Focal Points Blog

Sochi Brought to Fore Not Just Russian Homophobia, But Islamophobia

Image Wikimedia Commons

Image Wikimedia Commons

The Sochi Olympics proved to be a big success — exactly what Russia wanted. Right from the opening ceremony itself, the entire event was a megalith in terms of popularity and success. If one wanted to catch a glimpse of Russia’s glorious past as well as its vibrant art, this year’s Winter Olympics were the thing to watch!

But the Olympics at Sochi were not without their share of controversy. Take, for example, the case of the Pussy Riot protest performance.

So success on one hand and chaos on the other. A mixed bag, probably?

However, Russia’s mixed bag had one key element missing.

The plight of the Muslims of Sochi.
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Is Assad Following the Pakistan Model?

Image Wikimedia Commons

Image Wikimedia Commons

In an article at Foreign Policy titled The Disappeared, James Traub reports on journalists who have been kidnapped in Syria, either by Islamist extremist rebels or by forces for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At one point he was introduced to (emphasis added):

… Hamza Ghadban, a Syrian journalist. … He was convinced, as many rebel sympathizers are, that the regime has subterranean connections with the foreign jihadists. He told me that the ISIS camp in Aleppo had been unscathed until the jihadists decamped, while the next-door headquarters of the Tawhid Brigade, affiliated with the FSA, had been leveled by government artillery. In Raqqa, too, the ISIS base had not been shelled. It’s also widely believed that in the summer of 2012, Assad released from prison some of the Sunni extremists who had fought American troops in Iraq, and who may then have joined with foreign fighters to form ISIS. Those fighters now seem at least as preoccupied with dislodging moderate rebels from key checkpoints and northern towns as they are with fighting the regime.
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Calls for U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Re-surfacing

Homs. Image Wikimedia Commons

Homs. Image Wikimedia Commons

On February 15 at FPIF Focal Points, Rob Prince wrote, “At a moment when the only viable path open to resolving the Syrian conflict lies in a negotiated settlement between the Assad government and the legitimate opposition, two colleagues at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel of the Center for Middle East Studies, have put forth an emotional and poorly conceived call for military intervention to resolve the escalating humanitarian crisis there” in a New York Times op-ed. Now Coleen Rowley, who you may remember for the service she performed for the nation as a post-9/11 FBI whistleblower, weighs in.

Cross-posted from the March newsletter of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 27.

The propaganda that continues to flourish for war on Syria shows many Americans fail to understand the problems posed by “US Empire-building” believing it to be an altruistic force, toppling other governments and starting wars for the good of all mankind. Two recent articles in the New York Times (NYT): “Use Force To Save Starving Syrians” and “U.S. Scolds Russia as It Weighs Options on Syrian War” are typical of the concerted efforts underway to ramp up US military intervention despite overwhelming opposition voiced by Congress and the American public thwarting Obama’s plan to bomb Syria announced in late August last year. 
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U.S. Got Caught in a Vicious Circle With Afghan President Karzai’s Brother, Ahmed Wali

Ahmed Wali Karzai, assassinated in 2011

Ahmed Wali Karzai, assassinated in 2011

Most commentary about Secretary Gates’ Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War has focused on his pithy comments about members of the Bush and Obama Administrations, but I found the more important story in a message he may not have intended. At a Sept 3, 2010 meeting in Kandahar with Brigadier General Nick Carter, discussing the local power broker, Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK), President Karzai’s half-brother, Carter said that

… for the foreseeable future, the choice facing us was between a theocracy run by the Taliban or a “thugocracy” run by the likes of AWK. He said that working with AWK offered the best way to show results quickly against the Taliban. [Gates] told Carter that ‘if working with AWK helped keep our troops alive and succeed in their mission, then that’s no contest.’

This heads-down focus on the immediate fight, devoid of political or social context, goes a long way towards explaining the failures of our longest war.
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Why Did Sister Megan Rice Ask for a Life Sentence?

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Yesterday I posted that the Transform Now Plowshares Three were sentenced for their infiltration and protest at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 28, 2012. CBS News reported Sister Megan Rice’s response to her three-year sentence.
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Sister Megan Rice Invokes Briar Patch Privileges

Beating swords into plowshares

Beating swords into plowshares

“Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

The Transform Now Plowshares Three were sentenced for their infiltration and protest at Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 28, 2012. I guess it could have been worse. CBS News reports (emphasis added):
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Ukraine Still Can’t Escape Long Arm of Russia

Ukraine President Yanukovych and Russian President Putin. Image Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine President Yanukovych and Russian President Putin. Image Wikimedia Commons

Calling the scene in Independence Square, Kiev, “apocalyptic,” Andrew Higgins and Andrew Kramer of the New York Times reported on the demonstrations yesterday, during which 25 demonstrators were killed by the Ukrainian riot police, known as the Berkut. They write that what “began as a peaceful protest in late November against” Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s “decision to spurn a trade deal with Europe and tilt toward Russia became on Tuesday a pyre of violent chaos.”
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Obama Seeks to Avoid “Clash of Civilizations” Between China and the West

President Obama and China’s former President Hu Jintao.

President Obama and China’s former President Hu Jintao.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Foreign Policy in Focus.

On the next day after President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union (SOTU) 2014, which did not mention anything about the tension in East Asia, not even the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Tokyo-based The Diplomat published an article to ask whether Obama “has abandoned the Pivot to Asia”1:

 … he couldn’t make room for even a sentence in his speech … his neglect of these issues … brings the rebalance to Asia into question.2

While the disappointment and frustration within the hawkish camp are understandable, Obama’s silence on East Asia as well as two exact same headlines with respect to the SOTU in Army Times and Navy Times — “Obama emphasizes diplomacy to strengthen security” — indicate that the incumbent master of the White House has made a wise move to prevent a disastrous “clash of civilizations.”3   In his renowned 1997 book of the same name, Samuel P. Huntington sees the states in “the West” as a civilization group sharing among themselves such core values as democracy, pluralism, individualism, rule of law and Christianity; some other civilizations, such as the Muslim and the Chinese, however, do not appreciate these values and tend to resist them.4
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Jordanian Lawmaker Who Sought Reform Accused of Spying for U.S.

Mustafa Harmaneh

Mustafa Harmaneh

When Jordanian lawmaker Mustafa Hamarneh said last week that “Jordanian tribes should not be politically mobilized to advance political agendas” or to be “used in the public space other than being part of the social fabric and a social institution,” it caused a firestorm of protests and attacks that accused him of being “an American agent and a spy” and “wanting to destroy the Jordanian tribes and eventually destroy the Jordanian state itself.” His statements concerning the Jordanian tribes were made in the context of what has become known in Jordan as the “Mubadarah” or the initiative to create a system of  checks and balances between lawmakers and the government.

Speaking to him over the phone in Amman, Hamarneh told me that he is leading a group of 25 lawmakers in the Parliament to work on issues of education, small business, higher education, civil society development and political agendas. He said that he is trying to create a political environment whereby lawmakers can monitor the government agendas and work to make it better and more effective. His initiative is thus bypassing the political blocks within the Jordanian parliament that were created to do the same thing, but have become “dysfunctional” and are “not working” he told me.
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Military Humanitarian Intervention: the Shock Doctrine Applied to Syria

Syria

(Note: Rob Prince teaches at the Korbel School of International Studies. Although tangentially, he has been associated with the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies and has participated in a number of its public forums, including on the Syrian crisis. Compelled to respond to the February 11, 2014 op-ed in the New York Times by colleagues, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, he critiques their arguments and makes alternative suggestions for ending the Syrian impasse.)

At a moment when the only viable path open to resolving the Syrian conflict lies in a negotiated settlement between the Assad government and the legitimate opposition, two colleagues at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel of the Center for Middle East Studies, have put forth an emotional and poorly conceived call for military intervention to resolve the escalating humanitarian crisis there.

Using logic tinted with Cold War reasoning (blaming the Russians is bit out of fashion) and poor examples (Somalia — 1993?) to bolster their arguments, they put forth their ideas on the subject in an op-ed, in the New York Times on February 11 titled “Use Force To Save Starving Syrians.” In a one-sided appeal, they place the blame for the Syrian human debacle almost entirely at the feet of the Assad government for virtually all of the violence.
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