— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for March, 2012

Fukushima Once More: More Dangerous Than Ever

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear joins Thom Hartmann. More than a year into the nuclear crisis at Fukushima – radiation levels have now reached their highest point yet. What does all this mean – and what should nuclear supporters in America be taking away from the continuing crisis?


Baghdad: Arab League Summit 2012

‘17 of the 22 Arab foreign ministers have held a meeting ahead of the Arab league summit to line up and agree on the issues which will be discussed during the summit which scheduled to be held in the capital Baghdad. Press TV’s Wisam al-Bayati reports from Baghdad (29 March 2012)’.

The McClatchy-Tribune News Service‘s Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa reports that ‘Arab leaders who gathered Thursday [, 29 March] in Baghdad broke no new ground on Syria or other regional crises, but their summit was still hailed as a success — for returning Iraq to the Arab fold after years of isolating war and occupation. Ten of the Arab League’s 22 member nations sent a head of state to the summit, most notably Kuwait, whose emir traded ceremonial kisses with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a rapprochement that comes two decades after Saddam Hussein invaded that tiny neighbor in a provocation that sparked the first Persian Gulf War. Other Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent pointedly lower-level delegations, but none of them boycotted the summit, which was organized by Iraq’s ruling Shiite Muslims and Kurds, whom many Sunni leaders have shunned since the U.S.-led invasion swept them into power’.[1]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari full of reassurance proclaimed that “This is a country that was distanced, overlooked, boycotted and sanctioned. And now it is back”.[2]  Inb contrast to Zebari’s feelings of triumphalism, Allam and Issa critically remark that the “Arab League’s annual summit is notorious for its toothless proclamations, and the muted response to the Syrian crisis appeared to follow that tradition. With its own series of proposals to stanch the Syrian bloodshed stalled, the Arab League on Thursday essentially relinquished the matter to the U.N. Security Council”.[3]

From the other side of the world, Ahmad Shboul, Associate Professor of Arab and Islamic studies at Sydney University, speaks to Scott Bevan about the Arab League Summit (22 March 2012).


[1] Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa, “Iraq basks in glow of Arab League summit in Baghdad” McClatchy-Tribune News Service (29 March 2012). http://www.cleveland.com/world/index.ssf/2012/03/iraq_basks_in_glow_of_arab_lea.html.

[2] Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa, “Iraq basks in glow of Arab League summit in Baghdad”.

[3] Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa, “Iraq basks in glow of Arab League summit in Baghdad”.

Tayyip does Tehran: Forging New Bridges, Anew

(28 March 2012)

Prior to the Lisbon Summit, Turkey and Iran were moving closer and closer . . . but then, the sudden love affair between the Islamic Republic and the Pseudo-Ottoman Republic came to a sudden halt. President Obama’s insistence on building a Missile Defense Shield, not necessarily aimed at Iran, meant that Turkey had to toe the line. Recently, Turkey’s ever-popular PM Tayyip Erdoğan went to South Korea to attend the nuclear summit. In Seoul he had meetings with President Obama and many other heads of state. On his way back to Turkey, he flew to Iran to have meetings with President Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian officials, as a way of showing that Turkey in its current pseudo-Ottoman guise is a power to be reckoned with and to reaffirm that Istanbul would be the site for the next round of negotiations relating to Iran’s nuclear programme. The Guardian reports that the ‘Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran ahead of fresh nuclear talks between Iran and world’s major powers. The meeting with the Iranian president was held behind closed doors, but the regime’s nuclear programme and the Syrian crisis are believed to be among the issues discussed between the two leaders. During a two-day visit to the Iranian capital, Erdogan also met with other senior officials, including the vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, and the parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani. Iranian media reported that Erdogan spoke against pressure on countries with peaceful nuclear activities in a joint press conference with Rahimi’.[1]

At a press conference with Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi in Tehran. Erdoğan said that “We had made a proposal to hold the nuclear meeting in Istanbul. The Iranian foreign minister had expressed a desire to hold the nuclear negotiations in Istanbul. We are waiting for the decision of the P5+1 [U.N. Security Council members plus Germany]”.[2]

[1] “Turkish PM Erdogan holds Tehran talks with Ahmadinejad” The Guardian (28 March 2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2012/mar/29/erdogan-ahmadinejad-tehran-iran-nuclear?newsfeed=true.

[2] “Turkish prime minister in Iran, venue for nuclear talks unclear” Hürriyet Daily News (29 March 2012). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-prime-minister-in-iran-venue-for-nuclear-talks-unclear.aspx?pageID=238&nID=17155&NewsCatID=338.

The War in Syria: the Lebanese Connection

On Tuesday, 27 March 2012, RT scoops the news that ‘Syrian troops crossed into Lebanese territory and clashed with opposition forces there, according to eye witness reports. Other sources say there was no actual incursion. Some 35 Syrian soldiers riding in armored personnel vehicles and armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers took part in the clashes, says Reuters, citing local residents. The cross border attack, which left several farm buildings destroyed, was carried out on opposition fighters who are taking refuge in northern Lebanon. A conflicting report says the clashes in the Mashareaa al-Qaa area did not involve an incursion. AP cites local police officials saying that the Syrian troops remained on their side of the border, but some bullets crossed into Lebanese territory. Lebanon is located between the southern part of Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Syrian government, its poorly secured border with Lebanon has been a focal point for opposition forces smuggling weapons into the country. The city of Homs, which was at the forefront of a major confrontation between Syria’s armed opposition and government forces last month, is located just some 25 kilometers from the Lebanese border’[1]

Last month, Al Jazeera reported that tha ‘Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad has accused foreign fighters, including members of al-Qaeda, of smuggling weapons into the country. Even a Lebanese minister has said that members of armed groups including al-Qaeda have crossed the border into Syria illegally. But Omar Bakri, a hardline cleric who Syria claims is the leader of al-Qaeda in Lebanon, said the group was not operating in the country. Al Jazeera‘s James Bays reports from northern Lebanon’.

(17 Feb 2012)

[1] “Syrian troops battle rebels as clashes spill into Lebanon” RT (27 March 2012). http://rt.com/news/syrian-troops-lebanon-rebels-540/.

Inside Story Americas – Why do Americans love their guns?

The US has more legally-held guns per person than in any other developed nation but thousands are shot and killed every year. So how did guns become embedded in American culture? Guests: David Burnett, Elliot Fineman, Hubert Williams (27 March 2012).

Korea March 2012: Tayyip meets Barrack, or the Syria Intervention

In the Washington Post, Alice Fordham remarks that the “U.S. and Turkish governments on Sunday discussed sending non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, a move that could represent an incremental change in U.S. policy but comes as Syrian authorities seem to be regaining control of the country. After a meeting on the sidelines of a summit in South Korea, President Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey told reporters that they agreed on the importance of preventing more bloodshed in Syria, where for more than a year the government of President Bashar al-Assad has battled an uprising. The two leaders considered channeling medical and communications equipment to the opposition, according to a U.S. spokesman”.[1]  In Turkey, on the other hand, the pro-government Today’s Zaman stresses that the “two leaders held a long discussion on Sunday before an international nuclear security summit in the South Korean capital of Seoul”.[2]  The operative phrase being “a long discussion”, which some sources describe as 2 hours and fifteen minutes and others as one-and-a-half hours. . . Turkey’s new-found stature as a pseudo-Ottoman regional power still continues to fill the local press with pride. Calling Erdoğan “outstanding partner”, President Obama declared that “We worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts . . . and the efforts of Koffi Annan to bring about much needed change”. The Turkish PM, in turn, stated that “As people with consciences, we cannot remain spectators and we must do something [about Syria] via international law”.[3]

But then there are who say that Turkey and the U.S. have already been ‘doing something’ for quite some time.[4]  In spite of Obama and Erdoğan’s rather peaceful words, Ausama Monajed, spokesman for the prominent Syrian National Council opposition group, is unequivocal in his tone and demands: Assad “has to step down, pull his troops and militias from the occupied cities, towns and villages, release political prisoners, allow peaceful demonstrations. Then we can negotiate with his deputy. There’s no meaning for negotiations without that”.[5]  In other words, the name of the game seems to be regime change rather than peaceful solution . . . On 1 April, Turkey will host a ‘Friends of Syria meeting that would include opposition groups, along with senior officials from nations supportive of them’. As reported by the AP: a ‘so-called “Friends of Syria” meeting of nations that seek Assad’s downfall, planned for April 1 in Istanbul, runs the risk of yielding just another bout of handwringing over the government crackdown in Syria. The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the yearlong uprising, but international horror over the shelling of the city of Homs has already started to fade. Analysts suggested Assad, though weakened, still holds the initiative, partly because Russia and China have shielded Syria from U.N. action’.[6]

On his way to Korea, Erdoğan told Turkish reporters that “We may take a step towards cutting our ties [with Syria] at any time. The Foreign Ministry is currently working on that. I can say that we have very little diplomatic presence remaining in Syria”.[7]  While he was saying these words, the Turkish embassy in Damascus was being vacated, leaving only a small Turkish consulate in Aleppo as the sole diplomatic presence of Turkey in Assad’s country, as reported by AFP. An anonymous Turkish diplomatic source declared that “[a]ctivities at the Turkish embassy have been suspended from this morning”.[8]  Behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are said to have been arming the opposition all along while actively importing Islamist fighters to oppose the Assad regime . . .

[1] Alice Fordham, “Obama, Turkish leader discuss non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels” The Washington Post (26 March 2012). http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/obama-discusses-non-lethal-aid-to-syrian-rebels/2012/03/25/gIQAbwaVaS_story.html.

[2] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition” Today’s Zaman (25 March 2012). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-275401-erdogan-obama-discuss-syria-in-detail-agree-to-send-aid-to-opposition.html.

[3] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition”.

[4] “Syria, Turkey, and Libya: Exporting Revolution and Resuscitating Awakenings???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (17 February 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/syria-turkey-and-libya-exporting-revolution-and-resuscitating-awakenings/.

[5] Alice Fordham, “Obama, Turkish leader discuss non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels”.

[6] “With no int’l consensus, Turkey and allies run out of options on how to stop Syria’s Assad” AP (21 March 2012). http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/with-no-intl-consensus-turkey-and-allies-run-out-of-options-on-how-to-stop-syrias-assad/2012/03/21/gIQAJhM6QS_story.html.

[7] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition”.

[8] “Turkey shuts embassy in Damascus: diplomat” AFP (26 March 2012). http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Turkey+shuts+embassy+Damascus+diplomat/6357986/story.html.

Toulouse Shooting: Sarko Wins!!!

France has just gone through a serious episode of domestic terrorism in the southern city of Toulouse, and Sarko could not be any happier now. From the scene of the crime, the Guardian’s Kim Willsher reports that the “24-year-old petty thief who killed three Jewish children and their teacher had accumulated a lethal arsenal and lived a life at odds with his unemployed status. How could this have happened under the nose of the intelligence services?”, adding that the atrocity “might never have happened, it emerged this weekend, if the Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah had murdered his original target last Monday [, 19 March]. Before being killed in a shootout at his apartment, Merah told police he did not set out to slaughter his victims at a school in the southern French city but had ‘improvised’ after missing a chance to kill a French soldier. The school murders, following Merah’s previous execution-style killing of three soldiers who served in Afghanistan, have traumatised France ahead of presidential elections”.[1] 

In The New York Times, Isabel Kershner observes that the “bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, a religious instructor at the school; his two sons, Arye, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsonego, 8, the daughter of the school’s principal, were flown overnight from France [to Israel, to be buried there]. Rabbi Sandler was a French citizen; the three children had dual French-Israeli nationality. Before the burials, mourners packed into a sun-drenched courtyard, many of them men wearing the black clothes of ultra-Orthodoxy. French and Israeli dignitaries, including the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, joined relatives of the victims there in eulogizing the innocents, their bodies wrapped in prayer shawls and a velvet cloth and laid out on stretchers before the small podium”.[2]

An apparently lone Muslim terrorist suspect killing ‘Jewish innocents’, is it any wonder that Merah invoked the name of the multi-headed beast so feared in the, that “catch-all ghost entity”, using Escobar’s descriptive phrase. Willsher explains that “Merah . . .claimed to be linked to an al-Qaida fringe group, [and had] had fooled investigators after being summoned to explain visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan in November [2011]. The 23-year-old claimed he had gone on holiday to find a bride and showed them tourist snaps he had loaded on to a pen drive to verify his story. Once released, Merah set about collecting an arsenal of weapons he later used in his killing spree, including three .45 Colt handguns, an Uzi and a pump-action shotgun”.[3]  Merah clearly wanted to appear like a real terrorist, rather than as a deranged killer on a rampage. Much more important from a political point of view, however, as explained by Willsher, is the fact that the “killings have also transformed the lead-up to April’s presidential election first round. Before Toulouse, Socialist candidate François Hollande was leading the majority of polls to become the next president of France. The predicted margin between Hollande and incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy was narrow for the first round on 22 April, but all surveys gave Hollande a clear majority in the second round a fortnight later”.[4]  But not anymore, after “Toulouse, Super Sarkozy, the ‘president protector’ – as one analyst described him – is back. Crime and security are Sarkozy’s speciality. Last week’s stand-off between police and Merah sparked memories of France’s longest ever siege when in 1993 a man took children hostage at a kindergarten in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, where Sarkozy was mayor. He persuaded the assailant, who was later shot dead by police, to release several children, and most of France still remembers the photographs of Sarkozy leading them out of the school”.[5]

So, why did Mohamed Merah decide to go about his business at this precise moment in time???  Was he hoping to boost Sarko’s profile so that France would continue its aggressive policy against Islamic countries and Muslim (and other) immigrants???  Or, was it pure happenstance that the young man lost his marbles at this politically sensitive time in France??? A Tunisian-born man named Ali, also resident in Toulouse, posed the following rhetorical question, as documented by Willsher: “Will this change the election? It changes everything 100%. And it could not have come at a better time for Nicolas Sarkozy. The sad thing is that he was the one dividing the country by turning towards the far right before this happened”.[6]  Islamophobia and anti-semitism are no uneasy bedfellows, whereas Islamic anti-semitism all but strengthens prevailing Islamophobia. It seems that Satko must be laughing all the way to the ballot box now . . . Willsher points out that in “the immediate aftermath of the Toulouse shootings, Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to introduce new legislation making it illegal to look at websites encouraging terrorism and to travel abroad for terrorism training”.[7]  The news agency Reuters’ John Irish and Nicholas Vinocur report on 23 March that ‘France’s presidential election race resumes on Friday [following Thursday’s shooting], irrevocably altered by the killing of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman whose murders have shifted the political debate in favor of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’.[8]

[1] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school” The Guardian (24 March 2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/24/toulouse-shootings-assassin-jewish-school?newsfeed=true.

[2] Isabel Kershner, “Toulouse Victims Buried in Israel” The New York Times (21 March 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/world/middleeast/toulouse-shooting-victims-buried-in-israel.html.

[3] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[4] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[5] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[6] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[7] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[8] John Irish and Nicholas Vinocur, “France to resume election race after gunman’s death” Reuters (23 March 2012). http://news.yahoo.com/france-resume-election-race-gunmans-death-103206273.html.