Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Symbolic Istanbul funeral pays homage to Khashoggi — (But Turkey Doesn’t Want To Put This Issue To Rest)

November 16, 2018

Dozens of people on Friday paid homage to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a symbolic funeral in Istanbul where the 59-year-old Washington Post contributor was killed last month.

In the absence of a body, the crowd gathered in front of an empty place traditionally reserved for the coffin at Fatih mosque, AFP journalists reported.

© AFP | Dozens of people paid homage to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a symbolic funeral in Istanbul

Supporters from the newly-formed Jamal Khashoggi Friends Association also attended.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2. Turkish officials say he was strangled and his body dismembered.

Image result for Fatih mosque, Istanbul, photos
Fatih mosque

“We decided to hold the prayers as we are convinced that his body will never be found,” Fatih Oke, executive director of the Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM) of which Khashoggi was a member, told AFP.

The ceremony which took place under rain, “is a message delivered to the world to say that the murder will not go unpunished and that justice will be served,” said Ibrahim Pekdemir, an Istanbul resident who attended.

Saudi prosecutors on Thursday announced indictments against 11 people and said a total of 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.

But they exonerated the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement in the murder.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Yasin Aktay, a close friend of Khashoggi and advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, strongly criticised the Saudi version of events.

“They want us to believe that the killers themselves made the decision to assassinate Jamal Khashoggi, we do not believe in this story,” he said after the prayer.

“We will continue to ask who are the true contractors” of the murder.

Turkey has insisted it was a premeditated killing.

AFP

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What Turkey Hopes to Gain from Khashoggi’s Murder

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/18/what-turkey-hopes-to-gain-from-khashoggis-murder-221609

For Erdogan, Kashoggi’s assassination—a tragedy and an outrage by any measure—represents a perfectly timed opportunity. Turkey is facing a looming economic disaster at a time when relations are in crisis with the United States, Saudi Arabia and most other potential sources of help. In addition to contemplating a debt tsunami, Erdogan has also seen his aspirations to turn Turkey into a major regional powerhouse eroded by a series of developments in the Middle East.

Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul unexpectedly created a chance to turn around that misfortune, or to at least lessen its sting. Erdogan, a clever, ruthless operator, is not about to let it slip through his fingers. With his security services in possession of evidence that appears to link Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler to the crime, Erdogan is perfectly placed to extract concessions from the Saudis. And given that the Trump administration has built a foreign policy strategy that hinges on cooperation with MBS, and that Trump’s behavior suggests he is invested in protecting the kingdom, Erdogan’s leverage over the Saudis extends into leverage over the United States.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/18/what-turkey-hopes-to-gain-from-khashoggis-murder-221609

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Don’t make human sacrifice a part of US foreign policy

November 16, 2018

Like most American consumers of news, we’ve become accustomed to watching the Beltway commentariat run around like so many headless chickens with every non-story emanating from the Trump administration. We’ve learned to wait for verification, to double-check, and go back to original sources before believing alarming claims. For as often as not the five-alarm stories of the day turn out to be misleading or false.

But on Thursday, NBC News reported a story that was truly disturbing, and well-sourced enough to get our attention.

Here’s the context: Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an increasingly unreliable ally to the U.S., caught the Saudis red-handed murdering a dissident journalist on his country’s soil. Although no respecter of human rights himself, Erdogan rightly sees that this outrage gives him some leverage, especially because President Trump has aligned himself with the Saudis against Iran and in favor of achieving a peace deal in Israel.

Editorial
Washington Examiner

Erdogan has therefore been relentless in publicly denouncing the Saudis. And officials from the Trump administration, watching the Saudi monarchy’s current self-destruction, understandably want to salvage what chances there are for such a peace. So how to get Erdogan to back off of the Saudis? The Trump administration may be considering a human sacrifice.

One thing Erdogan has wanted consistently from the U.S. since 2016 is the head of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen on a platter. Erdogan has long blamed Gulen, without presenting any credible evidence, for masterminding the 2016 military coup against his regime.

Image result for Fethullah Gulen, bbc, photos

Fethullah Gulen

Gulen, the head of an international movement promoting a peaceful and tolerant vision of the Islamic religion in contrast to other movements, is a legal resident in the United States. If he really were responsible for the coup in Turkey, a NATO ally, the U.S. would extradite him. But until now, both the Obama and Trump administrations have resisted Turkish demands for his extradition. Even when Erdogan was holding pastor Andrew Brunson as a hostage on ludicrous, trumped-up charges, demanding Gulen in exchange, the Trump administration refused, citing the lack of evidence for Gulen’s involvement in the coup, to say nothing of the zero-percent chance that Gulen would get a fair trial in Erdogan’s Turkey.

Unfortunately, however, this might be changing. And this is where the worrying news story comes in.

NBC reported exclusively this week that White House officials made inquiries of the Justice Department about possibly removing Gulen from the United States in order to placate Erdogan. Officials specifically asked about two possibilities — extraditing the cleric to Turkey, where he would certainly be killed, or making him live in a third country such as South Africa, where he would merely be less safe.

We sincerely hope that such inquiries — especially the ones about extradition — are not an expression of actual Trump administration policy. It would be bad enough to sacrifice an innocent man’s life or well-being in order to placate an unsavory dictator like Erdogan. It would be even worse to do it with the long-term goal of protecting a Saudi monarchy that has become a moral stain upon the earth.

Perhaps the U.S. has good long-term reasons to stand by the Saudis. But if so, it will have to justify the relationship on its merits, such as they are.

Human sacrifice has been out of fashion in America for the last 500 years. We sincerely hope there is nothing to these reports of the Trump administration’s willingness to bring it back.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/dont-make-human-sacrifice-a-part-of-us-foreign-policy

Turkish police detain 12 academics, activists in raids

November 16, 2018

Police in Istanbul detained 12 academics, businesspeople and journalists as part of an investigation into an association that was headed by a jailed prominent businessman and activist, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Friday.

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Anadolu Agency said professors Betul Tanbay and Turgut Tarhanli of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and Bilgi universities and journalist Cigdem Mater were among those detained in simultaneous police operations in the city.

Those arrested were being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman, who himself had been jailed a year ago. (AFP)

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They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman who was arrested a year ago pending trial, accused of alleged attempts to “abolish” the constitutional order and the government. No indictment has been issued against him.

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Anadolu said police were searching for eight other people linked to the association which says it aims to promote peace and minority rights through culture.

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Since an attempted coup in 2016, Turkey’s government has been accused of stifling freedom of expression for arresting thousands of people for alleged connections to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed attempt, or links to terror groups. It has purged many more people from state institutions and jailed dozens of journalists.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Kavala “Turkey’s Soros,” a reference to American billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations have funded education, health, justice and media projects around the world. Pro-government media in Turkey accuse Kavala of engaging in anti-government conspiracies.

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Eleven prominent activists, including Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups.

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Separately on Friday, police detained 86 people, most of them former Air Force personnel, in operations across Turkey and were looking for 100 others for alleged links to Gulen’s movement, Anadolu reported.
More than 15,000 people have been purged from the military since the coup, Turkey’s defense minister has said.

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The cleric denies involvement in the coup.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1405816/middle-east

Have European Leaders Lost The Will To Defend Western Civilization?

November 16, 2018

Image result for emmanuel macron, world war I centennial, photos, podium

The Western world would have succumbed over 1,000 years ago had its leaders and citizens not made a brave stand in the face of foreign invasion.

Today, no less dangerous invaders than those from the past have succeeded where their forebears could not, and without the force of arms.

The history of Western civilization has been interspersed with episodes of military conflict on such a monumental scale that any defeat would have reversed the course of history forever.

Consider the Battle of Tours. Beginning in 711 AD, a Muslim army under the Umayyad caliphate conquered a large swath of what is known today as Spain and Portugal, or the Iberian Peninsula. The tide began to recede only in 732 when the Germanic statesman and military leader, Charles Martel, with a force of some 20,000 men, emerged victorious against Muslim forces on a battlefield in southwestern France in what is known as the Battle of Tours.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson emphasized the importance of the conflict when he wrote that“most of the 18th and 19th century historians, like [Edward] Gibbon, saw (Tours), as a landmark battle that marked the high tide of the Muslim advance into Europe.”

Martel’s victory represented the first chapter in a protracted effort – known as the Reconquista – a 780-year campaign on the part of the Christian kingdoms to uproot the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. And it wasn’t until 1492, the year Columbus set sail to discover the New World, that the peninsula was fully controlled by Christian rulers.

It makes for a compelling thought experiment to consider how a powerful historic figure, like Charles Martel, one of the founding figures of the European Middle Ages, would be received by today’s mainstream media, which has a acquired a very particular way of reporting on those modern European leaders – like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who are simply motivated by the desire to strengthen Europe’s borders from illegal aliens. For an answer, one need only consider the breathtakingly biased BBC interview where Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó was told that his government was guided by “xenophobia” in its decision to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country.

Judging by its blood-stained history, however, Hungary has good reason for being concerned about foreign invasion. That’s because the threat of foreign invasion against the European continent did not end in 1492. In fact, overlapping the defeat of the Muslim invaders in Western Europe, a concomitant development was occurring in Eastern Europe with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453.

By 1541, the Ottoman Turks had conquered Hungary and at this time were on their way to creating one of the largest empires of all time. After declaring Hungary a vassal state, the Ottoman army marched up the Danube towards the famed ‘Gates of Vienna.’ It was here the Ottomans would meet their match, thanks to the timely intervention of King John Sobieski of Poland.

Upon reaching Vienna on September 12, 1683, with the Ottoman army about to breach the city walls, Sobieski ordered his roughly 75,000 troops to charge at the very heart of the enemy force, which numbered some 350,000. Sobieski’s plan worked and he successfully routed the Ottomans, a momentous event that began the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Turkish yoke.

To understand the significance of the victory, the Pope hailed Sobieski as the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization.”

Once again, we must ask: how would the Western media today treat such a historic figure, who led Europe and Western civilization to ultimate triumph against a foreign invader? After all, Sobieski didn’t merely construct a barbed-wire fence against an invading horde as Hungary’s Orban did, and too much outcry and even retribution from his European peers. Sobieski went so far as to put an intruder to the sword.

In a letter to his wife, Queen Marie-Louise, Sobieski described the sheer mayhem and bloodshed that accompanied the battle:

“Our Lord and God, Blessed of all ages, has brought unheard victory and glory to our nation. All the guns, the whole camp, untold spoils have fallen into our hands…They left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could…”

Now of course some will argue that we are talking about apples and oranges here. A marauding army simply cannot be compared to an influx of desperate migrants looking to better their lot in life.However, I would argue that the two groups, while employing radically different methods, nonetheless produce roughly the same results: both groups have a massive impact upon the native population in terms of problems with assimilation, as well as the expenses involved in playing ‘host’ to people from radically different cultures, religions and backgrounds.Most importantly, however, is that in both cases the native population suffers the risk of being completely displaced by the influx of foreigners, especially if the latter is more prolific when it comes to reproducing its numbers.

There is yet another point to consider. As the Hungarian foreign minister emphasized in his interview, much of the migrants who entered Europe arrived by ‘invitation’ of sorts in that they knew the larger European countries, namely Germany, England and France, in tandem with non-profit organizations like George Soros’ Open Society, would provide them with a relatively respectable stipend once they breach the borders of some European country(it should be no surprise that Germany is viewed as the ‘Holy Land’ as far as these economic migrants are concerned). In a report detailing the outlays provided to migrants arriving in Germany, it was reported that “a single adult receives € 408/month on average for everything but rent and health insurance, which the state pays for.” Now if that doesn’t set the conditions for a full-blown exodus into Europe I really don’t know what will. And it has. To date, millions of undocumented migrants have spread out to the four corners of Europe, the consequences of which nobody can predict.

One thing can be said with certainty, however. The great sacrifices of great European men, like John Sobieski and Charles Martel, seem to have been utterly wasted by modern leaders who simply do not have the best interest of their state, not to mention Western civilization, at heart.The site of German Chancellor Angela Merkel snatching the German flag from one of her colleagues during a political assembly, or French President Emmanuel Macron insisting that there is “no such thing as French culture” tells us everything we need to know about these so-called ‘leaders,’ who have betrayed the spirit of European fortitude that allowed Europe to survive and flourish in the first place. Europe should be thankful there are leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Sebastian Kurz, 31, the new Austrian chancellor who soared to victory by campaigning on stricter border controls in Europe.

Why is common sense in such short supply these days in the Western world?

It cannot be denied that much of Europe’s problems with the migration crisis are the result of it hitching its wagon to the falling star of US foreign policy. However, that does not serve as a reasonable argument for Europe to open its doors to a migrant invasion.  If Europe, as well as some of the more notorious NGOs, really want to help migrants from the Middle East, they could start by demanding their governments stop supporting military operations abroad. This is exactly what our modern ‘social justice warriors’ should be demanding, yet they are absolutely silent on the war front. And if they insist on paying these war victims, who are certainly deserving of sympathy, then better to send the humanitarian assistance to those war-torn places instead of inviting hordes to European shores.

As things stand, or fall, Europe’s ultimate survival will come down to brave and courageous men, the Martels and Sobieskis of our times, to thwart any new foreign invasions being delivered to Europe’s doorstep inside the Trojan Horse of ‘good intentions,’ which we all know where ultimately leads.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-11-14/have-european-leaders-lost-will-defend-western-civilization

Saudi crown prince has nothing to do with Khashoggi’s death

November 15, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said that Saudi Crown Prince has nothing to do with the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a press conference on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced the results of the investigation around Khashoggi’s death and called for the killing of five people who confessed to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

ALSO READ: Jubeir: Saudi judiciary independent, effective; rejects international meddling

They added that 21 people are being investigated, and 11 have been charged in the murder, however, they said that the system of criminal procedure prohibits the disclosure of the names of the accused.

The prosecution also stated that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered after he was murdered following a physical altercation, and moved out of the consulate. They added that five of the accused are the ones who transferred his body outside of the consulate, and another one gave the dismembered body to a local collaborator. He said that a sketch of this collaborator was drawn, and it will be given to the Turkish authorities.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/11/15/Saudi-FM-Jubeir-The-Saudi-crown-prince-has-nothing-to-do-with-Khashoggi-s-death.html

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Arab News

Investigations into Khashoggi’s murder will continue until all questions are answered

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir speaks during a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 15, 2018. Jubeir rejected the Turkish demand for an international inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (AFP)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is still seeking answers to a number of questions in the investigation into Jamal Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said at a press conference Thursday.

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Saudi Arabia is committed to holding those involved in Khashoggi’s murder accountable through the judiciary, and investigations into Khashoggi’s murder will continue until all questions are answered, Al-Jubeir said.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1405426/saudi-arabia

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Khashoggi killing: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five suspects; Crown Prince cleared

November 15, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement.

    
Picture of Jamal Khashoggi in front of screen showing his fiancée (picture-alliance/AP/J.S. Applewhite)

Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He did not name the suspects. In total, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the case.

Crown Prince bin Salman exonerated

Khashoggi, a regular contributor to US newspaper The Washington Post, was a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His murder cause international outrage, and many believe it could not have been carried out without bin Salman’s knowledge.

The prosecutor, however, claimed the crown prince was not involved in the killing. He said the highest-ranking member of the Saudi leadership implicated in the operation was former deputy intelligence  chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has since been fired for ordering Khashoggi’s forced return.

A spokesman for the prosecution told reporters that plans to assassinate Khashoggi were set in motion on September 29.

“The crime included a fight and injecting the citizen Khashoggi with a drug overdose that led to his death,” the official said.  The body was dismembered and handed over to a local collaborator, he added. He did not give any details on the location of the body.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get some paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée raised the alarm when he did not return. After weeks of denials and under growing international pressure, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a “rogue” operation.

The case has caused a row between the kingdom and Turkey, whose government insists the suspects should be tried in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Saudi prosecutor’s statement “positive but insufficient,” insisting that Khashoggi’s murder was “premeditated.”

ng/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

https://www.dw.com/en/khashoggi-killing-saudi-prosecutor-seeks-death-penalty-for-five-suspects/a-46307794

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Turkey calls for international investigation into Khashoggi murder

November 14, 2018

An international investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is essential, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, and reiterated Turkish decisiveness to solve the murder.

“We will do whatever it takes to bring the murder to light. We have shown the evidence to all those who wanted to see,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told the parliament.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to journalists after attending a meeting with US Secretary of State at Esenboga International Airport in Ankara, on October 17, 2018. (File/AFP)

Turkey previously said it would cooperate in an international investigation, and had called for a UN probe.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay; editing by John Stonestreet

Reuters

The ruthless campaign to save Mohammed bin Salman

November 14, 2018

With every passing day, the Saudi prince looks more likely to survive the Khashoggi scandal

Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince © AP

By Roula Khalaf

The once flamboyant Saudi billionaire, Alwaleed bin Talal, looked visibly uncomfortable in a television interview last week as he dispensed effusive praise for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. Two weeks earlier, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri laughed nervously on stage as he applauded Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi financier and the Lebanese prime minister have been targets in the young prince’s ruthless attempt to impose his will on Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East. But exhibiting public support appears to be a requirement now that Prince Mohammed is in trouble, and on a drive to clear his name.

Since Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist, was strangled and his body dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month, the propaganda campaign designed to insulate Prince Mohammed from a crime supposedly committed by rogue aides has gone into overdrive.

Enlisting friends is not sufficient; victims too must join in the whitewashing. It is a charade that can be well captured by a popular Arab saying: “You kill and walk in the victim’s funeral procession.” A year ago, Mr Hariri was summoned to Riyadh, ostensibly for a meeting, then detained and ordered to appear on television to bash Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizbollah.

Image result for Saad Hariri, photos

Saad Hariri

It was an early warning of the despotic style of Prince Mohammed.

While Saudi Arabia persisted in denying the detention, French President Emmanuel Macron had to work his diplomatic magic to ensure the prime minister’s release. In October, Mr Hariri was asked to Riyadh again, this time to participate — and act chummy — on a conference panel with Prince Mohammed. In a chilling ending to the session, the prince joked that Mr Hariri would stay in Saudi Arabia another two days but no one should assume that he was detained. It was tasteless humour; Mr Hariri giggled all the same.

Prince Alwaleed, a member of the royal al-Saud family, has also been forced into merciless surrender. A year ago, he was among the royals and businessmen arrested and forced to part with assets and cash to secure their release.

Image result for Prince Alwaleed, photos

Prince Alwaleed

Since being freed, he has expressed repeated support for Prince Mohammed, describing his detention as a misunderstanding that was forgiven and forgotten. In an interview with Fox News last week, he spoke eloquently about Mr Khashoggi, who headed one of his projects, a shortlived TV station.

But his warmest words were reserved for the crown prince. He declared him innocent in the Khashoggi killing. It is possible that Mr Hariri and Prince Alwaleed are suffering from temporary amnesia. Perhaps they share an exaggerated spirit of forgiveness. More likely, they have adopted the safer option: going along with the pretence.

No one knows for sure why Khashoggi was killed but the brutal murder was a warning to others not to cross the crown prince. None of this fake admiration will salvage the reputation of Prince Mohammed abroad, where observers and politicians assume the killing could not have been committed without his consent. But with every passing day, he looks more likely to survive the scandal.

His western allies, led by the US, appear unwilling to connect him directly to the Khashoggi execution.

Instead, they hope his ailing father, King Salman, will rein him in. They are using his vulnerability to wrest concessions: a halt to Saudi Arabia’s disastrous military campaign in Yemen and an end to its ill-judged blockade of its neighbour Qatar.

Back home, the Saudis have crafted a message that is now spreading, online and in interviews, through officials and loyalists. The narrative holds up Saudi Arabia as a “beacon” of stability in the face of an expansionist Iran. It draws parallels between the Khashoggi case and the Abu Ghraib scandal, the abuse of Iraqi detainees in a prison by American officers.

Soldiers were convicted but no senior government official was implicated.

Ironically for a prince whose main achievement has been to curb the powers of the clerical establishment, religious scholars have been rolled out to rally domestic support. Their message: Prince Mohammed is a divinely inspired reformer who should be protected against international conspiracies.

roula.khalaf@ft.com

https://www.ft.com/content/bf9e9556-e725-11e8-8a85-04b8afea6ea3

Russian sanctions: why ‘isolation is impossible’

November 12, 2018

They were designed to isolate Putin, but the rhetoric has not matched reality as Moscow sells arms and strengthens alliances

Trump Putin1.JPG

By Henry Foy in Moscow

It fires missiles that travel at 2km per second and can hit targets flying twice as fast. It can target 80 different enemy aircraft, drones and cruise missiles at the same time from 400km away, and spot stealth warplanes that previously evaded detection.

But arguably the most dangerous aspect of Russia’s S-400 Triumph missile defence system is the damage it has inflicted on the clout of Washington’s anti-Moscow sanctions programme, and concerted efforts by the US to isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

Despite sweeping sanctions against Russia’s defence industry to shut down its lucrative exports and a ban on other countries buying the S-400 specifically, Russia is doing a roaring trade in what most experts consider the world’s most advanced air defence system.

Over the past year, Turkey and India have signed deals to buy S-400s, China has received its first deliveries, and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq have begun negotiations over deals to acquire the sanctioned systems. If the west’s sanctions regime, first introduced in March 2014, was designed to cut off Moscow from the rest of the world and isolate its critical industries, the truck-mounted missile launchers are a $400m-a-piece example of how that effort has failed.

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Turkey and India have signed deals to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile launcher © AFP

“There is no question about the isolation of Russia.  Nobody is even talking about it,” says Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Russia’s Arms Export journal. “There are major breakthroughs thanks to China and India . . . the message is that Russia is still open for business.”

Since 2014 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a sanctions regime led by the US and supported by the UK, EU and other western allies has sought to isolate Moscow by curbing its access to external finance, trade and diplomatic support in an effort to force a change in political approach from President Vladimir Putin’s administration.

Initially targeting Russian politicians, the country’s vast energy sector and military-industrial complex, the sanctions have become ever more targeted against individuals and businesses.

Allegations against Moscow of meddling in the 2016 US election, allowing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and carrying out the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal in the UK this spring have resulted in harsher restrictions.

But if the measures were designed to make Moscow an international pariah, friendless and toxic, they are falling short of achieving their goal. An ever-closer friendship with China has provided Moscow with international finance, new trade opportunities and diplomatic heft. Moscow has also deepened its ties with a host of countries in the Middle East, from Turkey to Israel, Saudi Arabia to Iran, expanding its influence in the region at a time of American hesitation.

At the same time, a steady stream of EU leaders visiting the Kremlin, foreign direct investment from European corporates and continued demand for Russia’s oil and gas exports belies the rhetoric of belligerence from Brussels. “Isolation is impossible, that is clear,” says Andrei Bystritsky, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club, a Russian think-tank.

“It was possible, 30 years ago, in the Soviet times. Then there were just two blocs. But now there are so many options.” When it comes to Russian isolation, reality has not matched rhetoric.

While major defence deals like the S-400 agreements have drawn the ire of Washington, all of the EU’s biggest economies have quietly continued to do business with their eastern neighbour.  Berlin, a key supporter of sanctions related to the annexation of Crimea, steadfastly supports Nord Stream 2, a Russian gas pipeline being laid under the Baltic Sea that opponents say will only increase Moscow’s influence over Europe’s energy supplies.

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French president Emmanuel Macron was Mr Putin’s special guest at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum earlier this year, telling his host: “Dear Vladimir . . . let us play a co-operative game.” Total, the French energy group, bought a 10 per cent stake in Russia’s $25.5bn Arctic LNG 2 project soon after, and last month opened a new factory close to Moscow.  The UK is one of the most hawkish towards Moscow, but British energy group BP is one of Russia’s biggest foreign investors through its 19.75 per cent stake in Rosneft, the Kremlin-controlled oil company subject to sanctions.

“Look at Total, piling in as much as it can. Look at BP,” says a senior executive at a major international energy company.

“You cannot isolate a country as big and as important as Russia. It was never going to work.” At a conference in Verona last month, Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini told Russian delegates they were “peacemakers” and urged Italian companies to find ways around EU sanctions.

“In 2018 we do not need sanctions, we do not need troops. We need dialogue, we need friendship,” he said. “I want to thank Italian businessmen . . . for resisting, for taking up the initiative with this.” Western diplomats in Moscow privately admit that the sanctions have failed to achieve the impact many of their governments had desired. Some blame the staggered implementation that has largely allowed Russia’s $1.6tn economy to slowly adjust. Others argue that the recovery in oil and commodity prices since 2016 has provided the Kremlin with enough cash to offset the impact.

But others claim that many countries have lacked the resolve to follow through with the measures, fearing the damage to their own companies.

UK’s Hunt visits Gulf for Khashoggi, Yemen talks

November 12, 2018

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday where he will press King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

During a trip to the region that includes a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Hunt will also seek to build support for UN efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, the Foreign Office said.

His visit comes amid an international diplomatic crisis over the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi, a US resident, at his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October.

Image result for Adel al-Jubeir, photos
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

“The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi one month ago,” said Hunt, who will also meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

“It is clearly unacceptable that the full circumstances behind his murder still remain unclear.

“We encourage the Saudi authorities to co-operate fully with the Turkish investigation into his death, so that we deliver justice for his family and the watching world.”

Hunt’s visit comes after British undersecretary for foreign affairs Simon McDonald held talks with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and foreign minister in Riyadh.

During his brief visit to the Gulf, Hunt will also meet Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani.

Britain is seeking support among regional partners for new action at the UN Security Council for peace talks in Yemen.

“The human cost of war in Yemen is incalculable: with millions displaced, famine and disease rife and years of bloodshed, the only solution is now a political decision to set aside arms and pursue peace,” Hunt said.

“Britain has a unique position, both as pen-holder at the UN Security Council and as a key influencer in the region, so today I am travelling to the Gulf to demand that all sides commit to this process.

“We are witnessing a manmade humanitarian catastrophe on our watch: now is the window to make a difference, and to get behind both the UN peace process and current UK efforts in the Security Council.”

The Foreign Office also said Hunt would raise the case of Matthew Hedges, a PhD student who denies charges of spying in the UAE.

AFP