UK Column editor Mike Robinson with co-host Patrick Henningsen and guest geopolitical analyst Alex Thomson, breaking down this week’s news in Britain, Europe and Eurasia.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
Source: War on the Rocks
The murder of Asad Shah, a Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow, and the perverse reaction to a Charlie Hebdo editorial show us how warped our senses have become.
When an editorial dismisses as “xenophobes” those who blame terrorism on immigration, and is then taken as conclusive proof of racism, you know something has gone terribly wrong. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose offices were attacked last year by gunmen offended by its cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, has once again been denounced for “Islamophobia” and racism. The alleged offense came in an editorial that challenged the role of religion in society, and that is assumed by its critics to say that all Muslims are complicit in terrorism. Nowhere in the French original by the cartoonist Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, nor in its rather more awkward English translation, does it say that. Rather, it is an anguished defense of French secularism, tinged by bitterness in a man who was shot in the shoulder while watching his colleagues die. Far from attacking all Muslims — an assertion that assumes all Muslims are the same — it takes aim at the growing power of religious conservativism. It calls out society’s failure to question this for fear of being branded an “Islamophobe.” It blames our silence for creating an atmosphere of fear without which terrorism cannot succeed. That silence has left the field open to the far right and produced a fractured, anxious society more inclined to react emotionally than rationally to acts of terrorism. Unwittingly proving the point made in the editorial, Charlie Hebdo’s critics have loudly condemned it for “Islamophobia” and racism, silencing the issues it raised with a willful or ignorant distortion of what it said. It is a grotesque parody that could be ignored if the stakes were not so high.
Go back to the January 2015 attacks in Paris by Islamist gunmen in which 12 people died at the Charlie Hebdo offices and another five were killed in related shootings. The Charlie Hebdo staff were not killed for racism. They were murdered for the assumed crime of blasphemy. Before the attacks, Charlie Hebdo was a niche magazine catering to a certain section of the French left, lampooning the government and the far right, mocking all sources of power including religion, and championing the cause of anti-racism. Of course, those with deeply held religious views would have found some of their cartoons offensive. But they had the choice not to see them. To read Charlie Hebdo, you had to go out of your way to buy the magazine. The cartoons were not plastered on billboards across Paris. Nor, as sometimes erroneously assumed, was the publication popular with the anti-immigrant right. On the contrary, the right is one of its main targets. That critics, especially in the English-speaking world, have so conclusively convicted Charlie Hebdofor racism (in doing so, heaping ire on journalists who are already facing death threats) tells you little about the magazine itself. It does, however, tell you much about the insidious of power of the very notion of blasphemy. Rather than confront the fact that the Charlie Hebdo staff were massacred for blasphemy, the magazine has been tried and convicted for a different crime — that of racism. Such is the transformation of their role as victims of a crime to victimizers, that the latest denunciation in Vice Magazine said they had become “smug satirists” who, among others, are “terrorizing” Muslims across Europe. (Muslims are rightly worried about an increase in anti-Muslim bigotry; but the arrow directed at Charlie Hebdo is shot from a different bow.)
There is an unfortunate tendency for our society to want everything now, immediately and on demand!
This results in ignoring chronological events, not understanding the complex nature of life and as such rendering one’s point of view fundamentally incomplete.
Please have a listen to the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations, Mr. Bashar Jaafari. This was recorded in 2014. The ground realities today in 2016 relate directly to the facts and events discussed below. You will need to ‘invest’ some of your time to actually understand what is happening today.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
In considering the terrifying but also sadly predictable news of a Russian fighter jet being downed by two Turkish fighters, let’s start with one almost certain assumption — an assumption that no doubt is also being made by the Russian government: Turkey’s action, using US-supplied F-16 planes, was taken with the full knowledge and advance support of the US. In fact, given Turkey’s vassal status as a member of US-dominated NATO, it could well be that Ankara was put up to this act of brinksmanship by the US.
What makes the downing of the Russian jet, and the reported death of at least one of its two pilots (the other was reportedly captured alive by pro-turkish Turkmen fighters on the Syrian side of the Syria-Turkish border, and will presumably be returned to Russia) so dangerous is that as a member of NATO, supposedly a “mutual assistance” treaty that binds all members to come to the defense of one that is attacked, if Russia were to retaliate by downing a Turkish military plane, NATO countries including the US would be obligated to come to Turkey’s defense.
Russia knows this, and that is why so far the Russian response to the downing has been muted. Had it been a Jordanian, Saudi or Kuwaiti jet that downed the Russian SU-24, Russia’s response would have been instantaneous. The guilty party would have had some of its planes shot down, or perhaps even bombed on the ground. But President Putin so far has limited himself to demanding a meeting, to warning that Russian-Turkish economic relations would be threatened, etc.
This restraint is good, but clearly, Vladimir Putin will not stop there. Even putting aside domestic considerations (imaging the public clamor for a military response here in the US if some small country shot down a US plane!), he will have to respond or his whole project — so far stunningly successful — of restoring Russia to its pre-USSR-collapse position as a global power, would be a failure.
Putin’s options are actually quite broad, though some carry considerably more risk for everyone, not just for Russia and Turkey. He could have his own air
force in Syria, where Russia is legally acting at the request of the Syrian government to defend it against rebel forces of ISIS and Al Nusra, some of which are backed by both Turkey and the US, calmly wait for a Turkish military jet to cross into Syrian airspace. At that point it could be downed by Russian planes or missiles. No doubt Turkey will be extraordinarily careful going forward to have its pilots keep well away from Syrian air space too avoid that, but it could happen. My guess is that Russian fighter pilots and anti-aircraft batteries in Syria already have their marching orders to take that action, which probably would not activate NATO confrontation with Russia and lead to World War III, as long as there was reasonable evidence that Turkey’s plane was in Syrian airspace.
But should no such opportunity present itself, Russia has plenty of other opportunities to counter Turkey. Remember, Russia is also defending Syria’s coastline, and could sink or capture a Turkish ship that entered Syrian waters (or Russian waters in the Black Sea, which borders both countries).
Russia — knowing that this is really not about Turkey, but about push-back by the US against growing Russian power and influence, both globally and in the Middle East region — could also choose to respond in a venue where it has more of an advantage, for example in Ukraine, where it could amp up its support for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, perhaps by downing a Ukrainian military plane, or more broadly, providing air cover to protect those regions. Russia could also, less directly, provide aid to Kurdish rebels in both Syria and in Turkey itself who are fighting against Turkish forces.
I’m sure there are plenty of other options available to Russia also to turn the screws against both Turkey and NATO, without openly pushing buttons that could lead to a direct confrontation with the US and its NATO fiction. Working in Russia’s favor is that the US aside, the European nations of NATO have no desire to be at war with Russia. There are clearly hotheads in the US Congress, the Pentagon, and perhaps even within the neo-con-infested Obama administration, who are pushing for just such a mad showdown. But in Europe, where the actual fighting would mostly occur, and where memories are still strong of the destructive power of war, there is no taste for such insanity. It could, in fact, have been a big error in the long run for the US to push Turkey into such a deadly provocation, if it leads to more anti-American sentiment among the citizens of such key NATO countries as France, Germany, Italy and Britain.
It should be added that Russia and China have become much closer in recent years, economically, politically and militarily. This means there is also the possibility that the two countries could, in concert, step up pressure on the US in the western Pacific, for example by forcing down one of the provocative US flights near China’s new island projects in the South China Sea. That would force an already stretched US military to shift more forces to Asia from Europe and the Middle East.
It is all terribly dangerous and it is hard to predict where things will lead. One thing seems certain, though. This outrageous shootdown of a Russian plane that was in no way posing a threat to Turkey or Turkish forces, will not end here, because Russia and President Putin cannot allow Turkey and NATO to so blatantly act against Russia and its pilots and go unpunished, particularly as it is Russia that is acting legally in Syria, while the US, Turkey and other nations backing rebel forces there are in all acting blatant violation of international law.
Unless saner heads start prevailing in Washington, this could all quickly spiral into the kind of situation in 1914, where a lot of ill-conceived treaties led to a minor incident in the Balkans turning inexorably into World War I.
Source: Voltaire Network
The days of the « Arab Spring » are almost over. As of now, the White House and the Kremlin are redesigning the contours of the « Greater Middle East ». However, their agreement, which was concluded before the Russian military intervention in Syria, could still be modified by the changes in the balance of power. There is no proof that Moscow will accept the stabilisation of Syria or ignore the partition of Turkey and Saudi Arabia which are soon to begin. In any event, the coming upheaval will modify the status quo which has been in place for the last five years. Most of the powers implicated are therefore scrambling to change sides before the other players.
Whatever its home country, the Press is currently too occupied with analysing the position of its own State in the Near East conflict to take any note of the ongoing global negotiations between the White House and the Kremlin . As a result, it is misinterpreting certain secondary events. In order to clarify the current diplomatic agitation, we have to revisit the USA-Russian agreement of last September.
The public part of this agreement was formulated by Russia in a document distributed on the 29th September at the UN Security Council . It indicates that in order to re-establish peace and stability in North Africa and the Near East, it is essential – and sufficient –
(1) to apply the resolutions of the Security Council – which notably implies the retreat of Israël to its 1967 borders – and
(2) to combat terrorist ideology – in other words, to fight the Muslim Brotherhood, created by the United Kingdom and supported by Turkey, and the Wahhabism propagated by Saudi Arabia.
It had originally been planned that Russia should call for the adoption of a resolution to this end during the Security Council meeting of the 30th September. However, the United States opposed this initiative less than one hour beforehand . Sergey Lavrov therefore presided over the talks without mentioning his project. This major event can only be interpreted as a tactical disagreement which must not block a strategic agreement.
On the 20th October, at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin received his Syrian counterpart, Bachar el-Assad, in the presence of his Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs, the General Secretary of the Russian Council for National Security and the head of the secret services. The meeting concerned the application of the Russia-US plan, including the agreement of the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012 . President el-Assad pointed out that he was following the instructions of this Communiqué, and in particular, that he had integrated into his government the opposition parties who had requested participation, as required by the description in the Communiqué of a Transitional Governing Body.
“Frederick John Westcott (26 March 1866 – 18 September 1941), best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was an English theatre impresario of the British music hall. He is credited with popularizing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. During the 1890s, in order to circumvent stage censorship, Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue. Cheeky authority-defying playlets such as “Jail Birds” (1896) in which prisoners play tricks on warders and “Early Birds” (1903), where a small man defeats a large ruffian in London’s East End, can be seen as precursors of movie silent comedy. American film producer Hal Roach stated: “Fred Karno is not only a genius, he is the man who originated slapstick comedy. We in Hollywood owe much to him.” Among the music hall comedians who worked for him were Charlie Chaplin and his understudy, Arthur Jefferson, who later adopted the name of Stan Laurel. These were part of what was known as “Fred Karno’s Army”, a phrase still occasionally used in the UK to refer to a chaotic group or organisation. The phrase was also adapted by British soldiers into a trench song in the First World War, as a parody of, or rather to the tune of, the hymn The Church’s One Foundation … “. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Karno.
Writing again from Occupied France, I’ve just watched ‘The Anna Tuv Story’ (q.v.) She lost an arm, her husband Yuriy, and their 11 year old daughter Katya when, in May 2015, their house in Gorlovka was shelled, probably by Ukraine’s 1st howitzer division. But with ‘soundbites’ scripted mostly by the swivel-eyed hasbara merchants, the news was never reported. Neither were the 800 artillery rounds falling on Donetsk to greet the UK’s visiting Defence Secretary. As London and Washington manifested their support for putschists in Ukraine and Brazil, police, journalists and protestors heavily outnumbered pro-Israeli ‘pleasure seekers’ at the Paris Plages fiasco.
The arms trade is booming. With their ham acting and weasel words from White House Apparatchiks, la Mère Hidalgo in Paris, le Père Porochenko and the Right Honourable Tory MP Michael Fallon in Kiev fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance, farce competes with tragedy to sharpen our appetite for truth, justice and peace. The threatened coup d’Etat to oust Dilma Rousseff is deeply disturbing. In a rare moment of optimism, I had considered renaming my, as yet unpublished, research «La décheance du peuple élu – à quand la fin d’une élite autoproclamée ?». But can one translate that into English ? Is there any reason to warrant the belief that we, or any other dissident group, make any impact on this loathsome, repressively Permissive Society of ours ?
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Continue reading ‘Tel Aviv sur Seine’ – as a rather ‘sick Jewish joke’ bites the dust, by Paul Matthews