Turkey, where goes the future?

Whether Fethullah Gulen was behind the failed coup attempt or if President Erdogan staged it himself is unimportant. What is important is what is happening now. The general impression appears to be that a large part of the population supports Erdogan, if only because it is better to have a bad politician as leader rather than a military leadership. The Syrians I know who live in Turkey support Erdogan, the last thing they want to see is the country slide into chaos after escaping the bloodshed of Syria.

This does not mean the dangers have receded and the country will not yet face fresh instability in the future. With emergency powers in place, actions are happening which I believe to be part of a longer term strategy.

The main consequence so far is the ongoing purge, not only and understandably of the military but also of judges, civil servants, teachers and heads of universities. Leaving the military purge to one side, the purge of civil institutions reminds me of the purges that happened in the USSR under Lenin and Stalin. It also makes me think about what happened in Iraq after the fall of Sadaam Hussein. His Baath party ran all the institutions of the country, the USA decided to remove everybody connected to the Baath party, the institutions that ran the country were hollowed out and is a major reason for the chaos we see in Iraq today. Erdogan is going down the same road, by removing so many people for ideological reasons he is weakening the institutions that hold the country together. Many people are losing their jobs and on a practical level dealing with the civil service will become much harder. With so many judges having been fired, the legal process is grinding to a halt. Any country without a functioning legal system is on a very slippery slope.

We can all see what is happening but more interesting are the potential reasons why. Obviously Erdogan wants all the power for himself, he is authoritarian. But more interesting is how he is using religion, Islam, as an instrument of power and the part it plays in his long term objective. The Turkish constitution is secular, Erdogan is Islamist, for the last two years he has been increasing the role of religion in politics. His ambition is for Turkey to once again be the spiritual leader of the Sunni muslim world as it was during the time of the Ottoman empire. For now, that role is held by Saudi Arabia and Erdogan wants it back. This is the reason for his purge, he is clearing out secularists from the judicial system, education and the civil service. The replacements will be Islamists. In so doing Turkey will be able to promote itself as more ideologicaly pure than the Saudi kingdom, where outside of the elite class many see only corruption in their leaders. Erdogan is also pushing his anti-USA rhetoric as part of the plan, many Islamists have negative feelings about the USA, with its drone strikes and bombings that often kill innocent people and its ‘corruption’ of the muslim world with its military bases, particularly in Saudi Arabia. As a part of that I can see the real possibility of Turkey refusing to allow the USA to continue using its air bases to launch strikes against Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. I would go as far as saying that Turkey could well withdraw from NATO, if it isn’t pushed out first, as part of Erdogan’s ideological drive. Turkey is no longer looking west, its gaze is now firmly set on the middle east. Religion is just a tool used to increase power and influence

As part of that strategy it has repaired its relations with Russia and one of the main reasons for this is Syria. If Erdogan can offer Russia something of real value it may well withdraw its support for Bashar al Assad and force him to step down and bring some stability back to Syria. If Erdogan can pull this off he will outmaneuver both the USA and Saudi Arabia and his influence in the middle east would dramaticaly increase. Saudi Arabia is aware of this and is also trying to tempt Russia economically and strategically with influence in the middle east in exchange for withdrawing support from Bashar al Assad. There is now a power race between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, you can be sure there will be a lot of dirty tricks on the road ahead.

Coming back to the situation inside Turkey today, yes a large part of the population are Islamists and support Erdogan but there are also many who are secular and educated, the military has never wanted to see the power of religion increased in Turkey. It is by nature secular. The purges will remove as many secularists as possible but in my opinion I think the seeds for civil war are being sown as we speak and it will be a religious war, for and against.

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Refugees as a weapon of war – update

After writing an article in early February about how Russia is exacerbating the Syrian refugee crisis by attacking population centres in Syria as a way of increasing pressure on the European Union, NATO and the British media are finally catching up. They are only a month after my article but better late than never:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-and-syria-weaponising-refugee-crisis-to-destabilise-europe-nato-commander-claims-a6909241.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/16/refugees-are-becoming-russias-weapon-of-choice-in-syria

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2016/03/02/NATOs-Gen-Breedlove-Syrian-refugees-are-weapons-against-Europe/5391456934721/

 

Refugees as a weapon of war

Russia has been intensifying its bombing of Aleppo in Syria but the thing is this, the Syrian government even with the help of Russia is simply not strong enough to hold onto control of the city. The rebels aren’t strong enough to win and neither is the government. So what is behind the current Russian action of indiscriminately bombing the city?

This is about creating more refugees, doing so will put huge pressure on Turkey and Europe. Speaking today to my Syrian friend, Muhannad Najjar, who has been living in Turkey for the last year, he told me that in the first four days of the Russian bombing campaign of Aleppo some 25,000 Syrians decided to flee the city, and that is just the beginning. Interviewing some of the escaping families, all said their goal is to reach Europe. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands who have already made the journey to  Europe.

One of the things Muhannad told me is that the majority Sunni population feel betrayed by Europe and the USA, not because they don’t accept more refugees but because they haven’t done something about Bashar al Assad so they can live in peace and rebuild their country. I’m inclined to agree, the Assad family has also treated the lower classes of Alawite from his own tribe with similar contempt. The problem now is that a significant minority of those forced to flee their homes could be tempted to support Daesh (ISIS), not because they like them but because they feel there is no other choice.

Politicians in Europe and the USA think they can isolate themselves from the dangers by doing nothing in Syria but their inaction is actually increasing the danger. Russia is using this situation to its full advantage. Refugees have become a weapon of war as Russia uses the refugee crisis to try and break Europe. There are two reasons for this, one is because of the economic sanctions placed on Russia, the other is to try and force the USA and Europe to accept terms for any settlement of the Syrian crisis, if they don’t then Russia in its support of Bashar al Assad will make sure the flow of refugees only increases.

These pictures were taken in the last few days of Syrians who are fleeing the Russian bombing of Aleppo and trying to cross the Turkish border. All photo credit to مصطفى سلطان Mostafa Sultan

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The global system – broken beyond repair

It is a little difficult to know where to start as so much is happening and the year has only just begun. The global system can be viewed as having four different elements: Economic, Political, Military and Religious. They are all linked together but all have unique facets in how they impact the world in which we live.

Economic System

While not unexpected, the speed with which the global economy has hit the brakes in the first days of the year has been surprising. China, which is trying to re-engineer its economy so as not to rely on exports for growth to one of internal consumption, has hit severe turbulence, the last days seeing huge drops in its stock markets. In China, many shares are bought by private individual investors and have been wiped out by the losses which began last year and accelerated to such a point that trading had to be suspended twice already this year. These are the people the Chinese authorities need if internal consumption is to be the new economic model, instead they are all feeling much poorer and hesitant about making new investments and spending. To be fair the problem is not only China’s, globally, the worlds economy has never recovered since the financial crash of 2007. The only thing that has propped up the economic system since then has been the vast amount of almost free money that central banks pumped into the system. While company stock valuations soared over the years since the crisis the fundamentals have not changed. Companies have not been making the profits to justify their stock market valuations, instead of improving profits through growth they were cutting costs. While improving the bottom line it was covering up the fact that businesses have not been growing. Now the time of essentially free money is coming to an end the fundamentals are coming back into view and is the reason why global stock markets are having such a turbulent time. The emperor has no clothes and the central banks and governments have very few options left open to them. With global share prices still having a way to go before they reflect the actual values of global businesses it is going to have a knock on effect. Pension funds and property are going to be the big losers. People are going to start feeling poorer. When people feel poorer they spend less and this impacts business growth. The system is so broken that there is no way out of this feedback loop unless something fundamental about the system is changed. Do the central banks and governments have a solution, I think not.

Political System

Something that should amaze people is that in all the time of human history we have tried all forms of government, apart from global government, and not one of them has been successful, in the long term, of bringing about peace and security, helping all its citizens to have a dignified life. Instead they have abdicated more and more responsibility to the banks, trusting them to create the conditions for economic stability and therefore political stability. I often wonder what use our governments serve. All around we see crumbling infrastructure, cuts to health-care, the education system being run into the ground, increase in social instability as well as far fewer opportunities for social improvement. In the past there were far more opportunities for people to improve their lives, these opportunities are rapidly disappearing. If governments can’t deal with these fundamentals then what is the point of their existence? This is without going into global politics, all of the major powers in competition with each other, wanting to be top dog, but this situation leads to proxy wars, global instability, power vacuums and international terrorism. As the global economy shrinks the pressure is on for these countries to work even harder to protect their interests, creating yet another feedback loop. We will see an increase in nationalism and growing popularity of more extreme political parties as they promise only they can protect the interests of the population. In reality all that happens is increased polarization of populations, minority groups being blamed for the ills of the country. We are seeing this happening in many countries around the world and it will only spread as global conditions deteriorate. It will also increase the risk of conflict as relationships between neighbouring countries break down.

guns_suit_planets_fire_earthMilitary System

The only area of real growth now is in military spending, as we all know instability is good for the military sector. War is good for business. Morals have nothing to do with it, all is for sale, often to reprehensible regimes. The conflicts these weapons are used to pursue create displaced people, refugees and untold suffering. As the global economy teeters, the risk of conflict grows as competition between nations for a greater slice of the shrinking economic pie increases. Add to this the growth of ideological and religious differences between certain countries and the count-down to increased and new conflicts grows rapidly. Countries who have major weapons industries will rely on this sector for a larger part of their economic stability while trying at the same time to keep the consequences of these conflicts where the weapons are used as far as possible away from home.

Religious System

I’m grouping all the main religions together here because they are all equally corrupt and are all equally responsible for the deaths of millions through the ages. Today, religion is used as an excuse to kill, to dominate and to keep the masses quiet in the face of increased hardship, all often in collaboration with various governments. The tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is based on religion. Jews and Palestinians is religious conflict. The Russian Orthodox church telling ordinary Russians they should prepare for greater hardship while it is the greatest benefactor of grants from the Russian government. There is a link to this because it left me speechless russian-patriarch-kirill-does-not-see-tragedy-in-the-economic-crisis In India there is increasing Sikh extremism with the permission of the government. The Vatican, possibly the richest organization in the world sees itself as some sort of supranational government but instead of using its wealth and influence to help people is more concerned with getting richer, milking its followers and only offers prayers when people need real practical help. It consorts with political leaders around the world like a courtesan believing she is a queen who sits above her people. How long will it be until politicians around the world get tired of all religious meddling and trouble making. Particularly as the global economy gets worse and they see just how rich these religions have become. I am curious to see what will happen when the governments are broke and they then look at the religions and all their wealth and see the religious system acting as if it is untouchable.

This is the year when finally it will be understood the global system, in all its parts, is beyond repair. Maybe it is time people started thinking about the New System.

Religious extremism, this is not just about Daesh

The world is going crazy over religion at the moment. People have finally come to understand that Daesh (ISIS) want the nations of the world to send in ground troops so as to trigger the ‘end of time’ prophecy. This leaves the governments with a major problem, they are not able to defeat Daesh just from the air and sending in ground troops would be a major boost to Daesh as they would use it to show the prophecy is coming true. What to do?

Then there was the spectacle of Donald Trump saying he would ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Basically tarring them all with the same brush of suspicion after the San Bernadino shootings by two people who had pledged allegiance to Daesh. But we must also not forget the role of far-right ‘Christians’, they too believe they can hasten the return of Jesus and the final great battle of Armageddon. For Daesh it is about provoking the return of the Mahdi and the final great war. Spot the similarities? We have a situation where people, so called Christians and so called Muslims actually believe they can make God change his timing. That has to be the height of arrogance.

While we are talking about religion I should also mention Israel. The Jews too are awaiting Messiah and believe it can only happen when the biblical borders of Israel have been re-established and the land inhabited only by Jews. The number of Orthodox Jews is increasing rapidly, as is their political power and is the reason why they don’t care what the world thinks about their treatment of Palestinians. They are determined to have their way, no matter what. They also have the support of many in the USA, many of whom hold positions of power, so called ‘Christians’ who also believe that the full borders of Israel must be re-established and all the Jews collected to the Holy Land before the end can come.

When it comes down to it, at the heart of many of the dangers facing the world today, the cause can be summed up in one word, Religion. People using what has been written to fit their own world view. It isn’t only in the MIddle East and the West that we have this problem, In India and other parts of Asia we are seeing a rise in Hindu extremism, which is responsible for growing violence and murders. This problem will not solve itself and will only become worse as the world becomes more divided.

What can the solution be? A time is coming when the governments of the world will decide enough is enough and close down all organised religion, but more than that, they will dismantle the apparatus which permits those organizations to function, stripping out everything of value. This will be done in the belief that in doing so the reasons for all the dangers we face today will vanish. If there is no central religion or place of worship, there can be no return of a Messiah or Mahdi, the main cause of much of the religious extremism today, whether it be Islamic, Christian or Jewish.

If you think I exaggerate the danger posed by those who follow a ‘Christianity’ which is about as far away from the bible as it is possible to be, I suggest you check the religious beliefs of those in the US government who took us to war in Iraq as they wanted to shape the world in a way that fitted with their world view based on a twisted belief of what is written in the bible. On a smaller scale but no less extremist, are all those so called ‘Christians’ who commit acts of violence at abortion clinics and those who quietly support them. True, the bible forbids abortion, but it also says that God is the judge, not humans, by attacking women who abort their children they are setting themselves up as judge,  saying they are doing God’s will. They are not. We have no right to judge anybody.

The political battle to be number one

International geo-politics – The strategy is like a glass of water, fill the glass with water to the top, full but not overflowing, this is relative stability, the water being political and military tension. It gives no room for your enemies to add more water to the glass and make it overflow because this is instability and war. The glass is now full but there is a lot of international pressure to keep filling the glass with water. It is only a question of when not if the cup runneth over.

Russia and USA. The pushing and shoving continues

Turkey shooting down the Russian jet today was a response to Russia increasing its influence in the Middle East through its action in Syria. Turkey, as a member of NATO would not have done this without some sort of approval from the USA. Russia and USA do not want direct conflict but they both like proxy war. The pushing and shoving between them continues. So much happening, I need a while to get all the information in order to write in depth.

The war against Daesh (ISIS)

The resolution at the United Nations last week to declare the world is at war with Daesh is all well and good, but….

How do you destroy an idea which has spread around the world and becomes stronger with every bomb that is directed against that idea? Bombs have a certain effect but killing the idea, that takes real work.

Attacks on France. Losing the war on terror

How is a person supposed to live their life, when not knowing if going to a restaurant, a concert or going on holiday will end with them being yet another casualty of a deadly terrorist attack. This has become the new reality. The deadly attacks in France hammer this home in a way that can leave no doubt. We live in extremely dangerous times.

My original plan had been to write about the growing evidence that a Daesh (ISIS) bomb brought down the Russian plane as holiday-makers flew home from Sharm el Sheikh. But this week too there was a deadly suicide bombing by Daesh in Beirut with 43 dead and more than 200 wounded. Now there is Paris, drenched in blood. Where will be next?

What many don’t understand is the reasoning behind these attacks. Daesh are trying to provoke the international community into putting boots on the ground in Syria, they believe than in so doing they will bring about Judgement Day, this is part of their twisted theology. They believe that when the armies of the world gather together to fight them, God will bring about the end of times. There can be no reasoning with them. Going back to the probability it was a bomb that brought down the Russian plane highlights the point. Russia while very active in Syria has been concentrating its efforts on attacking the rebels who are against Bashar al Assad, leaving Daesh (ISIS) pretty much unscathed. The bombing of the plane is a direct message to Moscow, ‘Come and get us if you can, we want you to try and take us on’ The only way to try to defeat them is to put boots on the ground, air-strikes alone are not effective, they want to suck the world into war on their terms.This is one of the reasons for their terror attacks.

The dreadful attacks in Paris highlight the fact that the ‘war on terror’ is not being won despite the enhanced ability of governments to gather information and intelligence from pretty much all electronic communication. Hopefully it will also help people in general understand just how organized and capable Daesh are, yes they are blood thirsty but they know what they are doing and are a global organization, never under-estimate them.

A result of the attack in Paris will be the curtailing of yet more civil liberties in the name of security. Travelling by plane will become even more arduous than it already is, I would not be surprised to see travel by train also effected, security at large public gatherings will be tightened,  more of our personal communications will be monitored, the police will be viewing everybody with suspicion, finger ready on the trigger. This is one of the goals of Daesh, besides wanting to have all the major powers of the world put troops on the ground in Syria it also wants to permanently disrupt the lives of all who don’t follow its twisted philosophy. With the attack in Paris and the bringing down of the Russian plane, it has succeeded in doing exactly that. The fear of terror they are creating is maybe more effective at interrupting our lives than the acts of terror themselves. As long as Daesh are permitted to exist we can expect there to be a lot more innocent blood splattered on the streets. The question has to be, what will the USA, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others do about it. Will they stop playing their geo-political games, which have included turning a blind eye to Daesh (ISIS) and work together for once? Time will tell.

Who is fighting against Daesh (ISIS)?

The question of who is attacking Daesh (ISIS) has to be asked because as far as I can tell from conversations with my contacts on the ground in Syria, very little effective action appears to be directed against them on an international level.

The USA is carrying out some airstrikes against Daesh but from the information received is not proving very effective. None of the airstrikes have caused Daesh any serious problems so far and often they have already left the area by the time the bombs and missiles arrive. Having said that, the USA is continuing its funding and supplying of The Free Syrian Army (FSA), who are fighting on two fronts, against the Assad regime and against Daesh. Reports in the media that the USA is going to cut funding is regarding one small program only, the vast bulk of support is continuing. At the same time the USA does not want the FSA to capture too much territory, it is part of their plan for a divided and weakened Syria

Russia claims to be targeting Daesh but all the evidence points to the vast majority of attacks being against the FSA. Yesterday I heard news that Russia is using indiscriminate cluster bombs in its attacks against the FSA, wanting to confirm this I put word out that I was looking for evidence of cluster bomb use. In a few hours I had a link to a video shot yesterday of them being used in the Hama region of Syria. You can see for yourselves in the video.

Russia is more focused on supporting the Assad regime than fighting Daesh. Assad is Russia’s only Arab ally and after 4 years of fighting, with its military on the brink of collapse, Russia was left with no choice but to send in direct air and ground support. That it is using totally indiscriminate munitions such as cluster bombs shows how desperate and immoral both the Syrian regime and Russia truly are.

Turkey says it is against Daesh but its actions prove otherwise. It is more interested in seeing the Kurds weakened and has been turning a blind eye to Daesh crossing its borders. The recent suicide attack in Ankara was most likely by a member of Daesh, the focus of the attack being a demonstration for peace by Kurds in Turkey. Turkey has a working relationship with Daesh, when I wrote in April last year about Turkey guarding the tomb in Syria of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman the 1st, the founder of the Ottoman empire, President Erdogan of Turkey was quoted as saying “Right now, the issue is not about ISIL” ISIL being Daesh, the arab term for them, and were only a few hundred metres from the tomb. Turkey is happy that Daesh is fighting the Kurds, it saves him a lot of bother so why should he be interested in trying to stop them. Rather he is trying to provoke the Kurds in Turkey into action so he can justify the use of force and he is working with Daesh to do this.

Syria, after four years of fighting its army is exhausted and has lost over 80,000 men. Now Assad is trying to reinforce the territory he does hold and is not in a position to fight on many different fronts, hence the reason for Russia stepping into the fray. Assad too is less interested in fighting Daesh than against the FSA. In conversation with a friend on the ground in Syria an interesting bit of information came out, Daesh and Assad face each other along a 60km front which runs from the prison to the ex infantry school in Aleppo region, an area I know and drove along many times two years ago when I was in Syria. In all the time Daesh has held this territory not a single shot has been fired between the Syrian army and Daesh. There is quite a cozy relationship between the two, who are more interested in fighting the FSA than each other. The Syrian army has always chosen attacking the FSA rather than the extremists. It would seem this is down to the proxy war nature of this conflict, the USA supporting the FSA and Russia with Iran supporting Assad.

Iran is a natural ally of Bashar al Assad, Assad being an Alawite, a branch of the Shia muslim faith as opposed to 70% of the Syrian population being of the Sunni muslim faith. Religion and war, it is a story as old as human history. Under no circumstance does it want to see Assad go and will do everything in its power to support him. It too sees Daesh as a useful tool in the fight against the FSA and by extension the proxy war with the USA.

Saudi Arabia and UAE. The families that govern these countries are, for want of a better word, despicable, they finance terrorism and have given a lot of financial support to Daesh and other terrorist organisations. May God bring a plague upon their houses. They help create the problems and then refuse to accept or help the people, fellow muslims, who are forced to flee their homes and countries as a result. So much for brotherhood. I’m glad I’m not a muslim.

As an aside, now that both Russia and the USA are directly involved in Syria, the risk of accidental confrontation is high, if it were to happen, the results could be an escalation of the conflict with global repercussions.