Western powers, trumpeting that everything is bad in Islamic countries, quickly criticized the emergency clamped by Turkey for a brief period meant to set things right and their complaint is that now the people in Turkey would not have the freedom to even to open mouths.. Strangely enough, those that criticize Turkey for its emergency are supposed to be Turkey’s close allies. They stand totally exposed as anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic nations.
They also expected entire world and global network of anti-Islamic media to follow their footsteps as usual to condemn “new” authoritarianism in Turkey. Such has been the usual strategy of the western anti-Islamic powers to belittle and insult Islamic world. After the Sept-11 the NATO rouge forces even attacked Afghanistan, among others. They don’t want Turkey to undertake measures to check any future coups by their agents in Turkey.
The failed coup officially by a section of military in Turkey was meant to dethrone or kill President Erdogan, other leaders of his government and ruling AKP party, but it reveals the hidden agenda of western powers. The coup, apparently enacted jointly by anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish sources, signaled an acute danger emanating from different directions from within and from abroad for the Islamist government in Istanbul to rise up to face it and weed out all traces of danger once for all.
No nation would allow the rogue elements to destabilize it, ransack its institutions. Neither USA, nor Germany nor their NATO was kind even to the so-called “suspected terrorists” and the way they torture the suspects is criticized as the worst form of human rights violation by the USA and NATO. But they also talk about “greatness” of their own democracy, condemn the rule of law in Muslim countries.
The power of the President to call up massive crowds of supporters has been on clear display in Istanbul’s Taksim Square every night since last week’s failed coup. “Work during the day, and come to the square at night” is the message put out by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The threat is not over.”
Emergency is a global phenomenon
Emergency is a global phenomenon and not a Turkey special. The military coup is very serious matter, because the fence has tried to destroy the crops – Islamic crops. Turkey ahs face coups before.
Turks are no strangers to military takeovers. Turkey experienced coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980. In 1997 and 2007, there were further interventions via strongly worded memorandums from the army.
Each putsch inflicted huge damage on an already fragile democracy and led to widespread human rights violations. The 1980 coup was the worst of all — thousands were arrested arbitrarily and many tortured, while critics were sent into exile. When the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) came to power in 2001, it attracted support from liberals by promising to keep the army confined to military and security matters — the way it should be in any mature democracy.
The events of July 15-16, when the government foiled an attempted coup by elements within the military, must be read against this historical backdrop. It was a horrible night. By the time it was over at least 290 people were dead and more than 1,400 injured. It felt as if the country had gone back years.
Now the destabilization effort has been put down intelligently, President Erdogan is undertaking a series of measures to deny chances n future for such coups and to make Turkey safe and secure, ignoring all “counseling” from sworn foes enemies disguised, once again, as “well-wishers”.
To check institutional collapse
With military playing usual mischief, Turkey genuinely faces risk of institutional collapse and President Erdogan needs to set the things right so that Turkish economy is back on rails.
Turkish nation is yet to recover from the shock it was administered by the coup plotters. As AKP government was busy fighting several forces at the same time like the powerful ISIS, Kurdish forces, Syria, Israel and Russia, Turkish government possibly did not notice how the anti-Islamic forces in Istanbul sponsored by western powers were busy plotting against the Islamist government and Turkey itself in order to destabilize the former Ottoman Empire and establish, like Pakistan, Afghanistan Libya, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere, a puppet regime in Ankara directly remote controlled by Washington.
The unexpected coup attempt by Turkey’s military establishment with a view to killing or arrest President Erdogan and his cabinet members, the AKP party leaders has been put down by person involvement by the Precedent of Turkey himself who cancelled his vacation and rushed to Istanbul. Maybe the plotters had expected President Erdogan to run away to USA, UK or some Arab nation.
Germany indirectly hinted that next time the coup in Turkey would succeed by correcting their errors in strategic planning of the coup.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in order to regain full control of the nation the nation attacked by the anti-Turkey coup plotters is clamping a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of last week’s bloody coup attempt.
Before the announcement, Erdogan convened on July 20 with his national Security Council and council of ministers, the latter of which approved the state of emergency recommendation. “The purpose of the declaration of the state of emergency is, in fact, to be able to take the most efficient steps in order to remove this threat as soon as possible, which is a threat to democracy, to the rule of law and to the rights and freedoms of the citizens in our country,” Erdogan said, according to a government translation.
Erdogan, speaking later to a national television audience, said the state of emergency was not a threat to democracy. Governors will have expanded powers and the army will be under the command and control of the governors, the President said. Erdogan guaranteed that all the “viruses” in the armed forces would be cleansed during the period. “It is very similar to a cancer,” he said. “It is like a metastasis that is going on in the body that is Turkey. And we will clean it out.”
The President praised the popular anger and reactions to the coup attempt, in which 246 people died and 1,536 were wounded. “Every member of our nation came together as one,” he said.
Enemies of Islamist state and democracy
Unexpectedly for the enemies of Islam and Islamist Turkey, the coup failed and plotters have caught. Now the sponsors from abroad are deeply worried if the plotters caught would reveal the truth about who are behind the coup. So the Western media lords, seeking to shield the coup criminals, now focus on state reaction against the plotters, criticizing the government action against the plotters. Slowly they shift their focus to freedoms and democracy and criticize Turkey for not being kind to the plotting criminal gangs.
That is how the western media efficiently inspired by the strategy of Neocons targeting Islam and Arab nations, talk filth about Muslims, and their nations.
Turkey on Tuesday formally requested the extradition of Gulen from the United States, where he lives in self-imposed exile.
US President Obama has joined his European counterparts in warning Erdogan against over-reacting, and Erdogan supporters have suggested US complicity in the coup which they saw was organized by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. Turkey is seeking Gulen’s extradition.
USA and EU ask President Erdogan to just forgive the criminal plotters (and move on further) who wanted to kill and jail President Erdogan and allies and destabilize Turkey and hand it over r to enemies of Islam. USA has refused to arrest the Gulen and allies in USA and hand them over to Turkish government.
All that European states want is as Turkey would be busy with “soul-searching” after the failed coup, the coup plotters would regroup and stage another “perfect’ coup to remove the elected Islamist government.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said European criticism won’t stop Turkey taking steps it deems necessary after last week’s failed coup. He projected a more conciliatory tone toward the USA and Russia. “The EU is not the whole world,” Erdogan said in an interview with Al Jazeera before announcing a three-month state of emergency. “It is just 28 countries. The USA has the death penalty, Russia has it, and China has it.”
Why not punish the coup plotters?
Turkey has now fired or suspended about 50,000 people after a failed coup over the weekend as it intensifies its vast purge — battering the country’s security forces and many of its democratic institutions. In total, more than 9,400 people are being detained, the vast majority of them from the military. Teachers, journalists, police and judges alike have been caught in a net authorities are casting wider by the day, in what, according to the Western media lords, is increasingly looking like a witch-hunt to suppress dissent.
In order to present themselves as kind people on earth, USA and EU are pressing for no-punishment for the coup plotters in Turkey.
The Western powers that have murdered millions of Muslims in Islamic world calling them the terrorists want Turkish government to be very very kind to the coup plotters, betrays their secret efforts to support the coup and keep the plan very hidden from Turkey leaders.
The natural purge has gutted the leadership in the country’s security forces, with at least 118 generals and admirals detained, stripping the general-rank command of the Turkish military by a third, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. Authorities have also suspended 8,777 Ministry of Interior personnel, mostly police, as well as 100 Turkish intelligence service personnel, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Western leaders have urged Erdogan and his government to respect democratic principles and act within the law in response to talk of reviving the death penalty and heavy-handed punishments over the coup.
The coup efforts a rent new to Turkey but last time the plotters were caught and punished. The last executions in Turkey were in the mid-1980s and the death penalty was abolished in 2004. Erdogan said restoring capital punishment is being considered because of popular pressure, and the final decision rests with parliament.
Hundreds more have been suspended from the Prime Minister’s office and government bodies dealing with religious affairs, family and social policy and development. The total fired or suspended is around 50,000 people.
Anti-Islamic US-EU opposition to Turkey
The reactions from USA and EU reveal their essentially anti-Islamic joint hidden agenda against Turkey. They seek to destabilize the former Ottoman Empire. More than 9,000 people are currently in detention and are under investigation over the coup
It is unclear how many soldiers participated in the attack, during which two of Erdogan’s bodyguards were killed, and it is unclear how loyal the troops were, given that they were briefed on the coup so late in proceedings.
Asked if the extradition request would affect wider relations with the USA, Erdogan said “putting the two issues together is not the right thing to do.” “We have a strategic partnership, and we have to continue our solidarity,” he said. On Russia, Erdogan suggested that the two pilots who shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian-Turkish border in November may have been under orders from the coup plotters. The two pilots have been detained. “The judiciary must have their doubts because they are now in custody,” he said.
In order to ensure the safety of US nukes in Turkey is duty bound to take strict actions against the plotters. Rights group Amnesty International said that authorities had canceled 34 journalists’ press cards and called on Turkish authorities to not “arbitrarily restrict freedom of expression.” “We are witnessing a crackdown of exceptional proportions in Turkey at the moment,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.
Will Gulen be extradited?
US President Barack Obama spoke with Erdogan after the failed coup about the coup and the status of Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Obama “strongly condemned” the coup attempt and “expressed his support for Turkish democracy,” a White House news release said, without explaining whether Gulen would be extradited.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has, as USA does to Pakistan, outrightly rejected the Turkish demand to extradite Gulen, saying USA wants proof. The Muslim cleric has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.
In order to be on the safe side, Gulen, in a statement released said Erdogan “once again demonstrated he will go to any length necessary to solidify his power and persecute his critics.” The reclusive cleric leads a popular movement called Hizmet, which includes hundreds of secular co-ed schools, free tutoring centers, hospitals and relief agencies credited with addressing Turkey’s social problems, now targeting Islamic rule.
USA claims that under the US-Turkey extradition agreement, Washington can only extradite a person if he or she has committed an “extraditable act.” Treason — such as that implied by Erdogan’s demand for Gulen’s extradition — is not listed as such an act in the countries’ treaty.
As Washington does not want to punish President Erdogan’s opponent Gulen, Kerry said in Washington that he told his Turkish counterpart: “Please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence; we need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about.”
In the aftermath of the coup, the numbers of those detained, suspended or suspected has risen to the tens of thousands.
For his opponents, the fear is that it’s the start of a more sinister era of what they call Erdogan’s authoritarian rule, an opportunity to crack down further on any voice of dissent, an opening to push through constitutional and other changes that would give him greater powers.
In Greece, a court sentenced eight Turkish military personnel who fled there aboard a helicopter during the coup attempt to two months in prison for entering the country illegally.
Turkey has demanded their return to stand trial for alleged participation in the coup attempt. The eight, who deny involvement, have applied for asylum in Greece, saying they fear for their safety if they are returned.
Istanbul calm after storm
Turkey woke up to its first full day under a state of emergency on Thursday, imposed by the government the previous night. “Everything is looking normal” in the streets of Istanbul, a resident told journalists at 8 am (0500 GMT), with people commuting to work or taking coffees in the city’s cafes.
Away from the nightly Taksim Square celebrations there is a sense that people are going through the motions of daily life as if in a daze, conversations that invariably drift toward recent developments tend to still be preceded with exclamations. It appears there was a concerted effort to try to change the atmosphere of the square, even superficially, from a rallying ground for Erdogan supporters to something that stands more for the nation of Turkey itself. There are fewer political anthems lauding Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, and more songs that are simply patriotic or popular; there are fewer banners with Erdogan’s image fluttering in the breeze, more Turkish flags. Voices at the microphones — mostly AKP members and supporters — deliver a litany of messages about Turkey’s strength, not forgetting the price the nation paid.
There are more sinister reminders, too, such as one man who, standing in front of a newly erected billboard with the names of the dead, held a bullet and reminded the crowd: “This on Friday could have hit anyone of you, it could have had your name on it.”
Turkey have been through coups before, the successful ones of the past were bloodless. This one — violent — did not succeed. The anti-Islamic sources say a part of the reason for coup failure was because the authorities got wind of it just in time, and the attempted takeover was poorly executed. But arguably the key reason for failure was that the coup leaders did not take into account Erdogan’s popularity and his people power.
Erdogan’s supporters have no qualms about the government’s reaction. Erdogan is their man, they have unwavering faith in his abilities and they have proven they will lay down their lives for him. And, one could argue, they did not take into account that, whether Turks love Erdogan or hate him, the vast majority of this country does not want to have a democratically elected government brought down in a military coup. That night resulted in rare unity among Turkey’s main political party leaders and among its population.
The aims of three-month nationwide state of emergency includes end of Gulen empire in Turkey by creating a “parallel structure” of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the coup, government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said. Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek insisted the state of emergency would not curtail basic freedoms, including restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press. Parliament, dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, was to meet on Thursday to review the state of emergency.
The government has rounded up or dismissed tens of thousands of civil servants, teachers, lawyers and soldiers. Government supporters have called for the death penalty for coup plotters. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas told a crowd in the city’s Taksim Square this week the he had ordered a burial plot to be set aside for any dead coup plotters, to be called “the graveyard for traitors.” “Everyone visiting the place will curse them and they won’t be able to rest in their graves,” he was quoted as saying by Hurriyet Daily news late on Wednesday.
Some locals were celebrating the coup’s failure in the streets on Wednesday night, the resident said. But many people were also deactivating their social media accounts, she added, saying she thought they were afraid of a clampdown. “Three people were dismissed in my company yesterday and there are rumours of 15 more on the list,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Opposition politicians also expressed fear of reprisals. “Unfortunately, we are seeing a civilian counter-coup,” Lawmaker Ziya Pir of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party told journalists on Wednesday. Many opposition factions “are afraid of being lynched,” he said.
Under the Turkish Constitution, the emergency measures allow the government to “partially or entirely” suspend “the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms,” so long as that doesn’t violate international law obligations. Lawmakers can sanction a state of emergency for a period of up to six months.
In order to avoid reoccurrence of coups and escape being the target of accusations of becoming authoritarian by anti-Islamic nations, Turkey pres Erdogan has been moving strictly as per law. Turkish lawmakers declare three-month state of emergency allowing president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ramp up his crackdown after failed coup without parliamentary approval. Parliament voted 346-115 to approve the national state of emergency, which will give Erdogan the authority to extend detention times for suspects and issue decrees that have the force of law without parliamentary approval, among other powers.
The coup is perhaps a stark reminder of how shaky Turkish nation is, of how for many a sense of security they had once taken for granted is more shattered than it already was, of how deeply July 15 — despite the failure of the coup itself — continues to unsettle this country.
Turkey has to reinvent the prestige and prowess of a big nation.
Erdogan, who had been accused of autocratic conduct even before this week’s crackdown on alleged opponents, says the state of emergency will counter threats to Turkish democracy. The main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, slammed the state of emergency move as going too far. A state of emergency has never been declared nationwide although it was declared in Turkey’s restive, Kurdish-dominated southeast between 1987 and 2002.
Since the July 15 coup attempt, the government has arrested nearly 10,000 people. In addition, over 58,880 civil service employees — including teachers, university deans and police — have been dismissed, suspended, forced to resign or had their licenses revoked, accused of being Gulen followers.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek defended the move, saying he hoped the state of emergency would be short-lived. He said it would be used to go after “rogue” elements within the state and that there would have been “carnage in the streets” had the military coup succeeded.
Turkey immediately said it was partially suspending the European Convention on Human Rights, allowing it more leeway to deal with individual cases, by invoking an article most recently used by France and Ukraine.
Countries around the world are keeping a close watch on developments in Turkey, which straddles Europe, the Middle East and Asia. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier advised Turkey that the state of emergency should only last as long as it’s “absolutely necessary,” thereby interfering with internal affairs of Turkey
Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency to protect Turkey’s freedom and democracy, saying Turkey will work to cleanse the “viruses” within the armed forces and other groups.
Turkey’s people are still reeling from the shocking events of the weekend and it is vital that press freedom and the unhindered circulation of information are protected, rather than stifled. There is a general incredulity, with the weight of what happened only just beginning to sink in.
It is not just funny but very dangerous that EU member states try to intervene in Turkey’s efforts to punish the culprits. Meanwhile, EU leaders have said that Turkey’s negotiations to join their bloc will be terminated if it brings back the death penalty to the coup plotting criminals and have criticized the wave of arrests that followed the failed putsch. Erdogan said the arrests were the state “doing its job” and told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to mind his own business given that France also introduced a state of emergency after last year’s attacks. “For 53 years, we have been knocking at the door and the EU leaders have kept us waiting, while others have joined,” he said. Turkey has no reason now to feel any urgency to be a part of EU, which has already shown signs of breakup following the Brexit.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP are pinning responsibility for the failed coup on a cabal within the army sympathetic to Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Islamic cleric. These accusations must be investigated and those who are culpable must be brought to justice. Gulenists were active in the police, prosecution service and judiciary, often pursuing their own agenda. Their unbridled lust for power ruined them in the end. Turkish liberals and democrats will never support the ambitions of the Gulenist army officers
Erdogan says death penalty could return to deal effectively with future plotters in Turkey, so that the people and government can surge ahead to revitalize economy and Islamic assets that are the target of the anti-Islamic forces globally.
With the coup having been failed, Turkey’s increasingly warm relations with Russia spell trouble for the USA at a time when the already strained ties between Ankara and Washington have been further complicated following the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Following the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is on its way to effect a dramatic shift in foreign policy from USA to Russia. As ties between the two countries normalize, Ankara could green light the Turkish Stream project, an initiative that Moscow has championed and Washington opposed.
Turkey’s new policy approach is based on its economic well-being which has been the basis of the weight and influence the country has been enjoying in the Middle East. Its economy had considerably gone down over the past few years and dipped further after its direct involvement in the war in Syria and Iraq
Every nation is duty bound to take revenge if there is a coup or grave subversive move by military and why not Turkey? USA still invades energy rich Arab nations blaming one Osama‘s terror attack on USA. Turkey is not a nation displaying its resilience in the face of a terrorist attack, as Turks have done in the past. This is not a nation that can bury the dead and try to move on. This is a nation in uncharted territory.
Turkey must now know who its real friends and foes are and criticize both USA and EU directly instead of taking an indirect route by criticizing only their tool Gulen or the military. Bur the coup plotters and those who help them achieve anti-Islamic agenda. That would make some sense to people in those countries.
Stepped up US military posture in the Gulf threatens Indian hopes for Iran’s Chabahar port
The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf to deter Iran from further testing ballistic missiles is likely to dampen Indian hopes that the Trump administration’s exemption of the port of Chabahar from sanctions against the Islamic republic would help it tighten economic relations with Central Asia and further regional integration.
The group’s presence in the Gulf, the first by a US aircraft carrier in eight months, came amid mounting tension between the United States and Iran following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program and the imposition of harsh sanctions against the Islamic republic. It raised the spectre of a potential military conflagration.
The deployment for a period of two months coincided with a suicide attack on a Revolutionary Guards headquarters in Chabahar that killed two people and wounded 40 others.
Saudi and Iranian media reported that Ansar al-Furqan, a shadowy Iranian Sunni jihadi group that Iran claims is supported by the kingdom as well as the United States and Israel, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Saudi pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat asserted that the attack “reflects the anger harboured by the (city’s Baloch) minority against the government.” The paper said the Iranian government had expelled thousands of Baloch families from Chabahar and replaced them with Persians in a bid to change its demography. It asserted that Iran was granting nationality to Afghan Shiites who had fought in Syria and Iraq and was moving them to Chabahar.
The paper went on to say that “anti-regime Baloch movements have recently intensified their operations against Tehran in an attempt to deter it from carrying out its plan to expel and marginalize the Baloch from their ancestral regions.”
Saudi Arabia, a staunch supporter of the US’s confrontational approach towards Iran, has pumped large amounts of money into militant, ultraconservative Sunni Muslim anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian religious seminaries along the border between the Pakistani province of Balochistan and the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan that is home to Chabahar, according to militants.
The funding was designed to create the building blocks for a potential covert effort to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among its ethnic minorities.
The deployment was, according to US officials in response to Iran’s test-firing of a ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads. The US sanctions are in part designed to force Iran to drop its development of ballistic missiles. Iranian officials insist the missiles program is defensive in nature.
“We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The spectre of increased military tension in the Gulf with the arrival of the aircraft carrier group and of potentially Saudi and US-backed political violence in Iran, and a troubling security situation in Afghanistan threatened to diminish the impact of Washington’s granting Indian investment in Chabahar an exemption from its economic sanctions against Iran.
Indian and Iranian officials fear that the United States’ stepped up military posture and heightened tensions could undermine their efforts to turn Chabahar, which sits at the top of the Arabian Sea, into a hub for trade between India and Central Asia rendering the US waiver worthless.
The officials have their hopes pinned on efforts to engineer a peace process in Afghanistan. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad alongside representatives of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan met this week with the Taliban. The talks are intended to negotiate an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year old war.
An Afghan government delegation, in what diplomats saw as a sign of progress, hovered in the corridors but did not take part in the meeting because of the Taliban’s insistence that it will only talk to the United States. Talks with the Taliban have so far stalled because of the group’s insistence on a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
US officials said the aircraft carrier group, beyond seeking to deter Iran, would also support the US war effort in Afghanistan where the United States has ramped up airstrikes in an effort to press the Taliban into peace talks.
The talks were an opportunity, particularly for Saudi Arabia, whose utility as an ally is being questioned by the US Congress in the wake of the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Pakistan, which the United States accuses of supporting the Taliban, to demonstrate their utility.
While Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have an interest in using their close ties to the Taliban to help forge an end to the Afghan war, its not immediately clear that they want to see reduced tensions facilitate the emergence of Chabahar as an Indian-backed hub.
A Saudi think tank, the Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies (AGCIS) renamed the International Institute of Iranian Studies that is believed to be backed by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, argued in a study last year that Chabahar posed “a direct threat to the Arab Gulf states” that called for “immediate counter measures.”
Written by Mohammed Hassan Husseinbor, identified as an Iranian political researcher, the study warned that Chabahar posed a threat because it would enable Iran to increase greater market share in India for its oil exports at the expense of Saudi Arabia, raise foreign investment in the Islamic republic, increase government revenues, and allow Iran to project power in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Noting the vast expanses of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, Mr. Husseinbor went on to say that “it would be a formidable challenge, if not impossible, for the Iranian government to protect such long distances and secure Chabahar in the face of widespread Baluch opposition, particularly if this opposition is supported by Iran’s regional adversaries and world powers.”
Similarly, Pakistan is heavily invested in Gwadar, the Chinese-backed port in Balochistan that is a crown jewel of the US$45 billion plus China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a pillar of the People’s Republic’s Belt and Road initiative. Gwadar is a mere 70 kilometres up the coast from Chabahar.
“Pakistan sees India as an existential threat and the idea of India being in any way present on Pakistan’s western flank in Afghanistan will always raise alarm bells in Islamabad,” said South Asia scholar Michael Kugelman.
If the arrival of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf heralds heightened tension, Pakistan may have less reason to worry.
Gulf rivalries spill onto the soccer pitch
With the 2018 World Cup in Russia behind it, the soccer world’s focus shifts to the 2022 tournament in Qatar. Politics and the Gulf’s internecine political and legal battles have already shaped debate about FIFA’s controversial awarding of World Cup hosting rights to Qatar. The battles highlight not only the sport’s dominance in the Middle East by autocratic leaders but also the incestuous relationship between politics and sports that is at the root of multiple scandals that have rocked the sports world for much of this decade and compromised good governance in international sports.
Three men symbolize the importance of soccer to Gulf autocrats who see the sport as a way to project their countries in a positive light on the international stage, harness its popular appeal in their cultural and public diplomacy campaigns, and leverage it as a pillar of their efforts to garner soft power: Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and his nemeses, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi sports czar, Turki al-Sheikh, one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s closest associates.
To be sure, tension between Qatar and its Gulf detractors was spilling onto the soccer pitch long before the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt took their opposition to Qatari policies to a new level with the imposition in June 2017 of a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. Since then, debate about the Qatari World Cup has been further politicized with the Gulf crisis driving efforts to deprive Qatar of economic and soft power benefits it derives from its hosting of the tournament, if not of the right to host the mega-sports event.
The UAE-Saudi efforts took on added significance as Qatar and its detractors settled in for the long haul. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt will likely face difficult choices if the Gulf crisis persists when the World Cup, the first such mega-tournament to be held in the Middle East, kicks off in Doha in late 2022.
The choice would involve potential political risk. It would be between maintaining the boycott that has cut off all air, sea and land links between Qatar and its detractors at the expense of fans in a soccer-crazy part of the world in which little evokes the deep-seated emotions associated with religion and football or effectively breaching the embargo to evade political backlash and ensure that supporters have access to a sports milestone in the region’s history. The starkness of the boycotting states’ dilemma would be magnified if any one of them were to qualify for the Qatar World Cup and would be enhanced if they were to play the host country or, for example, Iran.
The issue of ability to attend is magnified by expectations that the demography of fans attending the World Cup in Qatar may very well be a different from that at past tournaments. Qatar is likely to attract a far greater number of fans from the Middle East as well as Africa and Asia. The Asian Football Confederation’s Competition Committee has already urged governments to exempt football teams from travel bans and would almost certainly do the same for fans.
As a result, the UAE-Saudi effort to undermine the Qatar World Cup is about more than seeking to deliver a body blow to Qatar. It is also about avoiding being further tied up into knots in an anti-Qatari campaign that has so far failed to break the Gulf state’s resolve, force it to concede, and garner international support. The campaign is multi-pronged and doesn’t shy away from violating laws as is evident in Saudi bootlegging to deprive beIN, the sports franchise of Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera television network, of the fruits of acquired rights to broadcast World Cup tournaments and European competitions at the risk of being penalized and/or taken to court by the likes of FIFA and the English Premier League. Saudi media reports that the government has launched an anti-piracy campaign, confiscating more than 4,000 illegal receivers that hacked beIN failed to put an end to the bootlegging.
Signalling the political importance that men like the crown princes and Sheikh Tamim attribute to sports, a former top UAE security official, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan, suggested that the only way to resolve the Gulf crisis would be for Qatar to surrender its World Cup hosting rights. “If the World Cup leaves Qatar, Qatar’s crisis will be over … because the crisis is created to get away from it,” Mr. Khalfan said.
Mr. Khalfan spoke at a time that leaked documents from the email account of Yousef Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in Washington and a close associate of the country’s crown prince, revealed a UAE plan to undermine Qatar’s currency by manipulating the value of bonds and derivatives. If successfully executed, the plan would have allowed Qatar’s distractors to argue that the Gulf state’s financial problems called into question its ability to organize the World Cup.
Serving national interests
Mr. Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the kingdom’s General Sport Authority, makes no bones about harnessing sports to serve the kingdom’s interests. With a career in security rather than sports, he was unequivocal in his assertion on the eve of Saudi Arabia’s debut in the 2018 World Cup in Russia that he made decisions based on what he deemed “Saudi Arabia’s best interest,” reaffirming the inextricable relationship between sports and politics.
Barely 24 hours before the World Cup’s opening match, Saudi Arabia made good on Mr. Al-Sheikh’s assertion that the kingdom’s international sports policy would be driven by former US President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 principle of “you are either with us or against us.”
With Morocco’s bid for the 2026 World Cup in mind, Mr. Al-Sheikh had warned that “to be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us. There are those who were mistaken in their direction … If you want support, it’ll be in Riyadh. What you’re doing is a waste of time…,” Mr. Al-Sheikh said. Mr. Al-Sheikh was referring to Morocco’s refusal to join the anti-Qatari campaign. Adopting a Saudi Arabia First approach, Mr. Al-Sheikh noted that the United States “is our biggest and strongest ally.” He recalled that when the World Cup was played in 1994 in nine American cities, the US “was one of our favourites. The fans were numerous, and the Saudi team achieved good results.”
Mr. Al-Sheikh was manoeuvring at the same time to ensure that the kingdom has greater say in international soccer governance, including issues such as the fate of the Qatari World Cup and a push to extend international isolation of Iran to the realm of sports. To do so, Saudi Arabia backed a proposal to speed up the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams from 32, which is scheduled to kick off in 2026, by making it already applicable to the 2022 World Cup. Saudi Arabia hopes that the expansion would significantly complicate Qatari preparations for the event. Implementing the expansion in 2022 would strengthen UAE and Saudi efforts to petition FIFA to force Qatar to agree to co-hosting of the World Cup by other Gulf states, a proposal that was incorporated in the UAE plan to undermine Qatar’s currency.
In an indication of things to come, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in early 2018 thwarted a UAE-Saudi attempt to get Asian tournament matches that were scheduled to be hosted by Qatar moved to a neutral venue. The AFC warned the two countries that they would be penalized if they failed to play in Doha or host Qatari teams.
Mr. Al-Sheikh’s moves were part of a two-pronged Saudi-UAE effort. Global tech investor Softbank, which counts Saudi Arabia and the UAE among its largest investors, is believed to be behind a $25 billion proposal embraced by FIFA president Gianni Infantino to revamp the FIFA Club World Cup and launch of a Global Nations League tournament. If approved, the proposal would give Saudi Arabia a significant voice in global soccer governance.
Complimenting the Saudi FIFA bid is an effort to expand the kingdom’s influence in the 47-nation AFC, the largest of the world soccer body’s constituent regional elements. To do so, Saudi Arabia unsuccessfully tried to create a new regional bloc, the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF), a potential violation of FIFA and AFC rules. The federation would have been made up of members of both the AFC and the Amman-based West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) that groups all Middle Eastern nations except for Israel and is headed by Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, a prominent advocate of soccer governance reform.
The initiative fell apart when the Asian members of SWAFF walked out in October 2018 in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The killing could also jeopardize Saudi efforts to gain control of the AFC with the Al-Sheikh-backed candidacy of Saudi Football Federation chief Adel Ezzat, who resigned in August 2018 to run for the office..
Benefits outstrip reputational risk
Mr. Al-Sheikh and his boss, Prince Mohammed, share with the crown prince’s UAE counterpart and namesake, a belief that the public diplomacy and soft power fruits of harnessing sports outstrip reputational risks. Simon Pearce, Abu Dhabi’s director of strategic communications and a director of Manchester City, the British club bought by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed’s brother but controlled by the de facto Emirati ruler’s men, said as much in leaked emails to Mr. Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in Washington.
The emails discussed the UAE’s registration of a new soccer club, New York City Football Club, as the United States’ Major League Soccer newest franchise. Mr. Pearce argued that Abu Dhabi’s interests in the US political environment are best served by associating New York City FC with City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi government’s soccer investment vehicle, rather than the government itself to evade criticism stemming from the Emirates’ criminalization of homosexuality, its less than stellar record on women’s rights and its refusal to formally recognize Israel despite maintaining close security and commercial relations with the Jewish state.
The UAE’s sports-related investments, guided by the crown prince, much like the acquisition of important Qatari sports stakes on the behest of Sheikh Tamim also give Gulf states political leverage and create additional commercial opportunity. The investments constitute the flip side of large amounts of Gulf money being channelled to influential think tanks, particularly in Washington. In a series of notes in 2012, Mr. Pearce advised Prince Mohammed, a man obsessed with perceived threats posed by any form of political Islam and a driving force in the campaign against Qatar, to tempt than British prime minister David Cameron to counter what he described as Islamist infiltration of the BBC’s Arabic service in exchange for lucrative arms and oil deals.
To illustrate the UAE and Qatar’s sway in European soccer, Nicholas McGeehan, an independent researcher and former Human Rights Watch executive focussed on the region, looked at recent bookies odds for the Champions League. Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City was the favourite followed by Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain. Third up was Bayern Munich, whose shirts are sponsored by Qatar, fourth was Barcelona, which recently ended a seven-year sponsorship deal with Qatar, and fifth Real Madrid that sold the naming rights to its new stadium to Abu Dhabi.
Saudi and UAE public relations efforts to generate public pressure for a deprival of Qatari hosting rights were at times mired in controversy. The launch in May of the Foundation for Sports Integrity by Jamie Fuller, a prominent Australian campaigner for a clean-up of global soccer governance, backfired amid allegations of Saudi and UAE financial backing and Mr. Fuller’s refusal to disclose his source of funding.
Saudi and UAE media together with UK tabloid The Sun heralded the launch in a poche London hotel that involved a reiteration of assertions of Qatari wrongdoing in its successful World Cup bid. Media like Abu Dhabi’s The National and Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya projected the launch as pressure on FIFA to deprive Qatar of its hosting rights. “It is no secret that football’s governing body is rotten to the core. (FIFA) will rightly come under renewed pressure to strip Qatar of the competition and carry out an internal investigation in the wake of the most recent allegations. The millions of fans eagerly anticipating 2022’s festival of football deserve better,” The National said. Saudi-owned Ash-Sharq Al Awsat newspaper reported that a June 2018 FIFA Congress would hold a re-vote of the Qatari hosting. The Congress didn’t.
Qatar remains vulnerable
Despite so far successfully having defeated efforts to deprive it of its hosting rights, Qatar remains vulnerable when it comes to the integrity of its winning bid. The bid’s integrity and Sheikh Tamim’s emphasis on sports as a pillar of Qatari soft power is at stake in legal proceedings in New York and Zurich involving corruption in FIFA and potential wrongdoing in the awarding of past World Cups. Qatar has suffered reputational damage as a result of the question marks even if the Gulf crisis has allowed it to enhance its image as an underdog being bullied by the big boys on the block.
To Qatar’s credit, it has introduced reforms of its controversial kafala or labour sponsorship system that could become a model for the region. In doing so, it cemented the 2022 World Cup as one of the few mega-events with a real potential of leaving a legacy of change. Qatar started laying the foundations for that change by early on becoming the first and only Gulf state to engage with its critics, international human rights groups and trade unions.
Even so, Qatar initially suffered reputational damage on the labour front because it was relatively slow in embracing and implementing the reforms. Qatar’s handling of the Gulf crisis suggests that it has learnt from the failure of its initial response to criticism of its winning 2022 bid when it acted like an ostrich that puts its head in the sand, hoping that the storm will pass only to find that by the time it rears its head the wound has festered, and it has lost strategic advantage.
The integrity issue remains Qatar’s weak point. For activist critics of the awarding of hosting rights to Qatar, there are two questions. One is, who do they want to get in bed with? Qatar’s detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia hardly have stellar human and labour rights records. If anything, their records are worse than that of Qatar, which admittedly does not glow.
The second question critics have to ask themselves is how best to leverage the World Cup, irrespective of whether the Qatari bid was compromised or not. On the assumption that it may have been compromised, the question is less how to exact retribution for a wrong doing that was common practice in global football governance. Leveraging should focus on how to achieve a fundamental reform of global sports governance that has yet to emerge eight years into a crisis that was in part sparked by the Qatar World Cup. This goes to the heart of the fact that untouched in efforts to address the governance crisis is the corrupting, ungoverned, and incestuous relationship between sports and politics.
Siamese twins: sports and politics
The future of the Qatar World Cup and the Gulf crisis speaks to the pervasiveness of politics in sports. The World Cup is political by definition. Retaining Qatar’s hosting rights or depriving the Gulf state of the right to host the tournament is ultimately a choice with political consequences. As long as the crisis continues, retaining rights is a testimony to Qatar’s resilience, deprival would be a victory for its detractors.
As a result, the real yardstick in the debate about the Qatari World Cup should be how the sport and the integrity of the sport benefit most. And even then, politics is never far from what the outcome of that debate is. Obviously, instinctively, the optics of no retribution raises the question of how that benefits integrity. The answer is that the potential legacy of social and economic change that is already evident with the Qatar World Cup is more important than the feel-good effect of having done the right thing with retribution or the notion of setting an example. Add to that the fact that in current circumstances, a withdrawal of hosting rights would likely be interpreted as a victory of one side over the other, further divide the Arab and Muslim world, and enhance a sense among many Muslims of being on the defensive and under attack.
The silver lining in the Gulf crisis may be the fact that it has showed up the fiction of a separation of sports and politics. FIFA, the AFC, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), seeking to police the ban on a mixing of sports and politics, have discovered that it amounts to banging their heads against a wall. Despite their attempts to halt politics from subverting Asian tournaments, domestic and regional politics seeped into the game via different avenues.
As a result, FIFA and its regional confederations have been tying themselves up in knots. In a bizarre and contradictory sequence of events at the outset of the Gulf crisis, FIFA president Infantino rejected involving the group in the dispute by saying that “the essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics.” Yet, on the same day that he made his statement, Mr. Infantino waded into the crisis by removing a Qatari referee from a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the request of the UAE. FIFA, beyond declaring that the decision was taken “in view of the current geopolitical situation,” appeared to be saying by implication that a Qatari by definition of his nationality could not be an honest arbiter of a soccer match involving one of his country’s detractors. In FIFA’s decision, politics trumped professionalism, no pun intended.
Similarly, the AFC was less principled in its stand towards matches pitting Saudi Arabia and Iran against one another. Iranian club Traktor Sazi was forced in February to play its home match against Al Ahli of Jeddah in Oman. It wasn’t clear why the AFC did not uphold the principle it imposed on Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the case of Iran. “Saudi teams have been able to select host stadiums and cities, and Saudi teams will host two Iranian football representatives in the UAE and Kuwait. In return, Iranian football representatives should be able to use their own rights to choose neutral venues,” said Mohammad Reza Saket, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Football Federation in a letter to the AFC.
Soccer governance bodies have long struggled to maintain the fiction of a separation in a trade-off that gave regulators greater autonomy and created the breeding ground for widespread corruption while allowing governments and politicians to manipulate the sport to their advantage as long as they were not too blatant about it. The limits of that deal are currently being defined in the Middle East, a region wracked by conflict where virtually everything is politicized.
The Success of Iranian Activism Shows the Way to Correct European Policies
Western policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran would almost certainly be more assertive and ambitious if the international community was more broadly aware of the power and organization of Iranian activism both inside the country and throughout the global expatriate community.
Fortunately, a growing number of Western policymakers do recognize the influence wielded by Iran’s pro-democratic resistance movement, as led by Maryam Rajavi the President elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its main constituent group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). Dozens of high-profile political figures and experts in Middle Eastern affairs have taken to participating in the NCRI’s Free Iran rally, which is held near Paris each summer and attended by tens of thousands of ethnic Iranians from throughout the world.
This past June, those participants put their lives on the line by attending at a time when Iran’s domestic affairs are increasingly explosive, with growing consequences for the world at large. On the day of the Free Iran gathering, European authorities arrested two would-be bombers as they attempted to gain access to the event on the orders of a high-ranking Iranian diplomat based in Vienna.
The foiled plot underscored the Iranian regime’s flailing attempts to undermine the Iranian opposition. And it was not the only one of its kind. Months earlier, Iranian operatives were caught plotting an attack on the residence of over 2,000 MEK activists who had relocated to Albania from their former headquarters in Iraq. At the same time, federal investigators in the United States were monitoring two agents of the Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. The subsequent criminal indictment noted that their spying would have surely resulted in attacks on US-based opposition activists if they had been left unchecked.
Finally, in October, another Iranian operative was arrested in Denmark for plotting the assassination of Iranian dissidents. This finally sparked a serious push for collective measures to confront and contain Iranian terror treats. A call to action had already emerged from France following an investigation that concluded there was no doubt about Tehran’s responsibility for the Paris plot. But in the wake of the Danish arrest and a subsequent meeting of European Union foreign ministers, the stage was seemingly set for the entire EU to adopt economic sanctions that France had already imposed on the Ministry of Intelligence and its agents.
This is, of course, an appropriate response to serious Iranian terror threats. It is made all the more sensible and potentially effective because those threats and their underlying causes are still apparent, and because it follows upon a shift toward much more assertive policies by the US government. But the EU has been notably cautious about making that shift.
The desire for continued access to Iranian markets is surely part of the reason for this. But it might also be said that the US administration is much more aware of the existence of powerful allies inside Iranian society and the expatriate population. After all, some White House officials and close confidants of the US president have been regular attendees at NCRI rallies, including the one that was nearly bombed in June.
European hesitancy is fading now that such threats have come to light and have been shown to not be isolated incidents. That hesitancy might evaporate altogether if more European policymakers were made aware of the organizational capabilities of the MEK, including its contribution to the nationwide uprising that began last December and spawned countless other protests featuring the same anti-government slogans.
Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged the MEK’s role in January, when the uprising was still in full swing. In a speech to his officials, he declared that the resistance group had spent months planning for the rapid spread of protests and the promotion of a clear message of regime change. This was a significant break from the regime’s decades-long policy of downplaying the strength and social influence of the MEK and its affiliates.
In case this is not reason enough for global policymakers to conclude that regime change is actually within reach for Iran’s pro-democratic population, the Iranian opposition foreign supporters all throughout the world are working tirelessly to highlight the success of recent and ongoing protests. As one example, Iranian communities in 50 locations throughout Europe, North America, and Australia will be hosting simultaneous conferences on Saturday 15 December to demonstrate both the threats and the opportunities that support adoption of a firm, collective Iran strategy by all Western powers.
As well as keeping a spotlight trained squarely on Iran’s recent foreign terror threats, this global teleconference will provide details about many of the protests and labor strikes that have sprung up and, in some cases, continued for months at a time, in the wake of last year’s nationwide uprising. The persistence of those demonstrations is a clear sign of the activist community’s strength and the very real prospects for the popular overthrow of the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.
The Iranian terror threat is reason enough for the international community to abandon the conciliatory policies that have been prevalent for so long. Proper recognition of the Iranian democratic opposition will prove once and for all that a firm alternative is not only justified but imperative for the triumph of democracy in the Middle East.
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