dump part of his wealth to balance the books and appear clean.
Sleepless in ‘paradise’ won is the fate of leaders like Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif. With unchecked authority, ‘nightmares’ and ‘accountability demons’ are not far behind.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2017.