Monthly Archives: October 2017

Xi Ping: The Communist Party is the guarantor of the interests of the people

In the Communist Party Plenary Conference Xi Jinping urged a reinvigorated Communist Party to take on a more forceful role in society and economic development to better address “grim” challenges facing the country as he opened the twice-a-decade congress.

He pledged to build a “modern socialist country” that will never copy the political systems of others and will remain open to the world.” Through a long period of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, this is a new historical direction in our country’s development.”

Xi Ping sees China’s political system as the broadest, most genuine, and most effective way to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people. He seeks to relax market access for foreign investment and expand access to its services sector, as well as deepen market-oriented reform of its exchange rate and financial system, while at the same time strengthening state firms.

Addressing the Press he said:

“Good day, ladies, gentlemen, and friends. Sorry to have kept you waiting. I am very happy to meet with you, friends of the press.

Yesterday, the 18th CPC [Communist Party of China] National Congress victoriously concluded.

During these days, friends of the press have made lots of coverage on the congress and conveyed China’s voice in abundance to every country around the world. Everyone has been very dedicated, professional and hardworking. For this, on behalf of the Secretariat of the 18th Party Congress, I would like to express sincere gratitude to you.

Just now, we have conducted the first plenary meeting of the 18th CPC Central Committee and elected the new central leadership organisation during the meeting. The plenary meeting election has produced seven Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau and elected me as the CPC General Secretary.

Here, let me introduce to you my colleagues, the other six Standing Committee members.

They are: Comrade Li Keqiang, Comrade Zhang Dejiang, Comrade Yu Zhengsheng, Comrade Liu Yunshan, Comrade Wang Qishan, and Comrade Zhang Gaoli.

Comrade Li Keqiang served as a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee while other comrades served as members of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee. You have known them well.

Here, on behalf of the members of the new central leadership organisation, I sincerely thank all comrades of the party for their trust in us. We will live up to the great trust placed on and the mission assigned to us.

The great trust of all members of the party and the expectations of people of all ethnic groups around the country are not only a tremendous encouragement to our doing the work well, but also a heavy burden on our shoulders.

This great responsibility is the responsibility to our nation. Our nation is a great nation.

During the civilisation and development process of more than 5,000 years, the Chinese nation has made an indelible contribution to the civilisation and advancement of mankind.

In the modern era, our nation experienced constant hardship and difficulties. The Chinese nation reached the most dangerous period. Since then, countless people with lofty ideals to realise the great revival of the Chinese nation rose to resist and fight, but failed one time after another.

Since the founding of the CPC, we have united and led the people to advance and struggle tenaciously, transforming the impoverished and backward Old China into the New China that has become prosperous and strong gradually. The great revival of the Chinese nation has demonstrated unprecedented bright prospects.

Our responsibility is to unite and lead people of the entire party and of all ethnic groups around the country while accepting the baton of history and continuing to work for realising the great revival of the Chinese nation in order to let the Chinese nation stand more firmly and powerfully among all nations around the world and make a greater contribution to mankind.

This great responsibility is the responsibility to the people. Our people are a great people. During the long process of history, by relying on our own diligence, courage and wisdom, Chinese people have opened up a good and beautiful home where all ethnic groups live in harmony and fostered an excellent culture that never fades.

Our people love life and expect better education, more stable jobs, better income, more reliable social security, medical care of a higher standard, more comfortable living conditions, and a more beautiful environment.

They hope that their children can grow up better, work better and live better. People’s yearning for a good and beautiful life is the goal for us to strive for.

Every bit of happiness in the world has to be created by diligent work and labour. Our responsibility is to rally and lead the whole party and all of China’s ethnic groups and continue to emancipate our way of thinking, insist on reform and opening up, further unleash and develop social productive forces, work hard to resolve the difficulties faced by the masses in both production and life, and steadfastly take the road of common prosperity.

This is a major responsibility towards the party. Our party is a political party that serves the people wholeheartedly. The party has led the people in scoring accomplishments that capture the attention of the world. We have every reason to be proud. However, we are proud but not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels.

In the new situation, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, especially problems such as corruption and bribe-taking by some party members and cadres, being out of touch with the people, placing undue emphasis on formality and bureaucracy must be addressed with great effort.

The whole party must be vigilant.

The metal itself must be hard to be turned into iron. Our responsibility is to work with all comrades in the party to be resolute in ensuring that the party supervises its own conduct; enforces strict discipline; effectively deals with the prominent issues within the party; earnestly improves the party’s work style and maintains close ties with the people. So that our party will always be the firm leadership core for advancing the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

It is the people who create history. The masses are the real heroes. Our strength comes from the people and masses. We deeply understand that the capability of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty that we cannot overcome. Individuals have limited time in work, but there is no limit in serving the people wholeheartedly.

Our responsibility is weightier than Mount Tai, and our journey ahead is long and arduous. We must always be of one heart and mind with the people; share weal and woe with the people; make concerted and hard effort with the people; attend to our duties day and night with diligence; and strive to deliver a satisfactory answer sheet to history and the people.

Friends from the press, China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about China. I hope you will continue to make more efforts and contributions to deepening the mutual understanding between China and the countries of the world.

Thank you everybody!”

The rout of Barzani’s KDP continues as PMM-backed Yazidi group retakes Sinjar

As Masoud Barzani’s independence gambit lies in tatters, and the Peshmerga continue their retreat, the Iraqi Yazidi group Lalesh, affiliated with Iraq’s Iran-backed PMM (Al-Hashd al-Shaabi), takes over the Yazidi capital in Northern Iraq, Sinjar.

The Iraqi federal government’s Joint Operations Command said that Iraqi forces have been redeployed, aside from Sinjar and other areas in the Nineveh plains, across Khanaqin and Jalawla in Diyala province, as well as Makhmur, Bashiqa, and the Mosul dam, Sinjar.

Calls for Barzani’s resignation are coming in now from all quarters of the Kurdish community.

The third act of the Iraqi Saga: Iraq coming together under Abadi

The final act of the Iraqi gambit launched  by G. W. Bush/A. Blair gambit to “reshape the Middle-East” is underway, and may have a surprising outcome. After the 2003 US invasion and subsequent withdrawal, the US proceeded to gradually reinstate itself in Northern Iraq (and Syria) through it alliance with the Kurds, in what is ostensibly a campaign against DAESH/ISIS, the spread of which, however, there is now ample documentation to prove, the US had earlier helped to promote as part of a strategy to destabilise and remove the Assad régime in Damascus, and sever the bridge between Iran and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.

The US had also helped the Iraqi army reorganise after its defeat in Mosul 2014, given that Daesh/ISIS was threatening the whole of Iraq at the time, and the Iraqi army would be necessary boots on the ground for a difficult campaign against a widely spread opponent. Ultimately, it was the reorganised Iraqi army, with a few US advisers, but nevertheless under Haidar el-Abadi’s leadership, that cut its teeth, and lost much blood, in retaking Mosul. Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi was, until now, veering towards an alliance with the US against the rigidly pro-Iranian sections (e.g. Nouri al-Maliki) of the Iraqi political scene.

All this was before KRG referendum on independence and Trump’s speech decertifying the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action  (JCPOA) P5+1+EU Iran Nuclear Deal, and his thinly veiled threats against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Together these spelled a potential reigniting of US ambitions to sever the bridge now between Iran and Syria (Assad having survived) with a Kurdish entity under its aegis. Furthermore, with a Kurdish population in Iran, a KRG-US alliance could potentially provide the US with direct and effective lever to undermine the Iranian régime. It was hardly likely that Iran, with its deep involvement in Iraq, and its need to keep the direct link with Syria would stand idly by and allow that situation to be realised.

Abadi’s reliance on the US to bolster his own position will now melt away, as he will build on his reputation as the conqueror of Mosul. This requires his continued campaigning to keep control over the Iraqi army forces, which have now become the foundation of his rule. The Iraqi PMM militia (el-Hashd el-Shaabi) represents a potential competitor, supported directly by Iran’s IRGC, that he needs to keep on a tight leash in all future conflict. This he can only do by keeping it marginalised as a force secondary to his own.  Trump’s speech will have pushed the IRGC to increase its investment in the PMM hugely to ensure the KRG/Peshmerga’s defeat (besides the effect it is having in raising the IRGC’s stock within Iran) . The US will continue to supply Abadi, irrespective of what he does, because he is their only potentially ally in Baghdad, while Abadi himself will focus on his race against these various mounting pressures.

The KRG’s independence referendum presented a opportunity that answered Abadi’s political needs. The US can now only sit and watch as tensions mount between two of its allies. Trump’s speech made this outcome inevitable. Abadi is on the road to turning himself into a indispensable political force in Iraq as he commits to marginalising the KRG by retaking the Kirkuk oil fields and thus the major source of its revenue. This, it would appear, he has begun to do as the Peshmerga retreat from Kirkuk. The revenue itself is of little import to a government in Baghdad that produces ten times as much oil in its southern provinces. The whole point is to render the KRG’s independence gambit cashless.

Given that the Peshmerga forces that abandoned their positions in Kirkuk belong to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction, it would appear that a deal has been struck between Baghdad and the PUK to unseat Barzani and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) in Irbil. Bafel Talabani, the son of PUK leader, the late Jalal Talabani, had opposed the referendum and had warned the Kurds were heading for disaster. Two large oil fields a bit further west of Kirkuk, Bai Hassan and Avana Dome, are as of writing, still under Kurdish management although the Peshmerga have now left. Temporary shutdown of oil production at the two field appears to have been reversed as the Iraqi government threatened to remove the management.

Kirkuk has been a bone of contention between Baghdad and the KDP Irbil since the very beginning of the functioning of the new Iraqi constitution. The Kurds had benefitted from US patronage ever since Bill Clinton’s no-fly zone. When the new constitution was written, the KRG was given special autonomy, but without Kirkuk which is only one-third Kurdish in demographic terms. However, it was KDP policy to change that situation by bussing Kurdish populations into Kirkuk, changing, in a phase made famous by the Israelis, “facts on the ground”. This led to bad relations with the Federal Government in Baghdad, whose leaders eventually stopped paying the KRG bureaucracy’s salaries. The referendum was only to go ahead because of the personal intervention of Kirkuk’s hawkish Kurdish governor, Najmeddin Karim. Now he has been stripped of all his powers.

What is helping Abadi to reach his goal is the fact that the US has managed to so undermine its relationship with Turkey, with its Kurdish alliances, that the Turks are now opening new direct border connections with Iraq that bypass its erstwhile KRG. This has led to the complete regional isolation of the KRG, given that Iran is also now effectively closing its own border points with the Kurdish enclave at Haji Omaran, Parwezkhan and Bashmaq. Thus under total siege, KRG’s president Masoud Barzani’s position is unenviable. Time and history is on Abadi’s side, and potentially a military triumph in Kirkuk will mean the survival of Iraq as a nation and its astonishing retreat from the brink of partition.

This will also give hope to Sunnis in Iraq, as a post-campaign consolidation of Abadi’s power vis-à-vis Iranian elements in Iraq, will require that he brings Sunnis under his political tent. This outcome would need to involve a rebalancing of the post-war sectarian régime in Baghdad with its lack of governing capability, but is likely to occur as a result of the new tripartite interaction between Turkey, Iran and Iraq at multiple economic, political and security levels and the need to satisfy the broad range of interests all this entails.

What is now abundantly clear is that the G. W. Bush/A. Blair gambit to “reshape the Middle-East” has failed, and since the beginning of the Astana process, regional powers are consolidating their hold on the region’s security, and sidelining the US. It is remarkable that, unlike Syria, which is now merely a de juro entity, Iraq looks like it will regain its sovereignty. The defeat of the KDP, will bring the KRG back as a player within the Baghdad political scene, while the clear need to include Sunnis in the process will likely be answered by Abadi, for his own political reasons, quite besides it being part of a regional settlement. It all may collapse again, but this is unlikely.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s various attacks on the Federal government over the past two years, has made it clear that there is a strong current in Shia politics in favour of an Iraqi nationalist stance, independent of Iran which Abadi can rely on, and which he can now invest in virtue of his new stature since in success in Mosul, and in Kirkuk (although this last success has something also to do with negotiations between the PUK/Talabani clan and the IRGC’s Qasim Suleimani that took place in Suleimaniya during the KRG’s referendum). A democratic federated Iraq may slowly be emerging, and the era of ethno-nationalisms fading.

 

 

The failed 2016 Turkish coup and the role of the US

The sign on the bus carrying participants to trials of those accused of organising the attempted 15th July 2016 coup reads; “We have not forgotten July 15, we will not let it be forgotten”.

On July 15th 2016, a military coup was hatched which included the attempted assassination of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It failed, and has since been the centre-piece of massive  investigation, arrests, and court proceedings. Fethullah Gülen, who resides permanently in the US in a compound in rural Pennsylvania, was without doubt the focal figure in this coup, which included hundreds of his followers in the organisation known in Turkey as FETÖ. Attempts to characterise the coup as fake and organised by the country’s government have foundered on the evidence. Requests for Gülen’s extradition have been met in the US justice system by total silence – neither acquiescence nor rejection based on evidence-based arguments.

This is despite the fact that the US has supplied documentation to Turkish authorities, which has allowed them to convict Kemal Batmaz as being one of the two leaders of the coup (along with fugitive Adil Öksüz). The document from US border security affirms visits by Kemal Batmaz to Fethullah Gülen in the US, which he had previously denied. It is now fairly obvious that this evidence is as damning of Gülen as  it is of Batmaz.

Now outgoing US Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass,  has caused problems for himself over his strong reaction to journalist reports that an unregistered US Istanbul Consulate staffer was a FETÖ operative. There has been tension between Turkish authorities and the US Embassy on the FETÖ debacle on a number of previous occasions. Before Adil Öksüz disappeared following his controversial and sudden release from custody arranged by FETÖ-linked judges , he received a call from an Istanbul telephone number registered to the U.S. Consulate. Upon being questioned on the matter, US authorities claimed he had been called merely to be told that his visa application had been canceled.

Secondly, FETÖ leaders Muharrem Gözüküçük and Bayram Andaç called the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate one day after the raid by FETÖ-linked officials on trucks belonging to the intelligence services (MİT) in March 2014, which were delivering aid and weapons to Turkmen tribes. This raid was a ploy orchestrated by Fethullah Gülen through former Adana prosecutor Özcan Şişman to implicate the Turkish government as a supplier of weapons to ISIS. Given the evidence from an August 2012 document that the US Defense Dept. was deeply involved in the plan to allow ISIS expansion into Syria in the first place, this was a clear attempt to shift blame onto the Turkish government, using friendly Turkish deep state elements in order to do so.

Furthermore, in respect of Turkey’s ongoing fight against the PKK, Hamza Uluçay, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Adana for 36 years was charged six months ago with having close ties to the organisation, officially proscribed both in Turkey and the US.

Ambassador Bass says that the arrest now of US Istanbul Consulate staffer Metin Topuz is an outrage and on his view, ‘without merit’. Turkish authorities hold, however, that he actually does not exist on the list of accreditations with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and therefore should not be on concern to the Ambassador. To add to the confusion, Topuz himself maintains he worked for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), raising suspicions of CIA links. He is charged with espionage and violating the constitutional order: “The suspect had phone contacts with 121 people investigated for links to FETÖ and contacted people using ByLock hundreds of times,” the indictment reported by Anadolu Agency (AA) claims, referring to the encrypted messaging app used by the terrorist group.

Ambassador Bass’ reaction to the situation was to disaccredit a number of journalists reporting on these cases, preventing them from asking questions at his pre-departure press conference. Following that, the US suspended non-immigrant visa applications from Turkey. The sudden action, which appears to have backing at Foggy Bottom, occurred without any prior warning, and seems to be both an admission of guilt (“she both protest too much”), and an act that seems to be designed only to be solved by some kind of covert bargaining. However, in retaliation Turkish visa applications for US citizens have been suspended.

If State Department officials believe that this arm-twisting (essentially taking US – Turkish commercial activity hostage) will lead to the Turkish government rolling-over, they might well be mistaken. It is not merely that the Turks have so far been unmoved by any and all attacks over the roll-over of their state of emergency and accusation of human rights abuses associated with their arrests over the matter of the coup. More generally, in terms of the direction of world trade, “times have changed”, in case this hadn’t been noticed.

 

 

Lesson number six: do not try to reconcile with those who hate you, because you will lose either way

David Hearst writes: Corbyn has much in common with the forces that led the Arab Spring: both represent the poor and the working classes; both emerged from the fringes of the political spectrum; both surprised the establishment; both had the overwhelming majority of the media against them; and both were the frequent targets of attempted coups.

The military coup in Egypt succeeded, but the same counter revolutionary forces funded by the Gulf dictatorships that unseated Morsi also tried a coup in Tunisia, Turkey and latterly in Qatar. The right wing of the Labour Party and the most senior members of the parliamentary party openly and repeatedly tried to unseat their party leader.

Corbyn was trailing 20 points in the polls behind the Conservatives, having just lost massively in local elections. His fortunes changed once his manifesto appeared. Why? Because for the first time in a generation, it offered voters a genuine alternative.There is another lesson here for the forces of the Arab Spring: public opinion is volatile and no war is ever won or lost in a battle. The counter-revolutionary forces of absolute monarchs and military dictators have squandered billions of dollars selling the notion that the Arab Spring is dead and that everyone who took part in it should pack up and go home. Corbyn proves there is life after death.

Lesson number one: never give up. Lesson number two: know your constituency. Lesson number three: never allow anyone to get between you and it. Lesson number four: create your own media. Lesson number five: construct a programme that helps the working class. Lesson number six: do not try to reconcile with those who hate you, because you will lose either way.

Whatever the future holds for him, Corbyn has changed the landscape of British politics – which is more than can be said for a host of Labour leaders before him. Arab states do not need yet another traditional leader. They need a transformation. That can only be done from the inside, from the youth upwards. No outside power is going to help them. Read full article

A Tale of Two Independence Referenda

Catalonia and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) are instances of the central government behaving badly in Spain’s case and the regional entity behaving badly in the other. The fallout in the case of Spain will be ongoing instability, which will have a Europe-wide impact, and in the case of the KRG, contrary to all prognostications, will have a stabilising effect on the Middle East, as Barzani is forced to climb down from the tree he is sitting on.

Spain felt some of the worst effects of the financial crash in Europe and really hasn’t recovered since, except as far as the country’s manipulated national accounts are concerned. Youth unemployment officially at 39%, unofficially much higher, is foreshadowing a lost generation. The effects of all this on Catalan national feeling in the face of an unpopular government of austerity that keeps coming back into power in Madrid, cast the die.

Moreover, this north-eastern region of Spain was granted autonomy under the 1978 constitution. However, a fraught relationship between the political classes in Madrid and Barcelona began in 2010 when extra powers granted to Catalonia in 2006 were unilaterally rescinded by Spain’s Constitutional Court. An unofficial vote on independence in November 2014 showed 80% support for secession, after which the Catalan Regional Government (CRG) decided to launch the current referendum (which seems to have achieved a 90% yes vote of 2.2m people, on a 42% turnout).

Unlike the KRG, the CRG has the administrative wherewithal to make success of independence, and the democratic structures to make independence about all the residents of the region. The reaction of the central government in Madrid will cost it dear in terms of credibility. Without Catalonia, Spain as an entity may shrink, but as a geographical entity, Catalonia isn’t going anywhere, and there is no reason for either economy to suffer anymore than they have already. In fact, shaking moribund Spanish political structures is what is needed for the future.

International opinion has swung the way of Catalonia even as Madrid pummels its people into submission. Nevertheless, the EU has determined their referendum to be illegal, which now presumably makes a mockery of its decision to allow Kosovo to separate from Serbia and continue life as a failed state. The Spanish King read out the script handed to him by the Madrid government, which will reinforce Catalan resistance. The strange thing is that although a part of the Catalan population is opposed to leaving Spain, it is still wholly united with the nationalists when it comes to maximum devolution. Perhaps that is message that needs to be understood.

Barzani’s KRG on the other hand, where the independence referendum passed with over 90% of the vote, is an entity without democratic structures. It is run by the Barzani clan (politically embodied in the Kurdish Democratic Party -KDP) that decided on the referendum precisely because of the pressure it was under from rival groups (the Talabani clan represented by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Gorran movement). None of these parties meet in a parliamentary setting: their role is purely and simply to carve out and rule different pieces of Northern Iraq.

Without the support of Turkey, the KRG wouldn’t have survived its problems with a dysfunctional Iraqi government in Baghdad over the last few years. It doesn’t have the wherewithal to make independence a reality, essentially launching both the Kurdish and non-Kurdish populations of the area into the unknown. Arab and Turkmen residents in the area will fear for their lives, while even Kurds are unlikely to benefit from a system that is socially just. But Barzani is under fire now from his own followers for a gross political miscalculation, and his future is in doubt.

Ironically, however, Barzani’s rash move seems to have strengthened the hand of the Astana trio (Russia-Turkey-Iran). This would not have been predicted by Barzani’s CIA and Mossad advisers. After Putin’s visit to Ankara, Russia is likely to trade its support of Turkey against the KRG referendum in exchange for Turkey’s support for the Russian solution in Syria. This will effectively reinforce the structures of cooperation that have been forged regionally at Astana over the Syria question, and extend them into the Iraqi political quagmire, to provide a framework within which the Iraqi government can be encouraged to reform without facing new potentially existential questions.

Part of what will be driving these developments is the perception by all parties that behind Barzani’s asinine decision lies a US-Israeli axis that will seek co-opt Saudi Arabia and the UAE into exploiting the Kurdistan referendum to start another round of proxy wars in the area. There is no doubt that military manoeuvres on KRG borders by Iranian and Turkish forces together with the Iraqi army reflect an urgent sense of preparing for the worst.

The neocon philosophy dominating the thinking of Barzani’s foreign advisers is typically always linear and always fails to understand the principle of reaction. Not only can Iran and Turkey see them coming, but these regional players now have the power jointly to do something about it, especially if Russia sees it is in its interest to come off the fence.

Iran in particular sees any Kurdistani project as a potential cordon sanitaire that will have the effect of cutting it off from Lebanon, to try to achieve the results that the botched war against Assad never could. So, contained in Hassan Nasrallah’s warnings to Israel and the US over coming conflicts is a promise to take the war to the occupied territories in that  event.