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Aggression in Syria, repression in Turkey: How Erdogan forges his Sunni Islamist ‘New Turkey’

Turkish President Erdogan’s response to the July coup attempt and his invasion of Syria are all aspects of his religious sectarian vision to form a ‘new Turkey’ governed by Sharia law with himself as absolute President.

Can Erimtan

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The momentous events of 15 July 2016 have shaken the Turkish nation to its core, in the process even awakening hitherto unknown reserves of popular courage and unquestioning obedience.

The official narrative has it that the people of Turkey, supported by their political leadership (government as well as opposition), resisted the country’s military and so thwarted a coup that would have spelled the end of Tayyip Erdoğan’s political career and life.  And now, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (or AKP, led by the hapless PM Binali Yıldırım) have emerged stronger than ever, and Turkey will never be the same again . . .

Terror Distractions and Other Threats

A little more than a month later, a terror attack occurred that was to have serious consequences in the weeks and months to come:

“[o]n August 20, 2016, ISIS carried out a suicide attack in Gaziantep, Turkey targeting a Kurdish neighborhood wedding ceremony killing fiftyone people and wounding sixtynine others.”

And, as always seems to happen in Turkey Tayyip Erdoğan personally entered the controversy, this time by means of blaming a child suicide bomber for the attack (August 21), only to have his proxy deny this claim subsequently. Speaking to reporters in Ankara, the hapless Prime Minister stated namely that

“[w]e do not have a clue about who the perpetrators behind the attack were. Early information on who did the attack, in what organisation’s name, is unfortunately not right.”

In other words, this terror attack is now quite cosily fulfilling the function of a distraction, with the news media happily participating in the frenzy.

Yet another factor that always seems to occur in Turkey whenever the “Caliph” (ie. ISIS leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi) and his Merry Men (aka the IS or ISIS/ISIL) are involved

“[n]o group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.”

The weekly news magazine Newsweek‘s Jack Moore muses that

“ISIS rarely claims attacks in Turkey, which analysts speculate to be because of its use of Turkey as a transit country to get foreign fighters into its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.”

But Moore’s statement seems rather weak and unconvincing. The Turkish state under the AKP has had warm relations with many, if not all, Islamist factions across the border in Syria. But, last year the “suicide blast in the Turkish border town of Suruç” (20 July 2015) was then the first effective spill-over of violence from the Syrian theatre into Turkish territory.

That particular “attack was targeted at a meeting organised by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), bringing together young people from all around the country planning to travel across the border in order to offer aid and support for the re-building of the recently liberated Kurdish town of Kobanê.”

The terror attack was thus specifically aimed at Turkey’s Kurdish minority, its sympathisers and political representation.

Even though AKP-led Turkey was quick to blame ISIS or the Islamic State for the outrage, responsibility for the attack was never claimed and this suicide blast effectively brought an end to the Kurdish Peace Process.

Following this first foray into Turkish territory many more suicide attacks followed, particularly in Ankara and Istanbul — attacks which the government was always keen to blame on the “Caliph” and his Merry Men, though following renewed hostilities with the country’s Kurds, the name PKK (ie. the main Kurdish anti-government militia) also managed to pop up occasionally.

The parallels between the Suruç and Gaziantep attacks appear striking, the latter taking place exactly a year-and-a-month after the former. And in both cases, the official narrative has it that Islamist terrorists hailing from across the border were targeting Turkey’s Kurds . . .

Last year, I wondered whether

“the Suruç suicide bombing [was] a false flag attack?? [Whether] the Turkish Army [would] now enter Syria to fight the IS and the Assad regime?? . . .”

In the end, Turkey’s Armed Forces (or TSK in acronymised Turkish) stayed put. and according to Russia, Turkey traded freely with the Islamic State, importing stolen oil and reaping huge profits.

The relations between the Erdogan, the “Caliph”, and the Kurds seem most tangled up. Or is AKP-led Turkey merely using the name ISIS (or ISIL or the IS or DAESH, the Arabic acronym now also popularly used by Turkish politicians and media alike) to deflect attention from those really responsible for inflicting grave harm on the Turkish Kurds? And this question would then lead us to ask who is hiding behind this government-sponsored obfuscation?

For one thing, the local Kurds seem rather clear about the matter. Following the recent Gaziantep suicide attack the Kurdish news agency Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê (ANF) reported

“AKP members were protested and expelled from the funeral of 42 people that had been massacred in [Gazi]Antep,”

even adding that the massacre was perpetrated by

“ISIS gangs supported by the AKP.”

A Policy of Sunnification or Erdogan’s Dream

It really looks like Erdogan and the current hapless Turkish Prime Minister Yıldırım are keen to insinuate that the Republic of Turkey is under constant threat from either foreign terrorists, Kurdish separatists or, as recently witnessed, from apparently U.S.-directed “traitors” – as the coup-plotters have now been termed.

And these threats are all sneakily used to deflect attention from the fact that Tayyip Erdoğan is in the process of establishing a new land on the Anatolian peninsula, a “New Turkey” (as the AKP now self-assuredly also boasts), a new country completely at odds with the state founded by Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] in 1923.

From late 2013 onwards, I have been using the term “policy of Sunnification” to describe the AKP’s domestic agenda.

In fact, Turkey’s affairs next door in Syria are but a continuation and sounding-board of this self-same policy, as the Assad regime in Damascus is supposedly led by an Alawite clan, though in reality the Syrian government appears to be much more inclusive than that, counting its fair share of ethnic and religious minorities among its members, in addition to a number of Sunni Muslims  – arguably, a circumstance most displeasing to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the self-proclaimed champion of Sunni Islam, arguably forever dreaming of a revived Islamic Turkey emboldened by righteous and obedient believer-citizens pledging allegiance to the Prophet and his representative on earth, Tayyip Erdoğan.

After all, as long ago as 20the January 2004 the then-U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman penned a confidential report for his masters in Washington, D.C. describing Erdoğan as “a natural politician,” possessing an “unbridled ambition stemming from the belief God has anointed him to lead Turkey.”

At the outset of his political career – on 22 November 1994, to be precise – when he was Mayor of Istanbul, the then 40-year old Erdoğan participated in a television programme via the telephone and proclaimed in a loud and clear tone of voice

“alḥamdulillāh [or praise be to God or Allah], I am a Muslim . . . alḥamdulillāh, I am a proponent of the Shariah.”

As a result, it should not come as a far-fetched idea to assume that the ambitious (yet also apparently equally avaricious) Tayyip Erdoğan would someday like to overthrow the Kemalist consensus and even venture to re-introduce the Shariah in Turkey.

Some have argued that the AKP’s long-term goal for the year 2023, the centenary of the Republic’s foundation, has always been to

“transform the nation state Turkey into an Anatolian federation of Muslim ethnicities, possibly linked to a revived caliphate”

with a re-introduced Shariah legal system . . .

The botched military coup of 15 July came as a “gift from God [or Allah],” offering the opportunity to effectively emasculate, if not extinguish, the opposition and other unwanted adversaries.

That fateful night, when Erdogan used his FaceTime interview on CNN Türk to call upon the people to take to the streets, they responded in huge numbers filling the main squares of Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara, imbued with a religious zeal that, according to some, seemed to mirror the fanaticism displayed by the “Caliph’s” suicide commandos (ISIS/ISIL or IS) and other religiously inspired agitators.

The masses took to the streets, proclaiming their allegiance to the Prophet and his cause by means of shouting “God is great” (or ‘Allahu Akbar’) over and again.

The political scientist Professor Alpaslan Özerdem, present in Ankara during the coup attempt, relates that following Erdoğan’s FaceTime words of encouragement

“members of the public stormed the state TV studios in Ankara, and the same broadcaster who read out the coup statement only a few hours before announced that the state TV had been brought back under civilian control. However, an army unit then stormed the studios of CNN Türk just after 3.30am, and the Turkish public were treated to the bizarre spectacle of a military coup taking over a TV broadcast and journalists fighting back. Half an hour later, the public stormed the CNN building too, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar.’ A man entered the studio itself from the fire escape and asked his fellow protesters to join him there, apparently without realising that all cameras in the studio were broadcasting live – instantly making him something of an unwitting national icon.”

The news agency Reuters adds that

“[m]ore than 290 people were killed in the violence, 104 of them coup supporters, the rest largely civilians and police officers.”

And that means that about 186 Turkish individuals have now joined the ranks of martyrs, arguably residing in heaven in clear reciprocal sight of Allah.

The AKP-led government after all ensured that Turkish civilians-perishing-for-the-cause-of-Turkey would join their military martyr brethren. As explained by Erdoğan himself (March 2012): now

“[w]e are including civilians who died in terror events into the category of martyrs. Civilians who become invalid or die by reason of a terror event and their relatives will receive compensation and a monthly allowance’. In this way, the Turkish state takes on the responsibility to take care of those who have died (or suffered) for the cause of the fatherland, which has now become equal to the cause of God.”

In this way, Erdogan encouraged his followers to become Mujahids (or individuals striving for the cause of Allah) and potential martyrs (or Shaheed), with 186 civilians actually sacrificing themselves for the sake of their leader, the President or rather Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

“This uprising is a gift from God [or rather, Allah] to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army [and the whole of the nation of opposition-minded antagonists, desperately clinging to the memories of Atatürk and the achievements of Kemalism]. “

The Turkish Bin Laden or Pennsylvania

Erdogan and the whole of the AKP apparatus immediately blamed the self-exiled former government employee-or-cleric Fethullah Gülen, and, capitalising on the Ankara judiciary’s inventive phraseology (7 May 2015), accused a “shadowy, clearly elusive, and possibly even non-existent, organisation” known only as the supposed terror group FETÖ (Fettullahçı Terör Örgütü or Fethullahist Terror Organization) of being behind the coup attempt.

In fact, for all intents and purposes, one could put forward that Gülen has now become Turkey’s very own Usamah bin Laden, as the shadowy figure veiled in a cloak of Islamic learning and authority threatening life and limb across the nation from behind the scenes, supposedly orchestrating last July’s momentous Friday happenings: but

“[b]y 5am, [on Saturday morning 16 July] it [had] become clear that the coup attempt . . . failed”

and Erdoğan made a public announcement, addressing Gülen by means of a rhetorical flourish:

“I have a message for Pennsylvania: You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country”

— using the name of the Keystone State as a means to directly appeal to the figure of the fugitive former government employee-or-cleric Gülen (totum pro parte).

The same night, quite some time after all was said and done, a clearly relieved Erdogan stated confidently that

“[t]he army is ours . . . I am the Commander-in-Chief.”

Post-coup-attempt, Erdoğan, his proxy Yıldırım, and the whole of the AKP establishment immediately started a concerted campaign to ensure that the momentum was not lost, encouraging citizens to take to the streets in so-called “Democracy Guards” and giving speeches left, right and centre — television sets as well as purposefully erected large screens in public squares constantly airing the figure of the President admonishing his followers and threatening his opponents.

The press reported on 25 July that a

“total of 13,165 people have been detained in connection with the foiled coup attempt in Turkey, President Erdogan said on Sunday [, 24 July]. He mentioned that 8,838 of those arrested are soldiers, 2,101 are judges and prosecutors, 1,485 are police officers, 52 are local authorities and 689 are civilians, as reported by the Hurriyet daily. He added that 934 schools, 109 dormitories, 15 universities, 104 foundations, 35 health institutions, 1,125 associations and 19 unions were closed as they belonged to what he described as the ‘Fethullahist Terrorist Organization’.” And the authorities also determined then that “8,651 members, or 1.5%, of the nation’s armed forces took part in the failed coup on 15 July.”

Official Backlash: Purging the State

Following the successful suppression of the coup attempt, the official reaction has been nothing but a severe continuation of the repression that occurred in the wake of the corruption scandal, commonly referred to as #AKPgate.

But now, these purges are much more severe, as a three-month State of Emergency has been proclaimed on Wednesday, 20 July 2016, following a five-hour meeting of the National Security Council and a meeting of Erdoğan’s privy cabinet.  The President then told the press that

“the aim is to rapidly and effectively take all steps needed to eliminate the threat against democracy, the rule of law and the people’s rights and freedoms.”

It seems ironic that an act allowing the president and the PM “to bypass the parliament in enacting laws is cited as a means of protecting and safeguarding democracy.

On the same day, two members of Turkey’s constitutional court were arrested, in addition to more than 100 judiciary officials also taken into custody.

In early October the Turkish cabinet agreed to extend the State of Emergency for another 90 days, as then made public by the government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş.

According to the Turkish Constitution, a state of emergency can only last for a maximum period of six months and this could mean that a possible constitutional amendment could by the end of January 2017 very well turn the current State of Emergency into the new normal and the Republic of Turkey into a veritable AKP-led police state, known as the “New Turkey”.

Thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions were forcibly closed down on Saturday, 23 July.

At the same time, the authorities immediately set out to purge the ranks of government officials and employees, abolishing vacations and restricting foreign travel. Whilst, as explained by the the journalists Josie Ensor and Zia Weise

“licences of 21,000 staff working in private schools have been revoked, [and] more than 20,000 employees at the education ministry fired, and the state-run higher education council demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. The Turkish education ministry [also] announced the closure of more than 600 state school across the country.”

The much-anticipated meeting of the High Military Council of Turkey (or YAŞ, in acronymised Turkish) in early August was moved forward as a clear means to cull the ranks of suspected (or possibly unwanted) members — in short, a grand total of 149 generals and admirals.   More than a thousand commissioned and 436 non-commissioned officers have been made redundant and nearly 1,700 military personnel have been summarily discharged.

The five-hour Council meeting, headed by the hapless Prime Minister Yıldırım and the Defence Minister Fikri Işık, came to an end Thursday night (28 July) and was greeted by numerous “democracy supporters” taking to the streets to celebrate in honking cars.

The news agency Reuters‘ Ece Toksabay and Daren Butler remark insightfully that Tayyip Erdoğan

“wants the armed forces and national intelligence agency brought under the control of the presidency”

moving towards an absolute presidency.

Also 45 newspapers, 16 television channels and 23 radio stations have been shut down, muffling the free press basically.

And on 31 July an emergency decree effectively closed down all military high schools and military academies, venerable institutions going back to the Ottoman era and representing a tradition that seems to be at odds with the current regime.

These institutions used to furnish an officers’ class steeped in Kemalist ideology and thus ensured that the Turkish Armed Forces was led by a cadre that saw its function primarily as safeguarding the status quo. Or, as expressed by the BBC in 2007

“[t]he army sees itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secularism.”

Forging an Absolute Presidency for Turkey

But those days are over now, and talk of “defending democracy” and of reintroducing “capital punishment,” as oftentimes voiced by anti-coup protesters as well as the AKP machinery, should really be understood as coded messages.

I would argue that the use of the term “democracy,” invariably accompanied by enthusiastic proclamations that God is great or ‘Allahu Akbar’ by Erdoğan supporters is nothing but a veiled call for the re-introduction of Shariah law in Turkey.  And in this context, the return of capital punishment could very well function as a catalyst that would convince wider swathes of the population that stricter and more stringent laws are in order . . . and no law is stricter than the law of God, or the Shariah in an Islamic context.  And the strongman that is Tayyip Erdoğan, as the “anointed” leader of Turkey is the one to achieve this feat, something that seemed all but unthinkable and even unimaginable just ten years ago.

As voiced by an anonymous intellectual in Istanbul interviewed by the veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn:

“Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him [to] show restraint in stifling opposition in general,”

and pursuing his ultimate policy aims, no doubt.

And in this connection, his first goal has to be seen as a changed constitution and the introduction of a presidential system to replace the parliamentary one, in place since 1923 (or 1908, if you want to include its Ottoman forebear).

In other words, Tayyip Erdoğan seems intent on turning “15 July” into a symbolic date, comparable to “31 March” in reverse.

The so-called ’31 March Incident’ (or in Turkish, 31 Mart Vakası) refers to the defeat of a 1909 countercoup, a countercoup that would have abolished the constitutional regime introduced the previous year and reinstated Sultan Abdülhamid II as an absolute autocrat ruling the Ottoman lands.

At the time, counter-revolutionary army units were joined by hordes of theological students (softa) and turbaned clerics (ulema) shouting, “We want Shariah.”

Future history books might very well relate the events of “15 July” as a successful counter-revolution that established Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkey’s first absolute president, overseeing Turkey’s successful return to its Islamic roots of yesteryear.

On 24 August, the Prez addressed a crowd of disabled citizens at his residence, the so-called Beştepe Palace in Ankara, boasting more than a 1,000 rooms,  making an announcement befitting an absolute ruler guiding the ship of state:

“This morning at 04:00 our army, our security forces have begun an operation in the north of Syria, aimed at terror organisations posing a continuous threat to our country from there.”

And in this way, following years and years of looking for a convincing casus belli, Erdoğan has now taken the initiative and unilaterally invaded Syria (the military operation receiving the moniker ‘Euphrates Shield’ and its own requisite English-language twitter feed. . .

One could argue that Erdogan has in this way started acting as Turkey’s absolute president, making do without any constitutional amendments or parliamentary approval.

At one fell swoop, Tayyip Erdoğan has now established a new Turkey, the “New Turkey” that is not afraid to invade its neighbours for political gains at home.

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BREXIT storm deepens, as parliamentary coup may be forming against May and Corbyn

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 166.

Alex Christoforou

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Emboldened by Theresa May’s lack of leadership and will to deliver the Brexit that UK citizens voted for in a democratic referendum, remain MPs are now mobilizing to do the EU’s bidding in forcing Britain to nullify the Brexit process and eventually stay a part of the European Union.

After yesterday’s thumping of May’s Brexit plan in parliament, The Times’ Matthew Parris is now openly floating the idea that “it’s time for parliament to wrest control from the zombies, stating that “Theresa May isn’t any good” and “Jeremy Corbyn is equally useless”…

There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess. No hidden strengths, no unexpected qualities; no whizzbang new thinking, no magic. Forget May. Forget Corbyn. Salvation is not coming from these directions.
So it’s up to parliament. MPs are coming to understand that they have to act. It has been stealing on parliamentarians for months now and close contacts between leading members of both parties have been made and have been deepening.
From within the Commons a shadow executive must emerge, and is beginning to. Labour’s Yvette Cooper talks to the Tories’ Dominic Grieve. Around them is a cluster of senior parliamentarians who are getting used to talking.
A common purpose unites them: rescuing the country from a no-deal Brexit that only a small minority actually want. Whether this is to be done by seeking a better deal than May’s or by a new referendum, or both, they need to find a way soon. An “indicative” vote of the House of Commons may help guide them.
And however speedily the House can find its leadership and direction, it’s hard to imagine this can be done without an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn from last night’s vote is that parliament must wrest control from a zombie prime minister, a zombie cabinet and a zombie opposition. I heard in May’s response to the result the hint of the straw at which she may now clutch: a Labour-style Brexit under a Tory nominal prime minister. I would be amazed if her party would accept it.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the turbulent and uncertain road ahead in the Brexit saga as a March deadline looms.

Shifting sands, and betrayal at the highest level is now crystallizing, as hints of a possible parliamentary coup against May and Corbyn is being floated as a possible solution to the impasse that will ultimately steer the UK back under EU control, and cancel the Brexit referendum.

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Via Straits Times

The words “humiliated” and “crushed” featured prominently in British newspaper headlines following Parliament’s massive rejection of a divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Dailies said Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on power was waning after the huge vote against the agreement struck between her government and Brussels, as she prepared to fight a no-confidence motion on Wednesday.

“May humiliated by 230 votes,” The Daily Mirror tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Humiliation for Prime Minister as MPs overwhelmingly reject deal and Labour tables no confidence vote.”

The broadsheet’s parliamentary sketchwriter Michael Deacon said Mrs May had somehow defied the odds by making a historic event an anticlimax.

“Her speech had all the brio of a mouldy gym sock,” he wrote.

“She sounded as winningly persuasive as a mother snapping at her children to eat up their cabbage or go to bed hungry.”

The vote itself “was as if Agatha Christie has allowed Miss Marple to solve the murder half way through and spend the rest of the novel pottering about in the garden”.

‘ZOMBIE PM’

The Times columnist Matthew Parris said it was time for senior MPs to take over the Brexit process.

“There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess,” he wrote following the vote.

“Theresa May isn’t any good; she doesn’t have a fiendish, secret strategy; she’s careless with the truth and will say anything to get her through another week. She doesn’t know what to do.

“Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn… is that Parliament must wrest control from a zombie Prime Minister, a zombie Cabinet and a zombie opposition.”

The Daily Mail said the defeat left Mrs May’s power “hanging by a thread”, calling it a “devastating result, which threatens to plunge the Brexit process into chaos”.

The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, said: “Crushed PM dares MPs to vote for general election after record Brexit defeat.”

“The crushing defeat – which saw 118 Tories turn against the PM – is the worst since the advent of full democracy and suggests Mrs May will never win enough support for her strategy,” said the tabloid.

The Financial Times newspaper ran a headline reading: “May’s defeat spells trouble for the EU’s Brexit approach.”

“Huge loss leaves PM in race against time,” the broadsheet said.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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