New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 August 2015
Meet the ‘Moderates' the U.S. Is Supporting in Syria: They're Al-Qaeda
By Eric Zuesse
Much of Egypt Celebrates, But The Wounds Have Not Healed
By H.A. Hellyer
Who Should Go First, Assad Or ISIS?
By Jamal Khashoggi
West’s Moral Bankruptcy
By Ramzy Baroud
Don’t Let Libya Down
By Linda S. Heard
Turkey, Patriots and ISIL
By Lale Kemal
Islamists Risk Rupture in Turkey’s Ties with Germany
By Abdullah Bozkurt
Meet the ‘Moderates' The U.S. Is Supporting In Syria: They're Al-Qaeda
By Eric Zuesse
17 August, 2015
Increasing evidence is coming in that the groups the U.S. is trying to install into power in Syria are actually contending groups of Sunni Islamic jihadists who seem to agree on only one thing: they want to replace the secular government of the Shiite Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia and by Shiite Iran. They want to replace it with a Sunni Islamic government. Some of these groups have perpetrated terrorist attacks (some including beheadings) against Americans, and one such group is even al-Qaeda, the Sunni Islamic organization that, of course, perpetrated the 9/11, 2001, attacks and others.
In Syria, al-Qaeda goes under the name Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra for short. As will be documented here, the United States has, until recently, been allied with al-Nusra, but, because of the bad image this U.S. alliance has spread about al-Nusra among their fellow-Sunnis, al-Nusra is now separating itself from ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, otherwise known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, and which the United States is now assisting, to defeat the forces of Assad, notwithstanding ISIL's infamous videos of their chopping off heads of nonbelievers.
Thus, for example, Britain's Telegraph headlined on August 10th, "Al-Qaeda withdraws from fighting Isil in Syria to avoid 'US cooperation',” and reporter Nabih Bulos in Istanbul opened with:
Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria has declared it will withdraw from frontlines where it has been fighting against Islamic State because it does not want to cooperate with the US-led coalition.
Jabhat Al-Nusra declared on Sunday it would abandon the northern province of Aleppo, where it has been battling Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), leaving other rebel factions to take over its positions in the area.
The region north of the city of Aleppo has designated as a potential anti-Isil buffer zone by the US and Turkey.
Later, Bulos's report went on to say:
Jabhat al-Nusra nevertheless insisted that even though it was abandoning its positions in the northern Aleppo countryside, it would continue the fight against Isil in other parts of the country.
Despite sharing their origins in al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and Isil have battled each other since a rancorous split in 2013.
Jabhat al-Nusra, whose jihadist militants are credited with being among the most effective on the battlefield, recently achieved a dazzling string of battlefield successes as part of the Army of Conquest, a loose coalition of Islamist factions.
Although it is thought to have received military and financial support from other members of the US-led coalition such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Jabhat al-Nusra has nevertheless repeatedly scuttled plans for Western support, branding Western-backed rebel factions as “collaborators.”
This report is consistent with two earlier reports that the famous American journalist, Seymour Hersh, was not able to find a publisher for inside the United States, and which were therefore (like the Telegraph report above) published in Britain, instead, both of them by the London Review of Books. Those Hersh articles were widely dismissed by U.S. news-media as being untrustworthy. (Hersh used unnamed sources — supposedly because the sources didn't want to be fired.) Even Hersh's main publisher, the New Yorker, has rejected his recent reports about this and related matters, and New York magazine (a competitor to the New Yorker) has allowed him to express his view of the conflict he's having with the New Yorker's current editor. (However, New York hasn’t published any of Hersh's actual articles, either.)
Hersh's first such article was “Whose Sarin?” on 19 December 2013, and it opened:
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country's civil war with access to Sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a Jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating Sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
The second one was more definitive, answering the question that the first of his two reports raised. It was issued on 17 April 2014, "The Red Line and the Rat Line,” and it reported that,
British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack, and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn't match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army's chemical weapons arsenal.
During the interim months between the two articles, Hersh was able to answer the “Whose Sarin?” question. He found, and reported in the second article:
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration's public claims that only the Syrian army had access to Sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points' briefing for the DIA's deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a Sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced Sarin plot since al-Qaida's pre-9/11 effort'. …
The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line', a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.')
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report's criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdogan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi's arsenals into Syria.
That report is further confirmed by the 10 August 2015 report in Britain's Telegraph.
Eva Bartlett of Inter Press Service reported, on 8 July 2014, her interviews with victims of the U.S.-supported fighters in the Syrian city of Homs. Typical was this:
Mohammed, a Syrian from the Qussoor district of Homs, is now one of the reported 6.5 million internally-displaced Syrians.
“I'm a refugee in Latakia now. I work in Homs, two days a week, and then return to Latakia to stay at my friend's home. I left my house at the very end of 2011, before the area was taken over by al-Nusra and al-Farooq brigades.”
He spoke of the sectarian nature of the insurgents and protests from the very beginning in 2011.
“I was renting a home in a different neighbourhood of Homs, while renovating my own house. Just beyond my balcony there were protests that did not call for ‘freedom' or even overthrowing the ‘regime’. They chanted sectarian mottos, they said they would fill al-Zahara – an Alawi [Shiite] neighbourhood – with blood. And also al-Nezha – where there are many Alawis and Christians.”
An internal Stratfor (private CIA) email report, dated 7 December 2011, concerning the planning stages of the American mission to remove Bashar al-Assad (the mission that created refugees such as “Mohammed” from Homs), described their private meeting at the Pentagon, where the officials “emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake. … It's still a doable mission, it's just not an easy one.” Obama's people were “saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn't be a need for air cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in columns anyway.” Obama's people seem to have underestimated both sides of the war. Some European nations were supportive but not yet fully committed to the operation. “The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and French would fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how much recce comes out of there. The group was split on whether Turkey would be involved, but said Turkey would be pretty critical to the mission to base stuff out of there.” The Stratfor agent wrote that, “I had a meeting with an incoming Kuwaiti diplomat (will be coded as KU301.) His father was high up in the regime, always by the CP's/PM's side. The diplo himself still seems to be getting his feet wet in DC (the new team just arrived less than 2 weeks ago,) but he made pretty clear that Kuwait was opening the door to allowing US to build up forces as needed. … He said that while KSA and Bahrain they can deal with it as needed and black out the media, Kuwait is a lot more open.” Thus, “On the Kuwaiti political scene, the government is having a harder time dealing with a more emboldened opposition, but the opposition is still extremely divided, esp among the Islamists. The MPs now all have to go back to their tribes to rally support” for the operation against Assad. All of these Muslims were Sunnis.
An excellent overview article by Steve Chovanec, dated 16 November 2014, included a sub-head, “US-Supplied Rebels Align with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda Aligns with ISIL.”
One thing that's hidden in the West (since the West's aristocracies are allied with the aristocracies in Arabic countries, which are almost exclusively Sunni) is that Islamic jihad is a specifically Sunni phenomenon, it's not Shiite; Islamic terrorism that's directed against Christian-majority nations is basically a Sunni phenomenon, it's a phenomenon of the Arabic aristocracies that Western aristocracies are allied with, and this is the reason why there's a tendency to attribute it to Iran and to other Shiite areas, which actually have nothing to do with it and are instead themselves at war against it within the Muslim world. Whereas Russia is allied with Shiite forces, and is therefore clearly and unequivocally opposed to Islamic terrorism, which is Sunni, the United States and its vassal-nations are basically allied with Sunni forces, and this means that Western aristocracies support the Sunni aristocracies that fund Islamic jihad.
A report from Russian Television on August 12th presents shelling of Damascus by (as the reporter describes it, at 1:38 in the video) “a rebel faction with very strong ties with Saudi Arabia, news reports saying that it is funded by Saudi Arabia.” Yet again, it's a Sunni invasion of Shiite-run Syria, this time by Sunnis that are paid directly by the Sauds. And the Sauds, of course, dominate all of Sunni Islam, and are also the main funders of al-Qaeda. U.S. President Obama wants to defeat Russia even more than he wants to defeat ISIS, al-Qaeda, etc. Thus, the fact that Russia has always consistently been against Islamic-jihad groups, does not deter Obama from allying the U.S. with Saudi Arabia (the key backer of Islamic jihad groups), instead of with Russia. If he needs Islamic-jihad groups in order to defeat Russia, he'll back them, but only secretly.
So, al-Nusra (or al-Qaeda) has now publicly separated itself from ISIL, because ISIL is receiving critically important assistance from the United States, just as al-Nusra is now being blamed by their fellow Sunnis for having done the same, between 2011 and 2013. Back in 2011, Obama thought he wouldn't need ISIL's help, but he does.
Furthermore, Obama is just copying all his predecessors back at least to Reagan, and even to the end of the Carter Administration, when Zbig Brzezinski told the Mujahideen (the earlier name for the Taliban) that “God is on your side.” The U.S. had used Sunnis such as Osama bin Laden to break the Soviet alliance with Afghanistan, much as the U.S. is now using Sunnis to try to break the Russian alliance with Assad, and likewise with Ukraine, including Crimea. Obama's primary target throughout isn't jihadists, so much as it's Vladimir Putin. Bush's “regime change” obsession was Saddam Hussein. Obama's wasn't just Muammar Gaddafi, and it wasn't just Viktor Yanukovych; and it isn't just Bashar al-Assad — it's Vladimir Putin himself. It's defeating Russia. All else is actually subordinate to that.
In this regard, Obama is following the position that was expressed by his friend Brzezinski who has expressed it many times, such as, in 1998, reprinted later under the heading, “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen.”
As I bannered on 6 March 2015, "Brzezinski Says Russia's Putin Wants to Invade NATO.” The U.S. is adding former communist nations to NATO, surrounding Russia with NATO nations all along Russia's eastern borders, and to the south of Russia. But Brzezinski and others of his ilk say that Russia is surrounding NATO. The Obama Administration says such things as, “We're building up on NATO's borders. These are NATO countries, these are allies of ours, that are concerned based on what Russia is doing on their borders.” The Administration pretends that the U.S. isn't the aggressor here — that Russia is. They're saying that essential defense is instead aggression; meanwhile, unprovoked aggression is being done for “allies of ours” (but that were traditionally allies of theirs). Russia is supposed to accept that. Russia won't.
After the end of communism, Brzezinski, and some others, continued hating Russia, because they had hated it ever since childhood, or at least ever since young adulthood. (Brzezinski was born a Polish nobleman.) They were indoctrinated with this form of racism, not merely with hatred of communism. What was originally a hatred of an ideology, thus remains in some people as a hatred of one specific ethnicity: Russians. World War III could result. Unless people like this are booted out of power in the United States — and in Europe.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
Much of Egypt Celebrates, But The Wounds Have Not Healed
By H.A. Hellyer
17 August 2015
"Masr bitifrah" - Egypt is celebrating - so I am told, but any celebratory feeling I might try to engender is mortally wounded before it takes root. I suspect that will be the case for some time.
Most of the time, I am an academic and an analyst. For both of those professions, the idea of impartiality is sought after tremendously. However, the best of us in those professions freely admit that impartiality is impossible to attain in its entirety, because none of us come to the analytical table without preconceptions and prejudices. Our careers are partially spent recognizing, accounting for and correcting those preferences as much as possible in our work.
So it is with total transparency that I unreservedly acknowledge that I am not neutral when it comes to Egypt. Anyone who is genuinely neutral would have to be incredibly detached. I am not detached. I might try to be - and I try to identify my own lack of detachment, and account for it when I do offer my analysis - but it is not possible to care deeply about a place and a situation over a long period, and simultaneously remain indifferent.
It is corny and banal to divulge this, but the truth is that the analysis I have always offered on Egypt is borne out of love and sincere concern. When so many celebrated the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011, I was in Tahrir Square alongside them. When the square was cleaned the following day, I cleared it alongside many others.
With hopes and dreams soaring during those early heady months when it seemed like anything was possible, I had an optimism that might have been tempered by my academic training, but I had that optimism nonetheless. When the Muslim Brotherhood infuriated so many who supported the revolution, I felt their anger against the group’s venal policies.
More than four years on, however, my enthusiasm is even more mitigated. When one sees the insistence that Egypt is celebrating, and one truly wants what is best for Egypt, one really wants to join in.
However, one is held back, not because one has anything against further economic prosperity for Egypt, but because one doubts whether this is the way to go about it. One is constantly reminded that there are so many structural problems in the country that have yet to be addressed, and perhaps most of all, that the lack of accountability for so many sad, terrible and horrific days remains.
On Aug. 8, with the completion of the Suez Canal construction, I really wanted to be happy for Egypt. However, I was reminded that two years ago, an event took place that will forever overshadow Aug. 14 for Egypt.
I went to the Rabaa sit-in before security forces dispersed it. It called for the reinstatement of President Mohammad Morsi, and when I went to it, I did not particularly like what I saw. I could never remotely compare it to Tahrir Square during the 18 days of the revolution, for many reasons.
However, regardless of whatever else one might say about Rabaa, it was overwhelmingly unarmed. That made the nature of the dispersal wholly unjustified, and the use of force entirely disproportionate, to say the least. Incidentally, if there had been any real evidence that the sit-in was an armed headquarters in Nasr City, as various sycophants claimed, I find it very dubious that the security forces would have waited six weeks before targeting it.
There are many questions to be asked about the instrumentalisation of Rabaa for various ends, but the fact remains that hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed that day by the security forces. No one can deny that - even the Egyptian state’s own quango confirmed that.
The Human Rights Watch report was good, but one does not need to rely on it alone. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies - two of Egypt’s best civil rights organizations, which were pilloried by the Brotherhood while it was in power - were likewise very clear.
Around 1,000 people were killed in Rabaa that day - even the public indications of then-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, whose cabinet presided over the forced dispersal, makes that evident. To this day, no one has been held accountable for that, and it does not look like anyone will be anytime soon.
It has been two years since that grievous day, and the wound that seared through the body of the Egyptian soul remains unhealed, untended to, and unimaginably painful for so many people.
The repercussions are yet to be completely felt, but it would be utterly naïve to presume that there will not be ramifications, which are likely to be felt for a generation. Some think we have seen those consequences come to pass already - I think they are wrong, and that concerns me to no end.
Egypt can and should give many ‘gifts to the world,’ but the gift a nation can give humanity has little to do with a piece of engineering on a waterway, and everything to do with the virtues it adheres to.
I have no doubt that Egyptians will do great things, and that this phase in their history will pass. However, I find it difficult to assume that this phase will not see Egypt getting worse before it gets better. If Egyptians want to overcome that, the solution has always been about reform and accountability so the horror of Rabaa never happens again. That would be an excellent ‘gift to the world,’ not least to Egyptians themselves.
Dr. H.A. Hellyer, non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Royal United Services Institute, and the Harvard University Kennedy School, previously held senior posts at Gallup and Warwick University.
Who Should Go First, Assad Or ISIS?
By Jamal Khashoggi
17 August 2015
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir put an end to suspicious rumors in many Arab capitals that Riyadh is now willing to approve of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In Berlin then in Moscow during a few consecutive days, Jubeir made assurances that Riyadh did not accept any future role for Assad, not even in a Syrian interim government.
However, the Russians and Americans are promoting the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] first” theory, which is wrong politically and practically. The Americans should have admitted that well before the Russians, after they saw how difficult it was to form special Syrian forces to fight ISIS despite all the temptations of money, training and arms. As soon as a Syrian volunteer hears that his job is to only fight ISIS instead of the regime, he withdraws from the program.
Whoever is left of them has entered Syria heavily armed and is suspected of robbing other factions. However, if the U.S. government accepts the Saudi and Turkish call for “Bashar first,” those people will become heroes in the eyes of their societies and will attract more volunteers.
Amid these events, Saudi Arabia will be directly and closely affected by the collapsing situation in Syria and its consequences such as the war on ISIS, chaos, smuggling, and human and arms trafficking. Riyadh is also fully aware of the reality of the situation there, so it is necessary to listen when it says “Assad first.”
No one will fight ISIS in situ other than Syrians. Neither the Saudis nor the Russians will do that. The Syrians are the greatest beneficiary of getting rid of ISIS. They have had enough of this organization, and they know that it will stand between them and their dream of building a free Syria for all Syrians. They do not want to replace Assad’s tyranny with ISIS. Russia’s argument that Syria will gradually fall into the hands of ISIS if the Assad regime falls is not true.
The Syrian opposition, with its nationalists and Islamists, is the one fighting the spread of ISIS in their country, not regime forces, which collapsed in front of the terrorist organization a few weeks ago in Palmyra. During the meeting between Saudi and Russian ministers in Moscow, the Army of Islam - an Islamist faction said to be backed by Riyadh - launched a vicious attack on ISIS in eastern Damascus.
The Army of Islam, one of the biggest factions in the south, is unwilling to accept ISIS even if they seem to be fighting the same enemy, and it is not alone. In Aleppo, there is a coalition of courageous opposition factions halting the advance of ISIS and at the same time fighting the regime. In return, the latter receives internationally-prohibited barrel-bombs without anyone raising a finger to stop it!
In short, the group fighting ISIS today is the Syrian opposition, not Assad’s army. Why is Riyadh the only one aware of that? Why can Moscow and Washington not recognize that? If the Russians and Americans succeed in convincing Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of the “ISIS first” theory, who will fight this organization in situ and complete the coalition forces’ aerial campaign other than the Syrians?
The results of such a tactic were illustrated last Tuesday, when the coalition bombed the site of an opposition faction that had nothing to do with ISIS or even Al-Nusra, and led to the deaths of many, leaving Syrians angrier than ever. This will make them reluctant to support such an alliance, and will increase the popularity of ISIS and spread extremism among them.
Certainly, neither the Americans nor the Russians will send men to the Syrian swamp, nor will the Saudis and Jordanians. Even the Egyptian army, eager to join “unified Arab forces” to fight terrorism and maintain Assad’s regime, will most likely not participate.
Who will then fight on Syrian ground other than Assad’s army, his Iranian allies and Hezbollah? Does that mean anything other than the suppression of the Syrian revolution and allowing Assad and his sectarian allies to massacre the Syrian people? Only a national Syrian force that can even include what is left of the army is capable of fighting ISIS, as Jubeir proposed in Moscow. This will not happen until after Assad’s fall.
There is no doubt that ISIS is an ugly entity representing a threat to both Russia and Saudi Arabia, as Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Tuesday. However, Assad’s threat is no less dangerous. Statistics indicate that the number of Syrians killed by his forces is three times that of ISIS.
Assad’s regime is one of the reasons behind the spread of ISIS. The idea of ISIS would have remained forever repressed by us, but an unsuccessful authoritarian system came and lost control over its country, allowing ISIS to spread like bacteria. This bacteria, if neglected, will contaminate neighbouring regions too. This is why I choose “Assad first.”
This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 15, 2015.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.
West’s Moral Bankruptcy
By Ramzy Baroud
18 August 2015
On April 26, 2011, a meeting that can only be described as sinister took place between the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The most pressing issue discussed at the meeting in Rome was how to deal with African immigrants.
Sarkozy, who was under pressure from his right-wing and far-right constituencies to halt immigration originating from North Africa (resulting from the Tunisian uprising), desired to strike a deal with the opportunistic Italian leader. In exchange for an Italian agreement to join a French initiative aimed at tightening border control (Italy being accused of allowing immigrants to cross through its borders to the rest of Europe), France, in turn, would resolve major disputes involving a series of takeovers, involving French and Italian companies. Moreover, Italy would then secure French support for a bid by Italian economist and banker, Mario Draghi, to become the head of the European Central Bank.
Another point on the French agenda was active Italian participation in the war on Libya, initially spearheaded by France, Britain and the United States, and later championed by NATO.
Initially, Berlusconi hesitated to take part in the war, although certainly not for any moral reasons: For example, because the war was deliberately based on a misconstrued interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 17, 2011. The resolution called for an ‘immediate cease-fire,’ the establishment of a ‘no-fly zone’ and using all means, except foreign occupation, to ‘protect civilians.’ The war, however, achieved entirely different objectives from the ones stated in the resolution. It achieved a regime change, the bloody capture and murder of Libyan leader, Muammar Al-Qaddafi, and resulted in a bloodbath in which thousands of civilians were killed, and continue to die, due to the chaos and civil war that has gripped Libya since then.
Berlusconi’s change of heart had little to do with common sense and much to do with oil and gas. He was walking a tight rope. On one hand, about a quarter of Italy’s oil was imported from Libya, in addition to nearly 10 percent of the country’s natural gas. Destabilizing Libya could interrupt the flow of Libyan energy supplies, at a time when Italy was desperately attempting to recover from its deep economic recession.
On the other hand, having France (which seemed to be in the mood for intervention because, following the Libya war, France marched on to Mali) hold all the cards in Libya could be devastating for Italy. “The Franco-Italian spat over immigration follows sharp differences over Libya, where Rome has been dragged into a war it would rather avoid, fearing a Paris-Benghazi nexus will freeze out its substantial interests in Libyan oil and gas,” the Financial Times reported at the time.
The successful meeting between the two leaders paved the way for Italian intervention, which took part in earnest in the war on Libya on April 28. Meanwhile, France kept its part of the bargain, and on Nov. 1 of that same year, Mario Draghi succeeded Jean-Claude Trichet as the president of the European Central Bank.
Both countries benefited, albeit Libya was destroyed. It is difficult to imagine that Berlusconi, a repulsive and corrupt politician even by the low standards of Italian politics, operated on the basis of any moral standards, aside from personal gains and self-interest. Indeed, neither his ‘friendship’ with long-time Libyan ruler, Qaddafi, nor the many perks and massive profits he received from Libya were enough to honor his commitment not to participate in a war that was clearly not aimed at saving lives, but maintaining access to Libya’s energy supplies.
Equally interesting is the fact that UNSC Resolution 1973 was promoted by its supporters as one aimed at protecting civilians from an imminent massacre about to be carried by the Libyan Army in Benghazi. Regardless of what Qaddafi’s intentions were, the NATO war resulted in untold suffering among Libyan civilians on three different fronts:
First, thousands of Libyans were killed and wounded as a direct result of NATO’s intervention; second, the war turned Libya into warring fiefdoms, armed and supported by regional and international powers. The hundreds of militias that exist in Libya today have deprived Libyans of any sense of security, and exposed the civilian population to a war reality that, seemingly, has no end in sight. Third, thousands of Libyans, or Africans who once called Libya home, found themselves fleeing the war using every means of transport possible. Tens of thousands of them sought refuge in Europe, while thousands died trying.
Few in the Italian government would care to remember their country’s role in the war on Libya which, despite early hesitation, was embraced with utmost enthusiasm. The refugees who are lucky enough to make it to Italy’s shores are constantly demonized by Italian media and perceived as a burden on the still-struggling Italian economy. What they forget is that, thanks to Libya’s reasonably-priced and cheaply transported oil and gas, the Italian economy was kept afloat for years. The poor refugees are not as much of a burden on Italy’s economy as Italy was a burden on Libya; in fact, on the whole of Africa.
Libya was colonized by Italy from 1911 to 1943, and was driven out along with its German Nazi partners by local resistance and eventually by the Allies in WWII. It was not until 1998 that Italy apologized for the sins of colonizing the country, which came at a terribly high price of death and destruction. Yet, eleven years later, the supposedly remorseful Italy was bombing Libya once more to ensure the flow of cheap oil and to keep African immigrants and refugees at bay.
Neither was the bloody 2011 war an exception. Four years after that war, Italy once more began calling for another war on Libya for, clearly, the desired objectives of the first war have not been met: Immigrants and refugees, despite high risks and a mounting death toll, continued to pour into Italy and the flow of oil and gas has been disrupted by a civil war among Libya’s NATO allies. But there is another factor, according to Marianne Arens: “The sabre-rattling over Libya also serves to divert attention from the growing domestic social and political tensions” in Italy itself.
The relationship between war and the rising challenge of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers cannot be overstated. It is both ironic and sad that the many thousands of war refugees are seeking shelter in the same European and NATO countries that either directly (as in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan) or indirectly (as in Syria) contributed to the destruction and destabilization of their countries.
Even Greece, which is displaying little patience or regard for humanitarian laws in its treatment of the many thousands of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, via Turkey, took part, although in a minor role, in the war in Libya (2011) and provided assistance to the US-led war on Iraq (2003).
While one strongly sympathizes with Greece as it stands on the verge of bankruptcy and having just reached a deal with the EU that could keep the impoverished country solvent for the coming months, one cannot fathom the mistreatment of innocent Syrians and Iraqis as they brave the sea to escape the hellish wars back home. The Greeks, who suffered terrible wars in the past, should know this more than anyone else. The scenes from the islands of Lesbos and Kos are heartbreaking, to say the least.
However, the countries that should be confronted most about their moral responsibility toward war refugees are those who ignited these wars in the first place. While Libya continues to descend into chaos, and Syria and Iraq subsist in a state of bedlam, both France and Britain discuss the problem of refugees attempting to cross into both countries as if the refugees are swarms of locusts, not innocent people who were victimized mostly by US-European wars. Meanwhile, the US, geographically removed from the refugee crisis, seems unconcerned by the chaotic scenes of desperate refugees, capsizing boats, and pleading families.
Those who wage war should, at least, shoulder part of the moral responsibility of addressing the horrible consequences that armed conflict inflicts upon innocent people. The Italian example shows how economic interests trump morality, and not a single NATO country, Turkey included, is innocent.
Now that the refugee crisis is worsening, it behooves NATO to deal with the problem, at least with a degree of humanity and — dare one say — with the same enthusiasm that led it to several devastating wars in recent years.
Don’t Let Libya Down
By Linda S. Heard
18 August 2015
Libya is embroiled in bloodshed and chaos, terrorized and plundered by Daesh and feuding armed militias. Toothless rival governments – one operating out of Tripoli dominated by the Libyan Dawn, the other out of Tobruk, supported by the forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar – render the country virtually leaderless.
Once the wealthiest nation in the African continent Libya is on a fast-track to bankruptcy and a failed state, thanks to fall in oil prices and low production.
This is not what the people had asked for when they turned against their longtime leader. I’m pretty sure that many, if not most; Libyans today look back on the Col. Muammar Qaddafi era as golden years. For all his weirdness – his travelling tent, his little Green Book, his burly female bodyguards – the ‘reign’ of Col. Qaddafi brought stability and massive social benefits, including free education, medical treatment and electricity.
Women enjoyed equal rights and equal pay. Citizens benefited from interest-free loans and 50 percent government subsidies on vehicle purchases.
Aspiring farmers were provided with land, equipment, seeds and livestock. The unemployed received salaries and on marriage couples were gifted US$ 50,000 to begin their lives together.
Just as importantly, Qaddafi, although perceived as an authoritarian figure, was no dictator and didn’t deserve to end the way he did. People’s committees were legally empowered to override his decisions. Reagan’s anti-imperialist “Mad Dog of the Middle East” had mellowed and, ironically, before he was forced out of power he had dismantled his nuclear program and entered into strategic relationships with America and Europe.
The Libyan people were lured by western-style democracy just as many of their neighbors did; they were caught-up in the romance of revolution and now they are paying a heavy price. A former unnamed activist quoted by McClatchy DC under the heading “Now fearful Libyans recall when life was sweet under Qaddafi” summed up the general mood.
“We are not fighting for a civil state anymore or other rights like freedom of expression or freedom of anything,” she said. “We are just talking about freedom of life and freedom of food.” In a place where assassinations and bombings are weekly occurrences, Libyans who speak out prefer to do so anonymously.
It was NATO’s intervention that turned the tide against the Qaddafi regime, but although the member countries, the US, France and Britain, helped break it, they have no appetite to help fix it, at least not in any meaningful fashion. President Obama has admitted Libya was his greatest foreign policy mistake; that’s arguable. But if that’s what he believes, then why doesn’t he feel duty-bound to assist in putting the country to rights? He had no problem rushing in to topple Qaddafi, but is less enthusiastic to cleanse the country of terrorists.
Endless conferences or United Nations mediation won’t cut it. Military might brought Libya to its knees and only military might can free the country from the scourge of violence and terrorism. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the two governments were able to form a government of national unity; not an easy task when they hold wildly opposing world views. That would be a good start but without a fully functioning military, does anyone imagine that self-interested militias, armed secessionists and Daesh that has a foothold around Derna, are going to melt away?
The legitimate internationally recognized government in Tobruk has admitted its forces lack the weapons to take on Daesh; it’s asked the UN Security Council to lift the weapons embargo, thus far to no avail.
Government spokesman Hatem Al-Oraibi expressed his frustrations, saying, “Unfortunately, the international community abandoned the Libyan people. After contributing to the overthrow of Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, it left the people to face terrorism without any support.” He hopes that the Joint Arab Force, currently being formed, will come to his country’s aid.
Trouble is, the US is actively discouraging Arab countries from taking military action on the grounds that the solution lies with dialogue. Egypt was condemned for bombing Daesh weapons warehouses and training camps in response to the beheading of Coptic Christians. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has repeatedly called for a UN-supported international military intervention. Egypt’s long, porous border with Libya makes it especially vulnerable. Tunisia is in the process of building a 220-km security fence to deter terrorist infiltrations and weapons trafficking.
In recent days, Libya’s government has asked its Arab allies to strike Daesh that’s recently overtaken areas of the city of Sirte, desecrated by a display of bodies hung grotesquely over bridges. The Arab League is scheduled to hold an emergency summit in Cairo on Tuesday.
Libyans hope for a decisive answer; my hope is that the Arab League won’t let them down.
Turkey, Patriots and ISIL
By Lale Kemal
August 17, 2015
Turkish authorities can sometimes deceive the public and tell them lies, as there is no impunity for their behaviour, even if it leads to unpleasant consequences. They can continue, for instance, to mislead the public about being determined to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) yet keeping conflict to a minimum. But foreign governments, in particular European states, operating under democratic and thus transparent governance, tell the truth about Turkey through their media, where we, the Turkish public, learn facts about our country.
Germany this past weekend announced that it will not renew the mandate for its Patriot air defence systems that have been based on Turkish soil in Kahramanmaraş for almost two-and-a-half years to deter the Syrian regime from a possible attack on neighbouring Turkey. The official German reasoning for this decision was that the security situation along the Turkish border with Syria no longer requires the protection of the Patriots. Hence, the Patriots and around 260 German soldiers will be withdrawn from Turkey as of Jan. 31, 2016.
German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen said over the weekend, “The threat in this troubled region now has a different focus. It is shaped today by the terrorist group [ISIL].”
ISIL does not have ballistic missiles with which it could pose a threat to Turkey. However, the German government and its opposition parties alike have been criticizing Turkey for its disproportionate attacks on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets both at home and in northern Iraq, urging the Turkish government to return to the Turkish-Kurdish peace process. The process has been frozen and replaced by nationwide violence.
Turkey's reluctance in the fight against ISIL has also led to criticism, which has been levelled against Turkey for some time in Germany. In fact, Rainer Arnold, the defence spokesman of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), said over the weekend: “I do not have the impression that Turkey can be fully integrated into the common NATO strategy in the fight against ISIL. That to me is an additional reason to terminate the mandate.”
The decision not to renew the mandate for Germany's Patriots on Turkish soil was followed by a joint statement on Sunday by Turkey and the US in which the latter has also announced that it will withdraw its Patriots.
The statement said the US has informed the Turkish government that the US deployment of Patriot air and missile defence units in Turkey, which expires in October, will not be renewed beyond the end of the current rotation. “They will be redeployed to the United States for critical modernization upgrades that will ensure that the US missile defence force remains capable of countering evolving global threats and protecting allies and partners -- including Turkey. This decision follows a US review of global missile defence posture,” it said.
It remains to be seen whether Spain, which replaced the Dutch Patriot mission in Turkey early this year with bases in the southern city of Adana, will follow Germany and the US.
Independent of German arguments related to the PKK and ISIL, both Washington and Berlin believe that the Syrian regime will not target a NATO member country, i.e., Turkey, and that the threat was not real from the start. It is fair to say that NATO's Patriot deployment on Turkish soil was intended to demonstrate solidarity with Turkey.
The US in particular is of the opinion that these defense systems should be deployed in other parts of the world where threats are more imminent. “Given that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have chemical warhead ballistic missiles, and that ISIL does not have ballistic missiles, the usefulness of the Patriots is hard to identify. It would be better to deploy them to the Baltic states and Poland, in case Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to pull something there,” a Western diplomat stated in conversation.
A Western military analyst familiar with the topic said: “This little threat from Assad was reduced to almost nothing once the chemical weapons were removed from the arsenal of the Syrian regime. [The deployments of Patriots] were really about demonstrating NATO solidarity.”
However, it must also be emphasized, as the same source mentioned, that Patriots on Turkish soil gave the Dutch and Germans an opportunity to deploy their “dust-gathering” Patriots, and gave their crews a chance to train on the ground. “For the US, it was first and foremost an act of bilateral solidarity, then a chance to give the operators training. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were also in the mix, but only in a very minor way, because they held competing views about deploying Patriots to Turkey when they were also trying to sell them to Turkey,” the source explained.
At the end of the day, the German argument for withdrawing its Patriots from Turkish soil, covered extensively in this column, demonstrates once again Turkey's big U-turn away from becoming a democratic state.
Islamists Risk Rupture in Turkey’s Ties with Germany
By Abdullah Bozkurt
August 17, 2015
The main challenge the Islamists in the Turkish government and their ringmaster President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have in recent years brought upon bilateral ties with Germany -- the powerhouse of the European Union and Turkey's largest trading partner -- is their promotion through state-sponsored activities of a hostile brand of political Islamist ideology amid the Turkish and Muslim diaspora.
Turkish-German ties have never been problem-free, but somehow both countries have been able to manage sensitive issues, including religious matters, in their relations. In fact, working in close cooperation with the German government, successive Turkish governments have all tried to address legitimate demands of the Turkish population by dispatching imams to lead prayers and provide services in German mosques. As part of preventive measures to stop Turks from falling prey to fanatical religious groups, both governments were determined to take measures to prevent radicalization of the diaspora. However, Germans have on occasion not hesitated to raise the difficulties facing the Christian minority in Turkey.
These international relations grew rocky after Islamists secretly launched a project to turn the diaspora into a bastion of Islamist support to encourage Erdoğan's dream of leading all Muslims in Europe, reportedly part of his undeclared goal of becoming a caliph in his self-perceived image to appeal to all the world's Muslims. He has used taxpayers' money to finance the establishment of a European network for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). His sinister plans were disguised under programs that were purportedly devised to meet legitimate demands from expatriates. Islamists looked at Turks abroad as simply proxies to promote their partisan and ideological positions rather than richness to boost ties with a helpful narrative and an endorsement for integration in any real sense.
In fact, Erdoğan's controversial rallies in Germany and his antagonistic remarks about the host government have brought further strain to bilateral relations with Germany. His actions and rhetoric hurt German Turks more than ever, put them in the spotlight in the German public's minds and thwarted integration efforts. When required, Erdoğan did not hesitate to mobilize his much-invested network in Germany whenever he felt cornered in Turkey such as during the anti-government Gezi Park events in the summer of 2013, or in the aftermath of the corruption scandal that implicated him and his family members. In the end, the AKP government's policies crafted by Erdoğan have effectively driven a further wedge between the larger German society and the Turkish minority.
When his popularity waned at home, Erdoğan turned to highly divisive and hateful politics to sustain his rule in the hope of consolidating the support of Sunni Turks behind the AKP government. He did not mind at all exporting these divisions to Germany. His hostile narrative stigmatizing Alevis, Kurds and moderate groups such as members of the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has been reflected in the community of some 3 million Turks living in Germany. Just like he abused the reins of state power to provoke vulnerable groups in Turkey, he tried to do the same in German society with relentless clandestine activities.
The German government knew long ago how corrupt a politician Erdoğan is before the details of the massive corruption investigations into his graft network were exposed in December 2013. Although German intelligence had a clear understanding of the corruption scheme, the 2007 Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity case that was tried under the German criminal justice system provided the first public snapshot into Erdoğan's dealings. The suspects that embezzled millions of euros from Germany's Turks were convicted and the charity's assets were confiscated. German prosecutor Kerstin Lötz said, “The main suspects are in Turkey,” and sent the case file to Turkey. Yet the AKP government covered up the scandal by hushing up the Turkish leg of the investigation into the charity group and cleared all suspects. Had the case been pursued, it would have led to the conviction of senior Islamists in the AKP government.
I think two developments rang serious alarm bells in Berlin. One was the deliberate attempt by Erdoğan to project his divisive politics to the diaspora in Germany and therefore risk social peace and harmony in the European country. Germany responded to that challenge by nabbing high-level operatives working for Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) including a close and senior aide to Erdoğan and put them on public trial. The case is perhaps unprecedented, excluding spy cases involving East Germany during the Cold War era. The operatives were allegedly plotting to scare, defame and profile groups unsupportive of Erdoğan. With the public case, the German government made clear that it would not tolerate any sort of intimidation and harassment of its Turkish minority.
The second and perhaps more troubling concern emerged within the German security establishment when Turkey's neck-deep involvement in supporting radical groups fighting to topple Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria reached out to expatriates in Germany. Erdoğan's secret support for radical groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra and the Ahrar al-Sham was closely monitored by German intelligence. Several test cases where Turkey failed to turn over high-profile ISIL suspects detained by Turkish police and wanted in Germany but instead let them join ISIL's ranks in Syria convinced Chancellor Angela Merkel's government that Erdoğan is simply playing a duplicitous game regarding the security of its allies.
The main group being watched closely by German intelligence for some time is the Ahrar al-Sham, a Turkey-backed group that has attracted more Turks to its ranks than any other radical group fighting in Syria. After intense pressure from NATO allies, Islamists in Turkey have by and large scaled down their support to al-Nusra since the summer of 2014 in favor of trying to prop up the Ahrar al-Sham as the main fighting force against al-Assad's regime. Erdoğan unsuccessfully tried to convince allies that the anti-ISIL battle should include support for the Ahrar al-Sham, which Turkey's Islamists described as moderate.
The threat of the possible radicalization of Turkish Muslims in Germany as a result of controversial policies pursued by Islamists in the AKP government, which was accused of facilitating the flow of foreign fighters arriving in Syria from all over the world, is something about which the German government is very concerned. It is amazing to see how things have changed in sharp contrast to early 2000 when the Turkish government worked very closely to monitor a few Turks who lived in Germany but traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in pursuit of joining the ranks of radical groups such as al-Qaeda. Even the Religious Affairs Directorate, previously seen by Germans as an institution to closely engage with so that it may help to better integrate Turkish Muslims, has now turned into suspect number one in the eyes of Germans because Islamists, just like every other government agency, turned the directorate into a bastion of clandestine activities that trouble German security services.
Germany is understandably concerned that individuals who are radicalized after traveling to Syria and Iraq may well return and use Germany as a base for recruitment and logistics. They may even stage violent attacks inside Germany. The same threat is definitely more valid regarding Turkish national security as the country has a long and porous border with Syria, yet Islamists feign a total lack of unease about that prospect. Apart from paying lip service by making a few public remarks against ISIL, there has been no significant policy change when it comes to handling suspected ISIL militants. Almost all the suspected members of ISIL who were rounded up since last month's deal with the US have been released.
Reflecting the growing sense of unease about Turkey, the German government withdrew Patriot batteries that were deployed in Turkey in 2013 as part of a NATO mission to enhance a member state's air defenses after a mortar bomb fired from Syria killed five Turkish civilians in the town of Akçakale on the Syrian border in 2012. The decision that was apparently coordinated with the Americans, who are also withdrawing their own Patriots from Turkey, is a testament to the deep mistrust NATO allies have come to feel about Islamists. As Cem Özdemir, the co-chairman of the Green Party in Germany, bluntly put it in his recent interview with Die Welt, Turkey risks the lives of German soldiers who have been deployed to the region.
Who can blame the German government for growing suspicious about Turkey's real intentions? Last year's leaked audio of a high-level security meeting at the Turkish Foreign Ministry about possible military action in Syria via a false-flag operation that was leaked by the US's National Security Agency (NSA) was a public reminder of that rift with Turkey. In the recording, senior officials including then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and MİT head Hakan Fidan discussed how Turkey could start a war with Syria, what the legal grounds would be to do so and if it would be possible to create a pretext to deliberately drag Turkey and by extension NATO into a war with Syria. They also discussed a false-flag operation by having mortars firing into Turkey from Syria to ostensibly create the legal grounds for a war.
In fact, there is widespread speculation that Turkish Islamists might have had a hand in deadlier attacks that were described as war crimes and previously falsely blamed on the al-Assad regime. Perhaps more damaging details about the shady businesses in which the Islamist rulers in Turkey have been engaging will emerge in the future. In fact, Erdoğan's anti-German remarks in recent days have possibly more to do with possible revelations of his clandestine schemes rather than the sheltering of graft prosecutors who escaped to Germany from Erdoğan's persecution and witch-hunt.
Turkey has come to a “make or break” point under the Islamist regime that effectively staged a coup by shelving the Constitution, suspending the rule law and trampling fundamental rights. If Erdoğan gets his wish via early elections to continue ruling this nation of 78 million people in an unchecked and unrestrained fashion, and therefore ensures the continuation of the same approach with radical and violent religious groups, we are likely to see a more serious rupture in relations with not only Germany but also other allies and partners across the world.