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Russia and ex-Soviet Union (English)

Wood's The Way of the Strangers Part II: Imperial Blowback and Bad Theology

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Last month, I wrote Review of 'The Way of Strangers': Spiritual cancer or spiritual diabetes? and also about the power that Islam has to help prisoners build a new life. ("Natives finding Islam"). Prison and Islam are closely linked in the West.

The world as prison

The only way the West knows to deal with the problem of radical Islam is to search out, arrest, and imprison suspects. John Walker Lindh, captured in Afghanistan in 1991, and Chaudary became icons of resistance in prison, though they did not carry out terrorism themselves. Similarly, Cerantonio and his four comrades are currently facing 10-year sentences for merely trying to go to Syria, though they never even launched their private motorboat, hoping somehow to miraculously arrive in Syria.

They represent the more famous, the tip of an iceberg of unsung hundreds imprisoned for just wanting something, be it mistaken. The underlying cause behind this ongoing tragedy, which Wood seems uninterested in pursuing, is of course the occupation of Muslim lands, the system of imperialism itself. Sending righteously angry young men to prison just confirms their belief in the injustice of the system.

To at least provide some value to their prison time, Michot told British prison authorities that the best way to deal with radicalization in its cellblocks was to make Arabic compulsory for all Muslim prisoners and provide balanced Islamic sources for study. "Islam has to be understood as a middle way between the spiritual cancer of ISIS and the spiritual diabetes of Hamza Yusuf."

Putting offenders in jail merely reinforces their belief, as John Walker Lindh's 20-year sentence shows. He has been immersed in Islamic and Arabic studies in prison, at taxpayers' expense. Georgelas also made good use of his three-year stint. No doubt Chaudary did the same. Prison is an appropriate place to find Islam, as history shows. You have nothing more to lose, lots of time, in need of solace and inspiration, humbled before all, equal to all. It only takes one articulate Muslim to reach out to his fellow inmates. Many Muslims have found Islam in prison, transforming their lives.
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Glasnost 1988: Historic Moment for Iran and Russia

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On January 1, 1988, just a year and a half before he passed away on June 3, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini made a historic move, reaching out the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in a gesture of anti-imperialist solidarity, despite the long hiatus in relations with communist Russia. This was at a time of war against Iraq and continued subversion of Iran by the US and Israel. He sent President Gorbachev his only written message to a foreign leader.

Ayatollah Khomeini made other prescient gestures in his short and difficult decade as the leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran; in the first place, the transfer of the Israeli embassy to Palestinian representatives, the canceling of recognition of Israel, and the inauguration of al-Quds Day as an annual international holiday on the last Friday of Ramadan. He met with Fidel Castro and other third world leaders, encouraging solidarity against the imperialist foe.

The unprecedented visit of the Iranian delegation to Moscow was a sincere offer of support to the faltering Soviet leader, who had rejected the atheism of the Soviet past. It contrasts with the treatment of Gorbachev's new friend, Reagan, who was at the same time conspiring to subvert the Soviet Union, even as Gorbachev was sincerely reaching out to the hawkish Reagan, offering a generous plan of world nuclear disarmament.

The Ayatollah's warning not to trust the West was being brought home to Gorbachev graphically as the last Soviet troops were retreating into Uzbekistan in 1988. Despite the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US was continuing to arm the insurgents, killing those doomed soldiers as they crossed the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, built in 1982. Imperialism takes no prisoners.

Iran played no part in the US-backed 'jihad' in Afghanistan in the 1980s that brought the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iranian leaders knew that nothing good would come from working in alliance with America.
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Mind control and Cyberwarfare: 'The Russians Are Coming!'

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The media campaign attacking Russia is in high gear these days. Russia is accused of cyberwarfare, leaking poor Hillary's emails, and now, of a slick disinformation campaign to undermine poor NATO, our bastion of peace.

Then there is the traitor Edward Snowden, basking in sunny Moscow.  He blew a loud whistle from Hong Kong in 2013, revealing numerous US global surveillance programs, many run by the National Security Agency, implicating telecommunication companies and European governments.

Though he had no desire to defect to Russia (and the Russians were reluctant to take him), he was denied his US passport, marooned in Moscow, and pleaded political asylum. What was poor Russia to do?

Who planted the seed of discord?

Bush Sr and friends smiled and plied Yeltsin with vodka in the 1990s, assuring him that NATO would never dream of expanding eastward, that Russia would now be the West's best friend, that together, they would bring peace and joy to the world. They even signed a scrap of paper in 1997 solemnly avowing this.
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Russian history exposes media lies

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Russia has always fascinated me—the stern heroes who defended Muscovy against the Golden Horde, the ornate and mysterious orthodox faith, the vast spaces, the remarkable learning and philosophy, the Bolshevik Revolution against imperialism... It’s clear the West has always been jealous of a race of genius, highly deserving respect.

Today’s fearful standoff is yet another epic struggle reflecting Russia’s past glory, but unfortunately, now in a nightmarish world of drones and nuclear bombs. Far more tragic than could be easily reconstructed in tales of Boris Gudonov and the 'time of troubles', invasion by Poland and the heroic resistance that sprung up and  pushed the Poles out, leading eventually to the rise of Moscow as the centre of a new empire.

That is perhaps the underlying reason for the vindictive animosity that shrieks forth from the western media, as the American bully tries to taunt the Russian bear into doing something foolish or that at least looks foolish, as interpreted in western media. But the Russian leader stands by his principles and his fellow Slavs, and holds firm, despite the provocations. No one is going to destroy Russia nor will they succeed in breaking up the ancient slavic federacy into Wal Marts.

German-Russian common interests

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Ukraine & Egypt: A tale of two coups

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US plans for Egypt and Ukraine are falling apart and Russia is scrambling to pick up the pieces.

In the latest color revolution, it was not an army but a rump parliament that pulled the plug on the elected president on a wave of protest, pushing out Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich on 22 February. He apologized from exile in the Russian city of Rostov-on-the-Don for his weakness during the uprising, but his fate was sealed when he was disowned by his own Party of the Regions, the largest party in the fractious parliament. The rump parliament unsurprisingly ordered the release of Yanukovich’s arch rival, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison, a condition for Ukraine’s signing a European Union Association Agreement.

The collapse of authority in Ukraine led to what appears to be the breakaway of an already autonomous Crimea, now to be aligned with Russia. The frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy (the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy), on NATO maneuvers in the Gulf of Aden, refused to take orders from Kiev and raised the Russian naval flag as it returned to Simferopol. Simultaneously, Russian troops blocked three Crimean bases, demanding Ukrainian forces surrender. Residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on 30 March to determine the fate of Crimea.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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