Saturday, August 19, 2017
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Middle-East
The latest developments in the Middle-East.

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
Nothing has changed for the third world countries. They were raided, plundered, colonised and occupied before and after the cold war era and they are attacked, destabilised, ruined and changed into ashes in this age of so-called globalisation.

In 2003, George W. Bush in the company of Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, said there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq is now a doomed country. Is it doomed because of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? The whole world knows that it was just a bad name given in order to kill him. Now they say that they have evidence Assad’s forces used sarin gas against civilians on 4 April.

If we just go back and see US President Donald Trump as a private US citizen on Twitter and then as a presidential candidate, we see him quite good with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. At that time he was of the opinion that US should not get involved in another Middle Eastern conflict in particular with one who is backed by Russia. When he won the elections, he told Wall Street Journal: “My attitude was you‘re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting Isis, and you have to get rid of Isis”. This was the basis on which Assad called Trump “a natural ally”.

On March 30, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, said that the US needed to “pick and choose [its] battles”, though Bashar al-Assad was accused of human rights violations. “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out”.

562754-syria-chemical-attack-reutersIn spite of all this, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles on Shayrat Airbase, a Syrian airfield, on the morning of 7 April 2017. It was alleged that this place was the base for the aircraft that carried out the chemical attack on Syrian citizens. It has been claimed by senior White House officials that Syrian military officers involved in the chemical weapons programme were at the Shayrat base before and on the day of Khan Sheikhun attack. They say that the attack was carried out by the Syrian air force SU-22 war plane, dropping at least one munitions containing sarin. A US official laid blame on Russians’ connivance with the Syrians in this alleged attack without any sound evidence, speculating on the premise that there has been long-term collaboration between the two countries.

Foreign ministers from the G7 nations met in Italy on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th April and the meeting focused on putting pressure on Russia. Boris Johnson led the push and asked the participants to allow more sanctions against Russian and Syrian leaders suggesting that they could follow the findings of an investigation by the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

But Germany and Italy, who were of the opinion that the increasing broad economic restrictions on Russia would be counterproductive, could not be influenced by Boris, and the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said it would be wrong to isolate Russia or push it into a corner.

The allegation of chemical attack was vehemently refuted by Putin who said that Western and Turkish accusations that Syrian government had dropped nerve agent sarin that killed dozens of civilians in Idlib earlier in April, were comparable with the now discredited claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “It reminds me of the events in 2003 when US envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq”, the Russian President told reporters on 11 April. “We have seen it already”.

Thus, Vladimir Putin’s support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was further strengthened as he shrugged off western criticism and claimed that his opponents planned fake chemical weapons attacks to justify further US missile strikes.

The US President Donald Trump showed constant change of colours with regard to his approach towards American involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts. The day after the alleged chemical attack and on the first day when images of the suggested victims were published, Trump said Assad had crossed “many, many lines”. Hours before guided-missile destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, indicated that Trump had reversed his position completely. “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly. With the acts that he had taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people”, he said.

When the media men asked Tillerson about US preparations to rally an international coalition to remove Assad from power, he replied: “Those steps are under way”. In spite of all that the US administration kept on changing position. Thus, soon after the missile attack , the newly appointed national security advisor HR McMaster described the US attack as “aimed at the capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons, but it was not of a scope or scale that it would go after all such related facilities”.

On 9 April, Tillerson said: “Our priority is first to defeat Isis”. Once the US “conclude” that war, the US would attempt to broker ceasefire agreements between the Syrian civil war’s combatants. Tillerson said he was hopeful to work with Russia “and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilisation throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties …”Nothing about Tillerson’s statement implied that Assad’s “fate” would be to leave power. Contrary to that, Tillerson insinuated that overthrowing Assad would be disastrous, and to that he cited Obama’s adventurism in Libya: “Any time you go in and have a violent change at the top, it is very difficult to create the conditions for stability longer-term”. Yet we see that the contradictions in American policy know no bounds, as Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador in the UN, though agreed with Tillerson on the importance of “the political solution”, she added: “In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government, and we have to make sure we’re pushing that process”.

On 11 April, Tillerson told the journalists after the G7 summit: “It is clear to all of us the reign of Assad family is coming to an end. But the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside of a unified Syria”.

The Trump era in the White House is not short of eccentrics as we see the White House press secretary Sean Spicer comparing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with Hitler: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who did not even sink to using chemical weapons”.

During his election campaign, Trump emphasised that his only focus in Syria would be defeating Islamic State, repeatedly signalling that he had little interest in regime change. But he ended that policy by launching missile attack on Khan Sheikhun.

In the final analysis, what can be said about US policy in Syria is that it is full of contradictions, unclear, ambiguous and confusing more now than it was before Trump.

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
The immediate effect of the Executive Order by the US President was complete confusion and chaos at the airports as approved refugees, valid visa holders, non-US dual citizens and US legal residents were detained, barred from planes or ordered out of the US. A Federal Judge in New York ordered a stay on the deportation of the people with valid visas. Universities, hospitals and tech companies staggered from the order which threatens or has already banned thousands of doctors, students, researchers, engineers and others. Refugees persecuted for their sexual orientation or suffering from medical crises are still in limbo with other people denied entry because the order makes no exception besides for minority religion applicants.

The Executive Order banning entry of citizens of seven Muslim majority countries into the US is being taken as closing the door on the world. Its natural and rebounding effect would be that the world will start closing the door on the US.

There is a growing concern that this policy would throttle the flow of foreign talent, block certain employees from returning to their home offices and harm small businesses that rely on immigrant spending. That is what made some US corporations to decry the immigration blockade. The fears are growing that big foreign investors like Kraft, General Mills and Nestle would scale back foreign investment plans. Thus, counterproductive measures are afoot to stop the government from carrying out the ban. Lyft, a ride-hailing firm has donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to battle the ban. Uber too pledged a $ 3 million legal defence fund for immigrant Uber drivers caught outside the US.

Many other companies whose professionals are spread out among citizens countries reacted gingerly, in such a way that some declined to comment on the policy altogether, while others expressed mild concern and yet a few others criticised the ban out rightly. For example Ford, the major US automakers openly assailed Trump’s action. Ford CEO Mark Field and Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman told employees in an email: “Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world. That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”

Although Ford said it was not aware of any employees who were personally affected, reports came to the limelight of other organisations that were affected directly. For example, a Saudi-born and Sudanese-passport-carrying doctor at the Cleveland Clinic was reportedly denied entry to the US upon returning and was forced to return to the Middle East.

General Motors sent an email to its employees obtained by the Detroit Free Press, about the travel and immigration policy. John Quattrone, GM’s senior vice president of global human resources said in the memo: “Some of our colleagues operate here with a GM-sponsored work visa and a few are from the countries affected by the Executive Order. Please know that, per our normal business practices, if any GM employee travelling back to the US with a visa encounters difficulties, GM will provide the employee and his/her family with support.”

The US Chamber of Commerce said that some companies are advising potentially affected employees to “simply stay in place and avoid travel until the confusion can be rectified. The Chamber said in a statement: “Companies are understandably confused with regard to the status of green card holders and dual nationals, and we hope the administration can quickly clarify how these will be handled.”

Certain corporations like Exxon Mobil and BP that have significant operations in the Middle East declined to comment. Others were low key, such as Cargill, which employs many immigrants in its meat and poultry plants, said it is working with its travel and security partners to determine what the action means for its workers.

Jennifer Walske, a professor in the school of management at the University of San Francisco says: “It is not surprising that companies are cautious of opening up a Pandora’s Box by taking up the issue when they apparently could be ‘a tweet away from annoying the administration’.

Malissa Arnoff, chair of corporate communication at Levick Strategic Communications says: “In the end, companies need to look at the fundamentals, what their business stands for and where their customers are. Because of that many firms are being cautious of what they say. If you look at a lot of the statements, people are criticising the policy without criticising the President. It’s a fine line, but they are trying to not blatantly say he’s a horrible person.”

Michelle Sternthal, deputy director of policy and government affairs at the Main Street Alliance says: “The ban could undermine American innovation because 25% of science and engineering companies have at least one immigrant founder. The chilling effect is just enormous.”

Several law suits are under way in Federal Courts in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington State challenging Trump’s executive order. Thousands of Americans protested at airports and outside a Brooklyn courthouse in the 48 hours following the executive order. Democrats and civil rights attorneys have criticised the order, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer saying it contradicts the ideals enshrined in American culture and on the Statue of Liberty.

Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan have stood by Trump praising his executive order. Republicans like senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have criticised the order.

Barack Obama, ten days after handing power over to Mr Trump, stated that he supports mass protests against the “extreme vetting” orders. It is rare for former Presidents to criticise their successors and certainly not just ten days after they are sworn in. Protests continue across America and around the world – including in Britain.

It started in March 2011. The West and the western media alleges that it started as a peaceful protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s government but evolved into a complex war involving Jihadist groups and regional and international powers. The coming events, however, revealed that it was pre-planned in the capitals of those Western countries who devised interventionist policies with the end of the cold war era.

Half of the population of Syria has been forced to leave the country. The war that was started at the behest of the Western powers to get Assad, has claimed a quarter of a million deaths so far. In this war, 300,000 soldiers of the Syrian army and the allied forces such as Lebanon’s powerful Shia militia Hezbollah, as well as Iranian, Iraqi and Afghan fighters are pitched against Syrian rebels, a conglomerate of terrorist organisations like Al-Nusra, Free Syria army, ISIL and many other Al-Qaeda affiliates.

Russia, the key supporter of Al-Assad’s government started an aerial campaign last September and has helped Damascus recapture areas in several provinces of the country. The other key ally of Bashar Al-Assad is Iran, who is providing financial and military support. Assad has vowed to retake the whole of the country and will not stand down. But Washington, since the very beginning, perpetually calls on Assad to step down. Contrarily, Russia insists that Assad will not be ousted and seeks diplomatic victories by competing with Washington to shape negotiations between the Syrian government and the rebels. Similarly, Iran seeks to protect Assad and thus assert its role in the Arab world.

Turkish President Erdogan backs opposition but is currently focused on preventing the Kurds from creating an autonomous region contiguous with the Turkish border. Kurdish forces hold around 18 per cent of the Syrian territory including three quarters of the Syrian-Turkish border. They have declared a federal region in areas under their control.

ISIL seeks to expand its self-proclaimed “Caliphate” in territory under its control in Syria and Iraq. Despite setbacks since 2015, ISIL controls around 35 per cent of Syria but most of it is uninhabited. It dominates the Dier Ezzo province on the Iraqi border and Raqqa province. They are also present in a number of other regions.

The Assad government is in control of 35 per cent of the country which includes strategic areas such as the capital, Damascus, central Homs and Hama, the coast, and large parts of Aleppo. More than 60 per cent population lives under his rule.

The struggle to liberate the eastern sector of Aleppo from occupation by Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorists continues to make progress, despite the worst efforts of Syria’s enemies. Even the most casual observer of developments in the Middle East cannot fail to have been struck by the way the media have presented recent events in Aleppo. Aleppo is densely populated and was occupied by Jihadi thugs who held innocent civilians to ransom. The Syrian Government of Al-Assad was bent upon ousting the thugs and bringing the city back under government control. The western media and the governments have been treating the battle of Aleppo as a humanitarian disaster supposedly brought down upon the heads of the citizens by the arbitrary bloodlust of the ‘brutal dictator’ President Bashar al-Assad.

There is no denying the fact that the western powers, more specifically, the US, the UK and France have no interest in eradicating Islamic State or al-Nusra, but only in containing and controlling them. A video is currently being circulated on the social media based upon an interview of an independent Canadian journalist, Eva Bartlet, who is quite eloquent in her assertions that the US is financing terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

However, the Syrian Arab Army and its brothers in arms are deadly serious about dealing a death blow to the Jihadist terror gangs infesting Syria. Their reward for their heroic sacrifices in this genuine war on terror is implacable hatred of western interventionists. For the US, the UK and France, skirmishes with the jihadist terror gangs have only been a sideshow. Their serious intention has been and will remain the overthrow of Syria’s legitimate head of the state, President Bashar a;-Assad, and the subjugation of Syrian people.

A commentator on RT channel said:” In Aleppo, the Russians and the Syrians managed to open three passages for civilians to leave the eastern part of Aleppo in a truce…and they opened two passages for the rebels, especially the ones that are affiliated with al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra, to leave as well and to prevent an escalation of the situation in Aleppo.”

From the events unfolding currently, it has been revealed that the western powers, the US, the UK and France, are most alarmed by the possibility of the Syrian Arab Army completing the liberation of Aleppo and moving on to bag ISIL’s last remaining stronghold. Both Damascus and Moscow have previously suggested that the US should coordinate the Raqqa campaign with them. Mark Toner, the spokesman of State Department said unequivocally: “There is no coordination. There is no plan to coordinate with either the regime or Russia in going after Daesh.”

The world saw green surrender buses leaving out of Aleppo last month as Russia brokered the deal with Turkey. There is a criticism about the divergence of interests of the two backers of Al-Assad – Russia and Iran. It has been stated that the liberation and evacuation of Aleppo has resulted in the rise of Russian influence but the real winner is Iran. It is said that since the Islamic revolution of 1979, this was the most assertive moment for Iran.

While these lines are being written down, TV channels are breaking the news of chilling attack on Monday (19th December) evening. The Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov has been shot dead by a police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he pulled the trigger. At first sight it appears to be a backlash against Russian military involvement in the Syrian civil war. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said: “The crime that was committed is without doubt a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey and Iran. “

Putin said that Russian officials would be dispatched to Ankara to investigate the killing. “We have to know who directed the hand of the killer,” he said.

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, Federica Mogherini, head of the EU foreign policy and Javed Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister met in Vienna, the capital of Austria, on January 16 and issued a joint communiqué declaring that a nuclear deal has been reached at between Iran and the world powers after the certification of UN’s international nuclear watchdog IAEA, that Iran has fulfilled all her obligations set forth for her in July last year.

Therefore, a big chunk of sanctions imposed on that country by US, EU and the UN are being lifted. This step will unfreeze Iran’s billions of dollars of assets and allow her to sell its oil in the world market.

The announcement opened the floodgates of joy and happiness for the Iranian masses that have been made scapegoat to suffer more than a decade for none of their faults. Thus, the Iranian foreign minister Javed Zarif commented: “This is a good day for the Iranian people as sanctions will be lifted today.” Soon after the international sanctions were lifted, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “Iran has opened a new chapter in its ties with the world”.

90This move was welcomed by most of the countries of the world except Israel that accused Tehran of still seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Strangely enough, Israel was not alone in criticising this deal; she was joined by the holier than the holiest Monarchy of the world Muslims, Saudi Arabia in expressing their dislike. On Tuesday (19/01/16) Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubier said in his exclusive interview to Reuters: “The lifting of sanctions on Iran as a result of its nuclear deal with world powers will be a harmful development if it uses the extra money to fund “nefarious” activities”. While Israel (a Jewish state) and Saudi Arabia (a state which is the fountain head of Islam) are juxtaposed in condemning this deal, it would be interesting to see how Imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque (an appointee of the SA government) looks at this deal, who tweeted (18-24 January) alleging an “alliance of the Safavids with the Jews and Christians against Muslims”. [Iranians are also known as Safavids].

The way this deal would lift the economic sanctions that were progressively imposed by the US, EU and the UN in response to Iran’s nuclear programme needs elaboration. Sanctions on trade, shipping and insurance are going to be fully lifted by EU. The US would suspend, not terminate, its nuclear-related sanctions, thus allowing Iran now to get reconnected with global banking system. The UN would lift sanctions related to defence and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies. Non-nuclear US sanctions would remain in place, notably the ban on US citizens and companies trading with Iran, and US and EU sanctions on Iranians accused of sponsoring terrorism would also remain in place.

Iran would immediately get $100bn (£70bn) of frozen Iranian assets. It is expected that she would increase its daily export of 101 million barrels of crude oil by half a million barrels shortly and another half a million barrels in future. It is expected that Iran would soon order the Airbus Consortium for purchase of 114 new passenger planes.

President Hassan Rouhani said that everyone was happy with the deal, apart from those he described as war-mongers in the region – Israel and hardliners in the US Congress. “We Iranians have reached out to the world in a sign of friendliness, and leaving behind the enmities, suspicions and plots, have opened a new chapter in the relations of Iran with the world”, he said in a statement on Sunday (17/01/2016) morning. Rouhani added: “The lifting of sanctions was a turning point for Iran’s economy and the country needed to be less reliant on oil revenue.

The only candidate to be credited as the “ARCHITECT” of this deal is John Kerry, the US Secretary of State who, commenting on the deal, said; “It had been pursued with the firm belief that exhausting diplomacy before choosing war is an imperative. And we believe that today marks the benefits of that choice”.

However, it did not go unchallenged from within the United States. The Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Obama administration had moved to lift economic sanctions “on the world’s leading State Sponsor of terrorism”.

This deal, as envisaged quite early, came as a shock to the monarch in Riyadh. They had their first shock in 1979 when Shah of Iran was deposed and replaced by Shia theocracy of Ayatollah Khomeini and other clerics of similar description who started crying hoarse that there is no place of monarchy in Islam. In a recent exclusive interview to Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubier was asked if Saudi Arabia discussed seeking nuclear bomb in the event Iran managed to obtain one despite its atomic deal. He said Saudi Arabia would do “whatever it needs to do in order to protect our people”. Where Saudi Arabia can look to seek an atomic device? Nowhere except Pakistan. Thus, Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, without wasting any time, came to Riyadh along with his army chief to console and comfort their erstwhile benefactor. They could not stop short of pronouncing their support in case of any defence-related eventuality. In an apparent equalising gesture they did visit Tehran also to clarify the reconciliatory nature of their visit.

Both Tehran and Riyadh are theocratic states, the former ruled by a Council of Shia Elders without whose clearance no one can contest election; the latter is ruled by House of Saud dynasty but their home affairs are run by the clerics who profess Wahabi / Salafi Islam as opposed to that of Shia clerics of Iran. There is a worst human rights record in both the countries. The women are treated worst in both the countries

by Mohammad Nazir Tabassum                                                                                                  

“As in Afghanistan, there is confusion about western objectives in a complex conflict – is the aim simply to push back Isis, or does it have to be halting the wider Syrian war in which Isis has thrived? Is this imaginable while President Assad remains on the stage, or is the removal of this man – who has killed more Syrians than anyone else, and driven so many to embrace Isis – a red line?” (The Guardian – Leader Comment 17/11/2015)

A member of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant.This comment of the most esteemed daily newspaper of the UK is worth consideration. I think that while giving such comments, the learned editor has ignored certain basic and most important facts as to who initiated, instigated, supported, financed and funnelled the most sophisticated weaponry to the terrorists’ organisations like Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda, and the so-called Free Syrian Army, usually described by the western press as “moderate opposition of the Syrian government.” The terrorists from all over the Muslim world including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Chechnya were provided free access to come to Syria and join these terrorists. So all these three organisations acted as midwife and delivered the most barbaric, ruthless, heartless, merciless child that came to be known as Isis and who played havoc in Paris on 13 November 2015. Any impartial, unbiased and just observer can easily conclude that it is not President Assad but all these terrorist organisations supported and financed by the west as well as the monarchs, Amirs and Sultans of the Middle East, including Turkey, who drove many to embrace Isis. The western countries 226208-asadwatched passively while their Muslim citizens, both men and women, including Jihadi brides and in certain cases, the whole families to go and join the Isis.

There is sufficient evidence that the west has only been interested in the removal of Assad for which they have readily and happily been willing to pay the price of making their citizens unsafe at home. After all, why America wants to keep company with Al-Qaeda? For years they knew where Osama Bin Laden was housed, as did the Pakistan Army. They did not harm him. But only in 2011, when he was a spent up force and Barak Obama was going for his second term election that they chose to send the US Navy Seals to kill him. Bashar Al-Assad, like Qadafi and Saddam Hussain is secular.

pic_giant_091014_sm_obama-manages-isisIf the western countries really want their citizens to live in peace, then it is high time that they should reconsider their foreign policy. Interventionism pays dividends but only to a limited extent. It starts hurting very soon. The examples are Korea and China. Taiwan and South Korea have now fully realised that they were used as tools by the Americans.

When America and her western allies including the Middle East partners started a proxy campaign against Syrian President Al-Assad, they were faced by the Russians. Thus, they attempted, though unsuccessfully, to neutralize Russia. Look at the crude methodology that they applied to do so.

ujtCe9wjF89YaAPXGFmhhP0BvqwbAIh1Last month, a meeting took place between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the chief of Saudi Intelligence and the key link between Washington and Riyadh. The encounter between the two was leaked by certain interested quarters. Thus, in return for Russian acquiescence to regime change in Syria, Bandar offered not only oil and gas deals, but a “guarantee” to protect the winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia from terrorist attacks by Chechen Islamists. Bandar assured Putin that these groups were “controlled by us” and could be instigated or restrained as it suited Saudi and US interests. The meeting took place at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow.

This interesting episode was also reported by The Telegraph (Sunday 22 November 2015). This is something that indicates irrefutably that western countries’ foreign policy has serious drawbacks. A policy in which these governments along with their non-European allies can flock together any time and run over any peace-living country without caring much that by doing so they may be making their own homes and people unsafe. Newton’s third law of motion is applicable not only on physical but also on political phenomena. This law states that in nature to every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Why the learned authors of western foreign policy deliberately ignore this scientific truth and start blaming others when they have to harvest the crop whose seeds were sown by them and by no one else.

In the final analysis I must state clearly and unambiguously that those who were brutally killed at various places in Paris were innocent people. They were not the scribblers of the French foreign policy. Their brutal killings cannot be justified by any reason whatsoever and the barbaric killers and the organisation to which they belong and wherever in the world they are located must be annihilated with the unified strength of all peace-loving, non-interfering countries of the world. The west and their Middle Eastern allies must realise that they have seen the removal of Qadafi and Saddam in the near past. Has anything good come out of that? Therefore, “desist from high-handedness because the vengeance of Nature is merciless.”

by Maryam Ansar

In 2009 Barack Obama signed the executive order which guaranteed Guantanamo Bay would be shut down once and for all; it was his promise.

However, now in 2015, there is absolutely no sign of that happening any time soon. Whilst many detainees have been released since its creation, that is no indicator towards its ultimate demise; there still remain more than 100 prisoners within the walls of Guantanamo Bay. Despite countless efforts by human rights activists and those concerned with the overall lack of morality contained in the camp; there is no official plan to shut it down by the US government.

Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of military police during in-processing to the temporary detention facility at Camp X-Ray of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in this January 11, 2002 file photograph. A cache of classified U.S. military documents provides intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who been detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The secret documents, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, reveal that most of the 172 remaining prisoners have been rated as a "high risk" of posing a threat to the United States and its allies if released without adequate rehabilitation and supervision, the newspaper said in its report late on April 24, 2011.  REUTERS/Stringer/Files (CUBA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS) - RTXL0IH

Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was the result of a war on terror. A war which instils terror in the hearts of those who are detained within this notorious prison. Fight terror with terror; that seemed to be the maxim George Bush began his ongoing history of human right violations with. Many have witnessed the inhumane treatment detainees undergo in this prison. Many have also read the CIA torture report which evidenced the goings on at Guantanamo Bay; it documented torture of physical, mental and sexual natures. The findings allowed people to realise the true face of this prison and thus many more individuals joined the campaign to have it eradicated.

It seems, the main barrier in the way of Obama and the shutting down of Guantanamo Bay is Congress; Congress limits his powers as president and therefore Guantanamo Bay cannot be shut down. However, in essence, President Obama does have the authority to veto legislatures bought forward by Congress regards to Guantanamo Bay. Nonetheless, instead of vetoing cmGUANTANAMO_LARGE_070511124215142_wideweb__300x250these, he signs them, in consequence, allowing Guantanamo Bay to remain open. In such a case, Obama is seen to be at fault for hesitating to utilise his powers as president to address the issues of human rights abuses against detainees. Further yet, many believe that Guantanamo Bay provides safety to all from already existing threats of terrorism, and future threats of terrorism. The mentality seems to be, if possible terrorists are captured and detained, the risk of attack is lessened and security is increased; this is not at all true.

In defence of closing down Guantanamo Bay, President Obama has claimed in several instances, that he intends to close down the camp, as he believes it tarnishes the reputation of the United States, which it most definitely does. In order to move forward with the issue of Guantanamo Bay, the US must assess the likelihood of so called high risk detainees engaging in terrorist acts. As well as the legality of keeping mostly innocent individuals imprisoned with a lack of evidence that proves detainees’ links to terrorism. The CIA report is proof enough that the US, on the basis of likelihood and legality, or lack thereof, is guilty of many human rights abuses on detainees in Guantanamo Bay, without reason. And therefore Guantanamo Bay should be eliminated in its entirety.

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

The three sisters with their nine young children from Bradford who travelled to war-torn Syria, last month, generated massive publicity both in the national and international media, has left many observers dumbfounded.

Many columnists and analysts have theorised a number of reasons these families’ leaving a safe and secure living place in Britain for a country unsafe and insecure to the extremes of one’s imagination. Over the years, both Syria and Iraq have become a magnet for youngsters of the Muslim communities the world over and a breeding ground for a violent, brutal and ruthless religious extremist ideology. A few of the reasons cited for the Dawood family to leave Bradford for the so called Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) range from a lack of interaction and integration of British Muslims with the indigenous population to the restricted and oppressed environment in which Muslim females have to live; the lack of parental control over their children and the inept and ineffective community leadership. It is true that these factors have a decisive role in the promotion of cohesive communities but the relation of the recent wave of radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain is beyond comprehension. Nevertheless, it is a well-known fact that these factors have been prevalent in some of our cities for several decades.

Dawood-Bradford_3342293bThe decision of three sisters to move to Syria seems to be well planned and carefully executed. It was not made on the spur of the moment and it must have been influenced by their brother already present in Syria and fighting for ISIS. The matrimonial disputes within the family and the alleged irksome behaviour of the Counter Terrorism Force might also have contributed to some extent. It ought not to be expected that they will be enganged in terrorist activities in ‘Islamic State’ or in Britain if they want or are allowed to return. The fundamental question is why a few young members of the British Muslim community, who are born, bred and educated here, are vulnerable and easy prey to those who recruit and groom them on or off line.

In order to understand this phenomenon of rising extremism and terrorism in recent years, we have to turn the pages of history. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 which prompted America to repel the Soviets from that country by pouring billions of dollars for financially supporting and providing gorilla training for Mujahedeen mainly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan and then to use them to fight against Soviet forces, sowed the seeds of extremism. As these Muslim cadres had adequate training to fight against and defeat one of the two Super Powers, it was but natural for them to conceive that with the piles of arms and ammunition at hand, they can also play havoc with the other Super Power and the rest of the Western world.

1410261170121.cachedWhen the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Americans left too after achieving their objective of defeating the enemy. Thus, the Afghans were left at the mercy of mutually destructive war lords, who were easily replaced by the Taleban, a creation of Pakistan, desirous of having in depth access into Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda too were headquartered in that fateful country. Hence, Pakistan and Afghanistan became centres for breeding extremism. The West ignored the danger of this growing evil mind set in this region and instead embarked upon another adventure of safeguarding their economic interests by invading Iraq under false pretences. As a result, the country suffered ineffable devastation and destruction. More than half a million of innocent civilians lost their lives. Iraqis still remain a nation divided across the board and suffering from sectarianism, violence, extremism and lawlessness. The West’s policy of rearranging the geography of the Middle East may be working but at the expense of incalculable loss of lives and suffering of the region that compounded the miseries of the unfortunate populace, thus unleashed the forces with pernicious mind set and brutal beliefs. Both countries are engulfed in chaos and carnage. Syria is not far from becoming a graveyard.

Once more, the USA has repeated the blunder it committed in Afghanistan by supporting and nurturing the followers of ISIS (Daesh). Like Taleban, its strategy was to hire the extremists against Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. But, as it was expected, as soon as they gained sufficient power, they decided to fight against both Syria and America. During the last two year, the ISIS has successfully established its own authority by conquering the territory of Iraq and Syria and now they possess abundance of ISIS-nucleararms and money. Members of Al-Qaeda are also joining ISIS in hordes. ISIS is a fast growing monster and its success and influence continues to force America and its allies to learn the lessons of history and stop meddling with the internal affairs of other nations.

The establishment of Caliphate in the territory controlled by ISIS has created panic and alarm throughout the world. ISIS is attracting young people from all parts of the world to come and live in the Caliphate where they promise to provide them with secure “Islamic” environment. They are also preaching hatred against the West and its lifestyle and permissive society on line as well as through their followers in many parts of the world. They would claim that heterodox values of the West are incompatible with the Islamic values. ISIS and their agents working in different countries usually lure those individuals who are inclined to hold similar extremist and barbaric views that characterises the ISIS’ philosophy. Some of the strong arguments they advance are:

  • The creation of chaos and political upheavals in Muslim countries
  • The political and economic injustice meted out to Muslims throughout the world
  • Policy of non-intervention in resolving the issues of Palestine and Kashmir

bradfordThese arguments penetrate into the raw minds of young Muslims who can easily be exploited emotionally and are thus ensnared into its net. They hold the West responsible for dividing and weakening Muslims so that Israel can continue to grab by force the land belonging to Palestinians, but still enjoys impunity and even protection ensured by the West. These assertions are much appealing to young Muslims. It is inevitable for the West to incorporate radical changes in its foreign policies if it wants to see durable peace in the world.

Such teachings and preaching of the ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their allies who hold a similar ideology, have affected the thinking and attitudes of a minority of disaffected young Muslims in Britain; hence they are becoming radicalised and alienated. They begin to believe that they are misfits here. However, we cannot afford to overlook the possibility of the existence of some secret dens in the UK where preaching of hatred and extremism is taking place. Just a few weeks ago, a graffiti ‘Kafir’, [that means ‘Infidel’], has appeared on the wall of a Shias’ Mosque. This sort of act is clearly the manifestation of the mentality only appreciated by those enganged in extreme activities. Therefore, aiding, abetting and spreading the violent ideology of Daesh must be stopped at all costs. Our Anti-Terrorism organisations have to act with prudence and professional skills to bring the culprits to book.

The leaders of the British Muslim community have immense responsibility. They need to strike a balance between defending their community against many pressures emanating from right wing press and media and political organisation and their unequivocal condemnation of the ideology of ISIS. At this critical juncture they have to come out of the fold of passive moaning, groaning and opposition.

The community of Imams should seriously take cognisance of worsening relationship between the Muslims and the indigenous community. Their traditional role of preaching must entail the worldly affairs as well as consistent reminder to their congregation of the danger of extreme religious ideology. They should encourage dialogue and interaction of Muslims with the wider community. In this regard, their role can be of paramount importance and beneficial to the promotion of community cohesion. Thousands of Seminaries, up and down the country, should try to instil tolerance in the minds of very young children and prepare them for moving successfully in the wider society as they become responsible adults. Respecting the law of the land and loyalty to their country should be an integral part of the curriculum.

The government and the intelligence agencies seem to have not achieved much success in maintaining vigilance of the suspicious individuals inclined toward extreme beliefs. It is claimed that 700 suspected terrorists have already left the country during the last two years to join ISIS. This cannot be a commendable track record.

The government’s constant pressure on the Muslim community for doing more without the provision of any resources is ill-advised and unmerited. This policy is bound to annoy and antagonise the moderate and peace-loving elements of the community. The government and its agencies need to engage the community in a meaningful way and gain its confidence to work together. It is imperative to recruit more Muslims in the intelligence services.

Britain is a free country and its citizens are free to move to any country in the world by fulfilling the legal requirements for entry but how can they justify their return if they are proven to have been indulged in terrorist activities voluntarily? There can be no moral or legal justification. No country could tolerate this kind of repugnant behaviour of its citizens. In order to avoid betrayal of their conscience, such nationals of any nation should revoke their citizenship before they leave for their bloodletting mission.

It is a bloody and complex world of which we are a tiny part. Instead of making it more violent and bloody, it is incumbent upon us irrespective of race, religion and nationality to play a positive part in attempting to build a conflict free and peaceful future for our coming generations. Perhaps it requires to resist the temptation of subjugating the weaker, either by using the cloak of religion or political and economic supremacy.

Note: The author is the former Lord Mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

By Maryam Ansar

The recent attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the death of eleven individuals, including one Muslim policeman, has been succeeded by countless debates on freedom of speech and its limitations.

Students demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo in MogadishuThe magazine in question, drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in order to be amusing it seems, seeing as that is the entire point of their publications. That in itself is a huge mistake; making a mockery out of religion, let alone making a mockery out of Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) who millions of Muslims around the world love and honour. It is clear that Muslims would go out of their way to protect their religion and Prophet (pbuh) from being disrespected; as was evident from the 800,000 people in Chechnya who protested the actions of Charlie Hebdo and even went so far as to supporting the killings that took place. The killings in Paris are not something that many Muslims supported, however, simply because murder of such likes is not permissible in Islam. Muslims should follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet (pbuh) did not mercilessly kill those who disrespected him, therefore Muslims have no reason to so. It is because of the aforementioned, that Muslims condemn terrorism in all its forms; Islam does not teach its followers to be violent and blood thirsty, and nor did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) do so.

untitled (6)The Charlie Hebdo attack also puts to task the issue of freedom of speech and questions its limitations and context. Freedom of speech exists to allow an individual to express their views without fear or reprimand; and it was under the right of freedom of speech that Charlie Hebdo decided to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). However, freedom of speech does not mean people can disrespect religion to such an extent that would come under inciting hatred towards Islam and said religion. If freedom of speech is a right, then one must also remember that decency is a virtue; in society we are taught to never hurt another person’s feelings, by the same standard, this means non-Muslims should not act in ways which upset Muslims and all religions towards others.

In fact, freedom of speech can be a rather hypocritical concept at times; for example, if someone speaks out against the crimes Israel has committed against the Palestinians, the individual is branded as an Anti-Semitic and one’s right of freedom of speech is taken away if they talk about Israel in a negative light. Yet, when individuals talk about Islam and Muslims in a negative way, freedom of speech is encouraged; many Muslims have noticed this hypocrisy since the rise of Islamophobia.

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Date: Saturday, January 17, 1pm

Location: Achilles Statue, Hyde Park, W1J

One thousand cyclists will take part in an epic ride from Edinburgh to London in August to raise money to support a Gaza children’s charity. This Saturday (January 17) Palestine Solidarity Committee chair Ben Soffa will set the wheels spinning when he launches the project. A similar launch will also take place in Edinburgh.

Ben-Soffa-feature-A peleton comprising cyclists wearing Big Ride teeshirts and flying Palestinian flags will then ride down to the parliament, where a motion commending the epic journey has been submitted.

The Big Ride is the creation of Dermot MacWard, who runs the international cycle holiday company Red Spokes. “My friend Musheir El Farra lost eight members of his family (including five children) in the recent war in Gaza,” he said. “His sister Dr. Mona El-Farra the Vice President of the Red Crescent society for the Gaza Strip and Director of Middle Eastern Children Alliance has asked for help. Mona wants us to help raise awareness of the situation in Palestine and also help the children’s projects she’s involved in The Gaza Strip.”

photoThe massive ride will be from parliament to parliament, setting out on August 1 and ending at the UK parliament in Westminster on August 9. The entire ride stretches to 474 miles with an average of around 50 miles a day. Accommodation and meals en route can be provided.

“But people don’t need to cycle the whole route, they can join for single legs or they can just turn up on the day to encourage the other cyclists,” MacWard said. “It will be one of the largest mass participation cycling events of its kind in Britain. Ever. If you do nothing else this year – dust off your bike, pump up your tyres and oil your chain for a fabulous week of pedalling and helping the people of Palestine.”

It is hoped that at least £100,000 will be raised for MECA, the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance.

The Big Ride sets off from Scotland’s capital city on Saturday August 1 with a fanfare departure from Arthur’s Seat. The final day of the journey sees a rallying finish to the 474 mile capital-to-capital ride in Parliament Square – from one seat of parliament to another.

The Big Ride has the support of several aid organisations and support groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

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By Maryam AnsarAl-aqsa-Mosque-HD-Wallpaper

The last few weeks have witnessed even further escalation of conflict between Palestine and Israel when the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is considered by Muslims to be the third holiest site in Islam, came under attack by Israeli forces who believe the site, known as Temple Mount to the Jews, rightfully belongs to them and not Muslims. However, this is not the first time that there has been a clash between the two groups with regards to the holy site. The first time Israel effectively shut down the Al-Aqsa mosque since the occupation of East Jerusalem was in 1967 and the conflict that ensued resembles the one taking place at present. Reports state that the reason Israel took such measures is supposedly because a Palestinian man attempted to kill a far-right Israeli activist. However, given the sacred importance of the compound to both Muslims and Jews, it is most likely that the motive was not a political one; but rather it was fuelled by religious differences between the two groups.

The president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas responded to the closure of Al-Aqsa mosque with a warning to the Israelis; that any further attacks towards the mosque, and indeed the Palestinians, will result in a declaration of war against Israel. Abbas also cautioned them not to turn the several decade long Palestine-Israel conflict into an open-ended religious war that once begun, will never end. It seems that the attacks on Al-Aqsa and worshippers within the mosque is the last straw for Palestine, which would obviously be the case, given the seriousness of the matter. However, the Palestinians are approaching the matter as calmly as possible despite the aggression carried out towards them by Israel; a major indication that Palestine is not looking for war. Instead, all they want is peace between the two and for Israel to put an end to the expansion of its illegal settlements.

Irrespective of the religious importance of Al-Aqsa and the surrounding site to Muslims, Israel continues to terrorise the Palestinians. The Al-Aqsa mosque was stormed by Israeli police and settlers alike last month due to apparent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, the latter then began shooting at Muslim worshippers, with at least 15 casualties. No action was taken following this particular incident, however, when a synagogue was attacked a while later with 5 casualties, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that harsh action would be taken against the two perpetrators of the attack. Following such incidents, the question arises in many peoples’ minds; if Israel is entitled to the right of freedom being an illegitimate state whose very existence is disputed by 35 counties as well as forming illegal settlements on Palestine’s land, then surely the Palestinians deserve the same freedom as well as recognition as a fully sovereign state, since their legitimacy is not disputed.

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