A civilian cargo aircraft crashed at Bagram Air Field near the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday, killing all seven people aboard.. The plane came down shortly after take-off and crashed within the boundaries of the US-run airbase, a NATO spokesperson at the base said. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the crash, but the coalition dismissed the claim as “false” in a statement to AP. The cause of the crash is being investigated by emergency crews, but no sign of insurgent activity in the area was spotted at the time.
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands
of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
If anything offers a litmus test for trends in hard-nosed realpolitik, it’s the cutting of strategic international energy deals. While the Western media persists in warning of apocalyptic consequences should Iran’s nuclear ambitions lead to outright conflict with Israel – a conflict drawing in Russia et al. – an entirely different scenario is developing as Moscow is quietly buying long-term into the Israeli-Cypriot gas and oil energy bonanza.
Despite the Kremlin’s apparent public support for its traditional Middle East (ME) partners, its actions represent nothing less than a paradigm shift in the tectonic plates of regional power. More specifically, they represent an effective selling out of Russia’s backing for both Iran and Syria – something we predicted in Has Russia Sold Out Iran for a Stake in Israeli Gas? last year.
Only too aware of the threat of east Mediterranean supply if Europe is able to diversify away from Russian gas dependency, Moscow has been steadily feting Israel to buy into a piece of the action. On February 26th, that culminated in Russia’s Gazprom clinching a key deal to market Israeli liquefied natural gas (LNG).
But the 20-year contract between Gazprom Marketing, Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corporation represents only the first step in Russia’s new Middle East energy game.
As veteran observer M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote in the Asia Times, “The Tamar deal rewrites the ABC of geopolitics of energy security” being “an important milestone for strengthening Gazprom’s position in the global LNG market … and in the booming Asian LNG market.” More than that, however, it’s a masterstroke that reflects Russia’s underlying priority across the Middle East itself.
By Imad Atalla
I love you, royal families, plutocrats and political elites of Arab societies. You are blessed with an endless supply of siblings, though many among you are missing a chromosome.
The other good news is that you are growing in wealth, albeit at the expense of taxpayers – a minor detail! It is no froufrou science to say that, with the current economic difficulties, the populations of the Middle East might drastically shrink due to diminishing rates of reproduction: people just can’t afford having babies and raising families anymore. Fortunately your own progeny might outnumber the rest of the population in a single generation. So please continue to be fruitful and multiply to fulfill “the many chiefs ruling over the lone [Arab].”
I love you, oh obnoxious brother, wife, son, son-in-law of the politician. Being a sibling doesn’t make you a political leader by default. A perpetual wannabe, you are a mammoth annoyance with the constant challenge of correcting the prevailing view of yourself as a disliked opportunist.
Speaking of reproduction, I love you, self-anointed militant ambassadors of God across the region. How did you reproduce so fast, in Syria most recently? I know your specialty is to blow yourselves up inside any semi-functioning institution coming your way, especially at the behest of Qatari and American foreign policy. But I truly thought you all died in Afghanistan – or was it in Iraq? Libya? – and went straight to heaven! Apparently you didn’t, but hopefully you will do so soon because God can’t wait to meet you in person.
I love you, the Middle East, even though you’ve been confusing me lately. So the Muslim Brotherhood is the broker of peace between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is empowered by Iran but openly hates the latter. Al-Qaeda and Israel stage concurrent military attacks on the Syrian government. Dictatorial Arab monarchs are the harbingers of democracy in Syria and the supporters of dictatorship in Bahrain. I just wonder, oh region, are angels helping devils and devils helping angels nowadays? I’m sort of losing track of who is who.
I love you, Sectarian Bugaboo, you are the Arab Dracula of the last two centuries. Pssst, beware that you might be running out of victims. Christians and Muslims ruined Lebanon already. Ditto Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq. Sudan is broken into separate nations. Syria is trespassing along sectarian fault lines. Militant Copts are already sharpening preventive hatchets against marching Islamists in Egypt. Jews outdid other members of the Abrahamic religions in Palestine. Wahhabi zeitgeist is consolidated in the Arabian peninsula. Running out of options, Sectarian Bugaboo? Try the region’s cats. Urban legend has it that Shiite and Sunni cats meow in irreconcilable ways.
I love you, Ottoman. I know you’re a thing of the past. But you keep staging historic comebacks to no avail. Feel rejected by the European Union? Don’t pay attention to those racist democracies; they’re Christian after all. Hey, look at the bright side: Salafist obscurants and the Muslim Brotherhood are your fans in Syria and Egypt, and Arab dictators love you – for now. You’re in good company, Ottoman.
Perhaps you should consider this for a change: Apologize to the Armenians, Kurds, Arab Christians, Arab Shiites; apologize to all Arabs. And maybe then the region’s population will let you lead for another 600 years of blissful ignorance. Nothing wrong in trying.
I love you, 18-year-old Arabic speaker. Fortunately I am writing in English so you can understand this. The delusion persists that you can text, I mean speak, in Arabic; you can’t. I never encounter you without hearing an aphrodisiac hodgepodge of bad English, bad Arabic, and bad French (as in Lebanon) in the same breath. It isn’t unlike bad breath. With Syria – the last frontier of genuine Arabic expression – going down the drain, language seems to spiral into a self-inflected intellectual crippling at a young age. How much more can you crave wanting to be a distorted cultural copy of a European or American, at the expense of cultivating and losing your own identity, culture and language? Suppose Naguib Mahfouz or Nizar Qabbani showed up at the airport this afternoon. If you must receive them, bring an Orientalist from the closest Goethe Institute or British Council to translate in real time.
I love you, Computer Keyboard, for inspiring my complex algorithms of the region’s conflict resolution. Here are some hi-tech flying drones, guided from my own Central Command that just might work: Ctrl-Alt-Del, to reboot faulty revolutions and start over and over again; perhaps every other Friday. ESC, to purge political corruption and slow down the plutocrats’ reproductive rate. Cmd+, to boost human and civil rights. Cmd-Left Arrow, to introduce measured social economics and put the region’s wealth at the service of its citizens. Cmd-Right Arrow, to make political peace with Iran. Ctrl-Z to undo Zionism, followed by an immediate Ctrl-C, to copy Israeli institutional democracy and civil rights, then Ctrl-V, to paste a democratic one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.
Lest I forget, I love you, ever useless F12 button, because now I am reserving you for successive United Nations special representatives on conflict resolution. Feel more useful now, F12? I know the U.N. representative doesn’t. And as a last resort, OFF button, you too can help in case none of the above works – yes, complete shutdown, but hopefully not inspired by Salafist suicide bombers or some joint Israeli-Iranian nuclear firecracker. Now, after all is said and done, who will be my Valentine?
Imad Atalla is head of the Prontis Corporation, the developer of i-ngo.com. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
The television network Current TV was recently purchased by the international news outlet Al Jazeera. The transaction will leave $125 million in former vice-president Al Gore’s pocket. Gore, who is a green living advocate, ironically sold the company to a news outlet owned by Qatar – an oil rich country.
BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains confident that he can ride out the maelstrom engulfing his country, casting into doubt prospects that intensified efforts to negotiate an end to the bloodshed can succeed, according to Syrians familiar with the thinking of the regime.
Although Assad isn’t winning the fight against the rebels, he isn’t losing, either — at least not yet, or by enough of a margin to make him feel he needs to abandon his efforts to crush the rebellion by force and embark on negotiations that would end his hold on power and expose his loyalists to the threat of revenge, the Syrians and analysts say.
It is hard to imagine Assad ever being in a position to restore his authority over the many parts of Syria that have slipped beyond his control. The rebels seeking to topple him have steadily been gaining ground, most recently seizing control of a strategically important airbase in the north of the country, and if the current trajectory continues, the eventual demise of the four-decade-old Assad family regime seems all but inevitable, analysts say.
But concerns are growing about how long that might take, and at what cost, prompting many Syrians to question whether Assad’s confidence might not be merited, given the realities of a conflict so brutally complex, so finely balanced and so entangled in global geopolitical rivalries that there is still no clearly identifiable endgame in sight nearly two years after the uprising began.
“From Day One, Bashar al-Assad was underestimated by the opposition and by the international community,” said Malik al Abdeh, a Syrian journalist based in London who is one of a number of opposition activists growing increasingly gloomy about the prospects that an end to the bloody conflict could be near. “He is playing a high-stakes game, he’s playing it pretty smart and he seems to be winning because of the simple fact that he is still in power.”
When Assad delivered a defiantly uncompromising speech to supporters last week, the State Department condemned him for being “out of touch with reality.” But many Syrians wonder whether it isn’t the United States and its allies who are out of touch for continuing to press for a negotiated settlement to a conflict Assad still has reason to believe he can win, Abdeh said.
Though the Syrian army has been degraded by thousands of rank-and-file defections and heavy casualties, it is still fighting. Key units comprising members of Assad’s own Alawite sect, an obscure and little-understood offshoot of Shiite Islam, remain fiercely loyal.
Defections from his government have been few and far between. The rebels have been systematically overrunning government positions in many locations, but they have not demonstrated the capacity to make headway against the tough defenses ringing Damascus, the capital, and the key prize for whoever claims to control the country.
His allies Russia and Iran have shown no sign that their support is wavering, and they have their own reasons not to cede ground in the struggle for influence over a country whose strategic location puts it at the crossroads of multiple regional conflicts. On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its view that Assad’s departure should not be part of any negotiated settlement.
21st Century Wire and UK Column’s analyst Patrick Henningsen discusses with RT about how NATO’s recent deployment of missile defense batteries in neighboring Turkey is nothing more than a chess move to prepare for western/NATO airstrikes at some point further down the timeline, and also how Syria’s so-called ‘opposition’ are using the chaos in the country to steal land, businesses and profit from the new black market that has replaced the previous economy.
NATO has begun deploying surface-to-air missiles and troops on Turkey’s border with Syria. The Alliance approved the reinforcements last month, after Ankara requested support. NATO claims the move is to help defend its member from the conflict in Syria. But Moscow said the deployment will only serve to escalate tension in the region. Germany and the Netherlands are preparing to ship six more Patriot batteries early next week, they’ll be operational by the end of January. However, Jeremy Salt, a Middle Eastern history and politics professor from Bilkent University says NATO is actually now realizing who it’s supporting, and losing its appetite for direct action in Syria.