Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
“Austerity opponents say the strike isn’t intended to grind down Europe’s already weakened economy, but to send a clear message to governments and the Troika that austerity cuts aren’t working to solve the debt crisis, but instead are worsening the problem.”

Austerity has spawned general strikes in individual countries across the troubled European Union. But this week may see something to add to the union’s tensions: a coordinated, multi-national mega-strike. Organized labor plans a general strike against the E.U.’s austerity policies, borderless and spanning the south of the continent. With more than 25 million people out of work, Europe’s biggest unions have vowed to lead marches and demonstrations on Nov. 14 that unite opposition parties, activist movements like Spain’s M15 and a growing sea of unemployed to challenge their national governments, banking leaders, the IMF and EU policymakers to abandon austerity cuts ahead of a high-stakes budgetmeeting in Brussels later this month.

What makes Wednesday’s strike even more threatening to Europe’s managerial elite is the strong support it is receiving from traditional labor groups that rarely send their members into the streets—foremost, among them, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 85 labor organizations from 36 countries, and totaling some 60 million members. “We have never seen an international strike with unions across borders fighting for the same thing—it’s not just Spain, not just Portugal, it’s many countries demanding that we change our structure,” says Alberto Garzón, a Spanish congressman with the United Left party which holds 7% of seats in the Spanish Congress. “It’s important to understand this is a new form of protest.”

The strike is expected to cause near or total shutdowns of the ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World

The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended -- though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis.  Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history. 


Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s.  I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in “the week the world stood still.”


Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
Published: Friday 3 August 2012
This year’s Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.


Aug. 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

This year’s Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.

Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... (or others) ... to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”

None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.

Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.

Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula’s boldest element, Allison writes, was “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was ...

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
Published: Monday 9 July 2012
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took part in the Paris meeting, also praised Tlas’s defection and predicted that more would follow.”


The defection this week of a key general with longstanding ties to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was hailed Friday by officials in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as an important step towards ending the regime.

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlas, was reportedly smuggled by opposition activists to Turkey three days ago and may be en route to Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters Friday during a high-level meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group in the French capital. Fabius later stated that he had no indication of Tlas’s final destination.

“We welcome this defection and we believe it is significant,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took part in the Paris meeting, also praised Tlas’s defection and predicted that more would follow.

“(I)t is important that there is this increasing stream of senior military defectors,” she told reporters after the meeting in reference to Tlas’s defection. “Because if people like him, and like the generals and colonels and others who have recently defected to Turkey are any indication, regime insiders and the military establishment are starting to vote with their feet.

“Those who have the closest knowledge of Assad’s actions and crimes are moving away, and we think that’s a very promising development,” she added.

Independent analysts here, including some who have long expressed skepticism over administration claims of the regime’s vulnerability, largely echoed that view, agreeing that Tlas’s departure has struck a major blow to the regime, which has relied for some 40 years on unity between the Alawite minority, of which the Assad are a part, and the Sunni military and business elite.

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack.”

Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations.  In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.

Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election.  In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.

Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that -- strange things can happen in the interim.”  Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy -- now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign -- told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “

Published: Monday 2 April 2012
The Syrian efforts have been aided, anti-Assad activists say, by the militaries of both Lebanon and Turkey, which have recently taken steps to obstruct actions of both the rebel Free Syrian Army and smugglers operating from their territory.

Syria has tightened control of its borders with Lebanon and Turkey in recent days, laying fresh fields of land mines and sweeping through areas critical to rebel smuggling operations in a development that raises questions about how aid, lethal or non-lethal, would reach the armed opponents of President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian efforts have been aided, anti-Assad activists say, by the militaries of both Lebanon and Turkey, which have recently taken steps to obstruct actions of both the rebel Free Syrian Army and smugglers operating from their territory.

"We wish the Turks would be softer in allowing the Free Army to operate," said a Syrian activist in Turkey who uses the nom de guerre "Godfather" and helps provide communications and medical aid to activists inside Syria.

"Godfather" said the Turkish military was pushing FSA groups inside Turkey further and further from what are often ambiguously marked areas along the mountainous border with Syria. He also said that Syria 10 days ago had placed new land mines along its side of the border.

At a meeting of countries working for Assad's ouster in Istanbul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday said the United States was supplying logistical support to the rebels, including communications equipment and would ...

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
“The empirical argument is simply historically based numerology: emerging-market crises seem to come in a 15-year cycle.”

Emerging markets have performed amazingly well over the last seven years. In many cases, they have far outperformed the advanced industrialized countries in terms of economic growth, debt-to-GDP ratios, countercyclical fiscal policy, and assessments by ratings agencies and financial markets.

As 2012 begins, however, investors are wondering if emerging markets may be due for a correction, triggered by a new wave of “risk off” behavior. Will China experience a hard landing? Will a decline in commodity prices hit Latin America? Will the European Union’s sovereign-debt woes spread to neighbors such as Turkey?

Indeed, few believe that the rapid economic growth and high trade deficits that Turkey has experienced in recent years can be sustained. Likewise, high GDP growth rates in Brazil and Argentina over the same period could soon reverse, particularly if global commodity prices fall – not a remote prospect if the Chinese economy begins to falter or global  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
“Following the Money in the Iran Crisis”

Let's start with red lines. Here it is, Washington’s ultimate red line, straight from the lion’s mouth.  Only last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of the Iranians, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.”

How strange, the way those red lines continue to retreat.  Once upon a time, the red line for Washington was “enrichment” of uranium. Now, it’s evidently an actual nuclear weapon that can be brandished. Keep in mind that, since 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stressed that his country is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from the U.S. Intelligence Community has similarly stressed that Iran is not, in fact, developing a nuclear weapon (as opposed to the breakout capacity to build one someday).

What if, however, there is no “red line,” but something completely different? Call it the ...

Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
“The latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist comes as Iran and Western countries, through contacts via Turkey, are on the verge of restarting long-stalled talks on Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but the West contends, with some supporting evidence, is aimed at weapons production.”

According to a report in Foreign Policy, agents with Israel’s Mossad spy agency posed as CIA operatives as they tried to recruit members of the Pakistan-based Sunni terrorist network Jundallah to launch attacks against Iran. The alleged revelations come at the tail end of a week where an apparent covert war against Iran’s nuclear program made headlines when a bombing in Tehran killed an Iranian nuclear scientist, the fourth such assassination in two years.


Published: Monday 9 January 2012
“Turkey is engaged in an intricate effort to preserve its old relationship with the West while building new ties with its Muslim neighbors.”

Turkey has over the past few weeks become the spearhead of a joint Western-Arab-Turkish policy aimed at forcing President Bashar al-Assad to cede power in Syria. This is quite a turnaround in Turkish policy, because over the past two years the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had gone out of its way to cultivate good relations with neighboring Syria, with whom it shares a long land border.

This change of course on Syria has also cost Turkey a great deal in terms of its relations with Iran, the principal supporter of Assad’s regime, which Turkey had also cultivated as part of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy.

Given these new strains, it is worth recalling that a only few months ago many American leaders were livid at what they perceived to be Turkey’s betrayal. In their view, Turkey had re-oriented its foreign policy toward the Muslim Middle East and away from the West – a shift supposedly reflected in the country’s deteriorating relations with Israel and improving ties with Iran and Syria.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Mohammed Ayoob, click here."

Many American policymakers and publicists, unable or unwilling to distinguish Turkish-Israeli relations from Turkish-American relations, interpreted Erdoğan’s condemnation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a bid to cozy up to his Arab neighbors at the expense of Turkey’s relations with not only Israel but with the West in general. Turkey’s attempt to mediate between the major Western powers and Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s uranium stockpile went ...

Published: Saturday 26 November 2011
The deadline the Arab League had set for Syria has passed, and forced the Arab League to take action.

A deadline the Arab League had set for Syria to sign a deal allowing observers into the country to monitor whether the government was adhering to a peace plan expired Friday without any Syrian response, setting the stage for the league to impose sanctions on the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Turkey's foreign minister said his country would coordinate with the Arab League on imposing sanctions, an indication of the extent to which the international community has lined up to force Assad to end his bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, which has taken the lives of an estimated 3,500 people. Turkey once was considered a close Assad ally.

"There is excellent coordination between Turkey and the Arab League," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference he held with Jordan's foreign minister. "We share every step we make and every position we develop."

Davutoglu said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan would attend a meeting of Arab League finance ministers Saturday to decide what to do next and that he himself would participate in a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers tentatively set for Sunday. He said he was continuing to consult with the European Union, NATO and U.N. Security Council members on what next steps should be taken to increase pressure on Assad's regime. He met Friday with Italy's foreign minister as well.

Davutoglu warned that Syria would be isolated by Turkey, Arab countries and the entire international community if it ...

Published: Thursday 29 September 2011
“We have difficulties in understanding their position. ... The U.S. has always advocated a two-state solution.” -Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The United States, castigated by its critics as recently as a decade ago as a “hyper-power,” is now so weak and isolated on the world stage that it may cast an embarrassing and self-defeating veto of Palestinian membership in the United Nations. Beset by debt, mired in economic doldrums provoked by the cupidity and corruption of its business classes, and on the verge of withdrawing from Iraq and ultimately Afghanistan in defeat, the U.S. needs all the friends it can get. If he were the visionary we thought we elected in 2008, President Obama would surprise everyone by rethinking the issue and coming out in favor of a U.N. membership for Palestine. In so doing, he would help the U.S. recover some of its tarnished prestige and avoid a further descent into global isolation and opprobrium.

It is often the little things that trip up empires and send them spiraling into geopolitical feebleness. France’s decision to react brutally to the Algerian independence movement from 1954 arguably helped send its West African subjects running for the exits, much to the surprise and dismay of a puzzled Gen. Charles de Gaulle. Empires are always constructed out of a combination of coercion and loyalty, and post-colonial historians often would prefer not to remember the loyalty of compradors and collaborators. But arguably it is the desertion of the latter that contributes most decisively to imperial collapse.

Thus, it is highly significant that an influential Saudi prince warned the United States that a veto of Palestine at the U.N. could well cost the latter its alliance with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is the world’s swing petroleum producer and has done Washington many favors in the oil markets, and although such ...

Published: Saturday 3 September 2011

In the wake of the dubious UN investigatory report which all but exonerated Israel for its May 31, 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara–an attack that killed 8 Turkish citizens and 1 Turkish-America–Turkey has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel and suspended all military cooperation. Ankara had little choice in this matter. The Israeli attack was egregious. It took place in international waters against an unarmed civilian vessel and was carried out in defense of a barbaric and illegal policy of collective punishment against one million Palestinians bottled up in Gaza by an Israeli blockade.

For their part, the Israelis claim that they murdered the Mavi Marmara Turks in self-defense. I juxtapose the words self defense and murder quite purposefully, for the Turkish passengers were in the process of defending themselves from a violent assault when they were gunned down by Israeli soldiers who now describe their actions as self-defense. This scenario is a tragic parody of a hundred years of Zionist action in the Middle East. Having come to the region in the baggage train of an imperial occupying power (Great Britain) and successfully establishing themselves by evicting the native population (a process that is on-going), the Israelis define all acts of resistence to their aggression as attacks which require their defending themselves. The Mavi Marmara action fits neatly into this Zionist world of peculiar logic. In this sense, they turn the world upside down.

The Turkish government will have none of this and demanded the minimum of decency from the Israelis–an apology and compensation. In so doing they stand for civilized behavior. The ...

Published: Friday 29 July 2011
Syndicate content
Make your voice heard.
Write for NationofChange
Small and medium businesses aren't the only ones at risk for massive financial miscalculations....
Autism and autism spectrum disorders have created unique challenges for parents for years. These...
Let’s face it, the world used to seem like a huge place. A place in which there were areas, towns,...
Recently, when I trying to define what the term “global energy markets” really meant, I stumbled...
Ukraine and neo-Nazis Ever since serious protest broke out in Ukraine in February the Western...