Gutter snipe all you want Geoffrey Robertson QC

Gutter snipe all you want Geoffrey Robertson QC but you are on our side now!!

Last night (20/10/20140) I saw this on the ABC Lateline program.

EMMA ALBERICI: You were against the 2003 Iraq invasion, but you support the fight against Islamic State. What’s the difference?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Correct. Well, in a sense there’s a link because if we had obeyed the law, we wouldn’t have overthrown the Baathist regime in 2003 in Iraq, which – and underneath that stone, once it was rolled over, crept all these horrific fighting groups and the latest one of them being ISIS. So it may well be that ISIS wouldn’t be with us if we’d obeyed the law, and let’s face it, there were only four who didn’t. There was George Bush, who wanted to kill the man who had – he thought had threatened his father. There was Tony Blair, who went in because he thought the British could restrain the Americans. There was that Spanish President whose name I forget. He reminded me of Manuel in Fawlty Towers. I think he’s now been made a member of News Corp board. And there was Johnny Howard, who perhaps didn’t look at the law or had forgotten it or never studied it when he became a solicitor. But it was a bad mistake to go in to overthrow Saddam Hussein and we are now left with ISIS and we have to deal with it. We have an obligation to deal with it, I think, because it is committing genocide. It is certainly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and that engages international attention. There was no crime against humanity or genocide being committed by Saddam. He committed genocide in 1988 against the Kurds, but the world turned a blind eye to that. And so we have a duty, I think, to go in. I don’t think air strikes is going to solve of the problem. The problems are extremely deep and will take a lot of solving and we have problems in our own backyard with returning members of ISIS in Britain. They’ve adopted a view, initially, that they should keep them out, but that means …

EMMA ALBERICI: That’s a view that’s shared here too …

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes, I know.

EMMA ALBERICI: … in our government.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: But you can’t make people stateless. The answer I think is that you have to bring them back, arrest them and put them on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. We can do that. There are those crimes under the Crimes Act. And I think that view is gathering force in Britain.

EMMA ALBERICI: So you think it’s wrong to deny them – to cancel their passports, deny them re-entry to Australia?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Well perhaps cancel their passports if they’re going, but when they come back, I think the answer is not to refuse them and leave them stateless because that’s – what we should do is prosecute them, send them to prison for a long time, or perhaps – the view in Britain is the Channel program. We’re developing programs with psychologists and imams and possibly returned jihadis to discourage young people from joining. And it may be that instead of getting a 25-year sentence for being an accomplice to war crimes in Syria, you will get a reduction if you’re prepared to help discourage other people from taking this primrose path. But it’s a problem that both countries are facing. I think the answer is to prosecute for the crimes that they’ve committed, for their accompliceship in these monstrous events and to punish them and hopefully the punishment will act as a deterrent itself.

EMMA ALBERICI: We have to leave it there. Many thanks for coming in, Geoffrey Robertson.

END
That dear reader is what the ABC puts to air and after all why not a great many people love him? All one has to do is listen to the disparaging personal attacks that pass unchallenged by the ABC reporters to realise how low it has sunk as a so-called independent news provider.

However, one can still say – thank you come in spinner as  another anti-war liberal has joined the ranks of the pro-war elements.  OMG we are currently so shamelessly broad in our ranks that we will even have this contemptible refugee from the old not in my name brigade. ROBERTSON may well rather be passing a sentence on the Spanish Prime Minister, George W Bush and Tony Blair as war criminals – but he will just have to content himself with a bit of gutter sniping instead! Little Johhny Howard indeed!

A review of The Wind That Shakes the Barley winner of Cannes film Festival 2006

 

Just one gem from the past to help Steve notice his present. 

Posted by  anita  in  2006-09-30

I just saw the Ken Loach film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ and what a splendidly made and politically-correct piece of pseudo-left propaganda (in the worst sense of the word) it is.

My partner is Irish Australian and quite familiar with this period of Irish history, but his first question was why would someone make this film now?  The answer was not long in coming as it quickly became clear that this film was made to make a, none too subtle, point about British involvement in Iraq.  When I came out from the film I picked up a leaflet and the message was crystal clear;

‘Speaking at the Cannes film festival Loach said: We live in extraordinary times and that has made people political in a way they maybe weren’t in the previous four, five, six years.  The wars that we have seen, the occupations that we see throughout the world – people finally cannot turn away from that.  It’s very exciting to be able to deal with this in films, and not just be a complement to the popcorn.’

This ‘historical’ film was made in order to tell a story that would be unacceptable to tell in the first-person.  This film was not really made to explain and explore Irish history from 85 years ago; it was made to encourage people to think negatively about the present British involvement in liberating the peoples’ of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Loach would not of course use the word liberation; he would speak of an illegal war and imperialist occupation forces etc.  Yuk!

From start to finish (in the current context) it’s a shameless film where the filmmaker hides behind the Irish people’s legitimate national struggle, to effectively promote the causes of Baathism, tribalism and the likes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as these scum hide behind phony nationalisms today; though once again Loach would as a matter of course deny that as well; he would assuredly tell all who’d listen that he is on the side of the Iraqi people no less.  He would be sure to hate Saddam and Al Qaeda and the Taliban but would have also proudly marched for peace when others were advocating war against them.  They would be in power today if it were up to Loach.

Loach and the rest of the pseudo-left ‘opinion leaders’ are leading little on the street, but they are in control of the vast bulk of the mass-media; they dominate cultural output throughout the western world.  This film would be awarded in any western film festival; so the west is overdue for a cultural revolution.

The Wind that shakes the Barley is about the harsh ‘reality’ of all ruling-class armies.  It was made to a formula, like shooting pseudo-leftist shibboleth fish in a barrel. Show innocent death; show brutality of imperialist rule; show arrogance of ruling-class types; show the noble resistance that was only brought into being by the occupation; show a resistance as both necessary and reluctantly brutal (yet clean compared to British); show that elections under occupation and threat are invalid and draw the conclusion that free and fair elections cannot be held under threat of the gun, and that therefore Iraq’s process and government is illegitimate!

In the end, having dragged the viewer through the realist muck of British imperial criminality in Ireland during a time where the British stood in the way of the democratic revolution, Loach had to crucially distort the relationship of the foreign troops to the democratic revolution and the issue of voting to make his big point.  IMV Loach’s position is on the spectrum of xenophobia and racism.  (That would have the unarmed peoples’ of Iraq liberate themselves from tyranny and not to shed the blood of other Mother’s son’s and daughter’s to secure an international solution).

The key question that he distorted (after all he was making this film when the triple election process was in full swing in Iraq) was; can there really be a free and fair vote in countries that have occupation troops on the streets that by his implication are making a threat to the population as clear as was the proposition put to Collins of ‘immediate and terrible war as an alternative to the Treaty’.  Loach stands with the ‘heroes’ that won’t sell out; won’t compromise and therefore go to their ‘noble’ death’s as delivered to them by the ‘collaborating’ majority, and sell-out leadership.  He implies that the current government of Iraq is comprised of sell-out collaborators.  Phleese.

I found myself fuming at this cynical and sick distortion of the issues involved in liberation, in the context of and to the basic level of the bourgeois democratic revolution in 2006 in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone the Ireland of James Connolly’s generation.

The core questions raised in the Irish struggle for independence from Britain were not adequately highlighted by this film.  Specifically, did Michael Collins sell out by negotiating the Irish Free State?  What about the role of Eamonn DeValera?  ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ answers unambiguously, Yes the movement was sold out, and engenders the film with a cynicism and fatalism that leaves me cold.

These sentiments formed the main part of the final dialogue spoken by Damien O’Donovan a hypothetical Irish freedom fighter and main protagonist of the film, who declined to save his own life by refusing to convey intelligence to his brother (a Commander of the Free State Army) after his capture.

I found this part most disconcerting as there was the feeling that in the character Damien refusing to ‘sell out’ his ideals and being prepared to die for his ‘principles’ there was a direct comparison being made with current fascist insurgents and suicide bombers?

This film doesn’t do justice to any of the important matters raised by either the Irish struggle of so long ago, or the Iraqi conflict of today, and also has nothing particularly credible to say about the personal aspect of the brothers in arms either.  The film was littered with false oppositions (pragmatist v idealist; internationalist v nationalist; socialist v nationalist) simplifying the subject matter down to caricatures, rather than un-raveling the complexity of the revolutionary experience of Ireland for the viewer.

Rather than ‘raise discussion’ this film contributes to a dumbing down of the subject matter; even obfuscation of the issues is not too strong an expression.

By contrast, the film Michael Collins was about the same period and done as a Hollywood block-buster in 1996 (before 9/11 and the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq).  It too portrayed the British and their Irish collaborators as thugs and made clear that the Black and Tans were not there to help the Irish but to keep them down. But the treatment of the election process was very different and the empathy for the position of the negotiators of the Treaty was evident.

All in all, this highlights for me the need to adopt a dialectical approach to the world.  No truth can be found in establishing false dichotomies.  If Loach wanted to highlight how bad the war in Iraq is (it is after all fairly easy to portray death negatively) he ought to have just made a film about Iraq from a scared soldier’s perspective and exposed to the world how bad it is.

Ken Loach is apparently known for spurning the position of history from the great-man’s perspective, and specifically taking the position of ordinary people in his films. (As opposed to the film Michael Collins).  However, I think this was another real shortcoming with this film in that a real understanding by the audience continues to revolve around the main issues and players and the film really suffered for this one-sided approach. The dialectical approach tells us that light and dark are defined against each other, so too, ordinary people need leaders, and leaders cannot lead unless there are ordinary people willing to support them, anything else is pure fantasy and romanticisation and is not telling the complete story.

It’s just plain wrong to compare the struggle of Ireland’s freedom fighters with the current situation in Iraq and thereby engender corresponding sympathy for the so-called ‘freedom fighters’ currently bombing and disrupting the formation of a democratic Iraq.  The message of The Wind TSTB is if you kill people’s family and friends you’ve got to expect that there will be a reaction and that they will organize to kill you.  There is nothing debatable about this but this is not the real story because we all know that at times people and culture operate in a tooth for a tooth kind of avenge manner, but this is different to having the right political conditions present to unleash a real movement for national sovereignty as occurred in Ireland after the murder of the courageous leaders of the 1916 uprising.  (It was not so much that the people of Ireland necessarily supported the program of the rebels but that they reacted to the fact that many of the most prominent were all Court Martial-ed and shot)

Though Loach’s film makes it clear that the struggle for national rights was occurring alongside of the struggle for class rights it was again a superficial and opportunist handling of the question.  For instance, there is a scene where the courts of the Free State are hearing a case against a money-lender who is extracting extortionate levels of interest for a loan given to an old woman who is refusing to pay.

When the court finds against the money-lender ordering him to pay money to the old woman, a split amongst the people at the court develops and the members of the Army say “wait on”, we want him to give us money for guns…This part of the film could have been illuminating but was very superficial and the court decision was presented as extremely whimsical and showing that they were not really ‘fit’ to decide.

The brutality of this film had a stunning effect on the audience but it was a lecture from a coward.  In many ways it is this romanticisation of the idea of dying for one’s ‘principles’, Like a packet of Benson Hedges – where only the best will do – that renders the message of  The Wind that shakes the Barley as poisonous as smoking that packet of Benson and Hedges!

 

Posted by  owenss  at     2006-10-01Anita Im unsure from your Ken Loach movie review which side of the Irish Civil war you think progressive people should support. The side lead by Michael Collins or the side lead by Eammon De Valera?

 

Posted by     owenss  at     2006-10-01 02:57 AMAnita you claim that Loach and un named other anti war people have “….control of the vast bulk of the mass media…” poor old Ken produces a handful of art house movies and he controls the mass media?Yes now I see it The Wind that Shakes is the equivalent pro war Rupert Murdocks Fox News and Land and Freedom is the equivalent of the Sun newspaper or that film about a boy and a bird rivals Murdocks Australian newspaper holdings. Dont worry Im sure Barry is already preparing a piece to prove that Murdocks empire is minuscule.

 

Posted by anita at 2006-10-01 10:00PM

Loach and the rest of the pseudo-left ‘opinion leaders’ are leading little on the street, but they are in control of the vast bulk of the mass-media; they dominate cultural output throughout the western world.  This film would be awarded in any western film festival; so the west is overdue for a cultural revolution.

Steve, I’m not suggesting conspiracies or anything like it.   I was trying to explain how if this film’s so bad, it won such acclaim.  First I thought this could only happen in France (anti-British and anti-Iraq war); then I thought wait on this would have happened in Australia.  My point was about my own world; I do not have Fox for example, so mostly the media I’m exposed to is the Australian ABC.

There is no presenter on the ABC Radio or Television who is for the Iraq war as far as I can tell.  I would be happy to be proven incorrect but take ABC 891 radio from Adelaide; Peter Goers the evening commentator who interviewed Tariq Ali and referred to him as the ‘Sage of the Age’; but at least Peter Goers deliberately has a pro-war commentator once a week in his guest right-winger Andrew Bolt each Tuesday night.

Bolt regularly looks like an intellectual giant up against the pseudo-leftist Goers on these issues.  But other than that, there is, to use the colourful expression of Mark Latham, a Conga-line of suck holes, pushing anti-Iraq war sentiment from morning til night.

It is wall to wall.

On the morning program almost every one of their guests except actual members of the government are anti-Iraq war.  The best they have done outside of that (that I have noticed) is an interview of the dopey right-winger Greg Sheridan.

Like employs like and over a period each organization develops a corporate culture.  The ABC is notoriously biased – of course it is mostly exposed by the right-wing in this country who criticize the ABC as left-wing.  BAH. It is pseudo-left mush.  Take the line it runs from morning to night on global warming; organic food; water crisis; plastic bags; peak oil; they go on ceaselessly with this pseudo-leftist green dribble.

The ABC gardening program is Gardening Australia; where the one time British soldier and peace campaigner Peter Cundall has a grand old time filling people with his composted thinking.  They push imbeciles like Tim Flannery, Roy Slaven, and David Suzuki.  The National Press club put on Peter Garret and the ABC ran and then later re-ran the program; but when Bjorn Lomborg was at the club the ABC did not even screen it!  The best he got was a quick and hostile interview on Landline!

I know you will remember the lies that Maxine McKew spread about Iyad Allawi and then never revisited.

Nationally on the TV the ABC have a show called the Insiders, again the balance they achieve is with the right-wingers Bolt, and Piers Akerman alternating on the show.  The mix is greater than three to one!  David Marr ex-Media Watch; Ian Henschke Stateline almost froth with the anti-war/green line; on and on it goes (throw some names in yourself, you won’t find it hard).  Consider that great organic beef producer Philip Adams how much more of a constant anti-Iraq war campaigner can you get?  Not the slightest attempt to hide the campaigning.

I recall ABC Adelaide’s morning commentators once going so far as to say that there is a serious possibility that the war could be about nothing (thus a GW Bush mad whim).  They employ as their international expert Keith Suter (full on pudding-headed anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush campaigner).  One of his recent great ideas was that if he had been President, rather than invade (liberate) Iraq like that dumbo GWB, he would be clever and offer a reward for OBL of $$$500,000,000 and that would interest the Russian Mafia and the Kazaks to get interested in rounding him up –just like the old US policy of handing a billion to the Al Qaeda sorts and getting the Saudi government to cough in another billion- handing over the reward to another international criminal group.  They have learned nothing.  Nobody even rang up to laugh at them.

In the News there is the constant barrage of terminology that is sympathetic to the insurgents, though I admit that referring to Iraqi Jihadi’s as the ‘resistance’ is no longer so evident.

We’ve also had Triple J using the ‘Don’t want to be an American Idiot’ song as its signature advertising jingle.  (Now if they were singing ‘don’t want to be a Jew idiot’; or ‘don’t want to be a Japanese idiot’; Indonesian; Aboriginal; etc then it would be clear what the sentiments are about.  Yet Australian tax-payers have funded the production of material on the xenophobic/ racist spectrum because anti-Americanism is perfectly acceptable in polite company).

Listen to today’s ABC News.  Or the national program AM.  Or the world at noon. Bob Woodward’s  book ‘State of Denial’.  I am sure you can get it from the net as a Pod Cast.  ‘Opinion poll today shows 80% think the war in Iraq hasn’t done anything to reduce terrorism.  91% think …85% …’ (The Lowy institute poll.)   ‘Doctors start campaigning to end Australia’s involvement in Iraq.’

The people are getting their views from somewhere.  They are not engaged in independent research but parroting back what the politicians and culture workers are feeding them.  Howard and Blair and Bush have been pathetic at selling the revolutionary requirement for this war against most of the ‘left and right’ intelligentsia.  But cultural food like this is breeding political cynicism, and paralysis not action- they all got re-elected – as the ordinary masses are much more sensible than the more ‘committed’ activists to the fact that the Coalition can’t just cut and run etc.

Now I think that I have been a little sloppy; but in my defense I’d been working on this for a while and wanted to get it published… but it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the old right and the pseudo-left.  They are saying the same poisonous things.  Bruce Springstein; Neil Young; The Dixie Chicks; they all believe the same stuff, while some think they are leftists and some think they are rightists.  They are all like Green Peace; nasty right wingers, it’s just that the pseudo-left uses some strange terms and methods for hiding from their bottom-line; terms that are utterly meaningless when combined with the policies that they push.  They can sing the Internationale all they like, but they want Australian troops withdrawn from Iraq and not involved at all in draining the swamp.

Loach’s film explicitly promotes the position currently being pushed by media internationally, namely that the war in Iraq is increasing the terrorist threat… there will be more Damien O’Donovan’s due to the ‘occupation’ of Iraq, you share this belief and subsequent rejection of the Iraqi government’s requests for assistance.

The American Peace movement currently relies upon celebrities as a draw card to Marches and rallies, and even this has not been successful in sustaining mass support against the war and moaning about how the people are just not getting it.  The anti-war movement do not want debate, they want one sided agitprop material, songs/films etc to change consciousness; they can’t stand up to in-depth analysis and rigorous effort; like yourself over the oil issue when you resort to a claim that oil was just a form of short- hand.  The real clear point is that the lastsuperpower could not do what the anti-war campaigners were claiming it was doing, and or would do.

As to your question about whom I support…Well I don’t feel well read enough about the period to put forward a hard position on it but since you asked my quite tentative and uninformed opinion based upon the films is that I am on Michael Collins’ side.  I was deeply moved when I first saw the Michael Collins film, and I am not sure if it is because Liam Neeson is OK by me whenever he is on screen (we are talking animal magnetism here-he is not a Hollywood Star for no reason) or whether Michael Collins was really such an engaging and brilliant leader in reality.  I take to heart Eamon deValera’s comments when he was the President of Ireland in 1966 (I got the spelling wrong last time) saying in effect that history would be kinder to Michael Collins than himself.

Speaking of being kinder I think you were really nasty to Barry commenting about how he is off attempting to back me up.  What a lot of nonsense.  As well, I was not commenting about anything else Ken Loach has directed but Wind.

The view that has been consistently put at lastsuperpower is held by a minuscule number of people around the world and it is not to be found on the ABC.  The closest we get is Hitchens served up from time to time.  Rather than continue to nit pick, while determinedly avoiding the main thrust of the articles on this site, you ought to try to write a larger piece trying to bring the bigger picture together as you have now come to understand things five years after 9/11: as an example the impending Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian State.  Israel just pulled all troops out of Lebanon, having been strung out to dry by being unimpeded by Rice and Bush.  Have they not thus demonstrated Israel’s limited military and political envelope, to the world?  Almost forty years after launching its 1967 war to grab Greater Israel, the war is coming to an end in defeat and the mass media and the pseudo-left just don’t get it.  Perhaps they are too busy applauding the re-making of Irish history.

 

Posted by  owenss  at  2006-10-02 04:09 AMAnita thank you for stating that in the Irish Civil war you would give your support to the side lead by Michael Collins.My next question is to Patrickm. Patrick do you support the side lead by Michael Collins?As to my offense to Barry. Guilty as charged. When Barry stated that the Iraqi resistance was minuscule I couldnt believe that he would defend that statement rather than just admit that he had overstated his case.Anita you invite me to make a serious contribution to this site and I wish I had both the time and the intellegence to do so. However it goes against the way I have become involved. I first contributed in response to Albert who stated that the Iraq project was going well.  I was further stimulated to contribute when people stated that the way forward in Iraq was to ramp up the killing of Iraqis who resisted. Again I couldn’t resist when contributors characterise the resistance in exactly the same terms used by the Whitehouse as I think this characterisation is a gross oversimplification.I was encouraged to contribute when Bill posted about resistance figures being paraded on Iraqi TV at the same time that a US soldier was let off after clearly murdering a wounded Iraqi who had already surrendered.

I uphold the Iraqi government as being just that. Having said that I look on them with the same contempt that I hold for Michael Collins who used Brittish weapons to kill Irish Republicans.

The Sunni arab population has the right to resist the oppression that they are experiencing. The Iraqi governments duty is to protect these people a duty I think they fail in the same way Collins failed the Irish. The rejection by the Iraqi government of peace proposals from numerous resistance groups is in my oppinion a tragic mistake.

 

Posted by  patrickm  at     2006-10-08 01:01 AMWhile a revolution unfolds in the Middle East, the pseudo-leftist web site ‘Socialist Worker online’ had this to conclude of its review of The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
But by the end of the film you can’t help being reminded of the British army in Iraq today, and Loach is the first to admit this.He said, “I think what happened in Ireland is such a classic story of a fight for independence, to establish a democratic mandate and to resist an occupying army.“Yet it was also a fight for a country with a new social structure.“The British army in Ireland during 1920-21 did what armies of occupation do the world over – adopt a racist attitude towards the people they are attacking and occupying.“They destroy people’s houses, engage in acts of brutality and generally oppress the people – and in Iraq that’s exactly what the British army is doing.

“In spite of the suffering depicted, the fact still remains that the British marched out of Ireland. There is an element of hope in that.”

Loach knows that British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in WW2 so why not show them?  But that would never do.  When trying to make his point about Iraq he had to skip WW2 and go back to British ruling class savagery in Ireland.  This film is only incidentally about the Irish.

No liberation in Iraq folks; no elections; nothing to see but British brutality – move along and remember to chant no blood for oil, and later explain it away as a sort of metaphor when it turns out to make no sense whatever.
Anita thinks Michael Collins did the best he could; so did a majority of the Irish Parliament and so did a majority of the Irish people when the Treaty was put to a referendum.  The other side then brought on a fight and they lost that as well.  So there seems to be a pattern developing.

Steve ought to have a cover to cover read of Mao: losing is not a good idea.  The rejectionists were not sensible to fight and lose.  They ought to have not fought at all.  Mao often talks of avoiding fights unless you’re sure to win.  The blood was on their hands.  They had a way forward without slaughter and they chose blood instead.  History has yet to see the nationalist cause ‘victorious’ in all of Ireland, and I think interest is falling away in the context of being part of the reality of modern Europe; but history has, I think, recorded the civil-war in Michael Collins’ favor.

I can both appreciate the injustice of the Treaty and the decision of the negotiators to sign it and to trust to ongoing struggle to unfold further progress.  People both in the North and South were prepared to struggle for their rights, (in the long run they always are) and the civil-war in the Free State harmed that struggle.  History moves on and the Free State is ‘Gone with the Wind’.

The always required civil rights struggle in the North broke out again in the context of the same struggle in the U.S. in the sixties.  It was part of a world wide movement.   This struggle is now fully flowering (with power sharing; police force reform; anti- discrimination legislation enacted producing the inevitable demographic results and so forth).  All in the context of ongoing British ruling class decline in any ability to project imperial power.  The context of our reflections on the Irish Treaty is from this era of globalization and the rise of the Europe project.  Peace has broken out, and the continuity IRA, are a bad joke.  They are history repeating itself as a farce.  I am in favor of the IRA having ‘sold out again’.

 

Posted by  owenss  at  2006-10-08 06:29 PMPatrick so you think that you should never fight unless you are sure you will win.Well the Easter uprising never stood a chance, so they should not have done it?The provisional IRA could never defeat the British army, so they should have done what?You are also very kind to Michael Collins. Churchill put it to Collins either you attack the rebels or we will. I still lack respect for any Irish nationalist who will kill Irishmen at the behest of the British government

After jihadist arrests, Australian mufti rejects IS fatwa

Some Muslim voices have strongly rejected recent fatwas [issued by the Islamic State (IS)] that call for the killing of citizens [whose countries are] participating in the international coalition against IS.

Author Faraj Obegi Posted September 25, 2014
Translator(s)Pascale el Khoury

Australia’s grand mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, commented on these fatwas, telling An-Nahar, “Assaults on human freedom and dignity and killing are not accepted or advocated by any humanitarian law. One shall not incite to shed the blood of others and prejudice their honor.” Abu Mohamed rejected violence, counterviolence and any act of violence that may come from individuals, groups or states, saying, “Violence is unacceptable in all its forms and people should live in safety.”

He called on the international community to distinguish between groups demanding their own freedom and those spilling the blood of innocents. He said, “There are groups facing tyranny and subject to practices that prevent them from living freely and expressing their beliefs, and there are other groups who are shedding the blood of people and prejudicing their honor in the name of Islam.”

He added, “I call on people in Australia to remain calm, to act rationally and not based on their instincts and steer clear of escalation. Love should prevail over hatred. Here, we enjoy complete freedom and we must not lose this privilege as a result of calls for actions and reactions.”

He said that Australian society does not discriminate between Muslims and Christians and that everyone wants to live in peace without being disrupted by any foreign provocations. “We do not want any foreign conflict to be transferred to Australia, and we support the measures undertaken by the Australian authorities to prevent any attack in the country. However, this must be done within the framework of the law. The law must not be violated in such a way that worsens the situation and leads to an unwanted reaction.”

Answering a question about the arrests in Australia and whether they were directed against Islam, he said, “The Muslim community in Australia accounts for half a million people and the recent arrests targeted 15 houses. One person was indicted and investigations are still ongoing. These arrests are not directed against Islam but against terrorist groups seeking to undermine Australian security.”

Commenting on the incident that took place at the Maronite College in Harris Park in Sydney, he said: “It is totally unacceptable. It does not only affect Christians, but we are also subject to such behaviors. This incident may be isolated, but we condemn all forms of such behaviors. I met today with some Christian officials and we discussed our problems and concerns regarding the current situation.”

Abu Mohamed called on the international community to deal with current world events with one standard — the standard of justice. He said, “There should be no dual standard in dealing with these sensitive issues, since this could lead to irrational insurgencies. I hope the international community will think sensibly and handle the ongoing events according to the standard of truth.” He said that whoever financed, trained and armed IS must answer these questions with full transparency.

The grand mufti sent a message to those who called for the killing of Australians, saying: “Go back to your senses. This is not preached by Islam. If you want to commit massacres, do not do so in the name of Islam and do not speak on behalf of Islam.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/09/mufti-australia-response-is-fatwa-kill-citizens-coalition.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=767e4a06f2-September_26_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-767e4a06f2-93145129##ixzz3EfGV7cql

PKK commander threatens to resume war

Cemil Bayik, the PKK’s top field commander, is interviewed by Al-Monitor in the Kandil Mountains, September 2014. (photo by Amberin Zaman)

Exclusive: From

On Sept. 24, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) issued a highly critical statement. In a nutshell, it said that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had “eliminated” the conditions of a mutually observed 18-month cease-fire between the PKK and the Turkish army. It said that, in response to “the AKP’s war against our people, our leadership council has decided to step up its struggle in every area and by all possible means.” I had heard similar words on Sept. 21 from Cemil Bayik, the top PKK commander in the field, during a three-hour meeting I had with him in a tent in the Kandil Mountains.

In an exclusive interview, the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) top military commander, Cemil Bayik, says that Turkey has sabotaged the peace process and the PKK is ready to resume open conflict.
Author Amberin Zaman Posted September 25, 2014

“We may resume our war at the end of September. We have the authority to resume the war,” Bayik said.

“What of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan?” I asked.

“We have a division of labor. Our leader has the authority to make peace,” he replied.

I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you sure?” I asked repeatedly, because his words could have profound consequences for Turkey and its government.

Bayik responded positively: “We will be making a statement to this effect,” he said.

I thus decided to wait for the PKK to make its statement before publishing this interview. I did not want to be the first to impart the gloomy news. Because in the repressive climate that is gripping Turkey, I might have been accused of warmongering. So, is there a real risk that the insurgency will resume? Won’t Ocalan have the final say? Is the PKK’s statement no more than a tactical move aimed at putting pressure on the government? I would say yes to both questions. That said, with every passing day that the AKP government fails to take concrete steps to solve the Kurdish problem, the risk of the cease-fire’s ending grows. I raised all of these issues with Bayik, who hasn’t set foot in Turkey since 2000.

The following are the highlights of the interview he gave to Al-Monitor:

Al-Monitor: How is the Islamic State [IS] onslaught against Kobani [the Syrian Kurdish-majority town of Ayn al-Arab on the Turkish border] affecting the peace process in Turkey?

Bayik: The attacks by Daesh [the initials of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] against Kobani helped elucidate two things. One was whether Turkey’s collaboration with Daesh is continuing or not. The other is whether the peace process is continuing in the north [i.e., Turkey] or not. What emerged is that Turkey is continuing its relations with Daesh and that Turkey will not solve the Kurdish problem in the north. Because a Turkey that supports Daesh’s attacks against Kobani, that seeks to depopulate Kobani and lobbies for the establishment of a buffer zone cannot sever its ties with Daesh. Because if it did so Daesh would expose all of Turkey’s dirty laundry, and document the links between them.

Al-Monitor: Are you able to prove that these links exist?

Bayik: Before Daesh attacked Kobani, Turkish officials contacted the YPG [the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] official responsible for Kobani. They warned him that should the YPG attack the Shah tomb [the Ottoman Tomb of Suleiman Shah inside Syria, which is guarded by Turkish troops and considered Turkish territory] that Turkey would retaliate in kind. I repeat, they said this before we were aware that Daesh would attack. Isn’t this strange?

Second, two days after the campaign against Kobani started, a Turkish train stopped at an Arab village near [the IS-controlled] Tell Abyad border gate and unloaded weapons and ammunition that were taken by Daesh. There are eyewitnesses to this transfer. And during this period the [Turkish] hostages [held by IS in Mosul] affair is supposedly resolved. These events are all interlinked. Turkey then opens the Mursitpinar border gate with Kobani just as Daesh fires Katyusha rockets at Kobani and surrounding villages to sow panic among the people. Turkey opens the border gate on the third day of the attack so that the people can flee to Turkey. This is what Daesh wants as well. This proves the collusion between them. Because Turkey has long wanted the establishment of a buffer zone. Its aim is to prevent the Kurds in Rojava [Syrian Kurdish areas in western Kurdistan] from winning a formal status. By emptying Kobani and provoking a mass exodus of people, Turkey can then claim before the international community that its own security is at stake and set about establishing a buffer zone.

Al-Monitor: Very senior Iraqi Kurdish officials told me that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s national spy agency [MIT], had as recently as last week offered to mediate between the Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD]. Doesn’t this contradict your claims?

Bayik: Not at all. Turkey always supported the KDP against the PYD. Now they [the Turks] are supposedly trying to drive a wedge between the PKK and the PYD and to draw the PYD into an alliance with groups that are close to [the Turks] and to bring them in line with their own [Turks'] Syria policy. There are thousands of Syrian Kurds within the PKK. During the war [against Turkey] 1,500 Syrian Kurds were martyred. Many Syrian Kurd commanders from the PKK went over to Rojava to train YPG forces and to help them in the fight against Daesh. Such matters do not always work the way Turkey intends them to through money and weapons. And there is no friction between the YPG and the PKK as claimed. They are acting together in the south [Iraqi Kurdistan] in Kirkuk, in Shengal, in Rabiya. The only force to defend Rojava is the PKK.

Al-Monitor: IS has some very modern weapons. Aren’t you having trouble combating them?

Bayik: Yes, they have modern American weapons they seized in Mosul. Our own weapons aren’t effective against the American tanks that they use. Besides, we are used to fighting in mountainous terrain and now we are forced to do so in open plains. But we are a movement that adapts quickly to new circumstances.

Al-Monitor: Getting back to the peace process, you say that you have realized that the AKP will not solve the Kurdish problem

Bayik: We realized this a while back. There is tremendous pressure on our leader [Ocalan] and a very ugly psychological war that is being waged against him. Propaganda is being spread to demean him in the eyes of the people.

Al-Monitor: To the contrary, what we see is that Ocalan has been legitimized before the public as never before.

Bayik: You may not see this, but there are those who know and it’s reached all the way to us. I am telling you openly: Turkey must immediately stop these psychological ops tactics and end its pressure on our leader.

Al-Monitor: Can you be more explicit. What kind of pressure?

Bayik: I do not want to share all the details. It may not be appropriate at this time. But there is no improvement in the internment conditions of our leader. Recently, his sister and nephew visited him and they were put in a room where nobody could breathe. The nephew protested to the prison guards, saying they were aware of our leader’s breathing difficulties. Their response was that they would have to meet there and that was all. Moreover, they forced the meeting to end before the allotted time. The new government is trying to force our leader to roll back his demands by applying pressure on him. This applies especially to the negotiating points. But as they know he won’t back down, they are going to use this as an excuse to set the stage for war.

Al-Monitor: Are you saying that Turkey wants to resume the war?

Bayik: Absolutely. If this were not so, they would have worked harder at solving the problem. They would have improved the internment conditions of our leader. They would have accepted the presence of third-party observers in the peace talks. And they would have allowed the negotiating sides to carry equal weight. All they have done is to pass a bill to “end terrorism” in the parliament [legislation that effectively formalized the talks without actually referring to their substance]. And they did so kicking and screaming. We are concerned with actions, not words. The negotiations have still not started. They want to keep the talks on a dialogue level. They want to deceive our people. We have been in dialogue for years. We went back and forth to Oslo for years [the secret Oslo talks that ended in 2009].

Al-Monitor: Did you go to Oslo?

Bayik: No.

Al-Monitor: Have you had contact with any Turkish officials over the phone?

Bayik: No. I haven’t touched a phone since 2003 for personal security reasons.

Al-Monitor: During the presidential campaign of [the left-wing People's Democracy Party (HDP) Kurdish candidate] Selahattin Demirtas the Kurdish political movement gained a lot of ground. Demirtas won support from most unexpected quarters. By talking in this manner, aren’t you undermining peaceful politics?

Bayik: As we are at the center of this process, if we say there is no progress in the peace progress, that means there is no progress because there is no one better placed to assess this. We have paid a very heavy price during 40 years of conflict. Thousands of our fighters and cadres were martyred. Thousand of Kurdish villages were burned and destroyed. Thousands of our people fell victim to extrajudicial killings. And now we see that the numbers of village guards [a state-paid anti-PKK Kurdish militia] are growing. Army garrisons are being built, together with supply roads. We are sticking to the cease-fire but they are not. And they took advantage of the cease-fire to launch a war against Rojava. We gave them time. We said they had until the end of September to take certain steps. We said that unless they do so by the end of September the war would resume.

Al-Monitor: Did you say “we will resume” or “may resume”?

Bayik: “May resume.”

Al-Monitor: But don’t you need Ocalan’s authorization for this?

Bayik: We decide on war. The authority to end the cease-fire lies with us. But our leader Apo [as Ocalan is often called by his followers] decides on peace, on the continuation of the peace process. His role is different from ours. We are complementary.

Al-Monitor: But if Apo says peace must prevail, you won’t be able to decide on war. Thus, the final decision rests with Apo.

Bayik: Ocalan is our leader. We are a movement that obeys its leader. We are loyal to our leader. But unless Turkey takes some steps, how can our leader say, “No, do not fight?” We are having trouble restraining our fighters as it is.

Al-Monitor: What are your demands from Turkey?

Bayik: The internment conditions of our leader need to be improved. We cannot negotiate in his present conditions. Third-party observers must be allowed to take part in the negotiations. They can be from civil society, from the parliament or from an international organization. It can also be a foreign power. And the support being given to Daesh against Rojava must end. Rojava is part of the peace process. This is clear.

Al-Monitor: Just as you have won plaudits for your role in helping the Yazidis in Sinjar and for your prowess in combating IS, and just as the international community is debating delisting the PKK and American cooperation with the YPG, would you not be throwing this all away by attacking Turkey, a NATO member?

Bayik: No. We are a legal movement. And nobody can blame the PKK. Until now we have declared nine unilateral cease-fires since 1993. In 2013, on the occasion of Nowruz [the Kurdish New Year], we freed all our prisoners. We ended the war and began to withdraw our fighters from Turkey. We are not eyeing anyone’s territory. We are not seeking independence. All we want is to live freely with our own identity, culture and values in democratic conditions.

Al-Monitor: But is it not risky to open a second front against Turkey when you are fighting IS in Rojava?

Bayik: We have been fighting for 40 years. If need be, we shall fight for many more years. We are fighting because we are being forced to do so. We are not going to surrender after 40 years. No power can implement its strategies in the Middle East without taking the PKK into account.

Al-Monitor: You speak of democracy but in recent days a group that calls itself the PKK’s youth wing has been burning down schools in the southeast of Turkey. Do such actions have any place in a democracy?

Bayik: Burning schools is wrong. But our people built schools there with their own means. They want to study in the Kurdish language, so why is the state forbidding this? There is a great deal of anger among our youth. Even we are having trouble restraining them. When we ask them why they burn schools, they respond, “Why are our schools being shut down?” There is a lot of alienation. The number of people joining our ranks last month has exceeded that in 1993. In 1993, around 1,000 people would join every month. Last month, 1,200 people joined.

Al-Monitor: The Turkish government spokesman Huseyin Celik said that we can now talk with Kandil [the PKK leadership]. No sooner did Ahmet Davutoglu become prime minister, he made very positive statements about the peace process. For the first time, a government is talking directly to Ocalan and announcing this to the public. It has done more than any of its predecessors to solve the Kurdish problem. Does none of this mean anything? Besides, why would the government want to go to war before the elections?

Bayik: Yes, the government continues to speak positively about the peace process. And the pro-government media is helping to propagate this upbeat mood. This is a delaying tactic, a deception. They are trying to portray Apo as being optimistic when in fact he continually criticizes the AKP during the talks. They want to drain the process of all its substance and they want to manage it at their whim. What was their aim? To win the [March 2014] local elections and then the [August 2014] presidential elections. And now they want to win the 2015 [parliamentary] elections.

It’s true that they would not want to resume the war before the elections. They want the cease-fire to continue, but they want it to continue without making any concessions, save for a few unimportant gestures. After the 2015 elections, their position may change.
Amberin Zaman
Columnist

Amberin Zaman is an Istanbul-based writer who has covered Turkey for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Voice of America. A frequent commentator on Turkish television, she is currently Turkey correspondent for The Economist, a position she has retained since 1999. On Twitter: @amberinzaman
Original Al-Monitor Translations
Türkçe okuyun

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-pkk-commander-bayik-threatens-resume-war.html#ixzz3Ef8umk6J

The ISO on Stalin A Critique by David McMullen

First published in Red Politics (A journal for the discussion of revolutionary ideas) No.1 Sept. 1993
From Lastsuperpower

In keeping with Strange Times’ policy of bucketing nonsense from the pseudo left, this issue is devoted to examining a central dogma of the International Socialist Organisation,(ISO) namely that relating to Stalin’s Russia. While the discussion does have a wider relevance to the extent that it relates to the whole issue of what went right and wrong in the Soviet Union and the nature of socialist revolution, the primary aim is simply to show once again how the ISO is not up to scratch in the ideas department.

When you first start reading stuff by the ISO (or the Socialist Workers Party in Britain) on the Soviet Union of the 1920s and 30s you feel there must be something you’ve missed, that the apparent stupidity has to be deceptive. However, it does not take long to realise that no deception is involved. It really is genuinely silly. The silliness can be divided into two categories – those they share with other trotskyite groups and those which are uniquely their own.

What they share with other trots is the habit of holding two mutually exclusive views at the same time. They claim in the same breath that Stalin betrayed the Russian revolution and that socialism in Russia in the absence of a revolution in Europe was impossible. They pull a similar stunt with Stalin’s foreign policy.

On the one hand they claim that Stalin let revolution abroad go hang and geared his foreign policy to the narrow priority of preserving (and expanding) his own regime. On the other hand they admit that after about 1922, revolution in the capitalist countries was no longer an issue – capitalism had stabilised. In other words by the time Stalin came to power there was no longer a revolution abroad for him to sabotage or neglect.

Underlying all this muddle is the fact that the main problem for trotskyites is their distaste for the situation the Soviet Union found itself in rather than Stalin’s program for dealing with it. This is manifested in the fact that they had no alternative except heroically launching forth to support some non-existent revolution in Europe. They were not prepared to accept as socialist or progressive the measures necessary to ensure economic and social development in Russia.

It also shows up in the fact they can’t quite sort out whether they are claiming that Stalin was the cause of the degeneration or whether he was simply a response to conditions that shouldn’t have been – reality was unfair!

Quite often Stalin is denounced for doing what was obviously necessary given the conditions. Like a child throwing a tantrum, they denounce reality for being wrong;it shouldn’t have been like that. The following quote is a classic example of this. (It is taken from an article by Binns in Education and the Modern World, Socialist Workers Party, London 1987, page 14.)

“The extreme backwardness of Russia in an age of imperialism forced it to industrialise rapidly. If the revolutions in Germany and elsewhere had succeeded in the early 1920s, plenty of means of production and skilled labour could have flowed into Russia [?!] to accomplish this task. But when the perspective changed, from stressing the need to spread the revolution internationally to stressing the building of ‘socialism’ in a single country, as was proposed by Stalin in 1924, the situation was completely reversed. If industrialisation was to take place in Russia in isolation, this could only be by forcing many of these peasants off the land into the mines and steel mills.”

Notice how a change in reality – the defeat of the revolution in Europe – is transformed into a devilish change of perspective by Stalin!

Where the ISO differs from other trotskyite groups is in their characterisation of the Stalin regime as state capitalist rather than as a ‘deformed workers state’. The post-Stalin regimes are similarly characterised because they were seen as a straight continuation of the earlier regime in all essential respects. According to the ISO the Soviet Union was capitalist under Stalin because the aim of production was accumulation and this is what distinguishes capitalism from socialism or communism. Under the latter on the other hand production is to meet people’s needs.

Binns explains why capitalists accumulate as follows:

“The drive for accumulation as a means to still greater accumulation, which is the essence of capitalism, is due to two main factors. Firstly, workers are separated from the means of production. If they controlled production as a whole, it would be subordinated to use, to consumption. In so far as they decided to accumulate, it would only be as a means for the further end of consumption. Secondly, there is competition between the capitalists. Without it each capitalist could decide freely whether to consume the surplus products, to accumulate it, or even to return it to the workers who created it. It is competition which makes him accumulate and it does so by threatening him with extinction by rival capitalists if he doesn’t. That is why ‘competition makes the imminent laws of capitalist production to be felt by each individual capitalist, as external coercive laws’ [Marx in Capital, volume 1].”

This is not bad as an explanation of why there is accumulation for its own sake under capitalism. However, the attempt by Binns and his confreres to characterise the crash industrialisation of the 1930s in Russia as capitalist accumulation is misconceived.

They make their case on the basis that the two conditions applied: workers were separated from the means of production and competition still existed through military or strategic competition with the West. Let’s examine these in turn.

Binns tells us that Stalin took away workers control over the means of production. “The last remnants of workers’ control over production, the ‘Troika’, was abolished in 1929. In its place stepped the manager whose orders were to be unconditionally binding on his subordinate administrative staff and on all workers.”

The first point to make here is that even if you had all the troikas and workers’ councils that your heart desired worker appropriation of the means of production is always going to be very limited during the early phases of socialism, particularly in an economically backward country. Appropriation is not essentially a question of establishing a set of formal institutions. Rather it is bound up with the abolition of the division of labour which is a process requiring an entire historical epoch.

For the individual worker a prerequisite for work being a controlling rather than controlled experience is the acquisition of the higher skills and abilities associated with organisation, communication and design. This would only be fully achieved with the transition from socialism to communism.

In the Russia of the 1920s and 30s when the average worker was an illiterate ex-peasant, it was unavoidable that production was run by a caste of engineers and managers. In fact because of this backwardness, production organisation would in some respects need to be more hierarchical than it is in present day capitalist industry.

You can argue about whether Stalin could have taken things further, however, the extent of repossession would still be severely limited.

Now how does Binns show that the crash industrialisation of the 1930s was driven by capitalist accumulation? While the forms of competition we generally associate with the drive to accumulate are absent there is a new form – strategic or military competition with the West.

“The bureaucracy’s monopoly of foreign trade enabled it to seal off Russia from price competition. But strategic and military competition completely dominated the process of capital formation in Russia from the moment accumulation became the bureaucracy’s central concern in 1928. From the beginning of the Five-Year Plans armaments dominated the accumulation process. For instance in machine-building plants, which are probably the best gauge of the development of accumulation, already by 1932 munitions plants accounted for as much as 46 per cent of the total iron and steel consumed. By 1938 this figure had risen to a staggering 94 per cent, and virtually all other machinery plant construction had ceased. Accumulation in the period before the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1939, was dominated by strategic and military competition with the Western nations.”

The remark about ‘price competition’ is muddled. In the home market the Soviet government sealed off all competition, price or non-price. As for exports, the kind and level of competition faced would vary with the market conditions for each good and this was beyond the control of the Soviet government.

This notion of military or strategic competition being a form of capitalist competition is mumbo-jumbo. It is market competition that underlies capitalist accumulation – the protection of the exchange value of capital in the face of the threat from competing capitals. We are not talking about any old competition – for example, there has been military competition throughout history but it was not capitalist competition.

Certainly military power can be used to defend or expand a country’s markets and to destroy the market power of others. However, in this role it is a weapon or adjunct of capitalist competition but not the thing itself.

So given that the only field where the Soviet economy was in competition was in its export markets, you would have to show that its military power was being used, or about to be used, as a weapon in that competition. This of course is nonsense. It was a backward country with limited connections with the rest of the world economy and minimal reliance on export earnings. Its ability to industrialise during the 1930s while the capitalist world stagnated in depression is an indicator of how limited its reliance on external trade really was.

The policy of industrialisation and arms build up in the 1930s tells you nothing about whether the Soviet Union was or was not socialist. Just as capitalism develops modern industry, you would also expect a revolutionary government in a backward country like Russia to undertake a program of industrialisation because modern industry is a prerequisite for socialism and communism.

As for emphasising military production, Nazi aggression confirmed the wisdom of this policy. Why does preparing for the inevitable Nazi onslaught rate as capitalist accumulation? It is what any self-respecting revolutionary government would have done. You would expect a revolutionary regime to ‘compete’ militarily with a hostile capitalist world. OK the ISO’s case for characterising Stalin’s regime as state capitalist is unsatisfactory but are they still right even for the wrong reasons?

They are at least half right in that socialism itself is a form of capitalism, a form presided over by a revolutionary government that leads a protracted struggle to transform society from capitalism to communism.

Furthermore, in the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks had the even more rudimentary task of converting a country of illiterate peasants into a country of unskilled and semi- skilled factory workers. In other words the task of revolutionaries in Russia was basically to create capitalism. The extent that the capitalist stage could be jumped was constrained by the limited scope for eliminating the division of labour.

However, having said this the regime was socialist in the sense that it generally speaking did everything revolutionaries could be expected to do in the conditions in which they found themselves and given the level of understanding and limited experience at the time.

In particular it expropriated the bourgeoisie and collectivised agriculture. This enabled the Soviet Union to rapidly industrialise while the capitalist world was in depression and provided a socialist economic base which was a prerequisite for more fundamental changes in relations between people at work and in society generally.

The capitalist label appears much more appropriate for the post-Stalin period. While the Stalin period was essentially one of dramatic revolutionary change, the subsequent Khruschev and Brezhnev periods were characterised by stagnation and conservatism.

There was no ongoing radical change but rather an entrenchment of the division of labour and the private expropriation of resources by a minority by every conceivable legal or illegal means. In this way socialists property forms became an empty shell and in fact a fetter to the proper working of capitalism which required the full development of bourgeois property rights. In this sense the Soviet Union had become totally capitalist.

Weren’t there better alternatives to Stalin? Not really. He was the best of a generally poor lot. Lenin (who died in 1924) was the only one who gave strong leadership in ideas and action. There was nothing exulted about the ‘Bolshevik Old Guard’ that Stalin purged and their policies were moronic and would have lead to failure.

Stalin on the other hand was prepared to take the necessary hard decisions on collectivisation of agriculture and industrialisation.

For those who are not radically inclined there was of course the non-socialist alternative. However, that alternative was not liberal democracy but a fascist White regime.

Originally published as ‘Not the 1917 news’ in Strange Times no.16 April 1992.
_

Hitler’s Dunkirk Blunder

Lately it’s been all too common for me to come across people who can tie their own shoe laces and yet they tie up the political loose ends they have come across via the MSM and life in general into conspiracy theories such as 9/11 was an inside job; or the moon landings were faked.   I kid you not… the other day I had a person tell me they did not believe that an airliner slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11!

When we throw in the range of clear mental illnesses, and milder obsessions that affect large numbers of people, and then supercharge our access to people generally via the internet and then discuss war,  well… all I can say is you will soon be  shaking your head at the range of odd beliefs that people can and do generate.

So, to get us thinking more rationally about “grand strategy” issues d-bbc-image2 for our time I think it’s useful to look at actual historical events and the differing explanations for why things turned out as they did in the past.  As World War 2 is for most people the ‘unavoidable fight’ or ‘the good war’ and is rich with events which are worth reviewing and drawing lessons from, I’ll go there and my example is the Dunkirk evacuation (Operation Dynamo).    (click here to see this BBC animation of the fall of France and after reading this article you can play spot the quite blatant errors).

In raising this topic I don’t want to debate about the revolutionary value of working people uniting with the imperialists of Britain, France and the U.S. in WW2.  I take that as a settled issue that firmly establishes that united front type politics  may be a possible good policy position for western leftist to consider in this ‘the era of Imperialism’ in any specific war.  But I digress…

Dynamo was a fantastically successful operation cobbled together by the British Navy in an era when darkness provided great protection for those under air attack.  The British air-force had not yet won the Battle of Britain but its splendid efforts in protecting the retreat pointed (on reflection anyway) to that future success.   The protection of the air force and the channel dominance and world’s best practice capabilities of the Navy were however all matched by the continuous highly effective and professional and just as often heroic efforts of the fighting ‘gunners’ (both British and French) that go quite unsung as heroes by the general populace.  In conducting their systematic fighting retreat through the series of descending pockets as they were conceded from one defensive position to the next they were a formidable force.  Even when the retreat was shambolic in the eyes of the infantry or themselves or anyone not involved in firing the guns directly at the enemy those guns were well fed and coordinated and they never ran out of ammunition nor targets.

What unfolded from 10May – 4June was a huge defeat but never a complete rout and the 25 days that unfolded surprised more than just the Allies.  The German High Command who had never been in favour of the Manstein plan were perhaps the most surprised of all.

Dynamo was just a small part of the big picture, the long term significance of which was clearly missed when the short term ‘golden’ prize was what had escaped the Germans in WW1 and that was victory over France.  The great victory for all these WW1 soldiers now in command was that the battle of the Marne was not repeated and the trenches were not dug a second time.  When looking back from the 21st C one must recall that the commanders then were only too well aware that over two million men fought in the first Battle of the Marne and perhaps 500,000 were killed or wounded.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_the_Marne  ‘French casualties totaled 250,000, 80,000 of them dead. Of note, the French poet Charles Péguy was killed while leading his platoon’s attack at the beginning of the battle. British casualties were 13,000, 1,700 of them dead. The Germans suffered 220,000 casualties. No future battle on the Western Front would average so many casualties per day.[11]‘

The raw numbers for the retreat were – Dynamo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Dynamo 338,226 men (110,000 French and a ‘few’ thousand from Belgium ) cross the English channel over 9 days with only about 8,000 pulled out on the first day and 4,000 on the last!  The weather ‘gods’ favoured them and so luck also played its part.  (27th May)8,000;  (28)18,000;  (29) 47,000;   (30)60,000;  (31)61,000;  (1June)64,000 (2-last few thousand of the British)40,000;   (3)40,000;  (4June)4,000: till 3.40 am when Shikari was the last ship with French troops to leave.

At dawn German troops overcame the last of the fighting rear guard and reached the beach.   The very next day the Panzers that had already been reorganised and redeployed launched the attack across the Somme to ‘settle accounts’ with the French.  Once  more they  showed the effectiveness of what

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.F.C._Fuller  and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._H._Liddell_Hart

had first theorized  and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Guderian had developed and just demonstrated.

Evacuating these troops was the great ‘deliverance’ as described by Churchill.  Those saved enabled the British to rapidly train many others and to eventually come back and fight another day.   The French however all went back to France over the next few weeks just in time for most to surrender!

Now we all know that the basic crisis had been that prior to the evacuation all these troops had become trapped by the Germans in a pocket with their back to the channel, but that pocket still had munitions and most other things they required to fight and were effectively fighting.  These supplies especially fuel (that they no longer required much of anyway) were shrinking.  But paradoxically the big pocket kept becoming a ‘tougher nut to crack’.  It required the troops to run out of stuff and that required a little time.  Because they were trapped without the ability to dominate their space and out-range their enemies they were obviously staring at eventual defeat and that was only days away but they were a formidable force till the inevitable exhaustion of the artillery and then the total defeat and surrender that loomed.

Blitzkrieg as a tactical method brought the trap about and Hitler had begun to grasp the method but he was far from the expert who were just a handful anyway.  But he did grasp that the Panzers were not to be used against hard points as this ‘pocket’ had become, rather the hard points were systematically avoided and left for the air force and artillery to attend to.  The precious panzer units were required to be preserved and deployed for the job that only they could do.  Thus on his orders these precious ‘few’ were transferred to launch an attack across the Somme and did so on 5th June.

The myth that Hitler by not allowing the Panzer units to be used in a manner opposed to the principles of the new and effective doctrine and actually allowing the British to escape the trap in order to prepare a political position of rapprochement is to miss the big picture altogether.  For Hitler his splendid air-force and the conventional artillery led forces of Army Group B could attend to those in the ‘trap’.  He required the fast moving Panzers to do to the rest of France what they had just done on this front; and they did just that!

Hitler had ordered  Panzer units; led by General Guderian to stop their advance, with the consequence being that despite heavy casualties as a result of mostly air and artillery attacks, this huge allied force was able to escape across the channel – even though they had to abandon their weapons and so forth.

Was this a blunder on Hitler’s part?  Yes!  But Hitler never took a strategic decision to allow the British to escape as part of a larger scheme to end all fighting with the British and come to sensible terms (which only in hindsight can be seen to have been an error because such a deal did not eventuate).  He was always keen on dealing with the British but that had nothing to do with letting any troops escape their trap.

It’s just that they were not as trapped as he thought and his splendid air-force was not as splendid as he thought and he was never very solid in his understanding of the capabilities of the British Navy.  He was a WW1 soldier and a couple of days was not the same for him as it was for that      tiny number of cutting edge battle field German generals of WW2.

Occasionally we ought to remind ourselves of the boilerplate realities where any sensible analysis ought to assume that leaders have strategies, (which are very often not made clear in declaratory policy) and that they are fundamentally rational, however this does not rule out blundering and disruption due to unexpected events (obviously these things often happen together).  Both sides are trying to win the war, but the unfolding of events is not mechanical, surprises happen.  Sometimes errors are due to blundering. World War 2 began with the Phoney War in the west, which lasted from  September 1939 until the 9 April when the invasion of Norway began.  A month later on  May 10,  the Germans swept into Belgium and the Low Countries, and at the same time mounted a surprise attack into France via the Ardennes, from where they were able to move rapidly towards the English channel reached by 19May, essentially trapping the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in a pocket from which they could only escape via the Navy back across the channel.

This German attack west was a stunning victory for them and a crushing defeat for the Allies and the way it unfolded surprised both sides.  Paris fell to the Germans on June 10, and on June 17, France announced that it was ready to ask for an armistice (officially signed on June 22).

With the precedent of  WW1 as a template, the WW2 Battle of France especially considering the size and sophistication of the French armed forces, was over very quickly.  It’s difficult for many people lacking an interest in military issues to understand why, at what appears to them to be the last minute,  Hitler held back his precious armoured divisions from pushing on with an attack.  But they were NOT supposed to operate as siege artillery against concentrated enemy artillery.

It was after all those Panzer divisions that had produced the stunningly unexpected advance to the channel that had left the BEF cut off from the main French forces with their French allies who they were now deceiving and fighting under constant air and artillery attacks for their very existence.   Hitler did not ‘hold them back’ he exerted his authority and that held them back for a crucial 2 days when they could have prevented much more of the hard pocket from forming and this prevented the destruction of more troops when the battle was still fluid in the manner that suited exactly the panzer tactics (those 2 days were that important).

The final result of the various deployments of all the other armed forces was the preservation of 338,226 Allied troops, who could be used to train others and fight again later in the war.

It was also a huge morale boost for the British taking the edge off an utterly disastrous defeat as a start to the real war.

Back in 2006, there was some discussion of this on the old LastSuperpower forum.  Arthur argued that Hitler’s order to halt may have been based on strategic decisions – as Hitler still hoped to avoid all-out war with the British because his main target was the USSR.  He had hoped to avoid creating a situation in which the USSR and Britain would end up on the same side.

Patrick,  I am still inclined to think you overestimate the importance of the military difficulties and blunders and underestimate the importance of political considerations. Both British and French governments were led by the architects of Munich throughout the phoney war period and both still hoped to avoid a real war with Germany by reaching some compromise. Likewise Hitler wanted to avoid a real war with Britain and even directly ordered Guderian to halt the panzers 10km from Dunkirk to allow the British expeditionary force to escape after von Kleist had ignored a previous less emphatic order. This “blunder” and the corresponding “miracle” of Dunkirk would not have been a blunder at all if it had succeeded in avoiding real war with Britain.  On 5 February 1940 the Allied High Command offered 100,000 British and 20,000 French troops to Finland in support of its war with the Soviet Union. But Churchill “blundered” in stuffing the invasion of Norway (for which Chamberlain took the blame) and Stalin “blundered” in both rushing the invasion to achieve a breakthrough before the Allies could actually join the war, at a huge cost in “unnecessary” casualties, and then quickly accepting an armistice despite the Finnish army being on the verge of complete collapse.These blunders were remarkably serendipitous from the viewpoint of grand strategy in that they prevented a war between Britain and the Soviet Union and ensured the collapse of appeasement.The political evolution of the imperialist war into a war against fascism was no more inevitable than the specific military history. Both required strategic decisions which were intertwined and hard to follow even with the hindsight of the historical record since grand strategy issues like these are not necessarily recorded in historical documents or the knowledge of subordinates later writing their memoirs but only known with certainty in the minds of the top leadership who often don’t have any reason to reveal what they were thinking afterwards. (Stalin certainly never claimed to be trying to encourage the Germans to attack the Allies, so you certainly won’t find my view of it in any party documents!) Remember that in making political decisions Stalin had the benefit of extremely detailed intelligence on both Allied and German intentions whereas the converse did not apply. Obviously I can’t claim to have any proof of these undocumentable assertions, and I admit such speculation could easily be wrong. BTW we also differ about certain “serendipitous blunders” in the Iraq war like not using the Baathist armed forces as a construction brigade. I think that difference is also related to different estimations of the importance of political calculations.

In that old discussion,  I went on to express agreement with Arthur’s position:

Arthur is right that Hitler by effectively ordering the preservation of the British troops when the German Army was rushing to destroy or capture them was preparing a political position. But it only goes to show that Hitler was clueless as to what the British ruling- elite would agree to, having badly lost round one.

As a result of Hitler’s political blunder, 338,000 trained soldiers escaped enabling them to train many others and to fight another day. It would have been a genius move if the British had not been well… British. Once they were at war they were not going to cut their losses and stop the fight especially with Germany in the position to dominate the imperialist world. They would fight the maritime war they were well suited for and the U.S. would be their great ally and arsenal. The U.S. people were still overwhelmingly isolationist but the U.S. ruling-elite would never have permitted a successful invasion of Britain.

Hitler just ‘knew’ (from his own theories), that the British and Germans should be fighting side by side against the hated communists, and nothing else made much sense to him at this point, than that they would come to terms. He did not have a plan B, and so he cobbled it all together based on the stunning success of the German Army and the apparent confirmation of his idiotic theories of racial superiority. If the fighting had been harder perhaps he would not have become so deluded by the early victories.

Since then, I’ve thought more about this and have concluded that the more likely explanation is that it was a blunder, rather than an error which arose from strategic reasoning.  The destruction of the trapped troops was to be achieved more at the hands of the Luftwaffe and the artillery rather than risk more Panzers that were required to be readied for the rapid push into and right through France.

I think that at  the crucial moment Hitler panicked and became cautious. Heinz Guderian’s success had been  spectacular, but at the time Hitler ordered him to halt, he’d already twice disobeyed orders to slow down, and had unilaterally implemented a plan of his own which varied significantly from the plan authorised by the OKH (German High Command)  prior to the initial attack.

At the time Hitler told him to halt, Guderian’s supply lines were stretched and he was well ahead of the slower moving infantry tail (the greater part of it horse drawn).  Hitler would have been wondering whether his senior officers were correct in worrying that he was vulnerable to a  flank attack.  After all, how often had officers let down Corporals in WW1?

Hitler blinked and the politics involved were entirely internal. The retreating troops, not just the BEF had not run out of munitions or other supplies and were conducting a fighting retreat where their defensive perimeter was well directed and shortening.  Meanwhile the German lines were lengthening with exposed flanks while Guderian (Schneller Heinz) was rapidly implementing his, at this stage, highly disputed theories.

The politics behind what happened can be seen more clearly  if we look at the struggles which occurred within the German military in the months before the attack on France. Early in October 1939, the general view of the German military was that  it was probably only possible at that point  to occupy sufficient Dutch, Belgian and French territory to launch naval and air attacks on Britain and to protect the Ruhr area.  The first detailed plan of attack  (19 October 1939) was produced by Franz Halder, head of the OKH (Nazi Germany’s High Command of the Army). It envisaged  a long and difficult campaign launched via an unimaginative frontal attack from the middle of Belgium. Hitler didn’t like it, and a series of variations were produced by Halder, none of which were substantially different.

Eventually General von Runstead in conjunction with his chief of staff, Lt. General von Manstein developed  a substantially different proposal based on surprise and mobility. Their idea was to draw the allied forces into central Belgium by mounting an initial attack there while actually positioning the bulk of the German forces further east from where they would thrust through the difficult terrain in the Ardennes area, entering France at Sedan. This would enable them to  attack the Allies from behind. (i.e. from the south) Hopefully cutting them off.  The expectation was that the Allies would not bother to allocate much of their military strength in the Sedan area due to the fact that the Ardennes area was regarded as an unlikely entry point, due to the “impossibility” of the terrain there.

While developing this plan,  Manstein spoke informally with Heinz Guderian who was the commander of the XIXth Army Corps – an elite armoured tank formation.  Guderian  came up with a more radical (and risky) version of the plan.  He proposed that not only his tank unit , but the entire Panzerwaffe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzerwaffe) should enter France from Sedan and then move  to the west, towards the English channel, hopefully trapping the Allies. He proposed doing this without any pause to wait for the slower main body of the German infantry to catch up.  The idea was that this could lead to a very quick victory and avoid the level of (German) casualties typical of the annihilation battle which would result from the other plans. This was considered risky because rushing ahead of the infantry would create a vulnerable open flank of about 300 kilometres that the infantry tail would have to rush to form up into a defensive line every day while the advance proceeded.

Von Manstein put forward several variations on this plan, all much less radical than Guderian’s (and without mentioning his discussions with Guderian).  However, all of these plans were rejected by the OKH without ever reaching Hitler. Late in January 1940, Halder, who disliked Von Manstein,  arranged for him to be posted to Prussia.  This backfired on Halder because members of von Manstein’s staff managed to draw Hitler’s attention to it.  As a consequence Hitler invited Von Manstein to present his ideas to him personally.  Not long afterwards  he instructed Halder to produce a new plan incorporating a surprise attack through the Ardennes to Sedan.

This became known as the Manstein Plan. The Manstein plan did not however incorporate the idea that German armour  should advance quickly west without waiting for the infantry.  Most of the Generals saw this as far too risky. Instead the plan called for the armoured units (led by Guderian) to cross the river Meuse at Sedan, establish bridgeheads for the slower moving infantry,  and then to wait (several days) for it to catch up. As it turned out, the attack through the Ardennes  was remarkably successful.  The French troops allocated to the area were an inexperienced Reserve Division and panic and disorder broke out among them very quickly resulting in rapid retreat. At this point (May 12) Guderian disobeyed an order to restrict the bridgehead he’d established to 8km and to dig in there until he had more infantry support. Instead he continued  to extend  it west and south.

Although this theoretically could have been dangerous, the French continued to fall apart and retreat.  Similarly, Erwin Rommel disobeyed orders and advanced his Panzer division rapidly.  Both knew what they were doing. Again on May 16, Guderian and Rommel both disobeyed orders  and continued west.  Guderian advanced about 70 km from where he was supposed to have been and Rommel’s forces advanced 100 km.  Effectively Guderian was unilaterally implementing his own plan, on top of the official Manstein plan. As a consequence, on  May 17 Guderian was relieved of all duties by his superior (von Kleist), but Rundstedt refused to confirm the order, so Guderian stayed in charge.

At this point the Panzer Corps were considered by some of the senior officers to be in a vulnerable position and could if the French had launched a determined flank attack have been mauled and run up against supply problems.  However such an attack didn’t happen and the German infantry tail kept racing forwards as best they could and establishing the all important thin defensive line eventually reaching the Somme and then continually reinforcing all along it while simultaneously bringing up supplies for the units fighting their way forward through the various defense pockets that became established.   Panzer troops took the opportunity to rest regroup and repair equipment for two days and then continued on but always towards a more concentrated foe holding ridge lines with well supplied  artillery.

The French and BEF eventually coalesced into a pocket that reduced systematically through several retreats  and always over ground less favorable for Panzers.  By now the German High Command knew that victory was within reach and ordered a further advance with the direct aim of cutting of the Allies’ capacity to escape south but the unsuitability of the territory between the pockets and the advancing German Panzers and the concentration of artillery was going to cost tanks.   As we know the advance was successful and the Allies became trapped in a pocket around Dunkirk.

The original Manstein Plan

The original Manstein Plan

The ACTUAL course of German forces

The ACTUAL course of German forces

The order to pause was from the 23-26 and only applied to Army Group A’s armoured formations.  The period of the evacuation or Operation Dynamo was 27 May till 3.40 am 4th June. [date-evacuated]  (27)8,000 (28)18,000 (29)47,000 (30)60,000 (31)61,000 (1)64,000 (2)40,000 (3)40,000 (4)4,000.   The Dutch had surrendered on 14 May and on 28 May the Belgian army capitulated.  At the 29th May Cambrai meeting Hitler tells the commanders of his Army Groups that he has decided to ‘deploy the armoured forces immediately for a southward offensive to settle accounts with the French, attacking south on 5thMay.  1st June German artillery bombards the Dunkirk beaches, 2nd June Operation Dynamo completed for the BEF.

The final Dunkirk pocket was established on 31 May and held till 4 June at which point 2,000 guns, 60,000 vehicles, 600,000 tons of fuel and supplies and 76,000 tons of munitions were abandoned. The Germans began their attack south on 5 June so we can see that the Panzers had been reserved for and moved to that task. On May 25, the 1st Panzer division could have thrust forward again and forced the Allied forces in the Dunkirk area to surrender.  But Hitler had ordered it to halt the day before. I would put this down to a real concern on Hitler’s part that Guderian’s advance force was vulnerable to a devastating flank attack, combined with a need to assert himself as Fuhrer, in the face of Guderian’s repeated insubordination.

Liddel Heart was mostly responsible for the promotion of this ‘Hitler let them escape’ thinking along with and as a result of Guderian himself AFTER the war but the records of the actual period do not provide the evidence (rather to the contrary).

I think the following spells it out.   http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p375_Lutton.html

I hope I get to write about Putin in the rear vision mirror but only the good die young so….

The myth of the “Secularism” of the Assads

WRITTEN BY JEAN -PIERRE FILIU, translated by Mary Rizzo

04/07/2014 or 07/04/2014 Oz time

fromwewritewhatwelike

Among the arguments put forward constantly by proponents of the Syrian dictatorship , standing out is the presumed ” secularism” of the Assad regime. It is striking that “secularism” is associated with the illusory protection of minorities (while the percentage of Christians in the Syrian population has halved since the advent of Hafez Assad in 1970) and the promotion of women’s rights.

Yet these two concepts have nothing to do with secularism, which expresses the neutrality of the State towards all faiths, whether they can be labelled as religious or not. The French Republic had built its secularism during the crisis with the Catholic Church and the events that emerged thereof.

The separation of church and state in 1905, in France came 40 years before the right to vote for women. And the French Revolution had, according to the famous formula of one of its members, recognised establishment of the rights of religious minorities as rights due to citizens, and not to a community.

This has not prevented the Arab dictators to enhance the idea of their “commitment” to the emancipation of women (Ben Ali in Tunisia) or for the protection of minorities (Copts in Egypt by Mubarak). This has brought about a paternalistic strategy of their propaganda towards the population (“without me, poor subjects, there exists only the greatest threat), and their seemingly “progressive” appearance on the international scene (I’m the only bulwark against the forces of darkness, Islamism, or Al Qaeda).

Yet, never has been such a lie been brought to the level that the Assad regime has taken it.

Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the dynasty, took power in 1970 against those who drafted – the year before – the only constitution in the history of Syria that could actually be described as “secular “. Assad the father “regulated” his manoeuver with a masquerade election, in 1971, attributing 99.2% of the votes to its sole candidate.

It amended the Constitution in 1973 to guarantee the explicit belonging of the Head of State to the Muslim religion.

The term “secularism” is absent from the official propaganda, which celebrates its successes with the words “socialist” and “nationalist” of the Assad regime. In 1979, the Syrian Baath Party, officially “Arab” and “socialist”, had allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Iraqi Baath Party. This alliance, sealed by the war launched by Tehran against Baghdad in 1980, remains the same until this day.

Assad father and son support a Ministry of Religious Affairs (known as “Waqf”) and a Mufti of the Republic to establish an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials is the exact opposite of the secular separation of religion and state. In Syria, the Imams are expected every Friday to celebrate the glory of the Head of State and his achievements.

In addition to this ministry integrated with the machine politics of the dictatorship, Assad has co-opted Sunni personalities, responsible for consolidating the presidential legitimacy in the ranks of the majority community in Syria. We should remember that, in the absence of official statistics, the percentage of Sunnis in Syria is estimated at four-fifths (mainly Arabs, with a Kurdish minority) and 12% are Alawites (all ethnically Arabs).

Among these public figures, the most notable were Kaftaro Sheikh Ahmad, who died in 2004, and Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a bombing in 2013. Both were known for their unconditional support to the Assad regime, and their vigorous attacks against the principle of secularism, which was considered as godlessness.

In February 2006, it was in Damascus where there were the most violent protests against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the press of the West: the Syrian secret police organised events that led to the attack of the French Embassy and the destruction of the embassies of Denmark and Norway.

Those who still believe in the “secularism” of Bashar al-Assad could, for example, see this press release by Government Information (SANA) relative to the preaching at the end of Ramadan 2012 (Eid al-Fitr): “The sheikh leading the ceremony praised the struggle of the Head of State at the service of Islam against “conspiracy and terrorism.”

http://sana.sy/fra/51/2012/08/19/437134.htm

But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear …

* Jean -Pierre Filiu is a university lecturer at Sciences Po (Paris).

Arabist and historian, specialist in contemporary Islam.

After a long diplomatic career, he devoted himself to academic research, and has held various positions at prestigious American universities. He is the author of several important books on the Middle East and his essays have been published in a dozen languages ​​.

One of his latest books is dedicated to Syria: “I am writing of Aleppo” (Denoël , 2013).

Original: http://syriemdl.net/2014/04/02/le-mythe-de-la-laicite-des-assad/

Palestinians demand release of jailed leader Barghouti

Published March 27th, 2014

As part of their tit-for-tat negotiations with Israel, Palestinians have demanded the release of political prisoner Marwan Barghouti.

Barghouti was arrested in 2002, and convicted by an Israeli court in 2004. He is serving five life sentences, one for each of the murders he is allegedly responsible for, though Barghouti continues to deny allegations that he directly ordered the killings.

Barghouti’s case is a controversial one because despite a significant number of Israelis viewing him as a terrorist, many people, both Israelis and Palestinians, believe he may be their best hope for arriving at a two-state solution.

The Guardian reports Fadwa Barghouti, Marwan’s wife, visits him twice a month for 45 minutes at a time. She brings him books — he reads voraciously — news of their grown children, and updates on the peace talks. Several times throughout Barghouti’s imprisonment, the possibility of negotiations for his release have arisen, yet still he remains behind bars.

“He has spent 18 years of his life in an Israeli prison. He was deported for seven years. It has been a long and horrible journey,” says Fadwa. “Despite all this he believes the conflict should be resolved by a two-state solution. He does not believe there is an alternative in a one-state solution except more bloodshed and more agony.”

According to Ziad Abu Ein, his longtime friend and colleague, Barghouti advocates civil disobedience, not armed struggle, to protest Israel’s occupation.

These renewed calls for Marwan Barghouti’s release come at a time when Barghouti has gained considerable political clout as an iconic Palestinian figure. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even asked President Obama to put pressure on Israel to release Barghouti during his visit to the White House last week.

Perhaps because Barghouti seems his likely successor.

Barghouti has tremendous public support — News of Barghouti’s potential release swayed Palestinian opinion, from 75 percent being against talks with Israel to 50 percent now supporting negotiations — and is a strong candidate to replace Mahmoud Abbas as president of Palestine, a development that could make his continued imprisonment a politically compromising position for Israel.

Speaking to the Guardian, Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician long opposed to Marwan’s incarceration, said, “If Mahmoud Abbas does not stand again for president and Barghouti does run, he will win easily. Then Israel will have the Palestinian president in jail.”

FGM: UK’s first female genital mutilation prosecutions announced

Via AHA

21 MAY 2013
BBC News

An offence was allegedly carried out by a doctor at the Whittington Hospital in London

The first UK prosecutions over female genital mutilation have been announced by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, of Ilford, east London, will be prosecuted for an alleged offence while working at the Whittington Hospital in London.

Hasan Mohamed, 40, of Holloway, north London, faces a charge of intentionally encouraging female genital mutilation.

Dr Dharmasena and Mr Mohamed will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 15 April.
‘Sufficient evidence’

In a statement, director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said the CPS was asked by the Metropolitan Police to consider evidence in relation to an allegation of female genital mutilation (FGM).
FGM includes procedures that alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
About 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth and increased risk of death for newborns. (From WHO data)

It was alleged that following a patient giving birth in November 2012, a doctor at the Whittington Hospital repaired female genital mutilation that had previously been performed on the woman, allegedly carrying out female genital mutilation himself.

Ms Saunders said: “Having carefully considered all the available evidence, I have determined there is sufficient evidence and it would be in the public interest to prosecute Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena for an offence contrary to S1 (1) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003).

“I have also determined that Hasan Mohamed should face one charge of intentionally encouraging an offence of FGM, contrary to section 44(1) of the Serious Crime Act (2007), and a second charge of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring Dr Dharmasena to commit an offence contrary to S1 (1) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003).

“These decisions were taken in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors.”

NHS trust Whittington Health, which runs the Whittington Hospital, said it had contacted police and started its own investigation when staff raised concerns following a birth in November 2012.

The CPS has decided to take no further action in four other cases of alleged FGM.

In one of those cases it was alleged that two parents had arranged for their daughter to undergo female genital mutilation while abroad.

In another, a suspect contacted an FGM helpline to request the procedure for his two daughters after misunderstanding the purpose of the service for victims. The CPS is currently considering whether to proceed with four other cases.

Prosecutors have also had discussions with police over investigations into two further cases, which are at an early stage.

‘Unforgivable’

The UK has in the past been compared unfavourably to other countries over the issue, such as France where there have been more than 100 successful prosecutions.

MPs have said it is “unforgivable” that there have been no UK prosecutions since laws against FGM were introduced nearly 30 years ago. This was despite more than 140 referrals to police in the past four years.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 replaced a 1985 Act, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, raising the maximum penalty from five to 14 years in prison.

It also made it an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM abroad even in countries where it is legal.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the government had “stepped up its response” to “take this crime out of the shadows” and give victims the confidence to come forward.

He said the “key message” was that the government took FGM “extremely seriously”.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is writing to every school in England to ask them to help protect girls from FGM.

Where is Australia at?

South Australian provisions

The ABC reported on Sept. 14 2012 that prosecutions occurred in NSW stating that it was unlikely to be an isolated incident. It is very likely that these procedures are occurring in Australia under Medicare and state Hospital funding. This most often occurs after the infibulated woman presents for pre-natal care etc. and requires reopening in order to safely deliver their baby and is re-stitched after the birth. Many women require stitching after giving birth and these procedures fall under the radar as they receive a few extra to restore their previous pre-admission condition.

Palestinians seek Barghouti’s release as condition for extending talks

Free Marwan Barghouti

Free Marwan Barghouti


A rising star in the dominant Fatah party before he was captured by Israeli troops in 2002. Marwan Barghouti could be the key to keeping talks alive.

By The Associated Press | Mar. 19, 2014 | 11:01 PM

The Palestinians are seeking the freedom of Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences for his alleged role in killings of Israelis, as part of any plan to extend negotiations with Israel beyond an April deadline, several top officials said.

A prominent Palestinian uprising leader imprisoned by Israel, Barghouti could soon emerge as the key to keeping fragile U.S.-led peace efforts alive.

A release of Barghouti, a popular figure among Palestinians, could inject new life into the troubled peace process, boost embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and even provide the Palestinians with a plausible successor to their 78-year-old leader.

But Israel seems unlikely to approve the request, setting the stage for a possible breakdown in the talks.

The Palestinians have two demands for an extension: a freeze in Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the release of the most senior prisoners held by Israel, first and foremost Barghouti, senior official Nabil Shaath and Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraq told AP.

Israel was already forced to release dozens of prisoners convicted of deadly violence to make the current round of talks possible, but Barghouti remains jailed.
With Israel not expected to halt settlement construction, the Palestinians say they will drive a tough bargain on the prisoner issue. Palestinian officials and Barghouti’s family said Abbas raised the issue of Barghouti’s release in his White House meeting this week with President Barack Obama.

“President Abbas demanded the release of the political leaders in jail like Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat and Fuad Shobaki,” said Qaraqi, the prisoner affairs minister.

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, said Abbas is “exerting his efforts to release Marwan and he is very serious about it.”

Israeli officials said the matter has not yet come in the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Saadat heads a faction that killed an Israeli Cabinet minister in 2001 and is serving a 30-year sentence for allegedly participating in attacks. Shobaki, a former top Palestinian official, is the alleged mastermind of an attempt to smuggle a large shipment of weapons to the Palestinians on a ship that was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos in 2002.

But no prisoner is more prized by the Palestinians than Barghouti, who was a rising star in the dominant Fatah party before he was captured by Israeli troops in 2002. Israel says Barghouti, 54, was a leader of the violent uprising in the West Bank early last decade. He is serving five life terms for alleged involvement in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk.

The Palestinians say Barghouti is a politician who had no direct involvement in any of the killings.

Barghouti’s release could be critical for Abbas. The Palestinian leader has seen his popularity plummet due to the lack of progress in peace talks. Winning Barghouti’s freedom would be a huge moral victory for him.

And at almost 79, Abbas has recently acknowledged he cannot serve forever. Yet he has never designated a successor and is facing a rising challenge by an exiled former aide, Mohammed Dahlan. Barghouti is perhaps the only member of Fatah’s next generation of leaders with the gravitas to confront that challenge.

Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri said Abbas desperately needs Barghouti’s release, both to justify continued talks with Israel and to finally have a clear successor.

Fadwa Barghouti said her husband remains intimately involved in Palestinian affairs from his cell in an isolated bloc of the Hadarim prison in central Israel.

She said he shares a cell with two other men and is allowed to go outdoors into a courtyard twice a day – one hour each time – for exercise and a walk. She said he starts his day with exercise and then reads four Israeli newspapers. In addition to his native Arabic, Barghouti speaks Hebrew and English.

As a member of Fatah’s leadership, Barghouti is briefed on the negotiations through his wife, who is in close contact with the Palestinian leadership and visits him twice a month.

“He was hoping that the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would succeed in striking a deal based on the Israeli commitment to end the occupation on the 1967 borders,” she said.

Barghouti, like other Palestinian leaders, wants to establish an independent state in all of the territories captured by Israel in 1967: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, she said. Several past Israeli offers, by more moderate governments than Netanyahu’s, seemed to come close, but ultimately fell short.

The fate of the roughly 5,000 prisoners held by Israel is deeply emotional in Palestinian society. Virtually every Palestinian has a friend or relative who has served time in Israel, and the prisoners are revered a s freedom fighters.

But the issue is equally emotional for Israelis, who see prisoners like Barghouti as terrorists.

At the outset of talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 long-serving prisoners in four stages. But the fourth and final stage, scheduled later this month, is suddenly in jeopardy.

The previous releases, including dozens of men who were convicted in deadly attacks, have been accompanied by jubilant celebrations by Palestinians and attended by Abbas himself, angering many in Israel. On Tuesday, Israel’s chief peace negotiator said the final release was not guaranteed unless there was progress in the talks.

For that reason, the release of Barghouti could become a contentious issue in the coming weeks. Israeli officials have rejected repeated attempts to include him in past prisoner releases.

Still, Israel could be tempted. During the peace talks of the 1990s, Barghouti was generally liked by the Israelis, had many friends among them, and was considered a moderate interlocutor. With many Israelis concerned that Abbas will be followed by more radical nationalists or Islamists, a Barghouti ascension, despite his supposed actions during the uprising, might not seem like the worst option.
Without a significant gesture, the Palestinians could soon walk away from the negotiating table.

Shaath gave a glimpse of what could lie ahead, saying the Palestinians would soon resume a campaign for UN recognition if Israel does not carry out the final scheduled prisoner release. Israel bitterly opposes the U.N. campaign, since the Palestinians have said they will use their enhanced international status to press for anti-Israel action. The Palestinians halted the campaign in exchange for Israel’s pledge to free prisoners.

“We committed to not applying to the UN agencies and Israel committed to release 104 prisoners in four batches,” he said. “That was the deal. If Israel breaches it, we will too.”

Under heavy U.S. pressure, Israel and the Palestinians restarted negotiations last July, setting a nine-month target for wrapping up a comprehensive peac e deal establishing a Palestinian state and ending a century of conflict. After realizing this was unrealistic, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry scaled back his ambitions and said he would aim for a “framework” peace deal by the April deadline.

With even that more modest goal in question, the sides are now searching for a formula that will allow the talks to continue.

The Palestinians have been skeptical about the chances of success, distrusting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A prolonging of the talks means continuing shelving of their previous plans to press for recognition, even without a peace deal, with various international bodies.

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Pussy Riot members beaten by Russian security officials with horsewhips in Sochi

From ABC News
(no author credited) 20 Feb. 2014

Members of Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot were attacked in Sochi by Cossack militia armed with horsewhips.

The scuffles came a day after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained by police in the Russian Black Sea resort for several hours in connection with a theft case.

The latest fracas over their stay in Sochi came as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned the women that it would be “wholly inappropriate” to stage actions outside Winter Olympic venues.

The clash took place as Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and one other Pussy Riot member sought to stage an action in the centre of Sochi, about 30 kilometres north of the main Olympic Park.

They donned the coloured balaclavas and tights that are their group’s trademark but were immediately surrounded by uniformed security personnel who appeared to be Cossacks.

The women were whipped repeatedly with horsewhips and roughly handled, video footage showed bruises on Maria Alyokhina.

At one point Tolokonnikova was thrown to the ground and her coat thrown on top of her.

Several uniformed Cossacks, acting as security guards in Sochi, pulled the women’s ski-masks off them, punched them repeatedly and whipped them.

Tolokonnikova herself wrote on her Twitter feed @tolokno that they had been attempting to stage a new performance entitled “Putin will teach you to love the motherland”.

Alyokhina posted pictures on her Twitter feed of her chest, showing severe bruising after the clashes.

“My back hurts from the beatings on my body there are bruises and marks from the whips,” Tolokonnikova said.

“Putin will teach you to love the motherland,” she added ironically.

The women went to Sochi hospitals for medical treatment and Alyokhina later posted a picture of Tolokonnikova in the hospital bed next to her.

Tolokonnikova said her husband Pyotr Verzilov has suffered in particular due to the use of an unidentified spray.

Alexander Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi, said the incident had to be investigated, even if the views of Pussy Riot do not reflect the majority.

“All the guilty in what took place should be punished,” Mr Tkachev said.

The IOC distanced itself from the controversy over the arrest on Tuesday (local time), which rights groups described as a public relations disaster that cast a new shadow over the Games.

Jordan on slippery slope in Syria war

Summary
Jordanian officials worry that allowing the transport of weapons to Syrian rebels across Jordanian territory could make it a target of retaliation, while opening up its borders to foreign fighters.

From al-monitor

Author Osama Al Sharif
Posted February 18, 2014

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s news media regarded King Abdullah’s meeting with US President Barack Obama on Feb. 14 at the Sunnylands estate in southern California a success.

Abdullah announced that the United States would renew a five-year aid package — worth $660 million annually — in addition to guaranteeing $1 billion in loans aimed at supporting Jordan’s frail economy. The two leaders discussed the Syrian crisis and the prospects of US efforts to conclude peace between Israel and the Palestinians, two issues that affect Jordan directly.

The meeting coincided with news from Geneva that the second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, under UN auspices, had failed. Speaking to reporters in the presence of Abdullah, Obama announced that he would be seeking “a more aggressive” and “immediate” stance on Syria, especially in delivering humanitarian aid. US Secretary of State John Kerry declared earlier that the president wanted to review fresh options on Syria and senior administration officials told reporters covering the king’s visit that all options remain on the table short of putting American boots on the ground.

These options remain undecided but observers here believe that the United States is considering supplying lethal arms to the Syrian rebels and that Jordan will soon find itself involved in this operation. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unidentified Arab official and opposition sources, reported that Saudi Arabia would deliver Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADs, and anti-tank guided missiles from Russia to the rebels. It said that such weapons were already in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.

And popular columnist Abdel Bari Atwan wrote this week that former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had asked the Syrian National Council to “heat up” the southern front in Daraa to increase pressure on the Assad regime. Atwan wrote that opening up the southern front, most of which is under the control of the Free Syrian Army, would certainly drag Jordan into the Syria crisis.

Since the collapse of the Geneva talks last week, the Syrian regime has widened the scope of its military operations, launching a sustained attack in the Qalamoun Mountains, north of Damascus, to occupy the strategic town of Yabrud. Kerry accused the Russians of enabling the Syrian government’s “pursuit of a military path.” The Russians retorted by blaming the opposition for the failure in Geneva. It is clear that the coming weeks will witness an increase in military confrontations.

Jordan had always denied reports that it had facilitated the passage of fighters and arms through its borders with Syria. The Syrian regime had warned Jordan not to get involved or bow to US and Saudi pressures. But since the summit in California, Jordanian officials have refused to comment on news that arms would be sent across the borders to Syrian rebels.

In fact, on Feb. 17 the government announced that the armed forces had prevented fighters from crossing from Syria to Jordan, wounding at least three. Jordan’s Salafists claimed that the army is not allowing Jordanian citizens, fighting in Syria, to return to Jordan.

It is not clear how Jordan will react to a Saudi or US request to deliver arms to Syrian rebels in Daraa. If the southern front did heat up, it would be a serious development for Jordan. The kingdom already hosts over 600,000 Syrian refugees, mostly from southern Syria. If fresh fighting flared up in that region, it would create new waves of refugees. But more important, it would bring the fighting closer to Jordan’s borders.

Jordan has tried to distance itself from calls for regime change in Syria. In California, Abdullah underlined the need for a political solution in Syria without going into details. Jordan has kept the Syrian Embassy open in Amman while officials have deliberately avoided meeting the head of the Syrian National Council, Ahmad al-Jarba, publicly. Unconfirmed reports spoke of occasional intelligence cooperation between Amman and Damascus over the passage of arms and fighters.

Officials here would neither confirm nor deny Jordan’s participation last week in a secret meeting of top intelligence chiefs from regional and Western countries. The meeting in Washington, reported by The New York Times, included intelligence officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and the United Arab Emirates, and several others from the 11-nation group known as the Friends of Syria. The purpose of the meeting, the newspaper said, was to discuss “how to best provide that new lethal aid to rebel groups.”

Jordan’s role in facilitating arms delivery through its borders is an open issue. Officials here insist that Jordan will have no such role, but if the southern front does explode then things could change on the ground. Abdullah has described Jordan as an oasis of stability in the region. So far it has avoided getting sucked into the Syrian crisis and averted any spillover. Obama’s fresh options on Syria, which include sending arms to the rebels, could end all that.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/jordan-syria-war-slippery-slope.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=1f1e05ec4f-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-1f1e05ec4f-93145129#ixzz2tpCkRCTZ

Turkey defers to Baghdad on oil from Iraqi Kurdistan

With hundred of thousands of barrels of its oil stuck in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, unable to be sold on the world market because of its continuing row with Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is discovering just how landlocked and boxed in it is in terms of utilizing the vast oil reserves under its control.

Summary
Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has been conducting shuttle diplomacy between Baghdad and Ankara to facilitate an agreement.

From al-monitor

Author Semih Idiz
Posted February 18, 2014
Translator(s)Ezgi Akin

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani shuttled between Istanbul and Baghdad again in the last few days in a fresh attempt at overcoming the problem, but with little apparent success. Baghdad appears determined to stick to its guns and prevent the KRG from selling oil from northern Iraq unilaterally, saying this violates Iraq’s constitution.

Baghdad also has support from Washington, where administration officials fear the energy cooperation between Turkey and the KRG will increase the risk of splitting up Iraq — already in the throes of sectarian strife — and are consequently putting pressure on Ankara over its energy dealings with the Iraqi Kurds.

Iraq’s constitution says oil revenues, regardless of where the reserves are located in the country, have to go through Baghdad and allocates the autonomous Kurdish region 17% of total revenues.

Nouri al-Maliki’s government argues that the KRG can only export its oil after an agreement is reached between Erbil and Baghdad on how to proceed in this matter.

Baghdad has also threatened to cut the KRG out of its share of Iraq’s vast oil revenues, should it go ahead and sell its oil unilaterally.

Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi told Reuters in January that the government would take legal action against Turkey and consider canceling all contracts with Turkish firms if Ankara enabled the exporting of KRG oil before an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad is reached.

Such an agreement, though, has been elusive because of Kurdish claims of sole ownership over oil reserves discovered in northern Iraq after the region gained political autonomy from Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003.

KRG officials are disappointed that a comprehensive package of agreements they signed with Turkey in November 2013 has not become fully operational yet.

The package includes an agreement on multibillion-dollar oil pipelines connecting northern Iraq with Turkey, which would enable the KRG to eventually export up to 2 million barrels of oil per day when fully implemented, making it an important regional energy player independent of the central government.

Currently the KRG is using the existing pipeline from Kirkuk — which technically remains under Baghdad’s control — to Ceyhan where Turkey has a storage capacity of 2.5 million barrels set aside for Kurdish oil. As of December, when the KRG’s connection to the Kirkuk pipeline was opened, the 425,000 barrels of Kurdish oil has been stored in Ceyhan waiting to be sold on world markets.

In the meantime, the KRG has been trucking small amounts of crude oil to Turkey for domestic consumption, but this is considered to be negligible compared with the potential that exists if the proposed system of pipelines is fully up and running.

There has been little love lost between the predominantly Sunni government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the predominantly Shiite Maliki government because of Turkey’s cooperation with the KRG in the energy field, as well as sectarian-based differences over Syria.

Ankara nevertheless appears reluctant to aggravate the situation with Iraq further given the increasing instability and turmoil in the region due to the Syria crisis, which has also left the two countries facing similar threats, especially from radical jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

There is also the estimated trade of about $12 billion annually between Turkey and Iraq that experts say has to be factored in by Ankara. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the Iraqi capital in November for talks designed to smooth the path for a rapprochement between the sides and to lay the groundwork for a visit by Erdogan to Baghdad and Maliki to Ankara.

Those visits have yet to occur, however, and this may be an indication that differences remain which still have to be ironed out. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials are said to be still suspicious of Turkey’s intentions.

“Turkey must now choose either to turn its back on Baghdad and go ahead with its deal with the Kurds, or suspend direct exports from the region until an agreement is reached between the central government and Erbil,” Reuters quoted an unnamed Iraqi official as saying in January.

“Unfortunately, facts on the ground show that Ankara eventually will go ahead with its deals with the Kurds at the expense of its relations with Baghdad,” the official added.

Iraqi suspicions increased after media reports in Turkey indicated that the first batch of KRG oil in Ceyhan, worth $90 million, had been sold through the Trans Petroleum Co. in Singapore without approval from Baghdad.

Ankara, however, has denied these reports. “Even if a barrel of oil had passed through Ceyhan, Baghdad would have been informed of this and a daily receipt would have been given to the central government noting how much of a sale was made,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told members of the Petroleum Platform Association in the city of Kayseri on Feb. 17.

“This is Iraq’s oil, not Turkey’s. Thus, Baghdad will be informed, because it is an issue related to Iraq’s income. So far, there has not been any oil that has gone through Ceyhan, but this does not mean it won’t be transferred in the future. We’ll share all information with Baghdad,” Yildiz added.

Barzani arrived in Istanbul on Feb. 14, where he held talks with Erdogan and Yildiz to see how the problem could be overcome. Two days later, he was in Baghdad for talks on the topic, which reportedly produced little, if any, results.

The KRG and the central government have failed to resolve their differences despite a US-sponsored “seven-point agreement” signed between Barzani and Maliki in April 2013.

Tellingly, though, the sides were not prepared to give the impression of a breakdown in talks after Barzani’s failed mission to Baghdad this week. “Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani emphasized the importance of reaching an agreement over the outstanding issues between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq,” a statement from Maliki’s office in Baghdad said later, indicating that the talks would go on.

Meanwhile, there are those who argue that the KRG and Baghdad are actually making progress. Reuters quoted Mehmet Sepil, the president of Anglo-Turkish firm Genel Energy, on Feb. 6 as saying, “We have never been this close to a deal.” Sepil added, “The issues that caused an impasse have been identified. There’s been quite a bit of progress made.”

While the KRG and Baghdad remain locked in tough negotiations, the Kurdish media are reporting that the KRG is ultimately relying on the presence in northern Iraq of giant international oil companies, including ExxonMobil of the United States, Total of France and Gazprom Neft of Russia, to alter the picture to the KRG’s advantage.

“These companies are so powerful that they can change national policies,” the English-language edition of the Kurdish daily Rudaw reported on Feb. 17, also indicating that “from the very beginning of the row (with Baghdad) it has been obvious that, one way or another, Kurdish oil will flow overseas.”

The Financial Times, in a report on Jan. 26 bound to have displeased the Kurdish leadership, indicated, however, that although Kurdish crude is now flowing to Ceyhan, where it is being stored, major oil companies are shying away from responding to the KRG’s call for bids for this oil.

“We will not be involved in KRG tenders until we have a much better understanding of the ramifications for our relationship with Iraq,” the paper quoted an unnamed senior executive from what it said was one of the world’s largest energy companies.

It’s “obvious that, one way or another, Kurdish oil will flow overseas,” as Rudaw put it, but it seems that this will not be exclusively on Kurdish terms if the emerging picture is anything to go by.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-baghdad-oil-kurdistan-region-iraq.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=1f1e05ec4f-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-1f1e05ec4f-93145129#ixzz2tp8sMNg8

Campaigners welcome Hamid Karzai’s intervention on domestic abuse law

Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has blocked a law that would silence victims of domestic violence, forced marriage and child abuse and demanded major revisions after a campaign by Afghan activists and western diplomats.

The legislation bans relatives from testifying against each other, and in a country where forensic evidence is relatively undeveloped, that would effectively halt prosecution in even the most vicious cases of violence against women, including those mutilated by their husbands or attacked by brothers and fathers.

The provision was inserted into a new criminal prosecution code, much needed and years in the making, at the last minute. It was steered through parliament by a prominent opponent of women’s rights, and conservative MPs resisted efforts to moderate the strict controls.

They apparently also had backing from some sections of government; early on Monday, a justice ministry official told the Guardian that western embassies had simply “misunderstood” the law, and that the expected confusion be resolved soon and without any changes needed.

But just a few hours later, a cabinet meeting chaired by Karzai ordered alterations to the brief section of the law causing the problems, his spokeswoman Adela Raz said. “At the meeting, His Excellency the President, and the cabinet, decided that article 26 needs to be amended.”

She declined to say how the law would be altered, but the public repudiation of what would have been a devastating step backwards for Afghan women was welcomed by activists and diplomats. They had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign, both in public and behind the scenes, since the legislation first came to light earlier this month.

“Who says advocacy and lobbying does not work? It does and we have seen results!” campaigner Samira Hamidi said, celebrating on Twitter. The European Union welcomed Karzai’s decision to “stop [a] setback for women’s rights”.

The United States, which had previously issued only a brief statement of concern about the law, welcomed Karzai’s decision as a “response to the concerns expressed by many Afghans and their international partners”.

Five years ago, after a similar campaign against a family law that appeared to allow marital rape, the Afghan president ripped up the legislation and shepherded a more moderate version through the houses of parliament.

Raz denied that the president, currently at odds with the US over issues from the election to the long-term presence of foreign troops, had been slow to respond to the latest law in response to foreign or domestic pressure. The draft had been held up by bureaucracy, and Karzai demanded changes as soon as it reached his desk, she said.

“As soon as it arrived, it was brought to the cabinet as any law would be for discussion, and like anyone else who is concerned about women’s rights, they responded,” she said, adding that Karzai had a track record of supporting women. “In the past you have seen that the president is someone who has made sure women’s rights are protected according to the laws of the country.”

Whatever his personal views, Karzai has presided over a strengthening of factions opposed to women’s rights during his latest term in office. In the last year alone parliament has blocked a law to curb violence against women and cut the quota for women on provincial councils, while the justice ministry has floated a proposal to bring back stoning as a punishment for adultery.

Activists also say the change to the law as currently planned would still leave women more vulnerable than they are now. It allows relatives to testify against each other if they wish but does not grant any legal rights to call them to the stand. An amended draft in circulation now says that relatives of the accused have a right “not to answer questions”, according to an international diplomat following the case.

Protections in most countries exempt only husbands and wives from a legal obligation to testify against each other, while the new Afghan law covers a very wide range of relatives, from a mother’s great-uncle to a brother’s grandchildren. Especially in close-knit villages, this could potentially allow dozens of key witnesses to avoid giving evidence.

“We are cautiously optimistic after hearing statements from the palace,” said Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, which first raised concerns about the law. “We need to see the exact language before we can know whether it will really fix the problem.

“President Karzai’s decision today is an indication that this kind of international reaction still makes a difference, and we would beg diplomats not to sit by next time there is an attack on women’s rights, because there will be one,” she added.

However, along with the demands to protect modest gains in women’s rights since the fall of the Taliban, there is also some pressure for a fast resolution of the current standoff, because Afghanistan is in desperate need of a new criminal prosecution code.

Stephen Hawking – “What’s happening in Syria is an abomination”

“We must use our human intelligence to end this war. As a father, I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and say: no more.”

by Stephen Hawking

theguardian.com, Monday 17 February 2014 18.00 AEST

‘Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent.’

The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the universe had existed for ever. The reason humanity was not more developed, he believed, was that floods or other natural disasters repeatedly set civilisation back to the beginning.

Today, humans are developing ever faster. Our knowledge is growing exponentially and, with it, our technology. But humans still have the instincts, and in particular the aggressive impulses, that we had in caveman days. Aggression has had definite advantages for survival, but when modern technology meets ancient aggression the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth is at risk.

Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent to watch as more than 100,000 people are killed or while children are targeted. It feels downright stupid, and worse, to prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching clinics where, as Save the Children will document in a forthcoming report, children are having limbs amputated for lack of basic facilities, and newborn babies are dying in incubators for lack of power.

What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?

When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behaviour throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species. And while it is not clear that, unlike aggression, intelligence has any long-term survival value, our very human brand of intelligence denotes an ability to reason and plan for not only our own but also our collective futures.

We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: no more.

I often wonder what we must look like to other beings watching from deep space. As we look out at the universe, we are looking back in time, because light leaving distant objects reaches us much, much later. What does the light emitting from Earth today show? When people see our past, will we be proud of what they are shown – how we, as brothers, treat each other? How we allow our brothers to treat our children?

We now know that Aristotle was wrong: the universe has not existed for ever. It began about 14bn years ago. But he was right that great disasters represent major steps backward for civilisation. The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.

• A version of this article appeared in the Washington Post

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