Tag Archives: ISIS

News from a parallel universe: ISIS Sanctions Renewed for Another Six Months

RAQQA– The US and European Union states have once again narrowly voted to renew targeted sanctions against the Islamic State (still commonly known as ISIS). In a press conference on Monday morning, US Secretary of State once again reiterated that sanctions would be removed as soon as the Islamic State complies with an agreement which would give the territories they control in Syria special status. ISIS leaders, meanwhile, called the sanctions “counter-productive” and promised “reciprocal measures” against those countries who support the sanctions regime.

Targeted sanctions were first imposed on ISIS following alleged attacks on the Yezidi minority in Iraq, attacks which the ISIS leadership has consistently denied.

“The Yezidi heretics were not killed by our people, but local farmers and tractor drivers who are fed up with Baghdad’s tolerance for heresy,” said an ISIS spokesperson in 2014, when news of the massacre broke.

The initial sanctions targeted key individuals in leadership of ISIS, but excluded family members. The sanctions were expanded later the same year when new allegations of ethic cleansing, sexual slavery, and beheadings of Yezidis and Christians surfaced. Not only was the list of travel bans and asset freezes expanded to include more members of the ISIS leadership, but new measures were put in place to limit ISIS’ access to Western financial markets and oil-drilling technology. Such sanctions are expected to severely limit ISIS’ ability to compete economically.

Yet in spite of the sanctions, many American and European banks and companies still do business with the self-proclaimed Caliphate. Timothy Hedges is a director of a London brokerage who says he still does a lot of business with ISIS.

“I don’t believe in letting politics get in the way of business,” Hedges said.

“Look, we live in a capitalist world, a free market world. These ISIS chaps have got money to invest and we’ve got people here who want to invest money there. You can’t let political rhetoric get in the way of that.”

But it’s not just money that’s changing hands when it comes to trade between ISIS and the West. A recent expose on British television shows how real estate agents in London sell luxury property to ISIS members, promising to protect their clients’ identity. On video one realtor is seen advising the undercover journalist posing as an ISIS official to create a special holding company that will officially own a London flat worth over 4 million pounds.

The ISIS presence is noticeable not only in London, but also in New York, where the son of one of ISIS’ propaganda networks has found himself an upscale apartment in gentrified Brooklyn. Ali, 24, laughed when asked about the sanctions on the Islamic State.

“Sanctions? What sanctions? Here I am living among the infidels in their greatest city,” Ali said.

“There are hundreds of us here. Same in London. The sanctions are a joke!”

Now that the sanctions have been in place for two years, continually renewed every six months, there have been signs of weakening resolve among the European states, many of which carried out lucrative trade with ISIS. Fringe politicians from Italy, Belgium, and France have spoken out against the sanctions, calling for them to be removed. Giovanni Buffone is a member of the Veneto parliament and one of the most fervent critics of the sanctions regime.

“We have carried out very lucrative trade with the Caliphate for many years now,” Buffone noted.

“But now because our weak leaders won’t stand up to the will of Washington, we will surely lose business. Is the safety of Iraq really worth it?”

Buffone’s statement is just one example of a growing number of voices in the business world calling for a removal of the sanctions regime.

It is not clear whether the sanctions will be renewed again in six months, but each time US officials have reminded ISIS that they will remove the sanctions as soon as ISIS fulfills its part of the peace agreement. ISIS, on the other hand, insists that it is not a party to the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and accuses the US and NATO of trying to encircle the “Islamic World.”

 

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F#@k it.

Once again terrorism has struck Europe, this time in Brussels, and the whole cycle begins anew. What cycle am I referring to? I guess the best comparison is something like a morbid, shameful version of “the 12 Days of Christmas.”

We’ve got Americans who’ve never had a passport talking about how this could have been prevented if only Belgians could carry concealed handguns.

Out of those, a certain portion will explain what they would have done in that situation, had they been allowed to carry their concealed firearm.

There are the Islamophobes screaming “I told you so” while totally ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Muslims don’t do anything like this, and if even 1% of them were, European cities would look like a war zone.

We’ll get the over-compensating liberal who insists that this has “nothing to do with Islam at all.”

There’s the snarky little shit who needs to remind everyone that changing your Facebook profile pic “doesn’t actually do anything,” because obviously anyone doing that believes that it does.

There’s the radical leftist demanding to know why these people didn’t change their profile pic to the flag of some other country that recently suffered a terrorist attack, just as they did as soon as they heard about the attack in Brussels.

Perhaps another leftist, maybe the same as the one above, will immediately remind everybody that this terrorism is the result of foreign policy, specifically that of the US, because otherwise nobody would know. And yes, I’ve already received reports of folks like this blaming the attacks on Belgian colonialism in the Congo. You read that correctly.

You’ve got Russian political figures rubbing their hands with glee over the misfortune of Europeans. And before you claim that there wasn’t enough sympathy over the Russian Sinai airliner bombing- keep in mind that the Russian government took a long time to even acknowledge the possibility that it was a terrorist attack even as Western governments were strongly suggesting that terrorism was the cause of the disaster.

And I don’t even need to check to know that hundreds if not thousands of people were declaring the attacks to be a “false flag” staged by the government even before the blood dried.

 

I don’t pretend to have answers to this situation. Yes, foreign policy, specifically the Iraq War, played a role. Yes, we shouldn’t let that get in the way of being outraged at terrorism and the ideology that fuels it. We should stand up against xenophobia and do what we can for innocent refugees without being afraid of criticizing Islam or refusing to tolerate those who deliberately refuse to tolerate others. We ought to wake up and realize that terrorism isn’t going to be stopped by the knowledge that one in so many dozens of people might be carrying a concealed handgun. Maybe we ought to just shut up and take at least a few hours to express sympathy before we go through the usual rituals that have come to be associated with these events.

At times I can’t help but think that on some level ISIS is a kind of punishment for our collective cynicism as a species. There’s the cynicism of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. The cynicism of the “left.” Everybody’s attitude in the post-Iraq War world seems to be resigned, and if it had a motto it would be “Fuck it.”

Yeah okay so Trump talks about events in living memory that never happened. He’s anti-establishment. Fuck it.

Sure, Hillary is one of the least progressive liberals in history, but we’ve got to beat Trump so fuck it.

Assad kills a few hundred thousand people but some of the people fighting him are bad so fuck it.

Sure, Putin runs a right-wing capitalist regime that supports far right wing parties around the world, but he hates NATO and the US government hates him so he must be doing something right. Fuck it.

Venezuela’s leaders ran their economy into the ground while claiming to be socialists, but again the US government doesn’t get on with them so they must be right. Fuck it.

Sure ISIS slaughters people with joy, but Iraq War, so fuck it.

Afghanistan? Either way fuck it.

I can’t be bothered to actually learn about history and the politics of the Middle East, so I’ll just let some con man tell me how he’s got it all figured out with this conspiracy theory. Fuck it.

The early 21st century is a tragic period indeed. According to most indicators people are living better than they have ever lived before, with more access to information than any other generation in our relatively short history, and yet we cannot enjoy it. We cannot stand up for the most basic values, because con men used those values to dupe us into all manner of folly both at home and abroad.

I don’t want to overstate the threat of ISIS. Movements just as barbaric and destructive as theirs have lasted far longer and probably done more damage. But it seems that they’re the only people who believe in anything, as horrible as that anything is. Maybe the reason we haven’t smacked them down yet is that we have become so cynical about our values, so disconnected from them, that we can’t muster up the courage to stand up for them.

Again, I have no answers at the moment. I’m just tired. I think from now on when I see another example of the responses I’ve listed above, I’m just going to say “fuck it” and move along.

 

 

Another news roundup

Today I have three articles to recommend, though only two of them deal with Russia and Ukraine.

The first is on Open Democracy and is called “Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine” by Heather McRobie. I am really glad to see this issue getting more and more attention. Off the top of my head I can think of two examples of these demeaning stereotypes which made big news in the last few years.

The older story dates back to the beginning of the Libyan uprising, which suddenly put Gaddafi in the spotlight after more than a decade of near-irrelevance. Apparently one of Gaddafi’s private nurses was Ukrainian. So naturally it was assumed by some media sources that the woman must be a mistress. It’s simply not possible for a Ukrainian woman to work for someone important and not be his personal courtesan.

The other story is more recent, and if I remember correctly it was first reported by the BBC. The story was about how prostitutes in Murmansk were raising their prices due to the falling value of the ruble. Of course thanks to the fall of the ruble, lots of retailers and services were raising their prices. Many importers of high-end brands like Apple, BMW, and Land Rover temporarily suspended their sales and deliveries so as to revise their prices. The latest iPhone, for example, went from something like 35,000RUB to almost 60,000. I remember how one restaurant, lacking the time to print new menus, simply taped over the prices and scribbled new ones. In short, there were many examples of rising prices and people expressing concern about this, but because this is Russia, there had to be a story about prostitutes, even if it meant going to an out-of-the-way place like Murmansk.

Think it stops in Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet Union? Think again. Just look at Poland’s entry to Eurovision last year:

Fucking POLAND! One Slavic country that actually achieved some success on its own. One country that managed to avoid an association with sex tourism. And they go and put this shit on display in Europe. Luckily this video shouldn’t have too much impact on Poland’s reputation when it comes to sex tourism, because as we all already know, Eurovision is only watched by women, gay men, and Russians.

This is why I downplay my Slavic, Polako-Ukrainian heritage when I travel abroad to some countries. You mention Ukraine or Russia and the first thing out of some men’s mouths is “beautiful girls,” the “compliment” that is really an insult. That’s all one can associate with Russia and Ukraine. It’s not like anything important happened in these parts in the past two hundred years or so. I might also add that for decades the girls were no less beautiful, but this suddenly became noticeable to many foreign men only after a massive economic catastrophe which forced many women into prostitution or quasi-prostitution to survive. The women trafficking and mail-order bride industry drove the stereotype home. In short, Slavic beauty in the eyes of many men has nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s about accessibility and dominance. Women who easily reject them and feel no compulsion to settle for someone out of economic need or political repression become “stuck-up, Westernized bitches” in the minds of many men.

So kudos to McRobie for bringing this issue of gendered stereotypes in Eastern Europe out into the open and explaining it in such terms. On with the next article.

As we all know, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. As it turns out, the Donbass region just happens to have a historical community of hard-fighting, military-aged Chechens, Ingushetians, Yakuts, and Buryats- it was practically a mini-Soviet Union all this time! But for those of you Russophobes who believe whatever the Western media tells you, there’s this article about Russian conscripts complaining about being compelled to sign contracts and being sent to Ukraine the Rostov region, where some have been injured or even killed in mysterious training accidents for which nobody has been held responsible.

Of course this article is nothing but propaganda- The U.S. State Department must be going around and paying these women to lie about their sons, if they ever had sons. This is a tried and true technique of the CIA to overthrow governments!

Lastly we have an article that has nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine, but rather ISIS. The article provides some interesting insight on ISIS, but as is typical it glosses over a couple points which go much further toward explaining the terrorist phenomenon than any analysis of Islamic theology does. Take a look:

Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.

Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.

The last one really makes you think. What is it that really attracts people to movements like ISIS? Are they really into the religious self-denial, restrictions, and self-denial? Or is part of it coming from a desire to free themselves from our market-dominated society, wherein they work most of their life, for little reward, often simply to stave off starvation? Perhaps if Western governments better addressed these needs, and supported regimes which did the same, it would severely hamper the recruitment efforts of groups like ISIS.

Naaaaah…Let’s just label them crazy fanatics and keeping bombing them. That can’t possibly fail!