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Comment on Israel’s Gaza Campaign Endangers US Security: Why Obama & Kerry are Furious by Johnboy

July 29th, 2014 No comments

No, it wouldn’t require that.

All it would require is for Obama to stand up alongside some US soldiers in uniform, and then state that Israel’s actions are putting those brave boys in danger, and he won’t stand for that.

Followed by a media blitz of a carefully selected cross-section of Our Boys In Uniform pointing out that they are put in danger of blow-back every time Israel goes Whammer-Jammer! on poor defenceless civilians.

Get THAT campaign going and let’s see how much traction the Israeli Lobby can manage.

After all, in the face of THAT campaign there wouldn’t be a single member of Congress willing to stand up and say “F**k our soldiers, Israel is far more important that the lives of OUR men in uniform!”

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Comment on Israel’s Gaza Campaign Endangers US Security: Why Obama & Kerry are Furious by spyguy

July 29th, 2014 No comments

The “key human” theory has been WELL DOCUMENTED to be completely false.

Every humans is replaceable.

Sure the replacement will have different skills and may not be as effective in a particular area of expertise, but they will do OK any way.

Note that if the “key human” theory was valid, the US would fall apart after we replaced the POTUS after a 4 or 8 year period of absolute rule. Notice that the US continues to muddle on.

This is why, unless Israel kills all 1.5 million humans in Gaza, they will continue to have resistance. In addition, the more Gazans they kill the worse the resistance will become because Israel can not kill its way to peace and security.

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Comment on Israel’s Gaza Campaign Endangers US Security: Why Obama & Kerry are Furious by Travis Bickle

July 28th, 2014 No comments

You know, the US has sacrificed its own security interests to those of Israel for a long time. The question becomes when will the cost become so high that it will outweigh the combination of carrots and sticks the congress has brought to heel with. And that could be quite a bit. As other commenters have suggested, if American priorities change, in-line with more genuinely compelling interests, Israel’s status would shift, but there’s a lot of history for their continued domination of US policy.

Back in the Yom Kippur War, the US stripped a full wing of F4′s from Europe and allowed them to be flown directly into combat after a quick repaint. Those were front line aircraft and the backbone of our European defenses. OK, Israel needed them badly, but were they the 51rst state?

Then there was Desert Storm, where Schwarzkopf’s planning was hamstrung by the need to hunt scuds far beyond the point of diminishing returns, due to Israel’s power to make their needs (in this case, psychological) come first. A number of more recent US generals have voiced how the US relationship with Israel has endangered troops operating in the area, as well as hugely complicated their overall missions, due to the politics of guilt by association (if not the reality of it).

No, how Israel has managed to compromise true US national security interests is a problem that goes far deeper, and its been with us for some time.

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Comment on Israel & Palestine both Need to Root out the Hate by zandru

July 28th, 2014 No comments

This is really great. Although it seems small, and it’ll probably take decades to bear fruit, the Kids4Peace effort seems to be one of the best ways to bring Palestinians and Israelis together so that a fair and just peace can occur. Thanks, Mr Englander, for this note of hope!

Reading comment boards and listening to statements by Israelis in the news, it appears too many of them have lost the ability to feel empathy. Many Israelis seem to feel that their sense of unease over distant booms from rockets is somehow more significant and valid than the feeling of a Palestinian watching his home and family literally blown apart.

Worse is the impression that, having become the bully of the Middle East, Israel is relishing its role as invincible, unstoppable destroyer. You can almost hear Take that, Adoph!

Queue up the new generation. This one has become dangerously obsolete.

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Comment on The Persecution of Christians by ISIS contradicts idea of a Caliphate by Zuber Bunglawala

July 28th, 2014 No comments

I do find this confusing. As I thought the idea of ISIS was ‘strict enforcement’ of Islamic principles (subject of much debate of course). But I thought it was a prety much universally accepted understanding that the Prophet Muhammad specifically forbid the destruction of churches etc. So, I’m curious what logic is being claimed as the basis to justify this sort of action ?

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July 28, 1914: As Europe Descends into War, Winston Churchill and Enver Pasha Separately Push Turkey Towards a German Alliance

July 28th, 2014 No comments

One hundred years ago today, Austria declared war on Serbia, lighting the fuse that within a week would transform what Bismarck had called the Balkan powder keg into a Europe-wide explosion. Itnwas one month exactly since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

On the same day, July 28, two men on opposite sides of Europe would take actions that would lead to the Ottoman Empire joining the German side. In London, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill initiated the idea of confiscating two Turkish battleships being built in  British shipyards, one already complete and the other nearing completion, and adding them to the Royal Navy. Meanwhile on the same day in Constantinople, the most pro-German member of the Ottoman Cabinet, War Minister Enver Pasha, was proposing an alliance to the German Ambassador. Over the coming days Churchill’s move inadvertently would provoke  popular outrage in Turkey, helping push reluctant members of the Cabinet into Enver’s pro-German camp.

As most other media are focusing on the centennial of the opening moves of the Great War, this blog will concentrate on the series of events that brought Turkey into the war on he side of the Central Powers, setting in motion the events from which the modern Middle East emerged.

At the moment Austria declared war on Serbia, Britain was still trying to avoid a war; in fact the British Cabinet, preoccupied with events in Ireland, had not even discussed the European crisis until July 27.

Churchill, with responsibility for the Royal Navy, was astute enough to realize that the tangle of European alliances was dragging Britain towards war,  and he was determined to make sure the Royal Navy was prepared to meet its only serious challenger, the German High Seas Fleet.

Churchill in 1914

He had taken his first precaution a week before. The fleet had had a regular mobilization maneuver in early July, ending with a Grand Review. Normally after that, the elements of the fleet would disperse to their home ports to allow heir crews shore leave. The First Fleet at Portland was scheduled to disperse on Monday, July 27, and on July 26 Churchill approved the recommendation of the First Sea Lord (senior uniformed commander in the Navy), Prince Louis of Battennberg, to keep the fleet together. Commander of the Home Fleet Admiral Sir George Callaghan was accordingly ordered not to disperse the fleet. (Within a few week.s of the war breaking out, Churchill replaced Battenberg as First Sea Lord with Admiral Sir John Fisher and the aging Callaghan as Fleet Commander with Admiral John Jellicoe). (During the war the German name Battenberg name was Anglicized as Mountbatten, and Prince Louis’ son Louis would become famous in the next war as Lord Mountbatten of Burma.)

The decision not to disperse had been made in response to the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia. Now, on Tuesday, July 28, Churchill still moving ahead of a reluctant Cabinet (whose reluctance helped convince Germany that Britain would not go to war), unilaterally another huge step: he ordered the Fleet to move from its home ports to its War Station at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys north of Scotland, where it would be in position to intercept the High Seas Fleet in the North Sea if it came out.

These moves were widely praised at the time and since by naval historians who recognize Churchill’s prescience about the impending war. But July 28 seems to have also marked the genesis of another idea whose impact Churchill had not entirely foreseen: the seizure of the Turkish battleships.

Under the long reign of Sultan Abdel Hamid II the Ottoman Empire more than earned its reputation as the “Sick Man of Europe.” Both the Army and the Navy had been neglected, to the point that the navy had no modern warships. But with the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, Turkey had embarked on a major military modernization program. For advice and training of its Army,t turned to Germany, and the famous military mission of Liman von Sanders. For the Navy, it turned to Britain, even proposing an alliance to Britsain in 1911. (It was declined. Even Churchill, considered more pro-Turkish than most in the British government, was opposed. Disdain for Turkish military capabilities would persist in Britain, at least until Gallipoli and Kut.) (To balance things further, the French were training the police.)

Ex-Reshadiyeh (as HMS Erin)

As part of the buildup of its Navy, Turkey ordered the first of a new class of battleship based on the British Dreadnought, the lead ship to be named Reshadiyeh (Re?adiye in Modern Turkish). She was laid down by Vickers in 1911, launched in September 1913, and was ready for delivery by August 1914. She remained in Britain to await completion of a second battleship and preparation of proper docking facilities back home..

Meanwhile, in the interim, an even larger warship became available. Brazil, engaged in a naval arms race in 1911, had ordered a Dreadnought-class battleship named Rio de Janeiro from the Armstrong-Whitworth shipyard at Newcastle upon Tyne, designed with heavier gunnery than previous ships. When rubber prices declined and relations with Argentina improved, Brazil decided it could no longer afford payments on the ship. In December 1913,  she was sold to Turkey, and the Rio de Janeiro became the Sultan Osman I. (Perhaps setting some sort of record, within less than a year she would become HMS Agincourt.)

Ex-Sultan Osman I (as HMS Agincourt) in 1915

The cost of these two ships for an Ottoman economy struggling to pay its bills was enormous. At least in popular Turkish tradition schoolchildren had contributed their small-change paras and kuru? to fundraising efforts at schools, women reportedly selling their hair, and, of course, both higher taxes and popular subscription efforts. The ships had become symbols of national pride.

On July 7, the head of the British Naval Mission in Constantinople had embarked for Britain for the handover of the ships, as had the Sultan Omani’s captain; preparations were under way to welcome the ships in he Dardanelles. On June 28, Churchill asked Prince Louis and his Third Sea Lord, who was in charge of procurement, if the ships could be seized. Churchill may have thought of the idea previously, but the paper trail starts on the 28th. Turkey was a friendly power with a valid contract, and Churchill was advised that there was no legal ground for seizing the ships since Britain was not at war; the contract allowed Britain to purchase the ships in case of necessity, but not to seize them without compensation.

On the 29th, there were reports that Sultan Osman (which had its Turkish crew for training) was fueling, despite not being completed. Churchill ordered security aboard the ship to prevent it from sailing or from raising the Turkish flag. On the 30th the Attorney General advised the move would be illegal but might be justified under the exigencies of ear, while the Foreign Office decided tomlet the Admiralty deal with Navy issues. I don’t see much evidence in the histories of the event that anyone was discussing what the Turkish reaction might be. It just wasn’t part of the equation. On July 31 the Cabinet approved the decision, and on August 1 the two shipyards, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth, that the ships were to be detained.

It was not until August 3 (the day Britain issued its ultimatum to Germany in response to the violation of Belgian neutrality, and the day before Britain declared war) that the British Government officially notified the Ottoman Government that the ships would not be delivered, and that the British were prepared to give “all due consideration” to the financial loss to Turkey: not exactly a promise of full compensation.

August 3 is often given as the date of the decision, but clearly it had been under active discussion for a week. In fact, the fueling of the Osman on July 29 shows the Turks suspected what was happening, and certainly the Turkish crews in Britain knew they were barred from leaving; David Fromkin in A Peace to End All Peace notes that evidence discovered long after the war shows Enver discussed it with the other Young Turk leadership on August 1, suggesting the Government knew before the official notification on August 3. And that beings us to what was going on on the other side of Europe.

Meanwhile, in Constantinople . . .

Said Halim Pasha

The official head of the Ottoman Government in August 1914 was Said Halim Pasha, the Grand Vizier or Prime Minister. He was, ironically, a grandson of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha of Egypt, born in Cairo and  collateral kinsman of the Khedive; his villa in central Cairo still stands, though decaying; but he and his wife, also a collateral of the Khedivial family, preferred their villa on the Bosporus.

Said Halim Pasha, however, was not a member of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP, the “Young Turks”), who had led the Revolution of 1908 and taken effective control of the Cabinet in 1913. Despite being the nominal head of the government, the Cabinet was dominated by the CUP “triumvirate” consisting of the  by the War Minister, Enver Pasha, the CUP Secretary-General and Interior Minister, Talaat (Talat) Pasha (who would succeed Said Halim as Grand Vizier), and the Minister of Marine and later commander of the Fourth Army against Britain, Djemal (Jemal, Cemal) Pasha.

Enver Pasha

Of the three, Enver had long been pro-German, and wore a turned-up mustache not unlike the Kaiser’s. Talaat had started by favoring an alliance with the Entente powers, but became disillusioned. Djemal Pasha also was a reluctant convert and in fact was excluded by Enver and Talat from negotiations on the German treaty. By July 1914 the triumvirate were leaning towards a German alliance. Unfortunately, Germany wasn’t buying.

Germany spent parts of 1913 and 1914 trying to push Germany into an alliance with Greece (even today you may guess how that was received) or Bulgaria (its recent Balkan War adversary. These went nowhere.

Talaat Pasha

Enver had sought to sound out Germany about an alliance for some time. Turkey’s main concern was Russia, whose navy dominated the Black Sea and whose armies bordered Turkey in the Caucasus, not to mention the historic Russian desire to control the Straits.

Djemal Pasha

The only powers that could help clearly did not include Greece and Bulgaria, and France and Britain, though friendly, were allies with Russia in the Triple Entente. Austria-Hungary was militarily weak, and a historic enemy of the Ottomans, though Constantinople was pursuing overtures with Vienna as well. Germany was the only obvious candidate.

But neither the German Government nor General Staff initially saw much value in a Turkish alliance. The presence of Liman von Sanders’ military mission meant that they knew that the Turkish Army would take some time to prepare for war, and the assumption in Beflin that July was still that Britain would stay out, France would be quickly defeated, then the Army would turn to Russia,nd be home before winter. (The Chief of the German General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke the younger, apparently forgot his uncle and much more famous namesake Moltke the elder’s maxim that “war plans never survive contact with the enemy.” Moltke the Elder got to Paris in 1870-71; his nephew never did.)

Baron von Wangenheim

Among the nay-sayers was the German Ambassador to the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman Government), Hans Freiherr (Baron) von Wangenheim. Ambassador since 1912, Wangenheim considered that an alliance would be more of a burden than a boon. He called it a “liability,” but all
German parties agreed that Turkey must be kept from an alliance with the Entente (unlikely since Russia was seen as the major threat). Nevertheless, Enver strongly hinted that an alliance with Russia and France was favored by some in the Cabinet, and on July 22 explicitly said the Grand Vizier, he, and Talaat were unwilling to become “vassals of Russia.” (Quoted from Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914, Volume III, as is much else about the treaty negotiations in this section.)

But as the July crisis deepened, Berlin began to feel need for allies as war with Russia loomed, and on July 24, the day after Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia, the Kaiser himself overruled Wangenheim and ordered his envoy to reopen discussions with Enver. On the 27th, Wangenheim signaled willingness to discuss the alliance.

Generalleutnant Otto Liman von Sanders

And that brings us to July 28, the day of Austria’s declaration of war and of Churchill’s first move against the Turkish battleships. Early in the morning the grand Vizier (presumably as a mouthpiece for Enver and Talaat) dispatched Turkey’s proposal of an alliance. Turkey only sought protection against Russia. In return it would offer supreme direction of the Turkish Army and even direct command of a quarter of that Army to the German Military mission under Liman von Sanders. later the same day, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg replied in the Kaiser’s name that Germany accepted the proposal with four specifications: 1) for the moment, both parties would remain neutral in the Austria-Serbia dispute; 2) if Russia intervened against Serbia, Germany would respond and that would be a casus foederis (legal cause for invoking the alliance) for Germany to bring in Turkey; 3) the German Military Mission will remain in Turkey and exercise supreme command; it will guarantee Turkey’s territorial integrity against Russia; 4) the treaty to be valid for the present crisis and the conflicts emerging from it.

The Ottomans preferred that the treaty run at least to 1918, when the Liman von Sanders mission was due to conclude. By July 31, the day Russia mobilized, both Wangenheim and Sanders were expressing doubts to Berlin that Turkey was going to sign. Later that day, after Germany had declared a Kriegsgefahrstand or probbility of imminent war, Chancellor Bethman-Hollweg agreed to the condition and urged Wangenheim to pursue imminent conclusion of the tresty, but with a caveat (again from Albertini):

. . . it must, however, first be ascertained whether in the present war turkey can and will undertake some action worthy of mention against Russia. In negative case alliance would obviously be useless and not to be signed.

At 4 pm on August 2, the treaty was signed. The negotiators were th Grand Vizier, Enver and Talaat on the Turkish side and Wangenheim and Liman von Sanders on the German. What exactly transpired in the negotiations on August 1 is still unclear a century later. David Fromkin, cited earlier, notes a report discovered much later that indicates that Enver already knew the British were seizing the Turkish battleships in English shipyards, and another indicating  that he offered the Germans those two battleships. if both statements are true, he was offering something he already knew or suspected was not his to give. But perhaps, Fromkin suggests, that is what met Bethmann-Hollweg’s condition.

That may never be known for certain. Talaat and the grand Vizier were assassinated by Armenians soon after the war and Enver died in an improbable cavalry charge in Russian Central Asia during the Russian Civil War.

Germany hoped (and Enver claimed to agree) that Turkey would declare war on Russia immediately on August 3 and announce the alliance. But in fact the treaty had been negotiated without consulting the rest of the Cabinet, and Bulgaria’s continuing neutrality was an awkward geographic obstacle to the alliance.. And Turkey was nowhere near ready for war. Instead, on August 3 Turkey ordered mobilization, and declared its armed neutrality (siding with neither alliance but prepared to defend itself against either). on August 3, the day Germany declared war on France and violated Belgian neutrality, and Britain issued its ultimatum to Germany. It was also the day Britain officially informed Turkey it had seized the battleships.

Though Turkey had already committed itself to Germany, this was not known to the allies or to the Ottoman citizenry, so the parallel events leading to Churchill’s seizures of the ships handed Enver a fine propaganda lever for turning the Turkish populace against the Entente. Churchill, unintentionally to be sure, had helped Enver push the Ottoman Empire to Germany’s side.

Epilogue and Teaser

On that same August 1, in the midst of the treaty negotiations, Enver held a private meeting with Wangenheim and Liman von Sanders at the German Embassy.  Having on the same day offered Germany the warships being built in England (which he knew were being seized, but Germany did not), he asked for German naval support against Russia in the Black Sea. On August 3, Germany ordered the commander of its Mediterranean Division, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, who was attacking French transports carrying troops from Algeria to metropolitan France, to proceed to Constantinople. Turkey was still publicly neutral and the following day Britain, with a dominant force in the Mediterranean, entered the war. Souchon’s force was to lead the British Navy on an epic chase, push Turkey more openly towards war (and ultimately ignite it), and at the same time redress the loss of the two battleships.

But Souchon had only two ships: the battle cruiser SMS Goeben and the cruiser SMS Breslau. The Goeben and Breslau were about to become two of the most famous vessels in all of naval history.

But that is a tale for the first week of August.




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Comment on Gaza: Why a ‘Cease-Fire’ is Not enough by Travis Bickle

July 28th, 2014 No comments

Most importantly, Mearsheimer & Walt did the most thorough and careful description of Israeli influence (lobby influence? the distinctions become tedious) on US politics, best distilled in this article, although they later did a thick book on the subject. link to lrb.co.uk

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‘Id al- Fitr Greetings

July 27th, 2014 No comments

Though the usual astronomical issues mean the end of Ramadan will vary from country to country, most Muslims in the United States and the Middle East consider Monday to be the first day of Shawwal, which means the Ramadan fast ends at sundown today.‘Id al-Fitr greetings to my Muslim readers.
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Comment on In Palestine, R2P isn’t Dead; It was never on the Table by Farhang Jahanpour

July 27th, 2014 No comments

This is why many people in the non-Western world see lofty-sounding ideas such as R2P, humanitarian intervention, regime change in the name of democracy, non-proliferation, etc as mere tools in the hands of powerful countries to use against the countries that do not give in to their dictates, while ignoring many worse atrocities in countries that are their outposts or are subservient to them, such as the carnage that we are witnessing in Gaza.

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Comment on Gaza: Why a ‘Cease-Fire’ is Not enough by Juan Cole

July 27th, 2014 No comments

the tunnels are to break out of an illegal blockade, i.e. collective punishment.

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