In examining the Saddam Hussein regime’s long relationship with al-Qaeda, a noticeable sub-theme is the connections the Saddam regime had with the Taliban theocracy in Afghanistan. The evidence accumulated suggests that Saddam’s policies in his later years, namely the Islamization of his own regime and instrumentalization of Islamists in foreign policy, included welcoming relations with the Taliban. Continue reading
The Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been in receipt of a flow of non-Kurdish, mostly-Western foreign fighters for approximately a year. These volunteers had gathered in informal groupings such as the “Lions of Rojava,” a primarily English-speaking unit of non-ideological ex-military men. The recruitment pattern of the YPG has begun to shift, however, and the stream of foreign fighters to “Rojava,” as the YPG calls the areas it rules, has become increasingly ideological. In January, a process was begun to create a unified structure—or at least a brand—for the disparate foreign groups and individuals in Rojava. This effort concluded two days ago with the formation of the International Freedom Battalion (EOT).
Jordan Matson, an American fighting in the ranks of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), posted a message to Facebook on 4 June 2015 about Michael Enright, a British YPG fighter who had been living in America and working as an actor. Matson says that Enright is “mentally unstable,” had come to Syria to sell his story and write a movie script, and had been disarmed and isolated by the YPG already because of the worry that he would harm himself or be harmed by others. Matson’s message is posted below with typos and “text speak” corrected. Continue reading
This is the complete review. It has previously been posted in three parts: Part 1 on the question of whether the 1915-17 massacres constitute genocide; Part 2 on the post-war trials and the Nationalist Movement; and Part 3 gives some conclusions on what went wrong in the Allied efforts to prosecute the war criminals and the implications for the present time, with Turkey’s ongoing denial of the genocide and the exodus of Christians from the Middle East.
A Question of Genocide
The controversy over the 1915-17 massacres of Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Empire is whether these acts constitute genocide. Those who say they don’t are not the equivalent of Holocaust-deniers in that while some minimize the figures of the slain, they do not deny that the massacres happened; what they deny is that the massacres reach the legal definition of genocide. Their case is based on three interlinked arguments:
- Unlike the Nazi Holocaust when a defenceless population was murdered only for its identity, the Armenians were engaged in a massive armed revolt, and this is why the Ottoman government decided to deport them.
- The intent of the Ottomans was not massacre but the removal of the Armenians, who had sided with one foreign invading power (Russia) and who were showing signs of collaborating with another (Britain), from the militarily sensitive areas as Turkey suffered a two-front invasion in early 1915.
- While terrible massacres, plus starvation and the cold, took maybe a million lives during the deportations, when the Armenians reached their destinations in Syria and Iraq, which were also part of the Ottoman Empire, they were well-treated and allowed to rebuild their lives, which would not have been the case had the Ottomans intended their destruction.
Taner Akcam’s A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility presents evidence to undermine every one of these arguments. Continue reading
The last foreign troops left Istanbul on October 2, 1923. On October 6, Turkish troops re-occupied Istanbul, and on October 13 the Turkish capital was moved to Ankara. The independence struggle won, the focus now turned to the form independence would take.
Having already abolished the Sultanate—that is the executive post held by the House of Ottoman—Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk) abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924. Atatürk also scrapped the office of Şeyh-ül İslam, banished the House of Ottoman (packing Sultan Abdülmecid onto the Orient Express), and closed the separate religious schools on the same day. The ulema had given much ground during the reforms of the nineteenth century but they had also frustrated and defeated many reformers; Atatürk would not be one of them. The promulgation of the Republican Constitution on April 20, 1924, confirmed parliamentary supremacy over the shari’a, secular law over theocracy.
In the late 1920s, further reforms were made. The fez, which “had become the last symbol of Muslim identification,” was banned. Atatürk had said the fez was “an emblem of ignorance … and hatred of progress”. Turks would wear the costume “common to the civilized nations of the world,” which is to say Europe. Atatürk adopted the Swiss legal code, which removed the Holy Law from personal status—abolishing polygamy, making both parties to a marriage equal, allowing divorce, and allowing people to change their religion. Islam was disestablished as the State religion, and as the final step the Arabic script was changed to Roman. The connection with the East was broken, and Turkey was firmly oriented West. Continue reading
By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 5, 2015 In the Guardian this morning, Jonathan Steele has written an article defending President Barack Obama’s Iran policy. Steele allows others to make his points for him, but he contributes to a narrative in which rapprochement with Iran is a worthy policy—even as the President formally denies that the Iran negotiations are about anything other than the nuclear-weapons program. Steele writes:
In Iraq, [Iranian officials] insist, Iran is a force for stability, helping [Iraqi prime minister] Haider al-Abadi’s government militarily while urging it to be more attentive to Sunni concerns—just as Washington is.
This is nonsense. In 2008, after the US ‘surge’, violence in Iraq was down 90 per cent, and the political process had begun to work. This was achieved by separating the Sunni Arab tribes of western Iraq from al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), the forerunner to the Islamic State (ISIS).