Turkey is an interesting case. It is an Islamic State close to the
connecting corner between the three continents of the old world:
Africa – Asia – Europe. Actually it took the place that Greece held in
antiquity, and the Byzantines and the Ottomans held later on, and the
changes turned into a form of mix-up. Instead of being the link it
could have been, Turkey worked at becoming part of Europe. The Ataturk
revolution was intended to create a secular state but Greek and
Armenian wars, and Europe remembers most the attack on Vienna. With
the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkey had the chance to be leader of
the Turkic States of Central Asia, but it did not make its move in
time. Modern Turkey, had it allowed some form of autonomy for its
Kurdish population, it could have turned into a bi-National Federation
with a Kurdish component to include Iraqi Kurdistan with added appeal
to Europe – another lost opportunity. Today Turkey moves closer to
Islamic Asia – Iran and the Arab States – and it is a Turk that heads
the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Turkey seemingly
believes it should increase its involvement in the Middle East.
Turkey is an interesting case. It is an Islamic State close to the
However you cut it ISIS or ISIL (the second S for Syria, the L for the Levant) – this is a Sunni anti-Western and anti-Shiia organization that was sprung originally on the World by the Saudi Wahhabism. Call it Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda alikes – these are Sunni anti-colonial fanatics who believe that all of Western Asia Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, that were formed after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, are basically one State or Arab Nation of Sunni Islam. To them the Shiia reform movement was actually another foreign intrusion. They understand the fact that the area was divided by colonial western powers for reasons of oil. To them all Western Asian oil is Arab and they claim it now.
The US never acknowledged this self determination will of the Sunni Muslims as we in the West believe in human rights as an ethic that is beyond religion, but supported by Nationalism based on Democracy that can accept diversity of religions as long as they adhere in common to a Wahhabi style of a capitalist economy. The Arabs say – all this is rubbish. ISIS or ISIL want just one Muslim-Sunni State based on religion and the Sharia Laws Wahhabi-style. For now the aspirations of ISIS/ISIL end at the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia – perhaps also leaving out all of the Gulf States.
Syria Bombs Iraq, US Doesn’t (It Says).
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
25 June 2014
US lines up to ally with Iran and Syria in support of Iraq.
In the current round of fighting, it seems the first international aerial bombing of Iraq was carried out June 23 by the Syrian Air Force, acting at the behest of the Iranian government in support of the Iraqi government, which the U.S. government has sort of pledged to support, just as soon as the Iraqi government purges itself to U.S. satisfaction, which may or may not please the governments of Iran and Syria to which the U.S. government has pledged clear opposition.
The Syrian attack apparently went unreported in almost all media. All the same, this escalation marked a widening of the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, which already involves, at a minimum, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States (as well as Israel and Lebanon), either overtly or covertly.
Syrian bombing of Iraq continued on June 24, this time reported by The Wall Street Journal (alone at first), which referred to the earlier attacks:
The Syrian Air Force comprises mostly Russian and French planes
Syrian bombs reportedly killed at least 50 people and wounded at least 132 others when they hit targets including the municipal building, a market, and a bank in Al Rutba, a town of about 55,000 in western Iraq, captured by ISIS forces June 21. Al Rutba (also Ar Rutba or Al Rutbah) is strategically located on the prime east-west highway across vast and mostly desert Anbar Province. It is about 90 miles from both the Syrian and Jordanian borders, and more than 120 miles from Baghdad.
U.S. forces occupied Al Rutba during most of 2003-2009.
In December 2013, a complex ISIS suicide attack on Iraqi military forces in Al Rutba killed at least 18 officers, including two commanders. Even though the current ISIS offensive has apparently surprised many – including the U.S. government – it’s part of a long campaign, as documented in The Long War Journal in December 2013:
Another purported bombing target, Al Qaim, is located about 100 miles to the northeast, on the Euphrates River and the Syrian border. The city of about 250,000 was reportedly the site of Iraq’s Uranium refining complex during the 1980s. Americans bombed the city and destroyed the complex during the 1991 Gulf War.
For most of 2003-2006, Al Qaim was occupied by American forces, who used it as a base for raids into Syria (tactics reminiscent of Viet Nam, where U.S. forces covertly raided Cambodia). When an Iraqi general there turned himself in to Americans in 2003, in an effort to free his two sons, Americans eventually tortured the general to death, without releasing his sons.
Al Qaim was scene of fierce fighting during last Iraq War
In 2005, insurgents took Al Qaim from the Iraqi forces left in charge by the Americans. American Marines were unable to fully re-take the city in the face of fierce resistance. American bombing of Al Qaim in August killed at least 47 people. Late in the year, a sign outside the city reportedly said, “Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim.”
Forces of ISIS took control of Al Qaim on June 21.
The American denial of drone strikes on Al Qaim is explained by RT (Russian Television) this way:
The Iraqi Air Force has bombed the Iraqi city of Baiji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, on the Tigris River. Americans bombed the city in 1991, destroying most of its oil refinery, which was quickly rebuilt. Americans occupied Baiji for most of 2003-2009, putting down significant resistance in 2003.
ISIS and Iraqi forces have been fighting for control of the Baiji oil refinery since June 11. With ISIS in control by June 20, the Baghdad government over 100 miles away decided to start bombing. The United Nations has reported that the Iraq death toll for June is already the highest in years, with more than 1,000 killed, most of them civilians.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues his European fling by marching to his own drummer. What is his answer to the events in Iraq and Syria? Why does he not seal his borders to European Muslims crossing to fight on the side of Sunni extremists?
Erdogan has played himself out, the Turkish Prime Minister, a bull in a china shop, reminds Europe of the 1592 siege of Vienna by acting as an un-invited guest who harms the peacefull Turkish immigrants. Actually the candidacy of Ihsanoglu opens the door to possible new contenders in the August elections. Erdogan had to be tought by Kurz the meaning of Integration Policy.
Austrian foreign minister blames Turkish PM Erdo?an for ‘disorder’ in …
International-Hurriyet Daily News-3 hours ago
ERDOGAN SAYS EUROPE WITHOUT TURKEY IS UNIMAGINABLE
International-Daily Sabah-18 hours ago
Anti-Erdogan protests held in Vienna
The Local Austria-22 hours ago
Erdogan pledges friendship with Europe amid Vienna protests
Europe Online Magazine-19 hours ago
Thousands protest in Vienna against Erdogan visit
Middle East Online-19 hours ago
In between Koln in Germany and Paris, Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister landed also in Vienna wher he was not invited by the local National Government. Austria’s Foreign Minister, after making public announcements that he has asked the Turkish Prime Minister not to stir trouble in Austria with a heated speech to his assumed voters among the Austrian Turkish minority, did nevertheless meet with him before his departure from Vienna to Paris. There the President will meet with him – here in Austria the Chancellor does not met uninvited visitors.
More to it – Vienna remembers the Siege of Vienna of 1529 – the Turks outside the gates of Vienna – clearly with unfriendly motives. But today Turkish citizens that want to improve their life immigrate to Europe in large numbers and try to assimilate. In many countries it is possible to assume the local citizenship without giving up their citizenship in the land of origin. Obviously, the majority of Austrians harbor no friendly feelings to Turks in their midst that flaunt their diversity and show that they do not want to assimilate. If this is something bad – this is not our topic here.
The same is true for Germany and France – yet Mr. Erdogan chose to come to these counties to campaign among the Turkish minorities for his re-election in Turkey – this August. If nothing else this shows that he builds on some of them not wanting to become true part of their new country of residence. This is the Turk of 1529 in the Austrians mind. No special laws have ever impacted the Turkish minority in Austria like efforts are on the way in France. This has led to a softer approach by the French President to the Turkish visit. Austria not having the need to cover anything – just did not go beyond the minimum in courtesy.
So what does Erdogan really want? Does he want to stir animosity against Turkish immigrants to the EU? Does he want to decrease emigration of his talented young people? Does he just want to be the bull in the china store and be unworthy of relations between states? Is this the Erdogan that broke his country’s relations with Israel in messing with the blockade of Gaza? Does he expect to make friends this way outside Turkey or inside Turkey.
I spoke about this off the record with officials of a Turkish organization in New York and the man felt that the candidacy of Ekmeleddin ?hsano?lu might present some hope now because of this bullish behavior of Erdogan and his AKP politics, while Ihsanoglu does not belong to a party and can thus be seen as a unifier to a country in need of new direction.
Hurriyet Daily News
Austrian foreign minister blames Turkish PM Erdo?an for ‘disorder’ in Vienna amid thousands’ protest.
VIENNA – Agence France-Presse
Kurz and Erdo?an met in Vienna on June 20. AA Photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s visit to Austria, which sparked mass demonstrations in Vienna, has drawn more sharp words from Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who said the visit “clearly shows Erdo?an has brought his election campaign to Austria and has caused disorder.”
“We refuse to accept this. The only thing I can say is that respect for a country does not look like this,” Kurz told journalists on June 19, after as many as 10,000 people demonstrated against Erdo?an’s visit, according to figures provided by organizers and local police.
Kurz’s remarks came ahead of his meeting Erdo?an scheduled for June 20. The Turkish prime minister will meet the Austrian foreign minister before his departure for Paris, where he will meet with French President François Hollande.
Erdo?an has been increasingly accused of autocratic tendencies in Europe and a similar trip to Germany last month ruffled feathers after he spoke out against the assimilation of Turkish immigrants.
On July 19, he addressed a crowd of some 6,000-7,000 supporters from Austria’s 250,000-strong Turkish minority in a sports arena. A further 10,000 people watched his speech on a big screen outside the venue.
Erdo?an is touring European countries with large Turkish populations ahead of a widely expected run for the presidency in August.
Austrian police said they used tear gas spray after a “minor incident” when a bottle was thrown at the protesters in the Austrian capital, most of whom were from the local Turkish community. No injuries were reported.
Austria’s government had warned Erdogan against making “provocative comments” and he appeared to heed the advice in his speech, telling the crowd that “no one has anything to fear from us.”
During his address, Erdo?an said that Europe needed his country, trumpeting Turkey’s economic growth under his stewardship.
“Europe does not end where the river Danube flows into the Black Sea, but begins where the Euphrates and the Tigris begin,” he said.
Erdogan erinnert Wien an die Belagerung von 1529
Wie in Köln absolviert der türkische Premierminister einen Wahlkampfauftritt in Wien. Tausende Anhänger feiern ihn frenetisch als “Sultan der Welt”. Fast genauso viele Menschen protestieren.
Von Elisalex Henckel , Wien – for DIE WELT published in Germany.
In der Wiener Innenstadt ist es am Donnerstagmittag noch ruhig. Das katholische Österreich feiert Fronleichnam, der Rest das schöne Wetter. Der angekündigte Besuch des türkischen Ministerpräsidenten Recep Tayyip Erdogan kümmert allenfalls die Polizisten, die entlang der Ringstraße auf die Anti-Erdogan-Demonstranten warten.
Einige haben sich schon neben dem Bahnhof Praterstern versammelt. Es ist eine bunte Schar aus türkischen und österreichischen Linken, Kurden, Aleviten und Armeniern, noch keine 10.000 wie angekündigt, eher 2000. Sie schwenken Fahnen in Landesfarben oder solche, auf denen der kurdische Rebellenchef Abdullah Öcalan oder türkische Kommunisten zu sehen sind, aber auch Schilder mit Porträts von Opfern der Gezi-Park-Proteste oder dem Bergwerksunglück von Soma.
“Auf wie vielen Ebenen Erdogans Politik versagt hat, sieht man an der Breite unseres Bündnisses”, ruft eine Sprecherin des Demokratischen Bündnisses gegen Erdogan von der Bühne. “Erdogan get out of Vienna”, steht auf einem Transparent dahinter. Die weiteren Redner nennen Erdogan einen Lügner, Verbrecher und Mörder.
Ein paar Kilometer stadtauswärts, vor einer Eissporthalle auf der anderen Seite der Donau, ist das Bild homogener. Die Menschen schwenken nur eine Art von Fahne: Stern und Halbmond auf rotem Grund, die Nationalflagge der Türkei. Ein paar Männer haben sie auf dem Boden ausgebreitet und beten, daneben sitzen alte Frauen mit Kopftüchern und picknicken. Aus einer Stretchlimousine werden T-Shirts mit Erdogans Bild verkauft, darunter steht: “Sultan of the World”.
Rosenblätter säumen seinen Weg
Drinnen in der Halle sind noch mehr Menschen mit noch mehr türkischen Fahnen. Sie schwenken sie im Takt eines Popsongs, dessen Refrain allein aus dem Namen des Stargastes besteht: “Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan”. Immer wieder. Seine bevorstehende Ankunft lässt die Anhänger alle paar Minuten in frenetischen Jubel ausbrechen. “Erdogan ist die einzige Führungsfigur, die wir haben”, ruft ein Einpeitscher von der Bühne. Als er die Gezi-Park-Proteste erwähnt, wechselt die Halle von Jubel- zu Buhrufen.
Als der “Sultan der Welt” schließlich die Halle betritt, streuen ihm seine Gefolgsleute Rosen. Buchstäblich. Er winkt der Menge zu, begrüßt die Würdenträger in der ersten Reihe, dann setzt er sich neben seine schwarz verschleierte Frau.
“Die Türkei ist stolz auf dich”, rufen die etwa 7000 Menschen im Saal, zwei, drei, vier Mal. Der Moderator begrüßt den Ehrengast, dann ergreift Abdurrahman Karayazili das Wort, der Vorsitzende der Union Europäischer und Türkischer Demokraten. Seine Organisation hat den “Privatmann” Erdogan eingeladen, um ihr zehnjähriges Bestehen zu feiern. Sie gilt als Auslandsarm von Erdogans Partei AKP, was Karayazili genauso heftig dementiert wie den Vorwurf, Erdogan sei nach Wien gekommen, um wie Ende Mai in Köln und demnächst in Lyon um die Stimmen von Auslandstürken für die Präsidentschaftswahl im August zu werben.
Die Enkel der Wien-Belagerer
Mit eineinhalbstündiger Verspätung erklimmt der Premier die Bühne. Er dankt Österreich für die Gastfreundschaft. Er verurteilt die “Kampagne”, die es vor seinem Auftritt in Köln gegeben habe. Er mische sich nicht in die deutsche oder österreichische Innenpolitik, sagt er. “Mein einziges Ziel seid ihr!” Er beschreibt, wie gut die “neue Türkei” durch die Krise gekommen sei – und er sagt, dass sich niemand vor ihr fürchten müsse. Er erwähnt das Attentat von Sarajevo 1914, aber auch den Namen von Süleyman dem Prächtigen, jenem osmanischen Sultan, der die Türken 1529 erstmals bis Wien führte: “Wir sind alle seine Enkel”, ruft Erdogan, und das Publikum jubelt.
Am Höhepunkt der Rede formuliert er sein altbekanntes Credo: “Assimilation nein, Integration ja!” Dann ruft er seine Zuhörer dazu auf, im August wählen zu gehen, und schließt mit den Worten: “Wir sind alle Brüder und Schwestern.” Die Menge schwenkt ein letztes Mal ihre Fahnen, dann verlassen die Menschen die Halle und jubeln der Wagenkolonne hinterher, in der sie Erdogan vermuten.
Nicht einmal hundert Meter weiter sieht man wieder die bunten Fahnen der Gegner. Ihre Zahl soll auf 6000 angewachsen sein, bevor sie vom Praterstern in Richtung Eishalle aufbricht. Ihr Marsch über die Donau verläuft ziemlich friedlich, bis zum frühen Abend sind jedenfalls noch keine gewalttätigen Ausschreitungen bekannt geworden. Damit das so bleibt, hat die Polizei die Straße zwischen Erdogans Freunden und Feinden gesperrt. Die Stimmung, die bei den Gegnern erst Volksfestcharakter hatte und bei den Anhängern geradezu euphorische Zustände annahm, ist jetzt angespannt.
Drinnen in der Innenstadt ist unterdessen der deutsche Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier eingetroffen. Sein Amtskollege Sebastian Kurz hat ihn vom Flughafen abgeholt und wollte, während Erdogan sich in der Eishalle bejubeln ließ, mit Steinmeier über die Ukraine und Russland sprechen, über Putins Besuch in Wien nächste Woche, vielleicht auch über die Mautpläne der deutschen Regierung.
Der Krisenlöser ist zum Problem geworden
Und Steinmeier richtet am Rande des Besuchs auch ein Wort an Erdogans Regierung – allerdings in Sachen Irak: “Wir sind interessiert daran zu erfahren, ob die Türkei eine Rolle spielt in der Auseinandersetzung – und wenn ja, welche”, sagt der SPD-Politiker. Er will am Freitag mit seinem türkischen Kollegen Ahmet Davutoglu zusammentreffen. Die Türkei hatte erklärt, sie prüfe die Voraussetzungen für einen Militäreinsatz gegen Islamisten im Irak, nachdem diese 80 türkische Staatsbürger als Geiseln genommen hatten.
Alle Regierungen in der Region müssten zur Deeskalation beitragen, mahnt Steinmeier noch. Die Türkei als großer Krisenlöser im Nahen Osten – so sah Erdogan seine Rolle einmal. Doch seine Regierung ließ die Islamisten im syrisch-türkischen Grenzgebiet gewähren und hat dadurch zu ihrem Erstarken beigetragen.
Den Abend wollen die Außenminister bei einem Heurigen in den Grinzinger Weinbergen verbringen. “Zu zweit”, wie ein Sprecher vorab bekannt gab. Den “Privatmann” Erdogan wird Außenminister Kurz erst am Freitag treffen, “auf neutralem Boden”, wie es hieß.
Kritik an Erdogan-Auftritt in Wien: ”Gefährliches Spiel”
20. Juni 2014, 17:2 Der Standard
Außenminister Sebastian Kurz bat den türkischen Premier zu einem klärenden Gespräch.
Wien – Außenminister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) ist am Freitagvormittag mit dem türkischen Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan zu einem nach eigenen Angaben “sehr klaren” und zugleich “sehr emotionalen Gespräch” zusammengetroffen. Kurz betonte nach der Unterredung vor Journalisten in Wien, es sei ihm ein Anliegen gewesen, Erdogan zu sagen, “was wir von solch einer Veranstaltung hier in Österreich halten”.
Mit der Veranstaltung war die Rede des türkischen Premiers vor tausenden Anhängern am Donnerstagnachmittag in der Kagraner Albert-Schultz-Eishalle gemeint. Bereits am Vortag hatte Kurz diese als “Wahlkampfrede” kritisiert, die “für Unruhe in unserem Land gesorgt hat”. Von “einigen Provokationen” sprach der Außenminister am Freitag, die Erdogan so jedoch nicht gesehen habe. Man habe festgestellt, dass man in einigen Punkten “ganz eindeutig nicht einer Meinung” sei.
Kritik an Erdogan-Auftritt in Wien: ”Gefährliches Spiel”
20. Juni 2014, 17:20 Der Standard – followed by tomorrow’s article.
Außenminister Sebastian Kurz bat den türkischen Premier zu einem klärenden Gespräch.
Wien – Außenminister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) ist am Freitagvormittag mit dem türkischen Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan zu einem nach eigenen Angaben “sehr klaren” und zugleich “sehr emotionalen Gespräch” zusammengetroffen. Kurz betonte nach der Unterredung vor Journalisten in Wien, es sei ihm ein Anliegen gewesen, Erdogan zu sagen, “was wir von solch einer Veranstaltung hier in Österreich halten”.
Mit der Veranstaltung war die Rede des türkischen Premiers vor tausenden Anhängern am Donnerstagnachmittag in der Kagraner Albert-Schultz-Eishalle gemeint. Bereits am Vortag hatte Kurz diese als “Wahlkampfrede” kritisiert, die “für Unruhe in unserem Land gesorgt hat”. Von “einigen Provokationen” sprach der Außenminister am Freitag, die Erdogan so jedoch nicht gesehen habe. Man habe festgestellt, dass man in einigen Punkten “ganz eindeutig nicht einer Meinung” sei.
Recep Erdo?an: “Wir sind die Enkel Kara Mustafas.” Der türkische Premierminister beim Auftritt in der Wiener Albert-Schultz-Halle.“Er hat das Identitätsthema, das ohnehin ein sehr schwieriges ist, uns noch einmal schwieriger gemacht”, fügte Kurz hinzu. Viele junge Türken in Österreich und Österreicher mit türkischen Wurzeln täten sich oftmals schwer mit der Identitätsfrage. “Und diese Art der Einmischung aus der Türkei ist schädlich für die Integration in Österreich”, so der Außenminister. Erdogan hatte wie bereits zuvor in Köln Auslandstürken empfohlen, sich zu integrieren, aber nicht zu assimilieren.
Der türkische Premier hat sich laut Kurz während des Treffens “in einer eher rechtfertigenden Rolle” befunden. Man habe Erdogan auf viele Inhalte seiner Rede angesprochen. Zudem habe man versucht, ihm den “Fortschritt” der Integrationspolitik in Österreich zu erläutern und auch “wie schwierig” dieser Prozess sei. So würde das Thema Integration heute “sachlicher diskutiert”, und es sei gelungen, “Emotionen aus dem Thema” herauszunehmen. “Daher war dieser Auftritt alles andere als hilfreich”, so Kurz.
Auch die Grünen und die FPÖ kritisierten Erdogans private Wahlveranstaltung für die anstehenden Präsidentenwahlen in der Türkei. Die Klubobfrau der Grünen, Eva Glawischnig, warf Erdogan “ein gefährliches Spiel mit Symbolen” vor. Wie berichtet, hatte er hier lebende Türkeistämmige als “die Enkel des Sultans Süleyman des Prächtigen”, dessen Heer 1529 Wien vor den Toren Wiens stand, bezeichnet. Und weiter: “Wir sind heute nach Wien gekommen, um Herzen zu erobern. Keiner von uns hat Grund, Angst zu spüren oder nervös zu sein.” Davon gibt es auch Videomitschnitte. Der historische Süleyman steht aber freilich auch für eine blutige, osmanische Expansionspolitik.
Auch FPÖ-Bundesparteiobmann Heinz-Christian Strache hakte historisch nach: “Damit hat sich der türkische Despot endgültig als radikaler Nationalist und neoosmanischer Imperialist entlarvt.”
Polizeibilanz: 13.500 Anhänger bei der Rede Erdogans, 7850 Gegner bei Protestdemos, 14 Festnahmen bei Auseinandersetzungen nach Gegendemo. (APA/red, DER STANDARD, 21.6.2014)
AND AS PER AA – The 100 years old ANADOLU AGENCY – THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE EVENT - A POSITIVE COLLOR TO THE MEETING FOR WHICH THE AUSTRIAN GAVE HIS CLEAR FEELINGS TO THE PRESS.
Turkey’s Erdogan holds ‘positive’ talks in Austria. it said
Praying Together means that our differences stay but we ask a GOD to sort them out and promis to wait until He or She does so. UPDATED – Secular President Peres in Rome fashions an activist meaning to prayers.
Our original posting of June 9th was updated June 10th with further information about the Vatican meeting and the visit to Italy’s Rome.
VATICAN CITY — In a richly symbolic ceremony, Pope Francis oversaw a carefully orchestrated “prayer summit” with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents on Sunday as Jews, Christians and Muslims offered invocations for peace in the Vatican gardens.
“It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide,” Francis said at the ceremony.
During his trip last month to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, Francis unexpectedly extended invitations for a summit at the Vatican to President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
He said the meeting would be about prayer, not politics, and Vatican officials sought to dispel any expectation that a breakthrough would emerge.
Many Mideast analysts, while applauding the gesture, have been skeptical that the meeting would help revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but it did, at least, bring together the two presidents, who held a private meeting after the ceremony with Francis.
During the ceremony, Mr. Peres and Mr. Abbas avoided the familiar political tropes. There was no mention of 1967 borders or security arrangements. Mr. Abbas did not use the word “occupation,” according to an English translation of his prepared text distributed by the Vatican. (Nor did he say the word “Israel,” though he did refer once to Israelis.)
Yet there were some subtle provocations. Mr. Abbas called Jerusalem, considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital, “our Holy City” and referred to “the Holy Land Palestine.” (Mr. Peres described Jerusalem both as “the vibrant heart of the Jewish people” and as “the cradle of the three monotheistic religions.”)
Mr. Abbas also prayed for a “sovereign and independent state” and said Palestinians were “craving for a just peace, dignified living and liberty,” implying that they were denied these things under Israel’s occupation.
Mr. Peres did not mention rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but he evoked the attacks with the biblical quotation, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
The ceremony was held in a garden behind St. Peter’s Basilica that is enclosed by a high hedge to provide a sense of intimacy, and that offers a spectacular view of the cupola of the basilica. It also was chosen as a place that seemed somewhat neutral in terms of religious iconography. The service was carefully organized into three successive “moments,” in which prayers and readings were offered by Jews, then Christians and then Muslims. Then the three leaders spoke.
In the moments before the ceremony, the three men rode together in a small bus to the garden, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian leader. At times, they appeared to share a laugh.
The prayer summit came at a fraught political moment. Less than a week ago, a new Palestinian government was sworn in that is based on a pact with Hamas, the militant Islamic movement branded as terrorist by most of the West. Israel has officially shunned the new cabinet and has sought unsuccessfully to galvanize the world against it. Israel’s cabinet did give Mr. Peres the pro forma approval to travel to the Vatican, but some in Israel worried about the timing of this new embrace of Mr. Abbas.
In contrast to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Peres has long maintained that Mr. Abbas is a suitable partner for peacemaking. In a recent television interview, Mr. Peres said that in 2011, Mr. Netanyahu cut off back-channel talks between the two presidents that had come close to a deal, something the prime minister’s office has denied. But even as Mr. Peres was arriving for the Vatican event, Mr. Netanyahu continued his criticism of the new Palestinian government during a cabinet meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem.
“Whoever hoped that the Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas would moderate Hamas is mistaken,” he said, calling for international pressure on Mr. Abbas to dissolve the new partnership.
In the hours before the prayer summit, the usual crowd of tourists milled about St. Peter’s Square, including some people who hoped the meeting could make a difference.
“His gesture can help solve the situation,” said Esteban Troncosa, 16, of Santa Fe, Argentina, who was in Rome for a one-month language study trip with his class. “His message has always been to stop wars, and avoid any form of violence. I am sure this can make a difference. The pope can’t sign political agreements, but he is a symbol and can make people and politicians think.”
The following is being monitored by the Vienna and Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (often abbreviated SWC), with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, was established in 1977 and named for Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. According to its mission statement, it is “an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time. The Center’s multifaceted mission generates changes through the Snider Social Action Institute and education by confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.”
Turkey’s pro-government daily Yeni Akit sought to implicate Jews in the country’s recent Soma coal mine disaster that left over 300 dead, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on Wednesday.
The paper blasted its distaste for Jews with a headline that criticized the mine’s owner for having a Jewish son-in-law and ”Zionist-dominated media” for distorting the story.
Hurriyet said Yeni Akit ”has a long track record of anti-Semitic slurs” and noted the front page wording used to describe Alp Gürkan, the mine’s owner, for “giving his daughter to a Jew,” which it implied to be the main reason why the “Zionist-dominated domestic and foreign media” was “attacking Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an,” to “distort” the truth behind the disaster.
“While the cartel media in cooperation with Jews, Jew-lover parallel media and Jew controlled western media targets the Prime Minister over the Soma disaster, it is revealed that the groom of Alp Gürkan, owner of the company responsible for the disaster, is a Jew named ‘Mario Asafrana’ who changed his name and is now called ‘Mahir’,” the paper wrote.
Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for Turkey’s Prime Minister to repudiate the report.
In an interview with The Algemeiner SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper described the story as being “In the infamous tradition of the Protocols of Zion and Der Stuermer” and as “one of the most despicable and frightening uses of anti-Semitism by a contemporary newspaper.”
“As a nation mourns the death of hundreds of its people in a coal mine—such a banner headline seeks to further fan the toxic hate of Jews. The Wiesenthal Center urges Prime Minister Erdo?an to publicly denounce this headline,” Cooper said.
Twitter was alight with comments calling the newspaper anti-Semitic, while others used the social media platform to affirm their hatred of Jews.
Dutch journalist in Turkey Marc Guillet wrote, “#Turkish Yeni Akit #antisemitic page 1 #Soma mine owner’s son-in-law is Jew, Jewish-controlled media distort disaster.”
To which a Turkish Twitter user responded, “so what, I’m anti-jewish, too (semitic includes arabic, better not to use it that way).”
The focus on Jews in the mining disaster came after Erdo?an was reported calling a protester in Soma after the mine disaster “the spawn of Israel.”
Turkish Jew Haymi Behar reflected on “what it is to be born as ‘Israeli spawn’ in Turkey,” also in Hurriyet, writing about the intense misunderstanding and reflexive hatred for Jews in his country, and how it “means being a part of a mere 13 million tribe in a sea of 7 billion in the world, and being a small sample of the 17,000 ‘spawn brothers’ in Turkey.”
The crisis also enlivened defenders of Erdo?an, with Der Spiegel magazine withdrawing its Turkey-based reporter, Hasnain Kazim, after he received 10,000 death threats via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, with one even threatening to “cut his throat.” The offending article quoted the reaction of a miner in Soma who said, “Go to hell, Erdo?an,” stirring anger of supporters of the Turkish government.
Despite the rising tensions, Erdo?an, in a speech on Tuesday, thanked Israel for cancelling a planned celebration last week for Israeli Independence Day out of respect for the families of the 301 dead at the Soma mine.
In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves.
When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.
Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.
Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.
“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”
Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.
In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.
Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.
William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.
Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.
“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”
The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.
Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.
The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.
Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.
Russia moved fast.
In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.
“I want to assure you that the Russian government will do everything to support projects of this kind,” Mr. Putin said at the signing, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.
In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.
“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”
When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.
Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.
At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.
“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”
Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”
Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.
Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.
As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.
“There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”
The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.
Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”
Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.
In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.
The billboard shows Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.
The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.
The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.
First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.
And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.
An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.
“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”
Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.
“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.
Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.
Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.
“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.
The Ottoman Revival Is Over.
NEW YORK — For Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s embattled prime minister, a win in Sunday’s local elections will be a Pyrrhic victory. While his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., will likely retain a majority of municipalities, Turkey as a whole, particularly as an international player, has lost.
Mr. Erdogan’s decade-plus grip on power has been weakened by anti-government protests, corruption allegations, and an ugly confrontation with the powerful and admired Muslim religious leader Fethullah Gulen. In a desperate effort to prevent any further hemorrhaging of his power, Mr. Erdogan has abandoned the ambitious foreign policy that was the basis for Turkey’s regional resurgence in recent years and has resorted to attacking his enemies. The prime minister is now so fixated on his own political survival that he recently attempted, in vain, to shut down Twitter across the country.
It’s a far cry from 2003, when Mr. Erdogan ascended to the premiership and announced a determined and democratic agenda to strengthen Turkey’s economic and global standing.
(The author says) I visited him soon afterward in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. He told me then, “There are approximately 72 million people in this country — and I represent each and every one.” To represent everyone, he pushed for the passage of laws that granted increased freedoms to Turkey’s minorities, particularly the Kurds. He implemented economic policies to increase foreign investment. He reached out to far-flung capitals in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, opening more than a dozen embassies and many new markets. He even secured a rotating seat for Turkey on the United Nations Security Council in 2009 and made contributions to Washington’s “war on terror.”
Nearly every road that has been fixed, public transportation project approved, school built and reform passed has been done so with an eye to extending Turkey’s regional and global influence.
In 2009, Mr. Erdogan began to advance a “zero problems” foreign policy. The brainchild of his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, that policy was predicated on the idea that Turkey isn’t merely a “bridge” or “crossroads” between East and West, but an integral player in international diplomacy, security and trade. Turkey sought closer relations with neighbors in the Balkans, Russia, and especially the Middle East. “Zero problems,” guided Mr. Erdogan to deepen ties with Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbors, including Iran and Syria. Both became major trading partners and, in Iran’s case, a vital source for Turkish energy.
Some have called it “neo-Ottomanism” — an attempt to restore the former Ottoman Empire and its vanished regional glory. Whatever the label, Turkey managed to become a key foreign policy player in the eyes of American and European leaders.
President Obama traveled to Turkey in 2009 and spoke about the country’s strategic importance and increasing global role. During the Arab Spring, Western leaders held Turkey up as a progressive and prosperous democratic model for other Muslim-majority nations. Mr. Erdogan even took Turkey further toward European Union accession than any leader before him.
Beset by domestic crises, Mr. Erdogan has turned his focus toward his core constituency, a largely conservative, anti-Western population in the heartland. In doing so he has reverted to a tactic that has resonated with them: aggression.
Frantic to recreate the enthusiasm he garnered after storming off a panel with Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, in Davos in 2009 and his decision to cut ties with Israel after Israel attacked a Turkish flotilla in 2010, Mr. Erdogan has ramped up hostile rhetoric against his opponents — abroad and at home. He has attacked what he calls the “interest rate lobby,” called last summer’s protests a “dirty plot by foreign-backed elements,” and blamed the “provocative actions” of “foreign diplomats” for concocting corruption allegations. Recently, he slammed Mr. Gulen and his followers as a “spy ring” seeking to overthrow the government.
Moreover, Mr. Erdogan’s current governance strategy has gutted the country’s foreign policy. Nearby Crimea, a former Ottoman stronghold and the native land of the Tatars, an ethnic Turkic people, is a case in point. When Russia invaded and annexed the Black Sea peninsula, Mr. Erdogan failed to come to the defense of his cultural and religious brethren, as he did in Egypt. Indeed, after the Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi in July, Mr. Erdogan dismissed their actions as “illegal,” refused to recognize the new government and recalled Turkey’s ambassador to Cairo. On Crimea, the Turkish prime minister has restricted himself to grunts of disapproval despite the fears of the Tatars who will now fall under Russian control just 70 years after Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Tatars to Siberia.
Mr. Erdogan may believe that his tactics have worked. But in the long run, he’ll have to accept that his increased belligerence has isolated his country. When it comes to regional issues like Egypt, Iran and Iraq, the United States has now largely marginalized Turkey.
Not too long ago, the common question posed in Western capitals was “Who lost Turkey?” Many fingers pointed at Brussels and Washington. But today, as the prime minister steers Turkey away from its path of prosperity and international relevance toward antagonism and repression, the answer seems to be Mr. Erdogan himself.
Elmira Bayrasli is the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a fellow at the World Policy Institute.
We added to this article about Turkey as follower of the Ottomans, in our title, also the Soviet Empire with a similar feeling that Putin is losing now in his effort to revive it under Russian leadership.
What we see in Putin’s stirring the Ukraine is just that – an attempt to extend Russia to the Soviet borders and this will cause economic retreat to the people of Russia, the surveillance of the internet and eventually unhappiness of Russian citizens. It will also impact the whole neighborhood.
March 24, April 6, April 22, 2014 – New York City events with historic Jewish music from places like Istanbul and Bessarabia (now Moldova) – about effort to preserve lost cultures in places of strife.
Using Copyright to Censor, from Turkey to Svoboda to Ban’s UN & Reuters.
By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press (ICP) at the UN in New York.
UNITED NATIONS, March 20 — Turkey has now blocked Twitter citing a prosecutor’s decision, drawing ire in the US from Press Secretary Jay Carney and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to get his leaked phone calls removed from Google’s YouTube has reportedly “copyrighted” his calls.
This use of copyright to try to censor has echoes in the United Nations — and in Ukraine, where the Svoboda Party tried to get videos of its Members of Parliament beating up a news executive taken down as violations of copyright.
On the Guardian website on March 21, where the video had been was a notice that “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim.”
The New York Times reported that late on March 20, YouTube copies of the video were taken down “for violating the copyright of the Svoboda party spokesman, who seems to be working to erase the evidence from the Internet through legal means.”
This is a growing trend. As set forth below, an anti-Press complaint to the UN’s Stephane Dujarric, now Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, has been banned from Google’s Search by an invocation of copyright similar to Erdogan’s.
On March 21, Dujarric from Kyiv told Inner City Press neither he nor, he assuumed, Ban had seen the Svoboda beat-down video. This seems noteworthy, given its prominence in Ukraine. Now we can add: perhaps Ban and Dujarric didn’t see it due to the same censorship by copyright that has for now banned an anti Press complaint to them from Google’s Search.
And as to Twitter, Dujarric in his previous post in charge of UN Media Accreditation grilled Inner City Press about a tweet mentioning World War Two – the basis for example of France’s veto power in the Security Council, which it parlayed into essentially permanent ownership of the top post in UN Peacekeeping, now though Herve Ladsous (coverage of whom Dujarric tried to dictate, or advise, Inner City Press about.)
Dujarric’s now bipolar tweeting has intersected with a recently revived anonymous trolling campaign which originated in the UN Correspondents Association, in support of the Sri Lankan government, alleging that any coverage of the abuse of Tamils must be funded by the now defunct Tamil Tigers.
These outright attempts to censor are echoed, more genteelly, even as part of the UN press briefings these days. When Dujarric took eight questions on March 20 on Ban’s essentially failed trip to Moscow, fully half went to representatives of UNCA’s 15 member executive committee, including state media from Turkey, France and the United States. Other questions — by Twitter — were not answered, except those from explicitly pro-UN sources. These are the UN’s circles.
Google has accepted and acted on DMCA complaints about leaked e-mails, for example from Reuters to the United Nations seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out, and has then blocked access to the leaked documents from its search.
Of this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the Reuters case:
“Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse.”
In this case, copyright is being (mis) claimed for an email from Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau to the UN’s chief Media Accreditation official Stephane Dujarric — since March 10 Ban Ki-moon’s new spokesperson — seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.
Access to the document has been blocked from Google’s search based on a cursory take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
If this remains precedent, what else could come down?
Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:
The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here: www.innercitypress.com/
But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed “never gave permission [for it] to be published.” Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?
Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered “private”? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.
Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is “private” and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say, Reuters.com?
Charbonneau’s bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was “published on a blog.” Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?
The logic of Reuters’ and Charbonneau’s August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the ChillingEffects.org project, is profoundly anti free press.
The fact that Google accepts or didn’t check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn’t made to InnerCityPress.com or its server — it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.
The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?
Here is the text of Charbonneau’s communication to the UN’s top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU’s manager, to which he claimed “copyright” and for now has banned from Google’s Search:
Hi Isabelle and Stephane,
I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He’s obviously gotten wind that there’s a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn’t know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I “disgust” him, etc.
In all my 20+ years of reporting I’ve never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He’s become someone who’s making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.
I just thought you should know this.
This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.
“UNCA” in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up this past weekend in Italian, to which we link and give full credit, translated into English (NOT for now by Google) –
The fool of Reuters to the UN
by Mahesh – 12/27/2013 - calls for the removal of a letter from the head of his bureau at the United Nations, pursuing a copyright infringement on the part of the competition.
Try to make out a small competitor from the UN press room and then, when these publish proof of intrigue, invokes the copyright to release a letter from compromising the network.
MOLESTA-AGENCY Inner City Press is a small non-profit agency covering the work of the United Nations for years, with an original cut, which become distasteful to many. Unlike other matching its founder master sent never tires of asking account of inconsistencies and contradictions and often refers to unpleasant situations involving colleagues and their reportage, too often twisted to obvious political contingencies.
THE LAST CAVITY – In this case the clutch is born when Matthew Lee, Inner City Press ever since he founded and made famous in the 90 ‘s, challenged the screening of “Lies Agreed Upon” in the auditorium of the United Nations, a filmaccio of propaganda in which the Sri Lankan regime tries to deny the now tested massacres (and destroyed by International Crisis Group). In the piece, in which denounced the incident, Lee also announced that the screening was organized by the President of the United Nations Correspondents (UNCA), Italian Giampaolo Pioli, skipping the normal consultation procedure for this kind of events. Pioli then, was also accused of being in a conflict of interest, given that he rented an apartment in New York an apartment to the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Sri Lanka, named Palitha Kohona and is suspected of war crimes.
TRY WITH THE COPYRIGHT- So he comes to the letter with which Louis Charbonneau, Reuters bureau chief at the United Nations, wrote to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) calling for the ouster of Lee, which the UN being there for years as his colleagues, but we see that this was not done. Lee, however, comes into possession of the letter and publish it, and then writes to Google millantando Charbonneau the copyright on the letter and asking for removal pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That is a bit like if a company request the removal of a compromising document from a journalistic investigation, in the name of copyright, a claim clearly absurd and disingenuous.
HARASSMENT AND THREATS - In the letter published, Charbonneau complained about the aggressive behavior of Lee and cited among the witnesses to cases where Lee had been “aggressive” towards him even Pioli. Lee with that piece has gained throughout a hail of protests from Sri Lanka and an investigation by the UNCA, along with death threats and other well-known amenities the refugees away from the clutches of the regime, but it is still there. Behold then the brilliant idea of Charbonneau, improperly used copyright law to censor the objectionable publications to a colleague and competitor. Pity that Lee has already resisted successfully in similar cases, in 2008 was the same Google to remove your site from being indexed in the news in its search engines, it is unclear what impetus behind, only to regret it soon after that even Fox News had cried scandal.
And further – to the place of UN as restricting flow of information – Matthew Lee has the following:
In Ukraine, List of Parties UN’s UNSG Ban Ki-moon Met With Still UNdisclosed, Visa Ban.
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kyiv for a second day, it remained unclear if he met with representatives from the Svoboda Party, whose “freedom of speech” parliamentarian was filmed beating up a news executive and then sought to get the video removed from YouTube.
Inner City Press on March 21 asked Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, video here
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that in his opening remarks, the Secretary-General talked about provocative actions and counter-reactions and obviously there have been, the US announced sanctions on a slew of individuals and one bank, and another bank, SMP, has been cut off from the Visa and Mastercard system. Russia has its own sanctions. Was this discussed, was this discussed while he was in Moscow? Does the Secretary-General think that sanctions should be done through the UN? And will he meet with representatives of the Svoboda party while he’s there, if they were to request it?
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: There was a — I will share with you as soon as I get it — the list of party leaders that attended the meeting with the Secretary-General. So we will see who exactly was there and, you know, I’m not going to get into detailed reactions to sanctions and counter-sanctions and so forth. But what I will say is that, you know, everybody needs to kind of focus on finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution and lowering the tensions.
Inner City Press: Has he or you seen the video of the Svoboda party MPs beating up the television executive?
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I have not and I doubt that he has.
But more than 24 hours later, the “list of party members” who met with Ban was still not provided or shared, nor was an explanation provided. What should one infer from that?
… … ….
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s race to Russia for relevance didn’t work as he’d hoped. Just after his meetings with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, Lavrov went to the Duma for the next step on Crimea.
Then Ban’s spokesperson did a call-in Q&A to the UN press briefing room in New York where only questions pointing one way were selected and allowed. Thus, there were no questions to Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric about the new unilateral sanctions, or the trade embargo allegations.
On March 19 after US Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia’s Vitaly Churkin was creative like Tolstoy or Chekhov, Churkin asked for a right of reply or additional statement at the end of the March 19 UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
Churkin said that from these two literary references, Power has stooped to tabloids, and that this should change if the US expected Russian cooperation. The reference, it seemed, was to Syria and Iran, and other UN issues.
One wanted to explore this at the stakeout, but neither Power nor Churkin spoke there. In fact, no one did: even Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev left, down the long hallways with his leather coat and spokesperson. One wondered why.
There were many questions to ask. Why did Ivan Simonovic’s UN human rights report not mention the Svoboda Party MPs beating up the head of Ukrainian national television? Will France, despite its Gerard Araud’s speech, continue selling Mistral warships to Russia? What of France’s role in the earlier referendum splitting Mayotte from the Comoros Islands?
Araud exchanged a few words with those media he answers to while on the stairs, then left. The UK’s Mark Lyall Grant spoke longer, but still left. Why didn’t Simonovic at least come and answer questions? Perhaps he will, later in the week.
When Security Council session began at 3 pm on March 19, Russia was listed as the tenth speaker, after other Council members including not only the US but France. (The order, however, would soon change: Argentina and Russia switched spots.)
Speaking first, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson recounted dates and events, such as the US and European Union sanctions of Marcy 17. Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric if there was any UN comment on or view of such unilateral sanctions. There was no comment.
UN human rights deputy Ivan Simonovic spoke next, saying that attacks on ethnic Russians have been neither widespread nor systematic. Simonovic did not mention the widely publicized assault on a national TV executive by Svoboda Party MPs.
Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev mocked the referendum, saying that those who didn’t vote were visited at home.
France’s Gerard Araud said that if there are fascists in this story, it is not where they’re said to be — but he did not address the Svoboda Party and its attack on the TV executive. Nor has he addressed the analogy to the referendum France pushed to split Mayotte from Comoros, nor France’s ongoing sale of Mistral warships to Russia.
After Nigeria spoke, Argentina’s listed place was taken by Russia, in what has been confirmed to Inner City Press as an exchange. Russia’s Vitaly Churkin zeroed in on Simonovic not mentioning the Svoboda MPs’ assault, nor evidence that the same snipers should police and protesters in Kyiv.
US Ambassador Samantha Power called this an assault on Simonovic’s report, and said Churkin had been as imaginative as Tolstoy or Chekhov, echoing an earlier US State Department Top Ten list. So what is the US, one wag mused, John Updike or Thomas Pynchon? It was a session meant for words.
It’s worth remembering Moscow’s anger at who called Ban’s tune on Kosovo. What will be different now? After Russia, Ban will head to Kyiv to meet Yatsenyuk and the UN human rights monitors.
But no announcement by Ban’s Office of the Spokesperson, which has repeatedly refused to confirm Ban trips even when the country visited has already disclosed it.
And so the Free UN Coalition for Access wrote to Ban’s new spokesperson Stephane Dujarric:
“Will you confirm what BBC says UN Moscow told it, that the Secretary General is traveling to Russia tomorrow to meet President Putin and FM Lavrov — and is so, can you explain why and how this UN news was distributed in that way first, and not through your office, to all correspondents at once? The latter part of the question is on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access as well.”
Forty five minutes later, after a mass e-mail, Dujarric replied:
“Matthew, The official announcement was just made. The UN office in moscow did not announce anything before we did. I did see some leaked reports this morning from various sources but nothing is official until it’s announced by this office.”
But it wasn’t a “leaked report” — BBC said that UN Moscow had CONFIRMED it. We’ll have more on this. For now it’s worth reviewing Ban Ki-moon’s response to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008…
The day after the Crimea referendum, the US White House announced new sanctions and Russia said Ukraine should adopt a federal constitution.
Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric for Ban’s or the UN’s comment on either, if Ban thinks sanctions should ideally be imposed through the UN and not unilaterally, and if this might lead to a tit for tat.
Dujarric said Ban’s focus is on encouraging the parties to “not add tensions;” on Russia’s federal constitution proposal he said the UN is “not going to get into judging every step.” Video here.
With Serry gone from Crimea and Simonovic called unbalanced by Russia, what is the UN’s role? Is it UNrelevant?
… … … and there is much more on our link.
Putin Goes to War
02 March 14
ladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.
Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who was recently detained by the police in Moscow, described the scenario taking shape as “Afghanistan 2.” He recalled, for Slon.ru, an independent Russian news site, how the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in 1979, under the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally in Kabul; to Parkhomenko, Putin’s decision to couch his military action as the “protection” of Russians living in Crimea is an equally transparent pretext. The same goes for the decorous way in which Putin, on Saturday, “requested” the Russian legislature’s authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine until “the socio-political situation is normalized.” The legislature, which has all the independence of an organ grinder’s monkey, voted its unanimous assent.
Other critics of Putin’s military maneuvers in Ukraine used different, but no less ominous, historical analogies. Some compared the arrival of Russian troops in Simferopol to the way that the Kremlin, in 2008, took advantage of Georgia’s reckless bid to retake South Ossetia and then muscled its tiny neighbor, eventually waging a war that ended with Russia taking control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
In a recent Letter from Sochi, I tried to describe Putin’s motivations: his resentment of Western triumphalism and American power, after 1991; his paranoia that Washington is somehow behind every event in the world that he finds threatening, including the recent events in Kiev; his confidence that the U.S. and Europe are nonetheless weak, unlikely to respond to his swagger because they need his help in Syria and Iran; his increasingly vivid nationalist-conservative ideology, which relies, not least, on the elevation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been so brutally suppressed during most of the Soviet period, as a quasi-state religion supplying the government with its moral force.
Obama and Putin spoke on the phone today for an hour and a half. The White House and Kremlin accounts of the call add up to what was clearly the equivalent of an angry standoff: lectures, counter-lectures, intimations of threats, intimations of counter-threats. But the leverage, for now, is all with Moscow.
The legislators in the Russian parliament today parroted those features of modern Putinism. In order to justify the invasion of the Crimean peninsula, they repeatedly cited the threat of Ukrainian “fascists” in Kiev helping Russia’s enemies. They repeatedly echoed the need to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine—a theme consonant with the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Russians everywhere, including the Baltic States. But there was, of course, not one word about the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been independent since the fall of the Soviet Union, in December, 1991.
If this is the logic of the Russian invasion, the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula.
Marina Korolyova, the deputy editor of the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow, told Slon.ru, “I am the daughter of a military officer who went in with the troops that invaded Czechoslovakia, in 1968. Today’s decision of the President and the Federation Council—I feel the pain personally. It is shameful. Shameful.”
It is worth noting that, in Moscow, the modern dissident movement was born in 1968, when four brave protesters went to Red Square and unfurled a banner denouncing the invasion of Prague. Those demonstrators are the heroes of, among other young Russians, the members of the punk band Pussy Riot. This is something that Putin also grasps very well. At the same time that he is planning his vengeful military operation against the new Ukrainian leadership, he has been cracking down harder on his opponents in Moscow. Alexey Navalny, who is best known for his well-publicized investigations into state corruption and for his role in anti-Kremlin demonstrations two years ago, has now been placed under house arrest. Navalny, who won twenty-seven per cent of the vote in a recent Moscow mayoral ballot, is barred from using the Internet, his principal means of communication and dissidence. The period of Olympic mercy has come to an end.
It’s also worth noting that, in 1968, Moscow was reacting to the “threat” of the Prague Spring and to ideological liberalization in Eastern Europe; in 1979, the Kremlin leadership was reacting to the upheavals in Kabul. The rationale now is far flimsier, even in Moscow’s own terms. The people of the Crimean peninsula were hardly under threat by “fascist gangs” from Kiev. In the east, cities like Donetsk and Kharkov had also been quiet, though that may already be changing. That’s the advantage of Putin’s state-controlled television and his pocket legislature; you can create any reality and pass any edict.
I spoke with Georgy Kasianov, the head of the Academy of Science’s department of contemporary Ukrainian history and politics, in Kiev. “It’s a war,” he said. “The Russian troops are quite openly out on the streets [in Crimea], capturing public buildings and military outposts. And it’s likely all a part of a larger plan for other places: Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson. And they’ll use the same technique. Some Russian-speaking citizens will appear, put up a Russian flag, and make appeals that they want help and referendums, and so on.” This is already happening in Donetsk and Kharkov.
“They are doing this like it is a commonplace,” Kasianov went on. “I can’t speak for four million people, but clearly everyone in Kiev is against this. But the Ukrainian leadership is absolutely helpless. The Army is not ready for this. And, after the violence in Kiev, the special forces are disoriented.”
Just a few days ago, this horrendous scenario of invasion and war, no matter how limited, seemed the farthest thing from nearly everyone’s mind in either Ukraine or Russia, much less the West. As it happens so often in these situations—from Tahrir Square to Taksim Square to Maidan Square—people were taken up with the thrill of uprising. After Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, the coverage moved to what one might call the “golden toilet” stage of things, that moment when the freedom-hungry crowds discover the fallen leader’s arrangements and bountiful holdings—the golden bathroom fixtures; the paintings and the tapestries; the secret mistress; the lurid bedrooms and freezers stocked with sweetmeats; the surveillance videos and secret transcripts; the global real-estate holdings; the foreign bank accounts; the fleets of cars, yachts, and airplanes; the bad taste, the unknown cruelties.
The English-language Kyiv Post published a classic in the genre when it reported how journalists arriving at the “inner sanctum” of the mansion where Yanukovych had lived in splendor discovered that he had been cohabiting not with his wife of four decades but, rather, with—and try not to faint—a younger woman. It “appears” that Yanukovych had been living there with a spa owner named Lyubov (which means “love”) Polezhay. “The woman evidently loves dogs and owns a white Pomeranian spitz that was seen in the surveillance camera’s footage of Yanukovych leaving” the mansion.
But that was trivia. Masha Lipman, my colleague in Moscow, sketched out in stark and prescient terms some of the challenges facing Ukraine, ranging from the divisions within the country to the prospect of what Putin might do rather than “lose” Ukraine.
Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse. There is not only the threat of widening Russian military force. The new Ukrainian leadership is worse than weak. It is unstable. It faces the burden of legitimacy. Yanukovych was spectacularly corrupt, and he opened fire on his own people. He was also elected to his office and brought low by an uprising, not the ballot; he made that point on Friday, in a press conference in Rostov on Don, in Russia, saying that he had never really been deposed. Ukraine has already experienced revolutionary disappointment. The Orange Revolution, in 2004, failed to establish stable democratic institutions and economic justice. This is one reason that Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, newly released from prison, is not likely the future of Ukraine. How can Ukraine possibly move quickly to national elections, as it must to resolve the issue of legitimacy, while another country has troops on its territory?
Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal Russian politician who no longer holds office, said that the events were not only dangerous for Ukraine but ominous for Russia and the man behind them. “It’s quite likely that this will be fatal for the regime and catastrophic for Russia,” he told Slon.ru. “It just looks as if they have taken leave of their senses.”
Based on reporting from the UN we ask if the future wil bring an Independent break-away State of Crimea supported by the Russians or a Russian outright annexation. We can see here a difference in the amount of harm done to the institution of the Security Council.
What we ask is whom do represent the black clad military people that took over Crimea? Are they representing a new force or their old Russian military. We see a way out if the lack of insignia means that there is a new force being born.
FIRST CLEAR CASUALTY – THE SOCHI G8 MEETING THAT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE WITH RUSSIA AT WAR.
Ukraine PR Says UN Charter Brutally Violated, Meeting Format Fight.
By Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press Follow Up
UNITED NATIONS, March 1 — As the UN Security Council on Saturday afternoon held its second emergency meeting in as many days on Ukraine, that country’s Permanent Representative Yuriy Sergeyev stopped and told the press it is now a Russian “aggression” and that the UN Charter has been “brutally” violated.
He said an appeal is being made to the US, France, UK and China, under the rubric of non-proliferation; he said there is still time, before Russian president Vladimir Putin signs the order for military moves in Crimea.
Then the Security Council “suspended” for ten minutes; Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged and said some members of the Council are trying to change the format of the meeting, that Russia agrees with the format proposed by Luxembourg, which took over today as Council president.
After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s envoy Robert Serry spun the contents of a closed door Security Council consultation on Ukraine on which there was no agreed outcome, Ban himself did the same on Saturday.
Could Serry go to Crimea? Hours before Serry through the spokesperson had said no. But the purpose of the UN TV theater is to get this spin “on camera” – that’s the role Falk’s UNCA is playing.
Also Ban said he is going to speak with Putin soon. Will his spokesperson take question, this time with notice, on that?
On February 28, Serry’s impartiality as “UN” envoy on Ukraine was called into question, on camera, in front of the UN Security Council by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
A “Note to Correspondents” was put out Saturday morning by the UN Spokesperson’s Office in which Serry put his spin on the Security Council consultations at which he was not present, and at which not even a Press Statement was agreed:
Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine
Kyiv, 1 March 2014
Following the consultations in the United Nations Security Council yesterday, the Secretary-General requested me to go to Crimea as part of my fact-finding mission. I have since been in touch with the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and have come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible. I will therefore proceed to Geneva, where I will tomorrow brief the Secretary-General on my mission and consult with him on next steps.
In Crimea, I would have conveyed, also on behalf of the Secretary-General, a message for all to calm the situation down and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already-tense environment.
It became very clear from yesterday’s Council consultations that the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine is not to be called into question. This is a time for dialogue and to engage with each other constructively.
Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine.
March 1, updated — After the Ukraine open meeting then consultations of the UN Security Council took place, Council president for March Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg came out and read a short statement.
Inner City Press asked her if this was a mere “elements to the press,” not even an agreed Press Statement. This seems to be the case. She politely answered, but not why China and the ten elected members did not speak in the open meeting.
Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Lyall Grant about the Budapest Memorandum — has it already been violated, including by the Western IMF side, in terms of economic coercion? Is it just a superseded document summoned up for pragmatic reasons now?
Lyall Grant acknowledged that some time has passed. From the UK Mission transcript:
Inner City Press: The Budapest memorandum. There’s been a lot of talk about it. It requires the UK, Russia and France to seek immediate Security Council action if there’s a threat of force, so is this the end of your duties, or do you have a duty to defend Ukraine? And it also seems to commit the UK and others to refrain from economic coercion, so some people have been saying that on both sides, the economic coercion factor has been played. Has this memorandum been complied with since ‘94, or is it just pulled out at this time as a convenient document?
Amb Lyall Grant: Clearly, this document has become very relevant in the last few days. We believe that the first step should be a meeting of the signatories of the Budapest memorandum, as Ukraine government has suggested should take place. Proposals have been made for a meeting of the three signatories as early as Monday, but so far Russia has not agreed to that meeting.
Lyall Grant also said his prime minister David Cameron spoke with Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary William Hague will be in Ukraine on Sunday.
Inner City Press asked Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson of Russia’s critique of envoy Robert Serry “getting played,” and of the leaked (US) audio about former US now UN official Jeffrey Feltman “getting” Ban to send Serry to Ukraine.
Eliasson said Serry is an international civil servant, but that the UN is not mediating, he is only a go-between for now. Will that change?
US Samantha Power came out, saying another things that President Obama is suspending participation in the preparation for the G8 in Sochi. She took only two questions; it was not possible to ask her about movement on loan guarantees, or her view of the US’ duties under the Budapest Memorandum. So it goes at the UN.
When the open meeting happened, after two hours of wrangling about format, not all 15 members of the Council — not even all five Permanent members — spoke. (China didn’t).
Instead, UN Deputy Secretary General Eliasson led off, saying that Ban Ki-moon would speak with Vladimir Putin. That had already taken place, but even an hour later, no read-out.
Ukraine’s EU embassy details ‘Abkhazia scenario’
01.03.14 @ 12:56
BRUSSELS – Ukraine’s embassy to the EU has detailed Russian military movements in Crimea, saying operations to seize control began one week ago.
The Ukrainian embassy, in a two-page note circulated to EU diplomats on Friday (28 February) – and seen by EUobserver – cited seven “illegal military activities of the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine.”
Going back to February 21 and 22, it says Russia moved 16 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers of the 801st Marine Corps brigade from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, which it leases from Ukraine, to the Crimean towns of Kaha, Gvardiiske, and Sevastopol.
It notes that on 23 February three BTR-80s moved from the base to the town of Khersones.
On 26 February, 10 armoured vehicles from the 801st brigade moved “into the depth of the Crimean peninsula towards Simferopol.”
On 28 February, 12 Mi-24 Russian attack helicopters flew from Anapa in Russia to the Kacha airfield in Crimea “despite [the fact] clearance was granted only for 3 helos.”
The same day five Il-76 Russian military transport planes landed at Gvardiiske with no clerance at all, while 400 Russian troops from the Ulyanovsk Airborne Brigade moved to Cape Fiolent, near Sevastopol.
The Ukrainian document says that also on Friday: “Belbek airport (Sevastopol) was blocked by an armed unit of the Russian Fleet (soldiers with no marking but not concealing their affiliation). Simferopol airport occupied by more than 100 soldiers with machine guns wearing camouflage, unmarked but not concealing their affiliation to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
It adds that Captain Oleksandr Tolmachov, a Russian Black Sea Fleet officer, led a group of 30 soldiers who blocked the Sevastopol Marine Security detachment of the State Border Service of Ukraine.
Speaking in Kiev on Friday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said: “They are provoking us into an armed conflict. Based on our intelligence, they’re working on scenarios analogous to Abkhazia, in which they provoke conflict, and then they start to annex territory.”
He added: “Ukraine’s military will fulfill its duties, but will not succumb to provocation.”
He also said Russia’s actions violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by Russia, the UK, Ukraine, and the US.
Russia in 2008 invaded Georgia saying Georgian forces had fired on its “peacekeeping” troops in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. After an eight-day war, Russia retreated from Georgia proper, but entrenched its occupation of South Ossetia and a second breakaway entity, Abkhazia, in what is widely seen as a way of blocking Georgia’s EU and Nato aspirations.
The Budapest document obliges signatories to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” It also says they “will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.”
There is no shortage of consultations.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin on Friday phoned the British and German leaders and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy.
Lithuania, which currently holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, also called a meeting of UNSC ambassadors in New York.
Statements coming from the Budapest signatories echo the terms of the agreement.
A spokesman for British leader David Cameron said he told Putin “that all countries should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.” US President Barack Obama said on TV “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Sweden, a close US ally, corroborated Ukraine’s accusations. “Obvious that there is Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Likely immediate aim is to set up puppet pro-Russian semi-state in Crimea,” Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said.
The Polish foreign ministry noted: “Any decisions that will be taken in the coming days, including of military nature, could have irreparable consequences for the international order.”
The UN meeting in New York did little to calm nerves.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told press afterward: “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.”
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said all Russian military activity in Crimea is “within the framework” of a 1997 Ukraine-Russia treaty governing the use of its Sevastopol base.
Churkin added the EU bears “responsibility” for events because three EU foreign ministers – from France, Germany, and Poland – on 21 February signed a deal between Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, and opposition MPs which says he is to stay in power until December.
Yanukovych fled Kiev the next day when Kiev protesters rejected the agreement and threatened to storm his palace.
Churkin accused the EU of fomenting the revolution by criticising Yanukovych for refusing to sign an EU association and free trade treaty and by sending VIPs to Kiev to mingle with demonstrators. “They emphasize sovereignty. But they behave as if Ukraine was a province of the European Union, not even a country, but a province,” he said.
For his part, Andrew Wilson, an analyst at the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, who was in Kiev during the unrest, told EUobserver on Saturday the Budapest accord should not be seen as a Nato-type treaty which obliges signatories to use military force
But he noted that the 1994 memorandum poses Cold War-type questions.
“Are we [the West] going to send a warship through the Bosphorus?” he said, referring to the channel which leads from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea and Crimea.
“These kind of questions were asked in the Cold War: Would America be willing to lose Detroit [in a Russian nuclear strike] to save Berlin? Later it was about Vilnius [when Lithuania joined Nato in 2004], now it’s about Simferopol. Budapest is not Article 5. But if we are being logical, it does offer security guarantees and it is still in force,” he added, referring to the Nato treaty’s Article 5 on mutual defence.
Crimea is a majority ethnic Russian region which became part of Ukraine in 1954.
Its local parliament this week elected a new leader, pro-Russian politician Sergiy Aksyonov, who called a referendum on independence on 30 March.
The ethnic Russian population made up 49.6 percent of Crimea in 1939. It currently makes up some 58 percent, after Stalin deported its Armenian, Bulgarian, Jewish, German, Greek, and Tatar minorities during World War II. But Russians are in a minority in nine Crimean districts.
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A Hindu Sees The Light in Between the Muslims Fighting Each Other in Syria – and he is obviously right – it is not nice! Neither is the US above blame – in effect it is with US acts that the spread of Islamicism in its various forms took place. Could one now hope for India and China Diplomacy? We add – Could the Saudis come out of the Israeli Closet?
Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off. Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert. Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria. Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line. Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16. This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters. On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S. The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west. All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy. Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government? Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders? Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad. The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.” This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.
The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.
Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.
MENAFN – Qatar News Agency – 09/02/2014
Demonstrations against a restrictive new internet law grew violent Saturday night, as hundreds of protestors clashed with police near Istanbul’s main Taksim Square.
Anti-government demonstrators, who erected barricades near the square, battled police with rocks and fireworks. Police fought back with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protestors set up barricades near the square, on a street between two hospitals. There were reports of numerous ambulances in the area, as well as many arrests. One press photographer was reported to be injured, and many money machines vandalised.
Opposition groups had called for a rally in Taksim Square to denounce the internet law, but Police closed off the square. Thousands of demonstrators chanted for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down.
On Thursday night the Turkish parliament approved amendments to its internet regulations that allow the government to block websites without a court order and mandate Internet Service Providers to store data for up to two years.
The law must still by signed by President Abdullah Gul. The European Union criticised Turkey for introducing tighter internet controls, urging a revision to comply with standards in the bloc that Ankara hopes to join.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that “the amendments to Turkey’s already restrictive internet law would compound a dismal record on press freedom in the country, which is the leading jailer of journalists worldwide.”
Erdogan on Saturday said “no censorship” would be imposed upon the internet. Instead, Erdogan said, the law will make the internet more safe and free, the Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.
It is still a marvel to behold Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s self-confidence, even after 11 years of his rule. In recent weeks, a new poster featuring Turkey’s prime minister has appeared throughout Istanbul, on highway billboards and mass transit. Wearing his usual dark suit, Erdogan looks to be in purposeful motion, like an action hero. Two large words in block letters, SAGLAM IRADE, Turkish for “Iron Will,” accompany him. Surely some of his supporters appreciate this evocation of 1930s-era masculinity, but for others, it must feel like an invasion of personal space. The enormous billboards intensify the claustrophobia that many Turks have felt for years: that Erdogan is everywhere, in every tree or open space sacrificed for a building, in every traffic jam, in every newspaper column and pro-government tweet and call to prayer. The poster, which a group of his supporters claims to have put up, begs to be defaced, and Turks have torn at it or covered it with new slogans: “Iron Fascist,” “Iron Corruption,” “Iron Enemy of the People.”
The public turn against Erdogan began last May, when protests in Istanbul escalated and pictures of police officers violently attacking the demonstrators circulated around the world. For the first time in a decade, Turkey didn’t look like one of the few Middle Eastern destinations where Westerners would take a vacation. The government was caught off guard. A couple of weeks later, Erdogan convened two meetings in the capital, Ankara, with assorted activists, artists and observers. Many immediately dismissed this public exercise as a sham gesture — plausible, given that the invitees included film stars — but some activists relished the opportunity to speak to their prime minister. The episode recalled the time when Robert F. Kennedy met with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and Lorraine Hansberry in 1963 because he wanted to understand why blacks were angry. Erdogan wanted to understand why so many Turks were angry.
In one meeting, Erdogan sat at the head of the table, constantly writing with a fountain pen in a leather-bound notebook. He wrote for five hours as activists gave testimony about their experiences in the previous weeks. Erdogan’s cabinet ministers often cut them off or spoke with weary condescension about whether, say, tear gas could be dispensed from a low-hovering helicopter. Erdogan sometimes told his officials to be quiet. “Let them speak,” he said.
The protests began when activists gathered in Gezi Park to demonstrate against its demolition. Ipek Akpinar, a professor of architecture, asked Erdogan if he gave orders during the brutal first days, when the police burned the tents of peaceful environmentalists and assaulted them with pepper spray and tear gas. “Somehow, in the last 10 years, he gave an image of being democratic, of trying to talk with everyone, to understand other groups,” Akpinar told me later. “We couldn’t believe — we didn’t want to believe, probably — that he would do this.” The activists kept returning to this question. “Prime Minister Erdogan,” Akpinar asked, “did you know what was happening in the first three days?”
He said he did not. “My team didn’t take it very seriously,” Erdogan said, according to several people who attended the meeting. “We thought it was just environmentalists, and so we didn’t react. But yes, the police acted severely. I wasn’t aware of the burning of the tents the first two nights. I was told about it on the third day, and then it was too late.”
“And then what happened?” the professor asked. Several other activists joined in. “What did you do?” cried Nil Eyuboglu, a 20-year-old college student. “Tell us! They violently attacked us! How could you not know?”
“Don’t worry,” Erdogan said. “I brought the people responsible into my office and yelled at them. I made them cry.”
The prime minister seemed more like a clan leader than the head of a government. “It was like . . . there’s just one man,” Akpinar said later. She wasn’t the only one disappointed. Some of the young people in the meeting had attended religious schools, as Erdogan had, and their families had championed Erdogan’s conservative Muslim party. Like the millions of countrymen who regarded him as a hero, they had lived through decades of repression of religious Turks by secularist regimes. Now they were criticizing Erdogan harshly. Some even cried at the betrayal they felt.
Finally, listening to those who once supported him, he showed emotion: “How can even you misunderstand us,” he said,“ like everyone else?”
Over the last decade, Erdogan has made himself the most powerful prime minister in Turkey’s history, the most successful elected leader in the Middle East and the West’s great hope for the Muslim world. In the last year, however, a thoroughly different Erdogan has emerged: a symbol of authoritarianism, corruption and police brutality whose once-populist rhetoric has turned into thundering rage. The Gezi Park protests last spring challenged the enduring dysfunctions of the Turkish state — mainly disregard for the rule of law — as well as the dubious economic policies of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P. What followed was worse for Erdogan. In December, extensive accusations of corruption were leveled at him by followers of an Islamic movement that propelled him and the A.K.P. to power. The threat to Erdogan posed by the Gezi Park protests has been largely photogenic, but the challenge raised by the corruption charges is existential.
Erdogan’s response to both threats has been to punish those he considers disloyal. Critics of Erdogan are called traitors or terrorists — or, more colorfully, assassins. Thousands of activists have been detained, their schools or workplaces investigated, their homes raided. Informal emergency medical care, common during street protests, has been criminalized. Some 5,000 police officers and prosecutors, who Erdogan claims are conspiring against him, have been dismissed from their jobs or reassigned. Internet sites have suddenly become inaccessible. The judiciary is in danger of falling under Erdogan’s control. The exchange rates for Turkey’s currency, the lira, have plunged significantly, and predictions for the economy are dire. The feeling in Turkey is that, all of a sudden, the country that was a model for the modern Muslim world is on the verge of disintegration.
An Erdogan government was once synonymous with stability. One reason even skeptical secular Turks tolerated the A.K.P. was its hard-working officials. Even if people disliked their Islamist pasts or their head-scarf-wearing wives, they liked their industriousness, and above all the rapid economic development they facilitated in the 2000s. Before then, Turkish politicians were mostly bland bureaucrats, and Turkey was very poor. The military staged coups every decade or so in the name of secularism or anticommunism, each time shattering the country’s diverse political longings and enfeebling its government. The pattern changed somewhat in the mid-1980s, when Prime Minister Turgut Ozal liberalized the economy, which allowed a capitalist class of small-town entrepreneurs and fledgling corporate bigwigs to take root.
Erdogan, who attended a religious high school and played semiprofessional soccer, grew up in a conservative, blue-collar neighborhood in Istanbul called Kasimpasa. The men there are quick to say they are Erdogan’s “best friend,” and their loyalty to him can be fierce. At Erdogan’s old soccer club, I once asked some of them what makes a Kasimpasa man. A silver-haired guy in a black leather jacket said: “Watch Tayyip, watch how he walks. That’s Kasimpasa.”
A member of the youth groups of Islamist parties that later evolved into the A.K.P., Erdogan was elected Istanbul’s mayor in 1994 at age 40. He cleaned up the city; his administration distributed largess to peripheral neighborhoods and improved the water supply. To various elites, the A.K.P. men might have seemed like provincial rubes, but as an organization, the A.K.P. was like a sleek corporation.
“One usually assumes that Islamists are not educated, that Islamists are provincial — no, no, no,” says Seyla Benhabib, a Turkish political philosopher at Yale University. “There is a new political class in Turkey. The C.H.P. cadre” — the Republican People’s Party, the main secularist opposition party — “comes from the usual civil servants, teachers, judges, bureaucrats. A.K.P. is a very young and ambitious professional cadre of people.”
The A.K.P. emerged from an Islamist movement called Milli Gorus, whose outlook was anti-Western and combative — the Turkish, watered-down version of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Theirs was a challenge to the preceding Kemalist regimes, which embraced the ideals of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and enforced strict adherence to a secularist, nationalist identity. In the late 1990s, after he was jailed briefly for reciting a supposedly Islamist poem in public, Erdogan shifted course. He began preaching a pro-European Union, pro-American and pro-business worldview, and rather than espousing Islamist politics, he framed religious rights in terms of personal freedom. As a Turkish scholar named M. Hakan Yavuz put it in his 2009 book, “Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey,” the A.K.P. didn’t operate outwardly as an Islamist group at all; it was a pragmatic party of “services.” Erdogan’s transformation won him the admiration of liberals at home and abroad. It also caught the attention of another Islamic movement eager for power, one that followed the teachings of an imam named Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen is a Muslim preacher who in the 1960s began promoting a Sufi-inspired vision of Islam and a strategy for leading a modern and religious life that offered his followers a path to success in Turkey. The stated goal was spreading an emphatically peaceful expression of Islam, but a central ambition was also the expansion of the movement, which required amassing followers and capital. The Gulenists, who prefer to be called sympathizers, describe themselves as nonpolitical, anti-violence, pro-business and deeply patriotic. Indeed, the movement advocates a specifically Turkish Islam. Unlike Milli Gorus, it rejects party politics; theirs is “cultural Islam,” its adherents say, a religion-based civic movement they call Hizmet, or Service. Instead of Quranic schools, the Gulenists have built secular ones emphasizing science, as well as colleges, media companies, publishing houses, industrial groups, tutoring centers for the college entrance exam and international nongovernmental organizations. The Gulenists run 2,000 schools in 160 countries; outside Turkey, the countries with the greatest number of these schools are Germany and the United States.
When I embarked on a tour of Gulen’s world a few years ago, I visited some of the schools in Houston and Washington, as well as a boarding school in Kabul, Afghanistan. In many of them, students learn Black Sea folk dances and Turkish poetry. Gulen himself, who is 72, lives in a wooded area in the Poconos behind a security checkpoint; he is supposed to have moved to the United States for medical treatment, and his residence in a country that many Turks deem meddlesome, if not nefarious, has made him the human flame that sustains a thousand conspiracy theories. In 2010, when I visited Gulen’s compound, a couple had come from Japan to see him. “Hocaefendi,” or master teacher, as he is called, was too ill to meet me. He typically gives interviews to journalists only when he has something specific to announce.
The Gulenists I met at the compound were relentlessly charming, friendly and intelligent. They also engaged in self-protective obfuscation, something the sociologist Joshua Hendrick, an assistant professor at Loyola University in Maryland, calls “strategic ambiguity,” which shrouds some of their activities. This lack of transparency, they say, is justified by their past persecution at the hands of the Turkish military.
An alliance in the early 2000s with the ascendant A.K.P., whose center-right, pro-business perspective they shared, offered the Gulenists a way to extend their influence, even as they refrained from putting up their own candidates for Parliament. In Turkey, Hendrick says, “parties come and go, and any party isn’t going to have a long shelf life.” But, he says, succeeding in business or receiving ministerial appointments or joining the police confers lasting power: “Affiliates of the Gulen community have been accruing influence in the Istanbul police force and other police forces, and in the judiciary and prosecuting offices around the country.” This aspiration to secure important government jobs makes many Turks suspicious of their motives.
Mustafa Yesil, the president of the Journalist and Writers Foundation, an Istanbul-based public-relations arm for Gulen’s followers, argues that every citizen has the right to work in any sector of the society. “Mr. Gulen sees three problems in society: ignorance, conflict and poverty,” he said of the Gulenists’ ideals. “Hizmet supported A.K.P. based on the promise that A.K.P. would fight against the military tutelage, further the E.U. process and democratization and create a new civilian constitution.”
Erdogan welcomed the movement’s international influence and media support. With its endorsements, he achieved real gains. He sidelined the military. He moved Turkey’s laws significantly toward European Union norms. The economy flourished, as he pushed privatization and investors from abroad poured money into the country. The A.K.P. built hospitals, roads, bridges and luxury shopping malls. Turkey had been so dysfunctional, and so undemocratic, that many of these initiatives were necessary.
Eventually, however, they seemed like a power grab. Around 2007, the A.K.P. and Gulenists in the judiciary and the police force put hundreds of journalists and former military generals on trial, charged with being members of a Kemalist “deep state.” Much of the evidence appeared to have been manufactured by Gulenists. At the same time, many Turks were beginning to believe that the intelligence wing of the police force was wiretapping the phones of journalists and businessmen. Erdogan himself bullied the corporate owners of media outlets, and hundreds of journalists were muzzled or fired. And in 2010, a referendum on the Constitution revamped the judicial system to favor the judges affiliated with Erdogan and Gulen. Instead of reforming the state, the A.K.P. appeared to be capturing it.
Yet the Erdogan-Gulen media machine, suffusing the landscape with the rhetoric of freedom and progress, managed to portray Erdogan as the very incarnation of democracy. In 2011, Erdogan won his third national election with nearly 50 percent of the vote, which he took as a mandate for the Erdoganization of everything.
One of Erdogan’s third-term promises was a package of vast construction projects, and he quickly got to work. Turkey is run like a city, where the prime minister can control local projects as if he’s playing in his own private Legoland. An earlier venture he endorsed, for example, was Miniaturk, a park in Istanbul. It is a scaled-down version of the country’s major historical sites (the Hagia Sophia, for one, is nose height), and it seemingly embodies Erdogan’s aesthetic vision for Istanbul: a theme-park parody of itself. He started construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus, which meant removing a million trees. He flirted with a plan, known as the Crazy Project, to build a second Bosporus, as well as a second Istanbul, the promos for which looked liked something out of the 1927 Fritz Lang film “Metropolis.” Then he announced a new project for Taksim Square.
Taksim, in the center of the city’s European side, is considered the heart of Istanbul. The square itself surrounds tiny Gezi Park and is covered with concrete and filled with traffic, but the absence of buildings offers at least a sense of free space. Erdogan wanted to close the square to cars, build tunnels for them beneath it and replace Gezi Park and its rows of sycamore trees with a giant shopping center designed to look like Ottoman-era military barracks. Putting anything Ottoman-like in Taksim, a symbol of the secular republic, felt like an assertion of Erdogan’s neo-Islamic identity. In terms of scale and presumption, it would be as if Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, tried to erect a five-story shopping mall in Bryant Park with facades like blinking Bloomberg terminals.
Except Erdogan wasn’t the mayor of Istanbul. And he wasn’t consulting his constituents there. Far from it: When a local committee composed of academics, historians and municipal appointees unanimously voted against the plan, he simply had another committee made up of his own bureaucratic appointments override the vote. This, to Turks, was what his rule had come to mean.
Osman Can, a constitutional scholar who is on the A.K.P.’s executive committee, says Erdogan’s ability to act unilaterally is a byproduct of Turkey’s highly centralized political structure, in which all decisions are made in Ankara. “The governors are appointed by the central government, so they are not elected,” Can says. “The mayors are elected, but Ankara also controls the mayors. Normally the mayor would decide things in a city. But if the prime minister happened to be interested in a park, the mayor can’t resist him.”
The A.K.P. is the rare party that has made important changes to democratize Turkey, Can says, but the system established a century ago by Ataturk and his followers limits those advances. “It was a conscious choice of Ataturk,” he says. “They wanted to control everything, they want to change the people, change the minds, reformat people. How could they do this? A decentralized system? No. An independent judiciary? No.” The only limitation, Can says, “is the reaction of the people.”
And the people reacted in a surprising and organic way. Many of the protesters in Istanbul last year were not activists. They were apolitical verging on apathetic members of the middle class, whose parents, traumatized by coups, taught them to stay out of politics. Radicalization happened quickly. Guzin, a 35-year-old lawyer who didn’t want me to use her last name, was a typical case. A week after the police cleared Gezi Park of its occupants, I met her in the Taksim neighborhood of Cihangir.
“My father is a supporter of Erdogan — he is in love,” she said. “My parents also had not been happy about what happened to religious people in the 1990s, when women couldn’t wear the head scarf — my mother covers — and Erdogan had fought for their rights. But it’s more that my father likes all the things that capitalism brings; every time I go to my village, he says, ‘Look at the roads, look at the factories, look at the health care.’ He doesn’t see the negative. And he was really angry when I told him I was protesting.”
Guzin had heard that some 50 environmentalists, in a city of 15 million people, in a country of 80 million, had pitched tents in Gezi. “When I read about Gezi Park, for the first time I said, ‘We should do something,’ ” she told me. “I got like five people, and we just went and sat on the grass. There were some tents, but it wasn’t that crowded. I had wanted to see so many more, like 5,000 people. So I was a little disappointed, and we went home.”
Around 4 the next morning, the police lit tents on fire. Guzin said that when she read about it in the newspaper the next day, she thought: They have no right to do that. They don’t even have the right to take the tents.
“I got really angry,” she said, “and I called all my friends and said, ‘Come on, let’s go again.’ We knew they had used tear gas before, so we went to the pharmacy to get masks, and they said: ‘O.K., get ready, bring water, put on your gas mask. And come back safe.’ We thought, What is happening? Then we saw a huge crowd walking toward Gezi Park. And suddenly I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even put my mask on.”
Guzin continued: “I started to breathe again, thankfully, but I saw the water cannon, and I was scared, and people got panicked. I kept checking behind me to see if it was going to hit me, and it did. But then I thought, O.K., we passed this, we can survive it. And I became braver. We went back maybe 10 times that night. When everyone in the neighborhoods began banging pots and pans from their windows for us, I was going to cry. I thought, Wow, we are doing something good.”
Within a week, the activists’ tiny sit-in spread to 70 cities. The occupation of Gezi Park lasted 19 days. In Istanbul, on the evenings the riot police stayed away, thousands of people — Kurds and nationalists, gays and soccer fans, secularists and leftists — streamed into the square to celebrate what was a historic act of state defiance. It was utterly leaderless. One Kurdish demonstrator told me, “Perhaps the only thing that could have brought all of these warring groups together was something as innocuous as a park.”
Many participants described their time in Gezi Park as a first brush with political consciousness. In the early 2000s, the Turkish people experienced what they were told was a democratic opening. Now they wondered whether something was being taken away from them, or whether that democracy was a mirage. The protesters showed a global audience that Turkey’s new wealth was a distraction from the realities of injustice and one-man rule. And the cacophonous utopia that bloomed in the park served as a rebuke to the blandly baroque language of neoliberal democracy and family-values conservatism that the A.K.P. and Gulenist media had so skillfully deployed. As one activist named Zeynel Gul explained to me, Gezi wasn’t Occupy, Syntagma or Tahrir — referring to the protests in New York, Athens and Cairo — it was “all but none.” Erdogan, meanwhile, called the protesters “terrorists” and “looters” and declared that a conspiracy was opposing him.
From Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen chastised both the prime minister and the protesters. “We need to handle them in a smart way,” he said in a video on his website. “If you are facing an invasion of ants, you can’t disregard it, thinking that they are ‘ants.’ ” The Gulenists do not support street protests, and they, like Erdogan, believed that armed groups had joined the demonstrations in Gezi Park — but Erdogan was making Turkey look bad.
The quarrel between the two allies had been slowly brewing for years. It was financial, ideological and moral, but it was mostly about power. The Gulenists didn’t like Erdogan’s sudden transformation into a hero of the Arab street. In 2010, when the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara tried to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza, the Gulen sympathizers were against, as they put it, “confrontation.” “What I saw was not pretty,” Gulen said in a rare interview with The Wall Street Journal. “It was ugly.” More important, Gulenists seemed to oppose Erdogan’s ways of resolving the 30-year-old conflict between Turkey and its disenfranchised Kurds. In 2012, prosecutors who were assumed to be Gulenists subpoenaed a Turkish official who had been negotiating with Kurdish leaders and who also happens to be the head of Turkey’s national intelligence organization. Erdogan was enraged by the Gulenists’ meddling.
Fundamentally, Gulenists disagreed with Erdogan’s political tactics. “Gulen doesn’t cultivate influence through top-down reforms,” says Hendrick, who lived among the Gulenists for more than a year while researching his book about Gulen. “They encourage social change by winning hearts and minds through media, through education and through competitive market performance.”
Erdogan attacked the Gulenists at that level. In November, his plans to close the college-exam-preparation schools, many of which are run by the Gulen movement, became public. Closing a multimillion-dollar industry has more than financial ramifications; those schools are where the Gulen movement recruits members. Erdogan, Hendrick says, is “going after the existential nature of the movement by destroying its human resources.
Three weeks later, the Gulenists struck back. (On Twitter, someone posted a doctored picture of Gulen holding a lightsaber.)
In mid-December, the authorities, presumably Gulenist sympathizers, brought corruption charges against the businessman sons of three A.K.P. ministers and several businessmen tied to Erdogan, including his son, Bilal. Millions of dollars were said to have been suddenly discovered in shoe boxes in a closet belonging to the chief executive of a bank. Shady gold-for-oil schemes with Iran were exposed. Bribery for construction projects unexpectedly came to light. Corruption is an open secret in Turkey, but the A.K.P. had been untouchable. When Erdogan asked the ministers to take the fall and resign, one of them said publicly that most of the construction projects had been approved by Erdogan.
Since then, Erdogan has declared that the Gulenists’ corruption charges constitute a conspiracy against him by a “parallel state.” To obstruct the investigation, he has purged thousands of supposed Gulenists from the police forces and reassigned the prosecutors on the corruption cases. Last month, the Gulenist Journalists and Writers Foundation held a news conference in Taksim Square and denied that Gulen sympathizers made up a parallel state with intelligence capabilities. One speaker there nevertheless made it clear that the movement wanted Erdogan to go: “In England, Margaret Thatcher lost touch with the people at the end. In the United States, even a popular politician like Bill Clinton cannot serve three terms.”
Are the Gulenists a parallel state, or a hierarchical minority faction with some self-serving ambitions, like interest groups in any society? Hendrick says that “groups coming from the same educational or religious networks and gaining positions of authority in the state — for the United States, this is normal. In Turkey, where the state has not been open to all, it is conspiratorial.” Osman Can says their presence in the judiciary is a “violation of state sovereignty.” The Gulenists’ opacity makes it difficult to tell whether they seek to control Turkey. Nonetheless, that they are able to exercise any power at all resulted from the same forces that allowed Erdogan to come to power, as well as made it possible for thousands of Turks to occupy a park — because Turkey had opened up to them.
But Erdogan no longer has use for his country’s nascent inclusiveness. With his electoral mandate, he seems to believe he embodies Turkey himself. It is very likely that his core constituents, those who still love the man they call the Conqueror, will cast their votes for the A.K.P. in this spring’s municipal elections. Erdogan’s public vengefulness, however, may well wreck the economy, wounding the vulnerable people he once claimed to speak for. When he lashes out during public appearances — most recently describing his critics as members of a “losers’ lobby” — many Turks feel as if they are seeing the fractured future of their country.
In a way, Erdogan’s bad year is a result of a liberalizing society clashing with an inherently illiberal Turkish system. The Turkish Model — the idea that the A.K.P.’s softer vision of Islam was compatible with democracy — suggested a way forward for Middle Eastern countries. But Turkey’s biggest problem, its authoritarian structure, has little to do with Islam. The state remains a tool for accumulating disproportionate power, and when threatened, it sacrifices its citizens to save itself. If a prime minister can co-opt the laws and the media, and if a self-interested group can prosecute trials of dubious legality, and if the citizens have nowhere to express themselves but in the streets, then the state institutions are broken. Someday Erdogan will be gone, but Turkey’s system will still be a work in progress. Democratization takes a long time, and as Gezi Park and other global movements have proved, part of the process is figuring out what kind of country its citizens want.
The activist Zeynel Gul touched on this feeling when he said to me about Gezi Park: “It was important for us to experience that kind of life. If you were hungry, the food was free. If you were wounded, someone would carry you to the emergency tent. If you needed a lawyer, he is always there. Gezi gave us a powerful sense of a world based on solidarity and equality, which we could not imagine before. No one can take away what we experienced in the park.”
Suzy Hansen is a contributing writer for the magazine. She lives in Istanbul.
The real disaster in the Middle East is that even countries like Egypt and Turkey cannot function without US supervision – or maybe it would help them if the US does inded retreat from any involvement in the region and let the locals bleed till they find a solid ground for Sustainability. Syria is only the sad playing ground for inside and outside elements. Egypt and Turkey have the potential of being stabilizing factors but lack a unified National civil society – the requirement for drmocracy.
The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Columnist
The Egyptian Disaster
LONDON — In Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry talked for a long time about Iran. He talked for a long time about Syria. He talked for a very long time about Israel-Palestine. And he had nothing to say about Egypt.
This was a glaring omission. Egypt, home to about a quarter of all Arabs and the fulcrum of the Arab Spring, is in a disastrous state. Tahrir Square, emblem of youthful hope and anti-dictatorial change three years ago, is home now to Egyptians baying for a military hero with the trappings of a new Pharaoh to trample on the “terrorists” of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet, in a speech devoted to rebutting what he called “this disengagement myth” — the notion that a war-weary United States is retreating from the Middle East — Kerry was silent on a nation that is a United States ally, the recipient of about $1.3 billion a year in military aid (some suspended), and the symbol today of the trashing of American hopes for a more inclusive, tolerant and democratic order in the Middle East.
The silence was telling. The Obama administration has been all over the place on Egypt, sticking briefly with Hosni Mubarak, then siding with his ouster, then working hard to establish productive relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and its democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, then backing the military coup that removed Morsi six months ago (without calling it a coup) and finally arguing, in the words of Kerry last August, that the military headed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi was “restoring democracy.”
This “restoration” has in fact involved a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, named a terrorist organization on Dec. 25, and on anyone not bowing to Sisi, whose brutal new order has left well over 1,000 people dead. It has involved the rapid adoption of a Constitution drafted by a 50-member committee including only two representatives of Islamist parties, so providing a mirror image of the problems with Morsi’s Islamist-dominated drafting process.
The Constitution won the approval this month of 98.1 percent of voters, a back-to-the-future number recalling Saddam Hussein’s “elections.” In fact this was 98.1 percent of the mere 38.6 percent of Egyptians who voted: Most Egyptians are either cowed in fear (the Brotherhood) or despairing (the Twitter-generation youth who ignited the Tahrir revolution) or reduced to apathy: So much for inclusiveness.
Egypt is the most vivid illustration of the American disengagement Kerry sought to rebut. Saudi and Emirati billions deployed behind Sisi have been more telling than America’s paltry billion, or its training of Egyptian officers, or its pious expressions of backing for an Egypt offering equal rights to all citizens regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity or political affiliation. America has watched and wavered as the most important Arab society lost its revolution to the familiar, arid juxtaposition of the military and Islamists (all of them now “terrorists” to the baying pro-Sisi crowd.)
This Egyptian debacle is a significant strategic failure for the United States, and of course, like red lines that proved not to be so red in Syria, it has sent a message of American retreat. It seems inevitable that Sisi will now run for president and win with some back-to-the-future number. If he does not run whoever does will be no more than his puppet.
David Kirkpatrick, my colleague in Cairo, said it all in this brilliant, depressing lead: “Thousands of Egyptians celebrated the third anniversary of their revolt against autocracy on Saturday by holding a rally for the military leader who ousted the country’s first democratically elected president.”
Mohamed Soltan, a 26-year-old American graduate of Ohio State University whose Egyptian father belongs to the Brotherhood and who was detained in Cairo in August, is one victim of that military leader. He wrote a devastating letter to President Obama, recently made public by his family. Soltan sits in a “packed underground cell,” being operated on for gunshot wounds without anesthetic by a doctor who is a cellmate wielding pliers, wondering if “today is going to be the day Americanness counts” and “the Egyptian authorities will have no choice but to treat me like a human being.”
Soltan is still waiting. As are the many Egyptian people who wanted to move toward a more open society, not back to one of countless political prisoners.
I was in Cairo in early January. Out at the Great Pyramid in Giza there was not one Western tourist. I went for a camel ride out of pity for the many camel owners doing zero business. The tourism industry, once an economic mainstay, is in tatters. It reflects the abject state of a great nation.
There is plenty of blame to go around — for Obama, for the hapless Morsi, for the paranoid power-grabbing Muslim Brotherhood, for the controlling military. But above all I blame the squabbling Egyptian liberals who fought for Mubarak’s ouster but did not give democracy a chance.
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As a preparation for this meeting I would like to propose an old Jan Pronk article of Maastricht, 1.5.2007, that starts:
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE
by Jan Pronk
www.merit.unu.edu/.../200705_JanPronkM...?United Nations University ]
Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall the then UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Galil, drew the attention to the need for a new paradigm in international policy making: there is no peace without development and there is no development without peace. It may sound as a truism. However, it had been ignored during the Cold War between East and West as well as during many years of lukewarm peace between North and South in the aftermath of decolonisation.
The neglect of this truism had already become clear during the discussions about the conclusions presented by the Brandt Commission in the two reports North- South: A Programme for Survival (1980) and Common Crisis: Cooperation for World Recovery (1983). These reports dealt with issues concerning development, poverty and new relations between North and South, a new international economic order. They reflected a new philosophy: interdependence between nations, mutual dependencies resulting in a common interest of all nations, not only in order to establish recovery, but also to manage development and even to guarantee survival. The reports claimed that all nations shared a global responsibility for world social and economic development. A world public
sector was advocated, parallel to orderly international market operations, in particular in energy, food, trade in general as well as in finance. This was complemented by the statement that there was a need for world institutional reforms. Would all this be possible? Yes, as Willy Brandt said in the preface to the report: ‘One should not give up the hope that problems created by men can also be solved by men’.
This programme has not been implemented. Why not? Maybe the minds were not yet ripe. The confrontation between East West during the Cold War did not create a climate in favour of global cooperation. There was not yet a feeling of global communality.
There was a second reason as well. The world economic recession of the second half of the seventies and the eighties was not conducive to new approaches. Instead countries followed a pattern of adjustment to what was felt as the economic reality. This adjustment took place through expenditure cuts, rather than investments resulting in growth and development. This led to an economic philosophy consisting of elements which were not in accordance with those proposed by the Brandt Commission: market liberalisation, deregulation, a smaller public sector and more reliance on unbridled market mechanisms.
In the second half of the eighties and in the nineties the world has changed drastically. There was the end of the Cold War, followed by a new phase of globalisation. The new chances for world peace after the Cold War were a big boost to world economic growth, benefiting both the US, the countries of the former Soviet Union as well the countries in Eastern and Western Europe. The economies of these countries were benefiting from a fast and intense globalisation following the opening of national borders. There was a new mutuality of peace and economic progress. Could it be extended towards developing countries as well?
Can Iran be made Salon-Clean before it came out clean in its nuclear posturing? Can Russia succeed with Sochi without first taking clean attitudes on Islamists of all stripes? Do we enter new areas that need SUSTAINABILITY?
The following is by now old hat but we decided to post it anyhow – this because it is still the base for understanding the surrealism of the Syria Geneva II meeting that just started with a Montreux, Switzerland, introductory.
The best reporting we know is that from Matthew Russell Lee reporting from the UN Security Council door:
We believe that Iran belongs to the meeting – so do the Kurds. But Geneva I deemed that the meeting is basically between the Assad government of Syria and a “UNIFIED” opposition delegation that in reality does not exist. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), that is headed by Mr. Jarba is a Saudi/Qatari pupp.et – they are backed only by half of the Turkey based leadership, and do not include the Kurdish held territory at all. That is the Turks’ contribution to the Syrian/Iraqi mess.
To start making sense Iran will have to come clean on its nuclear dealings with the West – so the US will allow them participation at the Syrian table and this is what we mean by making themselves Salon Clean. Without this there is no progress in their relations with the UN and the West on any issue. They may think that time is in their favor and might try to play as outsiders against everyone at the Geneva table.
Russia on the other hand does not have the luxury of time – this because of the Sochi winter games and surprise – their internal nemesis are training now in Syria and the US might just decide that if the Russians are not supportive of the West’s goals in the Middle East – why play their ski slopes at all? That would be a terrible set-back to ambitious Mr. Putin.
The drama is thus that nobody gives a damn about Syrian lives when pursuing their own particular goals and our true cynicism is revealed in the greater interest we saw in the Davos World Economic Forum meeting then in any of the Middle East negotiations.
U.N. Invites Iran to Syria Talks, Raising Objections From the U.S.
The announcement by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, that he had invited Iran to a peace conference to end the war in Syria drew strong objections on Sunday from American officials, who suggested that Iran had not met all the conditions for attending and that the invitation might need to be withdrawn.
At the heart of the dispute is whether Iran has accepted the terms of the talks, which begin Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland: to establish “by mutual consent” a transitional body to govern Syria. Mr. Ban said he had been privately assured that Iranian officials “welcome” those rules and that they had pledged to play “a positive and constructive role.”
American officials said they had been in regular communication with the United Nations over the requirements Iran would need to meet to be invited, but they appeared to have been caught off guard by Mr. Ban’s hastily organized news conference. They pointed out that Iran had not publicly accepted the formal mandate for the conference, which was agreed upon in Geneva in 2012 and is known as the Geneva communiqué.
“If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Officials in Washington emphasized that Iran had made no such public statement at the time of Mr. Ban’s news conference. It was expected to release one early Monday.
If Iran has accepted the Geneva terms, it would be a sharp turnaround, since it has long insisted that it will participate in talks only if there are no preconditions. Still, such a shift would not necessarily mean Tehran had accepted that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.
Some 30 countries have been invited to Montreux for what may be a largely ceremonial opening day of the peace talks. Two days later, Syria’s government and opposition delegations will move to Geneva to continue the deliberations, mediated by a United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Diplomats and Middle East analysts say that if there are any breakthroughs, they will take place in Geneva. The negotiations are not expected to yield major results, except perhaps to open up certain parts of Syria to the delivery of humanitarian aid, which has been long denied.
Iran’s participation has been a subject of intense diplomatic wrangling for several weeks. Mr. Ban and Mr. Brahimi have insisted that Iran, given its considerable influence over the Assad government, should be part of the negotiations. So has the Syrian government’s other major ally, Russia.
The United States has long been wary of Iran’s intentions. Tehran has been one of the Assad government’s staunchest political and military supporters, sending arms to Damascus and encouraging Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, to join the fight on the side of Mr. Assad.
As recently as last Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Iran was, effectively, a belligerent in the conflict.
“Iran is currently a major actor with respect to adverse consequences in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said. “No other nation has its people on the ground fighting in the way that they are.”
On Sunday, Ms. Psaki added in her statement, “We also remain deeply concerned about Iran’s contributions to the Assad regime’s brutal campaign against its own people, which has contributed to the growth of extremism and instability in the region.”
Iran’s inclusion has the potential to turn the Syria peace talks into a platform for intensifying Middle East conflicts. Also represented will be Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival.
Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Iran’s presence “seems to widen the circle of regional involvement.” But he also noted that Iran and the United States could be expected to hold diametrically opposed views as to whether Mr. Assad must give up power.
“Given that Iranian forces and their Shia militias are deployed on the ground backing up Assad, it means another Assad backer will be present at this meeting,” Mr. Tabler said.
Syria’s political opposition said in a Twitter message that it would not attend unless Mr. Ban withdrew Iran’s invitation.
“The Syrian coalition announces that they will withdraw their attendance in Geneva 2 unless Ban Ki-moon retracts Iran’s invitation,” the Twitter message said, quoting Louay Safi, a coalition spokesman.
The ultimatum came just a day after the coalition, facing a boycott by a third of its members, had voted to send a delegation to the peace talks. The opposition has been under intense international pressure, including from the United States government, to participate.
Mr. Ban said Sunday that he had spoken extensively with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening-day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June, 2012, Geneva communiqué,” Mr. Ban said.
“Foreign Minister Zarif and I agreed that the goal of the negotiations is to establish by mutual consent a transitional governing body with full executive powers,” he added. “It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.”
Somini Sengupta reported from New York, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.
The Poet Rumi, a Secular Islam meeting in Florida, an Iranian-American businessman Freydoon Khoie is campaigning for a new Muslim World.
Many who attended issued a declaration at the end of the summit. While many of the clauses of that declaration are in tune with Islam and its teachings, there were others that clearly are based on faulty and presumed premises (e.g. submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights). The fact is that mainstream Muslims do not believe that any of it’s teachings violate human rights – rather Islam came and through its principles and teachings, it protected the weak, elevated the status of women, lay down rules for protection of minorities in Muslim lands and many other such principles.
The text of the declaration issued by the “Muslim Secularists” read as follows:
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.
We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.
We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.
We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.
We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.
We call on the governments of the world to:
Reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights; eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence; reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims; and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.
We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy like it is practiced in Iran.
We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.
We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.
Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.
Now reluctant to return my country under the tyrannical regime, I formed Sood Industries in Los Angeles, and started my CNC machine tools business. The Registered Trade Mark was FreeMax Precision Machine Tools. By 1990, we had expanded into PC business, and we were selling IBM PCs to our customer base in California to CAD/CAM software sector which was a bundling strategy with our CNC machine tools to capture greater market share, and this led me into computer business which I took it one step further and decided to build my own PC brand and since East Asia was the place to go for cheap labor, I picked Singapore as our production base. By now, I had sold my IPC company in Tehran and had become an international entrepreneur.
In 1990, I established IMI Electronics in Singapore and started building IMI Computers into a global PC brand. Our principle activities involved the assembly, packaging, marketing and sales and distribution of microcomputer-based products as well as application specific products such as point-of-sale terminals and network systems. IMI’s broad product lines were distributed under “IMI” brand, through a wide network of appointed distributors and dealers to more than 38 countries around the world.
With $53 million confirmed orders for 1994 and projected sales of $80 million for 1995 and growing sales subsidiaries in Europe, Middle East, and our own East Asian markets, Australia and Iran, the company was attacked by a $2 billion conglomerate IMI PLC., ( a UK based Company) alleging Trade Mark infringement and after a protracted legal tussle and plenty of dirty tricks by them, we lost the and I learned a great lesson in trade mark protection. I restructured the company under UBIQ Computers and relocated our operations to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Brisbane, Australia and a year later in 1997 I sold the company and started planning my next move.
In 1997, having been away from Iran for 24 years, I decided to go back and explore business opportunities. The arrival experience was horrific. Finding my flourishing and rapidly progressing country of 1975 in a state of utter repression, poverty, depression, chaos and criminality was much painful but still I was hoping to find a way to help our people in any way possible. In my first month, I realized that the national car – Paykon – had no air conditioning and people in the heat of Tehran’s horrible summer were suffering. My quick research indicated that there was a niche market which I jumped on the opportunity and few months late I formed Neekon Automotive in Tehran, and invited Japanese Sanden Corporation to design an application specific A/C for Paykon and in matter of months I launched an aggressive marketing campaign and started selling our A/Cs, but just as I was warned by friends, the corrupt elements in the government owned Iran Khodro, the manufacturer of Paykon, attacked my company, demanding that I should give them our technology, and making all kinds of threats that if I refuse they will prevent us doing business. I could not believe my eyes that bunch of thugs and criminals were actually in charge of our greatest industries like Iran Khodro, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Commerce that so blatantly and openly acted like communists and crushed private sector initiatives. After couple of years of confrontations I realized that everything said about this regime was true and the only solution for saving Iran was and is a total abolition of the Islamic Republic Constitution and removal of the state from power and establishing a new, multi-party, secular and modern democratic political system. So I closed down my businesses and decided to relocate to Dubai in the year 2000 right after our son was born.
I found Dubai to be absolutely the best of both worlds. A wise and forward looking leadership, tolerant and open minded had turned Dubai into a model state for all Muslim countries as center of excellence. The first thing I did was to establish Maxam Publishing House to produce two monthly English business magazines: The Middle East Entrepreneur and Digital Executive, and decided to get settled in this beautiful, business friendly, corruption free, dynamic country and since then I have built number of companies that form the Khoie Group today. Having identified the construction boom in Dubai and UAE, I formed such companies as Khoie Power, Khoie Trading, Khoie Properties, Khoie Education, Khoie Industries, and Khoie Media with variety of ventures and projects in the service of community and by 2011 we reached our $1 billion market valuation and growing.
In the meantime, like all other nationalist Iranians, I have been watching with deep concern the disastrous mismanagement of our country and her continued social and economic decline and political isolation and I have lend my support to the progressive green movement and other pro-democracy forces seeking change and reform in Iran to put an end to the mullah’s tyrannical rule and establish a secular, liberal democratic political system in which individual liberties, free market and peace are guaranteed to all citizens.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad Balkh?, also known as Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad R?m?, and more popularly in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.