Every flower that sprouts in the mountains had to first break through a rock.
By. Dr. Thoreau Redcrow. Published 9-22-2017 by the Region
Rallies and celebrations take place throughout Kurdistan as the referendum vote approaches Monday’s date.. Photo: Al Arabiya/Twitter
In a few days on September 25th the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Southern Kurdistan / Bashur (i.e. northern “Iraq”) is set to hold a non-binding aspirational referendum on their region’s independence. For many of the 6+ million Kurds of Bashur it is undoubtedly a day they have dreamt of or longed for; perhaps even a chance which seemed all but a fantasy through the billowing smoke of chemical bombs in Hełebce, or Saddam’s mass graves of the 1980’s.
Moreover, although this referendum is only related to one of the four regions of Greater Kurdistan—leaving those 20+ million Kurds of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), 12 million Kurds of northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and 2-3 million Kurds of northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) awaiting their own eventual ‘independence day’—I have still anecdotally witnessed a surge in Kurdish patriotism and excitement throughout wider Kurdistan and the diaspora at the possibility that the first of the four dominoes may finally fall. Continue reading →
Later this year, the European Union will vote on whether to renew the license that allows European farmers to use Monsanto’s popular weed-killer, Roundup. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)
Europe’s food safety agency reportedly relied on a review that lifted language from a Monsanto report when concluding that the possible cancer-causing ingredient in the company’s popular weed-killer Roundup is safe, raising concerns that the agency failed to properly analyze the pesticide’s potential dangers.
“If regulators rely on the industry’s evaluation of the science without doing their own assessment, the decision whether pesticides are deemed safe or not is effectively in the industry’s hands,” said Greenpeace’s European Union (EU) food policy director, Franziska Achterberg, who added that this discovery “calls into question the entire EU pesticide approval process. Continue reading →
On May 9, 1916, and as the WWI raged, a secret convention was made between Britain and France, with the later assent of imperial Russia and Italy, for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The essence of the agreement–expansion of European colonialism into the heart of the Middle East–never came to pass, thanks to the entry of the US into the war at the start of 1918.
The introduction of the Wilson Doctrine, which was intended to create the Mandate System under the supervision of the League of Nations, prevented the outright colonization of that region by the European Colonial empires, which would have enhanced their power vis à vis the United States. The agreement took its name from its negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France. The relevant portions of the accord are provided at top right side of the full map attached at the end of the article.
Map provided by Dr. Izady and Columbia University
Divisions of Sykes-Picot
It is unclear, however, where exactly the map purported to depict the divisions comes from (see one example below, dating to 1918, London, and marked “secret”, which apparently was later colorized). And yet, by referring to various divisions such as, “Area A” or “Area B”, “Red Zone”, “Blue Zone” etc., the text of the agreement predicates the existence of at least one appended map. What became of that map?
Be that as it may, excepting the area now comprising the Republic of Turkey (taken back by force of the combined Turkish-Kurdish arms by 1923), many of the borders found in the provisions of the Sykes-Picot Agreement are generally, and sometimes precisely, the ultimate lines followed by current international borders. By turning communist in 1917, Russia received none of the anticipated awards. France, on the other hand, obtained the League of Nations Mandate over Syria (which she later split into Lebanon and Syria); Britain over Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. Ahsa and Qatif were ultimately relinquished to rising house of Saudi in Nejd.
Although many of the borders anticipated by the Sykes-Picot were arbitrary, they were in fact more sympathetic to the religious and cultural facts on the ground than what the League of Nations later created. Under Sykes-Picot, the Shias were to be united into a super-state, although directly ruled over by Britain. The Agreement meticulously included the Shias of Mesopotamia and Ahsa-Qatif (coastal regions of modern Saudi Arabia on the Gulf). The Christians in the Levant and south-central Anatolia also saw the combination of their multitude into a single French-administered Mediterranean state in which they were to form the predominant force, if not an absolute majority. Had the Armenians not been exterminated from their Cilician exclave, the entire French colony (the Blue Area) would have had a Christian majority. The Sunni Muslims (Arabs, Kurds, Turks) and their interests, meanwhile, were overlooked by Sykes-Picot. It is no surprise then that the Turks and Kurds joined force to immediately challenge the divisions of their native land that were to be implemented in the aftermath of WWI
The Bolshevik revolutionaries of Russia made the provisions of this secret agreement public on November 23, 1917 following their takeover of that country. These are listed to the upper right hand side of this map. A rather detailed map is reconstructed here by taking into consideration the toponyms and directions noted in the Agreement per se, but missing from all subsequent maps. The Russian share, missing from the first draft of Sykes-Picot, is reconstructed from the details found in a letter by Sir Edward Grey to Count Alexander von Benckenkdorff of Russia, dated May of 1916.
In conclusion, many of the current international boundaries match the anticipated lines by Sykes-Picot, and in fact exactly. But this is more due to natural features of the land–river courses, crests of the mountains, bottoms of the valleys and wadis–than any political expedience on the part of the League of Nations that awarded the mandates to the French and British colonial empires. The United States encouraged to take over formerly designated Russian sector to be labeled as the “Mandate of Armenia” ultimately declined the offer. The US Senate objected to the deal on many grounds to include the rationale and cost of stationing of an estimated 100 thousand American soldiers to guard a distant land largely emptied out of the Armenian Christians by the genocide that had visited on them some years earlier.
About the Author: Dr. Michael Merhdad R.S.C. Izady is a professor at Columbia University, and one of the world’s leading Middle East cartographers and Kurdish historians.has written numerous books on the Kurdish people, including “The Kurds: A Concise Handbook” which is widely accepted to be the best historical account of the Kurds. In 1996, Dr. Izady wrote and published the Kurdish Manifesto, which was later used as the foundation for the Constitution of the KRG’s Kurdistan Regional Constitution. Dr. Izady also designed the Flag of Kurdistan, which was adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Today, Dr. Izady is a professor at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
Paralleling the increasingly draconian policies marking a worldwide descent into fascism, are massive protests — born in the Arab Spring, but arguably an angrier, more potent extension of the Occupy movement — indicative of an unprecedented tipping point.
We, the people of this planet, now stand together, gazing over the precipice whose murky depths of State repression demand we ask one imperative question: have we finally had enough?
“[W]e have lost the way,” Charlie Chaplin implores us to consider in his renowned and timeless monologue from The Great Dictator, because“Greed has poisoned men’s souls — has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.”Continue reading →
French police on the Champs-Elysees, Paris, on New Year’s Eve. (Photo: ninara/flickr/cc)
Joining a chorus of warnings over France’s state of emergency and increase in state powers imposed following the November attacks in Paris, a group of United Nations human rights experts has now said that the measures “impose excessive and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms.”
Among the concerns mentioned in the United Nations Special Rapporteurs’ joint statement released Tuesday is that the state of emergency—extended until February 26—and new electronic surveillance law have no safeguards of guaranteeing rule of law as there was no prior judicial review. Continue reading →
Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs, according to a survey of the verified incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project. Image via X-Index.
From targeted bombings to fatal crossfire, the year 2015 was violent and deadly for journalists around the world, particularly those based in the Americas and Middle East, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Friday.
According to a survey by the organization, at least 109 journalists and media workers were slain by “targeted killings, bomb attacks, and cross-fire incidents.”
While the Charlie Hebdo media workers killed in 2015 perhaps had the highest profile, the plurality of those struck down were lesser-known nationals of the Americas (27) followed by the Middle East (25), Asia-Pacific (21), and Africa (19).
Joel Aquiles Torres, owner of the Honduran TV station Canal 67, was one of those killed. He was “shot dead while driving his car in Taulabe in the department of Comayagua on 3 of July,” according to UNESCO.
Ali al-Ansari, an Iraqi journalist for Al-Ghadeer, was killed “while covering fighting between the Iraqi security forces and militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Muqdadiyah area north of Baghdad,” IFJ reports.
“Sadly, there were scores of unreported killings, and unless the journalist is a well-known by-lined correspondent the world barely notices,” said IFJ president Jim Boumelha in a statement accompanying the report.
“Journalism is put daily to the sword in many regions of the world,” Boumelha continued, “where extremists, drug lords and reckless warring factions continue murdering journalists with impunity.”
The IFJ’s findings follow a separate round-up released earlier this week by Reporters Without Borders, known by their French acronym RSF.
According to RSF, which uses different criteria to establish their conclusions, at least 110 journalists around the world were killed in 2015 “in connection with their work or for unclear reasons.” The organization said it can definitively conclude that 67 of those people were “targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.”
Most journalists directly targeted, or killed for unclear reasons, hailed from Iraq, Syria, France, Yemen, and South Sudan respectively, RSF revealed.
The organization noted that the majority of journalists knowingly killed in 2015—64 percent—were struck down outside of what is recognized as an official war zone. What’s more, last year’s grim tally brought the number of journalists killed since 2005 to 787.
While IFJ and RSF both reached slightly varying conclusions, both organizations agree that journalists across the globe are inadequately protected.
According to Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, the organization’s reports over the last quarter century “have clearly shown that journalists and media staff have become easy targets because there is very little respect for national and international laws that are supposed to protect them.”
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq fueled the creation of the Islamic State (ISIS) today and must serve as a warning against similar rash military intervention in Syria, a former U.S. intelligence chief said in an interview with German media on Sunday.
“When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from,” former U.S. special forces chief Mike Flynn, who also served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Der Spiegel. “Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”
In recent weeks, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks in Lebanon and Paris and the bombing of a Russian airplane over the Sinai peninsula, which together killed hundreds of people. Following the attacks, French President François Hollande vowed a “merciless” response against the group in Syria and Iraq—a statement that prompted comparisons between Hollande and former U.S. President George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.
Echoing long-held arguments made by other experts, Flynn said Sunday that increased airstrikes and other offensives could be seen as an attempt to “invade or even own Syria,” and that the fight against militant groups like ISIS will only succeed or make progress through collaborative efforts with both Western and Arab nations. “Our message must be that we want to help and that we will leave once the problems have been solved. The Arab nations must be on our side.”
Otherwise, the U.S. is poised to repeat all its past mistakes, he said.
Der Spiegel‘s Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark noted that in February 2004, the U.S. military “already had [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in your hands—he was imprisoned in a military camp, but got cleared later as harmless by a U.S. military commission. How could that fatal mistake happen?”
We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment.
[….] First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based. Then we went into Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.
Asked whether he regretted the Iraq War, Flynn responded simply, “Yes, absolutely.”
“It was a huge error,” Flynn said. “As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.”
Flynn’s interview with Der Spiegel echoes comments he made to Al Jazeera‘s Mehdi Hasan in August that the U.S. “totally blew it” in preventing the caliphate’s rise “in the very beginning.”
In fact, Flynn said, the U.S. deliberately backed extremist groups within the Syrian rebel movement as far back as 2012, when he was still DIA head. The Obama administration was aware at the time of a recently-declassified DIA memo that predicted the rise of a militant group in eastern Syria. Supporting the insurgency was a “willful decision,” he said.
It was like spring in autumn. The weather had been turning warm, day after day, in this early November 2015 in Paris. One month later the town will host the UN Climate Conference COP21… Such unseasonable weather, the hottest November ever, must for sure have something to do with climate change.
It was an evening of football, with France vs. Germany at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis, north of Paris. Meanwhile the café’s terraces on the 11th arrondissement, the “swinging quarter” of the City, were packed with people enjoying the equable temperature. Nearby, 1500 people were gathering at the Bataclan, a well-known and popular music-hall, to attend the hard rock concert of the group Eagles of Death Metal. Continue reading →
European Union flag. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons
The Brussels summit of July 11 and 12 was undoubtedly one of the darkest moments in the EU’s more recent history. The new agreement between Athens and its creditors within in the Eurozone has rightly been called ‘Europe’s insane deal with Greece’.
Everybody knows that the new agreement can’t work and including the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who said as much on television. Everybody knows that this is only one more hopeless attempt to kick the can down the road. Most experts who have ever given any thought to the matter know that for Greece to survive within the Eurozone and to regain some amount of economic stability and prosperity, it needs not only a radical haircut which reduces its national debt to a sustainable level – let us say 60-70% of GDP from about 180 % now – but also permanent financial support not in the form of so called loans but as direct financial transfers.
For the next 10 to 15 years or – more likely – indefinitely, the country would probably need at least 20 billion euros per annum to survive. Would such transfers be affordable for the rest of the Eurozone? In theory the answer is yes, in particular if one reminds oneself that the EU is spending a lot of money on fanciful projects such as paying vast subsidies to farmers so that they can ruin their competitors in Africa or South America, by selling their products below the normal market price.
Then why did the Northern countries – a group which in this case includes Belgium and Slovakia – resist a solution along such lines so fiercely? The problem is that paying permanent subsidies to Greece would only be the thin end of the wedge. At least that is what is widely assumed in The Hague, Helsinki, Bratislava and Berlin and probably in Antwerp as well where the Flemish look back on their own history of fiscal transfers to a region which does not pull its weight in economic terms. Continue reading →