Turkey In The EU-Trump-Russia Triangle By Dr. Nejat Tarakçı

December 10, 2016

Guest Post:

Turkey In The EU-Trump-Russia Triangle By Dr. Nejat Tarakçı

Dr. Nejat Tarakçı, Geopolitician and Strategist, was born in 1949. He is retired at the naval captain rank from Turkish Naval Forces in 1999. He became Ph. Dr. in naval history in 2004.  He worked for NATO between-1996-1999. Instructed International Organizations, International Security Problems, Turkey and Its Neighbors, Geopolitics and Geo-strategy, Public Administration, Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management, Turkish Politics, Foreign Policy Strategies are the courses instructed in Ege, Yaşar and İzmir Economy Universities in the period of 2000-2006.  At the moment he is instructor of Turkish War College. Mr. Tarakçı has 9 books issued in Turkish.


 

TURKEY IN THE EU-TRUMP-RUSSIA TRIANGLE

Introduction

Trump, the president-elect of the United States, caused increased uncertainties both in his home country and around the world three months before he takes office. These uncertainties are centered on three main areas.

  • The first is whether the Trump administration will work in tandem with the structure called Finance Capital System which runs the world through multinational corporations including the FED, banks and insurance companies,
  • Second, whether the new administration will continue to make substantial contributions to the security of Europe against Russia’s threat in the context of NATO,
  • And third is how a possible change in relations with China will affect the security of the Pacific region.

The priority situation for Turkey and Europe is the second main area.

 

Institutions and Factors Affecting US Political Management Structure

The United States is governed by a two-chambered presidential system in which federal representatives are located. Both parliaments are formed by two political parties. The system is controlled by a powerful, efficient and independent judicial power. The USA government, at the age of 240, eventually passed on to the present system after civil war and long-term turmoil. Since the Second World War, the United States has been the world leader in economic, military and cultural affairs. The country has two major economic crises in 1929 and 2008. The effects of the last crisis are still ongoing. The social problems created by income distribution disorder are increasingly growing in the USA. While the black-and-white distinction has gained momentum again, new discrimination signs appear for Latin and Hispanic minorities.

 

How and why is Trump Elected?

After it was reported that he fell behind Clinton on the polls, how Trump surprisingly won the election is still being debated. Let’s try to analyze the situation under historical preliminary information and current conditions. Despite its establishment in 1921, the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), a derivative of the Finance Capital System, has become more active in the US administration system with the Jewish and Greek Lobbies since the 1980s. In this regard, their role in the Congress (representatives, parliament, and senate) and presidential elections is widely acknowledged. It is impossible to deny the political influence of this new power that seized the USA government system. Due to the oppressive, imperative, global economic system that started in 1990, the governance of the countries, especially the USA and England, has been overtaken by multinational corporations rather than politics. Today, these companies can still influence the governance of the USA and key countries in the EU. Al Gore, former USA president-in-chief, highlights this in his book The Future, published in 2013: In our world, the power of the state is increasingly being taken over by business, finance and media organizations. Governments take their decisions in such a way that they can see the interests of these institutions, which constitute the main funding source for political parties.

When you look at the management team that Mr. Trump is forming, it can be said that the USA will be in harmony with Finance Capital System and FED. At this point it is almost certain that the main scenario change will be the USA’ plans and strategies in the Middle East. To what extent will the expectations of the centers that support Trump in election be met? How will this affect the EU-USA relations? Trump is an American businessman. For this reason, he should be expected to focus on pragmatic solutions and clear results. But in doing so, will Trump, unlike Obama, use his military power directly and more effectively, or will he focus on solving it with more peaceful, more compromising and allied strategies? Time will show. Why did the system prefer Trump instead of Clinton? The answer to this question is important. And it seems that the answer is related to Obama’s policies against Israel, which he has been pursuing over the last eight years in the Middle East and where Clinton was expected to continue if elected. Which are;

  • Approaching Israel more cautiously,
  • Opposing their practice against international law,
  • Avoiding overt political support for international issues,
  • Opposition to new settlements in Jerusalem and making Jerusalem the capital,
  • Not approving the violence in Gaza,
  • Despite Israel’s violent opposition, signing a nuclear deal with Iran,
  • Supporting Palestinian independence,
  • Avoiding the use of direct military force in the Middle East etc.

 

Why is Israel an Indispensable Country?

Israel has been favored by all the previous USA administrations thanks to the Finance Capital System, which the Jewish lobby controls at a significant level, and protected by a special alliance.  It can be said that as long as the political influence of this supreme imperialism continues, this privilege of Israel will continue in the USA. Israel is the only country to receive advanced technology transfers, especially in the field of defense industry, as well as receiving unrequited financial assistance from the United States. In the next decade, it has been decided that Israel will receive military assistance of $ 37.5-40 billion. This is the greatest amount of aid in American history. Although Israel is not a NATO and EU member, it has all the privileges of any member. Until today, all complaints and sanctions brought against the UN Security Council about Israel have been stopped by the United States. Israel, which has nuclear weapons, escapes UN control. In summary, the US sees Israel as an indispensable country for its interests in the region. Due to the support provided to Trump, it can be expected that the USA will be more compassionate and supportive in relations with Israel during the Republican period.

 

What are Israel’s Expectations from the US?

The proportional advantage that the widespread war in the Middle East has provided for Israel has led to the prominence of its economic priority projects. The first priority is to deliver natural gas in eastern Mediterranean to foreign markets as soon as possible. In this regard, negotiations on the Turkish route continue. It may be the case that Trump supports these negotiations to be put into action. It is one of Israel’s main anticipations that the nuclear deal is suspended and re-embargoed so as to narrow Iran’s regional influence. In order to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the USA embassy in Tel Aviv is expected to be moved to this city.  After the cleanup of the ISIS from Syria and Iraq, the new political structure in the region will take place in the direction of Israel’s will.

 

How Did the US Give the Green Light to a Kurdish State?

Trump’s Security Advisor Michael Flynn explained that a Kurdish state would be established in the region. In this context, the first questions that come to mind are in what region, by which population and under whose protection this state will be established. The current situation in the geography of Iraq suggests that this new Kurdish state will be built on the basis of the independence of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government. In this case, the PKK issue for Turkey will enter a new process. What will be the PKK elements, 73% of which are Turkish citizens? They will either remain in the Barzani region or end terrorism by integrating with the system, or they will continue to export terror to Turkey in the same position. In this case, the Barzani government will have to cooperate with Turkey on terrorism. Otherwise, there may be a serious crisis between the new Kurdish state and Turkey.

If the Kurdish state is established, who will control Mosul and Kirkuk? More importantly, the USA will have to safeguard the Kurdish state, which it declares to be established, for many years. If terrorist activities against Turkey continue in this period, Turkey and the USA may have to clash. The Kurdish state may also become a source of trouble for Iran. Because the Kurdish state under US control can assume the role of buffer against the influence of Iran over Iraq and Syria. This is one of the main strategic aims of the new Kurdish state for the United States. As for the ongoing civil war in Syria, the US has chosen Syrian Kurds as a partner, as it has in Iraq. The Syrian Kurds are currently being used by the USA against the ISIS. Only if the ISIS danger ceases to exist, Syrian Kurds could actually be used as a buffer to narrow the influence of Turkey and Iran in the region. This strategy is in line with the policy of stopping Arab sectarian fanaticism with a Kurdish card, which Israel has been pursuing since many years.

 

Expected Scenarios in Syria after ISIS

When the conflicts in Syria and Iraq come to an end, the new order will affect a period of at least 50 years ahead. How will the economic, strategic and political structure of the region be? At the heart of these scenarios are two main economic projects that affect political and military construction.

  • The first is the safe exploration, extraction and transportation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean basin starting from the Turkish border to the Nile Delta, to foreign markets. Let’s specify the requirements for this to happen:
  1. Under the auspices of Russia, the new Syrian state to be established on the coast of Syria to end hostility with Israel
  2. Israel to cooperate with Russia, which has become permanent in the region, in the energy and security fields
  3. Lebanon’s removal from Iran’s political and military influence
  4. For the development of Gaza through energy, Gaza to be given a special status through the UN or an independent, non-regional country (Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, Finland etc.) to mandate the city

 

It is clear how difficult it is to fulfill these requirements because of the ongoing conflicts. For this reason, Israel, without waiting for its own extracted gas, has accelerated its projects to offer it to foreign markets.

 

  • Secondly, for the Gulf Countries (BAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait), Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas to flow into the eastern Mediterranean. Let’s specify the requirements for this to happen:

 

  1. Determination of new political borders in Syria and Iraq
  2. And these new political divisions’ cooperation with the states which controls the eastern Mediterranean basin, Israel, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt and the new Syrian state emerges as the main condition.

 

The expectations in the second scenario group are at least as hard as the first ones. The region is experiencing chaos due to the lack of mutual agreement and insecurity between two opposing nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia and regional geopolitical players like Turkey and Iran. Post-ISIS scenarios are still uncertain.

 

The Dangers Awaiting Turkey and the Way Out

Turkey has got out of the strategic gap and uncertainty with the Euphrates Shield Operation, which started on August 24, 2016, has completed three months. Turkey’s goals and objectives in this operation do not overlap with the United States. On the contrary, there is a silent agreement with Russia and consequently the Assad regime. Hence, Putin has personally confirmed that the last missile attack on the Turkish tank did not originate from Russia. Turkey has announced that it has no other purpose than to establish a safe zone on the southern border. However, the USA, which appears to intend to form a Kurdish belt in the south of Turkey, is following a strategy that plans to bypass Turkey in a new political and military power balance shaped by recent developments in the region. This strategy pushes Turkey, a NATO member, towards a security center based in Russia. This strategy is thoroughly erroneous. Because, if the US continues the strategies that it implements and applies against Russia on a continental scale, it cannot do so without Turkey, which controls the Turkish Straits and balances Russian naval forces in the Black Sea. As long as Turkey has military power in Syria, it is important that it acts coordinately with the regime through Russia and Russia. In parallel with this, in the context of large energy projects in the region, Turkey’s strategic cooperation with Israel in a serious and reassuring manner can fix USA-Turkey relations. Turkey should be prepared for various pitfalls that would disrupt relations with Russia. Russia’s greatest fear is the closure of the Straits in case of a crisis and conflict with Turkey. Hence, following the downing of the plane incident, Russia, in the face of hostile explanations and practices, made official statements of concern about the closure of the Straits.

 

Opportunities

The current situation provides Turkey with two strategic opportunities, time-wise.

 

  • First, in the framework of the right of self-defense provided by the UN Convention, conducting resultant military operations in the Kandil region in coordination with Iran
  • The second is the unification of the TRNC with Turkey. Because, in the so-called solution negotiations conducted under the supervision of the UN, despite the substantial amount of land and population concessions, the Turkish side is still being blamed. The work of separating Cyprus from Turkey has accelerated. As for the TRNC, after the Denktash administration, the TRNC has fallen asleep. It has not been able to become a state in 33 years. Neither has it made an independence anthem, it has not changed the British colony court buildings, nor has it created a homogeneous society by embracing those who came from Turkey. Today, when the relations with the EU are suspended, it is about time for the TRNC to integrate with Turkey. It is the right time to actualize the fact that the Turkish and Greek Cypriots cannot live together in Cyprus, which has been written for many years and is widely known.

 


How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

December 3, 2015

enLogoOil produced by the Islamic State group finances its bloodlust. But how is it extracted, transported and sold? Who is buying it, and how does it reach Israel? 

See more at:

How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff

Date of publication: 26 November, 2015 

 

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Balkans and Geography of Turkish Stream

March 22, 2015

 

ONLINE JOURNAL 21.03.2015 | 00:00
Pyotr ISKENDEROV
Strategic-Culture.org

Balkans and Geography of Turkish Stream

Russia’s Stroytransgaz has announced that it will build a gas pipeline across (FYR) Macedonia, which could eventually be used as part of a route to supply Europe with Russian gas via Turkey. Macedonia will have its own source of energy. Today the country has energy dependence indicator of 47, 9 percent – the second largest after Croatia (52%). The importance of the pipeline going across Macedonia is immense. It will become the key component of all-Balkans energy system linked to the Russia-Turkey joint Turkish Stream project on the construction of gas route leading to Central and South Europe.

According to Stroytransgaz, the 96.6 km (60 miles) Negotino-Klecovce gas pipeline will cross Macedonia from near the Greek border in the south up to the vicinity of the Serbian border in the north. Stroytransgaz will build 61 km of the link by June 2016.

gasovod

At the moment, Macedonia receives gas from Russia via Bulgaria and Romania as part of the transit through Ukraine (pipe string N8). The existing pipeline has a capacity of 800 million cubic meters a year – not enough to satisfy the needs of the Balkans. The pipeline may be out of operation as early as 2019 when Russia plans to stop using this route, or, even earlier, in case of Ukraine’s further disintegration.

Gasprom and its Turkish partners want to finish the construction as early as they can. Gazprom’s CEO Aleksey Miller said, «Our priorities – to study the route’s options in Turkey, to define the location of the landfall facilities, gas delivery points for Turkish consumers and border crossings between Turkey and Greece».

There is an intriguing collision here. Nature and geography are the factors to facilitate Macedonia’s becoming the key transit country in the Balkans. There is an alternative route going through Bulgaria and Serbia. But Moscow does not see Bulgaria as a partner to trust. Serbia imports all the gas it consumes. Russia accounts for 95% of its supplies. Belgrade faces political problems. It has to prove itself as a reliable partner to become part of the emerging energy system in the Balkans.

caucase-turquie-en

Turkish Stream has the same capacity as South Stream. It can carry up to 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually to Europe with 16 billion remaining in Turkey and 47 billion going farther to the Balkans. It’s enough to satisfy all the requirements. The main obstacle is the gap between the Serbia’s ruling elite on the one hand, and the interests of Serbian people on the other.

No matter Western and many Serbian media outlets have launched an anti-Russian and anti-Gasprom campaign, there is a growing understanding in Serbian society of the reasons South Stream was cancelled. According to a poll conducted in late 2014-early 2015, 39, 8% of Serbs believe the United States is behind the cancellation of South Stream while 20,2% put the blame of the European Union. Only 6, 5% believe that it was Russia’s fault. 2, 4% of respondents think that Bulgaria was responsible because it’s not fully independent while taking decisions on energy and other issues.

Bulgaria mainly, and to lesser extent Serbia, failed to act on their own being too much subject to foreign influence. Today Turkey imports around 70% of oil and gas it needs, its consumer demand is to increase 40% by 2020. Turkey wants to become a key energy hub. It takes part in talks on all the projects under consideration related to new routes going to Europe, no matter some of them are subject to competition. The availability of resources defines energy geopolitics. It makes the Russia’s position be on solid footing.

Of course, Macedonia presents some risks due to internal political instability and the emergence of Albanian factor. The West’s intention to frustrate the Russia’s plans is obvious. There are grounds to believe that the recent round of political confrontation in Skopie was incited by the West. The events have all the making of «color revolution» inspired from outside. But one way or another, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia have to think about their energy needs. Common reason makes them realize that close cooperation with Russia meets their interests. All planned and existing energy routes go to the region from the East, not from the West. Liquefied gas tankers from Qatar or Algeria don’t drop anchors Belgrade, Sophia or Skopie.

 

 


Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”?

December 3, 2014

We believe that in the current conditions Russia cannot continue with the realisation of this project [South Stream].” (Vladimir Putin)

russia vs euRussia’s $40 billion South Stream gas pipeline project came to reach a standstill on Monday 1st Dec 2014 when, as the WSJ reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We couldn’t get necessary permissions from Bulgaria, so we cannot continue with the project. We can’t make all the investment just to be stopped at the Bulgarian border.

The main reasons for halting the South Stream are plunging energy prices, stalling European demand, interpretation of the European Commission that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and mostly the political standoff between the European Union and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

The announcement on scrapping South Stream came during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, to Turkey, during which Putin proposed building it to Turkey instead, offering its gas at a discount.

South Stream

South Stream is a Russian sponsored natural gas pipeline. As planned, the pipeline would run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and continue through Serbia with two branches to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia. From Serbia the pipelines crosses Hungary and Slovenia before reaching Italy. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y).

The key partner for Russia’s Gazprom in the South Stream project is Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Russia signed intergovernmental agreements with:

  • Bulgaria – January 18, 2008;
  • Serbia – January 25, 2008;
  • Hungary – February 28, 2008;
  • Greece – April 29, 2008;
  • Slovenia – November 14, 2009;
  • Croatia – March 2, 2010;
  • Austria – April 24, 2010.

The construction of South Stream started on December 7, 2012 is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The offshore section of the pipeline, which will run in part along the seabed and reach the maximum depth of 2,200 m, will be 931 km long. Each of the four parallel strings of the pipeline will consist of 75,000 pipes, each 12 m long, 81 cm in diameter, 39 mm thick and weighing 9 tonnes.

South Stream and partners

South Stream and partners

Last December (2013), the European Commission said that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch (Source: Euractiv ).

Field status” as solution

The European Commission threatened to launch legal action on grounds that South Stream violates EU anti-monopoly laws, with Bulgaria halting construction in August 2014. There are two main requirements for the eligibility of major new gas infrastructure projects like South Stream to be developed in the EU in compliance with the European Commission Directive 2009/73/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas. The first one relates to the unbundling between the suppliers and the owners of infrastructure, while the second one relates to the granting of third party access to the transmission and distribution systems. This is a formality – the real cause to block South Stream from EU side is of course political confrontation due Ukraine.

Bulgaria and Russia have been discussing the possibility of reclassifying the Bulgarian section of the South Stream gas pipeline into a field pipe to exempt it from EU restrictions. Indeed “the field status” could solve all the problems on restrictions related to the EU third energy package.

In the case of the South Stream Russia’s Gazprom cannot be engaged in production, transportation, and sales of natural gas at the same time. But the pipes carrying gas from EU’s sea shelf fields have a special field status, which exempts them from the restrictions of the legislation.Under EU legislation, pipelines carrying gas from the sea shelf wells of EU countries, particularly Germany, France and Belgium, have a ‘field pipeline’ status that exempts them from the requirement for mandatory granting of access of third parties to the pipeline.Austria’s OMV, Gazprom’s partner in the Austrian section of South Stream, produces gas on the Bulgarian Black Sea shelf, and a pipeline built by OMV to carry gas from the shelf can be later included in the project by reassignment of rights. (Source and more at Novinite: Bulgaria, Russia Discuss Exempting South Stream from EU Restrictions )

Consequences

The main loser of possible cancellation of South Stream project will be Bulgaria. The direct budget revenues that Bulgaria would have had from [gas] transit were at least €400 million a year. The share in the country’s €40 billion GDP to come from South Stream was expected to be 1.5 percent, according to Bulgarian Economic Ministry. Direct investment was supposed to be around €3 billion creating around 2,500 new jobs. The Northern parts of the country, through which the main pipeline route would be laid, were expected to have significantly improved social infrastructure and become more attractive to investment.

Besides Bulgaria also Serbia, Austria and Italy would have made big time revenue, and employed lots of people in need of jobs, by being links in the South Stream chain. Now they will have to pay the Turk Stream toll booth to secure their energy needs.

For Serbia it [South Stream] has been the cornerstone of our industrial strategy for the next 10 years so the situation is worrying us,” Vuk Jeremic, former foreign minister of Serbia, told New Europe on the sidelines of the Athens Forum 2014 on September 15. Right now the bets are off. But I’m hopeful that there will be progress in the future. But it would have to be part of a wider development of normalisation of relations between Russia and the West which currently does not seem to be in the making,” he said. Reminding that Gazprom is one of the biggest foreign investors in Serbia, Jeremic stressed that such a project would be of immense importance for his country’s economy so there are reasons for Belgrade to be worried.”

In addition with Turk Stream a reality, Ukraine has lost its strategic energy significance. The project operator South Stream Transport estimates that European companies will lose at least 2.5 billion euros because of the abandoned project. Japanese companies who were participating in the project will lose some 320 million euros – a Japanese consortium made up of Marubeni-Itochu and Sumitomo had received a pipe supply order worth that amount. (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines )

If Gazprom decides to choose Turkey and Greece for the South Stream route, the pipeline project would largely resemble the TANAP-TAP project to bring Azeri gas to Italy through the territories of the same countries. The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) is a proposed natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan running through Turkey. The approximately 870 km long TAP pipeline connects with TANAP, and will cross Greece and Albania before reaching Italy through an offshore section. It is to be built by a consortium led by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR. TAP is in an advanced stage of preparation and the start of its construction is planned in 2016.

Gazprom had spent 487.5 billion rubles ($9.4 billion) in the last three years on South Stream and upgrading the Russian pipelines that would have supplied it. Some of that work can be used for a separate link to Turkey. Supply contracts and intergovernmental agreements surrounding the project remain in force. The infrastructure built in preparation for South Stream will be used for “Turk Stream”.

“Turk Stream” instead?

Related to implementation of South Stream Russia agreed on 6th August 2009 with Turkey about energy cooperation with South Stream and also development of Blue Stream pipeline between Russia and Turkey under Black Sea so South Stream has secured also an alternative route. While EU started to create obstacles to project and in case Bulgaria continues to obstruct the construction of the South Stream pipeline this cooperation made base for Gazprom’s “Plan B”. Also on 24 May 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin already hinted at another route for South Stream, during his meeting with leaders of world media.

Ankara would allow South Stream to reach Turkey under the Black Sea instead of Bulgaria, as originally planned. Russia would prefer not to opt for a plan B, but if the Commission doesn’t stop pressuring Bulgaria to freeze the construction of the pipeline, this alternative appears to be a viable option.

While announcing about South Stream hold off the Russian leader said he will add an extra branch to his existing Blue Stream gas pipeline to Turkey and build a new storage and trading “hub” on the Turkish-Greek border. The pipeline will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters. A total of 14 bcm will be delivered to Turkey, which is Gazprom’s second biggest customer in the region after Germany. The rest can be shipped through Turkey’s pipeline network to the Balkans.

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from www.gazprom.com

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from http://www.gazprom.com

Russia’s energy minister Aleksandr Novak said that the new project will include a specially-constructed hub on the Turkish-Greek border for customers in southern Europe. Novak later confirmed that Vladimir Putin personally ordered for the South Stream project to be mothballed, and its existing facilities to be repurposed for the new Turkish pipeline. (Source: RT )

The clear winner of new plans is Turkey – the in-between partner and energy hub – who will take gas from Iran and Russia to Europe. In addition Russia and Turkey also noted that plans for Russian firm Rosatom to build a $20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey are proceeding full speed ahead.

The bottom line

South Stream exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria among others saw it as a solution to the risk of supply disruptions via Ukraine, which have occurred three times during the last decade. Brussels, on the other hand, saw it as entrenching Moscow’s energy stranglehold on Europe. It remains to see whether Russia’s decision was final or a political ploy – a tactical step – to gain more favorable terms.

From my point of view the original South Stream is the better alternative than “Turk Stream” as it is the direct option to EU/Europe and avoid a transit risk related to Ukraine or Turkey so in my opinion the best follow-up would be attempt to solve Russia-EU differences and run pipeline directly to Europe as initially planned.

P.S:

Turkey, the country that bridges Europe with Asia is merely the latest expansion of Putin’s anti-dollar alliance as Turkey and Russia agree to use local currencies in trade. Wider perspective about this issue can be read from my article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$

Update 05/12/2014:

The South Stream pipeline crossing southeastern Europe could still be completed, despite the stated intention of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon the project, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.  The comments by Mr. Juncker, at a news conference here on Thursday, indicated that the bloc was intent on keeping at least the idea of the South Stream project alive — despite the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, and despite the Europeans’ longstanding skepticism about a pipeline that could extend the region’s heavy reliance on Russian energy.

“South Stream can be built,” Mr. Juncker said. But, he added, “the ball is in the court of Russia.” Mr. Juncker’s comments — as surprising in some respects as Mr. Putin’s sudden decision to reroute the pipeline — were the latest twist in a project that has became a geopolitical tug of war between Brussels and Moscow. (Source: NYT )

pipelines From Russia to EU


Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II

October 8, 2013

false flag operation posterIn my earlier article – Whodunnit in Syria I claimed that there’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21st attack outside of Damascus – and probably on a smaller scale before that – but there is a reasonable doubt if the Assad regime used sarin gas in this operation. Since then new aspects what happened are emerging and when there is some perspective about diplomatic solution it is also important to note for future developing that the roles of actors are changing in operation theatre. While these newest developments are shaping the future in Syria it is in my opinion still important to study Aug. 21st attack as it might help to plan further actions – and alliances.

The UN Report made on 13th Sep 2013 on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on Aug. 21st , 2013 has clarified many issues but left the key questions unanswered: who committed the attack and who are the victims?The UN report does not confirm anything other than chemical weapons were used. More interesting is an other report made by a Syria-based human rights group ISTEAMS. This later report has also been submitted to UN and it clarifies a bit the core question – Whodunnit?

Syrian rebels using CW

UN report

To launch a chemical weapons attack in Damascus on the very day that a United Nations chemical-weapons inspection team arrives in Damascususing an out-of-date missile in an ancient launchermust be a new definition of madness.” (George Galloway in British parliament on Syria late August)

The UN report tells that CW and sarin gas was used in Damascus 21. Aug. 2013 – and that’s it, practically none has claimed the opposite. The report does not tell who were implementing or ordering gas attack nor answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?”. However the critical analysis of UN report makes clear that the narrative “only the Syrian regime could have carried out the attacks” will not hold. I would like to highlight following points which cast a reasonable doubt against mentioned one-sided (US) approach. As source I have used mainly Land Destroyer Report by Tony Cartalucci.

1. Chemical weapons were delivered with munitions not used by rebels: these particularly larger diameter rockets (140mm and 330mm) have not been seen in the hands of terrorists operating within and along Syria’s borders, however rockets similar in construction and operation, but smaller, most certainly in the hands of the militants. According to UN chemical weapons inspectors, unguided 140 mm rockets were used in the attacks. The UN inspectors suggested that Soviet BM-14-17 (MLRS) rocket launchers were used. However, Syria long ago removed those systems from its arsenal, and the army does not use them. They were replaced by modern Soviet 122 mm “Grad” (MLRS BM-21) and Chinese 107 mm Type 63 light rocket launchers. Syria may have also used 220 mm Soviet-made Hurricane rocket launchers (MLRS 9P140). (Source: The New Eastern Outlook/NEO http://journal-neo.org/2013/09/20/rus-siriya-himicheskaya-ataka-ili-provokatsiya/ )

The Washington Post contends that somehow these larger rockets require “technology” the militants have no access to. This is categorically false. A rocket is launched from a simple tube, and the only additional technology terrorists may have required for the larger rockets would have been a truck to mount them on. For an armed front fielding stolen tanks, finding trucks to mount large metal tubes upon would seem a rather elementary task – especially to carry out a staged attack that would justify foreign intervention and salvage their faltering offensive. That the same rocket used in Damascus has now been seen launched from makeshift flatbeds and not olive green military rocket launchers, along with answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?” and considering that militants are confirmed to have US training in handling of chemical weapons – all at the very least tear down the narrative that “only the Syrian regime” could have carried out the attacks. So how did the obsolete MLRS BM-14-17 systems get there? Perhaps they came with the rockets supplied by external opposition supporters who had previously obtained those sorts of weapons from the Soviet Union. As an alternative explanation, one cannot exclude the possibility that the opposition captured the munitions from Syrian weapons depots that might have held them.


2. The sarin was fired from a regime-controlled area: The report concludes that the shells came from the northwest of the targeted neighborhood – from area which was and is controlled by Syrian regime forces and is awfully close to a Syrian military base. If the shells had been fired by Syrian rebels, they likely would have come from the rebel-held southeast. However the “limitations” the UN team itself put on the credibility of their findings. On page 18 of the report (22 of the .pdf), the UN states [emphasis added]:

The time necessary to conduct a detailed survey of both locations as well as take samples was very limited. The sites have been well travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation. Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.”

It should also be noted that militants still controlled the area after the alleged attack and up to and including during the investigation by UN personnel. So possible tampering or planting of evidence would have been carried out by “opposition” members – and surely the Syrian government would not point rockets in directions that would implicate themselves.

false flag definition3. Chemical analysis suggests sarin likely came from controlled supply, butany staged attack would also need to utilize stabilized chemical weapons and personnel trained in their use. From stockpiles looted in Libya, to chemical arms covertly transferred from the US, UK, or Israel, through Saudi Arabia or Qatar, there is no short supply of possible sources. Regarding “rebels” lacking the necessary training to handle chemical weapons – US policy has seen to it that not only did they receive the necessary training, but Western defense contractors specializing in chemical warfare are reported to be on the ground with militants inside Syria. CNN reported in their 2012 article, that: ”The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.”

4. Cyrillic characters on the sides of the shells: Terrorists operating inside of Syria also possess rifles and even tanks of Russian origin – stolen or acquired through a large network of illicit arms constructed by NATO and its regional allies to perpetuate the conflict. (Source and more in Land Destroyer Report )A label found on a warhead. Mikhail Barabanov, an expert with the Russian Centre for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies commented that this label matches those on missiles produced in 1967 in Novosibirsk (Russia). One might justifiably wonder why the Syrian Army would launch a 46-year-old missile when it holds abundant stockpiles of far more reliable modern weapons. It is also worth noting that the production of chemical weapons in Syria began in the 1990s, when chemical facilities were built near Damascus, in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. Thus, those missiles, filled with chemical agents, should be dated accordingly or later. If the date of a missile’s production does not match the production date for its chemical agent, it stands to reason that the warhead was filled in an underground laboratory or was even homemade.(Source Voltairenet )

5. A closer look at the charts shows a massive discrepancy in lab results from east and west Ghouta. There is not a single environmental sample in Moadamiyah ( west Ghouta) that tested positive for Sarin. Yet it is in Moadamiyah where alleged victims of a CW attack tested highest for Sarin exposure. Sothere is stark discrepancy between human and environmental test results in Moadamiyah. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British military’s chemical defense regiment and CEO at CW specialists, SecureBio Ltd notes:

“I think that it is strange that the environmental and human samples don’t match up. This could be because there have been lots of people trampling through the area and moving things. Unless the patients were brought in from other areas. There doesn’t seem another plausible explanation.”

All the patients were pre-selected by Ghouta doctors and opposition groups for presentation to the UN teams. Although the highest rate of Sarin-exposure was found in Moadamiyah “survivors,” the UN team found no traces of Sarin on the 140mm rocket identified as the source of the alleged CW attack – or in its immediate environment.

The discrepancies in the story of the Ghouta CW attacks are vast. Casualty figures range from a more modest 300+ to the more dramatic 1,400+ figures touted by western governments. The UN investigators were not able to confirm any of these numbers – they only saw 80 survivors and tested only 36 of these. They saw none of the dead – neither in graves nor in morgues. (Source: Questions Plague UN Report on Syria – “Saudi Intelligence Behind the Attacks…” by Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada )

Obama's logic with Syria

Report from ISTEAMS

The US intelligence community selected or nominated 13 videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government. It was job of US intelligence to examine and authenticate these videos however it seems that they made sloppy or even worse purpose-orientated job. ISTEAMS – a Syria-based human rights group working in conjunction with the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights – got its motivation to study case further as follows:

From the moment when some families of abducted children contacted us to inform us that they recognized the children among those who are presented in the videos as victims of the Chemical Attacks of East Ghouta, we decided to examine the videos thoroughly.

ISTEAMS found some conflicts between videos and reality on the ground as well between videos and conclusions made from them. That analysis was later expanded on by a report from ISTEAMS, In this thorough report numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies in the footage are documented.

ISTEAMS report on Syria CW attackThe ISTEAMS report raises many troubling questions about the scenes in the Ghouta videos. Were the victims of the attack local children? If so, why were they there after these areas had been largely abandoned? Where are their parents? An answer to threse questions might be found from videos posted by the Mujahedeen Press Office to YouTube just six days before the attack confirming that the terrorists had kidnapped hundreds of women and children from the rural villages of Alawite stronghold Lattakia to use as bargaining chips in the conflict. Were these kidnap victims moved to Ghouta to be killed in the chemical weapons attack? Is this why so many children were there in these largely-vacated areas, and why so few parents appear on video mourning their children? If true, are evidence of the most disgraceful war crimes imaginable and the most cold-blooded manipulations of evidence to suit an agenda.

One of the core conclusion from the ISTEAMS report:

Contrary to the claims of the Free Syrian Army and the Western services, the only identified victims of the Ghouta massacre are those belonging to families that support the Syrian government. In the videos, the individuals that show outrage against the ‘crimes of Bashar el-Assad’ are in reality their killers.”

The report documents through eyewitness testimony and video evidence that the affected areas had been largely abandoned by local residents in the days prior to the attack. Yet in the footage of the aftermath, there are large numbers of child victims who are portrayed. There exists very little footage of parents with their children, and what little footage exists portrays some of the parents apparently “discovering” their children on multiple occasions in different locations. Other footage shows the same children arranged in different formations in geographically distant neighborhoods. The report concludes that the footage was carefully stage managed to create the greatest emotional impact on foreign audiences. These videos were then used by the Obama administration to convince the Senate of their case for military intervention.

Conclusion: What the study [ISTEAMS report] does is logically point out through its observations that there is empirical evidence that the sample of videos that the US Intelligence Community has analyzed and nominated as authentic footage has been stage-managed.

Some discrepancies and inconsistencies in the videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government:

  • The same couple appears as parents looking for their children in two different videos and each time they claim a different child as theirs among the corpses.
  • The same groups that have been involved with posting and disseminating the videos that the US Intelligence Community has selected have also tried to pass pictures of Egyptian civilians killed in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square as Syrian victims.
  • The body of a little boy in a red shirt that was filmed in Zamalka and then in filmed again among different bodies in Jobar and the inanimate bodies of at least nine of the children that filmed in Kafarbatna also oddly appear at makeshift morgue in Al-Majr a few hours later.
  • Syria cw fabrication
  • Also some of the same bodies were planted or recycled in different scenes and makeshift morgue that were supposed to be in different locations. The same bodies of the same children are spotted in different locations.

  • Why, in many instances, are the same individuals shown as both dead and alive?
  • The report also highlights the fact that there have been no public funerals or announcements about all the dead children. This is outside of both cultural and religious norms.
  • In the footage of one burial, only eight people are buried and three of them are not even covered in white shrouds, which is a compulsory ritual.
  • Where are remaining 1,458 corpses other than the eight whose burials have been documented?
  • A large amount (150 cases are known) of women and children were abducted on August 4, 2013 in Latakia by the anti-government forces, specifically by Jabhat Al-Nusra, as hostages to be used for negotiations and trade with the Syrian government for captured insurgents. ISTEAMS mentions that that Syrians from Latakia have come forward claiming that their relatives were on display in the footage that the US Intelligence Community has showcased to justify bombing Syria. The Latakia connection would explain a lot of the questions that arise about the bodies of the unaccompanied children.

The revelations implicate the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States and discredit it in the same tradition as the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There are serious flaws in the US Intelligence Community that equate to either a lack of professionalism or/and its outright subordination to Washington’s political agendas that involve false analyses. The US intelligence community has been put to shame by the dedication and determination of a lone Christian nun. Her – and ISTEAMS – modest study of the videos of the Syrian chemical attack shows they were productions involving staged bodies. ISTEAMS submitted this report to the United Nations and as it is now published so everybody else can study the report and make their own conclusions.

Source and more in The Chemical Attacks in East Ghouta Used to Justify a Military Intervention in SyriaBy Mother Agnes Mariam, September 16, 2013 and in ISTEAMS report .

Some other related random excerpts about the Syrian CW case:

  • An indictment from the Adana Public Prosecutor’s Office has declared that anti-Assad gangs are known to be producing chemical weapons inside of Turkey.Prosecution attorney presented the court with a 132-page document which contained prosecution attorney’s gathered evidence of the suspects’ links to terrorist groups in Syria including al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic States on Iraq and Levant (Ahrar al-Sham).On May 28 Turkish security forces found a 2-kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of terrorists from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.
  • The recent findings on the chemical weapons attack of Aug. 21 on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, was “indeed a self-inflicted attack” by the Syrian opposition to provoke U.S. and military intervention in Syria. An Italian former journalist Domenico Quirico and a Belgian researcher Pierre Piccinin who were recently freed from their al-Nusra captives say they overheard their captors talking about their involvement in a deadly chemical attack “last month,” which would have been the Aug. 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

  • The sarin nerve gas used in the Allepo attack, sources say, had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brig. Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi. It then was supplied to Baath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation, through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.

  • Currently a UN team of CW inspectors are in Syria and investigating three chemical weapons attacks alleged to have happened after the 21 August attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead and sparked a threat of US military action.The UN said its team, led by Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Syria for its second visit on 25 September and it is working on a “comprehensive report” that it expects to have finished by late October. The UN listed the alleged attacks, which all took place this year, as Khan al-Assal on 19 March; Sheikh Maqsoud on 13 April; Saraqeb on 29 April; Ghouta on 21 August; Bahhariya on 22 August; Jobar on 24 August and Ashrafieh Sahnaya on 25 August. Damascus pushed for the investigation of the three post-21 August incidents, accusing “militants” of using chemical gas against the army in Bahhariya, Jobar and Ashrafieh Sahnaya.
  • And a short background video about use of CW in Syria:

Consequences

September 25 is the date of dramatic turn of events in Syria. The consequences may affect the way the situation unfolds further on. The plans to stage a provocation and get the West involved in the conflict had failed, so the opposition threw away the democratic veil and showed its real face. Thirteen most combat capable groups severed ties with the National Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to form an Islamic alliance of their own. Jabhat-al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliated group, is the core element of the new coalition. Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam and Suqur Al-Sham and a number of smaller groups joined the new alliance.

There is no other way to preserve any influence for secular opposition but to reach a reasonable compromise with Bashar Assad within the framework of Geneva peace process. More in my recent article Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War

media fabrication

Related articles

anti-US poster related to Syria

The main conclusion is that the type of sarin used in that [Aleppo, March 2013] incident was homemade. We also have evidence to assert that the type of sarin used on August 21 was the same, only of higher concentration.” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov


Whodunnit in Syria

September 11, 2013

 

Gas attacks in Syria 2013The Obama administration’s public case for attacking Syria is full of inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence, While a punitive strike against Bashar Assad’s regime is ready to start immediatelly the public reasons for attack are losing ground every day while the risks about escalation of conflict are rising simultaneously. In my opinion the U.S address of missile-strike might not be the right one so before any actions it would be wise to spend some time to clarify – whodunnit.

There’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21 attack outside of Damascus – and probably on a smaller scale before that – but there is a reasonable doubt if the Assad regime used sarin gas in this operation. For me it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused al Assad to use chemical weapons (CWs) and take the risk about intervention as he already is winning the war . His opponents however have the motivation. Below I have tried to collect information from different sources about alternative explanations for Damascus gas-attack in Aug.21. I try to show that besides motivation the rebels had also the opportunity and CWs to implement this ”casus belli”.

Do Syrian rebels have CWs

Some say they have some of the known Libyan stockpile. Some say Turkish agents made it for them. Some say Qatari agents delivered small amounts of chemical weapons to certain factions of Syrian rebels.

One of the U.S. government’s main justifications for its claim that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack is that the rebels don’t have chemical weapons. However they have CWs from different sources as follows:

a) Looted Syrian CWs

The Washington Post noted that a terrorist organization were among rebels who seized the Sheik Suleiman military base near Aleppo, where research on chemical weapons had been conducted. Also the al-Nusra Front — an anti-Assad group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and is also known as Jabhat al-Nusra — had seized a chlorine factory near the town of Safirah, east of Aleppo. Safirah has served as a major production center for such munitions.

Gerard Direct reported in article Syria: Jihadist Al-Nusra Front Siezes Chemical Factory Near Allepo on December 2012

Late Saturday night, it was reported that FSA fighters captured a Syrian chemical factory used to make toxic chlorine. Some reports suggested that the chloride factory at Al-Safira, southeast of Aleppo, is a also a chemical weapons depot and research station with chemical tipped scud missiles. The town, along with the factory has reportedly been overrun by jihadists who are purportedly fighting the Syrian government. The jihadists are members of al Nusra, a terrorist group associated with al-Qaeda.

Sure the U.S officials would hope to rule out that CW stocks had fallen out of the government’s control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war; this is however a real possiblity.

b) Imported Libyan Chemical Weapons

The Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has acquired and used very powerful conventional arms and probably also has non-conventional arms, basically chemical, as a result of the loss of control of arsenals.”( Enrique Baron, The head of National Police counter-terrorist intelligence )

There is also the possibility that jihadists, who flocked to Syria to fight a religious war there, gathered chemical weapons in Libya after its strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, was deposed and murdered in late 2011. The Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Global Security Newswire cited a story in The Wall Street Journal saying an ammunition complex in the desert near Sirt was left unsecured after government forces were defeated, “allowing looters to walk in and steal guided missiles, rockets and artillery shells capable of dispersing chemical warfare agents.” There is at present no viable Libyan government-sanctioned force with the capacity to keep freelancer fighters from taking what they please from the warehouses, according to the Journal. In one structure, the word “warhead” was stamped on dozens of sealed containers. At another depot, empty chemical agent munitions were found. Britain’s The Telegraph later reported Spanish concerns that terrorists “could have acquired” chemical weapons “in Libya or elsewhere.”

The armed Syrian opposition has got their hands on chemical weapons, which they acquired from Libya, already in Summer 2012, a media report claims. They allegedly plan to use it against civilians and pin the atrocity on the Bashar al-Assad regime.­The report by DamPress claims the opposition group in possession of the weapons is being trained in its use inside Turkey.

Even mainstream sources confirm that Al Qaeda terrorists from Libya have since flooded into Syria to fight the Assad regime … bringing their arms with them. And the post-Gaddafi Libyan government is also itself a top funder and arms supplier of the Syrian opposition.

More about issue from The McClatchy report.

c) Self-made CWs

According to a report in Turkey’s state media agency Zaman, agents from the Turkish General Directorate of Security (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü) ceased 2 kg of sarin gas in the city of Adana in the early hours of yesterday morning. The chemical weapons were in the possession of Al Nusra terrorists believed to have been heading for Syria. The EGM identified 12 members of the AL Nusra terrorist cell and also ceased fire arms and digital equipment. This is the second major official confirmation of the use of chemical weapons by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria after UN inspector Carla Del Ponte’s recent statement confirming the use of chemical weapons by the Western-backed terrorists in Syria.

A prominent member of the Free Syrian Army claims the rebels have all the components to produce chemical weapons and have the know-how to put them together and use if necessary.“If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime’s bases and centers,” the political adviser of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Bassam Al-Dada, was quoted by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency.

A former member of a city council in the Turkish province of Hatay says that the chemical weapons used in last month’s attack in Syria were transported from Turkey,Press TV reports.

Four months ago, Turkish security forces found a two-kilogram cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the al-Qaeda and al-Nusra. They are using our borders to take the gas into Syria,” Mohamad Gunes said. The residents believe the Turkish government is allowing the transfer of weapons because Ankara is trying to create a pretext in order to wage war on its neighbor. 

Al-Alam reporter who accompanied the Syrian army on their mission in Jobar’s al-Manashir district, located in Rif Dimashq governorate, said there were packs of poisonous materials and deadly chemicals in the storage. A video showed packs of chemical materials labeled “Made in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. – See more at:Chemicals found in Syria were from Saudi Arabia

d) Factories in Syria

This video from a Syrian TV news report claims to show chemicals (some of labels on these chemicals are in English) and weapons seized by the Syrian government in the rebel stronghold of Jobar.

On August 25th 2013 it was reported that the Syrian army managed to take suburb in the Khan al-Assal area by storm they found the warehouse and laboratory where shells were stored and stuffed with poisonous agents. Boxes with new gas masks were also found, they carried labels ‘Made in US’.(Source:Syrian Rebels Manufactured Chemical Weapons Outside Damascus)

Russian media sources have consistently reported Syrian military have discovered rebel warehouses containing chemical weapons agents and have documented rebel chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian civilians the military. Here is one example: Toxic Catch: Syria rebels’ chemical lab uncovered near Damascus

In addition the Syria Tribune released a video in December 2012 allegedly showing Syrian rebelskilling rabbits with chemical weapons, and threatening to use them against supporters of the Syrian government. Syria Rebels testing Tekkim chemicals to use as chem weapons

And here one more:

Syrian rebels use CWs

Do Syrian rebels use CWs

There are at least two instances where the opposition is said to have used chemical weapons:

First in March 2013 in Khan al-Asal. Neither the rebels nor the government denies that amongst the victims were military personal. In fact, it is said that out of the 26 dead 16 were Syrian soldiers.This incident was referred to the Security Council by Russia:

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters Russian experts had taken samples at the site in Khan al-Asal and tested them in a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Asal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin. The sarin technical specifications prove that it was not industrially manufactured either,” said Churkin.“Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal,” he said.Ambassador Churkin said he has given U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 80 pages of photos, formulas and graphs that support the Russian analysis. He said he would send this same information to his Western counterparts.(Source: Voice of America/ Russia: Syrian Rebels Used Chemical Weapons in Aleppo

Another, which occurred in April, was cited by special U.N. investigator Carla Del Ponte. Another, which occurred in April, was cited by special U.N. investigator Carla Del Ponte:

“I was a little bit stupefied by the first indication of the use of nerve gas UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’.Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said. “I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got… they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition,” she said. (Source: BBC)

UN has testimony showing Syrian rebels used sarin gas 6 May 2013

  • Syrian rebels use CWs

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Mar. 24, 2013 in article Mar. 24, 2013 as follows:

The mysterious explosion in March 2013 near the city of Aleppo, which killed 26 people and wounded dozens, was swiftly labeled by Western intelligence agencies as a chemical incident perpetrated by forces loyal to Assad. The explosion claimed the lives of Syrian Armed Forces soldiers who are apparently loyal to Assad, and the Syrian government was quick to demand an international investigation of the incident. These two facts would indicate that Assad’s forces were not behind the attack. It appears that the target of the attack was a checkpoint manned by Syrian Armed Forces, which reinforces the theory that rebel forces, probably jihadists known to be operating around Aleppo, were behind it.

On Aug. 23, 2013, LiveLeak.com hosted an audio recording of a phone call broadcast on Syrian TV between a terrorist affiliated with the rebel civilian militia “Shuhada al-Bayada Battalion” in Homs, Syria, and his Saudi Arabian boss, identified as “Abulbasit.” The phone call indicates rebel-affiliated terrorists in Syria, not the Assad government, launched the chemical weapons attack in Deir Ballba in the Homs, Syria, countryside. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined “Two phone calls affirm the use of chemical weapons in Homs by terrorists,” saying:

“A phone call between a terrorist affiliated to the so-called ‘Shuhada al-Bayada Battalion’ in Homs and his boss who was called Adulbasit from Saudi Arabia uncovered that terrorists used the chemical weapons in Deir Ballba in Homs countryside.” “During a phone call broadcast on the Syrian TV Channel, the terrorist said that his group which comprises 200 terrorists escaped from al-Bayadah to al-Daar al-Kabera through a tunnel, adding that they needed to buy weapons to attack the City of Homs.” “The Saudi financier who was present in Cairo asked the Syrian terrorists about details on his group and the way they will receive the money, admitting his support to terrorists in Daraa and Damascus Countryside, in turn the Syria terrorist told him that one of the achievements of his ‘Battalion’ was the use of chemical weapons in Deir Ballba.” “In the same context, another phone call reveled the cooperation between tow terrorist groups to bring two bottles of Sarin Gas from Barzeh neighborhood in Damascus.”

Another video posted on YouTube shows what appears to be Syrian rebel forces loading a canister of nerve gas on a rocket to fire presumably at civilians and possibly government forces.

Damascus 21.08.2013: Whodunnit?

FM Kerry claims that there is scientific evidence to support the U.S. narrative that the Assad regime used sarin gas in an operation that killed 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. However neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence explained how the U.S. reached this mentioned death toll. Old practice – at least since Bosnian war – of numergame seems to used again asthe British assessment was “at least 350 fatalities” while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and “tens” of rebel fighters, and an unclassified version of a French intelligence report confirmed only 281 fatalities. Besides numbers there is a doubt if all deaths are due sarin gas. The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, an anti-Assad group, said that it had been able to document 678 dead from the attacks, including 106 children and 157 women.

Map Syrian gas attack on 2013 in Damascus

Graphics credit Washington Post

Assad has rejected charges that his government forces used chemical weapons as “preposterous” and “completely politicized,he argues Syrian forces were in the targeted area. “How is it possible that any country would use chemical weapons, or any weapons of mass destruction, in an area where its own forces are located?” Assad asked in the interview with Izvestia, according to a translation provided by Syria’s official news agency and published by the Los Angeles Times. The Obama administration recognizes that the rebels and their supporters have an incentive to assume or even exaggerate the use of such weapons because it may be the one thing that could draw in direct Western military intervention against Mr. Assad. The rebels have access to information online about the effects of the weapons, so they may know what symptoms to describe to make their claims seem real. (Source: NYT)

When experts saw the first video-clips from massacre there was some doubt if it really was sarin gas in question. As Haaretz reports:

“Western experts on chemical warfare who have examined at least part of the footage are skeptical that weapons-grade chemical substances were used, although they all emphasize that serious conclusions cannot be reached without thorough on-site examination. “Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps and a leading private consultant, pointed out a number of details absent from the footage so far: ‘None of the people treating the casualties or photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective gear,’ he says, ‘and despite that, none of them seem to be harmed.’”If the “massacre” at Ghouta involved military-grade nerve gas, all those doctors and others milling around the fallen victims would be dead or in serious trouble. That’s because the poison would stick around for days, penetrating the skin and being inhaled by anyone who came close to them or even entered the vicinity.

“One alternative is that a large concentration of riot control agents were used here, which could have caused suffocation of large numbers of people who were pressed together in a bunker or underground shelter,” says Gwyn Winfield, a veteran researcher and editor of CBRNe World, a professional journal the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear warfare. While riot-control substances, mainly various types of tear gas, are usually deployed in small quantities using hand-grenades, they can be used in much larger quantities in artillery shells or even dropped in barrels from aircraft as the U.S. Army did in Vietnam, trying to flush the Vietcong out of its underground bunkers. In large concentrations, these substances can cause suffocation, especially in closed spaces where many of the Syrian families would have been hiding from the bombing. “

A key point in the government’s white paper is “the detection of rocket launches from regime-controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media.” It’s unclear why this is supposed to be persuasive. Do rockets take 90 minutes to reach their targets? Does nerve gas escape from rockets 90 minutes after impact, or, once released, take 90 minutes to cause symptoms? One other evidence is a video published by ”Brown Moses Blog” which seems to show Syrian army preparing CW attack whereas it is debunked with anonther video Syria CW “Evidence” by “Brown Moses Blog” Debunked .

Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack close to Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar Assad, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence. Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last 4½ months, according to radio messages intercepted by German intelligence, but permission had always been denied, the paper said. (Source: Israel Hayom ) The report in Bild am Sonntag, which is a widely read and influential national Sunday newspaper, reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs. (Source: McClatchy)

With the assistance of former PLO member and native Arabic-speaker Walid Shoebat, an independent news company WorldNetDaily (WND) has assembled evidence from various Middle Eastern sources that cast doubt on Obama administration claims the Assad government is responsible for attack in Damascus. Their findings can be found in WND/Politics article Evidence: Syria gas attack work of U.S. Allies  by Jerome R. Corsi, a Harvard Ph.D.

Syrian rebels use CWs

An article published on the independent news site MintPress News, written by a freelance Associated Press, NPR and BBC reporter, cited alleged interviews with “doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families” that suggested the attack may have been accidental and originated with chemicals given to local rebels by Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. More about this in Syrian Rebels Admit Chemical Attack In Damascus???and here also a news-clip about the same story: Saudi Prince Bandar behind chemical attack in Syria: Report

On the other side intelligence which overheard Syrian military officials discussing the attack—far from implicating them—finds them denying they initiated an attack.

Despite the Obama administration’s supposedly “high confidence” regarding Syrian government guilt over the Aug. 21 chemical attack near Damascus, a dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials are telling President Obama that they are picking up information that undercuts the Official Story. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) wrote in their memorandum for President Obama as follows:

We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this…Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. That is the most salient fact, according to CIA officers working on the Syria issue. They tell us that CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you…There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war. According to some reports, canisters containing chemical agent were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. Some people in the immediate vicinity died; others were injured.(Source: Consortiumnews.com )

False flag?

One key example used by the Obama administration to justify an attack on Syria is the material related to dead children with the claim that the Assad regime carried out the chemical attacks. The true story seems to begin over week before tragedy in Damascus and the location was in Latakia – 200 km away from Ghouta.A quote from Voltairenet.org article:”Identification of the dead children in Ghouta”:

August 11, 2013 a reportin The Telegraph discussed the rebels attacking the Latakia village and Sheikh Mohammed Reda Hatem, an Alawite religious leader in Latakia said  ”Until now 150 Alawites from the villages have been kidnapped. There are women and children among them. We have lost all contact with them.” Some of those children were found less than two weeks later, in Ghouta. They are in fact children who were abducted by jihadists two weeks before in Alawite villages in the surroundings of Latakia, 200km away from Ghouta. Contrary to the sayings of the Free Syrian Army and the Western services, the only identified victims of the Ghouta massacre are those belonging to families that support the Syrian government. In the videos, the individuals that show outrage against the ’’crimes of Bashar el-Assad’’ are in reality their killers.

Some photographs had already been distributed by the Atlanticist media to accuse the Egyptian Army of a massacre at a camp of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The same phote has been ”recycled” to describe CW attack in Ghouta, Syria.

Photomanipulation Egypt/Syria

Using fake pictures to support a fake claim makes sense to me. Secretary of State John Kerry opened his speech Friday by describing the horrors victims of the chemical weapon attack suffered, including twitching, spasms and difficulty breathing.Attempting to drive the point home, Kerry referenced a photograph used by the BBC illustrating a child jumping over hundreds of dead bodies covered in white shrouds. The photo was meant to depict victims who allegedly succumbed to the effects of chemical weapons via Assad’s regime.Also the BBC is facing criticism after it accidentally used a picture taken in Iraq in 2003 to illustrate the senseless massacre of children in Syria. The picture, which was actually taken on March 27, 2003, shows a young Iraqi child jumping over dozens of white body bags containing skeletons found in a desert south of Baghdad. 

Not_houla_but_Iraq

Meanwhile, the media has spread new proofs of the U.S. intelligence involvement to chemical attack near Damascus. Hacker got access to U.S. intelligence correspondence and published U.S. Army Col. Anthony J. Macdonald’s mail. Macdonald is General Staff Director, Operations and Plans Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence the Army Staff. It’s about chemical attack in Syria.

In the message August 22 Eugene Furst congratulates Col. on successful operation and refers him to Wasington Post publication about chemical attack in Syria. From the Anthony’s wife dialog with her friend it’s clear the video with the children killed in the chemical attack near Damascus was staged by U.S. Intelligence.This is a huge coup for the people. This proves that the chemical attack was indeed a false flag operation.

False flag operation Syria

A quote from Pentagon may be involved in chemical attack in Syria, US intelligence colonel hacked mail reflect:

M.SHAPIRO: I can’t stop thinking about that terrible gas attack in Syria now. Did you see those kids? I was really crying- They were poisoned, they died. When is it over? I see their faces when in sleep. What did Tony say you about this?

J.MACDONALD: I saw it too and got afraid very much. But Tony comforted me. He said the kids weren’t hurt, it was done for cameras. So you don’t worry, my dear.

M.SHAPIRO: I’m still thinking about those Syrian kids. Thanks God, they are alive. I hope they got a kind of present or some cash.

Critical U.S view by insiders

So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?” “President Obama wants America involved in Syria’s civil war pitting the antagonistic Assad regime against equally antagonistic Al Qaeda affiliated rebels. But he’s not quite sure which side is doing what, what the ultimate end game is, or even whose side we should be on”…“if we are dangerously uncertain of the outcome and are led into war by a Commander-in-chief who can’t recognize that this conflict is pitting Islamic extremists against an authoritarian regime with both sides shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ at each other, then let Allah sort it out.”

(Sarah Palin)

AP hit the nail on the head when it wrote:

U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

The Iraq experience informs us that secretaries of State can express great confidence about matters that they are completely wrong about, and that U.S. intelligence assessments can be based on distortion of evidence and deliberate suppression of contradictory facts. (Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible? by Jim Naureckas)

One motivation for U.S attack might be interests of military-industrial-complex. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), however, pointed out that opposition to a strike on Syria is not universally opposed:

I did notice, for what it’s worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they’re not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign. Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.

Indeed the “pressure” to strike Syria comes from corporations which profit from war, including private central banks, and corporations which make the instruments of war – not from the so-called “red line” that was supposedly crossed with use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

My conclusion

The official ”public” truth in U.S claims that Assad’s regime is perpetrator of Damascus gas-attack as the rebels don’t have chemical weapons. However, multiple lines of evidence show that the rebels do have chemical weapons. One should remember that the opponents of Assad regime have possiblity and motivation to use chemical weapons and indeed they probably have already used them in Spring 2013. It might be also possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad’s military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. Anyway even in this case there is no reason to military attack against al Assad.

Syria, Iran and Russia are promoting a proposal for a diplomatic compromise that could prevent such an attack. The proposal includes a plan for a “democratic transfer” of power in stages. This seems to be an improved version of the proposal presented in the past, according to which elections for the president of Syria will be expedited and President Bashar Assad will not run again . In another proposal, which was reported in Haaretz last week, Syria will agree to completely remove its inventory of chemical weapons from the country and transfer it to Russia or another country. (Source: Haaretz )

Civil wars have a way of turning ugly; unfortunately, outside intervention is likely to make a bad situation even worse. The threat of imminent U.S. military action appeared to fade on September 9th 2013 when Syria agreed to a Russian proposal to surrender its chemical weapons to international control. As I have described before this does not utterly solve CW problem as there will be still a question about CWs in a possession of rebels have but I think this can be managed. Now in my opinion it is crucial to put pressure to all sides to start talks and peace process without preconditions and fast.

Logo of European Solidarity Front For Syria

Read more:

Appendix 1: Syrian Girl Clears The Air on Chemical Attack in Syria

Appendix 2: Syrian Girl: 8 Reasons Why The NWO Hates Syria!


The Armenian Genocide Still Denied by Turkey (and Azerbaijan)

April 27, 2013

Armenian as well other people around the world paid homage to the memory of 1.5 million innocent victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide implemented by the Ottoman Empire. 98 years after the Genocide the present Turkish nation not only deny that its predecessors plotted and committed the Genocide, but also continues its anti-Armenian policy, still retaining confiscated church estates and properties, and religious and cultural treasures of the Armenian people.

NYT 1915

Different views about history have their impact also today when the frozen conflict of Artsakh, better known as Nagorno-Karabakh, still waits its solution. Nineteen years after the ceasefire in 1994, an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is still not reached and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic continues its existence as a de facto independent republic recognized by no other state.

The Balkan Wars as background

The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria) against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success. The Balkan Wars resulted in a defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the loss of 85% of its territory in Europe which were and partitioned among the allies.

An important consequence of the Balkan Wars was also the mass expulsion of Muslims from the Balkans. Already beginning in the mid-19th century, hundreds of thousands of Muslims were expelled or forced to flee from the Caucasus and the Balkans as a result of the Russo-Turkish wars and the conflicts in the Balkans. Muslim society in the empire was incensed by this flood of refugees and overcome by a desire for revenge.

After the Balkan Wars (1912-13) the Turkish nationalist movement in the country gradually came to view Anatolia as their last refuge. That the Armenian population formed a significant minority in this region would figure prominently in the calculations of the Young Turks who would eventually carry out the Armenian Genocide. During the First World War, the Turkish authorities accused Armenians of sympathizing with Russia and used it as a pretext to declare the entire Armenian population their enemy.

The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, among Armenians, the Great Crime was the Ottoman government’s systematic uprooting and extermination of its minority Armenian population from their historic homeland in Turkey. The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be April 24, 1915, the day when Ottoman authorities arrested and massacred some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople(Istanbul), on orders from the Turkish government. Tragic events took place during and after World War I, in two phases: the wholesale killing and enslavement of the able-bodied males, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. In addition women and children were placed on boats and drowned at sea, or crucified. There is also evidence that children were put to death with poison gas in schools that were converted to death camps.

The total number of Armenians killed as a result is estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million in period of 1915-1923. Armenia claims that the total number of dead exceeds 1.5 million people, the half of all Armenians at the beginning of the last century. The Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, as part of the same genocidal policy. It is considered by many to have been the first modern genocide, due to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out to eliminate the Armenians.

However the Armenian Genocide can also be seen otherwise, not as having begun in 1915, but rather as an ongoing genocide, from 1894, through 1908/9, through World War I and right up to 1923. For example 200,000-300,000 Armenians were massacred in Turkey on period 1894-1896.

Genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence. Because of its scope, genocide requires central planning and a machinery to implement it. This makes genocide the quintessential state crime as only a government has the resources to carry out such a scheme of destruction. The Armenian Genocide was centrally planned and administered by the Turkish government against the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, it was carried out during WWI between the years 1915 and 1918 and the atrocities were renewed between 1920 and 1923.

Recognize or deny

“The nearest successful example [of collective denial] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and cover-ups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars.”

(Stanley Cohen, Professor of Criminology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

In recent years, parliaments of several countries have formally recognized the event as genocide. Turkish entry talks with the EU were met with a number of calls to consider the event as genocide though it never became a precondition (so far).

The fact of the Armenian Genocide is recognized by many states. It was first recognized in 1965 by Uruguay. In general, the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey has already been recognized e.g. by Russia, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, and 42 U.S. states. Armenian Genocide was recognized also by the Vatican, European Parliament and the World Council of Churches.

The position of Israel is most interesting or even ambivalent as the Jews have first hand experience about genocide/holocaust. From my perspective more than any other nation, Israel has the moral obligation to recognize the Armenian Genocide. On November 7, 1989 the Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution on recognition of Armenian Genocide. This year the Knesset held a ceremony to mark the memory of the Turkish genocide of Armenians. MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said before the ceremony that he believes that “as human beings and as Jews, we must not ignore the catastrophe of another nation for any reason, including diplomatic considerations, important as they may be. We will mark the annual memorial day for the massacre of the Armenian people regardless of the relations with today’s Turkey, which is an ally.” Turkey was of course highly displeased with the Knesset’s decision to mark the day. Various events devoted to the subject, which were supposed to be held at the Knesset, were cancelled in recent years because of Turkish pressure. Anyway Israel progressing with this issue as the Knesset’s Education Committee will hold a discussion on Monday (29th Apr.2013) regarding two initiatives presented by Members of Knesset Professor Arieh Eldad (Hatikva) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) to recognize the Armenian genocide 1915.

Kurdish recognition of the Armenian Genocide is the recognition of the Kurdish participation in the ethnic cleansing of Armenians during WWI, when Kurdish tribal forces attacked and killed Armenian civilians and refugees. In several of the Kurdish regions, the Kurds participated in the genocide of the Armenians while others opposed the genocide, in many cases even hiding or adopting Armenian refugees.

On 2010 the Serbian Radical Party submitted a draft resolution to the Serbian parliament condemning the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey against Armenians from 1915 to 1923. SRS submitted the draft so that Serbia can join the countries which have condemned the genocide. At the end of 2011, the Serbs in Bosnia started an initiative to make Armenian genocide denial illegal.

Turkey has consistently denied responsibility for the genocide, which is sometimes referred to as the Armenian Holocaust. Azerbaijan, being in deep strategic alliance with Turkey and in a state of war against Armenia, shares the position of Turkey.

Some countries, including Argentina, Armenia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Uruguay have adopted laws that punish genocide and also in October 2006, the French National Assembly passed a bill which will make Armenian Genocide denial a crime. Last week, France ratified a bill in parliament, according to which denying the 1915 Armenian genocide would be punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a 45,000 Euro fine. The bill has yet to receive final approval in the French senate.

Artsakh aka Nagorno-Karabakh

 Docent of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Alexander Perinjiyev believes that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is inevitable. Moreover, Perinjiyev predicts when Azerbaijan will open hostilities. It would be logical if this military campaign would start immediately after the Olympic Games in Russia’s Sochi.

Old ethnic tensios take place in region also today. Artsakh was the tenth province of the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until 387 AD. Much of historical Artsakh presently overlaps with the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Populated for centuries by Christian Armenian and Turkic Azeris, Karabakh became part of the Russian empire in the 19th century. The conflict has roots dating back well over a century into competition between Christian Armenian and Muslim Turkic and Persian influences.

The conflict started in 1989, when the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, a predominantly Armenian territory within Soviet Azerbaijan, declared its independence from Azerbaijan and union with Armenia. The resulting tension between the Armenian and Azerbaijani residents soon turned into an ethnic conflict and finally to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire that left the current borders. As the Azeris in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and surrounding territories fled to Azerbaijan, the Armenians in Azerbaijan moved to Armenia proper. The total number of displaced people is estimated to be one million. Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is closely tied to the Republic of Armenia and uses the same currency, the dram. On the other side according to reports as yet unconfirmed Turkey still trains Azerbaijani soldiers in Turkey for the purpose of attacking Armenia.

The political situation in region is quite confusing. Armenia accounts for the Russian military base. Russia sponsors Armenia, actively supports it in many issues one can say that the relations between Moscow and Yerevan have reached the level of allied partnership. It is clear that Russia would not want to lose such an important ally in such a serious and potentially explosive geopolitical region. Azerbaijan has close military ties with NATO member Turkey. Iran, which borders both, is the biggest wildcard; although Shiite Muslim like Azerbaijan, Tehran reviles Baku because of Azerbaijan’s secular orientation, its close ties with Israel, and fears about separatist tendencies among Iran’s large Azeri minority. Iran, ironically, has far better ties with Christian Armenia. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993.

Israel has been developing closer ties with Azerbaijan and have helped modernize the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. It is claimed that with this cooperation Israel has ”bought” an airport for planned strike against Iranan nuclear facilities. On the other hand Armenian-Jewish relations date back to the time of Armenian emperor Tigranes the great , who, retreating from Judea, took 10,000 Jews with him on his return to the Kingdom of Armenia. Israel itself is home to the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh is a matter of international mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. At present, the mediation process is at a standstill. Azerbaijan’s position has been that Armenian troops withdraw from all areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as being legally part of Azerbaijan, arguing that because the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent state, both of them are equally successor states of the Soviet Union. The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh be part of any discussions on the region’s future, and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return before talks on the region’s status.

More background information from Genocide1915.info


Some framework to Syrian crisis

June 19, 2011

From June 10 the Syrian army began a siege on Jisr-al Shughour, NW Syria; local residents expected a massacre, proportional to the Hama massacre and in one week nearly 10.000 Syrians have escaped to Turkey. International media and public diplomacy is giving its high-flown statements about humanitarian crisis, some states may even demand to activate R2P principles – again. These are normal cover ups to hide de facto inactivity of international community. United Nations Security Council is facing immense international pressure to condemn Syria how it is copying protests at home.

Humanitarian aspect is however a minor point for international community, the key question is how events in Syria will affect on regional stability, what will be the outcome related to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel as Syria is a key player in this context. Any destabilization of Syria in the fall of al-Assad will change the geopolitical map of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Some background

Last year, the United Nations Development Program released its Human Development Report for Arab states with the assistance of Arab scholars and researchers. The report stated that the Arab world is lacking in all areas of human development, such as freedom, empowerment of women and education. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the Arab world lives below the international poverty line. For the Arab world to merely maintain its current position, which is at the lowest rung on the development ladder, it will need to create 51 million jobs in the next 10 years. This socio-economic situation might be a common background for Arab Spring.

Syria has similar problems than the rest of Arab world. Several of the modern states of the Middle East were built on a mosaic of ancient religions, sects, and ethnic groups held uneasily and sometimes uncomfortably together by central government. Syria is a multi-cultural, multi-religious, secular and relatively tolerant country with a predominantly Muslim population (90%) and multi-racial background (Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen).

In Syria, the Baath Party has been in power since 1963. A state of emergency, which was imposed at that time remains in force. The president’s sources of power are the army and the security forces, which maintain a grip on the country. The Syrian police and security services are dreadfully effective and efficient, and that is why Syria has mostly been a stable and happy place to live for the past 50 years – the place to which Iraqi Christian and Muslim refugees have fled for safety.

When the wave of protests on the Arab Street started there was some demonstrations in Syria too. However, the Syrian regime managed to suppress the protest e.g. giving economic benefits, establishing a social relief fund with nearly 12 billion Syrian liras annual budget, increasing subsidies for state workers, creating a university graduate employment program and reducing some taxes. Same time the regime implemented firm suppression of all attempts of demonstrations as it has done years by attacking and squelching all opposition forces. The regime also tightened its control of the media and deployed more people to security forces. Opponents to Assad were using social media to prepare for a mass rallies using proxy servers to get around government restrictions on Facebook. Using of internet cafés is possible but users must register their names and police have the authority to confiscate the lists.

The Syrian government and non-government press openly supported the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and did not hide its satisfaction over the ousting of presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali. The Syrian Democratic League called for a general strike and for civil disobedience against the authorities. There is big differences between Syrian revolt and the other Arab Spring events. In Syria the Dera’a street protests started with Sunni Muslims demanding that girls attending school should wear veils. The government refused, since veils are not compulsory under secular Syrian law. When the protests grew, the government gave in: girls in Dera’a are now forced to wear the veil.

During ongoing information war it might be wise some times to check also Syrian official position on issues. Real-time view of Syria’s regime can be checked from The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)

Real-time opposition view can be found e.g. from Facebook group “Syrian Upraising 2011 Information Centre”

Fragmented Opposition

The unions are strictly under the control of the state and, unlike Egypt, there has been no strike movement in Syria for decades. There are definitely people who want al-Assad and his regime to go: radical Saudi Wahhabites, Iranian Shia extremists; and the Muslim Brotherhood. Also the peasantry, the public sector working class, and the small and medium petite bourgeoisie in the towns and cities have been harshly hit by the so-called liberalization of the economy and are the ones on the streets.

Many Sunni Muslims in Syria and throughout the region feel that Assad’s Syria has unduly favoured the Alawites, a sect of Shiite Islam, who constitute some 12 percent of the population but control a vastly greater percentage of the country’s wealth.

Al Jazeera provided analysis of the largest opposition parties in Syria that might have great political influence in any change of power: Syrian People’s Democratic Party, Muslim Brotherhood, National Salvation Front, Movement for Justice and Development, Reform Party, Arab Socialist Movement, Arab Socialist Union, Workers Revolutionary Party and Communist Party of Labour. There is almost no national wide organization inside Syria among the protesters, however at local level some cooperation has took place. In the Governorate of Darr’a there has been signs of the organized working class beginning to move, with the trade unions severing all their links with the Ba’ath party.

There is not so much reliable information from the field but it seems that e.g. in Darr’a the intelligence forces were giving orders to the army units but at a certain point some officers refused to carry out the orders and turned their guns on the intelligence officers. Also in Facebook has been separate reports of a mutiny within the Syrian army but how widespread this has been is questionable.

 

Al-Assad has also supporters

Protests get head lines but speaking about revolt is overestimation; there should be at least ten times more people on the streets that one could call real uprising. The Assad’s regime has also its supporters as well those who keep neutral position to demonstrations. So far is the affluent middle class living in Syria’s biggest towns, Damascus and Aleppo, stood aside from the uprising. The Druze community which obeyed its leaders to stay out of it on orders coming from the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Syria’s Christians who are the backbone of the country’s business community actively supported the Syrian ruler. More than 100 Iranian and Hizballah officers placed their active experience in crushing opponents at Assad’s disposal. They brought with them a whole range of manpower and equipment for breaking up demonstrations against which the popular demonstrators were helpless.


The nascent bourgeoisie and the upper layers of the petite bourgeoisie (especially the merchants) have been accumulating immense wealth in the recent years at the expense of the masses and thus are coming out fiercely against the movement.

On religious side Syria has a variety of minorities such as the Protestants, the Chaldeans, the Armenians, the Roman Catholics, the Maronite Catholics, the Greek Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox etc. Indeed Syria has been a safe haven to many minorities surpressed elsewhere. So one can estimate that these religious groups are more afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood or any radical or fanatic group leading the country towards theocracy, better them to keep the current Syrian regime in place.

Outside factors

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice has stated that there is evidence of active Iranian support for the Syrian government’s crackdown on demonstrators. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are being accused of suppressing the Syrian protesters at the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran has denied any involvement in suppressing the protests. On the other hand, in mid-April, WikiLeaks revealed that the US has secretly been funding Syrian opposition groups with millions of dollars.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also using foreign cards to divert attention from country’s unrest by creating drama on Syrian-Israeli border. On June 5th he allowed Palestinian demonstrators attack in Golan Heights over the border to Israel. For Nakba Day or 3rd Intifada events a nice story was created how Palestinian “refugees” are attempting to return to their “former homes”; however a Syrian opposition group published details of Syrian government payments to those involved in the border riots and infiltrations. Indeed according DEBKAfile Assad’s security machine even paid $1,000 for every demonstrator who cut a piece of razor wire from the Israeli border fence and $10,000 for the families of volunteers shot by Israeli troops before they reached their goal.

The Palestinians in the refugee camps in Syria have been one of the President’s most loyal populations. However after Nakba Day al-Assad can not any more count on them. There was some causalities among Palestinians who tried march over the border and when the young killed ones were returned to the Yarmuk refugee camp, the camp erupted in riots, the anger of which, “was not directed against Israel, but against those who dispatched these young Palestinians to the Israeli border”.

Turkish military intervention?

“If the crisis is spreading to the city of Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, which are unique in terms of demographic mix of Islamic and Christian in Kurdish, as they may affect any security imbalance in Turkey directly.” (journalist in Al-Akhbar Ernest Khoury)

Turkey is deeply concerned by the Syrian disturbances and not only due humanitarian crisis on the border. Few years ago Turkey had warm relationship and various cooperation with Israel but Gaza flotilla changed the situation. Since then Turkey-Syria relations became deeper. One idea has been the creation of an economic bloc comprising Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, visa requirements are practically removed, cooperation with investments and technology know-how are rising. With Syria, this brought impressive results. Trade between Turkey and Syria reached last year $2,270bn. Cities close to the border like Gaziantep and Aleppo have enjoyed racing economic growth, thanks to this trade and an influx of Syrian and Turkish visitors taking advantage of visa-free travel.

Now there is rumours that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has secretly ordered his government officials to dump Ankara’s ties with Damascus with all speed; the fact is that he allowed Syrian opposition leaders to meet in Antalya on May 31-June 2 on ways to topple Bashar Assad. The turn is even more drastic as, according Debkafile at least, Turkish PM Erdogan on June 10, decided to move his army into northern Syria border and his government is considering defining its mission as the protection of civilian lives against a barbaric ruler citing the UN Security Council resolution on Libya. There is also plans that refugee camps will also go up on the Syrian side of the border to stem the flow into Turkey and rumours even limited Turkish military intervention in Syria and the establishment of a buffer zone.

The Turkey-Syria common border amounts more than eight hundred kilometers. Ankara has accepted nearly 10.000 refugees from Jisr al-Shughour and it is not prepared to take on tens or possible hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from larger towns like Idlib, Maarat al-Numaana and the Kurdish regions abutting the Turkish border. Meanwhile President Assad has offered Syrian Kurds autonomy, and he invited Kurdish leaders for a meeting in Damascus right after the opposition meeting in Antalya.

Turkey is estimating that humanitarian crisis on the border can worse soon. One sign of this is that the Turkish organization IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) is considering the cancellation of the Gaza flotilla due to the tensions along the Syrian-Turkish border. 22 different ships are ready to rendezvous in international waters south of Cyprus, and sail to Gaza. (Source: Haarez )

International inactivity

United Nations Security Council is struggling with its Syria resolution, this like previous EU statements are anyway empty symbolic acts of condemnation and will not prevent Assad to crack down the unrest. One of the obstacles with UNSC Syria resolution is the experience got from ongoing Libya operation. Eric Walton (Green International Affairs Critic/Canada)hits the nail on head as saying that “The intent of the R2P resolution around Libya was to protect civilians in imminent danger, and not escalate the conflict into a regime-change-by-bombing-into-submission exercise. This creates a bad precedent that will undermine the appropriate application of R2P by the UN Security Council in other crisis situations.” (Source: Green Party of Canada )

The problem in Syria is similar than in Libya. Related to ongoing operation it is estimated that the NATO attacks had not disabled a single one of Qaddafi’s five brigades. This could be true also in Syria with similar intervention. Also thinking situation after intervention the problem in Syria could be the same as in Libya. It looks like there is no one in the Libyan rebel political or military leadership capable of taking over the reins of power in Tripoli and it is therefore assumed that a member of the Qaddafi clan will be chosen as Libya’s interim ruler.

According unconfirmed reports President Barak Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev Friday, May 27, came to an reciprocal understanding on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville about the fate of the Syrian and Libyan rulers. Obama is reported to have promised Medvedev to let Assad finish off the uprising against him without too much pressure from the US and the West. In return, the Russian president undertook to help the US draw the Libyan war to a close by means of an effort to bring about Muammar Qaddafi’s exit from power – in a word, the two big powers traded Qaddafi for Assad.

Energy aspect

Speaking about events and their effects on Arab Street, the energy aspect can not be ignored. Syria is in the middle of two important energy corridors: It links Turkey and the Caspian See to Israel and the Red Sea and it links Iraq to the Mediterranean. The Eastern Mediterranean gas fields have been the subject of negotiations between the E.U., Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Aside from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline, the existence of the Levantine natural gas fields is also the reason why the Kremlin has created a military foothold in Syria for the Russian Federation. This has been done by upgrading Soviet-era naval facilities in Syria. Moreover, it has been Iran that has agreed to explore and help develop these natural gas fields off the Levantine coast for Beirut and Damascus.

There is also new huge energy sources in Eastern Mediterranean – first Leviathan and Tamar fields some 90 kilometres west of Haifa/Israel with estimated 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4.3 billion barrels of oil and second a bid north from Leviathan/Tamar fields Syria is seeking foreign investment for three offshore oil and gas concessions. If the present regime in Syria falls the question is who would control these energy routes. If western powers are taking more firm grip from Syria it would also mean that the large natural gas fields off the Lebanese and Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean would be out of reach for China and instead go to the E.U., Israel, and Washington.


Besides gas and oil also use of nuclear energy is actual in Syria as it is also in Iran. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has decided to refer Syria to the U.N. Security Council after the country failed to declare its covert nuclear reactor, which was discovered and destroyed by Israel four years ago.”Syria’s apparent attempt at constructing a covert, undeclared plutonium production reactor, a reactor with no credible peaceful purpose, represents one of the most serious safeguards violations possible,” said U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies. (Source: Arcamax

Bottom line

If the Syrian army’s middle and lower ranks, drawn mainly from the country’s Sunni majority, which comprises some 75% of the population, begin to turn against the senior ranks where the Alawite minority (10%, including the Assad family) predominates, the regime could begin to fall apart. So the core question is whether the security forces, on which the regime was founded when al-Assad’s father took over in 1970, will stay loyal.

So far the upraising has been weak and took place rural areas or smaller towns. If the unrest will spread to Damascus and Aleppo and if revolt gets more popular support the change of regime can be a reality; whether the outcome afterwards will be a civil war remains to seen.

If the Syrian regime were to be severely weakened by popular dissent, Iran’s influence in Arab affairs would almost certainly be reduced – in both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Open conflict between Sunnis and Alawites in Syria would profoundly disturb the whole region.

What is really happening in Syria is unclear and lot of disinformation is spreading. There might also be some biased campaign launched by some international mass media against Syria. The positive aspect could be that Nato’s “mission creep” in Libya undermines R2P in Syria and so may prevent international community to make new mistakes soon.

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Some of my other Middle East articles:


Serbia’s EU association is not a Must

April 25, 2011

“If the Balkans find that too many obstacles are strewn about the road to Brussels, they may well be tempted to set out on the shorter road to Istanbul”

(Misha Glenny, Balkan political analyst)

Practically the Eastern EU enlargement for the moment is stopped. Croatia’s membership is a bit delayed, Turkey’s EU bid is dead as continent simply has no intention of ever incorporating 70 million Muslims and the rest – such as Serbia – are still more or less in association process. Tens of thousands demonstrators demanded early elections in Serbia at a protest rally 16th April 2011, blaming Serbia’s pro-Western government for a deepening economic crisis and alleged corruption. The government has rejected the demand for early elections, saying they will be held after Serbia wins candidacy for EU membership in the autumn. European Commission (EC) unanimously agrees that early parliamentary elections in Serbia should not be called which position in my opinion gives a strange picture about EU’s view towards democracy – really a view that democratic elections would harm stability and EU-accession.


From day one of membership at the latest, candidates are expected to be able to implement and enforce the “acquis communautaire”, i.e. the detailed laws and rules adopted on the basis of the EU’s founding treaties and make EU law part of their own national legislation. The most positive part of the European Commission progress report states that Serbia is well advanced in the sector of industry, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and food safety and that good progress has been made in the fight against drugs and organised crime.

The European Parliament ratified the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia in Strasbourg on 19. January 2011. The Questionnaire, which covers all elements of Serbia’s future negotiations with the EU, was delivered to Serbia by the EC on 24 November 2010 and answers were delivered on 31. January 2011. Responses to 2,483 questions, divided in six annexes and 33 chapters, were completed within the record 45 days and are divided in more than 37 volumes and weigh ten kilograms. Third expert mission of the European Commission (EC) analysing responses to the EC Questionnaire in order to prepare an opinion on Serbia’s EU membership, finalized its work on 18 March.

Serbia has implemented significant structural reforms in many parts of its economy over the past decade but more is needed. The main components of further reforms are: judicial reforms, the continuous fight against organised crime and corruption, the improvement of our political system, property right issues and reforming Serbia’s regulatory agencies and removing bureaucratic bottlenecks. It remains to see if there is enough political will for these reforms or even for membership – especially after Serbia’s next elections, due by spring 2012. Most sectors of the economy are open to foreign investment. Reforms have improved the investment environment is improved by reforms, but e.g. corruption discourage foreign investments (Serbia ranks 83rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009).

More about Serbia’s EU integration can be found from The EU Integration Office of Serbian Government.

Serbia’s road towards EU membership has two obstacles – status of Kosovo and cooperation with Hague tribunal (ICTY). Probably the later problem will be solved with Serbia’s own efforts before association process is in its final stage. Serbia’s vice-PM Djelic said in his interview (Euractiv) on March 10. 2011, that

today in Serbia all major criminal figures are either under arrest or on the run. In the fight against corruption we have had high-level arrests of people who used to run our railway system, our road system, teachers, professors, surgeons, public officials. It is still not very pleasant but it is a demonstration that there has been a critical mass within the administration and the people to fight these phenomena.

The question of Kosovo is politically harder as there is a need to find a common compromise with Kosovo Albanians and this question can end or at least freeze Serbia’s EU association for long time, maybe so long that when solved there may not be EU at all or it is completely different than today.

New elements in new Kosovo talks

Talks between Serbia and its separatist province Kosovo started finally in Brussels on March 2011. The agenda concentrated to technical questions however everything is about politics i.e about solving Kosovo’s status. The status question would solve problems regarding north Kosovo, which is currently under “dual sovereignty” (officially part of Kosovo, which officially is UN protectorate and under sovereignty of Serbia and practically totally integrated to Serbia).

The new situation has forced also International Crisis Group (ICG) to admit the defeat of its Kosovo policy recommendations during last decade. ICG has informally as informal extension of U.S. State Department however pretending to be neutral mediator and think tank. During earlier “status” negotiations 2005 it endorsed preconditions before talks and afterwards supported sc Ahtisaari plan. Now in their new analysis Kosovo and Serbia after the ICJ Opinion ICG sees Kosovo’s partitition with land swap one of possible solutions during coming talks between Belgrad and Pristina. The (dead) Ahtisaari plan and expanded autonomy for North Kosovo are the other two conceivable solutions according ICG.

Last decades have showed how it is possible to draw new borders in Europe, the issue is only the method; e.g. while the Czechs and the Slovaks negotiated by themselves the terms of separation nobody objected to the splitting of Czechoslovakia. In Kosovo there has been implemented only forced temporary solutions outsiders and therefore the outcome is a frozen conflict. The International Crisis Group (ICG) advised the Kosovo Albanian authorities to consider granting autonomy for the northern Kosovo. In exchange they would get “Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood”. ICG concludes that Serbia and Kosovo have equal sovereignty in north Kosovo and should work to resolve what the ICG calls “the Balkans’ most serious territorial dispute.”. Many other even more sustainable solutions are available such as splitting of Kosovo to independent Albanian part and to Serbia integrated Northern part, with or without land swaps. Also a sc Hong Kong model is possible; such a compromise – with the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ – would guarantee Kosovo economic and political autonomy without endangering Serbia’s territorial integrity. It is as well possible to create national union between Albanian part of Kosovo and Albania. In my opinion all these alternatives could be better for local parties than to continue the situation as today. Economically, Serbia is probably better off without Kosovo.

Belgrade’s chief negotiator, Borko Stefanovic, said in an interview published April 23, 2011 in the daily newspaper “Blic” that “Serbia’s negotiating team is not resisting the possibility of talking about the division of Kosovo.” Belgrade has hinted in the past that it could support a division, with Kosovo’s Serbian-majority north being attached to Serbia. (Source: RFERL )

The trial against two former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, who are charged with war crimes committed against civilians in Albania during the conflict in Kosovo, has gotten underway in Pristina. The victims of the crimes included in the indictment are Albanians whom the KLA commanders accused of collaborating with Serbian authorities, and individuals whose political views differed from those of KLA. The trial against the two men begins several months after Dick Marty, Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, released a report in December alleging that human organs were harvested from detainees during and after the conflict in Kosovo, with the harvesting run by the KLA and allegedly taking place in Albania. Politically the key importance in Marty report is an allegation that a criminal network is linked to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and that western intelligence services knew this link but were silent to stabilize the region. More in Balkaninsight and in my article Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

Serbia’s Foreign trade

The value of export amounted to EUR 7.4 billion, which was a 24.0% increase when compared to the same period in 2009, while the value of imports amounted to EUR 12.6 billion, which was a 9.7% increase relative to the same period in 2009. The deficit amounted to EUR 5.2 billion, which was a decrease of 5.7% in relation to the same period in 2009.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS OF GOODS BY ECONOMIC ZONE, 2010.

Zone

Exports, in mlln. EUR

Imports, in mlln. EUR

Share (%) in the total

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

Exports

Imports

Total

5961,3

7393,4

11504,7

12621,9

100.0

100.0

EFTA

66,0

52,3

189,0

171,9

0.7

1.4

EU

3195,9

4235,3

6532,7

7068,7

57.3

56.0

CEEC

306,4

359,8

164,6

205,8

4.9

1.6

CIS

408,2

599,3

1665,6

1959,1

8.1

15.5

MEDA

1642,7

1880,0

1026,9

1174,2

25.4

9.3

(Source: SURVEY RS 4/2010)

For economical development sc Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are important factor.According last statistics in terms of the country structure, investors from the European Union top the list, accounting for about 70% of the total FDI influx. The leading spot on the country list is held by Austria, followed by Greece, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, while major investor countries also include Slovenia, France, Hungary, the Russian Federation and Luxembourg. The actual amount of investments from U.S. and Israel is significantly higher than the official figure due to their companies investing primarily through European affiliates. ( Source and more info from SIEPA )

Other directions – Turkey and Russia

“For many years, the perception has been that Turkey needs Europe more than Europe needs Turkey.  If Europe does not look hard at the dynamism of Turkish economic and foreign policy, it may miss the boat.”

(Misha Glenny, Balkans political analyst)

Serbia was under Ottoman empire hundreds of years and according Gallup polls only less than 20 % Serbs consider Turkey a friendly power. At the state level, the historic vision in Serbia of Turkey as an abusive occupier has little influence. Turkey has also been very active in Balkans during recent years; its trade with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000. Turkey’s banks provided 85 percent of loans for building a highway through Serbia for Turkish transit of goods to the EU. In 2008, Turkish Airlines bought a 49 percent stake of Bosnia’s national carrier, BH Airlines, and has also expressed its interest in Jat Airways – the Serb national carrier – and other Turkish companies are keen to invest in shops, supermarket chains and hotels. Since January last year, Serbian exporters have been selling their products in Turkey free of customs duties. (Source: Turkey uses economic clout to gain Balkan foothold by Dusan Stojanovic)

On 16 October 2009 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave a presentation in Sarajevo, speech concludes with the promise that the golden age of the Balkans can be recaptured:

Like in the 16th century, which saw the rise of the Ottoman Balkans as the center of world politics, we will make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey ,the center of world politics in the future. This is the objective of Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve this. We will reintegrate the Balkan region, the Middle East and the Caucasus, based on the principle of regional and global peace ,for the future, not only for all of us but for all of humanity.

Increase trade relations, remove (visa) barriers to freedom of movement between people, privilege soft power, emphasize a common history … such have been the core principles of Turkish foreign policy, not only towards Syria and Iraq but also towards Georgia, Russia or Greece. Turkey and Serbia’s free trade agreement came into force on September 1 this year. The deal opens Serbia’s to Turkish investors and paves the way for visa-free travel for nationals of both countries.

However, many commentators in Serbia see this change of Turkish foreign policy as an alternative to EU membership because both Turkey and Serbia know they are still far from formally joining the union. (More Multikulti and the future of Turkish Balkan Policy by Gerald Knaus/ESI)

Suha Umar, who left his post as Turkish ambassador to Belgrade on September 10, 2010, concluded his period in Serbia as follows:

When I arrived in this country… relations between Serbia and Turkey were at their lowest level because of [Turkish support for] Kosovo’s independence but also because of the lack of common interests, some prejudice and a lot of manipulation from outside. We managed to overcome the obstacles. If we are after peace and stability, without Serbia truly seeking peace and stability, it won’t happen. If we are looking for trouble, without Serbia it is very difficult to create trouble. This is why Serbia is the key country and Turkey has realised this fact. (Source: BalkanInsight )

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited in Balkans end of March 2011 emphasizing the bonds linking the two Orthodox Christian nations. The two countries’ ties go back to when Russia supported Serbia’s drive for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Putin’s visit took place on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the NATO bombing over Belgrade’s policy toward Kosovo reminding Serbia of its past differences with the West. A survey of 42 countries conducted in the summer of 2009 showed that Serbs had the fifth-most favorable opinion of Russia: Some 53 percent of respondents had a positive opinion of the country, while 61 percent expressed negative feelings toward the USA.

Putin delivered a message that Europe needs South Stream as part of its energy security because it can no longer rely on North Africa as a safe alternative. Serbia is a very critical part of the whole South Stream project. Beside energy policy there are 15 new agreements between Serbia and Russia being drafted at the moment including cooperation in science, technology and tourism. Politically Putin promised continued Russian support for Serbia over Kosovo. He pledged Russian investment and further cooperation in energy sector – e.g. development of ‘Lukoil’ petrol pumps net, new investments in energy system and electric power plants – in the power system, railway, infrastructure and agriculture. The two countries signed agreements on inter-governmental tourism, scientific and technical cooperation, and an international road service. A package for Serbian economy brought to Belgrade by Putin is estimated to be worth USD 10 billions. At the moment it is known that 3 billions are for the Army of Serbia. Also debts by the NIS to Serbian budget shall be settled (about EUR 1 billion). And finally, the enterprise ‘Southern Stream’ is going to be founded. In addition, Putin revealed that the Russian government is considering issuing an $800 million loan to Serbia for railway projects.

Recently after Putin’s visit the first military consultations between the Ministries of Defense of Serbia and Russia in Moscow, a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2011 was signed, while Serbian and Russian foreign ministers confirmed that the relations between the two countries are friendly, close and improving. They also said this would be confirmed by a strategic partnership agreement to be signed in the near future.

Serbia’s possible NATO membership may have big influence to Serbia-Russian relationship. The ruling coalition in Belgrade has designed to leave the door to NATO membership open without quite saying so. While the ruling coalition is supporting Montenegro’s intention to become a NATO member it officially to back a Resolution on Military Neutrality made by National Assembly on December 2007. According to a WikiLeaked February 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, “Tadic believes that Serbia cannot remain outside of NATO forever, but doesn’t say this often because of the political sensitivity of the issue.” (Source: Serbianna )

The opposition – Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) – is advocating a non-aligned policy (opposing Serbia’s NATO accession), similar to Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, and other democratic states, promotes strong economic ties with Russia. From tactical point of view by moving closer to Russia, Serbia strengthens its negotiating position with both the EU and the US.


Energy Aspect – South Stream nullifying Nabucco

Energy aspect is now more important in geopolitics and for Balkans as well than decades before. First of all, due to the turbulence in the Arabic-Muslim world and the ongoing rapid increase in industrial production in countries such as China, India, Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa, the price of oil and gas has increased significantly. Because of the Arab turmoil, LNG imports are at risk, as well as, the whole spectrum of hydrocarbon imports from the Arab world for years to come. Russia, as well as, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are starting to lay down long-term plans for the exportation of tremendous amounts of gas to China for the next decades. That means in simple terms that the EU states will have to act fast in order to secure sufficient amounts of energy, otherwise they may end up relying in the spot market by instable regions such as North Africa, Nigeria and others. The continuous instability in Iraq in combination with the isolation of Iran due to its nuclear program makes the European energy market anxious to secure reliable and steady flow of natural gas and oil.

As a result Russia gains more than a 1.2 billion Dollars daily only from its oil exports, thus being able to continue its investment program and in parallel being able to attract significant foreign direct investment and fund placements. Between January and March, 2011, around 3.5 billion Dollars were placed in Russian-based funds for investments purposes and the Moscow stock exchange has seen an almost 30% growth. A 7.5% GDP increase for the Russian economy is projected -ceteris paribus- for 2011. (Source: Russian energy moves indicate a shift in priorities by Ioannis Michaletos )

The international gas pipeline South Stream shall be finished until December of 2015 while its construction shall begin in 2013. The $21.5 billion South Stream pipeline would transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Central and Southern Europe. The stretch running through Serbia shall cost from EUR 1.3 to 1.5 billions. Serbian construction on a leg of a natural gas pipeline that could boost plans for the South Stream pipeline for Europe started in September 2010. The project would be completed this year.

The New York Times reported on 22ndSerbia March 2011 that the German oil-and-gas company Wintershall AG (a unit of German chemicals giant BASF), is set to join Russia’s South Stream natural-gas pipeline, a move that the partners hope will increase the pipeline’s chances of gaining European Union backing. BASF said joining the South Stream consortium would give it access to markets in southeastern Europe. South Stream is owned 50-50 by Italy’s ENI and Gazprom . Electricite de France is to take a 10% stake later this year as well Wintershall AG its 15 % stake.

Serbia and Slovakia have signed an agreement on cooperation in the construction of gas pipeline Aleksandrovac-Novi Pazar-Tutin. The agreement is worth €45 million and the project will be implemented jointly by a Serbian gas company Srbijagas and a Slovak consortium led by company Euroframe. The construction of the pipeline with the capacity of 100,000 cubic meters per hour could be completed in two years. Serbia has also started a €14 billion investment cycle in the energy sector and its main components are investments of about 2 billion euros in the gas sector, about 1 billion euros should be invested in the oil sector, while the potentials of renewable energy sources would enable investments worth between 2 and 6 billion euros over the next five to seven years. A Canadian company REV has informed that the company will invest about €140 million in the construction of two hydroelectric power plants – Brodarevo 1 and Brodarevo 2 on the River Lim. The Electric Power Company of Serbia (EPS) and the Italian company Seci Energia have signed the Preliminary agreement which concerns implementation of construction of a system of hydroelectric power plants on the middle reaches of the Drina river. Several agreements on cooperation in use of hydro potentials of the Drina river have already been signed between the governments of Serbia, Italy and the Republic of Srpska (RS). The capacity of these hydroelectric power plants will be 300 megawatts, while the value of the investment is estimated at about €819 million.

From EU*s side it has its own favorite energy project called Nabucco, however there is broad recognition that the €7.9bn ($10.5bn), 3,900km project is desperate for momentum as it enters what even its backers concede is a make-or-break year. Among them is the commission itself, which has contributed €200m in start-up funding. The existential question hanging over Nabucco is whether there will be enough gas to make it commercially viable. The biggest difference between the two projects is that while Gazprom will fill the South Stream pipeline with Russian gas, the consortium behind Nabucco has yet to sign up any gas suppliers or, for that matter, investors.

The competition over gas is coming harder. In my article New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor I described how China has came to game to take big share of Turkmenistan gas. This gas was one of the last hopes for Nabucco to fill its planned pipeline. For contest between EU’s Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream China’s actions favor later. Today’s arrangements are securing gas for South Stream while Nabucco still is searching supply. It is more clear that Nabucco should be filled with Iraqi and/or Iranian gas and political aspects related to this may delay finding(private) investors and the implementation of project as whole. In bottom line while Russia is taking its part from old gas fields and China from old and new gas fields the Nabucco pipe still is more than half empty.

Turkey has been using its recent diplomatic rapprochement with Moscow to lobby for making the Balkans a major strategic hub for a Russian gas pipeline planned to stretch from Central Asia to Western Europe, via Turkey.

Reshaping new cooperation framework

Inside EU there is already increasing amount of EU sceptics. Some of them be regarded as right wing and/or populist politicians, however in my opinion their criticism should not be ignored only because of their political position. Especially in UK has been discussions about being inside or outside of EU. (Director of the Trade Policy Research CentreDirector of the Trade Policy Research Centre) Ronald Stewart-Brown gives one possible position related to the content of EU membership in his article “The Vacuity of UKIP’s Flagship Policy” as follows:

One possible solution is to negotiate to stay in customs union with the EU outside the framework of the EU treaties and institutions on the basis of a simple new “plain vanilla” bilateral customs union agreement. Staying within the EU tariff band could reasonably be seen as a fair price to pay for continuing free movement of goods. Such an approach combined with other agreements to cover areas such as services, intellectual property, public procurement, competition and technical barriers to trade could attract the happy label of “Staying in Europe for Trade”. It would also approximate to the Common Market most people thought they were voting for in 1975, which was after all a customs union rather than a free-trade area.

In my article “Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?” I was covering a German idea about a “privileged partnership” for Turkey instead of full membership in order to allow Turkey into the EU economically but not politically. From my point of view “privileged partnership” could pre indicate a possible search of “third way” between EU member- and non-membership. The model – when first created – could be copied also with some other countries which now are in enlargement process or included in Eastern Partnership program which include free trade agreements, visa waivers, financial aid and economic integration with the EU. This “privileged partnership“ could be a pragmatic alternative model in EU enlargement and it could even be better alternative for all stakeholders than full EU membership.

The EU’s main political aim in the region, at least in the short term, is to avoid trouble. And the bloc’s most effective stabilisation tool is money. The European Investment Bank has increased its lending in the Balkans in the past two years and will soon open regional headquarters in Belgrade. There is no concern about “enlargement fatigue”. The bloc’s financial institution aims to “help member states and future member states achieve their objectives”.

My Perspective

“There is no enlargement fatigue, what I see is enlargement apathy on the part of governments in the Western Balkans” (Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement)

EU does not have a fixed timeframe for Serbia’s EU integration, and that it will make the decisions only once it estimates that Serbia is ready. The late reaction to the democratic revolts in the Arab world only further underlined that Brussels lacks a vision of how to steer a common EU policy agenda. Democratic deficit, enlargement fatigue and ever more rescue funds. Is there still a future for a common Europe? Is the EU the real sick man of Europe?

The European Union seems to be ready to welcome Serbia as a candidate member in spite of enlargement fatigue and economic crisis. In the meantime people in Serbia show signs of scepticism about EU membership. Support for EU accession has dropped to a meagre 57%, the lowest level of support since 2002 (when the Serbia EU Integration Office started these surveys), while a third of the respondents fears that the EU will stop the enlargement process altogether in the near future or may even fall apart.

The Balkans still aspire to EU membership, but Turkey allows them privileged access to a huge and rapidly growing domestic market of 74 million people, compared to about 55 million in the entire Balkan region. A Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and Serbia entered into force 1st of September 2010 and will give Serbian exporters opportunity to sell their products duty free to the large Turkish market, in addition to the already existing free trade agreements with the EU, CEFTA, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

All Balkan countries have their own development paths – some countries are going to join fast to EU (Croatia), some are going to do it later (Macedonia, Albania), some are maybe looking alliances from other directions (Serbia), Kosovo will be international protectorate – a quasi-state captured by organized crime tribes – also next decade; Bosnia will totter between breakup, federation/confederation, state, protectorate depending inner politics and exterior influences.

Serbia has strategic partnership agreements with China, Italy and France, and one such agreement is expected to be signed with Russia soon. Serbia can be seen a gravitational center of the region. In my previous articles, still and now even more than before I have a view that Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands, could the main benefits of EU membership be achieved via “third way”. Despite this I think that at this moment it is good idea to continue EU process but not only to fulfil EU needs but especially the needs of the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels. Most of the some 32 chapters negotiated in association process can help economical and other cooperation between Serbia and EU. Also Serbia should same time develop its economical cooperation with Russia, other BRIC countries, Turkey and regional neighbours.

Related articles:

 Serbia on the road to EU

Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?”

Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo”

Is it time to bury Nabucco?

“New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor”

EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?


Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

May 1, 2010

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)