DDGD January 17, 2016
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Today’s Post is brought to you by… Hands-Wringers Anonymous: Through a slow delicate and experts-guided process of behavior modification, we will teach you how to wash your hands instead.
The (Mis)Adventures of Vladdipus Rex, Episode 60 – Snakes on a Plane: And so it happens, dear reader, that in a world growing more delirious by the day, the day came when Russia was accused of deliberately targeting civilians in Syria. Indeed, the “UK foreign secretary condemns tactics of Russian pilots, saying they are running return raids on targets to hit rescue workers.” But having allowed things to deteriorate to this point, what can a UK or a US do but accuse and condemn and keep turning their backs on it all hoping that it could all somehow go away on its own? Yet, and as the old saying goes: when you start by wringing your hands you end by chewing your fingers.
The (Mis)Adventures of Vladdipus Rex, Episode 61 – The Secret Clause: For it comes to mind, dear reader, as one hears of the secret clause embedded in the treaty that King Vlad The Clutch signed so many months ago with his Syrian counterpart President Assad The Pug, that not too long ago after the signing a certain prodemocracy activist, known for the irreverent style and intuitive nature of his analysis, made the following two assertions/predictions. The first explained the nature of Vladdipus Rex’s (mis)adventure in Syria as follows:
…the real reason behind Putin’s move into Syria is not any sort of values affinity with Assad. Putin is here repeating what he previously did in Crimea and is still trying to do in Eastern Ukraine: take over and secure a territory that holds strategic significance for Russia. Russia has for long maintained a military base in the coastal city of Tartus, one which it updated and modernized shortly before the onset of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011.
This newest venture is not simply about safeguarding this base. Now that the Obama Administration has repeatedly shown how strongly it is committed to minimizing America’s military footprint in the world, Mr. Putin sees an opportunity for expanding and strengthening Russia’s presence along the Mediterranean, and for ensuring that the future of that presence is not dependent on anyone’s goodwill but is assured through Russian military might.
The second warned of the consequences that Vladdie The High Roller had to contend with:
Still, there will be long-term repercussions for Putin in Russia as a result of his adventure in Syria. Everything from car bombings or lone wolf attacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg and wherever Russia has a presence abroad, to full-scale rebellions in certain Muslim-majority provinces and republics within the Russian Federation could be on the menu. But these potential developments are not things about which Putin seems to be worried at this early stage: the prize he is after seems to be worth the risk for him. It is here where he could be miscalculating.
Now, with the bombing of the Russian plane over Sinai behind us, and with these new revelations before us, dear reader, we have to acknowledge that Syria has been bought and sold with an official contract and lies now under Russian hegemony until Russia wishes otherwise. For while the document theoretically allows for Assad the Fickle to ask for termination of the contract, given Vladdie one year to comply, the latter’s fondness of Polonialism (See The Deliricon under P) could mute such an eventuality.
Among other revelations in the seven-page contract dated Aug. 26, 2015, the Kremlin has made an open-ended time commitment to its military deployment in Syria, and either side can terminate it with a year’s notice.
Russian military personnel and shipments can pass in and out of Syria at will and aren’t subject to controls by Syrian authorities, the document says. Syrians can’t enter Russian bases without Russia’s permission. And Russia disclaims any responsibility for damage caused by its activities inside Syria.
Beyond Syria, there is a world of opportunities waiting to clutched. And the High Falutin Platyputin is preparing for that. Oh yes, he is. With “three new divisions on Russia’s western flank with Europe, and… five nuclear missile regimens ready for combat duty this year,” Europe beware.
The decades when we thought of Europe as stable, predictable and dull are over. The continent’s map is becoming medieval again, if not yet in its boundaries then at least in its political attitudes and allegiances. The question today is whether the EU can still hope to permanently replace the multicultural Habsburg Empire, which for centuries sprawled across Central and Eastern Europe and sheltered its various minorities and interests. The answer will depend not only on what Europe itself does but also on what the U.S. chooses to do. Geography is a challenge, not a fate.
Turkey better beware as well: Putin Looks for Regime Change in Turkey.
First, it imposed economic sanctions. Then it attacked Erdogan’s inner circle, including in the media his son Bilal, accusing them of trading oil with Islamic State. And in the ultimate gesture of hostility, Russia invited Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey’s Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, to Moscow… So Putin just very publicly took sides in Turkey’s civil war, much as he feels Western countries did during Russia’s Chechen wars…
As with the U.S. sanctions policy towards Russia, Putin probably hasn’t set a goal of toppling Erdogan from power any time soon. For the foreseeable future, the Turkish strongman is as safely entrenched in office as is Putin. Like the U.S., though, Putin seems to have dug in for a long-term policy of sapping Turkey’s economy and undermining Erdogan politically. What isn’t clear is whether the goal is to teach the U.S. and its allies to mend their ways, or to split them over whether to defend NATO ally Turkey, or to join Russia in distancing themselves from its increasingly authoritarian Islamist government.
Syriosis: Starvation in Syria 'a war crime,' U.N. chief says. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Let me be clear: The use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime. All sides -- including the Syrian government, which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians -- are committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law… U.N. teams have witnessed scenes that haunt the soul. The elderly and children, men and women, who were little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk, and utterly desperate for the slightest morsel." And while a spade has finally been called a spade, accountability remains a distant illusion, as the NYT correctly argues: Starvation in Syria Galvanizes U.N., but Accountability Seems Distant as Ever.
Saudaran: The House of Saud’s sectarian venom spreads across Middle East. “The ruling family, having incited Sunni-Shia conflict, will not be able to control it.” The ideological campaign to demonize Saudi Arabia by highlighting elements of its behavior that could also be easily and legitimately noted in Iran’s case continues. And of course, all of this is happening by accident. Yeah. One fine morning, a bunch of pundits, academics and government officials from all over the world just decided that it’s time to speak ill of the would-be dead, if they had their way. And no, human rights and concerns for regional stability are not the issue here, because, had these being the issue, the same people would have been condemning Iran as vehemently as they do Saudi. As I repeatedly noted earlier, and will continue to remind, it’s all about a misguided vision for the future of the region that is completely divorced from its actual realities, but looks some neat on paper.
But that’s not all. Powerful lobbies, supported one way or another by Iran, seem to be involved. The following is a case in point as to how: Podemos: Spain's anti-corruption party ‘received illicit funding from Iran.’ “The El Confidencial news website claims the party received more than €5m through a Spanish TV station operated by an Iranian businessman and financed by the government in Tehran.”
To summarize: the hypocrisy involved in attacking Saudi Arabia but not Iran, for similar behavior, is an indication of the presence of an agenda. For both powers are guilty of practicing and encouraging sectarian tendencies, both powers are known major human rights abusers, both powers support global terrorism, both powers employs PR firms and lobbyists to work on their behalf in the West (albeit Iran has developed more of an edge in this regard over the last two decades due to its success in cultivating sympathetic members of the its large expat community), both powers foster blatantly racist impressions of the other, and of others in general (those who confuse hospitality and kindness to strangers for which both Persians and Arabs, among other peoples of the East, are known, for some latent embrace of human equality at some inner level are morons), so, how can either of these powers pave the way for regional stability without a major change in outlook and governing ethos in both countries, and without the kind of American leadership that focuses on changing the troubling behavior exhibited by both. And yet, realists are not opting for evenhandedness here. No. Rather, they advocate closer relations with one side (Iran) at expense of the other, irrespective of the price others in the region (Syrian, Iraqis, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc.) have to pay for this change in polarization. They celebrate the one and demonize the other while predicting, and encouraging, in fact, its destruction, knowing fully well that a Saudi implosion will have dangerous repercussions all over the region.
Personally, I don't want to see more states fail, and I definitely don’t want to see a country as pivotal as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Egypt collapse. Rather than accept the inevitability of any of this, I prefer that we try to prevent it. But this goal cannot be achieved by rewarding the very rogue behavior that brought us to this point. You cannot reward the very attitude you want to see change. But this is exactly what the realists have done and are still doing. They think that what they have just achieved is a diplomatic triumph not a disastrous capitulation. But, contrary to what they hope and claim, the policies advanced by realists are not compensating for the blunders of turn-of-the-century neocons; rather, they are amplifying and adding to them, as witnessed by the fact that we have far more violence and chaos in the region today than there was eight years ago. But such an objective criterion for measuring progress is not what the “realists” use to assess their accomplishment. Rather, they think that their vindication will come tomorrow. For now, millions in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere will have to endure the misery and havoc of their triumphant diplomacy.
|Freedom Girls from Pensacola, Florida entertain Trump supporters in Pensacola, Florida on January 13, 2016|
Tales from the Trump Side: Back in the first half of the twentieth century, the Trump's Freedom Girls show would have been hailed as a testament to American family values and would have registered with most Americans. Today, it actually still registers with those who yearn to these imagined "simpler" times, and there are, whether we like it or not, quite a few of them around, and they are mostly, though not exclusively, white Americans. For this, mockery should not be our only answer to the ongoing Trump Show, at least not when it comes to the country’s political class, as it would further alienate those Americans, deepening the social and political divides plaguing this nation. Smart politicians have to find smart ways of addressing the concerns of these Americans while simultaneously showing them that hate speech and fear are not the answer. But can any of the current contenders rise up to the challenge?
For our collective security: In the meantime, a question for Trump supporters and all gun advocates in the United States: If you're “OK,” in the name of our collective security, with imposing extra security checks on thousands of Syrian refugees in order to weed out the handful of possible terrorists, why can’t you, by the same token, be OK with similar intensive background checks imposed on those who want to buy guns, in order to prevent the criminal few from getting their hands on them? Doesn’t our collective security demand the same amount of vigilance here? After all, gun violence is responsible for far more deaths in the United States than terror attacks.
"Our democratic way of life is forever the resolve of Taiwan's 23 million people." --Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in her first speech after becoming the first woman to be elected as president of Taiwan.
This video from the summer of 2015 chronicles the struggle of one Abu Azrael, a leader of the Iraqi Shia militias fighting against the Islamic State and other Sunni rebels in Iraq. He is hailed by many Iraqis as a hero. He even has his own private page on Wikipedia. Yet, he has committed atrocities and war crimes since the beginning of his illustrious career, crimes no less heinous in nature than those perpetrated by IS. But he is not considered a terrorist and is often honored, in Iran and Iraq, by Mullahs of all ranks for his “heroic” deeds. But classifying him as such might anger Iran, and hurt efforts to combat the Islamic State, so the realists are willing to endorse arming and working with him and his fellow militias, ignoring their abuses against Sunnis combatants and civilians, just as they did before (even though, they were these abuses that reenergized IS after a long decay).These inconsistencies, while unnoticed here in America, are bound to further deepen our crises, there in the middle East.
This other video about Abu Azra’el by Al-Jazeerah (Arabic) shows him mutilating a corpse, and being feated by Mullahs.