Friday 29 February 2008

Turkey's war on PKK

Cem Uzun reports from Istanbul.

Turkey's invasion of Iraq is continuing, and PKK militants and Turkish soldiers, the sons of poor Turkish families, continue to die. The death toll is 150 and rising at the time of writing.

The fighting is in appalling conditions and scores of Turkish soldiers have been hospitalised with frostbite. No-one can know how many fighters and civilians have suffered the same fate on the “other” side.

Turkish media are filled with nationalistic propaganda. The familiar “precision strike” videos are accompanied by the funerals of the Turkish soldiers who have died, under headings like “Ibrahim was sent to heaven”.

US secretary of defense Robert Gates visited Ankara this week and asked, as did George Bush, that the invasion should be “short”.

The reply from Turkey's chief of the general staff, Buyukanit was, “Short is a relative term, it could mean a day and it could mean a year. We will withdraw when our job is done. How long have you been in Afghanistan?” At the time of writing some troops are returning from Iraq, but it does not look likely that the invasion is over.

Turkey's operations are being supported by instant satellite and electronic intelligence from the US. However, Turkey's invasion threatens to destabilise Northern Iraq into civil war, damaging US interests. The US is threatening to cut off the flow of intelligence if Turkey prolongs the invasion.

However, if the US does cut off intelligence, the Turkish Army will have an excuse for extending their stay to “complete their job”, claiming that without intelligence it will take longer. In this game of chess, people continue to die.

Meanwhile opposition is growing to the invasion inside Turkey. Turkey's Kurds have been protesting since day one. Parents of dead soldiers have started to question why their children have died, questioning army officers who turn up to the funerals about where the officers' own sons did their military service.

A significant turning point came on a live television game program called “Popstar Alaturka”. As part of the nationalistic propaganda campaign the program started with a minute's silence for the “martyrs”, as they are called, of the invasion.

At the end of the minute's silence, jury member and superstar singer (and transsexual) Bulent Ersoy, took the microphone and said, “I am not a mother, and I can never be a mother, but if I were a mother, I would not send my son to fight in someone else's war.”

There has been an instant lynch campaign against Bulent Ersoy and a mainstream media blackout on her replies to criticisms. The public prosecutor has taken out charges against her for “turning the people against the army”.

In a press conference the day after her television appearance, she defended her words, saying, (about the Kurdish problem) “If asking for a solution, rather than death, is a crime, then let them come and hang me right now.”

Now thousands of signatures are pouring into the “No to the military operations” campaign web site in support of Bulent Ersoy and calling for the prosecution of Ersoy to be stopped. The Turkish Human Rights Association and Turkey's Peace Parliament have also come out in support of Bulent Ersoy.

US sends the big guns

It seems the US have decided to send a battleship to sit off the Lebanese coast. The USS Cole, the ship that was almost sunk by Al-Qaeda, will support "democracy" by firing volleys of ballot boxes at Beirut.

Picture is of a big hole in the side of the USS Cole

Thursday 28 February 2008

Abbas: al-Qaeda in Gaza

According to The Times, al-Hayat, and other pro-Israeli rags, Al-Qaeda has set up shop in the Gaza Strip with the help of Hamas. Now call me an old cynic, but does this sound like the desperate ravings of a loser?

Here's The Times report:

Al-Qaeda militants have infiltrated the Palestinian territories with help from Hamas, according to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President.

The charges are the most serious yet in the war of words between Mr Abbas, who controls the West Bank, and Hamas, whose Islamist guerrillas expelled his Fatah-dominated security force from the Gaza Strip last summer.

“Al-Qaeda is present in Gaza and I’m convinced that they [Hamas] are their allies,” said Mr Abbas in an interview with al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper. “I can say without doubt that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence, especially in Gaza, is facilitated by Hamas.”

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Bloodsuckers—number 768

"The US has been building defense hardware for two very different scenarios. One is regular warfare, with huge fleets of aircraft combating huge fleets of enemy aircraft, major tank battles, and navies fighting over all of the oceans.

"We are building equipment like the CVNs, nuclear submarines, the DDX destroyers, LCS ships for littoral warfare, a whole new Army designed around the concept of Future Combat Systems (FSC), the F-22 and the JSF for the Air Force.

"However, we are not fighting that kind of war at this time. What we are fighting now is irregular warfare, like the war in Iraq and the war Israel just recently fought in Lebanon. Snipers, IEDs, booby traps, and house-to-house fighting with an often unidentified enemy are the hallmarks of irregular warfare.

"To fight this kind of war effectively you need unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), robots, IED countermeasures, sensors, and networking of communications."

Myron Levy, cahirman of Herley Industries, addressing stockholders at the company's annual stockholders' meeting.

Monday 25 February 2008

"And the innocent pay the price"

A clip from Al-Jazeera's documentary of the civil war shows the fickle nature of the Lebanese political class. They describe the battle of the mountains in the early 1980s.

Elias Attallah (the leftwing military commander, now an M14 coalition MP), Walid Jumblat (then appealing for Syrian intevention in his battle with the Lebanese Forces‚ now an ally of the LF) and the former head of the Communist Party, George Hawi, (a key pro Syrian figure during the war, who was then assassinated by Syria).

The only consistant element to all of this is the final statement, "And the innocent pay the price".

Price of bread

Robert Worth of The New York Times reports on the cycle of inflation and protest sweeping across the Middle East:

Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to fuel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.

In Jordan, the cost of maintaining fuel subsidies amid the surge in prices forced the government to remove almost all the subsidies this month, sending the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.

In Saudi Arabia, where inflation had been virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.”

In a few places the price increases have led to violence. In Yemen, prices for bread and other foods have nearly doubled in the past four months, setting off a string of demonstrations and riots in which at least a dozen people were killed.

In Morocco, 34 people were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for participating in riots over food prices, the Moroccan state news service reported. Even tightly controlled Jordan has had nonviolent demonstrations and strikes.

In Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, inflation is in the double digits, and foreign workers, who constitute a vast majority of the work force, have gone on strike in recent months because of the declining purchasing power of the money they send home.

The workers are paid in currencies that are pegged to the dollar, and the value of their salaries—translated into Indian rupees and other currencies—has dropped significantly.

Picture: Workers in Egypt demand a rise in the minimum wage. Photo by Mohamed Abul Dahab

Sunday 24 February 2008

Still missing

Mariam Saidi spends her days creating clay busts of her beloved son who vanished without a trace 26 years ago, aged only 16, in the midst of the savage civil war which tore through Lebanon.

Maher had joined the fight against Israeli forces who entered Lebanon and on June 17, 1982, he was barricaded in a science university building alongside other communist party fighters.

The building was attacked by Israeli troops, backed by Lebanese Christian militants and her son was captured.

"They were arrested and transported to a jail controlled by Lebanese forces. Since then, I have heard nothing."

"The Lebanese government is not interested in discovering his fate because many of the people implicated in these disappearances, both government and opposition people, now have senior jobs," she said, adding her son may have been transferred to an Israeli prison.

Snazis vs Nazis

According to Press TV the right wing (pro-Syrian) Syrian Social National Party clashed with the right-wing (whoever pays them) Lebanese Forces in the Koura region (the old frontline between the two):

"Overnight clashes between Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party have wounded six people in north Lebanon.

"The clash with sticks in the town of Deddeh in the northern Koura province soon turned into exchanges of gunfire that left six people wounded, security sources said Sunday.

"Lebanese army troops and policemen stepped in and contained the fight."

BUT its OK because the economy grew 3 percent last year! And there we all were thinking the country was on the edge of an abyss.