Archive for October, 2014

TFF PressInfo # 288 – Where it all went wrong and lessons were never learnt

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

On November 9, it is 25 years the Berlin Wall came down. Seventeen months later, Yugoslavia’s dissolution began and various concepts and policies were introduced that fundamentally changed international politics ever since – more so than the fall of the Wall.

These features can be seen in the conflict (mis)management in later conflicts.

By now we should have accumulated enough evidence of how effective the various ”teatments” of the ”patient” called Yugoslavia were. To put it crudely: A unique country was destroyed – yes from the inside too, but that doesn’t reduce the responsibility of the West/NATO in its role as ”peacemaker”.

Today, Croatia is ethnically much more clean; Kosovo remains a failed state; the constituencies of the Dayton Accords for Bosnia (1995) still won’t live together as one state, as elections have just shown us. Macedonia’s problems have only deepened. The split between Serbia and Montenegro was enigmatic. Today’s Slovenia is the only unit that can be said to be in a better situation now than when part of Yugoslavia.

It is high time we get a critical discussion going of what the international so-called community chose to actually do – no matter the stated intentions – to help bring about peace in former Yugoslavia.

All of it must be re-assessed and lessons must be learned for governments to introduce a little modesty and recognise that they are not born peacemakers but rather war makers. And we need such a debate to go down another road than the one we took since 1999.

TFF maintains that the crisis in and around Yugoslavia is much more significant for international affairs than hitherto assumed because e.g.:

• The international so-called community’s attempt at being self-appointed conflict analysers and peacemakers with no prior education or training right after being Cold War warriors led to miserable results on the ground.

• Closely related: the amateurish idea that conflicts could be understood and treated as two parties, one good and one bad. The bad guys were the Serbs, of course, and Slobodan Milosevic became the new ”Hitler of Europe” after the West had used him as an ally.

• During this crisis Russia was sidetracked and humiliated. But in the Soviet Union era no one would have dared touch the Yugoslav space. Now the West could do what it wanted and Russia could do nothing to oppose it.

Violent humanitarian intervention was introduced and persuaded many, Read the rest of this entry »

Sweden’s submergency

By Jan Oberg
Dr.hc, TFF director

Jan Oberg

Sweden ends its search for the unmentionable

This morning the Swedish defence solemnly called off its search for whatever it thought it was searching.

That was what was predicted in TFF PressInfo # 285 two days ago:

”For the above reasons the Swedish military will soon call off the whole thing and the affair will have served its purpose – precisely by not stating what it was, who it was or why it was. Or if it was.

What the purpose of the event may be remains to be revealed at some point in the future. Or perhaps never if – the purpose was fearology for increased militarisation.

Somebody somewhere knows what’s going on. And they put citizens’ security at risk for purposes they would never tell you.”

(No Swedish media showed any interest in this PressInfo).

Admittedly it is difficult – very difficult – to find a smaller object and bring it up in daylight – not to speak of handling the problem that may entail with a foreign country.

But not being able or willing to say a word to the public about what it was leaves behind (together with a couple of farcical mistakes) an impression of incompetence.

Investigate the military’s performance

The Swedish people have right to know and not in a language à la ”probable, credible indications of underwater activity by objects about which we make the preliminary – since investigations are ongoing – judgement that…and that is what the limits of operation secrecy permit us to state at this point.”

Swedish parliamentarians ought to investigate the military’s performance. But there are not enough independent experts, media or politicians in today’s Sweden to mount a broad-minded critical debate.

Instead there will be more money for the military after this.

Only one media interpretation

With few exceptions the media have been reckless in hinting and presuming that this must have been a Russian submarine. Read the rest of this entry »

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 the rest of this entry »

Out of Afghanistan

By Jonathan Power

October 21st, 2014

The Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in December, 1979 and withdrew, exhausted and demoralised, 10 years later. In Moscow a joke had long circulated: “Why are we still in Afghanistan?” Answer: “ We are still looking for the people who invited us.”

The same is true for the Americans and NATO who are now moving through the exit door. They came to obliterate Al Qaeda after 9/11, 2001.

There was certainly no invitation issued by the Afghan government, then controlled by the militant Taliban. The US was angry that Afghanistan sheltered Al Qaeda and didn’t have the time of day to discuss an invitation.

After an air and ground campaign it savaged Al Qaeda. Its rump, including its leader, Osama bin Laden, fled to the barely accessible mountains of Pakistan. Ordinary Afghans had never really liked al-Qaeda and they certainly never equated their home-grown Islamist movement, the Taliban, with the Arab-led extremists.

Yet the US and its allies were not prepared to declare victory and leave. They changed the goalposts Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo 285: Vilken ubåt i Sverige?

Av Jan Öberg

Jan Oberg

Två dagar efter detta skrevs stoppades sökningen – som förutsagt i konklusionen nedan.

Ni har hört att Sverige jagar en “ubåt” och att den “antas vara rysk”. Exempelvis skriver Financial Times om detta den 21 oktober – och meddelar också att den svenska statsministern lovar att öka försvarsutgifterna. Det finns bara tre problem med detta:

1) Det finns inte det minsta bevis för att där finns något militärt att hitta, inte heller att det är ryskt.  Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 285: What submarine in Sweden?

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

You have heard that Sweden is hunting a ”submarine” and that it is ”presumed to be Russian”. Here is an example, Financial Times of October 21 – which incidentally also announces that the Swedish Prime Minister vows to increase defence spending.

Not the slightest evidence

There are only three problems with this:

1) There is not the slightest evidence of there being anything military, neither that it is a submarine nor that, whatever the object might be, it is Russian.

2) Even with CNN, BBC and AlJazeera this is nothing but speculative low-grade yellow press journalism. This is possible in the field of defence, security and peace because much less is required of journalists when they write about these matters than when they write about, say, domestic politics, economics, sports, books or food and wine. In these fields you are expected to have some knowledge and media consumers are able to check. Read the rest of this entry »

Epistemology: On the use of dichotomies

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Sometimes the use of dichotomies, simple cuts, male-female, democracy-dictatorship, negative-positive peace is criticized: the world is more complicated. That the organic world with life, individual and collective, is complex, there is no doubt. That a simplistic us-them division of the world in two blocs or poles, polarization, is a step on the way to violence and war, is clear.

On the other hand, the dichotomy is a frequent form of thought; today’s digital world is even based on 0,1. We cannot live without right-left, forward-backward, up-down, North-South, East-West, etc.

For this author, with many dichotomies in thought-speech-writing, they are indispensable building-blocs for a complexity that can mirror some of the complexity of the real world, Read the rest of this entry »

The momentum to recognize a Palestinian State is unstoppable

By Farhang Jahanpour

Once again, the British Parliament has led the way with an epoch-making decision. On Monday 13 October 2014, British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing Palestine as a state. With 274 to 12 votes they passed a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Conservative Party’s whips advised the party’s MPs to stay away from the vote. As a result, nearly 90 per cent of the ruling Conservative Party members were absent from the vote. (1)

The Israeli government lobbied actively against the motion. The Zionist Federation of Great Britain, the oldest Zionist federation in the world, launched a campaign calling on British Jews to write letters to their MPs, urging them to oppose the motion. The more mainstream Jewish organizations also joined the campaign.

On the other hand, a number of Jewish MPs spoke eloquently in favour of the motion. The veteran Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, supporting the motion, accused Israel of “harming the image of Judaism” and contributing to anti-Semitism. In fact, the motion would not have made it to the floor of the House without the support of the Jewish leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.

Most of those who spoke in favour of the motion were emphatic about Israel’s right to exist, but they felt that it was time to give the Palestinians the same rights that the Israelis enjoy.

Nearly a hundred years ago Read the rest of this entry »

Oslo is dead! Long live Oslo! The UK House of Commons Supports Diplomatic Recognition of Palestine

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The post below is a modified version, especially the ending, of a piece published online two days ago in AlJazeera English. While appreciating the importance of the European moves to endorse Palestinian statehood, it seeks a more definitive repudiation of the Oslo Approach.
It calls for an end to the U.S. role as exclusive intermediary and the presumed outcome of a peace process being two states without indicating the character of the Palestinian state. So far, the two-state mantra has been cut back to allow Israel to retain at least the unlawful settlement blocs and to insist on arrangements that uphold their security against unforeseen threats, while granting not a word of acknowledgement to Palestinian security concerns.
My own strong belief is that unless the two peoples are treated with full equality in seeking a solution, the result will not be sustainable or just even in the unlikely event that some sort of agreement is reached.

Oslo is dead! Long live Oslo! The UK House of Commons Supports Diplomatic Recognition of Palestine

On October 13 the House of Commons by an overwhelming vote of 274-12 urged the British government to extend diplomatic recognition to Palestine.

At first glance, it would seem a Read the rest of this entry »

End Game in Ukraine?

By Jens Jorgen Nielsen

Written September 25, 2014

It should never have come to this horrible situation in Ukraine. The local population of Donetsk, Lugansk, Slavyansk and other eastern Ukrainian cities is living through a true nightmare. Residential areas are being bombed, shelled and burned. Non-combatants i.e. elder, women and children are lying dead in the streets. We’re talking about thousands of deaths. No water supply, no heating, no security – this is the grim reality for the population.

700.000 Eastern Ukrainians have already escaped from the war scene, most of them are living in refugee camps in Russia. It is worth noting that they have not fled to Kiev or elsewhere to the west.

Surprisingly the Western media hardly pay any attention to the horrors in Eastern Ukraine.

But that is not all. Ukraine is in total disruption socially, politically and not least economically and financially. Furthermore, the mental scars in Ukraine will continue for at least one generation ahead.

But again that is not all. The European Union suffers as well – in several ways. Read the rest of this entry »


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