Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fwd: Continuing Political crisis in Egypt

Continuing turmoil in Egypt

Some URLs of my articles and in full the first article of 2 Feb , 2011 at the end 

Cheers Gajendra Singh

Peoples Revolt in Egypt ;Birth Pangs of a New Middle East!

This Arab revolt is against Washington unlike the WWI British engineered against Istanbul


"Don't knock your head against it," received wisdom in the Arab world on unarmed people taking on powerful regimes , "You are just fighting a mountain." 


In a revolutionary stage ,once the fear of authority disappears ,like virginity it cannot be undone nor repaired –Anon


"In earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people-" Zbigniew Brzezinski  Former U.S. National Security Advisor


"There is no concern at the moment about the stability of the Egyptian government."Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israel's new intelligence chief to Knesset members the day hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets .


 "Saddam Hussein", replied Iranian President Rafsanjani in Tehran in 1990 ,when Rajiv Gandhi enquired ," Who will replace Saddam Hussein?"


Max Weber-. Power flows from the barrel of a gun but authority is rooted in legitimacy


Feb 2, 2011

It is quite clear that Egypt has started a revolutionary process  a week ago in the Middle East with almost one million Egyptians out is streets in Cairo (Maidane-Tahrir - freedom square ), Alexandria and elsewhere . After the brutality by Egypt's notorious security police in which over 100 people have died and many hundreds injured , the military , consisting of conscripted soldiers ,which is now out in the streets  has allowed peaceful demonstrations .


With a population of over 80 million , centre of gravity , prime mover and leader of Sunni Arabs, Egypt ,never had this kind of spontaneous revolt by the people , called Fallahin , down trodden and mostly ruled by foreigners including queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti . 


The author was posted to Cairo in end 1962  to learn Arabic and then took over as Assistant Press Attache.


Egypt was then the centre of resurgent Arab world under nationalist –socialist President Gamal Abdul Nasser and at the forefront of non-aligned movement along with India and Yugoslavia , in decolonization of nations from Western colonial repressive rule and exploitation. Egypt and India have moved on since then but there still remains close relationship between the peoples of the two countries , with rich cultural traditions .There are many common traits including laziness ( baad bokra ;after tomorrow ,when promised work is not done and Maalish –never mind) and obligatory tipping (baksheesh).


Nasser and his group of young officers who had overthrown the corrupt Albanian origin dynasty in 1952 were full of respect for Nehru , who sometimes alone or with the Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito would explain to them the intricacies of history and international relations and the exploitation of the Asian and African countries by European colonial powers .It was perhaps the best period of Egypt and Nasser's era  World leaders like Chou en Lai , Khrushchev (to open the Aswan dam financed by Moscow ) and others visited Cairo.


The masses were happiest with social justice and equitable economic progress .Since the end of Nasser era under IMF laid down policies, rich have become richer and poor poorer in Egypt .The corruption , lack of transparency and accountability around the world has been accompanied by upsurge in staple food prices on the London, New York and Chicago commodity exchanges. These price hikes are in large part the result of speculative trade by major financial and corporate agribusiness interests. These are leading to riots all around the world .In Egypt in particular and Muslim countries in general, a population increase of 3% has meant stagnant economies and rising unemployment and poverty .


Mubarak has lost legitimacy and support from Turkey and Washington


Violent street protests are not new to Cairo. Egyptians have taken to the streets every decade or so, to protest against cuts to subsidies or poor salaries. The last major demonstration was by the rank and file of the security forces against the extension of military service in 1986.


But this new intifada is different. The riots are the trigger that Egyptian society has long awaited .

There has never been anything like this in Egypt's history .


Yes there are some similarities with Iran's  Shia revolution n 1979.Like the Shah of Iran , president Hosni Mubarak , ruling like a Pharaoh for 30 years and until the revolt, was planning to place his son Gamal on the throne (Mubaraks' family and some other fat cats have reportedly flew out of Cairo ) .In 1970s Iran , all were opposed to Shah's US backed regime with CIA trained hated Savak . Ayatollah Khomeini provided that unflinching moral and spiritual bulwark against the Shah's armed-to-the-teeth military machine and his capacity to deny whatever concessions were demanded, and what was held out in the end was too little too late. So the naming of a vice-president , an air force general like Mubarak , chief of the hated security service and a new prime minister with a new cabinet is not acceptable to the aroused Egyptians . Unlike 1979, Washington has distanced itself away from Mubarak and has been hinting that he quit.


In post 1979 Iran , many Iranians who opposed the hard line clerics and their killjoy agenda were eliminated, forced to flee or went underground. Even in 1980, disenchanted, only one fourth of Iranians went to the parliamentary polls. Expectedly, many clerics, some even senior to Khomeini, like Shariatmadari, favored political parties and more freedoms. But by sheer force, the radical conservatives took over power, sometimes in spite of Khomeini. This is being mentioned in case the Muslim brotherhood finally takes over .


Mohamed ElBaradei ,former head of the International Atomic Agency , who has been leading the opposition to Mubarak regime since he retired two years ago is one of the known faces of those leading the current protests .But then there were many liberal politicians thrown up after the Shah of Iran fled Tehran in 1979.


The political architecture after Mubarak is not easy to predict but democracy as defined and not as practiced say in USA and India might not come about any time soon .The Egyptian armed forces are well entrenched since 1952 and powerful as in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan , China and military-industry complex in USA.


In Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, west aligned mafias have literally taken over .In Romania , after the spontaneous students revolt in end 1989 , the old dissident Communist group sidelined by Ceausescu took over the 'revolution'. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square popular opposition and revolt , military backed Communist party remains entrenched in China. But China was at least making economic progress. Egypt's economy is stagnant.


So it should not be forgotten that the British and then the US encouraged and even financed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt , Syria and elsewhere  with Riyadh providing the Wahabi/Salafi ideology and ample petrodollars ( to Jihadi and terrorist organisations in south west Asia and elsewhere too)


These groups were propped up to counter nationalist and socialist policies of Arab leaders led by Nasser and others, with full support from Saudi Arabia . After the fall of the Berlin Wall , the socialist ideology has been as if confined to ghetto , its space has been filled by Muslim Brother hood and Islamist AKP in Turkey. They begin with helping out the poor in slums and promoting veils and other symbols of orthodox and extremist Muslim ideology and are soon helped financially by Saudi Arabia .


Even before Turkey's AKP led by Erdogan was elected to power , in spite of a very austere and transparent public display of honesty as the mayor of Istanbul, he was accused by Turkey's oldest corporate house chief Koc of having many tens of millions of dollars .Wikileaks have reportedly claimed that Erdogan has many fat accounts in Swiss Banks .In any case , Riyadh has extended full financial support to AKP directly and by investing in AKP strongholds ( In any case it is safer than in USA) thus helping out Islamists.


While it is too early to predict the shape of things to emerge in post Mubarak era, the power flowing to Muslim Brotherhood cannot be ruled out. Nor the democratic reform of one and last election as promised by the Islamist National Salvation Front in Algeria in 1992 , when it was feared that it will wins hands down after the first round and was stopped in its tracks .


In any case why not let the Sunni Islamists take over as did the Shias in Iran and learn that 7th century ideology and solutions cannot resolve the problems of 21st century.




In July of 2010, a major international poll regarding public opinion in the Arab world ie from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates showed that while Obama was well received upon entering the Presidency, with 51% expressing optimism about U.S. policy in the region in the Spring of 2009, by Summer 2010, 16% were expressing optimism. In 2009, 29% of those polled said a nuclear-armed Iran would be positive for the region; in 2010, that spiked to 57%, reflecting a very different stance from that of their governments. In an open question asking which two countries pose the greatest threat to the region, 88% responded with Israel, 77% with America, and 10% with Iran, which the West demonises as the main threat.


In a macro-analyses of the current history , the US led Western quagmire in Iraq is the millennia game changer event like the Ottoman siege and defeat during 16-17 centuries at the Gates of Vienna by European powers .The Ottomans had many minor successes after that but were finally rolled back to the confines of present day Turkey .After the collapse of USSR and fall of the Berlin Wall .Washington had a run of Eurasia .


But in the last few years it has been rolled back from Ukraine and Uzbekistan , its ally Georgia bashed by Moscow in 2008 and its troops are just about clinging on to Kyrgyzstan air force base . What does future hold in Afghanistan for US led West . It is a lose-lose situation with the loss of obedient puppets in Tunis and Cairo and possibly elsewhere with food riots in Jordan and change of prime minster in Amman .Palestinians make up 60 percent of Jordan's population . PLO militants and Palestinian army officers conspired against King Hussein (King Abdullah, his grandfather, was assassinated by a Palestinian in 1951), who expelled the Arafat-led PLO to Beirut in the early 1970s. Then there is an Islamist revolt simmering in Algeria since the elections were undone in 1992 .


It is as if Washington is losing its own 'near abroad' in Middle East and happy hunting and oil milking ground .What about Saudi Arabia , the oil gushing golden goose ?.Also a Alevi Shia ruling minority in Syria and potential for western mischief making elsewhere .Beijing and Moscow might be much relieved at the unfolding of Washington's strategic deficit and discomfiture .Israel might be like a cat on a hot tin roof, with peace treaties with Egypt and even Jordan on line.


At  the time of  US led illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was much anger and hand ringing in the Arab and Muslim street around the world .Before 2003 it would have been inconceivable for the Arabs to rise successfully .Many such incipient revolts , the ballot box based one in Algeria were  quashed . Can Washington now send GIs to intimidate hostile people and regimes .Moscow remains a sympathetic spectator but will become apprehensive if religious tendencies and parties take over the region and pan out.


The Arab Islam Bedouin hordes coming out of the arid deserts of Arabia had easily conquered the lands of Byzantine and Persian empires under whom the Arab people and lands fell , because after many centuries of warfare ,the two empires had exhausted themselves .


After the Cold War lasting for half a century , the Soviet Union collapsed , because of the unsupportable defense expenditure to counter US led West's expanding program , which the west has pursued expanding its influence in Russia's near abroad including Kyrgyzstan adjoining China's Turkic Uighur province of Xinjiang .


Washington now spends over $ 700 billion on defense as much as the rest of the world and has an advrse tarde balance of $400 or so .Its debts amount to 12 trillion not much less than its GDP .This situation in untenable .


The last Arab revolt was masterminded by the perfidious British against Ottoman Sultan Caliph  during  WWI to detach Arab territories from Istanbul's control, when Istanbul sided with Germany, Britain, to protect its Indian possession and the Suez Canal lifeline, encouraged Arabs under Hashemite ruler Sharif Hussein of Hijaj to revolt against the caliph in Istanbul (and deputed spy T E Lawrence to help him). The war's end did not bring freedom to the Arabs as promised; at the same time, by secret Sykes-Picot agreement, the British and French arbitrarily divided the sultan's Arab domains and their warring populations of Shi'ites, Sunnis, Alawite Muslims, Druse, and Christians. The French took most of greater Syria, dividing it into Syria and Christian-dominated Lebanon. The British kept Palestine, Iraq and the rest of Arabia.


This time around the Arabs revolt is against Washington's domination and exploitation of their energy and other resources .


Egypt might join France, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran , and emerge as a modern nation from the crucible of revolution. The other people ,of Hindustan ,are unlikely to do so , where the regime is no less corrupt , but corruption is decentalised and 'democratised'. Seventy percent of the poor on less than a dollar have been conditioned by Brahmanical dharma that it is their Karma for sins in past lives .


Perhaps time has come for an epochal change to come about in the world, quickening of transfer of power from the West to East in post Cold war period and West's hubris laden triumphal celebration of 'the end of history.'


K Gajendra Singh served as ambassador of India to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he was ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. Apart from postings in Dakar, Paris, Bucharest , the author spent his diplomatic career in North Africa , Middle east and Turkic countries ( ten years in Turkey in two tenures ).


He spent 1976 with National Defence college , New Delhi , established the Foreign Service Institute for training of diplomats ( 1987-89), was chairman / managing director of IDPL , India's largest Drugs and Pharmaceuticals company ( 1985  and 1986 ) and while posted at Amman( 1989-92) evacuated nearly 140,000 Indian nationals who had come from Kuwait. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies.


Friday, June 28, 2013

In Senegal, Obama touches Goree, port for ferrying African slaves to America

In Senegal, Obama touches Goree, port for ferrying African slaves to America
"Africans have been largely disappointed, especially when they look at the focus on Africa by the previous presidents. They therefore have a feeling that President Obama is still not in tune with the emerging continent," Mwangi S. Kimenyi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Afro-American Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Obama, who while being forced to withdraw from the quagmire of Iraq and Afghanistan, grave yard of invading empires began his African visit from Senegal. He will also visit South Africa, where he does not expect a warm welcome since US administrations were the main backers of the apartheid regime which imprisoned Mandela for 27 years, now fighting for survival for life under ventilator.
Expectedly Obama went over to island of Goree , south of Senegal's  capital Dakar .He  looked across the Atlantic Ocean as he stood in a "stone doorway of no return ' at Gorée Island, which was a major port  for ships ferrying to America African slaves like cattle in shackles. He spent about a half-hour inside the slave house on the edge of the water, walking quietly with his wife, Michelle Obama, a descendant of slaves, by his side.
Do not expect any change in Obama's policies, since the first Black in the White House is but a product of Chicago's Jewish political machine and electorally financed by banksters, military-industry, energy and other corporate interests .He supported by almost direct intervention, demise of President Qaddafi's welfare state now in tatters and in violent chaos, to benefit US and EU energy and other interests .USA has also been intervening in the civil war in Syria.
The author was posted at Dakar  (1978-81) .Extracts from one of his visits to Goree .
A few miles from Senegal's capital Dakar in west Africa, lies the island of Goree, which long served as a thriving entrepot for European slavers to herd Africans from the hinterland, mostly helped by rival tribes , to be sorted out like cattle for export to the new continent of Americas, to labour there as domestics or in plantations. 
When posted at Dakar in late 1970s I went over to Goree many times, now a small, picturesque town and a UNESCO heritage site with museums including ' The Maison des Esclaves '("Slave House"), which was constructed in1786 , which displays slavery artifacts, and the Fort d'Estrées built in the 1850s.  
Once I chanced on a jazz festival there to which some well known and rising young talents, mostly from USA had come over to participate .Many others also came to West Africa in search of their roots .A few hundred miles south of Dakar is river Gambia, the locale for the book 'The Roots'. 
There were colourful and lively Jazz bands vying with each other. But there was one young girl whose singing left a searing imprint on my soul, as if after visiting the museum and the dungeons below ,where Black Africans were chained like animals ,she had transmuted into music the bruising of their souls , tortures and suffering of centuries - free human beings turned into animals ,sold and bartered like any other commodity. Even now a flash of that wailing music, the cry of a caged soul pierces down my spine.  
All that Jazz; 
The enslaved from West Africa, isolated both socially and geographically from their native environment created the jazz music as an expression of their culture, borrowing from European harmonic structure, Christian religious hymns but based on African rhythms. The white hunter, forbidden to enslave other Christians invented the lie that he was enslaving a savage , converting him into a Christian to save his soul (as now a days , under the charade of globalization, US led West is saving the world's poor in Asia and Africa from poverty!) This allowed the enslaved to invent a music which diverged widely, even violently from all previous canons of musical composition and performance, as if in defiance to grab at the opportunity and the freedom .In the only domain he was his own master, improvisation ran riot as it still does. Indian classical music too is rooted in improvisation, which respects all religions, with performers though respected, used to be poor. The Indian and black musicians soon discover many affinities when they come together. 
From the very beginnings and at the turn of the 20th century Jazz has been a constantly evolving, expanding and changing music, passing through several distinctive phases of development. A definition that might apply to one phase—for instance, to New Orleans style or swing—is not applicable to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz. It has used both creative approaches in varying degrees and endless permutations. It is not—and never has been—an entirely composed, predetermined music, nor is it an entirely extemporized one.  
Early definition of jazz music with its chief characteristic improvisation, made it too restrictive, since composition, arrangement, and ensemble were also essential components throughout most of its history. Similarly, syncopation and swing, often considered essential and unique to jazz, are in fact lacking in much authentic jazz. But despite diverse terminological confusions, jazz seems to be instantly recognized and distinguished as something separate from all other forms of musical expression. To repeat Armstrong's famous reply when asked what swing meant: "If you have to ask, you'll never know."  
New Orleans exposes putrid underbelly of corporate greed; 
Across the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from Goree lies the city of New Orleans , where the slaves taken from West Africa, first mostly to Caribbean , worked themselves out on British sugar plantations  and later taken to colonial tobacco and cotton plantations in north America. 
But the scenes in New Orleans, the Mississippi delta and elsewhere in South as telecast and reported by the media convey that little has changed for these unfortunate human beings.  From time to time they cry out and explode as in the Watts riots forty years ago. Fire and anger remains bottled.  
Commenting on the handling of Hurricane Katrina a senior US officer in far off Iraq said "If anything ,I am kind of embarrassed.'' We are supposed to be telling the Iraqis how to act and this is what`s happening at home?" He further added that still he'd rather be in Iraq than in New Orleans right now! A  National Guard member who returned to New Orleans from Iraq said that New Orleans was worse than Iraq. –
Full article below.
K.Gajendra Singh ,28 June, 2013,Mayur Vihar, Delhi 91.
After Iraq, Nature's Backlash Warns America Inc. (Katrina 2005 disaster and its colossal mishandling)                          

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Syria: The Faces Behind The Terror

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is a very perceptive and original analyst of international affairs , a diffficult task in USA , which is becoming fascist in its outlook on human freedoms and with petro wealth of Saudi Arabia and GCC countries creator of mayhem and terrorism around the world. A neocon-Wahabi volatile cocktail. .

Washington perhaps thinks that its outpost  Israel in Middle East can serve its strategic role of gendarme , which Shah's Iran did till 1979 .But Its regime change in Iraq after the 2003 US led  illegal invasion has only strengthened Tehran .US objectives will not be fulfilled elsewhere ,Turkey under unsophisticated and bludgeon wielding AKP rulers have got into a holy mess by intervening in Syria , arousing anger of young and secular citzens , Alevis and hopes of Kurds unlikely to be fullfilled . What a mess in greater Middle east.

Please read below Soraya's  piece  from another perspective.


Syria: The Faces Behind The Terror

America's efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated byAmar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF). Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies. 


by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

In her extraordinarily bold and direct speech addressed to the Irish Parliament, Clare Daly (TD, Dublin North) called Obama a "war criminal" and "hypocrite of the century".  
In describing the fawned reception of Obama in Ireland akin to pimping and prostituting of that nation,  Ms. Daly hit the nail on the head. Sadly, America dwarfs Ireland and elsewhere in the undignified category of prostitution – the 29 standing ovations from Congress in May 2011 for war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu attests to this tragic fact.
While Daly was quite right in censuring Obama for his criminal policies, including aiding terrorists in Syria, it is worthwhile noting that Obama is merely a willing instrument; the  faces and factors behind his handlers and the policies merit greater scrutiny and exposure.  
Israeli Gen.Amos Yadlin
Backing and arming the so-called Syrian opposition distracts from the threat posed by Israel and its expansionist agenda by internalizing the enemy in order to weaken the State.    As former Israeli Intelligence Chief, Amos Yaldin  told the audience at the  Israel Policy Forum in February 2013:  "And this military [Syrian], which is a huge threat to Israel, is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating.  We still have risk from Syria– a risk of being an AlQaeda country, a Somalia-type country — but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army."
Perpetuating adversaries to kill each other is a time-tested tactic – one which was used during the bloody eight year Iran-Iraq war;  a war which according to Leon Wieseltier[i] was a  "distraction" when Israeli boots were on the ground in Southern Lebanon.   In that war,  the United States was providing arms and intelligence to both sides.    When asked what the logic was in aiding both sides in the bloody war, a former official replied: "You had to have been there"[ii].   But why Syria?
The Need for Water
The primary goal of the early Zionist leadership was to control and secure the region's waters.  At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Chaim Weizmann declared that 'it was of vital importance not only to secure all water resources feeding the country, but to control them at the sources – and the development of these waters became the primary aim of the Yishuv as a whole[iii].    This policy remained in place. As Israel's third Prime Minister Levi Eshkol put it, water was "the blood flowing through the arteries of the nation". 
Syrians stare terror in the face
As previously stated (HERE and HERE), the chaos we witness in Syria today has been in the making for years with the aid and backing of Israel-firsters in order to accommodate Israel's agenda – expansion and control of regional water supplies while weakening its adversary/ies.
Israel faced one of its worst droughts in 1990-91.  A second more serious drought in 1998, forced it to turn to water rich Turkey.  Turkey and Israel engaged in serious negotiations starting in May 2000 to import 50 billion cubic meters of fresh water from Turkey using tanker ships, but using tankers was not cost effective for the transport of water.  Alternate plans were suggested.
In September 2000,  the same year that young Bashar-al Assad succeeded his father as President of Syria, a strategy paper entitled "The Geopolitics of Water" by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) opined that "Since extensive water planning proposals will necessitate the establishment of pipelines and energy grids stretching across borders, a political and military structure that can ensure the safety and security of the carriers will be the prerequisite to effective water sharing" ….. "But an effective regional system would require political-military cooperation against Syria".

How to achieve this?

Israeli-Firsters to the rescue
Haim Saban (right) with Shimon Peres, Ted Koppel, and Bill Clinton at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem 2006. Saban has given more than $10 million to the Clintons…which buys a lot of clout…
 Media mogul Haim Saban became involved in politics in the mid 1990's with a view to support Israel.  Saban professes that his greatest concern is the "protection" of Israel.   At a conference in Israel, Saban described his method of influencing American politics : 'Make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets'. (Saban penned an opinion piece in The New York Times in support of President Obama in his 2012 re-election bid). 
It was no surprised therefore that in 2002, Saban pledged $13 million to start a research organization at the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  Saban Center would play an important role in propping up Syrian opposition (as it did in fermenting unrest post-2009 Iran elections with their June 2009 publication titled: "Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Towards Iran"[1]).
In 2006,  Time Magazine revealed that that the US had been agitating, funding, and supporting "opposition" in Syria.  According to the Time,  the U.S.  was  "supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists" in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that "these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists."  
It is worthwhile mentioning here that America's support of the so-called  "opposition" which includes criminals, terrorists, and foreign fighters to effect regime change underscores America's stark hypocrisy.   According to 18 USC § 2385 – Advocating overthrow of Government (Cornell Law), advocating the overthrow of the government, 'organizing or help or attempt to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence' bears serious consequences including fines and prison sentence of up to 20 years.
What is most revealing about the abovementioned Time Magazine piece of 2006 is that America's efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF).   Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies.  
When in  2008, Israel-firster Dennis Ross met with the "opposition" to discuss "Syria in Transition", Saban's fellow – Amar Abdullhamid  was present.   In February 2009, Dennis Ross joined the Obama Administration team.  In April  2009, the US funded, London-based Baraada TV started its anti-Assad propaganda into Syria (The epicenter of the uprisings' was Baraada over water distribution).  Baraada  TV's  chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile groupMovement for Justice and Development headed by Anas al-Abdah who was in attendance at the 2008 meeting with Dennis Ross. 
It came as no surprise that John McCain who was a member of the  Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) formed to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, and a cheerleader for the Libya intervention, the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak, for bombing Iran, and so on…..visited Syrian "opposition" (via Turkey) in order to encourage more bloodshed.  And expectedly, he was de-briefed — not at the White House, but at the Saban Center! 
McCain with Syrian Rebel Leader
Soon after McCain's presentation at the Saban Center, the White House disputed UN's account and claimed that that Syria had crossed the 'red line' and used chemical weapons.
It is not the intention of this article to exclude the plethora of other individuals, think tanks, forums, and media pundits who have institutionalized Israel's policies and promoted them as 'America's  interests'; these are too numerous to mention here.   However, a notable other Israel supporter must be named.
The Evangelical Factor
One of the most successful endeavors of propaganda in support of Zionist Israel has been the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian movement. (CUFI)
While various groups in Washington perpetuate and support Israel's aggressive and expansionist policies — at a cost to America, none have the zeal and the zest of the Evangelicals who support Israel to death.   According to the dispensational model, a time of turmoil lies ahead, but believers will be "raptured" away before it begins. This period of tribulation will culminate in the final battle at Armageddon, a valley northwest of Jerusalem. 
The close association between American evangelicals and Israel has been a clear goal of Israeli politicians, especially those in the Likud party. According to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of AJC, "the evangelical community is the largest and fastest-growing bloc of pro-Jewish sentiment in this country"[iv].   Israel and Jewish  organizations continue to  rely on the support of Evangelicals to justify Israel's occupation of Arab land even as  Christian Zionists zest for evangelizing Jews remains a point of tension.  
For example, within days of the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon (with a green light from Reagan), full-page ads appeared in leading papers requesting Evangelical support for the invasion[v].  In 1998, when Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, he met with Jerry Falwell and numerous fundamentalist Christians before meeting with President Clinton.  Similarly, as recently as April 2013, Pat Robertson warned that brokering  peace between Israel and Palestine would bring  punishment on America.   
It has been alleged that funds raised in America by right wing Christians was funneled to West Bank settlements.  The mayor of Ariel on the West Bank had estimated that two thirds of all Jewish settlements were funded by Christian Zionists.[vi]
Building for Armageddon?
While Evangelicals (not all) are rupture-ready and encourage Israel's expansionist agenda, Israeli politicians are not yet Armageddon-ready; at least, not yet.
In March 2013, Business Inside revealed that the United States is spending hundreds of millions of dollars building bunkers in Israel due to be completed 900 days from February 13, 2013.     The project called Site 911"will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security.  Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis".
Each door of the facility will have a detailed description of the mezuzahs written in "in-erasable ink".
This should be heartwarming news to Americans whose taxes are spent on such projects while the bridges at home are crumbling.
The future
The political establishment and the media have pimped out the nation.  The list of conflicts awaiting us is long and bloody.  Syria will not be the last conflict.   This has been a brief and incomplete overview of what drives our nation, and where we are headed, the handlers and the willing instruments (in the words of Clare Daly, pimps and prostitutes).  We continue to sink our head in sand and hope for a hero – for 'something to happen'.   There is only one hope for the future, and the only one power that can alter this destructive path:   "We, The People".

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master's in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg for Communication. She is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy.

[1] Chapter 6 reads: "The United States could play multiple roles in facilitating a revolution. By funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime, the United States could create an alternative leadership to seize power. As Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee argues, students and other groups "need covert backing for their demonstrations. They need fax machines. They need Internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep vigilantes from beating them up." Beyond this, US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent. The United States already supports Persian language satellite television (Voice of America Persian) and radio (Radio Farda) that bring unfiltered news to Iranians (in recent years, these have taken the lion's share of overt US funding for promoting democracy in Iran). US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership……"
[i] Wieseltier, Leon, "Israel meets Iran in Lebanon; The Wrong War", The New Republic, Apr 8, 1985
[ii] Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and Iran-Iraq War,   citing Stephen Engelberg, "Iran and Iraq Got 'Doctored Data, U.S. Officials Say," New York Times, 12 Jan. 1987, pp. A1, A6. 
[iii] Jan Selby, "Water, Power & Politics in the Middle East; The Other Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
[iv] Donald Wagner,  "Evangelicals and Israel: Theological roots of a political alliance", The Christian Century, Nov. 4, 1998).
[v] Donald Wagner,  "Evangelicals and Israel: Theological roots of a political alliance",  ibid
[vi] Colin Shindler, "Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship", Israeli Studies, March 31, 2000

Monday, June 24, 2013

Brazil Burning: The Story of an Illusion Gone Sour

Like Turkey and elsewhere Protests against Neo-liberal Crony Capitalism Erupt allover Brazil
The widespread long duration protests around the world, including USA, Turkey and elsewhere are against the neoliberal capitalism, which by crony capitalism and mounting inequalities, have reduced the electorates and masses to the level of slaves and serfs .It has now spread into Brazil acclaimed as a grand economic success story but the reality on the ground is quite different.
Peripatetic Brazilian journalist ,Pepe Escobar , one the best in the world and a friend since my days with Asia times , where he has the freedom to criticize Washington and its policies , unlike others , has written an insider's view about the discontent in Brazil which is not going to go away any time soon .Nor in Turkey , where its misplaced foreign entanglements and hotheaded leadership of  wannabe Sultan and caliph Erdogan  might even unravel the state , with its Kurds demanding autonomy and even independence like north Iraq and defacto autonomy in Syria's Kurdish areas south of Turkish/Syrian border . Even in Egypt , modern secular Egyptians are opposing tooth and nail the takeover by backward looking Muslim brotherhood .
Alas , no such wide spread protests in India , where submission to and within apartheid like caste system since millennia has killed even the will to protest .It is all God's will and result of deeds in previous births .India's faulty electoral system has produced Brahmins in each caste and sub-castes , who are the accommodated new ruling elite ,thus increasing caste divisions and cleavages further . Mulayam Singh won a thumping majority in last UP Assembly elections with 29% of votes cast, so Indian system is not even representative democracy, apart from its myriad faults and shortcomings.
Barring a few the political classes across the spectrum has become corrupt, callous and boorish.
Please read on Pepe's article on Brazil .
K.Gajendra Singh 23 June, 2013'
Brazil Burning: The Story of an Illusion Gone Sour

By Pepe Escobar
June 21, 2013 "Information Clearing House - Protests in Brazil indicate what goes way, way beyond a cheap bus fare.

When, in late 2010, Dilma Rousseff was elected President after eight years of the impossibly popular Lula, a national narrative was already ingrained, stressing that Brazil was not the "country of the future" anymore; the future had arrived, and this was a global power in the making.

This was a country on overdrive – from securing the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics to a more imposing role as part of the BRICS group of emerging powers.

Not unlike China, Brazil was breathlessly exploiting natural resources – from its hinterland to parts of Africa – while betting heavily on large agribusiness mostly supplying, you guess it, China. 

But above all Brazil fascinated the world by incarnating this political UFO; a benign, inclusive giant, on top of it benefitting from a lavish accumulation of soft power (music, football, beautiful beaches, beautiful women, endless partying). 

The country was finally enjoying the benefits of a quarter of a century of participative democracy – and self-satisfied that for the past ten years Lula's extensive social inclusion policies had lifted arguably 40 million Brazilians to middle class status. Racial discrimination at least had been tackled, with instances of the Brazilian version of affirmative action.

Yet this breakneck capitalist dream masked serious cracks. Locally there may be euphoria for becoming the sixth or seventh world economy, but still social exclusion was far from gone. Brazil remained one the most (deadly) unequal nations in the world, peppered with retrograde landowning oligarchies and some of the most rapacious, arrogant and ignorant elites on the planet – inevitable by-products of ghastly Portuguese colonialism.
Students take  part in a demonstration at Praca da Se, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Miguel Schincariol)
And then, once again, corruption raised its Hydra-like head. Here's a first parallel with Turkey. In Brazil as in Turkey, participative democracy was co-opted, ignored or forcefully diluted among an orgy of "mega-projects" generating dubious profits for a select few. In Turkey it revolves around the ruling party AKP's collusion with business interests in the "redevelopment" of Istanbul; in Brazil around public funds for the hosting of the World Cup and the Olympics. 
The new capitalist dream could not mask that the quality of life in Brazil's big cities seemed to be on a downward spiral; and that racism – especially in the police – never went away while the demonization of peasant and Native Brazilian leaders was rampant; after all they were obstructing the way of powerful agribusiness interests and the "mega-projects"craze. 

What can a poor boy do

There's no Turkey Spring – as there's no Brazilian Spring. This isn't Tunisia and Egypt. Both Turkey and Brazil are democracies – although Prime Minister Erdogan has clearly embarked on a polarizing strategy and an authoritarian drive. What links Turkey and Brazil is that irreversible pent-up resentment against institutional politics (and corruption) may be catalyzed by a relatively minor event. 
In Turkey it was the destruction of Gezi park; in Brazil the ten-cent hike in public bus fares was the proverbial straw that broke the (white) elephant's back. In both cases the institutional response was tear gas and rubber bullets. In Turkey the popular backlash spread to a few cities. In Brazil it went nationwide. 
This goes way, way beyond a cheap bus ride - although the public transport scene in Brazil's big cities would star in Dante's ninth circle of hell. A manual worker, a student, a maid usually spend up to four hours a day back-and-forth in appalling conditions. And these are private transport rackets controlled by a small group of businessmen embedded with local politicians, who they obviously own.  
Students protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Daniel Guimaraes)
Arguably the nationwide, mostly peaceful protests have scored a victory – as nine cities have decided to cancel the bus fare hike. But that's just the beginning.
The mantra is true; Brazilians pay developed world taxes and in return get sub-Saharan Africa quality of service (no offense to Africa). The notion of "value for money" is non-existent. It gets even worse as the economic miracle is over. That magical "growth" was less than 1% in 2012, and only 0.6% in the first quarter of 2013. The immensely bloated state bureaucracy, the immensely appalling public infrastructure, virtually no investment in education as teachers barely get paid $300 a month, non-stop political corruption scandals, not to mention as many homicides a year as narco-purgatory Mexico – none of this is going away by magic.
Football passion apart – and this is a nation where everyone is either an expert footballer or an experienced coach – the vast majority of the population is very much aware the current Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup are monster FIFA rackets. As a columnist for the Brazilian arm of ESPN has coined it, "the Cup is theirs, but we pay the bills."
Public opinion is very much aware the Feds played hardball to get the "mega-events" to Brazil and then promised rivers of "social" benefits in terms of services and urban development. None of that happened. Thus the collective feeling that"we've been robbed" – all over again, as anyone with a digital made in China calculator can compare this multi-billion dollar orgy of public funds for FIFA with pathetically little investment in health, education, transportation and social welfare. A banner in the Sao Paulo protests said it all; "Your son is ill? Take him to the arena."
A demonstrator holds a Brazilian national flag during a protest turned violent, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on June 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Christophe Simon)

Remember "Standing Man"

The neo-liberal gospel preached by the Washington consensus only values economic "growth" measured in GDP numbers. This is immensely misleading; it does not take into account everything from rising expectations for more participative democracy to abysmal inequality levels, as well as the despair of those trying to just survive (as in the orgy of expanded credit in Brazil leaving people to pay annual interest rates of over 200% on their credit cards).
So it takes a few uprooted trees in Istanbul and a more expensive shitty bus ride in Sao Paulo to hurl citizens of the"emerging markets" into the streets. No wonder the Brazilian protests left politicians - and "analysts" - perplexed and speechless. After all, once again this was people power – fueled by social media - against the 1%, not that dissimilar from protests in Spain, Portugal and Greece. 
Unlike Erdogan in Turkey – who branded Twitter "a menace" and wants to criminalize social networking - to her credit Rousseff seems to have listened to the digital (and street) noise, saying on Tuesday that Brazil "woke up stronger"because of the protests.
The Brazilian protests are horizontal. Non-partisan; beyond party politics. No clear leaders. It's a sort of Occupy Brazil – with a cross-section of high-school and college students, poor workers who struggle to pay their bus fare, vast swathes of the tax-swamped middle class who cannot afford private health insurance, even homeless people, who after all already live in the streets. Essentially, they want more democracy, less corruption, and to be respected as citizens, getting at least some value for their money in terms of public services. 
The die is cast. Once again, it's people power vs. institutional politics. Remember "Standing Man" in Taksim Square. The time to take a stand is now.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.
Violent Clashes in Brazil as 2 Million Protest
Brazil Protests: Student voices
What's your response? -  Scroll down to add / read comments 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Violently suppressed Taksim Square protests ; Turkey’s Tunisian Moment, Possibly!

Violently suppressed Taksim Square protests ; Turkey's Tunisian Moment, Possibly!
I am quite familiar with Taksim Square in Istanbul, a bit like Maidan Tahrir, Cairo, the continuing venue of protests in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak and now against the Muslim Brotherhood .The protests in Turkey's dozens of main cities and in sympathy in Europe and USA are the edge of the wedge against PM Recep Erdogan Islamising and polarizing policies in a secular republic in place since 1923.
The ruling AKP won on the basis of billions of US dollars provided in investments and gifts by Saudi Arabia etc as a front against rising power and influence of Shia Iran , Shia led Govt in Baghdad and Alawite ruled Sunni Syria and the battle tested Hezbollah in Lebanon .
Erdogan's AKP won almost 2/3 seats in the Parliament ( of 550) with about 50% of votes in June 2011 elections when he had expected to do better .If you are really interested in the back ground read my article hosted by over 40 websites .
Some notable extracts are
"In Turkey no PM can keep his reign for more than a decade "Adnan Menderes (prime minister from 1950 to 1960), who was hanged in 1961 by the junta after the first coup d'état.
Erdogan was tried for utterances "Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers are our soldiers," convicted and jailed for 4 months. He had also said "Thank God, I am for Shariah," "For us, democracy is a means to an end." (Shades of Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria) and, "One cannot be a secularist and a Muslim at the same time." So his drive and passion makes people uneasy and scared .
Media in Turkey is highly suppressed .

I did not have a chance to meet with Erdogan, then a very successful mayor of Istanbul, who made his name for honesty .Of course unlike almost all non-Islamist parties, which had become mired in corruption, Erdogan did not need bribes. As early as August 2001, Rahmi Koç, chairman of Koç Holding, Turkey's largest and oldest conglomerate commented on CNN Türk that Erdoğan has a US$1 billion fortune and asked the source of his wealth. Erdogan has remained silent. 

According to WikiLeaks, Eric Edelman, the then U.S. ambassador to Turkey, wrote in a cable to Washington on Dec. 30, 2004. 

"We have heard from two contacts that Erdoğan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdoğan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame."
Erdogan's hot headedness in trying to enforce Islamist policies in private and public domain have infuriated the secular and even modest Muslims .His love for applause as in Egypt ( later rebuffed ) and Libya has led to a disastrous policy on Syria , where Qatar is providing arms to Muslim brotherhood as in Egypt and the destructive obscurantist Saud Dynasts to extremely blood thirsty groups as in Libya .
Erdogan and his FM Davutoglu 's policies could lead to the break up of Turkey and emergence a Kurdish state in near future . By his ill advised policies Edogan has humiliated the proud Turkish armed Forces by jailing over hundred senior retired and active military Generals . Who will fight if Syrian fires comes into Turkey .
Or if the current volcano of protests bursts beyond the control of muscular police forces whose brutality has been noted and condemned all over the world .
Read my two articles on Kurds and Alevis of Turkey .
I am very familiar with Taksim Square , like Delhi's  Ram Leela Grounds and India gate .
I invariably stayed at Marmara hotel at Taksim Square (1992-98 and in 1969-73 at another one nearby) and could look down at the activities below and from the opposite window Marmara Sea and Bosphorus with the Golden Horn .I preferred this hotel since I could walk down to the adjoining old and colourful Istiqlal caddesi (Road) full of eating places, other shops and general public strolling around shopping or eating. I will later relate how an Indian Admiral I took out for a walk there got his pocket picked .I never saw a faster Admiral on land but alas he could not catch the pickpocket.
Some articles and notes below on the subject.
Take care .K Gajendra Singh 3 June 2013.

K Gajendra Singh served as ambassador of India to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he was ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. Apart from postings in Dakar, Paris, Bucharest , the author spent his diplomatic career in North Africa , Middle east and Turkic countries ( ten years in Turkey in two tenures ).He spent 1976 with National Defence college , New Delhi , established the Foreign Service Institute for training of diplomats ( 1987-89), was chairman / managing director of IDPL , India's largest Drugs and Pharmaceuticals company ( 1985  and 1986 ) and while posted at Amman( 1989-92) evacuated nearly 140,000 Indian nationals who had come from Kuwait. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies  

PS; I was called for discussions on this subject by Hindi NDTV today at 2030 hrs . 

Protesters prepare for the long haul in Istanbul

ATUL ANEJA 3 June 2013
The protests in Turkey showed no signs of abating on the fourth consecutive day on Monday as protesters in Istanbul and other major cities fought pitched battles with the police who, taking their cue from a combative government, have shown no interest in a dialogue.
Protesters torched offices of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the early hours on Monday.
Unfazed by clashes with the police, who have been criticised by human rights groups and ordinary citizens for using excessive force, protesters are preparing for the long haul. At an avenue close to the Bosporus — an international trade artery that divides the Asian and European parts of Istanbul — protesters pulled out slabs of concrete from pavements and street signs to set up barricades.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News has reported that young die-hard football fans — experienced in facing tear gas barrages from the police during post-match violence — seem to have steeled the protests, which began four days ago after security forces broke up a gathering at Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square with baton charges and tear gas.
The gathering was to oppose a plan to the convert the Gezi Park in the area into a shopping mall. Analysts say pro-democracy activists saw it as an attempt to eliminate green spaces where peaceful protests can be staged. The perception that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was enforcing an Islamist agenda also seems to have reignited deep-seated anger among many in a country well-known for its deep Islamist-secularist divide. The secularists' fears of political Islam's deepening hold were reinforced by the government's recent move to curb alcohol sales. The tussle between the two contesting ideologies was put in the spotlight when the Prime Minister proposed the construction of a mosque in place of a cultural centre dedicated to modern Turkey's founding father Kamal Ataturk, an icon of secularism, reports the Hurriyet Daily News.
Refusing to see any merit in the protests, Mr. Erdogan attributed the upsurge of violence to the machinations of "extremist groups".
Consecutive victories
Leaving for Morocco on Monday, Mr. Erdogan said in no way were the protests a manifestation of popular opinion, citing the victory of the AKP in three consecutive elections.
The Prime Minister also launched a tirade against social media, which swiftly internationalised the protests linking them to the Arab Spring revolts in West Asia. Mr. Erdogan flayed the micro-blogging site Twitter for spreading "unmitigated lies". "There is a trouble called Twitter," said Mr. Erdogan as quoted by the Turkish daily Radikal. "The thing that is called social media is a troublemaker in societies today."
Amnesty International, the human-rights group, sharpened the international focus on the unfolding protests. "The use of tear gas against peaceful protesters and in confined spaces where it may constitute a serious danger to health is unacceptable, breaches international human rights standards and must be stopped immediately," said Amnesty in a statement.
The nation-wide reach of the protests was brought into focus when around 1,000 people seeking the Prime Minister's resignation braved teargas in Ankara on Monday. According to a count by Turkish Doctors Association, around 1,000 people have been injured during clashes in Istanbul and another 700 in Ankara.
Tension has also gripped the western province of Izmir and the province of Adana in the south.
Turkish Spring?
A violent police raid on a sit-in protesting plans to build a mall at Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 31, 2013, became a rallying point for anger over the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Cengiz Candar, who has covered historic events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, wrote that the protests most remind him of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Reporting from the streets of Istanbul, Candar commented: "What Tiananmen means for Beijing and Tahrir means for Cairo, Taksim means for Istanbul. That's why, although there have been no losses of lives so far, the incidents that erupted with brutal pepper gas attacks by police on a group of people who opposed the cutting of trees at Gezi Park, the incidents quickly lost relevance with the original grievance and shook the Erdogan government to the core like a massive earthquake."
( Full piece below)

Yavuz Baydar, also reporting from Istanbul, observed that the protests are directed at the perceived intrusive and polarizing policies of Prime Minister Erdogan, adding that those "who filled the streets were predominantly the young — with a mixture of seculars, socialists, Marxists, Kemalists, anarchists, nationalists, Alevis and Kurds — who manifested high emotions and resolve against what they saw as an insufferably authoritarian way of managing affairs." 
Erdogan, writes Tulin Daloglu from Ankara, "does not seem to be getting the message. While this protest may now turn ideological, it all started as a small gathering of about 500 people on Monday [May 27]. The reason it got out of control with massive protests in 10 other cities around the country — Adana, Konya, Tunceli, Mersin, Mugla, Marmaris, Izmit, Adana, Izmir, Van and Sivas — is that Erdogan has shown no culture of consensus-building with those who disagree with him."
Amberin Zaman wrote from Taksim Square: "Be it through restrictions on alcohol or disregard for the environment, people who do not share Erdogan's worldview are being made to feel like second-class citizens. The sentiment is especially strong among the country's large Muslim Alevi minority whose long-running demands for recognition continue to be spurned much as they were by past governments."
Mustafa Akyol,  leading a lively Twitter exchange on @AlMonitor on May 31 as events were exploding at Taksim, wrote: "For those who think in a simple democracy vs. dictatorship dichotomy, Turkey is a surprise: A democracy with many illiberal traits."
Zaman concludes on a similar note:  "Turkey is not on the brink of a revolution. A Turkish Spring is not afoot. Erdogan is no dictator. He is a democratically elected leader who has been acting in an increasingly undemocratic way."
Candar mostly agrees, but responds, "We can't anymore be sure of validity of any observations from now on. After Istanbul 31 May-1 June 2013 many things — including even the fate of Erdogan — will be unpredictable."
Regular readers of Turkey Pulse  are familiar with the diversity and depth of debate over Erdogan's perceived Islamic nanny-state policies and statements, government curbs on press freedoms and worries by some democracy advocates about the pending constitutional referendum.
And there is of course Syria, where Turkey's failed policies to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are unpopular and another source of friction.
In sum, whether we are witnessing a Turkish Spring or not, Erdogan is under pressure for his Islamism and perceived authoritarianism at home, and his sectarianism abroad.  His policies and rhetoric are promoting division rather than unity; this is especially dangerous given the troubles both on and within his borders.
Turkey's Velvet Revolution
ISTANBUL — I have been living in Istanbul for 40 years. I have never seen days like the last two in my city. I never thought I would be living through times like these.

I am writing these lines as a veteran of revolutionary situations and extraordinary days. Which one should I recall?  I am someone who was in East Berlin in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and stayed on for days to live those momentous days; after Berlin, I was in beautiful Prague to experience the Velvet Revolution; in 1987 and 1988, I witnessed the Palestinian intifada in Jerusalem, and in other towns of the West Bank and Gaza; I was there during those memorable days of August 1991 when Boris Yeltsin stood up on a tank but the military coup collapsed, Gorbachev returned to the capital and the Soviet Union disintegrated. And, finally, in I was in Beirut during the week of March 2005 when the Syrians evacuated Lebanon.
I can easily double the list of events I've observed. If I add the events of May 31 and June 1 in Istanbul to my list, which category should I put it in?
It reminded me most Prague's Velvet Revolution. For those who have some idea of Istanbul, let me tell you my meanderings: I approached the Taksim Square, the epicenter of Istanbul, from different directions. I approached the Taksim Gezi Park, the focal point of the protests, first via Istanbul Technical University's historical Taskisla School of Architecture. Then I went down toward the sea and came up to Taksim via Gumussuyu. I went to the Dolmabahce sea shore, walked to now a booming avant-garde art scene of Tophane and climbed up the famed Italian Hill and reached Cihangir. That was the neighborhood among the key centers of popular resistance. This is where Turkey's famous movie and soap opera stars, writers and bohemians live. I went down back to the seaside and climbed up to Galatasaray, Turkey's historical Francophone lycee, and from there to the heart of old Istanbul, the Istiklal Caddesi [avenue], the renown Rue de Pera of Ottoman centuries, now in the hands of the protesters.
In this area groups of three, five or 20, men and women, were walking in all directions, sometimes quietly sometimes chanting slogans; some were heading to Taksim and some coming from there.
The most noticeable feature of these people: their youth. Generally they were men and women in their late 20s or early 30s. Their common accessory of their age group as everywhere else in the world was their backpacks; dressed in shorts, T-shirts and sneakers on their feet.
Another amazing sight were fans of Turkey's top three most powerful and popular sports clubs — Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas — who for a long time have not been allowed to watch football together because of stadium violence; this time they walked together, arm in arm, all wearing their team colors.
On the Asian side of Istanbul, they were not just watching what was happening on the other side. On the morning of June 1, thousands of them marched 20 km of Bagdad caddesi, considered to be the Champs Elysees of the Asian side, crossed the 1,700-meter suspension bridge that links the two continents and two parts of the city and began climbing towards Taksim. The ferryboats between two parts of the city were filled with people trying to get to Taksim.
All the roads leading to the Gezi Park at Taksim Square, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ambition is to build a shopping mall, were under the police control. Erdogan's obstinacy surely gave the impression that he wasn't all that concerned with environmental issues.
Protesters, led particularly by artists, seem intent on not allowing the government to decide Gezi Park's fate a matter of honor. Future owners of the city, the youth of Istanbul were flowing to Taksim.
The sights of Istanbul resembled those of the Velvet Revolution when I lived at Prague — and of Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Because of suffocating smells of  pepper gas clouds over Taksim, I couldn't help to recall the 1989 June Fourth Incidents. I am wondering if the Taksim events will similarly be recorded in history.
Then I remembered Cairo's Tahrir Square of January 2011. What Tiananmen means for Beijing and Tahrir means for Cairo, Taksim means for Istanbul. That's why, although there have been no losses of lives so far, the incidents that erupted with  brutal pepper gas attacks by police on a group of people who opposed the cutting of trees at Gezi Park, the incidents quickly lost relevance with the original grievance and shook the Erdogan government to the core like a massive earthquake.
So much so that, the previous two nights' incidents of Istanbul spread to 48 cities of Turkey where there were at least 90 separate protests. In London, Turks marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to express solidarity. All the Turks at Venice Biennale gathered at San Marco plaza to support Istanbul. We even heard from Toronto.
A very rarely seen solidarity of cities, country and even abroad was born. Certainly this couldn't anymore be classified as  a protest action to save a few trees in Gezi Park. Such a widespread and energetic reaction was the manifestation of the accumulating anger against Erdogan.
It's not difficult diagnose why. Leave aside Erdogan's charisma and his popularity that went beyond Turkish borders, his increasing conceit and arrogance especially over the past two years and his assault on democracy with pepper gas brought about a major popular explosion that started from Istanbul and spread nationwide.
In the first hours of July 2, the government had lost control of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, three big cities. We are now facing a unique sight of unguided popular masses, rather than a controlled popular movement, taking over the daily life of cities. In that sense, Istanbul is not Prague's Velvet Revolution, not 1989 Tiananmen, not Beirut 2005 or 2011 Cairo. It's a situation without precedent and nobody knows how it will end.
My Al-Monitor colleague Amberin Zaman wrote: "Turkey is not on the brink of a revolution. A Turkish Spring is not afoot. Erdogan is no dictator. He is a democratically elected leader who has been acting in an increasingly undemocratic way. And as Erdogan himself acknowledged, his fate will be decided at the ballot box, not in the streets."
Clearly, we can't be sure of validity of any observations anymore. After these events, nothing — including even the fate of Erdogan — can be predictable.
Cengiz Candar is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. A journalist since 1976, he is the author of seven books in the Turkish language, mainly on Middle East issues, including the best-seller Mesopotamia Express: A Journey in History.