Sunday, 30 March 2014

Turkey to hit hard on its Geopolitical strategy

Turkey faces 'geography’s revenge' in Crimea

Turkey’s strategic environment has become even more complicated following the Russian annexation of Crimea. As the elections are round the corner in Turkey, Erdogan main focus would be on "strategic diplomacy". The job is tough - but Ankara seems determined to make its way, even if its shooting Syrian airplane down who was found violating Turkish airspace. 

Russia’s seizure of Crimea is a harbinger of a new Cold War that leaves Turkey facing complex situations on a number of fronts, requiring careful diplomatic and political management. Whether Ankara can rise to the occasion - given that the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is up to its neck, in what it sees as a "war of survival" against its political enemies at home - remains an open question.
No matter how tense the domestic situation may be, though, this is not a crisis that Turkey can afford to ignore or overlook, even if its ability to influence the course of events is limited, if indeed it exists at all.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has nevertheless spelled out Ankara’s “bottom line” as far as the legal position is concerned - over the way Russia wrestled the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine’s control - and this is largely in tune with the position of the West.
Davutoglu’s remarks reflect ambivalence with regard to Russia, a superpower Turkey cannot afford to alienate without ultimately harming its own strategic security and economic interests.
Addressing a news conference in Ankara earlier this week with Mustafa Kirimoglu, the former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (parliament) and now a deputy in the Ukrainian parliament, Davutoglu attempted to sound a firm note when he said the recent referendum in Crimea on the region’s status was a fait accompli that lacked legitimacy.
“Crimea’s territorial integrity is paramount. Any discussion on this topic must be based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Davutoglu said, underscoring the fact that Ankara will not accept the results of the Crimean referendum.
When asked, however, what steps Turkey would take if Moscow insisted on annexing Crimea, Davutoglu was circumspect. He pointed out that although Turkey is a NATO member there were factors that placed it in a different position to other members of the Western community.
“Turkey is the only country that is a neighbor to both Ukraine and Russia. At the same time, it has a direct maritime link to Crimea. Therefore, it is very important that we should feel more concern than any other country and aim for strategic diplomacy,” he said.
Despite his underlining of Turkey’s unique placing in this crisis, Davutoglu nevertheless signaled that rather than acting unilaterally, or trying to solve the problem bilaterally with Moscow, Ankara would maintain close consultations with its partners in the European Union and its NATO allies over this crisis.
His remarks indicated once again that when it comes to international crises, especially ones that raise the specter of a new cold war that involves Russia and the West, Turkey is more than likely to throw its lot in with its traditional allies.
Davutoglu’s remarks also reveal the hope that Turkey’s Western allies will have an understanding of the delicate situation Turkey is in vis-a-vis Russia, and therefore not leave Ankara facing harder choices than it already finds itself facing.
All of this provides further evidence that Erdogan’s initial ambitions of making Turkey a key regional player — an ambition that already received a serious set of blows in the Middle East following the Arab Spring — is a thing of the past.
Put another way, the “revenge of geography,” to use Robert D. Kaplan’s term, is forcing Ankara to return to Turkey’s traditionally cautious diplomacy, based on a preference for multilateralism, while it maintains and deepens security arrangements with the West.
This traditional line also provides Turkey with more clout than it would have if it were acting as a lone wolf facing the Russian bear, and this can already be discernible in the attempts by Moscow to court Ankara through the Crimean Tatars.
Under normal circumstances Russians have little love lost on the Tatars, due to historic memories that stretch as far back as the Crimean War of 1853-56 and further, but mainly because their collective notion of the Tatars as a nation that betrayed them to the Nazi’s in World War II.
It's telling, therefore, that Crimea's pro-Russian authorities are reportedly saying now that they will guarantee Tatar representation in Crimea, and give this Turkic and Muslim community proper land ownership rights and financial aid.
Vitaly Naumkin summarizes Russian expectations in his March 19 Al-Monitor article well, when he indicates that Russia's relations with Turkey will now be particularly important to Moscow: “The efforts to provide housing assistance to Tatar repatriates in Crimea, after years of being forced to live in shacks, will surely win the approval of the influential Crimean Tatar community in Turkey. Given Turkey's geographic position and its interests in the Black Sea Basin, attractive proposals could be made for it to participate in economic development projects in Crimea, whose economy has been in free fall over the past two decades.”
Not surprisingly, though, Crimean Tatars, having suffered a great deal under the Russians in the past, remain wary of such enticements and would clearly prefer to remain with Ukraine.
Russia’s reaching out to the Tatars in this way, even if it ultimately lacks credibility, nevertheless provides Ankara with a reason to try and engage Moscow on the question of Tatar rights. It is clear that any advances Ankara can help secure in this regard will also help Erdogan ward off domestic criticism from nationalist quarters that are already blaming his government of standing idly as the Tatars are put in peril.
In terms of the big picture, however, Russia’s “Crimea grab” has Turkish diplomats worried over much more than just the welfare of the Tatars, and Davutoglu gave plenty of hints about this during his news conference with Kirimoglu this week.
Warning about a “domino effect” as a result of the fait accompli in Crimea, Davutoglu pronounced Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova by name in this regard, saying that the territorial integrity of these countries can not be placed at risk by means of any referendum. “Once you allow this, the whole region will become unstable,” Davutoglu said, thanking the Crimean Tatars for boycotting the March 16 referendum.
Naumkin’s remarks in his March 19 Al-Monitor article, in which he argues that the events in Crimea will provide “impetus to self-determination movements” around the world, going on to suggest that the Kurds will also react to these events also provides a clear hint as to why Ankara is concerned.
In addition to all this, Russia’s return to the Middle East — following what it sees as its major success in Crimea — as an even more assertive power than it already is will also affect Ankara’s policies toward the region. It is no surprise that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad — Erdogan’s nemesis — is making no secret of his joy over developments relating to Crimea.
Meanwhile, an anti-Western Russia that yields clout in the Middle East will also provide Egypt’s military rulers — who are the object of much vilification by Erdogan — with fresh options against the West should Europe and the United States pressurize them on the basis of democratic arguments.
Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has already laid the initial groundwork for strategic cooperation between Egypt and Russia, when he visited Moscow in February and was given a warm welcome by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All of these developments weaken the Erdogan government’s hand, while strengthening the position of Russia’s allies and friends in the Middle East, who also happen to be Erdogan’s enemies. In essence, the general picture for Ankara, following the Crimean crisis, does not look good and will indeed require “strategic diplomacy,” to use Davutoglu’s words.

Re Edited By:                    *KANWAL ABIDI
                                                  - Political Analyst & Journalist

Information Shared By:   *Semih Idiz 
                                                   - Middle East Correspondent

Saturday, 22 March 2014

MH 370 & 2001 Malaysian Plane Hijacking Plot

Is there any link of Malaysian MH 370 to 
2001 Hijacking Plot?

It is very unlikely there is any link between the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and an aborted hijack plot involving Malaysia militants in late 2001, current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN.
A former British al Qaeda operative, Saajid Badat, outlined details of the Malaysian plot in federal court in New York last week, fueling media speculation about a possible link.
He testified that he spent time with a small group of Malaysians in Afghanistan and Pakistan in late 2001 tasked with hijacking aircraft in Southeast Asia.
In the weeks after 9/11, Badat was one of two British recruits directed by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to detonate shoe bombs simultaneously on separate passenger aircraft over the United States.

Badat never followed through with his plan, but his co-conspirator, Richard Reid, tried and failed to do so on an American Airlines flight between Paris and Miami in December of that year. Reid was convicted and remains in a U.S. prison.
Badat testified that he left Afghanistan for Pakistan with several Malaysians assigned by al Qaeda to hijack aircraft.
"They had their own group of four or five individuals which even included a pilot," he said.
Badat said that he gave the Malaysians one of his explosive shoes.
"So it was the Malaysian leader and Richard Reid talking and then I was just listening in. ... They began to discuss that what if the cockpit is locked, is closed? And it was then, yes, unfortunately, it was me that said 'how about I give you one of my shoes.'"
CNN first reported on the Malaysian hijacking plot in 2012 after Badat revealed it during an earlier trial in New York. Badat started cooperating with authorities after his arrest in the UK in November 2003.
The plan stemmed from the 9/11 conspiracy. According to a 9/11 Commission report, al Qaeda initially planned to hijack a dozen airliners in Southeast Asia at the same time as in the United States, but Osama bin Laden scrapped the non-U.S. part of the plan.
According to a senior U.S. counterterrorism source, Mohammed originally intended the Malaysian group to participate in the Southeast Asian attack.
In the weeks after 9/11, he revived a whittled down version of the plan by tasking the Malaysians to carry out a hijacking.
The source said intelligence agencies were aware of the plot well before Badat was arrested and Malaysian authorities took steps to neutralize the threat by making arrests.
The source added that the Malaysian group never included a qualified pilot. Investigations revealed the "pilot" Badat referred to in his testimony attended a flight school in Malaysia before dropping out shortly after 9/11. Badat never met this man.
A senior aviation security source also said the threat from the group had been removed.
"The Malaysians got on top of this," he told CNN.
And a U.S. intelligence official told CNN's Barbara Starr they did not believe there was any connection between the 2001 plot and the disappearance of Flight 370.
The 2001 Malaysia Hijacking Plot
U.S. intelligence sources provided extensive new detail to CNN on the Malaysian terrorist cell planning to hijack aircraft in 2001. It includes information from Badat's lengthy debriefings with U.S. officials.
According to those sources, the Malaysia group consisted of half a dozen young men linked to the Indonesian al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah who travelled for training in Afghanistan in the period before 9/11.
When they got there, they were recruited into Mohammed's eventually aborted plan to target a dozen aircraft in South East Asia.
After 9/11, those still in Afghanistan were tasked with carrying out a smaller-scale version of the plot, with the idea being that Reid and Badat would target aircraft over the United States around the same time, the sources said.
To refine these plans, Mohammed dispatched Reid, Badat and the Malaysians to see his nephew, Ammar al Baluchi, in Karachi. The group travelled in a convoy of three vehicles from Kandahar via Quetta and were lodged by al Baluchi in several safe houses in Karachi.
The Malaysian group refused to have Reid stay with them because they judged him "too crazy looking," according to the intelligence sources. Their ringleader was a man in his late 20s known as Abdulaziz. He was 5 foot 6, slim, had a goatee, wore glasses, and spoke some English.
Badat, Reid and Baluchi met several times in a McDonald's between December 1-5, 2001. They discussed targeting planes over the United States with shoe bombs, the sources said.
Badat later revealed that the plan was for them to sit near the window so they could blow a hole in the fuselage. They did not expect their devices to blow the planes out of the sky. Rather, they hoped to bring the planes down by blowing open a large hole to rapidly depressurize the aircraft.
Badat and Reid also spent time with Abdulaziz and his Malaysian cell in Karachi. It was at this time that Badat handed Abdulaziz one of his shoe bombs. Reid asked Abdulaziz about his comrade in Malaysia who had attended flight school. Abdulaziz replied that he did not know if the man had yet learned what he needed to.
During the meeting, Badat got the impression the Malaysians were not too worried if, in later trying to blow open a cockpit door with his explosive shoe, they brought down the plane, but that was not their original intent.
But if they were going to use one of Badat's shoes, the Malaysians had to make an additional purchase. In Karachi, they bought an identical pair of shoes so they could match up his explosive footwear.
Walid bin Attash, a Yemeni al Qaeda terrorist, also assisted Mohammed in the Malaysia hijacking plot, according to U.S. intelligence sources. Bin Attash and al-Baluchi were arrested in Karachi in April 2003 and later transferred to Guantanamo.
Two Jemaah Islamiyah operatives responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings - Hambali (real name: Riduan Isamuddin) and Ali Ghufron (real name: Huda bin Abdul Haq) - are also suspected of having had a role in the plot, according to the U.S. intelligence sources.

CNN's Evan Perez contributed to this report.

Reported By:         CNN's Paul Cruickshank  & Nic Robertson
Re edited by:         KANWAL ABIDI * Political Analyst & Journalist

Friday, 21 March 2014

PUTIN voices out for Crimea

Putin Reclaims Crimea for Russia and Bitterly Denounces the West
Posted on MARCH 18, 2014
Re-Edited by:
Kanwal Abidi *** Political Commentator & Journalist
Editors Note: A new phase has begun between Russia and America: 25 years of assurances that the Cold War is over and that the United States and Russia are no longer enemies is ending with an open political confrontation over Ukraine. Washington's has imposed "sanctions against Russia" which threaten to radically change not only the atmosphere of relations but also the nature of their cooperation. For the last year or two, this cooperation has basically been forced anyway, where it was impossible to avoid it — Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. There has been no other agenda since the New START Treaty was ratified and Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin reclaimed Crimea as a part of Russia on Tuesday, reversing what he described as a historic injustice inflicted by the Soviet Union 60 years ago and brushing aside international condemnation that could leave Russia isolated for years to come.
In an emotional address steeped in years of resentment and bitterness at perceived slights from the West, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia’s patience for post-Cold War accommodation, much diminished of late, had finally been exhausted. Speaking to the country’s political elite in the Grand Kremlin Palace, he said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but he vowed to protect Russia’s interests there from what he described as Western actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.
 “Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Mr. Putin declared in his address, delivered in the chandeliered St. George’s Hall before hundreds of members of Parliament, governors and others. His remarks, which lasted 47 minutes, were interrupted repeatedly by thunderous applause, standing ovations and at the end chants of “Russia, Russia.” Some in the audience wiped tears from their eyes.
                            A theme coursing throughout his remarks was the restoration of Russia                                     after a period of humiliation following the Soviet collapse, which he has                                       famously called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

He denounced what he called the global domination of one superpower and its allies that emerged. “They cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts,” he said. “That’s the way it was with the expansion of NATO in the East, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing: ‘Well, this doesn’t involve you.’ ”
The speed of Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea, redrawing an international border that has been recognized as part of an independent Ukraine for 23 years, has been breathtaking and so far apparently unstoppable.
While his actions, which the United States, Europe and Ukraine do not recognize, provoked renewed denunciations and threats of tougher sanctions and diplomatic isolation, it remained unclear how far the West was willing to go to punish Mr. Putin. The leaders of what had been the Group of 8 nations announced they would meet next week as the Group of 7, excluding Russia from a club Russia once desperately craved to join.
Certainly the sanctions imposed on Russia ahead of Tuesday’s steps did nothing to dissuade Mr. Putin, as he rushed to make a claim to Crimea that he argued conformed to international law and precedent. In his remarks he made clear that Russia was prepared to withstand worse punishment in the name of restoring a lost part of the country’s historic empire, effectively daring world leaders to sever political or economic ties and risk the consequences to their own economies.
Mr. Putin, the country’s paramount leader for more than 14 years, appeared to be gambling that the outrage would eventually pass, as it did after Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, because a newly assertive Russia would be simply too important to ignore on the world stage. As with any gamble, though, the annexation of Crimea carries potentially grave risks.

Only hours after Mr. Putin declared that “not a single shot” had been fired in the military intervention in Crimea, a group of soldiers opened fire as they stormed a Ukrainian military mapping office near Simferopol, killing a Ukrainian soldier and wounding another, according to a Ukrainian officer inside the base and a statement by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

The base appeared to be under the control of the attacking soldiers, who like most of the Russians in Crimea wore no insignia, and the ministry said that Ukrainian forces in Crimea were now authorized to use force to defend themselves.
The episode underscored the fact that the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, as well military bases and ships, remains dangerously unresolved.
In the capital, Kiev, Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, declared that the conflict had moved from “a political to a military phase” and laid the blame squarely on Russia.
Mr. Putin’s determined response to the ouster of Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, last month has left American and European leaders scrambling to find an adequate response after initially clinging to the hope that Mr. Putin was prepared to find a political solution — or “off ramp” — to an escalating crisis that began with the collapse of Mr. Yanukovych’s government on the night of Feb. 21.
Within a week, Russian special operations troops had seized control of strategic locations across Crimea, while the regional authorities moved to declare independence and schedule a referendum on joining Russia that was held on Sunday.
Even as others criticized the vote as a fraud, Mr. Putin moved quickly on Monday to recognize its result, which he called “more than convincing” with nearly 97 percent of voters in favor of seceding from Ukraine. By Tuesday he signed a treaty of accession with the region’s new leaders to make Crimea and the city of Sevastopol the 84th and 85th regions of the Russian Federation.
The treaty requires legislative approval, but that is a mere formality given Mr. Putin’s unchallenged political authority and the wild popularity of his actions, which have raised his approval ratings and unleashed a nationalistic fervor that has drowned out the few voices of opposition or even caution about the potential costs to Russia.

Mr. Putin appeared Tuesday evening at a rally and concert on Red Square to celebrate an event charged with emotional and historical significance for many Russians. Among the music played was a sentimental Soviet song called “Sevastopol Waltz.”
“After a long, hard and exhaustive journey at sea, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their home harbor, to the native shores, to the home port, to Russia!” Mr. Putin told the crowd. When he finished speaking, he joined a military chorus in singing the national anthem.
He recited a list of grievances — from the Soviet Union’s transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian republic in 1954, to NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, to its war in Kosovo in 1999, when he was a little-known aide to President Boris N. Yeltsin, to the conflict in Libya that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 on what he called the false pretense of a humanitarian intervention.

Since Russia’s stealthy takeover of Crimea began, Mr. Putin has said very little in public about his ultimate goals. His only extensive remarks came in a news conference with a pool of Kremlin journalists in which he appeared uncomfortable, uncertain and angry at times. In the grandeur of the Kremlin’s walls on Tuesday, Mr. Putin sounded utterly confident and defiant.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Voice of Thar (POEM)

VOICE OF THAR  *Dedicated to Thar People

Can you hear my thirst?
I am the Voice of Thar!

I do not have water
I do not have wheat
I do not eat meat

I cannot even speak
      As my throat is so dry
I cannot even work
     As my stomach is so weak
I cannot even sleep
    As my children are hungry
I cannot even cry
     As my Thar is dry!!!

I call upon your conscience
To donate to me
I call upon your emotions
To speak to me

I will tell you about
The voice of Thar ….
The summers are here
My eyes have fear
I hope you can hear
To wipe out my tears

I call upon the government
To do my consensus
I call upon the legislators
To make bills for me
I call upon the NGOs
To send trucks to me
I call upon the citizens
To make rations for me!!!

I hope you can hear
My cries in tears ….
I call upon your conscience 
To donate to me!!!

I am the Voice of Thar
I am the Voice of Death

I call upon your emotions
To bring life to me !!!!
I call upon your conscience
To donate to me !!!

I call upon your thirst ...
To make water filter plant for me !!!!

Written By:  

*Political Analyst & Journalist
 President @Mishal Welfare Trust

This poem was read twice on demand  
LIVE  at 5 hours special transmission on 3rd day of 
Telethon for Thar People @ ARY TV (16th March '14)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Turkey's falling popularity in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

GCC rift another blow to Erdogan’s Mideast policies
*Editor's Note:
         BY: Kanwal Abidi *Political Commentator on Middle East Politics

The whole Gulf Region is going under radical change with Saudi led allies taking full advantage to capitalize the global jihad into its own ulterior motives! Turkey has a very sensitive geo-strategic position by sharing Syria's border and Ankara being a key player in the teams of offending Saudi players!

Turkey’s already waning influence in the Middle East has taken fresh blows as a result of the Saudi-led move to isolate Qatar because of its backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt’s decision to ban Hamas, which is widely considered to be a Brotherhood offshoot.
Qatar today remains one of the few regional allies of any note Turkey has left in a region where the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once hoped somewhat ambitiously to be a major player. Madawi Al-Rasheed, in her March 6 analysis for Al-Monitor, provides the background to Saudi efforts against Qatar in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that clearly have implications for Ankara.
Turkey started losing regional influence after Erdogan abandoned the country’s traditional policy of neutrality in Middle Eastern disputes, starting with the crisis in Syria, and revealed his sectarian preferences. This development, dubbed the “Sunnification of Turkish foreign policy” by Erdogan’s domestic and foreign critics, also revealed Erdogan’s great affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are not just seen today as staunch supporters of the Brotherhood, but also as a key member of what has been referred to as the “Muslim Brotherhood International.”
Tellingly, former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi — whose political future in the “new Egypt” appeared guaranteed at the time — and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas’ political bureau, were invited by Erdogan to the AKP’s general congress held in September 2012, where they were the principle guests of honor.
Both men had received standing ovations before and after delivering heated speeches in support of Erdogan and his party, during which they indicated that Turkey under the Islamist AKP was a main force that would help shape the new Middle East.
Erdogan, Morsi and Meshaal did not suspect at the time that there were regional forces — other than Israel — working to their detriment.
On the contrary, all three leaders saw themselves as unstoppable and considered their political future guaranteed. It was no surprise therefore that the coup in Egypt, which ousted Morsi in July 2013, should have caught Erdogan totally off guard. Neither did Erdogan expect a key regional Islamic power like Saudi Arabia — and a Sunni one to boot — to come out with such strong political and financial support for a coup led by Egypt’s predominantly secularist military.
Turkey has been in the same with Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the Syrian question but the rift between these countries and Ankara developed rapidly after the Egyptian coup. It became more prominent after Erdogan unleashed an angry barrage of invective and maledictions, laced with religious imagery, against Egypt’s new rulers and their supporters.
Although Erdogan has been more circumspect in terms of accusing Saudi Arabia directly, his remarks concerning Egypt were nevertheless noted with dissatisfaction in Riyadh and other anti-Brotherhood regimes in the Gulf that supported the Egyptian coup. Egypt, for its part, downgraded diplomatic ties with Ankara and still refuses to send its ambassador back, accusing the Erdogan government of meddling in its internal affairs.
Erdogan also fell out with Iran and the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad over the Syrian crisis, leaving Ankara with hardly any potential for taking proactive diplomatic initiatives aimed at trying to stabilize the turbulent region.
Turkey and Iran maintain a veneer of good ties, but continue to support opposing groups in Syria. Tehran accuses Ankara of prolonging the Syrian crisis, while government officials in Ankara say Bashar al-Assad — Erdogan’s principle regional nemesis — would not have survived so long without support from Tehran.
Turkey’s good relations with Israel — once considered even by regional governments as one of Ankara’s main diplomatic assets, given that it was on friendly terms with all parties in the Middle East — also remain at rock bottom.
These ties began to sour following Erdogan’s overt support for Hamas after he came to power. They took a nosedive after nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos when their ship, the Mavi Marmara, tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010 with the tacit blessings of the Erdogan government.
Given this overall background, Turkey today is seen, from Tehran to Riyadh and from Baghdad to Cairo, as an unwelcome outside meddler in Middle Eastern affairs that has to be kept at bay. Saudi Arabian and Egyptian officials are also well-aware that Doha and Istanbul have become main hubs for leaders of the exiled Muslim Brotherhood.
These developments represent a series of blows to Erdogan’s plans to advance political Islam in Turkey and the Middle East. He is currently embroiled in what he sees as an existential struggle to ward off serious corruption charges at home, involving himself and his government, which has also pushed his Islamist agenda to the background for the moment.
Meanwhile, the gains in the Middle East by the Muslim Brotherhood started to be rolled back with the Egyptian coup, much to Erdogan’s annoyance. He is waiting for a strong turnout in the local elections at the end of this month, which he says will not only exonerate his government from corruption charges, but give him the power to fight against his enemies.
These enemies undoubtedly include the Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose regime he continues to vilify at domestic political rallies in the lead up to the local elections on March 30.
“Don’t forget that date is not just an ordinary one. It will also be the date when the spirit of our daughter Asma in Cairo will be beatified. Don’t forget she too was longing in Cairo for the things that we areexperiencing in this country,” Erdogan told a rally in Adiyaman on March 4. 
Erdogan was referring to Asma al-Beltaji, who was killed during a pro-Morsi demonstration in Cairo’s Rabia al-Adawiya Square in August 2013. Erdogan also recalled that Asma’s father, Mohamed al-Beltaji, had chanted, “Long live hell for cruel oppressors,” while he was being dragged to prison on the day his daughter was martyred.
Erdogan can be expected to continue with this kind of language, especially if he comes out strong from the local elections, thus alienating himself further from those governments that represent today’s established order in the Middle East, who consider the Muslim Brotherhood as their enemy.
Madawi al-Rasheed points out in her analysis for Al-Monitor, “The Muslim Brotherhood's base in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in general remains the educated middle classes, a class that is destined to widen as a result of the expansion of mass education.” This suggests that time is on the side of the Brotherhood in the long run.
It is unlikely, however, that the Brotherhood will be allowed anywhere near a ballot box again any time soon in Egypt, or elsewhere in the Middle East, especially after the experience in Egypt.
Morsi’s overtly Islamist policies at the expense of other groups in Egypt after he came to power, a fact that was most apparent in the way his administration prepared the country’s new constitution, also cost him much sympathy in the West.
As long as the present Saudi regime and its GCC allies remain in power they will also ensure that Turkey under Erdogan is kept at a distance and prevented from playing a major political role in the region. They will also have support in this from principle Arab League members, starting with Egypt.
The Erdogan government’s friendly ties with Qatar and Hamas, on the other hand, will not alter the picture much. It is very likely that by the time the Muslim Brotherhood comes to a position of power again in the region, it will be too late for Erdogan, whose own position as a political player looks unlikely to survive that long.

                                  *Middle East Columnist
Re EDITED By: Kanwal Abidi
                                   *Political Analyst & Journalist

Thursday, 6 March 2014

IRAN on its economic forefront of sanctions game

Decoding Iran’s 'resistance economy'
Iran’s economic plan is to build domestic capacity to reduce Iran’s vulnerabilities to sanctions and external shocks.

Re Edited by:                   KANWAL ABIDI * Journalist and Political Analyst
Information Shared by:   Bijan Khajehpour *Irani Journalist

Posted February 24, 2014

In a decree issued Feb. 19, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei introduced the general policies of Iran’s “resistance economy.” The following are some of the key objectives presented in this document:
·         Domestic capacity building with maximal utilization of the country’s resources, with a special focus on the participation of lower and middle-income classes in wealth generation
·         Promotion of a knowledge-based economy through drafting and implementing a comprehensive, scientific plan for the country and promoting innovation with the ultimate goal of becoming the No. 1 knowledge-based economy of the region
·         Increased efficiency in economic activity, improvement of economic competitiveness
·         Utilization of subsidy reforms to optimize energy consumption in the country, increase employment and domestic production and promote social justice
·         Improve Total Factor Productivity based on the empowerment of domestic human resources through skills education
·         Promotion of domestic production, especially in strategic products and services and the consequent reduction of dependence on imports
·         Provision of food and medicine security
·         Consumption management based on the promotion of consumption of local products parallel to the qualitative improvement of domestic production
·         Comprehensive reform of the financial system to respond to the country’s needs
·         Targeted promotion of exportable goods and services through legal and administrative reform as well as the promotion of foreign investment for export purposes
·         Increase the economy’s resistance through regional and international economic collaboration, especially with neighbors but also through diplomacy
·         Reduce vulnerability of oil and gas exports through the selection of strategic buyers and involving the private sector in diversifying sales channels
·         Increase oil and gas value-added exports
·         Increase oil and gas strategic reserves and production to have an impact on international markets
·         Implement reforms to rationalize government costs, increase tax revenues and reduce dependency on oil and gas export revenue
·         Increase the share of the National Development Fund from oil and gas export revenues
·         Increase transparency in financial matters and avoid activities that pave the way for corruption
President Hassan Rouhani immediately reacted to Khamenei's decree and clarified tasks for a number of government institutions on how to plan and implement the needed policies. As is common in Iran’s governmental affairs, a number of committees and task forces have been established to follow up on the actions needed to achieve the above objectives.
Some analysts see the issuance of the decree as a reminder by the supreme leader that the positive outlook for nuclear negotiations should not derail the country’s overall effort to reduce its vulnerability to external sanctions. Indeed, a number of powerful stakeholders in Iran believe that sanctions generated an opportunity to become more focused and more efficient. As such, one can understand the timing and content of this initiative as a push not to allow the Iranian industry and government to fall back into a mentality of imports and maintain the momentum that has been generated through sanctions.
It is true that the term “economy of resistance” emerged as an Iranian response to the Western sanctions regime, and it is also valid that some of the above objectives are designed to strengthen the Iranian economy against external pressure. However, the majority of the above goals had already been defined in the country’s 20-Year Prospective Document (also known as Vision 2025), which had been passed and also decreed by Khamenei in 2005. Vision 2025 called on the Iranian government to pave the way for Iran to become a knowledge-based economy and the region’s top economic and technological power by 2025. 
What may have compelled Khamenei to issue a new decree is the reality that the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was relatively indifferent to the objectives stated in Vision 2025. Partly due to misguided policies and partly due to external sanctions, Iran deviated far from the original goals. Some experts argue that returning to the level of economic balance of the pre-Ahmadinejad era alone will take years. Essentially, the decree should be seen as a top-level endorsement of the new government’s focus on comprehensive economic reform.
Incidentally, both in the original 2005 document and also in this recent decree, most of the stated objectives could also be part of an economic liberalization program. There are very few goals and reform objectives that are unique to Iran’s specific ideological context. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always focused on its unique literature, and “resistance economy” is a term to characterize the Iranian response to Western sanctions policies. A closer look at the proposed reform agenda underlines the regime’s desire to improve economic conditions, reduce vulnerabilities and promote competitive advantages — all areas that were neglected in the Ahmadinejad years.
No matter how we term these policies, the essence has been and remains domestic capacity building. The Iranian economy has the potential to move from its current below-average performance to becoming a developed economy. It has all the resources (natural, human and geostrategic) that an economy would need to play a much more significant role on the international stage. The missing links are in the areas of responsible and accountable policymaking, legal transparency and modern institutions. The above decree addresses most of these issues, but it remains to be seen whether it is feasible to achieve these objectives within the country’s current political structure. The fact remains that key Iranian stakeholders tend to over-politicize economic and institutional processes, making it impossible to implement efficient reforms. One such example can be seen in the subsidy reforms that have yet to produce the intended results (i.e., better distribution of income) for the Iranian economy. As such, the Rouhani administration should use this opportunity to create or redefine some institutions (such as the independence of the Central Bank) that could improve the country’s economic conditions beyond its own term.
The decree on the “resistance economy” should be seen as a new attempt by the top leadership of the Islamic Republic to provide the contours of Iran’s economic doctrine. It continues to be torn between liberal economic principles and an Islamic ideology that is seeking its own justification in key policy areas. For example, its reference to a “jihadi culture of wealth generation, entrepreneurship, etc.” is a reminder of this ideological slant. However, as long as the objectives of economic empowerment and development are achieved, Iranians and the country’s business community will not mind what the policy is called.