New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 4, 2016
Syria bloodshed: Will it only get worse in 2016?
By Brooklyn Middleton
When will Arabs realize their dreams and aspirations?
By Samar Fatany
How Iraq recaptured Ramadi and why it matters
By Ibrahim Al-Marashi
Ending the war in Syria
By Javier Solana
Politics, terrorism, and the state of denial
By Taj Hashmi
Syria Is The Middle Eastern Stalingrad
By Andre Vltchek
Syria bloodshed: Will it only get worse in 2016?
By Brooklyn Middleton
3 January 2016
The past year saw an increase in the number of foreign actors directly intervening in the bloody Syrian conflict, yet the humanitarian crisis has worsened and the security situation continues to deteriorate. Several issues should be immediately addressed in the first several months of 2016 while moving toward the broader goal of ultimately ending the conflict in the latter months.
Demanding all parties uphold U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 and committing to diplomatically and militarily engaging the Syrian opposition are both crucial. Secondly, the United States and Russia should amend the chemical weapons agreement – which was implemented after the Sarin massacre in 2013 - to bar the use of chlorine gas. Third, the focus of all talks in the immediate term should call for halting the Assad regime’s indiscriminate barrel bombing campaigns and facilitating the transfer of humanitarian aid to the most at-need areas. Meanwhile, Arab states should recommit to the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against degrading both al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIS) militant groups.
Russia has flagrantly violated resolution 2254 since its implementation in mid-December, bombing a number of hospitals and at least one school in Idlib province. Allowing signatories of the agreement to disregard it with impunity renders the document useless. Each violation should prompt an investigation and subsequent consequences. The U.N. should not wait for breaches to mount before addressing them but should instead convene a meeting each time locals report a violation.
The second issue that should be prioritized is the Assad regime’s continued usage of chlorine gas. An extremely regrettable consequence of the chemical weapons deal struck in 2013 is that it effectively allowed Assad to continue carrying out chemical warfare with impunity. Absent of any repercussions, the likelihood of another major chemical weapons massacre increases with every chlorine attack the regime carries out.
No excuses for stalled talks
Lastly, the focus of all negotiations and talks in the immediate future must seek to, first and foremost, halt the bloodshed. Efforts to do so should begin with the Assad regime, which remains responsible for the vast majority of deaths in Syria – much more so than barbaric ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters. It is worth reiterating that the U.S. will continue to call for Assad’s ousting while Russia and Iran will refuse to agree to such a reality; this major issue should not be used as an excuse for talks to stall.
While there can be no shift in the U.S.-held position that Assad must go, in the meantime, efforts should be made to deal with issues that can actually be immediately addressed. Debating the future of Assad’s grip on power and whether Syria will be ready for elections in the next calendar year is pointless while civilian areas are still being turned to rubble. The priority of talks in the absolute immediate term should be pressuring all parties to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid to areas in dire need, including in Madaya where reports indicate starving to death Syrians are being forced to eat cats to survive.
As these issues are addressed, Arab states still must re-commit to aiding the U.S. in its fight against ISIS. According to the New York Times in November 2015, eight Arab and Western states conducted only five percent of the thousands of airstrikes in Syria - a totally unacceptable percentage that underscores the fact that Arab states are not leading the fight against ISIS.
A number of agreements made abroad in recent years have not halted the bloodshed on Syrian soil. 2016 has to be year the international community follows through on all the red lines it has drawn in the sand. No progress can be made in ending the conflict if the resolutions already made are continuously abandoned.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies.
When will Arabs realize their dreams and aspirations?
By Samar Fatany
Sunday, 3 January 2016
There was very little to celebrate in the Arab world last year. The raging wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya destroyed homes, displaced thousands and killed many more. Terrorism was rampant, the threat of extremism and sectarianism was prevalent and discrimination against women continued. The region will remain in chaos and there will be no peace if we do not begin to seriously put our house in order and begin to admit our failures and shortcomings. Let the new year’s resolution be to put an end to conflicts and empower Arab citizens to pursue peace and prosperity and a future of hope and not despair.
The Arab youth today have lost faith in their elders and do not know where to turn. They remain vulnerable and that is why many are easy prey for ISIS and other terrorist organizations which provide them with false promises and hope for a better future.
The Arab world is faced with the challenge of keeping up with more advanced societies and learning from their experiences while keeping its own values and preserving its culture and Muslim identity. In more advanced countries, people of different cultures and different backgrounds have managed to live together without imposing their own convictions on one another and without compromising their own beliefs.
The Arabs are a proud people with a rich heritage but they have been let down by corrupt leaders. Arab leaders today have a responsibility to correct the mistakes of the past and end the conflicts and unrest that have destroyed peace in the Arab world.
It is very critical during these difficult years of turmoil to build character in our youth and give them the strength to persevere and overcome the threats and dangers within.
The Arab has always been known for his brave character and chivalry even in the most adverse situations. This is what we need to revive in Arab youth. They need to regain their pride and dignity.
Arabs do not have equal or adequate opportunities to excel. Many talented individuals with capabilities were not recognized in their own countries. However, they became successful surgeons and scientists when they were given the opportunity to excel in the West.
Every child should have the opportunity to receive a good education and every graduate should be able to pursue a career without any barriers or prior restrictions of gender, class, religion or ethnicity.
Young Arab men and women when they travel abroad are exposed to a new world of freedom and highly advanced societies. They interact with highly educated individuals who are engaged in scientific research and innovative discoveries to serve humanity and create a better world. The rule of law protects the rights of citizens and ensures that the law-abiding live in dignity and that criminals are put behind bars.
If you speak to any Arab student who has studied abroad, he will tell you that he wished his country could provide him with the life of freedom, opportunity and dignity that he has experienced when he lived abroad. Before the threat of terrorism and the rise of Islamophobia, Arabs generally, except for a few incidents, did not feel intimidated or alienated because of their color, race or status. Notably, the behavior of many Arab youth would change for the better during their stay in the U.S., Europe or elsewhere. One would find them more disciplined, more respectful and more appreciative of their surroundings. Why? Is it because the rule of law is not applied in their own countries? Or is it because they don’t feel appreciated and, therefore, they behave in a negative way?
Realizing Arab dreams and aspirations will be more difficult for future generations. Many remain skeptical because they are convinced that hard work and determination do not guarantee success. The greed and abuse of power that is practiced by some in Arab societies is slowly eroding their hopes and ambitions. Inflated expectations have frustrated many and the modern wealth structure that perpetuates racial and class inequalities between people of different ethnic backgrounds is a source of discontent.
We live in a world where business interests control all matters and the wealthy decide our future. Something must be done to put a stop to policies that support the influence of the rich and the powerful with agendas and selfish interests.
Every state has an obligation to allow for political freedom as well as to enforce law and order and every business leader has to share the responsibility of serving society and addressing public needs. Hopefully, a serious commitment by all stakeholders to contribute to nation building can help in realizing the hopes and aspirations of all the lost and neglected Arab youth today.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”
How Iraq recaptured Ramadi and why it matters
03 Jan 2016
For Iraqis the year 2016 has been ushered in with their military's capture of ISIL's headquarters in Ramadi, capital of the nation's Anbar province. In terms of what 2016 holds for the future, the military dynamics that led to the fall of Ramadi will serve as long-term harbinger of ISIL's ability to endure in Iraq.
Upon first glance, the fall of Ramadi appears to mean little for the long term campaign against ISIL. The recent victory brings Iraq back to the status quo as of May 2015, when Iraqi forces took retook Tikrit from ISIL towards the end of April, but then lost Ramadi right after. It took the Iraqi forces several months to return to this status quo. Over all, the victory would appear as a loss, as the Iraqi state won back Ramadi, but utterly devastated the city in the process.
However, in the long term perspective, the fall of Ramadi is a victory in terms of the lessons applied on the strategic-political level and the evolution of Iraqi military tactics, which signals a significant setback for ISIL.
The long battle for Ramadi
In terms of battlefield tactics, the battle for Ramadi took longer than other battles for cities such a Tikrit, which took more than a month to capture.
In Ramadi, as October 2015, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the official military of the Iraqi state, had reached the Albu Farraj area in the north of the city. In the following month, ISIL was weakened after a coalition of Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish militias retook Sinjar in the north, which severed ISIL's transportation artery from its capital in al-Raqqa, in Syria to Mosul, in Iraq.
From October to December, three months transpired before a final assault commenced to penetrate the center of Ramadi, starting on December 22, and ISIL's HQ fell on December 28, five days later. The slow pace was most likely due to preparing the Iraqi forces, first, for the final push, and second, doing so with minimal civilian casualties.
Whereas the battle for Tikrit primarily featured irregular Shia militias, the battle for Ramadi involved the (ISF), along with irregular tribal Sunni levies. This was not so much a battle for a city, but a battle by the Iraqi state to project that it still has a national army, and is willing to work with the Sunni tribes.
For the first time F-16 fighter jets flown by Iraqi pilots in the Iraqi Air Force had carried out strikes on ISIL positions. Their participation might have been token in comparison to US-piloted airstrikes, but nonetheless the fact that there is an Iraqi Air Force to speak of is significant.
Prior to the ISIL campaign into Iraq in 2014, the Iraqi Air Force consisted of a mere fleet of Cesna propeller planes outfitted with Hellfire missiles to target ground targets.
Furthermore, the composition of the Iraqi military forces, according to the Institute of War, included the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), formations from the 8th Iraqi Army Division, local police, and tribal fighters from the Anbar province.
The use of Sunni tribal fighters was most likely for political buy-in, since Ramadi is a predominantly Arab Sunni city, an attempt to downplay sectarian tensions when primarily Shia fighters took the majority Sunni town of Tikrit.
Rebuilding Iraq's national institution
On another level, the role played by national Iraqi forces in the fall of Ramadi also has implications for the creation of an inclusive sense of Iraqiness. A debate has ensued since the summer of 2014 as to whether one can claim that the Iraqi nation still exists.
Iraqi nationalism persists if one were to watch the Iraqi-state sponsored Al-Iraqiyya TV station, which features almost continuous coverage of the war front, along with images of the Iraqi military in action with nationalist songs playing in the background.
Watching this channel requires a suspension of disbelief. It is one of the Iraqi state's few institutions that can claim the Iraqi nation survives.
With the fall of Ramadi, the Iraqi military, which is featured prominently on this channel, can now also claim that it represents the national aspirations of Iraq. Again any Iraqi will know that the nation is divided among Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militias. For the legitimacy of Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi, the Iraqi military's victory in Ramadi is a testament of his ability to preside at the helm of what remains of the Iraqi state and nation.
What remains to be seen after the fall of Ramadi is the ability of the Iraqi military to develop a doctrine, or a series of lessons learned in the fighting that can be carried forward in the battle for Mosul. A BBC article revealed that the Iraqi military has benefitted from a learning curve during the months-long campaign to remove ISIL from Ramadi.
The Iraqi insurgency that erupted from 2003 primarily used hit-and-run tactics against US and Iraqi forces, tactics typical of a guerilla war meant to wear down the resolve of the enemy. As a result, the US training mission had focused on ensuring Iraq's new military could deal with this type of combat.
ISIL is different type of insurgent group, holding cities and territory, which required retraining the Iraqi military forces in sustained urban combat, fighting street-by-street, house-by-house.
This transformation of training the Iraqi military from counter-insurgency to urban combat explains why it took so long to be deployed on the front lines, creating a security vacuum which the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Shia militias filled.
ISIL's hold over territory since 2014 in both Iraq and Syria has been due to the numerous state and sub-state actors combating ISIL and their failure to come together to take on this group. For example several nations are involved in conducting air strikes against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, ranging from the US, UK, France, Russia, and Iran, and most recently the Iraqi Air Force in Ramadi.
But up until the fall of Ramadi, it had been sub-state actors, such as Syrian Kurdish militias and Iraqi Shia militias on the ground that deprived ISIL of territory. The Iraqi military has essentially just joined a decentralised military coalition along with Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Shia militias on the ground, combined with foreign nations providing most of the air cover. Whether the ISF can play a central role in this campaign to deprive ISIL of territory remains to be seen in 2016.
Ibrahim al-Marashi is an assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of "Iraq's Armed Forces: An Analytical History".
Ending the war in Syria
Monday 4 January 2016
New steps — albeit small and tentative — have been taken toward ending the war in Syria. The United Nations Security Council has adopted Resolution 2254, expressing its backing for a transition out of the conflict, and the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) has set a date for its next meeting.
But the ISSG comprises both allies and adversaries, meaning that continued progress will be a challenge. Now, another pair of countries in the process, Turkey and Russia, appear headed down the road to mutual enmity. Turkey, whose proximity to Syria generates both challenges and opportunities, could play an especially significant role in shaping how the peace process plays out. But Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on its border with Syria last month has spurred a swift and sharp deterioration in bilateral relations, with the Kremlin imposing retaliatory economic sanctions.
Russia, for its part, is facing the tough reality of maintaining an active military presence in the Middle East. Its efforts to bolster President Bashar Assad’s regime (and thus to strengthen its own role at the negotiating table) places it at odds with the countries that want Assad out.
The problem for Turkey is that it also aims to ensure that Kurdish groups — such as the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria, which is closely affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — do not consolidate control of territory in Syria, now or during the post-conflict reconstruction.
Since the summer, when several severe outbreaks of violence effectively ended a two-year old cease-fire between the PKK and the Turkish government, the Kurdish conflict in Turkey has once again been burning white-hot, raising fears about the impact of an empowered PYD. Ongoing domestic political upheaval, including two parliamentary elections in just six months, has complicated Turkey’s situation further.
Turkey’s opposition to empowering the Kurds has been a source of tension with its traditional ally, the United States, which believes the Kurds are the only force on the ground capable of fighting Daesh. The rekindled hostility between Turkey’s government and the PKK is thus undermining Turkey’s interest in the success of the Syrian peace negotiations. Amid these challenges, however, is a ray of hope: Turkey’s relations with the European Union have lately improved markedly. Europe’s desperation to resolve the refugee crisis has strengthened its incentive to cooperate with Turkey. This creates an important opportunity to restart negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU — a prospect that had been nearly extinguished.
To be sure, in its latest report on Turkey’s progress toward meeting the accession criteria, the European Commission noted “significant shortcomings” relating to the judiciary, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and appealed for the resumption of efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue. But now the mood is significantly improved. Already, the EU and Turkey have agreed on a joint-action plan, which entails some visa liberalization, and there has been talk of a possible “privileged” bilateral relationship.
Moreover, there has been some promising forward movement on the Cyprus issue, a longstanding impediment to Turkey’s EU accession. With Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders having resumed talks in May, Turkey now has the opportunity to take decisive steps toward uniting the island.
In short, the refugee crisis has tilted the EU toward Turkey. But defeating Daesh remains a top priority. This will require negotiating with Russia — something that EU members have recognized. Since the Paris attacks in November, efforts to strengthen cooperation against terrorism, including between France and Russia, have intensified. If Turkey wants its relationship with the EU to continue to improve, it will have to engage, too. The tension between Turkey and Russia has also hurt Turkey’s own position in Syria. Beyond the economic sanctions, Russia has now equipped its warplanes with air-to-air missiles, making it more difficult for Turkey to defend its airspace and maintain its influence over the northeastern Syrian border, an area that it considers critical to prevent the PYD from crossing the Euphrates to the West.
Turkey should reflect on its position. It cannot risk being perceived as a country that jeopardizes basic freedoms, thereby widening the gap with the EU. Two factors will sustain its position as an essential ally of the US and the EU: Improved relations with the Kurds and progress toward a settlement in Cyprus. In the Syrian peace process, the decisions Turkey makes can either drive or impede progress toward a settlement.
The myriad factors shaping Turkey’s position make decision-making very difficult. But there is a way out of the current tangle: A strategic approach that makes the most of rapprochement with the EU and recognizes the importance of stabilizing Syria as soon as possible.
Turkey recently demonstrated its ability to overcome complex challenges, wisely restoring full diplomatic relations with Israel after a five-year breach in ties. Given this, reconciliation with Russia cannot be ruled out. Such an approach would, no doubt, facilitate the management of a host of risks that have been exacerbated by the Syrian conflict.
Javier Solana is a former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of NATO, and Foreign Minister of Spain. ©Project Syndicate
Politics, terrorism, and the state of denial
January 04, 2016
Terrorism has re-emerged in Bangladesh – this time, with more vigour! For the first time ever, Bangladesh experienced suicide bombing in a mosque. On December 25, a terrorist blew himself up and injured a few people during the Jumma prayer inside an Ahmadiyya mosque at Bagmara in Rajshahi district. As per media reports, the dead terrorist was a member of the proscribed terrorist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), purportedly linked with the Middle East-based Islamic State (ISIS).
However, after going through about a dozen leading Bangladeshi newspapers since December 26, I'm disappointed by the sketchy, scanty and half-hearted coverage of this devastating news. Only a couple of analysts have shed any light on the grave danger. The state of apathy about the first suicide attack in the country makes it seem that suicide terrorism isn't that different from any other violent crime the country experiences every day!
There might be “international instigation” (as suggested by top leaders of the country) behind the resurgence of terror in Bangladesh, but as proven in the past, indigenous terror outfits – the JMB and HUJI (B) – can be as deadly. I believe there's no room for any complacency about terrorism having no place in Bangladesh because it's “not another Pakistan or Afghanistan” or because “Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians fought together to liberate this country”. No country is immune to terrorism, and you don't need foreign hands to stir it up.
Unfortunately, it hasn't yet dawned on our leaders and analysts that suicide terrorism may signal the beginning of the end of any semblance of stability, peace and order in the country. Contrary to the layman's understanding of suicide terrorism, as famous terrorism experts (including Robert Pepe) have argued, “dying to kill others” is a “rational” behaviour. Conversely, there is nothing rational about being smug and denying the unpleasant truth about the existence of indigenous terror groups in Bangladesh. I'm afraid that this overconfidence and denial of the reality might eventually backfire.
Syria Is The Middle Eastern Stalingrad
By Andre Vltchek
02 January, 2016
Day and night, for years, an overwhelming force has been battering this quiet nation, one of the cradles of human civilization.
Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been forced to flee abroad or have been internally displaced. In many cities and villages, not one house is left intact.
But Syria is, against all odds, still standing.
During the last 3 years I worked in almost all of Syria’s perimeters, exposing the birth of ISIS in the NATO-run camps built in Turkey and Jordan. I worked in the occupied Golan Heights, and in Iraq. I also worked in Lebanon, a country now forced to host over 2 million (mostly Syrian) refugees.
The only reason why the West began its horrible destabilization campaign, was because it “could not tolerate” Syria’s disobedience and the socialist nature of its state. In short, the way the Syrian establishment was putting the welfare of its people above the interests of multi-national corporations.
More than two years ago, my former Indonesian film editor demanded an answer in a somewhat angry tone:
“So many people are dying in Syria! Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier and better for Syrians to just give up and let the US have what it is demanding?”
Chronically petrified, this young woman was always searching for easy solutions that would keep her safe, and safe with significant personal advantages. As so many others in this time and age, in order to survive and advance, she developed a complex system resting on betrayals, self-defenses and deceptions.
How to reply to such a question?
It was a legitimate one, after all.
Eduardo Galeano told me: “People know when it’s time to fight. We have no right to tell them … but when they decide, it is our obligation to support them, even to lead them if they approach us.”
In this case, the Syrian people decided. No government, no political force could move an entire nation to such tremendous heroism and sacrifice. Russians did it during World War Two, and the Syrians are doing it now.
Two years ago I replied like this: “I have witnessed the total collapse of the Middle East. There was nothing standing there anymore. Countries that opted for their own paths were literally leveled to the ground. Countries that succumbed to the dictates of the West lost their soul, culture and essence and were turned into some of the most miserable places on earth. And the Syrians knew it: were they to surrender, they would be converted into another Iraq, Yemen or Libya, even Afghanistan.”
And so Syria rose. It decided to fight, for itself and for its part of the world.
Again and again, it retained itself through the elections of its government. It leaned on its army. Whatever the West says, whatever the treasonous NGOs write, the simple logic just proves it all.
This modest nation does not have its own powerful media to share the extent of its courage and agony with the world. It is always the others who are commenting on its struggle, often in a totally malicious way.
But it is undeniable that whilst the Soviet forces stopped the advance of the German Nazis at Stalingrad, the Syrians have managed to stop the fascist forces of Western allies in its part of the world.
Of course Russia got directly involved. Of course China stood by, although often in the shadow. And Iran provided support. And Lebanon-based Hezbollah put up, what I often describe as, an epic fight on behalf of Damascus against the extremist monsters invented and armed by the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
But the main credit has to go to the Syrian people.
Yes, now there is nothing left of the Middle East. Now there are more tears than raindrops descending on this ancient land.
But Syria is standing. Burned, wounded, but standing.
And as is being widely reported, after the Russian armed forces came to the rescue of the Syrian nation, more than 1 million Syrian people were able to return home … often to encounter only ashes and devastation, but home.
Like people returned to Stalingrad, some 70 years ago.
So what would my answer be to that question now: “whether it would be easier the other way”, to surrender to the Empire?
I guess something like this:
“Life has meaning, it is worth living, only if some basic conditions can be fulfilled. One does not betray great love, be it love for another person or love for one’s country, humanity or ideals. If one does, it would be better not to be born at all. Then I say: the survival of humankind is the most sacred goal. Not some short-time personal gain or ‘safety’, but the survival of all of us, of people, as well as the safety of all of us, humans.”
When life itself is threatened, people tend to rise and fight, instinctively. During such moments, some of the most monumental chapters in human history are written.
Unfortunately, during these moments, millions tend to die.
But the devastation is not because of those who are defending our human race.
It is because of the imperialist monsters and their servants.
Most of us are dreaming about a world without wars, without violence. We want true kindness to prevail on earth. Many of us are working relentlessly for such a society.
But until it is constructed, until all extreme selfishness, greed and brutality are defeated, we have to fight for something much more “modest” – for the survival of people and of humanism.
The price is often horrible. But the alternative is one enormous gaping void. It is simply nothing – the end, full stop!
In Stalingrad, millions died so we could live. Nothing was left of the city, except some melted steel, scattered bricks and an ocean of corpses. Nazism was stopped. Western expansionism began its retreat, that time towards Berlin.
Now Syria, quietly but stoically and heroically, stands against Western, Qatari, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish plans to finish the Middle East.
And the Syrian people have won. For how long, I don’t know. But it has proven that an Arab country can still defeat the mightiest murderous hordes.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. Discussion with Noam Chomsky:On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania - a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.