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Turneky on Edge

Turkey's Exhausting Zigzagging between East and West

August 26th 2016

Turkish Military convoy

Turkey has been a republic since 1923, a multi-party democracy since 1946, and a member of NATO since 1952. In 1987, it added another powerful anchor into the Western bay where it wanted it to remain docked: It applied for full membership in the European Union (EU). This imperfect journey toward the West was dramatically replaced by a directionless cruise, with sharp zigzags between the East and West, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP party came to power in 2002. Zigzagging remains the main Turkish policy feature to this day.

Until the summer of 2015 Turkey was widely known as the "jihad highway," because of its systematic tolerance for jihadists crossing through Turkey into neighboring Syria to fight Erdogan's regional nemesis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey supported various jihadist groups in the hope that they would help Ankara unseat Assad. Then, under pressure from its NATO allies, it decided to join the U.S.-led, international campaign to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria. Feeling betrayed, ISIS started to blow up Turkish cities.

At the end of 2015, Turkey risked tensions with Russia in order to advance its pro-Sunni Islamist agenda in Syria. Russia, together with Iran, provided the lifeline Assad needed to stay in power while Turkey stepped up its anti-Assad campaign. In November, Turkey once again zigzagged toward the West when it shot down a Russian military aircraft, citing the violation of its airspace along its border with Syria. Turkey also threatened to shoot down any Russian aircraft that might violate its airspace again. It was the first time in modern history that a NATO ally had shot down a Soviet or Russian military airplane. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Al-Qa’ida Uncoupling: Jabhat al-Nusra’s Rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham

August 25th 2016

Free Syrian Army

On July 28, 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra, which had previously identified itself as a branch of al-Qa’ida in Syria, announced the changing of its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (‘Conquest of al-Sham Front’) in a video recording that for the first time revealed the appearance of its leader, Abu Muhammad al-Julani. The nominal decoupling of the organizations was approved and coordinated with al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership and was designed to unify Islamist efforts in Syria and to make it more difficult for the United States and Russia to justify targeting the group. With its popularity on the rise and other rebel groups welcoming the announcement, the move appears to have paid off so far.

Read more ..

Kurdistan on Edge

Israel's Kurdish Conundrum-- Choose Between the Turks and the Kurds.

August 19th 2016

PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) Fighter

A comparison and contrast between two developments of great significance for Israel's regional future - the Kurdish question, and the development of the offshore natural gas fields -  are more related than may appear on the surface.
The recent Turkish-Israeli "deal", assuming that post-coup Turkey can live up to its commitments, poses a serious policy dilemma for Israel.

The Kurds are perhaps Israel's closest allies in the Middle East and will very likely, sooner rather than later, declare independence, with either the Iraqi Kurdish area and the Syrian Kurdish area joining forces, or declaring independence separately. In the meantime, the principal organization of Iranian Kurds outside Iran has declared virtual war on the Iranian regime and incidents in Iranian Kurdistan have been increasing. Read more ..


The Refugee Crisis

Misplaced Charity

August 4th 2016

Syrian refugees

Pres. Barack Obama's proposal for what would be a substantial new entry of Syrian refugees is a major miscalculation of traditional American morality and generosity.
It is true that the 13.5 million Syrian refugees, half of them expelled or hounded out of their country, are a momentous human tragedy. And America has almost always responded to some calamities.
But the question of additional Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. is part of a challenging failing American immigration policy which has become an extremely divisive political issue. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Crushing Dissent in Turkey

July 28th 2016

Turkish KFOR soldiers riot training

In 1853, John Russell quoted Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as saying that the Ottoman Empire was "a sick man -- a very sick man," in reference to the ailing empire's fall into a state of decrepitude. Some 163 years after that, the modern Turkish state follows in the Ottoman steps.

Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, was staggering between a hybrid democracy and bitter authoritarianism. After the failed putsch of July 15, it is being dragged into worse darkness. The silly attempt gives Erdogan what he wanted: a pretext to go after every dissident Turk. A witch-hunt is badly shattering the democratic foundations of the country. Read more ..


Vote 2016

The Uncanny Road Ahead for Trump

July 14th 2016

Armstrong_Williams

With the GOP convention finally at hand, team Trump faces the truly daunting task of keeping his brand afloat and maintaining a course to victory in the fall. It appears that the GOP is anything but all hands on deck, with splinter factions threatening to abandon the candidate and some delegates actually planning a convention floor revolt.

And yet, despite the apparent disunity and chaos, Trump’s polling numbers versus his challenger, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have barely taken a hit. Coming out of a widely publicized email scandal in which she was spared criminal indictment, Clinton’s reputation as someone who used bad judgment has wounded her deeply. In a newly released New York Times/CBS poll 67 percent of voters indicated that Clinton ‘is not honest and trustworthy.’ And the poll also showed the candidates are essentially neck and neck in the race.

The implication is that Trump need not run a perfect race to beat Clinton, just merely a race free of major blunders. But if past is precedent, a mistake-free performance may be a bit much to ask from Trump. Several times over the past weeks, Trump’s antics have snatched headlines away from a major Clinton scandal and turned attention on himself. The email scandal is a case in point. Read more ..


Kurdistan on Edge

The Case for Kurdish Statehood

July 12th 2016

PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) Fighter

Why has the West been so supportive of Palestinian nationalism, yet so reluctant to support the Kurds, the largest nation in the world without a state?

The Kurds have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State (ISIS); have generously accepted millions of refugees fleeing ISIS to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and embrace Western values such as gender equality, religious freedom, and human rights. They are also an ancient people with an ethnic and linguistic identity stretching back millennia and have faced decades of brutal oppression as a minority. Yet they cannot seem to get sufficient support from the West for their political aspirations.

The Palestinians, by contrast, claimed a distinct national identity relatively recently, are less than one-third fewer in number (in 2013, the global Palestinian population was estimated by the Palestinian Authority to reach 11.6 million), control land that is less than 1/15th the size of the KRG territory, and have not developed their civil society or economy with nearly as much success as the Kurds. Yet the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and other international bodies have all but ignored Kurdish statehood dreams while regularly prioritizing Palestinian ambitions over countless other global crises. Read more ..


The Academic War Against Israel

Why We Sued the American Studies Association

May 16th 2016

Boycott Israel

In the past few years, the American Studies Association (ASA) has been diverted from its scholarly mission—promoting the study of American culture—to a political one, by leaders seeking to turn the ASA into an organization that advocates for social change far beyond American borders, and with an unwavering focus on delegitimizing Israel.  This effort culminated in a resolution for an academic boycott of Israel in December 2013.

The Israel boycott was put together by a small group that has commandeered the ASA, and is opposed by a substantial number of ASA members. It has torn the group asunder. It has sullied the name of the ASA. And, we contend, it violates the law.  Read more ..


Destination Israel

For Many, Israel is Geopolitical Tourist Destination

April 28th 2016

El Al Boeing 747-200

For a hard-core segment of travelers to Jerusalem, when the sun sets at the Sabbath, the magic in the air is not just the serene image of a peaceful dusk in an enchanted land. It is the empowering knowledge that the sun still shines on a Jewish State surrounded by fiery military and diplomatic turmoil. Israel remains a nation determined to survive and preserve its sense of magnetic amazement. In the minds of many, a visit to Israel is more than just a vacation. It is a geopolitical destination. Traveling to and enjoying Israel makes a statement to the world and to history. It reflects the steeled determination to be happy and fulfilled in one of the most treasured places on earth, despite a virtual siege around every corner. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Saudi Arabia, The Golden Chain -- and The Missing 28 Pages

April 24th 2016

Twin Towers 9/11
Prince Bandar

The American media, which continues to concentrate on a bill making its way through Congress that would allow American citizens to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for losses suffered as a result of the 9/11 attacks, paid no attention to the Golden Chain.

The victims claim that the release of the 28 pages missing from the 9/11 Commission Report is of crucial importance to their case. Those pages, they say, would show the interrelationship that ties the hijackers to the Saudi regime itself and therefore would offer a damning indictment of the Kingdom. But President Obama, like President Bush before him, refuses to make it public. And the Saudi Royal Family that vehemently denies funding al Qaeda, threatened that if the 28 pages are released, they would sell more than $750 billion of Saudi investments in the U.S.

Of equal if not of greater importance than the missing 28 pages, is the forgotten investigation of the Bosnia-BIF office. Crucially, among the boxes and files was found a note ostensibly written by Osama Bin Laden that lists a "Golden Chain" of twenty Arab plutocrats who were and remain suspected of financing international terrorism, including the funding of al Qaeda. Read more ..


Israel and Turkey

Israel, Turkey, Russia and Egypt

April 20th 2016

Turk flags

Turkish sources assert that Turkish-Israeli governmental relations are about to come out of the deep freeze. But this is a reflection of Turkey's regional unpopularity and glides over Turkish demands for Israel to end the blockade of Gaza. To meet Turkey's condition, Israel would have to abandon the security arrangement it shares with Egypt -- which has increased Israel's security and has begun to pay regional dividends. To restore full relations between Israel and Turkey would irritate Russia, with which Israel has good trade and political relations, and a respectful series of understandings regarding Syria. Israel's relations with the Kurds are also at issue here.

After the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla -- in which Turkey supported the Hamas-related Turkish organization, the IHH, in its effort to break the blockade of Gaza -- Turkey made three demands of Israel: an Israeli apology for the deaths of Turkish activists; a financial settlement; and lifting the Gaza blockade, which Turkey claimed was illegal. The last would provide IHH with the victory it was unable to achieve with the flotilla.

Read more ..

Campus Hate

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Leaders Hate America: Listen to Their Own Words!

March 23rd 2016

Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has steadily advanced a poisonous culture of hate and anti-Semitism in our country. Across college campuses and in churches, in labor unions, academic institutions and in shareholder meetings of American Corporations, they have sought to demonize the State of Israel, with the eventual goal of destroying it.

Yet, what many do not realize is that the BDS agenda threatens not only the Middle East’s one democratic state; it threatens the entire democratic world, and the U.S. is in the eye of its storm. The tie that binds together the radical leftists and radical Islamists driving forward the BDS Movement is a common hatred for the U.S. and for the Western values and freedoms that America, Europe and Israel share. Indeed, BDS leaders publically call for the destruction of the very society that protects their right to free speech.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at exactly what the most senior BDS leaders have to say about the United States.

BDS leaders hate America’s leadership role around the world. In an op-ed for the International Socialist Review titled “Palestine, BDS, and the battle against US imperialism,” Purdue University professor Bill Mullen, one of the BDS leaders who lobbied the American Studies Association to adopt a boycott of Israel, writes, “We can build a still-stronger BDS movement beginning in the name of Palestinian freedom and ending in a permanent blow against American empire.” Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Merkel Warns of Growing Anti-Semitism in Wake Influx from the Arab World

January 25th 2016

Muslim girls German flag

As millions flee war-torn countries where anti-Semitism is rampant, several world leaders are calling on citizens to challenge this hatred everywhere they find it, especially when it comes to young people with anti-Semitic ideologies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged citizens to remain vigilant and to beware of anti-Semitism especially when directed by young people coming from “countries where hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism is widespread.”

Currently, millions of people are claiming to seek refuge throughout Europe as they flee war-battered nations including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 1.5 million refugees including several from throughout the Arab world entered Germany in 2015 alone.

Read more ..

China on Edge

A Vote for Democratic Taiwan

January 17th 2016

Taiwan Protest

Largely ignored by the mainstream media, Friday's Taiwan elections have enormous implications not only for the Island's 25 million people but also China - and the U.S.
Ironically, the election of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] leader, Tsai Ing-wen, a woman at that - reinstalled a movement dedicated to maintaining Taiwan's separate identity, the Island's culture remains Chinese. It marks only a second time in its 2,000-year a Chinese entity has peacefully transferred power. The DPP earlier won power in 100-1008 as a minority government.

The meeting last fall between Beijing's Pres. Xi Jinping and Taiwan's outgoing Pres. Ma Ying-jeou was not only unprecedented but finally marked the tacit recognition by the Communists of the Island's stature. Beijing now has to bite its lip, having apparently Communist leadership thought that protocol concession after six decades would help Ma's Party. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Russian Imperialism Meets Delusions of Ottoman Grandeur

January 7th 2016

Erdogan

 

In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.

Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with delusions of Ottoman grandeur. Read more ..


The Caliphate

U.N. Resolution Will Not Stop ISIS Funding

December 18th 2015

IS with Missile

Today’s U.N. Security Council’s resolution to curb the funding of ISIS is essentially the same as resolution 2199 that was adopted earlier this year, and the sanctions that were adopted in mid-2013 under the “Al-Qaida Sanctions List”.

The major difference between today’s resolution and the previous ones is that higher level officials, the finance ministers of the Security Council’s member states attended the meeting, which added the ban on “the payment of ransoms to individuals, groups, undertakings or entities on the ISIL [Da’esh] and Al-Qaida Sanctions List regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid.” Read more ..


Campus Hate

Campus Fascists and the Suppression of Academic Free Speech

December 17th 2015

Yale University

Of the many intellectual perversions currently taking root on college campuses, perhaps none is more contradictory to what should be one of higher education’s core values than the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barraged with vitriol, all at the hands of groups who give lip service to the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view.

This is the tragic and inevitable result of a decades of grievance-based victimism by self-designated groups who frame their rights and demands on identity politics. Those who see themselves as perennial victims also feel very comfortable, when they express their feelings of being oppressed, in projecting that same victimization outward on their oppressors. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

PA Says Killing Israelis Is Good - But PA Must Choose Place And Time So World Accepts It

December 3rd 2015

Abbas UN

Jibril Rajoub, Head of PA Sport and Youth Affairs:
"The international community does not agree to a bus exploding in Tel Aviv. But the international community does not ask what happens to a settler or soldier in the occupied territories at the wrong time and in the wrong place. No one asks about him! Therefore, we want to fight in such a way that the world and the international community will remain by our side."
Official PA TV, Oct. 17, 2015
 
Hafez Barghouti, columnist and former editor of official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:
"After the events of September [9, 2011] in New York, [Ariel] Sharon
applied the term 'terror' used to refer to those attacks, to our national struggle (i.e., terror campaign - Intifada). I warned about this at the time, and called to keep a low profile until the New York turmoil had passed...
Now, after the Paris attacks, we must keep a low profile so that we are not charged with the crimes of ISIS... We must learn our lessons and wait."
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 24, 2015
Read more ..


Osraelis and Palestinians

Oslo Architect Yossi Beilin Says Netanyahu To Unilaterally Pull Out of West Bank

November 3rd 2015

Netanyahu Boehner Biden Congress

Predicting the future is always a dicey proposition, especially in the Middle East. But one of Israel's foremost peace negotiators is doing precisely that, and in dramatic fashion.

According to Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will unilaterally withdraw from most of the West Bank. And he will do so sooner rather than later.

Beilin claims such a move is inevitable due to demographic realities.

"It's a matter of three or four years before a minority of Jews is dominating a majority of Palestinians" between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, he says. "And what then? What will you say then? What will Netanyahu say? He is going to ask for a recount of the Palestinians?" Read more ..


China on Edge

How China's Currency Policies Will Change the World

August 27th 2015

Chinese currency

The recent fluctuations in China's currency typify the best and worst of a globalized world, where developments in one place can instantly change the political and financial calculations of governments in others. For most of human history, the communities, cultures and economies of the world existed independently of one another, separated as they were by vast distances and difficult terrain. It would, for instance, take months or even years for news of China to reach Europe across the great Silk Road trading route during the height of its use some 1,000 years ago. Even then, the communities along that route could hardly be considered entirely coherent.

But that is clearly no longer the case. And now, as China continues to adjust the yuan, markets throughout the world will react accordingly, even as they react differently.  Read more ..


The World on Edge

Quantum Geopolitics

July 28th 2015

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Forecasting the shape the world will take in several years or decades is an audacious undertaking. There are no images to observe or precise data points to anchor us. We can only create a picture, and a fuzzy one at best. This is, after all, our basic human empirical instinct: to draw effortlessly from the vivid imagery of our present world and past experiences while we squint and hesitate before faint, blobby images of the future.

In the world of intelligence and military planning, it is far less taxing to base speculations on the familiar — to simulate a war game that pivots on an Iranian nuclear threat, a seemingly unstoppable jihadist force like the Islamic State and the military adventurism of Russia in Eastern Europe — than it is to imagine a world in which Russia is weak and internally fragmented, the jihadist menace is contained by its own fractiousness and Iran is allied with the United States against a rising Sunni threat. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Deal Repeatedly Refers to Iran's "Voluntary Measures": Does Iran Have No Real Obligations?

July 21st 2015

Iran holy missiles

Virtually every treaty and agreement contains language clearly binding the parties to definitive terms, such as "the parties agree to the following terms."  However, the Iran deal - formally called the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" (or JCPOA) - is different.   Strangely, supposed obligations are merely called "voluntary measures."

It is frightening and of great concern that even the minimal supposed obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran in this disastrous, lopsided deal may not be binding on Iran.

Right at the outset, the introduction to the Iran deal's provisions calls these provisions "voluntary measures."  At the end of the introductory "Preamble and General Provisions," which is immediately prior to key Section A (entitled "Nuclear"), the JCPOA states:

"Iran and E3/EU-3 will take the following voluntary measures" within the timeframe as detailed in this JCPOA and its Annexes." Read more ..


Greece on Edge

An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis

July 14th 2015

PARTHENON

A desperate battle was fought last week. It pitted Germany and Greece against each other. Each country had everything at stake. Based on the deal that was agreed to, Germany forced a Greek capitulation. But it is far from clear that Greece can allow the agreement reached to be implemented, or that it has the national political will to do so. It is also not clear what its options are, especially given that the Greek people had backed Germany into a corner, where its only choice was to risk everything. It was not a good place for Greece to put the Germans. They struck back with vengeance.

The key event was the Greek referendum on the European Union's demand for further austerity in exchange for infusions of cash to save the Greek banking system. The Syriza party had called the vote to strengthen its hand in dealing with the European demands. The Greek government's view was that the European terms would save Greece from immediate disaster but at the cost of impoverishing the country in the long term. The austerity measures demanded would, in their view, make any sort of recovery impossible. Facing a choice between a short-term catastrophe in the banking system and long-term misery, the Greeks saw themselves in an impossible position. Read more ..


China

Why China's Stock Markets Matter

July 9th 2015

New hires to Chinese military

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 6 percent on July 3, rounding out a 28 percent decline since June 12, when the country's stock markets peaked. The deterioration occurred despite intensive government efforts to stabilize prices and revive investor sentiment. Overt attempts by Beijing included cutting benchmark interest rates and reserve requirement ratios and loosening restrictions on investor access to margin loans, in addition to less overt moves, such as direct interventions to prop up the market with government-backed purchases of blue chip stocks. On Friday, in a clear bid to win investor confidence in its oversight abilities, the securities regulator announced it would investigate signs of potential market manipulation. Yet so far, Beijing's efforts have failed to achieve the desired effect of stimulating, or at least stabilizing, China's leading stock markets. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

The Greek Vote and the EU Miscalculation

July 7th 2015

Greek and EU flags

In a result that should surprise no one, the Greeks voted to reject European demands for additional austerity measures as the price for providing funds to allow Greek banks to operate. There are three reasons this should have been no surprise. First, the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza party, is ruling because it has an understanding of the Greek mood. Second, the constant scorn and contempt that the European leadership heaped on the prime minister and finance minister convinced the Greeks not only that the scorn was meant for them as well but also that anyone so despised by the European leadership wasn't all bad. Finally, and most important, the European leadership put the Greek voters in a position in which they had nothing to lose. The Greeks were left to choose between two forms of devastation — one that was immediate but possible to recover from, and one that was a longer-term strangulation with no exit. Read more ..


The Caliphate

The Jihadist Trap of Here and Now

June 25th 2015

IS Caliphate victory parade

In recent weeks, I have found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the jihadist strategy of al Qaeda and how it compares to that of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I wrote about the possibility that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could outlast that of the Islamic State. Last week, I wrote about how ideologies are harder to kill than individuals, focusing on the effect that the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi will have on the group and the wider global jihadist movement.

But beyond the impact of leaders like al-Wahayshi, there are other facets of strategy that will influence the war for the soul of jihadism. Specifically, I am talking about time and place. Both al Qaeda and the Islamic State seek to establish a global caliphate, but both differ quite starkly in how to accomplish this task and how soon it can be achieved. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds President's Prerogative In Foreign Policy

June 11th 2015

Jerusalem flags

This Monday the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Zivitofsky v. Kerry, a case which determined that a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem can only have the city listed on his U.S. passport as his place of birth, and not Jerusalem, Israel.

In 2002, Menachem Zivitofsky was born in Jerusalem; his American mother requested of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to list his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, in accordance with Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 which states for “purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.” Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Fasten Your Seat Belts for Greece Money Crisis

June 8th 2015

Euro Symbol

The deadline for a deal to resolve Greece's ongoing drama seemed to be pushed back last week. But new stresses could appear as early as this week if there is no noticeable progress on the talks.

Last week Greece decided to combine the four debt payments it owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June — worth about €1.5 billion ($1.66 billion, £1.09 billion) collectively — into one, which will be due at the end of the month.

That delayed for three weeks the payment that was owed Friday and meant Athens could wait longer for a bailout deal. But at least according to some analysts, that will be little to no relief in the tense talks.

Much of the timeline actually remains the same, as Bank of America Merrill Lynch researchers pointed out in a note, titled "Brinkmanship in Greece: fasten your seat belts," on Monday morning. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

The Two Inter-Connected Crises in Troubled Europe

May 26th 2015

Last week I began this series with a Net Assessment of the World, in which I focused on the growing destabilization of the Eurasian land mass. This week I continue the series, which will ultimately analyze each region in detail, with an analysis of Europe. I start here, rather than in the Middle East, because while the increasing successes of the Islamic State are significant, the region itself is secondary to Europe in the broader perspective. The Middle East matters, but Europe is as economically productive as the United States and, for the past 500 years, has been the force that has reshaped the world. The Middle East matters a great deal; European crises can destabilize the world. What happens between Greece and Germany, for example, can have consequences in multiple directions. Therefore, since we have to start somewhere, let me start with Europe. Read more ..


BDS Jihad

Canada Mover to Make BDS a Hate Crime

May 12th 2015

Boycott Israel

The pro-Israel Canadian government may be planning to include boycotts of Israel as a hate crime, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Monday.

It said that such a move would target organizations such as the United Church of Canada, Canadian Quakers, campus protest groups and labor unions. It also would raise legal questions under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canadian Prime Stephen Harper is unarguably the most pro-Israel head of any government in the world. He sounded like an echo of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel last year.

Recently-retired Foreign Minister John Baird in January signed an agreement with Israel to fight the Boycott Israel movement, and government ministers have said they will show “zero tolerable” towards groups that are part of Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS). He described the Boycott Israel movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.” Read more ..


Financing the Flames

Former AP Journalist Blasts ‘Breaking the Silence’ Report on Israeli Conduct in Gaza

May 6th 2015

Israeli tank IDF photo

Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman on Tuesday wrote a scathing criticism of the recently issued report from NGO Breaking the Silence on the conduct of Israeli soldiers during last summer’s Gaza war.

In an extended Facebook post, Friedman blasted the report, and simultaneously tried to put it in context.

Friedman began by addressing testimony presented by Israeli soldiers in the report, to the effect that their compliance with the laws of war was much more lax than it should have been. He noted that “War is awful” and “people come back feeling upset about things they’ve seen and done. Some observers are reliable, and others aren’t.” He said that “Some of the things described in the report no doubt happened as they were described. Others didn’t. Infantrymen at the bottom of the hierarchy often don’t understand what they’re seeing, or the reasons for what they’re doing, and I’m speaking from experience.” Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Pluralism in Turkey: A Fairy Tale

May 3rd 2015

Protest Turkey-Brazil

"We would view an insult or humiliation against an Alevi citizen or an adherent of any other religion as an insult against all of us, and won't accept it." The powerful line is from a speech by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Nov. 23. So nice. If only the reality were not worlds apart from the fairy tales Davutoglu keeps on telling.

Davutoglu's Putin-Medvedev-style master, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is notorious for his Sunni supremacist (and anti-Alevi) views. During his election campaign in 2011, he reminded tens of thousands of party fans at rallies in seven different cities that his political rival and main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, was an Alevi. "You know, he is an Alevi," Erdogan told crowds in a cynical way while thousands booed "the Alevi Kilicdaroglu." In that election, Erdogan's votes in all seven cities rose from the previous election. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Russia's Growing Suspicions about Turkey as World Commemorates Armenian Genocide

April 27th 2015

Click to select Image

The United States is not about to be weighed down by the historical baggage of the Caucasus. To Turkey's pleasure and Armenia's regret, U.S. President Barack Obama did not utter the word "genocide" on April 24 when he commemorated the 100th anniversary of a massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Obama is not the Pope; he is the president of the United States, and the global hegemon appears to be in tune with its geopolitical instinct.

A great deal of diplomatic energy has been exchanged between Washington and the Turkish and Armenian lobbies in recent weeks. Not only have decisions had to be made about what word to use to describe the historical event, but there are also questions about the level of official that should attend the Armenian commemoration versus the Turkish commemoration for the Battle of Gallipoli. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Snap-Back Sanctions and the White House

April 18th 2015

Iran Long-Range Missile

President Barack Obama and other administration officials touting the qualities of the interim nuclear accord with Iran regularly cite “snap-back” provisions as a fail-safe within the agreement. The idea is that, if Iran violates the terms of the deal, sanctions that otherwise would be lifted as a reward for entering into the arrangement would immediately be reimposed.

It is an appealing idea. What’s more, it is a necessary one if anyone anywhere is to believe that the deal is truly enforceable. However, as former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz pointed out in their recent thoughtful, constructive critique of the interim agreement that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the notion that somehow a button can be pushed and the entire panoply of multilateral and bilateral sanctions that have been put in place over the past dozen or so years to put pressure on Iran would suddenly be back in force strains credulity. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

For 2016, a Tidal Wave of Cash

April 13th 2015

Bundles of Money

The most stunning political news of the year to date is last week’s revelation that a group of super-PACs has already raised $31 million to support the presidential bid of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

And last week also brought the most intriguing political news of the year — the federal indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The heart of the prosecutor’s case against Menendez is that a PAC donation by a wealthy donor amounted to a bribe to get the senator to use his office to help the businessman avoid federal fraud charges. 

Menendez denies wrongdoing, as does the businessman.

The bigger point, however, is that there is no restraint on the amount of big money suddenly flowing into political action committees. In addition, anonymous money pouring into non-profit groups affiliated with candidates is reaching flood levels.

And don’t forget the unprecedented big money being raised directly for each of the 2016 presidential campaigns. 

Read more ..

America and Latin America

American Moral Leadership and the Future of the Organization of American States to be Tested

April 7th 2015

Panama Strike

On April 10 and 11, the Summit of the Americas will take place in Panama. More than 35 heads of state are expected to participate, including the president of the United Sates, Barack Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro. The theme of the summit is “Equality and Prosperity” which will give room for countless speeches highlighting the importance of equality, the fight against poverty, and other related issues. However, what really highlights this summit is that it is taking place in the aftermath of the new U.S./Cuba agreement.

Thus, this summit will not only have at its center, the heads of state and their often meaningless speeches but will also include civil society groups. These groups will be there and will bring back the elephant in the room: the question of democracy. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Why Are Christians being Killed?

April 5th 2015

What would the U.S. President say if the blacks lynched in America's old South were referred to as "random folks" or "Americans"?

Al Shabaab of course has no problem emphasizing the fact that Christians were being killed because they were Christians: "There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building," its spokesman said.

Can anyone explain why the West gives fanciful excuses for what these killers are doing, despite their perfectly clear explanations for what they are doing?

Muslims targeting Christians or Jews means, "don't focus on the motivations of the Muslims." Muslims defending Christians or Jews means "desperately focus on the motivations of the Muslims."

People could at least spare some time this Easter to think about -- and do anything they can to help -- the beleaguered Christian communities worldwide. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

The Flawed Underpinnings of the New Nuclear Understandings with Iran

April 3rd 2015

Bushehr plant panoramic

The underlying flaw in the new nuclear understandings between the P5+1 and Iran is the fact that it leaves Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure intact. Indeed, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif boasted, after the understandings were announced, that  Iran did not have to close down a single nuclear facility, it will continue to engage in uranium enrichment, and it can engage in research and development (meaning it can develop new generations of centrifuges that operate at 10  or 20 times the speed of the first-generation centrifuges that have been installed in uranium enrichment plants like Natanz and Fordow). Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

In the Iran Talks, Does a Missed Deadline Matter?

April 2nd 2015

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

The Obama administration has slipped past self-imposed deadlines and minced words over red lines before. Although certainly an embarrassment for the White House, another missed deadline in the seemingly never-ending Iran nuclear negotiations — which stretched beyond the latest deadline of March 31 — may not matter much in the end.

From Iran's point of view, it was a deadline to be exploited, not one to fret over. Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, had expressed misgivings about a framework agreement, insisting that the deal is not done until all core issues are resolved in a final deal. The White House imposed the March deadline to prove to Congress that enough progress was being made to hold off on sanctions. Still, a dodged deadline and a diluted progress report are unlikely to calm dissenters in Congress. Even if a bill calling for additional sanctions in the event of a violation of an agreement makes its way through Congress, it will be vetoed in the Oval Office. Congress overturning that veto is a less likely prospect.

Read more ..

South of the Border

Latin America Reacts to Obama's Sanctions on Venezuela

March 17th 2015

On March 9th President Obama issued an executive order implementing The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which he signed last December 18th. This measure blocks the property and interests in property of seven top Venezuelan government officials and would also block the property and interests in property of any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.

The presidential order has imposed sanctions on mostly the top echelon of the state security apparatus in charge of the repression during the 2014 anti- government demonstrations.

Although, this executive order is a good first step, it omits to punish the president, his cabinet and his closest civilian aides. Likewise, punitive measures are not being applied to lower ranking officers who have committed human right violations despite the fact that human rights organizations have provided names and details about these individuals and their transgressions. Read more ..



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