Tag Archive | syria

Western Democracy creates Eastern Dictatorships?

I try to be open minded. In fact, I read newspapers, from all political viewpoints, from around the globe. Every once in a while, I stumble on something strangely fascinating. I saw it last month, but it’s taking on more relevance this week.

The German news outlet DW.com ran a number of stories about Turks living abroad who were voting on the referendum in Turkey. If you don’t recall, it’s the one that basically would allow the President Erdogan to become a dictator and do away with democracy.

Infografik Karte Wahlberechtigte Türken in der EU Englisch

People living in the West assumed that Turks living in the West, would be pro Democracy. Interestingly, that wasn’t the case. In fact, if the vote on the referendum had been confined to voters actually living in Turkey, democracy would have prevailed.

The reason Turkey is now a dictatorship is because over 3 million Turks abroad overwhelmingly voted for dictatorship in their home country. Think about that for a second. Turks, educated in democracy, wanted their homeland to become a dictatorship.

Turks in Belgium voted for the referendum by the highest percentage in Europe, at almost 80 percent.  Austria was next, with more than 72 percent in favor, and the result in the Netherlands, where the government clashed with Erdogan last month to block pro-government rallies, was not far behind with almost 70% for “yes.”

There have been various reactions to this news. One viewpoint is that support in Europe for Erdogan is a result of failed integration and a low level of education. That’s probably partially true. But, that overlooks the component that caused Brexit and Trump, abuse of personal data.

If you read the Facebook stuff the other day, this is in that vein. In the case of Turks abroad, they received a letter asking them to vote yes on the referendum. The problem with that was a law, which was passed in Turkey in 2008, prohibits political parties from propagandizing outside the country.

Furthermore, for people with dual citizenship, the country in which they reside has priority. Thus, such a letter is a violation of German law. “This means that the personal data of people with German as well as Turkish citizenship has been given to a political party in Turkey,” says Kilic.

So once again, this is a targeted, and illegal, campaign.

In the run-up to Turkey’s 2015 parliamentary elections.Turkish voters living in Germany and the Netherlands received a similar letter bearing the signature of then-Prime Minister Davutoglu. Daniel Strunk, a spokesperson for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (LDI-NRW), reports that as a result, many Turkish voters in Germany filed complaints with German authorities stating that their personal data, such as name and address, had been collected without their consent.

“Three voters claiming to have received AKP propaganda contacted us. It was unknown just how the party had gotten their personal data,” Strunk said. He also pointed out that foreign representatives do not fall under the LDI’s jurisdiction. Hence, authorities were unable to initiate an investigation into how the AKP attained the information and if any laws had been broken in the process.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’re paying attention. It seems a common thread among dictators these days to target people through data scrapes and data collection tools. While not all such tools are illegal, given the cozy Russia-Turkey relationship, it’s not hard to imagine how personal data had been collected.

Which brings us to this week. Being a dictator now, Mr Erdogan has decided he wants to bring back the death penalty. Germans fundamentally oppose this. Turkey has been angling for EU status for a while, but its values fail to align with the EU stance on things like democracy, women’s rights, religious freedom, etc, etc. There is no death penalty in the EU.

Today Angela Merkel said there will be no vote on the return of the death penalty in Turkey by Turks living in Germany Bringing back the death penalty in Turkey would effectively end any pretense over Turkey’s troubled EU bid. But maybe that’s the point. Turkey is turning to Russia and away from the EU. What that means for Syrian refugees, Anti-Assad refugees that Russia bombs with abandon, is anyone’s guess.

Turkey banned the death penalty in peace time in 2002 under reforms aimed at starting EU membership talks. It was completely abolished in 2004, two years after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power.

At the time, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, was on death row following his 1999 capture. Europe had urged Turkey not to go forward with the execution, which would have triggered massive and potentially violent Kurdish protests in Europe and Turkey.

Erdogan first broached bringing back the death penalty in 2012 during an uptick in fighting between the PKK and Turkish military. Which of course brings us back to Syria, and the Kurds, and the YPG-PYD, whom the US are relying on to fight ISIS in Syria. As of today, according to Reuters:

Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger U.S.-backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Needless to say, no matter how you slice world politics, the US is a part of the world. It can’t just hide it’s head and pretend otherwise. The problem for the US though is totally incompetent people at the State and in the WH. They literally don’t know what do do.

Luckily, Trump’s Russian friends/handlers, Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, agreed to meet with him today at the White House. Not really a cold call, I mean Jared, Mike Flynn, and Jeff Sessions all had previous backdoor meetings — they failed to disclose — with them.

Be interesting to see what happens with regards to US policy on Syria, Turkey and the Kurds as a result. Probably nothing. They probably just wanted an update on the FBI investigation.

Coal miner’s lament

coal

In news today from Reuters, US and Russian coal exports are way, way up because China has decided to sanction North Korean coal.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product. To curb coal traffic between the two countries, which continued despite the ban apparently, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Trump’s been talking about North Korea since before he was elected. I’ve always wondered why. Consensus states the North Korea is in pretty bad shape and that most of what they say is a lie. It’s doubtful they have anything like a functioning weapon. North Korea, which is hardly worth bothering about. That the POTUS was bothered, always made me wonder. I kind of get it now.

By casting North Korea as a problem, and getting China to agree and ban buying coal from NK, China then has to buy coal elsewhere, which potentially means US coal jobs. Is this what the POTUS meant when he said he would bring back coal jobs? Not so fast. It may sound good on the surface for American workers, but dig a little deeper.

China needs coking coal to make steel, China can’t stop buying this type of coal or its economy will suffer. So …. the US is one place they might buy it from. However, another place, that’s much closer geographically and less costly to buy from, is Russia.  Yes, you read that correctly Russia.

Russia’s coal exports are expected to rise by up to 3.3 pct in 2017 according to a UK Reuters report. Coal is a $10B industry in Russia, increasing it over 3% would be a major economic boost to the economy there. Why does such a boost matter? Because it helps Putin get around US sanctions and helps Putin make more money so he and his oligarchy can stay in office longer.

So, the upshot of Trump being tough on North Korea is Trump is helping Putin avoid the pain of sanctions. By the way, coaking coal prices were at an all time high since a hurricane hit Australia, blanking North Korea from the game … yeah, really good, for Russia.

In case anyone forgot, the sanctions were supposed to weaken the Russian economy and make the Russians rethink the Ukraine situation. In case anyone forgot, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is in an ongoing war against pro-West, pro-democracy Ukraine. Why? Because Ukrainians cast out their Pro-Putin, national wealth-stealing, puppet president a few years back.

Incredibly, our Mr Tillerson, at the G7 meeting, right before he flew to Moscow, seems uninformed about the whole Russia-Ukraine matter.  “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked his European counterparts on Tuesday why American voters should care about the conflict in Ukraine, France’s foreign minister said.” Really? You have to ask why? Ugh.

Once again, the Trump administration is showing it’s Pro-Putin, anti-democracy stance. Russia wants Ukraine, Trump is okay with Russians annexing it — from the Ukrainians! This has been a core bargaining chip from the beginning. Trump for president, Ukraine for Russia. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yet ….

This is a bit more than removing the anti-Russian, pro-Ukraine plank from the GOP’s platform. This is actively undermining sanctions, actively helping Russia get around US sanctions on Ukraine by pushing China to reject North Korea and buy Russian coal. So, collusion with Russia? You bet, still, ongoing.

Finally, talking about Syria for a moment, Russia’s other abiding interest, if you were wondering about sudden visits from Jordan’s king, Egypt’s general president, and China’s president, to the US, consider Syria’s major import and export partners.

Syria exports primarily to Egypt (25%), Jordan (16%), Saudi Arabia (13%).  Syria imports primarily Turkey (30%) and China (22% — over 1 Billion dollars worth). If you’re interested in what Syria imports from Russia: Propellant Powders, Prepared Explosives, Explosive Ammunition (25.6%) & Postage Stamps (20%) . (This info is all from MIT). Russia’s main interest in Syria is being able to use it for military bases.

Remember Mike Flynn, who was helping both Russia and Turkey? Two countries with pretty warm ties. People were wondering about that. Wonder no more. He was representing two countries with major shared interests in Syria. And that was Trump’s first pick? So Syria was always on the table.

And now, Trump has met with all the principles likely to experience flux if there is a US intervention or regime change in Syria. Right before a low-level Sarin attack fortuitously happens on April 6, exactly while China’s Xi is visiting, and Trump can low-level bomb something.  And the very next day China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Interesting.

Eric Trump said to a British newspaper “If there was anything that [the strike on] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.” I’m not sure how Eric got there. Logically, because nothing he’s done has helped the US, it would appear that the POTUS had been planning on using Syria and using  North Korea from the start of his presidency for all sorts of reasons that principally benefit Putin.

The SCIF Sandwich

SCIFMAL

Your seat at the feast always tells the story.

This is quote from the White House Press Sec website.

SECRETARY ROSS:  To me, the most dramatic thing about being in the Situation Room as he [Trump] was making the decision was the thoroughness of the support and information that went into it, the consultation he did with a wide range of military and diplomatic and economic advisors, and the utter seriousness and thoughtfulness with which he made this very grave decision.

In terms of the strikes themselves, it’s my understanding that they took out something like 20 percent of the entire Syrian air force.  So it was huge not just in terms of number of planes but relative to the scale of their air force.

Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Sec, was in the room with the POTUS when the air strikes on Syria went down. Supposedly he had first-hand information. He was a witness. He was seated right next to the POTUS.

Why should his comments give us pause?  Because only a couple Syrian planes were hit, that’s it. He thought 20% of the entire Syrian air force was eliminated? He did not even understand what happened, even though it happened in front of him. And this is the man is in charge the US Commerce Dept.

The organization’s main purpose is to create jobs, promote economic growth, encourage sustainable development and improve standards of living for all Americans. Does Mr Ross seem capable of that? If he doesn’t understand what goes on right in front of him.

So if he clearly doesn’t understand things that well, and his math seems way off, why is he Sec of US Commerce at all? Well, in his previous job, which was VP at the Bank of Cyprus, his duties were not to understand things too well and launder Russian money. The Bank of Cyprus, is basically the money laundering center for Russian govt officials and oligarchs.

Mr Ross’s job was to find ways to launder Russian money. Now he’s in the Sec of US Commerce he can find ways to launder Russian money for US govt officials and oligarchs I guess, because he certainly is qualified to do that.

If you’re asking, why, during the bombing of the a Syrian govt air base, is the Russian friend and Bank of Cyprus VP money launder seated next to a US President (who claimed we should not interfere in Syria’s government) and his “friend of Russia” Putin awardee, former Exxon exec, Sec of State, Mr Tillerson (on the president’s other side), who 2 days earlier said the US had no interest in deposing the Syrian president, the answer is pretty simple.

Facing seriously bad polling numbers, a series of political defeats, and the ongoing investigation into his collusion with Russia to gain the presidency, Trump needed a political win that would stop the hemorrhaging and convince people he wasn’t a collaborator. Since Russia is his friend, Russia came to his aid.

Russia’s goal has been to keep the Syrian govt power at any cost. Russia has military bases in Syria, and economically strategic oil operations. Russia has been fighting ISIS in Syria, in coordination with the US, but it’s also been bombing the hell out of the Syrian rebels/opposition/Syrian Free Army, whatever we want to call those who oppose Assad. During the last chemical attack, in 2013, by Syria on it’s own people, a UN investigation concluded sarin was delivered by a Soviet-era 140mm surface-to-surface artillery rocket, known as the M-14.

There was outcry in 2013. So, Russia, wanting to protect the Assad regime, said they would guarantee Syria disposed of all chemical weapons. So, the only group with chemical weapons, willing to use them on civilians living in Syrian opposition-controlled towns, was Russia. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that Russia used chemical weapons on a Syrian opposition-controlled town in 2017.

But why? Because this act by Russia allowed Trump, after warning all the Russians to get out, to bomb a Syrian govt air base in apparent revenge for “Assad’s” actions. Trump did this in a complete contradiction of his stated policies on Syria, and without any proof that air base or the Syrian govt had anything to do with the chemical attack.

Trump now looks anti-Russian and pro humanitarian to liberals and media people, who might actually buy this political theater. This is all to raise his poll numbers and keep people from pursuing investigations into how deep in Putin’s pocket he is.  The fact the US president is literally flanked by pro-Putin, friends of Russia, criminals, suggests that Trump is all the way at the bottom of that pocket.

If Assad is ever removed, it will only be because Russia is replacing him with a slightly  more liberal, but solidly pro-Russian, friend of Putin. Expect nothing to change in Syrian-Russian relations. If it appears as though Trump, by a show of force, is the reason Assad has to resign and seek sanctuary in Doha or Iran or elsewhere, just remember, Assad is replaceable to Russia, but Trump isn’t, yet.

If replacing Assad helps Trump in the polls, makes him appear anti-Russian, and keeps him in power, that’s a win-win for Putin. And all it cost him was some Syrians rebels he never gave a fig about anyway and a replaceable Syrian dictator.

Look for a sudden about face by the Trump administration on removing Assad, and look for their reason, and blame for the chemical attack, to be put on entirely on Assad. Why? Because neither Trump nor Putin wants it discovered that Russia perpetrated the chemical attack for purpose of trying to salvage the Trump presidency. To do this, this thing’s got to be shut down quick, before real questions can be asked.

Let’s face it, if Trump cared about gassed people, he’d have said something in 2013. All he said in 2013, upon seeing those images August 21, 2013 was

Aug. 28, 2013

By the way, the “them” he wants to catch by surprise is the Anti-Assad, Anti-Russia, Pro-democracy Syrian opposition. Note the explicit pro Russia going into Syria to kill the Syrian opposition tweet below.

Aug. 29, 2013

Sept. 5, 2013

Sept. 6, 2013

Sept. 7, 2013

Sept. 9, 2013

Sept. 11, 2013

Sept. 13, 2013

Sept. 12, 2014

Sept. 17, 2014

Sept. 20, 2014

All these tweets are Pro-Russia, anti-Democracy. Trump hasn’t changed, nothing has changed. He’s still pro-Russia, pro-Assad, and anti-Opposition, anti-democracy. Trump wants the Opposition destroyed. He wants a pro-Putin dictator in Syria. This all theater, and the Syrian people, on both sides of the conflict, are the ones that suffer. The only people not suffering, ISIS fighters in Syria. And the only reason we went to Syria? Was to stop ISIS.

Fore! POTUS plays, Syria gets bombed

 

 

Image result for mar a lago interior

Just bomb the Syrian air base and talk to Jared.  I can’t bother thinking about politics right now, I’m going golfing with the President of China

Most people, normal people, when they come up against a problem, try to work out what the problem is first, then they try to come up with a range of solutions, and finally, they act. Our current POTUS apparently sees a horrible picture and sends bombs. No thought involved at all. Or maybe it’s just hard to think rationally in super tacky surroundings such as Mar-a-Lago.

I confess to being less than surprised by the POTUS choosing to bomb the Syrian’s govt air base. He’s not a deal maker, as he tells himself. He’s never tried to deal with Syria. He’s gutted the State Dept, so it’s not like Tillerson is allowed to do it. I guess our POTUS had to bomb the Syrian army because Jared wasn’t around to fix things or if he was, he was just about to go on vacation, and being the big infant our POTUS is, he felt he had to do something, now.

Frankly, it was important to first find out if there was a chemical attack and if so what chemicals were used and who used them on them whom. I’m not denying the images, I just can’t verify them. Neither can you. Nor can anyone. I’m not denying the report by the Turkish hospital that said “it’s chemical weapons involved,” but them saying that doesn’t give a POTUS the information they need.

Just after the attack happened, US investigators were sent material from the scene to find out what was used, by whom. It takes a bit of time to do the that of scientific analysis, the kind needed before you can make a political decision. This isn’t another Saturday night party that got out of hand and your cousin’s boyfriend stabbed someone while drunk and so you and your boyfriend go to his house and shoot his mother and brother. This is international politics, which have international impacts.

And by the way, the AP is reporting that two different Opposition observer groups (The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Homs Media Center) have said that while planes took off from the Shayrat air base the POTUS bombed, none of those planes attacked the town where the chemical attack is said to have taken place. So it may be that there was no chemical attack, by the Syrian Govt, and hence, no reason to bomb Syria’s airbase. It could well be the Russians committed the chemical attack, just to get the POTUS to attack Syrian and destroy US-Syrian relations. Mission accomplished.

If analysis said the Syrian Govt used chemical weapons on the Syrian Opposition, then yes, there’s a Syrian problem. At that point, a POTUS has to decide to how to deal with it. Usually you start with diplomatic pressure. In the POTUS’s case, how about asking his buddy-buddies in Russia to lean on the Syrian president. Or making one of those famous “deals.” Or sending your Sec of State, Rex the napper.

How about maybe asking nations in the region, that have interests there to protect, to build a coalition with the US to support the removal of the Syrian president, either through sanctions or arms. Or asking the UN to form a coalition and send UN Peace keepers? Or accusing Pres Assad as a war criminal before the World Court? Or maybe, just maybe, the POTUS can ask Congress to authorize military action, either on behalf of the country, as part of a regional coalition or a UN coalition?

The thing you surely don’t want to do as POTUS is wing off half-cocked and bomb a Syrian govt air base. The other thing you surely don’t want to do, as a POTUS who ran on “American First”, is endanger US troops by your own reckless actions. US soldiers, which you sent there, who are in Syria with the cooperation of the Syrian govt, to weed out ISIS, not to get involved in Syria’s civil war.

Launching an unprovoked attack on a military base in a country where your soldiers are able to operate as guests to help you take down terrorists, and killing that nation’s soldiers is just astronomically stupid. The US just Pearl Harbored Syria. The US has declared war on the Syrian Govt, while our soldiers are there as guests. The only people that helped was ISIS.

The POTUS has now given the Syrian govt a reason to tell its soldiers to kill US soldiers, as well as Opposition forces and ISIS. Basically they’re all the enemy now. Way to think it through and put America First. Bet the GOP base is just thrilled with that. But then, that’s what Republicans do. They don’t think, they just start wars because it’s good for them the their arms manufacturing buddies.

I’m horrified by Syria’s civil war. I’m horrified by the use of chemical weapons. But I’m just as horrified that the POTUS is acting like a dictator himself, sitting at Mar-a-lago, surrounded by millionaires, stuffing his face with caviar, and choosing war as his first resort instead of his last resort.

Proportional response is only justified when you’ve been attacked. And by the way, Russia says on 23 of the 59 Tomahawks reached that air base, other news sources have already shown that the runway is still intact. So, apparently the only things the POTUS did was put a target on the backs of US soldiers, harm the Syrian Opposition, and help ISIS expand. Brilliant.