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Archive for the ‘Conflict in the Middle East’ Category

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

O-I-L? No. G-A-S

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2015

We used to say that the Iraq War was about O-I-L. Now it seems that the Palestine conflict may largely be about G-A-S.

Michael Schwartz, The Nation:

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies.

Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza’s coastline. As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area.

An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that “most” of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay “within Israeli territory.” In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and the Palestinians.

We covered this story on April 21, 2010.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 1 Comment »

Speaking of Avi Schlaim…

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2014

Speaking of Avi Schlaim, he has a new column in The Guardian:

Five days after reaching a ceasefire with Hamas to end the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the Israeli cabinet decided to appropriate 988 acres of land on the West Bank, near the place where three Israeli teenagers were recently abducted and murdered, to make way for another illegal Jewish city. This is the biggest land grab in three decades. As the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, pointed out: “It was a decision that weakens Israel and damages its security.” What it proves, if further proof is needed, is that Israel’s leaders are determined to prevent a two-state solution to the conflict.

What did Israel gain by unleashing the deadly firepower of the IDF against the caged population of this tiny coastal enclave? Virtually nothing. Israel had in fact provoked this crisis by its violent crackdown against Hamas activists on the West Bank following the murder of the three teenagers. Hamas rocket attacks – the ostensible reason for the war – were a response to Israel’s aggressive security measures.

Hamas had more solid reasons for rejoicing…. Despite the intense military pressure, Hamas’s spirit did not break and its popularity skyrocketed.

it is time to remove from Hamas the terrorist tag. This is a powerful weapon in the propaganda war but useless in the quest for peace. Hamas is indeed guilty of terrorism but it is also a legitimate political actor, having won a fair and free election in 2006.

Israel’s policy towards Gaza since the unilateral disengagement in 2005 has consisted of the systematic violations of international humanitarian law, duplicitous diplomacy and large doses of brute military force. With chilling cynicism, Israeli generals speak of their periodic incursions into Gaza as “mowing the lawn”. This policy has manifestly failed to procure the security that Israel’s citizens deserve. The writing is on the wall. A new and more constructive policy is desperately needed.

Realistically, there are only two roads before Israel. The first, the one it is on, is to commit genocide and remove the Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank, hurling them into one of the unstable states in the region (like Syria) that is unable to protect its borders. The second, the one that most of Israel’s friends have been imploring it to take, is to stop trying to solve political problems with military hardware: negotiate a real and just settlement with the Palestinians that will end the hardship in the Occupied Territories and put the Palestinians on the road to prosperity and self-determination. When the average Palestinian says, Israel behaves justly and with concern for us as human beings, would-be terrorists will have no purchase on Palestinian society.

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

Israeli Policy Reaches New Heights of Incoherence/Updated

Posted by Charles II on September 1, 2014

Israeli policy has reached new heights of incogherence. Jeffrey Heller, Reuters:

JERUSALEM, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared “state land, on the instructions of the political echelon” by the military-run Civil Administration.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” a State Department official said in Washington, calling the move “counterproductive” to efforts to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June.

The military carefully named “the political echelon” as the source of this order. Kol Yisrael, Israel Radio, is the official government radio station.

Now, consider. There’s nothing in this report to indicate that the people from who this land was stolen were in any way responsible for a crime. Israel is punishing the innocent, which will of course provoke more anger. Therefore, we can either believe that Israeli wants more violence from Palestinians so that it can direct disproportionate force against them, or that they think that grabbing land will resurrect the dead. The former would imply that the Netanyahu government is terminally corrupt, so the only charitable interpretation is the latter.

But both alternatives represent equally incoherent policy on the part of the government.

A good day to remember Avi Schlaim‘s piece, excerpted here.

More explication of the motive for this land grab from Haaretz via Al Jazeera:

The intention of appropriating the land is to create territorial continuity between the Green Line and settlements of Beitar Illit, Kfar Etzion, and Gvaot,” Haaretz reported. “The announcement is the latest in a series of plans designed to attach the Etzion settlement bloc to Jerusalem and its environs.”

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 4 Comments »

Anglo-American policy in the Middle East explained

Posted by Charles II on August 31, 2014

I received this from a friend.

Just in case you are confused by what is going on in the Middle East, I have obtained this simple explanation of the UK Government’s apparent position:

We support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS. We don’t like ISIS, but ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia whom we do like.

We don’t like Assad in Syria. We support the fight against him, but ISIS is also fighting against him.

We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.

So some of our friends support our enemies, some enemies are now our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they could be replaced by people we like even less.

And all this was started by Blair siding with Bush and invading a country to drive out terrorists who were not actually there until after we went in to drive them out.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iraq war, Just for fun | 4 Comments »

Read these

Posted by Charles II on August 13, 2014

Blame Turkey for arming ISIS.

[This is not to say Turkey is primarily to blame. This sounds like a narrative to blame Turkey for something the US either approved or acceded to.]

How US destroyed Iraq

Patrick Cockburn on ISIS.

And especially this:

In the face of these failures Iraq’s Shia majority is taking comfort from two beliefs that, if true, would mean the present situation is not as dangerous as it looks. They argue that Iraq’s Sunnis have risen in revolt and Isis fighters are only the shock troops or vanguard of an uprising provoked by the anti-Sunni policies and actions of Maliki. Once he is replaced, as is almost certain, Baghdad will offer the Sunnis a new power-sharing agreement with regional autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds. Then the Sunni tribes, former military officers and Baathists who have allowed Isis to take the lead in the Sunni revolt will turn on their ferocious allies. Despite all signs to the contrary, Shia at all levels are putting faith in this myth, that Isis is weak and can be easily discarded by Sunni moderates once they’ve achieved their goals. One Shia said to me: ‘I wonder if Isis really exists.’

Unfortunately, Isis not only exists but is an efficient and ruthless organisation that has no intention of waiting for its Sunni allies to betray it. In Mosul it demanded that all opposition fighters swear allegiance to the Caliphate or give up their weapons. In late June and early July they detained between 15 to 20 former officers from Saddam Hussein’s time, including two generals. Groups that had put up pictures of Saddam were told to take them down or face the consequences. ‘It doesn’t seem likely,’ Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadists, said, ‘that the rest of the Sunni military opposition will be able to turn against Isis successfully. If they do, they will have to act as quickly as possible before Isis gets too strong.’

It would be a really good time to cut a deal with Putin, Assad, Abbas, and Rouhani, and get back to the business of repressing the really dangerous people in that part of the world. Too bad we don’t have a Congress intelligent enough to see this.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq war, Russia, Syria, terrorism | 6 Comments »

More stating the obvious

Posted by Charles II on July 30, 2014


RABBI HENRY SIEGMAN: Yes, it’s [the invasion/bombing of Gaza is] disastrous. It’s disastrous, both in political terms, which is to say the situation cannot conceivably, certainly in the short run, lead to any positive results, to an improvement in the lives of either Israelis or Palestinians, and of course it’s disastrous in humanitarian terms, the kind of slaughter that’s taking place there. When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the slaughter of—repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis—and should be a profound crisis—in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success. It leads one virtually to a whole rethinking of this historical phenomenon.

The whole interview is fascinating and well worth the time. There’s a basic problem at the root of the Palestinian conflict. Jews have a legitimate reason to want a state as protection against religious/ethnic persecution. But the essence of desiring justice for the historical–and ongoing– ill-treatment of the Jewish people is desiring such justice for all people, even those one considers enemies.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 4 Comments »

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