Monthly Archives: February 2016

Neocons leaving the Republican party to endorse Clinton

In the post ‘Clinton is Israel’s gal’ (see: http://different-traditions.com/?p=3482), it was pointed out that it is looking increasingly like Clinton – who has won the South Carolina primary over Sanders – is the leader of the cause of war, apartheid and worldwide repression.

Now Robert Kagan, one of the leading neocons who brought you the Iraq war, wrote that he is now endorsing Hillary Clinton, supposedly because of Trump’s xenophobia, demagoguery and racism. However, the real reason is his isolationist foreign policy. Calling Trump the GOP’s Frankenstein monster, Kagan writes:

“Have his foreign policies, in particular, contributed to the fraying of the liberal world order that the United States created after World War II? Yes, and for these failures he has deserved criticism and principled opposition. But Republican and conservative criticism has taken an unusually dark and paranoid form. Instead of recommending plausible alternative strategies for the crisis in the Middle East, many Republicans have fallen back on a mindless Islamophobia, with suspicious intimations about the president’s personal allegiances”

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-the-gops-frankenstein-monster-now-hes-strong-enough-to-destroy-the-party/2016/02/25/3e443f28-dbc1-11e5-925f-1d10062cc82d_story.html?postshare=8751456420574625&tid=ss_tw

 

Mahmut Suleyman Zengin: Syria truce lasted 50 minutes

Turkmen leader - Zengin

Turkmen leader Mahmut Suleyman Zengin said that the much vaunted Munich cessation-of-hostilities agreement which went into effect midnight Friday held for a mere 50 minutes before being broken by the Kurdish PYD group.

In an address delivered at  conference held in Antalya on Saturday 27th February, the commander of the Syria Turkmen Front’s Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigades, said that the PYD had attacked Turkmen positions in the northwestern Aleppo province less than an hour after the deal went into effect.

What’s more,  the Assad regime and Russian forces attacked Aleppo’s Handarat region at 1:52 a.m., and Acibayir village in the Bayirbucak region, where Turkmen forces retaliated both inflicting losses on regime troops and suffering casualties.

“Today, under the cease-fire, we lost 10 martyrs and 20 injured,” Zengin said, adding that clashes in the area continued.

He went on to assert: “The purpose [of the entire exercise] is to strike Turkmen positions.”

Meanwhile, the Daesh terrorist group seized control of several parts of the PYD-held town of Tal Abyad north of Raqqah, along with the nearby Watan Hospital and the village of Nas Tal — from PYD groups. Clashes in the area remain underway between Daesh and the PYD, whilst U.S.-led coalition warplanes reportedly struck the Watan Hospital occupied by Daesh terrorists.

Source: Anadolu

FBI vs. Apple Establishes a New Phase of the Crypto Wars

Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin write on the Intercept

For over two decades, the battle between privacy-minded technologists and the U.S. government has primarily been over encryption. In the 1990s, in what became known as the Crypto Wars, the U.S. tried to limit powerful encryption — calling it as dangerous to export as sophisticated munitions — and eventually lost.

After the 2013 Snowden revelations, as mainstream technology companies started spreading encryption by putting it in popular consumer products, the wars erupted again. Law enforcement officials, led by FBI Director James Comey, loudly insisted that U.S. companies should build backdoors to break the encryption just for them.

That won’t happen because what these law enforcement officials are asking for isn’t possible (any backdoor can be used by hackers, too) and wouldn’t be effective (because encryption is widely available globally now). They’ve succeeded in slowing the spread of unbreakable encryption by intimidating tech companies that might otherwise be rolling it out faster, but not much else.

Indeed, as almost everyone else acknowledges, unbreakable encryption is here to stay.

Tech privacy advocates continue to remain vigilant about encryption, actively pointing out the inadequacies and impossibilities of the anti-encryption movement, and jumping on any sign of backsliding.

But even as they have stayed focused on defending encryption, the government has been shifting its focus to something else.

The ongoing, very public dispute between Apple and the FBI, in fact, marks a key inflection point — at least as far as the public’s understanding of the issue.

You might say we’re entering the Post-Crypto phase of the Crypto Wars.

Think about it: The more we learn about the FBI’s demand that Apple help it hack into a password-protected iPhone, the more it looks like part of a concerted, long-term effort by the government to find new ways around unbreakable encryption — rather than try to break it.

The Court Order

The court order Apple is fighting would require it to come up with a new way to hack into an iPhone 5c belonging to San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

The fact is that Apple couldn’t break the encryption scrambling the phone’s data if it tried. But the FBI doesn’t have to worry about that if it can just open the phone with the right password.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook put it, in his rebellious public response to the court order: “The ‘key’ to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it.”

And it’s those protections that are now under siege.

This is not a sudden move for the government. As Bloomberg News recently reported, President Obama’s National Security Council last fall shaped a secret “decision memo” requesting government agencies to find both technical and legal ways to skirt encryption instead of break it.

They were instructed to figure out how much each option would cost, whether there were any laws that might need changing — and to report back.

According to a Washington Post story in September, an Obama administration working group spent months coming up with a list of technological methods to defeat encryption. One idea — particularly abhorrent to computer security professionals — was to force companies to send malware to suspects’ phones using automatic software updates.

And despite Comey’s constant complaint that law enforcement is “going dark” because of encryption, the FBI has been developing and purchasing viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malware to help break into digital devices — and in that way get around unbreakable encryption — for years.

They don’t like to talk about it. The FBI “routinely identifies, evaluates, and tests potential exploits in the interest of cybersecurity,” FBI spokesperson Christopher Allen wrote in an email to The Intercept in September.

But the public record shows that the FBI has been physically hacking into computers since at least 2001, when it put a keystroke-logger on “Little Nicky” Scarfo’s computer during an investigation of the American Mafia.

These days, the FBI uses its own brand of malware called the Computer and IP Address Verifier (CIPAV). In 2007, agents tricked a high school kid in Washington into downloading it and exposing his identity when he was making bomb threats. The FBI has consulted with outside shops, too, including the Italian firm Hacking Team — whose emails were leaked last summer, exposing its business dealings.

“I think that for many within law enforcement, the priority is to access data, point blank. That could mean installing backdoors directly into encryption standards or finding some kind of workaround,” Andrea Castillo, the technology policy program manager for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

“The first strategy failed in the court of public opinion, so it appears that they are now attempting more covert methods to get around encryption. Unfortunately, there are major security risks with both approaches,” she said.

National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers seems to already be pivoting away from the idea that we need to get rid of unbreakable encryption. He said in January that encryption is here to stay — and that “spending time arguing” about it is “a waste of time.” When pushed by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff on whether or not encryption is a crippling threat to the intelligence community, he deflected, suggesting that it’s a bigger issue for domestic local law enforcement.

And documents in the Snowden archive show the NSA has spent years actively trying to hack Apple products and mobile devices. Its efforts to hack the iPhone date back to 2006, before it was even unveiled.

A Big Con?

“Over the past few months, I’ve been wondering why it is the FBI has been pushing so hard in the public forum to advocate for backdoors when almost everyone, from technologists to the tech industry to civil society to Congress, has been opposed to such an approach,” Ryan Hagemann, technology and civil liberties policy analyst for the Niskanen Center, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

“I think what we’re seeing unfold here is part of a multi-pronged strategy by law enforcement, possibly with the tacit approval and support of the intelligence community.”

Hagemann said what the FBI is pursuing is much more dangerous than any legislative route. “I think we should be more fearful of the strategy the FBI is using in the courts to push their ill-advised and Constitutionally dubious agenda.”

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, recently proposed that the government’s strategy all along has been to use the push for backdoors into encryption as “a feint.”

Writing for the national security law blog Just Security, Sanchez speculated that “the threat of a costly fight over legislation, even if unlikely to become law, may be largely geared toward getting Silicon Valley, or at least a critical mass of companies, to adopt a more cooperative posture. ” That means “quietly finding ways to accommodate the government.”

Sanchez concluded that when the government finally admits the obvious — and gives up on fighting unbreakable encryption — it will demand some sort of “compromise” legislation.

Sanchez imagined “privacy groups celebrating a victory” when that happens, “while intel officials snicker into their sleeves at a ‘defeat’ according to plan.”

read on:

https://theintercept.com/2016/02/26/fbi-vs-apple-post-crypto-wars/

Erdoğan: Interest rate system is unfair

Speaking at the opening ceremony of Vakıf Katılım Bank in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the interest rate system is unjust and that Vakıfbank is a product of a 20-year dream.

He said: “We may be late, but I believe that we will soon make great progress in this sector regarding the participation of financial management.” Explaining that there has to be a distinction between the concepts, Erdoğan said: “We must distinguish between what is a financial institution and what is participation, because when we refer to a bank, the current banking system comes to mind. We will support the improvement of an Islamic finance system.”

Recalling that the number of banks working in this system has increased to six, he said: “The share of interest-free Islamic finance systems among all the other banking systems is nearly 5 percent. We are going through a period where the world needs interest-free financing options more than ever,” he added.

He said that the interest system is unfair in his opinion, and continued: “If we are to jump forward we need to grow within a real participation system rather than this cruel one. Islamic financing is a completely different system from the current banking system in terms of its asset-backed structure, its reliance on risk share and its structure closed to speculation. I believe that this system will be the driving force behind the Turkish economy with its structure, inciting production rather than consumption, decreasing fragilities by providing resource usage opportunity without owing money from institutions.”

Comparing Turkey’s interest rates with those of other countries, he said: “The interest rate is 0.5 [percent] in the [United] States, negative in Japan and at zero in Europe while Turkey’s is in the double-digits. Can Turkey produce with that interest rate, can it compete? Interest rate lobbying continues in cold blood.” It is worth noting that only very large multinationals and banks can access funds in the US and Europe at those very low levels. Banks charge small businesses a massive margin over the central bank rate.

Clinton is Israel’s gal

Sheldon Adelson and the Israeli lobby has been agonising about who to give its money to, given the Trump hijack of the Republican party

As Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz write on Mondoweiss:

Adelson has to fear Trump greatly since Trump does not need his money. Trump is the least Israel-friendly in the entire Republican field, and he’s the frontrunner…  Trump is terrifying to Adelson: He rubbished John McCain’s war record,  declared that the Iraq War was a disaster based on a lie, and also said that Bush didn’t keep anyone safe, especially given that 9/11 happened on his watch.  And he made many of those statements on TV in supposedly military-friendly South Carolina, thereby energizing a populist antiwar constituency. Who knows what he would do as president?

Hillary Clinton on the other hand is the biggest Israel lover in the race right now, right next to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. She has promised to take the Israel relationship “to the next level,” has bragged that she was born within months of Israel, she has promised to fight Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and work with Republicans to do so. She has also promised to invite Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in the first month of office. In her latest book, she kisses up to Dennis Ross, the leading policy advocate for Israel who works in both Republican and Democratic administrations, no problem; and Ross’s latest book pushes Clinton whilst berating Obama’s policy on Israel.

 

 

March 1 Super Tuesday will be the decider

Trump wins big in Nevada, where Sanders lost to Clinton.

The Alaska, Samoa, Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Minnesota caucuses, together with the Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia primaries will be all run on March 1 ‘Super Tuesday’.

The crucial situation in the Middle-East, where US hegemony is in the process of collapsing makes this election important. A Trump presidency will signal an isolationist America, whilst a Clinton presidency may harbinger a new albeit doomed and possibly devastating (for the peoples of the Middle-East) attempt to re-engineer hegemony.

2016 Primary Schedule

 

Republicans Trumped again

Trump wins South Carolina and Bush III falls off the wagon. I continue my counter-narrative stance on Trump that despite his anti-Muslim stance, he should regarded as having a salutary effect on the Republican Party in the US. Specifically, he is winning over all Israel-funded candidates, and therefore marginalising the power of the Adelson-Netanyahu axis. Generally, he has taken the rabid foaming-at-the-mouth  politics of the Grand Ol’ Party to its logical extreme, rendering his opposition incapable of formulating a response, and putting the party just slightly beyond the general electoral pale.

However, if he wins the Republican nomination and thus comes face-to-face with say, Hillary Clinton  – you watch – Trump will switch to the centre in the blink of an eye.

In regard to the Democratic nomination, Clinton won Nevada’s caucus, and it would seem that Sanders will have trouble taking his left-wing message to the South (Texas), and to New York where Hillary has strong political connections, although the result in California in not clear. Obviously California, New York, Texas and Florida are the big ones to win for both primaries. Nevertheless, Sanders is now actually leading in some national polls. See for instance:

http://www.businessinsider.com/poll-bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-fox-news-2016-2?IR=T

Overall a Trump-Clinton presidential contest would go to Clinton. A Trump-Sanders contest would be more interesting, and much more polarising, redrawing the political map of the US. Note, however, that a Trump Republican nomination would draw Michael Bloomberg as an independent into the presidential race, splitting Trump’s vote. See:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2016/0209/Bloomberg-for-president-Why-an-independent-run-might-work.-video

In summary, now that one political dynasty has been sidelined in this primary race, and the Israeli factor marginalised at least from its Republican base, it would be really nice – from the perspective of democratic politics – to see the Clinton dynasty falter.

The Turks and the Alevi community

Baþbakan Ahmet Davutoðlu, Erzincan'da Hacý Bektaþ Veli Anadolu Kültür Vakfý Erzincan Þubesi ve Cemevi'ni ziyaret etti. ( Halil Saðýrkaya - Anadolu Ajansý )

In the 1980s, Turkey was still an economic basket case ruled over by the ‘White Turks’, legatees of the Jacobin revolution of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who had kept Turkey in Kemalist formaldehyde, with the uneconomic industries they owned protected by local bureaucracy and tariff walls, for generations. The country was wracked by fighting between rightists and leftists, with the left partially taking on the colour of a Kurdish nationalist insurgency, and the right peopled with various deep state groups such as the ‘grey wolves’ that murdered people willy-nilly.

Then came the military coup of General Kenan Devren, who aimed to stabilise the situation. He (eventually) put Turgut Özal in charge of the economy as prime minister, and the first neo-liberal reforms began which changed the power structures in Turkey. A new community would emerge to compete on the world market and render the old economic structures redundant. The so-called ‘Anatolian Tigers’ from the anti-Republican Muslim community would start taking the economic power base of the Istanbul Republican élite apart. On the basis of these reforms Turkey’s GDP would explore and quadruple in the two decades from 1990-2010, catapulting the country into the top 16 economies of the world, making it comfortably a member of the G20.

Özal and most of his ministers came from quite a narrow social group called the Iskenderpaşa Community  (or Lodge as these communities are sometimes called), which belongs to the majority Sunni Nakshibendi-Khalidi ‘tariqa’ (or school), which has a Sufi belief system rooted in Islamic law, which is why it is called ‘Sunni’. Necmettin Erbakan, who formed a government in the 1990s, came from the same Iskenderpaşa Community. Whereas Özal had stuck to economic reforms, Erbakan sought to extend the changes to Turkey’s foreign policy, seeking rapprochement with  Arab neighbours and away from Israel and the West. This was too much for the Republican élite,  and there was another coup in 1997.  However, the effect of this coup was of short duration, as Turkey was changing fast.

Ultimately, the Iskenderpaşa Community would provide the  current leaders of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  and current prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who, in their rule since 2002 have delivered the largest portion of Turkey’s transformation. Erdoğan  and Davutoğlu have also pursued Erbakan’s policy of getting more involved in the region, rather than remaining in the Kemalist ‘Western bubble’ which was leading the country nowhere. The situation in Syria has been blamed on their policies. Whether this blame is justified or not can be judged only in the context of the US policy which smashed the Iraqi state under Bush II and then actually started the war in Syria under Obama, in order to cut the links between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which ran through Syria. Turkey is and remains a victim of great power politics but, despite all these challenges, seems to be able to maintain its growth path and the all-important processes of democratisation.

Kurds (14 of the 75 million nationals of Turkey) and Alevis (some 15 million, although the number isn’t accurate) where always the butt of aggression on the part of ‘White Turks’. Whereas the majority Nakshibendi ‘Sunni’ Sufis where always ‘incorporated’ into the state by the Republican élite and controlled through the Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Alevis were ‘Bektashi’ Sufis – discriminated against on the basis that  they followed a more mystical version of Islam and didn’t worship in mosques but in community gathering places called ‘Cem Evi’ (house of gathering). The Kurds, on the other hand, were Sunni, although they would be increasingly coopted by the PKK into a nationalist movement against the Turkish state.

Erdoğan  and Davutoğlu have consistently followed a path of reconciliation with both Kurds and Alevis. This had been informally announced in 2005, to then be formally introduced by the AKP government in 2009 as the ‘democratic opening’. What happened with the Kurds is that the nationalist political organisation that had formed in the struggle against the Turkish state – the PKK – continued to seek territorial independence, in order to impose their particular  rule over the Kurdish people, rather than seeking freedom for them in the context of an expanding and increasingly democratising Turkish state. We have seen what happened to that situation, with Kurdish independence as an idea generally backed by ‘leftist’ opinion in the West, and more specifically Syrian Kurdish independence backed by the Pentagon in Syria as a tool of military tactics. Ironically, despite its differences with the PKK and its Syrian affiliate the YPD, Turkey has excellent relations with the Iraqi Kurds of the KRG.

Nevertheless, the subject of this post is not the Kurds. The point here is to highlight the reconciliation process between Sunni and Alevi Turks. This  is no longer opposed by the Alevi community, except for some individuals from the CHP – Republican Party – who have invested their political careers in the division: it is, rather, embraced by them. Davutoğlu’s visit pictured above to an Alevi Cem comes with an official confirmation of the new constitutional rights that will be extended to all Alevis and the legalisation of the Cemevi.

See previous post on the subject

Ahmet Davutoğlu announces legal status for Cemevis