Archive for March, 2013

President Obama’s Middle East visit

By Farhang Jahanpour

After a great deal of criticism from Israeli leaders and pro-Israeli groups in the United States for not having visited Israel during his first term, President Barack Obama chose Israel as the first point of call at the beginning of his second term. Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overt interference in the US presidential election and open support for his old friend, the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Netanyahu was rewarded not only with the first visit in the second term, but also with effusive praise for Israel and its policies.

Many pundits have regarded President Obama’s visit to Israel as a wasted opportunity and indeed as a depressing spectacle, because it finally admitted the failure and the total abandonment of US mediation for a two-state solution. At the beginning of his first term, Obama gave top priority to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict and made determined efforts to achieve that goal. In various speeches he rightly pointed out that continued settlement activity and the erosion of the remaining Palestinian territory would be an obstacle to peace, and he openly called on Israel to stop further violating international law by stealing more Palestinian land. Netanyahu’s response to all that pleading was downright rejection and deliberate provocation. Read the rest of this entry »

Middle East economies are unable to shift into top gear

By Jonathan Power

Dateline: Doha, Qatar.

It has always been one of the mysteries of history why it is that the Muslim world of the Middle East was once so far ahead of Europe in science, medicine, astronomy and mathematics yet by the 16th century started to fall behind.

Not only did most of it never industrialize, if it hadn’t been for nearly all its countries having oil in abundance they would still be living in the poverty and torpor that was their lot at the beginning of the twentieth century. Even today as modernism takes over and cities are built like this one and its neighbours, reaching for the sky, the foundations are industries of the newer kind – tourism and banking. According to the UN’s annual Human Development Report most of them, Abu Dhabi apart, compared with countries of equal income per head, are low down in the world rankings on education, health, scientific prowess and the status of women.

But why did the Muslim world lose its momentum? If it had kept going at the pace it did in the first millennium after Mohammed it would now be one of the world’s leaders. Read the rest of this entry »

What was wrong with Obama’s speech in Jerusalem

By Richard Falk

It was master-crafted as an ingratiating speech by the world’s most important leader and the government that has most consistently championed Israel’s cause over the decades. Enthusiastically received by the audience of Israeli youth, and especially by liberal Jews around the world. Despite the venue, President Obama’s words in Jerusalem on March 21st seemed primarily intended to clear the air somewhat in Washington. Obama may now have a slightly better chance to succeed in his second legacy-building presidential term despite a deeply polarized U.S. Congress, and a struggling American economy if assessed from the perspective of workers’ distress rather than on the basis of robust corporate profits. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq – Ten years of stupidity

By Johan Galtung

Nobody celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 19-20 March 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq (not only the USA was responsible, the stupidity coalesced). Stephen Zunes [also TFF Associate, edit] summarizes the losses in one of his excellent articles in the Santa Cruz Sentinel[i]: “the death of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600.000 orphans. More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile. Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received serious physical and emotional injuries that will plague them the rest of their lives. The war has cost US taxpayers close to $1.3 trillion”.

On top of killing 1.3 million in the UN-imposed sanctions.

To use expressions like “humanitarian intervention” or “human security” given such predictable insults to basic human needs and rights beats Orwell’s 1984 Newspeak. With nothing to justify this, the coalition should bow in Confession, Contrition and Compensation: 3C.

Iraq did not become a democracy as a result, Read the rest of this entry »

As Obama greets Iranians on Nowruz, he’s made some medicines hard to afford

By Farhang Jahanpour

Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in the world. In fact, the palace of Persepolis built in the sixth century BC was an audience hall for celebrating Nowruz. It takes the spring equinox (falling on 20 or 21 March each year) as the start of the year, and it is celebrated in Iran and in many other countries, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other Central Asian states, as well as Arran (Republic of Azerbaijan) and some other countries in the Caucasus. It is celebrated by the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey and many other peoples who have a shared history with Iran. It is a time of renewal and rebirth. Continue here This link also contains Obama’s speech to the Iranian people.

The Arab Spring struggles in the Gulf states

By Jonathan Power

Dateline: Doha, Qatar

By the lights of many in the Western world the monarchies of the small states that line the Persian Gulf – Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman – are governed by autocratic and anachronistic regimes. The Arab Spring has barely touched them. Their oil remains critical to the outside world and funds their own splendour – Qatar has the highest income per head in the world.

At various times the obituaries for these states have been written, only to be quickly forgotten. Today, in the wake of the upheavals of the Arab Spring, they seem to be bastions of stability – favoured by Western governments. With their small indigenous populations they have found it easy to make citizens economically and socially comfortable, the burdens of life shifted to immigrant workers (who are too often maltreated or underpaid). Nevertheless, hydrocarbon reserves are gradually shrinking and their indigenous populations growing fast, producing young people who find it hard to get the kind of jobs their self-image demands. Read the rest of this entry »

Militarism is a Greater Threat Than Terrorism

By Farhang Jahanpour

Published about 10 years ago on July 3, 2003

If Usama bin Laden is still alive – and the indications are that he is – he must be feeling very pleased with himself, because his terrible terrorist activities are beginning to bear fruit, and his main aim of polarising the world and creating a clash of civilisations is on the point of fruition. His call to the Muslims of the world, “you are either with the faithful believers or with the infidels”, seems to have been echoed by President Bush’s insistence that “you are either with us or with the terrorists.”

Last summer I visited the United States after many years. I was very pleased to find that the Americans have regained their composure after the dreadful events of 11th September and that they are the same positive, optimistic, friendly and hospitable people that they have always been. At the same time, I found some signs of hardening of attitude among some politicians and opinion formers that I found rather disturbing. I will refer to some of the unfortunate developments that have taken place during the past couple of years that go against American values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and that everyone is presumed innocent until proved guilty.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington many Americans who had nurtured a feeling of indifference towards Islam became very interested to learn about Islam and the Middle East. Books on Islam sold like hot cakes, and even the Koran became a best seller. This was a positive sign of strength and inquisitiveness and showed that Americans wanted to learn about the cause of what had happened. However, after a few months, there was a perceptible change of emphasis. At first, many students and others began asking: “Why do they hate us so much?” There was a substantive and healthy discussion about what it is about the nature of the American presence in the world that creates a situation in which movements like al-Qaeda can thrive and prosper. That was a very promising sign.

But shortly afterwards that discussion got short-circuited. A few months after 9/11 the tone of that discussion switched, and it became: “What’s wrong with the Islamic world that it failed to produce democracy, science, education, its own enlightenment, and created societies that breed terror?” Although this is a valid question to ask, it should not completely overshadow the earlier question.

In fact, a situation arose when if anybody tried to find the reasons for those barbaric events he or she was accused of trying to justify them. There was at times a concerted attack on those who thought it could be useful to bring at least a minimal degree of historical reference to bear on the event. Read the rest of this entry »

Democrats share the blame for tragedy of Iraq War

By Stephen Zunes

The Democrats who voted to support the war and rationalized that vote by making false claims about Iraq’s WMD programs – a minority of Democrats, but much over-represented in Democratic leadership councils – were responsible for allowing the Bush administration to get away with lying about Iraq’s alleged threat.

Here on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is important to remember that it was not just those in the Bush White House who were responsible for the tragedy, but leading members of Congress as well, some of whom are now in senior positions in the Obama administration.

Continue reading at truthout

Remembering those responsible on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War

By Stephen Zunes

This March 19 marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. war and occupation has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600,000 orphans.

More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile.

Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received serious physical and emotional injuries which will plague them for the rest of their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

The Iraq War – 10 years later

By Richard Falk

After a decade of combat, casualties, massive displacement, persisting violence, enhanced sectarian tension and violence between Shi’ias and Sunnis, periodic suicide bombings, and autocratic governance, a negative assessment of the Iraq War as a strategic move by the United States, United Kingdom, and a few of their secondary allies, including Japan, seems near universal.

Not only the regionally destabilizing outcome, including the blowback effect of perversely adding weight to Iran’s overall diplomatic influence, but the reputational costs in the Middle East associated with an imprudent, destructive, and failed military intervention make the Iraq War the worst American foreign policy disaster since its defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s, and undertaken with an even less persuasive legal, moral, and political rationale.

Most geopolitical accounting assessments do not bother to consider the damage to the United Nations and international law arising from an aggressive use of force in flagrant violation of the UN Charter, Read the rest of this entry »


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter