Qatar Opens Its Doors to All, to the Dismay of Some—(Qatar Is It A Time Bomb Waiting To Explode?)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Migrants in a park at Doha Point in Doha, Qatar. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

DOHA, Qatar — Take a drive in Doha, leaving behind the mirrored skyscrapers and palm-fringed avenues of this gas-rich city, and the protagonists of myriad conflicts are in easy reach.

In one western district, near the campuses hosting branches of American universities, Taliban officials and their families can be found window-shopping in the cavernous malls or ordering takeout meals from a popular Afghan eatery.

A few miles away at a vast United States military base with 9,000 American personnel, warplanes take off on missions to bomb the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — and sometimes the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Officials from Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, work from a luxury villa near the British Embassy, and recently held a news conference in a ballroom at the pyramid-shape Sheraton hotel.

The Sheraton hotel in Doha. CreditKarim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And an elderly Egyptian cleric, a fugitive from Cairo, is a popular fixture on the city’s swank social scene, and was recently spotted at a wedding by an American diplomat who was attending the same celebration.

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This is the atmosphere of intrigue and opulence for which the capital of Qatar, a dust-blown backwater until a few decades ago, has become famous as the great freewheeling hub of the Middle East.

Against a backdrop of purring limousines and dhows moored in the bay, Doha has become home to an exotic array of fighters, financiers and ideologues, a neutral city with echoes of Vienna in the Cold War, or a Persian Gulf version of the fictional pirate bar in the “Star Wars” movies.

Yet that welcome-all attitude is precisely what has recently angered Qatar’s much larger neighbors and plunged the Middle East into one of its most dramatic diplomatic showdowns. For more than a month, four Arab countries have imposed a sweeping air, sea and land blockade against Qatarthat, in a nutshell, boils down to a demand that Doha abandon its adventurist foreign policy, and that it stop giving shelter to such a broad range of agents in its capital.

So far, the blockade is not working, and the crisis looks set to worsen. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson flew back to Washington on Thursday after days of apparently fruitless shuttle diplomacy in the region. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain have also intervened, without success.

The blockading nations — Saudi ArabiaEgypt, the United Arab Emiratesand Bahrain — insist that Qatar is using an open-door policy to destabilize its neighbors. They say that Doha, rather than the benign meeting ground described by Qataris, is a city where terrorism is bankrolled, not battled against.

Qatar’s self-identity as a center of refuge dates to the 19th century, when its desolate and semilawless territory offered sanctuary to outlaws, pirates and people fleeing persecution across the Arabian Peninsula.

“It’s always been this place where waifs and strays and unwanted people ended up,” said David Robert, the author of “Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-State” and an assistant professor at King’s College in London. “There was no overarching power on the peninsula, so if you were wanted by a sheikh, you could escape to Qatar and nobody would bother you.”

In the 19th century, Qatar’s founding leader, Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, called it the “Kaaba of the dispossessed” — a reference to the revered black cube at the Great Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, and a figurative way of describing Qatar as a lodestar for those seeking refuge.

That national trait turned into a policy for Al Thani’s descendants, who since the mid-1990s have thrown open Qatar’s doors to dissidents and exiles of every stripe. Doha has welcomed Saddam Hussein’s family, one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, the iconoclastic Indian painter M. F. Husain and the Chechen warlord Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was assassinated in the city by Russian secret agents in 2004. (The agents were caught and later extradited to Russia.)

A QatarGas offshore drilling rig in the Persian Gulf. Qatar shares the world’s third-largest gas field with Iran.CreditUllstein Bild, via Getty Images

Qatar can afford to be generous. It shares the world’s third-largest gas field with Iran, yet has just 300,000 citizens, making it the richest country per capita. In recent decades, Doha has transformed into a gleaming metropolis of global ambition where luxury cars crowd the streets and world-renowned architects have traced its futuristic skyline. An army of imported laborers is building stadiums and subway lines for the 2022 World Cup.

But among fellow Arab states, Qatar’s image has been shaped by its contentious policy of come one, come all.

In Doha, wealthy Qataris and Western expatriates mingle with Syrian exiles, Sudanese commanders and Libyan Islamist’s, many of them funded by the Qatari state. The Qataris sometimes play peacemaker: Their diplomats brokered a peace deal in Lebanon in 2008 and negotiated the release of numerous hostages, including Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist being held in Syria, in 2014.

But critics say that, often as not, rather than acting as a neutral peacemaker, Qatar takes sides in conflicts — helping oust Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, or turning a blind eye to wealthy citizens who funnel cash to extremist Islamist groups in Syria.

And what infuriates the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis most of all is that Doha has also provided shelter to Islamist dissidents from their own countries — and given them a voice on the Qatar-owned television station, Al Jazeera.

The Egyptian cleric seen at a wedding recently, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, is a prominent booster for the Muslim Brotherhood and once had an influential show on Al Jazeera, where he dispensed teachings on matters from suicide bombings to personal sexuality.

“We have the ‘children bomb,’ and these human bombs must continue until liberation,” he told his audience in 2002.

Even though Mr. Qaradawi is now 91 and stopped his TV show four years ago, his presence in Qatar is an irritant for Egypt, and his name is featured prominently on a list of 59 people that the blockading countries want deported from Qatar. They have also demanded the closing of Al Jazeera.

This and many of the demands from the blockading countries are seen as impossibly broad, leading to widespread pessimism that the standoff will end anytime soon.

“The Emiratis and the Saudis seem to have miscalculated their position,” said Mehran Kamrava, the author of “Qatar: Small State, Big Politics” and a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “They thought that if they went all-out with a blockade, the Qataris would balk. But they haven’t.”

Doha’s Taliban residents do not figure on the list of demands from the blockaders, but their presence does embody the wider debate around the merits of Qatar’s open-door approach.

Peace talks between the militants and Afghan officials, initiated by the United States in 2013, quickly collapsed. Yet a Taliban contingent stayed on, and Doha is now is home to about 100 Taliban officials and their relatives, who live comfortably at Qatari state expense, one Afghan official said.

There were further, unofficial talks in 2015 and 2016. But as the fight in Afghanistan grinds on, some experts question whether the supposed Taliban peace advocates might be quietly facilitating more war.

Michael Semple, a Taliban scholar at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said that until the blockade, Taliban leaders in Qatar were known to frequently travel by road from Qatar, through Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates, where they have investments, and to fund-raise there among the Afghan communities in the cities of Sharjah and Dubai.

“Clearly they are using their foothold in the gulf to try and fund-raise and legitimize,” he said. “If they haven’t broached the substantive issues around peace, and the other gains are modest, then you could argue that that Qatar initiative makes things worse.”

In recent years, Doha has been home to Khaled Mishal, who stepped down this year as leader of Hamas, and the country provided the group a site for talks with the former British prime minister and Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair, in 2015.

Although former Secretary of State John F. Kerry publicly criticized the Hamas presence, American officials privately say they would prefer Hamas was based in Doha rather than in a hostile capital like Tehran.

The promenade known locally as the Doha Corniche in Doha. CreditNaseem Zeitoon/Reuters

In keeping with its open-door approach, Doha was home to an Israeli trade office from 1996 to 2008. Although relations have soured, Qatar promises that Israel will be allowed to participate in the 2022 World Cup.

In the current crisis, Qatar is leveraging the wide range of ties its foreign policy has fostered. Food supplies and a few dozen soldiers from Turkey arrived in Doha after the embargo started on June 5. Turkish news reports say the military contingent could swell to 1,000 troops, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Doha in the coming days.

Late one night last weekend, revelers were spilling from a trendy hotel nightclub in Doha as two athletic Turkish men checked in. Entering the elevator with their bags, they declared themselves glad to be in Doha, and described themselves as working in the “defense sector,” then with a smile declined to say any more.

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkish Opposition Leader Ends 25-Day March With Istanbul Rally

2:49 PM ET

Addressing huge throngs of people at a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the leader of Turkey’s mainstream opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, issued a thunderous demand for an end to an ongoing government crackdown.

The rally represented the largest public display of opposition to the clampdown by government of President Recep Erdogan since he survived a failed military coup attempt nearly a year ago. More than 47,000 people have been detained since the government suppressed the attempt seize power by a faction of the armed forces on July 15, 2016.

“This the era of dictatorship. This is the era of 1940s Germany,” said Kilicdaroglu, addressing a huge throng of demonstrators at a parade grounds along the Sea of Marmara. “With this rally we witness that we are not alone. Each one of us represents hope,” he also said.

Kilicdaroglu spoke at the rally after walking about 280 miles from Ankara in protest of the crackdown which has lead to the arrest journalists, academics, and members of parliament. Kilicdaroglu set out from the capital on June 15, a day after a member of parliament from his Republican People’s Party (CHP) was arrested, joining at least 11 other opposition lawmakers who have been detained in recent months.

After marching through the Turkish countryside for more than three weeks, Kilicdaroglu arrived in Istanbul on Saturday leading a throng of thousands of protesters. The protest raised fears of a confrontation when the crowd arrived in the city, but there were no signs of violence. Police had provided security for Kilicdaroglu and the protesters during their long walk from Ankara. On Sunday, Kilicdaroglu chose to walk alone on the final stretch to the rally.

“’I reached the end of my walk, but this is not the end. It is the beginning of a new era,” he said, speaking to a cheering crowd that chanted “Hak, hukuk, adalet!” (Rights, law, justice!) Though it was organized by the CHP, the organizers of both the march and rally eschewed party insignia, instead distributing signs reading “adalet,” justice. The crowd waved Turkish flags.

Kilicdaroglu has been criticized in the past for failing to organize a credible opposition to the crackdown in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. However, his march across the country captured Turkey’s national political conversation. The demonstration in was a show of force for Turkey’s mainstream opposition, and CHP supporters were heavily represented in the crowd. The protest also attracted support from members of the broader Turkish public.

“I want justice for everyone in this country. I want justice for my children,” said Saime Zirik, 55, as she stood in in the afternoon sun awaiting Kilicdaroglu’s arrival. She said she had been unable to find work for five years.

A populist leader who has dominated Turkish politics for about 15 years, Erdogan is a deeply polarizing figure, equally loved and hated by rival political camps within Turkey. In recent years, he has sidelined other leaders within his own party and moved to restrict political opponents. The coup attempt lead to an acceleration of the clampdown, including the closure of dozens of news organizations and the firing of top military officers and tens of civil servants.

In April, Erdogan also won a disputed victory in a referendum on a constitutional overhaul to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system of government with one dominated by a powerful presidency. The government argued the changes were needed to impose stability, while the opposition denounced it as a power grab. The vote itself was also marred by widespread claims of fraud. The referendum marked another step in a larger struggle over the future Turkey’s democracy.

In his speech on Sunday, Kilicdaroglu issued a list of demands including freeing the judiciary from the influence of the ruling party, releasing journalists from prison, and greater prosperity for all Turks. He did not articulate a specific plan to achieve those goals, and even some of the protesters in the crowd expressed skepticism about whether the demonstration would result in concrete changes.

“Unless Erdogan says ‘yes,’ nothing will change in this country,” said a 60-year-old teacher from Istanbul who also stood in the crowd. She asked for her name to be withheld, for fear that she could lose her job for criticizing the government.

Others, however, left the demonstration energized.

“I feel like I’m more hopeful for the future. I feel like a new person now,” said Fahri Gokdal, 61, a retired civil servant who came to the rally from the town of Burhaniye, about a five-hour drive south of Istanbul.

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES.ORG)

Erdogan’s Post-Evolutionary Turkey Floods School Classrooms, Threatens Universities

Photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan taken from r4bia.com. Creative commons.

While the earlier education reforms of Turkey’s socially conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) pointed towards inclusiveness, the current ones have a far more troubling direction.

Not content with removing around 45,000 education ministry staff from the government payroll following an abortive coup in July last year, Turkey’s ruling party is now looking to take down Darwin.

Last month the government announced that the theory of evolution would be removed from the teaching curriculum at Turkish schools until students reach university.

The announcement adds to evidence cited by concerned secularists who suggest Turkey’s education system is being remodelled in line with President Erdogan’s bid to raise “pious generations” and forge a “New Turkey”.

Efforts to rejig the country’s teaching curriculum along more religious lines are not new, dating back at least as February 2012.

What has changed since is President Erdogan’s seemingly unassailable position in post-coup attempt and post-referendum Turkey.

‘New Turkey’

Despite its shrunken majority and the ever-increasing polarization of the Turkish electorate — or perhaps because of these things — AKP is pushing its policy agenda more aggressively than ever before.

Along with the ban on evolution in the classroom, the AKP educational reforms will see the government’s narrative on the 2016 coup attempt embedded in school syllabi, while class time dedicated to modern Turkey’s secular founder Kemal Attaturk will be reduced.

Forced enrolment of some school-age students into controversial religious imam-hatip state schools is another feature of the new education agenda.

The AKP government won praise from both liberals and conservatives for managing to reverse the country’s repressive ban on headscarfs in universities back in 2010. The move allowed women from observant Muslim families to receive further education.

But the imam-hatip schools have faced criticism for discouraging girls from doing that very thing. Secularists see the schools growing role in Turkey’s education system as yet another sign that AKP is trying to recast the country in its own traditionalist image.

An evolving threat

According to the head of curriculum for the Turkish education ministry, teaching evolution in schools is “controversial”, but opponents of the ban were quick to side with science.

Evrim müfredattan çıkarıldı, biyoloji ders saati %33 azaltılırken din dersi saati % 100 arttırıldı. İran’ı kısa zamanda geçeriz İnşaAllah!

They have removed evolution from the curriculum, biology class hours have been reduced by 33%, while religion class hours have been increased by 100%. God willing, we are going to get ahead of Iran soon.

Evrim teorisi dersi kalkıyormuş arkadaşlar, arttık neyin dersini verecekler çocuklarımıza onu merak ediyorum 😠😠😠

They are removing evolution theory class. I am not wondering what they are going to teach our children.

Okullarda evrim dersleri okutulmayacak ama şeriat ceza hukuku din dersi okutulacak # işte yeni Türkiye anlayışı

There won’t be any classes on evolution. But there are classes on Sharia criminal law and religion. This is the meaning of ‘New Turkey’.

Biyoloji dersi ilk ders ilk slayt; evrim bir gerçektir, tartışılamaz. 29 yıldır aklımda. Hoca haklıydı.

Biology class, first class, first slide: evolution is real, and cannot be argued against. I have remembered this for 29 years. The teacher was right.

The international response has also been critical:

 continues to change ‘s identity by erasing evolution from the country’s education curriculum.https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/world/europe/turkey-evolution-high-school-curriculum.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feurope&_r=0 

Schoolchildren in Istanbul. Turkey’s decision to stop teaching evolution in high schools has deepened concerns that the president, a conservative Muslim, wants to radically change the identity of the secular country.

Turkey Drops Evolution From Curriculum, Angering Secularists

A chapter on evolution will no longer appear in ninth graders’ textbooks because it is considered too “controversial” an idea, an education official said.

nytimes.com

Currently the evolution ban only applies to schools, but many fear that universities are being targeted for a serious government-led overhaul, too. Thousands of academics were dismissed from their jobs following the military coup, while out of 180 universities currently operating in Turkey, 15 were shut down.

U.S. Backed Rebels Have Broken Through Raqqa’s Old Cities Walls: ISIS Caliphate Is On It’s Way To Hell

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

US-backed rebels have breached a strategic wall surrounding the Old City of Raqqa in ISIS’s self-declared capital on Monday, US Central Command has said in a statement.

Breaching the Rafiqah Wall means the Syrian Democratic Forces will be able to penetrate Raqqa’s Old City, the last redoubt of ISIS defenders in the city. The ancient wall — first constructed in the 8th century by the Abbasid dynasty and stretching around the Old City on three sides — has provided important fortification for ISIS.
The operation was “a key milestone” in the campaign to “liberate the city,” Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said on his official Twitter account.
In a CENTCOM statement, the US added: “Coalition forces supported the SDF advance into the most heavily fortified portion of Raqqa by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City.”
The battle for Raqqa is not dissimilar to that of Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces are fighting to expel the last of ISIS fighters from Iraq’s second-largest city. But the fight to retake Raqqa has gone quicker, with attacking forces gradually forcing a diminishing number of ISIS fighters into a smaller area of narrow streets around the ancient mosque of Rafiqa, which has already been extensively damaged.
The Rafiqah Wall — which is 3 kilometers from the city center — is approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long, 3.8 meters (12.4 feet) high and 1 meter thick, Syrian state media reported in 2009.
ISIS fighters had planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several breaks in the wall, a US Central Command (CENTCOM) statement said.
“The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall,” CENTCOM said.
CENTCOM and the SDF did not specify which area of the wall was breached.
The SDF launched an offensive to seize Raqqa on June 6. For more than three years, ISIS has used Raqqa as a staging ground for its deadly attacks on the Middle East and further overseas.
The group is running out of places to go. If ISIS is evicted from Raqqa it will lose the last vestige of any “governance” of its so-called caliphate. But it’s not just losing control of territory, it will also lose the facility to move freely between Syria and Iraq — especially since Iraqi militia seized the key town of Baaj last month.
The coalition hopes that the loss of Raqqa and Mosul will dull ISIS’ appeal to potential recruits.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” General Steve Townsend, the coalition’s commanding general, said.

Qatar says list of demands by Arab states not realistic

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Qatar says list of demands by Arab states not realistic

An aerial view of high-rise buildings emerging through fog covering the skyline of Doha, as the sun rises over the city, in Doha, Qatar, 15 February 2014Image copyright EPA
Image caption Qatar, which is rich in natural gas, is home to 2.7 million people

Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected a list of 13 conditions set by four Arab states for lifting sanctions, saying it is neither reasonable nor actionable.

Qatar is under strict sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. They accuse Qatar of backing terrorism.

Among other things, they have demanded the closure of Al Jazeera TV, which is funded by the Qatari government.

The UAE’s foreign minister has suggested they may cut ties completely.

But Anwar Gargash added that the countries were not seeking to overthrow the Qatari leadership, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Qatar has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions for more than two weeks, with Iran and Turkey increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.

It denies accusations that it is funding terrorism and fostering regional instability.

The four countries also want Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base, setting a deadline on Friday of 10 days.

What has Qatar’s government said?

The government is reviewing the demands, a spokesman has said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, quoted by Al-Jazeera, said: “The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable’.

“The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic.’ This list does not satisfy that [sic] criteria.”

Media caption Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera: “We’re not partisan to any particular group or ideology or government”

He said the demands were proof that the sanctions had “nothing to do with combating terrorism… [but] limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy”.

Al Jazeera accused them of trying to silence freedom of expression, adding: “We assert our right to practise our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority.”

What effect are sanctions having?

Qatar’s main import routes – by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from container ships docked in the UAE – have been disrupted, and much of the surrounding airspace has been closed to its air traffic.

Map showing Qatar and other Gulf states

However, the small but wealthy country has so far avoided economic collapse by finding alternative routes.

Qatari citizens living in neighbouring countries or with family living there have been hit harder, Reuters news agency notes, because of ultimatums issued for them to leave.

What happens if the demands are not met?

The UAE’s foreign minister said there would be a “parting of ways” with Qatar if it failed to meet them.

“The alternative is not escalation,” he said. “The alternative is parting of ways. It’s very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping with one of the partners… actively promoting what is an extremist and terrorist agenda.”

He described Qatar as a “Trojan horse” within the group of Arab monarchies.

Where is the US in this?

Correspondents say there has been frustration in Washington over the time taken by the Saudis and others to formalise their demands.

Media caption The disruption could have an impact on Qatar if the dispute drags on

US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Qatar, accusing it of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.

However, the Arab states involved in the crisis are all close allies of the US, while the largest US base in the Middle East is in Qatar.


Do you live in Qatar? Have you been affected by the sanctions? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

Turkey says Israel paid compensation to families of 2010 flotilla raid victims – media

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Turkey says Israel paid compensation to families of 2010 flotilla raid victims – media

Israel has paid total compensation of $20 million to the families of the victims of an Israeli raid on a Turkish aid flotilla that killed 10 people in 2010, Turkish media quoted Turkey’s Finance Minister Naci Agbal as saying on Friday.

The payment, which will be divided among the 10 families, comes some nine months after Israel, which had already offered apologies for the raid – one of Ankara’s conditions for rapprochement – agreed to pay the families of those killed.

“Compensation has been paid to the families of those who lost their lives during the Mavi Marmara attack,” Turkish broadcasters quoted Agbal as saying.

Relations between Israel and Turkey broke down in 2010 when Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed by Israeli commandos enforcing a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The soldiers raided a ship, the Mavi Marmara, leading a flotilla towards the Islamist Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

In June 2016 however, the two countries said they would normalize relations – a rapprochement driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over security risks in the Middle East.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan named a new ambassador to Israel in November last year, reciprocating a move by the Israelis, in a move toward restoring diplomatic ties between the once-close allies.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

We reap what we sow. Many countries did not pay attention to the fact that maps need constant maintenance to prevent them from aging and rotting, and that relations between entities should be continuously repaired as well.

The first condition of maintenance is to prioritize the notion of citizenship and to build a state that deserves to be called as such; which means a state of law and institutions, a state that guarantees equal rights and duties.

Discrimination against citizens creates a hole in the map; a hole that allows the infiltration of winds and foreign influence. The ruler believes that power can silence the people forever. He has forgotten that the balance of power can be distorted and twisted and that the oppressed can grab any opportunity to take revenge. Grievances can make them jump out of the map.

The ruler commits a fatal error when he gives power the last say and when he refuses to listen to people’s complaints or demands. He believes that he has an endless ability to silence them and that fear can make the wounded and the disadvantaged forget their injuries and the injustice against them.

The worst scenario of all is when the ruler regards a group of citizens as a foreign body that was planted by destiny inside the map, and when he believes that the solution is to abolish the features of this group, separate it from its heritage, weaken its language and force it to gradually relinquish its identity.

The call for holding an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on September 25 has ignited the Kurdish issue. Baghdad opposed the call. Iran rejected it. Ankara saw it as a huge mistake. The reactions of those parties are not surprising. Countries that have scattered Kurds across their maps following World War I, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, can disagree over anything but on the necessity to abort the Kurdish dream of having an independent state.

Masoud Barzani is aware of this truth. It is clear that the referendum will not lead to immediate measures. Lessons have taught Barzani to differentiate between dreams and illusions. He understands that rushing to completely leave the Iraqi entity could make the province an easy prey for major players in the region.

It is widely believed that Barzani is hopeless over the future of Iraq as a whole, especially in the wake of the ongoing rivalries between the Sunni and Shiite entities.

However, Barzani knows well that reviewing the borders involves major risks unless it is achieved under an international umbrella that sponsors a process of such size and nature.

ISIS’ invasion of Mosul has accelerated the dismantling of the Iraqi entity. It has intensified conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It has also increased the distance between Erbil and Baghdad.

ISIS attempted to invade the Kurdish province to fortify its presence in its mountains and take advantage of its location on the border of three countries. The Kurds engaged in a fierce battle to defend their region. They paid heavy prices. The Kurdish leader has once again concluded that the Sykes-Picot entities are artificial and not endlessly viable. He considered that “new maps are drawn with blood.”

Barzani knows that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq is a quasi-impossible dream. Yet, perhaps he is trying to consolidate the right to independence, even if it was not possible to be achieved in the near future. Some people believe that he is ready to accept a less-than-a-divorce formula. A formula that is based on confederate states that would save Erbil and Baghdad from being entangled in complex relations.

However, such formula needs a dance partner. It needs a realistic partner in Baghdad. Without the presence of such collaborator, Baghdad might be pushed towards a new conflict following the fall of ISIS: a conflict that can be triggered in “disputed areas”, beginning with Kirkuk. Some people do not exclude an upcoming confrontation between the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces, with all the consequences that may imply on the Iraqi and regional levels.

While talking about Iraq, one should not neglect the deep transformations taking place in Syria. Syria’s Kurds today are different from those who were living there six years ago when the war broke out. Syria’s Kurds did not rush to engage in the country’s uprising. They took the role of spectators and were preparing for the worst. ISIS’ insistence to target their areas has offered them several opportunities. Their victory in Kobani has given them a much longed-for legitimacy. The Democratic Union Party, led by Saleh Muslim, succeeded in militarizing a society that felt threatened.

It was widely believed at the beginning that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has not cut its relations with the regime, and that the latter was able to manipulate it at the right time to suit its own interests. Nonetheless, the Kurds proved to be coherent forces at a time when the Syrian opposition was being struck on several sides. Syria’s Kurds have found a major role in fighting ISIS. They received training and arms. Washington was betting on their role, despite Erdogan’s anger and warnings.

It is true that the Turkish Army succeeded in preventing geographic communication between Kurdish areas, but this did not keep the YPG from changing the landscape in several Syrian regions.

Saleh Muslim says that the Syrian regime has practically collapsed. He means the single-party regime. He also says that it was impossible to revert to the pre-war situation in 2011. He notes that the Kurds will live in self-administered zones. The role of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa reinforces the belief that the Kurds will not have a marginal role.

In the past century, maps were sketched on the detriment of the Kurds. It looked like they were confined inside the borders. Abstaining from treating the Kurds with equity while preserving our maps has led us to the explosion.

It is clear that the Kurdish fingerprint will be seen when drawing the future of Iraq and Syria, which raises the fears of Turkey and Iran.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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German cabinet backs troop pullout from Turkey base after row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

German cabinet backs troop pullout from Turkey base after row

Germany’s cabinet on Wednesday backed the withdrawal of troops from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, the German defense minister said, following Ankara’s refusal to allow German lawmakers access to its soldiers there.

Germany plans to move the 280 German soldiers to an air base in Jordan but has stressed it wants to minimize any disruption to the U.S.-led coalition operation against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, of which it is part.

Turkey has refused to allow German lawmakers to make a routine visit to the base, saying that Berlin needs to improve its attitude towards Turkey first.

Turkey was infuriated when Germany, citing security concerns, banned some Turkish politicians from campaigning on its soil. Ankara responded by accusing Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics and has since reignited a row over Incirlik.

“Given that Turkey is currently not in a position to allow German parliamentarians the right to visit Incirlik, the cabinet today agreed to move the Bundeswehr from Incirlik to Jordan,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

Lawmakers are still discussing whether the proposed withdrawal should be put to a parliamentary vote. German armed forces are subordinated to parliament, not the government, meaning lawmakers have oversight of the troops.

Von der Leyen said she would hold immediate talks with the U.S. military and the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS to minimize the impact of the move and would set the timetable accordingly. She will brief cabinet and parliament next week.

She has said withdrawing German refueling aircraft would take two to three weeks, and the relocation of reconnaissance jets two to three months.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was in Turkey on Monday in a last attempt to convince Ankara to avert a pullout, but said Turkey had once again refused the visits for “domestic political reasons.”

He said he had wanted to avoid further hurting ties with Turkey and pushing it towards Russia.

Critics have accused Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election in September, of cozying up to Erdogan to secure his help in stemming the flow of migrants to western Europe.

Ankara reacted angrily to German concerns over a domestic crackdown after a failed coup attempt last July, and relations were further tested by Turkey’s jailing of a German-Turkish journalist.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Now Turkey’s Dictator Erdogan (The Dog) Has Issued Arrest Warrant For An NBA Player As A Terrorist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘HOT AIR’NEWS)

Keep your friends close and your friends who are homicidal dictators closer, I suppose.

Turkey’s efforts at international diplomacy were clearly bolstered when the Tyrant of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gained a White House audience with President Trump. During that meeting the two leaders supposedly discussed the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson. (Which still hasn’t happened, by the way.) Many observers still seem to believe that Erdogan is holding out because he would like the United States to turn over cleric Fethullah Gulen, currently residing in Pennsylvania. But now Erodgan may be adding another name to his list. NBA center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Enes Kanter, has an arrest warrant out for him in Turkey and their president really wants him brought to Ankara for “questioning.” (The Oklahoman)

Turkey has issued a warrant for the arrest of Thunder center Enes Kanter, according to a report from a Turkish pro-government publication.

According to a story from international news agency AFP, the Daily Sabah in Turkey reported that Kanter is sought for being a member of a “terror group.” A prosecutor in Istanbul opened an investigation into Kanter’s “alleged membership of an armed terrorist organization,” according to the AFP report…

Daily Sabah reported that the prosecutor would apply for an Interpol red notice to inform Interpol’s members that Kanter’s arrest is sought in an effort to ensure his deportation, according to the AFP report.

In terms of how he managed to get on Erdogan’s radar, Kanter definitely brought the attention on himself. He’s been tweeting out taunts to the Turkish government, daring them to try to come and get him and promising to go there and “spit in all their ugly, hate-filled faces.” On top of that, he’s openly aligned himself with Gulen, expressing his support for the cleric’s movement. Kanter is a citizen of Turkey but has a green card giving him lawful permanent resident status in the United States and has said that he’s working on obtaining US citizenship.

But being critical of the Erdogan regime and siding with Gulen aren’t crimes. (Well.. they’re not crimes in America, anyway. In Turkey that can get you executed.) The fact that he’s a Turkish citizen complicates matters a little, but we still have no reason to give this guy up and send him off to what would almost certainly be a lengthy stretch in a dungeon and some face time with one of Erdogan’s torturers.

Is this something that the Trump administration would ever seriously consider? The charges against Pastor Bronson are completely trumped up, if you’ll pardon the phrase, and it’s a slap in our face that he hasn’t already been released. But if he’s being used as a bargaining chip for some larger game of international diplomacy and intrigue, we’ve hit some dark times indeed.

Meanwhile, in an obvious show of hypocrisy, Turkey still has nothing to say in terms of regrets over Erdogan’s goons beating down unarmed protesters during his visit to Washington. As the Free Beacon reports, dozens of congressmen have signed on to an effort to have the perpetrators either arrested or expelled, but the White House remains silent on the matter thus far.

“This may be how they deal with dissenters in Turkey, but here in America that’s against the law,” Rep. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) said in a statement about the letter. “Our country is founded on the rights of free speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s security team’s brazen, physical assault on American citizens and legal residents peacefully protesting his policies is outrageous and follows a disturbing pattern. Foreign leaders, diplomats, and staff are invited guests of our nation, and they should act as such. All of those involved—at all levels—must be held accountable.”

You might be able to make the argument that Trump is in a tough spot right now when it comes to Turkey. No matter how deranged Erdogan may be, his country remains a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to dealing with Syria, and to a lesser extent, Russia and Iraq. But there also have to be limits to precisely how much we’re willing to tolerate in the name of cooperation from a supposed ally. We’re running into the same problem with the Philippines right now and it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for the rest of the world.

More than enough time has passed now for Trump to craft some sort of deal and get Andrew Brunson home. Once that’s accomplished we can deal with Erdogan from at least a slightly stronger position. Dithering and continuing to wait is increasingly turning into a problem for this administration.

New Delhi Makes It Plain: No Third Party Mediation With Pakistan On Kashmir/Jammu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER NEWS PAPER)

New Delhi had conveyed its position in the matter to all its foreign interlocutors in unequivocal terms, MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay told reporters here.

His comments came in the wake of an article in the influential Chinese daily Global Times, suggesting that Beijing could consider mediating between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue to protect its economic interests. Notably the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) also runs through Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). India has already conveyed its objection in the matter to Beijing.

The spokesperson said he normally did not react to newspaper reports. However, he would advise this segment of the Chinese media which carried the news report to first understand China’s own position on Kashmir clearly. As far as India was concerned, the Chinese position had been that Kashmir was an issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan.

When it was pointed out to him that Turkish President Erdogan had suggested multilateral talks to resolve the Kashmir issue in a television interview on the eve of his India visit, the spokesperson said the Turkish leader did not raise the matter in any way during his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.