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The Hanoudi letter: the year 2014 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 21 December 2014 15:12

The 2014 year, which is coming to an end, has been a very unusual year, during very unusual times.  Many incredible things happened during the last few months, like the mid-term elections in the United States which ended with the Republican Party gaining control of the Senate, which gives them the power to complicate, if not block completely, Mr. Obama’s agenda during the last two years of his presidency, which introduces another very erratic dimension to the way American politics are going to be played in the near future.  There have also been many other events, from all over the world, some very significant, like the anniversaries of the first and second world wars, others much less so, but I am not going to go into a detailed discussion of those events.  I want to concentrate on two stories which have been unfolding for most of the 2014, these are, the Ukraine crisis and the Middle East explosion, which has reached very dangerous levels, because of the bursting on the scene of the fanatic, and extremely violent group, the bunch they call themselves the Islamic State, and as I have just said I am concentrating on these two, because of the threats they to the world’s peace and security, and their potential to spill over their borders and engulf the whole world in a very serious clash and possibly war.

The crisis in Ukraine began in November 2013, when the then pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a deal with the EU in favor of stronger ties with Russia.  Pro-EU violent protests erupted in the capital Kiev against the government of president Yanukovych and quickly escalated as government buildings were seized in cities across the western regions of Ukraine, on February 20, Kiev saw its worst days of violence for almost 70 years.  At least 88 people are killed in 48 hours, the carnage created a great uproar all over the world, the next day angry protestors took control of presidential administration buildings, the president fled the country, during the next three days Parliament named its speaker an interim president.  One of the protest leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was nominated Prime Minister.  Now a new wave of pro-Russians erupted in the east of the country and soon spread  south to Crimea, and during the following week pro-Russian gunmen seized key buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, within days its parliament voted to join Russia and called a referendum, which endorsed the proposal to annex the Crimean peninsula with Russia by a very high margin, but the EU and US condemned the act and imposed a first round of sanctions on Russian officials and high-ranking Moscow allies in Ukraine.

On their part the Russians were not intimidated, they welcomed the results of the referendum and went ahead and took possession of the peninsula. Meanwhile the protests became more vehement and violent. Pro-Russian sentiment in the eastern which are Ukraine's industrial heartland is very strong. On April 7 the protesters occupied government buildings in the two major cities , Donetsk, and Luhansk, and held referenda in their areas to decide their future, which were like the one earlier in the Crimea very much in favor of independence, that is separation from the Ukraine, but the results were again not recognized by Kiev or the Western powers. On May 25 elections for a new president in Ukraine were held, which resulted in the election of confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko as president, but no polling stations were open in most of the east.

On 20 June, the newly elected President announced a 15-point peace plan and declared a week-long truce, which held for a few days, when government offensive was launched once more, during which the government forces made some gains in areas previously held by the rebels. But the rebels - allegedly backed by Russian heavy armor - opened up a new front on the coast, seizing a small town and threatening the strategic port city of Mariupol, and the situation continued to alternate since then between fighting and fleeting ceasefires, with the United States and the European Union, trying to keep the embattled Ukraine in its feet with loans from international institutions, with very little military help, like Nato’s  decision on September 4 to set up a rapid reaction force in response to Russia's actions over Ukraine, and have imposed a series of asset freezes and travel bans on many senior Russian officials and separatist leaders, but Ukraine is still heavily in debt, In September the IMF warned the Ukraine could need a further $19bn in emergency funding if there was no resolution to the conflict during which according to various international and humanitarian agencies , and international ones like the un, more than 4,300 people died and almost one million have been displaced since the conflict began in April.

The second major drama of the year was the non-abating violence and destruction in the Middle East which has been going on for several years now, and is becoming more virulent and destructive after the ultra-fundamentalist and extremely fanatic group, ISIS, ’s  subjugating of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in June, after which it moved into the Northern and North-Eastern parts of the country, gaining control of huge swathes of land there in addition to those they already had under their control in Syria and started calling themselves, the Islamic State. The self-proclaimed Islamic State [IS] which was known earlier as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS], is a Sunni, extremist, jihadist rebel group based in Iraq and Syria, where it controls huge swathes of land in both countries, It operates also in other middle-eastern countries , but its main activities !!  are in Iraq and Syria. The group originated as an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI], and continued to follow them until February 2014, when after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, citing its failure to consult and "notorious intransigence".

Al-Qaida was very active in the insurgency which followed the invasion of the country by the Americans in 2003. ISIS was also involved in the war against the Americans from its inception in 2004. Its aim was to establish an Islamic state in Sunni-majority regions of Iraq and Syria, and to fulfil that aim the group proclaimed a worldwide caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its leader was named its caliph, and they changed their name , they started calling themselves, the Islamic state [IS], but their murderous and shockingly abhorrent practices, and the inhumane methods and cruelty with which they treated the people who came under their control, like the Christians and the other religious minorities,  and the innocent workers in the media organizations and humanitarian agencies who were tortured and beheaded by them , all these atrocities , and the dangers this  group posed to the world’s peace and security created a great revulsion against them , and forced the united states and others from the west to try to stop them , but their approach to its threats was the same old fashioned one, military power, which was has never been the best option to deal with the kind of conflicts the united states has been forced to deal with during since the second half of the last century. So they started to secure allies in their fight against the Islamic state, the alliance included European and some Arab states, and started sending troops [non-operational] to Iraq in the midsummer of 2014, but like what has happened under similar situations in the past things started to escalate.

In July, president Obama announced that owing to the continuing threats by the group the United States would be elevating its security commitment in the region. Approximately 800 U.S. troops secured American installations like the Embassy in Baghdad as well as taking control of strategic locations like the Baghdad airport, a figure which would escalate to 3,000 in early November, and began a large-scale air campaign over the region starting that August, and started acquiring coalition partners to combat ISIL, the military effort subsequently expanded to protect Iraqi infrastructure and provide air cover to Iraqi troops,  but they seem to have been no more than pin pricks, the Islamic state  have made enemies across the globe and endured three months of U.S.-led air strikes, but they have surrendered little of their self-declared caliphate to the broad sweep of forces arrayed against them for a very simple reason.  The kind of war which is engulfing the whole Middle East now cannot be won by military means, which could drag the United States into another futile, costly conflict, like George Bush’s 2003 war.

Najeeb Hanoudi

Friday December 19, 2014


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