Category Archives: Turkey

Turkey Forces Turkish Jewish and Christian Churches to Sign Declaration

The Turkish government has forced the leaders of 18 Jewish and Christian churches to sign a declaration attesting to enjoying religious freedom. Among the signatories are Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, Armenian Bishop Aram Ateşyan and Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva. This statement was published by the Anadolu National Agency and then quoted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to assure he is not persecuting Christians. This strange case comes against the backdrop of Turkey's request for (...)

Trump’s Grand Strategy from Quebec to Singapore

Trump takes on the world

How to explain the welter of contradictions in US politics these days?

  • Trump’s enthusiasm for peace with Russia vs his acceptance of Cold War II with Russia, launched even as Trump declared victory in 2016.
  • Trump’s virtually declaration of war against the mouse, Canada, next door, with his cutting insult to Justin Trudeau as weak and dishonest, as he left the summit early and refused to endorse its free trade plea.
  • Trump’s original enthusiasm for pulling out of Syria and elsewhere, pursuing an old fashion Republican isolationism, vs his sudden flurry of bombings in Syria recently and the threat of invasion of others (Iran, North Korea, Venezuela).
  • Trump’s dumping of the carefully crafted nuclear agreement with Iran, renewing sanctions and threats in the face of world opposition, both domestic and foreign (ok, the Zionists are happy, but no one else).
  • Trump’s unsolicited ‘deal of the century’ with Israel-Palestine.

The Russians are coming

There are behind-the-scenes forces at work with Russia at the centre. Obama’s and the western media’s human rights spat with Russia over Ukraine and Crimea are not important to the long term strategy of the neocons. Trump and his deep state backers understand this. Kissinger admitted it in June. They want Russia back in a new G-8, as Trump so loudly proclaimed at the G-7 in Quebec in June. But a Russia on the defensive is also in their interests, the better to make Russia bow more respectfully to US world hegemony in any grand compromise. Good cop, bad cop.

Trudeau was comforted by his Euro colleagues when called a liar by the bully, but Trump has no time for wimps,* pious words attacking Russia or promoting gender equality and the environment. The ‘grand strategy’ of the Pentagon and neocons is about world control. “His message from Quebec to Singapore is that he is going to meld the industrial democracies to his will — and bring back Russia,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign and White House adviser. Bannon said China is “now on notice that Trump will not back down from even allies’ complaints in his goal of America First.” What Europeans deride now as “G-6 plus one” would become again the G-8. Russia will dump Iran and China, and be a nice US puppet.

There is a reason that neoconservatives are said to be the heirs of Trotsky: Trotsky wanted to export revolution to all countries, whether they were ready for it or not (with the subsequent goal of destroying national boundaries and traditional cultures); Trump’s neoconservatives want to spread neocon ideology to all countries (e.g., globalism, the dominance of western corporations and markets, ‘democracy’, relativising traditional society). The dialectic has come full-circle.

In a weird sort of way, the (Christian) US is the anti-Christ to the (atheist) Soviet Christ. Both are/were radical universalists. Putin understands this and is neither a communist nor is he likely to take the neocon bait, as did Gorbachev-Yeltsin. Neither is Kim Jong-un.

The Palestinians are coming

Trump enthusiast Leon Haider praises Trump’s rejection of a “make-believe ‘peace process’”, replacing it with his “deal of the century”, that counts on moderate Arabs convincing the Palestinians to “take the route towards coexistence” with Israel that will “eventually lead to a peace deal, the deal of the century.” Bully the Palestinians into a deal that they can’t refuse. Trump somehow thinks this bullying will succeed where all of his predecessors have failed.

But the so-called moderate Arabs are anything but.

  • Saudi Arabia is a feudal fiefdom, the source and inspiration of al-qaeda/ISIS through Wahhabism and petrodollars, provided discretely both officially and unofficially (by dissident princes). Its list of human rights violations grows daily, presently torturing its old rival Yemen for no apparent reason.
  • Egypt is being run into the ground by a vicious dictator-general.
  • Turkey, the most important actor, is ignored and isolated over the Kurdish problem.
  • Jordan is in upheaval protesting IMF-backed price increases and a new tax reform law.

These countries are hardly poster children for the advantage of being a friend to the US and Israel. The other Arab country, Syria, just barely survived the US-backed insurgency and is back in the anti-imperialist fold (i.e., pro-Iran/ Russia) after 7 brutal years when it was betrayed by ‘moderate Arabs’ (not to mention Turkey). It is my choice as a ‘moderate Arab’, but will continue to oppose the US ‘grand stategy’ for the region, along with a chastened Turkey.

Where is the grand strategy here? Bin Salman personally delivered Trump’s secret ‘deal of the century’ to Abbas, who refused to even open the envelope. For Trump’s ‘moderate Arabs’, read: Shia-hating Sunnis, led by King Bin Salman. Their hatred is mostly sour grapes for Iran’s proud defiance of US dictates. Arabs were traditionally the freest of peoples, the heirs of the Prophet, who was no friend of Rome. Those Sunnis would dump the US in a flash if they didn’t need Bin Salman’s billion-dollar bribes, and if there was another patron to feed them. Do they help the US achieve world control, the underlying strategy?

Only Israel is more or less happy. It is their ‘grand strategy’ for the Palestinians that is closer. Its goal appears to be to annex the occupied territories unilaterally, set up a Quisling Palestinian Authority to police what’s left of the West Bank, under Israeli control. A variation would be to force Palestinians and Jordan to make the occupied territories Jordanian (but policed by Israel) and make all Palestinians ‘Jordanians’, after first taking most of the desirable bits for Israel. If the Israeli Arabs cause too much fuss, they too can go to their new ‘homeland’ (Jordan West Bank), along with Gazans, once Gaza is declared uninhabitable. Postmodern ethnic cleansing. Not so many deaths, wipe out the refugee problem at a stroke, dispense with the pesky ‘return’ problem.

That would leave Iran or Iran/Syria as the target of Israel’s next and final war, not the Palestinians — and the Sunni Arab world will watch from the sidelines, and would not be unhappy to see Iran destroyed. That would allow Israel to proceed with its ‘final solution’ for the Palestinians, once Iran is out of the picture, even as these ‘moderate Arabs’ squawk (or are overthrown).

The Iranians are (not) coming

Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore looks and tastes like Nixon in China, but was it a fraud, the icing laced with artificial sweetener or maybe arsenic? Surely Kim realizes that he must hold out for the closure of US bases in South Korea, as only that could possibly guarantee denuclearization of the peninsula. And why no mention of Iran in all the hype, let alone a stopover in Tehran, if denuclearization is the real issue?

It appears that by allowing the interventions in Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. (R2P responsibility to protect), the so-called international community did only one thing, it created more possibilities for new interventions, interventions that promote western control; i.e., imperialism. Russia will have no truck with this, as it is not interested in promoting western imperialism. Libya was the last straw, and instead, Russia moved on its own to help stabilize Syria without these dubious ‘protectors’. The disasters these interventions have resulted in means it is unlikely they can be repeated, despite Pence’s warning to Kim that he might end up “like Libya”. Probably Iran is safe, given Russia.

A real strategy would involve making peace with Iran, not war. War is the way imperialism deals with problems, and is what US ‘allies’ Saudi Arabia and Israel want for their own reasons, which have nothing to do with peace or US security. Both the Saudis and Israel benefit(ed) from terrorism directed at US targets and celebrate them. (To the Saudis, the Americans are kufar and deserve to die. Remember Netanyahu’s comment on 9/11 “It’s very good”?). [Update: Trump pulled yet another fast one on July 31, 2018, offering to meet Rohani, but the jury is still out.]

Peace with Iran would knock some sense into both the Saudis and Israel, and would curb the lust for war. The Saudis would fume, maybe instigate some terrorism themselves, but they are so tightly knit in the US orbit, this could be managed. Israel has its Jerusalem but nowhere to turn to. Israel’s life blood — Jewish Americans — are increasingly hostile to Israel, given its murderous policy of expansion.

The fallout from such a truly ‘grand strategy’ would benefit both the US and the world, as the US and Russia revive their ‘grand compromises’ of the past (WWII, 1960s–70s detente). A ‘grand compromise’ for Turkey’s, Iraq’s and Iran’s Kurds could finally be addressed. Devastated Syria and Iraq would not be distracted by US-Iranian hostility and would rebound quickly. Iran’s only pretension internationally is to help the Palestinians, though the US did leave a vacuum in Iraq with the destruction of that state, and Iran is now playing its logical role as supporter of Shia next door and as a good neighbour.

“Don’t hold your breath,” writes Stephen Walsh in Foreign Policy. Making peace with Iran would require Trump (and Congress) to ignore the lobbying and propaganda emanating from the Israeli and Saudi lobbies. But after the recent Israel massacre of Gazans, and given the ordinary American’s distaste for the Saudis and their massacre of Yemenis, there is no better time.

Congress is not lying down. The sole Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, put together a nonpartisan amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act to specifically prevent the president from launching war against Iran without congressional authorization. Even if the Ellison amendment survives the Senate, Trump could ‘pull a Trump’ and violate it. He could target Iranian individuals as “suspected terrorists” on his global battlefield and/or attack them in Iran with military force under his new targeted killing rules. It does not prohibit the expenditure of money to attack Iran. Nor does it proscribe the use of sanctions against Iran. But it shows that Trump does not have a blank check for his ‘grand strategies’.

Jewish Americans hold the key

Nor are the ‘good’ Jews in the US, energized by Israeli atrocities, silent anymore. A groundswell of Jewish protests is making room for the rest of Americans to brave the Zionist thought police.

It is complicated piecing Trump’s grand strategy together, partly because he is a loose cannon, with his own self-aggrandizing agenda, and partly because of the chaotic conditions and opposing forces elsewhere. He is gambling on using good-cop/ bad-cop with Russia, plain old bad-cop with Iran and North Korea, to achieve his ends. Gunboat diplomacy.

The US (and more so Trump’s) unreliability as a representative of US policy, willing to tear up treaties, makes it unlikely that Trump’s fish will bite. Israel’s strategy is also unlikely to prevail. Young US Jews** are already getting arrested protesting Israeli actions, much like they did in the 1950s–60s when they virtually led in the civil rights movement for blacks, and again in the 1980s, when they backed the anti-apartheid struggle. Then, their Jewishness was downplayed, but in this last war, they hold the trump card to successfully fight Israel, and must speak out for peace.

As for Russia and Iran, Trump finally got some cajones and defied his backstabbers, not only meeting Putin, but out of the blue declaring he will meet Iran’s President Rohani, “no pre-conditions”. This is now a ritual for him facing off against his ‘enemies’: threaten to invade (Kim the Rocketman, NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE) and then coolly agree to negotiate.
As for drama and idiocy, ‘Who could ask for anything more?’ ***

*Trudeau is indeed weak and dishonest, as Trump’s advisers told him after perusing his many broken promises as prime minister

** IfNotNow is the latest, composed of Jewish teens.

*** Thank you, Gershwin.

Israel Wreaks Terror on Another Harmless Mercy Ship

How revealing! How ironic!

It is Jeremy Corbyn’s misfortune to be surrounded by witless blabbermouths whose unbridled remarks are a gift to Israel lobby propagandists. And while mainstream media in the UK were, as usual, whipping up an anti-Semitism ruckus orchestrated against the Labour Party leader, Israel was busy committing yet another outrage on the high seas against a humanitarian aid vessel peacefully carrying urgently-needed medical supplies for the desperate citizens of blockaded Gaza.

SOSjustfuture4Palestine issued a statement saying:

The Israeli Occupation Forces violently attacked our Norwegian flagged boat Al Awda (‘The Return’) as she was in international waters…. Armed, masked soldiers boarded Al Awda without permission. They assaulted several unarmed participants by hitting them and using tasers.

Reuters (Oslo) reported that the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry demanded the Israeli authorities clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Zaher Birawi, has said he’s holding Israel fully responsible for the safety of the activists, and stressed that Israel will be prosecuted for the “crime of kidnapping” the Freedom Flotilla ship and its activists, who did not impose a threat to Israel’s security.

British media and Government are deaf, blind and dumb to the enormity of the situation despite the fact that aboard the Al Awda were unarmed activists from 16 nations including 69 year-old British surgeon Dr Swee Ang who has helped medical teams in Gaza on many occasions. And it’s the duty of governments to protect their citizens wherever they may be, especially when they are attacked in international waters.

Early reports said there was blood on the decks and Dr Swee was hit and tasered by Israel’s military thugs. She is now back in the UK after 2 days in Girvon prison but many others are still locked up. Dr Swee has just sent this message:

I was deported from Israeli prison this morning and arrived back at London.

The Israeli Army have stolen my two mobile phones, my camera and most of my clothes and belonging so it is not possible to communicate by phone until I get a new one. But email is still working and I have just arrived home. I have made an audio of the events of 29 July onwards and how our unarmed boat with US$ 15,000 of gauze, wound dressings and antibiotics was abducted from International Waters while on our way to Gaza and taken by force to Ashdod in Israel by the Israeli Army where all 22 participants were subjected to multiple strip searches and then put in Givon prison. There are still participants in prison as I send this to you.

Meanwhile the British Government doesn’t seem in the least bothered by Israel’s breach of  the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Of course, both Israel and the UK have ‘form’ and we’ve been here many times before. Nine years ago (July 2009) I found myself writing this:

Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband – or rather, someone on his behalf – has written to me about the government’s response to Israel’s hijacking of the mercy ship Spirit of Humanity on the high seas and the outrageous treatment of six peace-loving British citizens (including the skipper), en route to Gaza not Israel, who had their gear stolen or damaged and were thrown into Israeli jails. The letter contains the usual meaningless expressions like ‘deplore’ and ‘press’ and ‘raise the issue’, which are the familiar hallmark of Foreign Office mentality.

Miliband’s spokesman says: “The Israeli Navy took control of the Spirit of Humanity on 30 June, diverting it to Ashdod port in Israel. All those on board, including six British nationals, were handed over to Israeli immigration officials. British consular officials had good access to the British detainees and established that they were treated well. The Israeli authorities deported the detainees on 6 July.”

Treated well? That’s not what the peaceful seafarers say. They were assaulted, put in fear of their lives and deprived of their liberty for fully a week – a long time in a stinking Israeli jail.

Miliband’s spokesman: “The Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons on 30 June that it was ‘vital that all states respect international law, including the law of the sea. It is also important to say that we deplore the interference by the Israeli navy in the activities of Gazan fishermen.”

Such fine words. Where is the action to back them up?

Miliband’s spokesman: “When the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on 1 July he raised the issue with him and asked for clarification about whether or not the Spirit of Humanity had been intercepted in international waters. We will continue to press the Israeli authorities for clarification.”

It’s well over a week and Lieberman hasn’t clarified anything. Was the Israeli ambassador in London summoned and given a dressing down? Has London demanded compensation for the Britishers’ losses and damage? Has the boat and its cargo been returned? Have arrangements been made for the aid to be delivered? Our Zionist-leaning government apparently takes pleasure in Britain’s repeated humiliation. Not long ago the British consul-general in Tel Aviv (a woman) was strip-searched by Israeli security perverts.

Miliband’s spokesman: “We regularly remind the Israeli government of its obligations under international law on a variety of issues, including with respect to humanitarian access to Gaza as well as Israel’s control of Gazan waters and the effect this has on Gaza’s fishing industry.”

Ever get the feeling they’ve switched off their collective hearing aid? What is the point of obligations if they never have to be met?

Miliband’s spokesman: “As I said on the phone, our Travel Advice makes clear that we advise against all travel to Gaza, including its offshore waters; that it is reckless to travel to Gaza at this time…. The UK has been unequivocal in its calls for Israel to lessen restrictions at the Gaza crossings, allowing the legitimate flow of humanitarian aid, trade and reconstruction goods and the movement of people. This is essential not only for the people of Gaza, but also for the wider stability of the region.”

“Unequivocal”? “Essential”? More splendid but empty words. The needs of the crushed and devastated and half-starved people of Gaza have been urgent for 3 years, ever since Britain ganged up with the Zionist axis to bring Gaza to its knees.

Miliband’s spokesman: “Recent events in Gaza are a tragic reminder of the importance of progress on the peace process.”

No kidding……. They are also a tragic reminder of the West’s perverse failure in its duty to enforce compliance with international law, human rights and UN resolutions.

Miliband’s spokesman: “The UK, with the support of our international allies, will continue to pursue vigorously a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution, involving a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.”

But never vigorously enough. The world is still waiting….

That was 9 years ago. Why does London perpetuate the blockade of Gaza by colluding in Israel’s unlawful conduct? Where are the consequences and penalties for breaching international law and all codes of human decency?

Part of the problem is the Interim Agreement signed in 1995 that allowed the Israelis to weave a tangled web of security zoning in Gaza’s coastal waters leaving Israel in charge and dictating what happens off-shore and who comes and goes. It’s the sort of agreement no Palestinian would have signed unless under extreme duress.

Being ‘interim’ these restrictions were not expected to last beyond 1999. But they were still in force in 2009 and they are still in force in 2018. Why?

Gaza blockade illegal, illegal, illegal

Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law…  the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.

That was the conclusion of the UN’s Palmer inquiry under its then Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

It is completely at odds with what other experts have said. The UN itself had already accepted that Israel’s blockade is illegal. One of its own fact-finding missions declared that it constituted collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus was illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The action by Israel’s military in intercepting the aid ship Mavi Marmara on the high seas in 2010, an assault in which 10 crew and activists were killed, was “clearly unlawful” and couldn’t be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defence].

No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights also concluded that the Israeli blockade is illegal.

Due both to the legal nature of Israel’s relationship to Gaza – that of occupier – and the impact of the blockade on the civilian population, amounting to ‘collective punishment’, the blockade cannot be reconciled with the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law… The flotilla did not seek to travel to Israel, let alone ‘attack’ Israel… Israel could have diplomatically engaged Turkey, arranged for a third party to verify there were no weapons onboard and then peacefully guided the vessel to Gaza.

Craig Murray also knows a thing or two about such matters, having headed the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was responsible for giving political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, to enforce the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments. He commented:

Right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas… Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.

But, he explains, San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict.

Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict… San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.

Furthermore, Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) emphasizes “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”. Israel has imposed a land blockade for decades and still has a hand in keeping Gaza’s land crossing with Egypt closed. The 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is also ignored. So the only sensible channel for “unimpeded provision and distribution” is by sea.

The Palmer inquiry was about as warped as it could get. The Terms of Reference said it was “required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States…. The information for the Panel’s work came primarily through its interactions with the Points of Contact designated by Israel and Turkey.”

The 4-man panel included a representative each from the governments of Turkey and Israel, and was headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer (Chair) and Alvaro Uribe, 58th president of Colombia. Palmer was the 33rd prime minister of New Zealand if that’s any consolation. Note the absence of anyone to represent the views of the party targeted by the blockade. Ban Ki-Moon didn’t think it necessary to invite someone from (horror of horrors) the government of Gaza.

Consequently the inquiry’s findings included this gem:

It would be illegal if its imposition [i.e. the blockade] was intended to starve or to collectively punish the civilian population. However, there is no material before the Panel that would permit a finding confirming the allegations that Israel had either of those intentions or that the naval blockade was imposed in retaliation for the take-over of Hamas in Gaza or otherwise. On the contrary, it is evident that Israel had a military objective. The stated primary objective of the naval blockade was for security. It was to prevent weapons, ammunition, military supplies and people from entering Gaza and to stop Hamas operatives sailing away from Gaza with vessels filled with explosives… The earliest maritime interception operations to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza predated the 2007 take-over of Hamas in Gaza. The actual naval blockade was imposed more than one year after that event. These factors alone indicate it was not imposed to punish its citizens for the election of Hamas.

Palmer’s report oozes bias and makes sickening reading. For example, it refers to “the takeover of Gaza” by Hamas when Hamas, as everyone else knows, was democratically elected in 2006. And Israeli gunboats were already shelling Gaza and shooting up Gazan fishing boats when I was there in 2007.

Then this warning from Palmer…

Once a blockade has been lawfully established, it needs to be understood that the blockading power can attack any vessel breaching the blockade if after prior warning the vessel intentionally and clearly refuses to stop or intentionally and clearly resists visit, search or capture. There is no right within those rules to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest. Breaching a blockade is therefore a serious step involving the risk of death or injury.

Given that risk, it is in the interests of the international community to actively discourage attempts to breach a lawfully imposed blockade.

So a green light to the rogue state to violently assault any humanitarian vessel approaching Gaza’s waters. What does this whitewash mean for the Palestinians’ bid for statehood? Must the newly fledged state begin its young life with a land and sea blockade in place because Palmer and Uribe say it’s all legal and above-board and Israel’s security comes first? Let us not forget that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are under blockade too.

As for Israel’s constant claim that the primary purpose of the blockade is security, a Wikileaks cable from 2008 reads:

As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [U.S. embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Israel wanted it “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”.

And according to documents released under a Freedom of Information petition by Gisha, an Israeli law centre, Israel operated “a policy of deliberate reduction” of basic goods in the Gaza Strip. Gisha’s director accused Israel of “paralyzing normal life in Gaza”. The documents confirmed that the siege was not for security reasons but aimed at keeping Gazans at near-starvation level. Since around half the population are growing children this act of collective punishment has meant that hundreds of thousands are undernourished.

And the civilised world stands idly by.

Turkey’s botched attempt to kidnap one of its nationals from Mongolia

The Turkish Secret Service, the MIT (the Turkish acronym for Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı) made an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap a Turkish citizen in Mongolia. Considered by the MIT as connected to the preacher Fethullah Gülen, Professor Veysel Akçay had been kidnapped at the entrance of the school where he was working, by 5 members of the Turkish secret service. He was then transported to the airport of Oulan Bator where a CL604 Challenger (a plane of the Turkish Army) was waiting for him. (...)

Erdogan puts an end to two years of emergency rule

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared that the state of emergency be lifted. Following the attempted assassination on Erdogan organized by the CIA and the subsequent military coup on 15 July 2018, a state of emergency was declared. This was supposed to sunset in three months but was extended seven times. The Turkish authorities used the state of emergency as an opportunity to purge the Administration and society of elements hostile to the AKP (Erdogan's party), in particular, those (...)

The Coronation of “Sultan” Erdoğan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has assumed his new functions as President of the Republic of Turkey. These duties are new for two reasons. First because he's been re-elected and second, because from now on, Turkey's new constitution will apply which grants him new prerogatives. At the end of a sumptuous ceremony that took place in the White Palace (Spanish translator's note: the White Palace is the enormous Presidential residence that Erdogan had constructed for himself) the “sultan” jetted off to (...)

Turkish-Syrian Border: Confusion, Destruction and Grief

Border wall between Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus

When we first met in 2017, the Turkish poet, Mustafa Goren, stood proudly and defiantly next to a monstrous concrete wall built on orders from Ankara. The partition has just recently separated two towns with the same culture: Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus.

The poet then read some of his verses, and my friend, a translator of my books, originally from the city of Adana, tried to keep pace, interpreting.

The poem began with quite an unusual opening, and it warned Europe and its people:

One day, true leaders of the world will come, and they’ll cut off all the gas and petrol supplies to you, and you’ll find yourself in even deeper shit than the one into which you are throwing this part of the world! You’ll have to burn your designer clothes and shoes, just to stay warm. You forgot, but you will soon be reminded, Europe: we are all human beings!

He was raising his right hand accusingly, shouting towards the sky. Somehow, he looked like the Soviet revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovski.

Turkish poet Mustafa Goren in Karkamis

The poet was obviously indignant. It was 2017 then. Everything at the border was still raw, new, and terribly painful. Everything, good and bad, seemed to be possible: full-scale Turkish – Syria war, even a war between Turkey and Russia, or perhaps a Turkish exit from NATO and much closer alliance with Russia and Iran against the West.

Like so many patriots and thinkers in his country, Mustafa Goren strongly disliked the West. He was expressing his full-hearted support for his friends – the people and the state of Syria.

Stopping the Syrian war was all that mattered to him; it was his mission. He was sustaining himself by selling cigarettes on the street of Carsi Mahallesi; a street that hugs the borderline and now the wall.

He did not care how he was making a living, as long as he had time to create, to write, to recite. He was full of determination, zeal and optimism.

*****

Now, when I met him one year later, things definitely looked different. It was 2018, a different era, and totally different Karkamis.

The wall was still there, as well as the Turkish military operations behind it. The poet was still living and struggling in Karkamis, too, but his face looked defeated and tired. Now he was working in a small café. He was broke. His eyes had lost all their previous shine:

“Turkey is now fighting against the European Union… in ,” he said. But somehow it did not sound convincing.

My comrades and I then drove one kilometer towards the Euphrates River; to the ancient cemetery with a commanding view of the border and the Syrian town of Jarabulus.

Syrian town of Jarabulus photographed from the Turkish cemetery in Karkamis

This has been the best place in the area to take a leak, to film the border and to observe Turkish military operations inside Syria.

This time, shrapnel was flying too close, and the explosions were loud.

Two veiled ladies who were visiting the cemetery, spotted us.

“What are you looking for in this godforsaken,” one of them asked. She gave us a hostile, or perhaps desperate look:

What do you think you will find here? We are tired of this fight. We are bored of this conflict. All we want to do is to leave this place; to go far, very far away…

We heard more shells flying nearby, and more explosions.

The lady couldn’t stop:

Go away! Don’t you understand: we don’t want any foreigners here. Foreigners are the cause of this conflict!

We tried to find our old contacts, including Mr. Bulent Polat, a Kemalist from the opposition Republican People’s Party. But his shop on the main street was gone, hermetically sealed. Nearby, an armored vehicle was parked, unceremoniously.

Like almost everyone we spoke to in Karkamis, Mr. Polat was a strong opponent of the war. And he was especially against the Turkish involvement in it:

I know what we are doing there, across the border! To mobilize people against Assad, the anti-government militants supported by Turkey and the West, have been dressing in official Syrian military uniforms, then shoot at the civilians, killing many. Then they say: ‘Assad did it!’ It has been happening all over Syria.

Now Mr. Polat was gone.

Mustafa Goren, the poet, ordered tea for all of us. Then he sat down at a simple table, holding his head between two palms, before beginning to speak:

Nobody wants to stay here, at the border, anymore. In Karkamis, there is more Syrians than Turks, now. If Syrians leave, the whole place will turn to a ghost town.

Then he begins mixing everything together:

Turkey is not fighting against the PKK and the Kurdish terrorist groups here and in Syria – it is fighting against the European Union. This is our own, internal issue, and if we have to die in this fight, we will!

Such discourse can be heard all over Turkey. It is difficult and for many foreigners, hard to follow, but it is how it is. Turkey is in a complex transition: from where is obvious, but to where, almost no one knows.

“Mustafa,” I asked him softly. Despite all this pain, desperation and confusion, he is my comrade, a fellow poet. “What about Russia?”

His eyes softened up, as well as his entire facial expression:

Russians never stabbed Turks in the back. During WWI, they helped us against the West, at Galipoli. They are honest people. We have to coordinate with the Russians…

He nods towards the explosions.

For a while, we sit quietly, listening. Then we embrace. It is time to go.

*****

Karkamis is getting de-populated. It is alarming but understandable. It is becoming truly dangerous to live here. Plus, there is almost no work left in this area.

The entire frontier region used to rely heavily on trade with Syria. There were strong friendships forged between the individuals and families on both sides of the border. People were visiting each other, and they were intermarrying. Goods and services were flowing between Turkey and Syria almost freely.

Now, there is a full stop. The border can only be crossed by armored vehicles, tanks, and ambulances. They are going back and forth, bringing soldiers, carrying the wounded and even corpses. No civilian can pass.

Entrance to a refugee camp near Elbeyli

Further west, Elbeyli town is a bizarre hive of spies, a fortification. Everything here is monitored. It is because from here, the Turkish military forces are constantly invading Syrian territory. Here, no one dares to speak. To ask questions leads to immediate phone calls, arrests and interrogations.

Now, many villages around Elbeyli are half-empty. It is an eerie sight. The war has ruined entire communities.

What is thriving is the construction business. Not of the infrastructure, but of the military bases, spy antennas and above all, of the walls. An enormous, monstrous wall, which separates two countries – Turkey and Syria, in the past two inseparable sisters – is now scarring this ancient land. It is around 900 kilometers long, they say. How much money, how much concrete is being poured into it, and why?

Then the City of Killis.

New Turkish military base near Killis and Syrian border

We are shown destroyed walls of a house; a place “where rockets fell recently from the Syrian territory”. This is what the Turkish government uses as its justification for the invasion.

The local people have it all very clear. Several of them declare openly, but without revealing their names:

If only the Turkish government and military would coordinate their operations with the legitimate government in Damascus!

Things are tough in Killis. Like elsewhere along the border, businesses are closing down. An owner of a kebab stall couldn’t find any job for more than a year and had to try his luck in far-away Jakarta; in Indonesia which is much poorer than Turkey. He came back, had some luck and has now turned into an ultra-nationalist:

“Now the world can see the power of Turks!” He declared, passionately, voicing his full support for the invasion.

But here, at the border, he is clearly in the minority.

At a barbershop, “Salon Hassan”, several people are gathered, just in order to discuss politics. The most common assessment of the situation is:

The biggest mistake is that the Turkish military is not coordinating its operations with President Assad.

We are told that “some 8,000 of the refugees living in the camps all over the region are now returning back to Syria.”

But Turkey is hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian migrants. The situation is extremely complex, as intercommunal violence between Turks and Syrians tripled in the second half of 2017.

Turkish president Erdogan often declares that it is mainly because of his military forces operating across the border, that so many Syrian refugees now feel safe to return home. “Nonsense”, most Syrian people reply to such claims. “It is because of the Syrian army, President Assad, and his Russian and Iranian allies! Legitimate Syrian government is now winning the war. Only because of that, things are much safer for the Syrian people.”

“We love Russians here,” a local man professed, loudly. Some citizens of Killis also love Erdogan, as well as President Assad of Syria. ‘Too much love?’ Too many contradictory feelings? It is Turkey, after all. Here, nothing is ever simple.

But what is Russia here, to these people? In many parts of Turkey and all over the Middle East, more than a country, Russia became a symbol of defiance, proof that the West and its deadly designs can be confronted and stopped.

*****

Things appear confusing, but in Turkey, they always are.

As we drive through this ancient, beautiful but wounded land, my Turkish friend and translator utters, in desperation:

“The ‘Elderdog’ (increasingly common derogatory nickname for the present leader) is going to lose during the next elections. I bet he is going to…”

“But is the Turkish policy towards NATO and towards Syria going to change, dramatically?” I wonder.

For a while, there is silence in the car.

“I wish hope,” friend, my comrade says, finally.

He doesn’t know. Of course, he doesn’t. In Turkey, anything is possible.

“I hope Turkey comes to its senses. I love this country,” I say honestly. “I am really tired of hating it.”

“So am I,” he nods.

We are literally licking a huge concrete wall. Behind it is Syria, clearly visible, beautiful.

Actually, it is all very simple. People there are fighting against terror and against the Western imperialism.

People here, in Turkey, are still at the wrong side of the barricade. But they are waking up; many of them already understand. They may soon join those who are fighting for the survival of humanity. They may. Hopefully they will.

(Note: as this essay goes to print, Turkish election polls are closing. 56 million voters have been able to cast their ballots, voting simultaneously in parliamentary and presidential elections. According to preliminary results, President Erdogan secured a comfortable lead.)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Austria against political manipulation of Islam

Enforcing the law on Islam adopted in Feb 2015, the Austrian Minister for Internal Affairs (to the right in the photo) has proceeded to close down 7 mosques and to expel 40 Imams (some of the 260 Imams that are present in the country). Specifically, the Austrian authorities have reproached these Imams for organizing a ceremony with children in military uniforms. This goes beyond the cultural limits on their activity imposed by the aforementioned law. These Imams are members of “Grey (...)

Draft Dodger in Chief Dodges “Historic” Opening of US Embassy, Jerusalem

It was NBC’s Cal Parry who summed up the obscenity of Donald Trump’s ignorant and igniting decision to move the US Embassy to West Jerusalem, then to celebrate the inauguration on Monday, 14th May: “Well dressed American and Israeli officials on one side of the screen: desperation, death and fires on the other.”

In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians began their flight from the city and the region trying to escape the massacres by Jewish militias on that date, seventy years ago. Commemorated ever since as the day of “Nakba” — disaster, catastrophe, cataclysm — following them to this day as land is stolen, families expelled and “settlements” encroach, and Palestinian history is bulldozed.

‘ “When the massacre started the (paramilitaries) took a kid and strapped him on an army jeep and drove him around different neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, saying ‘the same will happen to you if you don’t leave,’ ” Abu Kaya said, retelling his grandfather’s story to Middle East Eye.’

…  not a single country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem because such a move is widely considered to violate international law.

Further:

Under United Nations Resolution 181, which in 1947 set out the conditions for the partition of Palestine into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State”, Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN under a “special international regime.

The 1949 armistice agreement that formally ended the first Arab-Israeli war divided the city along the “Green Line” into Israeli-controlled western areas, and Jordanian-held East Jerusalem, which included the Old City.

Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war is widely recognised as illegal and violates further United Nations resolutions.

For Palestinians then, sovereignty over the city is not something for leaders of other countries to determine, as US President Donald Trump did when he announced the embassy move in December.

In the few minutes it took to jot down notes for this piece, the Palestinian death toll of those demonstrating rose from twenty-eight dead, shot by Israeli soldiers, to forty-three. The injured rose from 1,693 to “near two thousand.”

Fadi Abo Salah, 30, who lost both legs in a bombing by Israeli aircraft, was one who lost his life, in his wheel chair — targeted by an Israeli sniper — in front of his wife and three small children. (Palestine Live group.)

Israel, frequently declaring itself “the only democracy in the Middle East”, carried out a very democratic slaughter and target practice. Young, old, disabled, male, female, all were equally entitled to be shot, sniped at, tear gassed.

Tiny Laila al-Ghandour who died from tear gas inhalation was just eight months old.1

Journalist Sharif Kouddos recorded:

Wails of grief inside family home of Laila al-Ghandour, 8-month old who died of gas inhalation yesterday. Her aunt says the gas came from everywhere, including drones.

By Monday’s end he Tweeted:

Sharif Kouddous

@sharifkouddous

Casualty toll from today in Gaza now stands at 55 dead, including 6 minors. 2,770 wounded, including 225 children. Of the wounded over 1,350 were hit with live ammunition, according to Ministry of Health.

“It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time,” stated Médecins Sans Frontières.

As the Embassy partied and visitors “clapped and cheered”, Gaza’s hospitals, already teetering on collapse resulting from restrictions on all coming in to the besieged Strip — including electricity, with water contaminated — had surgeons operating day and night, with the injured being treated in the hospital car parks even, due to the overwhelming influx of those targeted.

In another world, just sixty miles away: ‘Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and said:

Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.  The crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.1

Deaths had risen to fifty nine.

Of the eighty six Ambassadors to Israel, only thirty two attended the ceremony, with fifty four boycotting and only four EU Member countries attending.

Moreover:

The Haaretz newspaper reported that most EU member States did not participate in the ceremony because they have a firm policy towards the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It said that the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, India, Japan and Mexico also did not attend the celebration.

Fallout has been swift. French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned the “violence of the Israeli armed forces …” and again criticized the moving of the Embassy.

King Abdullah, of course, has custodianship of all Jerusalem’s Holy Sites and: ‘has the right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard them, especially Al Aqsa Mosque, which is defined as “The Entirety of Al Haram Al Sharif.” ‘ As far as can be ascertained thus far, it seems that this important, indeed unique, historic custodianship was neither discussed with the King or his representatives, nor even a consideration of the Trump Administration as they bulldozed their way through diplomacy, history and all norms in their Jerusalem settlement.

NATO ally President Erdogan of Turkey has recalled his Ambassadors to Israel and the US.

South Africa recalled their Ambassador to Israel, with immediate effect, as the Embassy celebrations were ongoing.

Ireland has summoned Israel’s Ambassador to protest Israeli violence.

Kuwait moved for an emergency meeting of the UN, which was blocked by the US. A ‘draft statement included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.” ‘

‘It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, saying that recent events had “no legal effect” under international law. The statement was withdrawn once the US indicate that it would block it, a UN diplomat said.’ (CNN, 15th May 2018.)

Qatar condemned “a massacre” and “savage killings.”

Germany, somewhat weakly, expressed concern at the massacre saying: “The right to peaceful protest must also apply in Gaza”, via a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

In the UK, the Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry in an unusually unequivocal statement said:

We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been lied or injured as a result.

These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.

Throughout that six-week period, the UN’s Secretary General has been calling for an independent investigation into these incidents, one that should urgently determine whether international law has been broken, and hold the Netanyahu government to account for their actions. The UK should lead calls for the UN Security Council to order such an investigation today.

These incidents must also be the catalyst for urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu government to lift the blockade on Gaza, and end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No longer can Netanyahu act as a law unto himself, under the protection of the Trump administration, whose decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem today has further inflamed the situation.

Chile, with the largest population of Palestinians outside the Arab world, raised Palestinian flags outside the main entrance of the Presidential Palace of La Moneda.

Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, Bolivia’s UN Ambassador, read the names of the Gaza massacre victims at the UN session, wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh.

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau has demanded an arms embargo on Israel, demanding backing of Amnesty International’s call for a global arms embargo on Israel. Amnesty has condemned: “ … an abhorrent violation of International Law and human rights. “

Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

Writer, broadcaster and academic, Kenan Malik Tweeted:

@kenanmalik

Mark Regev, Israeli ambassador to the UK, considers the shooting dead of 58 Palestinians and the wounding of 2700 as “measured” and “surgical”. I’d hate to know what is his definition of “unmeasured” or “non-surgical.”

The death toll became sixty.

From the Trumposphere, Donald Trump input:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

May 14

Big day for Israel. Congratulations!

However, on this day of diplomatic thuggery  — which the US State Department flagged as a “historic move” — the five times Draft Dodger in Chief it seems reverted to type. The man to whom limelight is seemingly indispensible, stayed in Washington and addressed the Embassy gathering by video, from a safe 5,897 miles away, dodging any potential conflict, demonstrations, dissent. Trump, of course, pulled out of a visit to London in February, to open the new US Embassy, which has also relocated, reportedly for fear of the massive protests planned at his stay.

The man who can menace Iran, threaten North Korea with: “ … fire and fury and frankly the power the likes of which like this world has never seen”, cowers from peaceful protesters with placards. No wonder he had no intention of showing up in Jerusalem, even as guest of honour, surrounded by steel rings of security, in a region destabilized by the US and “allies” for decades, with the unarmed, indigenous population simply demanding some justice sixty miles away.

Donald Trump, it seems, talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. Perhaps someone also told him Armageddon is in Israel (site now named Megiddo.)

  1. Guardian, 15th May 2018.

Do You Want to Travel Around the Middle East? Think Twice!

Do you think it is that simple to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

Ask Palestinians, about trying to get from a point A to a point B in their own nation.

Some time ago, sitting in an old Ottoman hotel in Bethlehem, I asked a waiter what it takes to travel from there to Gaza, where he said, several of his relatives were living. He looked at me as if I had fallen from the Moon:

There is no way I could travel there. If my relatives get very sick or die, then, in theory, I could apply for an Israeli travel permit to go there, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they would approve, or that I could get to Gaza on time…

Israeli wall in Bethlehem

I tried to appear naïve: “And what if someone from an Arab country which does not recognize Israel, wants to come here, to Bethlehem? Like, a Lebanese pilgrim or just a tourist? Could he or she enter from Jordan?”

The waiter weighed for a while whether to reply at all, but then had mercy on me:

West Bank… You know, it only appears on the maps as some sort of autonomous or independent territory. In reality, the borders and movement of the people have been fully controlled by the Israelis.

My friend, a legendary left-wing Israeli human rights lawyer and a staunch Palestinian independence supporter, Linda Brayer, downed another cup of coffee and made several cynical remarks. She was actually illegally ‘smuggled’ by me into Bethlehem. As an Israeli citizen, she was not allowed to enter the West Bank at all, but since I was driving and she was with me, a foreigner, and on top of it she wore a headscarf (she converted to Islam several years earlier), the Israeli soldiers just let us pass without askin too many uncomfortable questions.

Bizarre, disgusting, and even mind-blowing? Not for us who live or operate in this part of the world! All this is by now considered as “business as usual”.

During the last Intifada, I hired a taxi in Jerusalem to the border with Gaza driven by a Russian-Israeli Jew, a student, who literally clashed with a border guard, demanding to be allowed to enter Gaza, in order to “see what my fxxxxing government is doing to the Palestinian people.”

They did not let him into Gaza. They detained him. As a foreigner, I entered. During my work in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at my hired car. It missed… But at least I was allowed to enter and work in Gaza. It is like Russian roulette: sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, and no explanations are given.

That was the time when the new Gaza International Airport had just opened. After few days of fighting, the runway was bombed by the Israelis, all flights cancelled, and I had to, eventually make my way out through Egyptian Sinai.

Later, I also witnessed how brutal the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been; how it has divided countless families and communities. People are forced to shout at each other through the Israeli barbed-wire electric fences. The only way for the families to reunite, at least for a day or two, was to somehow get to Jordan.

An Israeli tank being moved towards Syrian Golan Heights

The Syrian Golan Heights used to be famous for its delicious apples and ancient Druze community. It used to attract travelers from all over the world. Now it is occupied by Israel, and it is de-populated and monstrously militarized.

You want to travel there? You cannot; not anymore. It is off limits.

*****

For years and decades, this insanity of travel bans and restrictions, as well as barbed wire and watch towers, has been applying mainly (although not exclusively) to the territories occupied by Israel. However, now almost the entire Middle East is divided by conflicts, insane regulations and travel prohibitions.

Empty Jordan-Syrian border

Unless you are a war correspondent, a Western ‘advisor’, an intelligence agent or a ‘development worker’, don’t even think about going to Iraq. Almost like Afghanistan and Libya, Iraq had been thoroughly wrecked by the Western coalition and its allies. On top of it, to get visa there is now close to impossible. In the recent past, the Westerners flooded Erbil and its surroundings; the main city of what was called, unofficially, ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’. The place used to be governed by the independence-seeking and shamelessly pro-Western ‘elites’, and it used to have its own visa regime. Now even this area is more or less off limits to foreigners.

Syria is still a war zone, although its government, which is supported by the majority of the Syrian people, is clearly winning the brutal conflict ignited and fueled by the West and its ‘client’ states.

Syria used to be one of the safest, the most educated and advanced countries in the region, built on solid socialist principles. It used to have an impressive scientific base, as well as dozens of world-class tourist attractions. Therefore, applying Western imperialist logic, it had to be first smeared, and then attacked and destroyed.

Logically, Syria is not issuing tourist visas to the citizens of the countries that are trying to destroy it.

Next door, Lebanon is still suffering from the flood of refugees, from geographical isolation and from the various dormant and semi-active terrorist cells.

Travelling from Lebanon to Syria is now almost impossible, or at least very dangerous and difficult. Lebanese citizens can still enter, but ‘at their own risk’.

In the not so distant past, people used to drive from Beirut to Europe and vice-versa, via Turkey and Syria. Now this option is just a sweet memory. But then again, in the very distant past, I am often reminded, it was not unusual for the Lebanese middle class to spend a weekend in Haifa, driving their own cars. Now the border between Lebanon and Israel is hermetically sealed. Both countries are technically at war. The U.N. patrols the so-called Blue Line. Apart from drones and Israeli war planes en-route to bombing Syria, nothing can cross.

Turkey building a new huge wall on the Syrian border

All along the Turkish-Syrian border, both sides are suffering. Of course, the Syrian people are suffering much more, being victims of the direct Turkish military adventures. But also Turks are now paying a very high price for the war: they are suffering from terrorist attacks, as well as from the total collapse of trade between the two countries. Many villages around Hatay and Gaziantep are quickly turning into ghost towns.

For instance, cities like Adana in Turkey and Aleppo in Syria used to be connected by motorways, enjoying constant flows of people from both ends. There was bustling trade, as well as tourism, and social visits. Now, Ankara has been building an enormous concrete wall between the two countries. No traffic can pass through the border, except Turkish military convoys.

*****

For years and decades, it has been impossible to enter Saudi Arabia as a tourist. This fundamentalist Wahabbi ‘client’ state of the West simply does not recognize the existence of tourism, or leisure travel. To enter the KSA, it has to be either for business or religious pilgrimage.

With its huge territory, the KSA effectively divides the entire Gulf region, when it comes to transportation and the movement of people. There are some loopholes, and ‘transit visas’ can be obtained (with some luck, difficulties and expense), for instance, for those people driving their own vehicles or taking a bus from Jordan to Bahrain, or to Oman.

Traveling to culturally the most exciting country in the Gulf – Yemen – is now absolutely impossible. Yemen used to be one of the jewels of historic architecture and civilization, counting such cities as Sanaa, Zabid and Shiban. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is occupying the city of Aden and the coast, while Saudi forces are brutally bombing the rest of the country, which is controlled by the rebels.

Then, there is a bizarre conflict which is brewing between Qatar (the richest country in the Gulf with the substantial U.S. military presence as well as huge local business-controlled media conglomerate Al-Jazeera), and several other Arab allies of the West, including Saudi Arabia. Borders are presently closed and insults are flying. There is the growing possibility of a military confrontation. Qatar is being accused, cynically, of ‘supporting terrorism’, as if the KSA was not doing precisely the same.

*****

Flying around the region has become a Kafkaesque experience.

Flight from Doha to Nairobi

All Middle Eastern and Gulf airlines are avoiding Israel. Some fly over Syria but most of them, don’t. The once mighty and now deteriorating Qatar Airways is clearly forbidden to enter the airspace of Saudi Arabia as well as of the United Arab Emirates.

Recently I travelled with Qatar from Beirut to Nairobi, Kenya. It used to be a simple, comfortable commute, which has recently turned into a terrible nightmare. Unable to fly over Syrian and Saudi airspace, a plane has to first fly in totally the opposite direction, northwest, over Turkish airspace, then over Iran, making a huge, almost 90 minutes detour. On the second leg, a trip of less than 4 hours now takes more than 5 hours and 30 minutes! The plane flies directly away from Africa, towards Iran, and then makes a huge loop, avoiding both the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Lebanese MEA (Middle Eastern Airlines) is one of the few airlines that ignores all this, flying directly over Syria, and towards the Gulf states. Most of the others don’t dare. But MEA has to avoid Israeli airspace, making often interesting final approaches to Rafik Hariri Int’l Airport.

The exception is Turkish Airlines which basically flies over everything and into everywhere, including Israel itself.

*****

This essay is not only about the politics and what has led to the present situation, although it is clear that we are talking here, above all, about the neo-colonialist arrangement of the world.

Political nightmare unleashed by the ‘traditional’ Western colonialist powers and their ‘client states’, has led to the geographical divisions; to a perverse state of affairs in this part of the world. Increasingly, the people are losing control over their own nations and the entire region. They have already lost the ability to move about freely through it.

Of course, something similar exists in many other places, including the South Pacific. There, I described the situation in my book Oceania. An entire huge part of the world has been literally cut to pieces by the neo-colonialist powers and their geo-political interests and designs: the U.S., France, Australia and New Zealand have plainly overrun and shackled Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. A once proud and unique part of the world has been fragmented internally: people are brutally separated and forced to depend almost exclusively on the West.

In the Middle East, divisions, walls and barbed wire, are now everywhere; they are visible to the naked eye, but they are also ‘inside’ peoples’ minds, damaging the human psyche, making dreams of unity and a common future look very unlikely, and sometimes even impossible.

A bridge blown up by ISIS near Mosus, Iraq

This used to be one of the cradles of our civilization – a deep, sane and stunningly beautiful part of the world. Now everything is fragmented. The West rules, mainly through its ‘client’ states, such as Israel, the KSA and Turkey. It controls everything. It governs almost the entire Middle East; nothing moves without its knowledge and permission.

A suicide car bomb near Mosul, Iraq

Yes, nothing and no one moves here, unless it suits the West. We don’t read about it often. It is not discussed. But that is how it is. This bizarre concept of ‘freedom’ implanted from the outside. The rulers who were injected into the Gulf and various other occupied nations. The result is horrid: the electric wires, walls and travel restrictions everywhere; the old pathological British ‘divide and rule’ concept.

*****

As I am working on this essay, my plane which is supposed to be flying south-west, is actually hovering north-east, in order to avoid the airspaces of the various so-called hostile states.

Local people may be getting used to the fact that their part of the world has already been ‘re-arranged’. Or perhaps they have already stopped noticing.

The computer, however, keeps showing the absurd flying path of the airliner. Computers can be programmed and re-programmed, but they cannot be indoctrinated. Without judging, they are simply demonstrating the absurdity that is unrolling around them, on their screens.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek