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Middle East

Al-Quds Interview: The new troika in the Middle East?

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Egypt's hand-over of Tiran Island to the Saudis, Saudi flirting with Israel, Turkish disarray -- all conspire towards an unholy alliance. al-Quds

1/ What is your opinion about a recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the Tiran Island? Do the Israelis gain from the deal?

Tiran is strategically located at the narrow straits separating the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea. It is part of the Ras Muhammad National Park, set up in 1983 by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency as a marine reserve for the protection of marine and terrestrial wildlife, and to protect against urban sprawl from Sharm el-Sheikh. The Straits of Tiran is Israel's only access from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea, and Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Tiran on 22 May 1967 was the casus belli for Israel in the Six Day War.

Al-Quds interview: Palestinians and their allies resilient

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Q: What are the achievements and gains of the Resistance Movements in Palestine in the past year in the face of the Israeli occupation?

Palestinians continue to live in their open-air prisons in Gaza and the West Bank, but the struggle goes on in creative ways. On the illegal Apartheid wall that cuts into much of the West Bank, ‘Existence is Resistance’ is lettered across many areas. This simple act underlying their peaceful resistance to blatant injustice is an ultimate form of resistance.

In sports, there are small but rewarding achievements. The Palestinian national team rarely practice together and yet they still managed to play in the Asia Cup Games last year. “It is time to show the red card to racism, humiliation and injustice in Palestine and everywhere,” said Jibril Al Rajoub at the FIFA conference in May 2015, calling for Fifa to investigate Israel’s racism towards Palestinian players.

Iranian elections: repercussions in Middle East

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What are the messages Iranians signaled by their robust election campaign and high turn out? Western nay-sayers say it shows discontent. But perhaps with a touch of envy, at a time when western politics is rife with discontent and yet elicits at best a yawn, or at worse, looks more like a circus. The Islamic revolution has had bad press in the West from the start, but the results show a level of freedom that contrasts favorably with the West, and puts paid to the mantra that the 2009 elections were stolen by the bad guys.

All 30 reformists in Tehran won in Iran's highest turn out, but then Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring voting a religious obligation, endorsed all candidates, and congratulated Iranians on the elections. "I thank Iran's wise and determined nation, and I hope the next parliament will act responsibly towards people and God." Iranians "showed the bright and powerful face of a religious democracy to the world. These are sensitive times and the future parliament will have a heavy responsibility.” He even asked those who don’t believe in the Islamic Republic to vote, because the government provides security for all.

In the Assembly of Experts election, both Rafsanjani and Rouhani were elected--their 'parties' People's Experts and Hope won 19 and 27 seats respectively--giving them a majority, and putting them in a strong position to determine who the next supreme leader will be.

Aksyon Interview: Turkey, ISIS, Russia, Iran, Arab Spring

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Q: What do you think Kremlin has in mind in displaying such a harsh reaction to risk a total breakdown of its relations with Turkey?

As Putin put it, the shoot down was a 'stab in the back'. What would you suggest Russia do?

Q: But Turkey said it wouldn’t down the jet had it known it was Russian. Do you think Turkey’s aggression was deliberate?

I am not impressed by such a weak claim. The Russians said there was no warning communication (perhaps there was but it was not intercepted), the Turks claim there were lots of warnings, which suggests they must have known who it was. Declarations of innocence sound pretty lame. Who else could it have been? ISIS doesn't have military planes.

Q: After the jet crisis, the hashtag WWIII immediately became a globally trending topic on Twitter and since then, tons of articles discussing the possibility of a new world war is flooding the media. What do you think the chances are for that another globe-sized confrontation may be looming in the offing?

My first thought was 'Sarajevo 1914', a foolhardy provocation which indeed could topple into war. I am still shuddering. For the first time in my life, I genuinely fear that a world conflict could explode. Notice, like WWI and WWII, the location is conveniently far from Washington.

Q: With the direct involvement of the Western alliance and Russia in the Syrian civil war, Iran’s expanding influence in the region and the Arab Spring, the cards seem to have been reshuffled. What does the Syrian quagmire promise for the future given the most recent conditions?

The 2011 Arab Spring initially looked hopeful for the region. Tunisia and Egypt threw off odious dictators with hardly a shot fired. But it soon soured, with no consensus on a "new world", and entrenched elites that were able to reassert control, electorally in the case of Tunisia, and through a coup in Egypt. Bahrain and Yemen's 'springs' dragged out and were undermined without any real change. Civil war resulted in both, with the Saudis and Americans supporting the old Sunni elites against the Shia, leaving an ongoing legacy of anger and, in the case of Yemen, violence and war.

Kayhan interview: US elections and Iran

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1) Which element plays a more critical role in US presidential elections--the pursuit of the people's vote or of special interest money?

The simple answer is: both, but with a strong advantage to special interests. The electoral process costs billions of dollars, with candidates (except the socialist Democrat Bernie Saunders) relying on Political Action Committees, which receive unlimited donations from corporations. It is TV ads and TV coverage that dominate the electoral system. Democracy is 'democracy of dollars'. So while it is ultimately the people's votes that count, there is little room for a genuine people's candidate to win. If there is a tie, as happened in 2000, the Supreme Court decides. Saunders is the first genuine populist candidate for president since Roosevelt in the 1930s, and his chances are slim.

2) What do you think about this statement: "It is the ruling elite that elects the president rather than the people"?

That is true, but this time the field is weak. There are no outstanding charismatic hopefuls, with the possible exception of the Republican Donald Trump. The sorry state of the US economy, and the failed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria, have discredited the ruling elite's efforts to construct a 'New World Order'. For the first time in over 50 years, socialism as a viable alternative to capitalism is being talked about by disillusioned Democrats. Despite winning the New Hampshire primary, the socialist candidate, Bernie Saunders, has little chance of winning (Clinton was given 429 'soft delegates' to Saunders' 14 by the party elite before the primaries started), his strong criticisms of US warmongering are widely heard and respected. Despite being Jewish and a supporter of Israel, he supports Obama on better relations with Iran, and is not supported by the Israel Lobby, showing that the Zionist elite is bankrupt in ideas, leaving room for realism on the Middle East, and a growing consensus against more wars.

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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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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html