Mass migration, the EU and European nationalisms

By Johan Galtung

Antwerpen & Alfaz

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU – but then what kind of EU? – and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016). Big numbers. They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions. There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);

Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;

Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;

Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;

Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; Read More »

Turkey, backwards or forwards?

By Jonathan Power

March 29th 2016.

In the 1970s there was a cult film, “Midnight Express”, directed by the young Oliver Stone. It was based on the story of an American who was sentenced to 30 years in a Turkish prison for smuggling drugs. It showed in stark reality the total lack of any semblance of human rights or normal human behavior by the Turkish authorities. It was that impression of Turkey that many of us carried forward, even as Turkey in fact was profoundly changing.

Even today some hold on to what is now a discredited viewpoint, particularly in France, a country that has long made it clear it will obstruct any move to bring Turkey into the European Union. Anti-Turkey feeling exists elsewhere, particularly in Germany which has far more Turkish immigrant workers than any other nation. However, the truth is the Turkey of today is unrecognizable from that of the 1970s. Not least it has become a democracy, albeit a not perfect one.

And yet there are appalling signs that Turkey is winding the clock back. Having been rebuffed in 2010 by Europe in its attempt to enter the EU, despite all the previous promises made to it that entry would be welcomed (the US has long supported this), it has started to go backwards to its more authoritarian and less humanistic ways. This is grist for the mill for those who have long held a “Midnight Express” view of Turkey.

The true picture of Turkey has to be a subtle one. On the one hand Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 369 – A Sunni-Salafist-Zionist Coalition Changing Middle East?

By Jan Oberg

Please try Google “Gulf states want nuclear weapons against Iran – Israel “ and only one Western mainstream media will appear, an excellent article by The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem.

The only other media carrying the story is Russia Today and Vigilant Citizen and MintPress News also carries the story and offers a wider background

What is this about?A new coalition?

So the usual Western media filter, meaning it must be interesting. And it is a quite sensational story: Saudi Arabia and Israel are up to a nuclear mischief against a country that has just been prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by means of a huge legally binding document, UN Security Council endorsement and extremely tight monitoring mechanism. What’s it about?

It’s about Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon saying in public at the recent Munich conference that Arab states are “not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear bomb”.

He thinks that Iran was liable to break the agreement as their economic situation improves with the lifting of international sanctions. Ya’alon is quoted as saying that “I speak about the Gulf states and North African states too…For them, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are the enemy. Iran is the bad guy for us and for the Sunni regimes. They are not shaking hands [with Israelis] in public, but we meet in closed rooms.”

So not only Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorship but also Gulf and North African states: A coalition lead by Saudi Arabia and Israel – Israel as the only nuclear weapons power in the region and Saudi Arabia as the most likely next nuclear weapons state.

For much too long the world’s attention has been on Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons, not on the dozens or hundreds real nukes that Israel possesses as a non-member of which is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One can say that Israel and Saudi Arabia lost the political battle against the nuclear deal with Iran concluded with the five permanent UNSC members and Germany last year – and now will do their utmost to use Iran’s non-nuclear weapons status as a pretext for others going nuclear against, predominantly, Iran.

Propaganda hysteria dominates in an age where knowledge plays a diminishing role

The problem for them, however, is that Iran will be difficult to sell as a real threat – but we live of course in Read More »

Reflections on the Brussels attack

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
A much abbreviated version of this post was published in Al Jazeera English on March 24, 2016. Although the essential analysis is the same, the reasoning here is greatly elaborated. The themes addressed and the policies proposed are advanced in a tentative spirit. Debate and reflection are urgently needed with respect to the political violence that is being unleashed in various forms in the West and non-West.

This latest terrorist outrage for which ISIS claimed responsibility exhibits the new face of 21st century warfare for which there are no front lines, no path to military victory, and acute civilian vulnerability. As such, it represents a radical challenge to our traditional understanding of warfare, and unless responses are shaped by these realities, it could drive Western democracies step by step into an enthused political embrace and revived actuality of fascist politics.

Already the virulence of the fascist virus dormant in every body politic in the West has disclosed its potency in the surprisingly robust Trump/Cruz run to become the Republican candidate in the next American presidential election.

Perhaps, the most important dimension of this 21st century pattern of warfare, especially as it is playing out in the Middle East, is the will and capacity of violent extremists to extend the battlefield to those perceived to be their enemies, and to rely on acutely alienated Europeans and North Americans to undertake the suicidal bloody tasks.

The British Independent struck the right note in its commentary, Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 366: Russian Withdrawal from Syria: Could it be the beginning of the end?

By Farhang Jahanpour

On Monday 14 March, in a surprise move and without any warning to Western leaders, President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of the “main part” of Russian forces from Syria, and instructed his diplomats to speed up the push for peace. “The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process,” he said. “I believe that the task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled.”

He added that with the participation of the Russian military, Syrian armed forces “have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism.”

According to Western reports, Russian forces are already being prepared for flights back to Russia and equipment is being loaded onto cargo planes.

Although President Putin’s sudden announcement has given rise to a great deal of surprise and some false assumptions in the mainstream Western media and among political pundits, his decision is a timely, bold and constructive move that may result in some positive developments in the long-running catastrophe in Syria.

One of the reasons for the negative and cynical comments about the Russian move is that in five months President Putin has achieved more in halting the advance of the terrorists in Syria than the West had achieved in five years, if indeed it had been the West’s real intention to defeat the terrorists.

The Syrian uprising started with demonstrations on 28 January 2011 in Damascus and Aleppo in the wake of the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia and Egypt.Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 363: Can we give meaning to the destruction of Syria?

By Jan Oberg

Five years ago

In 2011 when it all began, an educated conflict analyst or otherwise conflict competent person would have said about the conflict in Syria that it was a very complex thing, caused by history, environment, traumas, external factors, the economic situation, etc. And that al-Assad and his government was certainly an important reason but far from the only one.

The conflict expert would have warned against at last four ways of thinking:

a) any interpretation that put all the good people on one side and all the bad people on the other – because there are no conflicts in the world with only two such parties;

b) any idea that the conflict could be solved by siding with the presumed good ones and going against the bad one(s);

c) every attempt to ‘weaponise’ the conflict and increase the level of violence, the duration of the conflict and the human suffering;

d) any and every idea that foreigners would know better than the Syrians themselves – government, opposition and citizens in civil society – what should be a solution.


Finally – the professional conflict and peace worker would have maintained that you can’t make peace by asking one person – not even brilliant ones like Kofi Annan or Staffan di Mistura – with a small team around him and some shuttle diplomacy to succeed with facilitation, consultations, brainstorming, proposal-making, mediation and, finally, some kind of negotiations leading to a peace agreement in what is undoubtedly one of the most complex and ‘hard’ conflicts on earth.

Peace-making requires a completely different approach to not just be a pawn in the wider war game – a game that according to Al-Jazeera today encompasses some 900 military groups – add to that government forces and all the political and civil groups that don’t carry weapons: 1500?

Five years later – at least 250.000 dead people, 3 million refugees and 6,5 million internally displaced people, cities, economy, cultural heritage destroyed – anyone can see that no one listened to such simple conflict rules of thumb.

Conflict and peace illiteracy

The self-appointed and completely un-educated, peace-makers of the international community – presidents, prime and foreign ministers of the US, NATO, Russia, etc. – did about everything else.

It seems to not even occur to them or to the media that Read More »

The clouds are dark and getting darker

By Johan Galtung

The process has now gone full circle, from Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated from 1915 to 16 May 1916, about control of the Ottoman Empire, when beaten, to England now joining France in bombing Syria. “Violence In and By Paris” two weeks ago was wrong about England wanting to stay out: the House of Commons on 02 Dec 2015 voted 397 to 223 for bombing; 56 Labor MPs for, only 7 Conservative MPs against.

Russia played a minor role in Sykes-Picot as now also in bombing maybe mainly the opposition to Assad.

As Robert Savio points out, “They all fight to the last Syrian.”

The likelihood of an atrocious Paris 13 November type violence in London went up many points. And Russia had a civilian plane bombed.

The USA is as addicted to bombing as a hammer to a nail, not only to use allies and train locals. James A. Lucas, “The United States has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since WWII”, in 1945 (jlucas511@woh.rr.com) seems not to be enough; they just go on and on. More than a million Muslims killed in West Asia mainly by the USA since 1991. In San Bernardino, somebody may have killed 14 in revenge.

The new name for what they fight, after jihadism, is the Islamic State, calling it sometimes IS, ISIS, ISIL. What is it, this Daesh?

There seem to be heavy elements of Saddam’s army, the Baath secular party (also Assad’s), and the Tikrit clan from the recent past–now adding maybe ten fighters for each killed by the West. Daesh seems toRead More »

TFF PressInfo # 350 – The West will lose to ISIS – too

By Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden, November 30, 2015

French president Hollande has declared war – war on terror, George W. Bush style. Like September 11, 2001 wasn’t a war, Paris November 13 wasn’t a war. It was a criminal act.

The war on terror has been an exceptionally stupid war.

In the years before 9/11 about 400 people died worldwide by terrorist attack. The Global Terror Index informs us that 32.600 died in 2014 – 80 times more!

And, still, the only answer everywhere is: More war on terror.

The only – intelligent – exception is Italy whose PM has announced that Italy is going to counter terrorism by investing billions of Euros in culture, art and creativity – showing the world what civilisation is.

Politicians and the mainstream media seemingly try to make us believe – as if we were uneducated – that we in the West are the main victims and innocent victims at that. We are neither.Read More »

A Warning against Kaplan’s Argument That “It’s Time to Bring Imperialism Back to the Middle East”

By Johan Galtung and Naakow Hayford

There is much to agree with Robert D. Kaplan’s 25 May 2015 publication in Foreign Policy in his well-informed analysis. And very much to disagree with, especially his wrong remedy.

Kaplan ascribes the present “chaos” – as if major changes can be orderly or take place under old much praised “order” and “stability” – to the break-down of imperialisms, in plural, starting with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. And he manages the incredible: not a single word about who gave them that death blow: Sykes-Picot, UK-France, helped by czarist Russia. Analysis?

However, he has much positive to say about the Empire-Caliphate as an order where diverse groups had very few territorial disputes (the millet system). But he does not draw the obvious conclusion: maybe there is a longing in the whole region back to that order–without Istanbul?

True, it is Sunni but do not leave out the possibility of some genius bridging the Sunni-Shia gap by creating a political-economic-military community including both Iran and a new Saudi orientation. Kaplan leaves no opening for any such potential, even though it is desired by millions in the region. More important than ISIS is the yearning for a caliphate. That is the driving force behind ISIS.

Rather, Kaplan sees the rise of the Islamic State as a result of the collapse of the European empire Read More »

Al-Baghdadi, Self-Proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State (Part 2)

By Farhang Jahanpour

Part 1 of this series

A shorter version of this article has been published by IPS

When Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarrai adopted the name of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Quraishi and revealed himself to the world as the Amir al-Mu’minin (the Commander of the Faithful) Caliph Ibrahim of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the whole world had to sit up and take notice of him.

The choice of the long title that he has chosen for himself is most interesting and symbolic. The title Abu-Bakr clearly refers to the first caliph after Prophet Muhammad’s death, the first of the four “Orthodox Caliphs”.

The term Husseini presumably refers to Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson and Imam Ali’s son, who was martyred in Karbala on 13 October 680. His martyrdom is seen as a turning point in the history of Islam and is mourned in elaborate mourning ceremonies by the Shi’ites throughout the world on the 10th of Muharram each year, which is accompanied with many processions and self-flagellation.

Both Sunnis and Shi’is regard Imam Hussein as a great martyr, and as someone who gave up his life in order to defend Islam and to stand up against tyranny.

Finally, al-Quraishi refers to Quraish, the tribe to which the Prophet of Islam belonged.

Therefore, his chosen title is full of Islamic symbolism.

According to an alleged biography posted on jihadi Internet forums, al-Baghdadi is a direct descendant of the Prophet, but curiously enough his ancestors come from the Shi’a line of the Imams who descended from the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah.

According to this alleged biography, al-Baghdadi derives his lineage directly from nine Shi’a Imams, “Ali Al-Hadi, Muhammad al-Jawad, Ali al-Rida, Musa al-Kazim, Ja’far al-Sadiq, Muhammad al-Baqir, Ali Zayn al-Abidin, Husayn Bin-Ali, Ali Bin Abi-Talib, right up to the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah and ending in Prophet Muhammad himself.”

Despite his great hostility towards the Shi’is, is this genealogy a way of portraying himself as the true son of the descendants of the Prophet, thus appealing to both Shi’is and Sunnis?

According to the same biography, al-Baghdadi was born near Samarra, in Iraq, in 1971. It is alleged that he received BA, MA and PhD degrees in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. It is also suggested that he was a cleric at the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal Mosque in Samarra at around the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. (1)

According to a senior Afghan security official, al-Baghdadi went to Afghanistan in the late 1990s, where he received his early jihadi training. He lived with the Jordanian militant fighter Abu Musab al-Zarqarwi in Kabul from 1996-2000. (2)

It is likely that al-Baghdadi fled Afghanistan with leading Taliban fighters after the US invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Zarqawi and Read More »