— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for November, 2011

Press TV Headlines, 30 November 2011

Press TV reports on the latest news headlines from around the world.

DRC Elections 2011

While the West and the world at large currently focus on the electoral process in Egypt, war-stricken Congo is also in the throes of an election at the moment: ‘Vote counting is underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo, even as some people are still waiting to cast ballots. VOA West Africa Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Monday’s election was marred by violence, allegations of fraud, and failures to deliver ballots.’.

 

Egyptian Elections, Coptic Worries

With Islamist groups poised to do well in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, many Coptic Christians are concerned that their already limited rights will come under greater threat. VOA’s Elizabeth Arrott and Japhet Weeks visited the largest Christian church in the Middle East, cut into the hills above Cairo’s “Garbage City”.

As I posted last month, the Copts haven’t had it easy over the past years, particularly in view of the massive culling of pigs supposedly in response to swine fly but in reality directly aimed at the Christian minority of Egypt.[1]  In spite of Rania El Malki’s optimism, Ashraf Ramelah, the founder and President of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization with offices in Italy and the United States, writes that in “all likelihood, the Egyptian military, which has been successful in igniting warfare in the Cairo streets, pitting Muslim against Christian and inciting Islamist against freedom-fighters, will soon be rewarded with civil war. Exacerbated by pressures from Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi factions while trying to maintain control of the country and hold on to protected interests . . . This power struggle between Islamic fundamentalists and the all-powerful Egyptian military to gain control of Egypt ignores the will of the people who shed their blood for freedom and human rights during the Lotus uprising earlier this year”.[2]


[1] “The Egypt Revolution: Sectarian Clashes” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (11 October 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/the-egypt-revolution-sectarian-clashes/.

[2] Ashraf Ramelah, “Egypt’s Election: A Victim of Power Struggle” The Voice of the Copts (28 November 2011). http://www.voiceofthecopts.org/op-eds/egypt%e2%80%99s-election-a-victim-of-power-struggle/.

2050: The Year the World Goes Hungry

In a roundabout way, the UN has declared that 2050 will be the year the world’s population will start declining in a serious way as a result of food shortages: the ‘UN food agency has warned that a quarter of the world’s landmass is “highly degraded”, making it difficult to meet the food needs of a booming population’.[1]  From Rome, Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) elaborates: “Humankind can no longer treat these vital resources as if they were infinite . . . The time for business as usual is over”.[2]  Action needs to be taken, needs to be taken now, or else. In other words, by the middle of this century, serious food shortages worldwide will lead to hunger, starvation and death on a massive scale, unless the population growth is halted. Either way, the numbers of humans populating the earth is set to decline after the middle of the century, as apparently aleady predicted by Al Gore. The FAO has released a timely report entitled The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW), detailing how wasteful land management will lead to a necessary decrease in the global human population: ‘The report said land degradation was worst down the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of southern Europe and north Africa, across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa and throughout Asia’.[3]  Apparently, Asia and Africa will once again supply the bulk of the numbers, due to its abundant populations and scarce food resources. The report declares that “Worldwide, the poorest have the least access to land and water and are locked in a poverty trap of small farms with poor-quality soils and high vulnerability to land degradation and climatic uncertainty”, adding that some 40 percent of degraded lands are found in high poverty areas. The rich world, Europe and the U.S., will probably experience a dramatic hike in food prices, which will result in a truly divided society: on top will be the ones able to feed themselves to surfeit, while below will be those who suffer hunger on a somewhat regular basis – Upstairs, Downstairs . . .

The ‘report called for more efficient water use by agriculture as well as innovative farming practices such as conservation agriculture, agro-forestry and integrated crop-livestock systems. It said developing countries will need around $1.0 trillion (755 billion euros) in investments between 2007 and 2050 for irrigation. Land protection will require $160 billion over the same period, it added. The FAO stressed that erosion, desertification and climate change were endangering key production systems across the world from the Mediterranean to southern Africa to Southeast Asia. The publication coincided with the start of UN talks on climate change in Durban, South Africa, amid signs of a deepening political rift on how to slow the carbon juggernaut’.[4]  In a way that would appear to absolve the UN of responsibility for the genocidal outcomes of the projected food shortages, Diouf stated that “These systems at risk may simply not be able to contribute as expected in meeting human demands by 2050. The consequences in terms of hunger and poverty are unacceptable”.[5]  The death of millions of people may be “unacceptable”, but under current conditions seems unavoidable.

The solution seems simple and obvious, population control. But the political will to enact such policies appears absent. The other day,[6] I posted an entry dealing with Turkey’s Prime Minister and his encouragement to families in Turkey and across the Balkans to produces “at least three children” . . . As a result, it seems fair to say that the future looks bleak in terms of over-population and food shortages. On the other hand, other countries and other leaders do encourage other actions: ‘Health officials in the Indian state of Rajasthan are launching a new campaign in an effort to reduce the high population growth in the area. They are encouraging men and women to volunteer for sterilisation, and in return are offering a car and other prizes for those who come forward’, as reported by the BBC last summer.[7]


[1] “Degraded land puts food supply at risk: UN” AFP (29 November 2011). http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1608771/Degraded-land-puts-global-food-supply-at-risk:-UN.

[2] “Degraded land puts food supply at risk: UN”.

[3] “Degraded land puts food supply at risk: UN”.

[4] “Degraded land puts food supply at risk: UN”.

[5] “Degraded land puts food supply at risk: UN”.

[6] “Turkey: Family Planning and the Dersim Massacres” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (28 November 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/turkey-family-planning-and-the-dersim-massacres/.

[7] “India: Rajasthan in ‘cars for sterilisation’ drive” BBC News (01 July 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13982031.

Egypt on Election Day

Egyptians have gone to the polls in large numbers for the first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. Voting was extended for two hours because the turnout has been higher than expected. But Egypt’s new test of democracy brings a bewildering array of candidates and far less unity than during January’s revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is expecting to play a dominant role in parliament. But many suspect it is in alliance with a military that wants to retain power itself.

The unrest of the past days has apparently not dampened Egyptians’ enthusiasm for the democratic process, however flawed or even futile it might turn out to be eventually. The news agency Reuters reports that ‘Egyptians turned out in big numbers on a mostly peaceful first day of voting for a new parliament, driven by optimism to build a new post-Hosni Mubarak era and the threat of fines if they stayed at home, vote monitors said on Monday [, 28 November]. Democracy campaigners had worried a week of deadly clashes in Cairo and other cities in the run-up to the vote and a history of electoral violence might lead people to avoid polling stations for fear they could get caught up in unrest. Many, especially the illiterate, were perplexed by complex procedures and long lists of candidates, but still turned up early on Monday to wait for hours in queues stretching up to 2 kilometers (more than one mile) at some stations, monitors said. They said it was too early to estimate overall turnout. No figures have been released, but the top election committee official said numbers were more than expected. The military rulers also reported a high turnout and extended voting hours to accommodate this’.[1]  The international Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera also reports that ‘[d]espite serious tensions in the North African nation, unprecedented numbers showed up to cast their ballots, many for the first time’.

But not just Egypt is in the middle of an election, at the same time, in the central African nation of Congo (the DRC or the Democratic Republic of Congo) people are also casting their ballots in an attempt to write history in a peaceful manner. But, Al Jazeera has some troubling news: a ‘presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo has shown Al Jazeera what he says is evidence of election fraud. Vital Kamerhe says the discovery of pre-marked ballot papers is proof that Monday’s polls have been rigged. Yvonne Ndege reports from the capital Kinshasa’.


[1] Tom Pfeiffer, “Big turnout, scant violence in Egypt vote: monitors” Reuters (28 November 2011). http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/28/us-egypt-election-monitors-idUSTRE7AR1R120111128.

Syria: The Slow Road to Another “Humanitarian Intervention”

On Monday, 28 November, the Arab League’s newly imposed sanctions against Syria came into effect, thereby underlining its effort to ostracise the Assad regime in an attempt to show that Arab leaders are not necessarily puppets in the hands of the West.

 

Some time ago the Turkish newspaper Milliyet carried an item which draws parallels with the Libyan situation: ‘According to Milliyet, as cited by IRNA, France has sent its military training forces to Turkey and Lebanon to coach the so-called Free Syrian Army — a group of defectors operating out of Turkey and Lebanon — in an effort to wage war against Syria’s military. The report added that the French, British, and Turkish authorities “have reached an agreement to send arms into Syria.” The Turkish daily said that the three have informed the US about training and arming the Syrian opposition. According to Milliyet, a group of armed rebels are currently stationed in Turkey’s Hatay Province near the border with Syria. The report comes as an earlier report had revealed that the British and French intelligence agencies have reportedly tasked their agents with contacting Syrian dissidents based in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli in order to help fuel unrest in Syria. Reports also said that French intelligence agents have been sent to northern Lebanon and Turkey to build the first contingents of the Free Syrian Army out of the deserters who have fled Syria’.[i]  France under Sarko seems to be gearing up to fill some really big boots. On the one hand, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has proposed to establish “humanitarian corridors” in Syria to aid the civilian population: “There are two possible ways: That the international community, Arab League and the United Nations can get the regime to allow these humanitarian corridors, but if that isn’t the case we’d have to look at other solutions . . . with international observers . . . but there is no question of a military intervention in Syria”.[ii]  At the same time, France is apparently providing the Free Syrian Army with training, weapons, and expertise in an effort to stage a “humanitarian intervention” by proxy. Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, has indicated that his boss Juppe had a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton during which the establishment of “humanitarian corridors” was discussed and even approved.

 

Damascus claims that it is fighting a well-funded and externally controlled armed insurrection. In other words, Assad says that the Syrian situation is slowly turning into a replay of the Libyan war. As indicated in an earlier entry, according to some observers foreign military trainers instructed the Libyan opposition from the very start of their insurrection, and that thus the whole UN-mandated “humanitarian intervention” was nothing but an orchestrated regime change executed by an “assisted rebellion”.[iii]  NATO airpower ensured that Gadhafi’s forces were at a constant disadvantage, even actively intervening in certain battles and sieges by means of strategic bombing raids that effectively emasculated Gadhafi’s forces and guaranteed a rebel victory. Even the execution of Gadhafi was initiated by NATO air support and a well-place drone attack. It is no coincidence that Sarko’s France is clamouring for a more robust policy in Syria, as pointed out by Reuters: ‘Paris was also behind the U.N. Security Council resolution to create a no-fly zone over Libya that permitted foreign military forces, including NATO, to use “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians’.[iv]  In the 21st century, the words “humanitarian” and “protect civilian lives” have become a newspeak code that justify pseudo-colonial intervention and military aggression. And in this context, the Arab League appears to be acting as a lackey for the Neo-Colonial West, as expressed by its secretary-general Nabil el-Arabi: “The failure of [an] Arabic solution would have catastrophic consequences for the situation in Syria and the region, and that’s what the Arab League is trying to avoid in an attempt to save Syria’s security and stability”.[v]  In other words, the current sanctions imposed function as a final fig leaf to protect Arab modesty and to conjure up the appearance of Arabic initiative.

In another twist, again reminsicent of the Libyan situation, the Israeli propaganda broadcaster InfoLiveTV reports that Arab and even Iranian mercenaries are now entering the fray on the side of Assad, similar to the claims regarding African mercenaries fighting for Gadhafi in Libya.

(27 November 2011)


[1] “France training rebels to fight Syria” Press TV (26 November 2011). http://www.presstv.com/detail/212224.html.

[2] “France outlines Syria humanitarian corridor proposal” Reuters (24 November 2011). http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/11/24/uk-france-syria-idUKTRE7AN0KC20111124.

[3] “Libya: Assisted Rebellion or a Just War?” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (31 March 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/libya-assisted-rebellion-or-a-just-war/.

[4] “France outlines Syria humanitarian corridor proposal”.

[5] “Arab League Warns ‘Catastrophe’ Imminent in Syria” Voice of the Copts (07 November 2011). http://www.voiceofthecopts.org/reports/arab-league-warns-catastrophe-imminent-in-syria/.

Arab League Sanctions Against Syria

It’s not just Egypt’s fate that’s being decided in Cairo, but Syria’s future as well. Arab League members have, in the past couple of hours, approved unprecedented economic sanctions against Damascus over its crackdown on protesters. The measures were voted for by 19 out of 22 nations and they include a travel ban on senior officials, freezing deals with the Syrian central bank and suspending flights into the country. Damascus has already condemned the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. Dr. Rania Masri from the University of Balamand in Beirut says Arab League was designed by the West to support former colonial countries’ interests in the Arab world.

The BBC reports that the ‘Arab League has approved sanctions against Syria, including an asset freeze and an embargo on investments. It comes after months of unrest. The United Nations estimates about 3,500 people have died as Syria has sought to put down anti-government protests. The Arab League suspended Syria earlier this month, in a move denounced by Damascus as meddling in its affairs. League foreign ministers adopted the unprecedented sanctions at a meeting in Cairo by a vote of 19 to three. The move came after Syria refused to allow 4,000 Arab League monitors into the country to assess the situation on the ground. Syria, one of the founder members of the Arab League, condemned the sanctions as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem accused the league of seeking to “internationalise” the conflict’.[1]

Meanwhile, tomorrow in Cairo, as well as the rest of Egypt, people will be going to voting booths to cast their ballots. What will happen tomorrow???  Will the Arab Awakening receive its apotheosis in free and fair Egyptian elections, while violence in Syria escalates???  Or will Syria as well as Egypt become embroiled in violent clashes between the armed forces and protesters???  Was the Egyptian revolution orchestrated before-hand, in a cynical ploy to replace Mubarak by a more malleable figure???  What will happen tomorrow???  Does the “humanitarian intervention” in Libya constitute a precedent for establishing “humanitarian corridors” in Syria???  And does a “humanitarian” action necessarily usher in “armed intervention” and “civil war”???


[1] “Syria unrest: Arab League adopts sanctions in Cairo” BBC News (27 November 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15901360.