Archive for the ‘the places I would like to go’ Category

Norway’s ‘Doomsday Vault’ holds a priceless treasure: Seeds   no comments

Posted at 10:30 pm in the places I would like to go

The research centre’s work is crucial because it focuses on crops, such as chickpeas, lentils and barley, that feed some of the world’s most vulnerable populations in the Middle East, India and other countries, said Axel Diederichsen, curator of Canada’s National Plant Gene Bank.

Article source: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/08/31/norways_doomsday_vault_holds_a_priceless_treasure_seeds.html

Written by enfoquec on August 31st, 2014

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To really combat terror, end support for Saudi Arabia   no comments

Posted at 10:30 pm in the places I would like to go

The so-called war on terror is nearly 13 years old, but which rational human being will be cheering its success? We’ve had crackdowns on civil liberties across the world, tabloid-fanned generalisations about Muslims and, of course, military interventions whose consequences have ranged from the disastrous to the catastrophic. And where have we ended up? Wars that Britons believe have made them less safe; jihadists too extreme even for al-Qaida’s tastes running amok in Iraq and Syria; and nations like Libya succumbing to Islamist militias. There are failures, and then there are calamities.

But as the British government ramps up the terror alert to “severe” and yet more anti-terror legislation is proposed, some reflection after 13 years of disaster is surely needed. One element has been missing, and that is the west’s relationship with Middle Eastern dictatorships that have played a pernicious role in the rise of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism. And no wonder: the west is militarily, economically and diplomatically allied with these often brutal regimes, and our media all too often reflects the foreign policy objectives of our governments.

Take Qatar. There is evidence that, as the US magazine The Atlantic puts it, “Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra”, an al-Qaida group operating in Syria. Less than two weeks ago, Germany’s development minister, Gerd Mueller, was slapped down after pointing the finger at Qatar for funding Islamic State (Isis).

While there is no evidence to suggest Qatar’s regime is directly funding Isis, powerful private individuals within the state certainly are, and arms intended for other jihadi groups are likely to have fallen into their hands. According to a secret memo signed by Hillary Clinton, released by Wikileaks, Qatar has the worst record of counter-terrorism cooperation with the US.

And yet, where are the western demands for Qatar to stop funding international terrorism or being complicit in the rise of jihadi groups? Instead, Britain arms Qatar’s dictatorship, selling it millions of pounds worth of weaponry including “crowd-control ammunition” and missile parts. There are other reasons for Britain to keep stumm, too. Qatar owns lucrative chunks of Britain such as the Shard, a big portion of Sainsbury’s and a slice of the London Stock Exchange.

Then there’s Kuwait, slammed by Amnesty International for curtailing freedom of expression, beating and torturing demonstrators and discriminating against women. Hundreds of millions have been channelled by wealthy Kuwaitis to Syria, again ending up with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra.

Kuwait has refused to ban the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a supposed charity designated by the US Treasury as an al-Qaida bankroller. David Cohen, the US Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, has even described Kuwait as the “epicentre of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria”. As Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, an associate fellow at Chatham House, told me: “High profile Kuwaiti clerics were quite openly supporting groups like al-Nusra, using TV programmes in Kuwait to grandstand on it.” All of this is helped by lax laws on financing and money laundering, he says.

But don’t expect any concerted action from the British government. Kuwait is “an important British ally in the region”, as the British government officially puts it. Tony Blair has become the must-have accessory of every self-respecting dictator, ranging from Kazakhstan to Egypt; Kuwait was Tony Blair Associates’ first client in a deal worth £27m. Britain has approved hundreds of arms licences to Kuwait since 2003, recently including military software and anti-riot shields.

And then, of course, there is the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia. Much of the world was rightly repulsed when Isis beheaded the courageous journalist James Foley. Note, then, that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 22 people since 4 August. Among the “crimes” that are punished with beheading are sorcery and drug trafficking.

Around 2,000 people have been killed since 1985, their decapitated corpses often left in public squares as a warning. According to Amnesty International, the death penalty “is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe”, with the use of torture to extract confessions commonplace. Shia Muslims are discriminated against and women are deprived of basic rights, having to seek permission from a man before they can even travel or take up paid work.

Even talking about atheism has been made a terrorist offence and in 2012, 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari was jailed for 20 months for tweeting about the prophet Muhammad. Here are the fruits of the pact between an opulent monarchy and a fanatical clergy.

This human rights abusing regime is deeply complicit in the rise of Islamist extremism too. Following the Soviet invasion, the export of the fundamentalist Saudi interpretation of Islam – Wahhabism – fused with Afghan Pashtun tribal code and helped to form the Taliban. The Saudi monarchy would end up suffering from blowback as al-Qaida eventually turned against the kingdom.

Chatham House professor Paul Stevens says: “For a long time, there was an unwritten agreement … whereby al-Qaida’s presence was tolerated in Saudi Arabia, but don’t piss inside the tent, piss outside.” Coates Ulrichsen warns that Saudi policy on Syria could be “Afghanistan on steroids”, as elements of the regime have turned a blind eye to where funding for anti-Assad rebels ends up.

Although Saudi Arabia has given $100m (£60m) to the UN anti-terror programme and the country’s grand mufti has denounced Isis as “enemy number one”, radical Salafists across the Middle East receive ideological and material backing from within the kingdom. According to Clinton’s leaked memo, Saudi donors constituted “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

But again, don’t expect Britain to act. Our alliance with the regime dates back to 1915, and Saudi Arabia is the British arms industry’s biggest market, receiving £1.6bn of military exports. There are now more than 200 joint ventures between UK and Saudi companies worth $17.5bn.

So much rhetoric about terrorism; so many calls to act. Yet Britain’s foreign policy demonstrates how empty such words are. Our allies are up to their necks in complicity with terrorism, but as long as there is money to be made and weapons to sell, our rulers’ lips will remain stubbornly sealed.

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/31/combat-terror-end-support-saudi-arabia-dictatorships-fundamentalism

Written by enfoquec on August 31st, 2014

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Turkey’s new “pan-Islamist” PM wants to reshape Middle East   no comments

Posted at 10:30 pm in the places I would like to go

ISTANBUL // In early 2009, a nine-year-old addressed a letter to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Turkey’s prime minister. In it, she complained of her father’s frantic travel and work schedule.

“Uncle Tayyip, I don’t get to see my daddy,” she wrote. “Could you please fire him?”

The little girl, Hacer Buke Davutoglu, did not get her wish. Her father, Ahmet Davutoglu, stayed on as Mr Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser. Making things worse, at least for Hacer Buke, he was soon promoted to foreign minister.

Last week, with Mr Erdogan sworn in as president, the workaholic Mr Davutoglu was given yet another promotion. On August 28, he became Turkey’s new prime minister and chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

For years, Mr Davutoglu, a former university professor, placed a special focus on resetting Turkey’s relations with Middle East countries.

Rather than being a country relegated to the periphery of Europe and Nato, Turkey should seize on historical, geographical and cultural links with its neighbours, Mr Davutoglu believed.

In Mr Erdogan, whom he advised on foreign policy issues since 2003, he found an eager disciple and partner. To make the case for re-establishing Turkey’s bygone glory, the quiet thinker and the fiery populist often invoked Turkey’s Islamic heritage and anti-colonialist discourse.

“We are the new Ottomans,” Mr Davutoglu said in 2009, the year he became foreign minister.

By the end of the decade, Mr Davutoglu’s vision appeared to be coming true. Turkey’s trade with its neighbours was booming. Improved relations with Arab countries, greased by investments and visa-free travel agreements, inspired talk of economic and even political integration.

The most spectacular turnaround occurred in Turkey’s relations with Syria. In 1998, the two countries were on the verge of war. Just over a decade later they were holding joint cabinet meetings.

Mr Davutoglu was in perpetual motion, accumulating thousands of frequent flyer miles, to his daughter’s dismay, and soaking up the adulation of Arab leaders, Turkish voters and Western analysts.

“Not a leaf will stir in the Middle East without Ankara hearing of it and responding,” he once said. Many were inclined to believe it.

In the spring of 2011, all the leaves stirred at once. Caught by surprise but eager to be on the right side of history and to deepen Turkey’s regional footprint, Mr Davutoglu and Mr Erdogan backed the popular uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

They broke with the entrenched leadership and embraced the Islamists, with whom they had shared a common ideological lineage. The AKP itself had been built on the ruins of an overtly Islamist party, of which Mr Erdogan had been a leading member.

Certain that Syria’s Bashar Al Assad would fall like Muammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, Turkey went so far as to open its southern border to the anti-regime rebels. Rhetoric began to outpace reality.

“Whatever we lost between 1911 and 1923, whatever lands we withdrew from, we shall once again meet our brothers in those lands between 2011 to 2023,” Mr Davutoglu said in 2012, referring to the World War I era and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. “We shall break the mould shaped for us by Sykes-Picot,” he said a year later.

Today, Mr Davutoglu’s “pan-Islamist” foreign policy, as Behlul Ozkan, a former student of his, called it in a recent essay, is backfiring.

Turkey finds itself bordering two failed states, Iraq and Syria, its southern border awash with waves of extremist militants.

After the Muslim Brotherhood was violently unseated by the Egyptian army, something no amount of Turkish indignation could undo, Ankara’s ambassador to Cairo has become a persona non grata.

Relations with Israel, particularly following the latest fighting in Gaza, are at a nadir.

In northern Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have held 49 Turkish citizens hostage since June, forcing the Turkish army to think twice before pursuing the militants. The country’s media has been barred from covering the hostage crisis.

That Mr Davutoglu not only managed to retain his job after all this but also got the nod to become prime minister, owes to two things.

One is his unflinching loyalty to Mr Erdogan. The other, says Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), is that even if an increasing number of Turks see Mr Davutoglu’s Middle East policy as a failure, many in the AKP camp view it as the opposite.

“They see it as having increased Turkey’s profile, having allowed it to take its rightful place in the world,” he said. “Erdogan agrees with this interpretation. They share a vision about Turkey’s future and a vision of the world.”

Perhaps because he knew he would succeed Mr Erdogan and lead the AKP into the 2015 parliamentary elections, Mr Davutoglu has gradually shed his bookish persona, channelling a more spirited, impassioned voice.

It was on display last Wednesday when the newly anointed prime minister took the stage to address the AKP faithful at the party’s convention, strutting the stage, Erdogan-style, removing his jacket, and occasionally raising his voice.

“They accused us of being utopians, they said we were only dreaming,” he said. “It’s true, we dream. But it’s those who do not dream should be ashamed.”

Mr Davutoglu left no doubt that he would continue reading from Mr Erdogan’s playbook. Turkey’s main challenges, he said, echoing his predecessor’s priorities for the next half decade, would include securing a durable peace process with Kurdish militants, forging ahead with a new constitution, and eradicating the “parallel state”, as the AKP refers to the Gulen community, an Islamic movement that has turned into Mr Erdogan’s archenemy over the past year.

Last week, only days after he was nominated as prime minister, the ruling party unveiled a short film, part hagiography, part music video, about Mr Davutoglu. “He is the hope of the oppressed,” promised the song that served as the video’s soundtrack.

Footage appeared of the bespectacled Mr Davutoglu embracing distraught Palestinians, Rohingyas and Syrians.

“He is the awaited spirit of Abdul Hamid,” the lyrics went, referencing the 19th century sultan who deployed Islamism to try to stall the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. “For the nation, for the ummah, for Allah.”

At the AKP congress, Mr Davutoglu struck the same note.

“No one should clamp Turkey between Europe and Asia,” he said. “May Allah give us the strength to help those who ask, ‘Where is the person who will help me? Is there nobody coming?’”

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Article source: http://www.thenational.ae/world/turkey/turkeys-new-pan-islamist-pm-wants-to-reshape-middle-east

Written by enfoquec on August 31st, 2014

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Grand strategy for the Middle East? We don’t know   no comments

Posted at 10:15 pm in the places I would like to go

Grand strategy for the Middle East? We don’t know

August 29, 2014 | Year 38, No. 50

Strolling through Jerusalem’s historic Yemin Moshe quarter on a pleasant August morning, my ears caught a ringing, melodic sound emanating from within the walls of the Old City, perhaps half a mile from where I stood. This being a Sunday, the sound I heard was the chiming of church bells, welcoming Christian worshippers to morning services.

Normally, there is something joyous about the sound of those bells, particularly in a city that contains the key holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But on this day, I felt a profound sadness upon hearing them. For Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is one of the few places in the Middle East where—despite what malicious anti-Zionist propagandists will tell you—Christians can practice their faith freely.

In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, about one day’s drive from here, only a minuscule handful of terrified Christians remain, the vast majority having been driven out by the savage terrorists of the Islamic State jihadist group. The ethnic cleansing of Mosul’s Christians was accompanied by the destruction of numerous holy sites, including an 1,800-year-old church and the tomb of the prophet Jonah. As Mosul’s Patriarch Louis Sako mournfully observed at the end of July, “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.” On any Sunday morning in that beleaguered city, you will no longer hear the sound of church bells.

The Islamic State’s onslaught has raged for several months now. Having spread from Syria into Iraq, the terrorist organization’s aim is to set up an Islamic caliphate in all the territories it conquers. It’s a mistake to believe that the national borders that we in the west recognize as sacrosanct are in any way respected by these modern day barbarians. As far as the Islamic State is concerned, there is certainly no place called Israel, and no place called Kurdistan, but there is also no Syria, no Iraq, no Lebanon, no Jordan. All these states are regarded as a contiguous territory where Islamic sharia law—as interpreted by a group of criminals, rapists, and torturers—will remain eternally supreme.

Unless, of course, we in the West wake up to the threat and understand that the only way to roll back the Islamic State is to pulverize it without mercy, killing as many of its fighters as we can, and seizing back some of the critical locations now under their control, such as the Mosul dam, which supplies water and electricity to northern Iraq.

There are, thankfully, signs that this process is now underway. After months of ignoring a worsening situation, despite the persistent pleas of our Kurdish allies—along with Israel, the best, most loyal, and most reliable friends the United States has in the Middle East—the Obama administration is now gingerly offering sorely needed military and logistical support. Important European allies, like France and Britain, are following suit, sending weapons and advisors to assist the Kurdish soldiers, the peshmerga, who are the first line of defense against the Islamic State. Backed by U.S. air strikes, the peshmerga now appear poised to take back the Mosul dam.

There was a horrendous irony in the fact that while much bien-pensant opinion in the West was bemoaning a fake “genocide” in Gaza, a real one was taking place with ferocious rapidity in Iraq, beginning with the Christians and then extending to the Yazidis, an ancient faith of some 500,000 people who are ethnically Kurdish. And had it not been for the astonishing courage of a female Iraqi parliamentarian, Vian Dakhil of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the world may well have remained stuck in its myopia.

Earlier this month, Dakhil took to the floor of the Iraqi parliament, delivering an impassioned speech on behalf of her people that ended with her breaking down and sobbing. Many of those who watched the speech were also in tears as she choked out those desperate, final words; as I listened to Dakhil, my first thoughts were of the Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski and the Jewish Bund international representative Szmuel Zygielbojm, both of whom attempted to alert the Allied powers to the Holocaust befalling Jews under Nazi occupation.

Then, a few days later, when I learned that Dakhil had been injured in a helicopter crash while delivering aid to Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, my heart sank even more. Thankfully, however, Dakhil is alive, and continuing to raise her voice against this grotesque genocide.

The horrors of northern Iraq have compelled the Obama administration to both quell its isolationist instincts and to delay the much-vaunted policy “pivot” from the Middle East to East Asia. However much we try, the Middle East will not let us go. And yet we still have no grand strategy for the region, no sense of how we want it to evolve, no doctrine to bring stability to its suffering peoples. Do we want to preserve Iraq’s integrity as a state? We don’t know. Do we want to encourage Kurdish independence? We don’t know. How far are we prepared to go to prevent the crucifixions, beheadings, and enslavement of women that have become the hallmarks of the Islamic State? We don’t know. If we are bombing the Islamic State in Iraq, albeit cautiously, then why are we allowing the atrocities in Syria, carried out by both the Islamic State and by the Iranian-backed Assad regime, to continue? No one, apparently, has an answer.

I’ve heard it said many times that one of the reasons President Barack Obama doesn’t like foreign intervention is that he believes political change can only come from the people whom intervention is intended to benefit. Obama is not alone; the great British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, argued much the same against the background of the Crimean War of the late 1850s.

Very well, then—let us reframe the concept of intervention in defense of human rights so that the liberators themselves are those who would otherwise be liberated by outsiders.

Within these parameters, we would not send in troops. But we can provide air support, military training, and weapons, and the expertise to create and sustain post-war democratic institutions by working with politicians like Vian Dakhil.

Such a strategy will mean staying in the Middle East a while longer. It will also mean, when we are finally able take a back seat, that we will have left this region a much healthier and happier place than when we found it.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book, “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is now available through Amazon.

Article source: http://www.heritagefl.com/story/2014/08/29/opinions/grand-strategy-for-the-middle-east-we-dont-know/3200.html

Written by enfoquec on August 29th, 2014

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Culture wars: tracking the destruction of Middle East monuments   no comments

Posted at 10:15 pm in the places I would like to go

Attacks on a community’s history — its cultural identity and the ancient monuments that bear witness to centuries of presence — are calculated. They say you do not belong here and never did; your churches, your Sufi saints’ shrines, your Shia mosques will be swept away so that you are terrified into leaving and are never tempted to return.

It is too easy to put down the recent wave of destruction, from Timbuktu to Libya to Pakistan, to a fundamental antipathy within Islam to symbols and images. While this may be true of the puritanical Islamic State (IS) movement with its roots in Salafism and its absolute intolerance of images and shrines and disregard for the sacred sites of other faiths, most Muslims are horrified at what is happening to their own built heritage and that of other congregations.

It is assumed that Islam has a single outlook regarding “shirk” (the sin of idolatry). It does not and there is little in the Koran to justify the iconoclasm of the Islamic State adherents. They are purist zealots who justify their actions using some much-disputed commentaries (Hadith) on the Koran that forbid relics to be venerated and graves to be covered by structures or to be taller than a hand’s span. But Islam has many congregations and many different attitudes to both images and shrines; just as Christianity has produced St Peter’s in Rome and plain Quaker meeting houses, Islam has built both the Taj Mahal and austere white prayer halls.

This lack of understanding in the West (and among some Muslims) about the plurality of Islamic attitudes helps conceal other motivations for destruction by the likes of IS that go beyond the doctrinal. Not only are their actions political and territorial as well as religious, they are a form of violent propaganda — terrorism is also about sending messages with its choice of targets: “The Crusaders and the Jews only understand the language of murder, bloodshed and of burning towers,” said terror leader Ayman al-Zawahri of the felling of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Using videos and social media, these messages are becoming more sophisticated and are aimed at both the West and Muslims worldwide.

Some commentators think the timing of the demolition of shrines in Timbuktu by Islamist extremists of Ansar Dine in July 2012 was to coincide with a Unesco meeting’s decision to place Mali’s world heritage sites on its list of those in danger. At the time, a spokesman for Ansar Dine told the media: “There is no world heritage. It does not exist. Infidels must not get involved in our business.”

The Taliban’s earlier snubbing of international calls to preserve the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan was similarly pointed — they wouldn’t sell the statues to a Western museum, carefully tied their actions and announcements to events such as Islamic holidays and insisted that the West needed to prioritise poverty instead of worshipping art.



Before the bombing: the historic Shia Al-Askari mosque in Samarra


Crucially, these iconoclastic attacks on monuments not only accompany murders but are often an advanced warning of worse attacks to come. At Bamiyan, dynamiting the statues in 2001 was prefaced by a campaign of ethnic cleansing against local Hazara people for whom the buddhas were a symbol of local identity. Over the past decade, Iraqi sectarian divisions have also ratcheted up in the wake of earlier attacks on holy sites, most notably after the 2006 bombing of the historic Shia Al-Askari mosque in Samarra by an extremist group of which IS is the successor.

But these are divisions that go beyond the religious to the territorial, including the desire to control Iraq’s vast oil and gas wealth. It has been hastened by a deliberate dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s carefully constructed Iraqi national identity. This wove together many diverse aspects of the country’s ancient history and archaeological record to meld an identity that crossed sectarian and ethnic lines. The Baghdad government has (with the backing of the US) been systematically demolishing Ba’ath-era monuments as part of the revisionist programme.

Islamic State in Iraq is also part of a Sunni insurgency that has rejected the Shia-supremacist government in Baghdad. And alongside the Salafists are more secular-minded forces such as the Jaish Rijal Al-Tariqa Al-Naqshbandiya (JRTN) led by a former deputy of Saddam Hussein. This heterogeneous alliance may offer some insights as to the fewer violent attacks on non-Muslims and their cultural property in Iraq (compared with that seen in Syria). Shiites and Yazidi, as supposed apostates and heretics, are suffering far worse than the region’s Christians (so far at least).

What has been happening in the parts of Syria and in post-US invasion Iraq controlled by IS and similar groups should have alerted us to what is now unfolding in Iraq. As the Syrian fighting took on an increasingly sectarian and doctrinal character, so churches and mosques were not being carelessly damaged in crossfire but became targets in themselves, accompanied by the reported slaughter of communities. Assad’s forces have also been accused of sectarian targeting such as damage to the Um al-Zennar church in Homs, parts of which date back to 50AD.

Dr Emma Cunliffe is one of a group of archaeologists who have been tracking the damage to Syrian culture in detail. Among the buildings and artworks reported as deliberately targeted for destruction in the IS-run town of Raqqa have been a statue to the poet Abdul ‘Ala Al-Ma’arri, a 6th-century Byzantine mosaic, carved Assyrian lions (though their antiquity is questioned) and an 18th-century Sufi shrine. In Maaloula, where fighting started late last year, there were stories of massacres of Christians, smashed icons, church bells removed and the bodies of saints dug up.

The Syrian (and now Iraqi) Christian diaspora makes much of these stories and circulates the videos online to make the case for action to save their communities and their heritage. Extremists use the same videos to demonstrate their power.

But while some of these reports are depressingly accurate, not all of these rapidly circulating stories are true. In the last month images appeared on Twitter and in newspapers around the world (including the UK) showing the burning of an 1,800-year-old church in Mosul. It was actually a photograph of a fire nearby that happened some time ago — the church had not burned, at that stage at least. Other photos of IS church- burning in Iraq have also proved inaccurate — sometimes they have been images of arson attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt.

Archaeology blogger Sam Hardy is now using his site, Conflict Antiquities, to separate fact from fiction. Last month, for example, Mail Online showed footage of IS militants taking a sledgehammer to the Tomb of Jonah in Iraq. The monument (largely a modern update of an older structure) has since been almost destroyed but the Mail’s pictures first surfaced 10 months ago and have been used to provide proof of previous attacks on Shia tombs in Raqqa and even ancient Jewish tombs in Syria. In its ignorance of the region and of Islam, the media is too ready to report inaccuracies, propaganda or pure hoaxes such as stories of supposed Islamist plans to demolish Egypt’s pyramids — which remains unlikely if not entirely unthinkable.

It is vital to establish the truth. This is not only so propaganda can be recognised but also so that genuine patterns of destruction are accurately tracked. These patterns are not only important as evidence of past genocides — and have been used in trials related to the former Yugoslavia at The Hague — but also because they could warn of emerging genocides in the way that the Holocaust was foregrounded by the burning of synagogues on Kristallnacht. If more attention had been paid to such activities in Syria, tens of thousands of Iraqis might not have been stranded up a mountain in fear for their lives.

Few human rights NGOs have had much time for heritage, just as few heritage NGOs put cultural destruction in its proper political and human context. Human Rights Watch appears now to be tentatively making the connections but, unfortunately, perhaps not as fast as the extremist destroyers.

Since the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda the international community has tried to develop computerised systems that offer an early warning of potential genocides and ethnic cleansing situations. Various political, demographic and economic indicators are combined to predict the level of danger but none of these models include cultural destruction in their measures. Doing so could greatly improve their accuracy and usefulness.

We must remember that you can erase a group of people by steadily eroding their identity and cultural memory just as effectively as by swiftly killing them. Who will remember the cultural diversity of the Middle East when it is gone? Saving historic treasures and saving lives are not mutually exclusive activities.

Article source: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/culture-wars-tracking-the-destruction-of-middle-east-monuments-9693006.html

Written by enfoquec on August 29th, 2014

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David Cameron stands up to Islamists — a lesson for Barack Obama   no comments

Posted at 10:15 pm in the places I would like to go

 

The contrast between Friday’s press conference in London by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Thursday’s White House remarks by President Obama could not have been starker.

Mr. Cameron delivered a robust assessment of the scale of the Islamist threat to Great Britain and to the free world. 

He told journalists assembled at Downing Street that “what we are facing in Iraq now with ISIL (Islamic State) is a greater threat to our security than we have seen before.” 

While David Cameron appeared self-assured and determined in his approach, Barack Obama came across as a deer in the headlights, unable to outline a coherent U.S. response to a rapidly growing crisis in the Middle East.

He made it clear that ISIS must not be allowed to establish an Islamist caliphate in Iraq. If they succeeded, “we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member.”

In announcing his government’s decision to raise the UK terrorism threat level to “severe,” the PM announced a series of measures to combat the Islamist threat within Britain itself, including tough new measures against British-born, self-styled “jihadists,” hundreds of whom have traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent months to fight with ISIS. 

Cameron addressed the Islamist menace head-on, declaring that “the root cause of this threat to our security is clear: it is a poisonous ideology of Islamic extremism that is condemned by all states.”

In contrast, President Obama’s remarks to the White House press corps Thursday were weak-kneed, meandering and confused, sending mixed messages both to America’s enemies and the American people. 

Mr. Obama revealed that his administration currently has “no strategy” for dealing with the ISIS threat, words that no doubt reassured the group’s murderous leadership, currently waging a campaign of terror across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. 

While David Cameron appeared self-assured and determined in his approach, Barack Obama came across as a deer in the headlights, unable to outline a coherent U.S. response to a rapidly growing crisis in the Middle East.

As the British Prime Minister pointed out, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Islamist militants across the world pose a grave threat to our security and interests. They must be combated at home and abroad. Both the United States and Great Britain must be prepared to lead the free world in the defeat of ISIS and its cohorts. The alternative to bold US and British leadership is an Iraq that descends into medieval-style barbarism, dominated by brutal terrorists, whose very goal is the destruction of the West.

Friday, Mr. Cameron issued an important warning to the world, one that should be heeded by a White House that badly needs a clear sense of direction and a real strategy for winning the global war against the Islamists.

Nile Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedomat the Heritage Foundation and a former aide to Margaret Thatcher. Follow him on Twitter@NileGardiner.

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Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/08/29/isis-threat-david-cameron-stands-up-to-islamists-lesson-for-barack-obama/

Written by enfoquec on August 29th, 2014

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Judy Asks: Will Europe Go to War Against the Islamic State?   no comments

Posted at 10:02 pm in the places I would like to go

Europe is already at war against Islamic fundamentalism in general, if not yet against the Islamic State (IS) in particular. European victims of terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, and of military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, are silent witnesses to this truth.

Alas, European public opinion shies away from this state of affairs. Europeans are distressed by their own countries’ seemingly incurable economic stagnation, skeptical about war after years of devastation, and content to indulge in schadenfreude as they see their U.S. allies in trouble. The wound that opened up in 2003, when then U.S. president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and European leadership became bitterly divided over the issue, is still festering—despite five years of suave rhetoric from Bush’s successor, Barack Obama.

Writing in 2012, I dared to predict that defense would become the biggest millstone around Europe’s neck, more so than the economy. That sounded far-fetched at the time, but unfortunately, it has become true. The EU needs to adopt a common diplomatic agenda, evolve into a much more coordinated bloc at the United Nations, and rethink its cuts on military budgets.

It would be political suicide to propose investing more in defense today. So coordinating spending, cutting hapless duplication of efforts, giving each EU country a strategic duty, and creating a European elite force capable of deploying abroad fast are measures that would give EU a much better punch—without wasting more euros.

 

Article source: http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=56469

Written by enfoquec on August 27th, 2014

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