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U.S. Defends “Human Rights” of Persecutors of Christians

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The Islamic jihad against Christians in Nigeria is proving to be the most barbaric. A new report states that 70% of Christians killed around the world in 2012 were killed in the African nation. Among some of the atrocities committed in March alone, at least 41 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a bus station in a predominantly Christian neighborhood.

According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, these attacks “were a signpost of the intended extermination of Christians and Christianity from northern Nigeria.”

According to the Rev. Jerome Ituah, “Out of the 52 Catholic churches in Maiduguri diocese, 50 of them have been destroyed by Boko Haram. When two Christian brothers were returning home after Sunday church service, jihadis opened fire on them with machine guns, killing the brothers, as well as three others, and injuring several more Christians.

Another 13 Christian factory workers in Kano were “gruesomely” slain. Said the local bishop: “Reports of the attack reaching us disclosed that on that fateful Saturday at about 7 p.m, Muslim faithful were conducting their prayer close to the affected compound occupied by Christian families, when two taxi cabs stopped in front of the compound and the occupants, who all concealed their arms dashed into the complex and demanded to know why the residents were not part of the 7 p.m. Muslim prayer. They responded by telling the visitors they were Christians and so could not be part of the Muslim gathering. At that point, they separated the men from their wives and children and shot them dead on the spot after ordering the women and children into their homes” to be enslaved.

The bishop added that, “government should show more concern, like it has always done when Muslims are affected; I have not seen that in the case of Christians—that 13 Christians were killed in one straight attack and nothing is heard from the government reflects selective justice because we are aware of compensation paid to Muslim families in situations of this nature.”

However, the Nigeria government recently did go on the offensive to try to contain the jihadis in northern Nigeria—only to be chastised by the Obama administration, in the person of John Kerry, who recently warned the Nigerian government not to violate the “human rights” of the jihadi mass murderers.

Categorized by theme, the rest of March’s Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:

Church Attacks

Egypt: According to El Watan News, three Christian brothers were shot dead at their home by automatic weapons a few weeks before two were set to have their weddings. The victims’ family was earlier accused of trying to build a church on land they owned because they purchased building material to build a house on that land. The rumors about the building of a church spread during the Friday sermon at the mosque, following which 2,000 Muslims stormed the land and tried to destroy the house, car and tractor, resulting in the murder of the three Christian brothers.

Indonesia: Authorities demolished a church building with a bulldozer in West Java, even as Muslim bystanders cheered and denounced Christians as “infidels.” According to Pastor Leonard Nababan, the government is “criminalising our religion.” The congregation had gathered around the church in an effort to save it; so did Muslims, shouting, “They’re infidels and they’ve built their church without permission,” “Knock the church down now” and “Allahu Akbar.”

Iraq: According to Fox News, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were more than 300 Christian churches. Today, a decade after the jihad was unleashed on Christians and their churches, only 57 Christian churches remain in the nation. And “The churches that remain are frequent targets of Islamic extremists, who have driven nearly a million Christians out of the land…” An Iraqi-based human rights organization said that “The last 10 years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq…. More than two-thirds [of Christians] have emigrated.” One of the most dramatic cases of Christian persecution came in late October of 2010, when Al Qaeda members laid siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad, killing 58 and wounding 78. According to an AP report “Iraq’s Catholic Christians flocked to churches to celebrate Easter Sunday [in March], praying, singing and rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ behind high blast walls and tight security cordons… [emphasis added].”

Libya: A Coptic Christian church located in Benghazi was attacked by armed Muslims. The jihadis severely beat and shaved the beard and mustache of Father Paul, the priest of the church, as a sign of humiliation. They also beat the deacon and nine attendees. Meanwhile, because Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government had done little regarding the systematic abuse of Egyptian citizens in Libya, including the murder of one under torture, Copts demonstrated in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo—prompting yet another attack on the Benghazi church, which was set on fire.

Pakistan: In response to one Christian man accused of blaspheming Islam’s prophet thousands of Muslims attacked the Christian Joseph Colony of Lahore, burning two churches, one Catholic, the other a Seventh Day Adventist, as often happens in Pakistan in the context of collectively punishing Christians.

Sudan: According to Morning Star News, Khartoum’s jihad continues to “rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity”: the Evangelical Church in the Nuba was “reduced … to ashes” after an aerial bombardment. Days later, another bombing campaign left two dead and twelve injured, in the Christian-majority region. “These bombardments are major sources of fear among the people in South Kordofan,” said a church leader.

Turkey: The 5th century Studios Monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is set to go from being a branch of the Hagia Sophia—Christianity’s grandest cathedral, which was transformed into a mosque, after the Islamic conquest and is currently a museum—to being an active mosque. Many Turkish Muslims continue calling for the return of the Hagia Sophia itself to a mosque.

Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism

Holland: A 43-year-old Iranian Muslim convert to Christianity was found murdered. According to the Farsi Christian News Network, the victim went to church the afternoon he was killed: “The shocking news of this senseless murder has brought grief and sorrow to the local Christians, Iranian-Christian community, and asylum seekers across the country.” Christians constitute a large percentage of the Iranians seeking asylum in Holland. (Islamic Sharia law calls for the killing of apostates, and converts to Christianity are regularly targeted in the Islamic world.)

Iran: During a major conference, a Shi’ite leader claimed that Islam was under attack by Christianity in Iran: “Christian booklets and brochures are being sent to people’s doors for free in many areas… Christianity is being preached in many shops in the Islamic city of Mashhad. Also Christian booklets are sent to people’s addresses without restrictions.” But a Mohabat News spokesperson said “Of course, the Islamic cleric did not provide any supporting evidence for his claim. However, it seems their sole purpose in bringing up and repeating these claims is to provoke security authorities against, and provide the means for increased pressure on Iranian Christians converts.”

Kazakhstan: Vyacheslav Cherkasov , a Christian street evangelist, was detained for offering Christian literature to passersby and fined the equivalent of one month’s wages on charges of “violating the rules” regarding “importing, publishing and distribution of religious literature” which came into force in 2011. The court ordered the destruction of his 121 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles and children’s Bibles, in the first such ruling since the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Local Council of Churches Baptists said in published remarks: “We were shocked—this is sacrilege and illegality.”

Pakistan: The blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old Christian girl who was earlier arrested for “blasphemy” when a Muslim cleric falsely claimed that she burned a Koran, has been reopened. According to a BosNewsLife report, “A police investigator asked the Supreme Court in Islamabad to reopen the case” against the Christian girl, “saying he was pressured by the government to drop charges against her after an international outcry.” She and her family are currently in hiding. A court is also considering a death sentence against 47-year-old Martha Bibi, a Christian and mother, due to alleged “derogatory remarks” about Muslim prophet Muhammad. Another Christian man was arrested after a Muslim accused him of blasphemy. But his arrest was not enough to appease the 3000 strong mob that went on to collectively punish the nation’s Christians, burning two churches, some 200 Christian homes, and stealing their property.

Somalia: Muslim militants murdered yet another Christian. Ahmed Ali Jimale, 42, was killed by two men as he stood outside his house, near a police station. Among other things, the man was accused of apostasy—on the widespread assumption that all Somalis are born Muslims—and, because he worked as a teacher, of “introducing the children to foreign Christian religion”; Muslim militants had warned him that “we shall come for your head.” A friend of the slain said “Jimale was a good man who helped our community. His widow is very scared and afraid, not knowing what will happen.” He also leaves behind four children, ages 10, 8, 6, and 4.

Dhimmitude

[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as “Tolerated” Citizens]

Egypt: Muslim rioters in town of Kom Ombo threw firebombs and rocks at police after Friday mosque prayers in an effort to storm a church where they claimed a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity was hiding. Violence began when a 36 year-old Muslim woman, who had been missing for five days, was allegedly seen outside the church with a female Christian friend. Days later, hundreds of Muslims marched in the town of al-Wasta, to protest the disappearance of another young Muslim girl and accuse the priest of St. George’s Church of using “black magic” to lure her to Christianity. They hurled stones at the church; Coptic shops were forced to close down; Salfis threatened to kidnap a Christian girl if their Muslim girl did not return. However, Watani newspaper had already reported that the Muslim girl sent an open letter to her family, posted on the Internet, saying that she ran away because she was sexually abused by her uncles, was forced to marry a man she did not want, and that she had left Egypt and was married to a Muslim man. Unrelatedly a Fox News report states that “Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into [a] torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.” And according to a Voice of Russia report, “up to 100,000 Christians have left Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Some of those have arrived in Moscow.”

Iran: According to Fox News, a UN report indicates that “Iran’s hard-line regime has intensified its violent crackdown on Christians and other religious minorities, even imprisoning nursing mothers for practicing their faith…” The March report provides a “rare, detailed view into the shocking treatment of Christians in Iran, where American Pastor Saeed Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence for his alleged work with Christians.” According to a UN expert on human rights in Iran, “The persecution of Christians has increased. It seems to target new converts and those who run house churches…. more than 300 Christians have been arrested since June 2010, according to the report.” Most recently, Five members of the Church of Iran denomination appeared before a judge and “charged with disturbing public order, evangelizing, action against national security and an internet activity against the system.”

Pakistan: After 3,000 Muslims attacked a Christian village—burning two churches and some 200 homes—the government punished Christians for protesting. According to the Daily Times, “Christians around the country are incensed by the recurring theme of blasphemy allegation followed by attacks and burning down of their vulnerable communities. They have held protests across the country in a concerted effort to vent their disgust at the recent incident and to show solidarity with the victims… Lahore police used the opportunity to beat the innocent Christian protesters. They shot tear gas shells at them and beat them with sticks. Yet when the Muslim attack took place they stood back and watched till the town had been razed to the ground…Muslims of Jhelum city have threatened to burn Christians home in response to the protests. Now the community is living in fear of reprisals for their simple act of condemning violence and the blasphemy laws of Pakistan.”

Sweden: According to Charisma News, “Christians in Iran face arrest, torture, even death. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Swedish immigration officials. Sweden wants to send Iranian Christian asylum seekers, who left Islam, back to Iran where they could be killed. Iran is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. As apostates from Islam, they face grave danger in this country. But their requests for asylum status that could save their lives have been denied.”

Syria: According to a Catholic leader, up to 30,000 Christians have fled the city of Aleppo, and two priests were abducted and held for a ransom of 15 million Syrian pounds each. Christians are regularly kidnapped and beheaded by jihadi rebels. Also, a short English-language video appeared where Fr. Fadi al-Hamzi told of how his uncle was recently murdered: “They killed him because he is Christian, they refuse to have any Christians in Syria. … I’m not afraid; my uncle died, he’s immortal now. I can be like him.” When asked if he was worried if Christians would be massacred if the U.S.-supported jihadis overthrew the government, the priest said , “Yes, yes, this will be… they don’t want us here.” Christians were in Syria 600 years before Islam conquered the nation.

About this Series

Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1) Intrinsically, to document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, increasingly chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.

2) Instrumentally, to show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy and blasphemy laws; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (tribute); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed “dhimmis” (barely tolerated citizens); and simple violence and murder. Oftentimes it is a combination thereof.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the west, to India in the east, and throughout the West, wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

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Middle East

Turkey in Idlib

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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 What is the real strategic sense of Turkey’s very recent military operation in the Idlib region of North-Western Syria?

 We will analyse here, above all, the main strategic effects and the consequences within the entire Middle East region, as well as the counterpressures within the global geopolitical framework.

 The word Idlib comes from the Aramaic “Adad” (God) and “Lib” (centre).

 A very important geographical and military factor is that, to the West, Idlib is very close to Latakia, where the Russian base of Khmeimimim is located, with more than 1,000 stable operatives, who are now part of the Russian defence apparatus, together with those of the Tartus naval base, where – at the air base near Latakia – also an important unit of the Sixth Directorate of the Russian Military Secret Service (GRU) operates.

 As early as 2015, i.e. the outbreak of war in Syria, Idlib has been, at first, the centre of protests against Bashar al Assad by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni groups. Later Idlib was taken as a safe base by the various jihadist groups, including the remaining elements of the “Islamic State” of Raqqa that have now largely fled to the North-Western Syrian city, in close contact with the Turkish territories.

 Not to mention the over 100,000 ones, previously held by the Kurds, who are relatives, collaborators and mere militants of the so-called “Caliphate” that Turkey has no interest in keeping detained and is slowly releasing.

 Currently Idlib is not controlled by any majority jihadist group, but by an often vague balance among the many groups of the “holy war”, i.e. the Middle East and the other proxy wars, usually mediated by the Turkish Intelligence Services.

 Besides autonomous groups of jihadists coming from the Chinese Turkestan-Xinjiang, often weakened with lightning operations by the operatives of the Chinese Armed Forces, in the region. There are also Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Al Qa’eda faction that has been operating for many years in Syria and partly in Iraq, and the National Liberation Front, founded in May 2018 and openly supported by Turkey.

 It currently includes as many as 11 jihadist factions, but also nationalistic and mainly anti-Assad groups.

These groups often emerge from the Syrian Sunni majority, largely present in the North of the country.

 In agreement with Russia, however, as early as 2019 the Syrian government led by Assad has stated that “Syria’s first goal is to free Idlib”.

 A very harsh signal for Turkey which, just in that phase, was beginning to have as many as 1,300 soldiers around Idlib to monitor the ceasefire.

 In that case, Turkey’s primary goal was to avoid adding a further and probably incalculable mass of other migrants to the 3 million Syrians already present in the Turkish territory on the border with Syria – with EU money – but assigned by Germany alone to Turkey.

 That situation made the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, do his utmost to prevent a new offensive against Idlib from the South and from the East.

 Hence, Staffan de Mistura’s proposals were the usual talks to avoid military pressure and, above all, create a humanitarian corridor, mainly with a view to avoiding the rush of crowds of Syrian migrants to Idlib and, from there, to the “Balkan route”.

 European countries are full of migrants but, when thinking about geopolitics, they focus only on humanitarian aspects and, precisely, on how to avoid the arrival of other migrants.

 Cannot we call it a failure?

 In October 2018, in Sochi, the contacts between Putin and Erdogan led to an agreement.

 A “de-escalation zone” was created in Syria – just to use the terminology of the Astana talks, the real ones, not the semi-deserted talks in Geneva – and it was in that area that Turkey took up the role of maintaining public order.

 Shortly after the Sochi agreement, in an interview on the Russian TV, Bashar al Assad stated: “The Syrian military confrontation with Turkey is illogical”.

 The document signed in Sochi between the two leaders stated that: a) there was a commitment of both countries for Syria’s territorial integrity; b) there was a common commitment to the fight against “all terrorists”, as well as the beginning of a ceasefire regime in Idlib as from March 6, and the establishment of a ‘security corridor’ along the Syrian M-4 motorway, six kilometres to the right and six kilometres to the left of the road axis; c) finally, there was the introduction of joint Turkish-Russian patrols, again along the M-4 motorway, in Idlib, in the direction controlling the Latakia-Aleppo axis.

 Regardless of what happens to the Sochi agreement, the clash between Turkey and Russia is therefore very unlikely.

 Neither Turkey nor, even less, Russia want to open a Syrian front where they would inevitably enter de facto marginalized from Syria.

 A new war for hegemony in North-Western Syria between Russia and Turkey would be a very hard blow for both economies, which are now increasingly interconnected. By clashing with Turkey, the Russian Federation could lose an easy access to the Dardanelles and its own Syrian bases, as well as to the Bosphorus.

 Moreover, Russia does not want to upset a NATO country like Turkey, which is now a maverick in the Atlantic region. An incalculable advantage position for Russia.

 On its part, however, Turkey cannot do without specific support also from the United States, especially if obtained outside the North Atlantic Treaty region.

 This means Turkey’s future concessions to the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean region and Turkey’s involuntary delicate hand against the PKK and other Turkish organizations (all offspring of the PKK, however) that are still essential on the ground for the United States (and Israel). 

 Currently, however, many executives of CIA, the Pentagon and the vast U.S. intelligence community do not even hide the desire to put an end to Erdogan’s regime.

 Certainly the new Turkish Sultan is “scarcely democratic”, but if the United States were to test the approach of all its Middle East traditional allies in this regard, obviously the only democratic country would be Israel.

  It will not be easy for the United States to define its future regional alliances, but the situation of relations between Turkey and the United States is today increasingly ambiguous and, in any case, very tense.

 Only the most brilliant people within CIA are worried about not exasperating tempers, so as to avoid Turkey agreeing definitively with Russia irremediably against the United States.

The idea of some North American intelligence executives is also to push Turkey into reckless military adventures in Syria and, possibly, also in Libya – a distant area, but very much correlated with Syria – to eventually create a Turkish Vietnam and then leave Erdogan’s regime in the hands of the increasingly angry and impoverished Turkish crowds. A hope more than a strategic idea.

 A vast program- as De Gaulle would have said – but anything is possible, even the U.S. planners’ dreams, if you are in the Middle East.

 At this juncture, there is a key question. Can Assad alone control the stability of his Syria, after a victory which means, above all, the persistence of Russian protection over the old Ba’ath regime and also the inevitable support of the covert or non-covert military structures of Iran, which wants, above all, to create a stable terrestrial continuity towards the Lebanon and border with Israel, with its military and signal intelligence (SIGINT) stations?

 Currently – after having changed and made the strategic framework much more insecure, with an ineffective stability of the U.S. positions in Syria and Turkey’s definition of the agreement with Russia, as well as the strong permanence of the ever stabler Assad’s regime, in the rest of Syria – the Turkish forces have approximately 20,000 soldiers in the Idlib area.

 The deployment of Erdogan’s forces in Idlib includes his five special forces, which depend only on the Chief of Staff and not on the classic territorial chain of command of the Turkish Armed Forces. It also includes some armoured units, light infantry units, i.e. real commandos, and the 5th Brigade, specialized in paramilitary operations and mountain warfare.

 Hence nothing to do with a Military Police that deals with an agreement on the M-4 motorway line.

 The dozens of thousands Syrian or para-Syrian migrants, who want to push towards Europe, in the direction of Greece and then the “Balkan route”, are always supported by the Turkish Armed Forces themselves, who do not want civilians standing in the way between them, Assad’ Syria, Russia and the other players in the Syrian war, especially Iran.

 Clearly Turkey does not want even the United States. If anything, Erdogan wants the financial support of the E.U., which, as usual, is terrorized of the obvious result of a war it has recklessly supported.

 Hence, currently, the feeble agreement that Turkey and Russia reached in Sochi – which, indeed, served their most basic strategic interests – no longer holds, except for the wise malice of both statesmen.

 It has even been said that recently Russia has sought the support of the Emirates and of Saudi Arabia (currently it is more difficult, after the fall of OPEC+) so as to break the stalemate with Turkey, while it is known that none of the powerful countries of Jazeera, namely the Arabian Peninsula, likes the Turkish strategic behaviour.

 Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have begun to support, with money and weapons – the weapons that the new E.U. IRINI mission naively seeks at sea – the Libyan “rebels” of Cyrenaica, against the pro-Turk Tripolitanians, supported by the naivest part of the international community and, above all, by the Muslim Brotherhood that, instead, is not naive at all.

 Obviously, however, Syria’s final victory at Idlib would never be accepted by Turkey, which would probably react with a limited but very harsh counteroffensive, capable of turning the Idlib area not into a Turkish enclave, to be used as a bargaining chip with Syria, but into a real Turkish area.

 Furthermore, the Syrian economic crisis has not permitted an acceptable reconstruction in the areas of the Idlib region brought back to the Syrian regime or to Russia. This has also led to further revolts and provided induced support to the old jihadist networks that are fierce and still rich in liquidity.

 It is also possible that the great push of Syrian and para-Syrian migrants – of various ethnic origin and political nature – is not viewed too negatively by Russia, which could thus favour those ethnicist and right-wing forces which now permanently support Russian strategic goals in the now brain-dead Europe.

 Hence what should we do? Should we support the Idlib Strip as an area of permanence and support – with E.U. money – of the over three million additional migrants – something that is now physically impossible?

 Where could the E.U. money be found, in the midst of a COVID-19 financial emergency?

 Meanwhile, until the Idlib issue is solved, Assad’ Syrian regime is not stable and hence not capable of facing the great business of the country’s reconstruction, without the others’ strategic “teeth”.

Certainly – for what foreign policy agreements are worth – the Adana Agreement of 1998 still applies between Syria and Turkey. It dealt with the Province of Hatay, as well as the issue of water, essential for both countries, not to mention the Syrian recognition of the PKK as a “terrorist organization” and, therefore, the subsequent and immediate expulsion of the PKK leaders, especially Abdullah Ŏcalan, from Syria. 

This is something we Italians remember fairly well. Therefore, between 2004 and 2010, the relations between Turkey and Syria were excellent.

 The two countries also signed the beginning of a High Level Strategic Cooperation Council in September 2009, with an immediately subsequent free trade agreement between them.

 That agreement was immediately extended to the Lebanon and Jordan, besides the two first signatories – hence the old Levant Quartet. When the war, which had begun as the Syrian “Arab Spring”, became radicalized, and both global and regional elements entered Syria, Turkey changed its observation point, mainly with reference to the strong presence of Iranian and, in any case, Shi’ite forces organized by Iran.

 This was also connected to the proven substantial U.S. lack of interest in Syria, and above all its sole support for the various Kurdish political-military organizations – which, indeed, has never been the only one for the Kurds.

 Since the beginning of tensions in Syria in 2014 – especially thanks to the local organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood, often connected at the time to the U.S. networks, as in Egypt – Turkey had clear and very simple goals in mind: the management of the inevitable humanitarian crisis, in which it was directly and inevitably interested; the fall of Assad’s regime; a proxy war against Iran; the elimination of Daesh, competing with the Turkey-manipulated jihadist organizations on the ground, and the final marginalization of the entire Kurdish area.

 Currently there are approximately 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Therefore, Turkey’s goals are currently to stop further migrant flows, as well as to support those already there, and finally keep its very safe borders with Syria in view of avoiding further migrant flows.

 At that juncture, once the clash in Syria had started, Turkey saw both the Kurds and Daesh arrive at its borders.

 Later, in 2011, when the “Arab spring” broke out in Syria, Turkey explicitly advised Assad to start a radical reform of the Ba’athist regime in view of maintaining internal stability.

 Certainly, today, with the penetration of Russian and Iranian security apparata into Assad’s regime, the fall of Ba’ath and the Assad dynasty – a desire never hidden by Turkey – is much more difficult to achieve. Furthermore, Russia has an economic and oil agreement with Turkey that is worth the entire survival of the Turkish AKP regime.

 One of Turkey’s primary plan to topple Assad, and hence free Syria from Russia and Iran and turn it into a dépendance of Turkish geopolitics, was to try to unite all the forces opposing Assad into a single “front”.

 The Turkish support also applied to the Astana talks, where Turkey supported the opposition against Assad, including jihadists, and, above all, sought peace in Syria with a view to sending its 4 million migrants back to their Syrian homes and in the rest of the world.

From this viewpoint, we can better understand the Turkish operations Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Olive Branch in 2018, both designed to avoid the Daesh penetration into Turkey and the Kurds’ arrival in Ayn-el-Arab and Afrin.

 As already seen, however, the real punctum dolens of Turkey’s regional geopolitics is the possible “Shiazation” of Syria, while Turkey would like to have the entire Syria or, at least, its Sunni-majority parts, hegemonized by Turkish interests.

 The Turkish Forces’ and Intelligence Services’ penetration into Idlib has also this meaning: at first, we take our area of influence, then we will decide to negotiate with Bashar al Assad, but from a position of strength.

 It should be recalled that the first aspect of the 1979 revolution in Iran was the expansion of Islamic radicalism, which immediately spread to both Sunni and Shi’ite countries.

 The second strategy, which is currently still pursued by Iran, was instead pan-Shi’ism.

 After the predictably unfortunate “Arab Springs” that the United States invented to defuse the sword jihad by reactivating the militancy, including the religious one, with a bottom-up and rank-and-file approach, with the results we could well imagine even before, Iran no longer uses pan-Islamism, but only pan-Shi’ism.

 Since 1980, however, Turkey has carved out its geo-informative role of defender of the West against pan-Islamism and, above all, against the great Shi’ite insurgency organized by Iran, which has also strengthened the never well clarified relations between the AKP, Erdogan’s party, and the Muslim Brotherhood which, at the beginning of the “Arab Springs”, was also the primary instrument of the U.S. operations in the framework of the great change regime planned by Langley in the Arab-Islamic world.

 Certainly Iran has its very strong Shi’ite identity, which mobilizes and strongly motivates all its proxies, in Syria as in the rest of the world. Also Turkey, however – especially after Operation Olive Branch, has created its myth: a “democratic and pluralistic” Syria, i.e. without the Assad dynasty in power, but still maintaining the political and territorial unity of the Syrian Republic.

 In other words, Turkey still envisages the silent division into zones of influence, possibly favouring Russia, which maintains the TurkStream project, the bilateral gas pipeline leaving from Anapa, in the Russian region of Krasnodar, crossing the Black Sea and arriving at the Turkish station of Kiyikoi.

 A clearly strategic pipeline since it strengthens Russian-Turkish ties and hence favours Turkey’s substantial moving away from NATO. It also avoids Russia’s transit through the dangerous and unstable Ukraine, which will hence become more a problem for the West, which has opposed Russian operations in the region, than for Russia.

 Let us, however, analyse the current Turkish military operations in Syria. The Turkish military action began on October 9, 2019, with attacks on the Kurdish area of Tall Abyad and Sere Kaniye, which were carried out also thanks to the help of some jihadist groups connected with the MIT, the Turkish secret service.

 Still today, it is an area of Turkish hegemony, obtained in a territory previously controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish initiative and involving Christian (Assyrian) and Arab (Sunni) troops.

 Well before the SDF, however, much of the territory occupied by Turkey was previously held by the so-called Caliphate of Raqqa.

 Another Turkish goal was to militarily separate the Syrian Kurds – who are often mostly on the Syrian-Turkish North-Western border – from their fellow countrymen in Iraq and, all the more so, in Turkey.

 In addition, Erdogan’s Turkey plans to relocate at least 2-3 million Syrian refugees or refugees coming from Syria (who are the largest share) already present in Turkey.

 A solution that has already caused two problems. All migrants come from North-Western Syria and, hence, they are not homogeneous with the Turkish stability projects in the region. There is also the danger of giving room and bases for action to Turkey’s traditional enemies: the Syrian Democratic Forces; some remnants of the “Caliphate”, that, especially in its last phases, had close relations with the Turkish Intelligence Services; some Kurdish areas well armed from their supply lines, which go mainly from South-Eastern Syria to the whole Northern border.

 Just think that, in 2013, there were also confidential talks between the Chief of MIT and the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the leaders of all the Kurdish forces, in view of reaching a stable agreement. Those negotiations, however, were harshly disrupted by Turkey.

 In the meantime, the E.U. is obtusely undertaking to paying Turkey to stop migrants at the beginning of the “Balkan route”, which is, however, largely used both by Syrian migrants and by the majority migrant flows passing through Syria.

 Indeed, the E.U. support for all the U.S. and Franco-British democratist follies, aimed at bringing free elections and secular democratic systems throughout the Middle East, has been a unique case of strategic masochism, i.e. paying the same Turks who destabilize North-Western Syria and then asking Europe to pay the bill for what they have done precisely to the designated victims, namely the powerless Europeans.

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Resisting Lockdowns: Bringing Ultra-conservatives into the fold

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The Coronavirus pandemic points a finger not only at the colossal global collapse of responsible public health policy but also the importance of balancing exclusionary religious practices and social cohesion.

While government negligence allowed an Evangelist prayer meeting to drive the spread of the virus in France, lagging social cohesion coupled with politicians’ politicking put ultra-conservative communities in Israel and Pakistan in the disease’s driver’s seat.

The resistance to public health policies of ultra-conservatives, who pay the price with high infection rates, takes debate about social cohesion beyond European efforts over the past two decades to restrict ultra-conservative Muslim and, to a lesser degree, Jewish practices in a bid to prevent the fringes of society turning into breeding grounds for militancy and political violence.

Various European governments have sought to impose social cohesion by banning women’s face covers, forcing people to shake the hand of someone of a different gender, restricting foreign funding for religious institutions and calls for outlawing Muslim and Jewish rituals for the slaughter of animals.

Post-Kemalist Turkey under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the only democracy to move in the opposite direction, was the exception that confirmed the rule. 

While European nations banned hijabs and niqabs, Mr. Erdogan, as part of his effort to Islamicize society, lifted the ban in universities and government offices, demolishing a pillar of French laicist-inspired Kemalism.

The issues of social cohesion and political violence took centre stage in February in a Dutch parliamentary inquiry that  investigated “unwanted influence of unfree countries.”

The parliamentary group grilled a controversial Salafi imam with questions that implied that the cleric was undermining social cohesion and enabling militancy with advice to his community to avoid intermingling with non-Muslim Dutchmen and to look the other way when walking past a church.

Critics charged that the inquiry by focussing exclusively on ultra-conservative Muslims and Turkish nationalist moves to control Dutch Turkish mosques was putting the Muslim community, that accounts for five percent of the Dutch population, on the defensive.

Israeli efforts to combat the coronavirus have highlighted similar social cohesion issues with ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, a city near Tel Aviv, that are among the Jewish state’s foremost virus clusters. Authorities put Bnei Brak this week in lockdown.

Initial government reluctance to enforce the closure of schools and synagogues as well as social distancing among the ultra-orthodox, who account for 12 percent of Israel’s population of 8.6 million, was seemingly motivated by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s fear that he would alienate religious parties that support his effort to form a new post-election government.

Mr. Netanyahu has recently been twice in quarantine, once after having been in face-to-face contact with his ultra-orthodox advisor, Rivka Paluch, who tested positive, and a second time after his health minister, Yaakov Litzman, a prominent member of the ultra-orthodox community, contracted the disease.

It took the disease to persuade Mr. Litzman that harsher measures were needed.

Mr. Litzman, discussing the virus. insisted last month that “we are praying and hoping that Messiah will come by Passover, it’s the time of redemption. I am sure that the Messiah will come  just like he took us out of Egypt.”

Mr. Litzman and Ms. Paluch’s initial resistance to tough public health measures suggests that ultra-orthodox assertions that lack of information explained ultra-orthodox resistance was not the only reason for the failure of to comply with government policy.

To be sure, ultra-orthodox Jews frequently live in a world of their own that centres on prayer and religious learning. Many do not have television, access to the internet or listen to mainstream radio broadcasts. They rely on community news sheets.

Add to that the fact that proposed public health measures disrupt ultra-orthodox life.

Like Muslims, ultra-orthodox Jews congregate several times a day for prayers. Unlike Muslims, Jews require for certain prayers a quorum of at least ten adult men. The government’s closure of rituals baths, moreover, means that couples are banned from intimacy or sleeping in one bed.

Furthermore, ultra-orthodox interactions with more secular Jewish society are few and far between. Members of the community often speak Yiddish, rather than Hebrew, a language that in their view is reserved for prayer in the absence of the arrival of the Messiah.

Like recent ultra-orthodox funerals, recent mass gatherings in Pakistan, Malaysia and India of Tablighi Jamaat, a transnational ultra-conservative Muslim movement, have turned into hubs from which the coronavirus has spread.

Former Israeli justice and religious affairs minister Yossi Beilin could have been speaking about the Tablighi when he summed up the ultra-orthodox Jewish view as ‘keep praying together. Whatever you try doing will not change anything, because the disaster is a God-given phenomenon, and only begging God may change things for the better.’’’

An Evangelist pastor in Florida, Reverend Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested for organizing Sunday church services in defiance of emergency orders, echoed Mr. Beilin’s rendition of attitudes among some  ultra-conservatives.

“We are demonized because we believe that God heals, that the Lord sets people free, and they make us out to be some kook,” Mr. Howard-Browne said.

With governments across the globe having failed to prepare for or counter the coronavirus from day one, Israel and Pakistan are in good company So is France, where a week-long Evangelist gathering in the city of Mulhouse kickstarted the virus’ spread in the country.

Members of the congregation said they knew nothing about the virus’ threat. Indeed, the French government had at that point failed to issue proper warnings and take the kind of measures that potentially could have blunted the virus’ devastating impact.

The upshot of Israel’s travails, the Dutch inquiry that at times resembled an inquisition, Pakistani hesitancy to impose public health measures on an influential religious group, and French negligence constitute in essence government failures on two counts: The failure to read the writing on the wall with regard to the virus and the failure to work with ultra-conservatives to bring them into the fold.

Talking about the ultra-orthodox, Gilad Malach of the Israel Democracy Institute appeared to put the onus on ultra-conservatives.  “The main question towards the future is whether within the community there will be voices…that will say: ‘We want to protect our community, but we also belong to the state,’” Mr. Malach said.

If the emergence of ultra-conservative communities as virus clusters says anything, it is that waiting for ultra-conservatives to raise their voice isn’t good enough. The coronavirus demonstrates the price of not reaching out to ultra-conservative communities and establishing two-way channels of communication.

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Middle East

U.S. multiple goals for possible military action in Iraq

Payman Yazdani

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The spread of the coronavirus and its devastating impact on the US economy and US efforts to reduce Iran’s regional influence are possible motives behind US potential military action in Iraq.

While the world is fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak, regional countries including Iraq have been witnessing widespread US military moves in recent days.

Most News outlets and political analysts have anticipated an imminent massive military action in Iraq due to the extent of US military moves.

Any possible military aggression carried out by Trump’s administration comes as the US and the world are struggling to contain coronavirus and the US economy, and consequently, the global economy has fallen into a major recession.

Trump is pursuing a number of goals by launching military aggression against Iraq and creating new military conflicts in the Middle East:

*In line with its maximum pressure policy, the US occupiers seek to target Iraqi groups close to the Islamic Republic such as Badr Organization led by Hadi Al-Amiri, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq led by Qais al-Khazali, al-Nujaba Movement led by Akram al-Kaabi, and also Kata’ib Hezbollah. Washington assumes that adopting such an approach can reduce Iran’s influence in Iraq and undermine the economic, political and cultural cooperation between the two countries which play a significant role in reducing the impact of US sanctions on Tehran.

*After COVID-19 outbreak which triggered a global economic recession, Crude oil price dropped below $ 30 a barrel, causing serious damage to US  companies producing Shale oil and severely jeopardized their future production. Therefore, a military conflict in the Middle East can raise the global price of oil and prevent the bankruptcy of oil companies.

*Moreover, regional military conflicts and consequently a rise in the oil price can be a threat to the Chinese energy security, whose economy is heavily dependent on the Middle East oil. This can be used as a tool for the US to contain China and additionally obtain more business privileges from this country and other major economies, such as Europe whose economy are also dependent on the Middle East oil.

*Regional clashes can also possibly affect Saudi oil facilities and reduce their oil production which makes them lose some part of their share from global energy market which will be ultimately replaced by US oil.

*The US unemployment rate went up after many Americans lost their jobs due to the spread of coronavirus in the country and the world. Any US military adventure in the region can boost its military industry and consequently , to some extent, control the US unemployment rate.

*Ultimately, all of these goals can possibly save Donald Trump in the upcoming US election. Many polls suggest that Trump’s lying about the spread of coronavirus and his belated measures to contain the virus and also the subsequent economic pressure on the US citizens have cast doubt on his victory in the upcoming US election and helped his democratic rival have the upper hand.

From our partner MNA

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