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Sushil Koirala set to become Nepal Prime Minister

From the Hindu

by Damakant Jayshi

Kathmandu, February 9, 2014

Reconciling their differences over power-sharing that was beginning to deepen the political impasse, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML signed a seven-point agreement on Sunday paving the way for Sushil Koirala as the new Prime Minister.

Soon after, NC President Koirala filed his nomination in the Parliament for Monday’s election and thanked the UML for its support. “The responsibility to draft a democratic Constitution is on the shoulders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML,” Mr. Koirala told media persons after filing his nomination.

“We will prepare the draft of the Constitution in six months and promulgate in a year.”

With this expression of support, Mr. Koirala is assured of getting elected unopposed. He would still need to enter the election process as per the Interim Constitution, since the election is being held under majority provision.

NC vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel is set to propose his name and the CPN-UML’s newly elected Parliamentary Party leader K.P. Oli would second the proposal.

As per the agreement between the two parties, there would be no election for the post of President and Vice-President for now, a demand that UML had insisted upon until the last moment.

The election for these two posts — and for the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House — would be held after the Constitution is made public (in a year) but before it comes into effect.

However, the NC agreed to the UML’s suggestion of having the President and the Vice-President endorsed by the Parliament. The parties agreed to amend the Interim Constitution incorporating this provision.

They also agreed to draft the Constitution according to the spirit of all the agreements reached in the past — right from the 12-point agreement reached in New Delhi in 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Interim Constitution and the mandate expressed by the people in the November election.

As a sop to Unified CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties, the deal says it would own the agreements reached by the last Constituent Assembly, a move likely to be challenged by the fourth largest party, the RPP (Nepal). The pro-monarchy party has opposed any adoption of pacts of the last CA, arguing that it would be a violation of the mandate of the recent election.

The NC also agreed to support the UML nominee as chairman of the Constituent Assembly (who will also function as Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament).

This point was added to an earlier draft agreement.

Within a week of government formation, the Cabinet would announce a common minimum programme and a code of conduct for cabinet members.

The deal was signed after the CPN-UML decided on Sunday to support an NC-led government.

The highest decision-making body of the CPN-UML, the standing committee, took the decision to support Mr. Koirala.

“The UML has decided to support an NC-led government,” CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal told mediapersons after the meeting of the party’s Standing Committee.

Keywords: Nepali Congress, Sushil Koirala, Nepal politics, Jhala Nath Khanal
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Six hundred Syrians flee besieged Old Homs in aid convoy

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT Sun Feb 9, 2014 3:14pm EST

(Reuters) – Six hundred people left the besieged ruins of rebel-held central Homs on Sunday, escaping more than a year of hunger and deprivation caused by one of the most protracted blockades of Syria’s devastating conflict.

The evacuees, mainly women, children and old men, were brought out by the United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent on the third day of an operation during which the aid convoys came under fire and were briefly trapped themselves in the city.

siege ofHoms

Video footage from inside Homs showed scores of residents, carrying a few bags of possessions, rushing across an open expanse of no-man’s land towards 10 white vehicles with U.N. markings. Gunshots could be heard as they raced to the cars.

“The last vehicle has arrived and the total is 611 people,” Homs governor Talal Barazi told regional Arab broadcaster Al Mayadeen at a meeting point for evacuees outside the city.

The Red Crescent confirmed that around 600 people were evacuated and said 60 food parcels and more than a ton of flour were delivered to the Old City.

Barazi and Red Crescent officials said they were working to extend the operation beyond Sunday, the final day of a fragile and frequently violated three-day ceasefire in the city.

homs_map976x617_2.gif cachebuster=cb00000002 map clickable

Some of those who came out were men of fighting age who were not originally eligible to leave, Barazi said, but they had agreed to hand themselves over to police and judicial authorities and could win their freedom through amnesty.

Authorities suspect all men of fighting age to be part of rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad’s authorities and rebel fighters have traded accusations of responsibility for attacks on Saturday which stranded the joint United Nations and Red Crescent team in central Old Homs for several hours after dark on Saturday.

The convoy was targeted as the relief workers were handing over food and medical supplies in the district where the United Nations says 2,500 people had been stranded by an ever-tightening military siege since the mid-2012.

The Red Crescent said one driver was lightly wounded but the rest of the team eventually left safely.

Video footage released by activists showed the team, led by U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria Yacoub el Hillo, taking refuge on Saturday in a basement while explosions rocked the rubble-strewn, devastated streets above them.

In another video filmed inside Homs on Saturday, Hillo said the aid supplies, including food parcels, medicines and hygiene kits, were just a drop in the ocean when set against the conditions endured by people trapped for months on end.

“When I look around me and see the level of need, and suffering of all – especially the children, the women and the elderly – let me say that even though it’s a significant amount of medical and nutritional aid, it’s still just a drop,” he said. “But let’s start with this drop.”

On Friday, the first of the planned three-day humanitarian operation in Homs, 83 women, children and elderly men were evacuated, significantly fewer than the 200 which the city governor had predicted.

Many showed signs of malnutrition, the United Nations said.

BARREL BOMBS IN ALEPPO

Syria’s conflict has killed 130,000 people, driven millions from their homes and devastated whole city districts – particularly in Homs, a centre of protest when the 2011 uprising against 40 years of Assad family rule first erupted.

The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid was the first concrete, though modest, result of talks launched two weeks ago in Switzerland to try to end the civil war.

At the Geneva peace talks, which resume on Monday, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has been pushing for agreement on aid deliveries and prisoner releases, hoping progress on those issues could build momentum to address the far more contentious question of political transition.

The view from the Syria talks.

The view from the Syria talks.

Assad’s government has rejected out of hand any surrender of power in Geneva, and on the ground his forces have made gains while rival rebel forces battle each other in the north and east of the country.

If anything the scale of violence – including internecine rebel fighting, clashes with Assad’s forces and government bombardment – has escalated since the delegates held their first face-to-face meeting just over a fortnight ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said that 304 people were killed across the country on Saturday, including more than 100 civilians.

And in a sign of deep skepticism towards peace talks shared by the opposing parties inside Syria, neither the authorities nor the activists in Homs credited the Geneva talks for the weekend evacuations and aid deliveries.

Homs governor Barazi said the operation had been planned months ago but had been hit by delays, while several Homs activists – angered by a second day of bombardment which killed five people – bitterly criticized the Geneva negotiations.

“Today we have five martyrs and yesterday we had five,” one activist said, pointing to a row of corpses being prepared for wrapping in burial shrouds. “Every day the world sees this regime’s crimes and it remains silent.”

On Sunday, activists reported at least 11 people were killed in the northern city of Aleppo when helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held neighborhoods.

Video footage purporting to show the aftermath of one such attack in the Haidariya district showed at least nine corpses, including one child, scattered across a wide highway, flooded by a broken water pipe.

Cars were still on fire and black smoke rose from the flames. Wounded men were carried into ambulances and one man could be seen carrying a severed leg from the scene, as women screamed in grief.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Karzai to Ratify anti-woman laws

President Karzai is about to ratify a law that would prevent relatives testifying against men accused of domestic violence.

A law that would permit Afghan men to hurt and rape female relatives.

by ManizhaNaderi

theguardian.com,

Thursday 6 February 2014

Gulnaz, 19, was raped by a cousin but found guilty of adultery and jailed for 12 years. Her daughter was born on the floor of her prison cell.

It is hard sometimes to describe the enormous efforts taken by the Afghan political elite and conservative lawmakers to roll back hard won progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Here we have yet another frightening example: a new law, passed by both houses of the Afghan parliament and waiting for President Hamid Karzai’s ratification, would prohibit the questioning of relatives of an accused perpetrator of a crime, effectively eliminating victim testimony in cases of domestic violence.

In article 26 of the proposed change in the criminal prosecution code, those prohibited from testifying would include: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and descendants of those relatives up to the second generation. Doctors and psychiatrists would also be banned from giving evidence.

This proposed law is particularly troubling in a country where violence against women is endemic and, most commonly, is at the hands of a relative. In a 2008 study, Global Rights found that 87% of Afghan women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime; 62% experience multiple forms of violence, including forced marriage and sexual violence.

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) can attest to these findings. Over 90% of the nearly 10,000 women and girls we have served since 2007 have been victims of domestic violence. Our clients have been raped, sold, beaten, starved and mutilated – primarily at the hands of a family member, or in some cases, multiple family members.

Should Karzai sign this law into effect, justice for these women would be virtually impossible. Not only would they be barred from testifying against family members who committed crimes against them, any family member who witnessed the crime would be barred as well.

Under the proposals, WAW clients, such as 15-year-old Sahar Gul who was kept in a basement and tortured by her in-laws, would have been robbed, not only of justice, but of the opportunity to reclaim her power and testify against her tormentors. Furthermore, the doctors who treated her bloodied, malnourished, and burned body would also be barred from testifying. Sahar Gul’s in-laws are serving a five-year prison sentence for torturing her. Had the new measure been law in 2012, her in-laws would likely be free to torture and abuse more women.

Other clients, such as 16-year-old Naziba who was raped by her father, would be left with no other option but to live with the abuse. At Naziba’s rape trial, her mother and uncles courageously testified against her father, and he is now serving a 12-year prison sentence. If Naziba’s relatives had been barred from testifying on her behalf, Naziba’s father might still be raping her today.

The timing of this proposed change to the law is important: a recent report by UN Women found that reported cases of violence against women was up 28% in the past year. This finding is significant because it illustrates that Afghan women are beginning to understand their rights and demand access to them.

Since 2007, our organisation has worked hard to build coalitions with local police departments, government ministries and court officials. As a result of our advocacy, these agencies are referring more and more victims to our services, instead of sending them back home or imprisoning them for running away. In some provinces, such as Kabul, the police are our biggest ally – they refer more women than any other agency. This gives us hope, illustrating that there has been a shift in attitude and perception about violence against women, not only among Afghan women, but at an institutional level as well.

However, should Karzai ratify this law, I fear that women would stop coming forward because prosecutions would be nearly impossible to secure. As an organisation that has been working tirelessly to obtain justice for women and girls who have suffered so much and so needlessly, our hands would be tied. There would be little we could do.

We, along with other human rights activists, refuse to stand back and allow this to happen. The stakes are too high and the consequences too horrific to imagine.

Abolish Prisons?

Pussy Riot Disown Freed Bandmates in Open Letter

From

Six members of Russian punk rock activist group Pussy Riot have signed an open letter, published on their Livejournal page, insisting the recently released Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) are no longer members of the Pussy Riot collective.

The authors of the letter claim the two had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group” because “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons.” The letter was published just after Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were introduced onstage by Madonna at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group, and will no longer take part in radical actionism,” read the letter. “Now they are engaged in a new project, as institutionalised advocates of prisoners’ rights.”

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova started the non-governmental human rights group Zona Prava (Justice Zone) after being released from prison last year. According to the open letter the pair have repeatedly told the media that they no longer belong to Pussy Riot, but their statements have so far been ignored.

“In almost every interview they repeat that they have left the group,” said the letter. “However, headlines are still full of the group’s name, all their public appearances are declared as performances of Pussy Riot.”

“Thus ignoring the fact that, at the pulpit of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, there were not two but five women in balaclavas, and that the performance in Red Square had eight participants,” they continued referencing the staged performances that landed Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova in prison.

The statement, which also suggests that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are refusing to communicate with them, also expressed frustration with the way the pair were presented the Amnesty concert. They took particular offence with the event’s poster which showed a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar, under the name Pussy Riot, “while the organisers smartly called for people to buy expensive tickets,” they explained.

“The mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalised defenders of prisoners’ rights, is harmful for us as [a] collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on,” continued the letter.

The six members elected to stay anonymous, signing the letter as Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher. They wished their former bandmates luck for the future. “Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow members, but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.”

“We appreciate their choice and sincerely wish them well in their new career,” they insisted. Adding, “since Nadia and Masha have chosen not to be with us, please, respect their choice. Remember, we are no longer Nadia and Masha. They are no longer Pussy Riot.”
END

Debbie Kilroy

Seemingly an honourable if not amicable divorce over at Pussy Riot. Coincidentally, I have just read ‘Kilroy Was Here’ by Kris Olsson. (Bantam 2005) A story very similar to Masha and Nadia’s of ex-prisoners becoming prison reformers. They could do well to look at this biography and learn how Sisters Inside evolved and flourished under Kilroy’s strong leadership. Especially between the women inside the prison who she promised not to leave behind.

The Kilroy’s had fallen victim to Queensland’s Premier Bjelke Petersen’s ‘war on drugs’. Debbie had married the famous Aboriginal rugby player Joe Kilroy and both were targeted by Qld.Police in an entrapment sting linked to heroin trafficking. Both doing prison time in the 1980s, Debbie has since become renowned as a prison reformer, being awarded the OAM and working with people such as Aboriginal historian Jackie Huggins; Angela Davis; (Davis wrote the Foreword) and Rubin Hurricane Carter in their quest for justice and rehabilitation in prisons in Queensland and internationally.

Shortly after her incarceration, Kilroy was to witness the death of her best mate in a prison stabbing that saw Kilroy herself injured. Now Kilroy’s life was really on a knife edge as she rejoined the prison group with her attackers inside. Revenge hard on her tracks. Compassion prevailed and with a twist …or two along the way. I really recommend this story of forgiveness and redemption and political smarts.

Why is the PKK siding with the AKP in the AKP-Gulen conflict?

On Feb. 2, the Turkish daily Vatan published an interview with Cemil Bayik, one of the leading “commanders” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The interviewer, Rusen Cakir, is a prominent Turkish journalist known for his expertise on the Kurdish issue, political Islam and the current political battle between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement. No wonder Bayik addressed this hot topic in Turkish politics. At the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains, the guerrilla leader shared various views about Turkish politics, but the bottom line was the Vatan headline: “Behind the [Gulen] community, there is America; they want to get rid of Erdogan.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) may believe that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.

From

Author Mustafa Akyol Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ezgi Akin

This was perfectly in line with the AKP government’s explanations of the recent corruption probe: a foreign-backed conspiracy — if not “coup attempt” — by the pro-Gulen “parallel state” within the Turkish state. Bayik’s statement was, in other words, music to AKP ears.

In fact, it was not just Bayik but also the very leader of the PKK, the jailed Abdullah Ocalan, who recently took a stance supportive of the AKP against Gulen followers. From his prison cell on Imrali Island, he spoke against “those who want to set our country ablaze once again with the fire of a coup.” This was interpreted in the Turkish media as support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No wonder AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner, an Erdogan loyalist, publicly commended Ocalan for his stance.

But why is the PKK — a terrorist group, by Turkish and most international definitions — sympathetic to the AKP in Turkey’s new power struggle? And why does this matter?

The first question has a simple answer: The PKK sees the AKP government, especially Erdogan, as its partner for “peace.” The organization has fought the Turkish state relentlessly since 1984 with a guerilla war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but the “political solution” that liberals have been advocating became possible only under Erdogan. In late 2012, a “resolution process” began based on covert talks between the Turkish government and Ocalan, and the conflict has been silent ever since. Both sides complain that the other is too timid to take the promised steps, but both sides seem willing to keep the peace as well.

On the other hand, the Gulen movement is known to be skeptical of this peace process. In fact, the AKP has accused the Gulen movement’s “parallel state” within the police and judiciary of trying to “sabotage the peace process.” The “Turkish National Intelligence Organization crisis” of February 2012 is interpreted as one of the earliest signs of this intention. Since then, it has been whispered in Ankara, and lately exposed in the press, that the Gulen community is against peace with the PKK.

One wonders why. The movement is globally known for moderation and pacifism, and Fethullah Gulen publicly praised “peace” when the deal with the PKK first went public. However, journalists close to the movement have repeatedly raised concerns about how the AKP government is “fooled” by the PKK. (I wrote in May 2013 for Al-Monitor that “the Gulen movement is not against the peace process, but is skeptical of its success and critical of its methods.”) Since then, such criticisms of the peace process have only increased in the pro-Gulen media.

These days, the pro-Erdogan camp, in its usual conspiratorial tone, explains the uneasiness of the Gulen movement with the peace process as a sign of its “high treason.” Accordingly, the peace process disturbs “the powers that want to weaken Turkey,” and since the Gulen movement is a puppet for those evil powers, they treacherously sabotage what is good for Turkey. However, using Occam’s razor, one can find a simpler explanation: The Gulen movement considers the PKK a threat, specifically to the movement’s facilities in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, including a wide network of schools, dormitories and charities. The PKK has targeted these institutions over the years, saying they “steal Kurdish children” from being PKK militants and make them followers of the pro-Turkish teachings of Gulen.

Gulen himself noted this tension recently in a rare interview, given to the BBC. Gulen said Ocalan was “uneasy with what we were doing with the Kurdish people” in reference to the extension of Hizmet schools deep in Kurdish territory. “They didn’t want our activities to prevent young people joining the militants in the mountains. Their politics is to keep enmity between Kurdish and Turkish people.”

This should explain why there is a conflict between the Gulen movement and the PKK, and why the latter supports the AKP, its “peace partner,” against the movement. How this will influence Turkish politics is a separate matter.

The PKK is loathed by the majority of Turkish society, so its support will not be of much help there for the government. Only the left-wing liberals who ardently support the peace process see it as a reason to stand by the AKP. However, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has 26 seats in parliament and some 6% to 8% of the votes, according to various polls. This political bloc may be an ally for Erdogan in the coming months, even in the presidential elections of next summer, where Erdogan, if he runs, will need the majority of all votes.

In short, the PKK has taken a clear side in the AKP-Gulen conflict in favor of the AKP, and this has an understandable logic. Instead of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic, it’s the other way around: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Mustafa Akyol
Columnist

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and a columnist for Turkish Hurriyet Daily News and Star. His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is the author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. On Twitter: @AkyolinEnglish

Original Al-Monitor Translations
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Does Netanyahu have plans for settler withdrawal?

The reactions of the settlers and their political associates to rumors that US Secretary of State John Kerry will manage to push forward the two-state solution are reminiscent of the symptoms a junkie experiences in the first stages of withdrawal. Even before the US proposal document could become official, the Yesha Council, the settlement umbrella organization, produced a film slamming Kerry. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon labeled him “messianic” and “obsessive,” whereas Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an “irrational loss of values.”

The settler movement is anxious about the possibility of the Israeli government making a deal that would force them to leave.

Author Akiva Eldar Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ruti Sinai

From

Although the current Israeli government is the most right wing in the state’s history, the settlers are restless. Even before the ministers conducted a preliminary discussion about a document that has yet to be born, the settlement organizations are buying giant ads in newspapers, reminding their representatives in the Knesset and government of their oath of allegiance to the Greater Land of Israel or to the annexation of the territories.

Local council heads in the Samaria region launched a “Samaria on the Bar” campaign, fanning out over pubs in the center of the country to treat the young patrons to alcoholic beverages produced in the settlements. Between nibbling and imbibing, the clients are also treated to generous portions of Zionism, tinged with a touch of occupation.

It is therefore no wonder that reports to the effect that the document of principles being formulated by Kerry includes a proposal to vacate distant settlements is driving the settlers crazy. For decades they were told that they were the “salt of the earth,” “new pioneers” and “harbingers of salvation.” Now, suddenly, they are being treated like enemies of the state, threatened with a cutoff of funding and being uprooted from their homes.

Western states that for many years had made do with lip service against the settlement enterprise began boycotting their products. Even though Israeli administrations — all of them, without exception — encouraged them to settle throughout “Judea and Samaria,” opened legal loophole after legal loophole for them and invited them to take anything they wanted.

Even late founder of the leftist Meretz Party Shulamit Aloni, the hero of human rights and of the left who passed away Jan. 24, participated in a 1995 compromise that enabled the establishment of the Olive Hill neighborhood in the settlement of Efrat. In an interview with Hani Kim in Haaretz on Jan. 6, 1995, the late Knesset member Hanan Porat of the National Religious Party, one of the settlement movement leaders, boasted, “The construction on Olive Hill, with the approval of the ministerial committee of which Shulamit Aloni is a member, is very good news.”

That very week, she scolded Knesset member Ahmad Tibi for “stirring up” the Palestinians about the expropriation of land in the vicinity of Ariel for the sole purpose of building by-pass roads. Once she found out that the parcels were intended for building a road to the small settlement of Psagot, Aloni said that if this was true, she would retract her words. It was not the only occasion that Aloni was misled by the settlers and their supporters in the government, and she acknowledged this with regret.

Zehava Gal-On, who was then-secretary-general of the Ratz Party and is now chair of the Meretz Party, said that she was “stunned” by Aloni, then a member of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet, who voted in favor of the construction of dozens of new houses in the settlement. Gal-On said, “If this were any other government, we would already be lying in the roads [in protest].” Her colleague at the time, Knesset member Avraham Poraz, claimed his party’s ministers were “humiliating themselves” by remaining in government.

During the term of the Rabin government, the construction in the West Bank of 9,850 housing units (launched during the previous administration’s term) was completed. At the time of the establishment of Rabin’s administration in 1992, before the Oslo Accord, the settlers numbered 100,500. In 1996, the year in which the Likud Party, headed by Netanyahu, returned to power, their numbers reached 141,500.

At a meeting with members of his Labor Party, Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, announced that he did not believe in any evacuation of settlements whatsoever, Kim wrote in the interview with Porat. During the seven years after the signing of the Oslo Accord until September 2000, when the second intifada broke out, the number of housing units in the territories grew by 54%. The sharpest increase — 4,800 housing projects — occurred in the year 2000, during the term of the Labor-Meretz government.

True, the settlers have enjoyed the bounty of the land for years, and their politicians are conducting a de-legitimization campaign against Israeli and Palestinian members of the peace camp. True, the settlers wish to impose their ideology and interests on an entire country, and they indulge the “price tag” criminals. But the responsibility for turning the settlers into lords of the land is, first and foremost, that of those governments and politicians who supplied them with more and more of the drug that addicts its users to the illusion that one can expand the settlement enterprise, deepen the occupation and at the same time conduct negotiations over the division of the land and maintain Israel’s international standing. The Babylonian Talmud has this to say about such cases: ”It is not the mouse which steals; it is the hole that steals.” (BT Gittin 45a) Meaning, the party guilty of the theft is the one who opened the hole in the wall, not the one who passes through it to eat the cheese.

The Israeli politicians who nurtured the settlements cannot shake off responsibility for the thousands of families who enjoyed the status of favorite sons. Neither are Western leaders, who did not set an appropriate consequence for ignoring the issue, entitled to shirk responsibility for the fate of the people who will be forced to pay the heaviest personal price for a diplomatic arrangement. Now, when the time has come to choose between an isolated Greater Land of Israel and a whole and accepted State of Israel, anyone who was complicit in the addiction process, directly or indirectly, must take part in the withdrawal process.

Experts from Retorno, an organization in Israel that treats drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, explained, “The addict is exposed to sensitive and dependent situations, and it is thus advisable that the withdrawal process be fully accompanied by professionals, by enveloping support and a continuous treatment process.” Retorno experts stress that the withdrawal process might be deeply-felt and gradual.

The complaint voiced recently by the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, Benny Kasriel, to my colleague Mazal Mualem, that during the time of the Netanyahu government the pace of construction in his town was markedly slower than the wave of construction during the Rabin government — might indicate that this deep, slow and gradual process is already well-underway. “Absurdly,” as Kasriel said, maybe it should fall precisely on the leader of the Israeli right, Netanyahu, to lead the withdrawal process.

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Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Author; Ayah Aman Posted February 3, 2014

Translator; Kamal Fayad

From

CAIRO — The Egyptian-Sudanese dispute concerning the sovereignty of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle continues to be a source of constant tension in relations between the two countries. The escalatory rhetoric has risen between officials from both countries, without any real diplomatic solutions on the horizon for this issue, which has been on hold since the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sudan’s independence in 1956.

Egypt and Sudan have traded fiery statements over the disputed border region of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle.

The debate between Egyptian and Sudanese officials was renewed this time around when Sudan’s Minister of State at the Presidency Al-Rashid Haroun announced on Jan. 6 that the Halayeb border region with Egypt was 100% Sudanese, and that discussions and understandings were possible with Cairo in this regard. Egypt, on the other hand, rejected this statement when its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati, issued a news release published by Egyptian media on Jan. 7, which read: “The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is part of Egyptian territory and subject to Egyptian sovereignty. Cairo will not accept any compromise solutions because its position is clearly defined.”

In this regard, a diplomatic source with close ties to the Egyptian government told Al-Monitor: “The relationship with Sudan is marred by many unresolved issues, particularly the dispute over the Halayeb Shalateen Triangle, which remains unsettled despite all international legal or official efforts. Add to that Khartoum’s espoused stances, which might be detrimental to Egyptian interests, such as its support for the building of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, explained, “This is not the right time for Cairo to deal with the disagreement over the Halayeb area with Sudan. The country is living in a state of security alert, with army troops concentrating their efforts to secure Egyptian borders, particularly in Sinai and the western border with Libya. This is a result of the fears that elements might infiltrate the country to harm Egyptian national security. The present transitional period also does not allow entering into a regional engagement with another country. But there are policies that the Egyptian government has adopted to exploit the Halayeb area for the benefit of the Egyptian economy, and to achieve real development there.”

On Nov. 27, 2013, the Egyptian cabinet formed a special committee tasked with the implementation of an urgent plan to develop the Halayeb and Shalateen area, through investments totaling 764 million Egyptian pounds ($110 million). These investments were used to complete road and water networks as well as housing projects for the settlement of the regions inhabitants. This move reflected the government’s interest in this region, considered to be one of the most important tourist and investment destinations in Egypt.

“Egypt considers the Halayeb and Shalateen region to be rich in resources, and of special strategic importance politically and economically,” said Council of Ministers spokesman, Hani Salah, speaking to Al-Monitor.

Salah added that the cabinet was considering signing agreements permitting the exploitation of the region’s gold and manganese deposits, as well as activating the Shalateen Mining Co. through coordinated efforts between the Ministry of Petroleum and the armed forces.

Deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s administration faced overwhelming popular disapproval when Sudanese officials were quoted as saying that it had expressed willingness to negotiate on restoring the Halayeb and Shalateen region to Sudan, during a visit by Morsi to Khartoum in May 2013. However, the Egyptian presidency denied those statements at the time.

With the backdrop of Egypt asserting its claim on the Halayeb region, and its attempts to exploit the natural resources and riches there, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt, Kamaluddin Hassan, spoke with Al-Monitor about his country’s position on this issue.

“We must recognize that an ongoing problem exists between Egypt and Sudan concerning the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle. In fact, a conflict exists as a result of Cairo and Khartoum’s insistence on their respective viewpoints in this regard. We hope that this conflict would soon be resolved in a brotherly fashion between the two countries. But I also hope that this issue not be raised again in Egyptian media because doing so has caused a lot of damage to Egyptian-Sudanese relations, and Sudan is of the opinion that our interests are greater than to be confined into one specific area,” said Hassan.

Similarly, Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan, Abdel Ghaffar al-Deeb told Al-Monitor: “The political leaderships of both countries had previously agreed that the Halayeb and Shalateen region be an integrated area used for economic development, especially after Sudanese President [Omar] Hassan al-Bashir announced that Sudan did not intend for Halayeb to be the source of disagreement and conflict with Cairo.”

Groups of political activists, headed by former member of parliament Ahmad Raslan, formed a popular delegation that went to Halayeb city, where it held a town hall meeting to assert Halayeb and Shalateen’s Egyptian identity, chanting the slogan “Halayeb is Egyptian.”

The Egyptian government also opened seven electoral stations in Halayeb and Shalateen cities during the constitutional referendum Jan. 14-15. According to official estimates, the majority of the region’s inhabitants voted in favor of the new Egyptian constitution.

The history of the conflict

The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle lies on the African side of the Red Sea, encompassing 20,580 square kilometers (7,946 square miles). Its three largest cities are Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateeen, with Egypt imposing its full security control over the region in 2000.

The conflict between Egypt and Sudan over the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle began in 1958, after Sudan gained its independence and decided to secede from Egypt. Subsequently, the Sudanese administration included the region in Sudan’s electoral districts. Friction endured between the two countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with the conflict primarily focusing on petroleum and gold resources. In addition, the Egyptian army made 39 raids inside Sudanese borders in 1995. The crisis emerged anew in 2010, when Sudan insisted that the region be considered part of its electoral districts.

Hani Raslan, an expert in Sudanese affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, spoke to Al-Monitor about this issue. “Sudan resorts to causing problems with Egypt every time it faces internal unification crises and every time it tries to prevent rifts from occurring inside the country. It would have been better if it had held on to larger and richer areas of land that became part of South Sudan when the latter seceded in 2010. Furthermore, the 1899 agreement states that the border line between Egypt and Sudan lies on the 22nd parallel north of the equator; yet Halayeb is located further north of that line,” said Raslan.

As of yet, neither Egypt nor Sudan announced the adoption of official measures to solve the ongoing conflict over the region. This comes at a time when the Egyptian government is fully exploiting the area’s resources and maintaining its security control over the region.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/egypt-sudan-halayeb-shalateen-border-region.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOa42NKC

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

In his official visit to Italy Jan. 28-31, President Abdullah Gul met twice with Turkish columnists covering his trip. His remarks provided opportunities to observe how deep his longtime political differences with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from the political culture and foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Author Kadri Gursel Posted February 3, 2014

Translator(s)Timur Goksel

From

As a columnist who took part in both meetings and asked questions of the president, my observation is this: Gul, who set up the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Erdogan and who, until he became president, was the party’s second in command. He has plainly distanced himself from Erdogan’s wordview. It is not an exaggeration to say that the distance between them is becoming increasingly ideological.

We all know that the president, in contrast with the AKP government, defends Turkey’s EU perspectives, reforms, state of law and freedom of press. In the days following the dramatic intensification of the strife between the AKP and the Fetullah Gulen movement after the corruption investigations that directly targeted Erdogan’s family and close political associates, the divergence between the narratives of Gul and Erdogan was also reflected by their actions.

We have to remember the initiatives of the government to make legislative moves that would totally eliminate the independence of the judiciary were blocked, thanks to the firm stand of Gul, before the European Union stepped in.

As with many of the political developments in Turkey, it is also impossible to predict how the ideological divergence between Gul and Erdogan will affect the AKP. To make a reasonable guess, one has to wait for the outcome of the March 30 local elections. Only then we will be able to say what kind of role Gul is planning to fill in national politics and in the future of the AKP.

For the time being, let’s lay out how Gul has deviated from his old comrade Erdogan, especially in foreign policy.

The first issue is Syria. We can observe that the president of Turkey is more realistic and has a more rational approach as compared to that of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that he doesn’t ignore politics the way they do.

In his Jan. 30 talk with journalists in Rome, Gul suggested working with Iran on the issue of Syria, saying,

“Iran’s launching of a dialogue with the international community and the Western world and better prospects for solving problems through politics will make the world a more comfortable place. The beginning of a new era with Tehran may also enable engaging Iran on the Syrian issue. We spoke with Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani on how essential it is to work together on the Syrian issue and develop alternatives. We tasked our foreign ministers to work on this. There is another opportunity that could arise from joint efforts. If Turkey can be in close and sincere cooperation with Iran on Syria, we can come up with proposals to the international community, and the Western world can take our proposals seriously.”

The prerequisite for Gul’s proposal is the development of a Syrian policy along rational and secular lines instead of the ideological basis favored by Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Gul’s words were made even more interesting by their timing, coming a day after Erdogan told the journalists in his plane returning from Tehran that “there was no agreement with Iran on Syria.”

For Ankara to work together with Tehran, which today is in the opposite camp over Syria, it first has to take a reality check and accept that the Syrian regime is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Gul has done this reality check and demonstrates that, unlike Erdogan and Davutoglu, he can empathize with the actors in the opposite camp. He said, “In an interview I gave to Foreign Affairs two years ago, I had said that there are no other countries committed to the opposition as much as Iran and Russia are for Syria. I was talking about the West and about Turkey. For Iran, Syria is an existential issue; for us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is an issue of warm seas, of having a single base. On the other side, some talk about how [the United States] will be the one to end the war with its known policies. Today, Damascus has the stronger hand. How did they get to Geneva?”

In terms of Turkey’s threat analysis, Gul’s opinions are distinctly more realistic and up to date than those of Erdogan and Davutolgu, the architects of Ankara’s crumbled Syrian policy. Asked about the Turkish army’s retaliation for a Jan. 30 mortar round fired by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the president said, “We don’t have any reason to be optimistic about when Syria will achieve salvation. If a strong transition government had emerged from Geneva, we would have had some hope, but it wasn’t to be. The second point is the threats and dangers for Turkey of the existing situation. In that environment of uncertainty, many groups emerged. It is not only a war between the regime and the opposition but also within the opposition. There are no targets. If these [battles] are taking place along our 900-kilometer [559-mile] border, you can’t know where they will spread to. Such situations create and provoke extremism, radicalism. You will not know where they will end.

“This is why there is a big difference between our threat perception of four or five years ago, and our threat perception of today. At that time, the biggest threat for us was the struggle against [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror. Today, we see diverse, numerous groups. We have to be much more careful now. I want to say that our southern border is more difficult. If the Turkish armed forces today refrain from getting involved, who knows, tomorrow you may have to deal with a much more formidable force.”

It is a known fact Erdogan is defining the corruption investigations as an international conspiracy to remove him from power. His government allies and supportive media back this discourse.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Gul was asked a question about the conspiracy theory. A journalist from the pro-government media asked, “Don’t you think that in recent days, the Western media is drawing a portrait of an unstable Turkey?” He gave this interesting reply: “You complain. You gripe and demand that they should treat our affairs positively. Because of its nature, the press is generally expected to be critical. … You have to look at this as an objective media analysis. … There may well be those abroad who intentionally want to paint a negative portrait of Turkey, but it is not correct to group them together with ‘They want to show us in negative light; they are campaigning against us.’ Let’s not forget that these are newspapers that used to print headlines about the ‘reformist government in Turkey.’ They used to lavishly praise our successes. That is why we have to be objective. At times, you come across articles that stand out as excessively negative and biased. Some, however, write critically when they observe the debates in Turkey. You should not put them all in same basket as enemies of Turkey. That would be a mistake. We will then see everyone as our enemy, which, of course, is not the case.”

There are four main points to Gul’s response:

Gul is not giving credit to the conspiracy allegations of Erdogan and his coterie.
He is accepting that the press has to be critical, and supporting the freedom of the press.
His suggestion that a press that only sees the positive sides of the government will cease to be “the press,” a strong admonishment of the pro-AKP media.
Gul reminds us that newspapers currently critical of Turkey once wrote favorably of it. This is an implicit criticism by Gul of the negative direction the AKP government has been taking in recent years.

The president referred to recent unfavorable changes in Turkey when responding to a question about preparations for an international campaign on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. He said, “2014 and 2015 will be crucial years. Turkey will confront many tough questions on international platforms. Three or four years ago, as a shining country with many friends, we were thinking that we could overcome these tough questions. To be honest, with the global situation, our problems that require attention and our domestic issues will make these international questions more difficult to handle. Our government is making some preparations. … We have to find ways to remind others of the importance of being friends with Turkey.”

These remarks by Gul contain criticism of how Turkey has become isolated and suffered soft-power losses globally and regionally because of the policies pursued by the Erdogan-Davutoglu team since 2010.

We have to emphasize that Gul’s observations and attitude have strong and favorable reflection in the AKP base and within the party structure, and that he is not alone.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gul-proposed-iran-joint-effort-syria.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129##ixzz2sOXJXQe1

Journalists under threat in Egypt

Living dangerously in the ‘new’ Egypt

by Ruth Pollard

Feb 1 2014

It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.

A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.

For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.

But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.
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Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.

Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.

I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.

A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?

“You are from TV?” he asked.

“No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.

“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted.

“No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”

“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”

The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.

I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged down a cab and went home.

It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.

It was just another day trying to report on the extraordinary wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.

And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.

The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.

The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.

But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media. I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.

Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.

Groups of soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.

At many points during the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone. Our local driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the small crew of foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.

During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes on the street observing and photographing the wreckage before police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.

Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.

At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak. Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.

The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those of us covering Egypt.

Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/living-dangerously-in-the-new-egypt-20140131-31sjk.html#ixzz2s0yJ0Zq2

Ed. note Australian journalist Peter Greste is detained, with 4 other al-Jazeera crew accused of spreading false news and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. These are obviously false accusations by anti-democratic forces. I also note that this article didn’t comment on the recent ‘crowd rapes’ that have occurred to female protesters and journalists who become obvious to the crowd. I hope these people are returned safely to their family in the very near future. Just how many foreign journalists did Morsi lock up?

Thoughts on Ukrainian nationalism, Feb. 2014

by Patrick Muldowney

Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?

Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.

By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.

The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!

They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights.  It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas.  On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory.  Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C.  What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism.  I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.

We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change.  Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.

The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.

Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.

Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.

Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.

Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia.  I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe.  If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!

As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.

As Arthur said re Egypt;

‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era.  So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
END

My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario.   I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines.  The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle.  Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.

It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.

Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’

Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!

Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.

Rwanda sends battalion to Central African Republic (CAR)

In efforts to stem the violence in the Central African Republic, Rwanda says it will send some 800 troops to the country. (ed. note this is somewhat out of date and now reads Rwanda has sent some 800 troops)

09 Jan 2014

Rwanda said on Wednesday it would send some 800 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) next week as part of an African Union (AU) force to help restore security.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told local radio: “Our troops will arrive in CAR in about 10 days. AU asked us for a battalion, which is about 800 soldiers.”

Rwanda announced last month it would send troops but had not said how many would be dispatched or when.

Mushikiwabo acknowledged the problems in the CAR were “very complex” but stressed that Kigali’s stated policy was to “contribute to global peacekeeping”.

The troops are being briefed about the terrain and the conflict and the non-French speakers are receiving some language training, the minister said.

The AU force in the CAR is due to be 6 000 strong at full strength, working alongside some 1 600 French troops.

By late December, more than 4 000 troops were already deployed, with 850 Burundians, 800 Cameroonians, 850 from Congo Republic, 850 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 500 from Gabon, 200 from Equatorial Guinea and 850 Chadians.

Joint operation

European Union nations are considering a joint military operation in CAR to help the African and French troops already deployed, experts said on Wednesday. A decision is expected on January 20.

The CAR spiralled into chaos after a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president François Bozizé.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was installed as the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian nation and disbanded the Seleka, but many rebels went rogue, spreading terror which government forces could not stop.

Months of brutal massacres, rapes and looting have followed, with locals forming Christian vigilante groups in response to the atrocities. – (Sapa-AFP)

Q&A: Stand-off in Ukraine over EU agreement

Protests have gripped Ukraine since the government rejected a far-reaching accord with the EU in favour of stronger ties with Russia in November 2013.

They turned violent on 19 January, and deadly on 22 January in the capital, Kiev, where confrontation degenerated into rioting after the government brought in tough new legislation to end mass protests on the main square.

Opposition leaders and President Viktor Yanukovych then held talks, and on 28 January, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned, and the Ukrainian parliament voted overwhelmingly to annul the anti-protest laws.

In another apparent concession, parliament then passed an amnesty law for detained protesters – but the opposition dismissed it and the demonstrations continue.
How bad is the violence?
Rioters hurl petrol bombs in Kiev, 22 January Independence Square has at times resembled a war zone

The scenes overnight on 19 and 20 January were some of the worst in nearly two months of demonstrations, with protesters torching police buses and hurling paving stones and petrol bombs at lines of riot police, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Two people were shot dead at the site of the Kiev protest camp on Independence Square on 22 January. Another was found dead with torture marks in a forest near the capital. On 25 January a fourth protester was said to have died from injuries sustained in earlier violence.

The interior ministry reported on 28 January that one of three policemen stabbed by protesters in the southern city of Kherson had died.

Hundreds of protesters and police officers have been injured in the unrest. Protests have spread to a number of Ukrainian cities, mostly in the west of the country but also in Mr Yanukovych’s traditional support base in the east.

Scores of protesters – by one estimate, more than 300 – have been arrested since the protests began.

What caused the protests?

Pro-EU rally on Kiev’s Independence Square, 15 December The pro-EU rallies in Kiev in December drew crowds of some 200,000

The anti-protest laws certainly raised passion among the protesters. They had prescribed jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings and banned the wearing of masks or helmets at demonstrations.

But the original trigger for the protests was President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a major partnership deal with the EU, despite years of negotiations aimed at integrating Ukraine with the 28-nation bloc.

Thousands of pro-EU Ukrainians poured on to the streets of the capital, urging President Yanukovych to cancel his U-turn and go ahead with the EU deal after all. He refused, and the protests continued.

When riot police first took action on 30 November, the images of them breaking up a student protest and leaving dozens of people injured only fuelled anger with the president and boosted the crowds in Independence Square.

The authorities sought to defuse the anger through measures such as the suspension of the mayor of Kiev and the release of detainees.

On 17 December, Russia and Ukraine announced a major deal under which Russia would buy $15bn-worth (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of Russian gas sold to Ukraine.

The deal appeared to take the wind out of the sails of the protest movement but when a pro-opposition journalist, Tetyana Chornovol, was beaten up by unknown assailants on 25 December, there was a renewed outcry.

Who are the protesters?

Boxer and politician Vitali Klitschko with raised fist at rally in Kiev, 1 Dec 13 Vitali Klitschko, with raised fist, hopes to become president in 2015. There are a number of main actors behind the rallies.

The protesters are mainly from the Kiev area and western Ukraine, where there is a greater affinity with the EU, rather than in the Russian-speaking east and south – though they include eastern Ukrainians too.

Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the Udar (Punch) movement, has been a prominent demonstrator. He is very pro-EU and plans to run for president in 2015.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, parliamentary leader of the country’s second biggest party, Fatherland, is an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister now in prison.

The far-right group Svoboda (Freedom) is also involved. Led by Oleh Tyahnybok (pictured second from left), it stirred unease on New Year’s Day with a torch-lit procession through Kiev.

Other radical right-wingers include Bratstvo (Brotherhood) and Right Sector.

How has the West reacted?

The US embassy in Kiev revoked the visas of “several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence” after the deaths on 22 January.

EU leaders expressed shock at the deaths and called on all sides to halt the violence. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, warned that the EU’s relationship with Ukraine might have to be reviewed.

The EU’s official position on the agreement abandoned in November is that the door remains open for Ukraine to sign but it has put any new negotiations on hold until there is a clear commitment to do so.

Both the EU and US condemned the now-revoked anti-protest laws, saying they were incompatible with Ukrainians’ democratic aspirations.

They also warned Ukraine not to introduce a state of emergency. Amid the concerns, top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton brought forward a trip to Ukraine to 28 January. She expressed alarm at the authorities’ handling of the situation and shock at the deadly violence.

Is Russia pulling the strings in Kiev?

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, 15 December The gas deal was announced after nearly four weeks of street protests in Ukraine

To many observers, the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine on 17 December points to a carrot-and-stick approach by the Kremlin.

The 2004 Orange Revolution led to Mr Yanukovych’s removal from power after his election was judged to have been fraudulent. Russia backed him then – and backs him now.

For centuries Ukraine was controlled by Moscow and many Russians see Ukraine as vital to Russian interests.

Ukraine map

After the riots erupted on 19 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the protests were “getting out of control”, and accused European politicians of stirring up the trouble.

What happens next?

Mr Yanukovych, who was democratically elected in 2010, still has a strong support base in eastern and southern Ukraine, and there have been street demonstrations by his supporters.

On 25 January the president offered the opposition a number of senior positions in the government – including prime minister – but the deal was rejected.

On 28 January, President Yanukovych accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet, and parliament repealed the anti-protest laws.

On 29 January, parliament backed an amnesty law that would see arrested protesters released if their fellow protesters vacated occupied government buildings and unblocked streets and squares within 15 days. But the opposition refused to back it.

The stand-off appears set to continue, amid warnings that the country risks sliding into civil war.
END

Ed. note I have just noticed that things are so bad that one protester was taken out and beaten and left for dead in a forest. Fortunately he survived but instead of seeking medical treatment he presented his freshly beaten body to the media. It was absolutely chilling, and brings to mind the wrongness of the words of the song the revolution will not be televised?..Oh yes it will.

Erdogan discusses Syria policy in visit to Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — In public, it was all about economies, treaties and bilateral relations. Behind closed doors, however, the visit to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all about Syria, Syria and Syria.

Author Ali Hashem Posted January 30, 2014

Summary
Behind closed doors, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked with Iranian leaders about common ground on Syria and a more effective dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

“There are still differences, that’s obvious, but they’re not as crucial as they were before,” a source in Tehran commented to Al-Monitor in discussing Erdogan’s visit. “Almost two years ago, Erdogan came to Iran and insisted on meeting [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to tell him that Iran’s bet on Assad would not yield any benefit. Back then, the leader told the Turkish guest, review your policies, your strategies, and come back. [Bashar al-] Assad won’t fall.”

Erdogan is back, and he is still in favor of toppling Assad, but according to the source, he is almost convinced that this is only a wish.

“There are alternatives that have been discussed during the past months, and in this visit, they were finalized. Turkey has its own people in the opposition, and they’ve been isolated by the current backed by Saudi Arabia,” the source explained. “The need for change in Syria can be met by bringing together both the regime and the opposition. [These] talks can be more efficient than the ones taking place in Montreux. Even if it took place at the same location, the idea is giving the talks a strong push, with both regional powers playing a positive role in convincing their allies to come to terms.”

Both Turkey and Iran have decided that they need to maintain good strategic relations, as both feel the heat of terrorism and regional differences vis-a-vis other powers. The Iranian supreme leader’s words were as clear as day. He was reported as saying that Iranian-Turkish relations are the best in centuries, and both countries have to seize the opportunity to solidify their relations. Erdogan, for his part, offered that when he visits Iran, it feels like a second home. He added that they have to work together to the extent that ministers of both governments feel as if they are working in the same government.

Khamenei is known to be extremely selective in his choice of words. He is, after all, the supreme leader, the head of the regime, the man who makes decisions on strategic matters. In speaking about Syria, he is saying what his allies in Damascus might be too intimidated to say to the Turks, although, according to Al-Monitor’s source, “it’s not the case” since they are aware of all the details and understand the need to have Turkey as an ally and a strategic partner.

The meetings are expected to continue between Ankara and Tehran to assess the situation on the ground. According to the source, coordination on the Syrian crisis is at the highest levels. “The countries are to unify their efforts. They see themselves in the same boat, and they have the same rivals. The region needs three main pillars to stand again. Turkey and Iran are two [of them]. An Arab partner is needed, and this is what they are working on. Iraq could play this role, but so can other countries in the region.”

Three weeks before Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, Al-Monitor learned that a high-ranking delegation from Iran had visited Ankara, carrying information about the situation in Syria. The delegation met high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and there was agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria. The meeting also included some non-Iranian and non-Turkish figures. The exchange apparently continues.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/erdogan-iran-syria-shift.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=c9c95b63ee-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-c9c95b63ee-93145129#ixzz2s1Bu3o9l

Turkey Jan. 2014 Shoebox-waving pensioner arrested

Where is Turkey Going?

by Veli Sirin
January 3, 2014 at 5:00 am

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4116/turkey-government-crisis

The unraveling of relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has begun to overshadow the details of the corruption scandal that brought it about.

As the crisis of Turkey’s government and the country’s competing Islamists is deepening, the attitude of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, is hardening – as are the positions of his opponents.

With new developments emerging daily, Erdoğan was confronted on January 1, 2014 with a petition by the former army general staff chief, Gen. İlker Başbuğ, that Başbuğ be released from a life sentence handed down against him on August 5, 2013, in the “Ergenekon” conspiracy trials, in which the Islamist government accused members of the secular military of supposedly trying to bring the government down. As described in the leading national media platform, the Hürriyet Daily News, Başbuğ was one of 275 suspects charged in the “Ergenekon” affair; other high military officials, journalists and academics were subjected to “aggravated life sentences,” which replaced death sentences, in the “Ergenekon” proceedings.

As noted in the same Hürriyet article, Başbuğ based his demand for exoneration on Erdoğan’s claim that “gangs within the state” and “members of the parallel state” had penetrated the judiciary, police, and other official structures. Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Yalçin Akdoğan, implied that members of the judiciary had “framed” military officers in the “Ergenekon” case.

Senior AKP legislator Mustafa Elitaş, told Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey could change laws to allow a retrial of the military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow Erdoğan. According to that Hürriyet Daily News account, Elitaş said of the army defendants, “We will, if necessary, make new legal arrangements to stop people’s unjust treatment.”

At the same time, and as reflected in the same Hürriyet Daily News post of December 31, former army General Çetin Doğan, accused and convicted of a similar plot in the “Sledgehammer” trial of military leaders, which ended in 2012, is preparing a complaint against a 20-year prison term imposed on him.

Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Akdoğan, then reversed course. In a press statement quoted by Today’s Zaman, another major Turkish newspaper, Akdoğan declared, “It is wrong to the utmost degree to use my previous writings to say that I have called some trials ‘false,’ ‘baseless,’ ’empty’ and ‘fabricated.’ Just as prosecutors need evidence to issue criminal charges, the defense, believing the evidence presented is false, needs to provide its own evidence to support its argument.”

Ironies abound in the current Turkish turmoil. Erdoğan and AKP were widely reported to have mounted the “Sledgehammer” and “Ergenekon” proceedings in a long-term Islamist bid to cut down the influence of the secularist military. London Guardian correspondent Simon Tisdall, noted on September 25, 2012 that Turkish military commanders had carried out three coups, between 1960 and 1980 (including a full-fledged takeover in 1971), and had forced AKP out of power in 1997.

Tisdall continued, “Tensions between the AKP and the military, proud guardians of [Turkey]’s secularist legacy, were at times acute. It is not difficult to imagine the generals wanted rid of Erdoğan.”

The AKP seems caught between its desire to defend the two anti-military trials and to rein in a process that has escaped its control, with the judiciary turning on Erdoğan’s party leaders. A December 31, 2013 Reuters news agency wire ascribed to AKP deputy prime minister Ali Babacan a claim that subversion of the AKP administration was the motive for a “graft inquiry [that] became public on 17 December with a series of raids and detentions of senior businessmen close to Erdoğan, and of the sons of three ministers.”

The same Reuters account pointed out that “Erdoğan has, without naming it, accused a movement led by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen of creating a ‘state within a state,’ using influence in the police and judiciary in a campaign to discredit the government. The [Gülen-led] Hizmet (Service) movement controls a global network of schools and businesses. Tensions have grown between the two former allies over elements of foreign and domestic policy and moves to close Gülen’s private schools in Turkey.”

Fethullah Gülen was born in Turkey in 1941 near the city of Erzurum but since 1999 has lived in rural Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, according to a profile of him by Alexander Christie-Miller posted by The Christian Science Monitor Gülen came to the U.S., Christie-Miller wrote, “after fleeing Turkey over charges of seeking to topple the country’s secular government.” London Financial Times writer Daniel Dombey, however, stated that Gülen had moved to America for “medical treatment.”

Gülen was portrayed as “soft-spoken,” “modest,” and tolerant of Turkey’s non-Muslim religious minorities, including “Nestorian Christians, Protestants [and] Jews,” in an article about him by Brian Knowlton of The New York Times. The newspaper Today’s Zaman, quoted above, is owned by the Gülen movement.

Erdoğan, for his part, has become known for conspiratorial claims. When the corruption scandal struck the AKP government in December, the prime minister was cited by Emre Peker in The Wall Street Journal.

Erdoğan claimed, according to Peker, that the investigation of financial crimes in his administration was “the work of foreign powers uncomfortable with Turkey’s rising economic and political clout. ‘If we don’t respond to these operations in the harshest, most decisive manner today, rest assured that these conspiracies will continue to engineer our national will in the future,’ he said.”

Prime Minister Erdoğan further used an idiom flavored with aggression. Hürriyet Daily News reported that Erdoğan said in a speech in Ordu, a northern Turkish city, “Those who want to establish a parallel structure alongside the state, those who have infiltrated into the state institutions … we will come into your lairs and we will lay out these organizations within the state.”

Gülen, in reaction to the implication by Erdoğan and his supporters that Gülen, and his followers in the judiciary and police had turned against the AKP, burst out with rhetoric that belied his long-cultivated image of unruffled tranquility. Gülen issued a video sermon, rebroadcast widely on Turkish television channels, in which he denounced “Those who don’t see the thief but go after those who chase the thief … May Allah bring fire to their homes.”

Erdoğan replied in a subdued manner, on December 22, before leaving on a trip to Pakistan: “We pray for Muslims to reach the right way, not for their damnation. Cursing is such a trick among Muslims it will return to one who did this like a boomerang.”

The unraveling of relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has begun to overshadow the details of the corruption scandal that brought it about. On December 17, fifty individuals were arrested in Istanbul and Ankara. The focal point of the investigation was a deal between Turkey and Iran for Turkey to provide gold in payment for Iranian oil, circumventing international financial sanctions against Tehran.

Charges in the case included money laundering, bribery and fraud. The accused include the sons of three members of Erdoğan’s cabinet, who resigned on December 25: Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, and Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar. Hürriyet Daily News reported that Bayraktar complained of pressure to quit, and gave up his AKP parliamentary seat as well as his ministry. Bayraktar concluded, “For the sake of the well-being of this nation and country, I believe the prime minister should resign.”

Others under arrest include Süleyman Aslan, chief executive officer of Halkbank, a state institution, and an Iranian-Azerbaijani businessman, Reza Zarrab, according to Isobel Finkel of Bloomberg News.

Hürriyet Daily News said police “reportedly have found $4.5 million in cash stored in shoe boxes in Aslan’s home.” The cash-laden shoeboxes were shown repeatedly on Turkish television.

Turkishhomes

The Bloomberg News article of December 23 asserted “the next target of investigation [could involve] construction contracts with an NGO [non-governmental organization] that allegedly has connections to Erdoğan’s son Bilal.” The Bloomberg reportage also noted that the “government purged at least 60 police chiefs,” aggravating the conflict with Gülen, whom the Bloomberg reporter stated “has a wide following in the police and judiciary.”

A December 26 Deutsche Welle report announced the latest turning point in the case, when “The attorney responsible for corruption investigations in Istanbul, Muammer Akkaş, was removed from the case after allegations of leaking information to the media.”

Erdoğan “appeared to threaten Akkaş,” according to Daniel Dombey of the Financial Times. Dombey wrote, “‘What kind of prosecutor is this?’ Mr Erdoğan asked his audience. ‘The chief prosecutor takes the file from him and this gentleman gets up and screams. Just wait – we have business to settle with you.’ “

Hürriyet Daily News described Erdoğan as continuing “vitriolic attacks” in a speech he delivered in Akhisar, a neighborhood in the western Turkish town of Manisa that day.

The anti-Erdoğan portion of the Turkish public has contributed in its own distinctive manner to the crisis of Islamist power. When Erdoğan appeared in Manisa on December 29, Nurhan Gül, a female pensioner, waved a shoe-box, symbolizing the corruption at Halkbank, from her balcony to express her discontent with Erdoğan during his speech. She was detained by the Prime Minister’s security guards, taken to a police station, and questioned for four hours, then released. But Erdoğan was apparently irritated to learn that Nurhan Gül had become a national hero immediately, and that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), had called her with congratulations.

Hürriyet Daily News columnist Serkan Demirtaş, noted the arrest of the shoebox-waving pensioner and concluded, “This is [the] time for President Abdullah Gül, who is only watching developments so far, as the head of the nation, to step in and assign the State Audit Board (DDK) to study whether claims of a parallel state or gangs within the state are accurate. The problem is about the functions of the state and it is Gül’s constitutional duty to deal with this growing crisis.”

Egypt: The Coup the World Forgot

Egypt: the coup the world forgot
The shallowness of Western politicians’ commitment to democracy lies exposed.
by Tim Black
23 January 2014

What has happened in Egypt over the past seven months ought to chill the democratic blood. It ought to command the attention of anyone who claims to care about defending freedom.

Think back to 3 July 2013: the Egyptian military, under the leadership of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, deposed the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi. Despite the reluctance of Western politicians to use the phrase at the time, this was a coup d’état.

Morsi, a leading member of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and chairman of its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, had become, just over a year earlier, Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected head of state, winning 52 per cent of the vote. This ought to have been a historical moment to savour; this ought to have been the time when Egyptians began finally to enjoy some of the democratic freedom we have long exercised in the West; this ought to have been the time to bid an unfond farewell to the years of Hosni Mubarak’s military dictatorship. But in July last year, just like that, it was over: the democratic flame had been extinguished.

After a few days of unrest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, during which anti-government protesters expressed their anger at Morsi’s Islamist tendencies and economic inaction, the army, the tanks and the jets moved in, and switched the whole thing off. Over the following weeks, as supporters of Morsi rallied and set up protest camps in and around Cairo, al-Sisi’s ‘interim’ government declared a state of emergency and began a crackdown on the protesters. By the end of August, the beatings and killings served up by the army, alongside the revived, reviled secret police, had enforced some semblance of order.

As the months have passed, General al-Sisi has furnished this naked display of might with the veneer of right. In September, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned the Muslim Brotherhood, the political and religious movement that, just a few months earlier, had formed the basis for Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected power; the arrest, torture and killing of Morsi supporters now had a legal sanction. And Morsi himself – alongside many of the Brotherhood’s leading figures – was left potentially facing the death penalty on trumped-up charges.

And then, in late 2013, al-Sisi published a new constitution for the Egyptian state, drawn up by a 50-strong committee of coup supporters. Unsurprisingly, it preserved the military’s privileged position, guaranteeing the secrecy of its budget, permitting it to try civilians in military courts, and stipulating that, for the next eight years, Egypt’s defence minister must be approved by the military.

When the new constitution was put to the Egyptian electorate last week in a referendum, over 98 per cent voted in favour. Given the palpable absence of a ‘no’ campaign, the outlawing of political opposition, and the deployment of 160,000 soldiers and 200,000 policemen to ‘oversee’ voting, the fact that al-Sisi won was less a democratic triumph than a fait accompli. Indeed, it has since emerged that over 60 per cent of the electorate either didn’t vote or refused to vote.

Not that al-Sisi seems to care. With his uniformed image adorning everything from cupcakes to pyjamas, and his each and every public appearance prompting a carefully managed wave of euphoria from the select throng of supporters, al-Sisi is now said to be considering whether to do what his handpicked public is demanding and stand for president. His opponents, meanwhile, both secular and Muslim Brotherhood, continue to be rounded up and thrown in jail.

Yet where is the international outrage? Where are the leaders of the nominally free world issuing sharply worded condemnations of this authoritarian turn? If this was Zimbabwe, with Robert Mugabe beating and rigging his way to near unanimous electoral victories, no doubt Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague would be pontificating from on high. If this was Colonel Gadaffi’s Libya, no doubt the self-righteous guffawing from the White House would have been audible in Tripoli.

But this is not Libya or Zimbabwe or one of those other easy stages for Western political posturing. This is Egypt, a place where the hypocrisy and double standards of Western leaders and the political punditariat lay so shamelessly exposed last summer. The problem, in short, is that despite the likes of the US president, Barack Obama, or the great and the good of the EU, seemingly championing the striving for freedom evident during the Arab Spring, as soon as the Egyptian people began to realise that freedom, and voted for what were perceived to be the wrong guys, the less-than-PC Muslim Brotherhood, the cheerleading from the West ceased. In its place was a willingness to approve the overthrowing of a democratically elected government on the basis that the Egyptian people had proved their immaturity, their inability to exercise their democratic rights correctly.

Little wonder, then, that the military coup was given such prominent international backing right from the start: it was seen as a necessary correction to a democratic error, a righting of the Egyptian people’s mistake. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, even went so far as to call General al-Sisi’s military government a regime for ‘restoring democracy’. And Baroness Ashton, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, spent much of last year meeting with al-Sisi and praising him for continuing on the ‘journey [towards] a stable, prosperous and democratic Egypt’.

That support, that moral bolstering of al-Sisi’s military dictatorship, has continued throughout the crackdown, throughout the transformation of Egypt into something that looks very much like an autocracy – indeed, something that looks very much like Mubarak’s regime. So in November, amid the arrests and the passing of oppressive anti-protest laws, Kerry said that the ‘road map’ to democracy was ‘being carried out to the best of our perception’.

There are none so blind, it seems, as those who see only what they want. Last week, speaking of a referendum so biased that even North Korea’s erstwhile dictator Kim Jong-il would have blushed, Kerry continued in his mission to twist reality in accordance with his prejudices: ‘[General al-Sisi’s] government has committed repeatedly to a transition process that expands democratic rights and leads to a civilian-led, inclusive government through free and fair elections.’ While Kerry was tying himself in knots, Ashton seemed content to praise ‘the Egyptian people and the authorities responsible for organising the vote in a largely orderly manner’. Orderly is one way of describing the pre-emptive arrest of opposition activists.

As for the broadsheet supporters of the Arab Spring, and later the military coup, their position seems to have become a little more critical. So having praised the military for bringing down an elected government and, in the words of the New York Times columnist David Brooks, pointing out that Morsi’s election showed that the Egyptian people ‘lack the mental equipment to govern’, many pundits have changed their tune. The news that ‘the military-backed government has shifted its attention to secular activists’ and that ‘the most genuine and committed supporters of a secular liberal order in Egypt [are now] sitting in Cairo’s Tora prison’ has led to a growing willingness to point out that Emperor al-Sisi is wearing dictator’s clothes.

But again, the double standards are still at work. It’s striking that it is only since the Egyptian authorities started arresting the secular, liberal-ish activists Westerners approve of – the likes of Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel, Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel Fattah – that al-Sisi’s regime has started to look like the authoritarian military dictatorship it always was. When it was massacring Muslim Brotherhood supporters, when it was rounding up and arresting supporters of Morsi, those currently up in arms about the crackdown on secular types could barely raise an eyebrow, let alone lift a pen in condemnation.

So, yes, what has happened in Egypt ought to chill us. It ought to command the attention of anyone who cares about defending freedom, even if – no, especially if – it’s the freedom of those like the Muslim Brotherhood we might not like. Yet so superficial and so selective is the democratic commitment of Western pundits and politicians, so illiberal and freedom-doubting are their basic impulses, that what has happened in Egypt has barely been recognised for the oppressive military coup d’état that it is. It seems that democracy for these one-time champions of the Arab Spring has nothing to do with freedom, the chance for people to determine collectively their own future. Rather, it is seen as little more than a means to what Western leaders and media supporters hoped would be the right end. And if they don’t like the end, if they don’t like who the Egyptians vote for, then, just like a tap, their support for democracy can be turned off.

Tim Black is deputy editor of spiked.