Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.


A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)


In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.


One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.


Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?


According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.

 

Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.


intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat

Appendix:

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:


ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign

 

Transdniestria in Context of Ukraine

Posted by AriRusila on 31/03/14
Tags:  

Transdniestria flag

Prologue

Transnistrian claim for independence is being met with a certain degree of sympathy and understanding by some of the western experts. As an example, a Finnish political analyst and blogger Ari Rusila can be named; he usually presents the Transnistrian de facto statehood in quite a positive light, admitting, in particular, that “Transnistria called my attention first because of its quite ready statehood elements without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine”. He believes that Transnistria, if compared with Kosovo, has had in fact much more reasons to be recognised internationally.


The quote above is from a paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement prepared for the International conference “Frozen Conflicts” in Europe (1st September 2012, Bled, Slovenia) by Natalia Belitser and the sitation is based on my articles published in 2008.
Transdniestria
Transdniestria as next Crimea?


As the crisis in Ukraine continues to simmer, tensions in the country’s western neighbor Moldova are beginning to rise. Seeking to capitalize on President Putin’s eagerness to use the protection of Russian speaking populations in the region as a pretext to expand his territorial claims, members of two separate enclaves in Moldova are looking toward Moscow for protection.


Now after uprising and coup in Ukraine and annexing Crimea into Russia, tensions have grown to encompass Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, which like Ukraine has been making efforts to integrate further with the West. Moldova has signed the EU association and free trade agreements at the November 2013 Vilnius summit, during which former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rejected the deals. The Moldovan government has also supported the Western-backed uprising in Ukraine. Western experts worry that the next “Crimea” could be the breakaway region of Transnistria. Many locals there don’t share that fear, and if the last referendum holds, a large majority would welcome a Russian annexation.


Transdniestria – also known as Transnistria aka Pridnestrovie aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR/TMR) – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. The official language of Transdniestria is Russian, not Moldovan, while the vast Majority of schools teach the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Roman alphabet used in the rest of the country. Recently Transdniester adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region’s preference for joining Moscow’s customs union.

Most recently, Russian military exercises held March 25 in Moldova’s breakaway territory of Transdniestria have stoked these tensions. From its side the parliament (called Supreme Soviet) of Transdniestria has sent a proposal to the State Duma asking for in Russian legislation to join the breakaway Republic in Russia. The document originated in the DG as feedback on refering new draft law in Russia on the simplified order of joining the Russian federation new actors on the basis of a referendum, no international treaty, if in a foreign country has no effective legitimate authority “. (Source: Forum Pridnestrovie )


Now Moldova’s Transdniester region is seeking to follow Crimea and join Russia and this is not causing concern only in Moldova but in neighbouring Romania, Ukraine as well in EU and Nato too.
Transdniestria – and Gagauzia – are joining to the same club with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as de facto states, namely political entities that have achieved enduring ‘internal sovereignty’ – but lack ‘external sovereignty’ in the international system. As Crimea is annexed to Russia and these other “states” can follow to join Russia or continue as de facto state, this development is creating a Northern Black Sea corridor, frontline or buffer zone.

North Black Sea buffer zone

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Good Moldavia-Transdniestria cooperation since 2009 and 2011 elections


New prospects for conflict settlement have appeared after parliamentary elections of 2009 in the Republic of Moldova. The new pro-Western team – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – that substituted the Communist Party ruling the country from 2001, proved much more pragmatic and willing to deal with its breakaway region than their predecessors pursuing rather an isolationist policy. In 2011 presidential elections President Igor Smirnov, who had been in power since Transdniestria declared independence in 1990, failed to be re-elected, and was replaced by opposition MP, younger leader of the ‘Revival’ movement and former speaker of the Supreme Council Yevgeny Shevchuk. These political changes engendered hopes for the settlement process to acquire a positive momentum.


The power changes in Transdniestria give positive boost to peace process: the official negotiation process re-started after six years interruption in November 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 2012 in Dublin, Ireland and on April 2012. Finally the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 2012 this Document was signed. It included such issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,etc. Also a new approach (joint initiative of Russia and Germany, Meseburg, 2010) by the EU and Russia to resolve the conflict was the setting up of a joint Political and Security Committee (EU-R-PSC) at minister level. Related to security issues it was stated that the EU and Russia will cooperate in particular towards a resolution of the Transdniestria conflict with a view to achieve tangible progress within the established 5 + 2 format (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria, OSCE, EU, US). This cooperation could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage.


The main approach of the resumed negotiations and to the settlement process in general focuses on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). This means that political aspects of the settlement, for example a mutually accepted status of Transdniestria, are not yet touched. Instead status there has been attempts to make concrete steps of issues that both sides of the conflict are interested in. These kind of initiatives have already been following:

  • Engaging the sides into direct dialogue;
  • Establishing joint Working/Expert Groups on confidence building measures;
  • Conducting meetings at a higher level (for example, between Prime-minister of the RM Vlad Filat and leader of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk, also between the heads of foreign ministries Eugen Carpov and Nina Stanski);
  • Elaborating and implementing national and international social and economic development projects etc.

The direct dialogue at a higher level has been clear contrast to previous lack of any kind of dialogue lasting for years. There has been a dozen WGs e.g. on economy, agriculture and environment, transport, railways, civil status acts, social and humanitarian aid, health, education, combating organised crimes and emergencies, telecommunications, and customs, whereas the WG on demilitarisation and security is not yet operating.
Growing dispute between parties started by unilateral actions by both parties during Spring 2013. First Moldova established migration control of citizens in six checkpoints, second Transdniestria started to mark border in in the sc Security Zone or line of demarcation after the Transdniestrian war (1992).
More about negotiation history in my article Transnistrian number game and in conference paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement by Natalya Belitser )

Tools against Transdniestria by Chisinau and Kiev

Arsenal of tools, on that, with the support of Western “ideological-political sponsors” can count in Chisinau and the Kiev could be as following:

  • further tightening of border crossing for the residents of Transdniestria, the introduction of a total ban on border crossings by social groups and citizens (It is noteworthy in this regard that, that the admission of foreign citizens on the territory of Moldova is liberalized; Ukrainian officials should examine stats for financial gains and losses of the Moldovan side of Ukrainian companies, eg, air carriers);
  • blocking of export-import operations of the Transdniestrian side, transit of Transdniestrian goods, that is well within the common “European” subjects as a way to European integration, with a demand for the full functioning of the Transdniestrian Moldovan business rules;
  • ban on border crossings by vehicles with Transdniestrian number;
  • refusal to issue permits for the Transnistrian passenger transport;
  • Moldovan law on the placement of the Ukrainian checkpoints with full access to all databases and law carry out administrative functions, etc..

Russia ready if needed

Nato warns that a pro-Russian enclave of Moldova could be Moscow’s next target after Crimea. Nato’s top military Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said on 23rd Feb. 2014 that Russia has a large force on Ukraine’s eastern border and is worried it could pose a threat to Moldova’s separatist Transdniestria region.Russia launched a new military exercise, involving 8,500 artillery men, near Ukraine’s border 10 days ago. Breedlove said the Russian tactic should lead the 28-nation Western military alliance to rethink the positioning and readiness of its forces in eastern Europe so that they were ready to counter Moscow’s moves.(The Telegraph)


How the Russian forces would get there. Transdniestria is landlocked and to go there by land would require Russian troops to travel through much of western Ukraine. However, Russian forces based in the Eastern side of the Black Sea and Crimea could conceivably stage an airlift. Since it fought a brief separatist war to breakaway from Moldova in 1991, Transdniester has been home to “peacekeeping” garrison of around 1,000 Russian troops. One option is also that Russia includes Odessa in a “security belt” that would presumably stretch from Crimea to Transdniestria.


The speaker of Transdniestria’s separatist parliament urged Russia middle of March 2014 to incorporate the region and the republic’s parliament, called the Supreme Soviet, sent an official request to Moscow asking if Transdniestria could be allowed to join the Russian Federation. The talks within the 5+2 format (Russia, Moldova, Transdniestria, Ukraine, the OSCE and observers from the EU and the US) are scheduled for 10-11 April 2014.


In Moldova the appetite for European integration among Moldova’s 3.5 million people had weakened even before the crisis in Ukraine and a parliamentary election later this year may bring a return of the pro-Russian Communist Party That was forced from power in 2009. Moldova falls under the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, which contains no explicit similar promise of membership like the countries of the Western Balkans .

Gagauzia had referendum too

Gagauzia Moldova map

Transnistria (orange) and Gagauzia (red) are pro-Russian regions in Moldova (photo courtesy of Stratfor)

Following a 1991 declaration of independence, Comrat (Gagauzia’s capital) agreed to remain a part of Moldova, after Chisinau agreed to grant the region the legal status of a “special autonomous zone“. Chisinau’s control was challenged in February 2014 when Gagauzia held a referendum to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. The referendum followed Chisinau’s decision to enter a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union in November 2013–the same agreement former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich snubbed when he opted for the customs union with Moscow. Gagauzia has a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. Many locals fear that Chisinau’s EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.


An overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum – with turnout more than 70 % – held in the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia have voted for integration with a Russia-led customs union: 98.4 percent of voters chose closer relations with the CIS Customs Union. In a separate question, 97.2 percent were against closer EU integration. In addition, 98.9 percent of voters supported Gagauzia’s right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own independence. Moldova’s government claims that referendum in Gagauzia is unconstitutional and had no legal legitimacy.


Although the security situation in Gagauzia remains calm, on 26 March, the executive committee in Comrat announced its decision to establish independent police stations in Comrat, as well as in its northern and southern cities of Briceni and Cahul. Moscow has demonstrated support for Gagauzia following the referendum. The regions governor, Mihail Formuzal visited Moscow in March 2014 and got impression that Russia was prepared to expand partnerships with Gagauzia and “provide the necessary support”. Despite an embargo against wine produced in Moldova, Russia began importing it from Gagauzia, likely as an attempt to encourage additional good will toward its benefactor.

Bottom line


It easy to say that incorporating Transdniestria – as well Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea – into Russia (and Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia) is against international law (whatever it is) or some international agreements. Although Russia moving into eastern Ukraine could be–as the West says–invasion-occupation-annexation. However in my opinion these actions are more legitimate or justified than U.S.expansionism, secret wars and interventions around the globe.


The other possible scenarios than annex into Russia for Transdniestria are e.g:

  • Status quo maintained aka “frozen conflict” continues;
  • Re-integration of the Republic of Moldova with condition of establishing a confederation including Moldova, Transdniestria as Gaugazia entities, this could be pragmatic option for Ukraine too;
  • Transnistria gained its independence and state sovereignty recognized internationally
  • Joining Ukraine, which option after coup in Kiev seems most unlikely option to me.

In my opinion even without international recognizion Transnistria meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood. As long as Transdniester’s status is unresolved, it will be a serious political obstacle to Moldova’s joining the EU, which does not want another “divided state” like Cyprus on it hands.

Transdniestria and Moldavia map
My previous article about Transdniestria:

 

Case Ukraine In Figures

Posted by AriRusila on 21/03/14
Tags:  

Crimea tourism

Instead of long analysis I have collected here some flash of trivia – figures and views – related to ongoing events in Ukraine:

An U.S. view:

U.S. view about Russia

and with more details:

U.S. view Ukraine

Peoples in Ukraine vote:

Voting maps of Ukraine

Peoples in Crimea think:

Crimea languages

and more precisely:

Crimea opinion

German “Der Tagesspiegel” ongoing poll – How should the West react to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. The results of 12000+ votes

German view Ukraine

An other German view:

German view Ukraine

Some historical perspective:

Referendums of independence

The choice:

Ukraine's options

And the bottom line:

Putin on Ukraine 2014

Whereas something stays over century through conflicts and politics:

Swallow nest castle in Crimea Ukraine

Swallow nest castle in Crimea

Earlier about Ukraine case:

And earlier about Ukraine:

Crimean referendum overshadows Euromaiden Crime

Crimea referendumA referendum on the status of Crimea is to be held on 16 March 2014. Crimea will vote on Sunday in a ballot referendum that leaders of the regional Parliament expect will ratify their decision to break away from Ukraine. Ukraine’s new leadership and its Western allies insist that the referendum is illegal. Dispute about legality or legitimacy of referendum is overshadowing the massacre in Kiev on 19.-21.Feb. 2014, an event which finalized the coup in Kiev, established the government which claims to be the legal one now in Ukraine.

Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. Ukraine – or better say present Kiev regime following the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal. Both the Crimean parliament and the city council of Sevastopol consider the referendum legitimate as they consider the ousting of the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to be illegal, arguing that it did not follow due process.

The referendum

We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media. 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration. If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.

According to the provisional rules approved by the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian citizens aged 18 or older and registered as residents of Crimea can vote. They must produce a Ukrainian passport or any other identification document issued by the migration service. The Crimean parliament has formally invited OSCE election monitors, but the OSCE does not plan to send any because of its stance that the vote is “illegal”. Russia plans to send 24 MPs to observe the referendum and eight election officials to oversee the vote. Over 2.2 million ballots will be printed. About 1,250 voting stations will be ready. Russians comprise about 60% of Crimea’s population, Ukrainians around 25% and Tatars 12%.

The city of Sevastopol, which has a special administrative status, will hold a simultaneous referendum offering the same choices, which are following:

1. Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?

2. Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?

Voters will have to mark one option affirmatively, but they cannot vote for the status quo.  A return to the 1992 Constitution — adopted after the Soviet collapse but quickly thrown out by the post-Soviet Ukraine — would effectively provide for Crimea’s independence, while remaining part of Ukraine. The Crimean government would have broad powers to chart its own course, including its relations with other nations such as Russia.

Ukrainian far-right and Russia

With pro-Russian forces firmly in control of Crimea politically and militarily as well popular support, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the result is in favour of Crimea being incorporated into Russia.

Background

The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a “symbolic gesture,” by Nikita Khrushchev, marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire. Besides gesture one motivation for annaxation might be the aim to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during World War 2.

Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a 1991 referendum. Voters were asked whether they wanted to re-establish the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been abolished in 1945. The proposal was approved by 94% of voters. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine abolished the 1992 Crimean Constitution and the office of President of Crimea in 1995. Crimea gained a new constitution in 1998 that granted less autonomy; notably, any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament could be vetoed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Resentment against the central government in Kiev has been on the rise in Crimea since the 2004 Orange revolution. If, in 1996 and 2001, only half of Crimean residents supported rejoining Russia, by 2008 a survey by the Kiev based Razumkov Center showed that, among those who had made up their mind on the issue, 73 percent backed secession from Ukraine with a goal of joining Russia. In the latest poll, taken by the Crimean Republic’s Institute for Political and Sociological Research, 85 percent say they plan to take part in the referendum, and 77 percent say they will vote to join the Russian Federation.

Crimea map

Legal aspects

Ukraine and the West have dismissed the secession referendum in Crimea as unconstitutional and illegal but the same could be claimed about present Ukrainian government in Kiev. In my opinion the core question from legal point is that referendum itself is not against international law. The other question is that the actions after result might be against some Ukrainian constitution but one can ask how valid that is. Formally separation is similar like in Kosovo which was later deemed to be according international law. The only difference is argument if there has been oppression against local population or not; in Kosovo it was estimated that this was true so far in Crimea there is not enough evidence about case. There is of course also difference between international law and sc international community as later is more related to politics than law.

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/fWkfpGCAAuw?feature=player_embedded” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Euromaidan massacre

Former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square. Shots that killed both civilians and police officers were fired from the Philharmonic Hall building in Ukraine’s capital, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Aleksandr Yakimenko told Russia 1 channel. The building was under full control of the opposition and particularly the so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Parubiy who after the coup was appointed as the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yakimenko added. Furthermore the former security chief believes that Parubiy has been in contact with US Special Forces that could have coordinated the assault.

[youtube  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnpCQr1kp...] Snipers shoot from Maidan activists office.

There is also a theory that the snipers came from an ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO). According to veteran US intelligence sources, UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. The organization is part of a secret NATO “GLADIO” organization. UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. UNA-UNSO have been involved (confirmed officially) in the Lithuanian events in the Winter of 1991, the Soviet Coup d’etat in Summer 1991, the war for the Pridnister Republic 1992, the anti-Moscow Abkhazia War 1993, the Chechen War, the US-organized Kosovo Campaign Against the Serbs, and the August 8 2008 war in Georgia. UNA-UNSO is also reported to have close ties to the German National Democratic Party (NDP).

Gladio

Evidence has accumulated demonstrating the Euromaidan movement was artificially created by the architects of color revolution – the State Department, USAID, and the Soros NGOs – and this movement, consisting in large part of sincere yet duped Ukrainians attempting to effectuate political change, was cynically used to install a preferred minion in power, namely Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, a central banker, to protect of interests of some Ukrainian oligarchs. (Source:Infowars:Order Out of Chaos: Gladio Snipers Behind Killings in Kyiv)

The outcome

Media outlets expect the choice to join Russia to be declared as winner. Thus, while by any account Crimea’s legal basis for holding a referendum is weak, so is also the legitimacy of present Ukrainian (Kiev) government especially if one takes seriously the claims related to Euromaidan massacre. It is worth recalling that when, on February 27, the Crimean parliament first decided to hold a referendum on expanding regional autonomy, it was exclusively within the context of remaining in Ukraine. It was Kiev’s ham-fisted attempt to replace key regional officials after agreeing not to do so that led to the inclusion of a second option to join Russia.

Meanwhile Russian companies withdraw billions from west, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze. Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US.

On the bottom line the referendum does matter. If the result is that most people in Crimea want to join Russia so this can help to find a deal between U.S., the present government and Russia. A win-win face saving solution could be that Crimea will be annexed to Russia and as compensation Ukraine will get e.g. cheaper gas deal, most oligarchs can keep their loot, the ordinary people can get at best relatively stable conditions for a while and U.S. a puppet government in Kiev. The most important outcome could be that the battle moves from verge of war to political and economic fields.

More in my earlier articlesFarewell Ukrainian Independency And Democracy and Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism

EU+Ukraine+Russia puzzle


Farewell Ukrainian Independency And Democracy

Posted by AriRusila on 04/03/14
Tags: , ,  

Nur eine Partnerschaft mit der EU und Russland kann der Ukraine Stabilität geben.” (Manfred Schünemann)

Ukrainian defence News logoThe situation in Ukraine is chaotic and tense and even on the verge of military confrontation. Kiev is seems to be under rule of former opposition groups while the Strasserian protestors are still waiting if new government is acting with their expectations; Crimea is in Russian control, eastern provincies don’t accept rule from Kiev and ethnic minorities feel thread of neo-nazi groups which occupied the initiative of Maidan; ignored average citizens know the totally corrupted political system but not how to fix it.

From my perspective the future of Ukraine looks grim, it still lacks rule of law, genuine political parties, a meritocratic civil service and movement to change situation. Due de facto bankrupty of state economic and social decisions would be taken abroad, conflict between political elite and people the foreign aid will be shared among politicians and oligarchs and due regional confrontation, thread against minority rights and geopolitical spheres of influence the outcome will probably be dissolution of the country.

From popular protest to Strasserite coup

There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”
(Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls )

Strasserism by Wikipedia
Strasserism (German: Strasserismus or Straßerismus) refers to the strand of Nazism that called for, and the neo-Nazism that currently calls for, a more radical, mass-action and worker-based form of National Socialism, hostile to Jews from an anti-capitalist basis, to achieve a national rebirth.

The protests and uprising started when one part of western Ukrainians feel that their dream or great opportunity to integrate with West had slipped away. Soon came anger against economic mismanagement of rotten politicians and finally more radical and violent elements – fanatic Greco-Roman priests, hooligans, nationalists, Russophobes, neo-Nazis and anti-semitists – took the initiative. The “shock troops” were recruited from the ranks of Dynamo Kiev football fans. The middle class, especially in the traditionally nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking West, easily supported EUtopioan dream. This Ukrainian opposition was facilitated by covert action, informal diplomacy and massive funding from U.S. institution aiming to achieve what has just happened.What happened to the Ukraine on February 22, 2014 is essentially a criminal coup committed by the radical armed anarchists and Ukrainian Nazis who have been enjoying a comprehensive financial, military, diplomatic and even religious support and instigation from the Western power groups for the last two decades. Many of the Ukraine’s cities are now falling into the chaos of looting, unprovoked violence, lynch law and political repressionn.

protests vs insurgents

Besides neutral Ukrainian army and Russian troops in Crimea the only organized and armed force is the ultra-nationalist Right Sector. One of the group’s leaders, Aleksandr Muzychko, has pledged to fight against “Jews and Russians until I die.” Asserting the Right Sector’s authority over the situation, Muzychko declared that now that the democratically elected government has been overthrown, “there will be order and discipline” or “Right Sector squads will shoot the bastards on the spot.” The Right Sector is organized, well armed and focused. As the Ukrainian personnel of the private military contractors were used in provocative clandestine actions to meet Western political goals in the Middle East, there is also unconfirmed rumor that many of them were sent to Kiev to make the job they are paid for – to target both policemen and protesters on “Euromaidan” from the roofs of surrounding buildings.

Coup a la Gene Sharp’s instructions

(1) seize a central square and organise a mass peaceful sit-in,

(2) speak endlessly of danger of violent dispersal,

(3) if the authorities do nothing, provoke bloodshed,

(4) yell bloody murder,

(5) the authority is horrified and stupefied and

(6) removed and

(7) new powers take over.

The most urgent task for new rulers was to State Language Policy Act, which granted “regional language” status to all languages of minority groups that make up more than 10 per cent of the population in a given area. The decision mainly affects not only communities of Russian-speakers but others too; for example Bulgarians and Hungarians are very worried. This was totally wrong signal as well extra reason for confrontation.

The West apparently likes Yatsenyukof the Fatherland Party. He speaks English quite well and is ready to repeat all the phrases that are pleasing to Western ears. The notorious telephone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt suggests that the Batkivshchyna leader was Washington‘s selelection and indeed now his acting PM in Kiev. Vitali Klitschko, the boxer, is a very attractive figure: he’s got a doctorate and he’s a world-class boxing champion. Plus, he’s against corruption, he’s moderate, and he wouldn’t want to cut off Russia. But heUkraine parties‘s got no experience in government. The oligarchs there are also not going to be too keen on somebody who’s going to battle corruption too valiantly. Anyway I think that Klitschko have a good change in Presidential elections.

As the apparent pro-European/Western uprising was succesful it tells only one part about average Ukrainians attitudes related to EU or NATO. As on 2004, 40% of Ukrainians were against joining NATO and 30% were in favour, the rest were uncertain. According to the FOM-Ukraine pollster, in April 2009, 57% of Ukrainians were against joining the alliance, while 21% were in favor. A November 2009 poll by Ukrainian Project System relieved 40.1% of Ukrainians polled said the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with Russia was the best global security group for Ukraine to be apart of, more than 36% of the respondents of the poll said that Ukraine should remain neutral and only 12.5% supported Ukraine’s accession to NATO.

Support in Ukraine for NATO membership since 2002 (Source: Wikipedia)

Polls For

Against

2002 Razumkov Centre 32%

32.2%

2004 University of Sussex 30%

40%

April 2009 21%

57%

November 2009 Ukrainian Project System 12.5%

-

December 2009 Democratic Initiative Foundation 21%

60%

January 2011 RATINGFOM-Ukraine 24%

70%

February 2012 RATING 20%

70%

July 2012 RATING 17%

70%

December 2012 Democratic Initiatives Foundation & Razumkov Center 15%

60%

Ukrainian attitudes towards Russia (Source: Wikipedia)

Opinion Oct 2008 Jun 2009 Sept 2009 Nov 2009 Sep 2011 Jan 2012 Apr 2013
Good 88% 91% 93% 96% 80% 86% 70%
Negative 9% - - - 13% 9% 12%

Ukraine’s dissolution after military confrontation

Leaders of mainly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine have challenged the legitimacy of the national (Kiev) parliament and have taken control of their territories. These regions – Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Lugansk and Crimea – have a population of 14.4 million. Most are important industrial centers. The nightmare scenario, however, is the disintegration of the country.

Ukraine territory

The situation has now gone from chaos to the verge of military confrontation. The pro-Russia region of Crimea is seething, and the new central government that took over in Kiev after Mr. Yanukovych fled is barely functioning. The fact that the Crimean peninsula – the main flashpoint in Ukraine’s crisis – is a pro-Russia part of Ukraine, separated from the rest of the country geographically, historically and politically and it also hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Personally I do not believe that situation in Ukraine will escalate to war. The globalcontext of military confrontation in Ukraine is related to strategic interests of Russia, U.S. foreign policy and NATO’s expansion since the end of the Cold War. In my opinion this part of problem is easiest to solve when both sides define and agree each other’s red lines.
Russian flags in Ukraine
The citizens in Ukraine do not have shared concept of Ukrainian identity; one explanation can be that the Ukrainian state – with borders today - was assembled, not by Ukrainians themselves but by outsiders. The eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine are Russian areas that were added to Ukraine in the 1950s by the Soviet leadership in order to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during WW2.

Ukraine means ‘borderlandand that it exactly is in geo-strategy. Some form of annexation of Russian-speaking areas – and not only Crimea – may have the Kremlin’s backing. The tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country which on the other hand might blanguage id in Ukrainee not so bad outcome. The outcome might be then a federation or confederation and anyway more power in regions than today. I hope that whatever way Ukrainians choose they can make it in future without interference from abroad.

Economic independence went already
After all the emotional revolutionary clamor dies down, the revolutionary regime will be subject to the tender mercies of European bankers and the IMF, as it pleads for desperately needed loans in the tens of billions of dollars. Ukraine’s new rulers have said loans worth $37 billion went missing from state accounts during Yanukovich’s three years in power. Ukraine hoped to begin receiving international aid soon and was determined to fulfil conditions needed for IMF support. A previous deal collapsed after Kiev failed to implement IMF demands for lower gas subsidies, which would have hurt Ukrainians by pushing up energy prices sharply. The United States promised to add economic aid to anticipated IMF and EU packages for the Ukraine. The country has asked for $35bn. EU officials put its short-term needs at $4bn. As before possible rescue package by the IMF would carry harsh conditions similar the ones imposed on Greece or worse. This is also a powerful factor for workers in the eastern part to oppose the turn to the EU. Although they hate the oligarchs and do not love the ousted President or his party, they fear that any alternative would be worse for them. There would have to be savage cuts in public spending, increased taxation and a reduction in subsidies. The IMF is demanding a substantial increase in energy prices of the order of 40 percent. Ukraine owes $73 billion in foreign debt, and $12 billion of that comes this year. It’s the IMF’s job to dispense unpleasant medicine, and so far neither Brussels nor Washington have offered much to sweeten the pill.
In December 2013, President Putin promised Yanukovich a $15 billion bailout, but Russia has put the deal on hold after releasing an initial instalment, saying it wants more clarity about the new government and its policies. Because of its history, geographical location, and both natural and constructed economic ties, there is no way Ukraine will ever be a prosperous, healthy, or united country unless it has a non-antagonistic relationship with Russia. A federation with governors elected locally and not appointed by a winner-take-all president or prime minister would be essential. Real autonomy for Crimea will also be required. Russia has strong cultural, historical and economic ties with eastern Ukraine, and some factories there have contracts with the Russian military. One possiblity is that Ukraine could become a federation giving more power to its regions – a move, that might enable eastern regions to join a trading bloc led by Russia. The key principle in my opinion is that Ukraine must not be forced to choose between east and west, and that its future peace and prosperity depends on balanced and respectful economic and other relationships with EU and Russia.

Ukraine’s future will be determined by the extent to which the IMF, the United States, or the European Union can sweeten its aid package. However, because of the eurozone crisis in Europe and the debt crisis in the United States, financial pledges face a high hurdle. Objectively, the optimal scenario for Ukrainian economy would be to continue the old policies of geopolitical “neutrality”, without decisive integration into Western or Eastern structures. Any “choice” will be a severe blow to Ukrainian exports.

 “Ukraine’s capital has fallen with pro-Western street coup.”

“Ukraine’s capital has fallen with pro-Western street coup.”

Oligarchs have benefited from the corruption and political chaos in Ukraine over the past two decades. A tiny handful of wealthy robber barons enjoy obscene wealth from the property they have stolen from the people through so-called privatisation. About half a dozen oligarchs in Ukraine have concentrated fabulous wealth since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The oligarchy continues to loot the people, especially through its hold over the banks that charge exorbitant rates of interest (25-30%). While the oligarchs fight over the division of the plunder, small businesses are being ruined. Between 2010 and 2012 the number of businesses shrank by 600,000, according to the state statistics committee of Ukraine. There is a split within the oligarchy as the heavy industry bosses in the eastern part of Ukraine, with only Russia to sell their products to, protested that the price for European integration was too high while the steel industry bosses, with export markets in the EU and Asia, maintained their silence.
The Ukrainian economy suffers from a fatal combination of all the worst features of the old bureaucratic state and all the worst features of gangster capitalism. According to the World Bank, Ukraine is among the top 10 recipients of remittances from abroad, with transactions reaching $9.3bn in 2013. It estimates the total number of Ukrainians working abroad at close to five million. In 2012 they sent home $7.5bn (4% of Ukraine’s GDP) through bank transfers. It easy to understand that the EU’s offer of a trade deal was popular in the western Ukraine because it promised to ease the conditions for immigration.

USA vs UkraineThe EU is hardly likely to send large amounts of money to Ukraine‘s totally corrupted system so they look to the USA to help them out under the disguise of the IMF. The idea that Moscow would be prepared to continue to underwrite the debts of a government in Kiev that is openly hostile to Russia is unrealistic dream. Instead any rapprochement with the EU could be met by high tariffs against Ukrainian exports to Russia. They could also call in their outstanding debts. That would be enough to send the Ukrainian economy – already in a very bad state – into free fall with dire consequences. Anyway what would be left of the idea of Ukrainian national sovereignty when all important economic and social decisions would be taken by European and American bankers?
Ukraine’s democracy as an illusion

Of the people that protested, few had read the Association Agreement. Most thought that immediately after it was signed they would be able to travel to Europe without a visa and that there would be an end to corruption in Ukraine and life would be like it is in Europe. That wasn’t going to be the case.” (Vera Kovalenko, Kiev)

Krim 2014The obstacle clouding over the future of Ukraine‘s democracy is the rotten political elite and some dozen oligarchs behind system .The real fundamental conflict in Ukraine is between ordinary citizens and political elite. So there are some cold realities ahead for Ukraine’s revolutionaries. It is normal faith of Strasserism that sc revolutions will soon be hijacked; the recent examples can be found from outcome of “Arab Spring”. The bottom line now is that there is not a one political party in Kiev which represents other interests than those of their leaders – the masses will be bystander like always.

How to progress from uprising to revolution? The main weakness of the uprising in Ukraine has been the absence of an independent movement of the working class. According Marxist/Trotskyistperspective - Where is Ukraine going? by Alan Woods – the only real alternative to the rule of the oligarchs is a democratic Socialist Ukraine, in which the land, the banks and the industries would be in the hands of the working class and the wealth of the country would be used for the benefit of all. Such a programme could cut across all differences between East and West, uniting all the working people against the wealthy parasites and political elite. The first step would be the confiscation of all the wealth and property. The loot should be returned to the people of Ukraine from who it was robbed. It should be used to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine on the basis of a democratically planned socialist economy.
The second step is the repudiation of all the debts contracted by the oligarchy and its political puppets. The Ukrainian people were never consulted about the shady deals of their rulers and cannot accept any responsibility for them. They must not permit the foreign robbers to suck any more of their blood! The wealth created by the Ukrainian workers must remain in Ukraine and be used for the benefit of the people who created it. Once the working class has thrown the parasites off its back and taken control of the means of production, the sky would be the limit. Unfortunately I estimate that this kind of progress is at least as big utopia than Ukraine’s EU membership although better one.

Ideal solutions unfortunately mission impossible

People in many towns have demonstrated that together they can have influence at local level. Together without ethnic or religious tensions they can avoid failure like it happened with “Arab Spring”. What is clear is that the current political elites have widely lost their legitimacy. There is real change for progress by creating new power-structures at grassroots. The task would be the gradual building of grassroots networks and institutions that reflect the will of the people, in all different ways and complexity. Unfortunately I’m afraid that this kind of challenge is too big any time soon in Ukraine.

On the opposite there is also change that counter-move by centralized establishment will win with help of EU, US and Russia. An easy task is to gain political stability by making deal between foreign powers, oligarchs and national political elite. However, if agreements are again conducted by the same power elites – establishment - than before, the results will again lack the democratic legitimacy and nothing will change. In my opinion a new kind of engagement by both the US and the European Union could be, that the protests should be welcomed, old power structures and elite ousted and real implementation and progress led by masses at local grassroots level facilitated. By this way I think that “Ukrainian Spring” and real democracy could be flowering.

My conclusions

In my opinion the onlypractical peaceful way to save Ukraine’s Potemkinin villages as independent united state is that the political elites from moderate opposition parties now ruling in Kiev and Party of regions plus other parties from ousted government as well oligarchs behind them join their forces to slam The Right Sector and similar groups down. An ideal pragmatic outcome would be a broad settlement involving Ukraine’s new leadership (after May elections), Russia and the EU, arranged under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This does not solve the real fundamental conflict in Ukraine is between ordinary citizens and political elite. One possible way of preserving territorial integrity would be decentralization — giving more autonomy to the different regions of Ukraine. Although federalization is seen in Kiev and western Ukraine as a step toward ultimate partition, it could in fact help hold Ukraine together.


More about Ukraine e.g. in

Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism
Ukraine: End of Orange Revolution, start of Stabilisation
Ukraine – choosing a new Way
Stop to Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Nato dreams can start the policy of detente again

Appendix:

The Uniate Church –

One of the the ultranationalist elements in the Western Ukraine

The Uniate Church, a minority religious Greek-Catholic community of the Eastern rite, created by the Holy See in XVI century in a desperate attempt to weaken close ties of Rzeczpospolita’s Orthodox with Moscow. Their tactic was to aggressively occupy Orthodox cathedrals on the canonic territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. The last thing the Uniate clergy used to preach in the occupied churches for all these years was the Christian call for repentance and peace. Instead they propagated a new crusade against the Orthodox and directly instigated and justified race-motivated prosecutions and even killings, acting exactly like radical jihadist preachers of the militant pseudo-Islamic sects.

Suffice to watch a “Sunday sermon” by Mykhailo Arsenych, the clergyman from a local Uniate church in Ivano-Frankovsk region, Ukraine saying: “Today we are really ready for a revolution.The only effective methods of combat are assassination and terror! We want to be sure that no Chinese, Negro, Jew or Muscovite will try to come and grab our land tomorrow!”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5EXdbzID...]

Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism

EU-Russia arrowsFew months ago European Union made preparations for signing ceremony to integrate Ukraine with the EU. However Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements and thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. A couple of dozen people has died and a couple of hundred injured during these events. What actually is happening in Kiev is only small fragment for media use, the real geopolitical game is going on in Washington, Brussels and Moscow.

Ukraine provides strategic position which is universally important, central to Russia’s defensibility as the two countries share a long border and Moscow is located only some 480 kilometers from Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is also home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol; losing commercial and military access to those ports would completely undermine Russia’s influence in the Black Sea and cut off its access to the Mediterranean. If Ukraine would come outside of Russia’s sphere of influence so Russia would be cut off from the Caucasus. It’s easy to understand that tighter Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potential threat to Russian national security. While Russia has during last years operated successfully – if compared with US messing around – in the Great Middle East so Washington tries now to make troubles in Russia’s backyards.

There is nothing new in US strategy. Already in 1997 strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski concluded as follows ( A Geostrategy for Eurasia, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Foreign Affairs, 1997):

Eurasia is the world’s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world’s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa…What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.”

The western choice

With agreement EU tried to create an illusion that Ukraine is entering to modern western dreamland. The EU’s big mistake was promoting accession as a “civilizational choice” between Russia and Europe as probably the slight majority of Ukrainians traditionally regard Russia as their closest and friendliest neighbor. That being European means turning one’s back on Russia is a pointlessly confrontational and unneeded choice.

Ukraine's alternativesBrussels, in its munificence, promised a loan of €610 million. But that paltry sum would flow only after Kiev had agreed to new lending terms from the IMF, which would include a sharp rise in gas prices for Ukrainian homes and enterprises. No wonder Yanukovich government wants a more balanced agreement.

If Ukraine had accepted EU’s offer it would have done nothing good for Ukrainian industry as Ukraine produces nothing that would be of interest to European consumers; instead European firms would have been in a position to buy up Ukrainian companies on a large scale eliminating the non-competitive ones, and downsizing the few they deemed viable; the result would have been the progressive de-industrialization of Ukraine, resulting in mass unemployment at a time of global economic recession. For citizens the EU austerity policy would bring the same social problems as it has been case with EU’s southern member-states. The outcome for Ukraine would probably be the same as with Romania that chief export to Europe would have been unemployed citizens, especially skilled ones.

For Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, it was not pressure from Russia that provoked Ukraine’s flip-flop on the association deal with the European Union. Azarov said in the interview that the last drop that tilted the balance in favor of Moscow was the tough set of terms from the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a much needed rescue loan being sought by Ukraine.”We could not go with these terms,” he said.


The Russian response

Ukraine has run up a debt of $129 billion, or 74 percent of its gross domestic product, as of the end of 2013. At a time when it needs more cash to bridge gaping holes in its public finances, Russia could prove a lender of choice. The IMF turned away the country’s policy makers with the terms it offered for its $15 billion loan, such as raising utility bills by 40 percent, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Russia is Ukraine’s second-biggest export market, taking $17.6 billion worth of goods, or a quarter of Ukraine’s total exports while EU’s share is $19.9 billion. Moscow has also argued that an association agreement with the EU will mean the end of the free-trade arrangement it currently has with Ukraine, raising the specter of a sudden tariff wall dropping on trade routes, and tightening border checks.

The Russian response was real and pragmatic. Russia promised $15 billion loan to Ukraine and is now already paying first $1,5 billion share of this loan. Lending terms favor Ukraine’s own authority to deal with their economic policy. Russia remains Ukraine’s largest foreign investor and Ukraine still remains highly dependent on the Russian market. Ukraine’s push to secure greater energy independence for itself by developing indigenous oil and natural gas projects will not bear fruit for a number of years, and the country remains dependent on Russia for low-cost supplies of energy.

Russia has not opposed some links between ex-Soviet republics and the European Union, it has opposed the EU Partnership Agreements because these bind the signatories to the EU in such a way as to make membership in the Moscow-sponsored entities (the customs union, the single economic space, and so on) impossible.

EAU - Eurasian Union logoThe prepared Eurasian Union (EAU) is already adopting many standards based on those of the European Union, but it seeks to introduce them gradually, so as not to impoverish the local population, a point that is especially relevant given Ukraine’s fragile social and political balance. Second, they point out that European Union rules are very narrowly tailored to the needs of member states, which may not be optimal when competing for access to other markets. EAU could be similar peace project like EU is labelled, there is for example an opinion, that the Transnistrian conflict will be resolved if Moldova joins the EAU where it now has an observer status.

The US interference

Same old, same old. Like we said earlier, there’s nothing new here, nothing at all. All the blabber about “democracy” is just public relations crappola. It means nothing. US elites want to trim Moscow’s wings, set up shop in Eurasia, control China’s growth, be a bigger player in the continent’s oil and natural gas markets, export its financial services model, and make as much money as possible in the 21st century’s hottest market, Asia. It’s all about profits. Profits and power. But then, you probably knew that already. (Mike Whitney)

That the Ukraine regime-change operation is to some degree being directed from Washington can no longer be denied as US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape micro-managing Ukraine opposition party strategies with US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. While Secretary of State John Kerry decries any foreign meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, his State Department is virtually managing the entire process.” (Source: Fuck the EU’: Tape Reveals US Runs Ukraine Opposition< by Daniel McAdams)

During her latest visit to Kiev, which coincided with the leaking of the phone call, Nuland met and posed publicly with the three opposition leaders mentioned in the taped conversation — ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko, the chief of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms, or UDAR (an acronym that means “punch”), and Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the neo-fascist Svoboda party which venerates the mass murderers of Hitler’s SS and Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party, who served as minister of economy and minister of foreign affairs in the ill-fated government brought to power by the so-called Orange Revolution orchestrated by Washington in 2004. (Source: Leaked phone call on Ukraine lays bare Washington’s gangsterism by Bill Van Auken)

Since 2004 dozens of organizations are granted funds under the PAUCI program alone, (Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative, which is administered by the US-based Freedom House) and this is only one of many programs that funneled dollars into Ukraine. Also millions of US taxpayer dollars were sent via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to Ukraine through NED’s National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. At International Business Conference at Ukraine in Washington – National Press Club – December 13, 2013 Nuland admits following:

“Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government…We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals.”

The opposition

It is possible that Vitali Klitschko becomes the next president of Ukraine. Lacking the knowledge and experience needed to govern a country, Klitschko will inevitably become a pawn in the hands of people who are about to raise him to the top of the state hierarchy hiding in the shadow of his “throne”. Among them will be the American consultants who work with the UDAR Party. It is interesting to take a look at just what kind of companies are mediating in contacts between Klitschko and the US Congress and American government agencies, as well as advising his staff on organizing the early presidential race.

Until recently, according to UDAR’s political strategist Rostislav Pavlenko, the party was working with the American company PBN, which specializes in the field of so-called “strategic communications” on the markets of Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries. According to PBN’s site, the key areas of the company’s activities are “corporate and crisis communications, public and government relations, and financial communications and investor relations.”

The company’s Ukrainian office is headed by American citizen Myron Wasylyk, a former State Department employee, member of the supervisory board of the US-intelligence-linked Eurasia Foundation, and member of the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies, founded on the money of George Soros. This center, by the way, contributed to the writing of a draft of a free trade zone agreement between Ukraine and the EU that the president of Ukraine considered a threat to the national interests of the country. In helping Vitali Klitschko establish needed connections in the American establishment, the head of PBN’s Ukrainian office mainly depended on his long-time acquaintance from his time at the Eurasia Foundation, Fiona Hill. She is best known for supporting the actions of the Wahhabis in Chechnya, thinking up justifications for the terrorist attack in Beslan, and opposing the designation of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist group at hearings in the U.S. Congress. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Fiona Hill was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. (Source Vitali Klitschko’s American Coaches by Alexander Savchenko)

Ukraine neo-fascismTyahnybok was reportedly banned last year from entering the US because of rabidly anti-Semitic speeches praising his followers for striking fear in “the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine,” and hailing World War II-era Ukrainian fascists for fighting Russians, Germans “kikes and other scum.”

Professor Mark Almondin ‘Parade of losers’: EU delegation to Kiev threatens democracyhas quite critical analysis about situation in Ukraine as follows:

Once you’d say that what should determine who rules is the crowd in the street, not the ballot box, then of course, in almost any society there are reasons why 50-70,000 people might be discontent with the government, might go into the streets if they get sympathetic coverage in the media, you could inflate the numbers to hundreds of thousands. But even hundreds of thousands are only a small number in a country of 46 million people. And I think whether it is Ukraine today, whether it could be Italy or Spain tomorrow, once you start saying that the ballot box can be trumped by the street that is a deep threat to democracy. Far from promoting EU values and democracy and the rule of law, we seem to be able to throw them out the window in order to get our man into power.

So we are seeing a kind of propaganda war, psychological war taking place using these rumors of both the crackdown domestically and even foreign interference. Whilst at the same time, the very Western media and Western governments who report these rumors completely ignore the evidence of their own involvement in supporting the opposition, providing technical training camps, providing financial and other forms of assistance, providing a media platform for them.US, the European power centers, the organization in Brussels, NATO and so on, see Ukraine as a key strategic factor. They want Ukraine to be under their thumb, under NATO’s thumb, because they are deeply hostile to Russia. They want to draw it into the Western sphere of influence.

Now US is being on the side of anti-Semites and fascists in Ukraine, which sadly is not any new case. The US frequently supports violent, far-right organizations if their interests coincide- it always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.” (Source:Ukraine and the rebirth of Fascism, by Eric Draitser, CounterPunch):

In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists. Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States. The mujahideen of Afghanistan, which later transmogrified into Al Qaeda, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia. And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel.”

Ukrainian rioter

Ukrainian rioter

Conclusions

From Orange revolution the Western intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and MI6, which funneled money into pro-Western NGOs and political parties. that at its core the initiative is nothing more than an attempt to push Russia out of Europe by drawing its boundaries further to the East. Washington is employing methods of international gangsterism, including violence, to effect a political coup aimed at installing a regime that is fully subordinate to US geo-strategic interests. This time the bullseye is on Ukraine, the home of the failed Orange Revolution, where US NGOs fomented a populist coup that brought down the government and paved the way for years of social instability, economic hardship and, eventually, a stronger alliance with Moscow.

The Ukraine president’s turn toward a deal with Russia rather than integration into the European Union was the spark for the current campaign for regime-change. The first demonstrations started when some protesters feel that their dream or great opportunity had slipped away. However any government in Ukraine has the same framework as the present one such as nonexistent real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. The country is also clear divided to toward Russia oriented eastern Ukraine whose residents speak Russian and are Russian Orthodox and to toward Europe oriented western Ukraine whose residents and speak their own dialect. The tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country which on the other hand might be not so bad outcome.

Ethnolinguistic map of Ukraine 2014

The US media puts demonstrations in Kiev in the headlines while for example the fact that during construction works in Qatar for soccer WC 2022 already there has been hundred times more deaths than during protests in Ukraine. And related to death toll one should note that there is casualties not only among demonstrators but among supporters and workers on government side too. The US and EU approach with democracy demands and peaceful solutions is only covering the precise goal of US efforts is to shift political power into the hands of their nazi-puppets. In doing so, it aims to turn Ukraine into a US imperialist beachhead on the very border of Russia as part of its drive to assert American hegemony throughout the strategic landmass of Eurasia.

My previous related articles:

Ukraine puzzle

 

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Between Chances

Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is an artificial administrative creature made by foreign powers in Dayton agreement on 1995. It has two political semi-independent entities (federal units) – Serb dominated Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) inhabited mainly by Croats and Bosniacs. The 2014 unrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in the northern town of Tuzla on 3 February 2014, but quickly spread to multiple cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Sarajevo, for social reasons with the aim of overthrowing the government. The riots are the most violent scenes the country has seen since the end of the Bosnian War.

Bosnian flag with explanation
The three points of the triangle represent the nation’s three ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The triangle itself represents the geographic shape of the nation itself. The colors represent neutrality and peace, whereas the stars represent Europe.

Over the last several days Bosnia and Herzegovina saw widespread unrest as protesters clashed with police and burn government buildings, leaving scores injured and arrested, mainly in the ethnically mixed parts of Bosnia that are governed by the Muslim-Croat Federation (FBiH), while minor protests took place also in the Republika Srpska (RS) towns of Banja Luka and Bijeljina. 30 years ago Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympic Games, now however instead of the Olympic flame Bosnians cheered to the flames that engulfed government buildings.

Cumbersome system without national identity

Despite international community’s state building efforts in Bosnia the country is splitting parts, Since war foreign aid has exceed USD 90 bn for this artificial creature designed in Dayton agreement aiming multi-ethnic state with EU perspective. As a result Bosnia is now even more divided, with less national identity, 20 percent of population living under the poverty line, with a nightmare triple administration plus international supervising making the country one of the worst place in Europe to do business west of Ukraine (according WB ease of doing business index), even as it seeks to join the European Union. The EU has demanded that if Bosnia wishes to join to EU, it must create a stronger central government. Negotiations – led by EU and U.S over constitutional changes to strengthen the central government have been long and unsuccessful.

The 10 cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina serve as the second-level units of local autonomy and federal units of the of FBiH while the other political entity of BiH, the Republika Srpska (RS), has a centralized government and is divided directly into 63 municipalities. In addition the ethnically diverse Br?ko District is a division of its own under the direct jurisdiction of BiH. One peculiar aspect in BiH administration is discriminatory election process based to Dayton scribble. Bosnia’s constitution allows only the members of the Constituent Peoples – ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims) – to stand for election to either the three-member Presidency or the House of Peoples. Non-constituent Peoples – defined in the Constitution as ‘Others’ like Jewish and Roma people – can only stand for election to the lower house, being denied their right to full participation in the political process.

The political crisis which has escalated in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2006, degenerated after the 2010 elections into an all-out political war in which each and every party – or even party faction – fought each other in various combinations, making and breaking alliances on almost daily level. This situation blocked the country’s reform agenda and forced the EU to halt the accession process, suspend 47 million euro of pre-accession funds for 2013 and postpone preparations for a new pre-accession package that was supposed to provide hundreds of millions of euros in grants for the period 2014-2020. Political chaos was also directly reflected in the economic and social situation, with rampant unemployment rates and rising poverty levels.

Roots of protests

Can any country survive without some minimal mutual self-identification across its citizens as a whole? If the shared non-ethnic Bosnian identity is taking steps backwards does this not mean that this artificial western desk-drawer plan is doomed to fail? I am afraid so but maybe it is loss only for those top-level designers not for local population. (More e.g. in Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution )

Social divide in BosniaSome sights about anger among ordinary Bosnian citizens have been seen during last couple of years. The tragic massacre in Srebrenica on July 11th1995, has ever since been traditionally used by the Bosniac and Serb leaders as a valuable propaganda resource for promoting religious and national divisions between the Bosniac and Serb population. In 2012, the rulers and their foreign sponsors were in for another surprise from the masses – and on the day of their perfect end-of-history-type ceremony, of all places. This July 11th, at the Srebrenica massacre commemoration in the Poto?ari Memorial Centre, the victims’ families demanded that no politicians give speeches. When that was ignored, the masses reacted with loud whistles and curses directed at the leaders of Bosnian parties. The loudest whistle was reportedly received by none other than the American ambassador to Bosnia.

The Bosnian government is notorious for not taking decisions partly due competing interests of the entities. In 2013 some protests started after the constitutional court ruled that the current law on ID numbers is unconstitutional and the government was unable to propose a solution, resulting in newborns not being able to receive official documents like passports and are thus unable to travel even when for example in one case there was need to get urgent medical treatment abroad. Also similar case was the dispute in Bosnia about veterinary and sanitary inspections. As Bosnian politicians were unable to agree on who is to carry out the inspections, thousands of Bosnian farmers could not export their dairy products to Croatia once it came EU-member with more rigid controls.

The Bosnian Spring turned violent

Since the 1990s, all levels of government have shown utmost insensitivity to the social and economic destitution of citizens, youth, and particularly marginalised social categories. This kind of systemic institutional violence, political abuse of power, incompetence and neglect has planted seeds of anger and frustration. For nearly twenty years people of BiH have suffered under the administration of a vicious cabal of political oligarchs who have used ethno-nationalist rhetoric to obscure the plunder of BiH’s public coffers. (More eg from Al Jazeera Balkans, who maybe has the the best reporting on the events)

Bosnian demonstrations in 2014

Whatever the roots of protests are it seems clear that now people say out loud that they have had enough of poverty, indifferent authorities, rotten values in society, bad governance and outside masterminding. Dissatisfaction with the economic and political system in the country has pushed diverse groups to unite in protest.

The protests began in Tuzla, organised by the workers of former state companies, who protested against not only the closure of companies, but also corrupt privatisation processes. These groups voiced their grievances already January 2014, demanding resignations and broader changes within the economic and social system.

On February 4th 2014 protests gained momentum when other societal groups like citizen’s associations, youth, pensioners and war veterans came out on the streets with workers in Tuzla and later in Sarajevo, Mostar, Zenica and other cities too. The events were similar like earlier during “Arab Spring” as the demonstrations involved many different groups of people and were not centrally organised. While organizations differed their demands were similar: government resignations, reduction of salaries for high-ranking government officials, free and quality social services, etc.

Thousands of disgruntled workers, demobilized soldiers and unemployed youth poured onto the streets as angry protests were spreading from Tuzla to other parts of FBiH. In Tuzla the situation quickly ran out control after thousands of protesters surrounded the cantonal government building. Police started firing tear gas and flash-bang grenades but after a brief clash with demonstrators, police special forces retreated and a number of protesters entered the abandoned government building and started ransacking and burning it. So far heads or governments in four cantons have resigned. Large amounts of historical documents were lost when sections of the Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina were set on fire.

Dissatisfaction with a political system that does not work for the people of the country is vast and growing. Eighteen years of evidence has demonstrated that the constitutional and electoral systems put into place to end the war have worked well for the political elites for and their elaborate systems of patronage. But the rest of the country – the overwhelming majority of citizens of all national persuasions – has been left out. Public opinion polls conducted in 2013 show a clear foundation for reform, and show that all citizens – Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs and the oft-neglected “others” – want constitutional reforms based on real issues and interests, which break the stranglehold of the parties that dominate political and economic life.

watch?v=QFjsxj42jYI?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360

Class struggle instead of ethnic one

The roots of the present protests in Bosnia-Hercegovina are more based on social questions than ethnic intolerance like before. After bloodshed in the country in the 1990s there was some violence for example between Croats and Bosniacs. Beside this ethnic tension there has been now nearly two decades of privatisation, plunder and peripheral gangster capitalism, as well as the constant humiliation by the structures of the Western guidance – Office of the High Representative (OHR).

The younger generations took to the streets in the manner of protesters of “Arab Spring” a couple of years ago demanding some form of change in their living conditions and ousting the ruling elite. After Tuzla the feeling of empowerment spread throughout Bosnia like wildfire, mostly with the help of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, like in “Twitter or Color revolutions” seen earlier in Iran, Moldova etc. Although the movement originated in the workers’ protests in Tuzla, organised labour has so far not taken a lead nor any political party. Demonstrations started as spontaneous outbursts of popular anger without clear class or ethnic line.

After Tuzla people in more than 30 Bosnian cities protested demanding better living standards and government resignations. The widespread unrest saw protesters clash with police and burn government buildings, leaving scores injured and arrested. (More e.g in BalkanInsight )

Earlier dispute was between Serbs and Bosniaks as well between Bosniaks and Croats and ethnic divisions are deepening at time when Bosnia-Herzegovina is on the stage of transition from an international protectorate to one responsible for its own reform dynamics. The recent unrest is making new more severe division between the ruling elite and the rest of population. Instead of developing its “European perspective”, Bosnia-Herzegovina going backwards remaining an unwelcome, dysfunctional and divided country, with an aggrieved Bosniak (Muslim) plurality, a frustrated, increasingly defensive Serb entity, and an anxious, existentially threatened Croat population. (More about Dayton and situation in BiH e.g. in my article “Bosnia Collapsing)

The protests were primarily carried by Bosniaks, the Muslims and took place in the Federation and in areas with a Bosniak majority. With this overall observation one should note that the protests also took place in Br?ko and Mostar, two cities that are multiethnic.Violence in Mostar against the city and cantonal administration and the HQs of the two dominant ethnonationalist parties SDA and HDZ is significant. There is no doubt that the institutions of the Croat-Bosnian FBiH are more dysfunctional than the Serbian RS with its cantons. In the RS, the government has been more successful in buying social peace and controlling the public space.

Demonstration from demonstrators perspective can be followed from their FB-site .

Bosnia uprising 2014 map

Avoiding the “Arab Spring” failure

After spontaneous uprising the masses managed to formulate at least in Tuzla common demands to express their fundamental interests as seen in Declaration of Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton:

Declaration of Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton

7 February 2014. Today in Tuzla a new future is being created! The [local] government has submitted its resignation, which means that the first demand of the protestors has been met and that the conditions for solving existing problems have been attained. Accumulated anger and rage are the causes of aggressive behaviour. The attitude of the authorities has created the conditions for anger and rage to escalate.Now, in this new situation, we wish to direct the anger and rage into the building of a productive and useful system of government. We call on all citizens to support the realization of the following goals:

1) Maintaining public order and peace in cooperation with citizens, the police and civil protection, in order to avoid any criminalization, politicization, and any manipulation of the protests.

2) The establishment of a technical government, composed of expert, non-political, uncompromised members. [They should be people] who have held no position at any level of government and would lead the Canton of Tuzla until the 2014 elections. This government should be required to submit weekly plans and reports about its work and to fulfil its proclaimed goals. The work of the government will be followed by all interested citizens.

3) Resolving, through an expedited procedure, all questions relating to the privatization of the following firms: Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, Gumara, and Konjuh. The [government] should:

+ Recognize seniority and secure health insurance of the workers.
+ Process instances of economic crimes and all those involved in it.
+ Confiscate illegally obtained property.
+ Annul the privatization agreements [for these firms].
+ Prepare a revision of the privatization.
+ Return the factories to the workers and put everything under the control of the public government in order to protect the public interest, and to start production in those factories where it is possible.

4) Equalizing the pay of government representatives with the pay of workers in the public and private sector.

5) Eliminating additional payments to government representatives, in addition to their income, as a result of their participation in commissions, committees and other bodies, as well as other irrational and unjustified forms of compensation beyond those that all employees have a right to.

6) Eliminating salaries for ministers and eventually other state employees following the termination of their mandates.

This declaration is put forward by the workers and citizens of the Tuzla Canton, for the good of all of us.”

To save the achieved results of uprising and to keep the dynamic of the movement alive on grassroots there is some guidelines made by Tuzla activists:

Proclamation to the people of Tuzla from The Marxist organization Crveni:

The cantonal government of Tuzla has fallen, but a new one can be set up tomorrow! The prime minister resigned, but the tycoons remained! Some functions are lost, but bank accounts are still intact! The victory you just won can only be preserved through further victories!

In order to achieve this, it is of upmost importance and urgency to take the following steps:

1. Do not leave the streets! Do not go back to your homes, because in all likelihood you will find new formations of armed forces on the streets when you wake up tomorrow. Stay in touch with each other and do not let yourselves get arrested and isolated as individuals!

2. Enforce order and discipline on the streets yourselves. Violence is only useful if it is not mindless and when it is utilised for the defence of the people against government despotism. Don’t allow small-time thugs and police provocateurs to sabotage the protests by looting or by causing mayhem and fear. The city is yours – let it function under your supervision and for your own benefit.

3. Organize popular councils in your neighbourhoods, based on direct democracy and the imperative mandate of delegates. Establish a democracy that you deserve! The existing parliamentary structures have shown themselves as a cesspool of corruption and nepotism and as a springboard for the personal enrichment for the oligarchs and those politicians on their payroll. Your struggle has above all else shown that it is only the organized masses of working people who can establish order in the interest of the majority. So establish that order and do not let anyone impose someone else’s patronage over you again!

4. Demand the return of economic power into the hands of the people and democratic control over the economy! The oligarchs, who flatter themselves as “job creators” – although it was because of them that tens of thousands lost their jobs – have already shown what happens when you leave the economy in their hands. Demand the annulment of all privatizations of big industry and the financial sector, as well as the placing of factories, mines and banks under democratic control of the popular councils! Should the federal government refuse to comply, enforce these demands yourselves – you’ve already shown that you can!

5. Do not buy into the politicians’ ruses such as their “patriotic” slogans! Do not allow the social revolt to turn into an ethnic conflict! The political and economic elite now counts on a conflict between the protests within the two entities and between the cantons that have a Bosniak and Croatian majorities. Do not let yourselves be deceived! The question of the cantons and entities has to be settled as the result of a democratic decision of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Such a resolution is only possible after a people’s government, led by the masses of all Bosnian peoples, has been established.

Reactions

Surely, the recent events must have terrified the ruling elite, as well as the foreign occupation structures, neighbours too are shaken as similar problems are reality in Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia (FYROM) too. The current EU’s High Representative Valentin Inzko has even threatened to send EU-troops (EUFOR) to calm situation.Use of violence during the protests, the burning of buildings and finally of a part of the archives of Bosnia in the presidency building have led to media and politicians in and outside Bosnia label protestors as “hooligans”. This underestimates protestors as many citizens who went to the streets feel that they cannot change the government through elections and they have good arguments to think so. There was not looting and violence of the protests was directed at buildings of the government, in particular cantonal administrations, the state presidency and some political party offices.

Serbian government vice president Aleksandar Vucic held a meeting in Belgrade with Milorad Dodik, president of RS to discus the ongoing unrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Serbia as a signatory country of the Dayton Agreement is interested in the stability of the region and is advocating resolving conflicts peacefully and in a democratic way,” Vucic said at a joint press conference held after the meeting. “There is no need to resolve problems by setting fire to public buildings and beating police officers,” Vucic added. According to the president of Repubika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, the aim of the protests is “also to destabilize Repubika Srpska and further involve the international community” in the country’s politics.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic visited Mostar, a town in Herzegovina, where Croats are in the majority, saying that he came to call for the peaceful resolution of the unrest. “I came here to calm the situation,” said Milanovic, adding that the protests are result of the incoherent policy of European Union, which doesn’t know what to do with Bosnia. Meanwhile most Bosnian Croats see Mostar as their “capital” and many of them have a vision about forming a third, Croat-dominated, entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Both Serbia and Croatia are signatories of 1995 Dayton Agreement which ended the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The international response to the protests has been confused, displaying the gap between international actors and the reality on the ground. The EU, its officials and EU’s foreign ministers repeated the phrase that citizens should have the right to protest, but that they should remain peaceful.

Way forward

The country’s asymmetric entity structure has left one entity, Republika Srpska, with a unitary structure and a strong notion of statehood, while Bosniaks and Croats are forced together into the other entity, FBiH, an unwieldy improvisation governed by hundreds of ministers. As result the systemic gap between the two entities renders the country disintegrated and administratively dysfunctional. A radical way out from situation could be dissolution of the whole BiH, integrate RS with Serbia, FBiH’s Croat dominated cantons with Croatia while Bosniac dominated cantons could seek their national identity from the rest of Bosnia.

From my point of view the protests which indeed have succeed to change rulers at regional level I see, opposing EU’s centralized dreams, now possibilities to create a new “lighter” administrative system, based to cantons in FBiH and stronger local level administration in RS. So Bosnian Spring in best case may give a boost to more decentralized and administrative easier Bosnia, which also can be kept less corrupted and more democratic.

It is impossible to guess the outcome but from my perspective Bosnia is now between changes. People in many towns have demonstrated that together they can have influence at local level. Together without ethnic or religious tensions they can avoid failure like it happened with “Arab Spring”. What is clear is that the current political elites, at least in the Federation, have widely lost their legitimacy. It also for the first time politicians became afraid of citizens, some cantonal governments resigned and some reportedly even left the country. A wider impact might be that the ruling class in Zagreb and Belgrade, fearing what this might mean for Croatia and Serbia respectively, immediately took political action. The reactionaries will try to undermine the impact of recent events, but the wheels of history cannot be driven backwards. There is real change for progress by creating new power-structures at local level.

On the opposite there is also change that counter-move by centralized establishment will win with help of EU and US. Bosnia has struggled under the most cumbersome political system in Europe created by the American-brokered and EU-backed Dayton peace accords. Constitutional reforms are needed and apparent political stability should be replaced by a new long-term strategy. However, if they are again conducted by the same power elite than before, the results will again lack the democratic legitimacy and nothing will change. In my opinion a new kind of engagement by both the US and the European Union is needed to replace the failed policies and approaches in Bosnia. EU and US should take new approach with Bosnia, the protests should be welcomed, old power structures and elite ousted and real implementation and progress led by masses at local grassroots level facilitated. By this way I think that “Bosnian Spring” could be flowering.

Small fishes win one big one

The Kerry Plan For Israel And Palestine – Can It Work?

Israeli-Palestinian peace talksUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s intense shuttle diplomacy helped resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in July 2013 and were to take up to nine months, until April 29 this year. Now Kerry is now planning to present a US framework plan that will lay out what Washington considers the core concessions Israelis and Palestinians need to make for a fair, lasting deal.

The exact content of the US framework plan remains uncertain for peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). However it is preindicated that it will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with “unprecedented” security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. The framework plan includes Israeli withdrawal from disputed territories of West Bank but will not include certain settlement blocs, Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory. The plan will call for Palestine to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into pre-1967 Israel.

Neither side is pleased with framework plan as such however both sides probably are poised to accept the forthcoming, non-binding agreement with sufficient reservations to make it meaningless, yet enabling Kerry to demonstrate a “successful diplomatic coup.”

Kerry’s plan

Israel lobby in USAUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s is now finalizing a framework for final status talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Kerry‘s plan will include following components according his speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on 24 January 2014:

  • an independent state for Palestinians wherever they may be”
  • security arrangements for Israel that leave it more secure, not less”
  • a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem; an end to the conflict and all claims”
  • mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the nation-state of the Jewish people”

Kerry gave specific attention to security, commenting, “the Israelis rightfully will not withdraw unless they know that the West Bank will not become a new Gaza.” There has been consultations with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders over a “security structure that meets the highest standards anywhere in the world” in the Jordan Valley, incorporating “a layered defence” system. Israel and the PA disagree over the necessity of Israeli troops to stay in the Jordan Valley in the event of an Israeli withdrawal.

Security

In a New York Times interview published on Sunday (Feb. 2nd 2014), Abbas presented his positions on security issues, saying that Israeli troops could remain in the territory of a Palestinian state for five years after the signing of a peace agreement. Abbas also said that an American-led NATO force could patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely. Abbas said the NATO force could stay “for a long time, and wherever they want, not only on the eastern borders, but also on the western borders, everywhere. The third-party can stay. They can stay to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us.” “We will be demilitarized,” Abbas said. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?” Abbas said the Palestinian state would not have its own army, but only a police force, meaning that the NATO force would be responsible for preventing weapons smuggling and terrorism. Abbas also suggested that Israeli settlements could be phased out over the course of a timetable similar to his five-year proposal for the Israeli military withdrawal.

Territory

“What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [U.N. Security] Council table.” (David Ben-Gurion when threatened with U.N. Security Council sanctions)

New talks are possible due active and skilled shuttle diplomacy implemented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who succeeded where both his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his superior, President Barack Obama, failed. Kerry has highlighted a 2002 offer by the 22-nation Arab League to make peace with Israel in return for a Palestinian state broadly inside borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. In May 2013, a high level Arab League delegation, after meeting with Kerry, agreed to change the language of the Arab Peace Initiative from its rigid demand for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines to accepting “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps.80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will need a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in earlier talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. While 20% of the settlers live outside these green line blocs, these settlements will not be part of Israel proper, after a proposed deal so some 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel and this is doable.

Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on 30th Jan. 2014 that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would stay in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state. The sides, he said, will negotiate with the expectation of reaching a final deal by the end of 2014. (Source: The Times of Israel)

An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason why a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.” An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.”

More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

Israeli proposal for borders of West Bank according PM Olmert

For peace deal I consider that Israel needs to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with territorial swaps, when just 60 to 90 percent of settlers need to be included in the settlement blocs. The outcome of Kerry’s plan might well be close to that what PM Olmert offered to PA on 2008. Themap of this earlier proposal can be downloaded also from my Document library.

BDS as thread?

In WEF/Davos Kerry commented that “for Israel there is an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things,” implying that such a campaign would gain traction if peace talks should fail. Netanyahu said that efforts to boycott Israel will “cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their obstinate positions and push peace farther away.” He added that, “no pressure will cause me to give up Israeli vital interests, first and foremost the security of Israeli citizens.” However, Labour MK Merav Michaeli blamed Netanyahu for the volatile rhetoric surrounding boycotts, saying “Netanyahu exposed us to the threat of sanctions … Israeli security is a fantasy if we don’t have a diplomatic treaty, and that includes our economic security.” (Source BICOM ) Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon later responded that a European boycott is preferable to rocket attacks on Ben-Gurion Airport.

I agree with Kerry, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is picking up speed. Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, has decided to sever its ties with Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, citing “legal and ethical conflicts” with the bank’s activities beyond the Green Line. A Bank Hapoalim statement said that “Denmark’s Danske Bank has no investments, of any kind, with Bank Hapoalim.” The Danish bank’s decision followed a similar decision by PGGM, the Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company, which on Jan 2014 decided to divest from Israel’s five largest banks, saying they either have branches in the West Bank or are involved in financing settlement construction. On the other hand Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, announced on Wednesday that after looking into the matter it sees no reason to end its relationship with three Israeli banks. Sweden’s Nordea Bank — the largest bank in Scandinavia – has asked Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank for clarifications over their activities beyond the Green Line, in what banking experts in Israel defined as a potential pre-divestment move. According to a Jan. 19 report in the Financial Times, the ABP pension fund — the world’s third-largest — and two of Europe’s biggest investment firms, Scandinavian pension fund Nordea and Norway’s DNB Asset Management Group, are also reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks. Sources in the Israeli banking sector said Saturday that the recent moves were, for the most part, only declarative in nature, attempts to make political statements, and are unlikely to come to fruition. (Source Israel Hayom )

anti-BDS postcard

A new study that debunks the myth that Israel is a liability to Europe Added Value: Israel’s Strategic Worth to the European Union and its Member States, a joint report by The Henry Jackson Society and Friends of Israel Initiative, examines the extent to which Israel represents a strategic asset to the EU. The report looks at three key arenas: military, economic and scientific/technological. It finds that Europe is more secure, more innovative and more relevant on the world stage thanks to the tools Israel provides: from unmanned aerial vehicles to intelligence; from energy to pharmaceuticals; and from particle accelerators to high tech start-up. Among the report’s key findings there are e.g thatcontrary to news reports of EU-Israel disagreements – such as European Commission directives to label Israeli goods from the West Bank – by the most important measures, the EU’s relations with Israel are closer than at any time in the Union’s history. With nearly €30 billion in bilateral trade, the EU is Israel’s top source of imports and Israel is Europe’s leading trade partner in the Eastern Mediterranean. As the European economy continues to falter, EU exports to Israel are growing by roughly 5% a year. A world leader in high-tech innovation, Israel is vital in keeping Europe competitive in science and technological. (Full report can be downloaded from my Document Library.)

Israeli government effectively succumbed to a boycott of settlements in order to be eligible for the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, the guiding blueprints for the EU’s scientific research. Also on Jan. 2014, the Israeli flag was hoisted for the first time to join the other 20 flags of the organization’s member states, after UNESCO officially recorded Israel’s accession as a new CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire/European Council for Nuclear Research) member state.

Central Bureau of Statistics’ data indicated that Israeli exports came to $92.5 billion in 2013, despite the global recession and slumping dollar exchange rates, compared to $60 billion in exports in 2010. Broken down by blocs, Europe received the largest share of Israel’s exports (32 percent), followed by Asia (25%) and the United States (21%).

Jewish state?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said thatIt would be “absurd” to expect Israel to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people without reciprocal recognition of Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people. But issue was first raised already 2000 (by Tzipi Livni) and later at the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Today Livni might not view this recognition as a precondition to negotiations. However in my opinion when one state recognizes another it does not imply recognition of its political structure, for example U.S. in 1933 formally recognized the Soviet Union simply as state and not as a communist or Marxist state; and when most of the world’s democracies recognized Israel after its establishment, that too was as a state and nothing more.

From Israeli point of view the meaning of the term “Jewish state” is a state that cannot be flooded by foreigners to the point where it changes its demographic character, meaning there can be no “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. So anyone who would recognize Israel as the Jewish state as part of a peace deal would announce the de facto end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and relinquish any future demands of Israel. From Palestinian side President Abbas stuck to his intransigence on the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, saying it was “out of the question.” Abbas mentioned that Jordan and Egypt were not asked to do so when they signed peace agreements with Israel.

Jordan will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Kingdom’s foreign minister declared, expressing a latent Hashemite fear of Jordan becoming the de-facto Palestinian state. Jordan is concerned that defining Israel as a Jewish state may eventually lead to the forced deportation of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan river. According to some estimates, approximately half of Jordan’s population of 6.4 million does not hold citizenship. The massive number of non-citizens is comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees, but also war refugees from Iraq and Syria more recently. Over 3 million Jordanian residents are of Palestinian origin. Ever-mindful of a demographic takeover, Jordan has recently begun blocking the entry of Palestinian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. (Source The Times of Israel )

Missing Gaza question?

In my opinion question about Gaza should have been solved at early stage during negotiations. Hamas still has its grip on Gaza even weakened after Sisi’s coup in Egypt. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Security challenges in Sinai peninsula

Rockets are still fired from there and conflict – fights between Egypt armed forces and Islamic militants and rocket fire from Sinai towards Eilat – has more and more moved to Sinai peninsula. For example February 01st, 2014 saw the pipeline that transports gas from Egypt to Jordan being subject of a blow up by militants. The attack is the third of its type in less than a month. The pipeline that connected Egypt to Jordan and Israel has been the target of various attacks ever since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 for ending the Hosni Mubarak regime. These acts of rebellion led to severe disruptions in the flow of gas from Egypt to Jordan and to a complete halt of Egyptian natural gas supply to Israel. On the other hand Israel is less affected by the damage to the pipeline given that it has since discovered enough gas off its shores to keep the natural gas coming for decades to come. Israel’s Leviathan field contains around 19 Tcf of natural gas and is expected to come online sometime in 2017 while its 10 Tcf Tamar field started supplying gas in March 2013. (See more in Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean )

So a new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. Israel and PA should encourage to re-establish trade links with Gaza strengthen the moderate middle class; a transit corridor between Gaza and West Bank would help to restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood. The Palestinians want territory within Israel to build a transport link that connects Gaza and the West Bank, and this could form part of an exchange deal. All this can help politically PA to be ready for Palestinian national elections.

Jerusalem – Two peoples, One Capital?

Jerusalem is one of the key challenge to a deal and at least three dimensions should be solved. The negotiators need to delineate the territorial borders, the political arrangements (for example on the Temple Mount), and then to begin work on the security arrangements that would address all the concerns regarding the territorial and political questions. It is anticipated that the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Palestinian control.

A solution whereby Arab neighbourhoods would come under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighbourhoods would stay under Israeli sovereignty is needed. Israel will have to agree to a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem to the point where the Palestinians realize their goal of establishing a capital in the city. Palestinian side has criticized Kerry for offering the Palestinians a capital in the villages of Abu Dis and al-Ram, and not in Jerusalem. Previous negotiations have also proposed a special regime for the Old City.

Jerusalem deal according Olmert proposal

Bottom line

“I hope we reach a deal with the Palestinians, if not, we’ll manage.” (Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon )

“A peace deal will ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state as well as its social and economic prosperity. If Ya’alon does not understand this, he is not fit to continue in his position, and we would certainly be able to manage better without him.” (MK Nitzan Horowitz/Meretz)

The British Guardian newspaper quoted a “Jerusalem-based source close to the negotiations” as saying that Indyk’s negotiating team has “only have maybe 10% chance of success” in its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The Guardian also quoted a former American diplomat who worked on previous rounds of Israel-Palestinian peace talks as dismissing most members of the current American negotiating team as “pencil sharpeners” and “bag carriers.”

Inside Israeli government there is different views as well more or less rude critics against FM Kerry personally and about his peace plan. The outcome might even be that PM Netanyahu will remove Bayit Yehudi from the coalition and replace it with Labor, which is more amenable to a peace treaty. Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog has repeatedly stated that if the coalition lacks support for a peace agreement, Labour is prepared to act as a ‘safety net’ and pledge the support of its 15 Knesset members. However coalition crisis can occur more likely over religion and state than security.

As for the Palestinians, Palestinian Authority (PA) needs to agree to declare an end to the conflict, an end to all claims, and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, PA needs to renounce the right of return of refugees and PA needs to agree to limits on Palestinian sovereignty in deference to Israeli security arrangements. The security arrangements need to provide an answer even in the scenario of a coup – or Hamas can win in elections too – in the Palestinian state so the key question is if Palestinian state has the will or the strength to deal with terrorism.

If negotiations again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan (e.g. from base of Three-State-Solution) or with Arab League. And of course one option are unilateral solutions – Israel annexing Israeli populated areas officially to Israel and PA seeking recognition from international community as state. As any of these options in my opinion are worse than even worst mutual compromise and peace deal I hope all the best for further talks.

P.S:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East” by Avi Bell is a good description about Israeli-Palestinian dilemma – and Western hypocrisy – as follows:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East” by Avi Bell

If Israel refuses to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it refuses to negotiate. If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see negotiations with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it is trying to avoid negotiations. If the Palestinians make preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians have to force Israel to be serious in the negotiations.

If Israel makes no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace. If the Palestinians make no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see that making offers of peace with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes an offer of peace and the Palestinians reject it, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because Israel is not willing to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would accept.

There are variations on this, e.g.,:

If Arabs make war, but offer to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because the Arabs offered peace. (Thomas Friedman/Arab “peace” initiative) If Israel makes war, but offers to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel made war. (Defensive Pillar, Lebanon II, etc.)

If Arabs attack, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel provoked the Arabs to attack. If Israel attacks, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel attacked.

If Palestinians carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians feel they have no choice but to carry out acts of terrorism. If Palestinians try to carry out acts of terrorism, but Israel foils them, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because Israel is carrying out anti-terror actions against the Palestinians even while there is no terrorism.

If Palestinians don’t try to carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are good and innocent and Israel uses terrorism as an excuse to mistreat Palestinians.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks


Sinai Terrorism Doesn’t Shake Eilat Tourism

Eilat logo

While the Israeli-Palestinian peace process got new boost forward at the turn of the year in cabinets I spend a week at the seashore in Eilat, a popular (about 2.5 million tourists per year) Israeli destination for domestic and international tourism. I have some doubts about positive outcome of peace talks but not a bit about goal-directed development of tourism in Israel. Here some of my impressions in relation to my previous visit a couple of years ago.

Eilat is modern small town at north end of Red Sea on the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba and part of the Southern Negev Desert. It has also a remarkable history as background. Eilat is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Exodus, as stations 7 and 9th–13th are in and around Eilat, after the exodus led by Moses from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. Timna Valley Park is notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and prehistoric tombs dating to the 7th millennium BC at the western edge of Eilat. King David (reign over the United Kingdom of Israel ca 1002–970 BC) conquered Eilat, the border city and King Solomon (reign ca 970 to 931 BC) is described as creating the port of Eilat (then Ezion-Geber)

Border fence

International charter flights are still some few years landing to Ovda military base. From there it takes less than a hour to drive to Eilat via Egypt-Israel border road – Highway 12. Compared to my previous visit significant changes had taken place. An old rusty low and broken fence was still on the border but totally new modern fence with with surveillance equipment was now ready. It was said to include cameras, radar and motion detectors. Also there was much more military presence observing border than before. Two reasons for this improved border security: Arab Spring chaos and illegal migrants.

Egypt-Israel border fence, old and new

Photo credit: Haaretz

The Egypt-Israel peace accord stipulates that the Sinai Peninsula remain a demilitarized zone, however ”Arab Spring made a difference while members of al-Qaeda and other groups affiliated with Global Jihad exploited the security vacuum in Sinai. Terror groups not only blew up the gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan but also of attacked police patrols. A string of terrorist attacks took place near the Israeli-Egyptian border near of the Netafim crossing, about 20 km north of Eilat on Aug. 18, 2011. The attack left 8 Israeli citizen dead, 5 Egyptian police- and army officer died as well 10 of attackers. Assailants crossing in from Sinai used automatic and anti-tank weapons, mortars and roadside bombs for separate attacks on two buses, two civilian cars and a military vehicle on Highway 12. More about this I wrote in my article Sinai Emerged as New Front in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

The new fence was originally planned in response to high levels of illegal migrants who successfully entered Israel across the border, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The total number of such individuals - predominantly economic migrants. – who entered Israel since 2006 is estimated at more than 64,000. Israel – whose population is 8 million. Israel tries to balance the need to control its borders with the need to protect the human rights of those who enter. Due to its adherence to International law, Israel granted protection to about 60,000 people without the need to prove prima facie that they have an individual claim to stay in Israel. Those individuals amount to about 95% of all individuals that entered Israel illegally through its southern border. (Source: ?MFA Spokesperson press release: On the illegal migrants issue, 6th Jan 2014)

After this increased insurgent movement across the southern border and due the increased activities of terrorist groups in 2011, Israel upgraded the steel barrier project. In January 2013, construction of the 230 km barrier was completed in its main section. The project was set to cost  one bn shekels (£170m, $270m).

Israel-Sinai pipeline map

The new airport gives a boost for urban development

Returning to Ovda airport via different road I passed the new airport construction in Timna 18 km north of Eilat. North. On July 24, 2011 the Israeli cabinet approved the construction of Israel’s second international airport to be built and Eilat’s new international airport should become operational on 2017. The new airport in Timna will consolidate the commercial aviation operations taking place in Eilat and Ovda which together serve about 1.5 million passengers per year. The new airport in Timna will consolidate the commercial aviation operations taking place in Eilat and Ovda which together serve about 1.5 million passengers per year.

Arrival to Eilat AirportSure the new airport is needed for expanding tourism but I found the old Eilat city airport an experience itself while I earlier by domestic flight were landing to that tiny runway from Red Sea just over seashore rooftops. This city airport has also interesting background as in the 1994 Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan it was decided that operations were supposed to be transferred from Eilat Airport to Aqaba Airport. The agreement was never followed, however, and an agreement between the two countries in March 1997, stipulated that domestic flights would continue to use Eilat Airport, whilst no further action to move international flights took place. In August 2005, a Katyusha rocket fired from Jordan landed near a taxi traveling just 15 yards (14 m) from the airport perimeter fence. On August 8, 2013, the Israeli Military instructed the airport to cancel all landings and departures after a security assessment but now it operated as usual.

The Eilat city airport is in the middle of town separating residential and old commercial centre from hotel zone. When airport will be closed it will make possible to connect these two areas. According urban plans modifying the airport area purpose and making it a main urban center and hotel zone, stretched around the lagoon, where tourism and residence would co-exist. 2,080 hotel rooms and 1,000 apartments will be built on the site of the Eilat Airport, after it is vacated. The hotel, recreation, and residential plan will also include 275-dunam (63.75-acres) of open public space and pedestrian paths. It also sets aside land for the railway line and an underground train station next to the Eilat Municipality center and central bus station. The plan aims to create an urban continuum between the Eilat town center and the North Beach tourism area and promenade.

Towards premium tourist resort

In Eilat itself some new tourist attractions were completed. Personally most interesting for me was new adventure park near Camel Ranch, people from different ages and skills can enjoy its challenges at three different levels the only limitation seems to be that maximum only some 150 adventurer can be same time on course. The other interesting new construction was Ice Park Eilat including Olympic sized skating rink, real Igloo, snow slide for kids, gallery, multi-dimensional movie theater, shopping mall and restaurants. As Finn I view it a bit jaundiced eye as the Ice Park has wooden cupola of 105 meters in diameter, which is the largest construction made of wood in the Middle East, and one of the largest worldwide. And in desert region where trees are rare while Finns are living middle of forests and are building their bigger constructions from concrete elements. At second stage it’s also planned to add to the Ice Park compound an ethnic styled hotel with 250 suites and as well as a synthetic ski resort to be built on the roof of the hotel.

Ice Park cupole Eilat. Photo credit: WIEHAG GmbH Wood systems

In July 2012, Israel signed an agreement with China to cooperate in building the high-speed railway to Eilat, a railway line which will serve both passenger and freight trains. It will link Eilat with Beersheba and Tel Aviv, and will run through the Arava Valley. In addition there are plans to move the Port of Eilat and the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline terminal to the northern part of the city, as well as to turn it into a university town of science and research, and brand it an international sports city. All these projects are part of a plan to turn Eilat into a metropolitan area of 150,000 people (now some 50 000) and 35,000 hotel rooms. Eilat’s population includes a large number of foreign workers, estimated at over 10,000 working as caregivers, hotel workers and in the construction trades.

The same boost of tourism is not only in Eilat but nationwide. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 3.5 million visitors entered Israel in 2013 and had 22.5 million nights; 3% increase. Leading source countries for incoming were USA, Russia, France, Germany and UK. Tourism’s contribution to the economy in 2013 was NIS 40 billion(nearly 10 milliard USD) and number of direct employees in tourism was 100,000 and double with indirect employees. Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau concluded well saying

“The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defense and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet.”(Source:Tourism Statistics for 2013 – a record year for incoming tourism, GPO/Tourism Ministry)

Eilat and Aqaba landscape

Eilat and Aqaba. Photo credit: Haaretz


 

Syria Updates: The New Islamic Front And Whodunnit III

As the Saudi backed plan to seduce US into military intervention against Syria failed due Russia’s successful initiative about destruction Syria’s chemical weapons some new developments e.g. in form of the new Islamic Front are ongoing as well investigative reporting brings more light to the question whodunnit in Damascus on Aug. 2013.

costs of war project Brown university

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—along with certain Arab League countries, plus Turkey and Israel, have early December 2013 committed themselves to raising nearly $6 billion seed money for new Islamic Front (IF) in Syria. This coalition wants also USA to particapate onto a plan to oust the Syrian government by funding, arming, training and facilitating a front formed out of an alliance of seven “moderate” rebel factions. Beside of toppling the Assad regime the other benefit would be truncating Iran’s growing influence.

$6 billion might look big investment. However the ”marketing slogan” for US involvement is ”better six billon than six trillion”. The claim is well based to the definitive Brown University study (The Costs of War project), which examined costs of the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the total amount for all three topped six trillion dollars . This never before released figure includes costs of direct and indirect Congressional appropriations, lost equipment, US military and foreign contractors fraud, and the cost of caring for wounded American servicemen and their families (war costs to date 4 trillion + interest rates 2 trillion for 40 years). In this sense few billions US money for IF could be a good bargain.

In June 2011, the Costs of War project, a scholarly initiative of Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, produced the first comprehensive analysis of a decade of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The Costs of War Project analyzes the implications of these wars in the United States and internationally in terms of human casualties, economic costs, and civil liberties.
In June 2011, the Costs of War project, a scholarly initiative of Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, produced the first comprehensive analysis of a decade of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The Costs of War Project analyzes the implications of these wars in the United States and internationally in terms of human casualties, economic costs, and civil liberties.

The new Islamic Front

Among the Islamist militia joining the new Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-backed coalition are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force, Liwa al-Tawhid (Tawhid Brigade), the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham, al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham and the Islamic Army, which is centered around Damascus. The Kurdish Islamic Front also reportedly joined the alliance. None of these groups have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the US, and therefore, as an Israeli official argued in a meeting with AIPAC and Congress this week, nothing stands in the way of US funding and support for them. IF’s declared aim is to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whatever the human and material cost it may require, and replace it with an “Islamic state.”

This combined force – IF – is estimated by the CIA to number at around 75,000 fightersthat will fight under one command. What is not included to this new front is other Muslim militia—Daash or al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, for instance—that comprise the IF’s chief rivals.

According to sources in Aleppo and Damascus, the IF’s top leadership positions have been parceled out among five of the seven groups. Four days after the IF was announced, the organization released an official charter. The charter calls for an Islamic state and the implementation of sharia law, though it does not define exactly what this means. The IF is firmly against secularism, human legislation (i.e., it believes that laws come from God, not people), civil government, and a Kurdish breakaway state. The charter states that the group will secure minority rights in post-Assad Syria based on sharia, which could mean the dhimma (“protected peoples”) system, or de facto second-class citizenship for Christians and other minorities.

Rebel groups of the Islamic Front in Syria Figure credit: Institute for the Study of War Syria

Figure credit: Institute for the Study of War Syria

Some Washington officials and analysts are wondering if US participation would help unify notoriously hostile rebel ranks and curtail the growing power of al-Qaeda in Syria, or whether it is simply another Saudi project to create a hierarchical revolutionary army with the aim of fighting the Syrian regime essentially alongside al-Qaeda? (Source: Bibi and Bandar Badger Obama: Better Six Billion than Six Trillion! by Franklin Lamb – TRANSCEND Media Service)

A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. While the initial conflict was disingenuously portrayed as the spontaneous militarization of unarmed protesters fighting against a “brutal regime,” in reality Al Nusra was already inside the country and operating on a national scale. The US State Department itself would reveal this in its December 2012 Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which stated:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed.

The terror implemented by those groups who are not included to the new Islamic Front continues against civilians. Recently Al-Qaeda linked Islamists have kidnapped at least 120 Kurdish civilians from a village in Aleppo province near the border with Turkey, Observatory for Human Rights reported. The incident is the latest in the armed conflict between Syrian Kurds and Islamic factions. 51 Kurdish civilians from the towns of Manbij and Jarablus, northeast of Aleppo, have been kidnapped by Islamist fighters since the beginning of December.

The armed opposition has been opportunistic and bloody from the start, targeting security forces, on and off duty, and pro-government civilians since March 2011. While there were indeed Syrian army defectors who joined the “revolution” early on in the conflict in response to government clampdowns and/or their own genuine political sentiments, much of the armed rebellion has been funded, assisted and organized from outside Syria’s borders. It is known, that non-Syrians were entering the country right from the beginning. These people were provided with wages, weapons, intelligence and training, with the expectation that a hard thrust against al-Assad’s government would unseat him in short shrift, much like what had already happened in other Arab states.

This opposition has been funded and assembled by foreign foes of Syria for geopolitical gain. Their goal was to unseat a “dictator” so that they could then come in and establish their own foreign-backed “dictatorship” at the heart of the Resistance Axis. The reason this opposition has never been able to articulate a cohesive, inclusive, political platform for the Syrian people is because they are all backed by different, sometimes competing, interests, and because their goal is not a politically reformed Syria, but instead the establishment of their own power and economic bases.

The new UN report

“The United Nations Mission concludes that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic,” (Åke Sellstrom, chief UN investigator )

A new UN report states that in addition to the widely publicised chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus, such weapons were probably used in four other locations in Syria between March and late August. The findings show that in at least 3 attacks, civilians as well as soldiers were targeted, which is a strong indication that the rebels were in possession of chemical weapons and that these chemical weapons were used against both Syrian government forces as well as civilians. For example assessment reletaed to CW attack against soldiers (government forces) and civilians in Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013 (p.19 in UN report) was in response to a formal request by the Syrian government. In a letter (dated 19 March 2013), the Representative of Syria to the UN informed the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council of its allegation that, at 0730 hours on 19 March, armed terrorist groups had fired a rocket from the Kfar De’il area towards Khan Al Asal in the Aleppo governorate.

What is written in the current report does not change but even confirms our conviction that fighters, not the Syrian government, are behind the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Russian Permanent Envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin said on Rossiya-24 news television channel.

But the revised UN analysis, attached to a new UN report on several other alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria, punched a new hole in the notion that the Republican Guard fired a Sarin-laden missile into Moadamiyah. The UN inspectors found no chemical weapons agents on the remnants of the crudely made missile that landed in Moadamiyah (or for that matter no Sarin anywhere else in the area). In the earlier UN report about the Aug. 21 incident, one of two UN labs had detected on a metal fragment what the lab thought was a chemical residue that can be left behind by degraded Sarin. But the new analysis withdraws that finding, an indication of how fragile the chemistry can be in getting false positives on derivative chemical residue. The two UN laboratories are now in agreement that there was neither Sarin nor possible derivatives of Sarin on the metal fragments from the Moadamiyah missile.

UN report Syria CWUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the Sellstrom investigation after the Syrian government wrote to him accusing the rebels of carrying out the chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal. The United Nations has since received a total of 16 reports of possible chemical weapons use in Syria, mainly from the Syrian government, Britain, France and the United States. The experts looked closely at seven of those cases.

The new UN report suggests that Syrian rebels have developed a capability to produce at least crude chemical weapons and delivery systems, further adding to the possibility that the Aug. 21 attack east of Damascus could have resulted from a botched rebel launch of a makeshift missile aimed at government targets or as an accident. The investigation found likely use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal, near the northern city of Aleppo, in March; in Saraqeb, near the northern city of Idlib, in April; and in Jobar and Ashrafiat Sahnaya, near Damascus, in August. Rebels have seized all kinds of weapons from military depots across the country, according to the United Nations. Western powers say the rebels do not have access to chemical arms.

An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that ‘indicatively matches’ the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack ‘because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency’. Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent ‘pointed directly’ to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. However the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres.

Read the full (final) report here: United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

ISTEAMS report SyriaBesides UN report there still are questions and observations unanswered rised in ISTEAMS -report (More in Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II ).

Mother Agnes Mariam in her interview: One of the reasons that I would like to see the graves is because 1,466 deaths is a real “social tsunami” in the Syrian society where everybody knows everybody and everybody is related. In the case of East Ghouta, we did not even have one case show up. We did not know of one single person who is dead. You know, to have relatives claiming this – the brother, the friend – nobody did. We did not have the “echo” of the death of 1,466 people. We are asking for a neutral inquiry with the presence of witnesses from both sides, where they will open the pits, see the victims, they will take samples randomly – where they took it, how they took it, etc. Samples should be sent to 5 labs under the same conditions and precautions. Until then there is a question mark on everything.

Whodunnit III

[Note: The sub-headline refers my earlier articles Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit IIand Whodunnit in Syria ]

In a December article for the London Review of Books, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh confirmed that President Barack Obama misled the American people over the Aug. 21 (2013) Syrian chemical attack by cherry-picking evidence about the Syrian government’s presumed guilt and excluding suspicions about the rebels’ capability to produce their own Sarin gas. Hersh also reported that he discovered a deep schism within the U.S. intelligence community over how the case was sold to pin the blame on President Assad. Hersh wrote that he encountered “intense concern, and on occasion anger” when he interviewed American intelligence and military experts “over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence.” According to Hersh, “One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote.”

President Obama failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad. A quote from mentioned Hersh article:

[President Obama] cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence… A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.

Hersh describes also that in Syria there is also a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less – the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately. The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded. The sensors had worked in the past, e.g. last December (2012) the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was ‘totally unacceptable’; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. This time there was not the same warning.

Hersh article screenshot Obama lies Syria CW attackOn 30 August the White House invited a select group of Washington journalists, and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, which laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. The document stated, that US intelligence knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. Later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’…‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ (Razan Zaitouneh/FSA)

Already by late May (2013) the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta.

Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government’s stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat… All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component and technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem … They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.

(Source: Whose Sarin?by Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books Seymour M. Hersh is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. He has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker since 1993. His journalism and publishing awards include a Pulitzer Prize, five George Polk Awards, two National Magazine Awards, and more than a dozen other prizes for investigative reporting.)

Bottom line

It remains to seen if GCC will succeed in enticing US into their fundrising and if the new Islamic Front will be created as significant opposition force in Syria. I doubt as local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largesse for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight. The Saudis are probably making a mistake. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

It might be possible that US did not implemented planned military intervention against Syria as its political leadership knew first that Syrian rebels had chemical weapons, second it knew that Al Assad regime maybe not used CW in Damascus August 2013 and third that Syrian opposition might on the end not be better alternative than Al Assad.

The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons.

After Syrian CW agreement came Iran nuke deal and both these against the will of the Saudis. It seems that US has been rapidly altering its regional approach shifting weight from Saudi Arabia towards Iran. Maybe US has came conclusion that it needs more Iran to stop the growth of terror groups, networks and activities of Salafi extremists, both in and out of the Middle East – with Iran stabilization of chaotic region might be possible.

Some of my previous articles about Syria:

Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II
Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War
The Four-stage Plan For Syria – Can It Work
Whodunnit in Syria
Syrian Rebels Admit Chemical Attack InDamascus???
Syria: From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media

One scenario about the Middle East

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