Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2018-10-19T07:01:26Z WordPress Juan Cole <![CDATA[Buy an Electric Car and Foil Kushner’s Plan to let Khashoggi’s Murder Blow Over]]> 2018-10-19T07:01:26Z 2018-10-19T06:58:28Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – It seems fairly obvious that the Trump administration does not intend to let a little thing like the murder and dismembering of a Washington Post columnist with two American children stand in the way of US relations with Saudi Arabia. Jared Kushner is said to believe the whole affair will blow over.

Trump has built his Middle East foreign policy on two pillars, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Contrary to his tough-guy image of driving hard bargains, Trump has been a limp pussycat with regard to both countries. He has given the far right Likud Party in Israel a blank check to crush the Palestinians politically. And he has backed the Saudis to the hilt in their Yemen War and their cold war with Iran. He has received nothing at all in return for these policies. He keeps touting $110 billion in arms deals. But those are not contracts, just memoranda of understanding, which are not binding. The Saudis are moreover relatively small players when it comes to Foreign Direct Investment in the US.

Here is the FDI from each of the top ten investors in the US as of 2014:

The United Kingdom with $449 billion.
Japan with $373 billion.
The Netherlands with $305 billion.
Canada with $261 billion.
Luxembourg with $243 billion.
Germany with $224 billion.
Switzerland also at $224 billion.
France at $223 billion.
The British Virgin Islands at $100 billion.
Belgium with $89 billion.

That’s right. Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands invest more in the US than Saudi Arabia.

For this the US government would wink at a government playing Jason Vorhees, the serial killer of the Friday 13th slasher films?

If you are angry about Saudi killing, jailing and lashing of journalists and bloggers and about Washington’s unwillingness to impose sanctions for all this, there is one step you can take that will change the world power dynamic and also help save you and your family from the climate emergency.

Take public transport when you can, to work, shopping, etc. For a lot of people in cities, this step is a no-brainer.

People in far-flung suburbs or in rural areas often have little choice but to drive if they want to get around.

If you have to drive, get an electric car. Electric cars are *wonderful*. They are falling in price and their range is increasing rapidly.

Many of them have muscle-car pick-up, so no, you don’t have trouble merging on the highway.

Over ten years, an electric car is ‘way cheaper than a gasoline car. You have only minor fuel costs, and upkeep is 25% less because of fewer moving parts and less dirty ones.

They aren’t as expensive as people think. Some electric cars start as low as $22,000. Tesla just brought out its $35,000 version. That’s the median price of automobiles bought in the US every year.

Google maps just added a feature that tells you where recharging stations are.

The new generation of electric cars gets over 200 miles on a charge, which is plenty for most purposes. The average car trip is about 5 miles. If you need to go a longer distance, rent a hybrid for that occasional purpose.

If you are a homeowner and will be in your home at least 10 years, you are costing yourself money if you don’t put up solar panels. If you do, you can run your electric car directly off sunlight, so that the fuel is virtually free. If you have an electric car and panels, it helps pay off the panels in 6 years. They last 25 years, and the rest is cream– free fuel.

The US in the past 10 years has gone from getting almost none of its electricity from renewables (and what it did was mainly from hydroelectric dams) to getting nearly 20 percent of its electricity from renewables. Another 20% comes from low-carbon nuclear plants. Coal has fallen nationally to only 30% and will be 0% in only a few years, replaced by wind, solar and natural gas. So our electricity is tremendously cleaner than it was just 10 years ago, which helps the electric cars avoid carbon emissions, and our electricity is getting cleaner every year. Even in my relatively dirty state of Michigan, coal has abruptly fallen to about 37% of our energy mix, down from 65% only a decade ago.

Even if you don’t have solar panels, as you drive your electric car it will get cleaner and cleaner because of the direction in which the country’s grid is going.

Teslas are manufactured in California, where over 50% of electricity comes from renewables and nuclear, and where only 9% comes from coal. Teslas are thus low-carbon cars from the point of view of their production as well as in the driving of them (especially in California). Tesla’s gigafactory for manufacturing batteries is largely solar-powered and will be 100% so within a year.

If you cut down on transportation time and costs by moving closer to work, or if you take public transport to work, or if you get an electric car and run it off clean energy, you will not only help save the earth from the catastrophe of the heat-trapping gases, you will change geopolitics.

Electric cars will make petroleum virtually worthless within a decade to a decade and a half.

Saudi Arabia, which overwhelmingly depends on petroleum for its income, will spiral on down into weakness and irrelevance. It won’t be in a position to bomb Yemen intensively or to prop up the corrupt and authoritarian military junta in Egypt. Nor will it be able to interfere again in US elections.

The Saudi government has too much power over our lives because it is central to the oil business and has an enormous war chest from that petroleum income. Why should we contribute to it every time we fill up at the pump.

As Saudi Arabia is dethroned from being the world’s swing oil exporter, it will not be able to buy its people off with bribes, and they will start demanding democracy. The royal family will be out of the serial murder business. And a more democratic Saudi Arabia that has to bargain with its people because it will have to tax them will be an asset to the world rather than a rogue nation.


Bonus video:

Everyday Reviews: “EV Review 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric – Is this the Chevy Bolt Killer?”

The Conversation <![CDATA[What if Khashoggi Case Turns Turkey and Saudi from Frenemies to Foes?]]> 2018-10-19T03:47:11Z 2018-10-19T04:30:06Z By Nader Habibi | –

The Oct. 2 disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul has put a spotlight on the deteriorating relations between Turkey and the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Articles based on anonymous accounts from Turkish officials report that Turkey has video and audio proof that Saudi Arabian agents detained, murdered and dismembered Khashoggi, a sharp critic of his government who lived in Washington, D.C. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the stakes even further when he said that a search of the Saudi consulate showed evidence of toxic materials that were painted over.

The affair is just the latest to drive a wedge between the two key Middle Eastern powers – countries that have in the past shared close ties to each other and to the United States.

How did their friendship turn frosty?

I’ve been studying and writing about the region for decades. And like with many other relationships in the Middle East, it’s complicated – and that’s why the current crisis could lead to a surprising twist.

Early days

Although diplomatic relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were established in 1932, neither country showed much interest in the other until the late 1960s.

Turkey’s secular ruling elite was more keen to have strategic and economic ties with the West than to the Arab world. Turkey joined the NATO alliance in 1951 – two years after its formation – and maintained good relations with Israel from the start, much to the disappointment of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

This began to change in the ‘60s and ’70s when Turkey made two moves that led to stronger relations with Saudi Arabia and resulted in increased trade. In 1969, it joined the nascent Organization of Islamic States, based in Saudi Arabia and intended to be a “collective voice of the Muslim world.” And in 1975, Turkey initiated diplomatic relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which sought to end the occupation of Palestinian territories in Israel.

Relations continued to improve in the 1980s but deteriorated in the ’90s when the kingdom took Syria’s side in several disputes with neighbor Turkey.

These ups and downs in Saudi-Turkish relations were partly a result of Turkey’s political instability, including several military coups in the ’80s and ’90s. Relations tended to improve when Islamist or civilian parties – which felt close cultural and religious links with Turkey’s Muslim neighbors – were in power but worsened after the military deposed them.

King Abdullah shake hands with Erdogan during the first visit of a Saudi monarch to Turkey since 1966.
AP Photo/Umit Bektas

Warmer ties

Relations between the two countries found a firmer footing after the Justice and Development Party – commonly known as the AKP – gained power in Turkey in 2002 and continued to improve throughout the decade.

In contrast to the secular governments that had ruled Turkey since 1923, the AKP and its leader Erdogan put a high priority on building stronger relationships with its Arab and Muslim neighbors.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the resulting change in the balance of power in the region brought Turkey and Saudi Arabia even closer together. Both were concerned about Iraq falling into the hands of their common rival, Iran, whose military and political influence increased as a result of the invasion. They also wanted to contain Iran’s influence in Syria and Lebanon.

As a result of these closer ties, in August 2006 the late King Abdullah became the first Saudi leader to visit Turkey since 1966 and made another trip the following year. In return, then-Prime Minister Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia four times from 2009 to 2011.

The high-level diplomatic contacts fostered growing business and investment. Turkish exports of textiles, metals and other products to Saudi Arabia soared from US$397 million in 2000 to $3.6 billion in 2012. And Saudi businessmen who felt unwelcome in the U.S. and Europe after 9/11 saw Turkey as an attractive destination.

A springtime chill in the air

Relations took a sharp turn in the 2011, starting with the Arab spring uprisings that led to the overthrow of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

As an advocate of political Islam, Erdogan welcomed the revolutions and the new governments they yielded. The Saudi government, on the other hand, saw the revolts as destabilizing.

This disagreement came to a peak when Mohammad Morsi, who was closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, won that Egypt’s first post-Hosni Mubarak election in 2012. Erdogan supported Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power, which was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States like the United Arab Emirates. These countries had a long history of hostility towards Muslim Brotherhood activities throughout the Arab world and were concerned that these victories would energize the movement in their own countries.

The rift between Turkey and Saudi Arabia intensified after a military coup ousted Morsi in 2013. Erdogan strongly condemned it and gave the Muslim Brotherhood refuge in Turkey, while Saudi Arabia offered billions in financial aid to cement Egypt’s new military rulers.

Relations took another hit in 2014 when Saudi Arabia actively undermined Turkey’s bid to become a nonpermanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council.

More recently, Saudi Arabia and Turkey found themselves on opposite sides over the Qatar crisis in June 2017. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar – and tried to enforce an economic blockade – over the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. They were also upset with Qatar’s refusal to terminate its ties with Iran.

Turkey reacted by expanding its engagement with Qatar, offering economic aid and sending more troops to its small military base in that country. Indeed, Turkish food shipments to Qatar played a crucial role in its ability to withstand the blockade.

Jamal Khashoggi, missing since Oct. 2, is believe to have been killed.
Flickr/The Project on Middle East Democracy, CC BY

Interpreting Turkey’s response to Khashoggi

So what does this all mean for the current crisis?

Western media have mostly portrayed Turkey’s handling of the latest incident involving Khashoggi’s disappearance as an indication of deteriorating Saudi-Turkey relations.

That might not, however, be the case. The Turkish government is trying to balance multiple conflicting goals in the way it handles this crisis.

On the one hand, it is trying to show a full commitment to discovering what happened and has put enormous pressure on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by leaking details of his government’s involvement. But I believe it is also mindful of preventing a further escalation of tensions with Saudi Arabia, which remains a major investor in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Turkey is struggling with a severe financial and external debt crisis at the moment and is desperately trying to attract foreign capital. A withdrawal of Saudi investment or tourists could worsen the crisis.

Erdogan’s initial hesitation in pointing the finger – leaving it to “anonymous officials” – and his call for a joint investigation gave Saudi leadership time to come up with a response strategy, which appears to be blaming “rogue killers.”

In this he seems to share President Donald Trump’s interest in giving Saudi Arabia a face-saving way out of the crisis. The U.S. and the Trump administration also have a lot on the line in their relationship with the Saudi government.

Interestingly, one result of this ordeal, which has plunged Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the West into chaos, may be more cooperation and better ties between the U.S. and Turkey, which now have a great deal of leverage over the kingdom.The Conversation

Nader Habibi, Henry J. Leir Professor of Practice in Economics of the Middle East, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured photo courtesy

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Did Trump Have an Obligation to Warn Khashoggi? Juan Cole @ Thom Hartmann]]> 2018-10-19T00:36:10Z 2018-10-19T04:23:46Z Thom Hartmann Show | (Video Interview) | – –

How much responsibility does Donald Trump have, after not warning Khashoggi, and what does this say to the state of journalism, free speech, the Trump administration, America and the World. Professor Juan Cole joins the Thom Hartmann Program to discuss this and his new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires.

Thom Hartmann: “Did Trump Have an Obligation to Warn Khashoggi (w/Juan Cole)”

Marlowe Hood <![CDATA[Humanity’s Failing Grade: Putting out Even more Poisonous CO2 in 2018]]> 2018-10-19T02:00:11Z 2018-10-19T04:23:13Z Co-Author: Catherine HOURS | – –

Paris (AFP) – Energy sector carbon emissions will rise in 2018 after hitting record levels the year before, dimming prospects for meeting Paris climate treaty goals, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday.

The energy sector accounts for 80 percent of global CO2 emissions, with most of the rest caused by deforestation and agriculture, so its performance is key to efforts to rein in rising world temperatures.

“I’m sorry, I have very bad news for you,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told guests at a diplomatic function hosted by the Polish embassy in Paris.

“Emissions this year will increase once again, and we’re going to have the COP meeting when global emissions reach a record high,” he said, referring to the December UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

After remaining flat for three years, total global CO2 emissions in 2017 rose by 1.4 percent, dashing hopes that they had peaked.

The meeting in Katowice is tasked with finalising the “operating manual” for the 195-nation Paris Agreement, which enters into force in 2020 and calls for capping global warming at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and at 1.5 C if possible.

“The chances of meeting such ambitious targets, in my view, are becoming weaker and weaker every year, every month,” Birol told invitees, including former French prime minister Laurent Fabius, who shepherded the 2015 treaty to a successful conclusion, and Poland’s junior minister Michal Kurtyka, who will preside over the December summit.

With one degree Celsius of warming so far, Earth has seen a crescendo of deadly extreme weather, including heatwaves, droughts, floods and deadly storm surges made worse by rising seas.

– Next two years critical –

Even taking into account voluntary national pledges to slash carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, the planet is currently on track to warm by an unlivable 3 C to 4 C by century’s end.

A major UN report released earlier this month said that capping average global temperatures at 1.5 C above preindustrial levels would prevent the worst ravages of climate change.

But reaching that goal would mean reducing CO2 emissions by nearly half compared to 2010 levels within a dozen years, and becoming “carbon neutral” — with no excess C02 leaching into the atmosphere — by 2050.

The UN report also details humanity’s “carbon budget” — the amount of CO2 we can emit and still stay under the 1.5 C ceiling.

At current rates of carbon pollution, that budget would be used up within two decades.

Fabius, who said he had accepted an invitation to help Poland prepare for the December climate summit, insisted that the next two years are critical.

“Climate change is a near-term problem,” he said. “When you look at the tragic consequences, it is today, not in 50 years.”

“This is not a negotiation like any other,” he added. “If you fail, you cannot start over again.”

Featured Photo: AFP/File / OZAN KOSE. International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol, pictured July 2018, said he has “very bad news” — carbon emissions will increase once again in 2018.

Joe Dyke <![CDATA[US Downgrades Palestinian Mission into Israeli Embassy]]> 2018-10-19T03:28:56Z 2018-10-19T04:15:07Z Co-Author: Paul HANDLEY | – –

Washington (AFP) – The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.

The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.

The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply towards Israel.

Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.

“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.

He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.

– ‘Unprecedented’ –

AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI. Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Saeb Erekat says Washington is rewarding “Israeli violations and crimes” by closing its consulate general for Palestinian affairs and merging it into the US embassy to Israel.

The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.

The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.

International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.

They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.

Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.

Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.

AFP / SAUL LOEB. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insists the decision to close the US consulate general for Palestinian issues in Jerusalem is not a change in US policy.

The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.

Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.

“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.

Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”

The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.

But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.

“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.

“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.

Featured Photo: AFP/File / Menahem KAHANA. The US embassy in Jerusalem, which was opened on May 14, 2018.

Maan News Agency <![CDATA[Israeli Army kills a Palestinian in Gaza Every Single Day: Euro-Med]]> 2018-10-19T02:08:01Z 2018-10-19T04:12:18Z BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) –The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) said that Israeli forces caused injuries to one in every 100 Palestinians as Gaza protests conclude 200 days and called on the international community to exert serious pressure on Israel to end its targeting of Palestinian demonstrators.

Euro-Med said in a statement “The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the international community to exert serious pressure to put an end to the targeting of Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip and to protect their right to peaceful assembly.”

Euro-Med also called on “all parties concerned to exert pressure on Israel to lift its blockade affecting every aspect of Gaza’s largely civilian population.”

Euro-Med described the continued use of excessive force by Israeli forces against Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza fence as “deeply shocking,” noting that in the 200 days of protests, Gaza lost 205 residents.

Euro-Med Monitor said that at least “one Palestinian is killed every single day,” further noting that “in every 100 Gazans, one injury was recorded.”

“Despite the fact that the protesters were mostly unarmed civilians and did not in most cases pose a credible threat, the Israeli forces met them with lethal force, including by live fire and explosive bullets, as well as toxic gas and tear gas.”

In addition, 69 of those injured, 14 of whom were children, suffered permanent disability, according to the latest statistics by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Euro-Med stressed “Israel’s response to protests violates the principles of international human rights law; that is, despite the fact that protests have largely been peaceful, Israeli soldiers killed 205 people, including five women and 38 children, while also injuring 22,527 others, 18% of whom are children.”

“The Israeli authorities continue to impose a relentlessly suffocating blockade that has left civilians unaccounted for, simply as collateral damage to a policy of collective punishment.”

“The Israeli forces targeted Palestinians indiscriminately.”

Euro-Med said “Neither medical teams nor journalists were spared; three medical personnel have been killed and 409 others wounded by live ammunition and tear gas canisters since the beginning of demonstrations. In addition, 84 ambulances and medical tents have been targeted using gas bombs.”

Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokesperson, said “The Israeli soldiers deliberately caused the greatest harm they could to civilians, added Pritchett, stating that, in light of the international community’s failure to take concrete steps to end the Gaza crisis, Israeli soldiers continue to target Gazans with impunity.”

Pritchett emphasized “The targeting of civilians while exercising their right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, cannot be justified, and violates the protection accorded to them as civilians – in accordance with Article III of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on persons not taking part in hostilities.”

She added “The targeting of medical staff and journalists also contravenes international humanitarian law, specifically articles 15 and 79 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, which stipulate that medical, journalistic and civilian personnel must be respected and protected.”

Text and Photo via Ma’an News Agency

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Islam: The Essence of the Qur’an is Compassionate Love: Qur’an 90]]> 2018-10-18T06:34:21Z 2018-10-18T06:31:03Z An early chapter of the Qur’an is 90, “The City.” It contrasts the wealthy elite of Mecca in western Arabia in the 610s of the Common Era with the small band of Muhammad’s Believers. Verses 12-17 go this way:

And how would I make you understand the steep path?
It is freeing a slave
or feeding, during a famine,
an orphan related to you,
or a grubby vagrant.
Then he would be one of the believers who counseled patience and compassion.

The notion of charity is central to the Qur’an. Feeding the poor and the helpless, and manumitting the victims of human trafficking, are essential values. Note that at the time Muhammad was reciting these verses, he had very few followers. These verses do not pertain only to that tiny community but to society in general. The scripture’s compassion was meant to encompass all, including those enslaved, who were typically captured in battle during Bedouin raids from distant peoples and alien tribes.

I discuss these emphases in early Islam in my

Also central to the Muslim scripture is the value of compassion (here, al-marhamah). Words from the same root form names of God, who is compassionate and merciful. The Qur’an, far from being stern or bleak, as many Western readers have described it, is full of warmth and fellow-feeling.

The root for compassion occurs 339 times in the Qur’an, including as an epithet for God himself. The root for the notion of forgiveness is used 234 times. In contrast, the primary word for fighting only occurs 170 times, and in some of those instances the Qur’an is condemning it.

The Qur’an in 90:17 is saying something very like Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

The Qur’an and the New Testament agree that mercy and compassion are key attributes of God himself, which human beings must strive to emulate.

While the importance of mercy and compassion as both a divine characteristic and a human imperative in Christianity and Buddhism are widely recognized, somehow the Qur’an’s endless repetition of this ethical principle has somehow been disregarded by outsiders.

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Yes, Sen. Lindsey Graham, You have Iranian Ancestry and should be Proud]]> 2018-10-18T06:01:05Z 2018-10-18T05:28:28Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sen. Lindsay Graham joked on Fox Cable News that he might do a genetic test to see if he has Native American ancestry, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren does. Then he added that it might show he has Iranian ancestry. “That,” he observed, “would be terrible.”

Florida house candidate, Iranian-American Anna Eskamani, denounced the senator’s bigotry.

There are no races in the 19th century sense of pure bloodlines. Rather, peoples have mixed extensively with one another through history. About 5 percent of Southern whites in the US have recent African ancestry.

During the last Ice Age, most of Europe was uninhabitable, with 3 miles of ice on top of it. After the ice melted around 12,000 years ago, people made their way into the continent. From about 9,000 years ago they came in part from what are now Syria and Turkey, including peoples who had been involved in invention of agriculture. Those who came in from the east often brought Indo-European languages with them.

Olander’s (2018) tree of Indo-European languages. Presented at Languages and migrations in pre-historic Europe (7-12 Aug 2018), h/t

The evidence for the relationship of Europeans and Iranians is thus first of all linguistic. English and Persian, for instance, clearly derive from a common ancestor. Yes, that’s right. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and Lindsey Graham speak variants of the same ancient Indo-European language, and since language and genes tend to be passed on by families, it is likely that they are related.

After someone published Graham’s phone number and address, he complained during the Kavanaugh hearings that people were “banging on my door” all night.

The English word “door” has an exact cognate in the Persian that is Iran’s official language. It is “dar.”

Or the late Sen. John McCain said that Graham was “like a little brother” to him. In Persian, the word for brother is “baradar,” which is obviously just a variant of the same word, keeping the b, d/th, and r.

When Lindsey Graham threatened Democrats over their questioning of Kavanaugh over his alleged history of sexual abuse, Graham said, “if this is the new norm” then Democrats should worry about their nominees.

New in Persian is nau.

Name in Persian is nam.

Star is setareh (take out the vowels in each language and you can see it is the same word).

When Lindsey Graham pondered the phenomenon of Trump, he was using a verb cognate to the Persian pendar (to think).

The linguistic heritage is strong evidence for common ancestry. But then there is evidence that people from northwestern Iran and the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, areas where Iranian languages were spoken thousands of years ago, helped populate Europe.

The Minoans and Mycenaeans, the ancestors of the Greeks, had genetic heritage from eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, where ancestors of the Iranians lived. Iranians, especially those based in the Zagros mountains, also migrated to India. Ancient Persian and old Sanskrit are very close.

The HV haplotype or chromosome sequence is found both in Britain and Iran.

Moreover, having Iranian heritage should be a matter of pride for all who share it. The Iranians in Iran itself created the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanid Empires, among the great states of the ancient and late-antique worlds, the Zoroastrian religion of which contributed to the rise of monotheism, prophethood and ideas about resurrection and millenarianism. (I tell the story of the great war between the Sasanians and the Eastern Roman Empire, 603-629, which formed the backdrop for the rise of Islam, in my new book Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires .)

The Abbasid Empire, which was in most of its features Iranian despite being ruled by Muslims, was a civilizational beacon. Harun al-Rashid was debating points in Plato and Aristotle at a time when Charlemagne was trying to learn to write out his signature.

This site surveys inventions made in Iran. The Cyrus cylinder is a charter of human rights (and Cyrus bestowed freedom of religion on the Jews). Cyrus also established a sort of pony express for mail delivery across his vast empire. The American Founding Fathers openly admitted to being influenced by the legacy of Cyrus via Xenophon’s Cyropaedia.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    ““Then that ancient religion of the Magi fell, that the conqueror Darius had respected, as he never disturbed the religion of conquered peoples. The Magi regarded their religion as the most ancient and the most pure. The knowledge that they had of mathematics, astronomy and of history augmented their enmity toward the conquerors the Arabs, who were so ignorant. They [the Magi] could not abandon their religion, consecrated for so many centuries. Then most of them retreated to the extremities of Persia and India. It is there that they live today, under the name Gaurs or Guebres“ — Thomas Jefferson, The Commonplace Book of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Gilbert Chinard,1926, p.334‐35; passage translated by R.N. Frye

Iranians of Muslim faith made breakthroughs like algebra and the algorithm (you’re welcome, Google).

How far we have fallen as a civilization since the 18th century, from Enlightenment thinkers who knew the world to our current crew of buffoons, racists and ignoramuses.


Bonus video:

CNN: Lindsey Graham’s joke draws backlash

Daniel Martin Varisco <![CDATA[Kashoggi, Yemen and the War on Journalism]]> 2018-10-18T02:28:27Z 2018-10-18T04:23:28Z (MENA Tidningen) – For the past week, the news cycle on the Middle East has been focused, for obvious reasons, on the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish authorities claim that they have hard evidence for the murder, which the Saudis are finding it increasingly hard to deny. The hired propaganda media of the Saudis are spinning a post-denial alibi of “rogue elements” to salvage the reputation of MBS as a great reformer. In this they are aided by President Trump, who would rather sell billions of dollars worth of weapons than reflect on the multiple human rights abuses of the kingdom. The Arab states who feast on Saudi money are, understandably in the Hobbesian sense, defending their royal oil daddies.

It is heart warming to see media coverage of such a brazen and brutal act. At the very least it draws attention to the “fake news” that Saudi Arabia is undergoing reform. The litany of abuses since the premature crowning of MBS shows how Saudi Arabia is run by a deformed, not a reformed, regime. Think about it. The much touted royal decree that now allows women, at least some women, to drive obscures the fact that the government has imprisoned the very women who protested for this right. MBS rounded up a bevy of Saudi billionaires who were not his cronies, imprisoned them in the Inter Continental and extorted them on the trumped up charge of corruption. This is from a prince who buys million-dollar yachts and French castles on a lark. President Hariri of Lebanon was summoned to the Saudi court and pressured to resign. Then there is the absurd boycott of neighboring Qatar, including the comedy of building a canal to make Qatar an island. And the list goes on.

The premeditated killing of Kashoggi deserves all the media attention it can get. But for the sake of the values that Kashoggi died defending, as a journalist critical of abuse in his own country, a similar spotlight needs to be placed on the ongoing Saudi/Emirati war in Yemen, which has created a desperate humanitarian crisis in which Yemenis are killed everyday. In an opinion piece for Haaretz, David Rosenberg reminds us of a statement attributed to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that when one man dies it’s a tragedy, but when a million die it’s a statistic. “Khashoggi’s killing,” Rosenberg observes, “has reverberated around the world in a way that 17,000 Yemeni casualties did not.” If this war continues for three more months, warns Lise Grande of the United Nations, 12 to 13 million Yemeni civilians are in danger of starvation.

Statistics do matter and they are easily ignored. Most of the media still refer to the number of casualties in this war at 10,000, an estimate made by the UN over two years ago, but the true figure is much higher and no doubt far more than 50,000. The number of Yemenis facing starvation is almost half of the total population and the greatest burden will fall on children. This is not a new story. Reports from over two years ago pointed out how the war was harming Yemen’s children. If you can stomach the images of such suffering, just write “Yemen dead child” in Google search and look for yourself at the images too graphic for the mainstream Western news media. The majority of children have been killed by bombs dropped from Saudi coalition planes. The bomb that killed 40 school children last August was made in America.

For much of the war in Yemen the press has been silent, only occasionally mentioning it and hardly ever as a major story unless there is an obvious American connection that cannot be hidden. Western journalists have had a hard time getting access to the war zone, but that is only part of the problem. The Saudis hired PR firms that make it extremely difficult for journalists to report the atrocities in the war. It is telling that the selling of MBS as the great reformer has been pushed in American grocery stores by a glossy magazine, The New Kingdom, from the makers of the National Enquirer. This tired rag is one of the few media outlets that loves Trump. There is no mention in the MBS love fest of the suffering caused by the war against Yemen, a country that is simply branded as an Iranian terrorist threat.

The death of a journalist, especially in a war zone, is an attempt to suppress the truth about brutality. The murder of Kashoggi should warrant media attention, but what about the Yemeni journalists who have lost their lives due to all sides in the war? Since the violence started in 2014, at least 27 Yemeni journalists have been killed and many others imprisoned or forced to flee. Are the lives of Yemeni journalists less important than that of a journalist based in America? Recently ten journalists, nine of them Afghani, were killed in a bomb blast in Kabul, but where was the international outcry? Overall there are confirmed reports of 1323 journalists killed worldwide since 1992, but there are no doubt many more cases that do not make the list.

The present danger to journalism is the age-old maxim that the pen is mightier than the sword (an apt metaphor for Saudi Arabia’s capital punishment by cutting off heads). Perhaps this saying should be upgraded with the addition that tyrants still use the sword (or any other lethal weapon) to silence those who wield the pen. Rulers who are unable to literally get away with murder are keen to make the press into the enemy. No one today is more vocal about this than President Trump, who considers any negative news about him “fake news” and routinely refers to journalists as enemies. “Truth is not the only casualty in Trump’s media wars,” warns Simon Tisdall in The Guardian.Certainly Russia’s Putin and Philippines President Dutarte appreciate Trumps’ war on the media as they repress the very idea of a free press. North Korea’s Kim Jung-On is no doubt pleased to have an ally when North Korea is ranked dead last in the Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index. If there is any lasting lesson to be learned from the death of Koshoggi, it is the urgent need to counter the politically motivated war on journalism by unmasking all the attempts to deny oppression that suppresses the free press.

Featured Image by Samer, showing a starving Yemen pleading for the attention of the world.