Friday, November 27, 2015

Whodunnit: The Truth Behind Turkey Downing A Russian Plane

Whodunnit: The Truth Behind Turkey Downing A Russian Plane
                                                                                     Saeed Naqvi

Turkeman tribesmen, on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, calling themselves the Syrian Liberation Army, are actually in harness to protect routes on which oil tankers have been plying regularly from Syria to Turkey for the Western market. This smuggling enterprise is controlled by Bilal Erdogan, son of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The whodunnit nature of the incident is explained by the extraordinary pressure on the President’s office brought by this extra constitutional entity.

Eversince the Russians entered the Syrian theatre as part of a broader understanding with the US, these tankers and the mercenary soldiers protecting them have come under heavy Russian fire.

Moscow would be justified in being somewhat puzzled that neither the US nor NATO, with its vast intelligence apparatus, spotted 90,000 barrels of oil being “clandestinely” transported over the border. Profits from this enterprise finances groups which constitute the ISIS.

It is universally acknowledged that Turkey has been most enthusiastic and active in supporting anti Assad militancy in Syria. When some of the groups patronized by Turkey, mostly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, mutated into the Islamic state, Turkey tried its best to have this region of its operation, in Northern Syria, declared a no-fly-zone.

The official Russian press note quotes verbatim what Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu on November 26: “by shooting down a Russian plane on a counter-terrorist mission of the Russian Aerospace Force in Syria, and one that did not violate Turkey’s air space, the Turkish government has in effect sided with ISIS.”

Lavrov added “Turkey’s action appear premeditated, planned and undertaken with a specific object.”

Even Washington has not come to Turkey’s rescue. In the joint Press Conference with France’s Francois Hollande, Presided made a perfunctory remark that every country has the right to protect its borders and airspace. But on the specifics of the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet, US officials maintained the Russian plane was in the Turkish air space for “no more than 17 seconds” during which period “10 warnings” could not have been given to the Russian pilot as Turkey claims.

Even among Western countries who recently forged an alliance against the ISIS there are skeptics who see Turkey playing both sides of the street. There are serious suspicions that the shooting down of the plane had been planned. As soon as the Russian pilot and his navigator ejected from the jet in a mountainous, inhospitable terrain, their parachutes were instantly targeted by machine guns which were clearly expecting the shooting of the Russian plane in their area. This area was not in Turkey. It was in Syria.

While the pilot, Sergey Rumyantsev, was killed, the navigator is alive. He is being treated in Syria. He has confirmed what would otherwise be speculative stories emanating from Moscow.

There are other issues the US and NATO must be confidentially sorting out with Russia. Written into the understanding between Washington and Moscow was an obligation to give prior notice of every aerial activity to the alliance partners. In this instance, neither Washington nor NATO were informed of the airspace violation by Russia and that Turkey proposed to take drastic action against the Russian aircraft.

Recently, an Ankara-Moscow hotline was established to avert just the sort of mishap which have generated fears of a wider conflict. A senior Turkish official turned the argument against the Russians. “Russians are under global sanctions and their purchase of oil from ISIS for delivery to the Syrian regime is in violation of these sanctions.”

The official has, in his armoury, the transcript of the warnings issued to the erring Russian pilot. But the transcript only records warning and no response and, by that token, is weak testimony.

That Iraq and Syria are overcrowded with divergent interests became clear in February when Iraq’s Army shot down two British planes who were allegedly carrying weapons for the ISIS in the Anbar province. The incident was never denied largely because Iraq Parliament’s National Security and Defence Committee had photos of the planes that had been shot down.

And now that Prime Minister David Cameron is rearing to go into Syria with airstrikes (if only he can coax a nod of approval from his Parliament) he is probably eager to reach out for the piece of the Syrian pie he could not lay his hands on all these months.

An amusing sketch that surfaces on the social networks at intervals shows Uncle Sam seated in an ornate carriage. An, Arab, looking rather like the Saudi King, is in the driver’s seat. He has a firm grip on reins strapped to four burly, hooded ISIS militants. The message, consumed avidly in Iraq, is that ISIS was, at one stage a Saudi-US asset. Some of this activity boomeranged on the US when an embarrassed Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had to announce to the press that a $500 million training programme in Syria had been withdrawn after Syrian opposition trained by the US had handed their weapons to militants and sought safe passage to heaven knows where.

So far the Syrian-Iraqi terrain has been the graveyard of many regional and Western reputations. Russians must keep their fingers crossed. New Delhi will learn a great deal more when Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin meets Indian leaders in the second week of December.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

In Wake Of Paris Attacks, Western Media As The Arbiter

In Wake Of Paris Attacks, Western Media As The Arbiter
                                                                            Saeed Naqvi

The massacre in Paris is not just a French or a western tragedy. It has caused universal outrage. And yet the global media’s coverage of the horror tends to give the West a monopoly on pain.

Why, hours before the Paris attack, nearly 50 Shia Muslims were slaughtered by the IS and over 200 injured in Beirut; 27 members of a Shia leader’s funeral were butchered in Baghdad which has lost count of such occurrences. And all of this on the heels of a Russian passenger aircraft brought down over Sinai, killing all 224 passengers, and the October massacre in Ankara, killing 102 and so on and so forth including the 141 school children slaughtered in Peshawar at the hands of terrorists now wearing the IS garb.

Could all those smart anchors on the streets of Paris not have reflected on the pain outside their immediate surroundings? This is the parochialism of the contemporary media, focused only on “us” and “our kind”. The larger humanity has to be left as the business of bards and bohemian poets with a leftist streak.

In the imperial global hierarchy, the media covering such events and the one which is beamed worldwide happens to be in exclusive control of Washington and London. This media’s perspectives are prioritized by western interests.

Whatever the explanation, the coverage of an event like Paris divides the world into two sets of audiences.

Folks in the West, their anxieties heightened by the outrage, find comfort in the International community getting into a scrum on the issue in Vienna, Antalya…wherever. They find the coverage in tune with their fears and concerns.

This powerful community is not even aware of the popular Cairo blog which asks the question:
“The International Community keeps asking what the region is doing to stop the spread of the ISIS; the region keeps asking why ISIS is only a problem when it strikes Western targets.” Millions in the Arab World ask such questions.

Social media in the region lampoons the West’s reactions. A cartoon shows two patients in a hospital. One covered head to toe in bandages is named “Syria”. The other, in the adjacent bed, with a bandaged finger is called “Paris”. A man in a three piece suit, labeled the “International community”, leans over to kiss the bandaged finger.

Since there is in the Arab world (as in India) no media capable of live coverage of events like the attack in Paris, there is among these populations an acute sense of helplessness. Each family is riveted on its TV set which blares Muslim terror at them but never dwells on Muslim pain. Iraq, Libya, Syria, three efficient dictatorships have all been destroyed. Nearly three million have been killed by western bombardment, the IS, consequent civil wars. Hundreds of thousands are on the march towards a Europe torn between hospitality and its exact opposite.

These are the images which preoccupy their brutalized lives. Self centered coverage by the Western media come across to them as frames from which their continuing tragedies are missing.

At the cost of being repetitive let me explain that I am sensitive to these disparities because I was present at the inauguration of the global media when in February 1991 CNN brought the first ever war live into our drawing rooms. This was the Operation Desert Storm. The coverage resonated with western audiences as triumphalism doubly exhilarating because it came so soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Equally, it added to the Arab world’s sense of defeat and humiliation. It almost ignited global terrorism in this era. The dazzling fireworks on live TV over Afghanistan a decade later added fuel to this fire.

What irks Arab intelligentsia most is a sense of impotence at two levels – one at the level of their own authoritarian regimes which are often in cahoots with the west, and secondly with the West itself which is impervious to popular Arab discontent. The West only deals with potentates or rebel groups in Syria, Libya, Iraq.

It is an article of faith in the Arab world that the ISIS is, in its origins, a US, Saudi Turkish, Israeli creation. Off the record, Arab Ambassadors in New Delhi will testify to this widespread belief in their respective countries. In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in August last year, President Obama himself admitted that the ISIS had been of use in certain circumstances. “We did not start air strikes all across Iraq as soon as the ISIS came in because that would have taken the pressure off Nouri al-Maliki”, the then Shia Prime Minister of Iraq out of favour with the US.

In other words, not long ago, the priority was to get rid of Maliki rather than halt the ISIS. An altered world order may well be the price for that delay.

After the Paris attack, the media has boosted the anti terror mood to the sort of pitch reminiscent of the first Gulf war. This time even Russia is part of the pack.

Incidentally, the media forgot to mention the first effect of the Paris attack – cancellation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to France, Italy and the Vatican, an outcome that must have pleased Riyadh.

Western resolve to fight terror will be on test in Africa where the entire belt from Nigeria right upto Somalia is in the line of fire of IS look-alikes like Boko Haram and Al Shabab. French intelligence, which allowed President Francois Hollande to watch a soccer match in a stadium which was attacked by suicide bombers, is once again embarrassed by gunmen holding a number of hostages in Bamako, capital of Mali, which was presumed to have been tranquilized by French troops only last year.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

People Globally Against Political Parties Identified With Crony Capitalism

People Globally Against Political Parties Identified With Crony Capitalism 
                                                                                               Saeed Naqvi

Bihar results are a milestone in Indian political history, ofcourse, but they also link up with a worldwide phenomena: the crumbling of the world order erected after the fall of the Berlin wall. A brief look at history to follow the trend.

Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signaled the advent of the Sole Superpower which immediately embarked on a project of full spectrum global dominance beginning with Operation Desert Storm in February 1992.

The firepower of the world’s most muscular war machine was for the first time brought live into our drawing rooms by Peter Arnett of the CNN from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel.

The Iraqi army was pummeled. For one set of global TV audience, the outcome was undiluted triumphalism. But for the Muslim world, it came across as yet another defeat, further humiliation. The world, divided into two distinct sets of audiences was treated to more TV fare – the two intefadas, the daily brutalization of Bosnian Muslims and the four year long siege of Sarajevo which agitated Turks (because of their historical links with the Balkans) to such an extent that they brought Nekmatin Arbakan’s Islamist Refah party to power. Arbakan’s disciples Abdullah Gul and Tayyip Erdogan, toned down their Islamism to cope with Turkey’s Kemalist constitution.

Turkey found the electoral response to Western provocation. Anger in most of the authoritarian Muslim world created a space for militant schools with a ready faculty left over from the Afghan Jehad. The world galloped towards 9/11, after which the world was enlisted in the war against Islamic terror.

The global war on terror became the strategic preoccupation for nations all under US auspices.

Let it be added as an aside that even as Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi was alert to the main chance. When 56 kar sewaks were burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002, he promptly took the case away from the Collector, Jayanti Ravi, and handed it to the Director General, Anti Terror Squad, Vijay Vipul. Without any preliminary inquiry, the Godhra train tragedy was to be treated as an act of terror. Modi was firmly on the anti terror bandwagon.

The second mantra handed to the post Soviet World Order was “Development”. The Soviet collapse was not sold as the victory of democracy, freedom, human rights; it was sold as the triumph of the market.

Two party systems beholden to corporates, linked to mega multinational corporations became the trend. These powerful establishments, with the media in attendance, could suppress stories of unspeakable corruption and crony capitalism only upto a point. But not for long.

The dominant reality since 2008 has been the gradual decline of the US. Systems erected in anticipation of the American Century are crumbling. This objective reality has given heart to the people hemmed in by two party systems in cahoots with corrupt sources of finance. Electoral eruptions have taken place even though it would be premature to describe the current situation as revolutionary.

Greek Left Wing party, Syriza, came to power but powerful countries like Germany forced it to compromise its anti austerity, anti capitalism platforms.

Greece is only two percent of Europe’s GDP. Spain is 14%. Syriza, before Greece’s compromise, did infect the voters in Spain. Spain’s communist party, Podemos, made dramatic gains in the local body elections. But a degree of demoralization afflicts Podemos as it prepares for the national elections on December 20. This because the lesson learnt from Syriza’s compromises that excessive Leftism may be unrealistic in Spain’s current economic situation.

Alright, Spain’s leftism may have to be toned down but it has already shamed political corruption and crony capitalism to such an extent that it can never be business as usual after the December elections.

The trend continues in Portugal where a socialist-communist combination is in contention for power. What a far cry from Tony Blair is the new labour boss, Jeremy Corbyn, as is Canada’s Justin Trudeau from Stephen Harper.

Joko Widodo in Indonesia and Arvind Kejriwal are not exactly left but they come from a similar reformist anti corruption stable, quite as effective in corroding the neo liberal structures.

Modi came to power riding the world’s most expensive campaign. He harvested the prevailing disgust at the time against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, tied to India Inc. and the World Bank.

When Modi’s personal image was on test in Delhi, he was decimated. Big business, Police, Lt. Governor, the BJP, Congress and the drum beating media, simply waylaid Kejriwal from day one of his innings. The affront to the idea of Modi and market economics in the form of Kejriwal must not be allowed to stand. In one respect, an old Persian saying “gunah be lazzat” (sinning without pleasure) may well apply to Modi. He has not done for all his capitalist clients everything he may have wished to do. But the tag of crony capitalism hangs from his neck.

And now Bihar has administered a knockout punch. Ofcourse a singular lack of culture in the Hindutva brigade’s anti Love Jihad and anti beef campaign recoiled on the BJP. Where will Modi recover ground now in the coming state elections: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, UP?

The front page of Times of India (November 13) is emblematic of the mess Modi is in.

Asked about growing intolerance Modi told the media in London, standing beside David Cameron: “No place for intolerance” in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.

Above this three column story is a bigger headline:
“Cow brigade now out to stop leather shoe sales.”

Lower down the page is another story about death threats to playwright Girish Karnad by Hindutva groups against airing his admiration for Tipu Sultan. But all of this is against the backdrop of Modi’s perceived proximity to names like Adani which tend to distance politicians from the people.

And now that Nitish Kumar is about to replace Rahul Gandhi’s mug shots as a would be counter point to Modi, he would do well to remember a simple mantra: steer clear of something which is in bad odour globally – crony capitalism.

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