Archive | October 24th, 2013

The Seven Plagues of Tunisia

A girl stands near the rubble of a house, destroyed when an Islamist militant accidentally killed himself while preparing explosives, Jedeida, Tunisia, Aug. 2, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Zoubeir Souiss)
By: Mourad al-Hattab

Tunisia is going through the most significant political and socioeconomic decline of its contemporary history. The country’s overall situation reminds us of ancient times, when human beings were struck by disasters and unable to escape this unavoidable fate.

According to the Bible, to convince the pharaoh to let the enslaved people of Israel go, God brought seven dreadful plagues upon Egypt (Exodus, 7-12): The Nile became contaminated, preventing Egyptians from drinking its water; frogs covered Egypt; the dust turned into gnats; swarms of flies and wild beasts invaded the country; Egyptians’ livestock died; boils erupted on man and beast; and Adonai, Hebrew for God, sent hail that turned into fire.

How is this biblical apocalyptic event similar to the current situation in Tunisia under the rule of the troika, after a sad Sunday, on Oct, 23, 2011? The Tunisian people are currently enduring calamities that are comparable to the seven plagues of Egypt.

Political context

In Tunisia, it did not take the “transition” too long to turn into a political and economic drama and to plunge the economy into the abyss. Two years after the current rulers rose to power, the majority of people realized they were unfit for office. The extent of the economic crisis, the drop in tourist revenues, the downgrading of sovereign rating and the low financial indicators currently fuel protests and create a negative mood among local and foreign investors. In Tunisia, we excel at cacophony and dogmatism more than managing the economy, reassuring investors and reducing unemployment rates.

For the record, many still remember the extravagant, unrealistic and ridiculous electoral promises made by some parties before October 2011, such as creating 400,000 job opportunities in four years. The promise was certainly “kept” by unduly appointing 4,600 partisans to key state positions within one year. Adopting incompetence as the main criterion, a legion of partisan state employees were employed.

Tunisia is close to hitting rock bottom in terms of financial and economic sovereignty, on an equal footing with the banana republics, tax havens and places lacking a state of law.

The social disaster

The deterioration of the middle class, which is doomed to disappear due to excessive taxes that erode its purchasing power, and the crushing of the youth, who have become the main victims in the eyes of the world during the “revolution,” represent a clear social disaster. According to some surveys, 51% of teenagers and 45% of the youth will try to emigrate, in a clear indication that they are dissatisfied with present conditions, future prospects and an unprecedented level of internal displacement. It is worth noting that 159,000 citizens moved from the most disadvantaged areas to Tunis and other coastal areas between May 2011 and May 2012. This highlights the deteriorating living conditions of a large segment of the Tunisian population.

Galloping terrorism

Following the political assassinations of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, not a day goes by without discovering a new thwarted attack, weapons cache or terrorist threat in Tunisia. Many Tunisians are surprised, but this is ultimately a logical sequence.

The upsurge of political violence has been fueled by impunity. Terrorists and fundamentalists who aim to undermine basic freedoms, particularly freedoms of association and expression, have often benefited from this impunity.

The role of the state

Protests, security failure and chaos within administrative and decision-making bodies have greatly reduced the prestige and effectiveness of institutions currently suffering from lack of coordination and synergy of action. Consequently, ​​any reform plans have become almost impossible, considering the phenomenon of institutional deregulation, the eradication of which requires significant efforts over the coming years.

An uncertain future

The future we want for Tunisia is more than vague. Our only hope is that Jebel ech Chambi is a natural reserve once again and that policymakers come back to their senses by prioritizing regional development and the fight against poverty and social inequalities. This would allow restoring a healthy business environment and making Tunisia a competitive and attractive location for historical and economic partners.

It is distressing to reach the current conclusion while Tunisia operates without a viable investment code that emphasizes a harmonious partnership between the public and private sectors, drives the spirit of entrepreneurship and works on open-minded foundations, instead of concentrating on the criminalization of certain categories of investors who are essential for boosting production. In foolish steps, they are being overtaxed and encouraged to leave the country, leaving behind tens of thousands of newly unemployed people, social dramas and rising poverty.

I will stop to cite these five disasters while trying to stay constructive and positive. The salvation of our country largely depends on empowering a new ruling class that believes in the principles and standards of proper management of public finances and economic fundamentals. This class should be highly professional and skilled to manage a multidimensional crisis and save the country from the collapse of its financial, social and institutional balance.

The success of the task entrusted to this class requires quick understanding and early diagnosis of the current situation, while making concessions with the players who have taken the initiative. They will provide bailout plans through the optimization of production factors and the search for sustainable resources that could be introduced as soon as possible and at a minimum cost in a fragile and risky economy bordering on bankruptcy.

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Will Gulf Aid Help Democracy in Egypt?


Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who was formerly the finance minister, looks on during a group meeting of Gulf and Arab finance ministers in Abu Dhabi, Sept. 7, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh)
By: Rami Khreis

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi announced that Gulf commitments to provide funding for his country — estimated at $12 billion — are being carried out and that negotiations to fund various commercial projects are being held. The flow of aid, accompanied by a new transitional political phase, has stirred enthusiasm, which was soon translated into an increase in Egyptian stock-exchange prices and widespread optimism in regard to pulling the Egyptian economy out of its deep crisis.

Is it really possible to help the Egyptian economy via this funding? Will this pave the way for the formation of a political regime that is more stable, within an environment of rapid political turnover and high social demands? The management of financial crises is first and foremost a political matter, linked to how the authority distributes resources. The extent to which the Gulf aid will be beneficial is related to the time frame and the form of investments in the medium term. In summary, the question concerning the economy in Egypt is not technical but political, and it is closely related to restructuring macroeconomics in favor of establishing a clearly structured social base for a political regime that is more stable.

Morsi’s one year of rule: inefficient economic policies

The primary feature characterizing the rule of former President Mohammed Morsi was the clear inclination toward increasing debt — in all its forms — as a way of responding to the crisis. A report released by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which discussed the economic situation during that period, noted that the gateway to solving the economic crisis was limited to filling the growing budget deficit through short-term measures and heavy reliance on loans, instead of designing policies that deal with the roots of the Egyptian economy’s structural crisis.

This approach of dealing with the crisis has in fact catalyzed two forms of indebtedness. The first was represented by the relentless pursuit of a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This loan was subject to a number of conditions targeting the adoption of austerity measures to decrease the government’s expenditures and imposing new taxes. The government sought to respond to these conditions through espousing steps aimed to increase gas and diesel prices used in heavy industries, as well as increasing taxes on specific goods. The steps also included the implementation of a rationing program on fuel subsidies.

All of these measures witnessed popular opposition, leading the government to renege. Inflation, however, caused prices to increase, elevating popular wrath against Morsi. As a result, the government could not meet the conditions and the IMF suspended negotiations on loans and postponed disbursements indefinitely. As the report deduced, the pursuit of the loan was based on the idea that it would give the government a pass for additional funding.

In other words, the loan was a temporary solution to be followed by more temporary solutions. The second form of indebtedness was represented by reliance on citizens to fill the budget deficit. The figures of Egypt’s general budget witnessed an unprecedented downgrade due to high rates of internal and external debt. According to a Finance Ministry report, the budget deficit reached 11.8% of GDP between May and July 2013, leaving the deficit standing at 204.9 billion Egyptian pounds ($29.7 billion), compared with 136.5 billion pounds ($19.8 billion) during the same period last year. This deficit was mainly filled by means of internal indebtedness, through the issuance of bonds and treasury bills, loans from local banks or the deposits of Egyptian citizens. Again, this excessive inclination toward internal indebtedness was reflected by the figures of the Finance Ministry: the total domestic public debt increased from 1.0527 trillion pounds ($153 billion) in March 2012 to 1.3422 trillion ($195 billion) in March 2013.

Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood assuming power had resulted in the flow of aid from specific countries, mainly Qatar. Qatar pumped $8 billion of aid into Egypt under Morsi’s rule. This financial support falls under the category of political sponsorship. It is worth noting that the Central Bank of Egypt recently returned a Qatari deposit of $2 billion as a sign that sponsorship sources have changed since Morsi’s ouster. In conclusion, this aid — along with the debts Morsi inflicted on the Egyptian treasury — could not serve as a practical response to the daily needs of Egyptians. It instead resulted in the outbreak of popular anger, leading to the deposing of Morsi a year after his election.

From a rentier state to a ‘tax collector’ state

This prompts a question related to the way the authorities manage their finances within a political setting. When any authority announces its general budget, it mentions the sources of revenues and the aspects of expenditures, which, in fact, reflect the relationship between authority and society. The state’s tax resources and the nature of the resulting taxable income specify the pattern this authority is espousing to redistribute wealth and subsequently the nature of social rules on which it is based. More than two decades ago, Beblawi, the current prime minister, wrote a thesis about the rentier state. In this thesis, he attributed the totalitarian aspects of Arab countries to their heavy reliance on renting resources — such as oil revenues — to external clients, thus meaning that society is of no need to these governments. The concept of rent surpassed its known definition in the classical economic sense to include the resources acquired by the state due to its strategic position or political roles played outside its borders.

In his important study “The Strong Regime and the Weak State,” researcher Samer Soliman deduced through observing the revenues of the Egyptian state throughout three decades that the rentier state model has dwindled in favor of the tax state. After decades of the Egyptian state’s heavy reliance on rent resources and aid that can be classified as political sponsorship, it was transformed into a state collecting taxes from its citizens because it simply lost a wide range of its revenues.

Soliman noted that this pattern of chronic budget deficit and resorting to internal indebtedness to solve it, which were transformed into structural aspects of the Egyptian economy, have contributed to the regime losing what he called “political buying power.” The regime is no longer able to provide for society due to the regression of its social umbrella. This has contributed to the rise of social powers separate from the regime, which can constitute a financial infrastructure for a democratic change in Egypt. Today, as Gulf aid is pumped into the Egyptian economy, the framework set by Soliman questions the usefulness of this aid and its capabilities to push toward the formation of a more stable regime amid social and financial crises.

A Marshall Plan?

In a recent report issued by Standard & Poor’s, a company specialized in publishing financial research on various countries, the state of the Egyptian general budget was described as “very weak.” The agency attributed this to the heavy burden on the budget from the governmental subsidy system and the high public-debt service. The report shows that the ability of the Egyptian state to increase its revenues and decrease its expenditures as a means to solve this problem remains limited. When discussing the effect of the latest Gulf aid, it concludes that the pressure on the local currency — which lost 17% of its value since the beginning of 2011 — will ease. The report notes as well that this aid will reduce the likelihood that Egypt will face a balance-of-payments crisis.

One of the most serious structural problems the Egyptian economy is facing is its reliance on foreign countries. Egypt imports around 60% of its food items and 40% of its fuel. These figures explain the crisis in the balance of payments, which includes an accounting record of all monetary transactions with the rest of the world. Egypt has a very large consumer market, and to assume that the recent foreign aid from the Gulf might contribute to a profound recovery of its economy seems a bit optimistic. In fact, such foreign aid represents at best a limited and short-term balancing mechanism for a chronic currency crisis in which the nation is unable to pay for essential imports. Typically, recovery from such a crisis broadly depends on the extent to which Gulf countries are committed to providing Egypt with further assistance. After all, financing such a huge economy requires a constant influx of billions of dollars.

Omar Adli, an Egyptian researcher in political economy, agrees with this perception. He stressed that the policy of cash assistance to finance Egypt’s imports of basic commodities will not solve the problem and failed to save Morsi and his regime. However, Adli pointed to the statements of Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din regarding a potential Egyptian “Marshall Plan” with Gulf funding. He believes that in the medium term, the economic solution might lie in the conceptualization of the current ruling elite to harness the Gulf funding in order to consolidate the pillars of the political system, by replaying the scenario of the early 1990s. This is when Egypt, which was on the brink of bankruptcy, benefited from the flow of Gulf aid and paid off half of its debt (which amounted to nearly $45 billion), as a result of its role in the Gulf War. Egypt was later pushed to restructure its economy on the basis of the structural adjustment program, designed by international institutions.

An Egyptian Marshall Plan requires huge capital inflows, major investments in infrastructure and a comprehensive restructuring of public finances. Undoubtedly, it is now difficult to visualize the political system that would emerge from such a project, as it is still unknown how far the Gulf States are ready to finance the project. However, a large aid package is likely to revitalize the Egyptian economy or alleviate its problems, at least partially. This aid can also provide a basis for the emergence of a form of “conservative democracy” based on social groups seeking stability, taking into account the role that will be played by the army, which enjoys considerable popularity today.

Nevertheless, the problem of this scenario lies in the fact that it will only serve as an interim solution, as it will not be able to absorb all the sources of political and social tension in Egyptian politics after the revolution.

Solving the economic problems in Egypt, and thus the nature of the political system that can result from this process, is an issue that is much larger than the budget deficit, the feasibility of rentier policies and foreign aid. We learned from the Egyptian experience of structural reform that solving the problem of the Egyptian economy is not a technical issue. It is rather a political issue linked to rebuilding institutional arrangements governing the relationship of the state and society. This necessitates the emergence of specific social groups, which would express their interests in a specific manner, have clear a perception of politics, propose a development model for the economy and are prepared to struggle to integrate these perceptions in the structure of the future system.

The collapse of Egyptian state revenues and the decline of its social umbrella, coupled with market liberalization measures in the last two decades, resulted in certain social groups — such as the middle class — gaining independence from the state structure, as they succeeded in making their own way in the business sector.

However, at the same time, it had also led to the increasing impoverishment of the lowest social classes. As a result of the chaotic nature that characterized the liberal transformation process in the early 1990s, the Egyptian capitalism that emerged afterward was deformed. It tended to be closely allied with bureaucracy, reluctant to take initiatives and to have possessed perceptions closer to conservative politics. Moreover, the current wave of support of the army made us think that the “conservative” … is gaining a real voice in Egyptian politics.

The large funding sources in the foreseeable future could help mitigate the crisis and prepare the ground for a temporary, conservative political system. However, it is important to monitor the position of the lower social classes, which make up a large proportion of Egypt, in addition to the middle class segment that provide more radical change perceptions. Thus, in order to build a more democratic political system, the interests of these social segments ought to be included in the system. This is a process that cannot be achieved without building new institutions, thus redrafting the entire social contract. Rentier policies could fill your car with fuel, but they will not build schools, hospitals and modern institutional administrations. This is a totally different story.

The above article was translated from As-Safir Al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

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Lebanon No Longer Arab World’s Only ‘Country Without a State’


The need for a central state in countries whose borders were drawn up at foreign behest might be coming to an end. (photo by iStock via Foreign Policy)
By: Talal Salman

Lebanon, the country without a state, is no longer in a unique situation in the eastern part of the Arab world. It is no longer the sole exemplar of a state that has abdicated its normal functions and responsibilities; of a government whose constitutionally mandated institutions are absent or not functioning, where the government can resign and no new government is formed to replace it; of a parliament that extends its own term in office, but refrains or is prevented from making decisions, disrupting the state’s continued operation. Such behavior hollows out the state’s institutions, even if their leaders continue to enjoy their inflated titles.

The entire eastern part of the Arab world has all but lost any effective government.

The state in Syria is falling to pieces in the midst of a civil and regional war that has no clear end in sight and no defined objective. No one can predict the nature of conditions in Syria after this unprecedented war comes to end. Syria is divided into regions dominated by armed groups mostly imported from abroad. As for the “local” armed groups, one cannot be sure of their existence until they have secured “patronage” from foreign countries. That, at any rate, is how the landscape appears for “the beating heart of Arabism.”

Syria’s fate in general has become a matter to be decided by fire, which sometimes engulfs the entire land, and diplomatic maneuvers carried out in distant capitals.  This reality is barely altered by the persistence of the facade of “the state,” as well as its institutions and ministries. These continue to function when possible, but the situation is very different from before, when Syria was a country held in high esteem by the people of the region, who termed it “the beating heart of Arabism.”

Matters are hardly different in Iraq, albeit somewhat bleaker and harsher. The Iraqi state is obsessed with the prospect of partition, the people suffer from a schism that widens with every passing day. Different sects, faiths and even regions that have been divided on a racial basis grow further apart. Moreover, the absence of a strong central state tempts different “demographics” to go their separate way, in accordance with foreign interests — and how disparate those interests can be!

In Yemen, which was unified territorially by force, artificial disputes between different segments of the population have undermined the country’s unity. These have been given new life by the revolution that brought to an end the era of myths and legendary leaders.

The same could be said about Libya. Moammar Gadhafi negated the state on the assumption that his revolution did not need a state, but could be managed by “committees” which he formed, dissolved and then re-formed. Gadhafi made a mockery of the state and its bureaucratic apparatus, which he deemed remote from the spirit of the people and their demands.

This is before one even begins to speak of “states” like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which were born in the international equivalent of a cesarean section, by gathering some tribes and clans to form the social base of a monarchy, the danger of which its subjects still do not grasp. Nor have we spoken of the Zionist entity, which was established on Palestinian land by force and conquest. Nor have we drawn attention to the danger posed by the oil hoarded by the Gulf in obscene quantities, along with the gas that has cemented the existence of a new state.

Some recall now that the Sykes-Picot agreement, a pillar of the colonialist partition of the Arab world into states that lack the fundamental capacities to prepare them for political life. These countries have subsequently shown that they paved the way for the establishment of Israel, which might become the “central state” in a region stripped of its Arab identity and forced to subsist with a merely geographic designation: “the Middle East.” It is as if patriotic and national identity are based on the four cardinal directions. Moreover, we do not know how and what mediates this “East,” and how it became the identity of the Arabs alone. It is as if it was meant to blur their original identity — which is mainly tied to history and only thereafter to geography — along with everything else Arab. But if you notice, all this was a necessary condition for Israel’s becoming this region’s only real state.

Let us return to Lebanon and its absentee state. No, it is more than that: in Lebanon the state has been “disappeared” without any official, or even ordinary citizen, sensing the gravity of the problem and the danger in this tiny country being left to flutter in the wind, its fate decided by others. And all this through a course of events in its wider region that is buffeting the country in this moment with the volcanic force of repeated bombings. They appear to be motivated by sectarianism, but in actuality they are the ingredients of a political situation that might be embodied in a re-drawing of the region’s borders so as to create new entities for “people.” No doubt “pioneers” and “men of religion” will argue that they were not actually members of a single people at all, but are instead many peoples. Indeed, they are the mixed residue and remains of peoples that passed through this region or lived in it for some time and then all but went extinct. They will be reduced to agglomerations of minorities, devoid of any shared, unifying identity. They will have no shared past so that they might have a single or shared present. And as for the future, well, it is in God’s hands …

According to this reasoning, there is no longer a need for a central state in any of these countries whose borders were drawn up at foreign behest. On the contrary, these sub-states can have their borders drawn anew at the behest of foreign diktats more suited to today’s day and age. Every sect can have its own country, as can every doctrinal variant, and every one of the country’s minorities. The numbers of “the people” don’t matter; what matters — what may matter most — is that every group will someday feel itself to be free, detached from these countries that arose from the needs of foreign interests. The circumstances have changed, and so modifications must be made to the map so that it aligns with the new balance of forces among nations and sects in the region. … And Israel must be made the central state of this land that was and will remain Arab — unless its people can be made to renounce their unifying Arab identity.

Lebanon long since grew accustomed to being a pioneer and a model for the people of this Arab land. Or perhaps, that was simply the way others wanted it to be.

Perhaps the Lebanese experiment as a unified entity, embracing many religions, sects and schools of thought has exhausted its purpose, especially once it became a regional model spreading far and wide … without it even needing to exist at all!

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Radical Groups Operate On Turkey’s Border

Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol in the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain as they are pictured from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Jan. 26, 2013 (photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal)


First there was the report by Human Rights Watch alleging that the massacres of Alawites in the Syrian regime-controlled Latakia area were carried out by Western-supported opposition groups crossing the Turkish border, and then there was the article in the Wall Street Journal that Hakan Fidan, the chief of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization [MIT], has been working as a “traffic cop” directing weapons shipments. This has pasted on Turkey the label of being “the country nurturing al-Qaeda linked groups.” Of course, the government totally denies the charges.

What is going on around the border offers us a different view. A reliable source who works on humanitarian relief at the border told me: “Some time ago, 160 fighters were brought to Mersin port in a ship from Yemen. They were transported by buses to the Oncupinar border crossing. From there, a call was made to the commander of the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. When he came, there was bargaining and the middleman asked for $2 million for recruiting and transporting these fighters. Phone calls were placed to Saudi Arabia and the requested amount was transferred to a bank. Then the fighters crossed the border at Oncupinar to Syria’s Selame.”

To be honest, we cannot fully verify the report, but similar stories circulate in the cities of Hatay, Sanliurfa, Kilis and Gaziantep. Nobody is surprised by them.

Subject referred to parliament

Hatay MP Mehmet Ali Edipoglu of the main opposition Republican Peoples Party [CHP] is one the best monitors of border traffic. He referred many incidents as queries to the parliament. The government, however, instead of responding to Edipoglu’s queries, countered with questions about his reliability. Edipoglu is overflowing with such reports. When I called for Al-Monitor he told me:

“On Aug. 14, 2012, the Libyan fishing boat Al Entisar docked at Iskenderun port and declared humanitarian relief supplies as its cargo. Twenty-four Libyan nationals disembarked and left in the direction of Antakya in a bus with plate number 31 S 4262. I called the director of security and asked him to stop the bus. It was stopped at the entrance of Antakya and the police told me there was nothing they could do because there were no weapons in the bus. The bus reached Antakya and its passengers checked in at the Buyuk Antakya Hotel. The boat sailed away without its passengers.

“On Dec. 7, 2012, at 11:50 p.m., a nonscheduled Anadolu Jet flight landed at Hatay Airport with 200 Arab-speaking people. Fifteen minibuses were allowed to enter the apron and collect the 200 people from the plane’s stairs. Tens of Arabic-speaking people daily arrive at Hatay airport from Istanbul and Ankara. They are not Syrians. They are between 20 to 30 years of age and most of them use VIP facilities. They can’t all be diplomats. I query as an MP and the airport officials tell me, ‘We have orders from the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.’ Their numbers are fewer now. It used to be 50 to 100 a day.”

The turning point for Turkey becoming a party to the uprising next door was its hosting of the Syrian National Council and FSA, and opening of the Apaydin Camp exclusively for former soldiers of the Syrian army and their families. There were allegations for some time that the FSA was using the camp as headquarters. A parliamentary delegation determined that the camp was not used for military training.

Edipoglu referred to camps other than Apaydin: “The Soil Products Office [state-owned] next to the stadium at Reyhanli is where radical Islamists are trained, armed and shipped to the border. That office has at least 10 acres of land. You can’t see inside because of high walls. Everybody speaks of Apaydin camp but the real headquarters is here. Logistical support is provided from there, fighters are put on buses at night and escorted by police to Kusakli and Bukulmez to cross into Syria.

“Until a year ago, jihadists used to be accommodated in Antakya. For example, at North Hill Hotel at Kuzeytepe; Ottoman, Buyuk Antakya and Narin hotels in Antakya. At that time, the fighters were transferred to Syria via Guvecci village of Yayladag town. There were intensive efforts to capture the Yayladag border crossing. They attacked three times in one week but couldn’t do it because Armenians and Turkmens live in Keseb on the Syrian side, and they did not help the opposition attackers. The opposition, however easily took over the Cilvegoz crossing because they attacked it from two flanks.

“When they failed at Yayladag and the people of Antakya began to react, fighters were shifted to Reyhanli and that is when the Soil Products Office became their base. They also rented hostels and homes in Reyhanli. There are about 3,000 to 5,000 radical elements in Reyhanli. Since the Cilvegozu crossing is observed more carefully nowadays, they are now mostly using the road through Bukulmez village. They removed the barbed wire and improved the road. They had earlier paved the illegal road used by smugglers at Yayladag Guvecci. They are now easily crossing in front of the Bukulmez outpost. Military officials say, ‘Don’t ask us, ask the governor.’ The governor says, ‘Nothing of the sort is happening.’ As an MP I can’t get any answers.”

About weapons transfers, Ediboglu says: “They load their cargo in Ukraine, showing Egypt as their destination port. Instead, they come to our Iskenderun and unload the weapons.”

It is this abnormal situation at our border that dragged Turkey into the Syrian crisis.

Weapons shipments

Many news reports were published on Turkey’s role in weapons shipments to the opposition, as well as the border crossings of militants and non-lethal assistance. A most significant report appeared in The New York Times of March 24, 2013. The shipments had intensified particularly at the beginning of 2012. Weapons shipments began with the landing of two Qatari C-130 military cargo planes in Istanbul.

Between April 26 and May 4 six more Qatari planes landed at Ankara’s Esenboga airport. This flow continued in succeeding months. In November 2012, Jordanian military planes entered the line as well. According to air traffic records, in 2012 Qatari, Saudi and Jordanian cargo planes landed 160 times at Esenboga airport. The CIA, which organized procurement of weapons from Croatia with financing from Gulf countries, was managing the traffic with Turkey. Hugh Griffiths of the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute estimated that 3,500 tons of military equipment had reached Syria via Turkey. Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with France and Britain, had begun delivery of European-made shoulder-fired missiles to the FSA via Jordan.

Although American officials kept saying the CIA’s role was “to prevent radical groups getting their hands on these weapons,” it is hard to say that a real distinction was made between the groups until al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra was placed on the American terrorist list.

Even if there were true concern, it was not a secret that it did not really help in practice. Weapons delivered to FSA are changing hands either through “sharing ammunition in operations” or by sales. For example, an FSA official told The Daily Star how the European-made anti-tank missiles were going to Jabhat al-Nusra: “Saudi Arabia supported FSA with anti-tank weapons costing $5,000 each. In couple of days, Jabhat al-Nusra paid $15,000. In short, weapons come and are sold instantly.”

Gradually, groups deemed by Western allies as “supportable moderate organizations” became al-Qaeda’s partners in the field. Among 13 organizations that on Sept. 24, 2012, declared that they no longer recognize the Syrian National Coalition and called for unity based on Sharia included, along with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Western-supported Tawhed Brigade, Shour as Sham and Islamic Brigades. These three outfits, which saw no impediment to operating with al-Qaeda after giving up hope of a Western military intervention, were actually part of the FSA Supreme Military Council formed at Antalya in December 2012.

Turkey has come to a crossroads. But it is not as easy for Turkey to distance itself from these developments as it is for the United States, France and Britain. The organizations operating in Syria are now our border neighbors. Turkey now has to deal with a serious boomerang because of them. Turkey’s real test is just starting.

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What, or Who, Killed Yasser Arafat?

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat speaks at his headquarters in Ramallah, Sept. 4, 2004. (photo by REUTERS/Loay Abu Haykel)

A month and a half before his death on Nov. 11, 2004, I met Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah. I came to conduct an interview for Israeli television after he had been besieged for many months at the compound, many parts of which had been destroyed during that time by Israel Defense Forces bulldozers. The gradual destruction of the compound, piece by piece, was meant to demonstrate to Arafat that his end was coming near every time Palestinians carried out a terrorist attack in Israel.

Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hated Arafat. He used to call him “the dog in the Muqata,” and longed for his death with all his might. What stood between Sharon and his giving a green light to assassinate Arafat were former US President George W. Bush, the international community and chiefly the assessment of the intelligence community that the assassination of the PA chairman would only further incite the bloody intifada that took place during those years. Sharon chose to imprison Arafat in the governmental compound in Ramallah and humiliate him as much as possible. Sharon believed that Arafat was not only the one responsible for the breakout of the latest round of violence but also worked to encourage and incite the uprising and the suicide bombings that terrorized Israeli citizens.

This was the situation in which I met Arafat. He was sick, tired and delusional. He looked thin, and I initially assumed that the days of siege on Ramallah had left their mark on his face and on his wizened body. He wore his gray uniform and was bedecked from head to toe in medals and victory ribbons, as if he were the general of a great military power. On the side stood the iron bed in which he slept. His appearance was pitiful. He continued to talk with pathos about the “covenant of the brave” he made with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Oslo, while the backdrop of ruins all around and the smell of dust in the air were the relics of war and not of peace.

After four hours in his office, my impression was that the PA chairman had lost his sense of time and reality. He rejoiced like a child when Palestinian official Mohammed Dahlan brought him a tray of his beloved baklava pastries from Gaza, from a pastry shop named after him. He invited us, the camera crew and me, to a light supper: pitas, light cheese and the baklava Dahlan brought for dessert. Someone whispered to us that Arafat ate light foods because his health did not allow him to eat more. He could not digest what he ate, it was explained.

A month and a half later, on Oct. 29, 2004, he was flown to the Percy military hospital in France, where he died. Since then, the cause of his illness has been kept secret. Arafat’s medical file has been classified as highly confidential. Only his heir, Palestinian Chairman Abu Mazen, Arafat’s wife, Suha, and a very few others in the PA were allowed to read it and promised to keep its contents to themselves. But the rumors spread.

There is only one disease in the modern era to which society — as modern as it may be — still attaches a stigma to those who suffer from it: AIDS. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, Arafat’s personal doctor — who was removed from Arafat’s care in the last weeks of his life — at the time told the authors of the book The Seventh War, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, that he knew that the doctors in Paris found the AIDS virus in Arafat’s blood. But Kurdi felt that he had to defend the leader who died of an “improper disease,” and explained that the virus was inserted into Arafat’s blood to hide signs of poisoning — which was the real cause of Arafat’s death.

Professor Gil Lugassi, president of the Israeli Society of Hematology, claims that all the signs of Arafat’s sickness prove that he suffered from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In confidential conversations — not to be quoted or attributed — I heard a similar assessment from PA leaders.

With this background, it can be understood why in the PA they were so glad to hear about the findings of the Al Jazeera network’s investigation in July 2012 regarding the question of the death of the rais. The report claimed that the radioactive element Polonium 210 was found in Arafat’s clothes, hat and toothbrush — which seemingly proves that Israel poisoned him. Suddenly, from the network so hated in the West Bank, came reinforcement for the thing everyone wanted to believe: Arafat did not die of a shameful disease, but rather Sharon gave the order to assassinate him.

Those same senior Palestinian officials who had previously confirmed to me the existence of symptoms of the illness immediately adopted the findings of the report and said with great relief: “We always knew the rais did not die a natural death, that Sharon assassinated him like he assassinated [Hamas founder Sheikh] Ahmed Yassin, and thus he can be considered a shahid — a martyr.” Polonium 210 retroactively turned Arafat’s death into a respectable death, a death of a martyr.

On the Israeli side, on the other hand, the minister of defense in Sharon’s government, Shaul Mofaz, does not confirm or deny the claim that Arafat died an unnatural death. Other Israeli senior officials of that period — former head of Military Intelligence Aharon Ze’evi Farkash and head of the Israeli Military Intelligence’s research division Yossi Kuperwasser — claimed, and still claim today, that Arafat died of a fatal disease without adding any further detail.

For almost nine years now the debate over Arafat’s death has produced rumors, legends and various contradictory versions. Leading those who seek to establish the notion of his poisoning is Arafat’s widow, Suha. She was the one who gave his belongings to Al Jazeera, and she commissioned a Swiss team to examine the report’s findings — some of which were published on Oct. 14 — and repeated the same conclusions. But while Al Jazeera’s investigation was appropriate and raised many questions to consider, the partial findings the Swiss scientists published raise the suspicion that they are political and hasty conclusions.

Arafat’s body was disinterred at the instruction of Abu Mazen on Nov. 27, 2012, to try provide a more precise answer to the suspicions. The examination and analysis of the samples from his body are not concluded yet, and it is unclear whether an unequivocal answer will be given, even at the end of the process. What caused the researchers to rush and publish partial and old findings that again only touch on Arafat’s belongings? Maybe it was just a desire to be published, maybe there are political reasons and maybe it was the additional pressure Arafat’s wife applied leading up to the ninth anniversary of his death.

Anyone who closely reads the findings of the partial opinion published in the British journal The Lancet, which were quoted at length in The Guardian, can understand another important element of the story. The Swiss scientists find it hard to prove that poisoning was the cause of Arafat’s death. They admit that Arafat had a growth in his stomach, and they do not talk about HIV. The word that repeats again and again in the report they published is “possibility”: “The findings could support the possibility that Arafat was poisoned.” Is there such indisputable evidence? No, it is only a possibility. Did Sharon long so for the PA chairman’s death that he decided to assassinate him despite international opposition? That is also a possibility. It is too bad that the Swiss researchers did not patiently wait for the final conclusions, which would have given their investigation more serious and professional validity.

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$40 Million Allocated for Drone Victims Never Reaches Them


In this Wednesday, March 20, 2013 photo, the grandson of Afghan villager Ghulam Rasool, 12 year old Ahmed Shah, center, recalled the attack on his village in the yard of his house where he and his family found refuge in the village of Khalis Family Village, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (Photo: AP)Recent reports on US drone strikes by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN have heightened international awareness about civilian casualties and have resulted in new calls for redress. The Amnesty International drone report “Will I be next?” says the US government should ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members, have effective access to remedies, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. The Human Rights Watch report “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda” calls on the US government to “implement a system of prompt and meaningful compensation for civilian loss of life, injury, and property damage from unlawful attack.”

Several human rights groups have approached lawmakers asking them to sponsor legislation calling for such a fund. But congresspeople have been reluctant to introduce what they consider a losing proposition. Even maverick Congressman Alan Grayson, who is hosting a congressional briefing for drone victims from Pakistan on October 29, turned down the idea. “There’s no sympathy in this Congress for drone strike victims,” he said.

“There’s no sympathy in this Congress for drone strike victims.” –Rep. Alan Grayson

But unbeknownst to Grayson, the human rights groups and drone strike victims themselves, Congress already has such a fund.

The peace group CODEPINK recently discovered that every year for the past four years, a pot of $10 million has been allocated for Pakistani drone strike victims. That would make a total of $40 million, quite a hefty sum to divide among a few hundred families. But it appears that none of this money has actually reached them.

The Pakistani Civilian Assistance Fund was modeled after the ones that exist in Iraq and Afghanistan, where money was allocated to help alleviate the suffering of civilians harmed by US military operations as part of a strategy to “win hearts and minds.” In the case of Pakistan, where the CIA operates its drones, the money is supposed to go directly to the families of innocent drone victims, or for needs like medical expenses or rebuilding homes.

But Tim Rieser, the long-time staffer for Senator Patrick Leahy who has worked to get this Pakistani civilian assistance fund included in the yearly Foreign Operations budget, expressed his exasperation about the use of the funds. “It’s been like hitting a brick wall every time we push the administration to use these funds for drone victims, since for years they wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of drone strikes,” said Rieser. “I seriously doubt that any of this money has reached the victims it was intended to help.”

Instead, it appears that the Conflict Victims Support Fund gets farmed out to US-based non-governmental organizations like International Relief and Development that, after taking their cut, provide humanitarian assistance for Pakistanis who are not drone victims and are not even living in the tribal areas of Waziristan where the US is carrying out the strikes.

Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Civilians in Conflict, agrees with Rieser that the funds are being misused. “Sure, it’s not easy to assess damage and compensate families in Pakistan where there are no boots on the ground to do a military investigation and where the drone operations are covert,” said Holewinski. “But the State Department does have personnel in Pakistan, including AID staff, and they could work with communities to figure out what harm occurred, why, by whom, and then determine what the civilians need/want/expect in order to feel dignified and assisted.”

Doing this, however, would require cooperation from the CIA, which carries out the drone strikes while refusing to talk about them, and it would contradict the US government assertion that the drone strikes have caused only a handful of civilian casualties.

To make up for the US lack of help, the Pakistani government says it steps in to offer assistance. But the victims covered in the Amnesty report said they either did not receive compensation from the Pakistani government or that it was inadequate. The family of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed in North Waziristan while tending her crops, was furiouswhen they were offered $100, given that their costs for medical expenses, repairs to their home and loss of livestock totaled about $9,500.

A 45-year-old Pakistani farmer told investigators of another report, Living Under Drones, that after his home was destroyed by a drone, he didn’t have the $1,000,000 rupees [US $10,500] to build a new house, so he and his family live in a rented room. “I spent my whole life in that house, my father had lived there was well….I belong to a poor family. I’m just hoping that I somehow recover financially,” he said.

If this farmer had lived in Afghanistan and had been harmed by a drone, he would have been entitled to compensation for loss of life, medical problems and/or property damage. The payments in Afghanistan are usually small (about $5,000 for a death or injury or $5,000 for property damage), but this can make a big difference to a poor family. But next door in Pakistan, there is no help. This inconsistency is the reason staffer Tim Reiser pushed for the Pakistan fund and now thinks a Yemen fund should be created. “Anywhere innocent people are harmed due to our mistakes, we should help them out,” says Rieser. Even John Brennan, CIA chief who is the mastermind of President Obama’s drone policy, said during his confirmation hearing that he thought the US should offer condolence payments—in fact, he thought the US was already doing that.

Most activists in the US and abroad are focusing, rightly so, on trying to stop the drone killing spree. But those already harmed deserve help. Mohamad al-Qawli, who just formed a network of drone strike victims in Yemen, thinks it’s the least the US should do. Al-Qawli’s brother was killed in a drone strike, leaving behind a distraught wife and three young children. “In our tribal culture, if someone commits a crime or makes a terrible mistake, they have to acknowledge the wrongdoing, apologize and provide restitution. The US government won’t even acknowledge the wrongful death of my brother, much less apologize and compensate his family. Could it be that my tribal culture is more evolved than the justice system of the United States?” Al-Qawli asks.

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iPads, Flying Pets and Other Things More Newsworthy Than Deadly Drone Strikes


ABC NEws and World Report with Diane Sawayer wasn’t the only network evening news show to skip over the damning human rights reports on the US drone wares. (Screenshot)People who watch the evening newscasts regularly often note that the shows follow the lead of the New York Times in selecting news stories. If a story is on the front page of the Newspaper of Record, it’s probably going to wind up on the newscasts.

But not always.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both released reports on civilian deaths from US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.

The reports made the front page of the New York Times (10/21/13). As the Times reported:

At least 19 civilians in the surrounding area of North Waziristan had been killed in just two of the drone attacks since January 2012–a time when the Obama administration has held that strikes have been increasingly accurate and free of mistakes.


Last October, it says, American missiles killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi as she picked vegetables in a field close to her grandchildren. In July 2012, 18 laborers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed near the Afghan border.

The new investigations were also reported by the Washington Post (10/21/13), which told readers that the groups

say they have freshly documented dozens of civilian deaths in US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, contradicting assertions by the Obama administration that such casualties are rare.

The Human Rights Watch investigation of several strikes in Yemen “concluded that at least 57 of the 82 people killed were civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children who perished in a September 2012 attack.”

But the reports were absent from the network evening newscasts. With millions of viewers every night, these are still the news outlets with perhaps the widest reach in the country.

The broadcasts covered some newsworthy issues, of course–the new jobs report, and some additional details about a recent school shooting in Nevada.

But they also covered stories of seemingly less importance than the civilians killed in secretive US bombing campaigns. NBC Nightly News, for instance, reported that it would be slightly colder along the East Coast than it’s been. They had long reports about police forces using defibrillators and small family farms that operate as tourist attractions.  NBC also reported on construction at the Capitol building in Washington and on some new products unveiled by Apple.

CBS Evening News had a long report about tensions within the Republican party, and an excerpt from a Charlie Rose interview with Warren Buffett. They also told viewers about the new iPad–but also about other tablet computers, too. And that construction project at the Capitol was covered.

ABC World News led with gas prices falling. They also did reports about unsafe dog treats, those new Apple products, a study of sibling rivalries, a possible UFO sighting in Iceland and popular baby names, and closed with a rather long report about a class that helps prepare dogs to fly in airplanes.

There were some major outlets that did evidently think the reports were newsworthy. CNN‘sThe Lead With Jake Tapper (10/21/13) interviewed Amnesty International researcher Mustafa Qadri, who also appeared on the PBS NewsHour in a debate with a retired US general.

But on the nightly newscasts this was the kind of news that evidently wasn’t news–at least not as newsworthy as a new iPad or a school that helps prepare pets for air travel.

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Time for the Truth about ‘Targeted’ Killings and US Drones’ Civilian Victims


The Obama administration is like a reckless hit-and-run driver. Congress must not let John Brennan’s CIA get away with murder

Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of Pakistan drone strike victim Mamana Bibi. The US appears to be exploiting the lawless and remote nature of the region to evade accountability for its drone program, including killings that may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes, say human rights groups. (Image: Amnesty International)A year ago almost to the day, on 24 October 2012, a US drone strike killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi. She was gathering vegetables in her family’s large, mostly vacant fields in north Waziristan, Pakistan. We don’t know whom the US intended to target, but it is hard to imagine that a policy that allows the killing of this grandmother, who was blown to pieces before the eyes of her young grandchildren, is anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of the US government.

The latest revelation from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reported in the Washington Post, suggests the NSA cast a “surveillance blanket” over parts of northern Pakistan, feeding enormous amounts of data to the CIA‘s secret lethal drone program. Even if the NSA didn’t pick up chatter after the killing of this grandmother, the US government claims that it conducts post-strike assessments of who is killed. It knew or should have known that something went wrong.

But like a hit-and-run driver, the US government never looked back. It never apologized or compensated Mamana Bibi’s family. It never admitted what it did to the American public. Instead, top administration officials continued to tout the drone’s precision capabilities. John Brennan, the architect of the drone program who now heads the CIA, has previously claimedthat drone strikes caused absolutely no civilian casualties. He now admits they have, but says these deaths have been exceptionally rare.

Edward Snowden’s revelations over the last few months make clear that government assurances like these cannot be trusted on faith alone. In the name of safeguarding national security, the government has withheld a whole universe of surveillance from the public. It has held back damning stories like the killing of Mamana Bibi. It may be holding back more horrific stories like this.

It is time to demand that the US government, and President Obama in particular, tell the whole truth about the US drone program: not just the claimed successes, but the human costs of its failures. Especially over the last two years, journalists and human rights groups have gathered credible documentation of civilian deaths from drone strikes, suggesting that Mamana Bibi’s death is not an isolated incident. Amnesty International released a report Tuesday raising serious concerns about several recent drone strikes that appear to have killed civilians outside the bounds of the law.

The US government has never committed to investigating these cases. It has never even acknowledged responsibility for most of these strikes.

With an awesome power to gather information on the activities of citizens and non-citizens alike, the Obama administration has little excuse for failing to identify and investigate who it is killing in its drone strikes. Its continued silence about the deaths of people like Mamana Bibi suggests that it is either concealing such killings, or is completely indifferent to them.

In May 2013, the Department of Justice disclosed that four US citizens had been killed in drone strikes. It said that only one of them was an intended target; the other three, including a 16-year-old boy, were apparently unintended killings.

Yet, the Obama administration has never explained why these killings occurred. Nor has it ever told the public, or even most members of Congress, basic details, such as how many other people have been killed, the basis for their killing or their identities.

Since the Obama administration has not self-reported on its abuses, Congress must force its hand. It should investigate the drone program, including all credible allegations of civilian deaths, and call on administration officials to come clean.

None of this will bring Mamana Bibi back to her family. But justice for this grandmother – and all people unlawfully killed in the US drone program – begins with US officials admitting the truth they may already know.

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‘Acting Like Hit-and-Run Driver,’ US Defends Drone Killings


As Pakistan prime minister set to meet with Obama, White House refuses to acknowledge counterproductive nature of program

– Jon Queally

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Washington, DC this week for talks with President Obama. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP)Ahead of a Wednesday meeting in Washington between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Obama–and despite a flurry of intense criticism from the United Nations, human rights groups, and victims and their family–the White House continues to defend its borderless, secretive drone killing programs.

Among the key agenda items for today’s meeting, Sharif has made it clear he will raise the concern of his people that the continued U.S. attacks are leaving many civilian casualties, destabilizing already fragile parts of the country, and is expected to repeat his demand that the drone campaign be stopped.

“It’s time to end the black hole of accountability on drone strikes. The US is behaving like a hit-and-run driver.” –Naureen Shah, Amnesty International

During a speech given at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Sharif indicated he would stress for Obama “the need for an end to drone attacks” in the tribal areas, which he considers a blatant and unwelcome assault on his nation’s sovereignty.

“The use of drones is not only a continual violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country,” he said.

Despite that, however, Sharif said he will continue to support the U.S. military endeavors in neighboring Afghanistan and is committed to continue the working partnership between the two countries.

Last week, two separate reports from special UN investigators (here and here) were presented to the world body, both calling into question the legal framework and human rights implications of the ongoing use of U.S. drones to carry out extrajudicial targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.

And on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International presented their most in-depth studies to date looking at the innocent civilians of U.S. drone attacks, which they indicated could amount to international ‘war crimes’ and called on the international community to both investigate past incidents and challenge the U.S. government over its secretive, dangerous, and counterproductive approach to counterterrorism.

“Drone technology is proliferating rapidly. The US government should be careful of the signal that it is sending to the world,” said Naureen Shah of Amnesty International. “It’s time to end the black hole of accountability on drone strikes. The US is behaving like a hit-and-run driver.”

Despite the series of public indictments, and the mounting evidence of its counterproductive nature, White House spokesperson Jay Carney delivered a new defense of U.S. drones ahead of the meeting with Sharif. Predictably, Carney said the Obama administration rejects the evidence presented by the both the UN and the human rights groups that the manner in which the drone war is executed violate any laws, domestic or international.

Carney also said the military takes “extraordinary care” when it chooses targets for aerial engagement.

Countering enormous amounts of presented evidence and expert testimony on the subject—both from witnesses and victims on the ground to the many organizations and individuals who have tried to study the subject—Carney called the cross-border assassination program “precise . . . lawful and . . . effective.”

In citing just one case, however—that of 68-year-old grandmother Mamana Bibi who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2012 while tending to her garden, surrounded by children—Amnesty International’s Mustafa Qadri pushed back on Carney’s statement vociferously by writing:

The United States claims that its drone strikes are extremely accurate, based on vetted intelligence and that the vast majority of those killed have been linked to al Qaeda and its allies. Yet the world has to take this on faith, since the U.S. administration refuses to disclose key facts, such as details of who is targeted and on what basis. While the Taliban, al Qaeda and other armed groups operate in northwestern Pakistan, it is impossible to fathom how a woman in her 60s surrounded by her grandchildren could be mistaken for a fighter.

And Qadri concluded:

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama stated in a much-watched speech that decisions made by U.S. government now “will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.” It’s time for some accountability for these lofty words.

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Georges Ibrahim Abdallah : la France détient un des plus vieux prisonniers politiques d’Europe


Il est des records dont on se passerait bien, surtout en France, pays se revendiquant héritier de la révolution et aspirant à diffuser sa « lumineuse » conception des droits de l’homme. Ce record, quel est –il ? : détenir le plus ancien prisonnier politique du pays et l’un des plus vieux d’Europe, à savoir Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, militant communiste arabe, anti-impérialiste et anticapitaliste. Alors que la justice française par deux fois a prononcé sa libération, le gouvernement, au mépris des principes constitutionnels assurant l’indépendance de la justice, garde Georges enfermé au nom de viles tractations politiciennes. Qui donne les ordres ? Les Etats-Unis d’Amérique et Israël. Dans cette affaire ils sont seuls aux commandes, faisant de la prison de Lannemezan, non loin de Toulouse, une annexe des prisons états-uniennes. Cela fait 30 ans que ça dure… 30 ans d’enfermement, 30 ans de résistance.

Georges Ibrahim Abdallah est né dans le Nord du Liban en 1951. Il a suivi ses études à l’Ecole Normale et en est sorti diplômé en 1970. Georges a grandi à une époque où la crise structurelle de l’entité libanaise est à son paroxysme. Les ceintures de la misère autour de Beyrouth, les villes et les villages du Sud et les camps de réfugiés aux abords des principales villes incarneront dès lors et pour de longues années les enjeux du mouvement révolutionnaire. Cette réalité de lutte, de résistance et de sacrifice qui a court en ces lieux d’extrême précarité a construit la conscience politique de Georges Abdallah et déterminé son engagement révolutionnaire. Il choisit la résistance face aux massacres de masse perpétrés par les bourgeois confessionnalistes de tous bords et leurs alliés israéliens et franco-américains et commence son engagement politique dans les rangs du Parti National Social Syrien, progressiste et pan-arabe, pour rejoindre ensuite la résistance palestinienne, en adhérant au FPLP.
Le 14 mars 1978, l’armée sioniste envahi le Liban pour y détruire les bases des organisations palestiniennes au sud. L’armée sioniste tue 1186 civils libanais, provoque le départ de 285.000 réfugiés, endommage 82 villages et rase complètement six d’entre eux.
Georges Abdallah combat dans les rangs du FPLP cette invasion et sera blessé à cette occasion.
Après des mois d’agressions en tous genres (bombardements aériens et navals, raids héliportés, attaques menées par l’intermédiaire de supplétifs mercenaires comme l’Armée du Sud Liban), l’armée israélienne envahit le Liban le 6 juin 1982 elle y a perdu 670 soldats.
18.000 combattants arabes sont morts durant cette guerre (soldats syriens, combattants de la gauche libanaise et des organisations palestiniennes). Des centaines de militants arabes capturés et « disparus » dans les camps d’Ansar et de Khiam. Le bilan final de l’opération ’Paix pour la Galilée’ est éloquent : 25.000 morts, 45.000 blessés, Beyrouth dévastée par des semaines de siège et de bombardements.
Les 16 et 17 septembre, c’est le massacre de Sabra et Chatila. L’armée israélienne, qui a encerclé ces deux camps de réfugiés palestiniens de Beyrouth Ouest sans défense, laisse entrer les tueurs des milices fascistes chrétiennes et observent le massacre. Entre 1000 et 5000 civils désarmés sont froidement assassinés. Cette invasion fut perpétrée avec la complicité générale des puissances occidentales.
En réaction, des combattants libanais et arabes allèrent porter la guerre contre le sionisme et l’impérialisme dans le monde. Ce fut le cas des Fraction Armées Révolutionnaires Libanaises (FARL) qui entrèrent en action en Europe. Exécution de Yacov Barsimantov, le secrétaire en second à l’ambassade israélienne en France et, surtout, responsable du Mossad en France (abattu par une jeune femme le 3 avril 1982).

Voici un des communiqués des FARL (celui de l’action contre Yacov Barsimantov) :

Nous, FRACTION ARMÉE RÉVOLUTIONNAIRE LIBANAISE, nous nous adressons à tous ceux qui condamnent la terreur et le terrorisme, à tous ceux qui militent pour l’abolition de la société
d’exploitation et de guerre. Nous avons exécuté YACOV BARSIMANTOV. La presse impérialiste et les gouvernements qui soutiennent l’impérialisme, comme le gouvernement Français, crient au « terrorisme ». Qui sont les terroristes ? Ceux qui tuent un jeune Cisjordanien parce qu’il résiste à l’annexion de son pays par Israël, ceux qui bombardent les populations civiles du Sud Liban,
ceux qui tuent aveuglément et osent se réclamer d’un pseudo « cessez-le-feu ». Nous, nous attaquons ceux qui organisent le génocide du peuple Palestinien. Nous, nous sauvegardons la vie des innocents même au péril de notre propre sécurité. Depuis sept ans le peuple Libanais subit la guerre. Depuis sept ans l’impérialisme, sous le couvert de la lutte contre les « fanatiques Palestiniens », détruit tout ce qui est progressiste au Liban. C’est notre droit de nous défendre. C’est notre droit aussi d’attaquer l’impérialisme partout où il sévit et en particulier là où il bénéficie du soutien politique du gouvernement en place. Nous poursuivrons notre guerre à la guerre impérialiste jusqu’à la victoire.
À bas l’impérialisme Américain et ses mercenaires Européens.
La Victoire ou la Victoire.

Fraction Armée Révolutionnaire Libanais , Paris, le 7 avril 1982

Les autorités françaises arrêtèrent Georges Ibrahim Abdallah le 24 octobre 1984, après qu’un groupe du Mossad et quelques-uns de ses agents libanais l’eurent suivi à Lyon. L’incarcération n’était motivée que par la détention de vrais faux papiers d’identité : un passeport délivré légalement par les autorités algériennes. Les autorités françaises avaient promis au gouvernement Algérien la mise en liberté de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. Dans ce but, elles avaient envoyé le chef du département des services secrets français en Algérie pour en informer le gouvernement Algérien. Dans le journal mémoire qu’il a fait éditer, Jacques Attali, le conseiller du président français François Mitterrand, écrivait : « Jeudi 28 mars 1985. Yves Bonnet, patron de la DST, envoyé à Alger, explique qu’Abdallah, arrêté à Lyon, sera libéré pendant l’été en raison des faibles charges qui pèsent contre lui. » Mais les autorités françaises ne respectèrent pas cet engagement.
Les autorités françaises étaient alors soumises à une pression directe des Etats-Unis. De nombreuses immixtions américaines s’étaient exercées pour pousser les autorités françaises à ne pas relâcher Georges Abdallah. Les Etats-Unis s’étaient constitués partie civile dans le procès. Les pressions sionistes ne manquaient pas non plus.
A ce moment, la France était sous l’effet d’une série d’attentats aveugles à Paris entre 1986 et 1987, et qui avaient fait de nombreuses victimes françaises. En fait, ces attentats étaient commis par un réseau proche de l’Iran. Pour rassurer l’opinion publique française (en la désinformant), les services secrets français accusèrent les frères de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah de ces attentats.
Le premier mars 1987, les autorités françaises jugèrent une deuxième fois Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.
Il fut accusé de conspiration dans des actes terroristes (d’avoir fondé les Fractions Armées Révolutionnaires Libanaises et d’en avoir planifié les opérations). Un verdict de condamnation à perpétuité fut prononcé. Pour ce procès, les autorités françaises avaient constitué un tribunal spécial antiterroriste pouvant prononcer ses verdicts sur base des données fournies par les services secrets, sans avoir recours aux preuves juridiques ou aux témoins, contrairement aux codes de procédure. Absolument personne ne s’était présenté en témoignage de l’implication de Georges Abdallah dans tout ce qu’on lui attribuait comme charges. Un coupable sans preuve. La condamnation à perpétuité de Georges Abdallah et l’accusation lancée contre ses frères servirent à désinformer le peuple français sous le choc des attentats massacres des groupes iraniens, à satisfaire les Américains et les sionistes, et à faire apparaître la France comme un pays pouvant combattre le terrorisme.

Vous l’avez compris , c est bien autour de mensonges politiques que Georges a été enfermé à perpétuité… De résistant face à l ignominie des violences d’états impérialistes, on a fabriqué un terroriste pour détourner l’opinion publique et légitimer le maintien des colonies en Palestine…

Comment ne pas réagir alors que la France est prise en flagrant délit d’injustice ?
A l’heure où Georges rentre dans sa trentième année de détention, nous avons tous la possibilité de dénoncer les mascarades judiciaires, les manipulations médiatiques, les mensonges politiques (cf. les déclaration de Yves Bonnet, ancien directeur de la DST, qui parle de vengeance d Etat), mais aussi l’oubli des camarades dont le cœur n’est plus aussi rouge qu’il le faudrait…
Georges est ce résistant que nos politiques ont eu l’audace de faire passer pour un terroriste, insultant ainsi la mémoire de la Résistance française.
Georges est ce communiste qui a été abandonné par la grande majorité de sa famille politique.
Georges est cet Arabe lâché en pâture par des dirigeants arabes corrompus et soumis aux ordres des yankees. Georges est ce militant anticolonialiste enfermé en France et dont les héritiers de Abdel Krim Al Khattabi à Ferhat Hached en passant par Ahmed Zabana n’ont pas su être solidaires.
Ce résistant est d’abord victime de l’oubli… On a oublié Georges comme on a oublié nos luttes et celle des anciens contre l’impérialisme, contre le colonialisme et contre le racisme d’état qui en découle…
A l’heure où se croisent en France les 30 ans de la marche pour l’égalité et contre le racisme et les 40 ans de la grève du Mouvement des travailleurs arabes, on aurait dû multiplier les tribunes pour rappeler les 30 ans d’enfermement de Georges Abdallah.
Il n’est pas trop tard ! Beaucoup déjà tentent de faire entendre la voix de Georges et son combat qui est aussi le nôtre à tous, en France, en Europe, au Maghreb, en Amérique latine, dans les pays arabes… Beaucoup travaillent à lutter encore et toujours… Il faut les rejoindre, il faut construire le rapport de force. Il nous faut créer des solidarités nationales et internationales pour que cessent l’hégémonie étatique, la dictature du fric, le continuum colonial et le racisme d’état. Il nous faut marcher de front pour libérer nos frères, nos camarades, nos potes de lutte.
Chacun dans son coin nous n’arriverons à rien, comme le dit si bien Georges :
« C’est ensemble et qu’ensemble que nous vaincrons ! »
RDV le 26 octobre 2013 à 14 h
Manifestation nationale devant la geôle siono-sinistre de Lannemezan afin d’exiger la libération immédiate de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah !


Posted in France, LebanonComments Off on Georges Ibrahim Abdallah : la France détient un des plus vieux prisonniers politiques d’Europe

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