Video & Transcript: President Trump gives first speech to UN General Assembly



No. 01: Strong Sovereign Nation


No. 02: We the People.
No. 03: A Friend to the World.



The president minced no words when it came to his feelings on the dealIRAN NUCLEAR DEAL


“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

President Trump

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

President Trump

Here is the speech in full, as prepared for delivery.1)source of text http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/donald-trumps-full-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly/news-story/db79d1934727c5ad520c8d287a3c0d38


Mr Secretary General, Mr President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates: Welcome to New York. It is a profound honour to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.

As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid. The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high — a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time. And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defence.

Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been. For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly. Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed.

We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve.

But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet. Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.

International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people; force dislocation and mass migration; threaten our borders; and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.

To put it simply, we meet at a time of both of immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights, or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realise their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape this better future. It was based on the vision that diverse nations could co-operate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those three beautiful pillars — they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free. As President Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, “Our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations. The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.”

To overcome the perils of the present and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for co-operation and success.

Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side-by-side on the basis of mutual respect.

Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.

In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch. This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are: “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history. In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.

All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.

But making a better life for our people also requires us to work together in close harmony and unity to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people.

The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.

But in fulfilling our obligations to our own nations, we also realise that it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.

America does more than speak for the values expressed in the United Nations Charter. Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall. America’s devotion is measured on the battlefields where our young men and women have fought and sacrificed alongside of our allies, from the beaches of Europe to the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia.

It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others. Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

For the diverse nations of the world, this is our hope. We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.

That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. It is a question we cannot escape or avoid. We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face. Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?

If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfil our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent. We must protect our nations, their interests, and their futures. We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow. And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror.

The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries.

If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.

We were all witness to the regime’s deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America only to die a few days later. We saw it in the assassination of the dictator’s brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport. We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.

If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life.

It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict. No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.

It is time for North Korea to realise that the denuclearisation is its only acceptable future. The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council. Thank you to all involved.

But we must do much more. It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behaviour.

We face this decision not only in North Korea. It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime — one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbours. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction. It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbours.

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protesters, and imprison political reformers.

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed, and terror? Or will the Iranian people return to the nation’s proud roots as a centre of civilisation, culture, and wealth where their people can be happy and prosperous once again?

The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbours to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honoured to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them.

We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.

We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology. We must drive them out of our nations. It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people.

The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the re-emergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.

Last month, I announced a new strategy for victory in the fight against this evil in Afghanistan. From now on, our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.

I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS. In fact, our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined.

We seek the de-escalation of the Syrian conflict, and a political solution that honours the will of the Syrian people. The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens — even innocent children — shock the conscience of every decent person. No society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread. That is why the United States carried out a missile strike on the air base that launched the attack.

We appreciate the efforts of United Nations agencies that are providing vital humanitarian assistance in areas liberated from ISIS, and we especially thank Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict.

The United States is a compassionate nation and has spent billions and billions of dollars in helping to support this effort. We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people, and which enables their eventual return to their home countries, to be part of the rebuilding process.

For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region, and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible. This is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach.

For decades, the United States has dealt with migration challenges here in the Western Hemisphere. We have learned that, over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries.

For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform, and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms.

For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.

I want to salute the work of the United Nations in seeking to address the problems that cause people to flee from their homes. The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilising conflicts in Africa. The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, including famine prevention and relief in South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria and Yemen.

We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like PEPFAR, which funds AIDS relief; the President’s Malaria Initiative; the Global Health Security Agenda; the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery; and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.

We also thank the Secretary General for recognising that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organisation has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.

In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 per cent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realises. The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but, to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.

Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell. But the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems.

The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world. In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own regions.

That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilising regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom. My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.

We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.

The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.

The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.

As a responsible neighbour and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy. I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.

The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.

We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today. Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbours.

I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela.

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity.

In America, we seek stronger ties of business and trade with all nations of good will, but this trade must be fair and it must be reciprocal.

For too long, the American people were told that mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success. But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared. Others gamed the system and broke the rules. And our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind, but they are forgotten no more and they will never be forgotten again.

While America will pursue co-operation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government: the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today.

If this organisation is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the “independent strength of its members.” If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, and independent nations — nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies; nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer; and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.

In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved.

Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.

Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.

We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucrats — we can’t do it. We must solve our problems, to build our prosperity, to secure our futures, or we will be vulnerable to decay, domination, and defeat.

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots?

Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation. We realised who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

History is asking us whether we are up to the task. Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion. We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.

Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all: a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.

This is the true vision of the United Nations, the ancient wish of every people, and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.

So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the nations of the world. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

References   [ + ]

1. source of text http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/donald-trumps-full-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly/news-story/db79d1934727c5ad520c8d287a3c0d38

Islamic One-Way Street

♦ Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

♦ Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

♦ Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

♦ Given the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.?

♦ Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

President Donald Trump’s executive order of January 27, 2017, temporarily limiting entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days, until vetting procedures can be put in place — has caused international controversy, sparking protests both in the Western and Islamic worlds, including in increasingly Islamist Turkey.

HYPOCRISY

This article does not intend to discuss whether Trump’s ban is a racist, illegal order, or a perfectly justified action in light of threatened American interests. The ban, right or wrong, has once again unveiled the hypocrisy of extremist Muslims on civil liberties and on what is and what is NOT racist. Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

Muslims have been in a rage across the world. Iran’s swift and sharp answer came in a Tweet from Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who said that the ban was “a great gift to extremists.” A government statement in Tehran said that the U.S. travel restrictions were an insult to the Muslim world, and threatened U.S. citizens with “reciprocal measures.” Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

SUDAN

Sudan, host and supporter of various extremist Muslim terror groups including al-Qaeda, said the ban was “very unfortunate.” In Iraq, a coalition of paramilitary groups called on the government to ban U.S. nationals from entering the country and to expel those currently on Iraqi soil.

TURKEY

In Turkey where the extremist Islamic government is unusually soft on Trump’s ban — in order not to antagonize the new president — a senior government official called the order “a discriminative decision.” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said:

“Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings have a great weight on this decision. Taking such a decision in a country such as America, where different ethnic and religious groups are able to co-exist, is very offensive.”

The ruling party’s deputy chairman, Yasin Aktay, called the ban “racist,” and said: “This is totally against human rights, a big violation of human rights.” Aktay also said that he had started to “worry about the future of the U.S.”

Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, praised the Americans who rushed to the airports to protest the ban. “[This] is very important. It gives us hope,” he said — presumably meaning that non-Muslim protestors will continue to advocate for Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands.

Turkish government bigwigs and the top Islamic authority seem not to have heard of their own country’s dismal human rights record when it comes to non-Muslim minorities. Most recently, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches noted in a report that hate speech against the country’s Christians increased in both the traditional media and social media. It said that hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.

GLOBAL

Nevertheless, the Islamist’s one-way sympathy for human rights (for Muslims) and his one-way affection for discrimination (against non-Muslims) is not just Turkish, but global. What is the treatment of non-Muslim (or sometimes even non-extremist Muslim) visitors to some of the Muslim cities and sites in the countries that decry Trump’s “racist,” and “discriminative” ban that “violates human rights?”

In a 2016 visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Muslim custodians of the site did not allow entry to this author, despite the Turkish passport submitted to them, saying “you do not look Muslim enough.” And Muslims now complain of “discrimination?” Incidentally, Al Aqsa Mosque is, theoretically at least, open to visits from non-Muslims, except on Fridays.

Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 2013, the Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, insisted that “the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship.”

The Saudi ban on other religious houses of worship comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Saudi kingdom, the law requires that all citizens must be Muslims; the government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion; and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

In Iran, where even non-Muslim female visitors must wear the Islamic headscarf, the government continues to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on religious beliefs. A 2014 U.S. State Department annual report noted that non-Muslims faced “substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support.” At the release of the report, then Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Sadly, the pages of this report that are being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others”.

In Iran, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized unless the husband produces proof that he has converted to Islam. The mullahs’ government does not ensure the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death. In 2013, 79 people from religious minorities were sentenced to a total of 3,620 months in prison, 200 months of probation, 75 lashes and 41 billion rials in fines [approximately $1.3 million].

QUESTIONS

That being the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.? Why, for instance, does Turkey never criticizes the extreme shortcomings of freedoms in the Muslim world but calls the U.S. ban “racist?”

Why does the Iranian government think that Trump’s ban is a “gift to the [Muslim] extremists?” In claiming that travel bans would supposedly fuel extremism, how come Iran does not think that its own persecution of religious minorities is a “gift” to non-Muslims?

Such questions will probably remain unanswered in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

Extremist Muslims'
by Burak Bekdil
February 24, 2017 at 5:00 am https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9935/extremist-muslims
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

WAR. ALERT, ALERT, Russia Moves Nuclear War Heads Near Tatishevo

World War Three WWIII feature

post by Israeli News Live

Its not Assad killing the civilians its the US Backed Moderate Rebels and Al Nusra who are stopping all supplies and killing any who try to leave the war zone shooting and bombing the civilians.

Obama's paid thugs and murderers

Russia tells North Korea to stop their Nuclear threats etc other wise Russia will invade and take everything in North Korea

UN sounding off by passing the security council to attack Syria to stop Russia and China vetoing a move by USA see

U.N. Members Propose Bypassing Security Council on Syria


Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel

• The European Union now finds itself in a classic catch-22 situation. Large numbers of Muslim migrants will flow to Europe regardless of whether or not the EU approves the visa waiver for Turkey.

• “If visa requirements are lifted completely, each of these persons could buy a cheap plane ticket to any German airport, utter the word ‘asylum,’ and trigger a years-long judicial process with a good chance of ending in a residency permit.” — German analyst Andrew Hammel.

• In their haste to stanch the rush of migrants, European officials effectively allowed Turkey to conflate the two very separate issues of a) uncontrolled migration into Europe and b) an end to visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.

• “Why should a peaceful, stable, prosperous country like Germany import from some remote corner of some faraway land a violent ethnic conflict which has nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and which 98% Germans do not understand or care about?” — German analyst Andrew Hammel.

• “Democracy, freedom and the rule of law…. For us, these words have absolutely no value any longer.” — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has threatened to renege on a landmark deal to curb illegal migration to the European Union if the bloc fails to grant visa-free travel to Europe for Turkey’s 78 million citizens by the end of June.

If Ankara follows through on its threat, it would reopen the floodgates and allow potentially millions of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to flow from Turkey into the European Union.

Under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, which entered into effect on March 20, Turkey agreed to take back migrants and refugees who illegally cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. In exchange, the European Union agreed to resettle up to 72,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey, and pledged up to 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in aid to Turkey during the next four years.

European officials also promised to restart Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks by the end of July 2016, and to fast-track visa-free access for Turkish nationals to the Schengen (open-bordered) passport-free zone by June 30.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) has boasted that he is proud of blackmailing EU leaders, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right), into granting Turkish citizens visa-free access to the EU and paying Turkey billions of euros.

To qualify for the visa waiver, Turkey has until April 30 to meet 72 conditions. These include: bringing the security features of Turkish passports up to EU standards; sharing information on forged and fraudulent documents used to travel to the EU and granting work permits to non-Syrian migrants in Turkey.

The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, said it would issue a report on May 4 on whether Turkey adequately has met all of the conditions to qualify for visa liberalization.

During a hearing at the European Parliament on April 21, Marta Cygan, a director in the Commission’s migration and home affairs unit, revealed that to date Ankara has satisfied only 35 of the 72 conditions. This implies that Turkey is unlikely to meet the other 37 conditions by the April 30 deadline, a window of fewer than ten days.

According to Turkish officials, however, Turkey is fulfilling all of its obligations under the EU deal and the onus rests on the European Union to approve visa liberalization — or else.

Addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 19, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey has now reduced the flow of migrants to Greece to an average of 60 a day, compared to several thousand a day at the height of the migrant crisis in late 2015. Davutoglu went on to say that this proves that Turkey has fulfilled its end of the deal and that Ankara will no longer honor the EU-Turkey deal if the bloc fails to deliver visa-free travel by June 30.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted that Turkey must meet all 72 conditions for visa-free travel and that the EU will not water down its criteria. But European officials — under intense pressure to keep the migrant deal with Turkey alive — will be tempted to cede to Turkish demands.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on April 20 conceded that for the EU it is not a question of the number of conditions, but rather “how quickly the process is going on.” He added: “I believe that at the end, if we continue working like this, most of the benchmarks will be met.”

European officials alone are to blame for allowing themselves to be blackmailed in this way. In their haste to stanch the rush of migrants to Europe, they effectively allowed Turkey to conflate the two very separate issues of a) uncontrolled migration into Europe and b) an end to visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.

The original criteria for the visa waiver were established in December 2013 — more than two years before the EU-Turkey deal — by means of the so-called Visa Liberalization Dialogue and the accompanying Readmission Agreement. In it, Turkey agrees to take back third-country nationals who, after having transiting through Turkey, have entered the EU illegally.

By declaring that the visa waiver conditions are no longer binding because the flow of migrants to Greece has been reduced, Turkish officials, negotiating like merchants in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, are running circles around the hapless European officials.

Or, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently proclaimed: “The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union.”

The European Union now finds itself in a classic Catch-22 situation. Large numbers of Muslim migrants will flow to Europe regardless of whether or not the EU approves the visa waiver.

Critics of visa liberalization fear that millions of Turkish nationals may end up migrating to Europe. Indeed, many analysts believe that President Erdogan views the visa waiver as an opportunity to “export” Turkey’s “Kurdish Problem” to Germany.

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, for example, worries that due to Erdogan’s persecution of Kurds in Turkey, millions may take advantage of the visa waver to flee to Germany. “We are importing an internal Turkish conflict,” he warned, adding: “In the end, fewer migrants may arrive by boat, but more will arrive by airplane.”

In an insightful essay, German analyst Andrew Hammel writes:

“Let’s do the math. There are currently 16 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent in Turkey. There is a long history of discrimination by Turkish governments against this ethnic minority, including torture, forced displacement, and other repressive measures. The current conservative-nationalist Turkish government is fighting an open war against various Kurdish rebel groups, both inside and outside Turkey. “This means that under German law as it is currently being applied by the ruling coalition in the real world (not German law on the books), there are probably something like 5-8 million Turkish Kurds who might have a plausible claim for asylum or subsidiary protection. That’s just a guess, the real number could be higher, but probably not much lower. “If visa requirements are lifted completely, each of these persons could buy a cheap plane ticket to any German airport, utter the word ‘asylum,’ and trigger a years-long judicial process with a good chance of ending in a residency permit.”

Andrew Hammel

Hammel continues:

“There are already 800,000 Kurds living in Germany. As migration researchers know, existing kin networks in a destination country massively increase the likelihood and scope of migration…. As Turkish Kurds are likely to arrive speaking no German and with limited job skills, just like current migrants, where is the extra 60-70 billion euros/year [10 billion euros/year for every one million migrants] going to come from to provide them all with housing, food, welfare, medical care, education and German courses?

Andrew Hammel

And finally, “the most important, most fundamental, most urgent question of all”:

“Why should a peaceful, stable, prosperous country like Germany import from some remote corner of some faraway land a violent ethnic conflict which has nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and which 98% Germans do not understand or care about?”

Andrew Hammel

Turkish-Kurdish violence is now commonplace in Germany, which is home to around three million people of Turkish origin — roughly one in four of whom are Kurds. German intelligence officials estimate that about 14,000 of these Kurds are active supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group that has been fighting for Kurdish independence since 1974.

On April 10, hundreds of Kurds and Turks clashed in Munich and dozens fought in Cologne. Also on April 10, four people were injured when Kurds and Turks fought in Frankfurt. On March 27, nearly 40 people were arrested after Kurds attacked a demonstration of around 600 Turkish protesters in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg.

On September 11, 2015, dozens of Kurds and Turks clashed in Bielefeld. On September 10, more than a thousand Kurds and Turks fought in Berlin. Also on September 10, several hundred Kurds and Turks fought in Frankfurt.

On September 3, more than 100 Kurds and Turks clashed in Remscheid. On August 17, Kurds attacked a Turkish mosque in Berlin-Kreuzberg. In October 2014, hundreds of Kurds and Turks clashed at the main train station in Munich.

In an essay for the Financial Times titled “The EU Sells Its Soul to Strike a Deal with Turkey,” columnist Wolfgang Münchau wrote:

“The deal with Turkey is as sordid as anything I have ever seen in modern European politics. On the day that EU leaders signed the deal, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, gave the game away: ‘Democracy, freedom and the rule of law…. For us, these words have absolutely no value any longer.’ At that point the European Council should have ended the conversation with Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, and sent him home. But instead, they made a deal with him — money and a lot more in return for help with the refugee crisis.”

Wolfgang Münchau
April 24, 2016 | by Soeren Kern | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel"

Turkey: The Business of Refugee Smuggling, Sex Trafficking

• Professional criminals convince parents that their daughters are going to a better life in Turkey. The parents are given 2000-5000 Turkish liras ($700-$1700) as a “bride price” — an enormous sum for a poor Syrian family.

• “Girls between the ages of twelve and sixteen are referred to as pistachios, those between seventeen and twenty are called cherries, twenty to twenty-two are apples, and anyone older is a watermelon.” — From a report on Turkey, by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

• Many Muslims have difficulty with, or even an aversion to, assimilating into the Western culture. Many seem to have the aim of importing to Europe the culture of intimidation, rape and abuse from which they fled.

• Although the desperate victims are their Muslim sisters and brothers, wealthy Arab states do not take in refugees. The people in this area know too well that asylum seekers would bring with them problems, both social and economic. For many Muslim men such as wealthy, aging Saudis, it is easier to buy Syrian children from Turkey, Syria or Jordan as cheap sex slaves.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, Turkish news outlets covered the tragic life and early death of a Syrian child bride.

Last August, in Aleppo, Mafe Zafur, 15, married her cousin Ibrahim Zafur in an Islamic marriage. The couple moved to Turkey, but the marriage ended after six months, when her husband abruptly threw out of their home. With nowhere to sleep, Mafe found shelter with her brother, 19, and another cousin, 14, in an abandoned truck.

On 8 March, Mafe killed herself, reportedly with a shotgun. Her only possession, found in her pocket, was her handwritten marriage certificate.

Mafe Zafur is only one of many young Syrians who have been victims of child marriage. Human rights groups report even greater abuse that gangs are perpetrating against the approximately three million Syrians who have fled to Turkey.

A detailed report on Syrian women refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in Turkey, issued as far back as 2014 by the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed (known in Turkish as Mazlumder), tells of early and forced marriages, polygamy, sexual harassment, human trafficking, prostitution, and rape that criminals inflicted upon Syrians in Turkey.

According to the Mazlumder report, Syrians are sexually exploited by those who take advantage of their destitution. Children, especially girls, suffer most.

Evidence, both witnessed and forensic, indicates that in every city where Syrian refugees have settled, prostitution has drastically increased. Young women between the ages of 15 and 20 are most commonly prostituted, but girls as young as thirteen are also exploited.

Secil Erpolat, a lawyer with the Women’s Rights Commission of the Bar Association in the Turkish province of Batman, said that many young Syrian girls are offered between 20 and 50 Turkish liras ($7-$18). Sometimes their clients pay them with food or other goods for which they are desperate.

Women who have crossed the border illegally and arrive with no passport are at high risk of being kidnapped and sold as prostitutes or sex slaves. Criminal gangs bring refugees to towns along the border or into the local bus terminals where “refugee smuggling” has become a major source of income.

Professional criminals convince parents that their daughters are going to a better life in Turkey. The parents are given 2000-5000 Turkish liras ($700-$1700) as a “bride price” — an enormous sum for a poor Syrian family — to smuggle their daughters across the border.

“Many men in Turkey practice polygamy with Syrian girls or women, even though polygamy is illegal in Turkey,” the lawyer Abdulhalim Yilmaz, head of Mazlumder’s Refugee Commission, told Gatestone Institute. “Some men in Turkey take second or third Syrian wives without even officially registering them. These girls therefore have no legal status in Turkey. Economic deprivation is a major factor in this suffering, but it is also a religious and cultural phenomenon, as early marriage is allowed in the religion.”

Syrian women and children in Turkey also experience sexual harassment at work. Those who are able to get jobs earn little — perhaps enough to eat, but they work long and hard for that little. They are also subjected to whatever others choose to do to them as they work those long hours.

A 16-year old Syrian girl, who lives with her sister in Izmir, told Mazlumder that “because we are Syrians who have come here to flee the war, they think of us as second-class people. My sister was in law school back in Syria, but the war forced her to leave school. Now unemployed men with children ask her to ‘marry’ them. They try to take advantage of our situation.”

If they are Kurds, they are discriminated against twice, first as refugees, then as Kurds. “The relief agencies here help only the Arab refugees; when they hear that we are Kurds, they either walk away from us, or they give very little, and then they do not return.”

The organization End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) has produced a detailed report on the “Status of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children: Turkey.” ECPAT’s report cites, from the 2014 Global Slavery Index, estimates that the incidence of slavery in Turkey is the highest in Europe, due in no small measure to the prevalence of trafficking for sexual exploitation and early marriage.

The ECPAT report quotes a U.S. State Department study from 2013: “Turkey is a destination, transit, and source country for children subjected to sex trafficking.”

The ECPAT report continues,

“There is a risk of young asylum seekers disappearing from accommodation centres and becoming vulnerable to traffickers.

“It is feared that reports from the UN-run Zaatari refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan are equally true for camps in Turkey: aging men from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states take advantage of the Syrian crisis in order to purchase cheap teenage brides.

“Evidence indicates that child trafficking is also happening between Syria and Turkey by established ‘matchmakers’ who traffic non-refugee girls from Syria who have been pre-ordered by age. Girls between the ages of twelve and sixteen are referred to as pistachios, those between seventeen and twenty are called cherries, twenty to twenty-two are apples, and anyone older is a watermelon.”

End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT)

Apparently, 85% of Syrian refugees live outside refugee camps, and therefore cannot even be monitored by an international agency.

Many refugee women in Turkey, according to the lawyer and vice-president of the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), Eren Keskin, are forced to engage in prostitution outside, and even in, refugee camps built by the Turkish Prime Minister’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

“There are markets of prostitution in Antep. Those are all state-controlled places. Hundreds of refugees — women and children — are sold to men much older than they are,” said Keskin. “We found that women are forced into prostitution because they want to buy bread for their children.”

Keskin said that they have received many complaints of rape, sexual assault and physical violence from refugees in the camps in the provinces of Hatay and Antep. “Despite all our attempts to enter those camps, the officials have not allowed us to.”

The Human Rights Association of Turkey has received many complaints of rape, sexual assault and physical violence from Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey. (Image source: UNHCR)

Officials at AFAD, however, have strongly denied the allegations. “We provide refugees with education and health care. It is sad that after all the devoted work that AFAD has done to take care of refugees for the last five years, such baseless and unjust accusations are directed at us,” a representative of AFAD told Gatestone.

“The number of refugees in Turkey has reached to 2.8 million.

Turkey has twenty-six accommodation centers in which about three hundred thousand refugees live. Those centers are regularly monitored by the UN; some UN officials are based in them.”

“Many refugees could have been provided with jobs suited to their training or skills,” Cansu Turan, a social worker with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), told Gatestone.

“But none of them was asked about former jobs or educational background when they Turkish officials registered them. Therefore, they can work only informally and under the hardest conditions just to survive. This also paves the way for their sexual exploitation.

“The most important question is why the refugee camps are not open to civil monitoring. Entry to refugee camps is not allowed. The camps are not transparent. There are many allegations as to what is happening in them. We are therefore worried about what they are hiding from us.”

“At our public centers where we provide support for refugees,” Sema Genel Karaosmanoglu, the Executive Director of the Support to Life organization, told Gatestone.

“We have encountered persons who have been victims of trafficking, sexual, and gender-based violence.

“There is still no entry to the camps, and there is no transparency as entry is only possible after getting permission from relevant government institutions. But we have been able to gain access to those camps administered by municipalities in the provinces of Diyarbakir, Batman, and Suruc, Urfa.”

A representative at AFAD, however, told Gatestone that “the accommodation centers are transparent. If organizations would like to enter those places, they apply to us and we evaluate their applications. Thousands of media outlets have so far entered the accommodation centers to film and explore the life in them.”

“The number of current refugees is already too high,” said the lawyer Abdulhalim Yilmaz, head Mazlumder’s Refugee Commission. “But many Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have not taken in a single Syrian refugee so far. And there are tens of thousands of refugees waiting at the borders of Turkey.”

If these women and children knew what was possibly awaiting them in Turkey, they would never set foot in the country.

This is the inevitable outcome when a certain culture — the Islamic culture — does not have the least regard for women’s rights. Instead, it is a culture of rape, slavery, abuse and discrimination that often exploits even the most vulnerable.

The horror is that Turkey is the country that the EU is entrusting to “solve” the serious problem of refugees and migrants.

The international community needs to protect Syrians, to cordon off parts of the country so that more people will not want to leave their homes to become refugees or asylum seekers in other countries. Perhaps many Syrians would even return to their homes.

The West has always opened its arms to many beleaguered individuals from Muslim countries — such as 25-year-old Afghan student and journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, who was beaten, taken to prison, and sentenced to death in 2007 for downloading a report on women’s rights from the internet and for questioning Islam.

It was Sweden and Norway that helped Kambaksh to flee Afghanistan in 2009 by helping him get access to a Swedish government plane. Kambaksh is now understood to be in the United States.

Several European countries, however, have become the victims of the rapes, murders and other crimes committed by the very people who have entered the continent as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants.

Europe is going through a security problem, as seen in the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Many Muslims have difficulty with, or even an aversion to, assimilating into the Western culture. Many seem to have the aim of importing to Europe the culture of intimidation, rape and abuse from which they fled.

It would be more just and realistic if Muslim countries that share the same linguistic and religious background as Syrian refugees — and that are preferably more civilized and humanitarian than Turkey — could take at least some responsibility for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Although the desperate victims are their Muslim sisters and brothers, wealthy Arab states do not take in refugees. We have not seen any demonstrations with signs that read “Refugees Welcome!” People know that asylum seekers would bring with them problems, both social and economic. For many Muslim men such as wealthy, aging Saudis, it is easier to buy Syrian children from Turkey, Syria or Jordan as cheap sex slaves.

Women and girls are not, to many, human beings who deserve to be treated humanely. They are only sex objects whose lives and dignity have no value. Syrians are there to be abused and exploited. The only way they can think of helping women is to “marry” them.

April 3, 2016 | by Uzay Bulut | gatestoneinstitute.org "Turkey: The Business of Refugee Smuggling, Sex Trafficking"

 

“Muslim Jerusalem”: Turkey’s Message of “Peace” to Israel

Turkey’s attempts at “normalizing relations with Israel” apparently do not actually aim to normalize the relations.

“We do not forget Gaza and Palestine even in our dreams, let alone in negotiations. … Whatever is wrong for Palestine is also wrong for us. We discussed these issues in detail during our meetings with my dear friend, Khaled Mashaal [leader of Hamas]. This is the main objective behind the talks of normalizing ties with Israel.” – Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey.

Do Turkish government representatives also tell their Israeli colleagues that Khaled Mashaal is their “dear friend”? Do they also divulge that the only aim of the negotiations is to get compensation for the Mavi Marmara incident and to remove the “blockade” on Gaza, possibly again so that weapons to be used against Israel can come in?

Turkey’s attempts at “normalizing relations with Israel” apparently do not actually aim to normalize the relations.

As often happens in the Middle East, there are two sound-tracks going on — one perhaps in English to Israel, and one in Turkish to Turkey’s citizens. Both sound-tracks cannot be right.

On July 1, 2010, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addressed his parliament:

“Jerusalem is our issue. Contrary to what you assume, it is not a territory of Israel. According to the international law, East Jerusalem is a part of the state of Palestine and is one of the territories under occupation. Al-Aqsa Mosque is in East Jerusalem, too. Al-Aqsa Mosque is not Israeli territory and will not be. If peace happens one day, — and that is what I mean — East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine and a meeting of the Arab league will be held there, as well. We are giving a message of peace here. Yes, there will be peace and East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine.”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Jerusalem, he said, was a Turkish issue because of its period of Ottoman rule:

“Even the religious sites in east Jerusalem are administered according to the Ottoman ‎precedent. There is no other practice. There is no other law. The Ottoman precedent is still ‎valid.”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Then, referring to the Mavi Marmara incident, in which a Turkish flotilla, trying to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip, was intercepted by Israel, he said:

“This is the first time Israel has been isolated to this extent in the world. We have seen enormous solidarity. That is why its [Israel’s] government has started to break down. It is going to break down. It is our national honor to follow the law of Turkish citizens.”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Davutoglu, foreign minister at the time of the Mavi Marmara incident, added that Turkey would continue to isolate Israel in international platforms.

Since Davutoglu became prime minister in August, 2014, his stance against Israel has not changed.

On April 26, 2015, in an AKP party rally in the province of Erzincan, he targeted Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and alleged that Kilicdaroglu had asked earlier “Why do we not have ambassadors in Syria, Egypt and Israel?”

“Kilicdaroglu asks us a question on the side of Israel. They would be scared of asking questions to Israel. For their masters get instructions from them [Israelis].”

Ahmet Davutoglu

He then went on to explain his government’s criteria of forming international friendships:

One: We cannot be friends with tyrants. Two: We cannot be friends with those who [stage or support] coup d’états. Three: We cannot be friends with those who trample upon human dignity. One: We are the friend of the oppressed. Two: We are defenders of liberties. Three: We always say justice.

Ahmet Davutoglu

“As long as Israel persecutes Gaza, as long as it enters Jerusalem, and Al-Aqsa Mosque with its combat boots, our becoming friends with Israel is out of the question. We will not be [their friend].”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Earlier on July 18, 2014, Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, had criticized Erdogan for not keeping promises about Gaza:

“Erdogan made an announcement after the Mavi Marmara incident: ‘I will go to Gaza in April.’ Then he said, ‘I will go to Gaza but not in April, in May.’ But it did not happen again. Then John Kerry told him: ‘Do not go to Gaza. Then Erdogan made another announcement: ‘The statement of Kerry was not nice. The date has been set. I will go to Gaza.” How many Junes have passed? Is the prime ministry of the Turkish republic so cheap?”

Kilicdaroglu

Even if you join the chorus of bashing Israel publicly and continually, no bashing seems to be enough for the government authorities. What is more tragic is that Turkish political parties, the histories of all of which are filled with many massacres and ethnic cleansing campaigns against minorities, seem to be in a competition to condemn, pressure or punish Israel for defending itself.

On May 26, 2015, Davutoglu attended the opening ceremony of an airport named after Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi (“Saladin”), a Muslim sultan of Kurdish origin and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria, who invaded Jerusalem in 1187.

We decided to name this airport after Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi to say Jerusalem eternally belongs to Muslims, Davutoglu said. “Those who say ‘Jerusalem is the holy site of Jews’ should be ashamed.

His remarks were aimed at Selahattin Demirtas, the co-head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who had earlier said publicly that Jerusalem belongs to Jews. Then he called out to Sultan Saladin:

“Just as you said ‘Jerusalem does not belong to the Crusaders,’ be our witness that we will keep on saying Jerusalem belongs to Muslims. We have not been friends with those who entered Al-Aqsa Mosque with their combat boots. And we will not be [their friend]”.

Ahmet Davutoglu

In Istanbul, on May 30, 2015, before hundreds of thousands of people who were celebrating the 562nd anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, Davutoglu delivered another speech, targeting two of the Turkish parliament’s opposition parties and their leaders: Selahattin Demirtas, the co-head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara [incident]. Demirtas asks for your votes. I am calling out to my Kurdish brothers with faith and conscience. Demirtas betrays the martyrs of Mavi Marmara and betrays Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi and says ‘Jerusalem belongs to Jews.’ How can one who votes for such a person find peace? I am also asking the candid voters of the CHP who have always held their heads up high against imperialism: How will you vote for Kilicdaroglu who does business with Israel and with those who have staged a coup in Egypt?”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Then, on December 22, 2015 Davutoglu was “suddenly” talking about the ongoing negotiations with Israel: “Talks with Israel are going on positively,” he said, “but there has not been a final solution yet.” Regarding the apology that was made by Israel to Turkey, Davutoglu said:

“The breakdown of our relations with Israel is about the incident of Mavi Marmara and the martyrdom of our dear citizens there. After the incident, we announced that we have three conditions in order to normalize our relations with Israel. Israel will apologize to Turkey; it will pay compensation to the families of martyrs, and the blockade on Gaza will be removed. The first condition was met in 2013 when Israeli PM Netanyahu made an apology. The apology was made openly and clearly and was also confirmed in writing just on the same day. The State of the Republic of Turkey has lived the honor of being the first state that has made Israel apologize for such an incident.

Ahmet Davutoglu

“The negotiations to meet other conditions are going on between the two parties [Turkey and Israel]. … Speculation made about this matter should not be taken seriously. Whatever our position was yesterday, it is the same today, and it will remain same tomorrow. Turkey insists on its demands of the compensation and the removal of the blockade on Gaza.”

Ahmet Davutoglu

From Israel’s point of view, removing the sea blockade would permit Hamas, which rules Gaza and is openly dedicated to destroying Israel, to import weapons intended for that end — the very reason the blockade was established in the first place.

As for his meeting on December 20, 2015, with Khaled Mashaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Davutoglu implied that they were on the side of their Palestinian brothers every time and everyplace:

“Turkey will keep providing limitless support for the people of Palestine. No one should have any doubt that until the free state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital is established, our support will continue.

Ahmet Davutoglu

“None could dare question our sensitivity towards the cause of Palestine. Whoever says that ‘Turkey is forgetting about the people of Gaza and is in the process of approaching Israel by ignoring its support for Palestine’ commits the biggest slander against us. We do not forget Gaza and Palestine even in our dreams, let alone in negotiations. No one can lecture us about Palestine. Whatever is wrong for Palestine is also wrong for us. We discussed these issues in detail during our meetings with my dear friend, Khaled Mashaal. This is the main objective behind the talks of normalizing ties with Israel. We would never take a step that would hurt Palestine, Gaza and we would never hesitate to take any step from which they [Palestinians] would benefit.”

Ahmet Davutoglu

Cozying up to Hamas: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu poses with Khaled Mashaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau (left). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses with Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh (right).

Turkey — after damaging or even destroying its relations with almost all of its neighbors – is now at the door of Israel, which the Turkish government has condemned several times by referring to it as “more barbaric than Hitler” and even expressed its wish of establishing “a Muslim Jerusalem.”

Due to such negative statements regarding Israel, the Turkish public has largely been brainwashed and filled with intense prejudice against Israel. Ridding them of it will be extremely difficult.

Turkish leaders would do well to stop seeing Israel solely as a “source of weapons and trade” with whose strength and cooperation they can do anything they want while they continue to bully their neighbors and minorities.

Turkish leaders might also do well publicly to recognize the sovereignty of the state of Israel. Actually, it may even be too late for the Turkish government to make positive statements about Israel. Turkish politicians have relied so much on their anti-Israel rhetoric to get public support that many of their voters would most probably go into a rage if they heard their political representatives say something nice about Israel.

They would also do well to stop making demonizing statements about the Jewish state and saying completely different things to their Israeli colleagues than they do to the Turkish public.

Sadly, the current Turkish government does not seem to have the potential to do so.

Turkey’s attempts at “normalizing relations with Israel” seem to aim more at gaining deeper Israeli support — economic, diplomatic and military — from which to benefit; but the “not so friendly” references to Israel by Turkish officials will not stop

Do Turkish government representatives also tell their Israeli colleagues that Khaled Mashaal is their “dear friend”? Do they also divulge that the only aim of the negotiations is to get compensation for the Mavi Marmara incident and to remove the “blockade” on Gaza, possibly so that weapons to be used against Israel can come in again? Is Israel to gain nothing out of a possible normalization? More importantly, do Turkish officials openly tell their Israeli counterparts that they eventually aim to see a “Muslim Jerusalem”?

No Anatolian city is to Turks what Jerusalem is to Jews historically, culturally and theologically. What is deeply rooted in Anatolia is Christianity. What would Turkish officials think if Israeli officials also told their citizens about “reviving the Christian cities of Anatolia”?

Probably, however, neither the Jewish roots of Jerusalem nor the Christian roots of Anatolia mean anything to Davutoglu and his representatives; many Islamic extremists think that Islam has been the only true religion since the beginning of time, and they deny the authenticity of other religions.

If Turkish authorities were to aim at an honest and productive deal with Israel, as well as real peace between Arabs and Jews, they would also address the problem of Arab violence against Jews in Israel, and say that they would strive to reduce it.

Also, instead of trying to legitimize Mashaal, a genocidal terrorist leader, Davutoglu could have said: “For peace to prevail in Israel, Hamas should also change its violent ways and aim for peaceful coexistence with Israel. We are ready to do our best to bring both sides together in a non-violent way.”

Unfortunately, Davutoglu did not say anything of the kind. He talked about “the pride of making Israel apologize,” thereby revealing that Turkey’s government officials do not see this apology as just a diplomatic gesture made for the sake of compromise; they see it as one of their triumphant acts through which they insulted and subjugated the Jewish state.

If Turkey is still so fond of Hamas and is still so dedicated to its dreams of establishing a “Muslim Jerusalem,” what good could emerge from these talks with Israel?

Until a different approach in Turkey prevails, these talks and deals seem destined to bring great damage to Israel.

March 17, 2016 | by Uzay Bulut | gatestoneinstitute.org ""Muslim Jerusalem": Turkey's Message of "Peace" to Israel"

Syria: Checkered Past, Uncertain Future

World War Three WWIII feature

• Because almost every religious and/or ethnic community in Syria is divided, some siding with Assad and others fighting against him, it is difficult to establish clear sectarian demarcation lines. Syria today is a patchwork of emirates.

• The Islamic Republic of Iran needed Syria to complete the “Shiite Crescent” which it saw as its glacis and point of access to the Mediterranean. Iran is estimated to have spent something like $12 billion on its Syrian venture. By the time of this writing, Iran had also lost 143 ranking officers, captain and above, in combat in Syrian battlefields.

• Turkey’s “soft” Islamic leadership, the main source of support for anti-Assad forces, has always had ties to the global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is likely that Turkey’s leaders see the Syrian imbroglio as an opportunity for them to “solve” the problem of Kurdish-Turkish secessionists based in Syrian territory since the 1980s.

• Turkey has become host to more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, posing a long-term humanitarian and security challenge. Ankara’s decision to goad large numbers of refugees into the European Union was an attempt at forcing the richer nations of the continent to share some of Turkey’s burden.

• The country most dramatically, and perhaps permanently, affected by the Syrian conflict is Lebanon. More than 1.8 million Syrian refugees have arrived, altering the country’s delicate demographic balance. If the new arrivals stay permanently, Lebanon would become another Arab Sunni majority state.

Next March will mark the fifth anniversary of what started as another chapter in the so-called “Arab Spring” morphed into a civil war, degenerated into a humanitarian catastrophe and, finally, led to the systemic collapse of Syria as a nation-state.

That sequence of events has had a profound impact on virtually the whole of the region known as the Greater Middle East, affecting many aspects of its component nations ranging from demography, ethno-sectarian composition and security. Since the purpose of this presentation is not to offer an historic account of the events, a brief reminder of some key aspects would suffice.

Five years ago, when the first demonstration took place in Deraa, in southern Syria, much of the so-called “Arab World” was in a state of high expectations in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that seemed to have ended decades of despotic rule by military-security organs of the state. Despite important differences, the Syrian state at the time fitted the description of the typical model of the Arab state as developed after the Second World War.

It was, therefore, not fanciful to think that it might respond to the first signs of popular discontent in the same ways as similar states had done elsewhere in the Arab World. One important difference was that at the time the uprising started, the Syrian state, arguably the most repressive in the modern Arab World, apart from Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, had embarked on a program of timid reform and liberalization. The new dictator, Bashar al-Assad, had tried to portray himself as a Western-educated reformer attracted to aspects of pluralism and a market economy. He had allowed the emergence of the first privately owned banks and privatized a number of state-owned companies. He had also allowed the private sector to take the lead in a number of new sectors, notably mobile phones and the Internet. To be sure, the new banks, the privatized companies and the new technology companies were almost all owned by members of the Assad clan and associates with the military-security apparatus keeping a close watch on all activities. Nevertheless, there was some consensus among Syria-watchers in the West that the young Assad was taking the first steps necessary towards reform. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the regime allowed the emergence of a number of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) active on a range of issues, including human rights, albeit with security services keeping a close watch.

The Western powers tried to encourage what they saw as a slow-moving process of reform by offering Assad economic aid, largely though the European Union, and deference at the diplomatic level. Assad was invited to high-profile state visits, including to Britain and France, where he was given a front seat at the traditional 14thof July military parade in Paris.

At the time marchers were gathering in Deraa, the Obama administration was preparing the ground for Assad’s visit to Washington, with a number of high profile Democrats penning op-eds in praise of the Syrian leader as a reformer and moderate.

The then head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate, Senator John Kerry, had forged a personal friendship with Assad, whom he had met in a number of visits to Damascus, where their respective wives also developed a bond of sympathy.

Not long before the war in Syria began, Bashar Assad was hailed as a reformer and invited to high-profile state visits in the West. Above, Bashar Assad relaxing with Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), and with then Senator John Kerry (right).

The fact that Assad’s relations with the Bush administration had been stormy, to say the least, also helped Assad’s image with the Obama administration, which was building a foreign policy based on anti-Bush sentiments. (Bush had forced Assad to end Syria’s occupation of Lebanon; Assad had retaliated by allowing Islamist terrorists to pass through Syria to kill Americans in Iraq.) For three decades, Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad had been the only Arab leader to have had tête-à-tête meetings with all US Presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush had broken that tradition by not bestowing the same distinction on Bashar al-Assad.

In the end, the Assad regime repeated the experience of virtually all authoritarian regimes that have tried the recipe for “guided reform.”

An authoritarian regime is never more in danger than when it attempts liberalization. Also, the fact is that not all authoritarian regimes have efficient mechanisms for reform. In some cases, the choice is between crushing popular demands for reform and the risk of regime change. As Latin Americans know well, while dictablanda (light dictatorship) could be reformed, dictadura(hard dictatorship) has to be overthrown.

After a brief period in which, Hamlet-like, he wondered whether to kill or not to kill, Assad opted for the latter, sending his tanks to crush Deraa. The recipe had been tried in 1982 under his father, General Hafez al-Assad, in Hama and had worked, ensuring almost three decades of stability for the regime.

Like other Arab authoritarian regimes facing popular revolts, the Assad regime was, at least in part, a victim of its own relative success.

The decades of stability after Hama and Syria’s effective, though not formal, end of the state of war with Israel, had allowed the formation of a new urban middle class, an impressive quantitative growth of educational facilities, and the revival of traditional sectors of the economy, notably agriculture and handicraft industries, that escaped central government control.

Assad’s record in such domains as literacy, improved health services that helped raise life expectancy levels, and access to higher education, was significantly better than the average for the 22 members of the Arab League. A new urban middle class with Western-style political aspirations had emerged only to find itself constrained by a Third World-style political system. The problem was that this new middle class, politically inexperienced not to say immature, could not go beyond expressing its aspirations in a haphazard way. It had no political structure and leadership to translate those aspirations into a strategy for a radical re-shaping of Syrian society.

Thus, like other nations experiencing the Arab Spring, not to mention the European Revolutions of 1848, the Syrian uprising faced the prospect of defeat by the authoritarian state it wished to reform. The failure of the uprising to develop a coherent strategy created a vacuum that other forces soon tried to fill.

The first of those forces was the Muslim Brotherhood, the longest-standing adversary of the Assad regime and its Arab Socialist Baath (“Resurgence”) Party machine. Having remained as mere spectator in the early phases of uprising, the Brotherhood, its leadership then based in exile in Germany, reactivated its dormant cells and started promoting sectarian themes: Sunni Muslims against the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs.

Paradoxically, the regime indirectly encouraged the ascent of the Brotherhood for two reasons. First, it hoped that a dose of sectarianism would unify the Alawite minority, 10 per cent of the population, around the regime, while persuading other minorities, notably Christians, some 8 per cent of the population, and Ismailis and Druze, another two per cent, that they would have a better chance with a secular authoritarian regime rather than a militant Sunni Islamist one. To drive that point home, the regime started releasing large numbers of militant Sunni Islamists, among them many future leaders of the Islamic Sate Caliphate (or ISIS). Assad also worked on Kurds, around 10 per cent of the population, many of whom had had their Syrian nationality withdrawn in the 1960s. In a presidential decree, he promised to restore their nationality while hinting at major concessions on the issue of internal autonomy for ethnic minorities.

By encouraging the sectarian aspects of the conflict, Assad also hoped to win sympathy and support from Western democracies that, then as now, were concerned about the rise of militant Islam as a threat to their own security.

By playing the sectarian card, Assad also won greater support from the Shiite regime in the Islamic Republic in Tehran. Shiism does not recognize Alawites, better known in clerical circles as Nusayris, as Muslims, let alone Shiites.

Nevertheless, Tehran knew that while the Nusayri-dominated regime in Damascus posed no ideological-theological threat to it, the Muslim Brotherhood and its doctrine of pan-Islamism did. Tehran needed a friendly regime in Damascus to ensure continued access to neighboring Lebanon, where the Islamic Republic was the major foreign influence, thanks to its sponsorship of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah.

Already enjoying a major presence in Iraq, the Islamic Republic needed Syria to complete the “Shiite Crescent” which it saw as its glacis and point of access to the Mediterranean.

Even then, the struggle for Syria did not become, and even today is not, a sectarian war, although, within it we have a war of the sectarians. Other forces are present in this complex conflict. Among them are dissidents of the Ba’ath, especially members of its leftist tendencies who had been suppressed under Assad senior. The remnants of Syria’s various Communist parties are also active, as are small but experienced Arab nationalist (Nasserist) groups.

Because almost every religious and/or ethnic community is divided, some siding with Assad and others fighting against him, it is difficult to establish clear sectarian demarcation lines. Even the Kurds are deeply divided among themselves with the PKK, the Turkish Kurdish party, present in Syria as exiles for decades, holding the balance of power.

A further complication is due to the involvement of a growing number of foreign powers, the latest being Russia.

We have already mentioned Iran’s involvement in trying to protect a regime with which it never succeeded in forging a genuine friendship. This was an alliance of necessity, not of choice, from the start, because Tehran needed Damascus to split the Arab World during the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war against a background of rivalry between Assad senior and Saddam Hussein for the leadership of the pan-Arab Baath.

Assad senior visited Tehran only once, for a few hours, and took extra care to impose strict limits on Iranian presence in Syria, while profiting from Iranian largesse in the form of cut-price oil, cash handouts and delivery of weapons. It was only under Bashar that Syria allowed Iran to open consulates outside Damascus and, eventually, set up 14 “Cultural Centers” to promote Shiite Islam. It was also under Bashar that Tehran and Damascus concluded a relatively limited “Defense Cooperation Agreement” that included joint staff conversations and exchanges of military intelligence.

Although more than a million Iranians visited Syria each year on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Lady Zeynab near Damascus, almost no Syrians visited Iran, while trade between the two allies remained insignificant. In an interview given shortly before his death in combat near Aleppo, Iranian General Hussein Hamadani, recalled how senior Syrian army officers were “extremely unwilling” to let the Iranian military have a say in planning, let alone conducting, operations against anti-Assad rebels. The Syrian generals had a secular upbringing, loved their drinks, and regarded the Iranians as medieval fanatics clinging to anachronistic dreams.

By 2015, however, Iran was the principal supporter of the Assad regime. Iran is estimated to have spent something like $12 billion on its Syrian venture, including the payment of the salaries of government employees in areas still under Assad’s control. By the time of this writing, Iran had also lost 143 ranking officers, captain and above, in combat in Syrian battlefields. Sent to fight in Syria on orders from Tehran, the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has played a crucial role in limiting Assad’s territorial losses, especially in the south close to the border with Lebanon and the mountains west of Damascus. Conservative estimates put the number of Hezbollah’s losses in 2014 and 2015 at over 800, a third higher than its losses in the war with Israel in 2006.

Iran’s “Supreme Guide,” Ali Khamenei; has gone on record as saying he would not allow regime change in Damascus; he is the only foreign leader to do so.

While Iran is the major force backing Assad, Turkey has emerged as the main source of support for anti-Assad forces. In the first decade of the new century, Turkey, its economy experiencing sustained growth, invested more than $20 billion in Syria, thus turning Aleppo and adjacent provinces into part of the Turkish industrial hinterland. While Turkey’s critics accuse it of harboring neo-Ottoman dreams of domination in the Middle East, it is more likely that Ankara leaders see the Syrian imbroglio as an opportunity for them to “solve” the problem of Kurdish-Turkish secessionists based in Syrian territory since the 1980s.

Turkey’s “soft” Islamic leadership has always had ties to the global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and is determined to see its Syrian allies end up with a big say in the future of that country.

Turkey has paid more for its Syrian involvement than has Iran for its meddling. Unlike Iran, which has not admitted a single Syrian refugee, Turkey has become host to more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, posing a long-term humanitarian and security challenge at a time Ankara is grappling with economic recession and rising social tension.

Ankara’s decision to goad large numbers of refugees into the European Union was an attempt at forcing the richer nations of the continent to share some of Turkey’s burden. After four years of lobbying, Turkey has not succeeded in persuading its US ally to endorse the establishment of a “safe haven” and no-fly zone in Syria to persuade at least some Syrians to remain in their own homeland rather than become refugees in Turkey and other neighboring states.

However, the Iranian assumption that whatever happens in Syria will have no bearing on Iran’s own national security, while Turkey is in direct danger, may be misguided. The Islamic State Caliphate (ISIS) has already reached a tacit agreement not to go beyond a 40-kilometer line from Iran’s borders with Iraq, thereby indicating its desire to avoid a direct clash with Tehran at this point.

There is no guarantee that such self-restraint will remain in place in the context of failed states in Syria and parts of Iraq. Iranian authorities have publicly stated that some 80 Islamic State armed groups are present in Afghanistan and Pakistan close to Iranian borders. Iran’s security could also be threatened by a deeper involvement of various Kurdish communities, Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian exiles in those countries, in a broader regional conflict. Iran’s total support for Assad may also land the Islamic Republic on the side of losers, when, and if, the remnant of the regime in Damascus collapses.

Russia, which has also entered the fray in support of Assad, may already be rethinking its rash decision to become involved in a conflict it does not quite understand and in a country where, a quarter of a century after the fall of the USSR, it has few reliable contacts.

Three events seem to have persuaded President Putin to soft-pedal his initial gang-ho posture. The first was the downing of the Russian passenger airliner by ISIS, a reminder of the vulnerability that Russia shares with all other states in the face of global terrorism. The second was the shooting down of a Russian fighter plane by Turkey, a reminder that in a situation as messy as the one in Syria, there is no way to guarantee that everything will remain under control all the time. The third event was the attack organized by a pro-Caliphate crowd on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, ostensibly to avenge the murder of a local girl by a Russian soldier.

Russia is home to an estimated 20 million Muslims, practicing or not, mostly of Sunni persuasion and at least theoretically sympathetic to the Syrian Sunni majority fighting Assad. Russia’s firm backing for Assad could provoke a terrorist response not only against Russian tourists, as we saw in Sharm al-Sheikh, but inside the federation itself.

The country most dramatically, and perhaps permanently, affected by the Syrian conflict is Lebanon. More than 1.8 million Syrian refugees have arrived, altering the country’s delicate demographic balance.

The current Lebanese caretaker government, with the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister holding immense executive powers, is keen to grant the new arrivals citizenship as fast as possible. If the new arrivals do stay permanently, Lebanon would become another Arab Sunni majority state with Christians, Shiites and Druze together accounting for no more than 45 per cent of the population.

Neighboring Jordan is also affected in a major way, this time in favor of the dominant Hashemite elite. The absorption of some 1.2 million Syrian refugees, most of them Sunni Muslims, and a further half a million Iraqi Sunni refugees would dilute the demographic mix in favor of non-Palestinian communities, notably Bedouin Arabs, Circassians, Druze, Turkic and Christian minorities, which account for no more than 35 per cent of the population.

The country most directly affected so far is Iraq, which has lost a good chunk of its territory, notably its third most populous city, Mosul, to the Islamic State caliphate centered at Raqqah in Syria. Baghdad’s leaders are concerned by the thought that Western powers may end up accepting a new partition of the Middle East that would include the emergence of a new Sunni-majority state composed of four Iraqi and five Syrian provinces.

The idea of talking to ISIS has already been raised in Britain by the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, with the suggestion that second-track channels be opened with the Caliphate to probe the possibility of peace talks and a compromise. Such a move would amount to a first step towards recognition of a separate new Sunni state.

Iraq is also concerned about the future of Kurdish areas taken back from the ISIS Caliphate by Kurdish fighters from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Will the Kurds give back those lands to Baghdad once calm returns?

The idea of a new Sunni state on the Euphrates has promoted another idea, that of a state for minorities such as Alawites, Christians, Ismailis and Druze on the Mediterranean, extending from parts of Lebanon to the Syrian coastline along the mountains west of Damascus. That would roughly cover the portion of Syria that during their Mandate the French called “la Syrie utile” (useful Syria).

Russia, another state that has recently become involved in Syria, could secure the aeronaval facilities it seeks in the Mediterranean in the territory of that new state.

Needless to say, the Kurds, divided in communities present in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and (former Soviet) Azerbaijan, are already affected by the Syrian conflict. The idea of a united Kurdish state has never been more present in the imagination of Kurds across the region. However, its realization has never seemed as remote as it is today. Various Kurdish communities and parties are engaged in a bitter struggle over control of the Kurdish narrative and agenda, at times even coming close to armed conflict. Conscious of the dangers involved, the Iraqi Kurdish leader Masood Barzani has been forced to hastily shelve his declared plan for declaring Kurdish independence in the three Iraqi provinces he controls in coalition with a number of other parties.

United in their fight against ISIS in their own neck of the woods, Kurds are deeply divided about what to do next; the danger of them using their guns — many supplied by the US — against each other cannot be ruled out.

Conflict in Syria also affects other Arab and Muslim countries, partly because of the magnet for jihadism created by the Caliphate and other Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front). By the time of this writing, groups claiming some links with Syrian jihadists have carried out or attempted acts of terror in 21 Muslim-majority countries from Indonesia to Burkina Faso, passing by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Libya. Such groups were also responsible for attacks or attempted attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Britain and the United States.

The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf have been active in support of various anti-Assad groups. But they, too, are in danger of repeating their disastrous experience in Afghanistan when they helped jihadis fight the local Communists and their Soviet sponsors only to end up with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

In fact, for more than half a century, various jihadi leaders have dreamt of seizing control of at least one oil-rich Arab state capable of ensuring financial resources for their strategy of global conquest.

Later this month, a new international conference on Syria will open in Geneva. On the agenda is a plan for power-sharing, a new constitution and general elections under UN supervision within two years. Originally, the plan was developed by a New York-based think-tank in 2012 and conveyed to Assad through two prominent Lebanese political figures. Assad gave it a cautious welcome. The plan also enjoyed some support from the NSC in the Obama Administration. However, almost at the last minute, President Obama vetoed it, publicly stating that Assad must go.

If the plan had a slim chance in 2012, it has virtually none today. The reason is that no one is quite in charge of his own camp in Syria, assuming that one may discover easily recognizable camps capable of acting as distinct entities.

Syria had never been a distinct state entity until the French mandate, experimenting with at least five different versions of statehood, turned it into one after the First World War.

By 2011, when Deraa triggered the national uprising, Syria had become a proper nation-state with a sense of Syrianhood (in Arabic: Saryana) that had never before existed. This Saryanawas evident in the nation’s literature, cinema, television, journalism and, more importantly, the version of Arabic people spoke from one end of the country to another.

With the collapse of the Syrian state, now in tenuous control of some 40 per cent of the national territory, and the intensification of the conflict with all its inevitable sectarian undertones, that sense of “Saryana” has come under strong pressure, and, in areas under the control of the ISIS Caliphate, singled out as enemy number-one. Syria today is a patchwork of emirates, large and small, coexisting and/or fighting in the context of a war economy and emphasis on local, ethnic, and religious particularism. Many of these emirates have developed a system of coexistence that allows them to run the communities under their control and guide them in different directions. In most cases, the direction in question is towards what is marketed as “pure Muhammadan Islam” in many different forms. But in a few cases, much to the surprise of many, timid experiments with pluralism and democracy are also under way.

The challenge today is not to rescue, through diplomatic gimmicks, a Syria that has largely ceased to exist but to help create a new Syria. That, however, is a challenge that no one today appears willing, let alone able, to face.

February 10, 2016 | by Amir Taheri | http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7408/syria-past-future "Syria: Checkered Past, Uncertain Future

World War III Could Start This Month

World War Three WWIII feature

Three-hundred fifty thousand soldiers, 20,000 tanks, 2,450 warplanes and 460 military helicopters are massing in northern Saudi Arabia for a military exercise that is being called “Northern Thunder.”

Turkey after a recent shelling. The Syrian Kurds are not threatening Turkey in any way right now, but Turkey is using the instability in the region as an excuse to lob artillery shells at a hated enemy. Reuters

According to the official announcement, forces are being contributed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia and several other nations. This exercise will reportedly last for 18 days, and during that time the airspace over northern Saudi Arabia will be closed to air traffic. This will be the largest military exercise in the history of the region, and it comes amid rumors that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are preparing for a massive ground invasion of Syria.

If you were going to gather forces for an invasion, this is precisely how you would do it. Governments never come out and publicly admit that forces are moving into position for an invasion ahead of time, so “military exercises” are a common excuse that gets used for this sort of thing.

If these exercises are actually being used as an excuse to mass forces near the northern Saudi border, then we should expect an invasion to begin within the next couple of weeks. If it happens, we should expect to see the Saudi coalition storm through western Iraq and into Syria from the south, and it is likely that Turkey will come in from the north.

The goal would be to take out the Assad regime before Russia, Iran and Hezbollah could react. For the past couple of years, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have been funding the Sunni insurgency in Syria, and they were counting on those insurgents to be able to take down the Assad regime by themselves.

You see, the truth is that ISIS was never supposed to lose in Syria. Saudi Arabia and her allies have been funneling massive amounts of money to ISIS, and hundreds of millions of dollars of ISIS oil has been shipped into Turkey where it is sold to the rest of the world.

The major Sunni nations wanted ISIS and the other Sunni insurgent groups to take down Assad. In the aftermath, Saudi Arabia and her allies intended to transform Syria into a full-blown Sunni nation.

But then Russia, Iran and Hezbollah stepped forward to assist the Assad regime. Russian air support completely turned the tide of the war, and now the Sunni insurgents are on the brink of losing.

Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria, and Sunni insurgents have controlled it since 2012. But now relentless Russian airstrikes have made it possible for Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces to surround the city, and it is about to fall back into the hands of the Syrian government.

If this happens, the war will essentially be over.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have invested massive amounts of time, money and effort into overthrowing Assad, and they aren’t about to walk away now.

If the war was to end right at this moment, a weakened Assad regime would remain in power, and Iran and Hezbollah would be the dominant powers in the country for years to come. And once Assad died, it would be inevitable that Iran and Hezbollah would attempt to transform Syria into a full-blown Shiite nation. This is something that Saudi Arabia and Turkey want to avoid at all costs.

So they are actually considering what was once absolutely unthinkable – a massive ground invasion of Syria.

But if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies go in, they run the risk of a full-blown war with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Just consider some of the comments that we have seen in recent days …

Reacting to a potential troop deployment, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Saturday, “Let no one think they can attack Syria or violate its sovereignty because I assure you any aggressor will return to their country in a wooden coffin.”

Pavel Krasheninnikov, a deputy of Russia’s State Duma, has warned Saudi Arabia that any military ground operation in Syria without Damascus’ consent would amount to a declaration of war, Press TV reported.

Walid al-Muallem

We could literally be looking at the spark that sets off Word War III. I can’t believe that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are actually considering this.

And if it does happen, you can rest assured that Barack Obama gave them the green light to go in.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the decision may have already been made. Just consider what Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is saying …

“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch a ground operation,” he added, fueling concerns that a foreign troop invasion may soon further complicate the already turbulent situation in the war-torn country.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE voiced their readiness to contribute troops for a ground operation in Syria on the condition that the US would lead the intervention. Damascus and its key regional ally, Iran, warned that such a foreign force would face strong resistance.

Mevlut Cavusoglu

And in addition to all of the forces massing in northern Saudi Arabia, the London Independent is reporting that the Saudis have sent troops and aircraft to a military base in Turkey…

Saudi Arabia is sending troops and fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik military base ahead of a possible ground invasion of Syria.

The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, confirmed the deployment in a statement to the Yeni Şafak newspaper on Saturday, days before a temporary ceasefire is due to come into force.

London Independent and Mevlut Cavusoglu

There are reports that Saudi officials are saying that the decision to send in ground troops is “irreversible”, and Reuters is reporting that the Syrian government claims that some Turkish troops have already entered the country …

The Syrian government says Turkish forces were believed to be among 100 gunmen it said entered Syria on Saturday accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents fighting Damascus.

“The operation of supplying ammunition and weapons is continuing via the Bab al-Salama crossing to the Syrian area of Azaz,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council published by state news agency SANA.

Reuters

Of course the Turkish government is not going to confirm that report, but what we do know is that Turkey is shelling Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border. The funny thing is that these Kurdish forces are actually being supported and supplied by the U.S. government.

So the Turks are not supposed to be doing this, but according to Reuters they have been doing it for two days in a row anyway …

The Turkish army shelled positions held by Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria for a second day on Sunday, killing two fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Turkey on Saturday demanded the powerful Syrian Kurdish YPG militia withdraw from areas that it had captured in the northern Aleppo region in recent days from insurgents in Syria, including the Menagh air base. The shelling has targeted those areas.

Reuters

The hostility between Turkey and the Kurds goes back a long, long way.The Syrian Kurds are not threatening Turkey in any way right now, but Turkey is using the instability in the region as an excuse to lob artillery shells at a hated enemy. It is an act of naked aggression that the Obama administration should be loudly denouncing.

In addition, it is being reported that Syrian government forces have also been getting shelled by the Turkish military …

Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

Turkish artillery targeted Syrian forces again late on Saturday, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti. The attack targeted the town of Deir Jamal in the Aleppo Governorate.

RIA Novosti

Needless to say, the Russians are quite alarmed by all of this.

In fact, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is warning about what could happen if things spiral out of control …

In the wake of Saudi Arabia’s proposal to send in ground troops on Thursday, the Russian Prime Minister claimed the move could spark a new world war.

“A ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

“The Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war.”

Russian Prime Minister

If Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies launch an invasion and make a mad dash to take out the Assad regime in Damascus, the Russians will inevitably respond.

And if tactical nuclear weapons are necessary to keep the invading forces out of Damascus, the Russians will not be shy about using them.

I don’t know if I have ever seen a scenario which was more likely to initiate Word War III than the one that we are watching unfold right now.

So what has the mainstream media been saying about all of this?

Incredibly, they have been almost entirely silent. When he went looking for news about these events, James Bailey could find almost nothing on either Fox News or CNN …

I just visited the home page for Foxnews.com and found not one single mention of the insane events now unfolding in the Middle East. I could not believe it, so I used my Find tool to search for Syria and Saudi Arabia. Not one mention!

Of course that could change at any moment, but nothing there when I checked. Their stories were all about the meaningless Presidential election, which has already been decided regardless of what we think about it, and other stories about entertainment, sports, Congressional political theater, etc.

So I went to CNN and found just about the same thing with one news story about the Syrian cease fire, but when I read it there was no mention of any of the big events that have developed this week. This is truly an amazing media blackout!

James Bailey

But Fox News does have space to run headlines like these…

»»: Spanish man skipped work for 6 years, still got paid

»»: 48 people rescued from stuck tram cars at New Hampshire ski resort

»»: Lovelorn elephant takes out his rage on more than a dozen cars

And CNN apparently thinks that these news stories are more important than the potential beginning of Word War III …

»»: Kanye West drops album, says he’s $53 million in debt

»»: Dutch cops train eagles to hunt drones

»»: Teen hands out 900 flowers to girls at school

If Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies are going to conduct an invasion of Syria, the most likely time for this to happen will be by the end of this month during these military exercises.

If we can get to March 1st and no invasion has happened yet, perhaps we can breathe a little sigh of relief.

But if it does happen, and the Russians and the Iranians decide to shoot back, it really could be the start of Word War III.

If you have not been paying attention up until now, you need to start, because this could literally change everything. 

2016, Feb 16 | Michael Snyder | Solurce: charismanews.com "World War III Could Start This Month"

Middle East Strategic Outlook, February

Map: Middle East feature

• The EU-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal. Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees. In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions.

• During the coming year there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right.

• We assess that Iran will continue in indirect channels with a parallel nuclear program, realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA.

• The demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard. It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one.

The announcement by the IAEA that Iran has fulfilled its obligations according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has triggered “Implementation Day” and the removal of the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

The JCPOA, however, did not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program, and the sanctions related to it are still nominally in force. These sanctions are minor and will not have any real effect on the Iranian missile program. The missile program will mature during this period and will include Ghadr missiles with ranges of 1,650-1,950 km, which may be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The question now is: whither the Iranian nuclear program? After the lifting of sanctions, and taking into account the impracticality of “snap-back” of sanctions, we assess that Iran will now initiate a parallel nuclear program.

This will, of course, be far slower than the program that was dismantled by the JCPOA, but it will be realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA. One possibility for Iran to continue its nuclear program is through North Korea.

The wording of the JCPOA is ambiguous on nuclear Iranian nuclear cooperation with other countries that are not a party to the agreement. North Korea could produce the whole chain of nuclear weapons and put it at Iran’s disposal in return for Iranian funding.

North Korea would certainly profit economically from such collaboration and would not risk further sanctions.

Such cooperation would be difficult to detect, and even if detected, may not reach the threshold of a material breach of the JCPOA.

The most immediate reward that Iran will receive is the release of frozen Iranian funds ($100-$150 billion).

In addition, Iran may now market oil stored offshore in tankers (about 50 billion barrels) and is preparing to increase its production by 500 thousand bpd (from 2.8 million bpd). It is doubtful that Iran can truly increase its production as planned. Even if it does, the addition of Iranian oil is likely to drive prices down even further, counterbalancing much of the potential profit.

Sanctions relief also is not a quick fix for the Iranian economy.

While it removes legal impediments for investment and business in Iran, the risks that Western companies will face due to residual non-nuclear sanctions (that may be enhanced and enforced by a future American administration), lack of government protection, corruption, and the weakness of the Iranian market cannot be removed by decree. Therefore, European banks and investors may not hurry to invest in Iran at the levels needed to jump-start the Iranian economy after years of sanctions.

The Iranian regime’s goal is not only to block the path to the reformists or reformist-minded, but also to the extremists on the right to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Such a balance could help the Iranian system maintain its “centrist” orientation and guarantee the continuity in the event of Khamenei’s death and the appointment of a new successor (or a triumvirate of several potential leaders).

It will also facilitate the eventual takeover of the regime by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after the demise of Khamenei. The backing that the Guardian Council received from the Supreme Leader for the results of its vetting process, in the face of Rouhani’s condemnation of the disapproval of almost all reformists, is also indicative of the balance of power in the regime.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 and the publication of drone pictures of a US Navy aircraft carrier underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved.

These actions should be seen in the context of Iran’s attempt to change the rules of the game in the Persian Gulf, while testing the waters of American tolerance and sending to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States an indirect message that Iran is ready and willing to risk conflict with the US and that the US is a paper tiger that cannot be relied upon in a confrontation between the Gulf States and Iran.

In our assessment, Iran will continue with shows of force such as seizing of naval vessels of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, stop and search operations of commercial vessels en route to the Gulf States, naval exercises — including missile tests close to Gulf sea-lanes and to the territorial waters of the Gulf States — in international waterways that implicitly interrupt and threaten shipping in the Gulf, “spooking” of Gulf aircraft and even false flag operations of mining, piracy or attacks by proxies in the Gulf and the Red Sea along the Yemeni coast.

We may expect as a result possible frontier skirmishes on the shared littoral borders of Iran and Saudi Arabia, gas fields and disputed islands and in the international waters of the Gulf.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved.

Saudi Arabia is drawing up its own map of interests and areas of influence that it is projecting as “no-go zones” for Iran — a Saudi “Monroe Doctrine” for the region.

The most critical of these are:

Yemen (due to the potential for threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Straits), subversion in the Gulf States (primarily Bahrain), the Strait of Hormuz and the international waters of the Gulf.

To this list one must add the obvious: any Iranian-inspired or -planned attack on the Saudi homeland itself — government facilities, oil installations etc. — would be perceived as crossing a red line.

While neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran is interested in direct conflict, and both would prefer to continue to work through proxies and in areas outside their respective sovereign territories, the dynamic nature of the situation can easily lend itself to misreading of such red lines and such miscalculation may lead to direct confrontation between them.

While all-out direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia remains a low probability, this assessment should be revisited again in the near future.

In Syria, American positions have undergone a strategic shift that reflects the new balance of power created by the Russian intervention.

On the military side, the Russian presence imposes a heavy constraint on the American activities, and U.S. officials caution that the success of the Ramadi operation will not be followed by a concerted effort to roll back the “Islamic State” in the Syrian theater.

In regards to a political solution, the US has accepted the Russian-Iranian four-point-plan that envisages Bashar al-Assad remaining in office during a transition period and being allowed to run for President in “internationally supervised elections”.

In our assessment, the Syrian opposition and their Arab supporters cannot accept any blueprint that would leave any doubt regarding Bashar al-Assad relinquishing power before any process begins.

These developments will only feed the sense of the Sunni Arabs that the United States has turned its back on them and is supporting Iranian-Russian hegemony in the region.

On this background, the prospects that the Syrian “peace talks” in Geneva will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

Last month’s visit by Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran was the first such visit of a Chinese President in the region since 2002, and the first foreign head of state to visit Iran since the announcement of “Implementation Day” of the JCPOA.

The Chinese emphasis in all the visits was on economic cooperation, development and stability, but above all — in an implicit stab at the US and Russia — emphasizing that China does not seek proxies, to fill a power vacuum or hegemony in the region.

The leitmotif of the visit was the integration of the Middle Eastern partners (i.e. the Arabs in general and Iran) into China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.”

In spite of the inclusion of Iran in the visit, President Xi took care not to offend the Arabs.

The agreements with Saudi Arabia included nuclear cooperation in a scope far greater than that which was offered to Iran, and the joint statement reflected the Saudi position on Yemen, stating, “both sides stressed support for the legitimate regime of Yemen.”

The “Arab Policy Paper” published on the eve of the visit stresses China’s commitment to “non-intervention and opposition to interference in the affairs of other countries”.

This is seen by the Arab policy communities as a sign of implicit Chinese support for their position vis-à-vis Iran’s activities in the region, though they would have welcomed more explicit statements of support.

There is no expectation in the region that China is going to play the “Big Power” card in the region. Taking sides in this conflict would be out of character for China.

Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states will attempt to convince China to refrain from demonstrations of rapprochement with Iran and to support the Arab positions vis-à-vis Iranian provocations in the Gulf, Syria and Yemen.

While China may show a slight implicit leaning towards the Arab position on these issues, it is not likely to take a clear anti-Iranian/pro-Arab position in the near future.

The European Union-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal.

Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees.

In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions.

Turkey has already signaled that the sum will not suffice for the task of maintaining the refugees inside Turkey alone, and certainly not for other security measures such as blocking the border with Turkey to prevent passage to and fro of “Islamic State” foreign fighters.

Aside from the 3 billion euros, the EU commitments will also not be easily implemented; visa waivers for Turkish citizens in general will encounter massive opposition within the EU.

The road to Turkish accession to the EU must also go through complex negotiations on various aspects of compatibility of Turkey to the standards of the EU.

All these discussions will encounter a veto by Cyprus, pending a peace deal with Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. This veto may be resolved if a referendum on unification of Cyprus takes place and supports reunification later this year.

However, the real obstacle towards Turkish accession is not technical or due to the Cyprus question; it revolves around the shift in European public opinion towards absorption of immigrants from Muslim countries.

During the coming year, there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right. Under these circumstances, Turkish accession or even visa waiver will be very unlikely.

In our assessment, the trend towards Kurdish independence will eventually lead to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan.

The events in Syrian Kurdistan will also affect the pace and direction of the independence movement in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Unification of the parts of Syrian Kurdistan in the face of Turkish opposition and under Russian protection will give impetus to the demand to create a political fait accompli of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan.

As the principle of Kurdish independence in Iraq gains more and more support and becomes a reality, the irredentist demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard.

This is the fulfillment of the Kurdish nightmare that Turkey has always feared.

With the deterioration of relations between the AKP government and the Turkish Kurds inside Turkey, such a political reality of independent Kurdistan will add fire to the flames of the Kurdish rebellion in southern Turkey.

It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one. If this happens, the US will have lost an important potential ally in the new map of the Middle East.

The large number of players on the ground that may take a part in the campaign for Mosul will only complicate the campaign further and — if the city or part of it is retaken, will increase the chances of internal fighting between the components of the ad-hoc alliance of Iraqi government forces, Shiite militias, Sunni militias, Kurdish Peshmarga, Turks and American forces.

On this background, the Syrian “Peace Talks” in Geneva started (29 January) as “proximity talks” in which the UN representatives shuttle between the rooms of the opposing parties.

The Saudi supported High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition ceded their original conditions — cessation of the attacks on civilians — though they refuse to meet with the regime representatives while the latter refuse to meet with “terrorists”.

The Syrian regime representation is low-level as an indication that there is no intention to hold real negotiations. Furthermore, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose military wing, the YPG, is the most effective fighting force on the ground against the “Islamic State,” were not included in the opposition delegation because of the Turkish threat to boycott the Geneva negotiations if it participates.

Under these conditions, the prospects that the talks will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

February 7, 2016 | by Shmuel Bar | gatestoneinstitute.org "Middle East Strategic Outlook, February"
Dr. Shmuel Bar is a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy studies at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and a veteran of Israel’s intelligence community.