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Women in the Middle East and why #MeToo matters

Nadine Sayegh

The #MeToo campaign following the wave of allegations against Harvey Weinstein resonates with women globally. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” may be something you have come across on your social media profiles over the last few days.

The #MeToo campaign is quite likely another manifestation of a short-lived surge of internet activism, however, it is bringing to the foreground, for a brief time, the plight faced by women everywhere.

What makes this attempt at furthering gender equality and defying structural dominance of patriarchy so powerful, is the sheer numbers it has been producing. Women all over the world are responding to the call, and that in itself is indicative of a deep-seeded global issue.

While this wave begun with allegations pouring in against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the impact of the solidarity is significant, particularly, for those outside the West.

If anything, this campaign aims to highlight the scope and extent of harassment and abuse faced by women on a daily basis; this can extend from the workplace, the street, and even in the home. This campaign has already been criticised by some stating that the issue that must be addressed are men’s actions and though raising female voices is important, it does not do much in terms of furthering gender equality.

What can be done, however, in light of the ‘magnitude of the problem’, is provide women with stronger protective mechanisms at the state level. Existing laws protecting women must be implemented and new laws must be put in place to protect women in social realms. This holds true for all spaces but particularly true for the workplace, where clearly, there is an endless amount of discrimination and harassment.

There must also be a collective effort on the part of men to oppose group-dynamics in this context and speak out and call out those who jeopardize the security and well-being of women. Men, though many disinterested, must become allies in this battle. Gender-equality cannot be thought of as a cause or campaign, for equality is a basic human right that should be distributed shared between all.

The male response to this campaign, has been inspiring at times, but there is clearly a thread of double standard woven into the fabric of male identity. Many, condescendingly, also posted statuses stating they too were harassed.

This campaign does little to highlight the differing levels of discrimination faced globally – but this serves as important opportunity to highlight that in the majority of the Arab world, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, the sexism, discrimination, and harassment women face is at least as high, or can even be higher and more aggressive.

In addition, there are fewer ‘safe-zones’ for women to seek shelter as gender discrimination is often culturally imposed and systemically enshrined. This can then manifest into internalised misogyny, whereby the woman herself begins self-censoring or criticising other women in their communities over breaking ‘taboos’. This weakens communal relations between women and serves as another vessel for oppresion.

Culturally, women are oft viewed in traditional and repressive roles. There have been great strides, such as in Tunisia, Lebanon, and Jordan, all abolishing laws that allow for a rapist to marry his victim in order to avoid punishment, and ‘preserve the dignity and honour’ of the victim. This is a success, but it cannot go unnoticed that laws such as these remain in governing and legal structures in the region, and even where they’ve been abolished, the motives are not always pure.

Realities on the ground do not reflect significant progress, despite some positive steps. This year, UNWomen released a report highlighting that in the Middle East and North Africa, 26 percent of respondents cite that woman should tolerate violence to keep the family unit intact. Research conducted in Jordan substantiates this. For example, in East Amman at a community centre, a social worker shares that many of the beneficiaries are not concerned with domestic violence. She highlights that in a lecture on gender-based violence 98 percent of the participants agreed that a man may hit is wife if she is behaving in antagonising manner.

This month, too, the Thomson Reuters foundation placed Cairo as the most dangerous megacity for women in the world.

Inspired by recent events, a young Egyptian woman writes:

cairo/makes its women/want to be invisible/it covers them/with layers of fear/until they are reduced/to a womb/and two milk fountains/to feed the children/that cairo will eventually/kill.

It is unfortunate, but, statistics and studies can be found from numerous states in the region highlighting the repetitive damage of gender-based violence.

While it may indeed prove cathartic for women to unite against discrimination and share traumatic stories with one another, this action will not, on its own, further gender equality. If genuine action is to be taken it must go beyond the internet and into the lives of women that are affected by men who violate their sanctity as individuals.

Governments, particularly those in the ‘Global South’, must be placed under pressure by to protect their women.

They must be pressured by men in these regions who must move beyond the objectification of women. At the local level, encouraging conversations must begin in safe spaces, community centres and homes, which educate both men and women on the absolute necessity of gender-equality.

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The ones who walk away: The neglect of child refugees in Europe

Farhan Mujahid Chak

European nations are setting a new benchmark for neglect in the face of the worst hum-anitarian crisis of our time. “With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city” – the fabled city of Omelas. It was a marvelous city, the ornament of the world – as it were, with joyous people and brightly colored houses with “red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings…the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights, over the music and the singing.”

It was paradise. At least, that is how legendary American author Ursula K. Le Guin describes it in her breathtaking short-story The Ones Who Walk Away.

Similarly, Europe, too, is fancied. Perceived as a fairy-tale land of freedom, equality and hope – loved, by some, the way mothers are. Understandably so, by those with empty stomachs and sad, longing eyes.

Yet, Ursula’s novella offers a ghastly twist; a moral outrage, necessary for happiness to stay in the city. The wondrous, imaginary city of Omelas, conceals a beastly truth below its foundations. Nothing less than a stark-naked, skeletal, imbecile child, who is confined to a dark, reeking, subterranean room beneath the city.

The doomed child, under no circumstances, must be allowed to leave or, even, be treated kindly – for that would remove the peoples’ joy. In that Faustian bargain, concerning a glorious metropolis and its wretched underbelly, are striking parallels between the imaginary dreamland of Omelas and present-day Europe. Both utopias – if you will, whether fantasy or real, conceal dystopian undercurrents and painful, ugly truths: either as an unclothed, sickly young child immersed in its own excrement, or, in actuality, as child refugees in Europe, who are victims of rape, sexual exploitation and slavery.

Essentially, at the heart of the matter is an ethical dilemma, originally posed by philosopher William James: If all could be made blissfully happy on the account of another’s misery, would we accept it?

Both, the city of Omelas that tortures a stunted adolescent and Europe with its abhorrent disregard for child refugees, shakes our moral foundations to its core. Either by questioning the ways in which vulgarity is normalized or how ethical protestations, eventually, give way to pragmatism – no matter the cost.

Throughout the European Union, whether in Italy, Greece, France or elsewhere, child refugee abuse involves a wide-range of crimes; trafficking, sexual exploitation, enforced prostitution, organ trafficking, benefits fraud, forced labour, slavery, begging, drug running, pickpocketing and theft.

Even worse, credible EU reports indicate children are being sold and pregnant women trafficked to sell their unborn child. More shocking yet, is the organized crime specifically targeting child refugees, while European authorities seemingly turn a blind-eye. This is the tragic irony of children who have lost their parents, homes, escaping war, poverty or disaster, only to end up in unspeakable conditions in the EU, which, according to Europol, is getting worse.

A 2016 study by UNICEF, entitled “Neither Safe nor Sound,” highlights the plight of child refugees living in France, across the English Channel, while they torturously await their asylum request in the United Kingdom. Based on direct interviews with child refugees, it was revealed that those in the best conditions, still suffer from cold and fatigue, difficulty in accessing meals and showers, nervousness, symptoms of depression, and no access to regular schooling.

There are even cases of “entry fees” being extracted by traffickers, and how most children lack access to proper communication services. All of this takes place under the ever-watchful eyes of French authorities. The situation in Greece is more disturbing, according to an alarming report published in April 2017 by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. The report highlights the physical, psychological, and sexual violence faced by minors in refugee camps in Greece, particularly sexual exploitation. Although cases of boys and girls being targeted by sexual predators—whether individual actors or part of criminal networks are many—most children are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisal. This means the crimes against child refugees are significantly higher than documented.

At present, there are 170,000 unaccompanied and separated child refugees (UASCR) throughout the European Union. Yet, this astounding figure does not relay the entirety of the catastrophe, since these are just those that have been documented. Nor does it reflect the terrifying manner in which hundreds of thousands of child refugees—homeless and without parental or guardian support—are being mercilessly abused.

This is Europe’s nightmare. In fact, the “ECHR has held against several Member States for violating the EU’s legal regime on refugees on issues of detention, status of reception facilities, and lack of legal remedies.”

Moreover, according to Claude Moraes, the chair of the European Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs committee, “the amount of child abuse, rape and smuggling that is going on is horrific…If the EU is to have any sort of value it has to care for unaccompanied minors when they arrive in Europe.”

It’s as if Europe’s dirty secret has now been exposed. As that of the false utopia of the city of Omelas, where the naked child waits to be kicked by curious onlookers to ensure that it is still there – and paradise protected.

These unfortunate child refugees, also, are being kicked: either out of boats by traffickers afraid of getting caught; or while being held in their parent’s arms desperate to reach an illusory paradise; or by a broken European system that just does not want them – but is too afraid to admit it.

The European Union has a manifest responsibility to child refugees, as outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Both instruments bind EU Members, who must also comply with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Moreover, as a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Union must act in the ‘best interests of the child.’ Yet, law is only effective if not just its writ, but spirit be followed.

Unfortunately, a monumental failure in fulfilling these obligations has led to tens of thousands of children in appalling, exploitative and criminal conditions. Likewise, in the make-believe city of Omelas – the hopeless child must remain outside the celebrated laws of the city. And, today in Europe, as stated by Baroness Shas Sheehan, the pleas of child refugees fall on deaf ears. This the tragic paradox of European border policy, while claiming to champion the rule of law, tolerance and human rights, it remains incapable of creating legal entry channels for those refugees – even deliberately creating obstacles that make their journey as burdensome as possible. Consequently, a morally disastrous version of some dystopian Hunger Games emerges, where, as Bruno Macaes poetically writes “refugees are rewarded with the promise of generous social benefits and security if they are lucky enough to survive.” It is not without reason that Frantz Fanon roars, unforgivingly, “Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them.”

Others, too, are scolding Europe’s cowardice in the face of the formidable global child refugee crisis. Now, former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, laments that this humanitarian crisis is being grossly obscured by the “sight of our leaders squabbling as to who is not going to do their humanitarian duty towards these people—this is going to remain as a stigma upon Europe.” Indeed, not just stigma, but a deep, irremovable blood-stain – a plague on all their beautiful houses. Admittedly, all nation-states inflict varying levels of oppression – some more unjust than others; India’s treatment of Kashmiris; Israeli treatment of Palestinians; or Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya. Yet, enduring questions remain: Will the European Union act and fulfill its obligations to these child refugees? Will Europe live to its lofty ideals and the inherent dignity of all peoples?  Or, will it be counted among the ones who walk away?

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Trump’s UNESCO and Iran decision

Abdullah Muradoglu

Donald Trump has announced that the US would unilaterally withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal if Congress did not find a way out within 60 days. The US has also withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the grounds that it acts prejudiced against Israel.

Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Tre-aty with the Trans-Pacific deal and asked for the renegotiation of the North Am-erican Free Trade Agree-ment (NAFTA), pledging to end these agreements. But the globalist and pragmatist wings of the White House are trying to control Trump. Populist nationalists are fighting with the globalists so that Trump fulfills his election promises.

Nationalists, led by Steve Bannon, have waged war on the Republican leadership in Congress, which they consider a hindrance to Trump.

According to nationalists, the “American empire” and the “American nation state” are at a critical crossroads. The empire is destroying the nation state and the white Christian identity.

The multiculturalism that accompanies migration distorts the American identity, and manufacturing sliding outside of the country reduces jobs at home. Nationalists argue that the global empire brings in $20 trillion in debt.

The winners are multinational corporations and the US’s rival states such as China.

To put it briefly, nationalists say, “We will not sacrifice the American nation state to the empire, which has made the state the gendarme of globalization.” The slogan “Make America Great Again” promises to bring jobs back to white Americans.

It is also an element of this promise to bring high customs tariffs to import goods, especially Chinese steel. Nationalists advocate bilateral or trilateral agreements instead of multilateral ones.

After this summary, we can move on to background information about UNESCO. Before the US’s UNESCO decision, a campaign against Trump was launched in Israel. The matter was about Trump’s promise to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Trump declared that he suspended his pledge because he wanted to give peace efforts between Israel and Palestine a chance.

The pro-Netanyahu Israeli media strongly reacted to Trump’s decision, even stating that Trump was not a suitable President for the US

Also, Trump’s major pro-Israel donors came into play. One of these donors was Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire “king of casinos.” According to information leaked to the media, Trump met with Adelson when he went to Las Vegas because of the massacre that a white American had carried out. Adelson reproached Trump about not fulfilling his promise regarding Jerusalem.

Adelson also supports the hawks regarding Iran, cooperating with Bannon and his buddies who voice their pro-Israel attitude on all occasions.

Trump, who postponed relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, withdrew the US from UNESCO in order to calm Israel. UNESCO made decisions concerning Masjid al-Aqsa that disturbed Israel’s radical right segments. The US was one of the most important financial resources of UNESCO.

Trump’s reasons for the Iranian nuclear deal pleased the Israeli lobby and Republican hawks. Of course, there are those in Israel who want this agreement to continue. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak told The New York Times that the deal was bad but necessary. It is even said that Netanyahu agrees with Barak.

There is no doubt that Iran is acting in accordance with the terms of the deal. That’s why the US is questioning why Trump wants to break the deal.

The reasons Trump put forward include Iran’s regional positions and headlines not included in the deal, such as Hezbollah. Israel wants the US to be at loggerheads with Iran because of these titles, rather than the breach of the agreement. It should be remembered that there is a different debate among Americans concerning the fact that Israel’s security is so intertwined with the US national interests.

 

 

 

 

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State apathy offers chances to Gladiators re-arrival into the tribal belt

Muhammad Shoaib

The war on terror, against, the so called Al-Qaeda leadership started by Imperial powers in Afghanistan, after the 9/11 incident. Unfortunately, the war also joined by Pakistan that greatly destroyed our peace and progress. Slowly and gradually, the whole intensity of this alien conflict shifted into Tribal Areas. It became an epicenter of all kinds of terrorist activities, which not only threaten the State’s writ but also got confronted the innocent tribal people with a lot of horrendous tragedies and conflicts.

Relations between masters and gladiators in the region notably emerged during the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1979. The arena has been fixed for the dreadful war, named the Tribal belt. The belt was the real strength of the masters filled with professional and loyal gladiators. The bond got strengthen and strengthen, the invader got weaker and weaker. The second notorious ‘Great Game’ finished on disintegration of the invader (Russian Empire). The post-war era gave birth to new regional order; strategies changed, loyalties shifted, polarization emerged and needs changed into desires among the masters-masters and the masters-gladiators. The arena left for the gladiators and got them gratis to live and do what they wish for.

The gladiators started thinking over their own system primarily, based on the model of Tehty Sulman in their explanation. The two-third part of the model successfully completed. But during the third and final phase of the model, the new war in the name of war on terror started by their old disloyal masters against them. The arena which was used as the safe haven in the past came across under full imperial wrath. The internal and external masters who understood that now, their old clients became violent serpents against them. The master- master relations and the masters-gladiators relations shifted into two narratives that left a great plow on the tribal region especially and on the State of Pakistan generally.

The gladiators have right now a zero plus presence in the arena and ironically, the master-master relation is also going worse. Now, the real master (Pakistan) of the belt has a worthy position. The ostensible victory now, make the real master of the tribal area, to step forward for national integration, but unfortunately, any mindful change on the part of the tribal belt is looking dead at all. The political demagogues neither in the past nor in present even bother to make even their little into the draconian system prevailing in the region. The space can offer a worthy chance to losers’ narrative, and everyone knows the mighty strength of that. In the context of ‘Time and space’ failure always looks to those who do not believe in the beauty of their dreams, prefers stagnancy over efforts.

The gist failure of Pakistani nation from the very first day is its detachment with time and space. More importantly, now, we have both time and space but incapable how to take it on mind. The Tribal Belt is now fully fertile for the seeds, we have sown in rest of the state’s territories but most unfortunately, we are delaying constructive efforts in this direction although, having time and space. The tribal people are now educated and they can understand what they have in the name of administration and governance system. The threats can come into sight to the state’s writ in the near or far future, if the people come across under more education. Education instigates to knowledge and knowledge then towards the real world.

True knowledge often makes people rebellions against injustice and exploitation, like the Muslims in the sub-continent, the Kurds currently, in turkey, Iran and Iraq, Russian proletariats against the Tsarist Empire, the British’s thirteen colonies against its own hegemonic empire etc. All these revolutions happened and some are still happening in the world because of the absolute failure of the ruling masters’ familiarity with time and space.

The great irony with the tribal region is the complete failure of the mini-actors within a State. They may be interested but maybe powerless in compelling the ruling puppets to get them engaged with any positive initiative in the region. In sans of any heedful change, the re-arrival of gladiators is sure but the thing that often get me think over the future scenario, would be the tribal partiality, in case of any setback in the future.

The insurgents often kept its unity while there is record fragmentation and dissident on the part of State’s institutions. The tribesmen are suffering with severe hunger, poverty, disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, corruption, terrorism, price-hike, natural calamities, governance crisis, institutional decadence, worse human rights and political and economic crisis.

From the last few decades, these horrific circumstances greatly affected everybody in the region. We cannot ensure democracy, good governance, social justice, sustainable development, poverty alleviation and overall development unless and until, we consider the assault and oppression of the people of all regions under an equal parameter of law and justice. The assault and oppression of the State’s institutions against the tribal people have turned into one kind of inhumanity. Particularly, after 9/11, hundreds of men, women and children have lost their lives resulted from the transnational menace of militancy.

Now, despite the elimination of militancy in the region, the tribal residents still demonstrate their protest silently. Due to absence of definite justice system, the victims cannot receive legal aid which is allowed for the people of the rest of the State’s territories. In order to overcome all the penetrating problems in the region, reshuffling of institutional and governance’s parameter with active State intervention is essential.

A great failure is noticed in term of achievement of equality between the people of the Tribal belt and the people belong to the rest of the State’s territories. The tribal region is a devil fort, in which tribesmen have no access to employments, education, political and social activities and entrepreneurs etc. it is a matter of regrets that we are living in 21st century but one particular segment of our society is totally deprived of their fundamental rights. The women in tribal areas as always become victims of mental and physical assault. The problems prone region FATA can cause a horrific threat to the State’s writ in future, because more than enough cannot be tolerated. More, importantly, the tribal man now only believes in why question.

Violence and insurgency in the region not only implies making tribal people suffers but also impeding the overall development of the state. Therefore, in order to stop discrimination against the region, legal framework, national executive machinery, preventive policies, institutional aid and overall assistance are needed to be installed for the best wishes of the tribal people. The race-dominated social structure fuels intensity to regional disintegration. Institutional and governance failure is a very multifaceted administrative problem, which can be vanished from the region by changing the State’s attitude toward tribes man.

We should not consider them as the second class citizens because; they are our own blood and bone. State is our collective mother and its love and like should not be based on discrimination.

Regional disintegration is a big threat to peace and stability, so, the government and general masses must pay immediate heed to counter the devil dance in the belt. The State has the responsibility to educate, organize, socialize, sensitize and enlighten its masses towards a principle of honesty and merit that will definitely guide towards the establishment of a new exemplary social order.

shoaibwazir92@gmail.com

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Hawks vs culture vultures: Why the US is pulling out of UNESCO

Neil Clark

The US decision to withdraw from UNESCO, the UN’s educational, scientific, and cultural agency, is a further example of the contempt the world’s superpower has for the idea of the equality of nations – the principle on which the UN was founded.

In what’s been quite a year for the US pulling out of – or threatening to pull out of – international agreements, President Donald Trump has already said the US is withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, and it was announced on Friday that he won’t be certifying the nuclear deal with Iran.

But in regards to the walk-out from the UN’s world heritage body, we can’t put all the blame on The Big Bad Donald. His predecessors – both Republican and Democrat – have paved the way. The US may have helped establish UNESCO in 1945, but after it expanded and countries were admitted who dared to vote ‘the wrong way,’ the line changed. In much the same way, the US’ attitude towards the UN has altered too.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan withdrew from UNESCO, with claims that it had a pro-Soviet bias (In other words, it wasn’t sufficiently pro-American). The organization was attacked for ‘collectivist’ trends, and for spending $750,000 on discussing Soviet disarmament proposals. Ok, they probably could have ordered cheaper sandwiches and gone for the house wine. But considering that UNESCO’s mission is “to contribute to the building of peace” – they surely had their hearts in the right place.

George W. Bush brought Uncle Sam back in 2002, but in 2011, the Obama administration again threw the toys out of the pram and canceled the US’ budget contribution funding in reprisal for the organization admitting Palestine as a full member.

Since then, the US hasn’t paid a dime to UNESCO and now is in arrears to the tune of over $550mn. Whether UNESCO will ever get what it’s owed by Washington now seems highly unlikely. There’s probably more chance of Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid to join Tranmere Rovers.

The timing of the announcement of the American withdrawal – which will take effect from December 31, 2018 – is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it came as the world heritage body was voting on a new director-general. By pulling out, the US (and Israel, which announced it was leaving shortly after the US made public its decision), will hope to exert pressure on UNESCO to change direction.

Don’t forget the US, prior to 2011, paid around 22% of the organization’s budget. It was reported that Israel was concerned at the prospect of the former Qatari culture minister, Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, getting the top job. Ironically, in the end the position went to Audrey Azoulay, a French Jewess, who has relatives living in Israel.

The current state of Middle Eastern politics – particularly in relation to Syria – is another major factor behind this week’s events. Israel is frustrated by the fact that President Bashar Assad – ally of Hezbollah and Iran – is not only still in power in Damascus but is winning the war.

Earlier this month, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the US to “be more active in the Syrian arena.” And we all know what that means.

Trump can’t deliver in Syria what Israel wants, i.e. regime change, because the Syrians and their allies are too strong, but he can please Tel Aviv and the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US in other areas. Namely, in disavowing the Iranian nuclear deal – and leaving UNESCO.

The US cited what it called UNESCO’s “continuing anti-Israel” bias as the reason for leaving. But in fact, the UN body has only been reflecting the views on Israel/Palestine of the majority of its members. The vote to admit Palestine as a member in October 2011 was hardly close, with 107 states in favor and only 14 against. Only an anti-democrat would say that the views of the 14 should prevail – but that was indeed the US line.

You don’t need to go to Specsavers or have a giant magnifying glass to see the double standard.

The US has passed laws preventing the country funding any body which recognizes Palestine – but itself has pushed for countries to recognize micro-statelets in the Balkans like Kosovo, whose ‘independence’ was achieved largely on account of a 78-day NATO bombing campaign. And amid the criticism of UNESCO by the US and Israel for designating Hebron old city a Palestinian world heritage site and for UNESCO’s executive board passing a vote in June which referred to Jerusalem as being ‘occupied,’ there has been less attention given to the valuable work UNESCO does in educating people about the Holocaust (and other genocides), and in the protection of the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a World Heritage site.

The notion that UNESCO is pursuing an anti-Israel agenda and is even anti-Semitic has been challenged in Israel itself.

Writing in Haaretz, archaeologist Yonatan Mizrahi declared: “We can assert that UNESCO is not an anti-Semitic organization and its decision to declare Hebron an endangered World Heritage Site is not anti-Semitic and does not ignore the Jewish connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs.”

It’s also worth pointing out the number of UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites there are in Israel too. No fewer than nine cultural sites have been added since 2001. Again, hardly a sign of an anti-Israel agenda, is it?

American objections to UNESCO don’t really add up until you see the bigger picture. The problem with the body, like the UN in general, is that its ideals of genuine internationalism and the equality of nations is at variance with US exceptionalism.

The US was compelled to work within UN structures for most of the post-war period, but after the break-up of the Soviet Union, hawks in Washington saw no real need for the US to have to support any body which didn’t do exactly what they required. The bogus doctrine of ‘humanitarian interventionism’ was invented as a means of bypassing the UN Security Council, the only body which can make war lawful – if the country is not acting in self-defense.

The Rubicon was crossed in 1999 when the US and its allies bombed Yugoslavia without UN authorization. The new imperial arrogance was voiced not by a wild-eyed Republican, but by a Democrat, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who declared in relation to Iraq in 1998:

“If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation.

We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”

It was the ‘progressive’ Albright too who told Colin Powell at the time she was US Ambassador at the UN: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Little things like international law were thrown out the window as Washington targeted strategically important, resource rich independent states that didn’t toe the line. All the time, the UN and its agencies were being undermined. Iraq was attacked in 2003 before UN weapons inspectors could finish the job which was mandated to them under UN Resolution 1441. Of course, Washington had to strike before Iraq was given a clean bill of health because then their casus belli would have disappeared.

The UN provides an arena for US politicians to make the fraudulent case for regime change wars (who can ever forget Colin Powell holding up that model vial of ‘anthrax’ in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion), but it also gives a platform for those targeted by The Empire too. And that’s why the Endless War lobby in Washington hate it.

In 2006, then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez memorably told the UN General Assembly: “Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world.”

Only last month, Zimbabwe’s nonagenarian president, Robert Mugabe, took to the UN to mock US President Trump as “the giant gold goliath.”

“Are we having a return of Goliath to our midst, who threatens the extinction of other countries?” he asked. The Sunday Times (that’s the South African newspaper and not the Murdoch-owned UK propaganda sheet), notes that “two junior US diplomats listened expressionless.”

You can bet Comrade Bob is off Trump’s Christmas card list – but the belief that the US’ stance towards the UN would become more positive with another president is naive to say the least. Trump’s biggest critic is the uber neocon Senator John McCain, who when standing for president in 2008, called for a new ‘League of Democracies’ to ‘complement’ the UN.

“It could act where the UN fails to act,” McCain explained.

“It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow’s and Beijing’s approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions.”

In other words, if Washington couldn’t get its way through the UN, it would get its way through the ‘League of Democracies.’ And of course, it would be up to the US to decide which countries would be designated ‘democracies.’

What lies behind Washington’s withdrawal from UNESCO, and its frustration with the UN in general, is the belief that the ‘Exceptional Nation’ shouldn’t have to accept any decision which it doesn’t approve of, however democratically it’s been arrived at. Organizations must do exactly what foreign policy hawks in the US want or else they’ll simply cry foul and storm out of the room.

UNESCO officials have announced their disappointment at the US pull-out. But they need to look on the bright side.

After all, they’re not being threatened with airstrikes and being accused of having weapons of mass destruction. Well, at least, not yet.

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JFK, CIA, Mafia and Castro – Trump can finally allow the truth to emerge from the shadows

John Lee

Top secret files are due to be declassified this month in a move that could bring closure to one of the most traumatic events in US history – the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

A law was signed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 mandating the release of all documents related to Kennedy’s assassination within 25 years. Under the JFK Records Act of 1992, the National Archives has until 26 October of this year to disclose the remaining files relating to the assassination, unless President Trump determines that doing so would be harmful to national security. There are about 3,100 files still sealed by the National Archives.

Most right-thinking people would like to see the files released, to put an end to the constant speculation about the death of one of history’s most iconic politicians. There is a smaller group, who enjoy vast, outlandish, unproven mysteries that would like to see the files remain locked up. This would allow the morbid supposition to continue.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the US President in 1963? No verifiable proof has been produced to contradict the official version of what happened on 22 November 1963, that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, who was in an open top limousine, from a window of the Dallas Book Depository building. Oswald was a US Marines trained marksman, but still, it was some deadly shooting with a $21 mail-order rifle. On 24 November, live on TV, police led Oswald through the basement of the Dallas Police Station. A large man with a fedora steps forward and shoots a single bullet into Oswald, and we hear the dying man shout in pain.

Of course, it is possible Jack Ruby was a madman who was overtaken by patriotic vengefulness. The fact that Ruby, a nightclub owner, had mob connections and police contacts shot an assassin so publicly immediately raised incredulity. The Warren Commission was set up in the wake of the Dallas events by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate. Wanting to quickly calm a nation that was entering a period of unprecedented upheaval the commission promptly decided to ratify the lone gunman theory.

However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978 concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The findings of both investigations have been contested. It would require a vast conspiracy to cover-up the involvement of other parties.

The Kennedys were at the center of a web of bizarre and extra-legal alliances in the early sixties. The Cold War was in its fifteenth year by the time John Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Morbid fear of imminent nuclear war and congressional star chambers driven by the alcoholic Joe McCarthy (a close family friend of the Kennedys) had pushed the US establishment to a deep paranoia. John Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the high office, and he ran his administration like any good Irish boy should – it was a family business. Brother Bobby was installed at the Justice Department. The two glamorous Democratic poster boys were, in fact, hardnosed Cold War warriors and rabid anti-Communists. Communist leader Fidel Castro had, in 1959, installed his regime in Cuba, 90 miles off Florida and the Kennedys immediately set about removing him, by any means necessary.

The plotting began with the Dwight Eisenhower government almost immediately after the 1959 revolution. In 1961, Cuban exiles, with the backing of Kennedy and the US government, tried to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs debacle. The plan was to assassinate Fidel and Raúl Castro along with Che Guevara. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, an agent was sent on a mission to kill Castro. Yet the plotting against Castro was carried out under four US presidents, and only Kennedy was murdered.

Previously released CIA files show the Agency was, incredibly, in league with the Mafia in plotting some of the 600 attempts on Castro’s life. One file even indicates Robert Kennedy saying he was “angry” when he found out. But he didn’t call a halt to this unholy alliance.

Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana, who was later shot dead, was one of those gangsters involved in the Cuba plots. There were alleged connections between the Kennedy brothers’ father Joseph P Kennedy and mobsters including the notorious psychopath Giancana. Giancana also sharing mistress, Judith Exner, with JFK. Giancana and JFK shared a friendship with the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. I could go on, but I am already digressing significantly. And that is the point, when you start on the Kennedys and all the dark enemies and glamorous friends and work through in the long, ghastly history of the CIA’s foreign conspiracies you will never get to an end. It is an endlessly fascinating cocktail of sex, death, politics, show business and Cold War espionage. Such narratives sold books and movies.

Yet another question that has been asked by historians is was there a cover-up? And some things have emerged over the last couple of years that are extraordinary. These facts are verifiable, and they heighten the anticipation of the potential 26 October file declassification. The usually secretive Central Intelligence Agency has, incredibly, conceded that there is a problem.

In 2013, the CIA’s in-house historian concluded that the spy agency had conducted a cover-up during the Warren Commission’s investigation in 1963 and 1964. The CIA hoped to keep the commission focused on “what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” The secret report was written in 2013 and quietly declassified in 2014. The spy agency’s historian acknowledges what others were already convinced of: that the former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission when it began its post-JFK assassination investigation.

According to the report by CIA historian David Robarge, McCone, who died in 1991, was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, intended to keep the commission focused on the lone gunman theory. Specifically, McCone withheld from the commission the existence of the CIA and Mafia plots to assassinate Castro. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

And in August of this year, a further tranche of previously classified documents was released under the 1992 Bush law. And they too were tantalizing. The files released by the National Archives show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s assassination, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong.

Key CIA officials were concerned by the mid-1970s that the Agency, the FBI, the Secret Service and the commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren had not followed up on important clues about Oswald’s contact with foreign agents, including diplomats and spies for the Communist governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union, who might have been aware of his plans to kill Kennedy and even encouraged the plot. There is no credible evidence cited in the documents released so far that Castro or other foreign leaders had any personal role in ordering Kennedy’s death.

But if the CIA is saying it believes there was a cover-up, and it thought this as early as the 1970s then those expecting something explosive to emerge this month could be right. Of course, as always, politics are at play.

Republican President Donald Trump is being asked to open up a file on the murder of a dead Democratic President. And not just any President, but John Kennedy, the young, tragic, handsome leader whose family became the royalty of US politics. Republicans may believe the Kennedys’ swimming in murky waters will come to taint their legacy. “I believe the American public needs to know the truth,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is leading a congressional effort to declassify thousands of documents and recordings compiled by the CIA and FBI. “It’s still hard for me to believe it was one man, but at the same time I have no proof that it wasn’t,” said Jones. Trump, if the argument is compelling enough from the CIA and FBI, may still keep the files secret. But many of us want it to end, one way or another.

 

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Maulana Muffti Mahmood: “Rajul Azeem”

M. Rahim Haqqani

Mufti Mahmood w-as a great Islamic thinker of the last century. All the Arabs and Non Arabs accept him as a great scholar. He was a fabulous and renowned Jurist of Millat-e-Islamia due to this importance all the Arab and Non Arab Jurists consider him as a beacon in the Muslim World. At one side he was the trainer of brilliant scholars, while on the other he was the guardian and beneficial teacher of Pakistani Politicians.

Many greatest jurists used to kneel down before him in learning Fikah. His unwearied efforts for Muslim unity are beacon in the history of Muslim. He used to address at “Jamia-ul-Zahar” Unive-rsity in Egypt for the preaching of true faith (Islam). Due to felicity the Arab scholars used to call him “Ya-Saeedi”, “Ya-Saeedi” and he got the title “Sheikh Ul Arab”. When he used to address the Persian people in Persian language, they pleased them with different titles such as “Romi and Saadi”. He used to study English literature and uttered Urdu with much fluency as the resident of Delhi. He has a great grip in handling the political disturbance and confusion in an efficient way in a little period of time.

Having efficient negotiation with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto having a meeting with Ayub Khan at round table conference promoted great Muslim unity. It has a great importance in the parliamentarian as well as in Muslim political history. It leads as a beacon for all the following politician and rulers. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto betrayed from democracy and acted upon dictatorship then Mufti Mahmood contributed to the PNA. Some of the members of JUI criticized and rejected “Jummat Islami” adherence in PNA due to their clashes in religious background. He requested Maulana Ghaus Hazarvi to keep it disputed and should focus on natural welfare.

When Pakistan came into being in 14th August 1947 he contributed JUI in Pakistan for those Pakistani scholars who had an acquaintance with Indian JUI. He left open JUI forum for all the political and religious parties.

Tolerance and brotherhood were well established up to such a great extent that deceased Ahmad Noorani, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Professor Ghafoor Ahmad  and Allama Ihsan Ilahi Zaheer confessed to imitate Mutfi Mahmood in every aspect of life but specifically in politics. After the demolishment of Taliban government in Afghanistan the JUI got there favour and sympathies especially two Pathan well known tribes “Lar” and “Bar” . According to political expert it was a golden chance for JUI to cash the credit regarding to the situation. In 2002 election by participating individually but instead of individuality, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman united the religious parties under the MMA platform by his great foreseeing and intellectuality.

He constituted a union based on six political and religious parties. As a consequence in 2002 election MMA got a stable ruling in NWFP.   it is a great reality that Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman proved himself a benevolent and a brilliant Son of a talented and brilliant father.

In 1970 Mufti Mahmood political vision and principled politics got a fabulous reputation.

He played a vital role in national assembly by calling Quadyani (Ahmadis) as pure non Muslims under the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

After the death of Mufti Mahmood, Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman got the command of the party and a Suffix was added to his name i.e. Quaid ibn Quaid in all the political procession.

The role of Maolana for the preservation off “Khatme Nabowat” efforts for publication of Islamic ruling in the shape of culmination of women rights bill 2016 remained nonfunctional, Democratic, constitutional and institutional perform icy, his rule as a leader for the unity of Muslim brothers, struggling hard for the defense of madressas and mosques, promoting awareness against American conspiracy at the international development conference in 2001.

In 2017 an international JUI conference (in which 50 lacs people included according to media.

The ill-will of which creaks hindrance in the development of our country, and solution to the problems of tribal people promoting a good strategy for the well berry, his real essence expressed itself in establishing a strong relation with Arab and non Arab after hundred years. So the suffix Quaid is erased and there is a strong prevalence of Maulana and Maulana everywhere.

Sectarian politicians and the public belongings to different organization and sectors accepted him cordially. He addressed the masses at world international conference after hundred years in April 2017 In a brilliant way which is worthy to be written in golden words.

Addressing to a crowed of fifty lac people he said openly “A warn American not to contribute bloodshed in any party the world just try to stop it, they should play positive role in international political strategies. They should remain bipolar instead of unipolar.

Allahh knows everything well. He further added that all the masses have faith in heavenly bestowed book. Quran reject and condemn extremism.

Promoting troublesome situation is the measure of selling weapon consumption.

He saved Quran in the only book which announced a murderer off killing a single person is a murderer of all humanity.

Maulana political strategies keep patriotism among the public.

According to Maulana, all political parties are off the concurrent opinion that CPEC will lead on country to prosperity, so by protesting against CPEC congruent to shake the foundation of our country.

If all the nations and their leader including Nawaz Sharif situated forward for the well being of our country then Maulana will never go back and stand by them. He further added that Pakistan is passing through a crucial situation.

Pakistan will be remained prosper and there will be no conspiracy if we say fore well to internal prejudice.

Maulana is the greatest Islamic thinker of 21st century.

In fact, Maulana is Code of the JUI who is the ultimate outcome of Mufti Mahmood Cherishing.

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Ebbs and flows in Turkey-US relations

Zekeriya Kursun

The recent tensions between Turkey and the US have reached a new stage as a result of the US’s suspension of visa services in a completely indecent diplomatic and resentful manner and Turkey’s equal retaliation. Of course, even if there is a problem between strategic allies that cannot be underestimated, the history of bilateral relations shows that this is not something to exaggerate.

Despite those who demanded US mandate during the years of the Independence War, like those who justify the situation at home today, Turkey-US relations did not begin on good terms.  The most important reason for this is the seeds sowed by Henry Morgenthau, the last US ambassador to the Ottoman state, who personally was an enemy of Turks and Islam.

His memories, full of m-ade-to-order racist descrip-tions that constituted the ba-sis of Armenians’ argume-nts, created the US’s century-old discourse on this iss-ue.  While the issue is blatantly obvious in history, the discourse established on the allegations put forward by this anti-Turkey ambassador has been used like a whip to supposedly discipline Tur-key.

The lesson taught by our ambassador Ahmed Rustem: Let’s recall a historic instance that will set an example to all of our diplomats regarding the hypocrisy that the US and its diplomats are causing today. Ahmed (Alfred) Rustem, son of a Polish-born convert father, was sent to Washington in 1914 as an ambassador. Seeing the anti-Turkey environment, he informed both the government through diplomacy and the US public with articles that he wrote in newspapers.

While denying the campaigns initiated against the Ottomans and the US media’s allegations of pressure and massacres of Armenians through his articles, he also pedantically called on the US administration. Ahmed Rustem, who had to skip diplomatic channels, directed a crucial question to the US administration in an article: “If it had been found that the blacks had made an agreement with Japan in order to facilitate the US invasion, could any of them survive today?”

It is no secret that those who act against the US are followed all over the world. The American legend is also based on this pursuit. The scenarios of Hollywood movies are also built on legitimizing the illegal operations in this issue. So, let’s update Ahmed Rustem’s question: What would you have said if the ringleader and the supporters of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), who you are harboring in your country, were to cooperate with some Americans working at the Turkish Embassy in Washington and to conspire against you?

In fact, the answer to this question is hidden in the story of Ahmed Rustem. Immediately after his article that he shared with the public in which the US’s dirty linen was published, the first reaction came directly from President Wilson. They im-mediately asked Ahmed Ru-stem to retract his words, ap-ologize for them or deny them. Maintaining his firm stance, the ambassador declared that he would continue the war and would not remain indifferent to the sl-ander targeting his country, even if they violate diplomatic rules.  The Ottoman ambassador was declared persona non grata in a short time, and he officially anno-unced that he would leave the US within fifteen days, maintaining his dignified attitude.

Character of Turkey-US relations: Of course, this is not the only breaking point in Turkey-US relations. It is a starting point. Having served as an obstacle, not as an ally in Turkey’s most vital affairs, the US has often maintained its relations with Turkey far from international diplomatic codes and courtesy. Most of the ambassadors the US assigned to Turkey have generally acted like a colonial governor while the US has not shown minimum courtesy even toward the highest representatives of Turkey in their contacts in the country most of the time. The Johnson letter also revealed that the US let down its ally that fought along with it in the same front even in the hardest of times. It was the US that prevented and imposed an embargo on Turkey in the 1974 Cyprus Peace Oper-ation. It has not been forgotten that it embraced the 1980 coup, which is responsible for the FETÖ trouble installed in our system, saying “Our boys did it.”

Although it did not allow any Marxist movements in its own close interest regions, the US saw Turkey as a defense point against the USSR and clandestinely supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and similar Marxist organizations as it supports the PYD/YPG today. It was also the politics of the US that invaded Iraq and set fire to our region, and that pushed Turkey to the field and isolated it in the Syria issue. With and after the March 1 resolution, the US tested Turkey with which it would never co-operate in the areas it wanted to dominate. As a result, Turkey was no longer a country that waited for instructions. With these tests, both sides understood that the concept of strategic alliance was nothing more than a formula of postponing problems.

The US’s true face once again came to light with its behavior after July 15. Turkey is taking steps in the defense industry and conveying the message that it will remain in the Syria field through the Operation Euphrates Shield, that it will act in Idlib with its new allies without seeking permission against the threats and that it may carry out foreign trade with Russia and Iran in Turkish lira – all of which causes the US to freak out.

Now Turkey has to maintain its war with its equanimity and honorable diplomacy.  Of course, the US’s incompetent diplomats and rough and intrusive policies in our region are declining in influence with every passing day – which is the main reason for its agitation. But it is not a process to be completed soon. Therefore, it should not be forgotten that so-called mutual compliments and meaningless concepts such as strategic alliance will continue a while more even though relevant parties do not believe in them. The main issue is what will happen from now on. What kind of a regional structure will emerge and where Turkey will stand?

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Does King Salman’s historic visit to Moscow herald a new era?

Giorgio Cafiero

The road to Russia for Saudi has been a long one, is this however the beginning of a new era or mutual resentment by other means?

As the first King of Saudi Arabia to visit Moscow, King Salman’s recent four-day trip to Russia was a landmark moment in Saudi-Russian relations. While the King was in Moscow, the Saudi and Russian governments signed 15 cooperation agreements in fields of defence, technology, energy, space, and the agricultural sector among others. Saudi Arabia also announced its plans to purchase Russia’s S-400 defence system.

Although there is no sign that Saudi Arabia intends to fully pivot away from the United States, it is clear that Riyadh seeks to diversify alliances at a time when Washington’s incoherent foreign policy is leaving Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members with new concerns.

At the same time, in pursuit of better relations with the Kremlin, Riyadh is attempting to wedge itself between Russia and Iran.

Since the Cold War, the Al Saud rulers and the Kremlin’s Soviet/Russian occupants have had a tense history of relations. Staunchly anti-Communist and solidly in the West’s camp, for decades the Saudis worked closely with Washington to counter the USSR’s influence in the Middle East and other regions, most notably in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Yet, whereas in the past looking East was always a taboo idea in Saudi Arabia, King Salman’s watershed visit to Russia indicates how much Riyadh’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Moscow has changed in the post-Cold War era – particularly since Russia’s stepped up military intervention in Syria beginning in September 2015.

For reasons beyond a shared interest in stabilising global energy markets it is logical for Saudi Arabia to invest in more cooperative ties with Russia despite decades of substantial friction in relations. This is underscored by Washington’s failure to bring America’s GCC partners to the negotiating table in order to reach a settlement to the months-old Qatar crisis. US influence in the Middle East is also showing signs of waning and local actors are responding accordingly. To varying extents, the six GCC members, which all rely on America as a security guarantor, have also turned to Russia, Turkey, and Iran at varying degrees in order to establish better relations with the powers perceived as being on the rise regionally.

Saudi Arabia views Iran as the top threat to regional stability, giving Riyadh an interest in seeing Russia gain an upper hand in its competition with Tehran for influence in crisis-ridden parts of the Arab world, despite Riyadh and Moscow’s disagreements.

Regarding Syria, officials in Riyadh have adjusted their policy from pushing for regime change to attempting to position Russia, as opposed to Iran, as Damascus’ dominant non-Arab patron if the war winds down. Saudi support for “de-escalation zones” brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and the Astana process highlights this shift on Riyadh’s part.

Moscow selling Riyadh the S-400 air defence missile system after having sold Iran the S-300 version may suggest that Russia is testing how far it can peel Saudi Arabia from the US orbit with tempting acquisitions of one of the top missile defence systems in the world and other associated weapons.

As Dr. Mark Katz wrote, “even if Riyadh cannot stop Russia from cooperating militarily with Iran, the Saudis can undermine Iranian confidence in Russia.”

Although Russia and Iran share a basic interest in protecting the Assad regime, Moscow and Tehran have supported different actors in Syria, which may lead to more competition between Russia and Iran. Yet Riyadh’s efforts to sufficiently capitalise on friction between Moscow and Tehran to achieve Saudi Arabia’s goal of creating substantial space between Russia and Iran will face major challenges.

Based on Russia’s quest to promote Moscow as an indispensable mediator in the Middle East, the Kremlin must maintain good relations with all major actors in the region, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Judging by Russia’s offer to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran amid their January 2016 standoff, Moscow sees its interests best advanced by serving as a diplomatic bridge between the two countries even if such Russian efforts proved futile last year.

Moreover, given the extent to which Russia and Iran share interests in the Arab world despite frictions which impact bilateral relations, it is difficult to imagine Riyadh convincing Vladimir Putin to take action against Iran’s expanding clout sufficient to meet Saudi Arabia’s satisfaction. The future of the S-400 deal, which may fall through, will likely be a key indicator of Saudi Arabia’s true level of confidence in Russia.

Ultimately, Riyadh has no reason to abandon its close alliance with Washington.

Indeed, since the Trump presidency began, Washington has aligned more closely with the kingdom against Iran in Yemen and elsewhere. Rather than leaving behind its Western allies for the Kremlin, Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its relationships as well as enhance its leverage with rising powers in the region, as America’s hand in the Middle East proves less influential.

In accepting Russia’s growing clout in the region, even if somewhat bitterly so, the Saudis have determined that Moscow’s increasing role in the Middle East offers Riyadh a realistic opportunity to prevent Iran from consolidating more influence in the Arab world.

What remains to be seen is how Putin approaches Syria and the rest of the tumultuous Middle East in the upcoming months, and whether or not officials in Riyadh see Russian actions as too closely aligned with Iran’s for King Salman’s historic trip to serve as a foundation for substantial growth in Saudi-Russian relations moving forward.

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Absence of coherence in US foreign policy

Hasan Basri Yalcin

Most American foreign, national security policies are shaped by bureaucratic organizations, not the political administration.

There was a time when people questioned the Ame-rican approach to the Middle East. They asked whether then-President Barack Obama had a grand strategy or not, mainly because he was displaying some hesitant foreign policy behavior. While he was using rhetoric in support of democratization, he failed to sufficiently support any democratic process. He declared the use of chemical weapons a red line in Syrian War, but he easily ignored it when the Assad regime crossed that line. He allowed Russians to intervene in Syria although he was critical of the Russian invasion of Crimea. Similarly, in most of the international crises that broke out during his tenure, Obama did the opposite of what he preached. Because of these ambivalent attitudes, some argued that in fact Obama had no foreign policy and/or national security strategy.

Ambiguity: Management tool: After all, this has taken on greater clarity right now. His retrenchment strategy set noninvolvement into world affairs as a policy target. Accordingly, the US would not intervene directly. But this policy requires some form of uncertainty. Obama for that reason deliberately worked to increase ambiguity, which was employed as a management tool. He produced expectations that were never satisfied. But expectations were all kept alive. Leaders all around the world hoped that Obama would, one way or another, react to international aggressors, such as Vladimir Putin, or conflicts, such as Syria. However, Obama was consciously and consistently hesitant. This was part of his strategy. He attempted to cover up his strategy by making it look like a nonexistent strategy.

Now he is gone. But the hesitant attitude in American foreign policy is still present. Should it be viewed as a legacy of Obama followed by the American state even after the end of his term in office? Is the conscious ambiguity of the Obama strategy still alive?

Trump era not promising either: Trump, during his election campaign, dedicated himself to a firm opposition against any Obama policy. Therefore, he was expected to act unlike Obama. However, one year into his tenure, the American approach in the Middle East has only slightly changed. No major shift is expected in the short run. People still find it difficult to describe the American strategy in the Middle East in definitive terms.

Trump signed an extortionate arms sales agreement with Saudi Arabia. This act was interpreted as a permission and active support for the Saudi sanctions against Qatar. In fact, Trump said in one of his tweets at the time that during his visit to Saudi Arabia he was convinced that Qatar was behind most of the “terrorist groups.” However, two days later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the US was not directly supporting the sanctions against Qa-tar. A few days later, Qatar and the US signed another arms deal. So it became clear that the US was actually not taking sides in this crisis. A form of noninvolvement policy, with the help of ambiguity, was being employed once again.

US support for PKK offshoots: Another example of this situation is the US support for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). Since the Obama administration, Washington has provided heavy weaponry, political legitimacy, and air support to this PKK offshoot in northern Syria. Despite Turkey’s repeated denunciations of using one terrorist group against another, the US support for the PKK/PYD has risen under the Trump administration.

However, the Americans also kept using reassuring words on Syria’s territorial integrity. It seems that the US is not feeling comfortable with the Astana peace process since it means enhanced roles for Russia, Turkey, and Iran, even though it does not openly criticize the Astana negotiations. So what they really think is never fully discovered.

US government in the grip of inertia: A more recent example of American hesitancy and ambiguity can be found in northern Iraq. When the Masoud Barzani administration announced its decision for the independence referendum, the first reaction from the US was not welcoming. Through repeated declarations, it was made clear that the US was in fact in favor of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq but skeptical about the timing. It seems that the current American focus is the fight against Daesh specifically in Raqqa. Any kind of activity beyond that is considered a deviation. This illegitimate referendum and its many likely consequences might easily trigger a new wave of regional instability, which in turn could trigger many unexpected crises. Iranian and Turkish intervention in northern Iraq would certainly mean another field of controversy, which would require further US involvement. Considering the inertia in the US government and its unwillingness for any such involvement, it is obvious why Washington asked for postponement of the referendum.

Yet, most observers found the American position softer than expected. If the US wants a stable and integrated Iraq and believes that it is not the right time for a referendum, then it should put some pressure on Barzani. Accord-ing to these observers, Barzani would not dare to act so boldly without, at least, tacit Am-erican approval. So it can be argued that the US is in fact tacitly supporting Barzani.

Such an explanation has some merits. Of course, Barzani cares about American approval. Of course, the US could put more pressure if it really cared about stability in Iraq. Therefore, one can believe that the US has a foot in both camps. And it seems convincing.

Cacophony rules: However, this belief overlooks the current power vacuum in the US government. It assumes that the US speaks with one voice. Recent developments in the US, however, tell us otherwise. It is hard to believe that there is a cunning US plan behind all these developments. In fact, most of the steps being taken by the Trump administration are less crafty and less designed compared to those during the Obama years.

Instead, most American foreign policy and national security priorities are shaped by various bureaucratic organizations, rather than the political administration itself. There is a huge power vacuum.

Trump has so far failed to build an operational government. Because of the absence of a strong and resolute president and government, bureaucratic organizations such as the Pentagon and Centcom are developing their own approaches and trying to affect policy choices. Therefore, a cacophony is dictating the nature of the American approach. This is but a natural outcome: the absence of strong political leadership is the reason for the absence of a coherent strategy.

Conflicting US actions

The most recent example of American foreign policy in the Middle East shows that they are not designed strategies but simply stories of failure. Just two days ago the Pentagon declared its support for the Turkish military operation in Idlib and its support for the Astana talks. Today the US Embassy announced it would suspend all visa applications made from Turkey. This was certainly unexpected. Of course, there are a number of other controversial issues between Turkey and the US concerning the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and the July 15 coup attempt. Despite repeated Turkish demands, the US has failed to take assuring steps in examining the coup attempt in Turkey. The leader of the organization resides in Pennsylvania and there is no indication that he is being subjected to a full investigation. In addition, since the coup attempt, most Turkish citizens have held the view that the US was involved in the coup attempt and even actively supported it. Instead of providing convincing arguments against all these rumors, the American mission in Turkey has kept escalating the tension in the personality of a controversial ambassador. He is about to leave right now. And unarguably his term will be remembered as one of the most problematic in the history of US-Turkish relations. But Ambassador John Bass did little to ease the problems. He personally acted as a catalyst in most of the cases with his controversial assessments.

Right now, because several officers in the US mission have been arrested in Turkey owing to their suspected ties to FETO and the coup attempt, the US Embassy is overreacting.

It is hard to believe that the US government is behind this decision. Most probably the mission in Turkey made such an irresponsible decision in order to negate its highly suspect hand in the coup attempt. But simply put, this is far too bold and far exceeds the powers of a mission. In the next few days, the political leadership will probably have to step in and change the decision. But still, this will be yet another example of the inconsistencies of US foreign policy.