Monthly Archives: August 2014

This International Day of Action NEEDS YOU

On August 21, 2013, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an early morning sarin gas chemical weapon attack on the sleeping population of Ghouta, the equivalent of a suburb of Damascus. Over 1,400 civilians died with some claims as high as 1,729 fatalities, including children, were documented. Since that time we have watched as the Syrian people have continued to face death and atrocities on a daily basis.

ForeignPolicy.com and other sources report, “On Aug. 7, (2014) the OPCW said that roughly 74 percent of Syria’s declared stockpile was destroyed. And last week, the watchdog group announced that 581 metric tons of a precursor chemical for sarin gas was also destroyed. That left 19.8 metric tons of sulfur mustard to destroy.

Obama had previously said that using chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” but in the days following the August 2013 attack, the White House didn’t appear to have public or congressional support to act, putting Obama in an awkward position.”

As a consequence,  the inaction of the United States and the international community has resulted in a horrific humanitarian crises and the rise to power of the Islamic State, who now threatens the fragile stability of the entire region.

Since 9-11, the United States has repeatedly stated they do not negotiate with terrorists. Why do they continue to negotiate with the Syrian government after this clear, unquestionable act of terrorism unleashed on the civilian population? Why have we been “nice” (and complicit) about the need for atrocities and war crimes to be stopped when dealing with the Syrian government, and why are we continuing to fund or aid this war on their behalf? Why has no world court brought Assad to justice?

With the Kurdistan Regional Government currently viewed as the main stabilizing force in that country as the challenge of fighting the Islamic State continues in Iraq, we must ask why the equivalent in Syria is not handed the same ability. In Rojava, the Kurdish north sections of Syria, areas governed by Kurdish factions are stable, united and peaceful until IS or other insurgents, including the Assad regime, interfere. With the track record clearly showing Kurds able to govern and do so with respect and equality for all peoples in their governance, would it not make sense to put them in charge of Syria?

This week, we are seeing events around the world being held as the world’s people call for an end to the use of chemical weapons. Major cities in almost every country will include rallies and demonstrations by the people, for the people. Occupy World Writes supports these assemblies in the name of peace to call attention to our solidarity with the Syrian people and all those before and after in all parts of the world who have suffered the atrocities of chemical weapons.

Which rally will YOU be attending?

Find a rally near you!

 

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An Urgent Call

The Kurdistan Regional Government, Ministry of Health has issued the following statement on August 18, 2014, through the Directorate of Health in Duhok. We ask that you forward this to anyone who may be able to answer any of the elements asked for within.

CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT IN KURDISTAN; HEALTH A PRIORITY

The recent inhuman act of mass murder and systematic persecution against the minorities of Kurdistan Region and Iraq have left hundreds of thousands of families displaced and subject to extreme dangers. According to the primary data estimated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities, more than 600,000 IDPs are waiting to be settled in camps in Duhok Governorate. At a time when Baghdad has cut the budget of Kurdistan Region, dealing with this huge number of IDPs that exceeds the population of the governorate, is above the modest capacity of Duhok Directorate General of Health (DOH-Duhok). Meanwhile, for the last three years, some 120,000 of refugees escaped Syrian Crises have settled in Duhok governorate.

We, as Directorate General of Health in Duhok Governorate, warmly welcome any act of humanitarian aid and funds by the international community and organizations. In response to the action of ensuring a stronger presence in Kurdistan, we highly recommend the priority of Health Sector, where DOH-Duhuk undertaken as follows:

  • Emergency ambulatory care and services, with 50 ambulances working 24 hours to assure all injured people and severely ill patients are transferred to designated hospitals, where immediate medical care is provided. Medical services were provided to about 1600 of IDP’s and 1160 were referred to hospitals.
  • 13 Hospitals and 152 health centers and 17 specialized health facilities are fully functional to provide required medical care and services including tertiary health care services. This is estimated as 40% increase in the load. In some health facilities, number of medical visits has increased by 8-14 times.
  • Established 35 mobile medical teams to visit IDP’s locations.
  • Provided 24 hours medical services at all health centers at the collections of IDP’s.
  • Vaccination of all children against polio and Measles at health facilities and via outreach teams. Approximately 60,000 children were immunized against polio and 2700 with measles vaccines.
  • Established 4 mental health teams to provide psychosocial support and counseling.
  • Established 20 preventative health teams for health inspections and surveillance and health promotion.

The risk/challenges: 

  • Sustain the bleeding stocks of medicines and medical supplies (all medicines are needed as our stock can hardly cover one month’s needs).
  • Sustain and enhance medical services provided at all hospital and health centers across Dohok Governorate with special focus on Sumail and Zakho districts.
  • High risk of Measles, Polio, Tuberculosis and Meningitis outbreaks.
  • Very high risk of water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases (diarrhea, Hepatitis A, Typhoid fever, Cholera, scabies, worm infestation and pediculosis), the current situation at IDP’s locations is alarming and urgent action is required from all partners in this regards.
  • High expected estimates of mental health problems.

We plea an urgent aid in needs mentioned as following:

  • Replenish the stock of medicines and medical supplies.
  • Provision of Emergency health kits, equipment and supplies.
  • Provision of required vaccines (polio, Measles, Penta, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Meningitis).
  • Provision of 10 ambulances.
  • Support hiring medical doctors and nurses.
  • Support Outbreak Control and Disease Surveillance activities.
  • Provision of mobile under tent health centers and field hospitals.
  • Provide medical teams to work at newly established camps.
  • Recruiting International advisors for crisis intervention and management.
  • Support strengthening health information system in Duhok Governorate.
  • Enhance and promote hygiene and community education activities.
  • Scale up mental and psycho-social support and counseling.
  • Enhance DoH-Duhok logistics capacity through provision of 15 mini-van (15 seat) 20 double cabinet 1 ton pick-ups, 15 coaster bus (21 seat) and 10 crossover/SUV 4WD vehicles.

(signed)
Dr. Nezar Ismet Taib
Director General

Office of the Director General
Directorate General of Health
Sargalo Road, 1014 AK,
Duhok 42001

Tel: +964(0)62 724 4600
Tel: +964(0)62 724 4601
E-mail: dgoffice@duhokhealth.org
www.duhokhealth.org

Photo By James Gordon [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By James Gordon [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Water Over The Dam Revisited – Now With Added Graft

Christy Clark. Photo  by CityCaucus.com - Christy Clark. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Christy Clark. Photo by CityCaucus.com – Christy Clark. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, we wrote about the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia. And, as seems to be the case with most stories along these lines, a pattern’s emerging of greed and corruption among the agencies and politicians who are supposed to be looking out for their constituents’ welfare.

Last week, the Vancouver Sun reported that N. Murray Edwards, the controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals, helped organize a $1 million private fundraiser for B.C. Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party at the Calgary Petroleum Club last year. Edwards is the controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals, which operates the Mount Polley mine.

He was one of several Alberta power brokers involved in the fundraiser. At the time, Clark’s Liberal Party was losing to the New Democrats in the polls leading up to the British Columbia election, and Edwards and the others wanted a continuation of Clark’s “free enterprise government.” Hmmm – that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Since 2005, Imperial Metals has donated at least $149,890 to the B.C. Liberals, with half of the donations made after Christy Clark was sworn in as premier. The Mount Polley mine as a separate entity added another $46,720. In total, Edwards is linked to six corporations contributing $436, 227 to the Liberal Party over the last nine years.

Clark, needless to say, is grateful for the backing. Three months before the fundraiser, in a address to the University of Calgary’s school of public policy, she hailed Edwards as a “great Calgarian.”

“Mining is an area where we have set some pretty ambitious targets. We’re planning to build 17 new and expanded mines by 2015. Mining revenues have grown by 20 per cent to $8.6 billion since we introduced our Jobs Plan last year, and we’ve done it with the highest standard of sustainable mining in the world, A significant part of our progress in British Columbia comes from people like Murray Edwards, it comes from investors and people who are located right here in Calgary.”

What did Edwards get in return? A streamlined mining application process, an easier environmental review for new mine projects, and extending the new mine allowance and other credits allowing new mines and mine expansions to receive depreciation credits of up to 133 per cent until 2020. Oh, and no PST on capital investments for mining companies.

With the weakened approval process and environmental standards, more Mount Polley style disasters are very likely in British Columbia. The First Nations are fighting back, though; the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council evicted Imperial Metals from their proposed site for the Ruddock Creek Mine after the Mount Polley spill contaminated the Fraser River and sickened the salmon; their major food source.

I remember my first trip through British Columbia very well; it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’d like to think that future generations will be able to experience it in all its beauty as I did so many years ago. There’s a petition on Change.org asking for the resignation of Christy Clark; if you feel that the First Nation treaties and the environment are more important than profit, please sign it.

People and planet over profit!

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DAM!

In a world threatened with the outbreak of the largest full scale war since WWII, the Middle East torn in civil wars and bombings of occupied territories and Africa confronting the worst Ebola outbreak mankind has ever seen, we can at last bring you some good news.

On Sunday, the Peshmerga forces in Kurdistan were able to overpower the IS militants that had seized Mosul Dam and threatened the security, electricity and water supply of the entire country of Iraq. Although we may be seen by some as premature for celebrating this victory, we believe any good news in today’s world is welcome.

Mosul Dam. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Mosul Dam. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

The struggle in Iraq is not over, nor is the challenge for Mosul Dam. Kurdish forces are still discovering explosives, roadside bombs and suicide bombers in the area which must be removed before the dam can be declared fully secure.

We again repeat our call for an Independent Kurdistan, and confirm our support of the Peshmerga forces. Although the US military played a minor role by providing airstrikes and some weaponry, it is Kurdish blood that will spill in the battles, Kurdish mothers who will bury their sons, and Kurdish children who will still hope for a future.

INDEPENDENT KURDISTAN NOW.

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The Rehabilitation Of Chiang

Chiang Kai-shek. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Chiang Kai-shek. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last sixty years, one of the constants of life in mainland China has been the demonization of Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of China from 1926 to when the Communists took power in 1949. He was portrayed as an imperialist and an enemy of the people  both for his leadership of China during that time and for his leading of Nationalist forces against the Communists during the Chinese civil war.

After Chiang was expelled from the mainland, he ruled what was then known as the Republic of China (what we know as Taiwan) until his death in 1975. During most of his time as President of the Republic, the Taiwanese government was recognized as the official Chinese government by the U.S. After Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, the tension between mainland China and Taiwan began to ease, but Chiang was still seen both officially and in popular Chinese culture as an enemy of the state.

However, over the last few years, he’s slowly but surely becoming part of mainstream culture in China. His image is used to sell various goods, and restaurants are named after him. For its part, the Chinese government has softened the official view of Chiang and the KMT (Nationalists) by painting them as misguided patriots instead of enemies of the state. But, why the change? Politics, of course.

Since the Chinese first started becoming the economic powerhouse it is today, relations with Taiwan have become even warmer. And, during this time, China’s relations with Japan have grown much colder. In the Chinese media of today, Chiang and his KMT troops are painted as patriots bravely fighting the evil Japanese invaders instead of as corrupt and greedy officials living off the labor of the hardworking Chinese people.

Ironically enough (or maybe not), Chiang’s legacy’s seen differently in Taiwan by some. Chiang ruled Taiwan with an iron fist, and imposed martial law that lasted for nearly forty years – twelve years after Chiang’s death. Student protesters in Taiwan see the thawing of the relationship with China as possibly leading to the return of the repressive government that the country had under Chiang.

Recently, students from seven Taiwanese high schools united to commemorate the anniversary of the ending of martial law, and demanded that the statues of Chiang that festoon school campuses on the island be removed. Tung Lee-wei, 16, a first-year student at Cheng Kung Senior High School in Taipei and one of the campaign’s organizers, said; “Just because students are used to seeing his statues doesn’t mean they think the statues are right.”

By watching how the Chinese view Chiang, we can tell how the Chinese government feels in respect to Japan and Taiwan. But, by watching the students in Taiwan and their rejection of the memoralizing of Chiang and other policies of the Taiwanese government, we have to wonder what the thawing of relations between China and Taiwan will lead to,

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More Questions Than Answers

Ferguson protests. Photo by Loavesofbread (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Ferguson protests. Photo by Loavesofbread (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, we wrote about what’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Later during the day (we publish our posts very early in the morning as a rule), Thomas Jackson, Ferguson’s chief of police, had numerous press conferences which we feel raised more questions than they answered.

In the first press conference, Jackson announced the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown; a four year veteran of the force named Darren Wilson. At the same time, he said that Michael Brown was suspected of stealing a box of cigars and assaulting a convenience store clerk. He then produced a surveillance tape that appears to show Brown assaulting the clerk. Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, no – not really.

When Jackson was asked later why he released the tape at the press conference, he said because he “had to,” based on several formal requests from media organizations. Now, as far as we know from reading and listening to the media over the last few days, the media had no idea that such a tape existed. What we do know is that the media had been requesting the officer who killed Brown’s report on the incident, as well as any dash camera video if any existed. Did Jackson produce either of those things? Of course not. And, of course, Officer Wilson is conveniently out of town “for his own protection.”

At this press conference, it was implied that Officer Wilson had been responding to the convenience store incident when he stopped Brown. However, in a later press conference, Jackson stated that the “initial contact was not related to the robbery,” and that Brown had been stopped for walking down the middle of the street. We have to wonder when jaywalking became a legitimate reason to use deadly force, but we digress as usual.

Captain Ron Johnson. Photo by Loavesofbread (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Captain Ron Johnson. Photo by Loavesofbread (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Captain Ron Johnson, the Missouri state patrol officer who took command of the various police forces in Ferguson on Thursday, said that he “would have liked to have been consulted” about the simultaneous release of the officer’s name and the information about the alleged robbery. “The information could have been put out in a different way,” Johnson said at a press conference.

Now hold on – isn’t Johnson supposed to be in charge of the police who are dealing with this matter? Why wasn’t he consulted? Jackson’s response was that he had used the same chain of command he’d been using before Governor Jay Nixon had put Johnson in charge; in other words, his Ferguson police and the St. Louis County police’s officer in charge. We have to wonder whether ignoring the governor’s orders is par for the course for the Ferguson police.

In related news, Bob McCulloch wasn’t happy with the governor’s decision to turn control of security over to Johnson, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch“It’s shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that. To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful.” Who is Bob McCulloch and why is this important? He’s the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County; the very person who would be responsible for bringing any charges against Officer Wilson. We guess he evidently didn’t see any problem with turning Ferguson into a war zone, but we could be wrong.

We feel that yesterday’s disclosures raises more questions than it answered. The first question is if they had this information about Brown and the alleged robbery before, why didn’t they disclose it earlier? We’d think that releasing this information earlier would have helped defuse the anger in the community; the community would have still been angry, but the police could have at least claimed that to be the cause for Wilson’s actions.

Our second question is why wasn’t Officer Wilson’s report released? We find it suspicious that they released the surveillance tapes allegedly of Brown assaulting the convenience store owner when as far as we know, nobody outside the police were aware that they existed, yet fail to release the documentation that everybody’s been asking to see.

Our last question may be the most important of all. Is the Ferguson police department in general and Chief Jackson in particular really this incompetent, or are they covering up something? Our guess would be both.

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A Little Respect Goes A Long Way

On Sunday, we wrote about something which became the biggest story in the country over the last few days; the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, by the local police.

We heard about the looting and riots that Sunday night. We saw the FAA declare a no-fly zone over Ferguson, and tell reporters to leave the area. We saw the steady ramping up of the police response, with them acting more like a paramilitary force than a civilian law enforcement agency as time went on.

Photo via Facebook

Photo via Facebook

Then, Wednesday night, we and the rest of the world watched in horror as the police in Ferguson proved themselves to be every bit as repressive and thuggish as the police in those countries that we regularly chastise for human rights violations.

The buildup had been going on ever since Sunday’s riots. Though the demonstrations since then had been mostly peaceful, the police became more and more aggressive as the days went past. The smell of tear gas filled the night air; a chemical agent that’s banned in warfare (by an international treaty that we as a country signed) – that is, unless the warfare’s inside our own borders, evidently. But, I digress.

During the day on Wednesday, the tension built. We saw the chief of police make a statement saying that the citizens could protest during the daylight hours. However, he softened his stance when asked by reporters if this meant that a curfew was in place. The tension built more.

Then came the arrest and assault of two reporters guilty of nothing more than taking pictures of the police as they came into the McDonald’s that the reporters were using as their base. One was from the Washington Post, and the other from the Huffington Post. The ironic thing here is that the Washington Post with all of its reporters around the world had only had one other reporter arrested this year – that was in Tehran. The police then tear gassed and fired rubber bullets at an Al Jazeera America news crew while they were setting up their equipment. 

Al Jazeera television crew  runs for cover. Photo via Facebook

Al Jazeera television crew runs for cover. Photo via Facebook

The pictures coming out of Ferguson Wednesday night looked like a war zone, with clouds of smoke (or in this case, gas) hanging over everything. Fireworks filled the skies as the police used stun grenades and tear gas on the peaceful protesters, and fired rubber bullets at them. The world was watching, and most of us didn’t like what we saw.

The condemnation of the police and shows of solidarity with the people of Ferguson were quick to occur. Yesterday there were Moment of Silence events nationwide paying respect to victims of police brutality. Palestinians living in Gaza took to Twitter to instruct the residents of Ferguson how to deal with tear gas. This was oddly ironic, as the former St. Louis County Police chief Timothy Fitch had taken counterterrorism lessons from the Israeli government back in 2009, and had been in charge of the St. Louis County Police until his retirement earlier this year. Because after all, who knows more about crowd control and tramping on civil rights more than the Israelis do? But, i digress again.

Today, two voices that had been strangely absent from the conversation chimed in. First, President Obama made a statement, deploring both the looting and the police overreach, saying that there was “no excuse” for either. Then, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon removed control of the operation from the St. Louis County and Ferguson forces, and instead put the Missouri State Patrol in charge, naming Captain Ron Johnson as the commander. This move not only put someone who could relate to the community in charge (Johnson’s black and had grown up in Ferguson); it also made one person in charge. Up until then, the decision to fire tear gas, use rubber bullets and the like rotated among the four main police groups there (St. Louis County, St. Louis (the city), Ferguson and the Highway Patrol); hence, no overall accountability.

Captain Johnson made his presence known quickly. Not by massing troops in military garb holding guns on the protesters as had been the rule for the three days before, but by joining them as they marched down the street. The State Troopers were out, but it was obvious that they were there in case something happened, and not as an oppressive, occupying force to be reckoned with.

This doesn’t mean that all the problems are over; far from it. There’s the problem of under representation; Ferguson is almost 70% black, and blacks account for 93% of the arrests made by Ferguson police. The 53 man police force only has three black officers, and the black community’s not represented in the local government and school board either. Then, there’s the fact that the Ferguson police department still hasn’t released the name of the officer that shot Michael Brown, even though they’ve published the names and addresses of nine people who were charged with looting in Sunday’s riots. The two separate sets of rules idea runs deep in Ferguson, as it does in many other cities and towns across the nation, any of which could blow up as Ferguson did this week.

But, hopefully the powers that be learned three very important lessons that need to be applied at a national level. The first, of course, is don’t kill unarmed people. The second lesson is that you can only push people so far. We’ve had four fairly well publicized cases of police killing unarmed black men within the last month alone, and Ferguson isn’t alone in its vast difference between the majority of its population and who calls the shots. Finally, the third lesson, which is just as important, is to treat your citizens with respect. Up until last night, the police treated the people of Ferguson more like animals than as fellow human beings, and acted more out of fear than anything else. Last night, the police treated the protesters as fellow human beings, and respected their right to peacefully assemble; something that the citizens of Ferguson are thankful for.

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Get Used To It

Red River flood 2013.  Photo byy U.S. Department of Agriculture - 20130429-NRCS-LSC-0262. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Red River flood 2013. Photo byy U.S. Department of Agriculture – 20130429-NRCS-LSC-0262. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Yesterday, Long Island saw an unprecedented amount of rainfall. 13.27 inches of rain fell at Long Island Mac Arthur Airport in Islip in less than 24 hours,, setting an all time record for most rainfall in New York state over a 24 hour period; the previous record being set during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Over 11 inches (11.19″) of rain fell between 5 and 8 a.m.  About 10 inches (9.81″) of rain fell in 2 hours, In other words, Islip almost received about as much rain in three hours as downtown Los Angeles did in all of 2012 and 2013 combined

The same weather system had dumped between four and six inches of rain on Detroit two days prior. While this doesn’t sound so bad, because of the rate it fell and other factors such as the pump infrastructure to keep the freeways clear being overwhelmed, a large section of Detroit was flooded. Freeways were expected to be closed for days; there was more than 12 feet of water in one freeway interchange on the north side of Detroit the day after the rain.

Here in Minnesota, we had record rainfall in June, which led to record flooding for that time of year. But, it’s not only the U.S. that’s seeing this trend. There’s been deadly floods recently in India, Taiwan, and eastern Europe as well; this all in the last couple weeks.

Extreme weather like this will continue. Almost all countries are doing something regarding climate change; building sea walls, cutting emissions through laws, etc. Who’s missing from this list for the most part? The United States. We’ve never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty aimed at the issue of global warming (although we’ve signed it), putting us in the company of such countries as Andorra and South Sudan. Canada had signed, but withdrew from it in 2011 due to its investment and involvement in tar sands mining. So, what’s our excuse?

When we have people in our government say such absurdities as Mars and Earth share the same temperature or that greenhouse gases such as CO2 aren’t harmful or, even worse in ways, having them admit there’s a problem but the solution is to “let the other countries worry about that,” we have a problem. If we have more important items on the agenda than this, we would certainly like to know what they are and whether the American people agree. What is more important than preventing the planet from becoming uninhabitable for the human race, and questionable that it can support life at all?

Don’t like the unpredictable weather? Too bad; get used to it…

 

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The USA and Iran: united for a “New” Iraq

Editorial Note: The following article is republished in its entirety without edit. It was published on 07-25-2014 at OpenDemocracy.net. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence.

As scenes of jubilation in Sunni cities coupled with fear and calls for jihad in Shia cities show how deep and explosive sectarian divisions are in Iraq, should Kurds be forced to stay on?

The brutal conquest of all Sunni Iraqi cities by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (The Islamic State since 29 June) has split Iraq apart. Scenes of jubilation in Sunni cities coupled with fear and calls for jihad in Shia cities show how deep and explosive sectarian divisions are in Iraq. These events have led many specialists to question if it is possible to maintain a unified Iraq.

Masoud Barzani, the President of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has declared that   “Kurds did not cause the collapse of Iraq” and underlined that it is the time for the Kurdish people to determine their future, as they cannot remain hostages of uncertainty.

Peshmerga soldiers in traditional garb. Photo via Facebook

Peshmerga soldiers in traditional garb. Photo via Facebook

The strongest reactions to President’s Barzani’s statement came from the United States and Iran: both announcing separately that they do not rule out whatever cooperation is needed to support the Iraqi government in order to prevent the division of the country.

The United States requires that Iraq’s leaders rise above sectarian motivations, come together and compromise, if it is to support the formation of a new government. It is unclear if Iran will adhere to these conditions. But it is clear that Iran is comfortable with the United States position. Iran joins the United States in seeking to weaken the Kurdish leadership. For both, a unity government would undermine a Kurdish goal of independence. In fact, opposition to Kurdish independence has long been United States policy in the Middle East as a whole.

From 1991 to today

In 1991, after ousting Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, the United States refused to overthrow him in order not to jeopardize relations with its main regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both of whom feared the collapse of Iraq and the “dangers” posed by Iraq’s Shia community and the Kurds.

But soon after, the United States had to face Baghdad’s oppression of both the Kurds and Shia and created no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq. The Kurds took advantage of this protection and immediately created an autonomous regional government – the KRG.

In 2003, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime led to the collapse of the Iraqi state. The new Iraq established by the United States was based on a very delicate balance between the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, but led by the Shia majority.

In 2004, in order to convince the Kurds to stay in the new Iraq, the United States authorities accepted a type of federalization of the country. Thus the KRG was transformed into a quasi-state with its own administration, police and army.

In 2011, during the United States withdrawal from Iraq, the situation was bitter. The “Freedom for Iraq” operation did not result in the “domino effect” supposed to democratise the entire Middle East, but instead in a sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia militias that produced hundreds of thousands of victims, divided society, cities and the entire country.

In addition, the new strongman of Iraq, Noori al-Maliki, a Shia, supported by Iran, felt free to further reinforce the marginalization of Sunnis and threaten the KRG by cancelling contracts on the exploitation of hydrocarbons signed with foreign companies, by sending the central army into areas under KRG control and by cutting the KRG’s share of the central budget.

Kurdish leaders were pleased to be the “only friends of America”, and the KRG was perceived by many American officials as ‘the other Iraq’. Nevertheless, United States favoured Baghdad’s position in all the confrontations that took place between Baghdad and the KRG on the exploitation and sale of oil, and on the future of disputed territories. In the ten years since the 2004 agreements, none of the issues that most concerned the Kurds and Sunnis have been resolved.

Photo via Facebook

Peshmerga. Photo via Facebook

Kurdish leaders’ repeated warnings of the disfunctionality of the new Iraq were seen as simply excuses for grabbing more power. The marginalization and the severe repression of peaceful Sunni demonstrations by al-Maliki’s government have failed to drawn enough attention to the fragility of the 2004 compromise.

ISIS the “liberator”

In June 2014, the jihadists of ISIS, at the helm of a coalition of Iraqi Sunnis, drove out the army and the central administration of the entire Sunni Arab area. If their proclamation of an Islamic state encompassing Sunni areas under their control in Iraq and Syria is not taken seriously, the damage they have inflicted to the new Iraq is nevertheless likely to be fatal. This is because many Sunnis see ISIS as a “liberator” who managed to make this quantum leap against the oppressive al-Maliki regime. This is also because the Iraqi soldiers and Shia generals thought that it is not worth dying for Sunni cities where they are perceived as occupiers.

The Shia and Sunni leaders’ calls for jihad merely consolidate the Shia and Sunni camps and strengthen their mutual hatred. In the foreseeable future, neither Iraqi Shias nor Iran will agree to put an end to Shia dominance in Iraq.

This would, of course, strengthen ISIS which is determined to end Shia’s rule and to drive out or even exterminate the Shia populations. Given that power sharing between Shias and ISIS is not possible in the foreseeable future, the breakdown of Iraq is unlikely to be averted by the departure of Nouri al-Maliki. Any new government will have to include Sunnis who are not supported by ISIS and who are unlikely to establish the state’s control over areas now controlled by ISIS.

Iran, the most important ally of the Iraqi Shias, opposes the independence of Kurdistan and supports the creation of a new central government. In Iran’s view this would allow it and its Iraqi allies to divide and drown Sunni opposition in political negotiations and possibly avoid the breakup of the country.

For Iran this is the only hope because if it fails, the creation of three states, Shia, Kurdish and Sunni, as well as the battle between Shia and Sunni for the control of Baghdad will be inevitable. Iran fears in particular that any Kurdish and Sunni states will lead to a change in the regional balance in favour of Israel and its Saudi rivals.

Fragile conclusion

The United States is aware of the fragility of national borders and serious ethnic and sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East. It fears that the collapse of Iraq will accelerate the process of fragmentation under way in the Middle East especially in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The United States fears also if Kurdistan separates from Iraq, Iraq falls definitely under the Iranian influence and this will extend to other Shia regions at the expense of US allies in the region.

This fear is reinforced by the fact that the Islamic Caliphate State proclaimed by ISIS constitutes also a direct threat to allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, which are Sunni countries and potential areas of interest to ISIS.

It should also be underlined that the proclaimed Caliph cannot truly be a Caliph if he is not the master of the holy places of Islam. Consequently, the Caliphate constitutes a direct threat to the Saudi Kingdom. The fear of being held responsible for a new division of the Arab territories in favour of Shia Iran plays an important role in the stance of the United States, as it fears a new wave of anti-Americanism in the region.

Given the Iranian and Arab opposition and the uncertain attitude of Turkey and its regional implications, it is not difficult to understand the reluctance of the United States to accede to an independent Kurdistan. Yet forcing the Kurds to stay part of a “united” Iraq, where the political future is uncertain, only benefits Iran and weakens the Kurdish leaders whose weakness can only benefit the radical movements and destabilise the Kurdistan Regional Government.

About the Authors:

Taimoor Aliassi is the President of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran in Geneva (KMMK-G). Mr. Aliassi is a Swiss citizen with a Kurdish background from Iran, the country he left after the 1979 revolution. He studied at the Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID) and obtained a Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action with a specialization in International Law. Mr. Aliassi is the co-founder of the KMMK-G, an association that promotes democracy, respect for Human Rights and social development in the Kurdistan of Iran and beyond. He fights against all forms of discrimination, especially against people from ethnic and religious minorities in the region, advocating against the death penalty and promoting the rights of women and children.

Özcan Yilmaz is lecturer of International History and History of the Middle East at the University of Geneva. He obtained a PhD in International History and Politics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies for his thesis on the formation of the Kurdish national identity in Turkey. His research interests include nationalism, state building, identity and politics in the contemporary Middle East. His recent publications include La formation de la nation kurde en Turquie (PUF, 2013).

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Cheating For Fun & Profit

Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta. Photo by Marylandstater (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta. Photo by Marylandstater (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jury selection began August 11 for what is expected to be a six-month long trial of Atlanta School District teachers and principles accused of cheating by raising scores on standardized tests to achieve personal bonuses and additional school funding.

The original case involved 178 teachers and principals from across the entire district. Of those accused, many accepted plea bargains or took early retirement to avoid the public trial phase of the case. Those who took plea bargains are now witnesses for the state against their accused peers.

The scandal is the brainchild of Dr. Beverly Hall, 2009 National Superintendent of the Year. She has collected over $100,000 of personal funds through her program which included a “culture of fear” to promote the increasing of the scores in the testing. Many involved state they did so because they feared losing their job if they did not. But Dr. Hall is not on trial at this time. She is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, and her further prosecution has been delayed, according to official records.

If found guilty, those accused of cheating  in the scandal could face heavy fines, imprisonment or both.

In Washington, we hear cries that the Department of Education is ineffective. The method of standardized testing has been in question for years, while educators scramble to develop a more accurate system of gauging teaching and curriculum effectiveness. Yet nowhere do we hear battle cries for protecting our children from the criminals that make their living by taking advantage of our trust placed in them for the care and educating of our children.

There are arrests of coaches for sexual abuse or rape of students. There are teachers who openly discriminate in the classroom. There are bus drivers who park their buses at the end of their routes and never bother to notice the student in the back that fell asleep and didn’t get off the bus.

Occupy World Writes believes the most precious resource of our nation is deserving of more protection than that given corporations by the SCOTUS. We believe our nation’s belts should not be tightened around the waists of our children. We support education that fairly tests students for appropriate levels of learning, and that removing ineffective educators is as important as hiring good ones. We salute and thank those that are true educators and recognize there is a tremendous difference in the hearts and souls of these two very different groups who say they have the same mission.

There are certain things NO ONE can cheat a child out of learning. We hope the students of the Atlanta School District are able to learn from the experience of those who attempted to take advantage of them for personal profit.

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