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Greece and Macedonia: A perfect compromise?

Beril Dedeoglu

Macedonia became an independent country with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM). Since then, Greece has opposed the use of the name “Macedonia” by this country. The Greek government even protested the country’s flag design.Greece suggested that Macedonia might use this name to support an eventual territorial claim, as Greece has a province called Macedonia. The dispute over the name has its origins in ancient Greece, and Greeks believe the name Macedonia, the motherland of Alexander the Great, is part of their national heritage. In other words, they suggest if there must be a Macedonia, it can only be Greek.

Of course, if you listen to Greek nationalists, not only Macedonia, but also Eastern Thrace, Western Anatolia and, naturally, Cyprus, are parts of Greater Greece. This is how nationalists think, and not only the Greek ones. In many countries, there are political currents that emphasize historical heritage and claim other people’s territories.  They say they have the right to govern those lands, simply because they did so in the past. They of course do not like to be reminded that other nations before them governed the very same lands. Nationalists are convinced that their rights are always more important than the rights of others. That is why they spend their time to prove that they are better than everybody else, and all the bad things come from other people.

We do not know if Alexander the Great would have cared about this debate, but we know that he occupied as much land as he could. Maybe Greeks fear that present day Macedonians would like to repeat Alexander’s experience and try to conquer everywhere. Unfortunately, nationalist ideas such as these make it harder for nations to reconcile and build mutually beneficial cooperation.

That is why the agreement concluded between Athens and Skopje is of historic importance. Despite months of rallies in various Greek cities, the Greek government was determined to make a deal with their northern neighbor, and this is what happened. Apparently, the name of this former Yugoslav republic will no longer constitute a diplomatic problem.

The country will, from now on, be known as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, which is an interesting choice, as it suggests there also exists a Southern Macedonia.

If a region is divided between a North and a South, one may expect their reunification when the time comes. We do not know if the Greek government had that in mind when it agreed to the new name. For now, the deal will help normalization at the heart of the Balkans. We cannot know what the future will bring. If one day the two countries agree to become one entity in equal and just conditions, the international community will have nothing to say.

However, if one of the sides tries to impose reunification against the other’s will, we can all imagine what the Balkans will turn into. The situation will be more complicated if Macedonia, thanks to its name change, becomes a member of the EU one day. Country names always have historical and symbolic meanings.

Macedonia will not suddenly change its identity because of this name change. But this is a step toward future policy changes. As you may notice, the name change has its own risks.

However, the fact that the two neighbors have come to an agreement should be celebrated. Especially when you know the real obstacles are not the names or physical borders, but psychological barriers. Let’s hope there will be more examples like this, and countries will manage to resolve their differences through agreements and not armed conflict.


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Korea peninsula: A long walk to uncertainty!

Iqbal Khan

Though President Donald Trump has touted his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un as a historic move, most of independent evaluations and interpretations do not support presidential camp’s euphoria.  It is interesting that after stampeding Iran nuclear deal only weeks ago President Trump found a willing state to ink a fresh but highly vague nuclear framework. True to his usual Madman approach towards diplomacy, Trump has declared that the North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.

North Korean media has since switched over to a jubilant mode, calling it a great victory, claiming that North Korea had won major concessions as the US president said: “the World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe!” “No more rocket launches, nuclear testing or research! The hostages are back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!” Trump had twittered.  Kim had made great gestures prior to summit, dismantling of nuclear testing site, removal of three top military generals and letting go American hostages alongside a promise of a moratorium on missile testing as well.  On the other hand, Trump played hard, he even walked away from the summit; he reverse paddled after receiving a big letter from Kim.

A classified assessment from Israel’s foreign ministry has raised a point that a brief document signed by Trump and Kim fails to commit the North to “full, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.” Instead, the agreement calls for “complete denuclearization.” The report also questions Trump’s decision to suspend joint military drills with South Korea: “the road to real and substantive change, if it ever happens, will be long and slow.”

Retired Admiral Harry Harris, the US ambassador designate to South Korea has challenged Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat to the world, saying that “we have to continue to worry about that.” North Korea’s media said that President Trump had not only promised to end joint military drills with South Korea, but also to lift sanctions and allow a “step-by-step” denuclearization process, rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear program.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the agreement commits the North Korea to the total nuclear disarmament demanded by the US. The announcement marked a reversal from the past American rejection of China’s “freeze-for-freeze” proposal, which called for an end to the military exercises in exchange for a cease to the North’s weapons tests. Secretary is of the view that North Korea will get no economic sanctions relief until it completes denuclearization; dismissing claims from Pyongyang that the US had offered to drop some sanctions during the process.

Independent analysts have pointed to the lack of substance in the agreement that has committed the US to unspecified security guarantees for North Korea in exchange for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Many have said that though Pyongyang had vowed in the past to denuclearize but had repeatedly broken such promises. Carnegie has reported: “The Singapore summit was Pyongyang’s moment to come out as the world’s ninth nuclear power.

Despite North Korea’s vague commitment to denuclearization, the only thing that may be dismantled is the United States’ long-standing military alliance with Japan and South Korea.

“Kim Jong Un got what he wanted: the international prestige and respect of a one-on-one meeting with the American president, the legitimacy of North Korean flags hanging next to American flags in the background,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre.

Trump made the surprise announcement that the US would halt joint military exercises with its security ally Seoul; something long sought by Pyongyang, which claims the drills are a rehearsal for invasion. Trump told reporters, adding that “at some point” he wanted to withdraw US troops from the South.

Both Seoul and US military commanders in the South indicated they had no idea the announcement was coming, and in an editorial Korea Herald said it was “worrisome”.

World powers have welcomed its outcome, though with a proviso that it was only the first step towards resolving the nuclear stand-off. Some media in Japan, were cautious: “The real bargaining has now started between the US and North Korea. Problems that cannot be solved through a bling-bling political show remain on both sides,” said the liberal paper Mainichi Shimbun. Reactions from America’s allies in Asia have been mixed.

Some question whether Trump’s outreach to the North actually signalled a broader American retreat from the region. On paper, there is nothing President Trump could extract from North Korean leader, that Kim’s father and grandfather had not already given to past American presidents.

Joint statement was sketchy. It called for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula but provided neither a timeline nor any details. James Acton has aptly argued in Huffington Post: “The Trump-Kim summit—and particularly its aftermath—was a farce”.  In a joint paper for Carnegie, Toby Dalton, Narushige Michishita, and Tong Zhao have opined: “The summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un holds out a vague promise of progress”.

Did Kim play blind or he has had credible assurances through back channels. While analysts were hoping that after Iran nuclear deal fiasco, it would be Kim, walking away from the summit citing credibility issue with Trump. But he was seen as dying for the summit, this eagerness surprised many. Have long biting sanctions sapped Kim’s will, or is there an undercover understanding between China and the US on the final outcome? North Korea will have to wait for a while to see what is more hurting: American sanctions or trusting America. Korean peninsula’s long walk towards uncertainty has just begun!

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Water scarcity- soluble or insoluble?

Samra Saeed

Thomas Fuller said, ‘we never know the worth of water till the well is dry.’ The aphorism depicts the prevailing water crisis in Pakistan. As per United Nations report, “Pakistan is ranked at 7th position in the list of countries that are facing water crisis.” The authorities remain reluctantly casual about the water scarcity that’s posing a severe threat to the country’s stability and security.

The situation worsened when Indian Prime Minister Narinder Modi inaugurated these hydroelectric projects; 330-MW Kishanganga hydel station in Bandipore and laying of the foundation of the 1,000-MW Pakul Dul project in Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir. Times of India reported that these projects indicate his government’s political will to respond to Pakistan’s use of terrorism against India with every option at its command, including utilizing India’s full share of water from western tributaries of the Indus, as possible leverage points. Before, evaluating Indian aggressive water policy or mismanagement water issues in Pakistan, it is important to understand what water resources are available for Pakistan.

Abundant Resources of Water: Pakistan has been blessed with abundant natural water resources. It possess one of the largest irrigation network in the world which is capable of irrigating over 16 million hectors of land out of 34 million hectors of cultivable land available. Other sources of water available in Pakistan are rainfall, surface water available in rivers and underground water. Total of 240.22 maf of water is available from eastern / western rivers and rainfall.

The Tarbela and Mangla Dams, the country’s two biggest reservoirs with live storage capacity from 7.2 maf (million acre feet) to 4.67 maf, respectively. On Tarbela dam, 4 extensive projects have been carried out and its production capability increased to 1,410 MW to national grid (2018). The T-5 extension plan on this reservoir has been planned out which should reach completion by 2022.

Water Scarcity: According to the media reports, ‘the countries two biggest reservoirs reached their “dead level” last week’. The news triggered debate on social media over authorities’ hesitant behavior on this crisis. The debate on constructing the controversial Kala Bagh Dam has been sparked out once again on social as well as electronic media. The dam’s consultancy was stopped since 1986 due to anti dam propaganda.  “We have only two big reservoirs and we can save water only for 30 days. India can store water for 190 days whereas the US can do it for 900 days,” Muhammad Khalid Rana, a spokesman for the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), told DW.

Indian Water Terrorism: Pakistan and India are signatories of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) – 1960, according to this treaty, water of western rivers Jhelum and Chenab would be available for Pakistan flowing from Jammu & Kashmir whereas eastern rivers Satluj, Bias, Ravi would be in India’s control. IRSA spokesman shares that “Pakistan receives around 145 million acre feet of water every year but can only save 13.7 million acre feet. Pakistan needs 40 million acre feet of water but 29 million acre feet of our floodwater is wasted because we have few dams. New Delhi raised this issue with international bodies, arguing that it should be allowed to use the western rivers because Pakistan can’t use them properly,”

India is not allowed to build storage dams, however, can make run of the river projects, as per IWT. It has planned to construct 155 hydel projects, according to Permanent Indus Commission (PIWC). PIWC provides platform for two signatories to solve, share and inspection mechanism. Moreover, 41 hydro projects and 21 hydro plants were under construction in addition to 155. The Krishanganga hydro plant was also part of these projects.

India has adopted an offensive policy to pressurize and damage Pakistan for supporting freedom struggle in Indian occupied Kashmir. PM Modi said, ‘blood and water cannot flow together’. It has made it clear to Pakistan that any form of support to the Indian occupied Kashmir will be considered an act of terrorism and India will respond with all available means. This, of course, is India’s way of justifying their open and clear violation of water treaties.

Does India really need additional dams?

India proclaims itself as world’s largest democracy, with population of 1.354 billion (2018). The second most populated country of the world. More than 1.1 billion people are living under water scarce conditions. According to Ministry of Water Resources of India, 1 out of 4 deaths are due to scarcity of water and deaths due to water related diseases lies between 34-67%. The ambitious planners in New Delhi are certain. The plan is to build 155 dams, both big and small; have been announced in the northeast the mountainous state of Aranchal Pardesh. The critics say that it not only ignores geological and ecological factors- it also fails to take into account the impact of climate change in the region.

It’s planned that more than 60,000 MW electricity will be produced from the planned projects. The officials have denied the allegations, saying power generation will shift from coal to hydel which is cheaper yet least polluting.

There are the accusations that the massive building projects are money making exercises for the wealthy; apparently most of the power produced will be exported to other parts of India and not utilized to build local industries.

Evidently, the building superfluous number of dams on controversial water is merely threatening tactic to Pakistan; stop its support for Kashmiris or face the grim crisis. The potential water projects in the country are neither benefitting the common people nor regulate energy crisis but satisfying only establishment of New Delhi.

Wastage of Water: Beside water storage issues and Indian dams’ controversy, the wastage of water is also big reason of this shortage. The mismanagement of water takes place on various levels, from many decades.

No national policy for justified water distribution

Insufficient water storage reservoirs

Wastage of water; approximately Rs. 25 billion water everyday

Politicization of water related issues

India’s construction of dams

Low price of water consumption

Lack of awareness on efficient usage of water among masses

Climate Change- decline in rain fall

Pakistan has world’s fourth- highest rate of water use. Pakistan’s per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic meters — perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters, IMF statistics.

Social Media Awareness: As water crisis worsens in the country, foreign diplomats and officials urge the common people on social media to save water. “Using a bucket to save water while washing my car! #Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortage. One major reason is excessive use. 100 liters wasted washing a car with running tap water. Many ways to #SaveWater in our daily life! #SaveWaterforPak,” Martin Kobler, German ambassador to Pakistan, wrote on Twitter.

Water and National Security: In Indo-Pakistan scenario, if current situation of water scarcity persists, particularly, if India continues its violation of water treaties; it would become another core of factor of tension between two countries besides the Kashmir issue.  The abovementioned information related to Indian non-stop violation of IWT may become continuous reason for future skirmishes across the border. Both nuclear states must ensure that such conflicts do not escalate but are also timely resolved in order to avoid a bigger catastrophe.

Pakistan’s weak foreign policies and deteriorating global influence is one of the reasons why India managed to construct disputed and controversial hydel projects. Pakistan’s appeals to concerned international bodies for the resolution of such violations by India are being ignored or facing intentional delays. The role of international community has always been unfavorable for resolving such matters. Lately, the bilateral talks between Pakistan and Indian delegations reached no settlement because of India’s stubborn attitude. The meeting was held to address the concerns of Pakistan on the controversial construction of Krishanganga project on Neelum river. The World Bank which acted as an arbitrator for both the countries for IWT added that the treaty only gives ‘limited and procedural role’ and bank can only supervise the negotiations.

Damaging effects of water scarcity on the economic growth of Pakistan would be inevitable. Agriculture which is the back bone of the country is already facing severe problems due to water shortages. Banana, mango, wheat, cotton and rice production has already dropped dramatically. Many exporters have been forced to cancel their export contracts as they are unable to meet the demand and quality requirements.

Remedies: Pragmatic, simple but comprehensive measures are needed to tackle down the prevailing crisis A national water policy has been issued; yet, implementation is required to ensure water management needs.

Measured usage of water consumption for domestic, agricultural and industrial users

Launch awareness campaigns urban as well as in rural areas, especially in schools

Encourage the tree plantation in the country to control the climate change

Political consensus on building more water reservoirs in the country

Develop and execute simple but comprehensive foreign policy specifically addressing national and global water crisis issues

Invest in innovative technologies for water recycling and power generation.

Conclusion: Pakistan is a country rich in natural resources. However, the management of natural resources is required, wisely. In April, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced Pakistan’s first National Water Policy, promising consolidated efforts to tackle the water crisis, Dawn reports. Moreover, a long term vision based on current and projected population growth and resource requirements are needed. Nevertheless, the water policy should be implemented before the well gets dry.



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Experts voice cautious optimism over India-China ties

Ahmad Adil

A meeting between Indian and Chinese leaders last week on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit has rekindled hopes of better ties, but experts say more efforts are needed to bring the countries closer.

The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Qingdao came after a year of strained relations in 2017. It followed an informal bilateral summit in Chinese city of Wuhan in April, which took place after a standoff lasting more than two months at the disputed border area of Doklam in Bhutan in 2017.

The Doklam crisis began mid-June in 2017 when India opposed the construction of a road by China at the border. Both sides then deployed troops in the border region resulting in a tense standoff.

Late August 2017, India and China finally agreed to withdraw their respective armies from the disputed area. Sameer Patil, a Mumbai-based security analyst, said border differences and maritime competition between India and China will play a role in bilateral ties despite the recent meetings between Modi and Xi.

“These two key issues will continue to determine the tone and tenor of this relationship,” Patil told Anadolu Agency, while also pointing out India’s uncompromising position on the Belt and Road Initiative, which is part of China’s New Silk Road mega project.

Manoj Joshi, an expert at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation told Anadolu Agency: “Certainly, both are trying to improve their relations and yes, their confrontation in Doklam is a factor [in strained relations between the two countries].”

With Xi accepting Modi’s invitation for a Wuhan-style informal summit in India next year, commentators see hope in a boost in India-China relations. “In the near term, I see the relationship on a positive track. This is evident from the recent SCO meeting. President Xi’s commitment to visit India for an informal summit is a signal that for the present ties between the two countries will be stable,” said Joshi. But there other issues apart from Doklam between the two countries, including China’s blocking of Indian efforts at the United Nations to designate Pakistan-based terrorists, India’s opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s opposition to India’s possible membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In another significant development last year, India became part of the Quadrilateral initiative, which includes the United States, Japan and Australia — a grouping which was perceived as an anti-China front.

“While there are still discordant notes between the two, the larger theme is how to reduce conflict. Possibly this is due to both leaders realizing that larger problems need to be addressed first while the bilateral relations need to be managed till then,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, an expert on China affairs at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Anadolu Agency.

Modi himself remarked in Singapore at the Shangri La Dialogue last week that “Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other’s interests.”

But Kondapalli cautioned that it is hard to predict the future dynamic of India-China relations, “but as large economies, strategic depth, nuclear status it is hard to think that they can be at loggerheads [forever]”.




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Trump deepens global disarray at G7

Ilnur Cevik

The G-7 meeting in Canada has turned into a complete nightmare as US President Donald Trump continued to bully world leaders and defy international norms. Trump practically walked out of the summit and refused to take part in the joint declaration.

A photo showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel looming over Trump, her hands set on a table and Trump sitting with his arms folded across his chest as she is flanked by the British, French and Japanese leaders speaks for itself.

Soon after coming to office, Trump sowed the seeds of global discord by first shelving the Paris Accord on climate change and now refuses to sign an oceans charter to save the seas.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. President Trump went into the G-7 summit slapping trade tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the US from Canada, the European Union countries and Mexico. The other members of the US delegation tried to unsuccessfully remind Trump that they have been allies for decades and this move is simply a violation of the spirit of comradeship.

Trump and his aides felt the G-7 was a stab in the back and accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being the mastermind behind this so much so that Trump’s senior trade adviser Peter Navarro and top economic adviser Larry Kudlow called Trudeau “amateurish,” “rogue,” “sophomoric” and accused him of “double-cross” and “betrayal” in interviews with CNN and Fox News, while Navarro went one step ahead and declared, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.” The G-7 has clearly turned into a fiasco that does not bode well for the unity and solidarity of the Western world. President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese must well be watching all these developments with a grin.

Since World War II the US has become the undisputed leader of the Western world but that has come with a price. The Americans have shouldered the defense needs of Germany and Japan and have thus allowed their economies to prosper.

In time the US has become an export heaven for the whole world, and the US economy has been severely hit. Now Trump is trying to correct this and sort out the mess.

Yet he is not doing this with a touch of sophistication. He is acting and sounding like a bully who is alienating the international community. Especially his diplomatic moves are questionable and highly dangerous. The decision to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel was so needless and explosive. Now we are witnessing the end results.

All this is happening in a fast changing world where every country and especially the US need friends. However, the policies of Trump simply do not increase the numbers of the friends of Washington; on the contrary, old and trusted friends are being alienated and are turning against the United States.


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Israeli academia: A distinctive facade of apartheid

Fadi Zatari

Israeli academic institutions, universities, as well as research centers are undeniably active participants in advocating, empowering and supporting Israeli’s colonization project and emboldening the apartheid system in the Palestinian territories. Considering that Israel is one of the largest manufacturers of weapons in the world, Israeli academia plays a major role in designing and developing Israel’s military industry. Israeli academia further justifies Israeli’s aggression as well as crimes and human rights violations against the Palestinians under occupation, including the Israeli army’s involvement in testing and experimenting its weaponry on Palestinian civilians. In the last decade, thousands of Palestinian children and elderly people have been killed, while thousands more have been severely injured, maimed and intentionally targeted by Israeli soldiers to cause severe disabilities.

The interconnectedness in Israel between academia, the army and the intelligence services is clear. For instance, the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa offers Graduate Studies in National Security and Strategic Studies, which has educated hundreds of high ranking and senior officers in the so-called Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Prominent Israeli academics have been working in the Israeli army or in the Intelligence Service. For example, the Chairman of the Board of Governors at the University of Haifa, Ami Ayalon, was the former head of the Shin Bet (i.e. Israel’s secret service). Likewise, the Board of Governors of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Carmi Gillon, was also the former head of the Shin Bet. Additionally, former Israeli soldiers receive special privileges to study at Israeli universities, including academic scholarships, particularly if they served in combat units.

As a settler, apartheid and manifestly racist state, Israel does not allow Palestinian’s from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to study or work in Israeli academia. This supports the argument that Israeli academics, without any exception, are discriminating against all Palestinians from the occupied territories. During my study at Birzeit

University, a leading educational institution and intellectual hub for Palestinians in the West Bank, many of the university’s students were detained and the university was even closed several times by the Israeli military. The targeting of Palestinian universities, research institutions and even schools by the occupying force is not a new phenomenon. For instance, the Israeli military closed several Palestinian schools, facilities and universities, considering them “illegal.” The University of Birzeit was one of them, which was closed in January 1988 for 51 months consecutively. Israel has a long history of restricting Palestinian rights to access education.

Moreover, Israeli academic institutions and universities discriminate not only against Palestinians but also against any individual who advocates for Palestinian civil and human rights and freedoms. In his superb autobiography, “Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel,” Israeli historian and Professor Ilan Pappe draws an exceptional image of how corrupt and racist Israeli academia is. He was not only called a “traitor” and “agent of Hezbollah,” but he also received death threats for supporting the Palestinian struggle in reclaiming their rights.

By advocating and writing in support of the justice of the Palestinians, Pappe paid a heavy personal price. He was excluded by his own university (University of Haifa) and community. He was also discriminated against in Israeli academia for his political stands that challenge Zionism’s narrative. In the above-mentioned autobiography, he expounds on his journey of “divorce with the Zionist movement,” leaving Israel and Israeli academia and eventually becoming a promoter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Professor Pappe explained his experiences in Israeli academia maintaining:

“I decided to look for a safer academic haven abr-oad. It became urgent after direct death threats arrived at our home. Letters covered in excrement were put into our mailbox, which means that the senders knew our house, and one persistent telephone caller indicated that he knew the movements of my wife and children and threatened to kill them.”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was established in Ramallah 2004. It is part of the BDS movement and advocates for boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions for their continued unethical involvement in violating Palestinians human rights and maintaining the Israeli Apartheid regime. The aim of PACBI is to isolate Israeli academia to force it to change its unethical policy and actions toward the Palestinians.

Boycotting Israeli academia has different aspects, such as refusing to get involved, individually and collectively, in any event, symposium, conference or academic activity, organized or sponsored by Israel, the Israeli lobby or any institutions, which serve the objectives of Israeli propaganda. It also calls for international students to boycott studying at Israeli universities, since Israeli programs at these universities are designed to whitewash the racist nature of the apartheid regime and occupation of the Palestinians territories, as well as to give foreign students a “positive image” about Israel. PACBI also advocates the boycotting of talks, debates, and speeches by any Israeli state official or official representatives of Israeli academia.

As an ethical solution for the unethical role played by Israeli academia in contributing to the violation of Palestinian human rights, sanctioning of, or being silent on, the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military, which has resulted in the killing and maiming of civilians and facilitating for the experimentation of prohibited weapons in the Gaza Strip for instance, boycotting Israeli academia focuses on raising the complicity of those who aid and abet in the framing of “collective blindness.” It empowers those who have been disenfranchised and subjected to violence and dehumanization, to organize and force a change where there are gross human rights violations. It puts pressure on Israel from outside and increases the costs of a continued belligerent occupation of Palestine. Only when actual individuals are affected by being boycotted will this trigger some measure of response from within Israel. By boycotting Israeli academia, this campaign is intended to isolate Israel and restrict further Israeli violence against the Palestinians or their right to access education and to be free.

In essence, boycotting Israeli academia is a non-violent social justice tool. It is a protest against Israeli academia’s involvement in research and the development of Israeli weaponry, as well as the unethical and violent responses employed by the state in violation of Palestinian rights to access education. Finally, participating in the boycott campaign is a form of solidarity with the oppressed and occupied Palestinians who are enduring systemic Israeli racism and discrimination in every aspect of their lives. Therefore, boycotting Israeli academia is an ethical responsibility of every academic, scholar and intellectual who stands for justice and peace. It must be understood that academic freedom as a value is not separate from the political context of its exercise. Such a position should become the highest moral and ethical imperative for any conscientious individual.



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Our border has not officially changed, but…

Hasan Ozturk

On Oct. 3, 2017, I had written an article in this column with the headline, “Irak sinirini tasimayi yeniden tartissak” (If we were to re-discuss moving the Iraqi border).

My reason was very clear: the inability to provide complete security due to the borderline passing through the steep mountains. Thus, I had suggested reaching an agreement with Iraq and physically carrying the border to the other side and positioning it on a level area.

I had said:

“Late Turkish President Turgut Özal, who noticed the physical state of the border in time, discussed this matter with the Americans during the First Gulf War, but could not get a result. (…)

Late Turkish politician Muhsin Yazicioglu had a radical suggestion back then to establish a 25-kilometer buffer zone on the Iraq side. Of course, the resounding suggestion was not accepted.

(…) If in the recently improving ties with the Iraqi central government, this subject is also brought up on the agenda and reaches a solution, both Turkey and Iraq can take a breath of relief.

The base areas to be built on the other side of the border will both reduce costs and further strengthen security.” (Oct. 3, 2017, Yeni Safak)

Two days after that article was published, I had the opportunity to follow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s day-long Iran visit. I brought up the subject on the return flight and asked President Erdogan about “his thoughts on moving our Iraq border to the other side of the mountains.”

That day, the president had said, “We don’t have our eye on anybody’s land.” However, he had repeated his determination on the subject of fighting terrorism.

A spectacular sweeping operation was conducted on the Iraqi borderline, on the steep and rough mountains both in summer and winter, long before the Olive Branch operation in Afrin. All the holes, camps/caves the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization had, which they said nobody could enter, were entered and destroyed.

The ground operation within northern Iraqi borders continued quietly (without being made mediatic) in coordination with the Olive Branch operation. The point that has been reached today is a line that reaches a 30/40-kilometer depth in northern Iraq. A 400-square-meter area of dominance. A total of 11 bases, including the newly-built ones.

The public has been discussing the operation in Qandil for a few days.

The subject coming up on the agenda started with the iftar (the fast-breaking meal in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan) we had last week with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. At that iftar meal, I had asked Mr. Prime Minister two questions. One of the questions was, “As a result of the operations conducted in northern Iraq, we moved to a level area, will this bring us Qandil?”

The “operation in Qandil” has been on the agenda for a week.

Frankly, Turkish troops going to Qandil and razing that terrorist hole will relieve us all. But if you ask me, a success at least as big as Qandil has already been achieved. Because Turkish troops positioned in a relatively much easier region on the other side of the border ended the threats aimed at Turkey from that region.

Yes, our border has not changed, but the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) blocked the path of terrorists that may come from northern Iraq, which poses a great threat.

This physical situation is a huge achievement.

I congratulate everyone who contributed.


Those who cannot tolerate the other will be the same both in the present and the future

The West’s main characteristic is its intolerance toward those “other than themselves.”

We know how they looted Andalusia, how they destroyed cities, how they massacred thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in the inquisition, how they exiled those that were not one of them, and how they destroyed whatever belonged to them.

We know of the Catholic and Protestants’ years-long wars, and that thousands, hundreds of thousands perished.

We know how they pillaged Istanbul, Anatolia and Jerusalem during the Crusades, and how they massacred the locals.

We know how in the First Balkan War they exiled the Muslim locals to Anatolia, and how they changed the texture of the cities.

We know one other thing: They held the Jews, whom they believed to have “ruined their race,” subject to genocide once more while they were at each other’s throats in World War II. (The first was the torture and exile of Muslims and Jews in Spain, when collapsing Andalusia. It is the one the Sefarad Jews in Istanbul faced.)

Something else happened at the start of the 21st century. The “Islamic civil war” started again with the West’s doing. After the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, the West launched a total war on Islam.

This is the Henry Kissinger mentality. This mentality took action to “otherize” Islam and Muslims, which it sees as the “other,” in all the regions it has dominance.

They call it Islamophobia. In other words, a fear of Islam. No, no, this is not fear of Islam, but rather anti-Islam sentiment. Because their reflexes aren’t reflexes of “fear,” but reflexes of anger, fury and animosity.

Lastly, a decision was taken in Austria to shut down seven mosques. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who announced the decision, stated that 60 religious officials working at the mosques, along with their families, will be deported. The reason is interesting: “They were sent by Turkey.”

Rising anti-Islam and anti-Turkey sentiment in the West has a reason of course. Like we said at the start, the West neither tolerates nor allows those that are not like them.

Throughout history, it either destroys the one it sees as the “other” – like Andalusia – or assimilates them – like the Moriscoes. It either exiles them like the Jews and Muslims, or subjects them to genocide – like the Jews and Bosnians.

Today, it is driving a new “otherizing” policy against Muslims and Turkey, which it thinks it cannot assimilate.

Racism is on a rapid rise in Europe. They have Muslims and Turkey on the target board.

The extremists are walking toward the top. Such as it is in Austria, they are entering coalitions and turning anti-Islam sentiment into a state policy.

This is what is happening in Austria.

I am afraid, such anti-Islam actions are going to increasingly continue.


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Return to south Syria: Conflict in Daraa and occupied Golan Heights

Ayse Nur Dok

The area between Daraa and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has turned to a flashpoint as the Syrian regime has vowed to fight against “terrorists” in an aim to retake rebel-held parts of the region despite the US warnings against a new offensive in southern Daraa province.

The latest dynamics in the region have raised Israeli concerns over the presence of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah along the frontier, while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Syrian troops should be positioned on the border with the Golan Heights, which have been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. “The agreement on forming a de-escalation area in southwestern Syria envisaged the eventual withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces from this part of Syria,” said Lavrov.

He added that the Russian and US militaries have maintained regular contacts on the issue. “Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Lavrov told a news conference. “The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel,” he said.

A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said. Later, it was resolved when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusair in the Homs region, one of the officials, a military commander, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

‘De-escalation’ deal: The southwest is of concern to the United States, which last year in July brokered a de-escalation deal with Jordan and Russia, the regime’s biggest ally, which has largely contained the war near the frontier with Israel.

Meanwhile, Jordan said it was discussing southern Syria with Washington and Moscow, and all three agreed on the need to preserve the ceasefire, which has reduced violence since they brokered it last year. The United States warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to any violations of the ceasefire in that area. In a statement released on May 25, the US State Department said it was concerned about reports that Assad’s forces were preparing for an operation in southwestern Syria. It warned the regime against “any actions that risk broadening the conflict.”

Israel-Russia talks: Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on May 31, visited Moscow for talks focusing on Syria as Lieberman’s Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, said the two need to discuss the situation in southwestern Syria, along its border with Israel.

Israel’s Defence Ministry, in a statement, quoted Lieberman as telling Shoigu, “Israel greatly appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs, especially regarding the situation on our northern border.” The statement said the two met for more than 90 minutes and discussed “security issues of concern to both countries, the situation in Syria and the Israeli campaign to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later held a phone conversation and discussed “the latest regional developments and Iran’s foothold in Syria,” a brief statement from the Israeli leader’s office said. Israel’s Channel 1 television said the conversation touched on a possible arrangement for there to be no Iranian presence in southern Syria closer than 70-80 km (40-50 miles) from the Syria-Israel border.

Secret deal between Russia and Israel: Russia and Israel have reached a secret deal for the border area in southern Syria, Israeli TV reported. Israel will not intervene to prevent deployment of Assad’s forces to the southern borders and the Golan Heights and Moscow will make sure that Iranian and Hezbollah forces do not be part of these troops under the agreement, according to a Channel 2 report. The report said Israel will also retain its freedom of action against Syrian entrenchment inside Syria.

Under the apparent agreement coming together, Israel will accept the return of Syrian regime soldiers to the border on the Golan Heights, in exchange for Russia guaranteeing there are no Iranian or Hezbollah forces in the area, Hadashot TV news reported. “Even if it takes time, and even if we have to accept Assad coming back, at the end of these talks the Iranian threat in Syria will be lifted,” an Israeli diplomatic source told Hadashot.

Also, a senior Israeli official said the country will not oppose Assad’s remaining in power, provided that Iran’s presence in Syria is eliminated, according to the Channel 10 news report. “The Syrian regime has sent a proposal through mediators to regional countries that will ensure the withdrawal of Hezbollah and Iranian militias about 25 km away from the disengagement line in the Golan,” an unnamed Western diplomat was quoted as saying by the London-based Al Sharq al Awsat newspaper.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia said he heard from the news that an agreement was reached on “certain disengagement in the southwest of Syria and, I think, my understanding is that an agreement has been reached.” But Foreign Minister of the Syrian regime, Walid al Moallem, denied reports that an agreement was reached between regional and other powers over the situation of southwestern Syria, where the country’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is located. Moallem said that only when US troops withdraw from the Tanf area near the Jordanian border can an agreement be discussed.

Daraa offensive: The regime has amassed troops in Daraa and Quneitra for weeks and dropped leaflets over Daraa city, the cradle of the 2011 revolt, demanding rebels give up. Leaflets dropped on northern Daraa, which is divided between rebel and regime-controlled areas, warned: “The men of the Syrian army are coming.” The Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen TV, which has reporters embedded with Syrian troops, said the army is sending reinforcements to southern Syria in an apparent preparation for an offensive.

The Syrian army has completed preparations for an imminent offensive against rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria, a non-Syrian commander in a military alliance that backs Damascus said, raising the prospect of a major new escalation.

Israel considers Iran’s presence in Syria a threat: Israel in early May bombed Iranian military positions in Syria in what it said was retaliation for an Iranian rocket attack on the occupied Golan Heights. Israel called it its most serious operation in Syria since the 1973 war. “We believe that there is absolutely no room for any Iranian military presence in any part of Syria,” Netanyahu told senior officials from his Likud party, according to a statement from his office.

But in the TV interview, Assad maintained there are no Iranian troops in Syria, only Iranian officers advising the Syrian army. He denied reports that Iranians have been killed in Israeli strikes.

Apparently referring to the May 10 attack by Israel, Assad said, “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”

Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel’s intelligence ministry, told journalists he believed recent events were convincing countries such as Russia that allowing Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria was not worth it, AFP reported. Tzuriel said that if the opportunity is not seized on and Iran is not pushed back “we are on a collision course with Iran.”

Moallem said Iranian military advisers are embedded with Syrian troops but Tehran has no combat forces or fixed bases in the country, adding that Israel is making false claims to try to pressure Iran.

Assad’s last move against the US-backed YPG: Assad said in an interview with Russia Today, which aired on May 31, that the US troops, who operate air bases and outposts in the YPG-administered region, will have to leave the country. The state would recover the swathe of northern and eastern Syria controlled by the SDF, whose leading force is the YPG, either through negotiations or force, he said. The YPG took control of nearly a quarter of Syria after it defeated Daesh from north and northeast Syria, with the help of the US. Responding to earlier comments by Assad, Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said a military solution “is not a solution that can lead to any result.” Forces loyal to Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, and the Syrian Kurds have clashed sporadically over the eastern oil province of Deir Ezzor.

They led rival fronts against Daesh militants last year, and they maintain a protracted front against each other along the Euphrates River. After recovering swathes of territory, Assad now controls most of Syria. But tracts remain outside his control at the borders with Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. That includes large parts of the north and east where US special forces deployed during the fight against Daesh, supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF’s leading group, the YPG, is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a group that is designated as a terrorist organisation by Washington and Ankara.  The group has been fighting against the Turkish state for more than 30 years.

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Cuba sticks to Castro’s foreign policy under new president

Shakir Husain

Cuba’s new President Miguel Diaz-Canel was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Nicolas Maduro on his re-election as the president of Venezuela on May 20. A month before the Venezuelan election, Maduro was the first foreign leader to meet with 58-year-old Diaz-Canel, who became Cuba’s president in April in a development that signaled a generational shift.

Cuba values its alliance with Venezuela, which is crucial for both countries in facing an increasingly hostile US blockade policy. Some in the US are still probably holding onto feeble hope that having the first non-Castro president in Cuba in 60 years may bring about significant changes to the country’s foreign policy.

Such misplaced optimism may build on the Barack Obama administration’s decision in December 2014 to restore diplomatic relations with Havana, even though the US has gone directionless under President Donald Trump. So far there is no sign that Cuba is considering revisions to its foreign policy that underlines solidarity with developing countries and is imbued with anti-imperialist declarations of the charismatic Fidel Castro.

Since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the country’s international image was shaped by Fidel Castro. The ailing Castro was succeeded as president by his younger brother Raul Castro in 2008. Raul Castro, who became president for another five-year term in 2013, made it clear that he would step down and that Diaz-Canel was the new-generation leader groomed to take over for him.Diaz-Canel’s rise was steady in Cuba’s power structure as he worked for more than 35 years in various party and state roles. He became minister of higher education in 2009 and was first appointed vice president of Cuba’s Council of State in 2013.

Diaz-Canel’s elevation as president does not mean the old guard is no longer in control of the decision-making. Raul Castro, 87, remains powerful as the first secretary of the ruling Communist Party and would ensure that Diaz-Canel earns the required experience and mass appeal to succeed him in that role as well in 2021. It is this party that determines most important policies, including foreign relations.

Cuban officials are clear that Diaz-Canel will carry out policy changes where they are needed and not try to change the country’s basic character. Oscar Martinez Cordoves, Cuba’s ambassador to India, recently gave a talk on how Cuba might perform under the new president. Several social and economic policies are likely to be tweaked in line with the aspirations of Cubans as 77 percent of them were born after 1959, when Fidel toppled the government of US-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista.” There are many young people who have another experience … We are living in a new world,” the ambassador said.

Sixty percent of Cuba’s workforce is female. The private sector has seen its role in the economy grow and employs 30-35 percent of the total workforce. But there is no appetite for a Western-style political culture or capitalism.”We’re not trying to repeal the socialist character but to perfect it,” Cordoves said. “What we see in the future is that we will maintain our system. We are not going back to capitalism … We love independence; we want sovereignty; we want self-determination.” Such assertions are not liked in the US, which would like Cuba to be a customer of its consumerism. An internationalist Cuba has been a thorn in Washington’s side for decades and that is not about to change. Fidel Castro, who died in 2016 at the age of 90, is particularly admired in Africa for his solidarity against colonialism.

The Cuban military and political help for Nelson Mandela’s struggle against the white apartheid regime in South Africa was invaluable. Its significance can be gauged from Mandela’s words directed against the United States, which was a defender of the apartheid regime.

“We are now being advised about Cuba by people who have supported the apartheid regime these last 40 years. No honorable man or woman could ever accept advice from people who never cared for us in the most difficult times,” Mandela said during his trip to Havana in 1991. Cuba has been generous with sharing its expertise with African countries in the medical and education sectors, sending thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers to Africa and attracting students from there. Cordoves said the new government will maintain this policy and “try to develop it more.”

Similarly, Cuba hopes to maintain its policy of good relations with Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries. It is a different matter altogether that many of NAM’s former champions are now firmly in the American camp. Occasionally, people talk about finding new ways to keep NAM relevant as a group to promote solidarity among developing countries.

If the Trump administration gets more aggressive in enforcing the blockade against Cuba, there is no doubt the Cubans would seek support from every quarter, whether from NAM or the African Union. Obama saw the futility of “an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests,” in other words, bringing about a regime change in Havana.

He did not lift the blockade, making it easy for his successor to undo the gains made in US-Cuba relations.

If Obama’s intention was to seek political change in Cuba by growing contacts inside the country and influencing society through right-wing Cubans, Trump appears ready to adopt more of the same US policy that failed to deliver for six decades. Perhaps not another Bay of Pigs invasion, but a pig-headed US blockade is here to stay. To counter that, Cuba will fall back on Fidel Castro’s old foreign policy.




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Gulf crisis one year on

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

As the Gulf crisis marks its one year anniversary, settlement seems as distant as ever. Both sides seem to have come to terms with the new reality. While the crisis had certainly been brewing for years, the timing of its outbreak was surprising to many, first and foremost, to Qatar. Only two days after Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad had returned from Riyadh, where he had participated in the summit with President Donald Trump, Saudi and Emirati media outlets broke news of statements attributed to the Qatari sovereign in which he had presumably taken the side of Iran.

Following the sudden media offensive, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt announced severing of diplomatic ties with Qatar, in addition to shutting down of their airspace to Qatari flights. Riyadh announced closure of the Salwa/Abu-Samra border crossing, Qatar’s only land outlet.

While foreign ministers of the four states later denied it, Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah, during his press conference with President Donald Trump at the White House, said months later that in the early days of the crisis, mediators succeeded in convincing the Saudi-led coalition not to pursue the “military option.”

Whether Saudi Arabia and its allies intended to invade Qatar or not remains debatable. What is certain is that the four countries had designed a blitzkrieg style offensive, with or without a military component. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt were probably hoping that a surprise offensive would throw Qatar off balance and force it to offer concessions, 13 of them, as outlined by a list that the four countries put out.

Doha was indeed caught off guard, and was forced to turn to its other friends, mainly Turkey, Oman and Kuwait, in an attempt to salvage its lines of imports. The Qatari Central Bank had to act quickly to absorb the financial shock, and reached into the nation’s deep-pocketed sovereign fund to liquidate hard currency and keep the country’s economic machine oiled. The two sides then engaged in diplomatic battle that was fought in every capital around the world.

The US, Kuwait, and, to an extent, Turkey sprung to mediation. The Saudi-led coalition put out 13 demands that they said would constitute the only way out for Doha. The 13 demands could be summarized into four, including Qatar 1) severing all ties with Iran, 2) closing a Turkish military base on its territory, 3) shutting down Al-Jazeera satellite TV and cutting funds to other media outlets and 4) classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and repatriating any of the group’s rank and file who are citizens of any of the four countries, alongside cracking down on all funds from Qatar to Islamist groups around the region.

Qatar counter-argued that both the UAE and Egypt enjoyed diplomatic ties with Iran, which made it odd for nations with ties to Tehran to ask other countries to cut such ties. Qatar also argued that the remaining Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, namely Kuwait and Oman, also had ties with Iran. Shutting down Al-Jazeera and other Qatari-funded media outlets was a point that mediators, including Kuwait and Washington, rephrased. Mediating capitals believed that no government should have the power of shutting media in other countries, or else, if Al-Jazeera was shutdown, then what will hold back the Saudi-led coalition from demanding the shutdown of other media outlets across the region. Instead, Kuwait suggested that both sides put an end to the mutual media offensive campaigns that government-funded media outlets were running. Qatar did concede on funding of Islamist groups. When President Trump received Sheikh Tamim in Washington in the White House in April, the US president praised his guest for Doha’s cooperation in cracking down on funding of terrorism. “Those countries are stopping the funding of terrorism,” Trump said next to an attentive Sheikh Tamim, “and that includes the UAE; it includes Saudi Arabia; it includes Qatar.”

Despite working with Washington to end the funding of terrorism, Doha did not proclaim the Muslim Brothe-rhood a terrorist organization. The group, Qatar argued, operates legally — and even has some of its officials elected to parliament — in other Arab countries, such as Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Finally, on the Turkish base in Qatar, Doha argued that the issue was a sovereign Qatari decision, and that no country should be able to dictate anything on the foreign ties of other countries.

Throughout the year, mediators have tried hard to end the Gulf rift. The closest the mediation efforts got to settlement was when President Trump spoke to the leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. After the call, Doha reached out to Riyadh, and Sheikh Tamim spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The call seemed to have been cordial, and both sides put out a statement in which they said that their leaders left it to their aids to settle things and organize a meeting.

Not so soon. The Qatari emir called the Saudi crown prince, but did not call Emirati Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed. This, the four countries interpreted as Qatari politicking and attempt to divide-and-conquer. Hours after the cordial readout from Doha and Riyadh, the Saudis reversed their position and accused Qatar of persisting with its same old behavior. After the Trump call, Washington and Kuwait renewed their mediation efforts, and Kuwait managed to convince all parties to attend a GCC summit it hosted. As the region held its breath, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama sent their foreign ministers, instead of their crown princes, to participate in the summit, thus aborting another effort at reconciliation.

With mediation efforts failing, one after another, both parties dug in their heels and intensified their media offensive against one another, next to their lobbying wars in world capitals. For the Saudi-led coalition, the effort against Qatar has yet to bear fruit, other than Doha’s cooperation in cracking down on the funding of terrorism. For Qatar, the old saying applies: What does not kill you only makes you stronger.