Tag Archives: turkey

Reset Stephen Kinzer.

Stephen Kinzer believes that the best way forward for America on foreign policy is for it to listen to its friends in the Middle East that share America’s basic principles.

One of those potential “friends” is Iran (sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you hear this kind of thing).

Kinzer, an American journalist and author, was at SOAS, London last night promoting his new book Reset Middle East, with its brand new cover (below) which includes Israel this time (always bound to add to sales).

Kinzer has great sympathy with Iran as a country.

He acknowledges its democratic history and even the love that the Iranian people have for everything American.

He told us that when he was standing in Shiraz, Iran all the Iranians shook his hand when they discovered he was American. When Sean Penn visited Iran Penn was asked by an elderly Iranian gentleman what it was like being married to Madonna.

Kinzer seems to have a rare easy access to Iran, unlike most.

I would love to visit Iran. The Iranians I have met have been the politest, warmest and most articulate of people.

But I can’t imagine walking the streets for too long before being picked up as a Mossad spy. Even in the UK I get accused of that (see clip).

An American woman has just been arrested on spying charges and Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal still languish in an Iranian prison after being picked up as “spies” when they hiked a bit too near the Iranian border.

I can’t believe I would escape the same fate, unless, like Kinzer, I can rustle up a book or two favourable to such an oppressive regime.

First, Kinzer likes Turkey because it is a longstanding NATO ally, is the most democratic country in the Middle East and has a booming capitalist economy. It is also becoming more religious under President Erdogan which proves its credentials to other Muslim countries.

And because it tried to do a deal with Brazil on Iran’s nuclear programme and also condemned Israel over the Mavi Marmara tragedy it won’t be viewed as America’s lackey.

And Turkey’s advice to America on Iran? Stop with the confrontational rhetoric and try to compromise more.

Second, Kinzer describes Iran as having an open, vibrant and democratic society; a society as democratic as its government is undemocratic.

But he sees America as the the main stumbling block as it is still angry over the Iranian hostage crisis of 30 years ago and, therefore, reacts too emotionally on Iran.

But, he continued, Iran, being an enemy of the Taliban and Al Qaida, is America’s way out of Iraq and Afghanistan as long as America can prove to Iran that it won’t use Iraq as a base from which to attack Iran.

So how to achieve peace with Iran?

Kinzer says America must conduct broader negotiations with Iran than just on the nuclear issue. And it must allow Iran to bring its concerns to the table.

Kinzer compares the America-Iranian animosity to that once between America and China and says the latter was far worse.

But he thinks that America doesn’t wish to sign a similar accord with Iran as it would make Iran a regional power (which, says Kinzer, it is anyway).

Oh, and there must be incorporated into any American-Iranian agreement a deal on human rights in Iran.

I pushed him on the latter point suggesting that I couldn’t see Iran giving way on that at all and that any deal with Iran would only entrench such a brutal regime. Surely, it is the human rights abuses that keeps the current regime in power. Without the economic control of the IRGC (Iranian Republican Guard Corps.) and brutality of both the IRGC and the basij militia the regime would crumble quickly.

In reply Kinzer, bemusingly, cited photos of liberated Iranian women from the fifties. He failed to address the brutal Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime.

And eventhough America made peace with China that didn’t stop China going on to massacre hundreds of its own civilians in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and continuing to hang thousands of political opponents each year.

Similarly, an American peace with Russia hasn’t stopped the latter murdering anti-government journalists (Anna Politkovskaya shot dead on her way up to her appartment) and political dissidents (Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in London) and locking up its political opponents on trumped-up charges (Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev in prison since 2005 and who have just had their sentences arbitrarily extended).

Kinzer lives in Disneyland. He should realise that once a brutal regime, always a brutal regime.

The Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime really needs to be ousted before his nice theory on American-Iranian relations can take root.

Cameron needs to take stock about Islamic fundamentalism

Cameron (L.) meeting Erdogan (Sky News)

Cameron (L.) meeting Erdogan (Sky News)

Now we know. David Cameron is not a Zionist, although he once proclaimed that he was.

To be a Zionist is not only to believe in the right for Israel to exist as a Jewish state but also in its right to defend itself properly.

While Cameron recognises that it is right for British soldiers to fight the Afghanistan Taliban he does not seem to accord the same right to Israeli soldiers when fighting Islamist elements.

In his meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey he spoke of Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara as being “totally unacceptable” and referred to Gaza as being a prison camp.

This meeting came one day after the report from Wikileaks that details not only the brutality of the Taliban towards the innocent Afghani population but also the many civilian casualties among the Afghani population caused by NATO troops.

The Wikileaks report is the basis for the investigation of war crimes on a huge scale. But while Israel has been investigated for war crimes in Gaza and found guilty it is unlikely that NATO countries will be similarly investigated and found guilty for the many civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

The Wikileaks report also details NATO’s targeted assassinations of Taliban leaders either by drones operated from the Nevada desert or by secret “kill-or-capture squads”. But when Israel allegedly does the same there is worldwide condemnation followed by the expulsion of Israeli diplomats. The feeble excuse given being that British or Australian passports had been misused.

More depressingly Cameron called for Turkey’s accession to the EU. This would allow possibly hundreds of thousands of Islamists access to the UK.

Before he became Prime Minister Cameron promised to crack down on Muslim fundamentalism in the UK and especially at our universities. This included the banning of the Islamist group Hiz but-Tahrir.

But Turkey’s accession to the EU would make the kind of occurrence that took place in Golders Green, a predominantly Jewish suburb of North-West London, last Monday more ubiquitous.

Two youths on bikes approached a car with Jewish kippah-wearing teenagers in it. They yelled Alluah Akbar (G-d is Great) at the Jewish teenagers, who got out to remonstrate. The Jewish teenagers were then chased through Golders Green.

One of the youths, who was black, went to grab a bottle of drink from a shop and smashed it over the head of one of the Jewish teenagers. Blood poured from the wound.

Then the other youth cried “Algeria, Algeria F*ck the Jews” before both youths cycled off at speed.

The Jewish teenager was taken to hospital to have his wound and arm tended to.

This support for Turkey’s accession under Erdogan’s Islamist AK party does not accord with Cameron’s desire to crack down on Muslim fundamentalism in the UK. It would surely be better to wait till after next year’s general election in Turkey when the opposition secular party, CHP, might well take power. Even then it would be difficult to keep tabs on Turkish Islamists. EU regulations would allow Turkish citizens take up residence in the UK.

And while Cameron may still seek to crack down on Muslim fundamentalism in the UK, although there is no sign of that so far, other mainstream organisations have no such agenda.

On the BBC there was a recent televised debate about Afghanistan: Are British soldiers are dying in vain?

One of the panellists was from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) who agreed with the motion. The potential disastrous effects of British troops withdrawing from Afganistan seemed totally irrelevant to him including the dreadful oppression of women and homosexuals that would follow.

MPAC is itself a nasty organisation. It gets heavily involved in British general election and labels MPs as “Zionists” if they are in the least supportive of Israel. In 2005 it claimed one MP was Jewish when she wasn’t and she duly lost her seat.

MPAC recently ran a poll asking whether Israel should be moved to America. Farcical stuff but this is who the BBC thinks reflects the views of the British Muslim community, sadly. There are other more mainstream Muslim organisations like the Quilliam Foundation who hardly get a look in such debates.

It is to be seen whether Cameron’s speech in support of Turkey marks an Obama-esque change of attitude to Israel from the previous far more favourable Blair and Brown administrations.

After mocking him pre-election Cameron has now become close friends with Nick Clegg, his deputy Prime-Minister in the Con-Lib coalition. And we know that Clegg doesn’t seem to care about Israel’s security in the slightest after he called for a ban on the sale of weapons to Israel.

Cameron needs to take stock and reflect on his pre-election promises. If he doesn’t then what took place in Golders Green could become more common.

Turkey to blame for loss of life on Mavi Marmara

Turkey's PM, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Guilty of Manslaughter? (asianews.it)

Turkey didn’t pull the triggers that led directly to the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli soldiers did. But Turkey recklessly started a process that ended it tragedy. In legal terms, this would be manslaughter.

When I awoke on monday morning I couldn’t believe the news: How could Israel kill activists like this? It seemed inexplicable.

However hostile the activists might have been towards Israel they should all be alive today. As David Grossman writes, their opinions “do not deserve the death penalty”.

As more footage was released we saw Israel’s botched operation in full flow.

One by one soldiers descended from a helicopter totally exposed and vulnerable to what was below. The Israeli navy had just asked the Mavi Marmara to direct itself to Israel’s Ashdod port to inspect the cargo. Such warning allowed the ship’s activists to fully prepare.

We’ve all seen the beatings and stabbings that took place, reminiscent of the Ramallah lynchings when two Israeli soldiers lost their way and were beaten to death with a Palestinian participant proudly showing-off his blood drenched hands.

Israel had a right to inspect the cargo, even in international waters, and when the boat refused Israel took the fateful decision to land soldiers on it. In hindsight it was the wrong decision. Anything would have been better than what than took place, even allowing the boat to reach Gaza.

But once the decision was taken to seize the boat for inspection of its cargo the Israeli soldiers were attacked and they defended themselves. They were beaten with metal bars, stabbed and shot at. Seven were injured, two critically.

The Israeli government’s naivety was in not knowing what it was up against. The seven ship flotilla painted itself as a mercy mission. But time and time again we have seen how violent many self-styled human rights activists actually are.

In January last year during Operation Cast Lead activists rampaged through London causing physical destruction and violently attacking and injuring the police. So what does Israel do? It drops soldiers one-by-one to a potential lynching by similar people.

It was a recipe for a tragedy. However many good-intentioned people were on board the seven ship flotilla it cannot obscure the fact that many thugs were also on board; thugs that have no care whatsoever for human life on either side. For them the cause is all.

But the real criminal in all this is Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan.

Last time round when a Viva Palestina convoy tried to enter Gaza via Egypt an Egyptian border guard was killed by a Palestinian sniper. This loss of life did not justify a repeat performance but this is what Erdogan authorised to depart from his country’s shores yet again.

Now more deaths but this time at the hands of Israeli soldiers, not Palestinians, hence the worldwide condemnation.

Erdogan’s intentions have been suspect for a while. He met with Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, in 2006, claimed Israel deliberately kills children in Gaza and has called on his people to learn to make money like Jews do. Erdogan also supports Hezbollah.

In 2008 Erdogan met Sudanese President al-Bashir with full honours. Bashir has since been indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur where the UN alleges that 300,000 people have been killed by Bashir’s regime.

A recent series on Turkey’s state-controlled television depicted Israeli soldiers kidnapping children, shooting babies and old men and lining up groups of Palestinians to execute them.

There is little press freedom in Turkey. Jewish groups have reported hundreds of anti-Semitic articles in the Turkish press recently. There are 23,000 Jewish Turks among a population of more than 70 million Muslims.

With this kind of government-sponsored rhetoric it is easy to see how the population can be so easily whipped up into an anti-Israel, even anti-Jewish, frenzy.

The spirit of openess in Turkey, which was created as a modern, secular democracy in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk, is now on the wane.

Turkey is quickly becoming an Islamist state just like Iran after 1979, but in a less violent, more incremental way.

Turkey has long mirrored Iran in its oppression of its Kurdish population. There are 20-25 million Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Calls for a unified Kurdistan have fallen on deaf ears.

12 million of these Kurds live in southeast Turkey and a 15 year civil war left 35,000 people dead.

A recent Turkish parliamentary vote (507 for, 19 against) endorsed a Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish autonomous enclave, after cross-border raids into Turkey have left soldiers and civilians dead.

Turkey’s Kurdish problem virtually mirrors Israel’s Palestinian one.

But for Turkey there is still no Kurdish people and it is forbidden to teach in Kurdish in Turkey.

If Turkey continues on the path taken by Iran it will be a tragedy for all its people.

There is one hope; Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who now heads the main secular opposition party, CHP, which was founded by Kemal Ataturk, himself.

Kilicdaroglu could rid Turkey of being governed by Erdogan’s corrupt Islamist AKP party, which has been in power since 2002, in next year’s elections.

The election of Turkey’s “Ghandi” could be a positive move for many, including Israelis and Palestinians.

Gaza similar to Haiti?

Republique d'Haiti

Having attended the Stop the Siege of Gaza rally on tuesday night at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London I have an apology to make. In my last post I suggested that Haita might not be high on these people’s minds but i was wrong. It was. Well, sort of.

More than one speaker made the point that if the soldiers could rush out to a disaster like the Haiti earthquake, then why could they not do the same for Gaza?

Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Institute spoke of “crocodile tears” over the crisis in Haiti and questioned why no troops had been sent to Gaza (at this point I was dying to put my hand up and mention the relief brought to some Haitians by the Israel medical team, outdoing medical teams from all around the world and even the USA, but I thought I could be lynched).

Jeremy Corbyn MP, said that now it was time to call for economic sanctions against Israel. Then a moment of hope. He was concerned with the people of Haiti but ruined it all by saying that the cause of Haiti was an earthquake but the cause of the problems in Gaza is Israel. So the death and destruction in Haiti was mentioned again but mainly in the context of promoting the Palestinian cause.

Joseph Healey of the Green Party spoke. This is the same Green Party that is supposed to be lobbying our politicians to create alternative sources of energy and lobbying industrial companies to stop chopping down the rain forests. But environmental damage takes a backseat when Israel is on the agenda. Mr Healey spoke of the Green Party’s policies of sanctions and divestment from Israel. In all fairness he did denounce Egypt for building its own wall and he said that Caroline Lucas, his supreme leader, also thought Egypt a disgrace.

Then there was Simon Dubbins, the UNITE union’s head of international affairs, who spoke. The aim of UNITE is to “meet the great challenges facing working people in the 21st century”. These workers can be forgotten though when there is an opportunity to denounce Israel. Mr Dubbins called for boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel to be put into concrete effect (not much care for Israeli workers then). He committed himself to continue his work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to end the “siege” of Gaza, to bring the Israeli war criminals to trial and, get this, bring justice and peace. Thank the Lord for Mr Dubbins!

Then up popped Ismael Patel, of the Friends of al-Aqsa , who gave a stirring speech. Apparently Operation Cast Lead was all about Israel restoring its deterrent factor which it had, apparently, lost in Lebanon in 2006. He spoke of the friends of Israel who might be powerful but they are few and far between. He screamed his closing paragraph to the delight of his salivating audience: “We will bring down the Zionist state so Christians, Jews and Muslims can live as one people from the river to the sea”.

Then there was Lowkey, a rapper. Lowkey is half-British, half-Iraqi and very, very angry about what is happening to the Palestinian people. He almost rapped his way through his speech. History, or maths, isn’t his strong point though. He spoke of 60 years of military occupation. Seeing that the occupation started in 1967 that just doesn’t add up, Mr Lowkey.

Daud Abdullah, director of Middle East Monitor, gave an interesting comparison. He said that Israel had destroyed 45 mosques in Gaza but then asked us to “imagine the reaction in Britain if one synagogue was destroyed”. He then praised Hugo Chavez and signed off by calling Israel a “brutal, totalitarian, racist, apartheid state”. Cue, huge applause.

For me though biggest insult was given by the Chairman for the evening. Hugh Lanning, Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Deputy General Secretary, started off by saying that 1400 Palestinians had been killed in Operation Cast Lead but “just 13 Israelis”. Sorry, Mr Lanning, was that not enough for you? I suggest that next time you state that “1400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis”.

Then it was time for the big denouement. The creme de la creme of Palestinian activists who sat silently throughout as 15 or so speakers came and went, George Galloway.

George mentioned how he is now banned from Egypt while “this dictatorship” is in power which he prayed will not be for very much longer (rather ironically George can freely visit Israel). He also gave Israel some advice: They should not even think of going back into Gaza or it would cost the lives of thousands of Israeli soldiers. He also asked why a “tiny settler state of six million people” can be allowed to repeatedly imperil the security and stability of the world.

Lowkey, left, a rapper.

Charmingly, George then went on to say that Israel has very few supporters outside the “cesspits” of the Zionist Federation, the Centre for Social Cohesion and Harry’s Place (Cesspit: covered pit for liquid waste and sewage). But, he continued, Israel has friends in the British police who committed brutal attacks against supporters of Palestine during last January’s London protests. He failed to mention that a British bobby had been knocked unconscious

Finally, George turned to the situation with Turkey and said that in a couple of months time Turkey will lead a flotilla of ships into Gaza to break the siege. He finished off with pointing out that the borders to Gaza may be locked by Israel and Egypt but the sea is open to those who have the courage to take it, “we do, you’ll see”. Cue, standing ovation.

Fighting talk, George. Yes, we will see.

Alexei Sayle: Ullo John got a new motor?