The Multifaceted Russian-Turkish Conflict

russian pilots
© Sputnik/ Alexander Vilf Relatives of Russian Su-24 Pilot ‘Refuse to Believe He is Dead’

The following article was written on 27th November, therefore some of the details might have changed.
Wherever possible, I have made adjustments.

Just a few days after Turkish F-16s shot down the Russian Su-24 aircraft on 24th November, tens of scenarios and analysis have been published and broadcasted and they all have a common factor:

They accept that the players after the incident are much more than two and that a new chapter in foreign policies has opened.
The time perspective of the event itself will reveal the whole spectrum of participants, those concerned and the stakeholders, the number of who appears to be growing.
In the foreground, there are Russia, its president Vladimir Putin and their recent involvement in the war against ISIS in Syria on one hand, and the NATO member Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the other.
Inevitably, the European Union and its two most powerful countries, Germany and France, become parts of this equation to a more or less obvious extent. They are both NATO members and that’s a role they have to support.
France’s wound of 13th November is fresh as much as are its president’s Francois Hollande declared intentions (and actions) to intensify war against terrorism of ISIS by cooperating with allies and not-so-allies, as is Russia.
To this end, all predictions and signs favored a joint effort with Russia and Mr Hollande’s meet with US president Barack Obama included smoothing of edges and bridging the gap between US and Russia in the name of the common cause.
An aspect of these policies is that Russia’s decision to operate against ISIS in Syria has been vindicated and it can be seen as a win of Vladimir Putin, whose country is blacklisted by NATO, USA and EU, i.e. from the West.
Even if NATO members defended the “right of Turkey to protect its land”, they didn’t provide any further support through public statements.
Therefore Erdogan, who at first seemed to have deterred the approach between West and Russia and the reinforcement of powers against ISIS willingly or not, failed to promote his country as a decisive regional factor.
Irrespective of Turkish president’s instability, as German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on 25th November, and “exuberance”, by the defensive-aggressive movement of shooting a NATO non-friendly country’s war craft, Turkey repeated its practice of establishing de facto conditions (Cyprus occupation is one of them) and attempted to demonstrate and “tout” its role and status of NATO member.
Also, the overt and straight support to Turkmens could be interpreted as a “declaration” implying the “Kurdish factor”, i.e. Turkish friendly Vs Turkish hostile populations.
Only a short time before, Erdogan had highlighted Turkey’s ambitions to become member of EU and used the refugee crisis and the “need” of EU to ensure Turkish cooperation, in order to extract a promising result.
The obvious benefits though have been a few and so far limited to a financing from EU.
[During the conference of 29Nov., EU promised 3 billion euros which could, and they possibly will, increase and visa regime “rearrangements” and everyone turned a blind eye to the flagrant human rights violations. But then again, that’s the EU …]
So, Turkey decided to use the “NATO card”.

We have to remember that both Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Junker “suggested” common Greek and Turkish rescue operations in Greek territorial waters.
When Greece rejected such type of Turkish involvement, Ms Merkel underlined that “both countries are NATO members”, as if it should be understood that the membership would allow common territorial grounds or that insured territorial security -for Greece.

It also goes without saying that inside his country Erdogan emphasizes in every possible way the factors of security and stability and projects the image of a strong, powerful, competent and determined leader.
This image covers and entertains impressions and reactions against his controversial “relationship” with civil rights and has even supported his party AKP in recent parliamentary elections.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has a more moderate approach and made efforts to express more peaceful intentions after the downing of the Russian jet.
Turkish and Russian presidents have several similarities as leading personalities and some observers would find similarities even in governing.
It’s their differences, though, which make the “difference” together with the roles of their countries with regard to international relations.

Within the recent picture, Syria remains the hot spot and the threat of ISIS is the global factor.
President Hollande had to suffer a second hit of French capital and citizens, in order to consider a plan of joint action, not restricted inside NATO frame and interests, but comprising several regional powers.
In this frame, while Vladimir Putin has taken a positive initiative (if war can ever be considered positive), Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears as the negative factor.
[The disclosures (within the country and after Putin had spoken about it publicly) of Turkish role and involvement in oil smuggling, triggered Erdogan’s beloved practice of overt censorship.]

The downing of jet incident brought to the forefront the many and “artfully” non-promoted by western media, dark spots of Turkish involvement and role in Syria crisis.
The day-after has brought Russian resolutions about sanctions to Turkey -and Russians know a lot about sanctions as imposed on them by USA allies.

Although some analysts have spoken about a WWIII, on one hand this seems to be happening now with all these open fronts all over the world, and on the other it is highly undesirable even by US, the “usual suspect” of initiating wars and invasions and at least during Obama’s administration.

The nightmare of a generalized regional war could involve:
Lebanon, a tormented country which recently has (silently) suffered major inland hits by terrorism,
Egypt, a country which is revising, rebuilding and expanding its foreign relations,
Jordan, because of proximity and as the hosting country of thousand of refugees,
and probably Iran as a Russian and Syria ally but also against ISIS.
It could also involve Israel, its phobic and pro war policies and, worst case scenario, its nuclear weapons.

The news “run”, tension intensifies or discharges sequentially, anything written could be soon outdated and the so called “diplomatic thriller” between Russia and Turkey continues. with Erdogan’s invitation to Putin to a meeting during World Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris.

[It is imperative to remember, although Davutoglu’s statements and attitude leaved no chance to forget, that Turkish diplomacy is among the (two in my opinion) most insolent of the world.
Another feature of their policies is (again among the two) to create «guilt complexes» to their interlocutors.
The combination of antidemocratic practices, together with the assassination of Tahir Elci, pro-Kurdish activist, made EU-Turkish approach more bitter.
]

At this point of time we can conclude that although hopes and fears are significant yet invisible and neglected factors of foreign policies, prudence, sangfroid and sobriety combined with care about people, are better consultants and should prevail for all participants, at last.

 

Advertisements

ISDS: The Big Bad Wolf of the Trade and Investment Agreements

Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon
Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon

 

Also published in: Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot

Protests

Several separate and seemingly different forms of public protests and debates are “running” these days. One of them is an international call from Avaaz to sign a petition for a just rule of arbitration on the known in Spanish as Caso Philip Morris Contra Uruguay, which started about five years ago. In this case, the big tobacco company sues Uruguay for having legislated anti-smoking laws.
As it is the practice and after the July 2013 decision of the tribunal that it has jurisdiction to examine the case, the “complaint” of Philip Morris will be dealt and settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) a member of World Bank Group.
The company claims a compensation of $25 million for the anti-smoking campaign of Uruguay with photos on the cigarette packages. More that one million people have signed the petition until today.
In this case, the country has to defend its attempt to safeguard public health by passing anti-smoking laws and applying practices used all over the world.

Another wave of protests is taking place this week, 20-24 April with marches and events in Europe, Canada, USA and elsewhere. More than 20,000 participated in the recent marches and about 1.8 million have signed the internet declaration “STOP TTIP and CETA”.
Protests are against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between EU and USA, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 24 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU, three infamous pending agreements.
All of the agreements aim to “liberalise trade” either of goods or of services. The talks for TTIP have started (formally) in 2013 and remained secret even for the members of the European Parliament. Only after leaks of information which demonstrated the dangers for several sectors, MEPs and the public demanded transparency.
The same secrecy applies to EU-Canada negotiations. All of their terms are promoted as beneficial but Ulrike Hermann in “Free Trade Project of the Powerful” notes in the conclusion about TTIP: “The Canadian lawyer Howard Mann, who has dealt with investor protection agreements for more than 15 years”, assessed that, “this agreement [CETA] was the most ‘investor-friendly’ contract the Canadian government had ever negotiated”.
TTIP is a high target for USA and both the government and the lobbies have demonstrated their deep interest in many.
The dominance of the multinational companies, the privatization of public and social services and their fall to corporate giants are inevitable components of the agreement while the demonstrated benefits (for the people of both parts) are strongly challenged.

Anything but transparent negotiations and terms

Since 2013, a number of EU laws have changed, fragmentary though methodically, in an attempt to ensure “conformity” to the terms and conditions of TTIP which according to studies and publications threaten (in both sides): Democracy itself, Food Safety, Jobs, Environment, Public Services and Personal Privacy. TTIP also includes provision for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is the tribunal mechanism involved in the Uruguay Case.
USA has insisted on including the clause in the agreement but according to information of January, the EU won’t decide whether to include it in the TTIP until the “final phase of the negotiations” with the US.

A major contribution to the public alert both in EU and USA about the agreements have offered the releases by the Wikileaks of a series of classified documents revealing terms and chapters of the other (also disputed) agreement, the TPP.
This “regional regulatory and investment treaty” which is top priority for Barack Obama, involves USA and 11 more countries, all of which control the 40% of the world’s economy -i.e. Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The talks started in 2005 and have long passed their initial time-limit of 2012, as a wave of movements, activists and professional groups have questioned the clauses -especially after the documents publications by Wilileaks-, but also because of the discrepancies of interests between the countries.

The involving parts (the US overarching) claim that the results would be in favour of their countries and for the middle classes in particular, as President Obama stressed facing the criticism even from democrats, about the fast-track procedures on TPP.
Elizabeth Warren, the democratic senator -who is encouraged and supported by Media to run for the nomination for president- has initiated the internet campaign “No vote (by the Congress) on fast-tracking trade until the TPP agreement is public”. She also denounces the secrecy which has kept people out of “locked doors” about the information for TPP.

It is obvious that secrecy is a common factor of all negotiations on the so-called “free trade” agreements and the debate procedures that European Commission opened, function more than a propaganda channel rather than a voice of people.
After keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity, the long time negotiations from their part, serve the gradual strategy, both strategies of manipulating the population according to Noam Chomsky.

It is also a common knowledge that corporate rules in USA; USA seeks the final signs of TTIP and TPP;  the corporate seeks the agreements which means that their profits from them are evident.
Furthermore, corporate profits and interests are by definition and proven, against people’s benefits.

ISDS: Corporate Vs Countries

So, apart from terms concerning foods, environment or public services, which is the extra danger deriving from the ISDS term?

When a company invests and operates inside a country, it must comply with state laws. In case of changes of laws, citizens as well as companies have to conform. That is the norm but not under signed agreements which include ISDS term.
Under ISDS, if the investors, usually trans-national corporations, find that the new legislation affects their interests they have the right to demand compensations. “They are able to bring claims for damages against the host country even if they have no contract with its government”, as described by John Hilary, in “TTIP: Charter for Deregulation, an Attack on Jobs, an End to Democracy”.
Any dispute is resolved by the arbitration tribunals.

No matter what the beneficial act for the country and its people is, the supportive system of arbitration, almost by default decides in favour of the investor a practice that lead them to lose any credibility, according to an older (no longer available) Public Statement On The International Investment Regime, supported by academics with expertise on investment law, arbitration, and regulation.

A few examples out of 500 known cases against 95 countries follow:

  • The Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for € 3.7 billion over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power […] Vattenfall has already been successful in a previous challenge to the city of Hamburg’s environment regulations […]
  • …Under NAFTA rules, Canada was forced to revoke its ban on the fuel additive MMT under a challenge from US Company Ethyl. In a later case over water and timber rights, Canada had to pay out $122 million to the Canadian paper company AbitibiBowater. It is worth noticing here that some domestic companies “reinvent themselves as ‘foreign’ investors in order to take advantage of ISDS privileges and sue their government” according to Gus Van Harten’s, Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law, as cited by Hilary.
  • US tobacco giant Philip Morris, apart from Uruguay, is also suing the Australian government for billions of dollars over its public health policy that all cigarettes must now be sold in plain packaging.
  • Until 2011, 27 claims were pending against Argentina at the ICSID, accounting for more than 1/5th of that institution’s pending case-load. All but 1 of these 27 cases involve claims relating, at least in part, to Argentina’s response to its earlier financial crisis. In short, Argentina was sued to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the measures it took against its financial crisis.
  • Another South American country, Ecuador, has been ordered to pay to Occidental Petroleum $ 1.77 billion in damages for terminating the contract when the company broke the law (ICSID’s the largest award in history). On the other hand, a separate tribunal dismissed the claim for $19 billion in damages by Ecuador against Chevron for the contamination of the Amazonian rainforest, although there is evidence of the pollution which cost lives.

It becomes clear that arbitration tribunals are a kind of defenders and guardians of the interests of investors.

Together with enforced legislation about GMOs and other food processes applied by big companies in USA, fossil fuels and energy, privatizations -especially of health services- or personal privacy attacks by the copyright, patents and trademarks clauses, all under the agreements, the arbitration provision has more than one level of risks.

The TPP targets to completely uniform legislations of trade and services in countries around the Pacific, many of which are near China while TTIP, CETA and TISA involve European countries, all of which are near Russia.

Within the EU, where the countries of the south suffer the consequences of economic destabilization caused largely by the very core of the Euro zone, it could be a matter of (short) time to become colonies of big corporations and multinationals.

Or, as Noam Chomsky put it: “Every Word in the Phrase ‘Free Trade Agreement’ Is False”.

Relative articles:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic – The Web of Debt Blog

Updated April 27 2015

 

 

The “Impose Sanctions and Conquer” Doctrine of USA

Americas Summit Panama

 

Also published in: Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot

Within a time of days, since the start of April, two countries have come very close to get rid of the long imposed sanctions by USA.
First Iran and then Cuba have reached in a good point of amelioration of relationships with their foe and are close to an ending of the imposed sanctions.
“Disfavor” and “punishment” have started 50 years ago in Cuba, during Cold War, and soon after the Islamic revolution of 1979, in Iran. In both cases, the sanctions followed the revolutions and the change of regimes, non capitalist policies, nationalization of oil (in Iran), of companies, services and country’s wealth. Also in both cases, before the revolutions, US had deeply involved in internal affairs and had secured conformity of the governments.
After revolutions they never stopped attempting the overturn of regimes – their endearing practice worldwide. Cases of US espionage in Cuba as well as attempts to organize dissident movements (according to the successful “arab spring” standards) reveal until recently.

In Iran, as Juan Cole in Informed Comment reminds us: “It is worth pointing out that one of the reasons Obama has difficulty in his negotiations with Iran is that its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, distrusts Washington because of its long history of intervention in Iran. The US along with its WWII allies invaded and occupied Iran in the 1940s; the allies overthrew the ruler, Reza Shah Pahlevi in 1941. In 1953 the CIA conducted a coup against popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh because he led the nationalization of Iranian oil.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the US allied with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who had invaded Iran in a wanton act of naked aggression in 1980. When Saddam used chemical weapons against Iranian troops, the US ran interference for Baghdad at the UN Security Council, ensuring that Baathist Iraq was not sanctioned for its war crimes against Iran.
So maybe Obama needs a sidebar with Khamenei to reassure him that Washington is not trying to overthrow him, either.”

Timing, capitalism and profit

The question which arises after the recent developments is “why now?” Although the two “cases” are completely different, a first insufficient answer is the attempt of President Barack Obama to ensure his own and Democratic Party’s legacy during the last year of his presidency.
It is not a totally satisfying answer, even if Obama might actually be “an honest man”, as Cuban President Raoul Castro said. Apart from honest though, Obama still is the President of the almighty USA.

As “peace” and conciliatory policies are not typical of US, a more realistic version could be the need to close any “unnecessary” open fronts worldwide despite pressures from neocon Republicans and jingoes of NRA.
On the other hand, progressives within the country are demanding less aggressive policies, as longstanding wars have not only proved ineffective and costly but have also showed their wrongful and detrimental motivations.
Furthermore, the dominant principle in US (i.e. in capitalism) is profit. Sanctions burden American economy, not only that of the “punished” countries and don’t give earnings from sales of weaponry.

So sanctions, especially long-standing ones, have political cost apart from economic and reach a crucial point, when it becomes necessary to lift them.
American companies are going to seek profits from Cuba and it is Cuba’s responsibility to manage and control hawks’ involvement in national affairs (a danger that EU is close to suffer if they sign TTIP neglecting people’s objections).
There is also strong possibility that US will use normalization of relationships with Cuba as a means to succeed closer approach to other South American countries.

US has opened a huge front against Russia, under their own crafted pretext of Ukraine, and until their own and EU pressures pay back, they simply lose profits while they do not have the anticipated gains of their expansionism.
They also continue sanctions as well as attempts to overturn government in Venezuela* and, additionally, they have to “pay” the cost of past nourishing of fighters who became the core of ISIS.

Imperialism behind human rights

“Axis of evil” has shrunk significantly since Iraq became a conquered country, after Libya was destroyed and after Syria entered the US-crafted and non ending war. It is also going to further weaken as soon as a final deal will be signed with Iran. A large part of “destruction policies” could be attributed to the former Secretary of the State and new candidate for US presidency, Hilary Clinton. As far as it concerns the remaining North Korea, Japan could be the first frontier if necessary.

However, military threat is not the only reason which US invoke when it comes to sanctions. Human rights and their strictly American interpretation often form a pretext for imposing sanctions. Never mind if human rights are violated by numerous “allies” and within US.
It makes no difference if a society is functional despite whatever problems.
If a country doesn’t follow a certain model of life, if its government does not conform to Western standards, if strategic considerations or intelligence want them to “reform”, either a war or sanctions will be the consequences.
The internal administration and the sovereignty of any such country, surely threaten “democracy” and therefore, US have to take initiative. In case that propaganda by NGOs and press and attempts of erosion and/or overturning of government do not succeed, intelligence takes control and isolation follows.
Venezuela is a representative sample of this doctrine. That is why after several attempts of coups in collaboration with opposition have been made and failed, Obama issued an executive order on 9th March with which declared the country an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security”.*
On the eve of Summit of the Americas in Panama, where Castro and Obama met, People’s Summit of the Americas, issued a document, which was approved by more than 2,000 representatives and condemned what it called, “military aggression and threats by the United States and their strategic allies carried out through the establishment of military bases in the region” according to teleSUR information.

Aggressiveness and domination

The case of Russia does not follow above rule of “safeguarding” human rights. Russia has a record of human rights violations which didn’t bother in the slightest the “democratic” West. The manufactured rising in Ukraine ended with outrage and autonomy of pro-Russian Crimean regions and with a war induced by NATO.
If Russia had retracted, if Putin had succumbed without acting, a large part of population would have been led into EU’s and NATO’s “embrace” and no sanctions would have been imposed.
Alternatively, another way of isolating Russia would have been induced.
In the same time, propaganda would persuade the world that rising in Ukraine was spontaneous and that people’s future is in their hands.
In the meantime, the “compliant” EU loads an extra weight on the backs of its people by imposing sanctions and suffering the consequences.

Though world changes (even Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran), let’s not fool ourselves and let’s hope that neither Iranian and Cuban people nor their governments fool themselves by believing that the “war” has ended.

* South American countries back Venezuela and UNASUR, the Non-Alignement Movement, CELAC and the G77+China, condemned Obama’s Executive Order. 

Relative from the web:
Hope on the Horizon and It Comes from Greece – Paul Craig Roberts

Neocon ‘Chaos Promotion’ in the Mideast – Consortiumnews.com

 

Agreement between Iran and the P5+1: History is written in Lausanne

Nuclear Iran Talks in Lausanne, Switzerland

A historic and long awaited agreement has been reached, against all odds, especially of those fearing such a deal, and a couple of days after the expiration of the deadline of end of March.
On 2nd April, a framework agreement has been reached in
Lausanne, Switzerland between Iran and the P5+1 (US, Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany).

The framework agreement reached, calls for the removal of UN imposed sanctions against Iran while the issue of other sanctions will be discussed within bilateral formats, e.g. Iran – USA.

“I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final compromise deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer,” US president Barack Obama said on Thursday.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said on Friday: “I, hereby, declare in a straightforward manner now that enrichment and all nuclear-related technologies are only aimed at Iran’s development and will not be used against any other countries and the world has acknowledged very well today that Iran is seeking peaceful purposes.”
Both president Rouhani and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that the sanctions will be lifted after a final deal will be reached. However, there seem to be a difference of interpret of the framework, as Iranian president said that all the UN and economic, financial and banking sanctions against Iran will be annuled the moment a final nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers goes into effect while John Kerry stressed that the removal of the sanctions will come in phases.
Drafting of the deal will start soon to prepare the Joint Plan of Action by the July 1 deadline.

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, at a joint press conference with the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said :
“The European Union will terminate implementation of all nuclear related economic and financial sanctions. And the United States will cease the application of all nuclear related economic and financial sanctions simultaneously either IAEA verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments.”
Agreements on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issue would be endorsed by a new UN Security Council resolution.
According to The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) parameters as published in the Fact Sheet released by State Department, Iran has agreed on various adjustments and reductions of its nuclear program and inspections of IAEA.

Opposition to the agreement

Not all the western officials consider that the agreement is a victory of sober diplomacy and beneficial for peace.
On the opposite side of the porgressive public opinion in the whole world where the deal is considered historic and decisive for the desired peace, balance and stability in the region of the larger Middle East area, there are the ultra-conservatives in US and their protégé Netanyahu.
They have already delivered rhetoric of subversion; they present the framework as a “triumph” of Iran against American allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel) and characterize “theater” the statement of president Obama.
A provocative statement was made on Tuesday by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who said that even if a deal was reached, the US reserves the right to bomb Iran.
Senator McCain (R-Az), also expressed his “concerns”: “President Obama is hailing this framework as something that could enhance the prospects for peace in the Middle East. For those of us who have looked forward to bombing Iran for some time now, that would be a doomsday scenario.” (…)

No one mentions the recent release of Pentagon’s declassified reports of 1987 which admit that Israeli scientists were capable of producing a hydrogen bomb by that time. The declassification is named by israeli media “Obama’s revenge” for the speech of Netanyahu against Iran in Congress where he was invited by Republicans.

Although trust is difficult to be established after more than 35 years of mutual “demonisation”, Iran is expected to play an important role in the -always- troubled region of Middle East and its contribution (diplomatically and politically) will be valuable both for the West and for the neighbor countries.
US have multiple open fronts worldwide militarily, economically and politically (Russia, Venezuela, ISIS, Ukraine) and the period until the, hopefully, final deal will probably offer them a “breath”.

What is most important after this great step is the problem of the global nuclear energy as a whole and as a danger for humanity, especially in the face of the threat by ISIS and their branches in many countries.