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Middle East Press ( 16 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press On Hopeless Plight of Rohingya and Armenian Genocide: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 October 2020

• Hopeless Plight of Myanmar’s Remaining Rohingya Exposed

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

• Why Is Turkey Absent From The Table Despite Being In The Field?

By Fehim Tastekin

• Senate Democrats Urge Library of Congress to Recognize Armenian Genocide

By Adam Lucente

• Time for Europe to Listen To the Iranian People

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

• Crucial Sunday for Cyprus

By Yusuf Kanli


Hopeless Plight of Myanmar’s Remaining Rohingya Exposed

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

October 15, 2020


A Rohingya woman walks at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp for internally displaced people in Pauk Taw, Rakhine state, Myanmar, April 23, 2014. (Reuters)


The Rohingya genocide in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar saw more than 1 million people flee from their homes across the border to neighboring Bangladesh. However, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Rohingya still remain in Myanmar and we do not often hear anything of them.

The reasons for that are as bad as you might imagine: The overwhelming majority of those hundreds of thousands of people are held in internally displaced persons camps. In fact, the reason why they did not flee the country during the military’s “clearing operations” in 2017-2018 was that they were already held in these camps.

Most of them have been there since 2012-13, when there was a huge flare-up of communal violence between them and some of their Buddhist nationalist neighbors in Rakhine. On that occasion, the assault against them was not directed by the federal army — even though some police and army personnel appear to have involved themselves in some of the actions on the aggressors’ side — and so most did not flee Myanmar entirely. Nevertheless, their villages were destroyed, so they had no option but to relocate to camps built by the government.

We have long since suspected, however, that the conditions in these camps are akin to imprisonment. A Human Rights Watch report released last week was finally able to shed some light on the conditions in the camps and they are as bad as feared: Less refugee camps as per international humanitarian norms, more concentration camps. The camps are completely economically sealed, there is barely enough food for everyone, and virtually no education, health services or sanitation to speak of. It is as if the authorities have put them in a holding pen and are simply waiting for them to wither and die.

Some manage to escape the camps and flee abroad. Indeed, whenever you hear news stories about boat refugees in the area, landing in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and so on, it is almost always groups of Rohingya who have fled from these camps in Myanmar. The boats are usually provided by people smugglers in a trade that is reminiscent of the one faced by refugees trying to make their way through Libya to Europe: Exorbitant amounts of money are extracted from the refugees and, in return, they are given vessels that are barely seaworthy. Often, the boats do not last the journey and everyone on board drowns — or, if they are extremely lucky, they might get rescued by the coast patrol of another country. If migrants are unable to pay the amounts required by the traffickers, they will either be held for ransom from their families or sold into slavery, typically to Thai fishing vessels, where they are once again treated as disposable resources and death is almost a guarantee.

In other words, those who managed to escape to Bangladesh three years ago were the lucky ones. And they know it. Nominally, the government of Myanmar is offering to allow them back. But their villages have long been destroyed and reapportioned to Buddhists. If they are to return, they will return to these prison camps, in conditions that are not just far worse than anything they are seeing in the difficult camps in Bangladesh, but in conditions expressly designed to rob them of any hope of a meaningful life, trapped between a state that is waiting for them to die and people traffickers who will try to make money off them regardless of whether they live or die.

This is why the Rohingya who made it to Bangladesh remain in Bangladesh, and why they should continue to remain in Bangladesh. Myanmar is very much the same country that drove them out three years ago and it remains committed to excluding them by any means necessary. It will drive them out again where it can, it will lock them away and wait for them to wither and die if they won’t go, and it will outright murder them if it has to.


Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a Director at Centre for Global Policy in Washington, D.C.


Why Is Turkey Absent From The Table Despite Being In The Field?

By Fehim Tastekin

Oct 15, 2020


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) arrive for a press conference after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry building in Ankara, on Oct. 05, 2020. Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Image


“We should be in the field in order to be at the table.” So goes the motto that has underlain Turkey’s foreign interventions in recent years. The policy, which upholds Turkey’s involvement in conflicts beyond its borders to boost its diplomatic say in the region, has achieved partial success in Syria but is failing to bear fruit in Libya and the Caucasus.

The roots of this thinking can be traced back to the 1990s, when then-President Turgut Ozal hoped to “put one and take three” by opening a northern front on Iraq in support of the United States in the Gulf War — an ambition he failed to realize due to stiff opposition from military and government seniors, some of whom resigned in defiance.

In March 2003, only five months after it came to power, the Justice and Development Party government sought parliamentary approval to team up with the United States in the invasion of Iraq, but it was rejected. Thirteen years later, however, the parliament greenlit Operation Euphrates Shield to curb Kurdish advances in Syria in what became the prelude to other Turkish military campaigns in Syria and beyond. “Being in the field” in Syria put Turkey “at the table” in the Astana process with Russia and Iran, though its military presence has not always meant diplomatic achievement.

In more recent crises, however, Turkey’s arm-twisting policy has made it a party to the conflicts, resulting in its exclusion from settlement platforms. The dialogue process that followed the fighting in Libya earlier this year and the efforts to end the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia since late September are cases in point.

On Oct. 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin sponsored an 11-hour meeting between the Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers, which resulted in a four-point cease-fire declaration that precludes any role for Turkey in the solution process in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a goal that Ankara has eyed through its resolute support for Azerbaijan. The declaration upheld the mediation of Russia, France and the United States, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, which has led settlement efforts since the conflict first erupted in the early 1990s, and asserted “the immutability of the negotiation format.”

Azerbaijan has argued for Turkey’s inclusion into the settlement process, either as a co-chair of the Minsk Group — a body created by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe — or through some other formula, but it has failed to convince its interlocutors thus far. After approving the terms of the cease-fire declaration, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev insisted that Turkey should be involved, only to be spurned by Russia and Armenia. UN Security Council resolutions have similarly upheld the Minsk Group as the settlement platform in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Despite its adamant posturing for an end to the Armenian occupation of Azeri territories and vocal questioning of the efficiency of the Minsk Group, Ankara is well aware of its limits in the Caucasus, a Russian sphere of influence for two centuries. It has no choice but to limit its ambitions to gaining some meaningful role on the Minsk platform. It would be ready to join a cease-fire monitoring mission proposed by the Minsk Group about a decade ago if such an initiative finally takes off. Confining the mission to some form of Turkish-Russian collaboration, similar to the Turkish-Russian joint patrols in Syria, would be an even better outcome for Ankara. This, however, would mean Russian acquiescence to role-sharing with Turkey, a highly unlikely prospect.

The latest developments in Libya have similarly shown how Turkey’s presence “in the field” is not working as expected, even though its military assistance for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) had tipped the scales in the war earlier this year. Egypt, which had threatened to intervene to stop the advance of the Turkish-backed forces, has managed to stay in the game as a mediator. Given Ankara’s bitter rivalry with Cairo that goes beyond Libya, Egypt’s hosting of talks between the Libyan parties is a clear indication of Turkey being side-lined from the process.

Most recently, the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives and Tripoli’s High Council of State met in Cairo Oct. 11-13 to discuss constitutional issues, with Egypt’s intelligence chief steering the dialogue. The negotiations followed UN-mediated military and security talks in the Egyptian city of Hurghada and other meetings in Cairo in September. Further talks on constitutional matters are expected to take place in Egypt.

The Turkish government, for its part, is seeking to influence the process via GNA representatives, who are frequent guests in Ankara. Of note, Germany’s efforts have also been instrumental in bringing the warring parties to the negotiating table.

Turkey’s involvement in Libya is closely related to its energy ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, which have fueled tensions with Greece and Cyprus in particular over territorial and exploration rights. Turkey has resorted to muscle-flexing in the seas as well, although it has had other means to force negotiations on the matter.

In short, Ankara has proven its ability to “spoil games” in conflict zones, as government proponents would brag, yet it is struggling to be a playmaker, falling short of the strategic approaches that playmaking requires. Several reasons can be cited for that failure.

Above all, Ankara’s field-table equation goes wrong because of the disparity between its goals and means. Despite being NATO’s second-largest standing force, Turkey tends to exaggerate its military deterrence in distant regions. The efficiency of Turkish armed drones in the conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus has led to an overblown sense of “strategic power,” though such power projection takes more than drones. The Libyan experience in particular has shown that Turkey’s military capabilities fall short in ventures far beyond its borders. Moreover, the government’s bragging about “fully indigenous” drones took a blow earlier this month as Canada suspended the export of crucial drone parts to Turkey.

How others perceive Turkey’s might is equally important. Ankara would frequently hurl threats that it cannot follow through. As a result, its warnings and threats have come to be often seen as blackmail or bluffing, designed for bargaining purposes, or as domestic grandstanding by a government that has grown reliant on the support of nationalist quarters.

Another downside stems from Ankara’s tendency to ignore or underestimate the close-neighbor factor in the regions where it intervenes militarily or becomes otherwise involved. Egypt’s clout in the Libyan crisis and Russia’s decisive role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict come as reminders in this context.

Turkey’s miscalculations owe also to its tendency to believe that the actors it backs will always adhere to its course of action. Yet neither its Libyan nor Azeri allies would like Turkey’s support to be as imposing as to leave them without room to maneuver.

Additionally, Turkey’s foreign policy has become overly quarrelsome, alienating allies and contributing to Turkey’s growing isolation in the international arena. And Turkey’s use of Syrian militants as an intervention tool in other conflicts is backfiring.

In sum, the growing militarization of Ankara’s foreign policy is eroding its diplomatic abilities. While failing to match the show of force, Turkish diplomacy has turned to a bellicose, quarrelsome and provocative language that makes it even harder to get results. Examples of how Turkey is losing credibility and leverage are increasing. To cite a few, Egypt has not only seized the initiative in Libya, but has nourished close ties with Russia to the point of holding joint military drills in the Black Sea. France has forayed into the Mediterranean showdown with an aircraft carrier, and the United States, too, appears inclined to back Greece and Cyprus as Turkey is increasingly seen as a “problem country” by its NATO allies and the European Union, despite its key geographic location and economic potential.


Senate Democrats Urge Library of Congress to Recognize Armenian Genocide

By Adam Lucente

Oct 15, 2020

Senate Democrats wrote a letter to the Library of Congress on Wednesday demanding the national institution refer to the 20th century killings of Armenians in Turkey as a “genocide.” The move comes at a time of friction between some members of Congress and the Trump administration on Turkey, and as Turkey has backed Azerbaijani forces against Armenian ones in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, signed the letter along with fellow Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The term Armenian genocide is often used to refer to the killings and forced displacement of Armenians from 1915-23 by Turks; Greeks and Assyrians were also killed. The Turkish government admits there were deaths, but adamantly disputes the events constituted a genocide.

The Library of Congress currently refers to the period as the “Armenian massacre” in its database. The senators wrote the letter in support of recent efforts by the University of California, Los Angeles and the Armenian National Committee of America to change this phrasing.

The Library of Congress’ position is consistent with that of the executive branch, which does not recognize the events as a genocide. The senators said the library should do so, however, because Congress does recognize the Armenian genocide.

“There is no statutory or constitutional basis for the Library of Congress to choose the State Department as the U.S. foreign policy authority on this topic over the U.S. Congress,” wrote the senators.

“The scholarly consensus is clear that ‘Armenian Genocide,’ not ‘Armenian massacres,’ is the most accurate description of this tragedy,” they added.

In December, the Senate voted to recognize the Armenian genocide, following the House of Representatives vote to do the same in October  2019. The administration of US President Donald Trump did not follow suit.

The United States has avoided recognizing the genocide for years so as not to harm relations with Turkey, which is an important NATO ally.

A Democratic Senate aide told Al-Monitor that the letter was also sent because of the Trump administration’s refusal to recognize the genocide.

US-Turkey relations improved in October 2019 when Trump repositioned US troops in northeast Syria, which allowed Turkey to attack Kurdish forces there. Many Democrats criticized the move.

Some members of Congress continue to criticize Turkish policy. In August, Menendez and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to demand he place sanctions on Turkey over its drilling and naval activity in the eastern Mediterranean. Greece, Cyprus and the European Union believe the areas in question are Greek and Cypriot territory.

There are Republicans in Congress critical of Turkey as well. In a September Senate hearing with State Department officials, Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana took a shot at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Clearly, Turkey has rapidly radicalized under Erdogan’s regime,” said Young.

Turkey has not responded to the Senate letter to the Library of Congress. When the Senate voted to recognize the Armenian genocide last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed it as a “political show.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also criticized Turkey on the campaign trail recently. This week, the former vice president called Turkish support for Azerbaijan in the war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region “irresponsible.”

The Senate letter does not mention the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.


Time for Europe to Listen To the Iranian People

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

October 15, 2020

Over the last four decades, European governments have implemented various policies toward Iran, but one thing has been made clear in this period: Appeasement of the ruling clergy only helps advance their hard-line agenda.

In 1992, the European powers experimented with a precarious policy toward Iran. They wagered that negotiating with the fundamentalist rulers of Tehran may end up changing their egregious behavior, especially at home. The regime’s human rights record was so appalling that Europe tried to rationalize its dicey rapprochement by pretending to have a “critical dialogue.” At the end of the fatal experiment, however, not only had the regime not modified its behavior, but it had ramped up its human rights violations and conducted bold terrorist attacks on European soil.

The critical dialogue policy was suspended in 1997 after the German judiciary indicted senior Iranian regime officials over terrorist killings in that country. Even the most basic realpolitik lesson learned should have been that appeasement emboldens the regime and makes the situation worse.

Following that logical line of thought, dialogue should have been replaced by holding the regime accountable for its past actions in order to prevent future provocations. Shockingly, however, the European capitals doubled down on a more conciliatory approach, engaging Tehran in even broader negotiations beginning in the early 2000s, ostensibly tackling Iran’s clandestine nuclear program.

A few short years after the conclusion of that attempt in 2015, the Belgian judiciary is on track to repeat what German courts found 23 years ago, but on a much larger scale. Next month, regime diplomat Assadollah Assadi will be put on trial in a breathtaking case that sees him accused of direct involvement in a terrorist plot in France.

Prosecutors say that, in June 2018, Assadi delivered 500 grams of the powerful explosive triacetone triperoxide to his accomplices with the aim of bombing an Iranian opposition rally in Paris. Had the plot not been discovered at the very last minute, the terrorist act could have left hundreds dead, including international dignitaries and many European parliamentarians.

Those parliamentarians and many of their colleagues are now furious that the EU is continuing with its failed policies on Iran, even as the regime’s terrorist plots become more daring and the human rights situation worsens by the day. More than 40 European Parliament members, as well as national MPs in Poland and Germany, last week addressed the issue in Brussels and Berlin, respectively.

They vociferously condemned the regime’s terrorism and ongoing crimes against humanity. Insisting on action rather than words, they also urged their governments to live up to Europe’s political and moral obligations by adopting a firm policy toward the regime, including shutting down its embassies.

The keynote speaker and one of the main targets of the regime’s terrorism over the past two years, including a plot in Albania and the one in France, was Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). She echoed the parliamentarians’ sentiments and insisted there should be no doubt that the regime is inherently incapable of moderating its behaviour, and the Iranian people should overthrow that it. This further highlighted the legitimacy and international recognition of the opposition as a viable democratic alternative. The NCRI’s message has had a meaningful impact both inside and outside Iran, forcing regime officials to warn about the growth of its reach and the drawing of the younger generation to its democratic 10-point plan.

Iran’s ongoing crimes against humanity have been swept under carpet by the EU for far too long. They are simply ignoring the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, the executioners of which continue to hold senior positions in the Iranian government. And, when Tehran last year killed 1,500 protesters and arrested and tortured 12,000 others, Europe simply watched from afar, contenting itself with occasional statements of condemnation.

More importantly, after several failed and costly rounds of dangerous experimentation with policies of appeasement and negotiations, the Europeans continue to make the same mistakes. As the famous quote reminds us, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Individual European governments and the EU as a whole would do well to listen to the voices of the Iranian people.

To stop Tehran’s provocations, especially its terrorism, Europe must hold the regime accountable for its foreign adventurism and its reprehensible repression of dissent and peaceful protests at home.

What should a firm policy include as its core measures? The EU should adopt legislation to expel Iranian “diplomats” and intelligence agents like Assadi, who may be plotting further terrorist attacks. They should consider closing down Iranian embassies. And, most importantly, they should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies as terrorist organizations.

When it comes to human rights, the EU should seek to send an independent international mission to investigate Iran’s ongoing crimes against humanity and visit the country’s prisons. It must tell Tehran that it should stop its executions before any further diplomatic engagement.

For once, Europe should adopt a sane policy on Iran: A policy that better detects Tehran’s threat while hearing the legitimate calls for democracy of the Iranian people. Otherwise, European insanity will continue to breed Iranian terrorism.


Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.


Crucial Sunday for Cyprus

By Yusuf Kanli

October 15 2020

After the Oct. 11 inconclusive first vote, two frontrunners of the first round will contest this Sunday for the seat of the president of the Northern Cyprus. One of them is incumbent socialist Mustafa Akıncı, a pro-federalist and the other is conservative National unity Party (UBP) leader and prime minister, Ersin Tatar, a supporter of a two-state settlement on the island.

Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey and its economic survival largely depends on strong financial assistance from Ankara. Particularly over the past few years since the collapse of the Cyprus talks at Crans Montana in July 2017, there has been a rift between Akıncı and the Turkish leadership and at several occasions. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu publicly accused the Turkish Cypriot leader of not telling the truth and betraying the fundamentals of the Cyprus talks position on which Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot government has established full understanding.

Interestingly, while Ankara has been actively supporting Tatar, mathematics on the ground indicate most likely that Akıncı might win a second term in office. What would be the impact of such an awkward situation, particularly, if Akıncı has been supportive of the Greek Cypriot’s demand to resume the Cyprus talks from where they collapsed in the summer of 2017, while Ankara and Turkish Cypriot conservatives say that before any new round of talks, the two sides on the island, the U.N. secretary-general and the three guarantor powers should come together at an informal summit to decide a new target and modality for the process as 60 years of talks in the previous format were proven doomed to fail.

Nasraddin Hodja, the great medieval folk hero of this region, is often said to have added some yeast to Akşehir Lake with the aim of turning it into a huge bowl of yoghurt. That, however, might have a greater chance of becoming reality than Greek Cypriots agreeing to share the island, its administration and sovereignty with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality, bi-zonality and bi-communality.

Another Nasreddin Hodja joke stresses that rather than who deserves or who should have something, “whoever pays for it blows the whistle.” Turkish Cypriots apparently disagree. Or do they really disagree? We shall see that in Sunday’s second round of voting. Would the electorate support an Akıncı who has been constantly in a rebellious mood against Turkey or a Tatar who has been in a full allegiance mode with the Turkish leadership?

Interestingly in the first round of voting in Nicosia, Kyrenia, Morphou (Güzelyurt), mostly populated by Turkish Cypriots, Akıncı came first, while he came third in the Iskele electoral district and second in Famagusta, whereas Tatar came first in both of those districts. What was the peculiarity of those two districts? Most mainland Turks who have acquired citizenship of the Turkish Cypriot state were living in those two districts. This is to say that the move to open the Varosha beach to the public, which is still under military control, as well as a ceremony to mark the resumption of water flow from the mainland through a repaired pipeline -- both actions that opponents have declared as Turkish manipulation in favor of Tatar -- have played well in those two regions.

Could Tatar manage to maintain his lead and win the presidency on Sunday? Indeed very difficult as the Republican Turks’ Party, whose candidate Tufan Erhürman came third with almost 22 percent of the vote in the first vote – decided to support Akıncı in Sunday’s election. Tatar’s victory hinges on his success to convince the almost 47 percent electorate, mostly disgruntled conservatives, who boycotted the first vote to go to the ballot box this Sunday and vote for him. Most of those people, however, were Turkish Cypriot nationalists who considered as manipulation and angered with Turkey’s strong support for Tatar. Could they be convinced to go to the polls and vote for Tatar? Very unlikely.

Thus, most likely, as was the case in the 2015 election, Akıncı will come back from the second position with the support of other socialists, social democrats and Turkish Cypriot nationalists and win a second term in office with over 65 percent of the vote.

In that case, how will a consolidated Akıncı presidency, continued budgetary dependency on Turkey and confronting political objectives between Akıncı, the majority in Turkish Cypriot Parliament, and the Ankara government cohabitate and contribute to any effort aimed at resolving the Cyprus problem?




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