Friday, February 12, 2016

#ErdoganAsesino - Why did Erdogan's bodyguards beat up these Ecuadorian women?


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan embarked on a Latin America trip between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4. The main goal of his trip was to expand trade relations with Chile, Peru and Ecuador. On Feb. 4, Erdogan gave a speech at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (National Higher Studies Institute) in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. During his speech, a group of female protesters were heard screaming “Fuera Ecuador Erdogan” ("Get out of Ecuador, Erdogan") and "Asesino" ("Murderer"). Some of the protesters had "asesino" written on their hands as well. Their protest lasted less than a minute before they were brutally attacked by Erdogan's Turkish bodyguards. The women were forcefully removed from the room and claimed to have been assaulted; the bodyguards punched their heads, vaginas and breasts. As the female protesters were being dragged out of the auditorium, Erdogan said, “As we see now, there are sometimes disrespectful characters as well. Appropriate responses will always be taken to handle these disrespectful people.”

Outside the building, a larger group of demonstrators had gathered to protest Erdogan’s visit. Their banners read, “Erdogan loves IS [Islamic State]” and “Erdogan Kills in Syria,” while others expressed solidarity with the Kurds. The guards attacked this group as well, breaking the nose of an Ecuadorian lawmaker, Diego Vintimilla. Vintimilla posted photos of his injuries on Twitter. Social media users retweeted it and he received hundreds of supportive messages from Turkey.
The news became a trending topic for the next couple of days in Turkey, with hundreds of entries on social media. However, most of the mainstream TV channels and pro-government newspapers did not even mention the events or show images of the protests. Both in Turkey and in Ecuador caricatures were drawn ridiculing Erdogan’s aggressive bodyguards. Girgir, one of Turkey’s most popular satirical magazines featured the event on its cover, with Erdogan wearing boxing gloves asking not just Turks but the entire world to remain silent. On Twitter, #ErdoganAsesino, #HeilHitlerdogan and #DirenQuito (Resist Quito) became trending hashtags. A few critical Turkish pundits carried this sensitive incident to their columns. One was Hayko Bagdat’s humorous piece for the Diken website titled “To us everywhere is Kasimpasa.” Kasimpasa is a district of Istanbul where Erdogan grew up. It is known for tough and standoffish men ready to confront anyone and everyone.
A satirical column for Daily Zaman was penned by Turan Alkan titled “Who is the biggest parallel: Ecuador,” referring to the nickname for the Gulen movement members. Alkan ridiculed several instances of doublespeak by Justice and Development Party (AKP) elites, and then he indicated that due to Ecuador’s location it must be the place for all Gulen movement members to escape to.
In the meantime, Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Fernando Yepez summoned Korkut Gurgen, the Turkish ambassador in Quito, demanding an answer about the excessive use of force by the Turkish bodyguards. Ecuadorian Interior Minister Jose Serrano said they had requested the bodyguards to surrender their passports on Feb. 5, but the Turkish delegation had already departed Ecuador en route to Senegal.
At the same time, several Ecuadorian pundits are both upset with Erdogan and displeased with their own leaders. Cristina Burneo Salazar, a professor at Simon Bolivar Andean University of Quito, wrote a searing piece stating that “Erdogan should have never been invited to speak at a university,” explaining how the original location, La Universidad Central, had rejected to host Erdogan. Salazar’s piece has in-depth details about the AKP’s track record on human rights and disrespect of women. She even mentions Bulent Arinc’s notorious comment advising women not to laugh loudly in public.
A group of Turkish businessmen living in Ecuador have announced they will sue the six female protesters who were brutally beaten by Erdogan's bodyguards. They allegedly said that “these unidentified women entered the lecture hall and called our president a murderer.”
For the people in Turkey, however, the intriguing part was not the aggression against unarmed protesters in Ecuador. After all, in the last couple of years, Turks have witnessed the violent suppression of almost all anti-government protests. Even sporadic protests against Erdogan and his men have met with extreme aggressive reactions in public, with little to no legal repercussions for the instigators. Indeed, Freedom House recently announced that on average there are four court cases initiated every day for the crime of “offending Erdogan” in Turkey.
For Turkish audiences, the real surprise was that a government that came to power with the slogan “zero problems with neighbors” has not only managed to increase friction and conflict with almost all neighbors simultaneously, but also for the first time in Turkish history managed to generate a diplomatic crisis between Ecuador and Turkey. One tweet put it succinctly: “If he [Erdogan] manages to be a problem in Ecuador, no wonder he is a problem in Syria.” In a humorous approach, most Turks were asking if the Ecuadorian protesters were Kurds or Gulenists, and what kind of traitors were they that they failed to respect the “world leader.”
Beyond all these recurring scenes of violent attacks and angry outbursts of AKP members lies a lack of tolerance for dissent. The intolerance level is increasing at an alarming rate, due to what might be called a “preaching to the converted” syndrome. Erdogan and almost all AKP elites, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, do not appear before random crowds; all press interviews are exclusively conducted by pro-government members of the media.
Erdogan’s latest favorite audience has been the mukhtars (leaders of neighborhoods and villages) who are vetted rigorously prior to being accepted into the palace. They dutifully clap after each sentence Erdogan utters. For instance, on Feb. 10, during the 20th mukhtar gathering at the palace, Erdogan complained about the alleged US support for the Kurdish troops in Syria while mukhtars cheered him on respectfully.
These loyal and controlled audiences are much more difficult to assemble in foreign countries. In Turkey, the opposition is a feeble voice whose questions are not taken into account.
In regard to Erdogan's visit to Ecuador, scholars such as Aylin Topal, a Latin America expert and professor of political science at the Middle East Technical University, have argued that the lawsuits against Erdogan’s bodyguards have taken the forefront of the trade agreements signed between Ecuador and Turkey. Yet Ecuadorian activists have expressed their disappointment with their own government for sacrificing human rights in exchange for strengthening trade relations. Indeed, Miguel Molina Diaz, Quito-based journalist and editor, argues that the covering of the nude statues during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Italy was less offensive than what Erdogan’s entourage did against the Ecuadorians and sovereignty due to the Ecuadorian government’s submission to Erdogan.
The financial consequences of Erdogan’s Latin America tour will most likely not be felt in Turkey in the short run. Yet the excessive use of force by Erdogan’s bodyguards’ (allegedly there were 70 of them) in Ecuador have reconfirmed two facts: First, whenever Erdogan cannot preach to the "converted," he is out of his comfort zone and surprising events are likely to happen. Second, as one of the Ecuadorian protesters, Karla Kalapaqui, told Al-Monitor, “Turkish and Kurdish women everywhere are very brave.” They are indeed!

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British government can ‘no longer deny’ Saudi atrocities in Yemen

The British government can “no longer deny” violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

The United Nations released a report on Tuesday, proving that the Saudis are targeting civilians and civilian objects such as refugee camps, weddings, buses, residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques, markets, factories, in Yemen.

On Wednesday, HRW released a report stating that the revelations released by UN reinforce former evidence that Saudi Arabia keeps violating humanitarian laws and even laws of war.

Over the last few months, the British government has been under fire for denying all claims against Saudi Arabia’s human rights records and continuing arms sales to its biggest customer.

Last summer alone, Britain sold over 1.5 billion dollars worth of missiles, rockets, and bombs to Riyadh.

The rights group calls on the UK to “immediately halt the transfer of any weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and other coalition states that have been used to commit the documented violations.”
HRW also stated that the British government should “end its disingenuous stance on investigations.” The group added that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has repeatedly stressed that the UK supports the “proper investigations of alleged laws-of-war violations,” but as yet there has been no evidence of the UK carrying out any manner of investigation into Riyadh’s violations in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia began its military aggression against Yemen in late March last year. The strikes are supposedly meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Some 8,300 people have been killed and over 16,000 others injured since the strikes began. The Saudi war has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure.
''Down to the saud dynasty, truly a cancer in the middle east''

Thousands march in Saudi Arabia to mark 40 days since cleric's execution

Thousands of people stage rallies in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to mark the 40th day since the execution of prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.
A protest was held in Qatif in the restive Eastern Province, where demonstrators chanted “Death to Al Saud” and “Down with the House of Saud” to denounce the ruling Saudi family for the execution.
The angry demonstrators said the Riyadh regime had the blood of innocent people on its hands.
The demonstration came a day after Sheikh Nimr’s family called on Saudi authorities to hand over his body.
The Saudi regime executed Sheikh Nimr on January 2, defying international calls to release him. The execution sparked international condemnations and angry protests in many countries.
Many of the residents of Qatif, located near major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, work for the state energy company Saudi Aramco.
Past protests have not led to attacks on the oil industry, but a bus used by Aramco to transport employees was set ablaze during a night rally in early January.
Shia Muslims have long complained of discrimination in a country where the official Wahhabi ideology condones violence against them.
The Shias face abuse sanctioned by Wahhabi clerics, rarely get permits for places of worship and seldom get senior public sector jobs.
Those basic complaints have over the years been aggravated by a heavy-handed crackdown against their community. The Shias accuse the authorities of unfair detentions and punishments, shooting unarmed protesters and torturing detainees.
The Shia-dominated Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners. They want an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.
On Thursday, similar protest rallies were held across neighboring Bahrain to condemn the execution of Sheikh Nimr.
Demonstrations were held on Sitra Island as well as in Bilad al-Qadim, a suburban area of the capital, Manama.
The rallies in Bahrain turned violent as security forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
The protesters also insisted on their demands for reforms and the release of all political prisoners.
Bahrainis have also announced plans to hold a nationwide strike and a series of massive rallies on Friday afternoon to express their anger at Nimr's beheading. Almost all businesses and shops will remain closed across the country.
Bahrain has been the scene of anti-regime protests since February 2011. Bahraini regime forces have been harshly cracking down on the protesters ever since, killing scores of them. A large number of Bahraini activists are also languishing behind bars.

China - Discussion of THAAD deployment is shortsighted move of Seoul and Washington

South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said Sunday it will formally discuss deploying the THAAD missile defense system with the US, after North Korea claimed to have launched a satellite into space. Seoul's decision will further complicate the security situation of Northeast Asia.

South Korea said one THAAD battery costs about 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion), and the US will cover the costs of deployment, operation and maintenance. One battery is capable of shielding half to two thirds of the South Korean territory.

It is widely believed by military experts that once THAAD is installed, Chinese missiles will be included as its target of surveillance, which will jeopardize Chinese national security. South Korea explained that North Korea is the only target of the system and this doesn't impose threat to China's national security. However, such explanation is feeble and futile.

The discussion over THAAD deployment in South Korea has been lasted for over a decade. The Chinese authorities have been explicitly opposed to it. In light of China's opposition, South Korea, although it was considered  "willing to deploy" the system, didn't agree to the deployment. South Korea publicly stuck to "Three Nos" on the THAAD issue: that there has been no request from the US, no negotiations with the US, and no decision made.

The abrupt attitude shift at a confusing moment caused by North Korea's test of a long-range missile is a decision of no strategic vision. For the sake of its security, Seoul took an impetuous action, giving no consideration to the long-term strategic impact.

Pyongyang embarked on a wrong path due to its sense of insecurity. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea will not put an end to the vicious interaction of varied forces in the region, only causing more troubles to Northeast Asia. Seoul now is at the center of a situation that is spiraling out of control.

China is close to the Korean Peninsula, and falls victim to any tensions in the region. However, China is not in a position to direct the situation. China's advocacy for de-escalating the tensions has not been well responded.

If the nuclear issues in the Korean Peninsula keep spiraling downward, China has no choice but to brace for the worse scenario. China will reinforce its capability to cope with the Korean Peninsula from going out of control, including dealing with military threats from THAAD.

If THAAD takes root in South Korea, it will be officially considered as a target of research by the Chinese military from both the strategic and tactical dimensions. We cannot be easily convinced by South Korea and the US that the system only aims to deter North Korea. We should take a realistic position to observe South Korea's national strategy.

There have been an increasing number of uncontrollable factors in China's periphery, with the US constantly stirring up in the security field. China should enhance its comprehensive defense strength to deal with these challenges. The degree of China's strength will determine the nature of these challenges.

For example, the deployment of THAAD may not be a major threat to China, because China's capability in developing strategic missiles can easily overcome the deterrence imposed by South Korea and the US through THAAD. It is the US and South Korea that hold the initiative of building THAAD, while the former can be achieved through our own efforts.

Missile defense systems have never been used in a practical war of major powers, and their effects remain theoretical. They have played a strategic deterrent role in the past, and served as a political connection between the US and some of its allies. Some scholars believe that deploying THAAD in South Korea has more political significance than military significance.

Maybe in the end, China won't be able to stop the deployment of THAAD, but whatever the result is, China should firmly oppose. The tensions in the Korean Peninsula might escalate and even come to a showdown. In this scenario, there could hardly be an all-round strategy that won't harm the interests of any party. However, China's determination to safeguard its national security should be clearly shown, so that the other stakeholders will have to think carefully before they make any decision that might challenge China's position.

How realistic is BBC film about Russia-NATO nuclear war?


In a recent British pseudo-documentary film, a confrontation between NATO and Russia because of a pro-Russian uprising in Latvia leads to a nuclear war. Russian experts interviewed by RBTH are skeptical about the premise of the film: In their opinion, such uprisings are impossible in the Baltic countries and Russia would never engage in a direct armed conflict with NATO.

A recently broadcast BBC film titled World War Three: Inside the War Room” hypothesizes a situation in which Russian-speaking separatists in the small East European country of Latvia, a NATO member, begin an uprising that quickly leads to an armed clash with the Latvian army.
Meanwhile, in the command post in London members of the UK's Supreme Military Command try to determine how the UK and NATO should respond to Russia's support for the insurgents.

Donbass in the Baltics

The first shots of the film look like documentary footage from the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Lugansk in the spring of 2014. People shouting "Russia! Russia!" occupy the administration of the Latvian city of Daugavpils, proclaim the government of the Latgalo-Russian Union and demand a referendum on the status of Latgalia, a region that has a significant Russian population.
The parallel to eastern Ukraine is rather obvious and the film forces us to consider what would happen if the Donbass scenario were to be repeated in a NATO country, which the alliance, in accordance with its charter, must defend. However, Russian analysts are convinced that unlike Donbass, there is no one in Latgalia who would tear down the Latvian flag from the mayor's office and fight with the local police.

Phenomenon of the ‘Baltic Russians’

"The people in Latvia and other Baltic countries had chosen to be part of Europe. Those countries don't have so many Russian supporters as in Crimea or the Donbass," explained military analyst Konstantin Sivkov, vice president of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Problems.
President of the Geographical Union and political geography expert Vladimir Kolosov agrees. In his view, the ethnic Russians in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are loyal to their governments.
"Neither Latvia nor the other Baltic countries have ever had influential pro-Russian parties and movements," said Kolosov. "All the Russians who wanted to go back to Russia did so in the 1990s, while those who remained are satisfied with their lives."
Kolosov spoke about the phenomenon of the "Baltic Russians," people who, while preserving their Russian ethnic identity, are comfortable being citizens of other countries and have no desire to relocate to Russia.
"The problem of non-citizens, that is, stateless Russians who live in the Baltics, is also being resolved gradually. In the last year they have been receiving citizenship, although slowly," he noted.

Nuclear strikes

According to the plot of the BBC film, both Russia and NATO are forced to up the ante in the dangerous game while the UK's military council tries to demonstrate its fidelity to NATO's principles of collective defense and prevent a nuclear war. But in the end, due to the mutual escalation, the worst does happen and the film's protagonists prepare for a nuclear strike on London.
"World War Three: Inside the War Room." Source: BBC
In Konstantin Sivkov’s opinion, in reality NATO countries understand the hopelessness of a conflict with Russia: "The NATO countries have substantial superiority in military resources, if we exclude the nuclear factor. In the event of a clash using conventional weapons Russia will definitely lose. But what's next? Just think: NATO forces destroy the Russian army and advance into the country. Obviously, the Kremlin will resort to nuclear weapons."

Mutual annihilation

But the opposite is also true: A Russian strike on NATO would only bring about a catastrophe for Moscow. "A hypothetical Russian nuclear strike would be answered with a nuclear strike," said Sivkov.
He believes that the film's implausibility lies in Russia being presented as a reckless force: "Russia has no chance in a war against NATO. The Kremlin understands this perfectly well, which is why it will not aggravate the conflict."
Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, supports Sivkov's stance: "The possibility of a mutual nuclear strike is the film's most unrealistic part. Neither Moscow nor Brussels would want to escalate the situation to such an extent."
Moreover, Ivashov pointed out that currently, if we were to consider a potential conflict, the most dangerous region is "the Middle East, where the civil war in Syria is still raging and Russia is experiencing tensions with Turkey," but not the Baltics.

President al-Assad speaks to AFP on Syrian and regional developments

President Bashar al-Assad gave the following interview to AFP News Agency on the developments in Syria and the region:
Journalist: Mr. President, we would like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions in these crucial moments in the history of Syria and the region.
Question 1: How do you feel when you see tens of thousands of your citizens starving, running away from hunger, from their areas, which are being shelled by your Russian allies, and trying to cross the borders to Turkey? And how do you feel when you see the pictures of them drowning in their attempt to cross the seas?
President Assad: If we talk about emotions, I belong to this people; and it is self-evident that I have the same feelings my people have. Any scene of suffering is painful to all of us as Syrians. But as an official, the question for me is less about emotions than about what I, as an official, should do, being responsible before my people.
However, when the cause of this suffering is the terrorists, not the Russian shelling, as claimed by Western media, and when one cause for migration is the almost five-year-old embargo against the Syrian people, naturally my, and every Syrian official’s first task is to fight terrorism essentially using Syrian capabilities, but also using our friends’ support in the fight against terrorism. That’s why I say the problem of Syrian refugees abroad, as well as the problem of hunger inside Syria, as you referred to it, is a problem caused by terrorism, Western policies, and the embargo imposed on the Syrian people.
Question 2: Mr. President, since you are talking about actions rather than emotions, can we talk, or at least think, about the possibility of putting an end to shelling civilian populations in order to alleviate the suffering of these civilians, and also lifting the blockade imposed on certain areas?
President Assad: The conflict has been, since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, about who wins the support of the people in Syria. Consequently, it doesn’t make sense for us to shell civilians if we want to win them to our side. This is in theory. Practically, while moving around in Syria, you will find that in any area under the control of the state, all sections of Syrian society, including the families of the militants, are being cared for by the state. What is more is that in a city like Raqqa, which is under the full control of Daesh (ISIS), the state continues to pay the salaries of employees and send vaccines for children. So, it doesn’t make sense for the state to shell civilians while doing all the above, unless we are talking about mistakes which happen in every battle. The general rule is that there are innocent victims in every war. This is a rule of thumb in wars, but this is definitely not the Syrian state’s policy.
Question 3: Mr. President, what do you say to those emigrating to Europe? Do you ask them to come back?
President Assad: I would like to ask every person who left Syria to come back. That’s natural but not enough. Emotions are not enough. They would ask: “why should I come back? Has terrorism stopped? Have the basic requirements for life been restored?” Many of those who have emigrated are neither against the Syrian state or with the terrorists, but sometimes there are circumstances which force people to emigrate. So, my answer to this question is: when terrorism recedes, and things are better, they will return of their own volition without any invitation. So, instead of asking these people to return, I’ll call on the European governments, which have been a direct cause for the emigration of these people, by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning, and through the sanctions imposed on Syria, to help in making the Syrians return to their country.
President Assad_AFP_1
Question 4: Mr. President, will the Syrian state regain control over Aleppo in the next few days? If so, what is next? Is it extending full control to Lattakia, Aleppo, and Idleb?
President Assad: The battle in Aleppo now is not about regaining control over Aleppo, because the Syrian state is there; but the main battle is about cutting the road between Aleppo and Turkey; for Turkey is the main conduit of supplies for the terrorists. The battle is going on now on more than ten fronts at the same time, from north, to south, to the east, to the far east too, and to the west in Lattakia. It was going on in Homs, and now it’s over. So, all these stages are moving in parallel.
Question 5: Do you think, Mr. President, that you can regain control over all Syrian territory? And what is the timeframe you have for that now?
President Assad: Regardless of whether we can do that or not, this is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part. The timeframe is dependent on two scenarios. Suppose that the problem is purely Syrian, i.e. that Syria is isolated from its surroundings, we can put an end to this problem in less than a year by moving on two fronts: fighting terrorism and political action. The second scenario – which is the case now – taking the shape of continuing supplies to terrorists through Turkey, Jordan, and partly from Iraq – because Daesh (ISIS) exists in Iraq with Saudi, Turkish, and Qatari support – naturally means that the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price. So, it is difficult to give a precise answer about the timeframe.
Question 6: Can’t you say precisely how many years you need to restore peace to Syria?
President Assad: The question is: for how many years will Turkey and Saudi Arabia continue to support terrorism. That is the question. And when will the West put pressure on these countries to stop supporting terrorism.
Question 7: Mr. President, can we know who is your main enemy? Is it the so-called moderate opposition and the Islamists, or is it Daesh (ISIS)? I’m asking because everybody can see that you are targeting, with your shelling and blockade, the areas under the control of this opposition and these Islamists. Who are your real enemies?
President Assad: I don’t think that the term “opposition” can be used, in France or anywhere else in the world, to describe somebody carrying a weapon. Opposition is a political act. Suppose that you mean to say “moderate terrorists,” this is a different term. Saying that, you mean that they do not belong to Daesh (ISIS), al-Nusra, or to these extremist groups. Obama said that the moderate opposition is a fantasy. Biden said the same thing. But what’s more important is reality which says that such an opposition is non-existent. Most of the militants belong to extremist groups, such as Daesh (ISIS), al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Cham, and others. So, my answer is that every terrorist is an enemy. We respect every political opposition; and we do have political opposition inside Syria. They adopt tough positions against the state, and we are not attacking them.
Question 8: I would like to get this straight. As far as you are concerned, there’s no difference between these armed groups, on the one hand, and Daesh (ISIS), al-Nusra, and others, on the other?
President Assad: Legally speaking, there is no difference. The state will confront all those who carry weapons. It will not ask them about their ideology. But the difference is that the extremist groups refuse to have any dialogue with the state. They believe that they will fight, die, and go to heaven. This is their doctrine. The other groups are not ideological. Most of them have been misled. They got involved in dialogue with the state later. Some of them have laid down their weapons, and some are actually fighting with the Syrian Army today. We grant them amnesty in return for laying down their weapons.
الرئيس 2
Question 9: Mr. President, what do you think of Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Cham? They did negotiate with you, and went to Geneva.
President Assad: They went as part of the opposition formed by Saudi Arabia, because it is Saudi Arabia which supports terrorism worldwide. So, it is only natural for the representatives of Saudi Arabia to be terrorists, not politicians.
Question 10: So, you will not negotiate with those.
President Assad: In principle, direct negotiations were not supposed to take place in Geneva 3. They were supposed to take place through de Mistura. And here we should be precise: we are not negotiating with Syrians, but with representatives of Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, and others. So, if you mean Syrian-Syrian dialogue, the answer is naturally no. Dialogue with these people is not a Syrian-Syrian dialogue at all. A Syrian dialogue is that conducted with Syrian groups which have grassroots in Syria, like the political opposition in Syria, for instance. Any persons calling themselves opposition but belong to foreign states or foreign intelligence services do not represent Syrians in the dialogue, and simply we do not consider them Syrian.
Question 11: You said that you were going to negotiate. All those who went to Geneva were based outside Syria. Can you explain?
President Assad: No, some of them are based inside Syria, and some live outside Syria but they are involved in politics and have supporters in Syria. I’m not talking only about terrorists, I’m talking about people who have been formed in a foreign state and act on behalf of a foreign state.
Question 12: Mr. President, you talked about a Syrian opposition inside Syria. My question is: don’t you think that had you been more tolerant in dealing with this opposition in the past, you would have avoided this conflict? Don’t you bear part of the responsibility?
President Assad: We do not claim that we did not make mistakes in Syria. This is natural in any state. And we do not claim that we, in the Middle East, have reached a stage of significant political openness. We were moving in that direction, not very quickly, and maybe slowly. Back to your question, the more radical segments of the opposition inside Syria, which attack the state, have not been imprisoned or prosecuted by the state, neither before or after the crisis. So, I don’t know what is meant by tolerance in this case.
Question 13: Maybe it was difficult for the opposition inside Syria to assemble and to organize itself, before the crisis, and to raise the voice as opposition. Maybe they did not have a margin for movement.
President Assad: You are talking about a general condition in the Middle East. This is partly true, particularly in the Arab world. But the question in this case is not that of tolerance. The question has to do with individuals rather than institutions. The question is: what is the institutional action that we should take in order to move forward. This has legal, social, or cultural aspects, because democracy is more of a culture than a law. You cannot proceed with laws while remaining culturally in your place.
Question 14: Mr. President, do you think that there might be a Turkish intervention in Syria now? And do you think the Saudi threats are serious?
President Assad: Logically, intervention is not possible, but sometimes reality is at odds with logic, particularly when there are irrational people leading a certain state. That’s why I don’t rule that out for a simple reason: Erdogan is a fanatical person with Muslim Brotherhood inclinations. He is living the Ottoman dream. For him, the collapse which took place in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria is something personal. This threatens his political future, on the one hand, and his fanatical Islamist ambitions, on the other. He believes that he has an Islamist mission in our region. The same applies to Saudi Arabia. The collapse of the terrorists in Syria is a collapse of their policies. I tell you that this process is surely not going to be easy for them, and we will certainly confront it.
Question 15: Mr. President, are you prepared to give northern Syria to the Kurds as a self-rule area after the crisis?
President Assad: This question is directly related to the Syrian constitution; and as you know, the constitution is not given by the government, all sections of Syrian society have a say in it, and it is put to public referendum. That’s why this should be a national question, not a question put to any Syrian official, whether it has to do with self-rule, federalism, decentralization, or any similar thing. All these things are part of the political dialogue in the future; but I would like to stress that the Kurds are a Syrian national group.
Question 16: Is it true, Mr. President, that the Russians persuaded, or tried to persuade you, to step down? Don’t you fear a Russian-American deal on this issue?
President Assad: If we look at Russian policies and Russian officials in the same way we look at unprincipled Western officials and policies, this is a possibility. But the fact is the exact opposite, for a simple reason: the Russians treat us with great respect. They do not treat us as a superpower dealing with a minor state, but as a sovereign state dealing with a sovereign state. That’s why this issue has not been raised at all in any shape or form.
Question 17: Mr. President, are you prepared to give Russia and Iran permanent bases on your territory? And in this case, do you fear that Syria will become a satellite to these powers?
President Assad: Having military bases for any country in Syria does not mean that Syria will become a satellite state to these countries. They do not interfere in issues related to the law, the constitution, nor to politics. In any case, the Russian base exists already, while the Iranians have not asked to have one. But in principle, we do not have a problem.
Question 18: So, if the Iranians raise this possibility, will you accept?
President Assad: The issue hasn’t been raised, and consequently this is hypothetical. But as I said, when we accept it in the case of Russia, it means the principle is acceptable. But this also depends on the capabilities of every state and their role on the regional and international arena.
Question 19: Has Russia asked your permission to build new bases on your territory?
President Assad: No.
President Assad_AFP_2
Question 20: Mr. President, the American elections are still at the primaries stage. Are you, personally, with candidate Trump or Clinton? Do you see a third person who might be useful and in the interest of the region?
President Assad: We have never placed our bets on any American president. We always bet on policies; and these policies are not controlled only by the president, but by the establishment in general, and by the lobbies operating in the United States. If you look at the competition between many candidates, now or in the past, you will find that it revolves around who is more inclined to start wars, and this doesn’t bode well.
Intervention: Who is more aggressive, or more inclined to war, Trump or Clinton?
President Assad: The problem with American politicians is that they say something and do the exact opposite, before and after the elections.
Intervention: So, the promises made by Trump do not frighten you?
President Assad: No. As I said, since I don’t build on what the American candidates say, I see no reason why I should comment on any of them, i.e. they are all alike to me.
Question 21: Mr. President, do you intend to be a president for life, as was your father? And if you don’t intend to do that, are you in the process of grooming a successor; and would this successor be one of your sons?
President Assad: First, the presidency is not a hobby that we enjoy. It is a responsibility, particularly in these circumstances. As to my selecting a successor, this country is neither a farm nor a company. If I want to remain president, that should be dependent on two factors: first, my desire to be president, and second, the desire of the people. When the next elections come and I feel that the people don’t want me, I shall not stand. That’s why it’s too early to talk about this. We still have years before the next elections.
Question 22: Mr. President, you know that there have been many accusations to your government and to you personally, most recently by the UN investigation committee, which accused you of genocide, which is a crime against humanity.
Last month, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner spoke about blockading a number of your cities, like the town of Madaya, and accused your government of committing war crimes, and also about crimes he says you commit by throwing barrel bombs on civilians. Aren’t you concerned that you will one day face an international court?
President Assad: First, you know that UN institutions express balance among the superpowers and the conflict among them.
And these organizations are now basically controlled by Western powers. That’s why most of their reports are politicized and serve a political agenda. The evidence is that these organizations haven’t said anything about clear massacres perpetrated by terrorist groups against innocent civilians in Syria. What refutes the reports of these organizations is that, first, they do not provide any evidence, and this is the case in general. Second, there is a logic for things: if Western states and rich Gulf states are against an individual; and this individual is killing his people, how would he withstand for five years in these circumstances? That’s why I’m not concerned about these threats or these allegations.
Question 23: You said that these reports and institutions do not provide any evidence. But don’t you believe that these reports are correct, particularly the latest report by the UN committee about the death of thousands of prisoners in your prisons? There are eyewitnesses in this case.
President Assad: No, there is a difference between individual crimes having been committed and having a state policy of systematic killing. I said that innocent people die in the war. That is true, but war crimes are committed when orders are given to follow a policy of committing massacres for certain purposes. Had this been true, people would have fled from state-controlled areas to the areas controlled by armed groups. What is happening is the exact opposite: everybody moves to the state-controlled areas.
Question 24: Mr. President, how do you think you will figure in history, as a man who saved Syria or a man who destroyed it?
President Assad: This depends on who will write the history. If it is the West, it will give me all the bad attributes. What’s important is how I think. Certainly, and self-evidently, I will seek, and that is what I’m doing now, to protect Syria, not to protect the chair I’m sitting on.
Question 25: Mr. President, do you still really intend to negotiate with the militants, or are you thinking of crushing them militarily?
President Assad: We have fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis; however, if we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria: first, through negotiations, and second through fighting terrorism. And the two tracks are separate from each other.
Question 26: Mr. President, what is your comment on the resignation of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius? And do you believe that this will change French policy in any way? And would you make any initiative in the war against terrorism towards France in order to make communication possible with it and make it change its policy towards you?
President Assad: Changing personnel is not that significant. What’s important is the change of policies. The French administration changed almost completely between Sarkozy and Hollande, but for us the policies have not changed. They have been destructive policies extending direct support to terrorism. That’s why we should not assume that the foreign minister makes the policies. They are made by the whole state, headed by the president. As to what we can do in Syria, I don’t think that Syria has to do anything towards France. It is France which should do something towards fighting terrorism. So far, it supports terrorists, albeit politically, and in some cases it supported them militarily. It is France’s duty to reverse or change its policies in order to fight terrorism, particularly after hundreds of French citizens paid with their lives for their wrong policies.

Video - CrossTalk on Syria: Assad Will Win

Video - 'Cessation of violionce' in Syria

ISIS used chemical weapons, may have more - CIA chief

The Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) has used chemical munitions in battle and may have access to chemical agents, Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan has warned.
“We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield,” the CIA chief told CBS. “There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use.”

According to the CIA, the terror group has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas, and has shown willingness to use them in battle.

Brennan’s remarks were excerpted from a longer interview, scheduled to air on ‘60 Minutes’ this Sunday. The clarification comes just days after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told US lawmakers about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.

“We assess that non-state actors in the region are also using chemicals as a means of warfare,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Washington has made claims about chemical weapons use in Syria before, primarily accusing the government of President Bashar Assad. Damascus voluntarily handed over its chemical agents to the UN in 2013, following allegations that the Syrian Army used sarin gas on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

Rumors that IS may have access to chemical weapons have been circulating since last summer, when US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria reported mustard gas exposure during a battle with the terrorist group. US officials said that initial tests showed mustard gas presence on artillery shells, but that more testing was needed.

The CIA director told CBS that there was “potential” for IS to export chemical weapons to the West. “This is why it's so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used,” he added.

However, there are indications that the chemical weapons are actually flowing the other way. Turkish parliamentarian Eren Erdem, of the Republican People's Party (CHP), told RT last December that sarin gas and other chemical components were delivered to IS from the West, via Turkey.

“Western sources know very well who carried out the sarin gas attack in Syria,” Erdem told RT.

#whoisHenryKissinger - Kissinger, Albright and Brzezinski: A guide for Millennials

For those asking  after last debate, here's a look at his war crimes: 
1:32 PM - 12 Feb 2016A memorable exchange in Thursday’s Democratic debate concerned Henry Kissinger. For those who may be confused about the legacy of the 93-year old statesman and other political “ghosts from the past” who came up during the debate, here’s a quick guide.
“I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders thundered at his rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Responding to the former secretary of state’s praise for her predecessor, Sanders called Kissinger “one of the most destructive secretaries of state” in modern US history, while describing his actions in Southeast Asia as “one of the worst genocides in the history of the world.”

While Clinton struggled to explain why she valued Kissinger’s advice and friendship, many younger voters struggled to understand who Henry Kissinger even was – or why they should care. The hashtag #whoisHenryKissinger appeared on Twitter.

Some may be more familiar with Kissinger’s cartoon counterpart, “Dr. Henry Killinger,” a mysterious figure wielding a Magic Murder Bag on the TV show The Venture Brothers.

In what may seem like the distant past, between 1969 and 1977, the German-born Kissinger served as National Security Advisor, and then Secretary of State, for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
During this period, the US extended the Vietnam War into nearby Laos and Cambodia, backing the murderous dictatorship of Pol Pot that killed millions. The US also backed a military coup in Chile in 1973, and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1975. Both resulted in decades of bloody repression, claiming tens of thousands of lives.
On the other hand, Kissinger helped President Nixon formulate the policy of “détente” with both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China during the 1970s, leading to an easing of Cold War tensions. He is considered a leading proponent of “realist” foreign policy concerned with power rather than ideology. For example, while most US pundits were criticizing Russia’s intervention in Syria last fall, Kissinger advised letting Moscow defeat Islamic State.
“The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad,” he wrote.

The Indispensables

“Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state,” Hillary Clinton wrote in November of 2015 in her Washington Post review of Kissinger’s book World Order“Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.”
That phrasing would sound very familiar to the first female Secretary of State, who recently got in trouble with the Millennials for condemning women who wouldn’t back Clinton to a “special place in hell.”

Albright served in the first Clinton administration as the US Ambassador to the United Nations and went on to become Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s second term. Before the “indispensable nation” quip, her most notable quote was from May of 1996, when she told Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to sanctions were “worth it.”.

Kissinger’s counterpart

However, the Czech-born Albright was not a disciple of Kissinger, but rather that of his most outspoken rival.
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was the Democrats’ counterpart to Kissinger. He worked as a foreign policy adviser to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and served as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor between 1976 and 1980.
A tireless Cold Warrior, Brzezinski despised Kissinger’s policy of détente. At one point, in July 1979, he championed sending aid to Islamist rebels in Afghanistan in order to provoke a Soviet invasion of the country and give “the USSR its Vietnam war.” Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in December of that year.
In a January 1998 interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski explained that US support for the Islamists had preceded the Soviet intervention, rather than being a reaction to it, as official US history would have it.
“That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?” he told the interviewer. “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”
Less than four years later, those “agitated Moslems” would destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon, setting off the endless “war on terror” that goes on to this day.