Islamic history, media power, Political comment, Syrian history, Western Colonisation

Back to the Future, Reconstruction thoughts, My Book, Dispelling Some Myths

Much of this content is on my front page as well

My Book:

Syria: A History Without Borders

 Why Everyone Wants a Piece of Me

Sadly I’ve decided to give up on this Blog, at least for the times being, to focus on the book I’ve been determined to write for the last couple of years. Thanks to the research I’ve conducted for the BLOG, I feel confident I have sufficient information to go ahead. The content of the book will focus on the history Syria shares with the invading forces, and, how this has influenced any reconstruction plans that are in the offing. I’d like to thank readers for taking an interest in a country that is dear to me, as they have given me an incentive to go on writing during the last five years.

Reconstruction Plans

I created the front page in the autumn of 2015, after a cease fire was declared, which resulted from negotiations between Britain (USA) and Russia, following their manifest intervention in the Syrian conflict. Since then the Syrian government has gained control of the majority of Syria’s western regions and many people are returning home. However the conflict rumbles on still, as the colonial powers, including Turkey and the Turkish Kurdish militants vie for control of the Idlib governorate in north west Syria. Meanwhile the situation on the east side of the country remains precarious.

The main Kurdish area of Syria is Qamishli and the territory to the east of it, which extends to the north east corner of the country. If the Kurdish were promised a territory by the western powers, it would be here, due to its proximity to Turkey and the Kurdish dominated regions of Iraq and Iran. The areas southwest of Qamishli are problematic, as Raqqa was predominantly Arab nationalist and has been devastated by the Islamist fighters. To the south east of Raqqa lies Hasaka, which is home to a sizeable Kurdish population and thereby hangs a tale and, indeed, a tail.

Judging from the surveys that Britain carried out in 1850 and 1908, the Kurds may well gain control of part of the region, they are, after all, a useful ally against Turkey if it oversteps the mark in northern Syria, or indeed, in Turkey itself. On the other hand, the Kurdish PKK, powerful in east Turkey, are hardly favourites of Britain and the west in general. Unlike the Kurdish region of Iraq, which remains a western protectorate, the Kurds in Anatolia are an anomaly.

The Geography

Raqqa and Hasaka lie to the west of the Euphrates River, which runs through Deir Azzor, the nearest sizeable city to Syria’s oil producing area. If America wants a share of the spoils then it may come to an agreement with the Arab or Kurd factions, or take control of the region itself. In my opinion it is more likely to be the Arab faction, that oppose the regime, the Syrian Brotherhood, aka the Free Syrian Army. There are rumours of an American military base in al-Tanf, in the eastern part of the Hims governorate, south of Deir Azzor.

The Hims governorate runs from the west side of the country, east to the desert region that borders on the Iraq and Jordanian controlled desert. The Syrian Brotherhood, which is an extreme, but, popular movement, shares an ideology with the other Islamist factions that threatens to return Syria to the dark ages. The Brotherhood has a long history in the city of Hims (Homs), on the west side of the country, a city that has, for centuries, been a centre of Islamic thought. Though its more militant members are likely to have been driven out of Hims, they may well do deals with the colonial powers over the oil. This would result in further conflict, even if intermittent. Regardless of the news reports that Turkey is supporting the Islamists in northern Syria, the Syrian Brotherhood is unlikely to support the Turkish, or the Turkish Kurd taking control of Syria, thus is better served by its continued allegiance to the west; time will tell however.

Chess Games

It is no coincidence that Russia and Britain showed their hand in Syria at the same time. That coupled with the fact that Russia has renewed its political ties with Iran, suggests there is a some kind of plan afoot for reconstruction. I don’t believe for a minute that a nuclear war is imminent, after all NATO and the USSR have played a chess game in the Atlantic for decades and it has not resulted in all-out war. If the big powers are engaged in a similar conflict in the mediterranian Sea, off the coast of Syria, Turkey, Palestine, and Lebanon, it is more likely that they wish to tie up some of the loose ends, resulting from the settlements reached at the end of world war one, when Russia agreed to leave Iran. I’ll expand on the chess game later.

Dispelling Some Myths and Making Sense of the Situation: The BBC

There are disturbing documentaries, about Syria, coming from the BBC, at the moment. I say disturbing as, the BBC is a powerful and influential entity, and, as the Syrian conflict reaches a climax, one has to suspect that there is an ulterior motive behind the Corporation shelling out so much propaganda in the docu format.

My interest was fuelled, when Mary Beard, a feminist historian, used the ”royal we”, on BBC 2, when discussing the possible of rebuilding Palmyra, implying that Britain will have a say. Palmyra is a historical site, near the town of Tadmor, in east Syria. In 2015, the Russians began rebuilding the Roman ruin after Islamic State was driven out of the area. Unfortunately, we are led to believe it was retaken by the Islamists and devastated yet again.

There was an outcry among the British archeological club about the murder and the beheading of the principal curator at Palmyra, by the Islamists in August 2015. Even so the British media took pains to inform us that he was a Ba’ath party supporter. I got to know some of Tadmor’s inhabitants, when I spent some time there in 2005, and loved both the town and the ruin.

I’m all set to write to my MP about Britain’s renewed interest in Syria with an extra question regarding funding. I have a sneaky feeling the BBC may be receiving money from the Clinton foundation, as I’ve never seen the corporation supporting the American opposition, or indeed, any American government, to the extent that it is at the moment. Of course, when president Trump wins the mid terms, the wind could begin to blow in a different direction.

Anyway, a friend watched the first of three programmes about the Assad family and asked for my opinion as to what might be true and what might be propaganda. One particular point interested me, and that is the allegation that president al-Assad, shortly after coming to power, released members of the Syrian Brotherhood, from prison, on condition they would go to Iraq and fight the west. The theory wasn’t new to me, but it does strike me that this is counter-intuitive. The late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the late president Hafez al-Assad had fallen out long before the Iraq invasion.

There was conjecture that the Sunni Muslims invited the Islamists into Mosul, in northern Iraq, to help protect the oil from the Shi’a and the Kurds, if true however, surely it would have been after the death of the president, when it became clear that the west was supporting the Iraqi Shi’a to take control of the country. There is the further point that, if the Assad government is so in support of Iran, why would it send Islamists to fight the Iranian backed Iraqi Shi’a? On top of this, in the mid 2000s Syria granted asylum to around two million Iraqi refugees.

Social Media

One report on the internet, claims the Iranians had come up the Suez Canal to reach Syria. Not a chance, as Iran has been blockaded since 2015, when the all out war against South Yemen began. Britain, which had voted to  bomb Syria, had sent war ships to the Homez Straits, in the Arabian sea, only a couple of weeks before the vote.

It’s possible to go overland from Iran to Syria but Iran has its own problems, thus I don’t believe it has a significance presence in Syria. To alienate Syria’s Sunni majority at this stage, would be madness, as so many of its number support the Syrian Ba’athist govt and its ideology. Another obvious point is, that if Iranians came through the Suez canal the Israelis would start a nuclear war.

Another news item broadcast by the mainstream media and on the internet, claimed that America had fired a cruise missile into Syria from a warship just off the coast of Latakia. I was surprised because the Russians are purported to have a naval base off the coast of Tartous, less than 30 miles south of Latakia. Tartous borders on Lebanon, and is a stones throw from the Israeli controlled Palestine.

There have been rumours regarding a Russian naval base for decades, but I went to the small island off the coast of Tatous when I was there in 2005, it is a half hour boat trip, but I saw no evidence of a  base. There is oil in the Mediterranean but the conglomerates would have a battle to mine it, and have not done so far, presumably because of the complicated politics involved. Remember BP signed an agreement with the PLO to excavate the oil, as far back as 1977.

America might have left its position in the Homez straits and sailed through the Suez Canal, but would have had to pass the Russians to get to Latakia. Latakia is very near Turkey’s Antakya, a seaside resort, which forms part of a tourist trade, that is vital to its economy. Both America and Russia might have a presence in the mediterranean, but to fire missiles so near to each other is a big risk. As I said above, I don’t believe a nuclear war is imminent or that either president or the British prime minister harbour a death wish.

 

 

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Political comment, Profiteering: war & invasion, Syrian history

The Partition of Syria Continues; Charity, Who Needs It? Patronage and Mercy Missions

The Partition of Syria Continues; The Fall of Afrin, March 17th 2018,

The fall of Afrin to the Syrian Brotherhood may well bring sighs of relief to the Turkish populations of Hatay and Gaziantep as the Kurdish force is beaten back. Whether this is the end of that story remains to be seen, as it is far from clear who is in control of the area, Turkey or the Syrian Salafists, or how much support the Syrian Brothers have from the mercenary forces and the West. At present Turkey is said to be attacking the Syrian army itself, leaving the Arabic population between a rock and a hard place.

Though Afrin is unlikely to be part of the new Kurdish territory after the carve up is finalised, there is no doubt the Kurdish will be awarded parts of the North East, whether this will stretch Southward to the oil region, Deir Azzor remains to be seen but is an integral part of the Western agenda. For those who do not understand its geography, North East Syria technically is the territory to the East of the Euphrates from the secular and Arab province of Raqqa.

Raqqa’s colonisation by the Western backed mercenaries was no coincidence and they were promised a Caliphate in return, the process was a useful diversion and the charade was promulgated in the West through discourses of Shi’ah and Sunni. The righteousness of the mission was consolidated in the minds of the thousands of young Sunni Muslims who left their homelands to right the wrong-doings of a constructed minority government. The Salafist’s quest was legitimised further by a historical event that exacerbated the Sunni/Shia schism, the Battle of Siffin, in 657AD.

Eastward and Southward

North East Syria stretches from Raqqa eastward to Qamishli through to the Roman Ain diwar Bridge in the far eastern corner, from where at some points it is possible to wade across the Tigris river into Turkey. The region between Qamishli and Hasaka has a higher density of Kurdish tribes but Deir Azzor to the South is Arabic to the core. I suspect the oil is to be divided between the Syrian government and the western protectorate that will be ambiguously referred to as Kurdistan or Rojeva. Like the North of Iraq it will not be granted autonomy.

The New British Raj, Mercy Missions and Syria

One of my pet projects is to dissuade people from embarking on foreign adventures, an issue, which came to the fore again when a friend visited earlier today. She thought I’d be cross as she brought news of her friend who was  killed in Afrin this morning. I know the young woman too and was angry when I looked at the Guardian article on the computer. There she was with a gun in her hand, wearing a uniform associated with the Kurdish militia she fought with in Syria.

In recent months I’ve written to the local newspaper the ‘Bristol Post’, the Rail and Maritime, RMT, trade Union, two local outlets, Kebele and Hydra Books, both of which claim to be anarchist, and a community newspaper, the ‘Bristol Cable’ on the issue of the Kurdish and the invading of foreign countries. Needless to say I received no replies, which is particularly galling because many of these people are known to me personally. I’ve spent the last eight years coming to terms with the fact that people know nothing about the complexities of the upheaval in Syria and hardly anyone visited it when it was whole.

My friend said her friends and my acquaintances support the Kurdish because they are tribal and romantic and appeal to the bleeding hearts of (vegans and hippies), the bracketed bit are my words entirely, as my friend thought the young woman who was killed was inspirational on many levels. I just wonder why, as so-called anarchists, they not only fail to understand their oppression or how tyrannical the British ruling class is but that they are helping the most oppressive regime in the world to partition Syria.

Both the British anarchists and the Islamists have been duped and played off against one another, it happens time and time again but no-one learns from it. Now another young person has died and regardless how comitted to the Kurdish cause she was both she and her compatriots were in the wrong place at the wrong time, in short the Kurds were duped in their greed. Britain makes lots of promises and that is how it maintains its power, it has always played a double game, it has always blamed others for its crimes and always escapes unscathed, when will people learn?

A political comment I placed on ‘Friends of Syria’ site

Great article, glad you mentioned Muezzim Begg who, as I’ve blogged lots of times on this site, took money from Britain to Syria for the Syrian Brotherhood. His going there was approved by the British govt as well, though its not clear if they provided the funds or the Muslim Association of Britain and Caged Prisoners, the govt just say its complicated.
I’ve been writing to Amnesty about this since 2014 but I never get a reply.
At the moment, in Britain, the BBC is doing an investigation into the ”charity sector” but the content scratches the surface and is skewed towards the ”feel good factor” associated with volunteering..
I believe the number of charities you quote as running in the UK is under-stated. Charitable trusts are important to the British political class as they have been used to erode the public sector since the neo-liberal programme really took off in the early 1980s.
The term is misleading as the trusts generate profit but are subsidised by the public purse. This is more acceptable to the general population than the granting of subsidies to the private sector. An example of this is the NHS, where a system of trusts was introduced in the 1980s to part privatise the service. Mr Blair was later to ”champion” their use in the 1990s and 2000s
It’s a shame the recent revelations focus so much on sex at the cost of politics and economics. The fact that there is so much abuse is deplorable but is not the only thing at stake.
In the early 1980s a friend’s sister went somewhere in Africa to teach people about ”hygiene” only to discover there was no work for her but she was able to stay in post for the duration and was financed by the trust. (sorry but I can’t remember the outfit but it was associated with VSO), very popular with do-gooders at the time.

Patronage

In short charitable trusts are part of the corporate sector and are underpinned by the concept of patronage. The UN General Assembly is no doubt a charitable trust, as are the outfits sponsored by it.
Aid is not a hand out but is given in return for meeting certain conditions. If a country borrows from the World Bank or IMF then it has to rid itself of ”outdated structures” such all those related to welfarism; charities are run in the same way.
They are not in any country for the people ultimately but rather to impose alternative political systems in that country. People need to look into this properly, there’s no excuse now with the internet.
Countries need to be able to control their resources, develop the technologies required to grow food and provide a manufacturing base but most of all wars have to stop.
That has been my mantra for decades.
Bob Geldof is far from glamorous but did distort people’s view of Africa as well as ruining the G8 protest in Edinburgh years after ‘Live Aid’. I do remember hearing a news report in the 1980s about the German and British wings of Oxfam being on different sides in the war in Ethiopia, interesting.
The best bit of Live Aid for me was Bob Dylan talking about the impoverished American farmers, which led to my realisation that America is partly 3rd world. Many of Lenny Henry’s Red Nose projects have worked with local villages but most charity is political and Western patronage.
I hate saying this as a communist but on balance the private sector can be better as it generates work and production even if the conditions and pay is shit, on the whole people prefer to work
To me there is nothing as disconcerting as seeing people in refugee camps rendered aimless as well as helpless, when they really want to be as pro-active as they would be at home.
On the whole charity stinks but Britain loves and it will lcontinue to use it as the bridge between welfarism and privatisation, so it aint going nowhere.

Picking and choosing your causes is dangerous as the process leaves swathes of people in poverty and people do not always make the best decisions. This brings me on to the next bit nicely.

The New British Raj, Mercy Missions

Another one of my pet projects is to dissuade people from embarking on foreign adventures, an issue, which came to the fore again when a friend visited earlier today. She thought I’d be cross as she brought news of her friend who was  killed in Afrin this morning. I know the young woman too and was angry when I looked at the Guardian article on the computer. There she was with a gun in her hand, wearing a uniform associated with the Kurdish militia she fought with in Syria.

In recent months I’ve written to the local newspaper the ‘Bristol Post’, the Rail and Maritime, RMT, trade Union, two local outlets, Kebele and Hydra Books, both of which claim to be anarchist, and a community newspaper, the ‘Bristol Cable’ on the issue of the Kurdish and the invading of foreign countries. Needless to say I received no replies, which is particularly galling because many of these people are known to me personally. I’ve spent the last 8 years coming to terms with the fact that no-one was on my side about Syria but what is worse is that people know nothing about the complexities of the upheaval and refuse to learn.

My friend said her friends and my acquaintances support the Kurdish because they are tribal and romantic and appeal to the bleeding hearts of (vegans and hippies), the bracketed bit are my words entirely, as my friend thought the young woman who was killed was inspirational on many levels. I just wonder why, as so-called anarchists, they not only fail to understand their oppression or how oppressive the British ruling class is but they are helping the most oppressive regime in the world, Britain to colonise parts of Syria.

 

 

 

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Profiteering: war & invasion, Syrian history

Ashshams: Kurdish Watch; Anatolia, Idlib, Antioch and Aleppo, part four

Mark Sykes, Categorising the Kurdish Tribes, cont

Mr Sykes’s classification of the Kurdish in Anatolia and Northern Iraq acknowledges the existence of other cultural groups inhabiting the same territory and goes into detail about some of their possible heritage but, by and large, attributes to them Turkish or Arabic nationality. He refers to the other populations as ”foreign” and supposes the majority of tribes are of Kurdish origin, his focus is on the plains and the mountainous regions, thus there is no mention of the city populations of a region, which incorporates parts of Iraq, Mesopotamia and Anatolia. He wrote that some of the Nestorian Christian populations are considered by some ”Kurdish notables” to be Kurdish rather than Aramaic, though they deny this.

Remember Mr Sykes wrote, in 1908 and there was competion between the different cultural and religions populations for the land that might be allocated to them when the Ottoman empire finally disintegrated. Arab and Turkish nationalism hadn’t come into its own and the whole area remained in Ottoman hands, though the drive, by Britain, Russia and their allies to break it up, was almost complete, see /2017/11/11/part-2-the-background-earlier-massacres-armenians-turks-kurds-arabs-persians-decline-of-the-turkish-empire-russia-and-british-colonialism/ &  /2017/11/14/part-3-the-armenian-revolutionary-movements-turks-kurds-arabs-decline-of-the-turkish-empire-russia-and-british-colonialism/

The British Raj takes Stock

The Syke’s article shows the number of families in each of the tribes, it discusses the various dialects spoken, the variation in their  mode of dress and their physical characteristics. He categorises their way of life broadly as settled agriculturalists or bedouin, though the theory had been rejected by Mr John George Taylor in his assessment of the Kurdish. Mr Taylor was a political agent for the East India Company and Consul-General for Kurdistan at Diyabakir and Erzurum from 1859. Prior to this, from 1851 to 1858, he was Vice-Consul to Basra, just like his father, who held the position from 1818 to 1822. Mr Taylor describes the term Kurdistan as a convenient geo-geographical designation for the lands inhabited by the Kurds, though he considers it to be a general term as the Kurds did not form the majority population of the countries they inhabited. For an account of his evaluation, supplemented by that of its compiler see the The 1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica, http://www.1902encyclopedia.com/K/KUR/kurdistan.html:

Mr Taylor notes how some of the settled Kurds of Anatolia were conscripted into the military by the Ottomans. The Encyclopaedia Iranica see, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kurdish-tribes bears this out as it too notes how many of the Turkish Kurds are settled and have lost their tribal identity. The website http://www.jelleverheij.net/sources/1861—1870/Taylor-1865/ quotes Mr Taylor when it says the Ottoman official title for Diyabakir was Kurdistan, though it stopped using it at some point in the mid to late 1800s, Britain, though, continued to use the name until 1890. It would be pointless to regurgitate the content of these entries but both the observations of Mr Sykes and Mr Taylor demonstrates Britain’s interest in a potential alliance with the Kurds.

Britain’s and Russia’s Other Cold War

The re-allocating of the territories, post Ottoman empire would have been of paramount importance, as the powers sought to guarantee future trade routes and access to the oil that would be excavated in the coming decades. It should be noted once again, that Britain was in a cold war with Russia in the latter half of the 1800s, as both powers moved through the Balkans, Caucuses, Anatolia and Iraq/Mesopotamia to establish superiority, to offer carrots to the competing cultural populations and to determine future alliances. In many ways this culminated in the Picot/Sykes Accord, when Britain made gains in Middle East and Russia in the Caucuses and resulted in a physical separation between Russia and Persia.

On the bases of this it is no wonder Russia came to rescue of Syria, it was powerless during the Gulf war in 1990 and again at the time of the 2003 invasion, as the Western initiative to eradicate the last bastion of communism left it impoverished. Syria’s alliance with Russia results more from the communist roots of Ba’athism than from links established in the 1800s but the world geography is under reconstruction and discourses about borders centre more on neo-colonialism than freedom. A fact that escapes the so-called activists who go to Syria to fight for a Kurdish ”homeland”, which never before included Syria, as the Kurdish population there is small to this day.

As you may have gathered this entry is as much about the activities of the colonial powers in the 1800s, as they slowly but surely broke up the Ottoman empire, as about the Kurds. For the people who say the Kurdish are being used by the west, the answer is yes to a point but no-one can be used if they really don’t want to be. It is ironical that the activists who now invade North East Syria on behalf of their governments attribute the Syrian uprising to disputes arising from the Picot/Sykes Accord. What they fail to acknowledge is the current line in the sand arose from the events of the late 1880s, which contributed to the same accord, history like the world goes round and round. If the Kurdish get the territories they covet, they will be far from autonomous and who knows when the rug will be pulled once again.

NB Though this entry focuses on Britain and Russia there were other European powers involved in the struggle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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religion, Syrian history

Ashshams: Kurdish Watch; Anatolia, Idlib, Antioch and Aleppo, part three

The Kurdish Fantasy, a Geographical Viewpoint

I understand part three is a long time coming but I’m pre-occupied with the Kurdish propaganda machine so will begin on another cautionary note. The ‘Friends of Syria’ site published an article claiming the Kurdish militias requested help from the Syrian government to combat IS in Afrin. My response was not to trust it, as publicising the article will legitimise the claim and this could backfire in the future. Of course it may be true, as the West is less likely to side openly with the Kurdish against Turkey, than they are with the Kurdish against IS.

Many Syrian people are frightened of Turkey colonising parts of the country but perhaps should be more apprehensive about the Kurdish threat, as they extend their political power to North West Syria, which borders on Turkey’s Hatay province. I was in Gaziantep a while ago, a city that is, like Diyabakir, in South East Anatolia; it lies to the North East of Hatay and is not Kurdish. Interestingly the refugee project, the IHH, which operates in Killis, just South of Gaziantep and 30 miles from the city of Aleppo, is mainly for the Syrian Kurdish and is opposed to the Syrian regime.

The River Tigris rises in Elazig, Eastern Anatolia and skirts around the very North East tip of Syria into Iraq, whilst the Euphrates rises in Erzurum, also in Turkey and flows the length of East Syria into Iraq. The Greek name for the fertile region between the two rivers is Mesopotamia but the museum display in Deir Azzor, a Syrian town on the Euphrates, referred to it as al Jazireh (island). The Tigris flows through Diyabakir and between the Kurdish held cities of Mosul and Erbil in Northern Iraq and parallel to the Euphrates. If the Kurdish get the territory they desire they would have sole control of one of Syria’s main water sources.

The Kurdish militias in Syria are almost certainly from modern day Turkey but this will be skirted over by the West as the two factions merge and won’t make too much difference if North East Syria is annexed to East Turkey. Or won’t until the cracks show in the perceived Kurdish homogeneity. It is unclear where the demarcation line will fall but at least one Wikipedia entry names the aforementioned Erzurum as part of the Kurdish region but so far I haven’t found a break down of its population. The Erzurum region is North of Diyabakir and was once known as Western Armenia.

Wikipedia: its maps of Syria are looking increasingly like computer games as people add their blurb

Since I started writing this blog the Kurdish regions in Syria and Turkey have expanded particularly on Wikipedia sites as many of the Syrian maps are militarised and serve as propagating tools. At the end of  2013 there was barely a mention of Qamishli, or of anywhere to the East of it, on the internet. Now the fictional ”Kurdistan” is said to stretch practically the whole length of Syria’s Northern border and then through Turkey, North to the Black Sea, in short the Kurdish are claiming the whole of Anatolia. Their activities in Idlib and Afrin suggest they may have designs on the Hatay province of Turkey, which was once part of Anatolia as well as North West Syria. Thus the next part of the series traces the history of the Kurdish in that region.

Anatolia

Anatolia originates from the Greek word Anatole and in Turkish it means the place where the sun rises,  for a description of ancient Anatolia see http://www.ancientanatolia.com/introduction.html

The Crusades, Steven Runciman

In  volumes one and two of his account of the crusades, Steven Runciman referred to the Kurds on several occasions as they were active on many fronts. In volume three he refers to the Kurds and Kurdistan though there is no precise location given. He wrote his very comprehensive account in the early 1950s over a period of four years, thus this entry will now consider the reasons why Kurdistan is referred to only in the final volume. Though there is no direct reference to the Treaty of  Sevre or to the Picot/Sykes Accord in Mr Runciman’s bibliography he may have been influenced by politics of the day. The 1920 Treaty of Sevre dissolved the Ottoman empire and though the deal was not finalised it made provision for an autonomous Kurdish region.

The Picot/Sykes Accord, which preceded it in 1916 provided for a comprehensive restructure of the Middle East, whereby Britain and France laid claim to the region spanning the Levant and Iraq. The treaty was purported to contain the original provision for a Kurdish protectorate, that included almost the whole of former Mesopotamia and the oil rich city of Kirkuk, which lies directly to the South of Arbil and to the South East of Mosul. There have been pitch battles in Kirkuk since the Western invasion of 2003, between Sunni Ba’athists, the Sunni Islamists and the Iraqi government, now mainly Shi’ah Muslims, which has no wish to cede the territory. The Kurdish militias play their part and helped by their Western allies controlled the Kirkuk oil revenue in 2015, BBC Radio 4. Kirkuk is now back in the hands of the government, I believe. The truth may or may not be out there but is hard to find.

Mark Sykes, categorising the Kurdish tribes

Mark Sykes, the co-broker of the Picot/Sykes Accord, made his own classification of the Kurdish in an article entitled, Kurdish tribes of the Ottoman Empire. the document, written in 1908 for The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, can be accessed on JSTOR, though readers have to sign in. Some of his terminology is insulting by todays standards but remember this is the British raj and his language is typical for his time. He would no doubt, categorise the Arabs and the Turks in the same way, as he seems to have a particular view of Shia’h Muslims, that of devil worshippers, no doubt a result of Sunni propaganda. Mr Sykes shares his interest in tribal culture with his friend HG Wells, the science fantasy writer, who does not write about the Kurdish.

Mr Sykes geographical classification may have formed the basis of britain’s notion of a possible Kurdish region, though, he refers to Kurdish tribes and families in the main. Britain was no doubt influenced by potential oil revenues and made an uneasy alliance with the Turkish and Arab nationalist movements, in Iraq and Turkey. Ignoring of the influence of Russia on this new nationalism, Britain was intent on ousting Iran from Northern Iraq and separating it from the Russian Caucuses. After all Britain had its Kurdish friends to fall back on, if it was ever rid of the perceived communist ”threat’ . Mr Sykes, though, was no doubt chosen as the advocate of separation because of his diplomatic and military skills, his knowledge of the region and of course he was a Conservative politician.

He observed that the Kurdish tribes inhabit three geographical regions, the first was the area between East Anatolia’s Lake Van to the North, West of the River Tigris and South to the Iraq Plains, possible the old Ninevah. It is worth mentioning that the map provided in the article, is difficult to discern and the maps on Wikipedia currently are unreliable. Mr Syke’s map doesn’t show a Kurdish presence in West Mesopotamia including what is now North East Syria and shows only a scant Kurdish presence in Erzurum. He does mention the tribes near Killis, referred to previously, but describes only tented encampments and states that the region falls outside the normal Kurdistan. His reference, like so many others fails to provide a definition of Kurdistan.

My source JSTOR is having problems so I have to end this entry here but hopefully can continue it soon.

 

 

 

 

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Arabism, Political comment, Profiteering: war & invasion, Syrian history, Western Colonisation

Ashshams: Ball of Confusion, Three Issues that May Influence Turkey’s Position in Syria

Political comment: A Couple of Considerations, Before Jumping on Bandwagons

Turkey

Turkey’s incursion into Syria is causing confusion as people suggest Turkey is fighting a proxy war with the West. No doubt true as there is a marked return to the pre 1914 power struggles between Russia, Turkey and Britain (America if people prefer), though this is not the only reason for Turkeys’ interference.  A consideration that closely ties into the notion of a proxy war, is Turkey’s designs on parts of Northern Syria, apparent from 2011 and no doubt part of an agreement with Britain, until it was reneged upon when the worm turned and Russia entered the fray.

As was discussed in previous entries, the Turkish/Ottoman empire was on its knees by the late 1800s and more recently Russian dominance diminished with the collapse of the Berlin wall, a symbolic event caused by the erosion of the welfarist model under state socialism, the furthering of neo-liberism and the take over of the economy by the ideological a ”free” market.

Another consideration is that the presence of the Islamic fighters in Syria, continues to complicate matters in so far as they may consist of mercenaries financed by Britain and its cohorts or of the Syrian Salafist movement, the Syrian Brotherhood, which is also supported by Britain. Turkey uses the excuse of fighting the Islamists just as Britain, its cohorts and the Kurdish do. Seemingly everyone in the West can recite the names of I.S., Nusra Front and a string others but have no idea of their actual affiliations.

In relation to Turkey, what is really unclear is the position of President Erdogen, in relation to Salafism. Constitutionally, if reports are accurate, there is no doubt he has shifted Turkey away from its secular base, which has evolved from the Ottoman era. Having said that Turkey is vast and as president, he has to please all his citizens. The truth is though, the back to basics nature of the Islamic revivalist movements permeate all Muslim countries. That said, Arabic Islamic revivalism may be incompatible with its opposite number in Turkey.

The Astana Talks Resume in Socci, Will the Kurds get a Slice of Syria and if so Which Kurds?

A further consideration is, an area in the North East of Syria may be awarded to the Kurdish factions, when the Astana talks resume in Socci, USSR this coming weekend. People in Syria and Lebanon are prepared for the dissection of of their country as, I am sure, is president al-Assad and people do want an end to the conflict. What is left out of the equation is the fact that many of the Kurdish in question are Turkish and in effect will be invaders. I am fully aware I discussed this in the previous entry but have a good reason for repeating the assertion in a different context.

The myth that is perpetuated at the moment is that the Syrian Kurdish are fighting Islamic State and this is no doubt true but there is a method in their madness, not born out of valour but opportunism. They are collaborating with Britain and leading the Turkish Kurdish into Syria. What is not disclosed either is the disparity among the Kurdish populations as many of them are Salafist.

The PKK was said to be Maoist, heroic and fighting against Turkish oppression, no-one denies East Turkey is poor and underfunded historically but in the 1980s and 1990s no-one mentioned why they were attempting to enter Syria. Could it have been in order to increase the Kurdish population in the North Eastern region in preparation for a stand-off with the the Arab people? Was this why the late president Hafez al-Assad closed the border in the North East corner? unusual as Syria and Turkey rarely agree on political issues.

Self appointed freedom fighters from Britain, whether Islamist or pro- Kurdish are committing a criminal act when entering Syria to harm the population there

At the time Britain seemingly backed Turkey’s decision but plans were already underway to invade Iraq and no doubt to use the Iraqi Kurds as part of an initiative to divide the country. Anyway the reason I’m rehashing the subject is because of an article I read, last weekend, in my local rag. It features an ”activist” who returned from Syria where he claimed to have fought Islamic State. This was no surprise as I know people who are in contact with these self appointed freedom fighters.

I know one woman who was bullied for setting up a social work outfit with refugees in Calais because she was not in Rojava the name, by which said activists refer to North East Syria. What galled was that the returnee bleated because the local constabulary arrested and questioned him as well as searching an address where he claimed to stay. There was no mention of questioning his family, which meant he got off scot free really. I was furious at his piety when he’d been in another country commiting acts of violence probably against the local population there. Not all Kurds accept the notion of a ”homeland” either.

Right I’ve sounded off and now I’ll put out my moderate reply, which took me hours because I’d have preferred to write something much more to the point.

Hi
I was appalled to read Tristan Cook’s article, which described how a man returned from Syria and was indignant about his treatment by the Bristol police. He claimed to have fought alongside a brigade of Kurdish ”freedom fighters”, to combat Islamic State and appeared to assume this gave him the moral high ground.
The Syrian situation is complex and the position of the Syrian/Turkish Kurdish militias unclear but their quest for a ”homeland” holds appeal for many ”activists” from all over Europe. People have described the proposed Syrian ”Kurdistan” as a utopia but the Kurdish populations in the Middle East lack homogeneity. There is insufficient space to discuss the pros and cons but suffice to say the Kurds have a tentative history, which distorts their entitlement to a separate territory in Syria.
The Islamist and pro-Kurdish activists, who leave Britain for Syria, regard themselve as freedom fighters but in my view, both factions are entering a country that is largely unknown to them to commit acts of violence and thus should be investigated when they return.

The Anarchist Irony

It was pointed out to me at an event last autumn, which is frequented by supporters of the self appointed ”freedom fighters”, who are busy helping the Tories restructure Syria, that many are part of a movement, which is renowned for its actions in foreign parts. Many of its number have lost in interest in Chiapas, a rural region of Mexico and still under attack from its govt and in Palestine, which is under attack from the Israelis. In relation to Palestine, it is ironic that those Kurdish, who are committed to a ”homeland” despite the measures they have to resort in order to achieve their aim, are notorious supporters of the Israelis, even allowing them to buy up property in the North of Iraq.

There’s nothing like switching sides when a more exciting opportunity presents itself I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

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media power, Political comment, Syrian history

Ashshams: Kurdish Watch, Anatolia, Idlib, Antioch and Aleppo, part two

President Trump Did Not Make the Decision to Carve Up Syria

Before I begin part two I’d like to express how fed up I am with the so-called alternative internet sites who pontificate about Syria and other regions in the Middle East without a real appreciation of their situation. David Icke, who I listen to on occasion and agree with on many issues, views everything  from a western perspective and fails to credit the Islamic world with its own history or knowledge of what may befall it. This is far from unusual for the ”conspiracists” but Mr Icke has a huge following, which hangs onto his every word and thus is a cause for concern.

I am referring here to his views on the partitioning of Syria by Russia and Britain (America if readers prefer), which will probably be finalised at Socci next week, as Mr. Icke attributes Syria’s fate to president Trump. Situations take decades to unfold and the plans to partition Syria and award part of the country to the Kurdish were laid a long time before the election of 2016. Mr Icke’s chagrin at the new American president appears to stem from the fact the alternative media had high hopes for a future under a new administration  and were critical of the Clinton dynasty.

A Retrospective Look at the Role of the Kurdish and the Russians, Iraq and Syria

In 2014 I received a reply from a letter I’d written to my MP, a Liberal Democrat and part of the coalition government. The reply was in a standardised format explaining the British government’s stance on Syria. What was interesting is that Mr Williams, said MP, hand wrote on it in green ink, ”what do you expect Syria is an ally of Iran and Russia”. In retrospect this leads me to believe that the West  always hoped Russia would intervene in Syria as that would further the reconstruction of the Levant and parts of Asia minor, a process that required the participation of another big power.

Russsia was weak in 1990, when the war began in Iraq, and not in a position to use its veto in the UN. China was about to capitalise and to borrow a considerable amount of money from the World Bank. France too was losing its republican edge and embracing the monopoly game (globalisation), which gave the other veto holders in the UN security council, Britain and America, carte blanche to begin the process of breaking up Iraq, though this had really began with the war between Iran and Iraq (see previous entry). The process, no doubt, would have been more  difficult without the help of the Iraqi Kurdish population, who were called, in 1990, to the North of Iraq, from a new radio station based in Saudi Arabia.

In Syria in 2015 when Islamic State became a mainstream issue, the Turkish and Syrian Kurds were ready to mobilise and combat it, clearly in order to recieve their reward as the Iraqi Kurds had done before them. Joshua Landis, a prominent American academic, with a sound knowledge of the Middle East predicted again this week that the Syrian Kurdish will recieve a territory in Syria and the talks are Astana talks are set to resume in Socci, USSR in a couple of weeks. Many people in Syria and Lebanon were aware of the proposals before President Trump was elected. This may not seem important but Mr Icke is, in a way, exonerating Mr Obama, Mr Cameron and a succession of other Western leaders from blame.

I suspect Mr Icke’s analysis comes from the reports by other journalists who have witnessed, for example, the liberation of Aleppo from Islamic State.  Their contribution has turned on its head the fallacies perpetuated by the main stream media causing many commentators to report that President al-Assad will remain in power, though unfortunately, in my opinion, in a very different Syria. As the first lady is a merchant banker the parts remaining under the auspices of the president are likely to flourish economically. The Christian diaspora is likely to be of assistance and the role of the Chinese is important. The fact remains that the economy is in tatters and some people, who haved endured eight years of war, are considering leaving, due to the rise in the cost of living.

This entry is short of history but this will be rectified in part three.

Antioch in brief

Throughout the Crusades, the Byzantium and Ottoman eras, Idlib’s history was interlinked with that of Aleppo and the Turkish city of Antioch, now Antakya. Antioch was the first centre of Christianity as St Peter, Christ’s first apostle, founded the first Church there. He and St Paul, following his conversion from Judaism, formed a centre of theology, which was as prominent as that in Jerusalem. Its absorbtion into the Arabic Islamic Caliphate meant it lost its status and matters came to a head eventually under the Mamluks in 1268, when it was razed to the ground. Antioch became part of Turkey when under Ottoman rule but technically is part of Syria. Now in the Hatay province, Antioch was once in the region known as Anatolya, which spanned almost the whole of the Asian part of modern day Turkey.

 

 

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media power, Political comment, Syrian history

Ashshams: Kurdish Watch; Anatolia, Idlib, Antioch and Aleppo, part one

As Idlib, a region in the North West of Syria and close to the border with Turkey, remains a battle ground for the world and his wife, the following entries offer a brief history of three interconnected Northern territories, Idlib, Antioch and Aleppo.

Idlib: The Salafi and the Turkish, Division and Unity, Political Comment

The North of Syria from West to East borders with Turkey and Idlib and is said to be held by one of the many Islamic groups that have entered the fray during the last eight years. As such, from October 2017, there has been talk, on the internet, of Turkish troops fighting ”terrorism” alongside the constructed  ‘Free Syrian Army’, an entity, that is a euphemism for the Syrian Brotherhood.

In my view the Islamic usurper was welcomed into Syria by the Syrian Brotherhood hierarchy, who shares its Salafist ideology (those who wish to return to the precise doctrines of the first 400 years of the Prophet Mohammed). If there is a fallout between the Salafist factions, I cannot muster any sympathy, whilst they continue their activities in Syria, not least because they are in the pay of the west.

Turkey clearly has ambitions to control some parts of Syria, though its reasons are not apparent. It may be to restart the centuries of war that preceded the demise of the Ottoman empire, after all Western Europe is under reconstruction as the European Union disintegrates. Another possibility and a more likely one is that Turkey is there to combat the granting of parts of the Syrian North, by the west, to the Kurdish.

This too would result in perpetual war, though on a different scale, particularly because the Kurdish population in question, is likely to be majority Turkish. In the last entry we saw how the Kurdish population in Anatolia grew in the late 1800s until the Armenian Christians were a minority. Of course Turkey itself may end up with a slice of Syria, which is certainly being carved up as I write. Both the Turkish and the Turkish Kurdish are unpopular and feared among the Arabic people.

On the other hand, Turkey’s concerns about the Kurdish may be good news for the Syrian regime, particularly if Russia can persuade president Erdogen to forego his designs on Syria. Britain has reneged on its promises of a Kurdish ”homeland” on several occasions and though the territory in the North of Iraq seems secure, if Turkey makes its peace with the West who knows?

After all, throughout the Ottoman era, Turkey and Britain, notably the Tories, were allies on many fronts, particularly when combatting Russia. Conversely all three powers, including both the British Liberal and Tory parties, joined together to fight Napoleon. At the end the Kurdish are an unknown quantity when it comes to real power and after the massacre of Sunni Muslims in Mosul last year, it is far from clear whether or not a huge portion of Iraq will pass to Iran. Iraq has a large Shi’ah population, many of Persian origin.

The Siege of the Iranian Embassy in London, Khuzestan

Recent threats by the West, of a war with Iran, seem spurious. This was attempted in the 1980s after the election of the Islamic government and the holding, as hostages, for more than a year, of American consular officials. The West nurtured a war between Iran and Iraq, by selling arms to both sides, the conflict lasted eight years and was a disaster as, if anything, it showed Iran to be impenetrable, though it did destabilise the region. I’ll digress here and mention the Iranian embassy seige, in London, by Khuzestan Arabists.

The reason I refer to it is, I just found a rehashed 1980 edition of the ‘Daily Mirror’ newspaper and noticed the perpetrators at the seige were from a territory known as Khuzestan, I remember the seige but my knowledge of the Middle East was negligible at the time. Khuzestan is an Iranian province with a majority Arab population but more relevantly is the main reason the late president Saddam Hussain went to war with Iran. Khuzestan borders on Kuwait and Basra, a British stronghold in Southern Iraq and all are oil rich.

Don’t get me wrong I was aware that the sieges marked the beginning of the Iran/Iraq war but the nuances were lost on me. For instance I only became aware of Khuzestan and its oil wealth in 2004. I do remember that, at the seige, the SAS tactics were interesting and decisive as the hostages were murdered in defence of British soil and their demands unclear as was Britain’s intention to play Iraq and Iran off against one another.

The Mirror article said also that Mrs Thatcher, the then British prime minister and president Carter of American were discussing military action but Mrs Thatcher was reticent. Not surprising as she, at least, had decided on a different strategy in the Middle East, a war between Iraq as Iran, which began in September 1980. the manoevre is reminiscent of that used in Syria, when Islamic mercenaries were used in place of a traditional incursion by the Western powers.

President Carter had paved the way for the upheaval in the Arab world when he played his hand at Camp David where the two state solution for Palestine was decided and the revolutionary Palestine Liberation Organisation, PLO was liberalised. Mrs Thatcher’s stance was hardly surprising as she was to meet her her soul mate in November 1980, when Mr Ronald Reagan won the American election. Now it was time to commit to real neo liberal policies and to the monopoly game (globalisation).

 

 

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