AEGEE International Politics Journal

By Armenak Minasyants (AEGEE-Yerevan, Armenia)

Already one month has passed from the moment since I have become the Manager of this newsletter and this is already my fifth newsletter, but it is still very difficult for me to start the new newsflash with new words and phrases. Anyway, I really hope that there are a lot of people from our network who are following to my reports and I truly believe that in some cases my newsletters may be useful.

So, the first 10 days of May really could be called “Sensational”. Yes, yes, and it is not only because Osama Bin Laden has been killed. So get updated and find out something more in this newsletter.


Osama Bin Laden – Death of the Myth?

The unreliability and sheer lack of any hard data concerning the bin Laden raid in Pakistan continues to top the news. The manner of bin Laden’s death is still unclear; was he armed or unarmed? Did he use a woman as a human shield, or did she flee from him when the soldiers arrived? Was he captured then executed, or died resisting arrest? Stories have changed during the whole week, often contradicting each other.

It seems authentic photos of bin Laden’s body exist, and publishing them might go some way to allaying suspicions in some quarters that the al Qaeda head is not dead, but the US government is hesitating as it says they are of a very gory nature.

The FBI’s website has added the bright red label “Deceased” on bin Laden’s photo on its “Most Wanted” wall, but is not saying if anyone has come forward to claim the $25 million reward.

On 6 May more details have emerged of how al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden was found and killed at a fortified compound in north-west Pakistan.

One thing which apparently stirred US curiosity was why should such a major establishment be careful not to have highly hackable phone or internet connections. US Intelligence claims to have identified the building as housing a major terrorist figure via tracking a courier used by bin Laden to keep in touch with the rest of the world. A plan to find the al Qaeda figure head was instigated last August. Nothing was left to chance in the military preparations. Once in place the operation took just 45 minutes. John Brennan of US counter terrorism described to the media what happened. “He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house through his end. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly, don’t know. Thinking about that from a visual perspective, here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound; living in an area that is far removed from the front; hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”

Hours afterwards, Pakistani security forces were left to block off access to the compound.

Simultaneously, after several days of silence Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden and vowed to continue attacking the USA and its allies. A statement attributed to the group was posted on jihadist internet forums. The militant organization claims its leader’s killing will turn out to be a “curse” for America. It also calls for an uprising in Pakistan, the country in which bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces and where he is reported to have been hidden for at least the last six years. Many Pakistanis are unhappy at what they see as an infringement of their sovereignty by America on Monday. Several rallies have been taking place across the country in protest at the raid.

In their turn, Pentagon also has made some interesting actions. Not a martyr – but a frail old man wrapped in a blanket watching himself on TV. By releasing new videos showing Osama bin Laden inside the compound where he was killed last week, the Pentagon appears keen to strip away some of the myths concerning the former al Qaeda leader. Despite the makeshift surroundings, it describes his house in Abbottabad as a “command and control centre”. In my personal viewpoint it is an attempt by US officials really at posthumous humiliation. They killed him, so he can not be a direct threat. Now there is an effort to reduce his legacy and strip away his mystique. They want the world to remember bin Laden not as a sort of terrorist leader, but as a feeble old man who dyed his beard out of vanity.

Other video clips released by the Pentagon confirm the change of beard colour, as he practises his lines before the camera. One message he recorded is said to have been a “message to the American people” condemning the US. Life in the house where bin Laden spent his last years seems to have been simple and mundane. On the night he died, bin Laden was with the youngest of his three wives in the bedroom. She was apparently shot in the leg as she charged at commandos. Intelligence officials will be trying to piece together more details about bin Laden’s existence from other material seized in the compound – described as the largest intelligence trove ever obtained from a single terrorist suspect. Bin Laden is dead – but the propaganda war rages on.

Detailed information on topic you may find here

Syria – Bloody Unrest

Huge crowds in Syria have been attending the funerals of some of the pro-democracy protesters killed in the regime’s crackdown on unrest, according to pictures posted on the internet. More images, again impossible to verify as foreign media have been banned from the country, are believed to have been taken in Deraa. They show government tanks and troops apparently firing down the street. And there have been reports of more opposition figures being arrested. With the death toll from a month of protests now said to be at 560, some have been trying to flee, crossing into Turkey at Hatay. Turkish authorities gave permission for around 500 people to enter the country and put them up in a local sports hall after carrying out security checks. But with many more expected, the Red Crescent has begun erecting tents in what could become a large refugee camp.

Latest reports say Syrian security forces have been continuing their crackdown on opposition in Deraa. New images posted on the internet are thought to show clashes from recent days. People cower in the road amid grounded motorbikes as the sound of gunshots rings out. Several individuals appear to have been shot; bloodstains are visible as people try to care for them amid the panic. The authenticity of the pictures cannot be verified. A medical source is quoted as saying 19 were killed during last week when security forces fired on protesters trying to enter Deraa from nearby villages. Human rights groups say more than 60 died nationwide. Residents and activists allege security forces have been arresting people in their homes. Snipers have reportedly been firing from rooftops. There have been calls for demonstrations to “break the siege” following the week-long clampdown that has left Deraa without water or electricity. Government troops are said to be in control of the old town and the Omari mosque, a focal point for protests. The authorities blame what they call “armed terrorists” for the violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on 03.05.2011 called on Syria to stop preventing its medics from treating casualties in Deraa. The ICRC says President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is restricting access to victims by its doctors and other medical workers. Over the past week, Syrian authorities have stepped up a campaign to quell the unrest, despite promising to lift a state of emergency that has been in place since 1963. Soldiers and tanks are patrolling the streets in a number of cities including Deraa, which has been shelled and put under siege. Foreign media are restricted from reporting in Syria so it is difficult to independently verify the authenticity of such recordings. At least 560 people have been killed in the six-week-old uprising, with many hundreds more wounded or arrested.

Every day a lot of comments are made on Syrian unrest. But it is still not clear what shall be done in order to stop the violence and it really seems that after Libyan case no one wants to take a new responsibility and try to make peacekeeping in Syria.

See more on Syrian Unrest here –


Who is stronger – President or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

It is handbags at the moment in the Iranian leadership, with the president taking an unannounced week off cabinet meetings in a sulk after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reinstated an intelligence chief he had sacked. Lest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get too big for his boots, the message from the theocratic hierarchy was sent out during Friday prayers: “I’m sure our government and president and nation are aware of the issue of the Supreme Leader’s complete authority, and will pay the highest attention to it,” said Kazem Sedighi. Conservative cleric and prayer leader at Tehran University. Ahmedinejad must step carefully, as Iran’s clerics say to disobey Khamenei is equal to apostasy, as he is “God’s representative on Earth.”

At the heart of the battle is the president’s closest advisor, a secularist who wants a weaker role for the clergy in Iran. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei has been accused by some of using sorcery and supernatural powers to advance government policies. Khamenei and his allies would dearly love to see him brought down a peg or two, or failing that, his boss.

At least for me it would really interesting to see what would happen in this Islamic republic if the human being, represented by the President, will resist against “God’s representative on Earth”. One thing is clear for 100%; you would see nothing democratic.

See details on Iran here


Egypt – What Clashes do happen in Cairo without President Mubarak?

Sectarian violence in Egypt’s capital city has left one person dead and 23 wounded. Clashes broke out between Muslims and Christians in Cairo on 7 May. Police and soldiers in armored vehicles were sent in to stop the fighting. According to officials, some 500 conservative Muslims – known as Salafists – surrounded a Coptic church, allegedly attempting to free a Christian woman who wanted to convert to Islam. Relations are often strained between the Coptic Christians and the mainly Sunni majority in Egypt. In January, 21 people were killed in the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, where 1,000 worshippers were attending mass. Christians make up 10 percent Egypt’s population and often complain of unfair treatment. Though they worked alongside Muslims to oust President Hosni Mubarak, Christians fear increased persecution if radical Islam becomes more popular – which could happen if the Muslim Brotherhood party becomes stronger.

Egyptian Christians demonstrated on 9 May in Alexandria and Cairo to call for more protection after two days of clashes that left a burned-out church and 12 deaths.

Many people think law and order is weak since the army took over and the police have lost authority, leading to local disputes escalating. Arab League leader, Amr Moussa, was asked if a conference between Muslims and Coptic Christians could be organized: “This is a very critical situation and it is aiming to destroy or damage society and blow up Egypt. And I am asking the high Military Council and the Egyptian government to hold a conference to gather university scientists, Egyptian thinkers and everybody who understands and can help in this critical situation,” he said. When the army took over it allowed back into the country thousands of Muslim militants. Some are blaming this for the rise in sectarian tensions. Radical clerics preaching the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam are increasingly vocal, whereas in the past the Mubarak regime silenced them. In its turn Egypt’s Justice Minister has warned that people threatening the country’s internal security will face an “iron fist”.

The one thing is clear; Egypt has become not secure place to live in since President Mubarak resigned and the best example of that are these clashes.

Get updated on Egypt here

May Day in Istanbul and Holocaust Day in Israel

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied to commemorate May Day in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a place of special symbolic importance after a massacre that took place in the 1970s. At least 34 people died on 1st May 1977 amid scenes of panic after shots were fired into the crowd. Extreme right activists were suspected of carrying out the attack with official backing. Demonstrations were banned in the square until last year. Rallies were held in other cities throughout Turkey including the capital Ankara. There the event began calmly but minor clashes were reported involving members of a pro-Kurdish party and union members. Security forces intervened and the rally ended earlier than planned. Many who had come to protest against the government’s policies will be hoping their voices were still heard. The day also saw a large rally in the main Kurkish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, scene of recent clashes after Kurdish politicians were barred from contesting a national election.

On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day Israel has held a ceremony at the country’s official memorial site of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Survivors lit six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the concentration camps. In his address Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked if the lessons of the Holocaust had been learnt. “Every civilized person in the world; all those who say they learned the lessons of the Holocaust need to condemn clearly and unequivocally those who call for the destruction of the Jewish state.” The central theme of this year’s observance is to encourage survivors to part with precious mementos such as letters and diaries which tell their own personal stories. If they bring them to the memorial site they will be preserved for generations to come.

War till the last bullet!!!

And again, again Libya…

Supporting Libya’s rebels tops the agenda in Rome on 5 May. Twenty-two countries and six international organisations were represented in the contact group. Before that meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Officials said the talks of the NATO-backed coalition against Muammar Gaddafi are not focusing on military aspects. Clinton said: “Clearly on our agenda is looking for the most effective ways to deliver financial assistance and other means of supporting and helping the TNC (Transitional National Council) opposition.” Frattini said the plan is to set up a type of internationally controlled trust fund for the rebels. A spokesman said this would give the TNC, which is the governing body in eastern Libya, a boost fighting Gaddafi’s regime. The rebels are asking for up to three billion dollars. The civilian population is also facing difficulty buying food and medicine.

In the town of Zintan in Libya’s Western Mountains, rebel forces are besieged by the artillery of government troops as they try to keep open supply lines. Conflict and political moves are the two constants in the Libyan crisis. France expelled 14 Libyan diplomats on Friday. One source said they were using their status as cover. The Tunisian border town of Dehiba was hit by more than a dozen mortars fired by Gaddafi troops during the fighting in the Western mountains. In Benghazi the rebels have been boosted by the news they are set to receive millions of dollars from a coalition of Western and Arab countries. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said Washington would try and change the law to unlock some Libyan state funds frozen in the US for the rebels .From Moscow and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came a warning to the coalition countries to respect the UN resolution. “As regards possible proposals to sanction through the UN Security Council a ground operation in Libya, the resolution 1973, which the Security Council has already adopted, directly and unequivocally rules out such an option,” he said. There was more talking in Tripoli. Up to 2,000 leaders representing the countries 850 tribes gathered. They called for national unity, urged the rebels to disarm and demanded NATO end its bombing campaign. The rebels dismissed the meeting with claims Gaddafi pays the tribes to stay in power.

Mortar rounds fired from Libya have landed near the Tunisian border, according to the Tunisian government. There has been fighting between troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi and rebel forces in Libya’s western mountains, causing people to flee. The Libyan army has been trying to wrestle control of a key border post from the rebels. Artillery fire from Libya has landed in or near the Tunisian town of Dehiba several times in the past week. Rebels in and around Zintan have also been bombarded by government forces. The rebels, who hold the town, are continuing to resist the attacks as they try to keep open a vital supply route from Tunisia. They have been backed by NATO air strikes targeting Gaddafi’s forces. At least two Libyan army helicopters are said to have been destroyed.

There are fears for Misrata’s fuel reserves after an attack by pro-Gaddafi forces left the Libyan rebel port’s main terminal in flames. Several storage tanks were hit, causing a huge fireball to erupt, visible for miles. Before the attack, Misrata is said to have had enough supplies to last for three months. It is not known how much fuel is left now. On 8 May an enormous column of smoke could still be seen rising from the port, as more fighting was reported west of the city.

So, if we summarize everything, we may just state that nothing has changed in Libya during the last 10 days, and the civil war continues till the last bullet, as Colonel Gaddafi has promised at the beginning of this fratricidal war.

Everything on Libya could be found by this link

Two Celebrations

On the eve of commemorations in Russia for the end of World War II, President Dmitry Medvedev met veterans at a ceremony in Moscow’s Armed forces Museum. Several of the former soldiers invited him to join them in the mobile kitchen trailer in the Museum’s courtyard. They were all wearing medals denoting personal courage and distinguished service. The president thanked them for their part in the victory over the Nazis and led them in a toast to the public holiday which has become known as ‘Victory Day’. Russia has marked the 66th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany with an impressive display of its military might. The Prime Minister and President were both in attendance. A squadron of helicopters carrying Russian state and military flags took to the skies overhead. Looking on were some of those who survived the conflict. 20 thousand military personnel were involved in the parade. Two hundred officers from Russia’s elite Special Forces joined in for the first time. The military hardware on show included rocket launchers, personnel carriers and tanks. According to the latest research, 26.6 million people from the Soviet Union lost their lives in the Second World War. More than eight and a half million of those were soldiers. While Russia holds its main commemorations on May 9, France holds its on May 8. Before the formal ceremony in Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Port-Louis in Brittany which has a special place in French war history. Soldiers there fought longer than elsewhere, being one of the last places where German troops finally surrendered. Meanwhile in Austria at the former Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen, Holocaust survivors remembered the 100,000 prisoners who died there.

The flags are flying high. May 9 is also Europe Day. Fifty years ago the European Union concept was born. But not everyone is celebrating. Most of the Europeans feel pessimistic about the future. The eurozone crisis seems to be getting worse. Greece is struggling to pay for its €110 billion bailout. Last Friday reports suggested the country might leave the single currency. Pascal Delwit from the Free University of Brussels said: “There is a feeling of pessimism, that is more than before because we are regularly and commonly presented as a ‘has been’ continent when we’re looking to the rise of China, India and even across Brazil, Argentina, Mexico.” As well as the state of the Euro, EU countries continue to clash over social policies, including immigration and humanitarian response. European Commissioner for Education, Androulla Vassiliou, said: “It’s a project, we all go together, so we have to support each other, and there is no way forward without solidarity.” The Euro casts a shadow over the vision of unity as tensions between the northern countries and the south continue to worsen.

Anyway, no matter what the scholars say, I would like to congratulate everybody and hope that at least we would be able to create a Europe which would not have any borders and which would be the source of prosperity and stability.


Focus on Ivory Coast – Gbagbo vs Ouattara… the Battle is Finally Over …

More than seven months after being the internationally recognised winner of elections, Alassane Outtara has been sworn in as President of Ivory Coast. Conducting Friday’s oath-swearing ceremony was the President of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N’Dre. He oversaw the same inauguration ceremony for Outtara’s opponent, Laurent Gbagbo in November.

Everything separates Ivory Coast rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo’s background was modest, Ouattara’s comfortable. Gbagbo is Catholic, Ouattara is Muslim. Gbagbo plays the anti-colonialist. Critics claim former IMF man Ouattara is too Western. Yet the 1993 death of Ivory Coast’s founding father Felix Houphouet-Boigny brought the rivals together. Houphouet-Boigny had made Ouattara prime minister, while Gbagbo was a bitter enemy. However, both men were now united in opposing a common foe – the president’s successor Henri Konan Bédié. Gbagbo and Ouattara both backed an opposition boycott of the 1995 presidential poll. Bédié was elected. Four years on, they both applauded the military coup that toppled him, led by General Robert Guei. Gbagbo and Ouattara had personal ambitions while insisting this was all about the people’s aspirations. Ouattara was excluded from the 2000 presidential election amid claims he was not 100 per cent Ivorian because his mother was from Burkina Faso. This cleared the way for Laurent Gbagbo who was duly elected. When he foiled an attempted coup d‘état in 2002, the now President Gbagbo was convinced his rival had tried to take revenge. Ouattara has always denied any involvement. 2002 sealed the breakdown between them, once and for all. Their rivalry is even symbolised by their wives. Ouattara’s is French, made money in real estate and is using her fortune to help serve her husband’s ambition. Active in politics herself, Gbagbo’s wife has been seen as a hardliner in his regime. Nevertheless, no one can doubt this ultimate battle has been all about Gbagbo and Ouattara themselves.

I consider that Mr. Ouattara must get special attention in this newsletter especially for his unbreakable will. That is something that all of us need…

You may read more about Ivory Coast here

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