Moscow’s Phantoms of the Soviet Era — old friends, old state relationships, Kurdish political incoherence at the leadership level, and confusion over the idea of liberalism has produced a deadly and medieval quagmire in Northern Syria and opened the gate to thoroughly retrograde politics — thank the Turkish “sultan” Erdogan the (most-un-NATO-like) Egoist. In effect, America’s — and the west’s — chief allies in the fight against Islamic State in Syria have been betrayed to the extent that the west now looks on at their deprivation.
If integrity is to be an international standard, it is important to grasp how artificial and brutal an enterprise has been Bashar al-Assad’s civil war and “war on terrorism”. As BackChannels has commented on Assad’s nurturing of al-Qaeda types early in the Syrian Tragedy, it will list here just a sampling of posts asserting that the state’s theater of war has been developed and managed for totalitarian effects — “Syria – Assad – ISIL – Background (December 9, 2016). The “Kurdistan” and “Syria” categories of this blog contain other listings, of course, and here for convenience are a few quickly chosen URLs to posts that may be helpful to Kurdish political analysts asking the eternal political question: “Where from here”?
Suggestion for those now arguing about the character of a Syrian Constitution for which the troika of Assad, Putin, and Khamenei have no need as well as the character of a proposed Kurdish agreement between communities: err toward the compassion, complexity, and integrating liberal humanism owned by the rapidly evolving and modernizing west — take cues from the west’s most advanced (and happiest) states, not the ones sinking backward into feudal and nationalist fascism.
Start, perhaps, with Finland, so that what is to end does so where it began.
The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.
Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the rise of the Ozero cooperative, founded by Putin and others who are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes; the links between Putin, Petromed, and “Putin’s Palace” near Sochi; and the role of security officials from Putin’s KGB days in Leningrad and Dresden, many of whom have maintained their contacts with Russian organized crime.
Kurdish leaders should take note of Russia’s early and Imperial history and the character of the state under Putin’s sway, and they should ask whether the same is today authentically interested in their health and well being.
BackChannels knows the historic response: “No friends but the mountains.”
This blog’s editor hopes that the time-honored expression of abandonment and isolation is either no longer true today or that it becomes untrue as EU/NATO and perhaps others take interest themselves in Kurdish aspirations, bravery, hopes, and ideals for a greater and more just and more autonomous state.
In Myanmar, so I have read, there’s today a booming market in little blue meth/meth-caffeine pills much enabled by China’s determination to maintain stability along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative. It seems (to BackChannels, at least) these days that everyone with a cause and a Kalashnikov (whatever) comes up with cash in exchange for ‘wokefulness’ of the cartoonish kind — and the fighting and funding and the building and the struggle for better and more and more and more of the same rages on . . . .
Governments may strengthen their resolve, take the profit out of the business, “medicalize” the results, suffer the loss of some portion of the income of their secondary economies (narcotics represent primary import-export $$$), and move on, or they may play “ostrich” on limited time while their cultures plus political and spiritual missions hollow out and destroy their sense of purpose.
Was Great Britain shutting down its opium trade when the Chinese were paying for its existence?
I’ve grown old(er) having a look into this region in the vicinity of how things work — and with the comparative roles of what gets us high, low, or back to in-between — far inside the human condition and experience, and it’s all a little bit ugly and sad.
More on Myanmar’s ‘Dependence’ Issue
SULLIVAN: But there are a number of factors working against an end to Myanmar’s long-running civil war, understanding is just one of them. The government’s refusal to budge on the ethnic groups’ demands for greater autonomy is another. And then there’s money.
JEREMY DOUGLAS: The biggest source of finance for conflict is clearly drugs.
SULLIVAN: Jeremy Douglas is regional director for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok. He says the trade is much bigger now than it was decades ago, when the area was better known for its opium and heroin production. Now it’s mostly synthetics like crystal methamphetamine, or ice, destined for markets in Australia, Japan, South Korea and beyond, a business the UNODC reckons is worth a staggering $60 billion a year.
This story reveals more than just the failure of Canadian controls against money laundering. It highlights the current global problem of money laundering, in North America, Europe and the Middle East. Based on recent accounts, the criminals are winning.
The breadth and depth of crime fighting agencies and institutions would seem greater as a global community than the global scourge, but it equally clear that criminal operating capacities in manufacturing and distribution have been an “overmatch” for that effort. The money and violence involved in addressing this aspect of our humanity would seem also to have proven more than equal to the task. Here, nonetheless, may be two starting points for those far on the outside looking into how someone else’s condition — nations included — has become the condition into which the whole world appears to be growing.
Kurdish defense elements may represent an amalgam of Kurdish interests largely beneath the authoritarian semi-socialist umbrella of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Conceived in the Far Left zeitgeist of the 1970s, an era saturated in and partially shaped by agent provocateur, disinformation, and money pouring off of Russia’s “Active Measures” programs, the PKK appears to have followed the pattern known to other Soviet-associated “liberation fronts” in relation to ruthless consolidations of power, funding through criminal means, and the launching of violent revolutionary actions against forces impeding organizational ambitions, concepts, and ends.
In 2013, Erdogan promised to recognize Kurdish identity and language, and increase Kurdish liberties. A truce followed, but hostilities resumed in 2015. Erdogan said he was responding to PKK terrorism. The PKK claimed Erdogan destroyed the ceasefire by building dams and security stations in Kurdish regions. In either case, a war was on. Erdogan attacked with helicopter gunships, artillery and armored divisions, murdering thousands and displacing 335,000 mainly Kurdish citizens. A UN report described destroyed villages as moonscapes.
The recruitment of mixed Kurdish forces to fight ISIS necessarily involved diplomatic magic as some best trained and experienced in the business of fighting were to become those fighting Assad’s idea of “The Terrorists” — ISIS.
Here’s a section representing one starting point — the American State Department’s continuing designation of the PKK as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” — and both the required finesse to shift popular impression plus an expression of America’s intent to defend its Kurdish allies (and front line) in the effort to defeat Islamic State —
The Department of State has reviewed and maintained the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended (8 U.S.C. § 1189). The PKK was originally designated as an FTO in 1997.
. . . .
Today’s actions notify the U.S. public and the international community that the PKK remains a terrorist organization. In addition to its continued status as an FTO, the PKK has also been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 since 2001.
BackChannels refers often to the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, a mixture of KGB-Era ideas, methods, personalities, and relationships that have for about 26 years outlived the Soviet Union. Wherever cultivated, the same have fairly suspended geopolitical space in the barbarism and political repression best associated with feudal / medieval political absolutism.
The PKK’s role in potential Turkish-Russian escalation should be viewed through the lens of Moscow’s deep historic ties with the group — and with Damascus. In the 1970s, the PKK was established with Soviet support in the Beqa Valley of Syrian-occupied Lebanon. As one of two NATO countries boasting a land border with the Soviet Union, Turkey was considered Moscow’s soft underbelly during the Cold War, providing Washington with numerous assets such as listening bases capable of intercepting communications across the Black Sea. The Russians saw the PKK as a means of undercutting a key U.S. ally.
The PKK also enjoyed support from Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafiz, who cast his regime as the champion of Turkish Kurds despite oppressing Syria’s own Kurdish community. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan lived in Damascus while his group ran training camps in Lebanon and used Syrian territory to attack Turkey.
Moscow’s support for the PKK eventually dissipated with the end of the Cold War and the emergence of pressing political and economic problems at home. Syria ended its own support in 1998, after Ankara threatened Damascus with war for supporting what had become a terribly destructive PKK campaign throughout Turkey. As part of this abrupt shift, Hafiz al-Assad expelled Ocalan.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) emerged from the radical ferment that swept the Western world in the 1960s. It was founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist organisation infused with Kurdish nationalism and a cult of personality around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK spent much of this period attacking other Kurdish and left-wing groups, and its own dissidents – hundreds of whom would be killed over the years – in an attempt to monopolise the support base for its ideas.
While BackChannels happily and humbly defers to The Henry Jackson Society’s wizard of political science, Kyle Orton, it recognizes inherent value in the Kurdish community as singular among the world’s ethnic and tribal cohorts and with that equally inherent rights to autonomous self-determination and dignity — in defense terms: freedom from cultural and religious persecution.
BackChannels, being neither international organization or potent state, however may best demur to an analyst closer to the issues and altogether more experienced — in this instance, Michael Rubin of The American Enterprise Institute:
More importantly, PKK tactics have changed: There remains low-level military insurgency, but gone are the days when the PKK targets Turkish civilians (alas, the reverse is not true with regard to Turkish forces and Kurdish civilians, as the residents of Cizre, Nusaybin, and Sur can attest). Certainly, breakaway factions of the PKK such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have claimed attacks, but such factionalism is common when former terrorists come in from the cold. That was the case with the “ Real IRA ” which emerged after the IRA entered into a peace process in Northern Ireland.
A little more than six months ago, BackChannels published “Moscow as Medusa with All the Snakes Attached” (January 2, 2019), and what it had had in mind was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leveraging of arrangements involving leadership in several EU / NATO states fit for the flattering of an emperor. He had President Erdogan apologizing to him for shooting down two MIGs overflying Turkish air space (and, lo and behold, the “Turkish Stream” energy project got back on its feet) and, later (about now), purchasing Russian air defense technology suited to knocking NATO air power out of the sky . . . .
So here with the above in mind is reference to “east-west” and “medieval v modern” conflict that continues to validate the idea of the presence of the “Phantoms of the Soviet” and their generally impeding progress toward modern governance in the near and middle east:
The Kurds have historically played an important role in Russian efforts to exert its influence in the Middle East. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used the Kurds to bypass America’s containment strategy in the region.
Shortly after World War II, Moscow supported the creation of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan to increase its influence in the region. After the Iranian army crushed the Kurdish forces, the fighters led by Mustafa Barzani took refuge in the Soviet Union.
Political analyst Gonul Tol appears in the third video featured in the next section, which presents another set of impressions having to do with the Kurdish struggle for Kurdish autonomy and unification.
One might wish that others posting in the world’s open and socially networked web environment would be responsible about it and take the additional 30-seconds it may take using Google search (or Bing, whatever) to check out claims. This particularly vicious sterilization-by-vaccine rumor has been in circulation for decades.
BC’s immediate response to the post follows.
The story may be a good example of Soviet Era “Active Measures” carried forward into the post-Cold War period. It appears this claim has been in circulation for decades, and not only in Kenya but several other developing nations.
I cannot prove my thesis, such has been the nature of manipulation from “behind the curtains” down through the ages, but often enough, it would seem those who most claim to be interested in Justice turn out also to be the most obsessed with acquiring Absolute Power — and that “by any means necessary”.
Whatever the fine points of history may be — and the devils are always in the details — “framing” a medical miracle, whether vaccination for polio or vaccination for tetanus as an evil thing, would seem itself a deed most evil and intended to sow discord and fear. Why? Those who promote malicious perception may then portray themselves as the bearers of hope and order.
Related online and associated with similar partisan religious motivations:
Instead of abetting or encouraging the survival of President Nicolas Maduro’s now brutal regime in Venezuela, Representative Ilhan Omar may do better to review how starvation came to visit the South American state — wondrously rich with resources — in the first place.
Venezuela as petrostate had a fine run on high and rising oil prices, but as crude pricing fell, the state discovered discovered itself as yet . . . undeveloped — and foremost in its oil sector. From the above cited Foreign Policy piece:
The problem for Chávez was that many of the PDVSA’s then-managers wanted to increaseproduction, by continuing the development of Venezuela’s technically challenging heavy oil fields. To do so, they needed to reinvest more of the company’s earnings rather than hand them all over to the government. So the managers had to go.
It was only the beginning of the mismanagement of Venezuela’s oil reserves.
What about other sectors of the economy?
On agriculture, here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post (Mariana Zunig and Nick Miroff, “Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them”, May 22, 2017):
“Last year I had 200,000 hens,” said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. “Now I have 70,000.”
Several of his cavernous hen houses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.
As well known to other communist and socialist bureaucracies, the government owns all, but to play the role of an enlightened hub for all that the state needs and needs to share equally, it has to have something to distribute. As the oil economy collapsed, much around it appears to have caved as well.
Add desperation to insolvency: what the government hasn’t discouraged, ordinary thieves — not to blame them too much for their response to starvation — have apparently stepped in to pick up the slack.
Alas, also, Venezuela’s program had some items it distributes all too well for cash:
The network used a string of heavily guarded nightclubs to generate profits from the forced prostitution, which where then laundered through at least eight companies the group owned.
Thirteen victims were rescued and more than 2 million euros (almost $2.4 million) worth of properties, cash, jewelry and vehicles, as well as weapons, were seized as part of the operation.
Basically, Maduro’s dictatorship and its military (and the state’s mafia) have had between narcotics — noted at the top of this blog — and sundry other criminal undertakings — some nefarious ways of raising cash for themselves.
The state of war has become a constant between Beijing, Moscow, and Washington, but the issues are worked either “by other means”i.e., “diplomacy” or through punitive measures that would be violent swipes — and they are that — without the gun play. What works and how far it goes may be indicated by Venezuela’s continuing decline into chaos, darkness, and despair.
North American Continental Appetite for Narcotics –> Cash –> Central / South America –> Cartel –> Gangs –> Related Violence –> Corruption of Authorities –> General Insecurity –> Displacement of Population | Northern Mass Migration
If you’re on the Soviet / post-Soviet flavored Left / Far Left Progressive Movement, the same that might obtain its image of the world from, say, 927+ or Mint Press, at least consider reading Christopher Dickey’s report on the Cuba-Venezuelan connection and the InSight Crime series on narcotics trafficking and the accumulation of wealth by nominally “communist” and “socialist” so-called “leaders” in captive Central and South American states.
In familiar Orwellian fashion, the New Old Now Old Far Out and Lost Left simply ignores the sustained Soviet / post-Soviet investment in the underworld and what it does to societies everywhere it travels.
Asked of a child: “Who controls the camp?” — “Young militants control the camp, and when the Israeli army comes we throw stones at them. the army doesn’t come here a lot, and there is no authority here. We have nothing.” (05:38).
Oh, Palestinians — yon Jews never stole your land and ye shall know the 1948 and post-1948 truth about that war, about the Arab apartheid camps of your world, and about the “leaders” delivering the drugs, failing to sweep the streets, failing to guarantee the safety of basic housing and water and electrical supply.
Think about those words out of a child’s mouth: “There is no authority here.“
BackChannels has news for you: wherever the Soviet has meddled and Russia to this day maintains old criminal and feudal relationships, “there is no authority” but over and around the inner circles of absolute and capricious power.
For the feudal lords of the Gaza and the West Bank — and the handlers and greater powers of Moscow and Tehran — the Palestinian main base doesn’t really matter.
Money in their own pockets matters much more.
The streets of Shuafat have been left to become garbage strewn and rat infested while the minds of Palestinian children, generation upon generation, are made to entertain lies about their historic and political origins, about the Jews, the west, capitalism, democracy, humanism . . . everything.
“There is no authority here.”
In place of authority, what is there in Shuafat?
Vanity – a malign, merciless, and unyielding vanity on the part of those who would live well off the dispensing of misery to their communities.
What is good?
For the purposes of governance, perhaps start with authentic culture, education, opportunity, service.
The Palestinians have gotten the mind fuck of all times in the dishonest framing of their predicament — thank the KGB and some generations of middle east leaders and compliant local powers for that.
The Cold War, the Soviet Era, has been over for more than 27 years. In its place: a mash-up of Russian feudal and mafia-style power.
Perhaps in the Shuafat enclave in Jerusalem, some should demand of their “leadership”, UNRWA, of themselves — even so young as to be able to say, “There is no authority here” — and of Israel adequate basic services plus authentic education and information subject to each their own inquiry and independence of mind, i.e., the end of the political suppression of the lawful, moderate, and optimistic.
As BackChannels may use the term “Covering / Splitting”, the reference is to masking over the defective, humiliated, or impotent self — it’s not uncommon for children to suffer — and suffer deeply — at the hands of a powerful and sadistic other in such a way as to demand a coping and defensive route in behavior in response. The “splitting” then may refer to the development of the heroic or heroic-appearing self and the daring exploration and development of congruent behaviors. Not all who would experience “narcissistic mortification” become malign in their response — some may be reparative in response — but some do wish to get the better of their tormentor in one-up mirror fashion.
“Narcissistic Manipulation” –> “Gaslighting” and “Perceptual Control” — in the linguistic or Orwellian sense, control of the target’s information, imagination, organizing (Gestalt functions) and perception plus predictions or prognostics.
Had history not had “grandiose and messianic” personalities, there would perhaps be very little of human history at all.
Be that as it may, many ages — feudal, medieval, Renaissance, Elizabethan, lol (whatever works) — have passed into a modernity in which knowledge and reason prevail in the fashioning and support of modern democratic, humanist, and secular law and policy. Reflecting that sea change in humanity, Europe has come up with a dozen “constitutional monarchies” bound up in a reasonably coordinated, cooperative, and peaceful “European Union” that should be, so BC opines, quite sensitive about states marching themselves backward into the bloody illusions of the past.
Putin’s way has brought out the dictator in some EU / NATO politicians (Erdogan, Orban, Le Pen, Trump), not all completely successful in their quest to be as if feudal lords in command of their tribes x (criminality), language, race, religion, perhaps wealth, but in someways successful enough. Ironically, and while working opposite the direction of the Russian collusion “witch hunt”, the Trump Administration has taken many measures along the crime- and dictatorship-fighting axis to dull the expansion of nefarious post-Soviet enterprise (on BackChannels, have a look at Venezuela).
BackChannels’ trope regarding dictatorships: “Different Talks — Same Walk!”
So back to Omar al-Bashir who cannot tolerate that Sudanese should get the world’s news coming out about his regime worldwide.
The news, however, does get out, making the dictator’s image increasingly indelible and negative in global conscience and memory.
Since coming into power in 1989, al-Bashir worked to systemically consolidate power by banning political parties, dissolving parliament and actively muzzling political dissent, through arrests, torture and executions, as recent events demonstrate. His government also worked to systematically ban trade unions, which played a key role in two successful popular uprisings in Sudan — one in 1964 and another in 1985.
Africa News. “Sudan protest hub: Student rallies ramp up pressure on govt”. February 19, 2019.
Journalists – local and international, have been caught in the middle of the protests. Foreign reporters have been deported or ordered out over their coverage whiles local journalists have been arrested and allegedly tortured. Rolls of daily and weekly newspapers have also been confiscated. A number of varsity professors in the capital Khartoum were recently arrested for attempting to stage a protest.
These systematic arrests have targeted not only reporters covering protests in almost all parts of the country but also journalists who themselves dared to protest against the regime’s policy of censorship and arrests of journalists with the aim of restricting coverage of the protests.