Sunday, December 22, 2013

Have Privacy and Security Become Incompatible Goals?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C. – What the U.S. government now knows about our lives is unprecedented.

In this age of globalized modern technology, we seem not to have the ability to prevent the U.S. National Security Agency (or NSA) from tapping into phone conversations, reading text messages and emails, and monitoring all manner of online activities.

Even the leaders of European countries, America’s best friends, have become subjected to the NSA’s spying activities.

Just one of the recently leaked internal documents by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden demonstrates that each day the U.S. government is gathering nearly five billion records on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world. …without the cellphone even needing to be turned on.

President Barack Obama has defended his government’s spying activities as being necessary for the security of its citizens and allies. But, he says in this Internet age “it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy.”

But how much has individual privacy been invaded? In this increasingly interconnected world, have privacy and security become incompatible goals?

To debate this subject, Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla talks to:

- Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer and an intelligence activist.

- James Kirchick, a reporter, foreign correspondent, columnist and fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC.

- Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In A Changing Middle East, Should the U.S. Support Kurdish Independence?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw
Kurdish leaders say they have no plans to secede from Iraq.

But in practice, their steps suggest otherwise. Over the past few years, they have taken increasingly bold steps to boost the position of their autonomous region in an otherwise war-torn country.

The most significant of which has been the multi-billion-dollar oil and gas deals Kurdistan has signed with Turkey and foreign oil companies in defiance of Baghdad and Washington.

Already, Kurdistan seems to have most of the pre-conditions of an independent state. It has its own foreign ministry. It manages its own army. It flies its own flag and has a Kurdish national anthem.

But to achieve de-jure independence- or legal status in the United Nations, Kurds need something else: the support of powerful nations such as the United States.

The U.S. has historically opposed an independent Kurdistan.

But in an increasingly tumultuous Middle East, where traditional borders and politics are challenged by a resurgence of ethno-sectarianism and religious extremism, is not an independent pro-Western Kurdish state in the U.S. interest in that strategic part of the world?

To discuss this subject, I am joined by

- Marina Ottaway, a scholar at Wilson Center for independent research.

- Douglas A. Ollivant, a Senior National Security Fellow with the New America Foundation.

- Ben Van Heuvelen, managing director of Iraq Oil Report and a contributor to the Washington Post. 

Is Turkey America's Trusted Ally?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C - Ahead of his November visit to the U.S., Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wrote an article about U.S.-Turkey relations.

"The partnership between the United States and Turkey is value-based," he wrote in Foreign Policy. 

This year, Turkish foreign policy has not really been one of “zero problems” with its longtime NATO ally, the United States. Firstly, Turkey continues to have strained relations with Israel, despite Obama Administration’s mediation efforts to mend ties between the two nations.

Despite being a NATO member, Turkey announced a decision in September to purchase long-range missile defense systems from China, angering the U.S. And despite Turkey’s aggressive push for regime change in its neighbor, Syria, the U.S. has been reluctant to take military actions against the Arab country’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

So where does the U.S. currently stand in its relations with Turkey, under the Islamist-leaning Prime Minister Erdogan?

As much of the so-called “Arab Spring” is unwinding, can Turkey pursue an entirely independent policy in the Muslim world? Joining the discussion :

- Gönül Tol, the founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

 - Ömer Taşpınar, a scholar at the Brookings Institution specializing in Turkey, the Middle East and Kurdish nationalism. He is a professor at the National War College.

Kurdistan, An Emerging Oil Power

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

 Washington, D.C. - Once an isolated, poverty- and war-stricken region of Iraq, Kurdistan has emerged as an influential oil power in the Middle East over the past few years.

Shortly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, international oil companies including giants such as Exxon-Mobil, Total and Chevron arrived in this small autonomous region to exploit its abundant natural resources.

Last week, Kurdistan attracted more global attention from politicians and businessmen alike after Turkey agreed to enter a multi-billion oil and gas deal with it.

But there’s one problem: Kurdistan’s aggressive pursuit of an independent oil policy has infuriated Iraq’s central government in Baghdad, which considers all of the region’s hydrocarbon deals illegal.

Baghdad says it retains the sole authority over the country’s oil industry, and fears that independent moves by Kurdistan would end up in the demise of the country as a unified entity.

Kurdistan rejects that claim saying that its oil policy benefits the whole of Iraq since the revenues will eventually be redistributed to all Iraqis.

What is the U.S.’s stance toward Kurdistan’s oil policy? Does it share Baghdad’s fears that Kurdistan’s increasingly independent economy leads to the emergence of an independent Kurdish state? Joining me to discuss this subject is:

- Joshua Walker, a writer who has recently written an extensive report on Turkey-KRG relations. He’s also the president of Global Programs at APCO Worldwide.

- Omer Zarpli, a Turkish expert at the Century Foundation in Washington, D.C. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kerry and Davutoglu Touch on Kurdish Role In New Middle East

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry received Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in the State Department for talks on a wide-range of issues in which Turkish role is considered vital.

Mr. Kerry praised Turkish government's attempts to initiate some cultural reforms for the country's long suppressed Kurdish minority.

Mr. Davutoglu talked of the significance of the relations his country has forged with Iraq's Kurds "for ethnic and sectarian peace" in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Will Obama Back al-Maliki’s Seek of a Third Term in Iraq?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C – Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was here in Washington last week for the first time ever since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Before saying anything about al-Maliki’s most recent visit, let’s take a look back at his previous visit:
On December 12, 2011, days before the last U.S. solider would leave Iraq, al-Maliki was standing with President Obama, who proudly declared that he was bringing “a responsible end” to a long and costly war in Iraq.

Obama didn’t leave his “a-responsible-end” phrase entirely unexplained: Iraq is now “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic,” he added.

He also praised al-Maliki as the leader “of the most inclusive government yet.”

But exactly six days later, upon al-Maliki’s return to Iraq, see what happened: Iraq’s Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, the highest ranking Sunni politician, had to flee to Kurdistan because the Shiite-led government sought to arrest him on terrorism charges.

Ever since the last U.S. solder left Iraq; al-Maliki has been accused of making several other attempts to sideline Sunni and Kurdish politicians. This has made many describe him as an authoritarian leader who prioritizes his sectarian identity over Iraqi nationalism.

This time, here in Washington, things seemed very different, too. Al-Maliki didn't receive the kind of warm welcome he was given two years ago.

As Iraqis are currently suffering a degree of violence not seen since the darkest days of the sectarian war, Obama didn't reiterate his 2011 claim that Iraq was “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic.”

He didn't hold a press conference either to allow reporters to raise questions like these ones:

- Mr. President; is Maliki still the leader of “the most inclusive government” in Iraq?
- Have you really brought a responsible end to the Iraq war?

So now what’s Obama’s policy towards Iraq, a Shiite-dominated, oil-rich nation where US interests are manifold? After the loss of thousands of American lives and billions of their dollars, can Obama draft a policy that helps Iraq emerge as a decent society for its citizens and a reliable ally for the U.S.?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw talks to:

- Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan.

- Clifford May, President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Are Turkey and Kurdistan indispensable Partners?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C. - Before the 2011 popular Arab uprisings started, Turkey pursued a friendly and economically-driven foreign policy with its neighbors.

Called "zero problems with the neighbors," that policy is no longer applicable. At the moment, Turkey has problems with almost all of its surrounding nations, except for the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Relations between Turkey, whose energy is hugely dependent on foreign oil, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have not only remained intact but also progressed considerably ever since 2009 as Iraqi Kurds have discovered and developed new oil and gas fields in their territory and remained relatively stable in an otherwise turbulent country.

 But the Turkey-KRG friendship has been at the expense of Ankara-Baghdad relations, which have remained strained for years. Over the past few weeks, however, Turkish and Iraqi diplomats have exchanged visits, signaling the possibility for improved ties between the government of Prime Minister Nuri Maliki in Iraq and that of his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This has caused some Kurds to fear that the improvement of Ankara-Baghdad ties would have negative impacts on Turkey's relationship with the KRG, which continues to be at odds with Baghdad over significant issues such as oil and land. How reasonable is that fear?

Or have Turkey and the KRG become indispensable partners as each of them attempt to boot its position in an increasingly tumultuous region? What kind of role do the Kurds play in Turkey's aggressive search for regional dominance in a new Middle East whose current borders are increasingly challenged by a resurgence of ethno-sectarian politics?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw talks to:

- Eli Sugarman, a fellow at Truman National Security Project who has coauthored a report on the regional significance of the KRG-Turkey relations for the United States. The report was published last week.

- Scott Bates, President of the Center for National Policy. Mr. Bates has been in Iraq, where he worked with the country's elected leaders on how to rebuild the country after the war. He also has extensive experience on Capitol Hill where he served as advisers to several congressmen on domestic and foreign affairs. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inside America: Do American Drones Eradicate or Increase Terror?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Unmanned aerial vehicles -commonly known as drones- have once again become the subject of a heated debate here in the United States and across the globe.   

The United States says they are an effective tool to eradicate terrorists in the rural areas of Pakistan and Yemen.   

But two recently published reports by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that drones have not only killed scores of civilians but also caused terror among the tribal populations caught between radical militants and American drones haunting them.   

So are drones the best tool to fight terror? Do they eradicate it or increase it?   To discuss the subject, Rudaw talks to:   

- Andrea Prasow, a senior counter-terrorism counsel and advocate at the Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC. She investigates and analyzes US counter-terrorism policies and practices.      

- Daniel Green, a political analyst at the Washington Institute, focusing on Yemen, Afghanistan and al-Qaeda. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Calls For Direct Talks Between Turkey and Rebels

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

NEW YORK – As Turkey is trying to reform its constitution that has long denied the existence of ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says a comprehensive solution of the Kurdish question in that country requires Turkey to engage in direct talks with the Kurdish rebels.

 Mr. Zebari’s comments underscore the increasing significance of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at a time when its fighters seem to have found a new safe haven in Turkey’s neighbor, Syria, where the government of Bashar al-Assad has voluntarily withdrawn its troops, allowing for PKK-affiliated rebels to take control.

 Mr. Zebari says that the PKK has done its part in reaching a peace deal with Ankara. “Now the ball is in Turkey’s court,” he told Rudaw on Saturday in New York where world leaders had gathered to discuss among other things, two of the Middle East’s pressing issues: the Syrian civil war and Iran’s nuclear program at the UN General Assembly.

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, introduced new reforms that would allow the teaching of the long-banned Kurdish language, albeit in private schools, the use of Kurdish in election campaigns, naming children and naming streets and villages.

Although no Turkish leader in the country’s modern history has taken Mr. Erdogan’s steps to grant Kurdish rights, leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have said the reforms are not enough to put an end to a three-decade-old conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, most of which were mainly Kurds.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 to fight for the establishment of an independent homeland for Turkey’s 15-million Kurds. With independence no longer the goal, the PKK is now pushing for more cultural and political rights, such as allowing Kurdish children to study in their mother tongue in public schools and the release of the group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been behind bars on Imrali island since 1999.

 Mr. Zebari said he had met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül last week in New York to improve Turkey-Iraq ties, which have largely remained strained since the 2003-US-led invasion of Iraq.

Despite the lack of warm relations between the two nations, Zebari says Turkey is still Iraq’s largest trade partner thanks primarily to the friendly ties Turkey has built with the KRG, which serves as a gateway to the rest of Iraq.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the US and European Union. But a joint 2011 statement by Zebari, a Kurd, and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutolgu in Ankara, described the PKK as a “terrorist” organization, this caused controversy among many Kurds.

 In his most recent interview with Rudaw, Mr. Zebari, once a rebel fighter for Kurdish rights in Iraq, renews his assertions that the description was accurate because “some of [the PKK’s] activities had been terroristic.”

Inside America: Can the US Solve Its Gun Problem?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C. – Despite a history of mental health problems, Aaron Alexis was able to take a shotgun to a United States navy facility earlier on Monday. He killed 12 people there in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States, before he was killed by the police.

 This week’s mass shooting was not just an isolated incident. We all remember last year’s mass murder at the elementary school in Newtown, CT, where a young armed man killed at least 20 children and 7 adults.

Again, it was last year when another armed man killed at least 12 people and injured dozens at a movie theater in the city of Aurora, CO.

Gun violence is a big problem in the US. There are at least 24 firearm-related deaths every day. In 2010, 8,775 people were killed from gun violent related crimes here in America.That is more than the number of all US soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

So why is there so much gun violence in this country? Is there any way that the US can solve this problem? Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla debates the issue of gun violence and what should be done about it with:

- Christopher Brown, an anti-gun activist and researcher at the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence,

- Stephen L. D'Andrilli, Presdient of Arblest Group, a newly established New York-based group that fights legal restrictions imposed on the purchase of guns in the U.S. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Can Oil Get The Kurds Independence?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - It is often said wars can make nations.  A notable example is the United Sates, which came into being as a result of the American Revolution of the last half of the 18th century.

Not all national struggles, however, have borne fruit. For nearly a century, the Kurds, estimated at 30 million people, have waged war after war for their liberation from repressive governments in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. They have never achieved statehood.

But over the past decade, Iraqi Kurds have made unprecedented advances in northern Iraq. The semiautonomous region enjoys a degree of stability and economic boom that remains a dream for most Iraqis. Baghdad has little control over how the Kurdistan Regional Government runs its domestic and even foreign affairs.

Kurdistan’s achievements are coincided with its discovery of significant oil fields that have turned the region into an economic hub for regional and global oil companies including Exxon-Mobil, Total, and Chevron. Turkish firms own the lion’s share of investment in Kurdistan.

So can oil get the Kurds an independent state?

Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla discusses this subject with:

- Howri Mansurbeg, Vice President of Soran University. Mr. Mansurbeg holds a PhD in petroleum engineering from Uppsala University.  He has worked for several international oil companies including

- Denise Natali, a prominent expert on Kurdish nationalism in Iraq and Turkey. Denise, currently teaching at the National Defense University, is the author of most recently Kurdish Quasi State.
- David Romano, a Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University. He is joining us live via Skype. Mr. Romano is a weekly columnist for Rudaw and author of “The Kurdish Nationalist Movement.”
- Michael Gunter is a prominent writer on the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. He has written several books including most recently “The Kurds Ascending.”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Inside America: Are We Witnessing the Kurdish Spring in Syria?

By Namo Abdulla  -- for Rudaw

Washington, D.C. -- The future of Syria has perhaps never looked this grim. As a result of a near-three-year-old internal conflict, more than 100,000 people have died and nearly two million others are displaced, according to the United Nations. 

There is indeed no end in sight for the conflict as the opposition remains disunited, disorganized and under armed in a bitter fight against a stubborn autocratic leader who has vowed to resist until death.

But amid what has increasingly become a sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite Arabs, the Kurds, the largest ethnic minority, have been making unprecedented advances in northern Syria.

At schools, Kurdish children are for the first time taking classes in their mother tongue instead of Arabic, the country's sole official language. Kurdish flags fly over administrative buildings protected by armed rebels.

How has this been made possible? Are we seeing a Kurdish Spring, instead of an Arab Spring, in Syria? Can members of this ethnic group use the turmoil to establish a homeland for the near-two-million ethnic group?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw's Namo Abdulla talks to:

- Harold Rhode is a distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and is a New York-based foreign policy think tank. Harold worked as a Pentagon analyst for 28 years. During the Gulf War, he served as the Turkish Desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has written extensively on the Middle East including Syria and the Kurds.

- Velma Anne Ruth, the Executive Director of Middle East Democracy Federation, and President of Independent Review, Inc. She is an activist, who has worked along with her husband, a Syrian Kurd, to coo
rdinate a coalition of representatives for multiple Syrian Kurdish parties. As a volunteer, she has worked to address the crises of Syrian and Iranian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inside America: Is the United States an Honest Broker in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

The United States is the superpower, which sees itself as a moral power, as a force for good, and has indeed intervened to stop the escalation of massacres and genocides in Kosovo, Iraq and other parts of the world. But has the United States been an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

In this program, I challenge two prominent America experts on Middle East's most discussed issue. One of them is David Makovsky, a former journalist who worked for Israeli publications. He's currently the director of the Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

The second speaker is Ziad Asali, the President and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine. He served as a member of the United States official delegation to the funeral of Yasser Arafat.

Invisible Victims: What is it like to be a Muslim in a post-9/11 United States?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

New York - “I used to live by a credo when I was a kid,” says Imam Samuel Incarnacion, a religious leader living in the town of Fallsburg in New York. “It’s baseball, hot dog, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

 Here is how he describes his life after 9/11: “what they call a moderate Muslim, to an Islamist to an extremist, they paint us with one brash: we are all terrorists, that we are all potential terrorists…If I get stopped four times a year by one police agency or another, it’s too little. I get a call from FBI at least twice a year.”

“Invisible Victims” is a documentary I've produced for Rudaw in the United States. It chronicles stories of several Muslims who have witnessed or been subjected to direct discrimination in the US.

 In 2011, the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of investigative reports that revealed the New York Police Department (NYPD) had been spying on Muslims for more than six years.

While the NYPD says its investigations were aimed at stopping terrorism, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit said in August 2012 that its spying activities “ never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation,” according to the Associated Press.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Noam Chomsky on the Kurds

By Namo Abdulla  -- for Rudaw

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted with Noam Chomsky in April 2012 for Rudaw TV. 
CAMBRIDGE, United States - There’s little doubt that Noam Chomsky is the world’s most influential  and greatest thinker alive.

He has written more than 100 books on a variety of topics, ranging from linguistics to politics, people and power, liberty, oppression, resistance and imperialism.  

I came to know Chomsky shortly after I graduated from high school through a profile of him that I read in a Kurdish-language newspaper in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

I learned that Chomsky was critical of the policies of Israel and those of the United States in the Middle East.

I also found out that he has long been a supporter of the oppressed peoples such as Palestinians and the Kurds.
As my curiosity led me to more readings about him, I learned that he was the co-singer of a 1975 open letter titled, “The Plight of the Kurds” that asked the world powers to stop the Iraqi government from massacring the Kurdish minority. 

Chomsky’s plea was ignored. The world didn’t act, and sure enough, genocide followed.

Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds with chemical weapons while the Western powers stood by, and even supported him throughout the 1980s. Chomsky has written about all of this in great detail.

“You can’t look at history and believe governments act out of a kind of moral commitment,” Chomsky told me. “And the Kurds have a history, which demonstrates this with horrible reality.”  

The first time I interviewed him was several years ago when I was an undergraduate student in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region. It crossed my mind to send him an email in my broken English. 

Of course, it seemed unrealistic to wait for a reply from such a renowned author. So I never did. 

But a few days later, he replied with willingness to talk to a Kurdish student journalist. At that moment, I felt I was the luckiest person on earth and went around telling everyone I knew of the great news. Then I picked up the phone and called the editor of Kurdistan’s most-read magazine, Lvin, which would publish the interview as its cover story. 

Then in February 2010, I had another opportunity to conduct a 30-minute phone interview with him. It was again focused on the Kurds. 
After that phone conversation, I began to hope that I would one day meet Chomsky in person. 

In 2011, I arrived in the United States to study a master’s program at Columbia University’s journalism school in New York.  Shortly after my arrival, I sent Chomsky an email asking whether he had time for a television interview with me. 

By this time, many things had changed. The so-called Arab Spring had brought profound changes to the Muslim world, almost of the same caliber as the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of a new Middle East.

I’m curious whether this time around the more than 30 million Kurds would have an opportunity to achieve what they did not as the Ottoman Empire collapsed nearly a century ago. 

But in the words of Chomsky, no matter what is happening around them, the "Kurds should always remember their famous slogan that the Kurds have no friends except the mountains."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

America Celebrates Fourth of July

Five Reasons Why Obama “Deeply Concerned” By Morsi’s Ouster

By Namo Abdulla - Rudaw
Egyptian anti-regime protesters hold a banner against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration in the coastal city of Alexandria. Photo: AFP

WASHINGTON DC—The United States has undoubtedly no love for the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideology or its leader Mohammed Morsi. America prefers a secular democracy in Egypt. It certainly does not mind a secular authoritarianism as long as it’s a good US ally. For decades that was the case under Hosni Mubarak. 

Mubarak ruled Egypt throughout five U.S. administrations. But US-Egypt relationship never changed.

This perception of Egyptian politics however, is not coined by the Obama Administration. In October 2009, nearly a year before the Egyptians ousted Mubarak, President Obama received Mubarak at the Oval Office. “The United States and Egypt have worked together closely for many years,” said President Obama in a press conference sitting next to Mubarak. “And for many of those years, President Mubarak has been a leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States.” 

Then why was Obama, in his own words, “deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution” earlier last week? 
  The Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political party in Egypt.  

There is more than one answer to this question:  
One: President Obama knows that the ouster of Morsi does not equate to the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party in Egypt. Even if we accept the argument of the so-called liberals that President Morsi failed to meet the expectations of the revolutionaries in ONE whole year, the failure of Morsi is the failure of just one Muslim Brotherhood member, not that of the entire movement.  

Conversely, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political party in Egypt. Throughout its 85-year existence - mostly as a clandestine group- it has been able to win the hearts and minds of millions of people mostly in the underdeveloped parts of the country by building hospitals and aggressively fighting illiteracy. It did so in the face of enormous oppression from the country’s authoritarian elite, which arrested and executed its key members for decades until the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. In the post 2011 uprising elections, however, Morsi won nearly 52 percent of the votes, a big percentage in a country sharply divided into secular, liberal, Salafi and moderate Islamist groups. In brief, if Democracy is to succeed in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose constituency largely draws from people who are not swing voters and rather vote based on ideology, is more likely going to be part of the ruling than the ruled class. Make no mistake, a couple million anti-Morsi protesters doesn’t mean the victory of liberal democracy over the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama does not and he’s right. 
  It’s a matter of credibility for the United States, and that credibility is already at stake, 

Two: What the Egyptian military did was an undemocratic move, which the United States, as a country that sees itself as a promoter of democracy and freedom the world over, had difficulties backing. It’s a matter of credibility for the United States, and that credibility is already at stake as the Egyptian military, which received millions in aid from the United States, carried out a coup against the country’s first democratically elected president. Even though Obama avoided using the term “coup” in reference to the overthrow of Morsi, other Americans, including Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have. Leahy said the Egyptian military's move was a coup and the US had to cut off its aid to Egypt. “Our law is clear,” he said on Wednesday. Similarly, the New York Times says the ouster of Morsi “was unquestionably a coup.” So how can Obama support a coup? He cannot, at least in public. But he is also careful to not actively stand against it and call it a “coup” because of the apparently wide popular support it received. 

Obama, however, needs to be more forcefully -in both words and action- against the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood members by the military because of the simple reason that the military will have no future in a democratic Egypt. Regardless of who is in power - liberals or Islamists- the next Egyptian leader’s first job is likely going to be drafting a new constitution that brings the military under civilian control. This is what Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan did a few years ago. He amended Turkey’s constitution and threw the generals in jail on charges of involvement in past coups. The US hailed the decline of militarism in Turkey as a tribute to democracy. 

Three: It is likely that shunning the Muslim Brotherhood out of the political process would nurture more radical Islamists, and perhaps al-Qaeda sympathizers, in Egypt. If they are convinced that politics is entirely closed to them and that the United States is in any way the reason, many moderate Egyptians would not think twice to join radical groups, who are abundant and ready to recruit in the Arab land. Just look at what is happening in Syria. The more America is reluctant to intervene and support them against Assad’s regime, the more aggressive and radical they become. With the start of the Arab Spring, many people spoke of the irrelevance of al-Qaeda’s worldview as Muslims seemed to have found alternative ways to choose the political system they wanted in their countries. The United States had actively been against that for decades. It should not repeat the same mistake. This is a different age. It’s the age of the people. In the Muslim world, there are plenty of people who, regardless of the cost, will longer sit down and accept repressive governments.
   Just look at what is happening in Syria. The more America is reluctant to intervene and support them against Assad’s regime, the more aggressive and radical they become.  

Four: The United States, like many others, is confused about the makeup and goals of the anti-Morsi camp. It was, for instance, surreal to see Salafists, liberals and the military all in one camp against Morsi. The last thing Obama wants to see is the ascendance of the Salafistis to power in Egypt. Given the fabric of the Egyptian society, this is highly unlikely to happen at this time. But can those people who share the same grievances against Morsi reach an agreement and work together? Unlikely.  

Five: The last but certainly not the least, has to do with the significance of Egypt as a country for the United States. First of all, Egypt is the most populous Arab nation and has long been an important player in securing America’s strategic interests, including the stability of Israel, which shares border with Egypt. Egypt and Israel have the Camp David peace deal, which has been key for Israel’s security since 1978. Convinced that the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be an important political actor in Egypt, the Obama Administration will never want to ruin its future relations with the group. 
But Obama’s “deeply concerned” statement was a rather neutral statement as it refused to call Morsi’s ouster a “coup.” The neutrality is rooted more in the administration's lack of understanding of what is happening in Egypt rather than in its love or hatred for any particular group there.

Namo Abdulla is Rudaw’s senior correspondent in Washington, D.C

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Invaded by Bush, Abandoned by Obama: What's Next for Iraq?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

By 2003, an iron-fisted dictator had ruled Iraq for nearly three decades. At that time, a Republican man named George W. Bush decided the only way to make the country better was to invade it.

But nearly a decade later, a Democrat named Barack Obama thought the best thing for the United States was to withdraw its troops from Iraq as quickly as possible.

That sounds like a stark difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to foreign policy. 

But is that really the case? 

This episode of Inside America is going to look at U.S. foreign policy regarding a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. It questions the efficacy and feasibility of major strategies such as the notorious de-Bathification policy, the surge and other plans and diplomatic resolutions proposed, ignored or implemented. 

It finally asks whether President Obama’s withdrawal was “responsible” as he had pledged in his 2008 election campaigns.

Throughout a 10-year occupation, what went wrong and what else can the United States do to right those mistakes? 

The interviewees include:

Ambassador David Mack, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. At the final years of the Cold War, he served as the US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mack's US diplomatic assignments included Iraq, Jordan, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. 

James J. Zogby, the author of Arab Voices, and the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based research organization on Arab Americans. Dr. Zogby is a visiting Professor of Social Research at New York University in Abu Dhabi.  He has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees. He has also been a guest speaker at the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  He has led US delegations for peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Is Turkey As Democratic As Washington Thinks?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

 It all started with an environmental protest against a government’s decision to replace a rare park with a shopping mall in the center of Istanbul.

The police response was harsh. 

Tear gas and water canons were used abundantly. Dozens of people were injured. Hundreds were jailed. 

Soon it became clear that the protest was no longer just about the destruction of trees. For nearly three weeks, Turks poured onto the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other cities to call for an end of what they viewed as the creeping authoritarianism of Prime Minister Recceyp Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan is the leader of the Justice and Development Party, also known AKP, a political party with roots in the “so-called” ideology of moderate Islamism. He came to power more than a decade ago.

Initially, he was praised in the west for leading attempts to further democratize Turkey. In 2010, for instance, he changed the constitution bringing the country under more civilian control. 

He lifted a near century-old ban on women headscarves in public institutions. 

But since the constitutional amendment, Turks have increasingly been worried about Mr. Erdogan’s hidden intentions as he has sought to build more mosques and limit the sale of alcohol. 

Under Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, Turkey has become the biggest prison for journalists, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

Last week, the police widened their violent crackdown clearing Gezi Park from the protesters, who had posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s authority in more than a decade. For now, the demonstrations seem to have largely been tapered off. But the disillusioned, discontented and worried Turks are still there.  

Turkey was established as a secular nation state in 1923, shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. 

Turkey has always been an exceptional country in the region and is a non-Arab nation that is Muslim and the center of the Ottoman Empire, which was a world power for centuries. 

It is also one of the few that never experienced western colonialism, thanks to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who defeated forces sent by the allies in World War I.

While most Arab countries depend on oil for their state-run economy and use the natural resources as tools to insulate themselves from the people, Turkey boasts a free market in which a vibrant economy is thriving without having abundant oil reserves to rely on. 

It derives some 23 percent of its gross domestic product from tax, and the rest from trade, industry, service sectors and agriculture – a comparatively large percentage.

With some 79 million people, Turkey is a country with a mosaic of ethnic and religious groups located in a distinctive location between Europe and Asia. 
Its geostrategic position is home to one of the major US military bases. 

Since 2003, it has become the main route for Iraq’s oil and has the potential to aid the flow of gas to Europe.

But Turkey has big problems with its own Kurdish population. 

That is partly a result of Mr. Ataturk’s authoritarian vision to create an exclusive state based on “Turkishness”.  This constitutional definition of Turkey failed to contain millions of non-Turkish minorities.

For their ethnic rights, Kurds have fought bloody conflicts with the Turkish state. The most prominent one has been led by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was established in 1984. The PKK-Turkey conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

So is Mr. Erdogan a rising autocrat? Does his nostalgia for an Ottoman past mean he’s turning the modern country into a theocracy like Iran?  What future is awaiting Turkey in an increasingly tumultuous region?

Joining this episode of Inside America

Edmund Ghareeb, an American University Professor of Middle East Politics. Dr. Ghareeb has extensive knowledge and experience in Turkey. He has particularly written on the Kurds, a large ethnic minority living in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. He is the American University's Center for Global Peace's first Mustafa Barzani Scholar of Global Kurdish Studies.  

Michael Lane is the Founder and President of the American Institute for Foreign Policy, a private entity dispensing strategic analysis, advice and forecasts on international events.  Lane founded the organization in 2004 building on a foundation gained working more than three decades in military policy and planning, as well as national and international political activity. Mr. Lane has appeared on major international television networks including BBC, CNN, ABC and Al-Jazeera. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Is Mormonism?

By Namo Abdulla  - for Rudaw
New York City - In this documentary film, Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla finds out where the religion of Mormonism currently stands in U.S. society. 

Mormonism emerged nearly 200 years ago and recent numbers predict it has 14 million followers around the world. 

In addition to showing the historical evolutions the religion has undergone, the documentary explains major differences and similarities between Mormonism and other religions--namely Christianity and Islam. 

The very emergence of the “religion’s messenger contradicts fundamental Islamic belief,” says Abdulla. Islam considers Prophet Mohammed the last messenger sent for humanity.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Inside America: Should Iran get a Nuclear Bomb?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

American and Israeli officials have warned that all options, including a military strike, are on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Likewise, most western commentators seem to agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is the worst possible outcome for the current standoff between the Islamic Republic and the United States.

Tough economic sanctions, assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists, and sometimes supporting opposition groups who seek regime change from within, have so far been among America’s preferences to dissuade Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Why is the United States so worried about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran? If Tehran’s ayatollahs gained nuclear weapons, will they seek the destruction of U.S. allies in the Middle East?

 In a predominantly Sunni Middle East, would the presence of nuclear arsenal in the Shi’a-dominated Iran cause more stability or instability?

Joining this episode of Inside America are two distinguished U.S. professors with extensive experience and knowledge on Iran and its nuclear program: The first one is Hillary Mann Leverett, a professor of International Relations at the American University here in Washington, D.C. She is co-author of “Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In the George W. Bush Administration, Dr. Leverett served as Director for Iran, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council.

The second guest is Raymond Tanter, a Georgetown University professor of Terrorism and Proliferation. Dr. Tanter has served on the senior staff of the National Security Council and as personal representative of the Secretary of Defense to arms control talks in Europe in the Reagan-Bush administration.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inside America: Is America in decline?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C - After the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the United States emerged as the world’s number one superpower. Or so many thought.

American author, Francis Fukayama, wrote his most famous book, The End of History and the Last Man.

Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy, or the kind of political system that America has, may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government.”

But if the U.S. had enjoyed a decade of unchallenged supremacy in 1990s,  it would not bid farewell to the second year of the 21st century before coming under the worst attack in its modern history.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, America waged a war against a broadly defined enemy-- terror.

Iraq and Afghanistan would soon fit that category.

Over the past decade, America has spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in foreign wars,but the loss was not just in life and money.

As war turned much of Iraq and Afghanistan into havoc, America also started to see it’s global popularity diminish.

Then in 2009, the "Great Recession" hit America, making the first decade of the 21st century even worse for what continues to be the world’s largest economy. Domestically, Americans started to feel severe impacts. In 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama assumed the White House as the first black president, the unemployment rate reached 10 percent, the highest in decades.

Currently, jobless Americans make up 7.5 percent of the population and since economic growth has slowed to a trickle, leaving many in the dark about America's ability to achieve full-economic recovery. All this comes at a time when its allies in Europe are suffering bigger crises.

America welcomed the second decade of the 21st century and in 2010 President Obama officially ended a long and costly war in Iraq.

But some Americans still criticize Obama’s Iraq policy.

Jay Garner, who was appointed in 2003 as Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, following the 2003 invasion, tells Rudaw that the U.S. has “lost” the Iraq War.

“The Iranians have far more influence in the Arab Iraq than we do,” he said.

Just one year later, good news came to Americans after Obama announced the success of a strategic strike on a safe house for Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Americans took to the streets cheering as the news went global and the death of the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was official, bringing closure to a shaky period in American history.

But in 2011, the unexpected happened. Average Arabs took to the streets to topple dictators who had been longtime allies of the United States.

Amid the world’s economic and political upheavals, China is the one country that has not only gone unscathed, but also has increasingly risen as a global superpower to challenge US supremacy.

China owns more than one trillion dollar of US debt.

Does the rise of others mean the decline of America? Has the 21st century already marked the beginning of the end of what many call US hegemony in the world?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

In this video story, Rudaw's US correspondent, Namo Abdullla, visits the United Nations' Security Council, where a decade ago Colin Powell told world delegates that Iraq had WMDs, to look back at how the war started and what has changed throughout all the years ever since.