Islam Edit Bureau
12 SEPTEMBER 2017
San Suu Kyi is choosing politics over human dignity
By Azeem Ibrahim
strategy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’
By Christian Chesnot
segregated America made Trump inevitable
By Donald Earl Collins
that airstrike in Hama means (and what it does not)
By Osama Al-Sharif
protection, Rohingyas and Modi-fied India
By C R Abrar
tries to win Syrian hearts and minds to keep Hezbollah away
By Loveday Morris
and smell the coffee
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Irma has devastated British territories – so why such little aid?
By Rupert Jones
Europe mull ways to bring Turkey into line
By Murat Yetkin
by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Restrict the President’s Power to Wage Nuclear War
JEFFREY BADER and JONATHAN D. POLLACK
SEPT. 12, 2017
For the first time in a generation, there is
widespread anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, stimulated by the
extreme tensions between North Korea and the United States. Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson has advised Americans that they can sleep safely at night, a
reassurance that most people probably wish they did not need to hear.
Mr. Tillerson offered his soothing counsel to deflate
media hype about recent threats and counterthreats exchanged between Pyongyang
and Washington. His words also reflect profound unease about the temperament
and judgment of the two leaders who could trigger inadvertent war: President
Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim appear to believe that bombast
serves their domestic needs. Both seem to think that they can dominate and
intimidate through the direst of threats. However, words can easily have
consequences that neither leader seems to grasp.
Should we be living in a world where two leaders can
stumble into a nuclear holocaust? North Korea’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear
weapons clearly requires a much-enhanced containment and deterrence policy by
the United States and its allies to prevent Mr. Kim from undertaking
ever-riskier options. But what can be done to constrain the actions of an
American president whose stability is now openly questioned, even by the
Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of
To limit the possibilities of an almost unimaginable
conflict, there is a need to pursue a long overdue legislative remedy.
Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can
declare war. Yet during America’s numerous wars since World War II, presidents
have never sought such authorization. The major reason? Nuclear weapons. There
was widespread agreement that the president needed maximum flexibility to
respond to a Soviet attack and that involving Congress would cause undue delays
in a moment of crisis. As a result, the president has had essentially unchecked
power to wage war, including launching a nuclear strike.
However, strategic planners understood the risks of
enabling a single officer in a silo in North Dakota, perhaps under the most
stressful conditions imaginable, to initiate a nuclear strike. The nuclear
command-and-control system therefore entailed a “two key” system requiring
simultaneous actions by two officers to activate a launch.
The time is long overdue to introduce comparable
checks at the highest levels of the executive branch. The strategic
circumstances faced by the United States today are altogether different from
those during the Cold War. Despite heightened tensions triggered by Russian
revanchism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, the real
risk of nuclear war emanates from a rogue actor, and North Korea heads the
list. Almost casual presidential invocations of fire and fury have rendered
circumstances far more dangerous.
The United States should in no way diminish its
ability to respond to a nuclear or conventional attack by North Korea against
United States territory or the territory of an ally. However, we should put in
place a system of constraints to ensure that a preventive or pre-emptive
nuclear strike by the United States must be evaluated through a careful,
Congress should therefore amend the War Powers Act to
cover the possibility of preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strikes. This would
ensure that the president could not simply provide the codes to his military
aide carrying the nuclear “football” and launch such an attack on his own
Legislation should provide for a small group of
officials, possibly including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the four leaders of the House and
Senate, to give unanimous consent to any such nuclear strike. It would ensure
that multiple sets of eyes, equipped with stable emotions and sound brains,
would be able to prevent such a nuclear strike undertaken without appropriate
This proposal would raise difficult constitutional
questions. All presidential administrations have deemed the War Powers Act to
be unconstitutional. Giving officers appointed by the president and subject to
his direction formal veto power over military decisions could be problematic
and precedent setting. If so, confining the veto power to the congressional
leadership might be a preferable alternative.
Even during the Cold War, there was great risk in
ceding to one person the ability to kill millions in a flash. There is no good
reason to enable an American president to retain absolute authority in
circumstances completely unlike those faced during the Cold War.
Assurances that nuclear weapons remain an option of
absolute last resort, to be considered only after the concurrence of leaders
from the executive branch and from the Congress, would also calm the nerves of
United States allies deeply troubled by loose talk about the resort to nuclear
This is not to suggest that President Trump nurses
some secret desire to launch a nuclear attack. However, the United States needs
to act very prudently in dealing with an isolated and uniquely adversarial
state. For its part, Congress has the power to prevent hair-trigger responses
or impulsive actions that could lead to nuclear war.
Jeffrey Bader was a senior adviser to President Barack
Obama on Asia from 2009 to 2011. Jonathan D. Pollack is a senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution, specializing in Korea and China, and was a professor at
the United States Naval War College.
Myanmar is once again making headlines for all the
wrong reasons. After the Rohingya crisis of 2012-2013 and after the South East
Asian migration crisis of 2015, people were hopeful that the situation in the
country would start to turn a corner.
The first proper democratic elections in decades in
the country took place in November 2015 and these elections propelled to power
Nobel Peace Prize icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy movement. For a
while, international observers and the oppressed peoples of Myanmar alike have
allowed themselves to hope that the worst had already passed, and that the
future could be a better place.
In the past few weeks, however, all those hopes have
Late last year, a group of insurgents who call
themselves the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) started attacking
security outposts belonging to the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, the native...
ISIS seems to have revamped its strategy of terror, as
evidenced by its latest attacks in Spain, Finland, Russia and Belgium. Unable
to hold on to its territories in Iraq and Syria in the wake of relentless
strikes by the international coalition, ISIS has now adopted the strategy of
delivering “death by a thousand cuts,” to show that it has not capitulated.
This strategy aims to increase the number of terrorist
attacks outside the Middle East, ranging from small-scale and rudimentary
assaults (for example knife attacks or ram raiding) to more sophisticated
operations (such as car bombings and suicide blasts).
The important thing here is the emphasis on striking
at random and indiscriminately, anywhere and at anytime in order to create a
sense of heightened anxiety and desperation among security forces and the
ISIS hopes to bleed its adversaries by delivering so
many cuts that it hopes them to eventually give up the fight out of sheer
exasperation. This is the goal of the terrorists, but will they be successful
in achieving it?
It is now abundantly clear that the present spate of
terrorist attacks is here to stay. This is not a temporary wave as the breeding
grounds for terrorists in the Arab-Muslim world seem inexhaustible, be they in
the West, in Africa or in Asia.
The return of terrorists from the Iraqi-Syrian war
theatre to their countries of origin and the increase in the number of local
radicals does not exactly portend a bright future.
However, overplaying the strategy of conducting as
many terrorist strikes as possible may eventually prove counterproductive for
the purveyors of terror. First, the shock and surprise factor would start to
wear off. Security services around the world would be better prepared and
equipped to pre-empt or tackle any terror threat.
There can never be foolproof security but the noose
around the terror networks has already begun to tighten. Cooperation between
countries, in particular within Europe, is already improving and investigations
into these incidents are being conducted much quicker these days.
Only a few hours after the Barcelona attack on the Las
Ramblas, the news was out that terrorists had been on whirlwind trips to France
before the attacks. But the challenge to neutralize the terrorists and their
morbid strategy is not just a security concern, it is a fundamentally societal
Public opinion has now incorporated the risk posed by
terrorism into their lives. A form of resilience or fatalism is gradually
building. After the attacks on the Las Ramblas of Barcelona, tourists did not
run out of fright. People continued to frequent the beaches, bars and major
tourist sites, even the Church of Sagrada Familia which had been targeted by
The more the terrorists strike, the more civil
societies come together and show solidarity, like the common refrain heard in
Catalonia: ‘No tinc por!’ (“I am not afraid!”). In short, contrary to their
expectations, terrorists are facilitating a new-found solidarity in the
population, wherever they hit.
Clash of civilizations
The other objective behind carrying out the recent
string of terrorist attacks is to trigger a clash of civilization between
Christians and Muslims in Europe and elsewhere. Despite the firebrand rhetoric
of extreme right-wing populist parties in the continent, the vast majority of
citizens have not fallen prey to confusing Islam with terrorism.
After every attack, many Muslims of Europe participate
in demonstrations showing solidarity with the victims and shout out loud and
clear: “Not in our name!”
It is becoming increasingly clear that terrorists have
hijacked a religion, which only serves as a cover for them. Research shows that
many of the terrorists suffer from psychological disorders while many others
follow a nihilist mindset and express their unhappiness through their suicidal
tendencies and acts of violence.
Also read: Saudi Arabia foils ISIS attempt to attack
There are also problems related to socioeconomic
integration of some of these elements in Western societies. In short, there are
more important factors than religion that create terrorists.
A former French anti-terrorist judge Marc Trévidic
once narrated an interesting anecdote, which speaks volumes about the mindset
of these terror recruits. He once asked a radicalized youth if he had read the
Qur’an. In his response, the accused admitted with confusing frankness: “The Quran?
I do not care about the Quran! What I’m interested in is jihad!”
Christian Chesnot is grand
reporter at Radio France in Paris in charge of the Middle East affairs. He has
been based as correspondent in Cairo and Amman. He has written several books on
Palestine, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf. Chesnot tweets @cchesnot.
Donald Earl Collins
Let there be no doubt. US President Donald Trump is a
mercurial, inept, me-first racist. In recent weeks, Trump has thrown in with
Charlottesville's white supremacists and pardoned known anti-immigrant
xenophobe Joe Arpaio. Trump has pursued an agenda of rescinding more and more
of President Barack Obama's executive orders, including the Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals (DACA), potentially leading to the deportation of
undocumented immigrants who were children when they came to the US.
Trump's behaviour isn't unprecedented. His racist,
incompetent, and callously narcissistic performance as president shares
similarities with that of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan,
Woodrow Wilson, and Richard Nixon. And although he continues to follow the lead
of some of America's most racist and inept presidents, he continues to retain
many of his supporters.
Millions of supposedly non-racist Americans - people
who say they wouldn't align themselves with Neo-Nazis - continue to support
Subconscious hatred or fear alone cannot fully explain
why they tacitly support the Trump administration's racist and xenophobic
policies, and Trump's racist and xenophobic words and deeds along with them.
The answer to this question lies in understanding the
power of racial advantage and narcissistic self-gratification, the combination
of which has made the Trump presidency possible. All that power is embodied in
the reality of segregation in the US. Its diffusion in all aspects of American
culture and life reinforces the idea of white superiority over Americans of
colour and of America as a perpetually great and righteous nation, even as it
isolates whole social and racial groups of Americans.
Racial and social segregation and the dominant white
Residential segregation is the root cause of all other
forms of segregation in the United States. Its immediate effect is that white
children tend to go to school isolated from interaction with children of
colour. As education expert Diane Ravitch wrote in her 2013 bestseller Reign of
Error, "Today, racial segregation remains a pervasive fact of life for
millions of black [and equally impoverished Hispanic] children, primarily as a
result of residential segregation." Working-class and poor whites are
residentially segregated not only from all social classes of Americans of
colour, but also from affluent whites.
At the same time, white children tend to be almost
exclusively taught by white teachers. Currently, nearly five out of six
teachers in the US (82 percent) are white, and the majority of teachers of
colour teach in school districts where students of colour are predominant.
But segregation goes even deeper than residential
neighbourhoods and school district demographics. Knowledge and cultural
segregation are equally damaging. It means most teachers consistently teach
from a "hidden curriculum", one that accentuates the ideas, actions,
and perspectives of whites over those of any other group. The "worldviews
of those with privileged positions are taken as the only reality,"
educator Lisa Delpit wrote in Other People's Children (1995).
For students of colour, this means public education
serves more as a prison and less as a level playing field. For white students,
this cultural segregation and knowledge exclusion makes for an appalling
ignorance of the full American experience - with its cultural richness and
racial diversity - reinforces racial stereotypes and strengthens the inability
to critically interrogate the surrounding world.
And despite the overwhelming privilege the white
narrative enjoys in American schools, there are still attempts to extend its
domination and subvert initiatives to teach diverse points of view. One such
example is the state of Arizona's ban on ethnic studies which led to a school
district dismantling a Mexican American studies programme. US federal district
court judge A Wallace Tashima ruled the Arizona ban was unconstitutional,
stating that both "enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial
Receiving homogenised education favouring a single
narrative, many white Americans unsurprisingly are primed to agree with a
president who consistently says they need to "take their country
back" from Muslim "terrorists" and Mexican "rapists".
It is much easier for them to enthusiastically endorse an anti-Mexican
Islamophobe when their life experiences limit them to a whites-first,
whites-only, and whites-everywhere world.
America's political parties have promoted of political
segregation and exclusion. A favourite approach has been gerrymandering: the
purposeful redrawing of voting district borders in order to ensure the
domination of certain votes and the exclusion of others. The more popular
method these days, though, is voter suppression: implementing policies which
discourage or prevent people from voting.
This strategy, of course, aims at excluding mostly
younger voters and voters of colour from political participation altogether.
Voter suppression is a clear signal to the country that white and affluent
voters are the ones who matter the most. It is no accident that the Republican
Party has been the prime mover in these efforts in recent decades.
It is also not surprising that segregation and
exclusion are something Trump knows well. After all, he grew up in affluent,
lily-white Jamaica Estates in Queens, New York in the 1950s, and he worked for
his father in the 1970s. The US Justice Department sued the Trumps in 1973 for
housing segregation and exclusion against black and Puerto Rican applicants, a
case the department successfully settled in 1975.
The perceived benefits of racial segregation and
exclusion may be mostly symbolic and psychological, but for so many poor and
working-class whites, the idea that the US is their country and the belief that
the US is a great nation are very much linked. For they think that without
them, the US would simply fall apart.
The irony is that Trump's presidential actions have
shown that he is quite eager to exclude most of his white supporters from the
benefits of social class mobility: by dismantling pathways to affordable
housing, defunding public schools and defanging student loan borrower
protections, and refusing to support green jobs.
There's no guarantee that less segregation and
exclusion will prevent another Trump from becoming president in the future. But
maybe it would keep millions of Americans from being so naive as to believe
that a racial segregationist and social-class exclusionist like Trump would
look out for their best interest.
Donald Earl Collins is an associate professor of
history at University of Maryland University College. He is also the author of
Fear of a "Black" America: Multiculturalism and the African American
13 September 2017
An Israeli airstrike last Thursday near Hama in
western Syria was the biggest since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. The
Assad regime says the target was a scientific research facility. Israel says it
was a missile production plant used by Iran to develop chemical weapons for
In the past, when Israeli jets have targeted military
convoys linked to Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the regime, the Syrian
government has warned of grave consequences and threatened to retaliate at the
appropriate time. But both the regime and Hezbollah have been careful not to
get dragged into a confrontation with Israel.
The timing of the Israeli attack is telling. It
followed clear Israeli objections to a deal between the US and Russia, agreed
in Amman in Jordan in July, to implement a cease-fire in southwest Syria. Full
details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but it is thought to limit
the presence of Iranian backed militias in that area that borders Jordan and
the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Amman requested, and apparently received,
guarantees that non-Syrian government forces will respect a 30 to 40 km distance
from its borders. The same should apply to Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu has made his displeasure at the deal public on a number of
In August, he dispatched his Mossad chief to
Washington to deliver Israeli concerns. It is not clear what Israel wants, but
it is obvious that it is worried about a long-term Iranian presence in post-war
Syria and Hezbollah’s access to advanced missile technology. Netanyahu himself
flew to the Russian resort of Sochi on Aug. 23 to meet Russian President
Vladimir Putin and present his case, but he returned empty handed.
As much as Netanyahu has tried to shake the Russian
alliance with Tehran, and by extension the apparent support from Moscow for a
Hezbollah presence in Syria, his efforts appear to have failed. The Israeli
press disclosed that Moscow had put pressure on the UN Security Council to
remove reference to Hezbollah and its military activities in southern Lebanon
from the final draft resolution on the UNIFIL mandate last week.
Despite the official Israeli stance that it has no
preference on the outcome of the Syrian conflict, it is naive to believe that
it is not following military and strategic developments with keen interest. Its
dubious ties to extreme rebel groups in southwestern Syria raise questions
about its motives and objectives. Certainly, a weak and divided Syria that is
engulfed in chaos for years would suit long-term Israeli interests.
For Tel Aviv, the Syrian regime remains technically at
war with Israel, even though the Golan front has been quiet for over four
decades. The two sides have fought indirectly through proxies a number of
times, starting with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and most recently,
in 2006, with Hezbollah.
A regime collapse in Syria would create a geopolitical
upset for the region, including Israel, but its survival thus far has presented
a more difficult set of challenges. The Russian military intervention in 2015
changed the dynamics of the conflict. The US recoil from the Syrian conflict,
which was started by President Barack Obama and continues under his successor,
has firmly established Moscow as the power that has the final say over the
future of Syria.
Aside from this, Iran and its proxies were
instrumental in paving the way for a regime comeback when the Syrian army was
on the verge of defeat. It is not clear where Moscow stands on Iranian
ambitions to create a land corridor between Tehran and Beirut, via Baghdad and
Damascus; something that presents Israel with an existential challenge.
The recent Israeli airstrike was meant to send
messages in various directions.
Despite absolute control of Syrian skies by Russia and
its deployment of a sophisticated air defense system, Israeli jets were able to
hit their target without hindrance. Some reports suggested that Israeli jets
launched the strike from Lebanese airspace. The strike is meant to underline
Israeli readiness to take pre-emptive action in Syria regardless of third party
agreements that do not meet its security concerns.
But the strike does not change the new geopolitical
reality in Syria. For now, Iran and Hezbollah, bitter enemies of Israel, are
part of a new power structure that is taking shape there. This reality offers a
number of scenarios for future confrontations. Certainly, recent Israeli
military exercises designed to simulate a war with Hezbollah underline its
apprehension over the group’s presence in Syria along with archenemy Iran.
• Osama Al-Sharif is a
journalist and political commentator based in Amman.
By C R
During a visit to India in 2013 as UN High
Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres observed, “India's refugee policy
is an example for the rest of the world to follow.” He rightly noted “India
with its history, culture, traditions, is today an example of generosity in the
way it has opened its borders to all people who have come looking for safety
Although not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention
and its 1967 Protocol, since independence, India embraced a diverse range of
refugees fleeing persecution in their own lands. It provided shelter to 80,000
Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama after the abortive uprising in 1959.
Subsequently, more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees came and of them 120,000
remain in India today. The Indian government extended support to the Tibetan
refugees to settle in the country pending their return to Tibet, which never
happened. In 1971, in the wake of Bangladesh's Liberation War India again
experienced influx of about ten million Bangladeshis. It opened the border,
sheltered the refugees and appealed for international assistance. Within a year
almost all returned home following the liberation of Bangladesh and defeat of
the Pakistan occupation army, an event in which India played a seminal part for
which we are grateful. Again, during the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s
and 1990s, tens of thousands of Tamils sought shelter in the southern Indian
states. 64,000 have remained in India. The reputation of India as safe
sanctuary attracted the Afghans during their troubled times. India still hosts
about 10,000 Afghan refugees. Likewise, the policy of military solution to the
Chittagong Hill Tracts problem led to the inflow of 55,000 hill people into
Tripura. The peace accord in 1997 created conditions for the return of the hill
refugees to Bangladesh.
Although India's treatment of various groups of
refugees varied, the country earned international accolade for keeping its door
open to the persecuted. Hosting refugees with different cultural backgrounds
and faiths often in economically depressed regions was not an easy task. The
astute liberal political leadership rose to the challenges; including those
often posed by the hostile host population, and defended the refugees. At
certain points when that was deficient the National Human Rights Commission and
the higher judiciary stepped in to protect refugees. Recent developments
centring the Rohingya, however, signal a departure from this elevated stand.
Over a period of time a number of persecuted Rohingya
refugees found their way to India. They entered the country from western Arakan
state, some after a stint of stay in Bangladesh. The series of atrocities
committed by the Burmese security forces and the militant Buddhists in recent
years led to the swelling of their ranks. Many have settled in Jammu,
Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan. The Indian
government claims the number to be 40,000, while the UNHCR puts the figure at
On September 4 the Additional Solicitor General,
representing the central government, reportedly informed the Supreme Court that
it will not give any assurance to Rohingya refugees that the government will not
deport them back to Myanmar. This response came when the apex court probed the
government's stand on a petition challenging its decision to deport Rohingyas
in irregular status to Myanmar. Two refugees registered with the UNHCR, India,
filed the plea.
A day later as Prime Minister Modi began his maiden
visit to Myanmar, a junior minister of Home Affairs informed the local media
“whether the Rohingyas are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner
of Refugees or not, they are illegal immigrants in India…as per the law they
stand to be deported.” Media reports inform that in April senior government
functionaries discussed plans for the “detection, arrest and deportation” of
Such developments heightened the insecurity of and
occurrences of discrimination against the Rohingyas. The scope for securing any
form of legal status for these hapless Rohingyas in India appears to be
shrinking fast. Increasingly they are being branded as “illegal immigrants”.
Jurists have noted that the proposed deportation would
be contrary to the constitutional protection of Article 14 (right to equality)
and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of
India. The deportation order would also be in contravention of the Principle of
Non-Refoulement, widely recognised as a standard of international customary
law. The petitioners reminded the government that India ratified and is a
signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of
Non-Refoulement that proscribes deportation of people to a country where they
may face threats to their lives. They sought that Rohingya people be provided
“basic amenities to ensure that they can live in human conditions as required
by international law.”
It appears that Rohingya refugees in India have become
convenient scapegoats in a polity where reason and tolerance are increasingly
losing ground to hatred and prejudice. It may also be the case as Ravi Nair
notes, “Out manoeuvred on the influence imprint in Myanmar by China at every
point of engagement India's only diplomatic ploy is security rabbit it pulls
out of Islamophobic terrorist threat campaign (Indian Express, September 7).”
Members of Rohingya community, both in Arakan and in India, have thus become
dispensable pawns in such reckoning.
One wonders, sitting in his UN Plaza office in dreary
wet evenings, what crosses the mind of the now UN Secretary General Gutteres as
he learns India's turnaround in refugee protection, a country on which once he
lavished his praise.
C R Abrar teaches
International Relations at the University of Dhaka.
September 12, 2017
Good Neighbours programme which began treating the
injured has expanded into a complex operation that also sends supplies into
It is 4.30am and pitch dark when the sick Syrian
children and their mothers begin to cross into Israel.
There's a one-year-old girl with a squint, and a
two-year-old with a birth defect that prevents him from walking. The family of
a slight 12-year-old is concerned that she is not growing. One child has a
rash, another a rattling cough.
They emerge from the darkness into the yellow glare of
the security lights on the Israeli side of the fence in the occupied Golan
Heights, where they are searched before being allowed through. There are 19
children in total, a smaller group than most that appear roughly every week.
The children are allowed in as part of Israel's
"Good Neighbours" programme, which began treating injured Syrian
fighters and civilians in the early days of their country's civil war but has
expanded into a more complex operation that also sends fuel, food and supplies
Israeli officials stress the humanitarian aspect of
the programme, but it has another aim: to create a friendly zone just inside
Syria to serve as a bulwark against Israel's archenemy, the Shia movement
Israel has watched anxiously as President Bashar Al
Assad has taken the upper hand in Syria's war with the aid of Hezbollah and
Iran, its main backer, which are building their presence across the border.
But for the moment at least, Sunni rebel groups
control most of the Syrian side of the 45-mile boundary between the two
countries. Israel hopes to keep it that way.
Israeli military officers denied giving direct
assistance to any of the Sunni groups along the border fence that oppose
Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, or even coordinating humanitarian aid with
them. But a former senior intelligence officer with the Israel Defence Forces
said Israel has provided support to about a dozen groups, and may have given
financial assistance "here and there."
Israel has transferred 360 tonnes of food, nearly
120,000 gallons of gasoline, 90 pallets of drugs, and 50 tons of clothing as
well as generators, water piping and building materials, the IDF says.
"There was an understanding that if we weren't
there, somebody else would influence them," Ben-Meir said. The
humanitarian motivation was "huge," he added. "But the more it
got bigger and expanded, the more it had to do with winning these hearts and
Closer ties also mean richer intelligence. Officially,
Israel has maintained a neutral position in Syria's war, but it has intervened
to protect its interests. Throughout the conflict, assassinations and
airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israel, though the government
rarely publicly acknowledges them.
In the latest strike Syria accused Israel of bombing a
military facility linked to rocket production for Hezbollah.
The programme is reminiscent of the early days of
Israel's "Good Fence" programme in Lebanon as civil war broke out
there in 1975. The defence minister at the time, Shimon Peres, stressed the
purely humanitarian nature of the project to establish a "good
neighbourhood" as Israel treated Lebanese refugees and sent assistance to
the country's south with "no strings attached."
But then Israel was also trying to prevent
encroachment by Palestinian guerrillas, and threw its support behind the South
"It's easy to assume that we are doing it because
someone you give a favour to, you get one back," said Maj Sergey Kutikov,
head of the Good Neighbours medical department, as he walked toward the border
to meet the patients. The IDF members leave their military vehicles behind, so
as not to attract attention. "But the reason in my mind is really to give
Unlike Syria's other neighbours, Israel does not take
in refugees, though it recently agreed to accept 100 Syrian orphans. Israel has
been in a state of war with its northern neighbour for nearly 70 years.
"They always look stressed when they cross,"
Kutikov said. "They don't know what to expect."
As the sky began to lighten, the families boarded a
bus to make the nearly hour-long journey to a hospital on the edge of the Sea
of Galilee. The Syrians are given priority over other patients, staff members
said. The top specialists were summoned. A clown entertained the children.
"The regime left us nothing," said a Syrian
doctor who crossed with the group. He said two rockets landed in his operating
room a year ago. He began coming two months ago, despite being afraid of the
consequences of people finding out. "I did it for the sake of the
children," he said. "We've seen a lot, we've seen death."
While most of the area along the fence is controlled
by Sunni rebel groups, a small section is held by the Assad regime, and another
is controlled by Daesh.
Kutikov said there is no contact with rebel groups
across the border. Ben-Meir said it isn't necessary.
"Usually, the guys involved in agriculture, in
feeding the population, in taking care of the health situation, are the same
guys that are responsible for defending them and fighting against the
regime," Ben Meir said.
One rebel group, Fursan Al Golan, receives about
$5,000 a month from Israel, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
A cease-fire in the area is largely holding. But both
Israel and the communities on the border are concerned that it is probably only
a matter of time before Assad tries to take back the territory.
A medic across the border, who spoke on the condition
of anonymity for security reasons, said that Israel was creating
"tyrants" by supporting certain groups but that most people would
rather turn to Israel than to the regime.
"I was reluctant at the beginning to come to
Israel," said the mother who was hoping Israeli doctors could fix her
daughter's squint. "We can only get treatment in regime-controlled areas,
but it's too dangerous. I have family who are martyrs and prisoners, and my
brother and father are wanted."
One seven-year-old girl was on her third trip to
Israel for problems stemming from an airstrike three years ago that killed her
twin brother. Her mother said a local commander told them to go to Israel.
"At first I was afraid, but then I saw that the
treatment was superb," the 36-year-old woman said. "We were told they
are the enemy, but in reality, they are friends."
Heba Habib in Stockholm and Sufian Taha in the Golan Heights contributed
to this report
THERE are many expatriates here who have lived for
decades in Saudi Arabia and have successfully forged for themselves and their
families a prosperous future. Having said that, it has not taken away the
concern they have for their country’s welfare and state of being. In the case
of Pakistanis here, there have been some misgivings expressed by long-term residents
concerned about their country’s welfare.
One such individual is Mohammed H. Zakaria, CEO of
Saudi Steel. He writes: I was sad and in a state of loss to listen to our
defense minister statement who said that ‘it won’t be easy for the US to target
or attack Pakistan’. It is really sad to see how stupid and immature our
leadership and their mindset is, they are expecting and preparing for a combat
with the Americans and Afghans.
‘The blind and stupid leadership is not seeing that
the country is on a brink of an economic crash very soon. We are stupidly
thinking or dreaming that China will fill the economic vacuum created by the
Western block, which includes Japan and Korea etc. In fact, our economic policy
has long gone into deep freezer ever since we formed alliance with the
Americans to fight jihad against the Russians so the Afghans may remain FREE.
‘We are in a full state of war since 1965 with more
than one country, which has hampered our economic growth, we haven’t learned
from the history that what destroyed the once mighty nations was WAR. We are
waiting or expecting miracles to happen to our country while we are doing
nothing to fix our own problems or our lifestyle or our mindset.
‘There are a few basic things that we have to adopt
before it’s too late for us to save ourselves from bankruptcy and slavery.
1. Stop lavish goods import immediately.
2. Stop capital flight at any cost, legal or illegal.
3. Diversify export products and countries both, by
reducing reliance on any one country or one product or one currency.
4. Remind the nation every day that we are a poor
nation and can›t afford to import and pay for luxury goods, including
mobile/smart phones, electronic gadgets, luxury or large size vehicles and
crude oil etc. to run excessive cars and air-conditioners.
Publish a list of import bill on a daily, weekly or
monthly basis stating, where we are blowing our foreign currency earnings, how
much on crude oil, vehicle imports, mobile phones and electronic gadgets,
medical treatment, education, debt servicing, fast food (foreign) franchise
fees, Coke, Pepsi, Unilever and P&G etc. goodwill/earnings/capital
Stop thinking and believing and change our nation’s
mindset that a nation’s prosperity is its affordability to consume Western fast
food, soft drinks, use smart phone and drive a luxury car, never mind all on
debt/borrowed money. Does anyone care how much these soft drinks, shampoos,
toothpaste, burgers etc. are costing this poor nation and that we are borrowing
in foreign currency to pay for these products and services.
We cannot start our day without an American
toothpaste, an American shampoo, an American razor and an American burger and
yet we are telling the nation to brace for an American attack, a nation that is
totally unprepared and unwilling for such an economic blockade, we have no idea
that such an economic blockade will double or triple the cost of these imported
goods and services because we are totally unprepared and unwilling to live
‘We can survive such a blockade or sanctions but we
have to prepare the nation and tell them the truth, that we can›t afford all
such imported luxuries, show them the real picture and start implementing it
from today. Thank you. — Mohamed H. Zakaria.’
Mohammed’s message is a form of ‘wake up and smell the
coffee.’ His words could well be a warning to many countries in the region as
well as unrestrained and misdirected spending can eventually catch up and bite
— The author can be reached at email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena
12 September 2017
Hurricane Irma, now seemingly in its final throes, has
shattered Caribbean islands for which the UK is ultimately responsible. The
government now appears to be taking that responsibility more seriously: the
foreign secretary, Boris Johnson said he will spend the coming days visiting
the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Anguilla, two of the British dependencies
worst hit by Irma. This is beginning to look like an appropriate response.
Until last year, I served as attorney general for
Anguilla and my thoughts are with friends and all those who have died or have
lost homes and businesses. Media attention will soon move on but the aftermath
for many will be grim for months to come: no home, no power, no schools. This
will be compounded if the UK’s reconstruction effort is not quick and
effective. Equally, we must be careful of colonial attitudes to “victims”. Many
of the people who have suffered are resolute and resilient. They have strong spirits
and are determined to rebuild quickly.
Many Caribbean islands rely upon tourism; if the
airports and hotels are not in a fit state to accept tourists this winter then
there will be another blow to their economies. Immediate demands for supplies
are one thing, but medium-term infrastructure support is required – we need to
know that the electricity and schools are up and running.
The UK government’s task is extremely demanding. Yet
its commitment so far only to spend £32m in total across the three affected
British overseas territories – Anguilla, BVI and Turks and Caicos Islands – is
a drop in the Caribbean Sea. Johnson said on Monday that £28m of that has
already spent. Are we to believe it will only release a further £4m? This would
be derisory – it would not even pay to rebuild one school. I am sure they will
do much better. The foreign secretary has also pledged to match taxpayers’
donations to the Red Cross. I just hope that we have not arrived at government
If this had happened to other UK territories – the
Falkland Islands or Gibraltar, for instance – would the response have been the
same? To put it in perspective, the government recently spent £285m on St
Helena, its territory in the South Atlantic, for an airport that, sadly, is
effectively unusable. The UK’s foreign aid budget is around £12bn. There has
not yet been any suggestion of other forms of support, such as UK exchange
programmes for affected students. Following the volcanic eruptions in the
neighbouring territory of Montserrat in the 1990s, two thirds of the population
relocated to the UK. Time will tell what is required.
Of course, the government will claim that it is doing
all it can. It will say that troops are on the ground, needs will be met and
more money released in due course. To those making unfavourable comparisons
with France’s response to the crisis, the government may also say the UK does
not have direct rule and control over the islands. This is in contrast to the
French government’s sole responsibility for St Martin and St Barts. But they do
accept that the territories are populated by UK citizens and we remain solely
responsible for their security and governance. Their founding constitutions are
British orders in council – we retain the power to legislate for the
territories and in an extreme situations suspend their constitutions and
provide for direct rule.
The government’s reluctance to commit immediately to
deploying significant sums in aid may simply be their huge wheels cranking into
gear as they assess the needs to be met. But there are several issues provoked
by the relief effort, each of which should spark serious debate about the UK’s
relationship with its Caribbean overseas territories.
First, does the UK see its partner Caribbean islands
as tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions? Some are better known for offshore
financial services than tourism. There have been longstanding reports that the
islands are havens for corruption, tax avoidance and money laundering. Much of
their offshore wealth emanates from the UK. The Panama Papers exposed the level
of BVI ownership of London property. I would hope this publicity would not
cause the UK government such embarrassment that it would seek to distance
itself from the islands.
Transparency International has done much work
highlighting the issues in these offshore jurisdictions. What is less well
known is that it was the UK which supported the establishment of these
financial outposts in the first place, to benefit and service the city of
Legislative attempts to end these secretive
arrangements so far have been a fig leaf: last year’s compromise agreements
fell short of requiring public registries of the beneficial ownership of
companies registered in the islands. The economist Richard Murphy has recently
called for the donation of any aid from the UK to be conditional on reform of
the territories’ offshore tax haven status.
The UK may hold the local governments of these
territories responsible for these failures. What it does not say is that the UK
could legislate to require reform tomorrow if there was the political will.
There is not, perhaps because of the fear that it would highlight the UK’s
ultimate responsibility. Both UK and local politicians also recognise that the
islands’ economies, heavily reliant on offshore financial services, might
flounder with the major loss of jobs. Then the UK may have to provide
alternative investment. It may also rightly believe that the offshore money
would simply be moved to other global secrecy jurisdictions.
Second, we should also consider the political
situation in each territory. Some local politicians may underplay the help
required because they do not want to be seen to cede control to the British
government. Some may not want to highlight reliance as they are pushing towards
full independence from Britain. Less understandably, they may not want the UK
to provide any control or scrutiny of their activities. Some may not want to
highlight the extent of the damage for fear of putting off tourists from coming
Third, we must ask whether it is a priority for the UK
government to invest significantly in the territories. The Foreign Office may
support a more detached relationship - that of “partners” rather than former
colonial masters. Each territory has its own locally elected government, but is
it realistic or fair for these governments to take primary responsibility for
such an enormous reconstruction effort? The majority of their citizens still
want to maintain a link with the UK, not least for when major assistance is
required. If this disaster is not such an occasion, I don’t know what is.
Fourth, the government may also have a real concern
about controlling who aid money will go to and how it will be spent. In 2009
the UK temporarily suspended the constitution of the Turks and Caicos, and
imposed direct rule following the Auld Commission into alleged governmental
corruption. The former premier is currently standing trial and denies all
charges.A reported £400m has been spent in Montserrat since the first eruptions
of its volcano in 1995, with reported concerns about local mismanagement of aid
Finally, the criteria that the Department for
International Development uses for aid do not prioritise British overseas
territories and their citizens. Eligibility is weighted towards relief for the
poorest, regardless of nationality. The territories hit by Hurricane Irma are
considered, rightly or wrongly, to be “middle-income countries” and their
populations are not normally eligible for automatic aid. So when the foreign
secretary arrives in the Caribbean, I hope he will maximise the UK’s response
to the devastation wreaked by Irma, as well as using it as an opportunity to
discuss our relationship with the overseas territories. It’s a conversation
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sept.
11 that his government has put all major arms exports to Turkey on hold due to
the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the escalating
tension between the two NATO allies. Chancellor Angela Merkel later said this
does not mean a total ban on exports.
German military cooperation with Turkey involves a
number of important items, including main battle tanks, joint frigate and
submarine production, and automatic rifles for the security forces.
Gabriel’s statement shows how far the tension has
risen as Germany heads for elections on Sept. 24. The restriction on arms
exports is seemingly part of German efforts to pressure Turkish President
Tayyip Erdogan to ease the tough measures of the state of emergency declared
after the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt - including the release of German
citizens arrested in Turkey on terrorism and espionage accusations.
On the other hand, Turkey has demanded the extradition
of former Turkish military officers seeking political asylum from Germany after
the failed coup attempt. Ankara alleges that these officers have links to the
illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamist preacher accused of
masterminding the coup attempt.
Amid these contrasting demands, both the German
government and the Turkish government say they cannot intervene in the rulings
of their independent courts.
There is no guarantee that military pressure will
convince Erdogan and the Turkish government to change its attitude. What’s
more, such restrictions may weaken the defense capacities of both Turkey and
NATO, and their capacity to fight the terrorism of the outlawed Islamic State
of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
A similar debate is going on in the U.S. During a
session of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations on Sept. 6, Steven
Cook of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations said “remonstrating
with Turkish officials in private and publicly praising them” has little effect
on Ankara’s policies. Citing the example of Russian sanctions on Turkey
following the downing of a Russian plane in November 2015 after it crossed the
border to Syria, saying “Turkey’s leader responded positively,” Cook suggested
a number of economic, military and political pressure methods to bring
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government into line.
The measures that Cook suggested to the Senate
included a study of the costs and modalities of leaving Turkey’s strategic
Incirlik air base, or shifting some of its operations to other facilities in
the region; restricting “Turkey’s participation in big-ticket, high-tech
weapons development and procurement” (like the F-35 jets and possibly the
Patriot air defense system); and requiring the State Department to review its
travel advise for Turkey.
Another participant at the same Senate session, Amanda
Sloat of Harvard University, who served as deputy undersecretary of the State
Department in the Barack Obama administration, suggested that “the only people
who would benefit from the U.S. curbing ties significantly are those who don’t
want Turkey to face West.” Pointing to the April 16 referendum - in which
almost half of Turkish voters refused to endorse an enhancing of President
Erdogan’s powers - as well as the hundreds and thousands of people who joined
main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu’s
“Justice March,” Sloat said such examples show that “Turkish civil society is
not dead.” She also said that “if the EU [European Union] and the U.S. abandon
Turkey, Ankara will seek partners elsewhere - as demonstrated by its recent
interactions with Russia and Iran.”
Sloat concluded her suggestions to the U.S. Senate by
saying that continued engagement “remains the only way forward … including
honest discussion with the government and expanded outreach to business and
Before his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at
the United Nations General Assembly meetings later this month, it would be
helpful for Erdogan and his team to carefully examine the contours of ongoing
debates in the West about policies on Turkey.