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Turkey’s stance on Qatar

It is clear that Turkey supports Qatar, but it is less apparent what Erdogan plans to do about it?

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Of all of the non-Arab countries which publicly proclaimed neutrality over the current Qatar crisis, Turkey’s stated neutrality is the most difficult to swallow. Even Iran whose alleged steps towards semi-normalisation (and even that’s a stretch) with Qatar is a stated proximate cause of the Saudi led dispute, has taken a more neutral position, criticising the act rather than the states who enacted the total shutting off of Qatar from its neighbours and much of the wider Arab world.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu gave a somewhat bold statement on the issue in comparison to the more nuanced ones coming from Russia, Iran and the United States. He said that the “unity and togetherness” of the Gulf is as important to Turkey as its own unity, a unity which one could be forgiven for saying is more fragile than that of the Gulf has generally been.

He then stated,

“Turkey, as a responsible actor in its region and as term president of the Organization of Islamic Conference, is ready to do its best for resolving this disagreement between friendly and brotherly countries as soon as possible”.

In this sense Turkey has volunteered, albeit subtly to act as a mediator in the dispute, though at this point it is doubtful that two Arab kingdoms would want to take Turkey up on such an offer. If the dispute is prolonged however, this could perhaps change.

One could even imagine the US ‘outsourcing’ such a responsibility to Turkey in spite of Donald Trump’s frosty relationship with Turkish President Erdogan. Russia and Iran have wisely stayed well above the fray in every respect of this particular issue as of course has China.

But Turkey’s preference for Qatar over Saudi Arabia is clear. It’s preference for Qatar over Egypt is likewise clear, but for subtly different reasons.

In both Libya and Syria Turkey and Qatar are backing many of the same jihadist terrorist factions. Indeed,Qatar’s modest investments into Turkey’s economy have expanded into funding some of the jihadist groups in Syria which are under the putative wing of Erdogan.

Qatar’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood has been stressed as one of Saudi’s justifications for breaking off all connections with its small neighbour. However, Saudi’s disdain for the Brotherhood is less ideological than it is systematic and strategic.

Saudi sees the Brotherhood as better organised and older competition for influence in the theocratic political spectrum of the Sunni Arab world. Saudi as the Qatar row demonstrates, does not like any competition, in many ways Saudi hates competition more than it  hates polar opposite political systems such as that of Iran. Of course the Saudis would deny this for the obvious reasons of wanting to save face. By contrast, Qatar has embraced the Brotherhood for the same reasons that Saudi shuns it. Qatar is happy to fund a group whose organisational and doctrinal structure needs no additional support from Qatar–they merely need Qatari money.

Turkey’s relationship with the Brotherhood at this point is the opposite of pragmatic. Erdogan’s political beliefs and instincts are very much in line with that of the Muslim Brotherhood. When Egypt was briefly ruled by the once again outlawed group, Turkish-Egyptian relations improved. Now that secular rule has been restored to Egypt, President Sisi will not forgive Erdogan any time soon, nor will he forgive the Qatari’s whose relationship with the Brotherhood reached a zenith during the rule of  Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi.

However much the pro-Qatari factions in Turkey want to see Egypt as an ‘ally’ of Saudi Arabia, the reality is that Egypt is rightly angry at Qatar and Turkey for their support of the hated Brotherhood regime, whereas Saudi dollars are plentiful and don’t come with this particular baggage of Qatari dollars, let alone the baggage of President Ergodan’s ideology or ego.

This didn’t stop the Turkish mainstream media paper Hurriyet from speaking of a ‘Saudi-Egyptian Axis’.

An opinion piece in the generally reasonable Al-Monitor  speaks of Erdogan fearing that he could be the next Morsi or even more strangely the next Qatar.

First of all, Turkey is not part of the Arab sphere of influence much though Erdgoan often wants to be. In many ways Turkey is far more distant to Sunni Arab countries than Iran is with Shi’a movements, parties and countries in the Arab world.

Erdogan’s position is indeed far more precarious than his followers would care to admit but none of these reasons have to do with the Gulf. They have to do with Erdogan’s disastrous interventions in Syria and Iraq, the Kurdish issue that Erdogan’s involvement in Syria and Iraq has inflamed both domestically and internationally and this is all compounded by Turkey’s own experiences with Salafist blow-back from Turkey’s neighbours as well as disgruntled secular Kemalists who are hating Erdogan more by the day in spite of their increased marginalisation at the hands of Erdogan. This has only made them more angry in many cases.

Erdogan’s followers see the same forces that are ‘undermining’ Qatar as the kinds of  forces loyal to exiled Turkish Islamist Fethullah Gülen who Erdogan still blames for the attempted coup in 2016. It’s a strange comparison but it is indeed playing on the minds of some in Erdgoan’s party.

The only similarities between these two disputes are academic. Saudi and Qatar have similar political systems and broadly a similar geo-political position. Much the same can be said about Erdogan’s relationship with Fethullah Gülen, a former ally turned supreme enemy. Saudi and Qatar are drawn into hatred because of their similarities rather than their differences and the same scenario rightly applies to Erdogan and Gülen.

But beyond this, Turkey has nothing directly to fear from the Qatar political conflicts…for now.

If Turkey gets more deeply involved and knowing Erdogan, if Turkey does, Ankara’s pro-Qatari stance will show and Erdogan will alienate Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others perhaps permanently.

This is very much in Erdogan’s hands. If he truly remains neutral, his rule in Turkey will remain as safe is it otherwise would be and he could even quietly step up business with an isolated Qatar that could use Turkey as a still open door to the region and the wider world. If he instead cooks his own goose by stepping into the situation with bravado he could get totally isolated from the remaining parts of the Arab world that aren’t all ready sick and tired of him.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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