Thieves Falling Out? What’s going on with Qatar?

media liesWhy do I follow the mainstream news media? It’s simple. I know they are trying to con me. I know they are telling half-truths, and hiding important information from me. Reading between the lines, however, gives me important clues as to what questions I should be asking to find the answers I really need to know.

So . . . This week I learn that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are cutting ties with oil rich neighbour and former friend Qatar over “alleged support for terrorism”. Well, good for them, you might think. Great to see high profile Muslim countries taking initiative to stamp out this curse currently plaguing the world.

But wait up. Who exactly are the “terrorists” those dastardly Qataris are “allegedly” supporting? The terrible Taliban? ISIS/Daesh? Al Qaeda? Boko Haram? Apparently not. In fact it’s far more likely those groups are funded by Saudis. The object of Qatari affections seems to be the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, ok. They’re just as bad, aren’t they? With a name like that, they’d have to be terrorists. Certainly movers and shakers in the USA and Israel think so: the Clarion Project, the Gatestone Institute, and Israeli Stand With Us express strong opinions on the subject. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up their case with a simple, if inelegant sound byte: “It seems to me, by and large, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, maybe it’s a duck.”

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. . . or Muslims!

On the other hand, the people at Brookings say no, and there seems to be debate on the matter within Trump’s administration. Back in March, the Big DT was on the verge of issuing an executive order adding the Brotherhood to Washington’s official list of terrorist organisations – but decided to postpone the decision. Apparently cooler heads in his team were arguing that affixing the “terrorist” label would unnecessarily upset some of America’s allies in the region. Clearly, however, other “allies” are strongly in favour, especially the Saud family, the UAE (Dubai etc) and Egypt. So who’s right?

According to a BBC backgrounder, the movement (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic) was founded in 1928, and “initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.” It’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, did create “a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.” Sounds nasty, but you have to remember that, in those days, Britain was fighting a losing global war to hold on to its rapidly shrinking empire. Their plan to wipe Turkey of the map had been foiled by Kemal Atatürk; and MK Ghandi led India and Pakistan to independence in 1947. In 1956, after President Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the Brits, French and Israelis actually invaded Egypt – but were ordered out by US President Eisenhower.

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That was in 1956

You might think the Muslim Brothers had some cause for indulging in a little active resistance. Not everyone is as patient and peaceful as Mahatma Ghandi. When Hosni Mubarak stood down as President of Egypt in 2011 as a result of “Arab Spring” protests and the (probably reluctant) urging of US President Obama, he had held the position for 29 years, winning “elections” where 70-80% of his citizens didn’t bother to cast a vote. The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned from putting up candidates, but in the first genuinely democratic election in June 2012 they won a comfortable majority. Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected (and non-military) president. He lasted just over a year. In July 2013 he was ousted by Egypt’s armed forces and his place taken by military commander-in-chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Subsequently, the United States and its Western allies have been twisting their tongues into breathtaking contortions to avoid calling the military coup a military coup.

Did the US government’s henchmen have a hand in Morsi’s ousting? Of course they cover their tracks, but we do know that the US had supported Mubarak’s dictatorship, despite his abysmal human rights record. US funding made Egypt’s military the world’s 10th largest, and Egypt reversed its earlier implacable hostility to Israel. It was unlikely that Morsi would have been quite so accommodating to US Middle East policy. US aid was cut off but resumed as soon as Egypt returned to military dictatorship. Go figure, as my North American friends are fond of saying.

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Barack Obama with his Arab mates

Well, Qatar’s tiny population (2.2 million) has the world’s highest per capita GDP, its capital, Doha, is the location for TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and the country was selected by FIFA to host the 2022 football World Cup tournament. It’s not exactly a paragon of democratic freedom, but that doesn’t seem to be a major stumbling block to finding favour with US administrations. It does seem that their crime, in the eyes of their neighbours, is lending support to those Muslim Brothers.

Now don’t you think it’s interesting that just after President Donald Trump returns home from a successful visit to his country’s friends in the Middle East, a gang of those friends suddenly decide to pick on a neighbour that has been causing difficulties for the Trump administration? DT wants to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation but some of his advisors are blocking him. Is it possible he suggested to King Salman and the rest of his Arab buddies that now might be a good time to put the screws on Qatar to fall into line?

Whatever the failings of their foreign and domestic programmes, putting the screws on other sovereign states to fall into line is something United States governments are especially good at. We’ve seen what happened in Egypt. We are witnessing (again) what happens to South American nations (Brazil, Venezuela) that think serving their own people takes priority over the interests of US corporations. For all the talk about bringing American-style democracy to the world, we have seen that US administrations are far more comfortable dealing with military dictators than with elected leaders who may have to listen to what their own people are saying.

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Enlisting recruits for Al Qaeda in Yemen

And whatever may have been said in private, President Trump was only too happy to trumpet his success in clinching a deal to sell $110 billion worth of military hardware to the Saudi rulers. In case you were wondering what the Saudis are doing with all those tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, Time Magazine tells us that it is mostly being used to slaughter people in neighbouring Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, currently racked by poverty, starvation and a cholera epidemic. As if the Saudis can’t do enough damage by themselves, the US military has been making its own contribution to peace in the Middle East with commando raids and drone strikes. Tell, me please, who are those poor Yemenis threatening?

Meanwhile Turkey is struggling to persuade its own so-called Western allies to support its struggle against terrorism. Military personnel known to have been involved in the unsuccessful July 15 military coup attempt have taken refuge in EU countries, notably Greece and Germany – and those NATO friends are refusing to hand them over. Fethullah Gülen, believed by Turkey’s government to have been a key figure in efforts to overthrow them, is safely ensconced in his Pennsylvania retreat, while the US government spurns all requests to extradite him. The Pentagon, in open defiance of Ankara’s wishes, is unabashedly supplying military hardware to Kurdish separatist groups in Syria closely allied with the internationally recognised terrorist PKK.

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Supporting autocrats in the Middle East

I read an interesting book review the other day. ‘Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East’ is a collection of academic articles apparently arguing against Barack Obama’s simplistic assessment of Middle East strife that it is “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia”. So far, so good. The Ottoman dynasty ruled a multicultural, polyglot empire embracing Muslims, Jews and mutually antagonistic Christian sects for six centuries without major sectarian conflict.

Unfortunately, it seems the writers have lurched from one flawed interpretation to another. The reviewer summarises the book’s theme thus: “Behind the current turmoil lies a toxic brew of authoritarianism, kleptocracy, developmental stagnation, state repression, geopolitical rivalry and class dynamics. . . Many of the contributors,” we are told, “make the key point that lethal sectarianism and politicized identities are often manipulated by authoritarian regimes in pursuit of political gain.”

Well, it is undoubtedly true that Hosni Mubarak, for example, made good use of his 29 years as dictator of Egypt to enrich himself and his family. The academics in “Secularization” might have noted, however, that courts in Switzerland and the United States have resisted all attempts by Egyptian authorities to repatriate the tens of millions of dollars stashed by Mubarak in their banks.

The articles seem to attribute the rise of the phenomenon purely and simply to power-hungry “autocrats” in the region stoking internecine hatred for their own purposes. One writer even blames the current lawless chaos in Iraq on neighbours Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, who allegedly sabotaged Washington’s genuine attempts to create “a stable and democratic Iraq”.

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The Big DT with his Israeli mates

Well, I guess we saw in Afghanistan just how genuine was the American desire to bring stability and democracy. After using the Taliban to evict the Russian military from Afghanistan, the United States walked away and left the locals to sort out the mess by themselves – and we’ve seen the result of that. When it suited the White House, they supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Iran itself had experienced its Islamic revolution as a result of 27 years of US-supported dictatorship by the puppet Shah, installed after a CIA-sponsored coup in 1952. The Saudi royal family gained and retain their power by working with, first the British, and subsequently the United States. Much of the current conflict in the Middle East stems from the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations aka the United States, which has subsequently supported that government’s expansionist aggression against all objections by the international community.

Is this current business with Qatar just another example of local thieves falling out? I don’t think so.

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

Refugee boat

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.

TOPSHOTS-SYRIA-CONFLICT-KOBANE-JIHADISTS

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