Turkey says it is “more than ready” to work with Russia and Iran on a Syrian ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he discussed the issues of ceasefire and humanitarian aid with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are discussing the same issues with our ally Russia,” he said.
“We have to try harder for a ceasefire and political resolution. If Russia is prepared to cooperate with us on the ceasefire and humanitarian aid, we are more than ready,” he said.
Zarif had stopped in Ankara on Wednesday on his way back to Tehran from New York, where he attended the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
He held closed-door talks with Cavusoglu and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim during the visit.
An unnamed Turkish diplomatic source said the conflict in Syria was among topics on the agenda of Zarif’s discussions.
This is the third round of talks between the Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers over the past two months.
Iran and Turkey differ over the crisis in Syria. Turkey supports militants, while Iran and Russia assist the Syrian government in its fight against foreign-backed terrorist groups, including Daesh.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria at the Syrian government’s request since September 2015. Iran has also been providing advisory assistance to the Syrian government.
On Thursday, Russia said there is a trend for cooperation with Turkey on Syria to be “constructive” now that Moscow and Ankara are mending their ties.
“If need be, joint actions are possible,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, without elaborating.
Earlier this month, Turkish troops entered the Syrian territory in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after Daesh left the city without resistance.
On Sunday, Cavusoglu said Turkey was planning to send troops deeper into Syrian territory to establish what it calls a safe zone.
Kurdish witnesses said on Wednesday Turkey had killed six children and three women in an airstrike in the Syrian border town of Kahila.
There is, understandably, a degree of triumphalism in Delhi that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lost no time to follow India’s footfalls and relay to the SAARC that he too cannot attend the planned summit of the grouping in Islamabad in November. But his explanation will raise eyebrows.
Ghani explained that the security situation in his country is acute. Fair enough. But then, he went on to add that that he will be “fully engaged” due to his “responsibilities as the Commander in Chief”. Ghani at least seems certain that he will continue to be the C-in-C six weeks hence. That is, perhaps, the only ray of hope at the present juncture when political uncertainties loom large.
The 2-year term of the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) headed by Ghani is expiring today. From tomorrow, Afghanistan enters unchartered waters. The compromise deal on co-habitation between Ghani and the present Chief Executive Officer Abdullah, which was literally imposed on them by the US Secretary of State John Kerry two years ago, envisaged that Afghanistan would make political transition to a parliamentary system latest by today on the basis of a new constitution and electoral laws.
But with Ghani and Abdullah caught in the cobweb of factional politics, NUG got paralysed and could not fulfil the expectations placed on it during its 2-year life span. Meanwhile, elections have not been held for the Afghan parliament either, despite its term ending over a year ago. With the executive and the legislative body lacking legitimacy, a constitutional deadlock arises.
What happens now? When the US state department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the fate of the NUG and whether Obama administration (which is entering lame duck phase) would undertake any further mediatory mission on a constitutional transition, he was evasive, saying,
- I’m not going to predict what role (US will play), except to say that we’re – we remain committed to working with the Afghan Government and leadership in trying to continue along the reform agenda that they’re working on, but also, as you note, to ensure the smooth democratic transition to the next government.
The US seems to look away from the legitimacy question that hangs above the Ghani government beyond today and prefer to cast its eye on the horizon toward a “smooth democratic transition to the next government”. But, how will the transition be possible? (See the RSIS commentary The Coming Political Crisis in Afghanistan.)
But, by a curious coincidence, today has also been fixed as the date for the formal signing of Ghani’s peace deal with the famous Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (‘Butcher of Kabul’) at a ceremony in Kabul. Hekmatyar himself will participate in the ceremony via a video conference from his undisclosed location in Pakistan.
Hekmatyar is not taking chances – nor his Pakistani mentors. After all, you only live once and there is no knowing whether Hekmatyar will be physically safe in Kabul, where his sworn Tajik enemies from Panjshir and various other assorted old Mujahideen war horses who would have old scores to settle with him, are present.
For a start, it will be interesting to see what brave face Abdullah puts on the Ghani-Hekmatyar deal. He is between the rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he knows the deal is intended to get political space for Ghani who lacks a power base of his own. Also, he will be savvy enough to know that Hekmatyar’s entry, a Mujahideen leader who was more than a match for Ahmed Shah Massoud himself in many, is bound to change the Afghan calculus radically and his own prospects of realising his overvaulting presidential ambitions recede significantly.
On the other hand, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai is waiting in the wings to be invited by any Loya Jirga that may be convened, to head the interim government. Abdullah seems to have weighed his options and decided that it is tactically prudent to allow the NUG to limp along for a while, given his congruence of interests with Ghani (as well as with Uncle Sam) to somehow keep Karzai out in the cold.
However, the known unknown is going to be Hekmatyar’s role in the power structure. It is all very well to say his group Hezb-i-Islami will be allowed to function as a political party and the US and UN are preparing to delist him as a dangerous terrorist. But politics, for Hekmatyar, is about power.
And it is improbable he can be kept waiting in a ‘safe house’ in Pakistan for long. He will insist that his due place of habitation is the presidential palace in Kabul; at the very least, he will expect a position that is on par with Abdullah’s (who was after all only Massoud’s English-language interpreter when he himself was the iconic figure of the Afghan jihad who was lionised by both Pakistan and the US.)
To be sure, Hekmatyar’s re-entry will evoke strong feelings among Afghans who see him as an agent of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. There have been demonstrations in Kabul against Ghani’s Faustian deal with him. Afghans have not forgotten the savagery with which Hekmatyar pursued power.
The widely-held belief among Afghans is that Hekmatyar killed more Afghan Mujahideen than he cared to kill Soviet troops. He incessantly lobbed rockets into Kabul City from the surrounding mountain tops and systematically reduced the capital to rubble in his bitter struggle for power with Massoud in the early nineties after the Mujahideen takeover. ((See an excellent piece by Terry Glavin at the National Post, The rehabilitation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Butcher of Kabul.)
How could the Mujahideen forget that Hekmatyar waded through a river of Afghan blood? The Afghans will expect an answer to the big question: If Hekmatyar is okay, why not the Taliban, too?
The thought seems to have occurred to Karzai already, who remarked two days ago that if the Taliban control territory in Afghanistan, he doesn’t see anything incongruous because it is, after all, their country, too.
Units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) supported by the Palestinian Liwa Al-Quds liberated the Palestinian Handarat refugee camp in Aleppo province from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusrah.
The Handarat refugee camp is located 13 kilometers northeast of the city of Aleppo. The 14 Palestinian refugee camps, including Handarat were reluctantly drawn into the war in Syria after its onset in 2011.
Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusrah, conceded that the Syrian Arab Army and fighters from the Palestinian Liwa al-Quds had succeeded to seize the camp. The insurgents reported that the Syian – Palestinian ground troops were supported by Syrian as well as Russian air cover.
Bomb squads and engineers are currently in the process of clearing Handarat for boobie traps, mine, improvised explosive devices and other hazards left behind by the insurgents or caused by the fighting; Anong others, unexploded ordinance.
The liberation of the Handarat camp from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and associated insurgents consolidates the Syrian government’s control over the Castello road and thus also consolidates the siege on insurgent trapped inside the city of Aleppo. The Castello road has previously been used as one of the main supply routes to areas under the control of insurgents in Aleppo province.
In the beginning of August 2016 insurgents, primarily backed by Turkey, Qatar and the USA, took control of the entire Handarat camp after heavy and protracted battles with the Syrian Arab Amy and Palestinian fighters.
The camp has a strategic importance as it overlooks several rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo, which has become under tight government siege after the Syrian army captured Castello.
The Syrian Defense Ministry announced Thursday the commencement of a new offensive against rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo, urging the civilians to leave immediately and the rebels to lay down their weapons. On Friday, Syrian warplanes dropped leaflets over eastern Aleppo, renewing calls on civilians to stay away from the rebel positions and advising the rebels to surrender.
The renewed escalation in Aleppo came just days after a Russian-U.S. brokered truce expired last Monday with no extension, due to the rising tension between Russia and the United States.
The Syrian army stated that the rebels violated the week-long truce over 300 times, adding that the U.S.-led coalition struck positions of the Syrian army during the truce in Deir Ez-Zour, killing 90 soldiers, which was deemed by Russia as the biggest violation to the truce.
The U.S.-led attack on Syrian army positions in Deir al-Zour (Deir Ez-Zor) was the first since the coalition started operations in Syria two years ago. Washington said the attack was “unintentional,” a claim totally rejected by the Syrian government, with President Bashar al-Assad saying the U.S.-led coalition intentionally struck the Syrian army posts in Deir Ez-Zor.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ruled out the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, stressing that such a measure would merely complicate the ongoing crisis in the Arab country and strengthen foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants on the ground.
“A no-fly zone (in Syria) will benefit terrorists, who have everything except for military aircraft,” Rouhani said during a presser after his speech at the 71st United Nations General Assembly session in New York on Thursday.
“They have mortar shells, tanks, missiles and armored personnel carriers. They have cannons and artillery batteries but no warplanes. The creation of a no-fly zone is a not a right step. This is an ill-advised suggestion,” the Iranian president added.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry demanded that Russia and the Syrian government halt anti-terror flights over the Syrian battle zones in order to “restore credibility” to the efforts aimed at resolving the Arab country’s years-long crisis.
The Iranian president noted that humanitarian disasters are unfolding in Syria as a portion of the country’s soil is under the control of terrorist groups like Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Syria’s al-Qaeda branch formerly known as al-Nusra Front).
“They kill people. They burn victims alive. The crimes we witness are unprecedented in history,” the Iranian president said.
The Iranian president further made a reference to the plight of millions of Syrians, who have been internally displaced and have not received the necessary foodstuff and medicine for months due to the foreign-backed militancy in their homeland.
He also listed the delivery of humanitarian aid, the fight against terrorism, the participation of various political groups and factions in the future Syrian government through a popular vote as the main requirements for real democracy to flourish in the crisis-hit Arab country.
‘Terrorism contagious virus’
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president highlighted the significance of combating terrorism and extremism in the Middle East, which he described as “plagued by instability and insecurity” that has “spread to other parts of the world too.”
“It has plagued Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. The terrorism virus is contagious,” Rouhani stated, adding, “The issue of terrorism must be tackled with unity and collaboration, and failure to do so will endanger all of us.”
Iran’s nuclear agreement
Broaching the subject of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers, President Rouhani criticized the US government for the belated license to allow the sale of commercial airliners to Iran, stating that the green light must have been given right after the implementation of the agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on January 16.
Iran has had numerous negotiations with leading aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus before and after the implementation of the nuclear agreement, he added.
Rouhani stated that Tehran welcomes American traders, technicians, business owners plus company representatives, and is determined to expand banking ties with world countries.
The Iranian president further noted that the Islamic Republic expects the United States to stand firmly committed to its obligations under the JCPOA.
He stressed that the JCPOA is in the interest of the region and the world, and its significance remains intact even if the other side does not honor its commitments under the nuclear accord.
‘Iranian Armed Forces not seeking adventurism’
Rouhani stressed that the Iranian Armed Forces have long been present in the Persian Gulf, and they are duty-bound to defend the country’s territory and airspace, and to secure its interests in the high seas.
He pointed out that the Iranian forces are not seeking adventurism, military confrontations or the escalation of tensions, questioning the presence of US forces in the Persian Gulf when Washington is not militarily involved in a war in the Middle East.
The Iranian president added that the American forces in the region must obey international regulations, highlighting that tensions would not benefit anyone at the current tense situation in the Middle East.
Saudi ‘miscalculation’ in Yemen
“Saudi Arabia is making a miscalculation” over its aggression against Yemen. About two years of bombardment of Yemen has had no achievement for them, and has been devastating for the people of Yemen,” the Iranian president said.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni women and children are being slaughtered on a daily basis, while the country’s entire infrastructure has been destroyed, he added.
The Iranian president further noted that Saudi Arabia does not have unlimited authority over the holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and that the Riyadh regime must discharge its responsibility regarding the annual Hajj rituals.
‘Not important who wins US election’
Rouhani went on to say that it does not concern Iran who wins the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, stressing that the Islamic Republic attaches great significance to “its own national interests.”
“The next US administration will receive a proper response from Iran should it respect the Islamic Republic’s national interests and reduce tensions. But if it seeks to heighten tensions, new conditions will be created for the two countries,” the Iranian president added.
There are many who feel the corruption allegations are designed to prevent Lula from running in 2018 presidential elections [Xinhua ]
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has come out swinging against a judge who ordered him to stand trial for allegations of money laundering while in office.
Lula accused anti-corruption judge Sérgio Moro of being politically motivated and said that charges brought against him by federal prosecutors were part of a scheme to discredit him and ruin his career.
On Tuesday, and less than a month after he was indicted on alleged graft charges, Lula was ordered by Moro to stand trial for receiving at least $1 million in kickbacks from Brazilian energy company Petrobras.
Moro first accepted charges filed in July by prosecutors investigating Lula for allegedly “masterminding” a corruption and money laundering operation in Petrobras.
Lula, a hugely popular president who served from 2003 to 2010 and is credited with a number of initiatives that propelled GDP growth and significantly reduced poverty in Brazil, has been under investigation for much of the past year..
“As we were starting to have success in the presidency, they are trying to do with us what they did with Dilma (Rousseff, the former president impeached in August). A part of the press and a part of the judiciary already tried to oust me from the presidency in 2005,” Lula has said.
Last month, Lula and members of his family and three other people had been indicted on a number of charges stemming from alleged financial irregularities, declaration of assets in addition to money laundering and graft.
Some in Brazil believe that the charges and trial are designed to ruin his chances of running in presidential elections in 2018.
In early August, the Vox Populi Institute published a poll which showed Lula would come out the clear winner if he ran for the presidency against a number of likely candidates.
Only 17 per cent of respondents in that poll said they wanted current President Michel Temer to stay on until 2018.
The Vox Populi Institute’s findings appear to support an earlier poll conducted by Datafolha in Brazil.
That poll also showed that Lulu would comfortably win a presidential election. Only five per cent said they would vote for Temer, however.
The US State Department’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) claims on its official US government website to build “the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges.”
It not only consists of US-based educational and professional “fellowships” for Southeast Asian participants, but also a funding component to help alumni establish foreign-funded organisations posing as “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs), enhancing the already large presence of US-funded organisations operating across Asia in the service of American interests.
Under an initiative called, “Generation: Go NGO!,” YSEALI claims:
This is an opportunity for young NGO leaders to advance their professional skills and competencies with the aim to grow, scale, and take the organizations they work for, or those they founded, to new heights.
From developing baseline metrics to creatively pursuing financial and in-kind resources to assertively applying social media to advance mission, this workshop will bring together individuals from across ASEAN to learn and collaborate on ways to build capacity, message, and impact.
Beyond this, YSEALI also conducts other workshops across Southeast Asia to help prepare what is essentially a parallel political establishment that serves not Southeast Asian institutions or the population, but the US State Department and the corporate and financial interests it represents, quite literally an ocean and continent away.
One such activity was conducted by the US Embassy in Cambodia, called the “First Model Prime Minister Debate” organised by the US Ambassador’s Youth Council, Phnom Penh.
In essence, the US State Department is preparing an entire generation of impressionable young people, raised on American-style consumerism and hooked into US-based social media platforms like Facebook, and moulding them into a client political bloc they will eventually assist into power, just as they have attempted to do in Hong Kong recently with US State Department-funded “Umbrella Revolution” leaders winning several seats in local legislative elections and as they have already done in Myanmar through Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NDL) with her minister of information quite literally trained by US-funded organisations in neighbouring Thailand before assuming his post.
Using children and young adults through what appear to be benign overseas scholarships and work opportunities, as well as through events across Southeast Asia organised by US embassies appears at first disarming and scaled back from the sort of subversion the US has typically engaged in over the past several decades (i.e. 1953 Operation Ajax: Iran, 1973 Chilean coup d’état, or the violent 2011 Arab Spring).
Yet despite its apparent benign nature, it represents precisely the same end result; a US backed government, representing parallel institutions that answer not to the people they are put in power over, but instead represents those foreign interests that cultivated, funded and directed them into power from abroad.
YSEALI’s activities are fundamentally inappropriate, undiplomatic and constitute an intentional and direct threat to the sovereignty and self-determination of the entire region of Southeast Asia. Were China or Russia conducting such activities in the United States, it is likely a coordinated government and media campaign would be mobilised to counteract it, and possibly even legislation passed to stop it all together.
Likewise, ASEAN should consider revising rules, regulations and legislation governing foreign-funded organisations masquerading as “NGOs” and limiting foreign missions to the region and each respective nation to diplomatic activities only.
Funding from foreign governments for allegedly “nongovernmental” organisations is in itself a contradiction in both terms and in principle. And the idea of a parallel political system created in the US embassy and composed of Southeast Asian youths “built” by US efforts somehow representing or resulting in “democracy” or “self-determination” is an obvious and intentional misrepresentation by the US State Department.
Not only should local governments across Southeast Asia counter these efforts through restricting or ending them altogether, they should create their own programmes to develop their nation’s next generation of political and business leaders, infused with local principles, values, cultural ideals and reflecting the best interests of the people and nation they will eventually assume positions of power over. Self-determination is not a right the US or the “international community” it poses as leader of will grant freely to the nations of the world it presumes dominion over, it is a right that nations must fight for, earn and protect proactively.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to a landmark nuclear agreement Tehran signed with the six world powers last year.
“Iran continues to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amanon said in an introductory statement to the agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna on Monday.
He added that his report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) summarizes the verification and monitoring activities conducted by the UN nuclear agency in the last few months.
The IAEA chief said Iran has submitted its declarations under the Additional Protocol, which Tehran is applying provisionally, pending its entry into force.
“The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement,” Amano pointed out.
He noted that the IAEA would continue evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
In a quarterly report on Iran on September 8, the IAEA confirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement reached between the Islamic Republic and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – plus Germany on July 14, 2015.
The UN nuclear agency, which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA, said Tehran has not exceeded the limits set in the accord on its low-enriched uranium and heavy water stockpile.
Under the JCPOA, which took effect in January, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related bans imposed against Tehran.
The deal requires Iran’s storage of uranium enriched to up to 3.67 percent purity to stay below 300 kilograms. Tehran has also agreed to keep its heavy water stockpile below 130 metric tonnes.
Since January, the IAEA has released regular reports confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran’s commitment to the agreement.
In April, the IAEA director general hailed Iran for respecting the nuclear accord, saying the Islamic Republic has even gone beyond its obligations.
The wrap on the long-awaited China-Russia naval exercise in the South China Sea has been lifted, finally. From what Beijing disclosed today regarding the eight-day exercise (codenamed Joint Sea-2016), beginning on September 12, it is anything but a routine exercise. Make no mistake, it marks a leap forward in Sino-Russian military ties and signals a significant show of strategic congruence.
The Chinese Navy spokesman revealed that the exercise will be held “off southern China’s Guangdong Province”, without elaborating. Both navies are deputing surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters marine corps and amphibious armored equipment for the exercise.
The announcement said the two navvies will “undertake defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, in addition to joint island seizing and other activities…(and) in particular, will carry out live-fire drills, sea crossing and island landing operations, and island defense and offense exercises among others”. (Global Times )
China’s South Sea Fleet and Russia’s Pacific Fleet will be the participants. The SSF, of course, plays a major role in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and, in fact, was instrumental in occupying the Paracel Islands in 1974.
The exercise is taking place against an extraordinary backdrop. Only six days ago, Russia came out with a stance on the South China Sea issue, which is completely to China’s satisfaction. It was hugely symbolic that President Vladimir Putin personally articulated it – and from Chinese soil, as he was leaving for home after the G20 summit in Hangzhou. Putin said in reply to a query from a journalist:
- I’ve developed a very good relationship based on trust with President Xi Jinping. I would say a friendly relationship. However, he has never – I would like to underscore this – he has never asked me to comment on this (South China Sea) issue or intervene in any way. Nothing of the kind has ever passed his lips. Nevertheless, of course, we have our own opinion on this. What is it? First of all, we do not interfere. We believe that interference by any power from outside the region will only hurt the resolution of these issues. I believe the involvement of any third-party powers from outside the region is detrimental and counterproductive. That’s my first point.
- Second, as far as the Hague Arbitration Court and its rulings are concerned, we agree with and support China’s position to not recognise the court’s ruling. And I’ll tell you why. It is not a political but a purely legal position. It is that any arbitration proceedings should be initiated by parties to a dispute while a court of arbitration should hear the arguments and positions of the parties to the dispute. As is known, China did not go the Hague Court of Arbitration and no one there listened to its position. So, how can these rulings be deemed fair? We support China’s position on the issue. (Kremlin website)
It is a calibrated stance that does not take any side on the disputes as such and simply ignored UNCLOS, et al, but it pointedly snubs Washington’s interference. It serves Beijing’s purpose, while for Moscow it no way jeopardises Russia’s developing strategic ties with Vietnam or with the ASEAN. Beijing is pleased. The Chinese Foreign Ministry lauded Putin’s remarks. (MFA)
Moscow and Beijing kept fine-tuning the details of the exercise, presumably taking into account the fluidity in the regional security. One reason could be the US’ decision to depute the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to South Korea for a naval exercise in mid-October. The drill is projected as a show of strength to North Korea but it is being held at a time of heightened regional tensions over North Korea and the USS Reagan is part of a Japan-based American strike group and the only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the region.
Interestingly, the visiting speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament Valentina Matviyenko stated in Beijing on Friday that Russia and China have identical positions on North Korea. A day later, on Saturday, Russian Foreign Ministry issued a joint appeal with China calling for avoidance of precipitate moves.
Putin’s remarks on South China Sea were by no means ex-tempore. The big question is whether Moscow and Beijing could be exploring the matrix of an alliance that is unlike a formal alliance but prepares them nonetheless to push back at a probable shift in the US’ policies in a pronounced interventionist direction and a greater readiness to use military power under the next US president. The deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea is a matter of common concern for Russia and China. Again, despite the seamless charm offensive by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Putin does not intend to make any territorial concessions to Japan over the Kuriles.
Indeed, the idea of a Sino-Russian alliance is not new. In 2014, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu explicitly aired the idea of a common front with China to fight terrorism and counter US-sponsored ‘color revolutions’. In a significant reference just before the visit to Hangzhou, Putin described Russia’s relations with China as “a comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation”. Again, at the meeting with Putin in Hangzhou on September 4, Xi explicitly called for closer, tighter strategic alignment between the two countries. (Xinhua )
Western media rejoiced over the meagre gains made in recent polls by what they described as “anti-China activists” of the “localist” movement, political groups in Hong Kong who advocate “independence” from China.
In the UK, former colonial administrator of Hong Kong, the BBC would report in their article, “Hong Kong election: Anti-China activists set to take LegCo seats,” that:
A new generation of anti-China activists have won seats on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), preliminary results indicate.
Among them is Nathan Law, one of the young leaders of the mass pro-democracy demonstrations of 2014, who is now on course to win a constituency seat.
It is the first taste of real political power for the young protest leaders.
But pro-Beijing politicians will retain a majority of seats, partly because of the electoral system.
What the BBC conveniently omits is that while pro-Beijing politicians will retain a majority of seats “partly because of the electoral system,” anti-Beijing politicians made their gains almost entirely because of US-funding and support. This includes Nathan Law himself, poised to take a constituency seat, showered with awards by the US State Department for his role in US-backed protests in 2014.
Ironically, in an attempt to add further gravity to these minor electoral gains, the BBC hailed what they called a “record voter turnout” of 58%, while BBC reporters just last month claimed a 60% turnout for Thailand’s charter referendum “undermined the legitimacy of the result.” The only difference being that gains made in Hong Kong favoured Western interests, while gains made in Thailand favoured the Thai people at the expense of Western interests.
The BBC’s politically-motivated bias is easily explained as the layers or rhetoric are stripped away and the foreign networks that created and are currently supporting Hong Kong’s supposed “independence” movement are exposed.
The BBC and other Western media organisations portray the recent polls as a continuation of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution.” In this respect, they are partially right.
What they are omitting is that the 2014 protests were organised and carried out by US-funded opposition groups, representing a slim minority of Hong Kong’s population and were eventually moved off the streets when Hong Kong residents themselves lost patience over the protest’s disruptive behaviour.
Months preceding the 2014 protests, two of the movement’s leaders were quite literally in Washington D.C. lobbying the US State Department for support ahead of the planned protests. The US State Department’s own National Endowment for Democracy (NED) would admit in a statement titled, “The National Endowment for Democracy and support for democracy in Hong Kong,” that:
(Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Martin Lee stand to Freedom House president Mark Lagon in Washington D.C. during a ceremony celebrating their role in the 2014 Hong Kong protests.)
After the protests ended, NED’s subsidiary Freedom House would even invite Martin Lee to an event titled, “Three Hong Kong Heroes,” which also included protest leaders Joshua Wong and Benny Tai. Lee would shuffle onto stage with an umbrella prop in hand, a virtual admission to his leadership role in the protests and confirmation that the NED’s previous statement was intentionally false.
NED would also deny providing funding to the movement, despite the fact that each member of the movement’s senior leadership were documented grantees of the NED and its various subsidiaries including Freedom house and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Toward the end of the 2014 protests, Western media organisations began making partial admissions that indeed the US was funding various segments of the movement’s leadership. Dan Steinbock in an October 2014 article in the South China Morning Post would enumerate the various confirmed accusations and concluded, “perhaps efforts at foreign interference are not entirely unfounded.”
Considering this, claims that Hong Kong’s “anti-China activists” represent “democracy” or “localism” when they represent foreign interest, not those of the Hong Kong’s residents, nor source their support “locally,” are at face value contradictory.
It is also particularly ironic that this strain of political opposition predicates itself on establishing “independence” when in reality it seeks to return Hong Kong back under the influence of Anglo-American hegemony. This is particularly obvious considering the repetitious calls from such groups for “One Country, Two Systems,” the parting demands the British colonialists themselves tabled as a condition to returning the seized territory back to the Chinese.
Nathan Law —America’s, Not Hong Kong’s Candidate
The BBC made particular mention of Nathan Law, chairman of “Demosisto,” a political party that sprung forth from the US-funded “Umbrella Revolution.” According to the BBC, he was expected to win a constituency seat, but what the BBC fails to mention is his ties to the US State Department and the alarming conflicts of interest this poses considering his potential role in Hong Kong’s governance.
(Nathan Law, left, embraced by US State Department NED chairman Carl Gershman.)
The US State Department’s NED “World Movement for Democracy” website in a post titled, “Democracy Courage Tribute Award Presentation,” would write in regards to the award presented to Nathan Lee:
The Umbrella Movement’s bold call in the fall of 2014 for a free and fair election process to select the city’s leaders brought thousands into the streets to demonstrate peacefully. The images from these protests have motivated Chinese democracy activists on the mainland and resulted in solidarity between longtime champions of democracy in Hong Kong and a new generation of Hong Kong youth seeking to improve their city. The Hong Kong democracy movement will face further obstacles in the years to come, and their idealism and bravery will need to be supported as they work for democratic representation in Hong Kong.
Nathan Lee would even pose for pictures with NED chairman Carl Gershman, apparently unconcerned of the immense conflicts of interest invited by such compromising associations.
The BBC’s coverage of Hong Kong’s recent legislative elections attempts to spin inroads made by foreign interests as “localism” and “democracy” taking root in the former British colonial holding. While the BBC alludes to Beijing’s influence preventing further gains by the opposition, its intentional omission of which foreign interests are propping up the opposition reveals systemic and intentional bias in the BBC’s reporting. Such bias is echoed across Reuters, CNN, AP and AFP as well.
Democracy, in theory, is supposed to be the expression of the people. Hong Kong is part of China, thus those participating in its political process should represent Chinese interests. An opposition party that spends its time in Washington D.C. and maintains its growing networks through foreign cash do not represent China or the Chinese in a wider sense, and certainly not Hong Kong and its residents in a more local sense.
Foreign interests working through collaborators resembles a dictatorship from abroad more than anything resembling a “democracy” of the people, even if such a dictatorship drapes itself in public polls, elections and street mobs. That before, during and after the “Umbrella Revolution” each and every leader is tied to foreign interests, completely undermines the narrative that they represent “democracy” rather than the foreign interests transparently directing (then rewarding) them every step of the way.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas.
Lebanese daily Assafir has recently published an article by journalist Mohammad Ballout. The article states that preparations and arrangements for an Assad-Erdogan meeting had begun since Erdogan’s visit to St. Petersburg on August 9th.
Interestingly, Erdogan’s visit also coincided with the visit of a senior Syrian delegation that included important security officials, including the head of the Syrian National Bureau General Ali Mamlouk, one of Assad’s most trusted advisors.
The article also states that the delegation’s visit taking place during Erdogan’s was no mere coincidence, and points to a very sharp turn that is about to take place in the Syrian War, in what is now its 5-year run.
The date of the final meeting between the two will apparently be set by General Mamlouk in his upcoming visit to Russia this Tuesday, whereat he is expected to meet with Russian and Turkish officials, whereas the actual agenda of the meet is to be finalized by Hakan Fidan, head of Turkish Intelligence.
The settlement proposed by Russia would include a tripartite national unity government that would include loyalists, independents, and representatives from the moderate Syrian opposition. They also offered the Saudis with an acceptable “out” by ruling out any major role to be played by Iran in the process.
The article also states that the Syrian delegation refused Turkey’s proposition of a sectarian division of government (akin to Lebanon), and instead proposed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would still preside over the most important ministries: Interior, Justice, Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Defense, whereas executive ministries would be shared with the opposition and the independents. Three vice presidents will also be selected from the three factions.
It has so also been agreed that after an 18-month period, some key constitutional amendments must take place (provided they do not alter any presidential powers), to be later followed by legislative and presidential elections.
Finally, The Syrian delegation has also made commitments to issue a general amnesty for all military defectors, provided they do not partake in any activities against the Syrian army.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is to hold a series of high-profile meetings with Turkish, British and Saudi leaders, among others, as part of his schedule for attending a summit in China in early September.
Yury Ushakov, a Kremlin aide, told reporters on Tuesday that Putin will hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 3, when he is in Hangzhou, China, for the summit of the group of 20 world major economies, known as G20.
Ushakov said Putin’s meeting with Erdogan will take place as the “process of normalization of relations between the two countries is under way.”
Russia downgraded ties with Turkey last November, when Ankara shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border. Relations began to improve in July after Ankara offered an apology as demanded by Putin. The two met this month in Russia, with reports suggesting they narrowed gaps on the conflict in Syria.
Ushakov said Putin will also hold a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss the crisis in Syria. He would not elaborate but said the meeting will come on September 4, the day when the Russian president will also hold an important meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss a need for “a new impetus in bilateral relations.”
The official said a trilateral meeting of leaders from Russia, Germany and France, which had previously been agreed to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, was called off and instead Putin would meet separately with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 4 and 5, respectively. He noted that the sensitive meeting on Ukraine was cancelled because of new tensions that have emerged over Crimea, a former Ukrainian territory which rejoined Russia following a referendum in 2015.
Putin will also hold a much-anticipated meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who will be in China as a guest to G20, Ushakov said.
The Labour party is on a perilous path. That it may end in an irrevocable split is the least of our worries. Of greater concern is the prospect of fighting in the streets. The party conference – scheduled for next month in the fissiparous city of Liverpool, but in some doubt because no security has yet been secured – will attract protesters, probably thousands of them. If it goes ahead, it could turn into the notorious Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago, a pitched battle outside the amphitheatre in which police used mace, tear gas and batons, and dozens were hurt including reporters and an observing British MP. Not surprisingly, the subsequent election was won by a Republican, Richard Nixon.
Whence this anger, this prospect of civil disobedience? First, consider a proposition: Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular politician in Britain. That the government and the media and the parliamentary Labour party are all in denial about it does not stop it being so. No leader has ever received a mandate comparable to Corbyn’s a year ago. No leader’s election has ever swelled the membership of any party like Corbyn’s has. No politician draws crowds like Corbyn does. No politician has so many groupings supporting him and promoting him on social media and through traditional word-spreading methods. Ignore the discredited opinion polls – Labour has done better than predicted in every actual electoral test since Corbyn became leader and is frequently gaining more than half the votes in this summer’s local by-elections. The support for Corbyn is unprecedented in modern British politics. Labour should be so lucky to have such a revered leader. Unelectable? Puh-lease.
Now consider the last eighteen months from the viewpoint, not of those in the Westminster bubble whose daily priority is gossiping and plotting, but of the Labour grassroots out in the sticks, where they want nothing more than a government that brings them relief from austerity and PR language and cronyism.
From the get-go, the media has sought to bring down Corbyn. Several academic studies of the coverage have demonstrated that the bias against him is unparalleled. The BBC’s charter-enshrined impartiality has been so lacking that unprecedented petitions were launched against the Corporation and its political editor. Corbyn’s supporters expected this, ruefully predicting headlines of the “Corbyn Punched My Granny” kind.
Less predictable was how comprehensively the parliamentary party would reject the democratic mandate of the membership. A swathe of frontbenchers declined to serve; many of them made the pharisaic gesture of boycotting Corbyn’s address at last year’s conference. Though Corbyn sought to embrace all shades of opinion in his shadow cabinet, the MPs reciprocated only fitfully. Incidentally, despite each of his (to date) three front bench teams being put together in the face of widespread opposition, non-cooperation and blank refusal, Corbyn is the only political leader in British history all of whose teams have featured a majority of women. Yet he is accused of privileging men.
The MPs and the party hierarchy stop at nothing to undermine his authority. Mass resignations and an overwhelming vote of no confidence proved futile because he has more mettle than they had imagined. Constant denigration dents neither his serenity nor his support in the party. Absurdly, he is held uniquely responsible for the failure of the campaign to remain in the EU. Yet he delivered 65 percent of Labour voters as against 39 percent of Tory voters secured by Cameron (Theresa May was largely silent) and 64 percent of the SNP’s voters (Nicola Sturgeon is hailed as a hero). Though the media favoured the Tories over Labour at a rate of 2:1 in the referendum coverage, Corbyn managed 123 media appearances on behalf of Remain, compared with 19 by Alan Johnson, the nominal leader of Labour’s campaign. Johnson could only deliver 33 percent of his own voters to the Remain vote and Owen Smith 47 percent of his. 75 percent of Corbyn’s constituents supported the stay side, the seventh highest rate in Britain. Lukewarm?
A Labour donor went to law to try to get Corbyn as the incumbent struck off the ballot paper in this year’s leadership re-election. The party’s National Executive Committee, flouting the universal understanding of the notion of “any other business” in meetings, hustled through an arbitrary restriction on those who could vote in that re-election. This was challenged in court by representatives of those excluded and found to be a breach of contract, but the appeal court reversed the judgment. Then it emerged that one of the appellate judges is a long-standing professional colleague of Tony Blair.
Such attempts to manipulate the rules strike the unconsulted membership as dishonest, shabby and against natural justice. But at the same time, that membership is insulted and patronised as though its views are somehow illegitimate and certainly not as reliable or significant as those of MPs. The members were dismissed first as naïve youngsters who don’t know the (rewritten) history of the party in the 1980’s, then as bullies and trolls, now as Trotskyite entryists, streaming back from years in the political wilderness and given “the oxygen of publicity” by Tom Watson. Those who left the party in the Blair years – about a quarter-million of them and not only over Iraq – are justly aggrieved to be blackguarded as the “enemy within” in the post-Chilcot party. They remember that Labour under Blair declined by 4 million in the popular vote and that the rot in Scotland began in those years.
Labour toppling Corbyn would create a perfect storm. The party membership has doubled on his watch. If he goes, that support will know that socialism in the Labour party is dead for generations. They won’t take it quietly. Owen Smith presents himself as a man of the left but everyone knows that he is a mere stalking horse for the New Labour programme that Margaret Thatcher herself named as her own greatest achievement. If the fallout is ugly, the parliamentary party will be unable to claim that they have not been warned.
W Stephen Gilbert is the author of ‘Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero’.