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Decoding Pompeo’s words at U.S. Senate

Mohammad Ghaderi

The CIA Director “Mike Pompeo”, who is nominee for Secretary of State, has recently mentioned meaningful words in his hearing at the Senate on Iran and the nuclear deal. In his words, he acknowledged that Iran was not after nuclear weapons even before the nuclear deal, nor will be in the future.

On the other hand, he has announced that he is seeking to fix and correct the nuclear deal with Iran! This is while the U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his final decision on Iran’s nuclear deal by May 12. “I want to fix this deal,” Pompeo said. “That’s the objective. I think that’s in the best interest of [the United States].”

At his recent Senate hearing, Pompeo has emphasized that as CIA Director, he didn’t find any evidences that Iran has violated the nuclear deal.

At the same time, he believes that Tehran can’t expand its program shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord. He emphasized that his goal is to correct the nuclear deal with Iran. Pompeo said:

“If there’s no chance that we can fix it, I will recommend to the president (Trump) that we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal,” he said. “Even after May 12, there’s still much diplomatic work to be done.”

A simple decoding of Pompeo’s remarks suggests that, despite the opposition to the nuclear accord, he is trying to deal differently with this issue as the future U.S. Secretary of State. Some analysts also believe that Pompeo has adopted such an approach to face the U.S. Senators’ relative opposition to the White House’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

In any case, according to Pompeo, Donald Trump may not make a final decision on the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12, and he will continue to consult with his European allies on what he calls “fixing the flaws of the JCPOA”.

Pompeo’s remarks indicate that the White House hasn’t come to a determined and clear decision on how to deal with the JCPOA yet. On the other hand, numerous consultations by representatives of the four countries, the United States, France, Britain and Germany, continues in silence.

Western sources have argued that these countries are consulting on the three controversial issue, namely “the Sunset clauses”, “limiting Iran’s missile power” and “extensive inspections of Iran’s military sites”.

These sources claimed that the only remaining disagreement between the four countries is over deletion of the so-called Sunset clauses from the nuclear deal, and thus putting permanent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Pompeo is currently the CIA director, and ironically, he was one of the foremost critics of the Iran nuclear deal when he served as a House Republican from Kansas. Trump fired Secretary of State “Rex Tillerson” over the raised disagreements, and picked Pompeo as his successor in March, just two months before the deadline on May 12 to decide whether to bring back sanctions that former President of the United States waived when the JCPOA was first implemented.

Before this, many Western politicians and analysts saw the nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state by Trump as a sign of Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Beyond that, John Bolton’s appointment as U.S. national security advisor also sent a clear message to the international system that Trump is about to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

John Bolton is now silent about the fate of the JCPOA! The silence seems very meaningful at the current time. It’s obvious that John Bolton is one of the main opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran, and he doesn’t even believe in negotiating with the European Troika on maintaining the JCPOA.

The important question, however, is whether Bolton’s silence reflects the continuing paradoxical and vague approach of the U.S. towards the JCPOA? Or did Trump ask him to be silent in this regard and wait for the final results of their talks with Europe?

American senators still don’t have a clear picture of Trump’s final decision about the JCPOA. Meanwhile, some Republican senators like “Rand Paul” and “Jeff Flake” are worried about the costs and consequences of Trump’s decision to refuse joining other members of P5+1.

Most U.S. senators tried not to mention the nuclear deal with Iran in their speeches during recent weeks.

This is while some senators such as “Tom Cotton” and “Ted Cruz” strongly encourage Donald Trump’s government to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

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Seventy years of Israel poses pressing questions for Palestinians

Abir Kopty

The Palestinian people are the only ones that can rescue their cause from the jaws of the Palestinian Authority’s defeat. It come as no great revelatory surprise to say that the Palestinian cause has been facing huge challenges in the last two decades.

The Israeli occupation is “flourishing”. The Palestinians are more divided than ever. The Palestinian leadership has betrayed Palestinians. The international community is impotent. The region is collapsing and Israel has been the big winner. The Arab world is normalising its relations with Israel publicly. Perhaps the only two rays of light amid this despair are that the Palestinian people are still resilient and steadfast, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing.

The time is ticking and action is needed before we find Palestinian leadership, backed by Saudi and Egypt, signing a sell-out deal with Israel. It is hard to find a magic formula, but it is important to point out the issues that need to be addressed. I suggest five: the Oslo accords, economy, representation, resistance and our future vision. So, should we just dissolve the Palestinian Authority or just change its role?

This question raises a great challenge. The Palestinian Authority (PA), has turned into a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation that rules only a minor part of the Palestinian people while it has power over the fate of all Palestinians. In theory, it shouldn’t because that is not its role, but in reality it has hijacked this role by hijacking the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The PLO is an umbrella organisation but is chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the chair of the PA. One can’t discuss the dissolution of the PA without discussing whether we should end the Oslo agreement or not. A package deal dissolving the PA means, definitively, the end of Oslo, and vice-versa.

Of course, this is not a simple process because the Palestinians are trapped and such a move should be followed by alternatives on how to manage our lives and our fate – but mainly on how to maintain social and economic survival and internal security.

The Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza is largely dependent on the Israeli economy, foreign funding and humanitarian aid. This is one of the most malicious traps of Oslo. Palestinians need to think of how to build a self-sufficient economy that guarantees social solidarity and the integrity of any future Palestinian state.

And while these questions are mostly relevant for the Palestinians living in Palestine, there are more relevant questions for the Palestinians elsewhere, who have been totally marginalised and abandoned. Namely, this is a question of representation. Should Palestinians abandon the PLO and build a new representative entity or should PLO be reformed? This is a never ending debate among Palestinians.

However an old or new entity, is not the main question. The real dilemma is how to ensure that any future entity or iteration of the PLO genuinely represents the 12 million Palestinians in historic Palestine (including Palestinians in Israel), refugee camps, and the diaspora. And further, how can Palestinians create and maintain a version of a “direct democracy” where everyone participates in decision making?

Representation and participation are crucial issues for Palestinians, especially in light of the disappointments of the current leadership.

While the Palestinian Authority merely represents (or rather, rules) Palestinians in the West Bank, Palestinians in Israel have been marginalised and pathetically considered as Israel’s “internal issue”. Palestinians in Gaza are not only locked up in a physical open-air prison, but are also locked out and isolated politically. On the other hand, Palestinians in refugee camps and in the diaspora have been neglected and abandoned by the PLO – which purpotedly represents their interests.

Ensuring representation for all is important for creating a new vision for the liberation of Palestine, but that leads to another question: what should be our strategy for resistance?

All Palestinians should be able to engage in the process of deliberation and decision making.When talking about a vision for Palestine, one of the most common questions discussed among Palestinians is the question of a one or two-state solution. Considering that the two-state solution is dead—actually, it’s been dead a long time—it is about time it was abandoned. For many Palestinians, it was never a viable solution considering the greedy colonial nature of the Israeli occupation. What Israel wanted for seventy years is not peace nor a two-state solution, it wanted maximum land with minimum Palestinians. It is time to move forward beyond the rhetoric of Oslo and re-think an alternative vision that does not include colonialism, apartheid or occupation.

How to reach that point is important. What this entity will look like needs to be discussed and how it will guarantee historic justice is what matters. These issues are often discussed by Palestinians everywhere, in historic Palestine or in exile. In houses, cafes, meetings, online and offline. Now is the time to discuss this collectively and find a new path out of the despair, and towards a vision of liberation and justice.

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Centennial of Azerbaijani genocide

Khazar Ibrahim

Over the past two centuries, our ancestors in the Southern Caucasus and Asia Minor were constantly subjected to massacres and genocides as a result of persecution at the hands of Armenians. Starting in the 19th century, Armenian nationalists spread in the Southern Caucasus with the help of their supporters following their fabricated ideals to create a “Greater Armenia” in the region. As a result, local people were expelled from their homeland, and mass killings and destruction of their settlements and historical and religious monuments and cultural heritage took place. The four ethnic cleansings carried out by Armenians in the region in 1905 to 1907, 1918 to 1920, 1948 to 1953 and 1988 to 1989 show their true intentions.
To understand the causes of these events, we should consider the historical background of Armenian-Azerbaijani contradictions in the region. In order to reach a better understanding of its essence, we have to go back to the 18th and early 19th centuries, to the very origins of the conflict. The dismemberment of the Azerbaijani people and the division of historical Azerbaijan began with the Treaties of Gulistan and Turkmanchay, signed in 1813 and 1828, respectively. The national tragedy of a divided Azerbaijan continued with the occupation of Azerbaijani land. As a result of an implemented ethnic cleansing policy, a very rapid mass resettlement by Armenians in Azerbaijani land took place and the policy of genocide became an integral part of the occupation. Inspired by dreams of creating a “Greater Armenia,” Armenians carried out a series of large-scale, bloody attacks on Azerbaijanis between 1905 and 1907. Hundreds of settlements were destroyed and burned to the ground and thousands of Azerbaijanis were barbarically killed.
Taking advantage of the situation following World War I, and the February and October 1917 revolutions in Russia, Armenian nationalists again began to pursue the implementation of their plans under the banner of Bolshevism. In 1918, the leader of the Russian Bolsheviks, Vladimir Lenin, appointed Stephan Shaumyan as the extraordinary commissar of the Caucasus and sent him to Baku. The Bolsheviks seized power in Baku and created the conditions for the Armenian armed formations to realize their secret plans. On March 3, the mass slaughters of the Azerbaijanis began. According to Stephan Shaumian, 6,000 armed soldiers of Soviet Baku and 4,000 armed men from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation took part in the massacre of peaceful Azerbaijanis.
The policy of genocide and deportation carried out by Armenians against Azerbaijanis intensified even more in 1918 and continued into the 1920s. The largest massacre was committed on March 30, 1918, when hundreds of Azerbaijani towns and villages were destroyed, 150 Azerbaijani villages in Karabakh were left in ruin and unprecedented bloodshed was seen in Shusha. More than 700,000 Azerbaijanis were slaughtered in what became known as the March Days, including 30,000 in Baku and its surrounding villages, were brutally murdered and mosques and schools were burned.
The declaration of independence in 1918 enabled Azerbaijan to investigate crimes against the Azerbaijani and Muslim population. One of the significant decisions of the newly formed government of Azerbaijan was the establishment of an Extraordinary Investigation Commission on June 15, 1918 that investigated and documented countless crimes committed by Dashnak gangs. The bloody events from 1918 to 1920 are vividly echoed in many foreign witnesses’ memoirs, books and articles, as well as reports of British mission representatives in the Southern Caucasus who were sent to the region on a special mission by the British government and noted that Armenian armed forces were disdainful, used the most insidious methods to annihilate Azerbaijani civilians in the Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhchivan districts of Azerbaijan. A burial site was found during construction work in 2007 in the city of Guba in the northeast. In the site, Azerbaijanis who were tortured and killed by Armenian Dashnaks in 1918 and the remains of Lezgins, Tats, Avars, Jews and other ethnic groups were found. The Guba Genocide Memorial Complex, an open-air museum inaugurated by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stands as a chilling reminder of the Armenian atrocities.
It should be noted that the Ottoman Empire, also in a difficult situation at the time and facing the same atrocities from Armenian gangs in its eastern provinces, sent the Islamic Army of the Caucasus to Azerbaijan led by Nuru Pasha in 1918. Therefore, the army’s contribution to the liberation of Baku and the surrounding regions from Armenian-Bolshevik occupation is a great moment in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations.
During the Soviet era, all of these events were pushed aside under the slogan of peoples’ friendship. However, Azerbaijan’s late president Haydar Aliyev provided political recognition of the events with a decree on March 26, 1998, to announce the bloody murders committed by Armenians to the world and, by doing so, protect the national memory for future generations and immortalize the memories of the victims of the genocide.
Unfortunately, the modern world witnessed similar atrocities again in the 20th century. Since 1988, a conflict sparked by Armenian territorial claims and Armenia’s policy of aggression against Azerbaijan resulted in the occupation of 20 percent of the country’s territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other districts in Azerbaijan. Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis became refugees or were internally displaced. On Feb. 25, 1992, the Armenian armed forces attacked the town of Khojaly from all sides and committed crimes against the civilians. A total of 613 people from Khojaly, among them 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly, were tortured to death, 487 were left disabled and 1,275 were taken as prisoners and subjected to persecution and insults.
Armenia controls one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory and still rejects four U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the unconditional withdrawal of its armed forces. Commemorating the 100th year since the Armenian Dashnak massacre of Azerbiajanis in March 1918 and hoping that Khojaly is the last chain of the Armenia’s mentality of terror, we all are obliged to tell the truth about those atrocities so they never happen again anywhere else in the world.

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Islamophobia and move towards authoritarianism

Dr. Farid Hafez

While most far-right political parties are still in opposition, some have gained major influence by becoming governing parties, as the Austrian, Bulgarian, and Finnish cases indicate. More than that, the politics of the far-right receives wide appreciation, even among center-right and center-left parties. A recent example thereof is Hun-gary’s Fidesz party, which belongs to the European People’s Party that represents the Christian democratic center-right, which also Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is part of.

One of the recent examples of the mainstreaming of racist far-right politics is the recent move by Austria’s far-right to impose a ban on the hijab for female Muslim pupils, starting with kindergarten up to the end of elementary school. Obvio-usly, this is a non-issue, since normally Muslim girls at that age do not wear the hijab anyway.

But while the social democratic opposition criticized that this policy would not be enough and rather a comprehensive integration package was necessary, many social democrats even voiced that there was a need to expand this ban to include 14-year-olds rather than deciphering this move of the government as a populist game.

Soon afterward, German functionaries of the Christian Democrats also started discussing this proposal made by the Austrian government.

Along the lines of post-modern lifestyle, the Austrian government is trying to sell this regulation on the young female Muslim body as a “child protection law”, claiming to protect little girls from ‘political Islam’. This reminds us of Spivak’s lines, in which he described the colonial practice of “White men saving brown women from brown men”. This slogan insinuates that male Muslim authorities use force and violence, while the main target of this form of white patriarchy remains to be the Muslim woman.

It is part of a global patriarchal system that can, on the one hand, force Muslim women to cover their hair or even their faces, and on the other, forces Muslim women to take off a hair-cover. When the Austrian minister of education argues that this recent move was a “symbolic act” to protect Austrian culture, it reflects a global view that is triggered by a crisis of white supremacy. It seems that it is the preservation of white supremacy by upholding the white character of Western societies, which introduces these regulations that aim at homogenizing a diverse society. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the first and only chancellor to ever have a cross in his office, argued that “our goal is to confront any development of parallel societies in Austria”, ‘parallel societies’ being basically what the fifth column means in the US political discourse. Again, while most Muslims are not at all part and parcel of the elite in most European nation-states, but rather represent the marginalized social underclass, this primarily reflects the fears of the ruling elite to secure its white privilege. This was also the most important motive in Austria earlier last year behind the de facto headscarf ban for female police officers, attorneys, and court lawyers.

The reason why these regulations were not implemented, say, 40 years ago was that Muslim women in those years would enter the premises of the Ministry of Justice only to mop the floors, while today their daughters want to enter such buildings as legal experts. Consequently, these policy initiatives speak an unambiguous language: Equality does not include every citizen anymore. This reminds us of older versions of democracies, where the citizen was an aristocratic male white man, excluding women, slaves, and many others.

To witness the abandonment of the principle of equality as a basis for democracy that ought to secure the equal treatment of all of its citizens — not only de facto but also de jure — means that we are witnessing a re-emerging political order. Still, in many European countries, these laws can be challenged in court, which also depends on the resources, which the primarily affected minority can mobilize.

And while these legislations do linger around for some time, like the minaret ban, which is part of the constitution in the democratic state of Switzerland, the order remains to treat different people in negatively diverse ways along the lines of what is now becoming an increasingly racialized religion.

Daniel Pipes, one of the most blatant Islamophobes that is part of the organized Islamophobia network in the US, argued that “for the first time in Western Europe, a government took power that advocates anti-immigration and anti-Islamization policies”, hence confirming the conspiratorial idea of Muslims being a fifth column that wants to change the social landscape and ‘Islamize the West’ with the purpose of establishing a neo-fascist political order.

His words were referring to the recent example of Austria, which is seemingly becoming more and more of a leading force in Islamophobic politics. One of the main functions of this Islamophobic populism is to divert attention from real political issues, such as the healthcare reforms in Austria that will primarily affect the poor. The changes in the relationship between the state and the citizen result in policies that reflect in their core a move toward more authoritarianism.


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Strike on Assad and Israel’s side-war

Dr. Makram Rabah

As the world anxiously watched the unfolding of the Western punitive strike against Bashar al-Assad, much speculation has risen about the repercussions of such a move and to what extent this military action would trigger a wider regional conflict involving Israel and Iran.

Shortly after the recent chemical attack on Douma, four Israeli fighter jets used Lebanon’s airspace to launch an attack against the T4 Syrian air force base near Homs, killing 14, including seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG). This somewhat anticipated sortie might have gone unnoticed if US President Donald Trump had not issued statements in which he held both Russia and Iran responsible for the actions of the Assad regime.

The helpless Lebanese state, on its part, through President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, condemned the use of its airspace to attack any Arab state. Yet the most striking element of these developments is the ominous reminder that the real confrontation, which many are dreading, including the Lebanese, is an open conflict that would align Iran and its subsidiaries against Israel.

Coincidentally, the primary reason for both Israeli and the western coalition’s use of Lebanese airspace to launch their strikes is an implicit understanding, not to say synchronization with Russia to avoid any confrontation with its troops stationed across Syria. Yet this same diligence does not apply to the Iranian positions, which do not have the sophisticated Russian air defense, nor the protection of the Russian bases, which is a reality extremely troubling for Iran and its ever-growing militias across the region, and particularly Hezbollah.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel for its attack on the T4 base, claiming that such “a historic mistake and great folly” would bring it into direct confrontation with Iran. Interestingly, Nasrallah deliberately chose to exclude his own outfit, which has been the target of successive attacks by the Israeli air force.

Hezbollah, a quasi-Iranian entity that reports directly to the IRG command, has become a more menacing threat to Israel after it expanded its bases of operation to Southern Syria with reports of it establishing ammunition and missile factories to supply and augment its existing arsenal. In response, Israel has routinely targeted Hezbollah positions, ammunition caches and even cash convoys, in an attempt to curb and ultimately demolish the corridor that Iran and its various Shiite militias have established, stretching from Tehran to the coast of Lebanon.

Grippingly, both Israel and Iran have kept their side war on the low mainly because neither side wishes for this confrontation to escalate nor do they want to cross their mutual ally, Russia. Simply put, Iran prefers to disregard the fact that, without the close Israeli-Russian coordination, the hundreds of Israeli raids would not have been possible or as effective. In the same evening the Western coalition launched its missiles at Assad, Israel seized the opportunity to bomb Iranian militia positions near Aleppo, a raid that, according to Hezbollah, never happened.

This turn of events naturally burdens Lebanon and its failing economy, whose government wagers on a period of stability in order to implement some of the reforms and steps essential to acquire the funds of the recent donor conference in Paris. While Hezbollah has no interest nor intention to see a strong Lebanese state, it nevertheless wants to avoid an economic collapse and to continue to use Lebanon as a cover. Consequently, Hezbollah prefers to restrict its military actions, at least for the moment, to Syria, while Israel has a hit list of Iranian targets in Syria before they turn to their border with Lebanon.

Until and if such a time comes, the Lebanese as well as all parties concerned have to understand that the current US-led strike against Assad came not as a change to Trump’s Syria policy but rather despite the lack of it. While Trump wished to widen this attack to target Iranian and possibly Russian positions, his hawkish-turned-dovish Defense Minister James Mattis warned him of the repercussions of an Iranian reprisal. Therefore, when the Trump administration does decide to step up its engagement in Syria, their overhauled plan will surely aim to contain and neutralize the Iranian threat despite the repercussions.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah will persist on suppressing and denying the Israeli attacks, and just like it denied the occurrence of the Douma chemical attack as well as the many other crimes they were complicit in, it hopes that the West will continue to live on the legacy of Obama and his apathy towards the plight of the Middle East.


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Trump disappointed his supporters!

Abdullah Muradoglu

Everyone agrees on the statement that the airstrikes in Syria are a symbolic intervention. According to the American media, the attack is a display of fireworks. It has been said that Assad is pleased with the results of the attack. His Russian visitors have said that Assad has been in a good mood. There was a fear that clashes between the US and Russia would begin. However, it did not come to pass. Smart missiles passed over the military bases where Russians were.

If we look at the Western media, the attacks carried out by the US and its partners are a “cosmetic” intervention that did not result in any change in the region. The Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who does not want the US to be in a direct war with Iran and Russia, played a role in enabling the intervention to be just a “cosmetic” one. On the other hand, John Bolton, who is Trump’s National Security Advisor, wanted a comprehensive and destructive attack.

Trump criticized Clinton, Bush and Obama for leading the US to stupid wars which had cost the country trillions of Dollars. Therefore, the attacks in Syria disappointed Trump’s conservative supporters after he said, “We will pull out our soldiers from Syria.” While writer Ann Coulter was lining up Trump’s previous messages, Lucian B. Wintrich was asking the question: “After Trump’s first year we have: 1.3 trillion omnibus, no wall, war in Syria. Is Clinton secretly President?”

Trump naming his obvious hawk Bolton as National Security Advisor and his nominating Mike Pompeo, who is the Director of CIA, to the US Department of State is in complete contrast to his portrait in 2016.

Trump applying additional customs tariffs only on China, his preparation for going back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which he withdrew the US, and the increasing tensions in relations with Russia perturbs his supporters. Things have come to people claiming that Trump was taken hostage by the “Deep State.”

It seems that American soldiers will continue to stay in Syria. Nikki Haley, ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, declared on Sunday that US troops will stay for a long time in Syria. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has also notified that he convinced Trump about this issue. By indicating that Trump has not changed his mind about the withdrawal from Syria, the White House did not indicate any date regarding the withdrawal even though it has rejected the explanations of Macron. The senate confirmation process of the CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who was nominated to the US Department of State, started on Thursday. Pompeo was confirmed to the post of CIA Director by a 66 to 32 vote by securing support from 14 Democrats. Now, the situation does not seem so easy. Republican Rand Paul, from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, declared that he would not vote to confirm.

During the query from the senate, Pompeo was confronted with difficult questions regarding many issues such as the regime change in Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, etc. Democrat senators do not consider Pompeo as someone who could suppress Trump’s war impulses. On the other hand, Pompeo tried to give the impression that he would choose diplomacy over war.  If the senate does not confirm it, the senate majority leader Mitch McConnel can directly bring the nomination to the General Assembly. It has been expected that the process will end toward the end of the month. In any case, Pompeo will be the Secretary of State.In the following days, it can be foreseen that former FBI Director James Comey’s book will make its mark in Washington.

It has been also expected that the criminal proceedings against Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen will ramify. According to some speculations, Trump’s legal advisers think that the “Cohen Investigation” poses a bigger threat than the “Russia Investigation” to Trump.

The course of the “Iran Nuclear Deal” will become clear on May 12. It is expected that Trump and the Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will meet in May. It has been known that Bolton and Pompeo are eyeing Iran and North Korea like hawks. Therefore, it has been claimed that the Iran Nuclear Deal will be ripped up and that the meeting with Kim Jong-Un will fail.


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Afghanistan’s Durand Line Dilemmas

Iqbal Khan

Durand Line presents an interesting study in border demarcation. It is one of the most controversial issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Issue is one of the factors of the continuation of insecurity in Afghanistan. Only Afghan government and a hawkish element of Afghan society thinks that it is not a recognized border. Afghan nationalists still see Peshawar, Afghanistan’s old winter capital, as having been stolen from them by the Sikhs in 1834. And in some of their privately published maps, Pakistani territories begins from borders of Punjab.

However, there is no shortage of saner voices in Afghanistan. Javed Kohistani, Chairman of the Afghanistan Freedom and Democracy Movement, has recently opined that: “This truth is certain that Durand is a well-known and accepted border, the Afghan rulers have only oppressed their own people for decades without respecting their sovereignty and neighboring”. Abdul Latif Pedram, a member of the House of Representatives and leader of the National Congress Party, said last year that Durand was an official border line, and “the Afghan government has [practically] recognized this line. Afghanistan prefers to call this international border as Durand Line after Sir Mortimer Durand who signed the Durand Line Agreement with Amir Abdur Rahman of Afghanistan on November 12, 1893.

Ever since, all Afghan governments recognized it as international border till August 13,1947, later all successive Afghan governments preferred to renege.

Durand Line Agreement is a single page small text comprising seven articles. It was an exchange of territories and border management agreement. “The British Government thus agrees to His Highness the Amir retaining Asmar and the valley above it, as far as Chanak. His Highness agrees, on the other hand, that he will at no time exercise interference in Swat, Bajaur, or Chitral, including the Arnawai or Bashgal valley. The British Government also agrees to leave to His Highness the Birmal tract…, who[Amir] relinquishes his claim to the rest of the Waziri country and Dawar. His Highness also relinquishes his claim to Chageh” (article 3). “The Government of India will at no time exercise interference in the territories lying beyond this line on the side of Afghanistan, and His Highness the Amir will at no time exercise interference in the territories lying beyond this line on the side of India” (article2).

Sensing the departure of the British empire and creation of Pakistan, Afghan foreign minister wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister, Jawahar Laal Nehru in 1946, acknowledging the validity of Durand Line Agreement with India, and quoting historic reasons for raising doubt about future validity and continuation of the Durand Line with the upcoming new state-Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister snubbed the Afghan government by stating that if one was to go by historic perspective then “once Hindu Kush range marked the Afghan border with India”.

Two historic factors, albeit distorted, that Afghan governments frequently like to refer to are: signing of Durand Line Agreement under Duress; and a 100 years’ time bar on this agreement. The contention that Amir signed Durand Line Agreement under coercion, is refuted by a huge piece of evidence to the contrary. And about 100 years’ time limit, no expert has been able to find any authentic reference to support the notion.

Amir Abdur Rehman was generally satisfied with the Agreement. While signing the Agreement, the Amir held a ‘durbar’ where his two elder sons, high-ranking civil and military officers, and four hundred leading chiefs were present. Writing about this occasion, Sir Mortimer states, ‘He (Amir) urged his people to be true friends to us and to make their children the same. After each period of his speech, there were shouts of ‘Approved! Approved” from amongst those present.

This account has been corroborated by the Amir “I gave an outline of all the understanding which had been agreed upon and the provisions which had been signed for the information of my nation and my people and all those who were present. I praised God for bringing about friendly relations which now existed between the two Governments and putting them on a closer footing than they had been before.”  Such accounts amply indicate that the document was not forced upon the Afghan side.

Another issue is about the “easement rights” granted to the tribes living close to the border and affected by some of the restrictions placed on their movement across the Pak-Afghan border. There is no specific mention of these “easement rights” in Durand Line Agreement, but traditionally the people divided by the Durand Line close to the border have enjoyed free movement across the Pak-Afghan by simply producing a ‘rahdari’ (permit) issued to them for identification purposes .These easement rights are limited to only Shinwari and Waziri tribes, these are quite limited in scope and extent, they can travel up to 20 kilometres in Pakistan for attending social functions, such as deaths, weddings, etc, of relatives . The problem starts when Afghans living as far as in Marzar-e- Sharif in the north and Karachi in the south claim right to free passage under easement rights.

Pakistan’s interest with regard to the border is firm-to maintain the status quo.  Afghanistan’s intentions are unclear and lack uniformity.  Afghanistan hardly controls any of its borders. It is mostly the other sides which feel compelled to manage it. And for the people who live along the Durand Line, it, has never constituted an international border.

They act as if it does not exist; they are pleased to see the border issue remain unresolved because it makes it easier for them to reject state authority of all types and benefit from illicit trade, and trafficking and peddling.

Writer is a freelance columnist; e-mail:

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Western strikes on Syria are nothing more than theatrics

Tallha Abdulrazaq

Striking the Syrian regime for the chemical attack in Douma has come too little, too late, and is not likely to deter the Assad regime or Russia. Worse still, a Trump-Bolton White House inspires little confidence in any large scale US intervention.

In the early hours of this morning, the United States, United Kingdom and France launched air and missile strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The tripartite attack targeted one site in Damascus and two near Homs, and was in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack in Douma last week that killed dozens of civilians, including many children.

Unfortunately, however, the reality is that these attacks do not go anywhere near far enough to deter the senseless killing of Syrian civilians, which leads to the accusation that this attack has nothing to do with protecting Syrian lives and everything to do with political grandstanding.

Trump saves face while not confronting Putin

To be clear, there is absolutely no reason why punitive action against the regime of Bashar al Assad could not have been taken much sooner. After all, whenever the US or its allies want to strike the so-called Islamic State (Daesh), or ISIS, terrorist targets, they are able to do so at extremely short notice.

The US-led coalition already has significant military assets in the region, and could have conducted a strike against the targets they hit this morning within 24 hours of the Douma chemical weapons massacre.

Instead, they decided to wait for an entire week, including setting the stage with several diplomatic attempts to set up an independent investigation into the attack at the United Nations that were doomed to fail, while US President Donald Trump unleashed a series of tweets threatening military action while simultaneously reaching out to Russia.

The media reached fever pitch in anticipation, with analysts and pundits weighing in on Twitter and Facebook, some pushing for intervention while others urged a more cautious approach.

All that anticipation was pretty much for nought, though, as the sites that were attacked were evacuated after Moscow used the time and the target list Washington provided to tip Assad regime officials off.

A regime official told Reuters “we have absorbed the strike” while the official Twitter account of the Syrian presidency released footage of Assad swanning into work for a prompt 9AM start – just another day in the office for a mass murderer who is clearly undeterred and will continue killing his people.

The build-up to this minor intervention and the attack itself has all the hallmarks of a political stunt. At home, Trump faces serious questions about the extent he and members of his administration colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 US elections.

After such harsh rhetoric towards Russia as well as these strikes, Trump can now argue that he simply could not have colluded with Moscow only to bomb its interests in Syria.

Meanwhile, his British ally, Prime Minister Theresa May, has been captaining a sinking ship since the Brexit vote, and is keen to appear strong and decisive, especially since the suspected Russian nerve agent attack on defector Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last month. Indeed, her speech explaining British involvement in the strikes on Syria this morning makes a pointed reference to that episode.

Interventionism vs the agency of the Syrian people

Of course, it is highly understandable why many would be pushing for a western intervention in Syria.

After all, Assad has overseen leadership of one of the bloodiest, most brutal and traumatising civil wars in recent memory, leaving more than half a million dead and millions more displaced and scattered around the world.

His complete disregard for human life is on a par with Daesh terrorists, and his Iranian and Russian backers are no different.

However, we need to take a look at the people who we are asking to intervene and topple the regime.

Trump is already well-known for his bigoted, anti-Muslim views. His new national security adviser, John Bolton, is the kind of man who still touts the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq as a success story.

If Bolton thinks Iraq – which is now dominated and controlled by his supposed enemy, Iran – is a success story, do we really want that kind of model replicated in Syria? I, for one, don’t think so.

Any solution and intervention that does not take into account the Syrian revolutionaries who started this drive to topple the Baathist dictatorship in 2011 will clearly not be an intervention made in the interests of the Syrian people.

After all, can it really be said that Trump, or even Obama before him, genuinely care about the fate of the Syrians under Assad? Of course not, otherwise they would have taken concerted steps to ground the regime’s air force, provide air defences to liberated cities (many of which have now been reconquered by Assad), and not allowed the revolution to get derailed by the Daesh threat.

As depraved and as savage as Daesh is, they are not deadlier or more dangerous than Assad and the legions of Shia militias who fight at Iran’s behest.

As it stands, this latest military strike will do nothing and was entirely futile as far as the Syrian people were concerned.

The difference between gassing hundreds to death or blowing them to smithereens through the use of barrel bombs, cluster munitions and other munitions is minimal, as the end result is the same – a never-ending river of innocent Syrian blood.


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US, Russia UNSC vetoes costing civilian lives

Mustafa Deveci

The US and Russia, two of the five permanent members of UN Security Council (UN-SC), frequently veto draft resolutions designed to allay humanitarian crises, leading to civilian deaths in Palestine and Syria. While the US provides Israel with diplomatic cover by using its veto power, Russia reserves this power for Syria.

Meanwhile, civilians — in both Palestine and Syria — end up paying the price.  The US proposed a draft resolution calling for an independent probe into the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district that left 78 civilians dead. The resolution, however, was vetoed by Russia at the UNSC.

On Apr. 7, the US — for the second time — vetoed a draft resolution calling for an investigation into excessive force used by Israel that has recently left dozens of Palestinians dead.  To date, the US has vetoed at least 40 draft resolutions critical of Israel. Th-irty of these sought to warn or condemn Israel for its oc-cupation of Palestinian land.

Since 2011, when the civil war erupted in Syria, Russia has vetoed 12 draft resolutions critical of Syria’s Assad regime.  On Jan. 23, 1976, the US — for the first time — vetoed a UNSC draft resolution on the Palestinian issue. That draft had called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, for Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries to return to their homes, and for compensation to be paid to those who couldn’t return.

It also called on Israel to withdraw from territory it occupied in 1967.  At around the same time, the US vetoed a draft resolution on Jerusalem that had called on Israel to refrain fr-om altering the city’s religious and demographic character. US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Isr-ael’s capital was also mentioned in a draft resolution in January, but that, too, was also vetoed by Washington. Russia, for its part, has used its veto power to prevent sanctions from being placed on the Syrian regime, which is said to have used chemical weapons against its own people.

The first time Russia used its veto power this way was on Oct. 4, 2011, when both Moscow and Beijing vetoed a draft resolution calling for sanctions against the Assad regime.  In May 2014, France proposed a draft resolution demanding that Assad reg-ime officials be tried in the International Court of Hum-an Rights for alleged war crimes.  But this draft resolution, too, was vetoed by both Russia and China.  And on Tuesday, Russia vetoed a draft resolution that would have established a committee tasked with determining who was responsible for the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Civilians pay price: Washington’s and Russia’s protection of Israel and Assad respectively has only aggravated the crises in both countries. Encouraged by the US vetoes, Israel has maintained its oppressive policies by which some 5.3 million Palestinians continue to live as refugees.

According to Palestinian figures, more than 3,000 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli troops since the start of 2000.  Since Gaza’s “Great Return” rallies kicked off on Mar. 30, at least 35 Palestinians have been killed by cross-border Israeli gunfire, while 3,000 others have been injured. Blockaded by Israel since 2007, the Gaza Strip’s roughly two million inhabitants continue to live in what observers describe as “the world’s largest outdoor prison”.   Conditions in Syria are even worse, with half of the population having been reduced to refugees amid ongoing violence by the regime and the Daesh and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.


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Corruption, deception, pretention and mockery in name of serving people!

Syed Ulfat Ahmed

Years back, legendary scientist Stephen Hawking said, “Gone are the days we could stand on our own, against the world. We need to be part of a larger group of nations, both for our security and trade.” But, if we look into today’s global scenario, we actually will find some rulers and regimes, who are trying to trash the perception of globalisation either because, they consider am ‘open door’ policy as a potential opponent to their country’s economic interests or a threat to their whimsical or authoritarian rule. In the developing nations like Bangladesh, for example, democracy are being gradually held hostage into the grips of corruption plagued autocracy.
German thinktank, Bertelsmann Stiftung on March 23, 2018 in a research study has already listed Bangladesh amongst the autocratic regimes. Because of severe interference of the autocratic rulers, various institutions including the judiciary had already turned into mere puppets. Good governance and rule of law has already been sent under life support. Back in 2015, when UK Labour Party’s MPP Tulip [Rizwana] Siddiq, daughter of Shafiq Siddique and Sheikh Rehana couple won the election, her aunt Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, proudly told country’s parliament as to how her niece had won the election defeating her Westerner’ contestants.
The Prime Minister also told the parliament that her younger sister Sheikh Rehana [Tulip’s mother] is a British national and lives in UK under financial hardships. She further said, Sheikh Rehana goes at work in bus as she can’t afford buying a personal vehicle.
But the fact is quite different! Sheikh Rehana lives in Hampstead, which is a posh area housing affluent people!
Following her victory, Tulip Siddiq was invited to Bangladesh and were accorded several receptions. One of such receptions titled – Let’s Speak to Tulip Siddiq, MP, was organised at the Radisson Hotel in Dhaka and was sponsored by a fraudulent company namedProchchaya Limited!
In all of these receptions, Tulip Siddiq MP said, her aunt [Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] is her icon and she wanted Tulip to join politics in Bangladesh.
Controversies centering the UK Labour Party MP:
According to media reports, Tulip Siddiq mediated a very controversial billion-dollar arms deal between Bangladesh and Russia [in 2013]. She also played keyrole behind the ongoing Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh, under Russian assistance. Tulip didn’t offer this service for free! In addition to the monthly ‘honorarium’ she has been receiving from her aunt, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since January 2009, Tulip’s mother Sheikh Rehana and several members of the ruling family dynasty in Bangladesh got 3 percent ‘kick-back’ from the Russians and the entire amount has been secretly deposited in several offshore bank accounts.
Dhaka:s largest Bangla daily the Prothom Aloin a report dated April 12, 2015, titled: ‘Tulip accused of concealing Putin link’, wrote: “A British newspaper has published a story alleging that Bangladeshi-origin La-bour candidate Tulip Siddiq concealed information of her meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the most controversial figures in Europe today.
Mail Online reported that Tulip Siddiq was accused of “failing to tell voters that she met Vladimir Putin in Moscow two years ago [in 2013] when a controversial billion-dollar arms deal was signed” [between Bangladesh and Russia]. The report said the Tories accused Ms Siddiq of trying to conceal her extraordinary links to Putin and Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Miinister of Bangladesh.”
Tulip Siddiq, a former aide to Ed Miliband, and who is a Labour Party MP in Hampstead and Kilbern, was at the Kremlin with her aunt, the autocratic leader of Bangladesh who is accused of human rights abuses.
British newspaper Daily Mail also referred to a photograph that shows a smiling Ms Tulip Siddiq alongside Vladimir Putin and Sheikh Hasina, and Ms Siddiq’s mother Sheikh Rehana.
See the video on YouTube: Tulip Siddiq, Russian arms deal and Bangladesh dynasty politics. The report attributed to the Torries as claiming that she appears to have gone to great lengths to cover up her trip in January 2013 – just six months before she won a hotly-contested Labour sele-ction contest in Hampstead – and her links with Hasina.
The report added that the Tories also said she had deleted postings and photographs on her blog which showed how she campai-gned to get her aunt [Sheikh Hasina] re-elected [in a controversial voter-less election held on January 5, 2014. According to the report, the Torries “questioned why her 1,200-word official Lab-our profile made no mention of Putin, the arms deal or being a member of a ruling Bangladeshi dynasty”. British Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq met Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 15, 2013 with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Ms. Tulip also is an advisor to the Bangladeshi PM.
British MP Tulip’s Kremlin Connection: According to media reports, Tulip Siddiq mediated a very controversial billion-dollar arms deal between Bangladesh and Russia. She also played keyrole behind the ongoing Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh, under Russian assistance. Tulip didn’t offer this service for free! I. addition to the monthly ‘honorarium’ she hass been receiving from her aunt, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since January 2009, Tulip’s mother Sheikh Rehana and several members of the ruling family dynasty in Bangladesh got 3 percent ‘kick-back’ from the Russians and the entire amount has been secretly deposited in several offshore bank accounts.
Corruption allegations against the family members of Tulip Siddiq: Tulip’s paternal uncle Tarique Ahmed Siddique is the Security Advisor to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister. His wife and daughter are stakeholders in a company named Prochchaya Limited (Incorporatiom Certificate Number C-75659/09, dated March 25, 2009.
This company, in affiliation with a ponzy fund cheat fund company named Destiny Group had smuggled out around US$ 900 millions to different countries, including the United Kingdom and has opened a company named Zumana Investment & Properties Limited [Incorporation Certificate Number 7417417, dated October 25, 2010] in the United Kingdom by investigating dirty money! It is claimed by various newspapers in the UK and the world that Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq has been maintaining discreet connections with Moscow ever since she met President Putin. Even some of those recently expelled Russian diplomats were visiting the house of Tulip’s mother.
When the politics of mockery would end?
We, the people, who vote our leaders into power do always expect them to be truthful, honest and dedicated. But, we mostly are betrayed by these leaders. This episode of deception, mockery and falsehood seems to be unending. Unless our leaders do not correct themselves, democracy will suffer while the country is not safe in their hands. Syed Ulfat Ahmed is a freelance columnist writing on diversified issues.