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How NATO-Member Turkey Reverted Back to Being an Islamic Dictatorship

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The gradual process of Turkey’s becoming an Islamic sharia-law country, again, is no longer so gradual. It has taken a sudden and sharp rightward turn, into Islamic-nationhood. Turkey’s Hagia Sophia, which had been “the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520,” has now been officially declared by the Turkish Government to be, instead, a mosque.

On July 10th, the BBC bannered “Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum into mosque” and reported that the biggest, oldest, and the most important, cathedral in all of Orthodox Christendom — and the world’s most important Byzantine building, which was constructed as the Saint Sophia Cathedral by the Byzantine Roman Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the year 537, and which stands on the site that had been consecrated in the year 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine (and which cathedral was relabelled the Hagia Sophia “museum” in 1935 by Turkey’s Constitutionally secularist Government) — has now become, officially, at last, designated, by the restored Islamic Government of Turkey, a Muslim house of worship, a mosque, a Muslim house of worship. 

This signals the end of Turkey’s being ruled by a secular Government, which it had been, ever since 1923. It is the end of Turkey’s secular Government and the restoration of the Islamic Mehmed the Conqueror’s 1453 order that it be a mosque. That ended the Byzantine Roman Catholic Empire, and started Islamic-ruled Turkey. It ended Constantinople and started Istanbul. Mehmet, however, allowed Christianity to continue, in the Islamic Ottoman Empire, but only as an accepted part of the Greek East (“Orthodox”), not as part of the Roman West (imperialistic), Christianity (which he had just then conquered with the fall of Constantinople on that same date, 29 May 1453). And now, even the Orthodox Christians are being marginalized in Turkey, because the Hagia Sophia had been “for almost 1,000 years the most important Orthodox cathedral.” 

This is an act with huge international implications. It is an important event in human history.

Turkey’s dictator, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, whose entire actual education was only in Islamic schools though he lies about it and claims to have received a degree from a non-Islamic university, is in the process of transforming Turkey back again into a specifically Islamic type of dictatorship, a Sharia-law-ruled state. The secularist Turkish Republic that was instituted in 1923 by the Enlightenment-inspired Kemal Attaturk has now decisively ended. The widespread speculations that Erdogan has been aiming to restore Turkey to being the imperial nation and ruler of a restored Islamic Ottoman Empire are now decisively confirmed by this brazen act of insult to Orthodox Christians, and even to Roman Christians, because — as Wikipedia notes — “Justinian has sometimes been known as the ‘Last Roman’ in mid-20th century historiography.” The Orthodox Church in America titles him as “Saint Justinian The Emperor”. However, Wikipedia also notes that Constantine XI Palaiologos, who was killed by Mehmet’s forces on that date, 29 May 1453, was actually the last Roman Emperor. That ended the Roman Empire.

In other words: the Turkish Government’s official change of Saint Sophia Cathedral, which Justinian had created in 537, into now and henceforth a mosque, is a taking ownership of, and a Turkish-Muslim declaration of supremacy over, a different religion’s main house of worship. It’s a historical dagger into the heart of Orthodox Christianity, as well as being an insult to Roman Christianity.

This is not merely an isolated act, either; it is, instead, something to which Erdogan has long been building. Erdogan’s grab of land from secularist-ruled (committedly anti-sectarian) Syria, and his recent sending of troops to help conquer the formerly secularist Libya, which land had been turned into a hellish civil war by a U.S.-and-allied invasion in 2011 and which chaos there continues to this day, all are consistent with an understanding of Erdogan in which his foremost objective is a restoration of the Ottoman Empire. And the U.S. Government has supported this objective of his (but only as Turkey being a branch of the U.S. empire), and tried to get the EU to accept it.

The question now — since the United States Government has been pushing against European resistance to accepting a military alliance with an Islamic dictatorship — is whether continuation of the NATO alliance will be ended because of the path that Erdogan and the United States Government have jointly been taking to re-impose a decidedly Sunni Islamic dictatorship upon Turkey (by means of which, Turkey will serve as a wedge against both Shiite controlled Iran, and an increasingly Orthodox-dominated Russia). However, there has been a split between Erdogan and the U.S. regime, because he does not intend his restored Ottoman empire to be a part of the U.S. or any other empire. Erdogan’s independent streak is what now threatens to break-up the Western Alliance — the U.S. empire (which is actually the Rhodesist UK-U.S. empire).

The United States Government has been preferring Erdogan’s former political partner but now enemy, Erdogan’s fellow Sunni Islamist Fethullah Gulen, who cooperates with the U.S. and is a CIA protégé (including rabidly against Shiite Iran and against Iran’s main ally Russia). Gulen is passionately endorsed by America’s aristocracy. The U.S. regime has been preferring Gulen to impose this transformation of Turkey into an Islamic U.S. satellite, because Gulen models his operation (and he has even described it in remarkable detail) upon U.S. and UK ‘intelligence’ practices (CIA & MI6), whereas Erdogan has insisted upon an independent Turkey with its own nationalistic ‘intelligence’ organization — a nationalistically transformed version of Turkey’s existing MIT or National Intelligence Organization — an ‘intelligence’ organization that’s cleansed of what the CIA praises as “Gulen is interested in slow and deep social change, including secular higher education; Erdogan as a party leader is first and foremost interested in preserving his party’s power, operating in a populist manner, trying to raise the general welfare.” (The CIA actually knows that this has nothing whatsoever to do with “trying to raise the general welfare” — the U.S. regime’s goal is to extend everywhere the U.S. empire, and Erdogan’s Turkish regime has that same goal for the Turkish empire, which doesn’t yet even exist, though it once did as the Ottoman Empire, and he wants to restore it.) Erdogan insists upon Turkey’s not being merely a vassal-state or colony within a foreign-led empire, but instead the leading nation of its own empire, starting perhaps with gobbling up Syria and Libya, but extending ultimately more globally. There is a soundly documented article titled “Why Are Gulenists Hostile Toward Iran?” and it provides much of the reason why the CIA supports Gulen (they do largely because Erdogan isn’t so obsessive against Iran — which country America’s aristocracy crave to conquer again, as they had done in 1953, and Erdogan doesn’t support that as passionately as they require).

The question now for Europe is whether it wants to be again a participant in various aristocracies’, and clergies’, imperialistic designs, or instead to declare itself finally non-aligned and to lead thereby a new global non-aligned movement, not militaristically, but instead by providing, to the entire world, an anti-imperialistic and truly democratic model, a re-start and replacement of today’s United Nations, and one that will reflect what had been Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s anti-imperialist intention, and not Harry S. Truman’s American-imperialist intention — a start from scratch that has FDR’s statements to guide it, and not Truman’s actions to guide it (such as has been the case). Perhaps even the U.S., NYC-based, U.N. would ultimately sign onto that new international global federation; but the only basis upon which nations in the old U.N. should be accepted into its successor would be if the old U.N. were gradually to dissolve itself as its individual nations would, each on its own, sign onto the new one. Ultimately, this option must be made available to all Governments, to choose to either continue in Truman’s U.N., or else join instead a new, and authentically FDR-based, authentically anti-imperialistic, replacement of it.

That is what this dictatorial Islamization of Turkey is really all about, and only Europe can make the decision — no other land can. However, such a decision will only fail if any such organization as a new U.N. is to be at all involved in the particular national issues that now are so clearly coming to the fore in the transformation of Turkey into a Sunni Islamist dictatorship. 

The “international community” should have no say in Turkey’s intranational (or “domestic”) affairs — regardless of whether Turkey is in or out of Europe. Sectarian and nationalistic concerns cannot rule in the formation of any authentically democratic new international order — an authentically non-imperialistic international order. All such concerns, domestic concerns, must be strictly the domain of the authority and power of each one of the individual constituent units, each individual national Government itself controlling its own internal affairs. FDR was adamant about that. He was insistent that the U.N. not get involved in individual nations’ internal affairs. The profoundly anti-FDR, “Responsibility to Protect” idea (which now has even acquired the status of being represented by an acronym “R2P” catch-phrase), has increasingly arisen recently to become a guiding principle of international relations, and must be soundly and uncompromisingly rejected in the formulation and formation of any replacement-organization — any authentically democratic international federation of nations. Otherwise, everything would be futile, and there will be a WW III. We are heading in exactly the opposite direction from that which FDR had intended — which was to prevent any Third World War.

This decision will be made by the individual nations of Europe. Only they collectively hold this power. They will be able to exercise it only if they will terminate their alliances outside of Europe, and proceed forward no longer bound by external alliances, but instead become a free and independent European federation of European states. Only they, collectively, will be able to make this decision, as Europeans, for the entire world, regarding what the world’s future will be. And only they will hold the ultimate responsibility — and it’s NOT the “responsibility to protect”. It is instead the responsibility to protect the future of the entire world. It’s the responsibility to protect a future for the world. And if Europe fails it, then the world will inevitably move forward to WW III, as it is doing. A new international order is needed, and only Europe can lead it, if  Europe will.

In order for Europe to do that, Europe must first define itself. Is Turkey part of Europe? Is Russia? What is Europe? If Europeans won’t be able to agree on that, then the world will continue to move forward towards WW III, because the world will then have no center, it will continue to have only contending empires — exactly what FDR had aimed to prevent.

Europe is the key. But will Europe’s leaders place the key in the lock, and open, finally, the door to a non-imperialistic world? The present, U.S.-empire-aligned, Europe, won’t do that. Turkey’s action on the Hagia Sophia, which is an insult to all Christians, and especially to Orthodox ones, might finally force the issue — and its solution.

Other than that, however, the official designation of the Hagia Sophia as being a mosque is entirely a domestic, Turkish, matter.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Middle Eastern autocrats sigh relief: the US signals Democracy Summit will not change policy

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The United States has signalled in advance of next week’s Summit for Democracy that it is unlikely to translate lip service to adherence to human rights and democratic values in the Middle East into a policy that demonstrates seriousness and commitment.

In a statement, the State Department said the December 9-10 summit would “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” e State Department said that in advance of the summit, it had consulted with government experts, multilateral organisations, and civil society “to solicit bold, practicable ideas” on “defending against authoritarianism,” “promoting respect for human rights,” and fighting corruption.

Of the more than 100 countries alongside civil society and private sector representatives expected to participate in the summit, only Israel is Middle Eastern, and a mere eight are Muslim-majority states. They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Albania, Iraq, Kosovo, Niger, and the Maldives.

US President Joe Biden has made the competition between democracy and autocracy a pillar of his administration policy and put it at the core of the United States’ rivalry with China.

We’re in a contest…with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Mr. Biden said.

Yet, recent statements by the Pentagon and a White House official suggested that, despite the lofty words, US Middle East policy is likely to maintain long-standing support for the region’s autocratic rule in the belief that it will ensure stability.

Popular revolts in the past decade that toppled leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon suggest that putting a lid on the pot was not a solution. That is true even if the achievements of the uprisings were either rolled back by Gulf-supported counter-revolutionary forces or failed to achieve real change.

To be sure, Gulf states have recognized that keeping the pot covered is no longer sufficient. As a result, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have developed plans and policies that cater to youth aspirations with economic and social reforms while repressing political freedoms.

The US appears to be banking on the success of those reforms and regional efforts to manage conflicts so that they don’t spin out of control.

On that basis, the United States maintains a policy that is a far cry from standing up for human rights and democracy. It is a policy that, in practice, does not differ from Chinese and Russian backing of Middle Eastern autocracy. Continuous US public and private references to human rights and democratic values and occasional baby steps like limiting arms sales do not fundamentally alter things.

Neither does the United States’ choice of partners when it comes to responding to popular uprisings and facilitating political transition. In dealing with the revolt in Sudan that in 2019 toppled President Omar al-Bashir and a military coup in October, both the Trump and Biden administration turned to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Israel. While Israel is a democracy, none of the US partners favour democratic solutions to crises of governance.

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk signalled this in an interview with The National, the UAE’s flagship English-language newspaper, immediately after a security summit in Bahrain that brought together officials from across the globe. US officials led by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sought to use the conference to reassure America’s allies that the United States was not turning its back on ensuring regional security.

Mr. McGurk said that the United States had drawn conclusions from “hard lessons learnt” and was going “back to basics.” Basics, Mr. McGurk said, in a nod primarily to Iran but potentially also to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entailed dumping “regime change policies.” He said the US would focus on “the basics of building, maintaining, and strengthening our partnerships and alliances” in the Middle East.

Mr. McGurk’s articulation of a back-to-basics policy was reinforced this week with the publication of a summary of the Pentagon’s Global Posture review, suggesting that there would be no significant withdrawal of US forces from the region in Mr. Biden’s initial years in office.

The notion of back to basics resonates with liberals in Washington’s foreign policy elite. Democracy in the Middle East is no longer part of their agenda.

“Instead of using US power to remake the region…policymakers need to embrace the more realistic and realisable goal of establishing and preserving stability,” said Council of Foreign Relations Middle East expert Steven A. Cook even before Mr. Biden took office.” What Washington needs is not a ‘war on terror’ built on visions of regime change, democracy promotion, and ‘winning hearts and minds’ but a realistic approach focused on intelligence gathering, police work, multilateral cooperation and the judicious application of violence when required,” he added.

Mr. Cook went on to say that a realistic US Middle East policy would involve “containing Iran, retooling the fight against terrorism, to reduce its counterproductive side effects, reorganizing military deployments to emphasize the protection of sea-lanes, and downscaling the US-Israeli relationship to reflect Israel’s relative strength.”

The United States is in good company in its failure to put its money where its mouth is regarding human rights and democratic values.

The same can be said for European nations and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state and democracy. Indonesia projects itself directly and indirectly through Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement, as the only major supporter of a moderate interpretation of Islam that embraces human rights without reservations and pluralism and religious tolerance.

That has not stopped Indonesia from allegedly caving into a Saudi threat not to recognize the Indonesian Covid-19 vaccination certificates of pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Media if the Asian state voted for an extension of a United Nations investigation into human rights violations in the almost seven-year-old war in Yemen.

Similarly, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates on cooperation on religious affairs even though the UAE’s version of a moderate but autocratic Islam stands for values that reject freedoms and democracy.

The agreements were part of a much larger package of economic, technological, and public health cooperation fuelled by US$32.7 billion in projected Emirati investments in Indonesia.

The Biden administration’s reluctance, in line with a long list of past US presidents, to do substantially more than pay lip service to the promotion of human rights and democratic values brings to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

President George W. Bush and his then-national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, acknowledged two decades ago that jihadist violence and the 9/11 attacks were partly the results of the United States’ failure to stand up for its values. They bungled, however, their effort to do something about it, as did Barak Obama.

It is not only the Middle East and other regions’ autocracies that pay the price. So do the United States and Europe. Their refusal to integrate their lofty ideals and values into effective policies is increasingly reflected at home in domestic racial, social, and economic fault lines and anti-migrant sentiment that threatens to tear apart the fabric of democracy in its heartland.

The backlash of failing to heed Mr. Einstein’s maxim and recognizing the cost associated with saying one thing and doing another is not just a loss of credibility. The backlash is also the rise of isolationist, authoritarian, xenophobic, racist, and conspiratorial forces that challenge the values in which human rights and democracy are rooted.

That raises the question of whether the time, energy, and money invested in the Summit of Democracy could not have been better invested in fixing problems at home. Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh nailed it by noting that “shoring up democracy is almost entirely domestic work.”

It’s a message that has not been lost on democracy’s adversaries. In what should have been a warning that hollow declaratory events like the Summit of Democracy are not the answer, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told last September’s United Nations General Assembly: “The United States’ hegemonic system has no credibility, inside or outside the country.”

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International Solidarity Day with the people of Palestine

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Since 1948, the people of Palestine were suffering due to Israeli oppression and aggression. Despite several resolutions on Palestine passed by the United Nation, Israel has not implemented either of them. Despite the struggle from all peace-loving nations, in various forms, the Palestinian people have not yet been given the right of self-determination, or self-rule, and are yet, forced to leave their land, homes and stay in refugee camps or migrate to foreign countries to live a miserable life. After failure from all aspects, the United Nations desp[erately declared to mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In 1977, the General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (resolution 32/40 B). On that day, in 1947, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine (resolution 181 (II))

In resolution 60/37 of 1 December 2005, the Assembly requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN.

The resolution on the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People also encourages the Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity.

The government and the people of Pakistan join the world community in observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November).

The commemoration of this day is a reminder to the international community that the question of Palestine remains unresolved and the Palestinian people are yet to realize their inalienable right to self-determination as provided in various resolutions of the United Nations. It is also an occasion to reiterate our support and solidarity for the Palestinian people who continue to wage a just struggle against the illegal and brutal occupation.

On this day, Pakistan reaffirms its consistent and unstinted support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, which has always been a defining principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The international community must shoulder its responsibility to protect the lives and fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, and play its rightful role in promoting a just and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question per international legitimacy in the interest of durable peace and stability in the Middle East. The international community should also ensure accountability for the widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied territories.

We renew our call on this day for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital being the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, under the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.

The purpose of marking this day is to remind the whole world that the people of Palestine deserve your attention and your time to think about their sufferings. It is to remind that the whole world should understand the issue and try their best to solve it according to the UN resolutions. Those who believe in justice, may raise their voice in favor of the Palestinian people and condemn Israeli barbarism and atrocities. This Day invites all of you to join the [peaceful struggle of Palestinian people for their legitimate rights. Irrespective of your profession, social status, or your religion or race, you may support the Palestinian cause for justice on humanitarian grounds and keep your struggle till the people of Palestine gets their legitimate status and rights on equal footings according to the UN resolutions.

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Israel-Palestine: Risk of ‘deadly escalation’ in violence, without decisive action

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photo: UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

With violence continuing daily throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process urged the Security Council on Tuesday to adopt a more coordinated approach to the region.  

Tor Wennesland told Council Members that “recent developments on the ground are worrying”, pointing out the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority.  

“I therefore emphasize again the importance of concerted efforts by the parties to calm things on the ground. I am concerned that if we do not act quickly and decisively, we risk plunging into another deadly escalation of violence”, he warned. 

He informed that, in the last month, violence resulted in the death of four Palestinians, including two children, and injuries to 90 others – including 12 children – due to action by Israeli Security Forces. 

One Israeli civilian was killed in the same period, and nine civilians, including one woman and one child, and six members of ISF were injured.  

Challenges 

Mr. Wennesland said that a severe fiscal and economic crisis is threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank. 

At the same time, he added, “ongoing violence and unilateral steps, including Israeli settlement expansion, and demolitions, continue to raise tensions, feed hopelessness, erode the Palestinian Authority’s standing and further diminish the prospect of a return to meaningful negotiations.” 

In Gaza, the cessation of hostilities continues to hold, but the Special Envoy argued that “further steps are needed by all parties to ensure a sustainable solution that ultimately enables a return of legitimate Palestinian Government institutions to the Strip.” 

Settlements 

The Special Coordinator also said that “settler-related violence remains at alarmingly high levels.” 

Overall, settlers and other Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank perpetrated some 54 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 injuries. Palestinians perpetrated 41 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting in one death and nine injuries.  

Mr. Wennesland highlighted a few announcements of housing units in settlements, reiterating that “that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace.” 

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have also advanced plans for some 6,000 housing units for Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of al-Issawiya and some 1,300 housing units for Palestinians living in Area C (one of the administrative areas in the occupied West Bank, agreed under the Oslo Accord). 

The Special Envoy welcomed such steps but urged Israel to advance more plans and to issue building permits for all previously approved plans for Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem. 

Humanitarian aid delivered 

Turning to Gaza, the Special Envoy said that humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction efforts continued, along with other steps to stabilize the situation on the ground. 

He called the gradual easing of restrictions on the entry of goods and people “encouraging”, but said that the economic, security and humanitarian situation “remains of serious concern.” 

The Special Envoy also mentioned the precarious financial situation of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which still lacks $60 million to sustain essential services this year. 

The agency has yet to pay the November salaries of over 28,000 UN personnel, including teachers, doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, many of whom support extended families, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where unemployment is high.  

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