Can Turkey do anything good?

I’m translating for your information an article I came across in our Turkish daily this morning

No one knows we are looking after 3.5 million refugees

On Wednesday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, participated in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The session, chaired by well-known New York Times writer, Thomas Friedman, was titled “Finding a new equilibrium in the Middle East”

davos refugees

Wilful ignorance? Or just plain ordinary ignorance?

[Others on the panel were Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, and Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister of Defence of Germany; Member of Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum.]

When Mr Şimşek mentioned that Turkey was currently hosting 3.5 million refugees from Syria, and if you included those from Iraq, the total reached 3.7 million, Friedman expressed surprise.

“Did you say 3.5 million?” he asked Şimşek.

Isn’t it rather strange that Friedman, who knows the Middle East very well, and has been writing about the region for years, wouldn’t know this figure?

Clearly, we have been unable to sufficiently publicise how many refugees we have in our country, and what we are doing for them.

Certainly, there is no excuse for Friedman’s not knowing the actual extent of the refugee crisis caused by the ongoing war in Syria. Spokespersons for the United Nations Refugee Agency have been speaking out on the issue for years and calling on First World nations to provide more assistance.

On the other hand, “experts” in the west seem to know some things about Turkey with absolute certainty:

  • They “know”, for example, that Turkey is responsible for the genocide of one-and-a-half million Armenians in 1915.
  • They “know” that Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, divided it in two, and refuses to leave.
  • They “know “that Turkey has been buying oil from ISIS terrorists and supplying them with weapons.
  • They “know” that Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country in the world.

Pretty much anything bad about Turkey, Western media are happy to circulate uncritically – but when it comes to giving credit for positive actions and achievements . . . ZILCH!

So, is Turkey at fault for not getting its message across? Or is it that Western interests don’t want to know? Draw your own conclusions.


Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel


I’m passing on in full this piece from Al Jazeera. It seems the United States is hell-bent on starting World War III (or IV, or whatever we’re up to now):

“US President Donald Trump called Jerusalem the capital of Israel on Wednesday and began the process moving his country’s embassy to the city. The move sparked global condemnation from world leaders. 

Israel occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War with Syria, Egypt and Jordan; the western half of the holy city had been captured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de-facto Israeli control. Israeli jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, is not recognised by the international community, including the United States.

The status of Jerusalem remains one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

International community position 

shrinking palestineUnder the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was granted special status and was meant to be placed under international sovereignty and control. The special status was based on Jerusalem’s religious importance to the three Abrahamic religions.

In the 1948 war, following the UN’s recommendation to divide Palestine, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state.

During the 1967 war, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, and proceeded to effectively annex it by extending Israeli law, bringing it directly under its jurisdiction, in breach of international law.

In 1980, Israel passed the “Jerusalem Law”, stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, thereby formalising its annexation of East Jerusalem.

In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 in 1980, declaring the law “null and void”.

The international community, including the US, officially regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Additionally, no country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with the exception of Russia, which announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier this year. As of now, all embassies are based in Tel Aviv.

However, on Wednesday, December 6, US President Donald Trump is expected to announce US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and direct the state department to begin the lengthy process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city, according to senior White House officials. 

The illegal Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem violates several principles under international law, which outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Palestinians in Jerusalem

west-double-standard-on-mocking-jews-muslimsDespite Israel’s de-facto annexation of East Jerusalem, Palestinians who live there were not granted Israeli citizenship.

Today, some 420,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have “permanent residency” ID cards. They also carry temporary Jordanian passports without a national identification number. This means that they are not full Jordanian citizens – they need a work permit to work in Jordan and do not have access to governmental services and benefits such as reduced education fees.

Palestinian Jerusalemites are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo – they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine. Israel treats Palestinians in East Jerusalem as foreign immigrants who live there as a favour granted to them by the state and not by right, despite having been born there. They are required to fulfil a certain set of requirements to maintain their residency status and live in constant fear of having their residency revoked. Any Palestinian who has lived outside the boundaries of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country or even in the West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there.

Those who cannot prove that the “centre of their life” is in Jerusalem and that they have lived there continuously, lose their right to live in their city of birth. They must submit dozens of documents including title deeds, rent contracts and salary slips. Obtaining citizenship from another country also leads to the revocation of their status. In the meantime, any Jew around the world enjoys the right to live in Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return.  Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of 14,000 Palestinians, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. 


Israel’s settlement project in East Jerusalem, which is aimed at the consolidation of Israel’s control over the city, is also considered illegal under international law. The UN has affirmed in several resolutions that the settlement project is in direct contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying country from transferring its population into the areas it occupies.


protesters in london

Protesters in London

There are several reasons behind this: to ensure that the occupation is temporary and to prevent the occupying state from establishing a long-term presence through military rule; to protect the occupied civilians from the theft of resources; to prevent apartheid and changes in the demographic makeup of the territory. Yet, since 1967, Israel has built more than a dozen housing complexes for Jewish Israelis, known as settlements, some in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

About 200,000 Israeli citizens live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection, with the largest single settlement complex housing 44,000 Israelis. Such fortified settlements, often scattered between Palestinians’ homes, infringe on the freedom of movement, privacy and security of Palestinians.  


Though Israel claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital, the realities for those who live there cannot be more different. While Palestinians live under apartheid-like conditions, Israelis enjoy a sense of normality, guaranteed for them by their state. 

‘US mercenaries’ hired to ‘torture’ Saudi royals

Well, I now you’ll tell me the UK’s Daily Mail is not everyone’s first choice for sourcing reliable news stories. On the other hand, I have to tell you, I’m pretty sceptical about the reliability of the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the UK’s very own Guardian and Daily Telegraph. So where does that leave us?

Saudi USAThis item is all over the web, although the source seems to be the same – some guy tweeted, twittered, or whatever whistle-blowers do these days, that Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors.”

“According to sources quoted by Dailymail, ‘Blackwater’ has been named as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.

“Lebanese authorities have unconfirmed information that the Blackwater firm is guarding Hariri and his family – not official Saudi security forces,” tweeted Michel Aoun, the President of Lebanon, last Wednesday.

A high-profile Saudi whistleblower, one who is said to have inside information, also claimed Salman has brought in at least 150 ‘Blackwater’ guards. “The first group of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Saudi Arabia a week after the toppling of bin Nayef [Salman’s predecessor as crown prince]”, he tweeted.

Saudi & hillary“One of the most important tasks of these aggregates are escorting and guarding bin Salman (especially confidential visits) and implementation of important and sensitive commands in addition to guarding the Princes and officials cut the ways their communication with the outside world.”

The source confirmed that the name ‘Blackwater’ is being circulated as the company providing the mercenaries; the controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now known as Academi.

A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi’s parent company, denied the claims. The spokesperson told Dailymail that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations. “Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,’ they said.

‘We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.’

index-1-e1510746655829When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: ‘No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.’

They added: ‘Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.’

A zero tolerance policy for violence! Blackwater! Words fail me!

So what do I take from all this? Saudi Arabia has some very serious internal ideological problems. The ruling elite have been stooges of Britain and the United States since their oil rich desert land achieved “independence” after the Ottoman Empire vanished at the end of the First World War.

Saudi Arabia contains within its borders the two holiest sites of the Muslim religion: Mecca and Medina. Their state religion is an extremist Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. A good number of devout Saudi Muslims are seriously outraged by their governing royal family’s venal relationship with the United States of America and their grasping capitalist overlords. They are further outraged by the fact that the USA has military bases on their holy land.

5b86ed125e68cba0a17be861f531442f--political-cartoons-atheismThe September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, if it wasn’t actually perpetrated by the Bush administration for their own nefarious purposes, was, at the very least, carried out by Saudi Arabian nationals, the most notorious of which was Osama bin Laden, scion of one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families.

After US President Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May this year, the Saudi government joined forces with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to implement a trade embargo on their Arab neighbour Qatar. We can be sure there were many voices within the Saudi kingdom raised against this action.

If I were a betting man I would say this is a power play within Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, supported by the United States and Israeli governments to get rid of dissenting voices and ensure that the kingdom continues to be a loyal ally and supplier of oil into the future. What do you think?

What Craziness Is Going On in Saudi Arabia?


Corruption? What are you talking about?

This piece by Eric Margolis: “a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.”

What’s going on in Saudi Arabia? Over 200 bigwigs detained and billions of ‘illegal profits’ of some $800 billion confiscated.

The kingdom is in an uproar. The Saudi regime of King Salman and his ambitious 32-year old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, claim it was all part of an ‘anti-corruption’ drive that has Washington’s full backing.

Utter nonsense.  I’ve done business in Saudi Arabia since 1976 and can attest that the entire kingdom, with its thousands of pampered princes and princesses, is one vast swamp of corruption. In Saudi, the entire nation and its vast oil revenues are considered property of the extended Saudi royal family and its hangers-on. A giant piggy bank.


What a trio!!

More mysteries arose this tumultuous week. One of Saudi’s most influential princes, Mansour bin Muqrin, died in a mysterious crash of his helicopter, an ‘accident’ that has the smell of sabotage. Another key prince, Miteb, was ousted. He was commander of the famed ‘White Guard,’ the Saudi Bedouin tribal army designed to protect the monarchy and a former contender for the throne. Meanwhile, three or four other Saudi princes were reportedly kidnapped from Europe and sent home, leading to rumors that Saudi’s new ally, Israel, was involved.

But behind all this lies the stalemated Saudi war against wretched Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest, most backwards nation. Saudi Arabia has been heavily bombing Yemen for over a year, using U.S.-supplied warplanes, munitions, including cluster bombs and white phosphorus, and U.S. Air Force management.  A Saudi blockade of Yemen, aided by the U.S., has caused mass starvation and epidemics such as cholera.

uk sells bombs to saudsWhen I first explored Yemen, in the mid 1970s, it was just creeping out of the 12th century AD.  Today, it’s been bombed back into the 6th Century.

In spite of spending over $200 million daily (not including payoffs to ‘coalition’ members like Egypt) the Saudis are stuck in a stalemated conflict against Yemen’s Shia Houthi people.  The US and Britain are cheerfully selling bombs and weapons to the Saudis. President Donald Trump has been lauding the destruction of Yemen because he mistakenly believes Iran is the mainstay of the anti-Saudi resistance.

Yemen is a horrible human rights disaster and scene of widespread war crimes.

Read more . . .

Saudi royals holidaying in Turkey


So why do you need 30 bicycles?

According to our local newspaper, Saudi Arabian Prince El Velid bin Tallal is currently holidaying in Bodrum with his wife and daughters. He has been spotted cycling around the streets near his hotel of accompanied by several large bodyguards.

The royals are staying in a luxury hotel in the Göltürkbükü area much loved by local glitterati and the paparazzi who make a living photographing and writing about them. Prince El Velid is not the richest guy in the world, but with a wealth estimated at $32 billion, he’s definitely up there with the big guns. He and his family and carers arrived at Bodrum Milas Airport on the royal Boeing 747where their 300 suitcases and 30 bicycles took several hours to unload.


The prince’s private jet and holiday luggage

It seems a bay near their hotel has been closed of for their exclusive use, where they can swim, sunbathe and anchor their 87-metre yacht Kingdom KR5. In case the hotel’s facilities are not up to expected standards, the yacht apparently has a swimming pool of its own.

Who knows – maybe we’ll bump into them at our next concert.


The Kingdom KR5

The longest occupation – the US wars in the Middle East

I’m reblogging this because you need to read it:

DONALD TRUMP’S SPEECH to the regional potentates and dictators assembled for the occasion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was generally acclaimed as eminently presidential, and rightly so. That is to say, it was firmly in the tradition of U.S. presidential addresses on Middle East policy: utterly cynical, dripping with deceit, and above all, irreversibly tied to the United States’ leading role as the chief arms merchant to some of the world’s most brutal regimes.

Unlike some of his predecessors, of course, Trump paid no lip service to human rights or democracy, both of which he despises — as do his Saudi royal hosts, who understood perfectly that the way to treat him is with limitless pomp and flattery. The audience also included the rulers of Bahrain, perpetrators of brutal violence and repression against human rights and democracy protests, and certainly emboldened by Trump’s proclamation of an “anti-terror” alliance targeting Iran.

Trump isn’t particularly good at dressing up imperial power politics in flights of rhetoric about universal human values and, to his credit he doesn’t make much effort to do so. But underlying the visuals of Trump’s performance in the Holy Lands are underreported and longstanding realities of the region. President Barack Obama understood these dynamics, of which Donald Trump knows next to nothing, yet in the end this makes little difference.

Read the whole article:

Why the campaign against Qatar is doomed

Now here’s an interesting take on the Qatar situation, from Middle East Eye:

Saudi Arabia and UAE bit off more than they can chew once they took on Qatar, a country with vast wealth and powerful allies

David Hearst, 7 June 2017

It has been apparent for some time that the war against the Islamic State (IS) group and its forebear al-Qaeda is by no means the only show in town in the Middle East. In fact, for most of the time, the war on terror has been a sideshow. The attempt to bring Qatar to heel by closing its borders and effectively laying siege to it has shed light on the real forces competing for dominance of the region in the post-Western world in which we live today.

Three regional blocks are vying for control:

  • “The first is led by Iran – its state actors including Iraq and Syria, and non-state ones the Shia militias in Iraq, Hezbollah and the Houthis.
  • The second is the ancien regimes of absolute Gulf monarchs: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while also including Jordan and Egypt.
  • The third block is led by Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and the forces instrumental in the Arab Spring.

In this three-way fight, America’s allies are just as destabilising to regional order as America’s foes, and the campaign launched against Qatar is a prime example of this.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Ankara

The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was in Ankara on Wednesday (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has made a strategic miscalculation by attempting to impose its will on little Qatar. Because in so doing, it has upset a regional order on which it relied to confront Iran’s dominance in countries all around the kingdom. Put another way, if the Iranian-backed civil war in Syria brought Saudi and Turkey together, the Qatari conflict has done the opposite. In fact, it could lead to the construction of a common cause among Iran, Turkey and forces of Sunni political Islam – as bizarre as this may seem. The two powers would not fall into each other’s arms naturally, but they could come together amid the reckless and shortsighted policies of Saudi Arabia. The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was in Ankara on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have now bitten off more than they can chew.

  • Their first miscalculation was to buy the Trump narrative. When you purchase a Trump product, you buy a lot more with it. There are side effects, not least the sheer amount of resentment, hostility and resistance Trump himself has created at home.
  • Their second miscalculation was to assume that because Qatar was small, no bigger nation would come to its defence. Both Saudi and the UAE have significant investments in Turkey, one of which Abu Dhabi made after it had tried to unseat Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a coup. Both thought Turkey would be bought off.
  • Their third miscalculation was to reveal their real beef with Qatar. It has nothing to do with funding terrorism or cosying up to Iran. In fact the Emiratis do a roaring trade with Iran, and they are part of the coalition accusing Qatar of siding with Tehran.

Their real demands, which were conveyed to the Emir of Kuwait – who is acting as an intermediary – are the closure of Al Jazeera, de-funding of Al Arabi al Jadid, Al Quds al Arabi, and the Arabic edition of Huffington Post, along with the expulsion of Palestinian public intellectual Azmi Bishara.

This is the media that reveals – in Arabic – the stories that these Arab dictators most want their citizens not to read. Not content with muzzling their own media, they want to shut down all media that reveals the inconvenient truth about their despotic, venal, corrupt regimes, wherever it is in the world.

The opposite happened. Erdogan realised that if Qatar were crushed, he would be the only man of that camp standing.

Read the article