Kurds resist Turkish state onslaught

The Kurdish people are engaged in a battle for survival against the Turkish state. On 23 January 2016 the Kurdistan National Congress reported 56 curfews imposed on seven cities. The districts of Sur, Cizre and Silopi in south-east Turkey (North Kurdistan) have been under siege for over a month. In four months, state security forces have killed 268 civilians, 62 of whom were children. On 21 January Amnesty International issued a report – Turkey: end abusive operations under indefinite curfew. It describes Turkish forces preventing wounded people from receiving medical care, cuts to water and electricity supplies and access to food made dangerous. Tanks and heavy artillery, normally deployed in conventional warfare, are being used on densely populated communities, snipers are targeting children, houses are demolished at random, elected officials rounded up and imprisoned – and still the Kurdish people resist. Trevor Rayne reports.


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No unity in US-led coalition against IS

Sixty-two nations form the US-led coalition to destroy the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria and Iraq. The official motto of the coalition, ‘One mission, many nations’, hides the endless divisions between the countries apparently united under its banner. It has been bombing IS since June 2014 with Britain joining the attack on Syria in December 2015. Despite this grand coalition including many of the world’s most powerful militaries, IS still holds vast swathes of territory. There is abundant evidence that IS and other jihadist groups rely on countries within this coalition for their very existence. For many coalition partners, other objectives take priority over destroying IS.


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Israel’s war against the people - review

War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification – Jeff Halper, Pluto Press, 2015.

How does Israel manage to get away with its brutal Occupation of the West Bank and its incessant war on Gaza? Why do imperialist powers continue to support it in its war on the Palestinians? These are the questions that Jeff Halper, the head of the activist NGO the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD), sets out to answer in War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification. Through a detailed examination of Israel’s international role in the development of military techniques, high tech weaponry, and security products, Halper exposes how Israel’s war against the Palestinians is a war against all oppressed people.


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Iran and Yemen - Dangerous manoeuvres in the Middle East

The Saudi-led coalition bombing of Yemen has driven 300,000 people from their homes

As the US grip on the Middle East weakens, so Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are competing for positions. A Saudi-led coalition of 11 countries, backed by the US, Britain, France, Turkey and Belgium, began bombing Yemen on 26 March 2015. By mid-May, an estimated 1,500 people, mainly civilians, had been killed, 300,000 people had been driven from their homes and 700,000 were in dire need of food. Saudi Arabia says it wants to reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi as president of Yemen and to curb Iranian influence. Hadi was deposed by Houthi militia in September 2014 and fled Aden for Saudi Arabia on 25 March. Yemen’s people are victims of intensifying regional conflict. Israel sides with Saudi Arabia, but US and European imperialism are seeking to co-opt sections of the Iranian ruling class while maintaining their regional alliances. TREVOR RAYNE reports.


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Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State - the shifting balance of power in the Middle East

The Islamic State (IS) made international headlines in May with the capture of the important city of Ramadi in Iraq and the historical site of Palmyra in Syria. Despite a ten-month bombing campaign led by the US, the group now controls 50% of Syria, and 30% of Iraq. US imperialism has been unwilling to commit the resources - including ground troops - required to destroy IS. The military priorities of US imperialism are shifting to Russia and China. US imperialism cannot continue to play the role of an unchallenged superpower. Local powers are now taking centre stage in the war, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey on one side - in a tacit alliance with IS - and Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah on the other.


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Israel–US split grows as Palestinians suffer

Protest in Washington on 3 March as the Israeli Prime Minister address US Congress

The re-election of the racist war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli prime minister after his Likud party snatched victory from the jaws of defeat has created a political crisis. US President Obama clearly favoured the ‘change’ promised by the Zionist Union led by Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, who looked to be winning the election, and was outraged at Netanyahu’s open racism and unrestrained rhetoric against Iran. At a time when US imperialism is building new alliances to refocus its strategy on controlling the Asia–Pacific region, Israel is in a difficult position. Special relationships don’t always remain special. The political landscape is shifting. But as ever, the unceasing US and EU-supported Zionist occupation means that the Palestinian people remain the real victims. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are of course excluded from the ‘democratic’ process.


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Imperialism and the Islamic State

The Islamic State (IS) is inextricably tied to the actions of the imperialists. In FRFI 241 we argued that IS was formed as a legacy of imperialist intervention across the Middle East and beyond (see ‘Islamic State: imperialist terror’). The imperialists sponsored and funded jihadists to undermine communists, nationalists and secularists – the social and political forces which held back reactionary trends in political Islam. Countless recruits to jihadist organisations have joined to fight against brutal imperialist occupation, war and torture. It has now come to light that the IS leadership and ideology was largely forged in US prison camps in Iraq. Toby Harbertson reports.


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Victory in Kobane

After 135 days of heroic resistance the defenders of Kobane cleared the city of Islamic State (IS) forces on 26 January 2015. Representatives of the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) said that they would proceed to clear the surrounding villages of IS. IS attacked Kobane on 15 September 2014. Over 200,000 people crossed the border into Turkey. Turkey’s President Erdogan said, ‘Kobane may fall very soon.’ The Kurdish fighters fought with determination, organisation and skill. They were joined by peshmerga from South Kurdistan (northern Iraq), volunteers from the Turkish Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), elements of the Free Syrian Army and others and they were helped by bomb attacks on IS positions by the US Air Force. The Turkish state obstructed volunteers from joining the defence of Kobane from North Kurdistan (Turkey). In the end, IS forces were reported fleeing into Turkey, to be escorted away from the border with Syria by Turkish troops.


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Israel, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda: the war in the Golan Heights

The Zionist settler state of Israel has made clear that it intends to increase its military involvement in southern Syria, against the resistance axis of Hezbollah, the Syrian government, Iran and Palestinian militants, and in a tacit alliance with Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat Al Nusra (JN). Israeli drones launched an unprovoked drone strike on Hezbollah soldiers on 18 January near the Syrian town of Quneitra, killing eight, including an Iranian general. After further Israeli strikes on Syrian positions, Hezbollah retaliated, killing two Israeli soldiers. Following this, Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon killed a Spanish UN soldier. With the major imperialist powers taking steps to normalise relations with Iran, and giving qualified support to peace negotiations involving the Syrian government, Israel sees attacks on Syria and Hezbollah as the best way to reassert its own interests.


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Islamic State: Permanent war in the Middle East

The Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq presents a huge problem for the imperialists, right at the heart of one of the world’s most resource rich regions. Through decades of war and manipulation the US, Britain, France and other imperialist powers have created the social, economic and sectarian conditions for the rise of IS. Every state in the region has been shaped by its relationship to the imperialist system. But the crisis of the system is accelerating. Contradictions are throwing themselves up in the path of imperialist strategy. Reacting to new obstacles the imperialists are creating yet more problems – for their own interests and for the people of the region. Having let IS grow to challenge the Syrian government and Iran’s growing influence, NATO powers have created a fundamentalist monster they can neither control nor destroy. They were forced to take action when IS posed a threat to their oil interests in Iraq. Now they are left fighting an expensive and difficult war in Iraq and Syria, with a lack of commitment from regional allies and threats to their economic hegemony on the horizon. Toby Harbertson reports.


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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! says Long Live Kurdistan! Biji Kurdistan!


Speech by Trevor Rayne from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! to the demonstration to support the Kurdish resistance forces of the YPG and YPJ in Kobane called by the Kurdistan National Congress in Parliament Square, London on 11 October 2014.

Today, the struggle of the Kurdish people in Kobane is on the front line of the struggle for all of humanity. They are not just fighting the Islamic State they are fighting the forces of barbarism, of ignorance and intolerance, the forces of mass murder and those who, like the Turkish state, would excuse them and use them for their own short term and selfish ends.


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War on ‘IS’ targets Syria

The US and British imperialists have launched their third war on Iraq in 24 years. Along with other NATO powers and their regional clients, they again expect to remain openly engaged in the Middle East for years. Imperialist bombs are once again destroying countless lives for the bank accounts of the ruling classes. In whipping up an international military campaign against the jihadist Islamic State (IS) the imperialists have provided a cover for escalating their campaign to destroy the Syrian government. A bombing campaign against Syria was thwarted in September 2013. However, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, and rivals emerge, the need for strategic domination increases. This new war will only create more contradictions, more chaos and more resistance. Toby Harbertson reports.


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Islamic State, imperialist terror

Forces of the Islamic State (IS) now control around one third of the territory of both Iraq and Syria. The CIA suggests that they command around 30,000 armed militants. A fundamentalist, jihadist group, their attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, videos showing the beheading of US and British hostages, and reactionary practices towards women have all been well publicised by the ruling class media. The group is well armed, organised, and funded. They have been attracting recruits from all over the world. Fifteen years ago however, secular Ba’athist governments were in power in both Syria and Iraq, where the rights of religious minorities and women were safeguarded. These functioning states with modern infrastructure put neighbouring imperialist client states to shame. So how did a group like IS come to occupy such a strong position in the Middle East? Toby Harbertson looks at its roots.


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A critical time for the Kurdish struggle

By 23 September 2014 140,000 Kurdish people had left Kobane Canton in Rojava (West Kurdistan) in Syria for Turkey. Over one hundred villages were evacuated in the face of an Islamic State (IS) attack. IS was reported to have 40 tanks and 30 armoured personnel carriers 12 miles from Kobane city. Kurdish groups were amassing a large fighting force to resist the attack. Turkish police and soldiers forcibly prevented Kurds from crossing from Turkey to fight IS. There is evidence of Turkish state complicity in the IS operation. The Turkish government and other regional powers fear the democratic and revolutionary potential of Rojava and the liberation struggle of the Kurds in North Kurdistan (Turkey), led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). While the US, Britain and NATO talk of defeating IS they have hesitated to help Rojava resist the attack. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Imperialists launch war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

On 11 September 2014, Barack Obama, US President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate announced the escalation of the military campaign against the Islamic State (IS), extending air strikes and military operations from Iraq into Syria. This will be accompanied by a renewed push to arm and support ‘moderate’ rebel forces who have been fighting Syrian President Assad. At the NATO summit in Newport on 4 September, British Prime Minister David Cameron argued that Assad’s ‘illegitimacy’ provided moral and legal justification for breaching Syrian sovereignty in the pursuit of IS. On 11 September, a spokesperson for Cameron stated that the British state had ruled out nothing over Syria. It is only a year since a proposal in the House of Commons calling for airstrikes was defeated. It is also a year since Obama attempted to build a coalition to launch a war against Syria. Splits in the ruling classes foiled imperialists plans at that time. However, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, and rivals emerge, the need for strategic domination increases. A year later, IS has provided the suitable pretext for war which chemical weapons could not. Openly fighting a war inside Syria’s borders, whatever the stated aim, could provide the imperialists with a strategy to finally overturn the Syrian government.


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Qatar: a fairy godmother for the warmongers

Map of Qatar

On 14 July 2014 at the Pentagon, US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel signed a $11bn arms deal with representatives of the Qatar government to provide Apache helicopters, advanced Patriot surface-to-air missiles and Javelin handheld ground-to-air defence systems to one of the world's most ruthless, reactionary dictatorships. The biggest arms deal of 2014 was a reward for the good behaviour of the Qatari ruling class in defending US imperialist interests in the Middle East and North Africa, including Qatar's arms supplies to 'rebel' groups in Syria, its role in the brutal 2011 NATO invasion of Libya and for maintaining a fort against revolution in the Gulf. Qatar has defence pacts with the US, Britain and France and hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East.


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The end of Sykes-Picot? - Redrawing the Middle East borders

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

In mid-July IS launched a major offensive in Syria capturing most of the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province which borders Iraq.

At the end of June and the beginning of Ramadan, the Sunni group then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced the establishment of the Islamic State across the lands it had captured, from the outskirts of Aleppo in eastern Syria to Suleiman Beg in the Diyala province of Iraq. ISIS (now renamed The Islamic State – IS) proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi as Caliph of all Muslims. IS propaganda proclaimed the ‘End of Sykes-Picot’ referring to the 1916 agreement when British and French imperialists drew new borders for the region, in order to secure resources and power. The historic region of Al Sham, which IS intends to capture, extends over all the lands carved up by this agreement, including Jordan, Lebanon and beyond. Jim Craven and Toby Harbertson report.


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The tilting balance in the Middle East and North Africa

The furious demonstrations and attacks on US and other western embassies in over 20 countries from Nigeria to Indonesia in September express the anger of millions of people at their oppression by imperialism. For the people from Tunis to Benghazi, Cairo to Karachi, the US-made video insulting the Prophet Mohammed represents the imperialists’ humiliation of their people and their nations – which they have suffered for over a century. However the US, Britain, France and their allies manoeuvre to contain and co-opt the people’s risings, the Arab Spring still threatens to weaken and break the entire edifice that was constructed by the victorious powers after World War One to dominate the Middle East and North Africa.


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Middle East and North Africa: Spring has yet to bring a summer

The ‘Arab Spring’ has yet to bring a summer for the region’s masses. Imperialism responded to the risings in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 by mobilising its local allies, principally Saudi Arabia and its five fellow Gulf Cooperation Council partners. It turned the revolt against Colonel Gaddafi’s government into a NATO-led war. The rebellion in Bahrain was crushed with help from Saudi and United Arab Emirates’ forces. Now imperialism is using its regional allies, including Turkey, to fund and equip forces to overthrow the Syrian state. US imperialism and Israel wage covert war against Iran, accompanied by US and European Union sanctions that amount to economic warfare.


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The King of Bahrain - an FRFI guide– May 2012

The King of Bahrain - an FRFI guide

The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Khalifa, was a guest of HM Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle on 18 May 2012. He also hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix on 22 April 2012. Below are some interesting facts for FRFI readers.


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Murderous British imperialism - military operations in North Africa and the Middle East since 1945

Murderous British imperialism - military operations in North Africa and the Middle East since 1945

The Royal Air Force bombing of Syria on 3 December 2015 is the 50th separate British military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa since the end of the Second World War. This region contains approximately half of the world’s proven oil reserves; control over these reserves and the distribution of oil is essential for the British ruling class and for the balance of power between the competing imperialist states.


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Arming the Middle East and North Africa

While US President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron talk of a ‘free democratic and prosperous’ Libya and say that they are promoting democracy throughout the region, the US and British governments are arming dictatorial regimes to save these regimes from the masses.

World military expenditure in 2000 was $810 billion. In 2006 it had reached $1.2 trillion and in 2010 it was $1.63 trillion; that is double the 2000 figure. The US accounts for 43% of world military spending, an 81% increase on 2001, and its defence budget is ten times that of its nearest rival China. The profits of the US arms companies have quadrupled in the past decade. BAE Systems UK had the second largest arms sales of any company in the world in 2009. If we combine BAE Systems UK with its operations in the US and Australia then it had the largest arms sales in 2009 by far. Eleven out of the top 100 arms companies are based in Britain. According to the Ministry of Defence the UK security sector has 18,000 companies and employs 335,000 people.


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Hands off the Middle East and North Africa

The people’s revolt across the Middle East and North Africa continues to send tremors through the centres of imperialist power. The capitalists are pledging billions of dollars to shore up states and maintain their grip on the region. In Libya they send missiles and helicopter gunships, always in the name of democracy and humanitarianism, never in the name of oil and power. For every dollar they give as aid, they send twenty as weapons. The demands of the risen peoples of the Middle East and North Africa threaten the entire system of exploitation that has ruled over them and much of the world for more than a century – imperialism.


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Middle East and North Africa

‘A demographic time bomb’

Every country in the Middle East and North Africa is unique, with different political features, but they share underlying potentially explosive structural problems. The same forces that rebelled in Tunisia, the youth and the unemployed, exist in abundance throughout the region and they are moving to confront repressive regimes.


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Zionist Israel: Its role in the Middle East

palestine ocupation

by Eddie Abrahams

Despite Israel's repeated breaches of international law, the Zionist settlements in the West Bank for example, and despite its systematic flouting of United Nations resolutions, such as its continued occupation of South Lebanon, Israel receives unstinting support from the United States, Britain and the European Union as a whole. In this article, Eddie Abrahams explains why by examining the historical origins and the function of Israel in the Middle East. Israel is no ordinary state. It was artificially created and is externally sustained - to the tune of some $34bn annually from the USA. It is a racist, colonial settler state founded by Britain and the USA to safeguard their oil and other economic and military interests in the region.


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Britain’s war crimes

FRFI 204 August / September 2008

‘I am left with no doubt that, at the very worst, the British Security Service instigates the illegal detention and torture of British citizens and at the very best turns a blind eye to torture.’ Tayab Ali, lawyer for two British citizens tortured in Pakistan.

In July, Labour MP John McDonnell and Conservative chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition Andrew Tyrie, accused the government of ‘outsourcing’ interrogation to places where torture was commonplace, such as Pakistan, and of ‘watering down its “anti-torture commitments”’ (The Guardian, 21 July 2008). They also condemned the government for failing to get the US to account for the use of British air space in cases of ‘extraordinary rendition’ to places of torture and warned that Britain could no longer rely on assurances by the US itself that it does not use torture. Tyrie called for an inquiry. The shameful collusion with torture, abuse and illegality that has become the hallmark of this British government is being forced out into the open.


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Discontent in the desert kingdom

To date Venezuela, a country going through a revolutionary democratic process, is believed to have the world’s third largest oil reserves. Iraq is believed to have the second largest reserves of oil and is currently the most unstable country in the world. Within this context imperialism is having to rely on its old ally Saudi Arabia – the world’s largest oil producer – more than ever. But the oil-rich kingdom is itself facing turmoil, as Andrew Alexander reports.

Over the past two years Saudi Arabia has been rocked by numerous bombings and attacks by groups aligned to Al Qaida, in particular on 12 May 2003 when 35 foreign workers were killed in a compound in Riyadh, and on 29 May 2004 when militants attacked a similar housing compound in Khobar, killing 22. Many journalists have also been targeted including BBC correspondent Frank Gardner and cameraman Simon Cumbers, who were shot in a drive-by shooting on 14 July 2004 (though there is circumstantial evidence that Gardner, an ex-soldier and expert on Al Qaida, was an MI5 agent). Cumbers died and Gardner was seriously injured. These attacks however represent only the fringe of what is a wider discontent at the deterioration of the Saudi economy and the absolutist monarchic rule of the Al Sauds – a dynasty that has ruled brutally for over 70 years.


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Doha trade talks collapse

Disputes that resulted in the failure of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference were replayed and led to the collapse of the so called ‘Doha round’ of talks in Geneva at the end of July.

Ostensibly about promoting free trade, the US and EU agenda is really about promoting big business at the expense of small producers, especially in the under-developed countries. The US and EU representatives fell out over reducing agricultural subsidies: neither would move before the other. The underdeveloped countries resisted opening their markets even wider to US and EU exports and investments without the US and EU cutting their farm subsidies. India’s trade minister, Kamal Nath, explained that: ‘Indian farmers can compete with US farmers, but not with the US Treasury.’


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Recolonising the Middle East

FRFI 173 June / July 2003

In the previous issue of this paper we said ‘In five of the past nine decades the Royal Air Force (RAF) has bombed Iraq.’ This was wrong. The RAF was formed in 1918 and began bombing Iraq, then Mesopotamia, in 1919. It bombed in 1919, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1990s and in each year this decade. That is six not five of the past nine decades. The RAF bombed Iraq at the orders of British Conservative, Labour and Coalition governments in the service of the Empire and imperialism. TREVOR RAYNE reports on the recolonisation of Iraq.

The first Labour government responded to criticism of the bombing in 1924. Labour MP and pacifist George Lansbury described the bombing as a ‘Hunnish and barbarous method of warfare.’ In The Royal Airforce in Iraq


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