post by Israeli News Live
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
• 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.
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:
And finally, “the most important, most fundamental, most urgent question of all”:
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:
April 24, 2016 | by Soeren Kern | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel"
• 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,
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.”
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.
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.
“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"
• 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, he said, was a Turkish issue because of its period of Ottoman rule:
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:
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?”
He then went on to explain his government’s criteria of forming international friendships:
Earlier on July 18, 2014, Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, had criticized Erdogan for not keeping promises about Gaza:
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.“
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:
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).
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:
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 — 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"
• 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.
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
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.”
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 …
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 …
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…
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 …
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 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 …
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 …
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 …
But Fox News does have space to run headlines like these…
And CNN apparently thinks that these news stories are more important than the potential beginning of Word War III …
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"
• 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 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.
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"
World Watch List 2016: Released
The list showing the countries where Christians are persecuted most, has just been released. Resources will be available from 1 February.
The countries listed below make up the current World Watch List – a yearly ranking of the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most intense. Click on a country to read about its current situation.
World Watch List 2016
World Watch List 2016
|26||Central African Republic|
|47||United Arab Emirates|
• In the eyes of many devout Muslims, tolerance seems to be a one-way street.
• “The relation between Islam and the rest of the world is marked by asymmetry. Muslims may and do enjoy all kinds of freedoms and privileges in the lands of the Kuffar [infidels]; however non-Muslims are not granted the same rights and privileges when they live in countries governed by Muslim governments… In our globalized world, this state of affairs should not continue.” — Jacob Thomas.
• The West, coming as it does from the Judeo-Christian culture of love and compassion, would seem to have a moral responsibility to help first the Christians, the most beleaguered and most benign of immigrants.
Around 45,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians (also known as Syriac and Chaldean) who fled Syria and Iraq and have settled in small Anatolian cities in Turkey, are forced to hide their religious identity, according to the Hurriyet daily newspaper1)http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/christian-refugees-face-difficulties-hide-religion-in-turkey-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=92719&NewsCatID=339.
Since the Islamic State (ISIS) invaded Iraqi and Syrian cities, Christians and Yazidis have become the group’s main target, facing another possible genocide at the hands of Muslims.
Anonis Alis Salciyan, an Armenian who fled Iraq for Turkey, told Hurriyet that in public, they pretend to be Muslim.
“My husband and I fled [Iraq] with our two children one year ago with around 20 other families. There was pressure on us in Iraq,” Salciyan said, recalling that her husband, who ran a jewelry shop in Iraq, is now unemployed. “We have relatives in Europe. Only thanks to their support are we getting by. Our children cannot go to school here; they cannot speak Turkish.”
What makes the plight of Christian refugees in Turkey even more tragic is that the ancestors of some of those refugees were driven out of Anatolia by the Ottoman authorities and local Muslims a century ago, during what are known as the Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide of 1915.
Another family, Linda and Vahan Markaryan, also fled to Turkey with their two children. Their home in Baghdad had been raided by ISIS jihadists.
“My daughter, Nuşik, seven, stopped talking that day. She has not spoken since. We are working hard to provide her treatment, but she still will not speak,” Linda Markaryan said, adding that it was hard for them to practice their religion. “We have to conduct our prayers at home.”
Islamic jihadist armies invaded Middle Eastern and North African lands starting in the 7th century. The indigenous, non-Muslim, peoples of those lands have doubtless forgotten what safety, security and religious freedom mean.
In every country that is now majority-Muslim, there are horror stories of violent subjugation, rapes, slavery and murder of the non-Muslim people at the hands of jihadists.
Christians have existed in Syria since the earliest days of Christianity; today, after the raids of ISIS, they are fleeing for their lives.
Muslim invasions of Byzantine Syria occurred under Muhammad’s successors, the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab in the 7th century. In 634, Damascus, then mostly Christian, became the first major city of the Byzantine Empire to fall to the Rashidun Caliphate.
Damascus subsequently became the capital of the Ummayad Caliphate, the second of the four major Islamic caliphates, and Arabic became the official state language.
In Iraq, where many Christian refugees in Turkey also come from, there has also been a campaign of Islamization.
Muslim Arabs captured what is today termed “Iraq” from the Persian Sassanid Empire in 636. They burned Zoroastrian scriptures, executed priests, pillaged cities and seized slaves — just as ISIS does today.
When Muslim armies captured non-Muslim lands, the Christians and Jews were given the choice of either converting, being killed, or living as “dhimmis2)https://www.jewishmag.com/57mag/dhimmi/dhimmi.htm“: third-class, barely “tolerated” people in their dispossessed land, and having to pay a tax (the jizya) in exchange for so-called “protection.”3)For more about dhimmitude, please see “The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam“, by Bat Ye’or, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.
NOW, IN THE 21ST CENTURY, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY SAY THEY STILL LIVE IN FEAR.
On December 28, 2012, for instance, 85-year-old Maritsa Kucuk, an Armenian woman, was beaten and stabbed to death4)http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3857/maritsa-kucuk-cinayeti-ve-yetkililerin-dayanilmaz-suskunlugu in her home in the neighborhood of Samatya (one of the largest Armenian communities in Istanbul), where she lived alone. Her son, Zadig Kucuk, who found her dead body at home, said that a cross had been carved on her chest.
In December 2012, also in Samatya, another woman, T.A., 87, was attacked, beaten, and choked5)http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3857/maritsa-kucuk-cinayeti-ve-yetkililerin-dayanilmaz-suskunlugu in her home. She lost an eye.
“The press, the police, politicians, and authorities have not focused on this issue,” wrote6)http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3857/maritsa-kucuk-cinayeti-ve-yetkililerin-dayanilmaz-suskunlugu Rober Koptas, the then chief editor of the Armenian bilingual weekly newspaper, Agos. “They prefer to stay silent as if these attacks never took place. It increases the uneasiness of all Armenians living in Turkey.”
In January, 2013, Ilker Sahin, 40, a teacher working at an Armenian school in Istanbul, was beheaded7)http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3889/aramyan-okulu-ogretmeni-bogazi-kesilerek-olduruldu in his home.
In 2011, a Turkish taxi driver in Istanbul punched8)http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3816/samatya-cinayeti-karanlikta-kalmasin an Armenian customer. “Your accent is bad,” he told her. “You are a kafir [infidel].”
In the eyes of many devout Muslims, tolerance seems to be a one-way street. Many Muslims have apparently still not learned to treat other people with respect. Non-Muslims all around the “Muslim world” are either murdered or forced to live in fear. Many Muslims evidently still think that non-Muslims are their dhimmis, and that they can treat them as terribly as they would like.
In Western countries, Muslims are equal citizens with equal rights. But some of them often demand more “rights” — privileges from their governments — such as Islamic sharia courts with a parallel legal system. If their demands are not met, they accuse people of “Islamophobia” or “racism.”
In majority-Muslim countries, including Turkey, non-Muslims are continually insulted, threatened or even murdered — and most Muslims, including state authorities, do not seem to care.
“The relation between Islam and the rest of the world is marked by asymmetry,” wrote the author Jacob Thomas9)http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/thomas/dhimmis_damascus.html,
Unfortunately, hatred of Christians has become a norm in Muslim countries, and this norm will not soon go away. This means that Christians in the Middle East will continue suffering or even being murdered, and will eventually become extinct in the Middle East if the civilized world does not help them.
As Linda Markaryan, the Christian refugee who fled ISIS in Iraq and is now living in Turkey, said10)http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/christian-refugees-face-difficulties-hide-religion-in-turkey-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=92719&NewsCatID=339: “We do not have a future here. Everything in our lives is uncertain. Our only wish is to provide a better future for our children in a place where they are safe and secure.”
Hurriyet also reported that Christian refugees in Turkey have applied to the United Nations to be able to go to the U.S., Canada or Austria; they have been granted residency in Turkey only until 2023.
All Western states should give priority to Christians from Muslim countries when granting refugee status to people. The West, coming as it does from the Judeo-Christian culture of love and compassion, would seem to have a moral responsibility to help first the Christians, these most beleaguered and most benign of immigrants.
January 24, 2016 | by Uzay Bulut11)Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara. | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org “Turkey: Christian Refugees Live in Fear”
References [ + ]
|3.||↑||For more about dhimmitude, please see “The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam“, by Bat Ye’or, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.|
|4, 5, 6.||↑||http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/3857/maritsa-kucuk-cinayeti-ve-yetkililerin-dayanilmaz-suskunlugu|
|11.||↑||Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.|