Focal Points Blog

How Good Is the Islamic State at Governing?

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

I’m sure many of us have had the thought: Why not just let the Islamic State keep the land it conquered? (Who knew conquering was still a thing? Or a caliphate, for that matter?) After all, thus far, unlike Al Qaeda, it’s shown it’s ready and willing to govern on a local as well as pan-national level.

The answer, of course, is that besides beheading captives, the Islamic State metes out a form of justice to those it rules that harkens back to a time when disorder and threats to the state ran rampant. I didn’t want to say it because it’s become a cliché, but, yeah, the 1300s. Of course, that can’t be allowed to stand.
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Catching up With the State of Human Rights in Poland

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It can be a nightmare to become entangled in the Polish legal system. You could be charged with a crime, for instance, and thrown into pre-trial detention. This detention could even last two or three years. One person was even held for nearly eight years.

Abuses in the court system, lawyer Adam Bodnar with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights told me, constitute the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”
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Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State’s Legal Codes Too Close for Comfort

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Yesterday we posted about how an ideological affinity makes it difficult for Saudi Arabia to distance itself from the Islamic State, just as it did with Al Qaeda before that. Perhaps, though, where they’re most symmetrical is in the forms and degrees of punishment, as Mary Atkinson and Rori Donaghy demonstrate at the Middle East Eye. “The Islamic State (IS) and Saudi Arabia prescribe near-identical punishments for a host of crimes, according to documents circulated by the militant group,” they begin.

For example, comparing them side by side in an infographic, they show that both IS and SA intend to punish blasphemy and homosexuality as severely as treason and murder: by death. The punishments for adultery, separately for married and unmarried partners, are also parallel: Death by stoning and 100 lashes, respectively. (I’ve never actually understood how someone can survive that many lashes.)
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Like Al Qaeda, Islamic State a Threat to Saudi Arabia Despite Similar Worldview

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo:  EPA/Jose Huesca)

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo: EPA/Jose Huesca)

“The Saudi authorities have condemned Islamic State, but they fear the destabilising effects of any detailed examination of their shared principles,” writes Brian Whitaker in an article as insightful as it is and valuable that was published and posted January 6 by the Guardian. He begins by describing a raid likely conducted by the Islamic State on a Saudi post on its border with Iraq that killed, along with two other soldiers, the commander of Saudi Arabia’s northern border forces. Whitaker writes:

This might be viewed simply as a reprisal for Saudi participation in the US-led bombing campaign against Isis, but Isis has also been seeking to extend the current conflict in Syria and Iraq into Saudi territory.

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Between Nuke Talks and Opposition to Islamic State, U.S. and Iran Becoming Not-so-Strange Bedfellows

Iran, like the United States, resists sending boots on the ground against the Islamic State. (Photo: Press TV)

Iran, like the United States, resists sending boots on the ground against the Islamic State. (Photo: Press TV)

In an article for the January issue of International Affairs titled Iran’s ISIS policy, Dina Esfandiary and Ariane Tabatabai explain what Iran is and isn’t doing to counter the progress of the Islamic State. With Iraq bordering Iran, much of the Iranian public views the Islamic State as an immediate threat.

In June 2014, as ISIS was making substantial advances in Syria and Iraq, the Iranian state media downplayed the threat … The Iranian population, however, inferred that the group had advanced into Iranian territory. … The public apprehensions illustrate the deep insecurity of Iranians and the persistence of a vivid memory of the devastating Iran–Iraq War; they also highlight the lack of trust in their government to effectively assess and respond to such threats.

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Ukraine Stiffs China for Billions Owed

Ukraine claims it doesn’t have the grain because many of is agricultural workers have been conscripted into the army. Pictured: Kiev. (Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr Commons)

Ukraine claims it doesn’t have the grain because many of is agricultural workers have been conscripted into the army. Pictured: Kiev. (Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from the People’s Voice.

Russia’s RIA Novosti News Agency reported, on January 17th, that China is demanding a refund of $1.5 billion in cash and of an additional $1.5 billion in Chinese goods that were paid in advance by China (in 2013), for a 2012 Chinese order of grain from Ukraine, which goods still have not been supplied to China.

According to RIAN, “State Food and Grain Corporation of Ukraine (STATE FOOD) supplied grain in 2013, elsewhere, but not to China. The new Kiev authorities had an opportunity to fix the short-sighted actions ‘of the [previous] Yanukovych regime,’ and to present a positive economic image to the Chinese.” But it didn’t happen.
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Easy Targets: U.S.-Palestinian Charitable Organizations Charged With Terrorist Acts

The Holy Land Foundation raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza (pictured) and the West Bank. (Photo: Samer / Flickr Commons)

The Holy Land Foundation raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza (pictured) and the West Bank. (Photo: Samer / Flickr Commons)

At the London Review of Books, in an article titled Low-Hanging Fruit, Francis FitzGibbon looks at the case of the Holy Land Foundation.Operated in the United States by Palestinian-Americans, the HLF raised money for food, clothes and education to be distributed in Gaza and the West Bank by what’s called zakat charitable committees. Less than three months after 9/11, the Treasury Department closed it down and charged it with funneling the money to Hamas. End result: in 2008, the HLF’s two leaders were convicted and are serving 65-year sentences. 
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PBS-TV’s Frontline Misrepresents Vladimir Putin

The United States has been as implicated in false-flag operations as Russian President Putin was. (Photo: www.kremlin.ru / Wikimedia Commons)

The United States has been as implicated in false-flag operations as Russian President Putin was. (Photo: www.kremlin.ru / Wikimedia Commons)

Cross-posted from RINF Alternative News.

On January 13th, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) telecast the FRONTLINE documentary, “Putin’s Way,” which purported to be a biography of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.

The press release about this film states: “Drawing on firsthand accounts from exiled Russian business tycoons, writers and politicians, as well as the exhaustive research of scholar and best-selling Putin’s Kleptocracy author Karen Dawisha, the film examines troubling episodes in Putin’s past, from alleged money-laundering activities and ties to organized crime, to a secret personal fortune said to be in the billions. … These accounts portray a Russian leader who began by professing hope and democracy but now is stoking nationalism, conflict and authoritarianism.”
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The Generational Shift in East-Central European Politics

Agnieszka Pomaska is a member of the Polish parliament (the Sejm) with PO, the current ruling party. (Photo: John Feffer)

Agnieszka Pomaska is a member of the Polish parliament (the Sejm) with PO, the current ruling party. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

A generational shift is slowly taking place in the politics of East-Central Europe as the figures responsible for the changes in 1989 are giving way to a younger group of politicians who were not old enough to be politically active at that time. This younger generation of politicians takes membership in the European Union for granted. They have very little invested in the original disagreements that fragmented the opposition movements. And they don’t care so much about some of the defining issues of that generation, such as lustration (the screening of officials for their ties to the Communist-era secret police).

Agnieszka Pomaska is a member of this new generation of politicians. Born in Gdansk in the pivotal year of 1980, she came of political age when Poland had already become a democracy. At the age of 22, after coming up through the ranks of the youth section of what became the Civic Platform party (PO), she was elected to the city council in Gdansk. Since 2009, she has been a member of parliament (the Sejm) with PO, the current ruling party.
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The Ebola Blame Game: WHO Chastised, IMF Criticism Deflected

If devoting so much attention to Ebola in one place, and so little in another, isn’t racism, then what is? (Photo: Center for Disease Control / Flickr Commons)

If devoting so much attention to Ebola in one place, and so little in another, isn’t racism, then what is? (Photo: Center for Disease Control / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank.

Ebola is back in the news in Colorado and shortly hereafter I would speculate nationally.

A Denverite recently returned from West Africa countries affected by the Ebola outbreak is being tested for the virus at the Denver Medical Center, one of the country’s 29 public health laboratories authorized to do Ebola testing by the Center for Disease. The patient, whose identity is being withheld, is considered low risk but is being held in a designated in-patient unit anyway as a precaution. Dr. Connie Price, the hospital’s chief of infectious diseases, noted that “infection with the virus has not been confirmed.” Ebola symptoms may appear anytime between two and 21 days after initial infection. They include muscle pain, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, lack of appetite and abdominal pain.
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