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Archive for the ‘Conflict in the Middle East’ Category

Groundhog day

Posted by Charles II on November 13, 2015

(Image from IMDB)

Fourteen years ago, I wrote two pieces about the attacks of 9/11 and our response to them. They contained their errors, of course. But in the wake of the Paris terror attacks of today (not to mention the attack in Lebanon), I wish so very much that the most important message in them had been heard. I want to quote Stop the Spin once again:

The greatest failures, however, have been in the pig-headed approach by US (and Israeli) foreign policy in addressing the very real problems that fester in the Muslim world…. Republicans have committed evil deeds in preventing the resolution of the Palestinian crisis in Israel, perhaps the worst of which was George Bush advisor Richard Perle urging Israeli delegation to walk out during the 2000 presidential election for the [19]. That act, so profoundly disloyal to the United States, was but one of many examples of collusion between the far right of this country and religiously intolerant, i.e., anti-Muslim elements in Israel. But the problem is far broader than the right-wing of this country. Both political parties have supported autocratic regimes, including Kuwait, rather than giving preference to nations willing to institute democratic reforms. If we are not a beacon of hope for the world, who will be? As CIA Analyst Raymond Close has said,

“What worries me most, in the final analysis, is that our attacks on the targets in Afghanistan and Sudan [in 1998] were reminiscent of what we call “vigilante justice” in American folklore. This kind of policy weakens our leadership position in the world and undermines the most effective defenses we will have against the terrorist threat: a commitment to the rule of law, dedication to fairness and evenhandedness in settling international disputes and a reputation as the most humanitarian nation in the world.” [20]

Finally, there is the question of whether a “war” will defeat terrorism. Major General Julian Thompson notes the obvious difficulties of the terrain [25]. Legal analyst Jonathan Turley says, rightly, that war is something that states engage in and that declaring war on bin Laden merely magnifies him [26]. A declaration of war does not facilitate anything except the usurpation of Congressional powers by the president. This effort — to undo Constitutional protections and strip the American people of legal safeguards to their rights — is well underway. By so doing, they have poured the blood of sacrifice of American patriots from Nathan Hale to Martin Luther King, on the ground. It is a sorry truth that our elected officials would probably rather turn this nation into an armed camp than admit that they made mistakes.

The defeat that the terrorists cannot endure is a defeat in the court of Muslim public opinion. Terrorists should be treated as criminals, albeit criminals with massive firepower. If possible, they should be captured and tried for crimes against humanity. The United States should take steps to redress massive injustices in Muslim lands, including the slaughter in Indonesia, which we facilitated [27]. To reprise Raymond Close’s penetrating words: “[T]he most effective defenses we will have against the terrorist threat [are] a commitment to the rule of law, dedication to fairness and evenhandedness in settling international disputes and a reputation as the most humanitarian nation in the world.

See also Tangled Web, where I pointed out that the constant Republican attempt to undermine a Democratic president and undercut basic rights such as the right of assembly instead undermined our efforts to combat terrorism, and weakened us as a nation.

Now, 14 years later, we are still allied with regimes that support Al Qaeda and ISIS, notably Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as autocratic regimes that create the repressive conditions for Salafism to prosper, such as Egypt. We are undercutting our real allies against ISIS and al Qaeda, Iran, Russia and Syria. We have made no progress in stabilizing governments on the African continent, where wars rage in a dozen countries. We have yet to address any of the causes of grievance in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Indeed, we aggravate the grievances by keeping Guantanamo open and by subjecting Arabs and Muslims (not to mention random persons of color) to harassment.

Sure, the terrorist actions are a way of fighting back because Syria is getting pretty hot.

Groundhog Day only ends when we start thinking.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, terrorism | 2 Comments »

Talking Turkey

Posted by Charles II on November 4, 2015

James Carden, The Nation:

As it [foreign policy] has been carried out latterly, Turkey has gone from espousing a seemingly benign foreign policy to one which has been aimed at subverting the fight against Sunni radical extremism. Some [Sy Hersh] believe that Turkey was behind the horrific sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria, in August 2013, though this remains a matter of great public controversy. And only last week, The Washington Post reported that Turkey fired on the US-supported People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish forces leading the fight against ISIS on the ground.

I think there is zero chance the US will isolate Turkey, as Carden suggests should be done. If Obama is putting American Special Forces in among the Kurdish fighters, that should be a pretty strong signal.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

What could go wrong?/updated

Posted by Charles II on November 1, 2015

An increasingly authoritarian figure, who has supported ISIS, in charge of a NATO country hosting nuclear weapons.

What could go wrong?

Jon Henley, Kareem Shaheen, and Constanze Letsch, The Guardian:

Turkey’s strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, tightened his grip on power decisively on Sunday as his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) swept back to single-party government with an unexpectedly convincing win in national elections.

The high-stakes vote, Turkey’s second in five months, took place in a climate of mounting tension and violence ….

The result could exacerbate divisions in a country deeply polarised along both ethnic and sectarian lines….

With 97.4% of votes counted, the AKP had won 49.4%, the state broadcaster TRT reported, giving the AKP at least 315 seats in the 550-member parliament, more than enough to form a government on its own.

This is the environment in which that election occurred.


In Turkey, police have raided and shut down the offices of television channels and newspapers ahead of Sunday’s national election. Police fired pepper spray and water cannons at protesters outside. Turkish journalist Mustafa Kilic, who works for one of the raided newspapers, spoke out.

Mustafa Kilic: “We came to work feeling as if we are criminals. We prepared today’s newspaper under police blockade. We have mentioned it in our stories. We are under police blockade. Psychologically, we cannot work, and that is how we prepared this newspaper for print. As for tomorrow’s newspaper, today the trustees came and talked to us and said, ‘Go away if that’s how you think.’”

The US has so far not protested this blatant manipulation of the election. Although, one must say that US positioning of its troops among Kurdish fighters is one of the boldest steps the Obama Administration has taken, one that sets us squarely athwart Erdogan’s seemingly genocidal strategy against the Kurds.

Added. Kareem Shaheen, Guardian:

International observers of Turkey’s parliamentary elections have criticised the climate of violence and fear that preceded the vote, saying the security environment, arrests of opposition activists and stifling of press freedoms combined to make the campaign unfair.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is rapidly becoming a clear and present danger

Posted by Charles II on October 14, 2015


AMY GOODMAN: As many as 128 people died in Ankara, Turkey, on Saturday when nearly simultaneous explosions ripped through a peace rally in the capital. More than 245 people were injured. The bombs went off just as a large group of Kurdish groups, trade unions and leftist organizations were preparing to begin a march protesting the resumption of fighting between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants. Video from the rally shows activists peacefully chanting and holding signs in the moments before the explosions. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the Turkish Republic. Eyewitnesses described the horrific aftermath of the bombings.

AMY GOODMAN: Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the opposition HDP, or Peoples’ Democratic Party, which organized the march, described—blamed the government for failing to stop the attack.

SELAHATTIN DEMIRTAS: [translated] It is Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Even if a bird flies in the air, the state knows about it. “A bird!” This is the intelligence agency’s stronghold. There’s a rally of 100,000 people, yet there is not a single security measure—not in alleyways, not in major streets. There is not even one security measure. Let’s take a look at their rallies. Security measures start taking place from 10 streets away. Today, it’s as if they purposely let two suicide bombers inside the crowd, who wanted peace—no checking, no security. There was nothing, not enough. The suicide bomber exploded himself. There were wounded people on the ground, 500 people almost. They are not in a position to breathe. The police was given orders to throw gas bombs. The wounded are close to death. They had to fight against tear gas, too. Those who carried the wounded struggled with tear gas. They fought against the pressurized water thrown from police tactical units. One hundred dead, 500 wounded on the ground, and people had to struggle with tear gas and water. Is this your understanding of justice?

Graham E. Fuller (formerly with CIA), Consortium News:

even if Erdoğan’s intimate circle had nothing directly to do with this bombing, there is little doubt that the president has worked to create an atmosphere of xenophobia, fear, instability and anti-Kurdish sentiment that has created an ugly and violent political atmosphere not seen in decades. I worry that he might now even be tempted to create armed confrontation with Russia over Syria as a further distraction — an exceptionally dangerous move.

James Carden, The Nation:

Still worse, Erdogan, unlike Putin, is acting as a defender of the radical Islamist forces that attacked lower Manhattan on 9/11, while Russia, which our political establishment insists on seeing as enemy number one, is fighting them.

And so, Russia’s air war over Syria has, among other things, helped to make clear the continuing absurdity of our policy in the Middle East, in which Erdogan is our “ally” and Putin is our “enemy.”

President Erdogan is more and more looking like the nail sticking up, someone so focused on retaining power that he can’t see that defeating one’s enemy is sometimes less important than not destroying one’s nation.

I hope the Turks vote him out.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, crimes, terrorism | 1 Comment »

What? The Benghazi investigation was political?

Posted by Charles II on October 11, 2015

Poor Kevin McCarthy. Blamed for giving away the game that the Benghazi investigation was purely political. Now an investigator of the committee, Major Bradley F. Podliska, has filed a complaint over his firing, alleging that he was actually trying to investigate what happened and the committee impeded him.

But it gets stranger. Podliska is a Republican and plans to vote for the GOP nominee.

Even though he’s a witness to one of the most serious abuses of power that can be done by a political faction, the misuse of the investigative power of a committee to prevent finding out how Americans were killed.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Republicans as cancer | 2 Comments »

The dirtiest war/corrected

Posted by Charles II on October 7, 2015

One step closer to outright war between US and Russia. Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian:

The row threatens to further escalate tensions over Moscow’s airstrikes to support the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said his country could not endure Russian violations of its airspace in its campaign in Syria and said Russia risked “losing” Turkey.

“Nato has issued a stern ultimatum,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying ….

Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, had said earlier on Tuesday that the Russian incursions into Turkish airspace did not appear to be an accident, because the incursions had happened twice and lasted for a long time.

If Turkey shoots at Russia and Russia shoots back, Turkey can invoke the NATO mutual defense clause.

Meanwhile, ISIS is trying to score the components of a dirty bomb. Maybe they already have. Adam Johnson of FAIR analyzes the AP report and points out that the FBI states that there is no known connection to ISIS. AP just headlined it that way to sell newspapers at the expense of honesty. Jerks.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia, terrorism | 11 Comments »

Erdogan’s Islamists split

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2015

Owen Bowcott, The Guardian:

Turkey’s government is inflicting “systematic human rights violations” on its judiciary, police and media, according to a scathing report by senior British lawyers that was commissioned by one of president Erdogan’s exiled opponents.

The critical, 95 page-long survey alleges that the AK party government has interfered to produce “supine” courts, censored websites, restricted freedom of expression, stifled corruption investigations and subjected detainees to degrading treatment.

It has been written by Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, Sir Edward Garnier QC, the Conservative MP and former solicitor general, Prof Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, the director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and Sarah Palin, a barrister specialising in media law.

Their inquiry was funded by the US-based Journalist and Writers Foundation, whose honorary chairman is the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen – a former ally of Erdogan who has become a fortright critic. Last year, a Turkish court was reported to have issued a warrant for Gülen’s arrest.

The lawyers’ report focuses on Gülen’s Hizmet movement and claims that his followers have suffered systematic purges that have removed as many as 40,000 employees from public positions, led to mass arrests and in some cases periods of detention.

Last year, the ECHR handed down to Turkey 101 judgments confirming violations of human rights; only Russia lost more cases at Strasbourg.

Erdogan has chosen poorly to go after the Gulen movement. That movement has internal popularity and international credibility that Erdogan lacks. I think Erdogan is nearing the end of his rule… at least as a democratically elected leader.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 3 Comments »

Twin Narratives: The Big Lie and the Simple Truth, in the same article

Posted by Charles II on September 9, 2015

I was nonplussed today when a friend said that we were on the eve of a situation like World War I, an idea that Michael Weiner Savage has apparently been pressing. Thinking about the Ukraine, and how it has brought American and Russian troops into the same country, I thought I might agree with Mr. Weiner.

But it turns our he was talking about Syria. My friend thought it was notable that a nuclear submarine is heading in that direction. I thought it was a lot less notable since Russia has been a military ally of Syria for something like 50 years.

In the U.S. media, we see the strange phenomenon of a lie and the truth twining around one another, as illustrated thus:

W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, LA Times, tentative title Scary Russian Intervention in Syria:

U.S. intelligence has captured evidence of a significant escalation of Russia’s military engagement in Syria’s civil war, including satellite images of an apparent Russian base for staging troops and heavy equipment under construction near a port city that is a stronghold for Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say.

“It’s obviously a big concern,” one official said. “If they’re moving people in to help the Syrian government fight their own fight, that’s one thing. But if they’re moving in ground forces and dropping bombs on populated areas, that’s an entirely different matter.”

The White House said it was closely monitoring reports of Russian military operations in Syria after images of Russian-built warplanes and reconnaissance drones appeared on social media accounts belonging to Syrian opposition fighters. The pictures purportedly showed the aircraft operating near Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Idlib, like Latakia, is in the part of the country dominated by the Alawite sect, the religious minority group to which the Assad family belongs.

“Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it’s in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons or funding, is both destabilizing and counterproductive,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

In August, news footage from Syria showed updated versions of Russian-made BTR-82A fighting vehicles with Russian military markings that hadn’t been seen before in the country. A video clip from the conflict also appeared to show orders being given in Russian to a tank operator.

Also last month, a website that tracks ships moving through the strait between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean published photos of a Russian landing ship that appeared to be carrying several armored vehicles under camouflage netting and four military transport trucks. (emphasis added to identify bulls–t)

And here’s the second story, also W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, LA Times, tentative title, Russians suppoprt Syria, counter ISIS:

increased Russian involvement could extend Assad’s hold on power…

the Russian government has provided the Assad government financial support, intelligence information, weapons and spare parts for its Russian-made military equipment.

the Kremlin has long stated its support for Assad in the fight against insurgent groups, including the Islamic State militants who control large swaths of Iraq as well as Syria.

…Russia’s sole military installation outside the borders of the former Soviet Union is a Cold War-era naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus.

With the buildup, the Russians could be looking to increase their ability to resupply Assad’s forces … The Russians also could help guard the Alawite home territory ….

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, a steady stream of Russian weapons and resupply shipments have entered Syria to help Assad’s forces.

“Russia is one of Syria’s most important allies and has supplied military and political support to the Assad regime since the beginning of this crisis,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

Or, to condense it down into the lede that the article ought to have had:

Russia has been Syria’s close military ally for over 50 years. US support for terrorist groups has destabilized Syria. Russia is sending a few BTR-82A armored personnel carriers and four trucks on a landing craft barge as part of its long-standing arms transfers to Syria. There are (very unsurprisingly) Russian-built planes and drones in the one part of the country that hasn’t been overrun by terrorists, the Alawite homeland. Also, unsurprisingly, a few Russian troops who the Kremlin will call “trainers” are being sent, probably to guard the Russian port and any other installations they have there.

Now put the rest of the facts in subsequent paragraphs, and you have journalis,

There is no story here. Yes, because the Americans have failed to counter ISIS and continue to try to overthrow Russia’s ally, the Russians are taking cautious steps to support him. I think they’ll fail, and that the consequences of Assad falling will be catastrophic, potentially destabilizing Egypt and Turkey.

But this is not a Russian D-Day landing in the Middle East.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia | Leave a Comment »

A love crime, then?

Posted by Charles II on June 19, 2015

Ruth Eglash and William Booth, WaPo:

JERUSALEM — Vandals set fire Thursday to a church marking the site where worshipers believe Jesus performed his bread-and-fish miracle, in an attack that police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the arson attack resembled previous acts of vandalism by Jewish extremists who have targeted monasteries, churches, mosques and cemeteries. He said Hebrew graffiti was scrawled at the site, including a verse from a Jewish prayer reading, “False idols will be smashed.”

A possible hate crime>? So, it could be a love crime, then.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 1 Comment »

ISIS’s treatment of women: Outsourced to Echidne

Posted by Charles II on April 20, 2015

Read ’em and weep:


Part 1: The Rules for Sunni Muslim women

Part 2: Sexual Slavery and Rape of “Non-Believers”

Part 3: The Western Female IS Militants

Part 4: To be written when Echidne recovers from writing the preceding.

Posted in abuse of power, Conflict in the Middle East, evil, international | Comments Off on ISIS’s treatment of women: Outsourced to Echidne

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