— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for August, 2012

Foreign Fighters in Aleppo, the German Navy off the Syrian Coast

The Arab broadcaster presents an apologist view of foreign involvement in the Syrian uprising: ‘At the frontline in Aleppo city, the young fighters are mainly from the countryside of the province. It has not been easy to stand up against the Syrian army, especially when the city did not rise up when rebels stormed some poor neighbourhoods and set up bases. While the majority of the fighters in Aleppo are Syrians, the war has however attracted Arabs who feel obliged to help the opposition who are mainly Sunni Muslims. Al Jazeera‘s Zeina Khodr reports from Aleppo city (22 August 2012)’.

The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar . . . and also Germany is now involved, as explained by Antiwar.com news editor Jason Ditz: in “what is the first confirmed instance of a foreign military directly aiding Syria’s rebels, German media outlets are reporting that the German Navy is using a spy vessel to collect information about Syrian troop movements and is forwarding that intelligence to the rebel fighters. The boat, which patrols the eastern Mediterranean for NATO, can collect information on troop movements as deep as 375 miles inland. The spy boat is also forwarding intelligence to the rebels provided by US and British spy agencies. Several NATO member nations have expressed interest in involving themselves in a war in Syria, but Germany was not generally considered among the most hawkish group, led by France. The German government declined comment on the report, as did British and US officials asked about their role in the scheme”.[1]

[1] Jason Ditz, “German Military Directly Aiding Syrian Rebels” Antiwar.com (19 August 2012). http://news.antiwar.com/2012/08/19/german-military-directly-aiding-syrian-rebels/.

Drone Wars

Drone warfare has increased dramatically since 2008 and there are over 60 bases across the globe engaging in a US drone missions. US drones are currently deployed in the skies of over 14 different countries, some for surveillance and others for attacking ground targets. The area of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, known as Waziristan is the locus of much of the drone operations. But are these weapons keeping us safe, or do they just incite further terrorist attacks? And is their use a violation of the Geneva Conventions?




As a bonus, here is Al Jazeera’s People & Power talking about the Attack of the Drones: The US government’s growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial. As governments are increasingly relying on drones, what are the consequences for civil liberties and the future of war? (18 July 2012).

Assange, Sexual Misconduct and the State Department

President Correa warns Britain would regret entering the Ecuadorian embassy to seize Julian Assange, as US State Department argues the Wikileaks founder is trying to deflect attention from his rape charge in Sweden (21 August 2012).

But what it is this all about???  Did he or didn’t he use a condom???  Does it matter??? Nearly two years ago my old friend Girish Shahane analysed the affair,[1] and examined in some detail how it was that Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen shared Mister Assange’s bed. Was it a set up???  Are the charges justified???  And if so, why is Mister Assange only wanted for questioning???  It seems very curious indeed.

[1] “The Strange Case of Julian Assange” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (December 2010). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-strange-case-of-julian-assange/.

Pussy Verdict: Putin, Hooliganism, and the Orthodox Church

Friday will see the verdict, but last Saturday Reason TV posted this clip: ‘Amnesty International called Russian punk feminist collective Pussy Riot “prisoners of conscience,” after a February 21 anti-Putin protest landed three members of the band on trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The plight of Pussy Riot has provoked international attention — and pressure for lenience — as the women face three to seven years in prison. On August 10, Reason TV headed down to the Solidarity Concert for Pussy Riot, right across from the Russian embassy (11 August 2012)’.

On Friday, 17 August 2012, the Pussy Riot girls were convicted of hooliganism. The wording employed by the judge, however, sounded more like a blasphemy charge: “The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules”.[1]  The three jailed members of Pussy Riot now face a two year jail sentence . . . for performing a “punk prayer” in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. Judge Marina Syrova appears to toe the line very well. The news agency Reuters’ Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova opine that the judge “declared all three guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February to belt out a song deriding Putin. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, giggled as the judge read out the sentences one by one. They have already been in jail for about five months, meaning they will serve another 19. They say they were protesting against Putin’s close ties with the church when they burst into Moscow’s golden-domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts”.[2]  In fact, the girls came off lifghtly, as “[s]tate prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term”.[3]  It seems to me that the Russian judiciary was “lenient” in only handing out a two-year verdict, possibly a result of Putin’s intercession as a reaction to the global outcry. Marina Syrova could have gone up to seven years in jail, and by way of good from the prosecution’s demand for three appears somewhere in the middle. The Reuters report quotes the following statement: ‘”They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge,” Alexei Navalny, one of the organizers of big protests against Putin during the winter, told reporters outside the court. “This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin”’.[4]  Under Putin’s benign rule, state and church work together in Mother Russia. On the other hand, nationalism and racism are on the rise and lead to many unprosecuted and unpunished crimes in Russia.

The independent advocacy and action organization Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov writes recently that the Russian “government ignored problem of violent, racially-motivated attacks for many years. Only recently have authorities stopped calling skinheads ‘hooligans’, and gone after the neo-Nazi gangs that were responsible for hate crimes. Having arrested and prosecuted the bulk of violent racists, the government turned up the heat on others whom it could potentially view as intolerant, but wound up targeting those with differences of opinion.  As a result we ended up with a mountain of cases in which journalists, religious believers, and artists face persecution in Russia. Though racially motivated attacks continue to occur—an African man and a policeman who came to his rescue were just severely beaten in Moscow three days ago—the police and courts nowadays have much more time on their hands to pursue other extremist enemies of Russia”, adding bleakly that “[o]ne of them is, of course, Pussy Riot”.[5]

[1] “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years” Reuters (17 August 2012). http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/entertainment-us-russia-pussyriot-idUSBRE87F1E520120817.

[2] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years” Reuters (17 August 2012). http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/entertainment-us-russia-pussyriot-idUSBRE87F1E520120817.

[3] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years”.

[4] Timothy Heritage and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s Pussy Riot protesters sentenced to two years”.

[5] Innokenty Grekov, “The Enemies of Russia’s Freedom” Human Rights First (16 August 2012). http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/08/16/the-enemies-of-russia%E2%80%99s-freedom/.

Julian Assange Historic speech @ Ecuador Embassy 19/08/2012

Curiouser and curiouser: The Mars Mision Continues

The rover Curiosity will test its ChemCam tool, which analyzes the composition of rocks by vaporizing them (19 August 2012).

A Nun Speaks: The Syrian Situation

The truth about Syria and the so-called “Free Syrian Army” is often obscured by Western media that portrays them as freedom fighters. However, no better perspective can be given about these mercenary terrorists from Al Qaeda than through a Christian nun (Mother Agnes Mariam) who lived in Syria for a long time and understands the current situation in Syria very well (12 August 2012).