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Hazards of Revolutions?

You mean a revolution happens by hazard or the consequences are hazardous?

How the “Arab Spring” manifested in 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt, and how the colonial powers diverted the longing of the people?

Patrick Cockburn wrote on Hazards of Revolutions in 2014. 

Soon after the Libyan capital (Tripoli) fell to the rebels in August 2011 I got to know a 32-year-old man called Ahmed Abdullah al-Ghadamsi.

We met when he tried to evict me from my hotel room, which he said was needed for members of the National Transitional Council, in effect the provisional government of Libya.

I wasn’t happy about being moved because the hotel, the Radisson Blu on Tripoli’s seafront, (The capital is Not on the sea shore, but very far off) was full of journalists and there was nowhere else to stay. But Ahmed promised to find me another room, and he was as good as his word.

He was lending a hand to the provisional government because he was strongly opposed to Gaddafi – as was the rest of his family. He came from the Fornaj district of the city, and was contemptuous of the efforts of government spies to penetrate its network of extended families.

He derided Gaddafi’s absurd personality cult and his fear of subversive ideas: ‘Books used to be more difficult to bring into the country than weapons. You had to leave them at the airport for two or three months so they could be checked.’

He had spent 6 years studying in Norway and spoke Norwegian as well as English.

On returning to Libya he got a job on the staff of the Radisson Blu. One of Gaddafi’s sons, Al-Saadi, had a suite in the hotel, and he watched the ruling family and their friends doing business and enjoying themselves.

Ahmed was a self-confident man, not noticeably intimidated by the sporadic shooting which was keeping most people in Tripoli off the streets. I asked him if he would consider working for me as a guide and assistant and he agreed.

Tripoli had run out of petrol but he quickly found some, along with a car and driver willing to risk the rebel checkpoints. He was adept at talking to the militiamen manning the barricades, and helped me get out of the city when the roads were blocked.

After a few weeks I left Libya; I later heard that he was working for other journalists.

Then in October I got a message saying that he was dead, shot through the head by a pro-Gaddafi sniper in the final round of fighting in Sirte on the coast, far to the east of Tripoli. It turned out that there was a lot that Ahmed hadn’t told me.

When the protests started in Benghazi on 15 February he had been among the first to demonstrate in Fornaj, and he was arrested.

His younger brother Mohammed told me that ‘he was jailed for two hours or less before his friends and the protesters broke into the police station and freed him.’

When Gaddafi’s forces regained control of Tripoli, Ahmed drove to the Nafusa Mountains, a hundred miles south-west of the capital to try to join the rebels there, but they didn’t know or trust him so he had to return.

He smuggled weapons and gelignite into Tripoli and became involved in a plot, never put into action, to blow up Al-Saadi Gaddafi’s suite in the Radisson.

Mohammed said Ahmed felt bad that he’d spent much of the revolution making money and, despite his best efforts, had never actually fought.

He went to Sirte, where Gaddafi’s forces were making a last stand, and joined a militia group from Misrata.

He had no military experience, as far as I know, but he didn’t flinch during bombardments and was stoical when he was caught in an ambush and wounded by shrapnel from a mortar bomb, and the militiamen were impressed.

On 8 October his commander told Ahmed to take a squad of 6 men to hunt for snipers who had killed a number of rebel fighters. He was shot dead by one of them a few hours later.

What would Ahmed think of the Libyan revolution now?

An interim government is nominally in control but the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi have been full of militia checkpoints manned by some of the 225,000 registered militiamen whose loyalty is to their commanders rather than the state that pays them.

When demonstrators appeared outside the headquarters of the Misrata militia in Tripoli on 15 November demanding that they go home, the militiamen opened fire with everything from Kalashnikov to anti-aircraft guns, killing 43 protesters and wounding some 400 others.

This led to popular protests in which many militias were forced out of Tripoli, though it’s not clear whether this is permanent.

Earlier the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped by militia gunmen without a shot being fired by his own guards to protect him. (He was released after a few hours.)

Mutinying militias have closed the oil ports to exports and eastern Libya is threatening to secede.

The Libyan state has collapsed, for the simple reason that the rebels were too weak to fill the vacuum left by the fall of the old regime. After all, it was Nato airstrikes, not rebel strength, that overthrew Gaddafi.

It’s a similar story elsewhere in the Middle East.

The uprisings of the Arab Spring have so far produced anarchy in Libya, a civil war in Syria, greater autocracy in Bahrain and resumed dictatorial rule in Egypt.  (All these failures thanks to US/Saudi Kingdom/Israel/France ) who don’t want changes and democracy in the region)

In Syria, the uprising began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the brutality of Assad’s regime. ‘Peace! Peace!’ protesters chanted. But ‘if there was a fair election in Syria today,’ one commentator said, ‘Assad would probably win it.’

It isn’t only the protesters and insurgents of 2011 whose aspirations are being frustrated or crushed.

In March 2003 the majority of Iraqis from all sects and ethnic groups wanted to see the end of Saddam’s disastrous rule even if they didn’t necessarily support the US invasion.

But the government now in power in Baghdad is as sectarian, corrupt and dysfunctional as Saddam’s ever was. (Not true, even then. Obama dispatched ISIS to occupy Mosul because Maliki PM refused to have US military presence in Iraq)

There may be less state violence, but only because the state is weaker. (just witness what is happening by the end of 2017)

Its methods are equally brutal: Iraqi prisons are full of people who have made false confessions under torture or the threat of it. An Iraqi intellectual who had planned to open a museum in Abu Ghraib prison so that Iraqis would never forget the barbarities of Saddam’s regime (you mean USA occupation?) found that there was no space available because the cells were full of new inmates.

Iraq is still an extraordinarily dangerous place. ‘I never imagined that 10 years after the fall of Saddam you would still be able to get a man killed in Baghdad by paying $100, an Iraqi who’d been involved in the abortive museum project told me. (Isis is now defeated in Iraq and US still claim Iraq needs its military presence) 

Why have oppositions in the Arab world and beyond failed so absolutely, and why have they repeated in power, or in pursuit of it, so many of the faults and crimes of the old regimes? (Simple: still confronting the colonial powers who refuse any change)

The contrast between humanitarian principles expressed at the beginning of revolutions and the bloodbath at the end has many precedents, from the French Revolution on.

But over the last twenty years in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus the rapid degradation of what started as mass uprisings has been particularly striking.

I was in Moscow at the start of the second Russo-Chechen war in October 1999, and flew with a party of journalists to Chechnya to see the Chechen president, Aslan Maskhadov, in his headquarters in Grozny, where he was desperately trying – and failing – to avert the Russian assault by calling for a ceasefire.

We were housed in a former barracks which seemed worryingly vulnerable to Russian air attack. But it soon became evident that the presidential guard’s greatest anxiety was that we would be abducted by Chechen kidnappers and held for ransom.

The first Chechen revolt in 1994-96 was seen as a heroic popular struggle for independence. (An extremist Islamic regime, as the one ISIS was trying to install?)

Three years later it had been succeeded by a movement that was highly sectarian, criminalized and dominated by warlords.

The war became too dangerous to report and disappeared off the media map. ‘In the first Chechen war,’ one reporter told me, ‘I would have been fired by my agency if I had left Grozny. Now the risk of kidnapping is so great I would be fired for going there.’

The pattern set in Chechnya has been repeated elsewhere with depressing frequency.

The extent of the failure of the uprisings of 2011 to establish better forms of governance has surprised opposition movements, their Western backers (the common people, Not the ruling elites) and what was once a highly sympathetic foreign media.

The surprise is due, in part, to a misunderstanding of what the uprisings were about. Revolutions come into being because of an unpredictable coincidence of forces with different motives targeting a common enemy. (Never confuse long-term causes with instant catalysts)

The political, social and economic roots of the upsurges of 2011 go deep. That this wasn’t obvious to everyone at the time is partly a result of the way foreign commentators exaggerated the role of new information technology. Protesters, skilled in propaganda if nothing else, could see the advantage of presenting the uprisings to the West as non-threatening ‘velvet’ revolutions with English-speaking, well-educated bloggers and tweeters prominently in the vanguard.

The purpose was to convey to Western public that the new revolutionaries were comfortingly similar to themselves, that what was happening in the Middle East in 2011 was similar to the anti-communist and pro-Western uprisings in Eastern Europe after 1989.

Opposition demands were all about personal freedom: social and economic inequality were rarely declared to be issues, even when they were driving popular rage against the status quo. (Wrong. Personal freedom was the slogan, Not the real demands)

The centre of Damascus had recently been taken over by smart shops and restaurants, but the mass of Syrians saw their salaries stagnating while prices rose: farmers ruined by four years of drought were moving into shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities.

The UN said that between two and three million Syrians were living in ‘extreme poverty’; small manufacturing companies were put out of business by cheap imports from Turkey and China; economic liberalization, lauded in foreign capitals, concentrated wealth in the hands of a politically well-connected few.

Even members of the Mukhabarat, the secret police, were trying to survive on $200 a month. ‘When it first came to power, the Assad regime embodied the neglected countryside, its peasants and neglected underclass,’ an International Crisis Group report says. ‘Today’s ruling elite has forgotten its roots. It has inherited power rather than fought for it … and mimicked the ways of the urban upper class.’

The same was true of the quasi-monarchical families and their associates operating in parallel fashion in Egypt, Libya and Iraq.

Confident of their police-state powers, they ignored the hardships of the rest of the population, especially the underemployed, over-educated and very numerous youth, few of whom felt that they had any chance of improving their lives.

The inability of new governments across the Middle East to end the violence can be ascribed to a simple-minded delusion that most problems would vanish once democracies had replaced the old police states. (No delusion here. Cannot construct anything in the presence of extremist violent factions created by the US and its allies)

Opposition movements, persecuted at home and often living a hand to mouth existence in exile, half-believed this and it was easy to sell to foreign sponsors. A great disadvantage of this way of seeing things was that Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi were so demonized it became difficult to engineer anything approaching a compromise or a peaceful transition from the old to a new regime.

In 2003  Iraq former members of the Baath Party were sacked, thus impoverishing a large part of the population, which had no alternative but to fight. The Syrian opposition refuses to attend peace talks in Geneva if Assad is allowed to play a role, even though the areas of Syria under his control are home to most of the population.

In Libya the militias insisted on an official ban on employing anyone who had worked for Gaddafi’s regime, even those who had ended their involvement 30 years before. These exclusion policies were partly a way of guaranteeing jobs for the boys. But they deepen sectarian, ethnic and tribal divisions and provide the ingredients for civil war.

What is the glue that is meant to hold these new post-revolutionary states together?

Nationalism isn’t much in favour in the West, where it is seen as a mask for racism or militarism, supposedly outmoded in an era of globalisation and humanitarian intervention. (everything but capitulation is Not favored by the Western colonial powers, even now)

But intervention in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 turned out to be very similar to imperial takeover in the 19th century.

There was absurd talk of ‘nation-building’ to be carried out or assisted by foreign powers, who clearly have their own interests in mind just as Britain did when Lloyd George orchestrated the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire.

A justification for the “Arab” leaders who seized power in the late 1960s was that they would create powerful states capable, finally, of giving reality to national independence.

They didn’t wholly fail: Gaddafi played a crucial role in raising the price of oil in 1973 and Hafez al-Assad created a state that could hold its own in a protracted struggle with Israel for predominance in Lebanon.

But to opponents of these regimes nationalism was simply a propaganda ploy on the part of ruthless dictatorships concerned to justify their hold on power. But without nationalism – even where the unity of the nation is something of a historic fiction – states lack an ideology that would enable them to compete as a focus of loyalty with religious sects or ethnic groups.

It’s easy enough to criticise the rebels and reformers in the Arab world for failing to resolve the dilemmas they faced in overturning the status quo. Their actions seem confused and ineffective when compared to the Cuban revolution or the liberation struggle in Vietnam. (Simply because one people  in Syria, one people in the Nile river and one people in north Africa were artificially divided in pseud-States by colonial powers)

But the political terrain in which they have had to operate over the last twenty years has been particularly tricky. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that the endorsement or tolerance of the US – and the US alone – was crucial for a successful takeover of power.

Nasser was able to turn to Moscow to assert Egyptian independence in the Suez crisis of 1956, but after the Soviet collapse smaller states could no longer find a place for themselves between Moscow and Washington. Saddam said in 1990 that one of the reasons he invaded Kuwait when he did was that in future such a venture would no longer be feasible as Iraq would be faced with unopposed American power.

In the event, he got his diplomatic calculations spectacularly wrong, but his forecast was otherwise realistic – at least until perceptions of American military might were downgraded by Washington’s failure to achieve its aims in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

So the insurgencies in the Middle East face immense difficulties, and they have faltered, stalled, been thrown on the defensive or apparently defeated. But without the rest of the world noticing, one national revolution in the region is moving from success to success.

In 1990 the Kurds, left without a state after the fall of the Ottomans, were living in their tens of millions as persecuted and divided minorities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Rebellion in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 failed disastrously, with at least 180,000 killed by poison gas or executed in the final days of the conflict. (The Shah of Iran and Saddam resolved this conflict in a single day. And the Kurdish army in Iraq deposed its weapons)

In Turkey, guerrilla action by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who combined Marxism-Leninism with Kurdish nationalism, began in 1974 but by the end of the 1990s it had been crushed by the Turkish army.

Kurds were driven into the cities; and 3,000 of their villages were destroyed. (Western media never covered these atrocities)

In north-east Syria, Arab settlers were moved onto Kurdish land and many Kurds denied citizenship; in Iran, the government kept a tight grip on its Kurdish provinces.

How the Kurdish conditions now changed?

In Iraq the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), though it shares power with the central government in Baghdad, is close to becoming an oil-rich independent state, militarily and diplomatically more powerful than many members of the UN States.

Until recently the Turks would impound any freight sent to the KRG if the word ‘Kurdistan’ appeared in the address, but in November the KRG president, Massoud Barzani, gave a speech in the Turkish Kurd capital of Diyarbakir and talked of ‘the brotherhood of Turks and Kurds’.

Standing with him was the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke of ‘Kurdistan’ as if he’d forgotten that a few years ago the name had been enough to land anyone who uttered it in a Turkish jail. (Currently, Erdogan consider the Kurds everywhere as the existential enemies of Turkey)

In Syria meanwhile, the PKK’s local branch has taken control of much of the north-east corner of the country, where two and a half million Kurds live.

The rebellion in the Kurdish heartlands has been ongoing for nearly half a century.

In Iraq the two main Kurdish parties, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, were expert at manipulating foreign intelligence services – Iranian, Syrian, American and Turkish – without becoming their permanent puppets (Crappy pronouncement on these expertise)

They built up a cadre of well-educated and politically sophisticated leaders and established alliances with non-Kurdish opposition groups. They were lucky that their worst defeat was followed by Saddam’s self-destructive invasion of Kuwait, which enabled them to take control of an enclave protected by US airpower in 1991.

At this point, despite having gained more independence than any previous Kurdish movement, the KDP and PUK embarked on a vicious civil war with the Iraqi state. But then they had another stroke of luck when 9/11 provided the US with the excuse to invade and overthrow Saddam. The Kurdish leaders positioned themselves carefully between the US and Iran without becoming dependent on either.

It isn’t yet clear how the bid of 30 million Kurds for some form of national self-determination will play out, but they have become too powerful to be easily suppressed. Their success has lessons for the movements of the Arab Spring, whose failure isn’t as inevitable as it may seem.

The political, social and economic forces that led to the ruptures of 2011 are as powerful as ever. Had the Arab opposition movements played their cards as skilfully as the Kurds, the uprisings might not have foundered as they have done.

None of the religious parties that took power, whether in Iraq in 2005 or Egypt in 2012, has been able to consolidate its authority.

Rebels everywhere look for support to the foreign enemies of the state they are trying to overthrow, but the Kurds are better at this than anyone else, having learned the lesson of 1975, when Iran betrayed them to Saddam by signing the Algiers Agreement, cutting off their supply of arms. The Syrian opposition, by contrast, can only reflect the policies and divisions of its sponsors.

Resistance to the state was too rapidly militarised in order for opposition movements to develop an experienced national leadership and a political programme. (That is the strategy of the colonial powers of Not letting opposition forces to connect with the existing political system and have open discussions.)

The discrediting of nationalism and communism, combined with the need to say what the US wanted to hear, meant that they were at the mercy of events, lacking any vision of a non-authoritarian nation state capable of competing with the religious fanaticism of the Sunni militants of al-Qaeda, and similar movements financed by the oil states of the Gulf.

But the Middle East is entering a long period of ferment in which counter-revolution may prove as difficult to consolidate as revolution.

Note:  Patrick Cockburn London Review of Books Vol. 36 No. 1 · 9 January 2014. Pages 25-27 | 3282 words

Erdogan’s Victory in the Referendum on His Powers Will Leave Turkey Even More Divided

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday in a referendum on a proposal to massively expand his power, while dismissing the objections of opposition parties who challenged the outcome of the vote.

Erdogan’s victory sets in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency.

According to preliminary results, a small majority of Turkish voters approved the set of 18 constitutional amendments that limits parliament’s oversight of the executive, eliminates the office of the Prime Minister, and expands presidential power over judicial appointments.

Erdogan and his supporters say the constitutional changes are needed to ensure stability, while opponents denounced the amendments as a step toward an era of autocracy.

The narrow, disputed outcome of the vote also sets the stage for a bitter struggle over the validity of the referendum results.

According to Turkey’s state news agency, the yes vote won by a margin of 51.2% to 48.8%. However, two opposition parties said they would challenge the result, citing violations in the vote-counting procedure.

The campaign also took place in the wake of a vast political crackdown in Turkey following a failed military coup last July. The questions about the referendum’s results now promise to sow even more division in a country already deeply polarized over the figure of Erdogan and the merits of his proposed presidential system.

Addressing his supporters on Sunday night, Erdogan brushed aside questions of legitimacy, claiming a definitive victory in the referendum. “The discussion is over. ‘Yes’ has won.” (Since when discussion was practically made available? The Turkish TV stations refused to air the opinions of the NO oppositions)

Throughout the referendum campaign, Erdogan has argued the new system of government would introduce political stability and security. It certainly promises to make Erdogan the undisputed leader of Turkey for years to come, inviting comparisons to Vladimir Putin of Russia and other populist autocrats.

“Who’s going to stop Erdogan? There never was anyone to stop Erdogan, but now, even the formal possibility of there being something is erased from the law,” says Selim Sazak, a fellow at the Delma Institute, an Abu Dhabi–based think tank.

The dispute over the outcome of the referendum centers on a last-minute decision by the state election board to count ballots that did not receive an official authenticating stamp.

The country’s largest opposition party says that as many as 1.5 million ballots did not receive such a stamp, a number that would more than account for the margin of victory in the margin of victory of 1.3 million reported by the state news agency.

“At least half the country said no to constitutional change. This shouldn’t be carried against the public’s will,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the centrist Republican People’s Party, in a televised address on Sunday night. Angry demonstrations erupted late Sunday night in neighborhoods of Istanbul where the opposition is heavily represented.

“This is a very close call, so I don’t think people are going to let it go necessarily. It will probably be talked about for some time,” says Selim Koru, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey. He adds, “The President is obviously going to continue and try to enact a transition to make everything irreversible as quickly as he can.”

The entire referendum campaign took place amid political crackdown in the aftermath of a deadly military coup last July that failed to dislodge Erdogan and killed more than 200 people.

After surviving the coup attempt, Erdogan moved to consolidate power, with authorities jailing thousands and dismissing tens of thousands of civil servants, soldiers, police officers, teachers, justice officials and others from their jobs.

In a parallel set of court cases, hundreds of members of one major opposition party — the Peoples’ Democratic Party — have been imprisoned on terrorism charges, among them Members of Parliament. The government accuses the party of ties to outlawed Kurdish militants who are engaged in a long-running war with the Turkish state.

The results of the national vote also suggest some weaknesses in the President’s base of support.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, where Erdogan came of age and rose to stardom as the elected mayor in the 1990s, the no votes edged out the yes votes.

The “no” campaign also won the capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir, a major coastal city.

A significant number of supporter’s of Erdogan’s own party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), voted against the constitutional changes, signaling distrust with a the expansion of the power of a President who already has unrivaled control.

In Istanbul’s Kasimpasa neighborhood, where Erdogan lived as a teenager and a young man, some of the President’s supporters said they voted no.

“A presidential system doesn’t sound right to me,” said Nazli Kaya, 32, standing outside a polling station in a school in Kasimpasa. “I believe in diversity. I don’t want a one-man system,” she says.

Blamed as Coup Mastermind? Fethullah Gulen

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says that a mild-mannered Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania was pulling the strings of a coup attempt last week that almost succeeded in taking over the state, and killing Mr. Erdogan himself.

Now, Mr. Erdogan says that many thousands of Turkish citizens — soldiers, policemen, bureaucrats, teachers, judges, lawyers and many more professions — are all part of the cleric’s movement and must be punished.

Tens of thousands of people have already been arrested or suspended from their jobs in the four days since the coup failed, after a night of violence that plunged the country into chaos.

Mr. Erdogan and the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, have been adversaries in recent years, and Turkey has said that Mr. Gulen must be extradited by the United States. Now, though, Mr. Erdogan appears determined to get him back, a matter that threatens to aggravate relations between the two NATO allies.

But who is Mr. Gulen? And is it possible he is behind such a vast conspiracy?

James F. Jeffrey, a former American ambassador to Turkey now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, called the organization a “cultlike” movement, and said no one really had solid information about its size and aims.

But many experts on Turkey, Mr. Jeffrey included, say the followers of Mr. Gulen have sought to gain power within Turkey by infiltrating state institutions, most successfully the judiciary and the police.

“They are a state within a state,” he said. “They have infiltrated many places.”

In the past, Mr. Gulen has been embraced by American officials as a moderate Islamic leader: someone who promotes interfaith dialogue, leads a worldwide network of charities and secular schools, favors good relations with Israel and opposes harder-line Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. (He is the Turkish Moslem Brotherhood leader)

In Turkey, his supporters have long filled the ranks of the police, judiciary and, to a lesser extent, the military, something Mr. Gulen has encouraged in speeches.

Having fled the country in 1999 as Turkey’s old secular elite charged him with trying to overthrow the state, he landed in the United States, where a former C.I.A. official helped him get a green card.

The darker suspicions of his movement have emerged as a central plotline in the aftermath of the failed military coup in Turkey, with Mr. Erdogan accusing him of being the mastermind of the conspiracy.

Turkish officials on Tuesday, including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, raised the pressure on the United States to hand over Mr. Gulen, promising to send dossiers of evidence of his role in the plot.

The White House said on Tuesday that it received an electronic file from Turkey on the matter, though it was unclear that it was a formal extradition request.

“The Department of Justice and the Department of State will review those materials consistent with the requirements of the extradition treaty between the United States and Turkey that’s been on the books for more than 30 years now,” Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Obama spoke by telephone, with Mr. Obama offering help to investigate the coup, but giving no indication in a statement by the White House of a willingness to promptly send Mr. Gulen back.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkey was intent on destroying the Gulen movement “by its roots.” And the government has moved quickly, raising concerns it is more interested in silencing all opposition than rooting out those behind the coup.

Nearly 35,000 members of the military, police and judiciary have either been arrested or dismissed.

On Tuesday, the government suspended more than 15,000 members of the Education Ministry, forced more than 1,500 university deans to resign and revoked the licenses of 21,000 private schoolteachers.

All of them, officials said, are suspected of having some link to Mr. Gulen.

The Turkish military, in a statement, blamed the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” for the coup plot, and said the plotters had held at gunpoint the military’s chief of staff, demanding that he sign a document supporting the coup, which he refused to do.

nytimes.com|By Tim Arango and Ben Hubbard

Mr. Gulen, a mystic preacher of the Sufi branch of Islam who lives in a secluded compound in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania, has become a central point of tension between the United States and Turkey.

One Turkish official said he believed the United States played a role in the coup, an accusation Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed on Sunday as “irresponsible.” Still, in a front-page column on Tuesday, the editor in chief of a pro-government newspaper wrote, “The U.S. Tried to Assassinate Erdogan!”

At the very least, the prospect of a contentious extradition process is likely to complicate relations between the allies at a time when the United States is relying on Turkey as a crucial partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

Referring to the United States, Mr. Yildirim said, “we would be disappointed if our friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organization are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person.” He added, “At this stage there could even be a questioning of our friendship.”

Mr. Kerry has said Turkey, as part of the extradition process, must provide evidence that withstands scrutiny in an American court — something analysts say Turkey does not have.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gulen again denied any involvement. “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today once again demonstrated he will go to any length necessary to solidify his power and persecute his critics,” Mr. Gulen said in a statement. “It is ridiculous, irresponsible and false to suggest I had anything to do with the horrific failed coup. I urge the U.S. government to reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas.”

Turkish officials may be certain about Mr. Gulen’s actions and motives, but the nature of his movement has long confounded analysts and diplomats in Turkey, partly because the organization is opaque and individuals do not openly declare allegiance to it.

Mr. Jeffrey said it would have been hard for Gulen followers, as Islamists, to infiltrate the armed forces, which have been a stronghold of secularism in Turkey.

In diplomatic cable written in 2009, and made public by WikiLeaks, Mr. Jeffrey detailed how Mr. Gulen came to exile in the United States.

He left Turkey in 1999 after being charged with plotting to overthrow the state. The charges, Mr. Jeffrey wrote, were based on a sermon Mr. Gulen had given in which he said, “our friends, who have positions in legislative and administrative bodies, should learn its details and be vigilant all the time so they can transform it and be more fruitful on behalf of Islam in order to create a nationwide restoration.”

Mr. Gulen was later acquitted, in absentia, on all charges.

Jenny White, a professor at the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies who has studied the Gulen movement, said it is centered on a worldwide network of secular schools. The goal, she said, is to create a “golden generation of young people who are educated in science, but have Muslim ethics.”

The group is socially conservative, but religious texts do not play a large role for the movement. While women are active in the movement, they are not included in decision making.

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gulen were once Islamist allies, at war with Turkey’s old secular elite.

After Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party came to power more than a decade ago, they teamed up to tame the military, which overthrew four elected governments last century.

A series of sensational trials, which were overseen by Gulen-affiliated judges and prosecutors and were later determined to have relied, in part, on fabricated evidence, sent hundreds of officers to prison and seemed to have secured civilian control over the military.

But three years ago, the two men had a bitter falling out as Mr. Gulen opposed the leader’s increasingly autocratic tendencies. Mr. Erdogan accused Mr. Gulen of orchestrating a corruption inquiry of top officials close to Mr. Erdogan, using the same prosecutors who had targeted the military.

Ever since, they have been enemies, and this week the government accelerated its efforts to purge the state of anyone it believes is affiliated with Mr. Gulen, or directly involved in the coup.

Ibrahim Kalin, Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman, said on Tuesday that the United States should turn him over to Turkey.

“Why hold him?” he said. “Send him to Turkey to let him go through the judicial process here and if he can prove that he is not guilty, then he can go back.”

Turks have long suspected that Mr. Gulen was an American agent, and inflaming the conspiracy theories is the fact that Graham E. Fuller, a former C.I.A. official who was once stationed in Istanbul, wrote a letter to support Mr. Gulen’s application for a green card.

Mr. Fuller, in an interview with The New York Times in 2014, said he did so on his own, not on behalf of the American government. (Funny)

In the letter, he said he wrote, to the effect, “of all the movements I’ve studied, this one is probably least likely to be a security threat.”

 

Mothers of all Palestinians must be killed: Israeli MP

Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked

Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked
Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:41PM GMT
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A well-known Israeli politician and parliament member has branded  Palestinians as terrorists, saying mothers of all Palestinians should also be killed during the ongoing Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza Strip,.

Daily Sabah reported.

Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.

“They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” Shaked said, adding, “They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.”

The remarks are considered as a call for genocide as she declared that all Palestinians are Israel’s enemies and must be killed.

On Monday (July 7) Shaked quoted this on her Facebook page:

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism.

They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses.

They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The development comes as many officials from various countries have slammed Israel’s  airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

The Turkish prime minister is the latest to condemn the offensive, accusing Israel of massacring the Palestinians.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Israel, saying it is committing state terrorism against the Palestinians in the region. Speaking in parliament, he also questioned the world’s silence toward Tel Aviv’s ongoing atrocities.

Reacting to Shaked’s remarks, the Turkish premier said Israel’s policy in Gaza is no different than Hitler’s mentality.

“An Israeli woman said Palestinian mothers should be killed, too. And she’s a member of the Israeli parliament. What is the difference between this mentality and Hitler’s?” Erdogan asked.

The developments come as the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has recently said women and children make up a sizeable number of Palestinian fatalities caused by Israeli attacks on the besieged region.

Ayelet Shaked represents the far-right Jewish Home party in the Knesset.

Related Interviews:
Related Viewpoints:

America’s 25 Most Awkward Allies

Last December, National Security Adviser Susan Rice offered a remarkably candid insight into Barack Obama’s foreign policy. “Let’s be honest,” she said, “at times … we do business with governments that do not respect the rights…
Politico posted:
American presidents have long wrestled with this dilemma. During the Cold War, whether it was Dwight Eisenhower overthrowing Iran’s duly elected prime minister or Richard Nixon winking at Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, they often made unsavory moral compromises.
Even Jimmy Carter, who said America’s “commitment to human rights must be absolute,” cut deals with dictators.

But Obama, an idealist at home, has turned out to be more cold-blooded than most recent presidents about the tough choices to be made in the world, downgrading democracy and human rights accordingly.

From Syria to Ukraine, Egypt to Venezuela, this president has shied away from the pay-any-price, bear-any-burden global ambitions of his predecessors, preferring quiet diplomacy to the bully pulpit—when he is engaged at all.

He has his reasons.

A decade of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan soured Americans on George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” taking invasion off the table as a policy tool. And there are broader global forces at work too: the meteoric rise of China, new tools for repressing dissent, the malign effect of high oil prices.

Freedom in the world has declined for 8 straight years, according to Freedom House—not just under Obama.

But if the president is troubled by these trends, he shows few signs of it. “We live in a world of imperfect choices,” Obama shrugged last year—and his administration has made many, currying favor with a rogue’s gallery of tyrants and autocrats.

Here, Politico Magazine has assembled a list of America’s 25 most awkward friends and allies, from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, Honduras to Uzbekistan—and put together a damning, revelatory collection of reports on the following pages about the “imperfect choices” the United States has made in each. “I will not pretend that some short-term tradeoffs do not exist,” Rice admitted. Neither will we.

1. Pakistan

America’s worst ally—being home to Osama bin Laden will do that to your reputation—Pakistan has gobbled up billions of dollars in U.S. aid and “reimbursements” for services rendered in the war on terror.

And while Pakistan’s powerful military and spy services have often collaborated with their American counterparts on drone strikes and militant arrests, they’ve just as often made mischief, hosting the Taliban and other extremist groups, planting false anti-American stories in the press and undermining the civilian government.

“The cancer is in Pakistan,” Obama reportedly told his staff in 2009—but he has yet to figure out how to excise it.

2. Saudi Arabia

Ever since 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt huddled with King Saud bin Abdulaziz for five awkward hours on a U.S. warship, the United States has had uncomfortably intimate relations with Saudi Arabia.

Seventy years later, the two countries are trapped in a loveless marriage. No country buys more U.S. weapons than the autocratic, oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchy, and no country—with its obscurantist interpretation of Islam, medieval punishments and harsh treatment of women—makes for a more embarrassing U.S. ally.

But the relationship is in increasing need of counseling as the Saudis grow exasperated with U.S. policies in the Middle East, especially in Syria, and threaten to find other partners. As the Saudi foreign minister put it, “It’s a Muslim marriage, not a Catholic marriage.”

3. Afghanistan

Bribery, embezzlement, corruption. And that’s just on the part of America’s partners in Afghanistan.

As the United States prepares to wind down its 13-year war on the unforgiving Afghan plains and craggy mountain hideaways, it has given up on almost any pretense of nation-building in a country where President George W. Bush once promised to help build a “free and stable democracy.”

The United States is even, it turns out, giving tens of millions of dollars in cash directly from the CIA to Hamid Karzai, the mercurial tribal leader it installed as president in 2001. Sure, there have been lectures about good governance and reams of reports tsk-tsking over the colossal waste, fraud and abuse of the roughly $100 billion in U.S. aid and reconstruction money that has flowed into Afghan coffers, but little has changed, and the United States has basically stopped trying.

Standing next to Karzai last year, Obama summed up America’s diminished expectations, asking, “Have we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios? Probably not.”

4. Iraq

In November 2013, President Obama praised Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for “ensuring a strong, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq.”

One has to wonder just which Maliki—and which Iraq—Obama was talking about. Since his selection in 2006, Maliki has consolidated power to the point where many alienated Sunnis call him the “Shiite Saddam,” while the country has exploded anew with sectarian violence that killed more than 8,000 people in 2013.

Just weeks after Maliki’s visit to the White House, al Qaeda was taking over large swaths of Fallujah and Ramadi, two cities where American forces had fought pitched battles in the streets.

Never mind that the United States has sold Iraq some $14 billion in military hardware since 2005 and quietly left behind dozens of military and CIA advisers since its 2011 pullout—the spillover from Syria’s civil war has proven too much for the Iraqis to handle. And in more ways than one: U.S. officials also accuse Maliki’s government of looking the other way as its close neighbor, Iran, supplies the murderous Syrian regime with cash, weapons and advisers.

5. Egypt

Coup or no coup, the United States still showers the Arab world’s most populous state with $1.3 billion in military aid each year—a tradition owing to Egypt’s strategic position astride the Suez Canal and next door to Israel.

Since haranguing Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to step down “now” in February 2011 amid the inspiring protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Obama administration has largely been reduced to hand-wringing as the men in khaki reclaimed power, killing hundreds of Islamist protesters along the way.

6. Equatorial Guinea

 Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo—who claims, “There is total freedom of expression, there has never been repression” in his country—is in fact a famously corrupt thug; after toppling his own uncle in 1979 to seize power in Equatorial Guinea, he has amassed a fortune estimated at several hundred million dollars, while more than three-quarters of Equatorial Guineans live in abject squalor and outright repression.

Washington has also cashed in on the tiny country’s massive if ill-distributed wealth, with American lobbyists, defense contractors and banks variously taking on Obiang as a client during his more than 34 years of strongman rule. In 1995, the United States shuttered its embassy in Malabo after threats to the life of the U.S. ambassador, an outspoken human rights defender.

A 1999 State Department report found that Obiang’s sadistic security forces had, among other horrors, rubbed prisoners’ bodies with grease to attract stinging ants. But no matter: In 2003, the United States agreed to reopen the embassy, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later warmly welcomed Obiang to Washington as a “good friend.”

Even President Obama has posed for a photo op with the dictator, who once won reelection with 103 percent of the vote in some precincts. Why all the love? Equatorial Guinea’s $9 billion oil and gas bonanza, almost all of it produced by U.S. companies, has made it one of the largest destinations for U.S. investment in Africa, and much of that oil, naturally, finds its way across the Atlantic.

A one-party state that ranks among the world’s poorest countries, Djibouti is essentially a French satrapy with a drone base, leased to the United States.
The country has little to offer other than its strategic location on the Horn of Africa, north of war-torn Somalia and west of al Qaeda-infested Yemen. But for a United States more concerned with its security than with Djiboutian freedoms—and there aren’t many to speak of—that turns out to be good enough.
23. Morocco 
 When uprisings spread across Arab countries in 2011, Morocco worked hard to convince the world that it was a stable exception. To appease protesters in dozens of cities and towns across the country, King Mohammed VI quickly reworked his constitution—winning much praise from a Washington desperate for an Arab Spring success story, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called Morocco “a model” for the region.
As it turned out, the king retained much of his power, which he duly exercises through a Potemkin parliament, police abuses against dissidents, press constraints and his own investment holding company, which has stakes in virtually every sector of the country’s economy.
The king’s ardor for reform may have cooled, but the United States has upgraded ties anyway, holding a “strategic dialogue” with Morocco in September 2012 and, a little over a year later, rewarding “King Mo” with a prized White House visit for the first time in nine years.
24. Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled this Central Asian powerhouse since 1989—that’s two years before the fall of the Soviet Union—is nothing if not a clever autocrat.
He’s marketed himself brilliantly as a man the West can do business with, from giving up his post-Soviet nuclear stockpiles two decades ago to splashing money around Washington, D.C., to helping the United States ship supplies in and out of Afghanistan.
Much of Kazakhstan’s immense oil wealth, meanwhile, reportedly makes its way into the hands of Nazarbayev’s cronies. At a March 2012 meeting in Seoul, South Korea, President Obama said it was “wonderful” to see Nazarbayev again, tactfully not mentioning that his government has rigged elections and imprisoned political opponents to stay in power, or that his party holds nearly all the seats in both houses of the legislature.
U.S. companies have invested heavily in Kazakh oil: Chevron led the way in 1993, and last year ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips started pumping crude in a Kazakh oil field that is the world’s largest outside the Middle East.
25. Turkey
 Obama seems to have a soft spot for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the voluble and volatile Islamist leader of this longtime U.S. and NATO ally. As Erdogan has trampled on basic freedoms, fended off dubious “coup attempts” and feuded with Israel, Obama has indulged his Turkish friend while keeping public criticism to a minimum.
No longer, at least, do U.S. officials voice their always questionable hope that a Muslim, democratic Turkey could inspire an Arab world in the throes of revolution.
Note 1: Andrew Bossone commented in his link:
Politico’s mindless garbage “America’s 25 Most Awkward Allies” summarizes entire nations in a graf or two of cliches.
And yeah it’s missing some governments like: UK, Israel, Yemen (although it does give a shout out to it as “al Qaeda infested“), Ukraine, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile… I could go on. Basically it’s an opportunity to bash a bunch of Middle East countries, toss in a couple Caucuses nations, and add Honduras just so South America is represented.
Obviously written by a snarky poli-sci graduate who hangs in Adams Morgan.
The article doesn’t put any blame on the US gov’t for anything other than having these other governments as allies.
Note 2: Photos from list via Associated Press unless otherwise noted. Pablo Martinez Monsivais; Ron Edmonds; Charles Dharapak; Pablo Martinez Monsivais; Jim Watson/AFP; Lawrence Jackson/White House; U.S. State Department; Sameh Refaat/U.S. Embassy Egypt; Charles Dharapak; Spencer Platt/Getty Images; U.S. State Department; Charles Dharapak; Lawrence Jackson/White House; Lawrence Jackson/White House; Carolyn Kaster; Charles Dharapak; Lawrence Jackson/White House; Pablo Martinez Monsivais; Pete Souza/White House; Cherie A. Thurlby/U.S. Department of Defense; Sayyid Azim; Pablo Martinez Monsivais; Evan Vucci; Pablo Martinez Monsivais; Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Note 3: Read more:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/americas-most-awkward-allies-103889_Page4.html#ixzz2xp8WdmdF

Afghanistan: The Money Pit
By Sarah Chayes
Egypt: The Revolutionary Police State
By Andrew Hammond
Uzbekistan: The Corruption Corridor
By David Trilling
Bahrain: The Base
By Justin Gengler
Myanmar: The Ex-Pariah
By Bertil Lintner
Vietnam: The Ex-Enemy
By John Sifton
Tajikistan: The Narcostate
By Joshua Kucera
Rwanda: The Darling Tyrant
By Anjan Sundaram
Cambodia: The Chinese Puppet
By Dustin Roasa
Honduras: The Thugocracy Next Door
By Dana Frank
Qatar: The Frenemy
By Jonathan Schanzer
Kyrgyzstan: The Launch Pad
By Joanna Lillis
Djibouti: The Airstrip with a Subway
By Aly Verjee
Morocco: The Arab Exception
By Ahmed Benchemsi
Turkey: The Muslim Democracy
By Steven A. Cook

Anti-Zionist facade? Is Turkey’s PM ERDOGAN JEWISH?

Allegedly, Erdogan and his wife are crypto-Jews, and secretly working for the New World Order.
That a person has Jewish roots should not the problem, where is the problem?
That this person feels intimidated to collaborate with apartheid Israel and adhere to the Zionist ideology, on the ground that he has a few drops of “Jewish blood” is racism, pure and simple.
Like this French humorist Mbala Mbala who was unti-racism and anti-apartheid and then “discovered” that one of his parents or a distant relative is an Ethiopian “Falashi Jew” and decided to become an Israeli agent for the last 12 years.
Why has Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, helped the USA and Israel in their attacks on Syria and North Africa?Why do ‘anti-Americans’ in Turkey hate Erdogan’s AKP political party? .
 Noor al Haqiqa posted in  on Nov. 11, 2011

Is TURKEY’S ERDOGAN JEWISH?

Erdogan with his Jewish classmate Rafael Sadi. They studied economics together.
According to Ergün Poyraz, in his book “The Children of Moses“:

1. Erdogan has spoken to the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. The American Jewish Congress gave Erdogan a ‘profiles of courage award’.

2. The Erdogan family has Jewish roots.

Erdogan and friends.

Necmettin Erbakan, a former Prime Minister of Turkey, claims that Erdogan’s tough line on Israel is a façade to deceive the Turkish public.
Felicity Party leader Necmettin Erbakan. December 6, 2010 /ABDULLAH BOZKURT
Erbakan says:“Why on earth did Erdogan’s AK Party give a ‘go ahead’ to the membership of Israel in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and not block membership?“Why did the Turkish government consent to multi-billion dollars worth of defense contracts with Israeli firms?“Erdogan says ‘one-minute’ to Peres during Davos but conducts business as usual with the Jewish state. This is hypocrisy.”

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan (Left) attends a CIA-Al-Qaeda meeting in Libya.

Reportedly, the CIA-Mossad wants its agents and assets to run each of the Moslem countries.
Reportedly, Turkey is the model.
Gulen and friend.
Fethullah Gulen is the founder of the Fethullah or Gulen movement, which some suspect is linked to the CIA.
On 6 August 2011, The Economist reports on a Moslem who is friendly towards Israel
(A hard act to follow). 
This Moslem reportedly has links to heroin.
(Funded by Heroin Via the CIA …
“These days the religious teacher who wields most influence over the Turks is Fethullah Gulen,” says The Economist.
In 2010, 9 Turks, taking supplies to Gaza, were killed by Israeli commandos.Gulen said it was partly the Turkish side’s fault: the flotilla should not have defied Israel.Gulen lives in America and has been accused of having links to the CIA.
The Gulen movement “forms the apex of a huge conglomerate that includes NGOs, firms, newspapers and college dormitories in Turkey, plus schools across the world.”Several journalists who have tried probing Gulen have found themselves prosecuted or jailed.
People who criticize the movement “can face nasty smear campaigns.”
Obama visiting a Gulen school in Washington.
On 29 June 2010, Paul Williams PhD wrote:
 According to Paul Williams:
1. “Court records and the testimony of former government officials show that Fethullah Gulen, who presently resides in Pennsylvania, has amassed more than $25 billion in assets from the heroin route which runs from Afghanistan to Turkey.
2. “Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator, testified that the drug money has been channeled into Gulen’s coffers by the C.I.A.”
According to Sibel Edmonds: ‘A lot of the drugs were going to Belgium with NATO planes.
‘After that, they went to the UK, and a lot came to the US via military planes to distribution centers in Chicago, and Paterson, New Jersey.’
“Ms. Edmonds further said that Turkish diplomats, who would never be searched by airport officials, have come into the country ‘with suitcases of heroin.’
3. “According to Ms. Edmonds and other government witnesses, Gulen began to receive funding from the CIA in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union when federal officials realized that the U.S. could not obtain control of the vast energy resources of the newly created Russian republics because of deep-seated suspicion of American motives.
“Turkey, the U.S. officials came to realize, could serve as a perfect ‘proxy’ since it was a NATO ally that shared the same language, culture, and religion as the other Central Asian countries…
“The only way to provide Gulen with sufficient funds to topple Turkey’s secular regime and to conduct education jihad within the Russian republics came from the poppy fields of Afghanistan…
“The Obama administration has opted to turn a blind eye to Gulen and his mountain fortress in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania…“In his native Turkey, Gulen’s vast fortune has been used to create the Justice and Democratic Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma, AKP), which has gained control of the government…
Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s first Islamist President, is a Gulen disciple along with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, the head of Turkey’s Council of Higher Education…4. “Gulen has purchased newspapers, television networks, construction companies, universities, banks, utilities, technological outlets, pharmaceutics, and manufacturing firms throughout the country.
“In addition, he has established thousands of madrassahs (Islamic religious schools) throughout Central Asia where students are indoctrinated in the tenets of militant Islam…5.“But the Gulen movement is not confined to Turkey and Central Asia.“
85 Gulen schools have been set up in the United States as charter academies funded by public funds.6. “Is Gulen really affiliated with the CIA?
“In support of his application for permanent residency status, Gulen obtained letters of support and endorsement, from Graham Fuller and other former CIA officials.“His petition was also endorsed by former Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman, and former Ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz.”
Note 1: On the Fathallah Gulan movement
Note 2: Fathallah Gulan and Erdogan are currently bitter enemies. Erdogan decided to close all private Islamic primary schools in Turkey and founded by Fathallah, transferred about 1,000 police officers and judges considered to be at the beck of Fathallah and had a law adopted to have Courts controlled by the parliament.  Only Erdogan has the power for these swift and radical changes and only the next election will prove who will remain in power. 

Uruguay in Latin America: Voted the Best country this year

How many Reasons do you You Need To Move To Uruguay?

Looking for a new adventure? Maybe you should head down south.

, BuzzFeed Staff, posted this December 10, 2013

1. They have the BEST President ever.

They have the BEST President ever.

Andres Stapff / Reuters

This is Jose Mujica, better known as Pepe.

He’s considered the ‘poorest President’ because he donates 90 percent of his salary to those in need.

Here’s Uruguay, right next to Argentina and Brazil.

Here's Uruguay, right next to Argentina and Brazil.
gibgalich/gibgalich

Home to 3.3 million awesome Uruguayans.

He's considered the 'poorest President' because he donates 90 percent of his salary to those in need.

Handout / Reuters

He even drives his own car, an old light blue Volkswagen Beetle.

He and his wife are super chill.

He and his wife are super chill.

Oscar Cassini / Via fusion.net

And even pose to passersby during their vacations.

His speeches are always pure perfection. youtube.com

To live you need freedom, and to have freedom you need time.

No, really, he’s the coolest President.

No, really, he's the coolest President.

Handout / Reuters

Here he is being all happy with a guitar signed by Aerosmith.

2. It was once dubbed “the Switzerland of America,” mainly for its banking stability.

It was once dubbed "the Switzerland of America," mainly for its banking stability.

Vepar5/Vepar5

So your savings will be safe!

3. Education is free and secular.

Education is free and secular.

4. Same sex marriage is legal – and celebrated.

Same sex marriage is legal - and celebrated.

5. So is marijuana legal

So is marijuana.

JeremyNathan/JeremyNathan

6. It is one of the VERY few countries in Latin America where abortion is legal.

It is one of the VERY few countries in Latin America where abortion is legal.

AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

7. The opposition to the abortion law wanted a referendum but less than 10% of the population supported it so the law was maintained.

The opposition to the abortion law wanted a referendum but less than 10% of the population supported it so the law was maintainted.

AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

8. Its beaches are one of the best kept secrets in South America.

Its beaches are one of the best kept secrets in South America.

fotoember/fotoember

Very very very nice beaches.

9. But there’s more to see than just sand…

Uruguay is one of the leading meat producers in the world, as that is its main industry.

But there's more to see than just sand... Uruguay is one of the leading meat producers in the world, as that is its main industry.

ToniFlap/ToniFlap

10. It’s estimated that there are 3.5 cows per every person in the country.

It's estimated that there are 3.5 cows per every person in the country.

Tobias Schwarz / Reuters / Reuters

Which means you can either have a bunch as pets or eat a lot of meat.

11. You will hardly ever be stuck in a traffic jam.

You will hardly ever be stuck in a traffic jam.

12. They have a replacement for coffee: It’s called mate and it will amp you up when you drink it.

They have a replacement for coffee: It's called mate and it will amp you up when you drink it.

13. There’s a little town called Cabo Polonio where there’s no electricity ON PURPOSE. Perfect place to get over your Instagram addiction, huh?

There's a little town called Cabo Polonio where there's no electricity ON PURPOSE. Perfect place to get over your Instagram addiction, huh?

joaowendel/joaowendel

14. But if you’re looking for less silence, Punta del Este is considered one of the best party cities in the world.

But if you're looking for less silence, Punta del Este is considered one of the best party cities in the world.

15. Their music will get you out of any chair. youtube.com

Hit play and test yourself.

16. And they definitely know how to party…

And they definitely know how to party...

17. They not only hosted the first World Cup but also won it. And they’re hoping to win again next year.

They not only hosted the first World Cup but also won it. And they're hoping to win again next year.

Pablo La Rosa / Reuters

They have so much confidence they’ll win that when they qualified they made fun of Brazil. youtube.com

Because why not?

18. It’s a fantastic place to buy cheap and beautiful antiques.

It's a fantastic place to buy cheap and beautiful antiques.

19. Uruguayan men are a very well kept secret. Just look at Forlan’s abs…

Uruguayan men are a very well kept secret. Just look at Forlan's abs...

Kevin Granja / Reuters

20. And so are Uruguayan women, like Natalia Oreiro.

And so are Uruguayan women, like Natalia Oreiro.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

21. But above all, they’re considered the nicest and warmest people in South America.

But above all, they're considered the nicest and warmest people in South America.

The Economist published this Dec. 21, 2013:

Country of the year: Uruguay in Latin America

HUMAN life isn’t all bad, but it sometimes feels that way.

Good news is no news: the headlines mostly tell of strife and bail-outs, failure and folly.

2013 has witnessed glory as well as calamity. When the time comes for year-end accounting, both the accomplishments and the cock-ups tend to be judged the offspring of lone egomaniacs or saints, rather than the joint efforts that characterise most human endeavour.

To redress the balance from the individual to the collective, and from gloom to cheer, The Economist has decided, for the first time, to nominate a country of the year.

But how to choose it?

Readers might expect our materialistic outlook to point us to simple measures of economic performance, but they can be misleading.

Focusing on GDP growth would lead us to opt for South Sudan, which will probably notch up a stonking 30% increase in 2013—more the consequence of a 55% drop the previous year, caused by the closure of its only oil pipeline as a result of its divorce from Sudan, than a reason for optimism about a troubled land.

Or we might choose a nation that has endured economic trials and lived to tell the tale. Ireland has come through its bail-out and cuts with exemplary fortitude and calm; Estonia has the lowest level of debt in the European Union. But we worry that this econometric method would confirm the worst caricatures of us as flint-hearted number-crunchers; and not every triumph shows up in a country’s balance of payments.

Another problem is whether to evaluate governments or their people.

In some cases their merits are inversely proportional: consider Ukraine, with its thuggish president, Viktor Yanukovych, and its plucky citizens, freezing for democracy in the streets of Kiev, even though 9 years ago they went to the trouble of having a revolution to keep the same man out of office.

Or remember Turkey, where tens of thousands protested against the creeping autocracy and Islamism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister-cum-sultan. Alas, neither movement has yet been all that successful.

Advertisement?

Definitional questions creep in, too. One possible candidate, Somaliland, has kept both piracy and Islamic extremism at bay, yet on most reckonings it is not a country at all, rather a renegade province of Somalia—which has struggled to contain either.

As well as countries yet to be, we might celebrate one that could soon disintegrate: the United Kingdom, which hasn’t fared too badly, all things considered, since coming into being in 1707, but could fracture in 2014 should the Scots be foolhardy enough to vote for secession.

And the winner is?

When other publications conduct this sort of exercise, but for individuals, they generally reward impact rather than virtue. Thus they end up nominating the likes of Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khomeini or, in 1938, Adolf Hitler.

Adapting that realpolitic rationale, we might choose Bashar Assad’s Syria, from which millions of benighted refugees have now been scattered to freezing camps across the Levant.

If we were swayed by influence per head of population, we might plump for the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands, the clutch of barren rocks in the East China Sea that have periodically threatened to incite a third world war—though that might imply their independence, leading both China and Japan to invade us.

Alternatively, applying the Hippocratic principle to statecraft, we might suggest a country from which no reports of harm or excitement have emanated. Kiribati seems to have had a quiet year.

But the accomplishments that most deserve commendation, we think, are path-breaking reforms that do not merely improve a single nation but, if emulated, might benefit the world. Gay marriage is one such border-crossing policy, which has increased the global sum of human happiness at no financial cost.

Several countries have implemented it in 2013—including Uruguay, which also, uniquely, passed a law to legalise and regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. This is a change so obviously sensible, squeezing out the crooks and allowing the authorities to concentrate on graver crimes, that no other country has made it.

If others followed suit, and other narcotics were included, the damage such drugs wreak on the world would be drastically reduced.

Better yet, the man at the top, President José Mujica, is admirably self-effacing.

With unusual frankness for a politician, he referred to the new law as an experiment. He lives in a humble cottage, drives himself to work in a Volkswagen Beetle and flies economy class.

Modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving, Uruguay is our country of the year. ¡Felicitaciones!

From the print edition: Leaders

Names Americans mispronounce: Guide to foreign countries

The U.S. Congress is debating new economic sanctions on Iran this week.

Should you switch over to C-SPAN, you would hear members of the world’s most powerful legislative body offering perhaps a half-dozen different pronunciations of the name of the country they argue cannot be trusted.

It can be jarring to hear legislators arguing fervently that only they understand the true threat posed by Iran even as they mangle its name.

Still, many Americans can probably sympathize.

It’s not just members of Congress, after all, facing down foreign names they may be unsure how to pronounce. Thanksgiving is coming up, meaning heated and perhaps beer-fueled debates about the state of the world.

Whether you’re wading into those arguments or merely listening as Uncle Frank goes on another tirade for or against NSA leaker Edward Snowden, you’ll probably notice that there’s a subset of important foreign names and places that are often referenced in contemporary American debate but that, somehow, we as a nation have yet to figure out how to pronounce.

Max Fisher published this November 22, 2013

A guide to 26 foreign countries and names that Americans mispronounce

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If you're not sure how to say his name, or the name of his country, read on. (AFP/Getty)

This is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If you’re not sure how to say his name, or the name of his country, read on. (AFP/Getty)

Here then, as a service to congressional and Thanksgiving arguments alike, is a list of 26 foreign names that Americans most frequently mispronounce, as well as guides for how to say them correctly and warnings against common mispronunciations.

Even if you know to say ee-RON rather than EYE-ran, there are others you might be unknowingly misstating — such as Pyongyang or Bashar al-Assad. You can hear many of them spoken out loud at Voice of America’s pronunciation site.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iran: ee-RON How it’s NOT pronounced: EYE-ran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: ah-lee hah-men-ey-ee How it’s NOT pronounced: allie komonny

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: hah-sahn ROH-hah-nee How it’s NOT pronounced: hassun roo-honey

Iraq: ee-ROCK How it’s NOT pronounced: EYE-rack (ee-Rak. ee-Rock is a Persian pronunciation)

Qatar: KUH-tur (almost exactly “cutter” but more emphasis on the first syllable) How it’s NOT pronounced: kah-TAR

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: buh-shar al AH-sud* How it’s NOT pronounced: basher al uh-sahd * This is the Arabic pronunciation (hear it here), for when you really want to show off. Most Westerners simply say buh-shar al ah-SAHD. (Bashaar al Assad)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: reh-jehp tie-yep urr-doh-wan How it’s NOT pronounced: ressip tie-yep urr-dug-an

Egyptian coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sissi: ahb-dell fah-tah al-SEE-see How it’s NOT pronounced: ab-dell fah-tah al-sissy

AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Pakistan: pah-kee-stahn* How it’s NOT pronounced: pakky stan * Both of the a’s should be pronounced as in paw, not as in pat. This is true of most a’s in this section.

Taliban: tah-lee-BAHN How it’s NOT pronounced: tally-ban

Hamid Karzai: hah-MID car-z’EYE How it’s NOT pronounced: hah-meed CAR-z’eye

ASIA

Beijing: bay-jing How it’s NOT pronounced: bay-zhing

Shenzhen: shen-jen How it’s NOT pronounced: shen-zen

Bo Xilai: bow shee-lie How it’s NOT pronounced: bow zhee-lee

Guangzhou: gwang-joe How it’s NOT pronounced: goo-ang-zhoo

Pyongyang: pee-yuhng-YAHNG How it’s NOT pronounced: p’YONG-yang

Juche: JEW-chay How it’s NOT pronounced: joosh-ay

Aung San Suu Kyi: oun saan soo chee* How it’s NOT pronounced: ung san soo k’yee * The first syllable is like “sound” without the s or the d. More here.

Phnom Penh: naam pen How it’s NOT pronounced: fuh-nom pen

ALL THINGS EDWARD SNOWDEN

Sheremetyevo Airport: sheh-reh-MYEH-tyeh-vah How it’s NOT pronounced: share-met-yeh-vyo

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev: m’yehd-V’YEHD-yehf How it’s NOT pronounced: med-veh-dehv

Angela Merkel: ahn-GAY-luh M’AIR-kuhl How it’s NOT pronounced: ann-juh-luh murr-kuhl

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa: rahf-eye-EHL koh-RAY-ah How it’s NOT pronounced: raffy-ell core-ay-uh

Bolivian President Evo Morales: aiy-voh moh-RAH-lehs How it’s NOT pronounced: ee-voh mo-rall-ess

OTHERS

Kyrgyzstan: keer-guh-stan How it’s NOT pronounced: If you’re not sure, you’re probably wrong.

Niger: nee-ZH’AIR (rhymes with “Pierre”) How it’s NOT pronounced: NYE-jur

Max Fisher
Max Fisher is the Post’s foreign affairs blogger. He has a master’s degree in security studies from Johns Hopkins University. Sign up for his daily newsletter here. Also, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
Turkish Erdogan Obsession? Why? and how sit-in progressing?
On a normal day, Taksim Square in Capital ISTANBUL is a mess of buses and crowds, a tangle of plazas, streets, shops and taxi horns.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is determined to clean it up and make it into a pedestrian zone, with a new mall, mosque and tunnels for traffic to move underground.
The outrage in response has filled the square with noisy, angry, determined protesters. At midday, the muezzin’s call to prayer now mixes with the chants of union workers and bullhorn speeches from the Anti-Capitalist Muslims. At night, drummers and singers agitate the throngs until dawn.
 Published on June 7, 2013 in the NYT: “In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel”
After Tahrir Square in Egypt and Zuccotti Park in New York, Taksim is the latest reminder of the power of public space. The square has become an arena for clashing worldviews: an unyielding leader’s top-down, neo-Ottoman, conservative vision of the nation as a regional power versus a bottom-up, pluralist, disordered, primarily young, less Islamist vision of the country as a modern democracy.
“Taksim is where everybody expresses freely their happiness, sorrow, their political and social views,” said Esin, 41, in a head scarf, sitting with relatives on a bench watching the protest in the square. She declined to give her surname, fearing disapproval from conservative neighbors. “The government wants to sanitize this place, without consulting the people.”

So public space, even a modest and chaotic swath of it like Taksim, again reveals itself as fundamentally more powerful than social media, which produce virtual communities. Revolutions happen in the flesh.

In Taksim, strangers have discovered one another, their common concerns and collective voice. The power of bodies coming together, at least for the moment, has produced a democratic moment, and given the leadership a dangerous political crisis.

“We have found ourselves,” is how Omer Kanipak, a 41-year-old Turkish architect, put it to me, about the diverse gathering at Gezi Park on the north end of Taksim, where the crowds are concentrated in tent encampments and other makeshift architecture after Mr. Erdogan’s government ordered bulldozers to make way for the mall.

 

Kitra Cahana for The New York Times. Turkish protesters have concentrated in tent encampments at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, on the north end of Taksim Square. More Photos »

And there’s the hitch.

The prime minister has emerged as the strongest leader Turkey has had since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic — but he remains not much of an architect or urban planner. Like other longtime rulers, he has assumed the mantle of designer in chief, fiddling over details for giant mosques, planning a massive bridge and canal, devising gated communities in the name of civic renewal and economic development.

The goal is a scripted public realm. Taksim, the lively heart of modern Istanbul, has become Mr. Erdogan’s obsession, and perhaps his Achilles’ heel.

And it’s no wonder. Taksim’s very urban fabric — fluid, irregular, open and unpredictable — reflects the area’s historic identity as the heart of modern, multicultural Turkey. This was where poor European immigrants settled during the 19th century.

Taksim was a honky-tonk quarter into the 1980s, a haven to gays and lesbians, a locus of nightclubs, foreign movie palaces and French-style covered arcades. Gravestones from an Armenian cemetery at Taksim that was demolished in 1939 were used to construct stairs at Gezi Park, a republican-era project by the French planner Henri Prost that is like the jumble of high-rise hotels, traffic circles and the now-shuttered opera house on the square, named after Ataturk. It is a symbol of modernity.

The prime minister’s vision of a big pedestrian plaza, with buried traffic, is intended to smooth out the square — to remake it into a neo-Ottoman theme park. Mr. Erdogan has lately backed away from installing a mall in the faux Ottoman barracks that will go where Gezi is now. But he intends to raze a poor neighborhood nearby called Tarlabasi and build high-end condominiums.

Yet another of his projects envisions a hygienic parade ground on the southern outskirts of the city, designed for mass gatherings as if to quarantine protests: the anti-Taksim.

The real Taksim is an unruly commons in the middle of the city. Mr. Erdogan has already demolished a beloved cinema and old chocolate pudding shop on Istiklal (Independence) Avenue, the main street and neighborhood backbone into Taksim.

This is why it has come as little surprise to many Turks that Gezi Park was the last straw. “We need free places,” Pelin Tan, a sociologist and protester, explained.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 8, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel.

Funny. Absolute Jordan’s King Finds Fault With the “Other” Arab absolute monarchs

King Abdullah II of Jordan (Not the ailing monarch of Saudi Arabia) leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations.

Such a British-made  “Kingdom”gives this King is a huge catalyst to looking down on many of those absolute monarchs and dictators around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

For example,

1. President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has “no depth,” King Abdullah said in an interview with the American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, to be published this week in The Atlantic magazine.

2. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in, “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off,” the king said.

3. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is so provincial that at a social dinner he once asked the monarchs of Jordan and Morocco to explain jet lag. “He never heard of jet lag,” King Abdullah said, according to an advance copy of the article.

 published this March 18/2013 in the NYT:

“The King’s conversations with Mr. Goldberg, an influential writer on the Middle East and an acquaintance of more than a decade, offer a rare view of the contradictory mind-set of Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world as he struggles to master the upheaval of the Arab Spring revolts.

Seldom has an Arab autocrat spoken so candidly in public.

Pool photo by Sergei Ilnitsky. King Abdullah II of Jordan during a state visit to Russia in February, when he met with President Vladimir V. Putin.

King Abdullah appears humbled and even fatigued by the many challenges he failed to foresee when he inherited the throne 14 years ago, describing himself before coronation as a “Forrest Gump” in the background of his father’s long reign.

In contrast to his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah promises to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy, and thus to stay ahead of the Arab Spring wave.

But he insists that only he can lead the transition to democracy, in part to ensure that democracy will not deliver power to his Islamist opponents.

The era of Arab monarchies is passing, King Abdullah said. “Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked. But even his own family, with 11 siblings and half-siblings, does not yet understand the lessons of the Arab Spring for dynasties like theirs, he said, adding that the public will no longer tolerate egregious displays of excess or corruption.

Photo: ‎الرجااااااااء المشاركة والنشر<br /><br /><br /><br />
خائن ابن خائن عميل لأمريكا واسرائيل<br /><br /><br /><br />
عاهر الأردن بدأ بادخال الاهابيين الى سوريا عبر الحدود وبعد اجتماعه بالصهاينة والعربان قرر فتح الحدود مع سوريا وسيدخل أكثر من 10000 ارهابي الى سوريا في الايام القليلة القادمة من الاردن وهذه معلومات مؤكدة والكل يعرف درعا وكم هي بيئة حاضنة لهؤلاء الارهابيين.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>رجاء من الجميع نشر هذا البوست على أوسع نطاق ودعمه حتى لا تحذف الصورة....‎

The same absolute dinausor in a non-formal attire

“Members of my family don’t get it,” he said. “Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in-laws are like — oh my God!” he continued.

“I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars,” he said. “I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights.”

Even his own sons should be punished if convicted of corruption, he insisted. “Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”

He blamed his own government’s secret police for blocking his efforts at political reform. For example, he charged that the secret police had conspired with conservatives in the political elite to block his attempts to open up more representation in Parliament to Palestinians, who make up more than 50% of Jordan’s population.

“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming as an example the mukhabarat, or secret police. He said he had not realized at first how deeply “conservative elements” had become “embedded in certain institutions” like the mukhabarat. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he added.

Stopping the Islamists from winning power was now “our major fight” across the region, he said. He repeatedly mocked the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement behind the largest opposition party in the Jordanian Parliament and Mr. Morsi’s governing party in Egypt, calling it “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

And he accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.

The US has been training these people and dispatching them to Syria via Jordan

“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said.

His job is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.

The king was also frankly dismissive of the tribal leaders from the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally formed his family’s base of support. “The old dinosaurs,” he called a group of East Bank tribal leaders, including a former prime minister, before a meeting with them in the town of Karak. “It’s all about, ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I am in his tribe,’ ” the king said of their political program.

Alarmed at the violence in neighboring Syria, King Abdullah said he had offered asylum and protection to the family of President Assad. “They said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?’ ”

“The monarchy is going to change,” the king vowed. His son will preside over “a Western-style democracy with a constitutional monarchy,” the king said, and not “the position of Bashar today.”

Apparently, this king has not ready fora  constitutional monarchy as long as he is alive.

Sweet talk: Constantly shifting the blame on the others and on the institutions that he leads…

The political leaders in Jordan have been urging King Abdullah to return all the properties that himself and his extended family have confiscated for no compensation, and stop the lavish life-style of the monarch that this poor country cannot afford…

A version of this article appeared in print on March 19, 2013, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Jordan’s King Finds Fault With Everyone Concerned.


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