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Erdogan at Home: Yes to Oppression, No to Rights

By Doha Shams | Al-Akhbar | June 18, 2013

Since the start of the protests and ensuing unrest in Turkey, a peculiar tradition has emerged in Istanbul. As the soon as the clock strikes 9 pm, a chorus of percussion – banging pots and pans – emanates from open windows in “pro-opposition” buildings. The cacophony lasts for about half an hour, sometimes more, depending on the day’s events. Its purpose: to show solidarity with the protesters in Taksim Square.

Istanbul – Aznur returned from the dentist disappointed and worried. She had an appointment, but the clinic was closed. She was not sure if this had something to do with the general strike called by Turkey’s trade unions.

The young woman, in her twenties, stood bemused, her face still swollen from yesterday’s tear gas. She then mumbled, “Maybe he is still detained. He was protesting with us last night.”

Though Aznur’s English is broken, this is nonetheless a “great achievement” in Turkey, where few people go on to master any foreign languages. In truth, the language barrier has made on-location coverage difficult for those who want to understand events beyond the news agencies.

Five Turkish trade unions declared the strike following the brutal police crackdown on protesters, which has claimed the lives of four activists and injured thousands since the protests began. Yesterday alone, 600 protesters were detained throughout Turkey, according to a source in the Turkish Bar Association who declined to be named.

The trade unions’ move also signals their rejection of the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Such policies have started to infringe alarmingly on individual freedoms, as many young men and women have told us.

Serttaş, a 30-year-old physical therapist, said, “Does Erdogan think Turkey is Gaza? The municipality of Ankara prohibited men and women from holding hands in public places and public transportation! Who does he think he is? All that is left for him to do is come with me to the bathroom! And why would he ban the sale of alcohol after 10 pm? I don’t understand.”

“We are here defending our way of life,” he added.

Yesterday was a momentous day. The repression of unarmed, peaceful protesters was unparalleled for a country not at war. Perhaps the explanation for Erdogan’s ham-fisted approach lies in his fear of catching the “Arab Spring” bug.

In its crackdown on the protesters, the government used a new type of tear gas, which could be a misnomer since the gas is blinding, as we were told by medical sources who said that 17 people have lost their sight because of the gas. The government has also shut down all communications, Internet access, and public transport like the subway and taxis. On top of it all, he has cut off power from Taksim Square to deter protesters from coming to the site.

These measures paralyzed the touristic capital. Thousands of tourists were stranded. We were able to spot some lost in the streets, unable to find their way back to their hotels.

We saw a Japanese tourist standing in front of a clerk at the bus station in Findikli Station on the Bosphorus. “I have a question,” she tried to tell the clerk. He looked at her said, “Yok yok” – Turkish for “there isn’t,” as in there isn’t anything operating. The tourist asked again, “Bus? Tram?”

“Bus yok, metro yok,” the clerk replied, making hand gestures to mimic someone walking. The girl, not quite sure what to do, followed his advice.

I, too, was stranded after witnessing the dispersal of a protest near Taksim using tear gas, water cannons, and batons. I ran away from the terrible smell in the direction of the waterfront along with some protesters. There, I encountered staggering traffic along the Bosphorus.

I learned afterwards that the legendary traffic was caused by Erdogan’s supporters, who came in from the Turkish provinces to meet his call to rally in the neighborhood of Zeytinburnu, where Erdogan delivered his speech.

“Most people left before Erdogan finished half of his speech,” a man in his fifties told us from where was he standing, in front of his café. I glanced at the Turkish television inside that was broadcasting Erdogan’s speech, and I saw the flag of the Syrian opposition.

During my long wait at the waterfront, I saw many large buses packed with women wearing the headscarf, and crammed taxis. Traffic was at a standstill. We asked one taxi after another, “Osmanbey?” to which the unanimous answer was “Kapali, kapali,” meaning “it’s closed.” The police reinforcements had closed it down.

Nearly an hour later, when Erdogan’s speech was over, traffic suddenly started rolling. In a matter of minutes, the street was completely empty, as though someone had blocked it at a faraway spot. I heard chants in the distance, and soon thereafter, a few-hundred-strong protest arrived in the area. Clearly, they came to protest against what Erdogan said during his speech.

Most of the protesters are young and middle class. There even are claims that most of the protesters are taking to the streets for the first time. Almost everyone was wearing a gas mask or goggles.

They looked at the choppers flying overhead and waved their fists at them in a challenging gesture. Passing boats in the Bosphorus sounded their horns, and people banged pots on balconies or applauded.

Şenol, a 40-year-old man who took part in the protests, said, “I do not blame the poor for backing Erdogan. They do not know their rights. They think that the handouts of the Justice and Development Party are something good. They don’t understand that his economic policies impoverish them.”

He continued, “Erdogan fools them with religious slogans while he sells public property, and expands the circle of cronies of businessmen and the nouveau riche. One day, they will understand. We too voted for him thinking he would rid us of the military, but he is worse than them.”

The time is nearly 8 pm. The sky is overcast. I tried to contact friends, but the phone lines are broken. Smartphones weren’t so smart either, because the Internet had been shut down.

Istanbul was nearly choking because of the fires and toxic gases that poisoned the air. Scores of hotel reservations and trips have been cancelled, much to the chagrin of workers who depend on tourism to make a living.

The clashes in Taksim and neighboring quarters continued throughout Saturday and Sunday. Street battles near the Osmanbey metro station led to a major confrontation on Sunday shortly after 4 pm.

It rained heavily, flash-flooding Istanbul’s streets. The rain washed away the toxic air, and forced some police officers to retreat. The protesters also took advantage of the rain to flee to their homes and wait for the next round of protests tomorrow.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran ready to halt 20% uranium enrichment, West must reciprocate – Lavrov

RT | June 18, 2013

Iran has confirmed it is prepared to halt its enrichment of 20-percent uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, urging Western nations to end their sanctions against Tehran.

“For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program,” he said in the interview to Kuwait’s KUNA news agency, that was published on Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

“Without going into details, the Iranians confirm the most important [point]: Their readiness to stop 20 percent uranium enrichment at its current levels,” Lavrov said.“This could become a breakthrough agreement, significantly alleviating existing problems, including concerns about the possibility of advanced uranium enrichment to a weapons-grade level.”

Such a move “implies significant reciprocal steps by the Six,” the minister added, referring to the group of world powers seeking to peacefully resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

“The international community must adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity,” Lavrov concluded.

News of Iran’s possible concessions over its nuclear program comports with promises made by Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani, who vowed to make the program more transparent.

Still, the moderate cleric stressed on Monday that Tehran would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely. Rowhani insisted that Iran’s nuclear activities are “within the framework of law,” and dubbed the international sanctions “baseless.”

Despite numerous accusations by Israel and the US that it is secretly conducting military nuclear research, Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.

At his first media conference since winning the presidential elections, Rowhani – who previously headed Iran’s delegation during nuclear talks with the six world powers – said that Tehran’s nuclear activities “are already transparent,” but “the only way to end the sanctions is to increase the transparency and trust” between Iran and the international community.

Washington has been expecting changes in Iran’s hardline stance on the nuclear issue following the country’s presidential elections. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on ‘Face the Nation’ that Washington is ready to work with the new administration in Tehran, “If he lives up to his obligations under the UN Security Council resolution to come clean on this illicit nuclear program.”

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained unconvinced: “The international community must not become caught up in wishes and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program,” he said.

President-elect Rowhani will assume office in August. He believes that he can heal the “old wound” of troubled US-Iran relations if Washington stops interfering in Tehran’s internal affairs and permanently ends its “bullying” practices towards Iran.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Should be Expected From President Rowhani?

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | June 18, 2013

On June 15, 2013, Hassan Rowhani became Iran’s president-elect and raised expectations about the outcome of future meetings between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, collectively known as the P5+1. From 2003 to 2005 Rowhani headed a team that negotiated Iran’s nuclear program with France, Britain, and Germany (EU3). In these negotiations the EU3 made every effort to stop Iran’s enrichment activities. The result was the November 2004 Paris Agreement, which asked Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities voluntarily and temporarily in exchange for some vague and, for all practical purposes, undeliverable economic promises. In what appeared to be a kind of “good-cop, bad-cop arrangement”—where the Europeans and Americans were working together but playing different roles—the US gave this agreement guarded approval.

By 2005 there were reports that the US might support EU negotiations with Iran and accept the so-called carrot and stick approach. Even though this was no more than the bad cop joining the good cop, Israel and its lobby groups expressed opposition to any shift in US policy and waged a campaign against it. In Iran, too, there was opposition to the Paris Agreement, especially after the US gave the agreement its tacit blessing. The opposition became stronger with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran, and Rowhani was removed as the head of the negotiating team. After protesting that the Paris Agreement was turning a voluntary and temporary halt in uranium enrichment activities into a permanent freeze and that the EU had not kept its part of the bargain, Iran ended the agreement.

In 2006, the US, Russia and China joined the talks between Iran and the EU3. The group became known as the P5+1. Ever since, the meetings between Iran and the P5+1 have continued on and off, but have produced no tangible results. The question is can Rowhani change the equation, reach an agreement with the P5+1, and mitigate the sanctions imposed on Iran.

As stated earlier, the P5+1 consists of the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. However, through proxies, there is also another power present at the meetings between Iran and the P5+1, i.e., Israel. Indeed, Israel is such a powerful factor that after every meeting between Iran and the P5+1, the US representative to the meeting briefs Israeli officials, sometimes even before briefing the US government. Thus, Iran is actually dealing with the P5+2.

The most import question is what these powers are trying to achieve by these meetings. Is their intention merely to end the nuclear program of Iran? Or are they ultimately trying to use these talks, and what appears to be Iran’s intransigence to end its nuclear program, to overthrow the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and replace it with a US-Israel friendly government? In order to answer this question, we have to divide the P5+2 into two groups: Russia and China on one side and the rest, which we can call the P3+2, on the other.

In the meetings between Iran and the P5+2 Russia and China seem to be merely tagging along, fishing in muddy waters to see if they can find some political or economic advantage. For example, in exchange for agreeing to impose the fourth set of UN sanctions on Iran, Russia made a deal with the US on the expiring 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the US deployment of anti-missile system in Europe, and China received less pressure from the US for its alleged currency manipulations.

Russia and China are ideologically not close to the Islamic Republic of Iran; nevertheless, they don’t seem to have any intention of overthrowing its government. They have never had a close relation with Iran in the past and don’t expect to have one in the future. Moreover, they don’t seem to believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and are not opposed to Iran pursuing some limited civilian nuclear program. If Iran were to deal with Russia and China directly, a resolution of the nuclear issue could be reached relatively rapidly.

The story is different with the other 5 members of the P5+2. All five, particularly the US and Israel, used to have very close relations with the Shah of Iran; and ever since the downfall of the monarchy in 1979, they have been trying to restore such relations. Moreover, Israel sees Iran as a major impediment to its continued occupation of Palestine, and this makes its animosity toward the Islamic Republic of Iran even more intense.

The P3+2, particularly the US and Israel, have used every excuse to facilitate the overthrow of the post-revolutionary government of Iran, and sanctions have played a significant role in this attempt. Among the many excuses that they have used are Iran taking hostages at the US embassy in 1979, supporting terrorism, not supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, developing weapons of mass destruction, destabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq, harboring Al-Qaeda, lacking democracy, being ruled by unelected individuals, violating human rights, not protecting the rights of women, not being forward-looking and modern and, of course, Iran developing nuclear weapons. The last one, developing nuclear weapons, is actually a relatively new excuse; it has been used as the rallying point since 2002.

In short, for 34 years sanctions have been levied against Iran, particularly by the US, even in the absence of any accusation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Thus, members of the P3+2 appear to have a different agenda than merely ending or limiting the nuclear program of Iran; the agenda seems to be the good old notion of “regime change.” The formal meetings are used to show that Iran is not giving up its nuclear program, to pile up more draconian sanctions, to create enormous economic crisis, and, if there is a mass revolt, to wage a military attack against Iran. As long as this agenda exists, there will be no resolution, regardless of who the Iranian president is. Even if Iran agrees to halt its nuclear programs, all other excuses will remain.

Let us suppose, however, that in the meetings Iran concedes to each and every possible demand of the P3+2, or that the P3+2 reaches the conclusion that after 34 years of sanctions and threats of war there is no prospect of overthrowing the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Moreover, let us suppose that the US is apprehensive about another costly military conflict in the Middle East. Can sanctions be removed?

There are currently four multilateral sanctions and numerous unilateral sanctions against Iran. The four multilateral sanctions are imposed by the United Nations and, if the UN Security Council decides, these sanctions could be annulled. Some of the unilateral sanctions are imposed by the Council of the European Union. Theoretically, these sanctions, too, could be annulled if the Council decides to do so.

The majority of sanctions, however, are imposed by the US government. These sanctions themselves fall into two broad categories, those imposed by the executive branch and those mandated by the US Congress. The sanctions imposed by the executive branch are in the form of executive orders; and they, in turn, allow imposition of numerous sanctions by such entities as the Department of State and Department of the Treasury. These sanctions could be removed if the US president decides to do so. However, the same cannot be said of the sanctions imposed by the US Congress and signed into law by the president. An example of these kinds of sanctions is the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), which was passed by the Congress on June 24, 2010, and signed by President Obama on July 1, 2010. These acts, which are usually much harsher and more sweeping than those imposed by the executive branch, cannot be annulled by the president at a stroke of a pen. They must be changed or removed by the Congress and this is technically very difficult. Moreover, it is hard to see how these sanctions can be removed given the fact that the underwriters of many of them are ultimately Israel and its lobby groups in the US, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). As along as Israel needs an “existential threat” to justify its occupation of Palestine, as long as the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives need the Israeli lobby groups to get elected—and would therefore sign just about every anti-Iran bill put in front of them—and, in general, as long as the US “military-Industrial complex” needs an “enemy” to continue its existence, removing Congressional sanctions is nearly impossible.

In sum, even if President Rowhani makes concessions on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the P3+2 will ask for more; and if the P3+2’s intention continues to be “regime change,” no concession from Iran will satisfy them. Moreover, the removal of draconian sanctions imposed by the US Congress on Iran is so difficult that we should not expect real “sanctions relief” any time soon. The best that can be expected from Rowhani is the appointment of a more competent team of negotiators who can make it difficult for the P3+2 to carry out its “regime change” plan.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

UN statement on Israeli plan to relocate Palestinians to build houses for settlers

MEMO | June 17, 2013

A UN organisation has highlighted the plight of small Palestinian farming communities in the hills to the east of Jerusalem which are at risk of forced displacement due to a “relocation” plan advanced by the Israeli authorities. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory (UNOCHA) said that the Israelis try to justify their plan on the grounds that the residents do not “possess title over the land”. Around 80 per cent of the people affected are refugees who were forced from their original lands in the south of the country in the early 1950s.

“A combination of measures adopted by the Israeli authorities has created a coercive environment for the communities,” said OCHA. They have restricted access to grazing land and markets to sell their produce. “These acts have undermined their livelihoods and increased their dependency on humanitarian assistance.”

In addition to demolition and the threat of demolition of homes, schools and animal shelters, as well as corresponding restrictions on obtaining building permits, the authorities have also failed to protect the communities from intimidation and attacks by Israeli settlers, alleges OCHA. “The communities have been told that they have ‘no choice’ but to leave.”

The UN organisation stated that the Israeli authorities have allocated public (state) land in two sites designated for the relocation, and prepared planning schemes, which are at final stages of approval. It added that this step raises cultural concerns as it threatens the traditional way of life for these people.

Israel’s plan includes the construction of thousands of housing units for illegal settlers in the E1 area, which creates a continuous built-up area between the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and Jerusalem. OCHA said that this plan has been frozen since the late 1990s, but the Israel government has recently reactivated it.

“The affected area is also planned to be surrounded by the Barrier [West Bank Separation Wall],” said OCHA. “If implemented, these plans will undermine Palestinian presence in the area, further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and disrupt the territorial contiguity of the occupied territory.”

According to the OCHA report, “The UN Secretary General has stated that the implementation of the proposed ‘relocation’ would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers and forced evictions, prohibited under international humanitarian law and human rights law.”

The Secretary General based his statements on the following grounds:

  • As an occupying power, Israel has an obligation to protect the Palestinian civilian population and to administer the territory for the benefit of that population.
  • The destruction or confiscation of private property, including homes, as well as the transfer of settlers into occupied territory, is also prohibited.

OCHA pointed out that these residents are “calling for the international community to protect them and assist them in their current location and to afford adequate planning and permits for their homes and livelihood-related properties.”

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

US deploys 1,500 Marines to Yemen: Yemeni official

Press TV – June 18, 2013

The United States has deployed 1,500 Marines with advanced arms and military equipment to Yemen, says a Yemeni military official.

Some 1,500 Marines were deployed to al-Anad military base in the country’s southern province of Lahij, al-Sharea daily quoted the official as saying on Monday.

Another 200 also arrived in the capital, Sana’a, to join the American forces already stationed in the capital’s Sheraton Hotel.

The official also said that American forces usually enter the country in small groups, but the recent large deployment could be in preparation for a possible imminent incident in the region.

The United States has stepped up its drone operations in Yemen over the past few years, killing many civilians in the Muslim country.

According to the Washington-based think tank, the New America Foundation, the US drone attacks in Yemen almost tripled in 2012.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Canada pledges $100m in aid to Jordan

Press TV – June 18, 2013

Canada has vowed to provide Jordan with an additional USD 100 million in aid amid ongoing crisis in the Arab country’s neighboring Syria.

Canada Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement on Monday that Ottawa offered another USD 98.4 million to the Jordan’s government to help the kingdom cope with the influx of Syrian refugees.

The aid followed Baird’s visit to Jordan on Sunday and his meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh over the Syria unrest.

Ottawa’s move came after Pentagon said on Saturday that the US will keep its F-16 jets and patriot missile batteries in Jordan after the joint military exercises with the kingdom this month.

This is while reports say that US government was preparing to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.

On June 14, Obama ordered his administration to provide the militants with weapons, a day after the US claimed that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the militants and thus crossed Washington’s “red line.” Damascus has rejected the allegation as “lies.”

The delivery of the weapons, which include assault rifles, shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and antitank missiles, would be carried out through the CIA, reports say.

Last week, a US defense official also stated that Washington would keep a unit of US Marines on amphibious ships off the Red Sea coast after consultations with Jordan.

The US-based Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that the no-fly zone could be implemented from Jordan.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gaza Government: “We Never Prevented Muslim Students From Attending Christian Schools”

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | June 18, 2013

The Palestinian Ministry of Education, under the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip, denied reports claiming that the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and its government ever prevented Muslim students from attending Christian schools in the coastal region.

The Ministry issued a press release [Monday June 17 2013] stating that such a claimed decision was never made, and that students have the right to choose any school they deem fit.

The statement came after an Israeli news agency claimed that Hamas is preventing Muslim students from attending Christian school in Gaza.

An official at the Ministry of Education in Gaza stated that the government supports all schools, including Christian schools, and does not differentiate between them.

The official added that Christian schools in Gaza are an important aspect of the social fabric, and that all Christians in Gaza are an integral part of the Palestinian society.

“What the Israeli agency claimed it’s a baseless lie”, he said, “a lie that aims at creating tension between Muslims and Christians in the Gaza Strip”.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Police Arrest over 100, Raid Media Offices in Turkey

Al-Manar | June 18, 2013

Turkish police detained dozens of people at their homes and raided two media offices on Tuesday in a coordinated operation across the country to clamp down on nearly three weeks of mass anti-government unrest, AFP reported.

Officers raided the homes of around 90 members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), a small leftist group that has been active in Istanbul’s Gezi Park protest at the centre of the nationwide protest movement, the Istanbul bar association said.

Police also searched the offices of the Atilim daily and the Etkin news agency, local media outlets linked to the ESP group, the NTV and CNN-Turk television stations reported.

NTV said 30 people were arrested in the capital Ankara and another 13 in the northwestern city of Eskisehir in a police swoop targeting 21 provinces overall.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment