TCA Distributes $100,000 to Syrian Refugees in Turkey

 

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Refugee children in Şanlıurfa, Turkey, wearing their new winter coats

I’m passing this article on from TCA’s website. Clothes, money and education are probably the most powerful weapons the West can employ to combat terrorists:

“As of December 2016, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has distributed $100,000 in humanitarian grants to Syrian refugees in Turkey, marking the conclusion of TCA’s Syrian Refugee Matching Campaign launched in the summer of 2016. TCA would like to thank the Turkish American community and friends of Turkey for their generous donations to the campaign. Humanitarian grants were given to fund specific project requests from local organizations working directly with refugees on the ground in Turkey including: Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Butun Cocuklar Bizim Dernegi (All Children Are Ours Foundation), and Sureli Destek (Periodic Support).

“With the TCA grant, Butun Cocuklar Bizim Dernegi and Sureli Destek provided winter clothing and boots to over 1,000 children in Batman and the Fatih, Okmeydani, and Kucukcekmece districts of Istanbul. They also provided refugee families with food, hygiene products, school supplies, heating supplies, and transportation support to refugee families. Thanks to the grant, Sureli Destek will be able to continue providing aid to families for the next five months.

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Children working on art projects at ReVi’s school in Izmir; and wearing knitted products from families in ReVi’s knitting program

“ReVi is currently supporting 400 families in the Basmane, Kadifekale, and Ikicesmelik districts of Izmir and has recently opened two schools that serve over 120 children ages 5-12. TCA’s humanitarian grant supports teacher salaries, rent, school supplies, food and hygiene products, materials for bracelets and knitted products, and renumeration for families involved in ReVi’s bracelet making and knitting program. Bracelets and knitted products can be purchased through their online store at http://revistore.org. TCA’s grants will allow ReVi to continue its operations for the next four months.TCA has previously made significant humanitarian donations to victims of natural disasters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Philippines, Haiti, and Mexico as well as to Chaldean refugees in Turkey who were displaced by the wars in Iraq.”

Visit the TCA website

WTF? – Some thoughts on money, banking and global slavery

swiss-bankingHats off to the Swiss! I never thought I’d see the day when an initiative to reform money and banking originated in in that little haven for the world’s mega-rich to stash their ill-gotten gains! Just goes to show how much things have changed/are changing!

I hope and pray promoters of the move can get the message across to enough of their fellow citizens before the referendum is held – and I imagine they will have plenty of opposition. The Swiss have this nifty system whereby, if a petition carrying enough signatures is presented to their parliament on any issue, it automatically triggers a national referendum.

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Working for sovereign money

The Vollgeld Initiative did just that – and the government is now committed to asking their people whether they want to remove from private bankers the right to create money. Well, you can bet those bankers won’t let that happen without a hell of a fight! If our experience in New Zealand with the referendum on electoral reform is any indicator (and I’m sure it is), the forces of established finance and capitalism will focus all their considerable might on retaining their inalienable right to rip off their fellow earthlings to feed their own greed.

No date has as yet been set for the referendum – and no doubt large sacks of Swiss francs will be expended by interested parties on mounting a huge propaganda campaign to persuade Swiss voters that supporting the Vollgeld Initiative will herald in the end of the world as we know it. Others might argue that would not be altogether a bad thing!

Up until the 1980s we had a political party in New Zealand committed to doing exactly what those Vollgeld people want to do. The Social Credit movement won twenty-one per cent of votes cast in our 1981 General Election, but was denied fair representation in parliament by the ludicrously undemocratic electoral system operating in those days. Nevertheless, shocked out of their complacency by the strength of public support, the forces of reaction combined to deprive Social Crediters of even their minimal parliamentary representation and effectively wiped out the party as a voice for change.

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NZ today – Paradise lost

According to Knight Frank Research, New Zealand now has “the world’s most frenetic property market”, with houses in Auckland selling for an average of $NZ 1 million. Young New Zealanders starting out in life are naturally unhappy they can’t afford to buy a house – something that previous generations took for granted. They are blaming, with some justification, foreign (and local) “investors” for driving up prices. But check this out: an article in the NZ Herald finance section noted, more or less as an aside, that “banks are having to borrow more money on the international market to fund their lending because of a slow-down in retail deposit growth.” So, can someone please explain why banks in New Zealand have to borrow US dollars (I suppose) from abroad and convert them into NZ dollars to lend to people in their own country?

Point One: Banks do not lend the money deposited in accounts to other borrowers. They actually create new money for lending by means of the fractional reserve system (see below).

Point Two: I understand that, if I want to import goods from abroad into New Zealand, I will probably have to use some internationally accepted currency – or work out some kind of bilateral agreement (see below). I totally fail to see, however, why I should have to borrow foreign currency from an offshore bank, and convert it into NZ dollars for spending on something, such as a house, that already exists in my country.

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Good as gold?

The United States government is currently holding in custody an Iranian gentleman with Turkish citizenship, Reza Zarrab, on charges of money laundering. The charges relate to transactions that came to light in December 2013. It seems that Zarrab was facilitating a deal involving the Iranian and Turkish governments, a major Turkish bank, and a large amount of gold, with the aim of circumventing a United States trade embargo on Iran.

Well, certainly it’s not a nice thing to go behind your friend’s back and make deals to his detriment – but let’s look at the background. The United States slapped trade sanctions on Iran in 1979 after an Islamic revolution ousted the Shah, a US puppet who had ruled the country since a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. The revolution came after 26 years of misrule during which the rights of most Iranians were subordinated to the interests of the United States oil lobby and a local elite. The Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, 52 American diplomats were taken hostage and held for 444 days, President Jimmy Carter’s reputation was irreparably tarnished, and anyone who wanted to remain friends with America was obliged to cut ties with Iran.

Turkey and Iran are next-door neighbours. They are Muslim countries and their people have a history of close ties going back millennia. They are natural trading partners, and both have goods and services the other needs and wants. Turkey complied with the US’s trade embargo for decades, at considerable cost to its own economic well-being. It’s not always easy, however, for America’s allies to know what they have to do to keep Uncle Sam happy, since his government has a record of switching allegiances and stabbing former allies in the back to suit the short-term interests of its financial backers.

Increasingly, sovereign governments are looking at ways of implementing bilateral deals with trading partners to avoid having to use American dollars and comply with self-seeking American restrictions. Russia, China, and now Turkey all seem to be looking into this very sensible strategy.

Nevertheless, they have to be careful. It may look like common sense, but the present world financial order was set up for a reason – and it wasn’t just to facilitate international trade, and certainly not to improve the lot of the common man and woman in every corner of the globe. The international financiers who control most of what goes on in the world have ways of enforcing compliance with their will, or at least of punishing governments that fail to comply.

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Migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Spot the Arab

The United States government propped up financially and militarily the despotic 29-year regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. When an Arab Spring uprising forced Mubarak’s removal, and Egypt’s first democratic election chose a Muslim to replace him (as you might expect an overwhelmingly Islamic country to do), the mavens of global finance withdrew their support, precipitating an economic crash that led to Mohammed Morsi’s ousting and the reinstatement of a military junta.

Venezuela, possessor of the world’s second-largest oil reserves, is currently experiencing a disastrous economic crisis largely as a result of plunging oil prices. Global oil prices are at their lowest levels for fifteen years, primarily because of the US transforming itself from an importer to an exporter of crude oil. Why would they risk the enormous long-term environmental damage of the oil fracking process? The US has a long history of interfering to ensure the failure and collapse of socialist governments in Central and South America. US-friendly Saudi Arabia can see out a period of low oil prices. Most of their labour force are indentured workers from impoverished Asian nations – unlike Venezuela, whose government has been trying for years to improve the lot of its own poorest citizens.

Turkey’s currency has taken a hammering in recent months on international “money markets”, losing more than 25% of its value since September. My theory is foreign interests opposed to Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan supported local factions in their coup attempt on 15 July. Frustrated by its failure, the attack has turned to a slower but possibly surer method – attacking the nation’s currency to create economic hardship and strengthen local opposition to the AK Party government. For his part, Mr Erdoğan has encouraged citizens to show faith the Turkish Lira and sell off any stockpiles they may have of Yankee dollars.

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F*** the government and the country – buy dollars!

Interestingly, soon after the presidential appeal, a large advertising hoarding appeared in a major thoroughfare near us, urging people to do the opposite, to buy foreign currency! I did my civic duty and complained to the metropolitan council – and the ten-metre billboard has now been removed.

But to return to the Swiss banking reform movement. The people behind the Vollgeld Initiative have set up a website providing answers to crucial questions. Here’s a brief summary:

What is sovereign money?

Most people believe that the money they have in their bank accounts is real money i.e. real Swiss Francs (or pounds Sterling etc). This is wrong! Money in a bank account is only a liability of the bank to the account holder, i.e. a promise the bank makes to provide money, but it is not itself legal tender. 

What would change with the Swiss Sovereign Money Initiative?

The way the money system works today doesn’t comply with the intention of the Swiss Constitution (Article 99: “The Money and Currency System is a matter of the State”). 

What are the fundamental advantages of sovereign money?

Sovereign money in a bank account is completely safe because it is central bank money. It does not disappear when a bank goes bankrupt. Finance bubbles will be avoided because the banks won’t be able to create money any more. The state will be freed from being a hostage, because the banks won’t need to be rescued with taxpayers’ money to keep the whole money-transaction system afloat i.e. the “too big to fail” problem disappears. The financial industry will go back to serving the real economy and society. The money and banking systems will no longer be shrouded in complexity, but will be transparent and understandable.”

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I admit it – It was me!

A recent article in The Economist, while predictably coming out against the proposed monetary reform, nevertheless does provide a delightfully simple analogy to illustrate how the present system works:

“Children are sometimes reassured that new siblings arrive via friendly storks. The reality is messier. Money creation is much the same. The ‘stork’ in this case is the central bank; many think it transfers money to private banks, which act as intermediaries, pushing the money around the economy. In reality, most money is created by private banks. They generate deposits every time they make a loan, a process central banks can influence but not control. That alarms some, who worry that banks use this power heedlessly, thereby stoking disruptive booms and busts.

Campaigners in many rich countries want to strip private banks of the power to create money. In Switzerland members of the “Vollgeld Initiative” presented the government with enough signatures in December to trigger a national referendum on the subject. Bank deposits, they point out, make up some 87% of the readily available money in Switzerland, vastly exceeding notes and coins. Since money creation is the main fuel of both inflation and growth, they argue, it should not be in private hands, let alone entrusted to institutions that are prone to binge and purge.”

Simple enough, huh? If I were you, I’d cut and paste those two paragraphs into my next blog post so that all my readers could learn the truth.

The War on Terror – Could we possibly try a different approach?

You find a good deal of unadulterated donkey droppings in most of the mainstream media these days on the (in their view at least) related topics of terrorism, Islam and the Middle East. So it was with feelings of surprise and relief that I chanced upon a balanced and insightful piece in our very own New Zealand Herald, beloved daily rag of my hometown Auckland.

asymmetric-by-ted-rallRichard Jackson, deputy director at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago (nice to see that some universities manage to fund departments that probably don’t attract a huge amount of commercial sponsorship!), was speaking with a Herald reporter, Scott Yeoman. Mr Jackson said he was expecting more terrorist attacks on Europe and the rest of the world so long as world leaders continued to respond in the predictable and clearly unsuccessful ways they have been doing over the past fifteen years (and maybe longer). These responses include increasing security, intensifying military attacks on areas of the world where we think the terrorism is coming from, increasing restrictions on civil liberties, increased surveillance and the targeting of Muslim communities, and the introduction of “draconian” legislation’‘the only thing that has achieved,’ he said, ‘is more terrorism.’

Well, it’s not an original observation, but good on Richard Jackson for doing his best to keep the message out there in the public eye. We don’t hear so much these days about asymmetrical warfare – but it’s a concept we would do well to keep in mind. It’s fine and dandy for American Presidents to sound off about the cowardly nature of terrorist attacks – but when those presidents have the technology and the shameless gall to assassinate foreign citizens in their own countries without declaring war; and bombing those countries back to the Stone Age if they dare to object, it’s pretty clear that face-to-face combat in the traditional sense is only going to have one result. Check out what happened to Iraq after George Dubya’s ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ in 2003 if you have any doubts.

Despite George the Son’s continued belief in the righteousness of his nation’s actions, there are undoubtedly Iraqi citizens who believe just as strongly that they have grounds for taking revenge. Possibly some Afghans too, one or two Iranians and Palestinians, possibly a few Egyptians . . . who knows? They may even feel strongly enough to wrap some explosives around their waist and blow themselves to a better world, taking a few others with them. Even if we can’t see the logic in such actions, we should attempt to understand the desperation that drives human beings to such extreme measures. You may remember that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ got under way in December 2010 when a young man in Tunisia torched himself in protest at his country’s dictatorial government. I can’t imagine the anger, frustration and helplessness that drove 26 year-old Muhamed Bouazizi to immolate himself in public – and I hope to God I never have to find out.

Asymmetrical-WarfareWhy should we try to understand these people? Simply because, as Richard Jackson points out in the interview, it is extremely difficult to defend against attack by a human bomb, who doesn’t care if he/she lives or dies.

Sad to say, the overwhelming signals we get on mainstream news media, and from Presidential hopefuls in the lead-up to the US election later this year is that the message is not getting through. I’m not going to waste words addressing the mindless outpourings of billionaire Donald Trump. Even Republican Party members in the USA seem to be having doubts about the wisdom of turning him loose in the Oval Office.

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I’m warnin’ that Ayatollah Khomeini!

But who’s Number Two for the GOP? I was astounded to read reports of a speech by Ted Cruz where he asserted that, as president, he would rip up the Iran nuclear deal ‘on day one’. ‘Hear my words Ayatollah Khomeini,’ he is reported as saying, ‘if I am president and Iran launches a missile test, we will shoot that missile down.’ Now that’s scary! Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah’s government, actually departed this world in 1984. Admittedly his replacement, Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, has a surname that, to the ordinary culturally-deprived US citizen, may look confusingly similar – but political hopefuls aspiring to leadership of the free world have had 32 years to sort out the difference. After all, we lesser mortals are expected to distinguish between Teddy and Franklin D Roosevelt; not to mention the George Bushes, father and son. How difficult is it? At least those Iranian guys have plenty of other first names, and we don’t have to focus on a ‘Dubya’. Thank heavens Hillary Clinton is a woman, or we’d have serious problems.

While we’re on the subject of Iran, I see in the news that a young citizen of the world, Reza Zarrab, has been arrested in the United States on charges related to the evasion of US sanctions against that country. The actual charges specify money-laundering and bank fraud – but there can be little doubt about the real reason the US government is pursuing yet another foreign national (think Julian Assange, Kim Dotcom).

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So, whose criminal is he, exactly?

Interestingly, anti-government fanatics in Turkey have apparently taken to their beloved social media offering rewards to the American judge who refused bail to Mr Zarrab. Well, it’s not easy to find out what’s actually going on in the world these days, if it ever was, with all the conflicting stories. Certain background information, however, seems to me necessary for an understanding of this business. First, those trade sanctions were imposed in 1979 after an Islamic revolution overthrew the government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who had been re-installed 27 years earlier by a CIA-sponsored coup d’état. Oil-poor, NATO stalwart Turkey especially suffered economically from those sanctions, which they had loyally and selflessly supported for 30 years. There have been suggestions that Turkey’s AK Party government was involved in shady dealings with Mr Zarrab – but of course, if those dealings were aimed at evading morally questionable US trade sanctions, they would, of necessity, have been conducted out of the public eye – and would have required transactions in some medium other than US dollars.

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Wonder if the US administration has considered a drone strike to take him out

Well, I have neither the time not the interest to pursue further the case of Mr Zarrab. I would like to turn briefly, however, to another surprising news item: the announcement by Russian President Putin that he would be withdrawing his military forces from Syria. Russian planes have been bombing the bejabers out of Syrian opposition troops that have been waging a civil war for five years against President-for-Life, Bashar al Assad. Now, I have mixed feelings about Vladimir Putin – but you can’t deny that the guy does what he thinks best for his country. In this case, he apparently felt the need to make a point that no one has the right to overthrow a country’s government other than the citizens of that country themselves – and it’s hard to dispute that, whatever arguments United States administrations may advance to the contrary. You assassinate Saddam Hussein, and what do you get in his place?

But I began with the subject of terrorism, and to that subject I wish to return. Another rumour the anti-government gossip-mongers in Turkey have been putting about lately is that Mr Erdoğan and his people are somehow working with the terrorists. They claim that they knew about the recent bombing in Ankara, but did nothing to prevent it. Which begs the obvious question: why would a democratically elected government connive in the murder of its own innocent citizens? I know some Americans believe George W Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks – but can he really have been that evil? In fact, it seems that Turkish police were expecting an attack on the Prime Ministerial HQ in Ankara, and turned back a suspicious-looking vehicle – whereupon the occupants decided to cut their losses and detonate. More plausible, at least to anyone not totally committed to blackening the AK Party government.

More interesting, it seems to me, is the news that two cabinet ministers in the Belgian government offered their resignations after it was announced that Turkey had arrested and deported a DAESH militant who turns out to have been one of the suicide bombers involved the March 22 attacks. Turkey had done its job, as requested by EU countries, to turn back militants trying to cross into Syria. They had returned Brahim El Bakraoui to his country of origin, with a warning that he was a militant, and apparently he had also ‘broken terms of his parole from a nine-year sentence for armed robbery’. In spite of Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens’ admission that ‘we missed it’, his boss, Prime Minister Charles Michel, has decided not to accept the resignations.

I would have thought that, in the circumstances, ordinary Belgians would be baying for the resignation of PM Michel – but on the contrary, it seems that everyone is full of sympathy. Not much sympathy for Turkey, however, I gather. The tourism sector has already been hard-hit by Russia’s decision to keep its citizens at home in their frozen wasteland rather than allow them to take their customary shopping trips to Istanbul, or sunshine breaks on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast; and European warnings that Turkey is now a dangerous place for its citizens to visit.

Not only tourists, it seems. On Wednesday the Dutch government announced that it was ‘temporarily’ closing its consulate-general in Istanbul because of a ‘possible terror threat’. Well, pardon me for saying, I think that’s pretty pathetic! I would expect high-level foreign diplomats to show a little more backbone – especially when nothing’s actually happened to them yet. Turkey’s own diplomatic HQs abroad were targeted in a sustained campaign of terror by Armenian fanatics in the 1970s and 80s – but as far as I know the Turks toughed it out, and kept their offices open.

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Nice place! Wonder what they do there all day?

Still the Dutch are following a precedent set by the Brits in the early years of the millennium. After a couple of bombings in Istanbul in 2003, in which their own consul-general was unfortunately killed, the Brits built an impenetrable wall around their palatial consulate, and permanently ceased carrying out any of the normally expected consular services: visa issue, passport renewal, etc. I’m curious to know what they do there these days. The British Council, purveyors of English language teaching to benighted heathen the world over, also closed their Turkish operation in sympathy, leaving the Turks to get on with the job in their own inimitable fashion.

Well, at least the Turks retain their sense of humour. A couple of local newspapers, possibly in retaliation, advised their readers, I assume with tongue in cheek, ‘Don’t go to Europe’. But as far as I am aware, Turkey’s embassy in Brussels remains open for business.

NATO launches naval patrols to return migrants to Turkey

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Germany’s ‘Einsatzgruppenversorger’ on a humanitarian mission

 

The Guardian, the UK’s proudly ‘left wing’ news outlet reports that Europe’s United States-led military alliance NATO has sent three warships, ‘backed by planes’ to ‘intercept migrants trying to reach Greece by sea and send them back to Turkey.’

After an apparently unanimous and unusually speedy decision, the patrol will be led by the flagship of the German navy, and will include a Canadian frigate, I assume to show that Europe has broad international backing for its action.

At the same time, NATO’s Norwegian secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, was quoted as saying, ‘This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats.’ I wonder what it is about then. The words of the NATO boss, from his enlightened Scandinavian nation, seem somewhat at odds with the reality of warships rushing to the Aegean Sea backed by air support.

Synod On The Themes Of Family Is Held At Vatican

Cardinal Marx speaking up for Christian values

Well, I guess we are pretty used to the hypocrisy of Western governments. Not so long ago, Angela Merkel was ready to commit Germany to doing its bit for the refugees. Now, however, as her local approval level has taken a battering, sending in the navy to stop the flow seems to have become her preferred option. No doubt she will be comforted to know she has the support of the Catholic Church, whose leading German cardinal, Reinhard Marx, recently called for a reduction in the number of refugees his country accepted.

A Path to ISIS, Through a Porous Turkish Border

Not so long ago, its Western allies were criticising Turkey’s government over its ‘porous border’ with Syria, and accusing it of failing to stem the flow of foreign fighters using Turkey as a route to enter Syria and join ISIS/Daesh. These ‘jihadists’ were not Turkish, mind. In fact several thousand of them originated from Western countries – but Turkey was apparently to blame.

UN urges Turkey to open borders, end to bombing of Syria’s Aleppo

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Send them back to Turkey – that’ll solve the problem

Now it seems, the same border needs to be opened to allow another influx of refugees, this time fleeing from the Syrian city of Aleppo, as Bashar Assad’s military, with Russian support, continue aerial bombardment. The United Nations are urging Turkey, in the name of humanity, to take in thousands of Syrians queuing at the border, to add to the more than 2.5 million that have already entered since civil war broke out in Syria nearly five years ago.

By the way, you might also notice the ambiguity of that headline. If you didn’t already know who was doing the bombing of Aleppo, you would have to read well into the article to learn that it is a Russian air campaign, and nothing to do with Turkey.

U.S. Pursued Secret Contacts With Assad Regime for Years

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Assad and US Under-secretary for political affairs, William Burns. Trust the US? Sure can!

The Wall St Journal this week reported that the US Obama Administration began tying to instigate the overthrow of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria in 2011. They didn’t say that this is what started the civil war in that country, but we may like to draw that conclusion. The WSJ article goes on to say that when the US’s attempts to precipitate an overthrow from within came to nothing, they began to support the rebels in 2012. Again there is no mention of military support – but how have those rebels managed to maintain the war for four years without running out of bullets, rockets etc? There is no way Turkey is rich enough to have provided military supplies at that level.

On the other hand, the USA, in 2010, had completed the biggest arms sale ever when they provided a $60 billion package to their Saudi Arabian friends. More recently, in 2014, they sold $11 billion worth of attack helicopters and missiles to Qatar. Both of these Arab states have been major suppliers of arms to the Syrian rebels. Who’s going to tell me the Obama Administration didn’t know where that stuff was going?

Effort to limit violence and get president to relinquish power failed

By Nour Malas and Carol E Lee Dec. 23, 2015

The Obama administration pursued secret communications with elements of Syria’s regime over several years in a failed attempt to limit violence and get President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, according to U.S. and Arab officials.

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Bringing peace to the Middle east

Early on, the U.S. looked for cracks in the regime it could exploit to encourage a military coup, but found few.

The efforts reflect how President Barack Obama’s administration has grappled to understand and interact with an opaque Middle East dictatorship run for 45 years by the Assad family.

Unlike the secret White House back channel to Iran, however, the Syria effort never gained momentum and communication was limited. 

This account is based on interviews with more than two dozen people, including current and former U.S. officials, Arab officials and diplomats. Most of these contacts haven’t been previously reported.

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Whose bombs? And with whose approval?

In 2011, as the regime began to crack down on protests and soldiers began to peel away from the army, U.S. intelligence officials identified officers from Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect who potentially could lead a regime change, according to former U.S. officials and current European officials.

“The White House’s policy in 2011 was to get to the point of a transition in Syria by finding cracks in the regime and offering incentives for people to abandon Assad,” a former senior administration official said.

But regime cohesiveness held, and the crackdown continued.
 In August 2011, Mr. Obama publicly called for Mr. Assad to step down. The administration’s core message never strayed from the U.S. line that Mr. Assad ultimately has to step down. But instead of persuading Mr. Assad to exit, the covert communications may have fed his sense of legitimacy and impunity.

That helped fuel the current wrangling among world powers over the Syrian leader’s future in any settlement. It also hampered the effort to consolidate the international fight against Islamic State.

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Syrian refugee family on Istanbul street

By the summer of 2012, the White House strategy of orchestrating regime change had failed. The U.S. moved to support the rebels.

The rise of Islamic State in 2013 caught the U.S. administration off guard. Mr. Assad found in it a better opening to position himself as a partner in a fight against terror consuming the region, and rippling to the West.

By 2014, when the U.S. expanded airstrikes against the militants from Iraq to Syria, State Department officials were making phone calls to their counterparts at the Syrian foreign ministry to make sure Damascus steered clear of U.S. jets in Syrian skies, U.S. officials and others familiar the communications said.

Today, when Washington wants to notify Damascus where it is deploying U.S.-trained Syrian fighters to battle Islamic State so the fighters aren’t mistaken for rebels, Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., dispatches a deputy to talk to the Syrian envoy, Bashar Jaafari, these people said.

The White House says the notifications are not collaboration with the regime. But Mr. Assad has used them to his advantage. Read the whole article

The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

I am reblogging this stunning review of a book detailing the organisational role of the United States and the CIA in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Have you noticed how little has actually changed in the Middle East since the ‘democratic’ upheavals of 2011?

Arabesque$, an update of Ahmed Bensaada’s 2011 book L’Arabesque Américaine, concerns the US government role in instigating, funding and coordinating the Arab Spring “revolutions.” Obviously most of this history has been carefully suppressed by the western media.

arabesque-The new book devotes much more attention to the personalities leading the 2011 uprisings. Some openly admitted to receiving CIA funding. Others had no idea because it was deliberately concealed from them. A few (in Egypt and Syria) were officially charged with espionage. In Egypt, seven sought refuge in the US embassy in Cairo and had to be evacuated by the State Department.

Democracy: America’s Biggest Export

According to Bensaada, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Arab Spring revolutions have four unique features in common:

1. None were spontaneous – all required careful and lengthy (5+ years) planning, by the State Department, CIA pass through foundations, George Soros, and the pro-Israel lobby.*.
2. All focused exclusively on removing reviled despots without replacing the autocratic power structure that kept them in power.
3. No Arab Spring protests made any reference whatsoever to powerful anti-US sentiment over Palestine and Iraq
4. All the instigators of Arab Spring uprisings were middle class, well educated youth who mysteriously vanished after 2011.

Source: The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

Downton Abbey, Military Coups and the New Turkey

Have you noticed that the ages people tend to consider milestones in a human life-span don’t actually change much at all? You turn 30 – oh no! you think. That’s the end of my youthful irresponsibility. As of today I have to become a mature adult. But in fact you don’t feel any different from the day before when you were 29 years and 364 days. You hit the big 4-oh – and it’s not as bad as you’d feared. What changed? Very little.

The fear really kicks in when you get to 34 or 45. Then you are obliged to face the reality that the next milestone is . . . and that is scary.

‘Downton Abbey’ has become quite a big thing in our household for the last year or so – that teddibly teddibly English drama series dealing with life in the rigid socio-economic strata of a Yorkshire stately home a century or so ago. Lord Grantham is a blue-blooded aristocrat whose main purpose in life is preserving his inherited title, property and lifestyle for succeeding generations. If he has a philosophy it can probably be summarised as ‘God’s in His heaven, the laird’s in his castle, Mrs Patmore’s in the kitchen – all’s right with the world.’

My daughter's marrying an Irish chauffeur?

My daughter’s marrying an Irish chauffeur?

The 20th century had dawned some years previously. 1 January 1900 had come and gone with little to disturb the great chain of being. The venerable Victoria had sat 63 glorious years on the imperial throne before handing over to her sagaciously bearded, solid-looking son Edward (born in 1841). Motorcars had appeared on the scene, but in as yet manageable numbers, retaining the height, cabinetwork and brass trappings of horse-powered carriages; and had yet to impact on equestrian culture.

The real shock was yet to come – and it came with the Great War; the conflagration later to be known as World War I. It wasn’t so much the appalling toll of death and injury. What really ushered in the new century was the social upheaval brought about by the flood of new technology, and the demolition of social barriers between men and women, and social classes.

By Downton’s fifth season, Lord Grantham is starting to lose his way in a labyrinth of previously unthinkable societal changes. His eldest daughter is a youthful widow; his middle daughter has a child out of wedlock . The youngest married the chauffeur before dying and leaving the family with their child as an unbreakable link. Downton Abbey itself is taken over for the war years as a hospital for wounded servicemen. Once idle rich women experience the personal fulfilment of meaningful work and service to others. Young men of all classes fight side-by-side, seeing friends and enemies of all classes burst open to reveal blood, bones and organs equally horrific and disgusting. Many of them come to question whether the war had truly been fought for freedom, or for less noble economic motives. By the time a radio is accepted into the big house and Lady Cora flirts with a male guest, it has become clear that the old world has passed. Whatever was may have been right – but it no longer is.

The Dowager Lady Grantham sums up the whole business in one of her inimitable observations: ‘All this endless thinking – it’s very overrated. I blame the war. Before 1914 nobody thought about anything at all.’

Well, I know I haven’t really said anything new here. It’s no discovery of mine that the First World War marked, for better or worse, the true beginning of the 20th century. As I write this, however, seated at my desk in Istanbul on Tuesday 19 May 2015 I am enjoying a day off work thanks to Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. On this day, 96 years ago, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, as he was then, disembarked from a ship in the Black Sea city of Samsun. Sultan Mehmet VI was still sitting, albeit precariously, on the throne of the Ottoman Empire. He had charged the young general with overseeing the disbanding of the imperial army, as required by the Treaty of Sevres.

Out with the old - in with the new

Out with the old – in with the new

The pasha didn’t do it. Instead he set about organising a nationalist movement which, four years later, had driven the invading Greek Army out of Anatolia, persuaded the occupying British forces to quit Istanbul, abolished the 600-year Ottoman Empire and supervised the foundation of the modern republic. But what was the nature of that new entity? Its population was less than 14 million. Ten years of virtually uninterrupted war had decimated the young male demographic. 76% of the people lived in rural areas. There was virtually no manufacturing or heavy industry, or mechanised agriculture. Another result of the wars was that Christian citizens, who had filled important sectors in the Ottoman economy, had left, replaced by dispossessed, impoverished refugee Muslims from Greek lands.

It would be a mistake to equate the terms ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’. Turkey held its first truly democratic election in 1950. Three-and-a-half coups d’état [1] between 1960 and 1997 replaced elected governments with military regimes. After the coup of 1980, 650,000 citizens were detained under martial law, 50 were executed and 171 died under torture, not counting the 299 who died in prison from undetermined causes. Newspapers were closed for 300 days, 30,000 civil servants were removed from their jobs; some 30,000 people fled the country and 14,000 had their citizenship revoked.

The architect of that bloody period in Turkey’s history was Chief of General Staff, Kenan Evren, who died two weeks ago at the age of 97. There was much debate over the question of a state funeral for a man who had held the position of President and Head of State for nine years – given that he had recently been convicted for his crimes, demoted to private and sentenced to life imprisonment[2]. He did get an official funeral in the end, but none of the main political parties sent representatives; and Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç was quoted as saying, ‘May God bless everyone who deserves blessing’ – possibly implying that Private Evren’s status with the Almighty was open to doubt.

In America's view, at least. The good old days in Turkey!

In America’s view, at least. The good old days in Turkey!

When I first came to Turkey, the 1980 coup was still relatively fresh in some people’s minds. My teacher colleagues assured me that it had been a necessary intervention to end a period of internecine political violence; that the army had a sacred duty to uphold the Turkish Republic – and there are some in the country who still, overtly or covertly, hold to that position.

More recently, however, some of the assumptions that seemed to be accepted as akin to gospel truths in the 1990s have been overturned, or have just quietly disappeared. As a result of two lengthy and wide-ranging court cases, the role of the military in Turkey seems to have drawn back from active participation in the political process, to a more conventional one of protector against threats from outside. Women choosing, for whatever reason, to cover their hair with a scarf, are permitted to study at universities or work in public and private sector jobs. The existence of two large ethnic or religious minorities, Kurds and Alevis, has been acknowledged and steps taken to allow them to participate fully in the life of the nation. Related to this process, the very name of the republic has become a matter of debate: the ‘Turkish Republic’ implying a homogeneous ethnicity – the ‘Republic of Turkey’ having more inclusive connotations.

Nevertheless, there are those who, for reasons of their own, refuse to accept that these changes are necessary, and persist in accusing the government of working against democracy. The leader of the CHP political opposition recently suggested that there was little to distinguish the present government from the military regime of the 80s. Well, political rhetoric often tends to exaggeration, but even Mr Kılıçdaroğlu must be aware that, had he made such criticism of Kenan Evren and his henchmen back then, at the very least he would have found himself missing a few fingernails, or nursing seriously battered feet.

Go ahead - google it!

Go ahead – google it!

That was a different world, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Turkey was on the frontline of NATO’s Cold War and left wing political activists were considered an unacceptable threat to its security. The existence of the stay-behind Gladio organisation and its covert operations in countries throughout Europe is now so well-documented as to be irrefutable. It was employed by successive United States governments to ensure the continuation of ‘friendly’ regimes in countries as diverse as Iran, Chile, Turkey and Nicaragua.

Covertly orchestrated regime-changes are known to have taken place from the 50s through to the 80s – and who’s to say they are not still happening. If Gladio agents could foment street violence in the 1970s to justify military intervention, who’s to say they, or their post-modern equivalents wouldn’t do it again? The enemy may have changed from communists to Muslims – but if the methods work . . . The US government and the European Union are tying themselves in contortions of sophistry to avoid applying the label of military coup to the ousting (and now threatened execution) of democratically elected Muhammed Morsi in Egypt. The US’s Arab friends in Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates are performing surrogate roles in Syria and Yemen. You might think we are in the early stages of World War III – except as far as I am aware, no one has actually declared war on anyone.

Maybe that’s another sign that the world has changed.

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[1] That of 1997 is often referred to as the ‘post-modern’ coup, avoiding the use of tanks, torture and other bloodshed

[2] The sentence is currently under appeal