Posts Tagged ‘syria’

The Ottoman Empire: Demise of a Major Power

DW (2017)

Film Review

This documentary demonstrates how people of multiple religions and ethnicities were able to coexist peaceably for over four centuries in the Ottoman empire. This flies in the face of western propaganda about the inevitably of genocidal violence when various religions and ethnicities share the same geographic space.

According to the filmmakers, the long peaceful coexistence of multiple religious and ethnic groups (the main ones being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims) relates mainly to the Ottoman creation of semi-autonomous regional “millets.” These were under the administrative control of local religious leaders.

The democratic ideals that arose from the 1789 French Revolution would pose the first major challenge to this stability, in triggering a whole series of rebellions. In 1821, Greek rebels would launch a full scale war of independence. Russia, France and Britain, keen on expanding their empires into the Balkans and Middle East, supported the rebellion. Greece would ultimately win independence in 1829.

Over the coming decades, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empire fomented similar rebellions by ethnic Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. In 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire – under the pretext of protecting its Christian subjects – which ended with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The latter divided up the Balkans and placed the minority Armenians in the Anatolia peninsula under the protection of the European powers. Russia was granted control of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Austro-Hungarian empire control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This peace agreement, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims, signaled the dawn of the modern age of refugees.

For me the most intriguing part of the film concerned the intelligence role of archeologist Thomas Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who was actually a British secret agent sent to mobilize the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. Lawrence, on behalf of Britain, promised Arab fighters their own Arabian kingdom in return for their military support – a promise Britain conveniently broke in 1920.*

This documentary leaves absolutely no question that the real agenda in World War I was 1) disrupting the growing German-Ottoman alliance and 2) for the European powers who initiated the war to divide up the Ottoman empire. Following the 1918 armistice and 1920 Treaty of Sevres, Britain would win colonial control of Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait) and Palestine and the French control of Syria and the newly created Christian enclave of Lebanon.

After Britain gained colonial control over Palestine in 1920, they immediately revved up ethnic tensions by requiring Jerusalem residents to reside in distinct religious zones an


*The Ottoman Empire’s possessions in the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz, which was annexed by the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. The Empire’s possessions on the western shores of the Persian Gulf were variously annexed by Saudi Arabia (Alahsa and Qatif), or remained British protectorates (Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar) and became the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. requiring passports for travel between zones.

 

 

 

 

 

 Guest post by Sophie Mangal

According to the Inside Syria Media Center military correspondent on the ground, Aleppo, the largest Syrian city is beginning to come back to peaceful life. Just in December a number of districts of the city were held by terrorists, who were destroying urban infrastructure and keeping entire region in fear.

However after eight month of the city complete liberation, rehabilitation works are boiling in the streets right now. The locals and the representatives of the authorities are taking part in them. At the same time, Aleppo governor Hussain Diab personally supervises repair works at key infrastructure facilities.

Satellite view of Sheikh-Najjar area

The repair works are currently concentrated in the Sheikh-Najjar district, where are a lot of factories, plants and power plants. The water and electricity supply of the whole Aleppo depends on the smooth functioning of the region. Moreover, the economic well-being of the city also depends on the working capacity of the Sheikh-Najjar, as the cotton production facilities are concentrated there.

Hussain Diab inspects water pumping station[/caption]

Last week, Diab along with local entrepreneurs inspected the assessment of this area and drew up a plan of further restoration works. Also during this visit, the governor was shown a newly launched water pumping station and treatment facilities that provide the city with drinking water.

Despite the fact that the two-thirds of the railway tracks in Syria are destroyed due to hostilities, their restoration is also in full play. According to Najib Fares, head of Syrian railways, almost after a five-year break, the railway communication between Aleppo, Homs and Latakia provinces is restored.
Notably, since the beginning of 2017 more than 280 thousand Syrians have used rail transport.

Restoration of railway communication 

It also should be mentioned that, the pharmaceutical factory, which supplies Syrian medicines in more than 100 newly opened pharmacies in the city is reopened in Aleppo. Before the war, there were about 30 similar enterprises in the city.

Newly opened pharmacy in Aleppo People buying medicines

Most of restorations works take place in extremely difficult conditions, since Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militants (ex Jabhat Al-Nusra) commit terrorist acts. Earlier this week, on August 7, a large explosion occurred inside the Tariq Bin Ziad base in Masaken Sabil area, 4 people were badly wounded.

Undoubtedly, the process of post-military restoration of Aleppo and the country as a whole will take place against the background of the international economic sanctions, which have been imposed by the U.S. and several European states.
Unfortunately, many European leaders do not understand that the imposed restrictions affect just ordinary people. Only by lifting the sanctions, having developed and accepting a joint post-war plan for the restoration of Syria, the Western countries can assist the Syrians, in rebuilding their destroyed homeland.

Sophie Mangal is the special investigative correspondent and co-editor of Inside Syria Media Center.

Rojava: Syria’s Unknown War

VICE News (2014)

Film Review

In this documentary, a VICE news journalist illegally crosses the Turkish border to provide viewers a tour of Rojava, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Syria. This is an ethnically diverse (with Christians, Jews and Sunni and Alawite Arabs) farming region possessing 60% of Syria’s oil. The Kurdish YPG (male) and YPJ (female) armies provide security (from terrorist attack) for the region, with assistance from farmer militias of other ethnicities. Men and women serve (unpaid) on an equal basis, although women are preferred as snipers. They supposedly make better snipers because “they’re more patient.”

Rojazava is presently under siege from Al Nusra, Islamic State and Al-Sham jihadists. Based on passports the YPG recovers from dead jihadists, most are foreign – from Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Chechnya and Afghanistan.

Turkey, which has sealed the Turkey-Rojava border to humanitarian aid and journalists, allows foreign jihadists to cross freely into Rojava. They have been strongly criticized by both the US government and Human Rights Watch for doing so.

 

Guest Post by Sophie Mengel Inside Syria Media Center.

Last Monday the EU Council extended sanctions against the Syrian government for another year, until June 1, 2018. The event occurred as recent Syrian Arab Army successes raise hopes for an end to the Syrian conflict. It’s clearly not enough to talk about food relief and delivery of basic necessities. Manufacturing and foreign trade have also taken major hits in Syria.

 

World Bank: Total economic damage by city

Bilateral Ties Between Syria and Iran

Not so long ago, at a Damascus meeting between Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Iranian Ambassador Javad Torkabadi, Khamis highlighted the full-scale economic war the West and their Middle East allies have unleashed against Syria. Tehran, with its long experiencing countering “sanctions war,” and Damascus have become a model of strategic cooperation, both militarily and economically.  However, strong economic ties between Iran and Syria alone will not solve the problem of Syrian economic degradation.

Courting Qatar

Despite their past support for anti-government terrorists, the current economic boycott of Qatar by its “friendly neighbors” is leading to hope of future Qatari investment in the Syrian economy. For Qatar to invest in Syrian zones of influence or to offer Syria offer a kind of Marshall Plan would go a long way towards repairing Qatar’s international image. It would also allow the country to bypass limitations Saudi Arabia seeks to impose on Qatar’s foreign policy, while making it more independent of the US and the EU.

All this would likely depend on consummating an agreement for Iran to purchase LNG from Qatar for onward transport to external consumers. Iran, which is getting closer to Qatar and has strong positions in Syria, has great potential as an intermediary.

Syria is Already Planning Its Economic Future

Despite the ongoing fighting in Syria, the country is already planning its economic future. Syria is rich in energy resources and minerals, including rare-earth metals. At the same time, the country has an advantageous geographical location for transporting goods to the Mediterranean pass through its territory. All this gives Damascus the potential for rapid economic development.

Stability in the region and restoration of foreign trade would enable the Syrians to have a source of stable foreign direct investment. The country has been in the grip of war for more than six years, but is full of enthusiasm to rebuild the economy. The hope of a new life and recent successes on the battlefield inspire optimism on the part of Syrian citizens, as well as the countries such as Iran, China, India, Russia and Armenia that support them.

Follow the latest developments by reading Inside Syria Media Center.

The Crusades: An Arab Perspective

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

The Crusades is a fascinating history of a subject that was quite new to me, as Americans rarely study the Crusades in school. Despite the title, the expert commentators represent a balance of French and English historians, as well as Muslim scholars from various Middle Eastern universities. Most of the documentary series consists of historical re-enactment of papal enclaves, battles, sieges, treaty signings and other historical events. The filmmakers use a series of maps to plot the progress of European occupation of Jerusalem and the Levantine* coast, as well the eventual liberation of these territories in the 13th century.

The documentary leaves absolutely no doubt that the Crusades were an imperialist campaign of colonization – and not religious wars, as is commonly claimed. Whenever European crusaders conquered a specific city or region, they indiscriminately slaughtered most of the inhabitants, whether they were Muslims, Jews or fellow Christians. The entire fourth Crusade (1203) was devoted to sacking the greatest Christian city in the world (Constantinople), whose residents were mainly Byzantine Greeks.

Part 4 is my favorite because it focuses on the role of the Crusades and Muslim influence in facilitating the European Renaissance of the 14th-15th centuries. When the Crusades began in 1085, the vast majority of Europeans (99%) were illiterate, whereas Middle East cities enjoyed an advanced flourishing civilization (as did India, China, Africa and North and South America prior to European colonization). When occupying crusaders were finally defeated and forced to return to Europe in 1291, they took with them advanced knowledge of Arab military tactics and agriculture, sugar cultivation, medicine, algebra, glass manufacturing and Greek philosophers ( whose work had been translated and preserved by Muslim scholars.

Part 1 – covers the role of Pope Gregory and Pope Irwin in instigating the disastrous Peoples Crusade and the first Crusade (1086-1099), resulting in the sacking and occupation of Jerusalem (lasting nearly 200 years).

Part 2 – covers the fragmented Muslim resistance to the expansion of European occupation, hindered by both religious (Sunni vs Shia) conflict and tribal rivalries. It’s during this period (1100-1127) the term hashshashin (origin of the English words assassin and hashish) came into usage, owing to the Shia assassins hired to secretly kill Sunni military commanders. Between 1127-1143 a Muslim revival led to the liberation of numerous crusader strongholds, and the launch of a second crusade by Pope Eugene, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany.

Part 3 – describes the rise of Salah Ad-Din (known in in Europe as Saladin), who unified rival Muslim armies and by 1187 retook all crusader strongholds except Jerusalem. This led to the launch of the third Crusade by Philip II (France), Frederick I (Germany) and Richard the Lion Hearted (England) This was followed by the fourth Crusade, which sacked Constantinople; the failed fifth Crusade (1213); the sixth Crusade in which Frederick II (Germany) retook Jerusalem by treaty and the failed seventh Crusade, led by Louis IX of France (1248). In 1244, Muslim armies retook Jerusalem, which remained under their control until it became part of the British protectorate of Palestine with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

Part 4 – in addition to outlining the cultural riches Europe gained from the Crusades, Part 4 also explores how Europe’s medieval colonization of the Middle East laid the groundwork for the eventual European colonization of North Africa and the Middle East (in 1917), with the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 representing a major milestone in this re-colonization.


*Levantine – a term describing a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea north of the Arabian Peninsula and south of Turkey, usually including the area of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

end-of-oil

The End of Oil

by Paul Roberts

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (20014)

Book Review

Although fourteen years old, The End of Oil offers an invaluable historical analysis about the absolute link between cheap fossil fuels and the development of industrial capitalism. Roberts starts his analysis with the first century Persians who first distilled surface petroleum for use as lamp fuel. According to Roberts, widespread use of oil as a fuel was impossible until drill technology became available in the 19th century to drill for it at deep levels.

Roberts identifies coal mining as the first really capital intensive industry requiring extensive external funding. Building the infrastructure to mine and process all three fossil fuels is always extremely capital intensive. The fact that a coal or gas-fired power plant takes three or four decades to pay off is one of the main reasons fossil fuel companies, and the banks and governments that subsidize them, are so reluctant to replace them with renewable energy infrastructure. The End of Oil also emphasizes the absolute importance of cheap fossil fuel to the economic health of industrialized countries, Between1945 and 2004 (when the book was published), there were six big spikes in the price of oil – each was accompanies by a major economic recession.

Roberts maintains the cheap, easily accessible oil is all used up, explaining its steady price increase since the late 70s. Russian oil, which is fairly costly to mine, only became economically viable when the price of oil hit $35 a barrel in 1980.

Prior to the final chapters, which review the economics of various forms of renewal energy, the book also discusses the geopolitics of oil. Roberts leaves absolutely no doubt that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an effort by neoconservatives Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz et al to control the volatile price of oil and the devastating effects of this lability on the US economy. Although the US wars in Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen occurred after the book’s publication, Roberts’s analysis left me with no doubt whatsoever they were driven by similar geopolitical objectives.

Roberts also discusses the geopolitical threats posed by China, India and Southeast Asian countries as their growing middle classes put pressure on a finite supply of oil. He also explores the threat the growing political/military alliance between Russian and Iran creates. Between them, the two countries control half the world supply of natural gas. He leaves no doubt, in other words, that the current US military threats against China, Russia and Iran are also about fossil fuel security, just like the war on Iraq.