Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for January 2012

French parliament “makes” history

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Turkey is not a bastion of free speech. There are some “sensitive topics,” like the Kurdish problem, religious repression, and the Armenian genocide, that—when broached—end poorly for the instigator. According to the New York Times, this is damaging to Turkey’s “democratic glow.” After all, the Turkish model is a failure if the basic tenets of liberal democracy, like free speech, fail to be upheld.

Which makes it excruciatingly ironic when France’s parliament condemns the Turks’ denial of the Armenian genocide—and brings it into the international consciousness—by limiting free speech in France. It is now a crime in France to deny that the Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915. Take that, Turkey.

The blustering Turks, of course, have responded in the usual, blustering fashion.

“Those who fall silent against such measures [such as the approval of this law] will be turning a deaf ear to the footsteps of approaching fascism in Europe,” Erdoğan said.

But another response, briefly covered in the Hürriyet, is a bit more apt (here):

The French government censored reports of the country’s violent acts committed against Algerians during the latter’s war of independence out of a recent official document, Britain’s The Times newspaper recently claimed, according to BBC Türkçe.

The government requested a historical piece from French historian Guy Perville on the Algerian war that was then substantially cut on the grounds that the loss of Algiers remained a trauma for modern France.

The director of the French national archives, Hervé Lemoin, said the Algerian issue was too sensitive to be studied objectively and that the article consequently had to be censored.

Perville said his piece initially focused on how the struggle for independence, which began with a peaceful agreement, turned into a series of violent confrontations and terror acts.

Noting that he had been censored for the first time in over 40 years, Perville said his piece was transformed into a story of glory for the French.

Take that, France.

Written by M. James

January 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Mittens for Bashar

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In more of a political statement by Russia than anything else, Russia’s state arms exporter has sold $550 million worth of 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 “Mitten” combat trainers to Syria. Although they are more fierce than you might initially think, “Mittens” are still no match for the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, the IAF, or the USAF. We are left to assume that Russia is simply reaffirming its support for the al-Assad regime.

Without explicitly confirming the report of the arms shipment, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week Russia was not going to justify its actions before the West because it was not violating “any international agreements or any [UN] Security Council resolutions.”

More here.

Written by M. James

January 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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Hedging against a new Iran

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Underlying the ramped-up rhetoric, military mobilization, and escalating espionage in Iran is a hidden economic war against Iran’s currency. The implication of this economic war is that the U.S. seeks to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, dollarizing Iran—which is what the U.S. is seeking to do with its economic sanctions—would be a hedge against an up-and-coming Iranian oil empire. Israel, unhappy with this prospect, seeks to start a conflict.

Iran’s nuclear program has received a lot of attention in the last few weeks. While this attention may accompany legitimate concerns—and this may be an appropriate time to voice such concerns—careful observers should be uneasy about the apparent convenience of focusing on the “Axis of Evil” at this time. With (1) an Iraq devoid of American police and (2) a stubborn Syrian regime that feels an increasing affinity toward Iran, Iran stands to gain a lot (see my previous post, “Why Syria?”). And if Iran stands to gain, then Saudi Arabia (and its oil hegemony), the United States (and its reliance on Saudi oil hegemony), and Israel (and its mere existence) have a lot to be afraid of.

The headlines of the past few weeks have, of course, demonstrated this fear. But there is one news item in particular that I’d like to point out, just as an example of the absurdity of the rhetoric. For some, it may be déjà vu, though it isn’t being reported that way:

Iran starts enriching uranium to 20 pct – IAEA

In summary: “The International Atomic Energy Agency officially confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium to the 20-percent level…”

But this same headline can be traced back to at least February of 2010, almost two blissful years ago. Here’s one from May 17th, 2010:

Iran says will continue 20 percent enrichment

Notice the word “continue.” This is nothing new. Credibility is all but lost when old news becomes, when reprinted, a sign of “further escalation” (read: casus belli):

“This is a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Public subterfuge.

Cold War
As ZeroHedge artfully phrases it (here): “The geopolitical foreplay is getting ridiculous. At this point it is quite obvious that virtually everyone involved in the US-Israel-Iran hate triangle is just itching for someone else to pull the trigger.” And reading about the overt espionage, public subterfuge, and military muscle-flexing going on between the US and Iran, it may very well seem that itchy trigger fingers abound.

But while there are, quite clearly, warmongers in our midst, I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize the standoff between Iran and the United States so simply. That’s because neither side really wants a war. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

January 19, 2012 at 2:03 am

Posted in News, Politics

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“A new era of repressive authoritarianism”

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The Changing Objects of Fear: The Arrest of İlker Başbuğ
Gareth H. Jenkins; Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program; Jan. 9, 2012

In the early hours of January 6, 2012, General İlker Başbuğ, who served as chief of the Turkish General Staff from 2008 to 2010, was arrested and imprisoned on allegations of “founding or directing an armed terrorist organization” and “inciting the overthrow of the government of the Turkish Republic or the prevention of it fulfilling its duties.” …

… in today’s Turkey it is not the military but the Gülen Movement that people need to fear.

Written by M. James

January 14, 2012 at 12:47 am

If you read nothing else about Syria…

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…read this well-documented, concise, and thoroughgoing analysis by Ms. Aisling Byrne.

Although not mentioned, the “strategic prize” of the first stage of this war on Iran is Syria; the first campaign in a much wider sectarian power-bid. “Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself,” Saudi King Abdullah was reported to have said last summer, “nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.” [1] 

In a recent interview, SNC leader Burhan Ghaliyoun disclosed … “after the fall of the Syrian regime, [Hezbollah] won’t be the same.” [36] 

Despite months of attempts – predominately by the West – at cajoling the various groups into a unified, proficient opposition movement, they remain “a diverse group, representing the country’s ideological, sectarian and generational divides”. 

Recent reports have cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the false narrative peddled daily by the mainstream international press, in particular information put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the LCCs. 

The Guardian reports a total of 1,414.5 people (sic) killed – including 144 Syrian security personnel – between January and November 21, 2011.

All this is not to say that there isn’t a genuine popular demand for change in Syria against the repressive security-dominated infrastructure that dominates every aspect of people’s lives, nor that gross human-rights violations have not been committed, both by the Syrian security forces, armed opposition insurgents, as well as mysterious third force characters operating since the onset of the crisis in Syria, including insurgents, [51] mostly jihadis from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, as well as more recently Libya, among others.

Written by M. James

January 7, 2012 at 2:24 am

Posted in Politics

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