Category Archives: Mideast

Chart of the Day: Asylum-seekers in Europe 2016


The story, from Eurostat:

In 2016, 1,204,300 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number slightly down compared with 2015 (when 1,257,000 first-time applicants were registered) but almost double that of 2014 (562,700).

Syrians (334,800 first-time applicants), Afghans (183,000) and Iraqis (127,000) remained the main citizenship of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States in 2016, accounting for slightly more than half of all first time applicants.

6 in 10 applied for asylum in Germany

With 722 300 first time applicants registered in 2016, Germany recorded 60% of all first-time applicants in the EU Member States. It was followed by Italy (121,200, or 10%), France (76,000, or 6%), Greece (49,900, or 4%), Austria (39,900, or 3%) and the United Kingdom (38,300, or 3%).

Among Member States with more than 5,000 first time asylum seekers in 2016, numbers of first time applicants rose most compared with the previous year in Greece (38,500 more first time asylum seekers in 2016 than in 2015, or +339%), Germany (280.500 more, or +63%) and Italy (37,900 more, or +46%). In contrast, the largest decreases were recorded in the Nordic Member States – Sweden (-86%), Finland (-84%) and Denmark (-71%) – as well as in Hungary (-84%), Belgium (-63%), the Netherlands (-55%) and Austria (-53%).

Highest number of first time applicants relative to the population in Germany, lowest in Slovakia

Compared with the population of each Member State, the highest number of registered first-time applicants in 2016 was recorded in Germany (8.789 first-time applicants per million inhabitants), ahead of Greece (4,625), Austria (4,587), Malta (3,989), Luxembourg (3,582) and Cyprus (3,350). In contrast, the lowest numbers were observed in Slovakia (18 applicants per million inhabitants), Portugal (69), Romania (94), the Czech Republic and Estonia (both 114). In 2016, there were in total 2,360 first time asylum applicants per million inhabitants in the EU as a whole.

Around 30% of first time asylum seekers were Syrians

Syria (28% of the total number of first-time applicants) was again in 2016 the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Of the 334,800 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in 2016, almost 80% were registered in Germany (266,250). In total, Syrians represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in thirteen EU Member States.

Afghanistan (15% of the total number of first-time applicants) remained the second main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States in 2016. Of the 183,000 Afghans seeking asylum protection for the first time in the EU Member States in 2016, nearly 70% applied in Germany (127,000). Afghans represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in five EU Member States.

With 127,000 first -time applicants (or 11% of the EU total) in 2016, Iraq was the third country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Three-quarters applied in Germany (96,100).

Israel follows Trump’s lead with a new travel ban


Never were too allies so better suited for each other, a landlord who once excluded black folks from his apartments and a Zionist zealot who’s been busily evicting non-Jews from their homes and villages to make room for folks more like him.

They’re similarly disposed to repress any kind of dissent.

And that brings us to the new Israeli travel ban, via Deutsche Welle:

Opposition and human rights groups on Tuesday slammed a newly approved Israeli law that bans entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country.

Israel’s parliament passed the bill, which withholds visas and residence permits from people who have “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel or pledged to take part in such a boycott,” a parliament statement said late on Monday.

For decades Israel faced boycott calls for its 50 year occupation of the Palestinian Territories, but the movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) raised its profile in recent years with help of celebrity backers such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

Government ministers defended the law, which goes into force in a few days, as a necessary response to what it sees as a strategic and anti-Semitic threat, but rights group criticized it as a suppression of free speech.

Intolerance I: Who are America’s worst terrorists?


This is the first of two offerings on intolerance.

President Pussygrabbers seized the White House at the end of a campaign designed to rouse racist fears in a masterful act of misdirection, shifting blame for the very real pains of his grass roots base away from the real culprits — people like Trump himself — onto alien Others.

Always at play within his rhetorical was the portrayal of the Other as a violent criminal, a murderer and rapist in the case of folks from south of the border, or as a bombing-and-beheading non-Christian fanatic, in the case of the Muslim.

But who are the real terrorist fanatics in the United States?

[Hint: They don’t pray toward Mecca.]

A wide-ranging, multi-university study looks at the numbers, and the terrorists probably voted the Trump.

The study, Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?, is published in The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English.

The authors are William Parkin, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Seattle University; Brent Klein, a doctoral student at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice; Jeff Gruenewald, Assistant Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Joshua D. Freilich, Professor of Criminal Justice at City University of New York; and Steven Chermak, Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

From The Conversation:

On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were murdered in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, resulting in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing. More than any other terrorist event in U.S. history, 9/11 drives Americans’ perspectives on who and what ideologies are associated with violent extremism.

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies goes against what the numbers tell us. Far-right extremism also poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often ignored or underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have spent more than 10 years collecting and analyzing empirical data that show us how these ideologies vary in important ways that can inform policy decisions. Our conclusion is that a “one size fits all” approach to countering violent extremism may not be effective.

By the numbers

Historically, the U.S. has been home to adherents of many types of extremist ideologies. The two current most prominent threats are motivated by Islamist extremism and far-right extremism.

To help assess these threats, the Department of Homeland Security and recently the Department of Justice have funded the Extremist Crime Database to collect data on crimes committed by ideologically motivated extremists in the United States. The results of our analyses are published in peer-reviewed journals and on the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism.

The ECDB includes data on ideologically motivated homicides committed by both Islamist extremists and far-right extremists going back more than 25 years.

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Between 1990 and 2014, the ECDB has identified 38 homicide events motivated by Islamist extremism that killed 62 people. When you include 9/11, those numbers jump dramatically to 39 homicide events and 3,058 killed.

The database also identified 177 homicide events motivated by far-right extremism, with 245 killed. And when you include the Oklahoma City bombing, it rises to 178 homicide events and 413 killed.

Although our data for 2015 through 2017 are still being verified, we counted five homicide events perpetrated by Islamist extremists that resulted in the murders of 74 people. This includes the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people. In the same time period, there were eight homicide events committed by far-right extremists that killed 27 people.

These data reveal that far-right extremists tend to be more active in committing homicides, yet Islamist extremists tend to be more deadly.

Our research has also identified violent Islamist extremist plots against 272 targets that were either foiled or failed between 2001 and 2014. We are in the process of compiling similar data on far-right plots. Although data collection is only about 50 percent complete, we have already identified 213 far-right targets from the same time period.

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The locations of violent extremist activity also differ by ideology. Our data show that between 1990 and 2014, most Islamist extremist attacks occurred in the South (56.5 percent), and most far-right extremist attacks occurred in the West (34.7 percent). Both forms of violence were least likely to occur in the Midwest, with only three incidents committed by Islamist extremists (4.8 percent) and 33 events committed by far-right extremists (13.5 percent).

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Headlines of the day: More TrumpLandia™ Turmoil


We begin with the New York Times:

Republican Congress, Stuck at Starting Line, Jogs in Place

  • Republican lawmakers and President Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised.
  • Disagreements, a lack of clarity from the White House and a slow confirmation process have stymied their plans.

Two from the Washington Post, starting with this:

Flynn saga shifts balance of power between president, Congress

  • In the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, Republican senators are vowing more aggressive oversight of the new administration, and Democrats are seizing an opportunity to ask pointed questions about President Trump’s ties to Russia.

And then this:

Trump looking at billionaire to lead review of U.S. spy agencies

  • Stephen A. Feinberg has been a major donor to Republican candidates and has served on Trump’s economic advisory council.

Next up, this from the Guardian:

Deutsche Bank examined Donald Trump’s account for Russia links

  • Bank looked for evidence of whether loans to president were underpinned by guarantees from Moscow, Guardian learns

Finally this inevitable TrumpTweetstorm™ subject-to-be from BBC News:

Israel-Palestinian conflict: UN warns Trump over two-state reversal

  • The UN chief has warned Donald Trump against abandoning the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying there is “no alternative”.
  • It comes after Mr Trump went against decades of US policy, saying he would back whatever formula led to peace.
  • Palestinians reacted with alarm to the possibility that the US could drop support for Palestinian statehood.

Trump’s pick for #2 at State has a very dirty past


Our new, Congressionally sanctioned Secretary of State last ran one of the world’s biggest oil companies, a key player in an industry notorious for turning to Uncle Sam whenever foreign governments threaten the bottom line.

Now comes word that his number two will very likely be an old hand at dirty tricks abroad.

From teleSUR English:

Elliott Abrams is believed to be U.S. President Donald Trump’s leading candidate for deputy secretary of state, Reuters reported Tuesday. While Abrams is known for having foreign policy roles with two other Republican administrations, he also has a checkered history in Latin America, linked to killings, disappearances and counterinsurgency across the region.

The 69-year-old last served under George W. Bush’s administration, but his work with Ronald Reagan’s administration is the most alarming. Abrams was a key figure in Reagan’s anti-communist intervention in Nicaragua, otherwise known as the Contra Wars.

During the 1980s, the U.S. funded right-wing paramilitary groups against the leftist Sandinista forces in the country. Contra forces commonly used terror tactics and committed a number of human rights abuses. It is estimated that at least 30,000 people died in the fighting, which also displaced many.

The Reagan administration was later found guilty of violating international law in their support of the Contras and mining Nicaragua’s harbors. Similar abuses with U.S. backing also occurred and were covered up in Guatemala and El Salvador. Abrams was known for downplaying the El Mozote massacre — where a U.S.-trained Salvadoran death squad killed over 1,000 civilians — as communist propaganda.

Around the same time, the U.S. supported brutal right-wing dictatorships in Argentina and Chile to squash the possibility of communist uprising during the Cold War with a counterinsurgency strategy referred to as Operation Condor. During the 17-year rule of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, thousands are thought to have been killed, disappeared and tortured.

Argentina’s, so-called Dirty War is estimated to have left up to 30,000 killed or disappeared after military dictator Jorge Videla came to power in a 1976 coup against left-wing President Isabel Peron and again received U.S. backing.

Fear of TrumpAmerica™ leads to refugee exodus


And so great is their fear and uncertainty of their futures in the U.S. that they’re walking across snow and ice at freezing temperatures to seek a new haven in Canada.

From Reuters:

Refugees in the United States fearing a worsening climate of xenophobia in the wake of a divisive U.S. presidential campaign are flocking to Canada in growing numbers.

Manitoba’s Welcome Place refugee agency helped 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25 – more than the agency normally sees in a year. Most braved the freezing prairie winter to walk into Canada.

“We haven’t had something before like this,” said Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, which has helped refugees get medical attention and housing. “We don’t know what to do.”

A temporary restraining order by a U.S. judge of President Donald Trump’s executive order that blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of the travel ban has provided a reprieve for refugees trying to come to the United States.

But Canadian advocacy organizations are bracing for a greater influx of asylum-seekers, driven in part by the contrast between the ruling Liberal government’s acceptance of Syrian refugees in Canada with Trump’s anti-foreigner rhetoric.

A refugee’s account of a cold crossing

One of the many who made the trek over the weekend described the crossing to CBC News:

The temperature dipped below –20 C as a large group of refugees trudged through snowy Manitoba fields near the U.S. border Saturday.

Farhan Ahmed says he couldn’t feel his fingers or his toes as he walked about 12 kilometres along a road.

“It was very, very cold and it was icy that night,” Ahmed said.

Over the weekend, RCMP said, 22 people crossed the border near Emerson, located about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg — 19 on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Ahmed and his group, including a family with children, finally called 911 for help. RCMP brought the refugees to a Canada Border Services Agency location where they could make their refugee claims.

“They gave us heat. If we didn’t get that, I couldn’t feel my hands. I couldn’t feel my hands, it was hard,” Ahmed said.

ISIS hails Trump’s travel ban as a major victory


And, of course, they’re absolutely right.

From the Washington Post:

Jihadist groups on Sunday celebrated the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying the new policy validates their claim that the United States is at war with Islam.

Comments posted to pro-Islamic State social media accounts predicted that President Trump’s executive order would persuade American Muslims to side with the extremists. One posting hailed the U.S. president as “the best caller to Islam,” while others predicted that Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East.

“[Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi has the right to come out and inform Trump that banning Muslims from entering America is a ‘blessed ban,’” said one posting to a pro-Islamic State channel on Telegram, a social-media platform. The writer compared the executive order to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Islamic militant leaders at the time hailed as a “blessed invasion” that ignited anti-Western fervor across the Islamic world.

>snip<

Robert Richer, a 35-year CIA veteran and former chief of the agency’s Near East division, said the ban was a “strategic mistake” that could undermine future efforts to recruit spies and collect vital information about terrorists and their plans. How, he asked, can CIA officers persuade Iraqi and Syrian nationals to risk their lives to help the United States?

“This was a win for jihadists and other anti-U.S. forces,” said Richer, the deputy chief of the agency’s Operations Directorate during the George W. Bush administration. “It fuels the belief out there that Americans are anti-Islam. Otherwise, it accomplishes nothing, because the ones we are most concerned about can still get to the United States.”

But given that Trump has already declared he think America has a right to seize the Iraq’s oil and “maybe we’ll have another chance,” could there be a deeper game involved, one in which more warfare leads to outright invasion with the specific intent of seizing oilfields in the Mideast and, say Libya, which has the world’s finest reserves of light, sweet crude oil?

Given that he’s picked the CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies, as his Secretary of State we’d have to say that ours in a legitimate question and worthy of serious consideration.