Τετάρτη, 29 Αυγούστου 2012

Λιώνουν ταχύτατα οι πάγοι στην Αρκτική


Του Andrew C. Revkin
International Herald Tribune

Έχει ξεπεράσει κάθε προηγούμενο ρεκόρ η συρρίκνωση των θαλάσσιων πάγων του Αρκτικού Ωκεανού. Οι ειδικοί, που παρακολουθούν το φαινόμενο, πιστεύουν ότι αποτελεί προάγγελο άλλων μεγαλύτερων μεταβολών που θα δούμε στο μέλλον.

Ειδικότερα η έκταση των θαλάσσιων πάγων στον Αρκτικό, πριν από μία εβδομάδα, είχε συρρικνωθεί τόσο ώστε κάλυπτε λιγότερο από το 30% της επιφάνειας του ωκεανού και προσέγγιζε τα 4,10 εκατομμύρια τετραγωνικά χιλιόμετρα.

Ήταν, δηλαδή, μικρότερη κατά 70 χιλιάδες τετραγωνικά χιλιόμετρα από αυτή του προηγούμενου ρεκόρ που καταγράφηκε στις 18 Σεπτεμβρίου του 2007. Ωστόσο, όπως επισημαίνουν οι ειδικοί, η περίοδος που λιώνουν οι πάγοι δεν έχει τελειώσει ακόμα και κατά συνέπεια όταν ολοκληρωθεί, η έκταση που θα καλύπτεται από τους θαλάσσιους πάγους θα είναι πολύ μικρότερη από αυτή του 2007.

Το Εθνικό Κέντρο Χιονιού και Πάγου των ΗΠΑ και η ερευνητική υπηρεσία του Πανεπιστημίου του Κολοράντο ανακοίνωσαν τα ευρήματα και τις μετρήσεις των δορυφόρων την αρχή της εβδομάδας από κοινού με την NASA. Συνολικά οι ερευνητές διαπίστωσαν ότι η ποσότητα θαλάσσιων πάγων στην περιοχή, κατά τη διάρκεια των θερινών μηνών, μειώθηκε περισσότερο από 40% από την εποχή που άρχισαν οι μετρήσεις και τηρούνται αρχεία, δηλαδή, από τις αρχές της δεκαετίας του 1970.

- Τι είναι αυτό που επηρεάζει τόσο αρνητικά την περιοχή; Κατά τους επιστήμονες, η δραματική τήξη των πάγων οφείλεται στην υπερθέρμανση του πλανήτη, συνέπεια της αλόγιστης ανθρώπινης δραστηριότητας και της εκπομπής αερίων που ευθύνονται για το φαινόμενο του θερμοκηπίου. Με την τήξη των θαλάσσιων πάγων βλέπουμε την κλιματική αλλαγή να λαμβάνει σάρκα και οστά μπροστά στα μάτια μας. Οι μέχρι σήμερα επιστημονικές προβλέψεις υποδεικνύουν ότι μελλοντικά, πιθανότατα πριν από το 2050, ο Αρκτικός Ωκεανός δεν θα έχει πάγους το καλοκαίρι. Η φετινή συρρίκνωση των θαλάσσιων πάγων στην πραγματικότητα καθιστά αξιόπιστες τις πιο δυσοίωνες προβλέψεις, που θέλουν την εξαφάνιση των θαλάσσιων πάγων πριν από το τέλος της δεκαετίας.

- Γιατί βλέπουμε σήμερα η τήξη των πάγων να σπάει κάθε προηγούμενο ρεκόρ; Κατά πάσα πιθανότητα συνέβαλε μια ισχυρή θύελλα στις αρχές του μήνα. Ωστόσο, δεν μπορεί να είναι αυτός ο μοναδικός παράγοντας. Αυτό που είναι βέβαιο είναι ότι η ταχύτητα με την οποία λιώνουν οι πάγοι έχει αυξηθεί. Ωστόσο, οι επιστήμονες διστάζουν να προβούν σε προβλέψεις για τις μελλοντικές εξελίξεις, αφού η κατάσταση των θαλάσσιων πάγων είναι ευμετάβλητη εξαιτίας φυσικών παραγόντων που δεν ρυθμίζονται από την ανθρώπινη δραστηριότητα.

- Πόσο ανησυχητικό είναι αυτό που συμβαίνει τώρα; H τήξη των θαλάσσιων πάγων δεν πρόκειται να προκαλέσει σημαντική άνοδο της στάθμης των θαλασσών παγκοσμίως, αφού ήδη ακόμα και με τη στέρεα μορφή τους εκτοπίζουν όγκο ύδατος ίσο με το βάρος τους. Η απότομη αύξηση της θερμοκρασίας στον Αρκτικό, όμως, απειλεί και τους πάγους που καλύπτουν την ξηρά, ιδιαίτερα αυτούς της Γροιλανδίας. Το νερό που θα προέλθει από την τήξη τους είναι ικανό να προκαλέσει αύξηση της στάθμης των υδάτων σε θάλασσες και ωκεανούς.

Η απώλεια των θαλάσσιων πάγων μεταβάλλει εξάλλου τις κλιματικές συνθήκες στην περιοχή, ασκώντας πιέσεις στα οικοσυστήματα και διαβρώνοντας τις ακτογραμμές, που πλέον είναι εντελώς εκτεθειμένες στα ανηλεή κύματα. Από την άλλη η τήξη των θαλάσσιων πάγων θα βοηθήσει στη δημιουργία νέων διαύλων ναυσιπλοΐας και ευκολότερη πρόσβαση σε πετρέλαιο και τον ορυκτό πλούτο.

Η μέση θερμοκρασία στην περιοχή αυξάνεται με διπλάσια ταχύτητα από ό,τι στον υπόλοιπο κόσμο, πρόβλεψη που έγινε για πρώτη φορά το 1896. Κάποιοι επιστήμονες πιστεύουν ότι η τήξη των θαλάσσιων πάγων ήδη επηρεάζει τις μετεωρολογικές συνθήκες στο βόρειο ημισφαίριο, ιδιαίτερα στη ζώνη ήπιου κλίματος και στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες. Η μεταβολή ευνοεί τα ακραία καιρικά φαινόμενα, όπως τους καύσωνες και τις περιόδους μεγάλης ξηρασίας.

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Από το ζενίθ στον... Ναδίρ

Σημερινή| 27/08/2012 | ΤΗΣ ΦΑΝΟΥΛΑΣ ΑΡΓΥΡΟΥ

Ο ΤΟΥΡΚΟΚΥΠΡΙΟΣ Ασίλ Ιρφάν Ναδίρ γεννήθηκε στη Λεύκα την 1η Μαΐου 1941 και αποδήμησε οικογενειακώς στην Αγγλία μετά την Ανεξαρτησία.
Ο Τ/κ αρχισφετεριστής και πώς κατέληξε στη φυλακή ως κλέφτης 
Οι επιχειρηματικές του δραστηριότητες είχαν ως βάση την εκμετάλλευση των ελληνοκυπριακών περιουσιών στα κατεχόμενα. Την περασμένη εβδομάδα καταδικάστηκε σε δεκαετή φυλάκιση για κλοπή χρημάτων από την «Πόλυ Πεκ»
Στις 23 Αυγούστου 2012, ο Ασίλ Ναδίρ καταδικάστηκε από το βρετανικό Κακουργιοδικείο του Λονδίνου σε δέκα χρόνια φυλάκιση. Βρέθηκε ένοχος σε δέκα κατηγορίες κλοπής 29 εκ. στερλινών από την εταιρεία «Πόλυ Πεκ», 61 εκατομμυρίων με τα σημερινά δεδομένα (αν και το ποσό αυτό είναι το ελάχιστο, καθώς η έκταση της κλοπής πλησίαζε τα £150 εκ. και όταν κατέρρευσε η «Πόλυ Πεκ» τον Οκτώβριο του 1990, άφησε χρέη £550 εκ.). 
Ο δικαστής Mr Justice Holroyde, εκδίδοντας την απόφασή του, είπε ότι ο Ναδίρ θα μπορεί να αφεθεί ελεύθερος με περιορισμούς μετά τα πέντε χρόνια. Το κύριο αποτέλεσμα για μας, όμως, είναι ότι ο Ασίλ Ναδίρ καταδικάστηκε τελικά από βρετανικό δικαστήριο ως κλέφτης.
Και αυτό οφείλεται στις προσπάθειες του Serious Fraud Office της Αγγλίας, το οποίο παρόλες τις δυσκολίες και αντιξοότητες και πολιτικές προφανώς επεμβάσεις υπέρ του Ναδίρ, κατόρθωσε μετά από δύο δεκαετίες να τον παρουσιάσει ενώπιον της Δικαιοσύνης και να καταδικαστεί ως κλέφτης, όπως του αξίζει. 

Ποιος είναι

Ο Τ/κ Ασίλ Ιρφάν Ναδίρ γεννήθηκε στη Λεύκα την 1η Μαΐου 1941 και αποδήμησε οικογενειακώς στην Αγγλία μετά την Ανεξαρτησία. Ξεκίνησε με τις επιχειρήσεις φορεμάτων και το 1964 ίδρυσε την εταιρία Wearall Plc. Το 1973 την μετέτρεψε σε δημόσια και μπήκε στο Βρετανικό Χρηματιστήριο. Το 1980 εξασφάλισε πλειοψηφία μετοχών σε μια μικρή εταιρεία ονόματι «Polly Peck», για να την xρησιμοποιήσει για συναλλαγές με τα κατεχόμενα, και ταυτόχρονα ξεκίνησε και την Uni-Pac Plc στα κατεχόμενα, που κατασκεύαζε χαρτοκιβώτια για «εξαγωγή» των κλεμμένων μας εσπεριδοειδών στην Τουρκία.
Το 1989 η «Πόλυ Πεκ» αγόρασε την εταιρεία φρέσκων φρούτων Ντε Μόντε και το 51% των μετοχών της ιαπωνικής Sansui Electric. Σε χρόνο ρεκόρ η Π.Π. έδειξε υπέρογκα κέρδη και έφθασε στην κορυφή του Βρετανικού Χρηματιστηρίου, με αποτέλεσμα και κάποιοι Ελληνοκύπριοι να τρέχουν να αγοράζουν μετοχές της. Το 1986 αγόρασε το 76% των μετοχών της αμερικανικής Santana Inc., και μεγάλο μερίδιο στην Intercity Plc και άρχισε επενδύσεις (βιομηχανία ενδυμάτων) προς τη Μέση Ανατολή...
Ο βίος και η πολιτεία του
Παράλληλα, άρχισε να χρηματοδοτεί αδρά το Συντηρητικό Κόμμα της Βρετανίας και ανέπτυξε στενές σχέσεις με υψηλά ιστάμενους στη βρετανική πολιτική ζωή. Αν και το ποσό χρηματοδότησης που αναφέρθηκε ήταν £440.000, εντούτοις γράφτηκε ότι αυτό ξεπερνούσε το εκατομμύριο... Στις 28 Σεπτεμβρίου 1991, η εφημερίδα «Guardian» δημοσίευσε πρωτοσέλιδα επιστολή της κας Μάργκαρετ Θάτσερ προς τον Ναδίρ, ημ/νίας 14 Ιουλίου 1987, με την οποίαν του εξέφρασε πόσο ευγνώμονες του ήταν για τη βοήθειά του, δίχως την οποία δεν θα εξασφάλιζαν την 3η θητεία.
Όμως, από το 1990 άρχισαν οι έρευνες για τις δραστηριότητες του Ναδίρ στα κατεχόμενα και τη διοχέτευση εκεί εκατομμυρίων λιρών από την Π.Π.
Στις 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 1990, το Τμήμα Σοβαρών Παραπτωμάτων (Serious Fraud Office) έκανε έφοδο στην εταιρεία του Ναδίρ, South Audley Management, η οποία ήταν η διαχειρίστρια εταιρεία των προσωπικών και οικογενειακών εταιρειών του, και του προσήχθησαν τελικά 66 κατηγορίες για κλοπή. Δεν παρουσιάστηκε στη δίκη το 1993. Δραπέτευσε τον Μάιο 1993 και βρέθηκε στα κατεχόμενα.
Η βοηθός του στην εταιρεία South Audley Management, Elizabeth Forsyth, βρισκόταν στα κατεχόμενα όταν έγινε η έφοδος και έμεινε εκεί μέχρι τον Σεπτέμβριο του 1994, όταν αποφάσισε και επέστρεψε για να «ξεκαθαρίσει» το όνομά της. Κατηγορήθηκε για ξέπλυμα βρόμικου χρήματος αξίας £400.000, κλεμμένα από την «Πόλυ Πέκ», καταδικάστηκε για πέντε χρόνια φυλάκιση, αλλά 10 μήνες αργότερα στην έφεσή της, αποσύρθηκαν όλες οι κατηγορίες εναντίον της και αργότερα πήρε και από πάνω κάπου £100.000 αποζημίωση.
Ο δε πιλότος που βοήθησε τον Ναδίρ να διαφύγει με μικρό ιδιωτικό αεροπλάνο, Peter Dimond, ο οποίος επίσης κατέληξε στα κατεχόμενα για λίγα χρόνια μέχρι να επιστρέψει και αυτός να «ξεκαθαρίσει το όνομά του», καταδικάστηκε τον Αύγουστο του 1998 σε δύο χρόνια φυλάκιση, αλλά αφέθη ελεύθερος από το Εφετείο τον Ιανουάριο του 1999... Στη δίκη του πιλότου παρευρέθη και ο παραιτηθείς, τότε, με το σκάνδαλο Ναδίρ-«Πόλυ Πεκ», Υπουργός Βορείου Ιρλανδίας, Michael Mates, ο οποίος, όπως λέχθηκε το 1993, είχε πληρωθεί από τον Ναδίρ για να υποβάλει ερωτήσεις στη Βουλή των Κοινοτήτων, με αποτέλεσμα να αναγκαστεί σε παραίτηση. Το 2010 αποφάσισε και ο Ναδίρ να επιστρέψει να «ξεκαθαρίσει» και αυτός τ' ονομά του. 

Αρχαιοκαπηλία 

ΣΤΙΣ 28 Σεπτεμβρίου 1990, Βρετανός, με πολύχρονη υπηρεσία στις εταιρείες του Ναδίρ (όπως έγραψε), έστειλε μυστική ενημερωτική επιστολή προς τη Σκότλαντ Γιάρντ με αντίγραφο στο Αρχηγείο της Κυπριακής Αστυνομίας, καταγγέλλοντας διάφορες δραστηριότητες του Ναδίρ, οι οποίες συμπεριελάμβαναν και αρχαιοκαπηλία, δηλώνοντας ότι ήθελε να παραμείνει ανώνυμος, φοβούμενος για τη ζωή του. Έγραψε ο εν λόγω πληροφοριοδότης (σχετικό δημοσίευμα στη «Σημερινή», Σεπτέμβριος 1990):
«Την Τετάρτη, 22 Μαΐου 1985, ο Ναδίρ μέσω στενού του συνεργάτη (γνωστού μόνο με τον κ. Dee ή “D”) πώλησε ιδιωτικά στη Γενεύη βυζαντινούς θησαυρούς, παλαιές εκκλησιαστικές εικόνες και μωσαϊκά από τη βόρεια Κύπρο. Ο Ναδίρ μέσω του κ. Ντι πήρε δύο πληρωμές, μία σε μετρητά αμερικανικών δολαρίων 875.000 και μια τραπεζική επιταγή για 1.45 εκ. γερμανικά μάρκα - η τελευταία κατατέθηκε σε λογαριασμό σε τουρκική τράπεζα, δικαιούχος της οποίας ήταν μια ιθύνουσα εταιρεία του Ναδίρ - πιθανόν η South Audley Management και τα μετρητά στην Ελβετική Τράπεζα Πίστεως της Ζυρίχης (Credit Suisse Bank), σε μυστικό αριθμό, ο οποίος απλώς αναφερόταν σαν “Λογαριασμός RF”.
»Την 20ή Δεκεμβρίου 1985… ο τότε στενός οικονομικός διαχειριστής του Ναδίρ αποκάλυψε σε δύο στενούς βοηθούς του ότι ο λεγόμενος λογαριασμός “RF” ανήκε σε κάποιον Ραούφ Ντενκτάς και ότι το τρεχούμενο υπόλοιπο του λογαριασμού ήταν πάνω από 11 εκ. δολάρια. Η πληροφορία διέρρευσε σε άλλους υπαλλήλους… έξαλλος ο Ναδίρ απέλυσε μερικούς υπαλλήλους…».
1983: «Από εμπόριο όπλων τα εκατομμύρια Ναδίρ»
ΗΤΑΝ ΑΠΛΩΣ Η «ΑΣΠΙΔΑ» ΤΑ ΔΙΚΑ ΜΑΣ ΠΟΡΤΟΚΑΛΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΛΕΜΟΝΙΑ 

ΚΑΠΟΙΟΙ υψηλά ιστάμενοι στο Λονδίνο γνώριζαν αρκετά καλά τι σήμαινε το «φαινόμενο Ναδίρ-Πόλυ Πέκ». Γνώριζαν πως τα υπέρογκα κέρδη που ξαφνικά παρουσίαζε η «Πόλυ Πεκ» δεν ερχόντουσαν μόνο από τα πορτοκάλια και τα λεμόνια μας από την κατεχόμενη Κύπρο, αλλά αυτά χρησιμοποιήθηκαν ως ασπίδα, αφενός για την αιμοδότηση του ψευδοκράτους και, αφετέρου, για άλλα συμφέροντα.
Μήπως είναι τυχαίο που όλη αυτή η ξαφνική αυτοκρατορία προέκυψε ταυτόχρονα με τον πόλεμο μεταξύ Ιράν και Ιράκ; Και, παραδόξως, με τη λήξη του πολέμου το 1989 άρχισε να έρχεται και η κρίση; Τον Μάιο του 1993 ξεκίνησε στο βρετανικό Κοινοβούλιο μια έρευνα από επιτροπή με πρόεδρο τον δικαστή Scott, και η οποία απαρτιζόταν από βουλευτές όλων των κομμάτων, για την εμπορία όπλων προς το Ιράν και το Ιράκ. Το όνομα του Ναδίρ εμφανιζόταν επανειλημμένα σ' εκείνη την έρευνα. Ο Ναδίρ παρουσιαζόταν στα έγγραφα όχι μόνον ως μεσάζων στην εμπορία όπλων, αλλά και ως αγοραστής. Έγραψε στις 4.6.1993 ο «Παροικιακός Τύπος» Λονδίνου, με τίτλο «Από εμπόριο όπλων τα εκατομμύρια Ναδίρ»:
«…Την άνοιξη του 1983, ο Ναδίρ υπέγραψε συμφωνία με την εταιρεία Racal Plc για την ανέγερση εργοστασίου ηλεκτρονικών αμυντικών συστημάτων στην Τουρκία. Τον ίδιο χρόνο, ο Ναδίρ υπέγραψε παρόμοια συμφωνία με την εταιρεία Thorn EMI - μια εταιρεία που κατασκευάζει αμυντικούς εξοπλισμούς - δήθεν για κατασκευή τηλεοράσεων. Στην έρευνα Σκοτ έχει ήδη κατατεθεί σχετική μαρτυρία ότι το πολεμικό σύστημα επικοινωνίας του Σαντάμ Χουσεΐν προμήθευσε η Thorn EMI… Τα πρώτα εκατομμύρια προήλθαν φυσικά από την εκμετάλλευση των περιουσιών, που οι Έλληνες πρόσφυγες αναγκάστηκαν να εγκαταλείψουν...».
ΦΑΝΟΥΛΑ ΑΡΓΥΡΟΥ
Ερευνήτρια, δημοσιογράφος 
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The Revenge of Kaplan's Maps

Robert D. KaplanThe Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate [4] (New York: Random House, 2012), 432 pp., $28.00.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin has a problem. The land power he leads lies vulnerable to invasion. The unremitting grassy steppes of his nation, extending from Europe all the way to the Far East, with hardly a mountain range or seashore or major forest to hinder encroachment by army or horde, has fostered a national obsession with the need to control territory as a hedge against incursion. Putin shares this obsession, as indeed he must as leader of this inherently exposed country.
This fixation is hardly new. It was shared by the very first Russians, the Kievan Rus, beginning in the ninth century—until they were overrun in the mid-thirteenth century by Mongol hordes under Batu Khan, Genghis’s grandson. It was shared by medieval Muscovy, domain of that pitiless imperialist Ivan the Terrible and his successor, Boris Godunov—until it too succumbed to invading Swedes, Poles, Lithuanians and Cossacks in the early seventeenth century. It was shared by the Romanov dynasty during its three-hundred-year reign marked by one of the greatest land conquests in world history—until it also crumbled amid an awesome territorial contraction after World War I. It was even shared by the succeeding Bolsheviks, who turned out to be the greatest imperialists of all—until they saw their empire disintegrate and Russia shrink to its smallest dimension since before the emergence of Catherine the Great in the mid-eighteenth century.
It is little wonder that Putin should obsess over his nation’s territorial dominion. Yet many in the West argue he should resist such flights of national nostalgia, accept without protest the West’s eastward expansion and concentrate on improving his governmental structures so they could become more like those of the West.
You don’t get such sentiments from Robert D. Kaplan, the world-traveling reporter and intellectual whose fourteen books constitute a bedrock of penetrating exposition and analysis on the post–Cold War world. In this latest volume he strips away much of the cant that suffuses public discourse these days on global developments and gets to a fundamental reality: that geography remains today, as it has been throughout history, one of the most powerful drivers of world events.
“Geography,” writes Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, “is the backdrop to human history itself. . . . A state’s position on the map is the first thing that defines it, more than its governing philosophy even.” Indeed, Kaplan suggests that a state’s geographic position often influences its governing philosophy. He quotes historian G. Patrick March as saying Russia’s territorial vulnerability has spawned in that country a “greater tolerance for tyranny.” Britain, on the other hand, writes Kaplan, “secure in its borders, with an oceanic orientation, could develop a democratic system ahead of its neighbors.”
Kaplan has no illusions about the controversy his unsentimental realism will generate. “Maps,” he writes, “are a rebuke to the very notions of the equality and unity of humankind, since they remind us of all the different environments of the earth that make men profoundly unequal and disunited in so many ways, leading to conflict, on which realism almost exclusively dwells.”
Indeed, even before publication, his book stirred an angry response in Publishers Weekly, whose thumbnail reviews sometimes seem as if they are crafted to enforce humanist thinking. The anonymous reviewer called Kaplan’s book an “overwrought map exercise” consisting mainly of “diverting but feckless snippets of history, cultural lore, and economics” as well as “a jumble of empty rotational metaphors.” Kaplan’s “pitiless ‘realism,’” writes the reviewer, amounts to “an unconvincing reprise of an obsolete worldview.”
Kaplan himself, with far more balance and perspective than his agitated critic, identifies the wellspring of such vituperation. The end of the Cold War, he writes, blinded Western thinkers to many harsh realities of the world. He elaborates:
For suddenly we were in a world in which the dismantling of a man-made boundary in Germany had led to the assumption that all human divisions were surmountable; that democracy would conquer Africa and the Middle East as easily as it had Eastern Europe; that globalization—soon to become a buzzword—was nothing less than a moral direction of history and a system of international security, rather than what it actually was, merely an economic and cultural stage of development.
Thus, the very term “realism” became a pejorative as American universalism embraced the U.S. military as “the hidden hand that allowed universalist ideas to matter so much more than terrain and the historical experience of people living on it.” The great historical lesson became “Munich”—the imperative that evil around the world must be nipped in the bud before it sprang up, Hitler-like, to threaten global stability and wreak havoc on innocents. This sensibility led first to America’s involvement in the Balkans in the 1990s, then to its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But U.S. difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, writes Kaplan, spawned an intellectual counterforce, reflected in the reemergence of the “Vietnam” analogy—the idea that ethnic and sectarian hatreds around the world, far from mere obstacles in the nation’s missionary calling, are warnings that American adventures abroad can be a loser’s game. Iraq, in Kaplan’s view, “undermined a key element in the mind-set of some: that the projection of American power always had a moral result.”
And so we have a powerful debate between the devotees of Munich and those of Vietnam. Kaplan presents his book as an effort to find a balance between the two. He writes, “Vietnam is about limits; Munich about overcoming them.” Each analogy, he adds, can be dangerous on its own:
It is only when both are given equal measure that the right policy has the best chance to emerge. For wise policymakers, while aware of their nation’s limitations, know that the art of statesmanship is about working as close to the edge as possible, without stepping over the brink.
For Kaplan, geography offers guidance for understanding the swirl of pressures, forces, passions and interests that direct the course of human events—and thus for understanding also the proximate location of that brink. To plumb those lessons, he offers an intellectual travelogue through the works of the great geopolitical thinkers of the last century, when such analysis was considered a worthy element of discourse, not to be dismissed reactively with the intolerance of today’s Publishers Weekly.
Thus does Kaplan quote Nicholas J. Spykman, the great Dutch American strategist of the early World War II era, as noting that much changed for the United States between George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt, “but the Atlantic continues to separate Europe from the United States and the ports of the St. Lawrence River are still blocked by winter ice.” Alexander I and Joseph Stalin ruled Russia in far different eras, but both shared an “endless struggle for access to the sea.” France’s Georges Clemenceau and Andre Maginot, some two thousand years after Caesar’s Gallic adventures, shared his “anxiety over the open German frontier.”
Kaplan adds that it wasn’t merely two oceans that gave America the luxury of its idealism; “it was also that these two oceans gave America direct access to the two principal arteries of politics and commerce in the world: Europe across the Atlantic and East Asia across the Pacific.” That goes a long way toward explaining America’s rise upon the global scene. And it’s not only Russia that sees danger in open, unprotected land borders, for Germany “faces both east and west with no mountain ranges to protect it, providing it with pathologies from militarism to nascent pacifism, so as to cope with its dangerous location.” Though Britain’s island identity gave it a certain protection from invasion, its location so near the Continent posed sufficient danger that it developed “a particular strategic concern over the span of the centuries with the politics of France and the Low Countries on the opposite shore of the English Channel and the North Sea.”
Such examples abound in the book. Kaplan quotes British writer Freya Stark as noting that Egypt from its first stirrings lay “parallel and peaceful to the routes of human traffic,” and was thus well positioned to develop a high degree of civilization. Mesopotamia, by contrast, was always “right-angled and obnoxious to the predestined paths of man.” Unprotected by any natural barriers, it found itself forever subject to the woes of plunder. Indeed, Kaplan even speculates that Mesopotamia’s modern tendency toward tyranny could be “geographically determined.” Every Iraqi dictator going back to the 1950s, he writes, “had to be more repressive than the previous one in order to hold together a state with no natural borders composed of Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Arabs, seething with a well-articulated degree of ethnic and sectarian consciousness.”
KAPLAN CONCEDES that his emphasis on geography could pull him into the kind of determinist thinking that Isaiah Berlin rejected in his famous 1954 essay, “Historical Inevitability.” Kaplan opts for what French philosopher Raymond Aron called a “sober ethic rooted in the truth of ‘probabilistic determinism.’” Says Kaplan: “The key word is ‘probabilistic,’ that is, in now concentrating on geography we adhere to a partial or hesitant determinism which recognizes obvious differences between groups and terrain, but does not oversimplify, and leaves many possibilities open.” He cites the wisdom of America’s liberal interventionists who intuited geographic reality in supporting U.S. involvement in the Balkans but opposing it in Iraq:
Whereas the former Yugoslavia lay at the most advanced, western extremity of the former Ottoman Empire, adjacent to Central Europe, Mesopotamia lay at its most chaotic, eastern reaches. And because that fact has affected political development up through the present, intervention in Iraq would prove to be a stretch.
With that in mind, he plunges into his subject with enthusiasm and élan, first expounding on the great geopolitical realities of the globe and then seeking to apply them to particular regions and nations of our time. He politely warns: “The men I am about to introduce should make liberal humanists profoundly uneasy.”
A key introduction is to Halford Mackinder, father of modern geopolitics and author of an influential 1904 article entitled “The Geographical Pivot of History.” Using geography as a kind of surveyor’s transit level, he peered deep into the future, seeing what few at the time could even envision. He wrote:
When historians in the remote future come to look back on the group of centuries through which we are now passing, and see them fore-shortened, as we to-day see the Egyptian dynasties, it may well be that they will describe the last 400 years as the Columbian epoch, and will say that it ended soon after the year 1900.
Before that Columbian epoch, he explained, Europe was “pent into a narrow region and threatened by external barbarism.” But then Europe burst forth across the seas and conquered other continents, facing “negligible resistances.” Thus did the West become the dominant force upon the globe. But by Mackinder’s day that age of expansion had come to an end, and the West faced a “closed political system,” only this time one of “world-wide scope.” With no more room for European expansion, European wars now would unfold on a global scale, wrote Mackinder, essentially predicting World Wars I and II as well as Europe’s decline as the world’s preeminent civilization.
And with that development the world once again would be subject to Mackinder’s “Eurasia pivot theory”—the view that the world’s key geographic location was Eurasia, whence for centuries most of the threats emerged not just to Europe but also to Russia, Turkey, Iran, India, China and the northern reaches of the Arab Middle East. He was talking about not just the Mongols but also the Turks. His question: Who would be the modern Mongols or Turkish invaders? His answer: the Russians. As he said:
As we consider this rapid review of the broader currents of history, does not a certain persistence of geographical relationship become evident? Is not the pivot region of the world’s politics that vast area of Euro-Asia which is inaccessible to ships, but in antiquity lay open to the horse-riding nomads, and is to-day about to be covered with a network of railways?
Kaplan adds that, just as the Mongols had threatened and often conquered the outlying regions of Eurasia—Finland, Poland, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India and China—“so, too, now would Russia, sustained by the cohesiveness of its landmass, won by the recent development of its railways.” Thus, Mackinder predicted not only Europe’s decline and the world wars but also the outlines of the Cold War. As Kaplan explains, “Forget the czars and in 1904 the commissars-yet-to-be, they are but trivia compared to the deeper, tectonic forces of geography and technology.”
Mackinder saw the core of Eurasia as the global “Heartland” (roughly the lands encompassed by the postwar Soviet empire), with Eastern Europe as its pivot. And here’s where Kaplan brings in the Dutch American Spykman—born in 1893 in Amsterdam; widely traveled foreign correspondent; then a professor at Yale, where in 1935 he founded the Institute of International Studies. To Mackinder’s Heartland concept Spykman added the idea of the surrounding “Rimland”—Europe, the Middle East, India and China. Control of the Heartland positioned any power to take all or parts of the Rimland. Control of both the Heartland and Rimland positioned a power to go after what Mackinder called the “World-Island” of Eurasia and Africa. Control of the World-Island positioned a power to dominate the globe.
This may sound outlandish, but consider the drama of the twentieth century, which unfolded after Mackinder had fashioned his geopolitical paradigm and, in fashioning it, presaged the outlines of that drama. Germany conquered Poland, from which it promptly sought to conquer the Soviet Heartland. Had Hitler succeeded, he would have positioned himself to take huge elements of Spykman’s Rimland beyond all of continental Europe, which he already had conquered. Certainly the Middle East would have come under his domain and probably India. But the remaining forces of the West—Britain and the United States—mustered all their power to prevent this, understanding as they did that German conquest of the Heartland and Rimland would have given Hitler the ball game.
In defeating Germany with Soviet help, Britain and America ceded to Stalin full control of the Heartland, from which he promptly threatened Europe. It was a near thing, but Stalin failed in his ambition of European conquest, whereupon he sought to destabilize Western positions elsewhere in the Rimland. The West’s “containment” policy, writes Kaplan, was a defense of the Rimland as the great Heartland power probed and tested in Europe, South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Says Kaplan: “The defense of Western Europe, Israel, moderate Arab states, the shah’s Iran and the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam all carried the notion of preventing a communist empire from extending control from the Heartland to the Rimland.” As Henry Kissinger put it in 1957, “Limited war represents the only means for preventing the Soviet bloc, at an acceptable cost, from overrunning the peripheral areas of Eurasia.”
It isn’t surprising that America’s most stalwart Cold War hawks—columnist Joseph Alsop, for example, or the conservative geopolitical analyst James Burnham—viewed that great confrontation in Mackinderian terms and tended toward pessimism about the West’s fate. In a 1947 speech at Harvard, Alsop bemoaned the West’s “sickness of the soul—a loss of certainty—a failure of assurance.” He added, “We may in the end be defeated. . . . But it is better to be defeated after a hard struggle than simply to give in and die anyway.”
His pessimism was misplaced, but his understanding of the struggle was spot on. And with the West’s epic Cold War victory, the Heartland no longer posed a threat because Russia no longer dominated it sufficiently to do so. But, while the lines on the map may change, the contours don’t, and thus Kaplan bundles up the Mackinder thesis, which proved so potent in predicting events of the twentieth century, and applies it to the twenty-first century.
In predicting in 1904 that Russia would threaten Europe in the twentieth century, Mackinder advocated the emergence of buffer states between the two powers that could serve as a kind of geographic protection (he was, first and foremost, an advocate of balance of power). And such a buffer zone did in fact emerge after the collapse of the latest Russian empire. This could help stabilize that ancient fault line between the Russian Heartland and the European Rimland; it might even foster the emergence of a Central European entity—Mitteleuropa—with Germany at its core. Still, geopolitics offers no guarantees. Kaplan writes:
But what if, according to Mackinder, Europe’s destiny is still subordinate to Asiatic history, in the form of a resurgent Russia? Then there might be a threat. For what drove the Soviet Union to carve out an empire in Eastern Europe . . . still holds today: a legacy of depredations against Russia by Lithuanians, Poles, Swedes, Frenchmen, and Germans, leading to the need for a cordon sanitaire of compliant regimes in the space between historic Russia and Central Europe.
Meanwhile, the very richness of Europe’s geography—the multiplicity of seas, harbors, peninsulas, rivers and mountains, which have spawned in turn a multiplicity of language groups and nation-states—will foster ongoing disunity, despite all the pan-European structures instituted to pull the Continent together. As Kaplan writes, “Europe, the map suggests, has a significant future in the headlines.”
As for Russia, Kaplan sees clearly that Putin’s “low-dose authoritarianism” is a rejection of the “cold turkey experiment with Western democracy and market capitalism” that proved so devastating in the 1990s, following the communist collapse. In that sense, it resembles Lenin’s rejection of Western ways after the Russian Revolution. But while Russia’s relief map spreads across Asia, its population map favors Europe. As Kaplan points out, “The ancien régime, with its heavily German czardom, its French-speaking nobles, and bourgeois parliament in the European capital of St. Petersburg, was oriented westward, even if the peasantry was not so.”
A western orientation is crucial for Putin if he wishes to restore his nation to an earlier glory and protect his nation from the kinds of incursions it has suffered since the Mongol arrival in the thirteenth century. The key is Ukraine. As former national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has pointed out, without Ukraine, Russia can still be an empire, but a “predominantly Asian” one, focused on the Caucasus and Central Asia. Kaplan elaborates: “But with Ukraine back under Russian domination, Russia adds 46 million people to its own western-oriented demography, and suddenly challenges Europe, even as it is integrated into it.” This drama, spawned by geography and the imperatives of nationalism, will play out in coming decades just as it has through past centuries.
IN THE meantime, the world must grapple with a resurgent China, a geographically compact and densely populated expanse of real estate that faces the same steppe-land danger as Russia but from the opposite direction. Its geographic imperative throughout history has been to dominate the dry uplands “bordering it on three sides, from Manchuria counterclockwise around to Tibet”—the area through which it has faced a centuries-long threat from the hordes of the steppe. Thus today’s China must subdue the Tibetans, Uighur Turks and Inner Mongolians before it can contemplate any expansive foreign policy.
At present China has those crucial regions under control, which is why it is pursuing maritime ambitions. “Merely by going to sea in the manner that it is,” writes Kaplan, “China demonstrates its favorable position on the land in the heart of Asia.” Yet unlike Russia, China is seeking to extend its territorial influence “much more through commerce than coercion.”
Does this mean the United States can avoid military conflicts with China as the Asian power seeks to expand its naval influence in regions that America now dominates? Kaplan seems ambivalent about this. At one point he writes, “The possibility of a war between the United States and China is extremely remote.” But he also suggests that, if China’s economy keeps growing as it has, it “could constitute more embryonic power than any adversary the United States faced during the twentieth century.” He adds that the concept of “off-shore balancing”—marshaling other regional nations into networks of alliances designed to check Chinese power—“may not be completely sufficient.”
Averting war, suggests Kaplan, may require the United States to adjust its naval ambitions in East Asia and accept Chinese dominance over what it defiantly calls the “First Island Chain,” which encompasses Japan, the Ryukyu Islands, parts of the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. This may be a tall order for the United States, but it may become inevitable as America sees its navy decline to 250 ships from the current 280 (and 556 in 1988, at the end of the Reagan presidency). Kaplan cites a RAND Corporation study indicating the United States will be unable to defend Taiwan against China by 2020, and loss of Taiwan—that “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” in the words of General Douglas MacArthur—would probably cede to China full dominance over that First Island Chain.
But America can maintain a powerful Pacific presence beyond that island chain and also could bolster its position in the Indian Ocean, which is rapidly emerging as the “vascular center of the world economy, with oil and natural gas transported across its width from the Middle East to the burgeoning middle classes of East Asia.” Meanwhile, a greater China will emerge in Central and East Asia as well as in the western Pacific, with a big naval presence in the East and South China Seas as well as port-building projects and arms transfers on the Indian Ocean littoral. Says Kaplan: “Only substantial political and economic turmoil inside China could alter this trend.”
KAPLAN’S OBSERVATIONS on Iran are particularly piquant. He sees the descendants of Persia as having a potent “locational advantage”—just to the south of Mackinder’s Heartland, inside Spykman’s Rimland, pivotal not just to shipping lanes from the Persian Gulf but also to pipelines from the Caspian region to the Mediterranean, Black Sea, China and the Indian Ocean. Thus, Iran straddles both major energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian region.
The other advantage is one of identity, given that Iran corresponds almost completely with the Iranian plateau and has a cultural consciousness that stretches back into ancient times. “Iran was the ancient world’s first superpower,” says Kaplan, adding it always has leveraged its geographic position as the Middle East’s “very own universal joint.” Though smaller than India, China, Russia or Europe, Iran, “because it is in possession of the key geography of the Middle East—in terms of location, population, and energy resources—is, therefore, fundamental to global geopolitics.”
Perhaps more interesting is Kaplan’s respect for the culture and political sensibility seen in Iran over the centuries—and even today, notwithstanding that many in the West are whipping up a resolve for war with Iran, seen widely as mindlessly radical, to thwart it from building a nuclear-weapons capacity. He laments the rise of the ayatollahs and the violence it has done to “the voluptuous, sophisticated, and intellectually stimulating traditions” of Iran’s history. But he adds:
The truth is . . . everything about the Iranian past and present is of a high quality, whether it is the dynamism of its empires . . . or the political thought and writings of its Shiite clergy; or the complex efficiency of the bureaucracy and security services in cracking down on dissidents.
He notes that even the country’s revolutionary order constitutes “a richly developed governmental structure” with a diffusion of power centers and an ongoing aversion to the kind of “one-man thugocracy” seen until recently in neighboring Iraq.
But Iran is held back from exercising the kind of influence that, given its pivotal location and the power of its cultural tradition, would normally be its legacy—and has been in many eras of the past. Its problem is the “persistence of its suffocating clerical rule,” which has “dulled the linguistic and cosmopolitan appeal that throughout history has accounted for a Greater Iran in a cultural sense.” He adds, on the other hand, that a democratic or quasi-democratic Iran, “precisely because of the geographical power of the Iranian state, has the possibility to energize hundreds of millions of fellow Muslims in both the Arab world and Central Asia.” Such an Iran seems inevitable in the eyes of Kaplan, who writes that the tyranny of the current regime “both limits its power and signals its downfall.”
AS FOR the United States, Kaplan brings to bear his realist sensibility in noting that its geographic location renders it all but impregnable except from one direction—its border with Mexico. “Here is the one area where America’s national and imperial boundaries are in some tension: where the coherence of America as a geographically cohesive unit can be questioned.”
The historical borderland between the two countries not only is broad and indistinct but also separates two nations that, as Stanford’s David Kennedy has noted, have the widest income gap of any two contiguous countries in the world. Kaplan shows respect for the late Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard, who warned about the threat to America’s cultural essence from the massive immigration flows from Mexico and other Latin American countries. But ultimately Kaplan rejects Huntington’s outlook and adopts a stance that declares the border meaningless in the face of this demographic wave. He suggests Americans should simply relax and accept it.
To those agitated about the porous border and the influx of illegals, Kaplan offers the vision of a new nation:
America, I believe, will actually emerge in the course of the twenty-first century as a Polynesian-cum-mestizo civilization, oriented from north-to-south, from Canada to Mexico, rather than as an east-to-west, racially lighter-skinned island in the temperate zone stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This multiracial assemblage will be one of sprawling suburban city-states, each in a visual sense progressively similar to the other, whether Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest or Omaha-Lincoln in Nebraska, each nurturing its own economic relationships with cities and trading networks throughout the world, as technology continues to collapse distances.
Here we come to the book’s underlying weakness—its de-emphasis on the role of culture, intertwined with geography, in driving history. Perhaps the border challenge will, as Kaplan avers, be resolved through the eradication of the border itself and a slow, peaceful intermingling of peoples until a new mestizo race quietly emerges to supplant the old. That process certainly is in progress. But it seems just naive—and contrary to much of the history outlined in Kaplan’s book—to suggest such a profound transformation will occur without attendant disruption, friction and violence. George Friedman, Kaplan’s new boss at Stratfor, more realistically spins out a scenario that envisions potent internal tensions in America over the border, secessionist movements in the country’s Southwest, mounting frictions between the United States and Mexico, and growing prospects of war. Friedman writes in The Next 100 Years that in this scenario, the “U.S. border with Mexico will now run through Mexico itself; its real, social border will be hundreds of miles north of the legal border.” Thus, he adds, the major question facing the United States will revert to the one it had to address at its founding: “What should be the capital of North America—Washington or Mexico City?” If that indeed becomes the question, the answer won’t emerge peacefully.
Kaplan brushes aside the cultural interpretations of such thinkers as Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee and Huntington in his enthusiasm for the role of climate and geography in shaping civilizations. He quotes University of Chicago historian William H. McNeill as noting that the Aryans developed a less warlike culture in India’s Gangetic plain than they did in Mediterranean Europe because the subcontinent’s forests and monsoonal cycle encouraged meditation and religious knowledge. No doubt there was such a correlation. But cultural sensibilities emerge from far stronger influences than climate or geography, and many were shared alike by Indian and Mediterranean Aryans.
Kaplan quotes a Stratfor document as noting that the U.S. Atlantic coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined and thus “the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.” This is fatuous on its face. It suggests the Anglo-Saxon and Spanish experiences in the New World would have been reversed had the Spaniards colonized the northern lands and left the southern regions to the English. This ignores the utterly different approaches to colonization adopted by the two peoples, reflected in their different sensibilities and approaches, all wrapped up in culture. The Anglo-Saxons were more successful because they came to build; the Spaniards came to conquer. The geography of Mexico didn’t turn them into conquistadors; rather it lured them because of who they were.
Or consider the different birthrates that fostered the Anglo-Saxon dominance over the Spanish as English Americans spread out over lands that Mexico couldn’t dominate for lack of sufficient population. Was this a product of geography or culture? If the former, how does a geographical determinist explain the reversal in birthrate differentials that has occurred in recent decades? Geography remained the same, while cultural attitudes and mores changed.
No, the role of culture—and particularly the stages of cultural development explored by Spengler and Toynbee—should not be de-emphasized unduly lest the historian miss the full richness in the story of mankind. Still, there’s plenty of richness to be found simply in the stark and powerful role that geography has played in shaping the political outlooks, and particularly the foreign-policy initiatives, of nations and peoples through world history. And no recent thinker has explored that role with the kind of depth, range, acuity and vibrancy that Kaplan brings to this consequential topic. This is one of those rare books that can change forever how one reads, probes and seeks to understand history.
Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His most recent book is Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians [5] (Simon & Schuster, 2012).
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Συγκρούσεις και τραυματίες σε καταυλισμό προσφύγων από τη Συρία

Δεκάδες άνθρωποι τραυματίστηκαν το βράδυ της Τρίτης, σε συγκρούσεις που ξέσπασαν μεταξύ Σύρων προσφύγων και των δυνάμεων ασφαλείας της Ιορδανίας, στο τελευταίο από μια σειρά επεισόδια που αυξάνουν την ένταση στα κέντρα κράτησης προσφύγων.
Για τρίτη φορά μέσα σε λιγότερο από μία εβδομάδα, ο καταυλισμός Ζαατάρι, έγινε κέντρο ταραχών, καθώς οι πρόσφυγες διαμαρτύρονται για τις εκεί συνθήκες διαβίωσης.
Σύμφωνα με τους αυτόπτες μάρτυρες τουλάχιστον 40 Σύροι πρόσφυγες τραυματίστηκαν.
Οι πρόσφυγες ανέφεραν ότι τα επεισόδια ξέσπασαν όταν οι δυνάμεις ασφαλείας επιχείρησαν να διαλύσουν μια ειρηνική διαδήλωση, που πραγματοποιούσαν όσοι διαμένουν στο καταυλισμό σε συνθήκες «αφόρητες» όπως τις χαρακτηρίζουν.
«Πάνω από 300 άτομα οργάνωσαν μια ειρηνική πορεία εντός του καταυλισμού και οι δυνάμεις ασφαλείς έκαναν χρήση βίας», είπε ο Αμπού Μοχάμεντ Σαΐντ, ένας 42χρονος πρόσφυγας, από την πόλη Νταράα της Συρίας.
Ο καταυλισμός άνοιξε μόλις τον περασμένο μήνα, και είναι ο κύριος προορισμός όσων περνούν τα σύνορα της Συρίας και φτάνουν στη γειτονική χώρα.
Η Ιορδανία παρά την αυξανόμενη οικονομική επιβάρυνση από την παρουσία χιλιάδων προσφύγων στο έδαφός της, που σύμφωνα με εκτιμήσεις θα κοστίσει στο Αμάν, περίπου 200 εκατομμύρια δολάρια, μέχρι το τέλος του έτους, έχει υποσχεθεί ότι θα συνεχίσει με την πολιτική των ανοικτών συνόρων.
Πηγή: ΑΜΠΕ
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Νεκροί σε νέες συγκρούσεις στο Λίβανο όπου μεταφέρεται η συριακή κρίση

Νεκροί σε νέες συγκρούσεις στο Λίβανο όπου μεταφέρεται η συριακή κρίση
Στο Λίβανο, όπου μεταφέρεται η συριακή κρίση, δύο άνθρωποι σκοτώθηκαν σε νέες συγκρούσεις στην Τρίπολη, ανάμεσα σε μουσουλμάνους σουνίτες και αλαουίτες.
Τουλάχιστον 18 άνθρωποι σκοτώθηκαν και περισσότεροι από 100 τραυματίστηκαν σε συγκρούσεις στην Τρίπολη τις τελευταίες έξι ημέρες.
Η βία στην Τρίπολη επικεντρώνεται σε περιοχή, όπου οι συνορεύουν οι γειτονιές των Αλαουιτών και των Σουνιτών.

Οι Σουνίτες στη Συρία αποτέλεσαν την κινητήρια δύναμη της 17μηνης εξέγερσης εναντίον του Μπασάρ αλ Ασαντ, που ανήκει στη μειονότητα των Αλαουιτών.΄

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Pussy Riot and Amnesty International

The Decline of Political Protest

by DIANA JOHNSTONE
Paris.
Once upon a time there was an organization called Amnesty International which was dedicated to defending prisoners of conscience all over the world. Its action was marked by two principles that contributed to its success: neutrality and discretion.  In the context of the Cold War, the early AI made a point of balancing its campaigns between  prisoners from each of three ideological regions: the capitalist West, the communist East and the developing South.  The campaigns remained discreet, avoiding ideological polemics and focusing on the legal and physical conditions of captives. Their aim was not to use the prisoners as an excuse to rant against an “enemy” government, but to persuade governments to cease persecuting non-violent dissidents.  It strove successfully to exercise a universal civilizing influence.
Since the end of the Cold War, the work of Amnesty International has become more complicated and more difficult.  Back in the early days, most of the “prisoners of conscience” were held either in the Soviet bloc or in the US satellite dictatorships in Latin America, which facilitated symmetry without unduly offending the U.S superpower.  But especially since the Bush administration’s reaction to September 11, 2001, the United States has increasingly become the world’s most notorious jailer.  This has brought an organization whose core is Anglo-American under conflicting pressures.  While it has protested against such flagrant abuses as Guantanamo and the abusive jailing of Bradley Manning, it appears to be under pressure to “balance” such punctual criticism by blanket denunciations of governments targeted for regime change by the United States.  In the case of U.S.-backed “color revolutions”, human rights organizations such as AI and Human Rights Watch are enlisted not to defend specific political prisoners, but rather to denounce general abuses which may or may not be seriously documented. The United States has increasingly managed to take control of AI for its own foreign policy campaigns.
A milestone in this takeover came last January, when the talented State Department official Suzanne Nossel was named as executive director of Amnesty International USA.  As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Ms Nossel played a role in drafting the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Libya. That resolution, based on exaggeratedly alarmist reports, served to justify the UN resolution which led to the NATO bombing campaign that overthrew the Gaddafi regime.  Credited with coining the expression “smart power”, taken up by Hillary Clinton as a policy slogan, Ms Nossel has won international recognition for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, thereby positioning the United States as a vanguard of human rights against the world’s many traditional societies, especially those whose regimes U.S. “smart power” wishes to embarrass, isolate, or even overthrow.
In its new phase, AI, like Human Rights Watch and other Western “humanitarian” organizations, has ceased to make any distinction between genuine repression of dissident thinkers and the sort of repression that is triggered by deliberate provocation, that is, by actions whose sole purpose is precisely to provoke repression, in order to accuse a targeted regime of being repressive. The Serbian group “Otpor” pioneered this sort of action, following teachings of Gene Sharp. Actions which anywhere in the world would be considered disorderly conduct are elevated to the level of Victor Hugo eloquently defying Napoleon III.
Neither the quality of dissidence nor its context seem to matter.  And nobody stops to ponder seriously how to deal with provocateurs who deliberately break the law in order to be arrested.  Should the law be suspended especially for them?  Or what?  Arresting them falls into a trap, but not arresting them would arouse complaints from indignant citizens who dislike such exhibitionism. It is a real dilemma.
Amnesty International has devoted extraordinary attention to the Pussy Riot case, while totally ignoring, for instance, the threat of U.S. prosecution that led Julian Assange to seek political asylum.
What is most notable about this attention, and the attention of the Western media in general, is its tone.  The tone is by no means a diplomatic appeal intended to persuade authorities to free the women in question.  Rather, it is a tone of provovation.
For instance:
“Masha, Nadia and Maria, who are being detained for their peaceful performance of a protest song in a cathedral, could very well be carted off to a labor camp in Siberia where they will be at risk of rape and other abuses.” (All stress is from the original texts, which I received from the organizations cited.)
“Pussy Riot’s crime? Singing a protest song in a church.
“Amnesty International is mounting a strong global response to help keep Pussy Riot’s case front and center. Help us send a truckload of colorful ski masks to President Putin in protest.
Today’s verdict is emblematic of increased efforts by President Putin and his cronies to stifle free speech in Russia. That’s why we’re sending President Putin as many colorful masks, calledbalaclavas, as we can. Donate $20 or more to send a mask to Putin. … It is clear that Russian authorities are trying to silence these women and instill fear in other activists — don’t let them succeed.”
This is a tone that can only make it more, not less, politically difficult for President Putin to overturn the court’s ruling and grant amnesty and early release to the young women.
Amnesty International, like Western media, have constantly simplified the case in terms designed to suggest that Russia is returning to Stalinist rule of the 1930s.  The French tabloid Libération splashed across its front-page photo of the three women, “To the GULAG for a song”.
Paying the Price
Avaaz, the on-line protest organizer, went farther.
Russia is steadily slipping into the grip of a new autocracy …Now, our best chance to prove to Putin there is a price to pay for this repression lies with Europe.
The European Parliament is calling for an assets freeze and travel ban on Putin’s powerful inner circle who are accused of multiple crimes. … if we can push the Europeans to act, it will not only hit Putin’s circle hard, as many bank and have homes in Europe, but also counter his anti-Western propaganda, showing him that the whole world is willing to stand up for a free Russia.”
The whole world?  Is this really a major concern of the whole world?
Avaaz goes on:
What happens in Russia matters to us all. Russia has blocked international coordination on Syria and other urgent global issues, and a Russian autocracy threatens the world we all want, wherever we are.”
The world we all want?  Or the world Hillary Clinton wants?
At a so-called “Friends of Syria” (meaning supporters of Syrian rebels) meeting in Geneva last July 6, Hillary Clinton lashed out against Russia and China for blocking US-sponsored Syrian regime change initiatives in the United Nations. “I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all — nothing at all — for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price,” Clinton warned.
What Hillary wants, Hillary gets – at least in the narrow world of the “international community” made up of the U.S., its NATO satellites and their totally obedient media and NGOs.
Avaaz concludes: “Let’s join together now to show Putin that the world will hold him to account and push for change until Russia is set free.”
Now think about this.  “We”, the signers of Avaaz petitions, aspire to “show Putin” that despite being legally elected President of Russia, the outside world is going to “push for change until Russia is set free.”  Set free by whom?  Pussy Riot?  When did they, when could they, win an election?  So how is Russia to be “set free”?  By a no-fly zone? By U.S. drones?
Russia must “pay a price” for obstructing U.S. designs for Syria.  Is Pussy Riot part of the price?
The chorus of Western media, pop stars and other assorted self-styled humanitarians have all echoed the notion that the Pussy Riot women were jailed “by Putin” because of an innocent song they sang against him in a church.  But where is the evidence that they were arrested by Putin?  It seems they were arrested by police on a complaint by the Orthodox Church, which did not appreciate their hijinks on the high altar.  Churches tend to considers that their space is reserved for their own rites and ceremonies. The Catholic Cathedral in Cologne called the police to arrest Pussy Riot copy cats.  It was not the first time the Pussy Riot group had invaded an Orthodox church, and this time the offended ecclesiastics were fed up.  The group had demonstrated “against Putin” several times previously without being arrested.  So where is the proof that they were “jailed by Putin” as a “crackdown on dissent”?
Putin is on record, and on video, as saying he thinks the women should not be harshly punished for their stunt. But hey, Russia has a judicial system. The law is the law. Once the women were arrested on a complaint by the church, the wheels turned, a trial was held, they were convicted and sentenced by a judge on the basis of complaints by offended Christians.  It is an interesting detail that the witnesses failed to hear any mention of Putin – they were simply offended by the cavorting and the dirty words uttered by the masked performers.  It seems that the “song”, if that is what it was, and the anti-Putin lyrics, if one can call them that, were added subsequently to the video put on line by the group.
So why was this “a crackdown by Putin”?  Because, once the West labels a disobedient leader of a foreign state a “dictator”, his state no longer has a judicial system of its own, free elections, independent media, freedom of expression, contented citizens – no, none of that, because in the collective groupthink of the West, every “dictator” is Hitler/Stalin combined, and nothing bad that is done or happens in his country is a result of anything but his own wicked will.  In the end, of course, his greatest aspiration is probably to “kill his own people”.  But Avaaz, Amnesty International and Libération are vigilant…
Of course, it would be absurd to imagine that citizens of Russia, or any other country, are all contented with their leaders, even if they elected them by an overwhelming majority.  Even democratic countries offer only a limited choice of presidential candidates to their voters.  But after centuries of Tsarist autocracy, invasion by Mongols, Napoleon, and Hitler; Bolshevik revolution, Communist single-party dictatorship, then the economic and social collapse of the Yeltsin years, Russia has nevertheless now largely adopted its own version of Western capitalist democracy, complete with respect for religion.
And here is an oddity: the West, which used to aim its intercontinental ballistic missiles at “atheistic communism”, does not seem at all satisfied that the Orthodox Christian Church has re-emerged as a respected component of Russian society.  The Western criterion for a free society has changed.  It is no longer freedom to practice a religion, but freedom to practice a form of sexuality condemned by religion.  Now, this may be an important improvement, but since it has taken the Christian West two thousand years to arrive at this level of wisdom, it should be a little bit patient with other societies lagging a decade or so behind.
It is a notorious constant of Russian history that its leaders are torn between emulating Western Europe and reasserting their own traditions – what is called Slavophilia.  After a period of Westernizing, the Slavophiles usually triumph because the West rudely rebuffs the friendly overtures of the Westernizers.  This gives the more aggressive Western leaders the perfect excuse to use force and coercion against the “backward” Russians.  It seems to be happening again, with a particularly bizarre post-modern twist.
Many informed commentators have pointed out that Pussy Riot is not a “rock band” made up of singers and musicians.  They compose no songs, they make no recordings, they do not sing and dance at concerts for fans.  At best, they could be described as “performance artists” along the lines of the nutty Doonesbury character “J.J.” Their art consists of attracting attention by, among other things, taking off their clothes and copulating in a museum or masturbating with a dead chicken in a supermarket. (All to be seen on line.)
This is called protest art.  It is provocation.  What does it provoke?  According to the practitioners of this sort of thing, who tend to think of themselves as vastly more clever than ordinary mortals, it is meant to wake up the sluggish masses, teach them by example to be free, to break taboos, to defy authority.
Clever performance art may make a political point people can understand.  But what is the message from public sex with dead poultry?
The West, or at least Western media, politicians and humanitarians, seem to get the message.  They interpret Pussy Riot as a significant political protest against Vladimir Putin.
A small percentage of Russians, especially those who regularly visit U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul in his Moscow embassy for spiritual and material encouragement, may also see it that way.
But it is a fair bet that even more Russians see Pussy Riot’s exploits as an expression of “Western decadence”.  Especially when they see the entire West cheering and even imitating their actions. And indeed, in its readiness to use anything and everything to embarrass a government obstructing U.S. geopolitical goals, Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy establishment is favoring a widespread backlash against perceived Western corruption and decadence.  Whatever their intention, Pussy Riot is a gift to the Slavophiles.
And to the new Amnesty International and its followers, who instead of taking the trouble to write thoughtful letters on behalf of persecuted dissidents, are merely asked to contribute $20 (or more) for a rag with holes in it.  Fun!
DIANA JOHNSTONE is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. She can be reached at  diana.josto@yahoo.fr
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Τρίτη, 28 Αυγούστου 2012

Ιστορικό οδοιπορικό με θέμα την αρχαία παρουσία ελεφάντων στην Πελοπόννησο

Ελέφαντες στη νότια Πελοπόννησο, από την παλαιολιθική εποχή ως τους ελληνιστικούς χρόνους.
«Ο στρατός του Πολυπέρχοντος με 20.000 πεζούς, 1.000 ιππείς και 65 ελέφαντες φθάνει στην Αρκαδία το 319 π. Χ. και ετοιμάζεται να πολιορκήσει τη Μεγαλόπολη. Είναι η πρώτη φορά σε ολόκληρο τον ευρωπαϊκό χώρο και σε όλη τη λεκάνη της Μεσογείου που χρησιμοποιήθηκαν ελέφαντες για πολεμικούς σκοπούς».
Σ’ ένα μοναδικό ιστορικό οδοιπορικό, που ξεκινά από τα Μαμούθ και τα Δεινοθήρια της Παλαιολιθικής Εποχής και φτάνει ως τις πολιορκίες της Μεγαλόπολης, της Σπάρτης και του Άργους από τους ελέφαντες των Μακεδόνων και των Ηπειρωτών του βασιλιά Πύρρου, ταξίδεψε το κοινό του ο αρχαιολόγος της Ε΄ Εφορείας Προϊστορικών και Κλασικών Αρχαιοτήτων Σπάρτης, Λεωνίδας Σουχλέρης.
Αφορμή στάθηκε η «Γ΄ Ιστορική και Αρχαιολογική Περιήγηση στη Λακεδαίμονα», που έγινε τον Αύγουστο στο όμορφο χωριό Αγόριανη της Λακωνίας, μια εκδήλωση που συνδιοργάνωσαν ο Εξωραϊστικός και Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος Αγόριανης, το Νομικό Πρόσωπο Πολιτισμού, Αθλητισμού και Περιβάλλοντος του Δήμου Σπάρτης και οι Μικροί Εξερευνητές Αγόριανης.
Η διάλεξη του Λεωνίδα Σουχλέρη εντυπωσίασε τους συμμετέχοντες. Και δεν θα μπορούσε να γίνει διαφορετικά, καθώς η ομιλία του («Οι πολιορκίες της Μεγαλόπολης και της Σπάρτης από τους διαδόχους του Μεγάλου Αλεξάνδρου. Η χρήση των ελεφάντων στις πολιορκίες και η παρουσία τους στη νότια Πελοπόννησο από την Παλαιολιθική Εποχή έως και τους Παλαιοχριστιανικούς χρόνους») είχε όλα όσα χρειάζεται για να θεωρηθεί επιτυχημένη: άρτια παρουσίαση, πλούσιο φωτογραφικό υλικό και –κυρίως- πρωτότυπη θεματολογία.
«Η αφορμή για να ερευνήσω αυτό το θέμα με τους ελέφαντες και τη χρήση τους στην αρχαιότητα αποτέλεσαν κινητά αρχαιολογικά ευρήματα που εντοπίστηκαν σε ανασκαφή στο αρχαίο θέατρο της Ηφαιστίας στη Λήμνο την περίοδο 2002-2005. Συγκεκριμένα δύο πήλινα ειδώλια ελεφάντων, τα οποία ήταν αφιερωμένα σε ένα ιερό προς τιμήν του βασιλικού οίκου των Σελευκιδών, που από τα τέλη του 4ου αιώνα π. Χ. βασίλεψαν στη Μικρά Ασία και τη Μέση Ανατολή», δηλώνει στο ΑΜΠΕ ο αρχαιολόγος της Ε΄ ΕΠΚΑ.
Τι σχέση όμως μπορεί να έχουν αυτά με την Πελοπόννησο; «Η σχέση δημιουργήθηκε το 2009 όταν υπηρετώντας στην Αρχαιολογική Υπηρεσία της Αρκαδίας (ΛΘ' ΕΠΚΑ) παραδόθηκε από μια κάτοικο της Κοινότητας Κακουραίικα Ηραίας (επαρχία Μεγαλόπολης) ένα μολύβδινο πλακίδιο με παράσταση ελεφάντων και στις δύο πλευρές του. Κι ενώ η ταύτιση στη Λήμνο ήταν εύκολη λόγω της γειτνίασης με την Ανατολή, γεγονός που θα μπορούσε να δώσει αφορμές για την κατασκευή αυτών των αντικειμένων πηλοπλαστικής, στην Πελοπόννησο δεν υπάρχουν στοιχεία για λατρευτικές πρακτικές που συνδέονταν τόσο έντονα με την Ανατολή στους Κλασικούς και πρώιμους Ελληνιστικούς χρόνους», τονίζει.
Στην προσπάθειά του να βρει αυτή τη σύνδεση, ο κ. Σουχλέρης προσέτρεξε στα ιστορικά γεγονότα. Τα αποτελέσματα των ερευνών του μεταφέρθηκαν με γλαφυρό τρόπο στο κοινό της ημερίδας -της τρίτης στη σειρά που γίνεται στο λακωνικό χωριό-το οποίο με ιδιαίτερο ενδιαφέρον παρακολούθησε την ξεχωριστή αυτή ιστορική διαδρομή. Πότε όμως εμφανίζονται οι πρώτοι ελέφαντες στην Πελοπόννησο;
«Σύμφωνα με τα πορίσματα της Παλαιοντολογικής Αρχαιολογίας, η πρώτη εμφάνιση των ελεφάντων στην Πελοπόννησο έγινε πριν από 5 εκατομμύρια χρόνια, ενώ πριν από 2.000.000 - 10.000 χρόνια συναντάμε στη Λακωνία και την Αρκαδία και ιδιαίτερα στην επαρχία Μεγαλόπολης, στην περιοχή της Σπάρτης και του Βλαχιώτη, το Μαμούθ του νότου, το Μαμούθ της Τούνδρας και τον Πρώιμο Ελέφαντα (Elephas antiquus)», δηλώνει ο κ. Σουχλέρης.
Την πρώτη αρχαιολογική μαρτυρία για την ύπαρξη των παραπάνω ελεφάντων προκάλεσε ένα τυχαίο γεγονός που έγινε το 1902. Στο δυτικό άκρο της λεκάνης της Μεγαλόπολης, στους πρόποδες του όρους Λύκαιου, ένας ξυλοκόπος από το χωριό Ίσωμα Καρυών, κατέβηκε στη γειτονική απότομη χαράδρα, ψάχνοντας για το τσεκούρι του. Εκεί είδε να ξεπροβάλλουν πελώρια οστά. Το εύρημα αποτέλεσε την περίφημη πλειστοκαινική πανίδα.
Τον ίδιο χρόνο ο καθηγητής του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών Θεόδωρος Σκούφος έκανε ανασκαφές τόσο σε αυτό το σημείο όσο και χαμηλότερα, κοντά στην κοίτη του Αλφειού, αποκαλύπτοντας πέντε τόνους απολιθωμένων σκελετών, ένας ανεκτίμητος θησαυρός γνώσεων που σήμερα βρίσκονται στο Παλαιοντολογικό Μουσείο του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών. Το πιο πρόσφατο παλαιοντολογικό εύρημα στην περιοχή της Μεγαλόπολης εντοπίστηκε πριν από ένα χρόνο, όταν κατά τη διάρκεια ελέγχου εκσκαφών της ΔΕΗ αποκαλύφθηκαν τμήματα από μεγάλο χαυλιόδοντα της οικογένειας των Ελεφάντων, που χρονολογείται την περίοδο του Πλειστόκαινου (ηλικίας 2.000.000 - 10.000 χρόνων). Η αρχαιολογική έρευνα συνεχίστηκε από την Εφορεία Σπηλαιολογίας και Παλαιοανθρωπολογίας Νότιας Ελλάδος από όπου περιμένουμε τα τελικά αποτελέσματα της έρευνας.
Η συνέχεια της «αφήγησης» είναι ακόμα πιο ενδιαφέρουσα: «Η ύπαρξη απολιθωμένων οστών ήταν ήδη γνωστή από την αρχαιότητα. Οι κάτοικοι της περιοχής μάλιστα απέδιδαν τα μεγαλύτερα από αυτά (προφανώς εκείνων των παχύδερμων) σε γίγαντες η σε μυθικούς ήρωες», τονίζει ο αρχαιολόγος, κάνοντας έναν ακόμα αποκαλυπτικό συσχετισμό: «Η ταύτιση των οστών της οικογένειας των προβοσκιδωτών (δηλ. των ελεφάντων) με ανθρωπόμορφα όντα η μυθικούς ήρωες είναι αληθοφανής, καθώς σε προφίλ το κρανίο ενός ελέφαντα θυμίζει σε μεγέθυνση κρανίο ανθρώπου, όπως και τα δόντια τους αλλά και οι σπόνδυλοι και τα πλευρά θα μπορούσαν να είναι τοποθετημένα με τέτοιο τρόπο ώστε να θυμίζουν υπολείμματα γιγάντιου ανθρώπου. Τα οστά, κυρίως των άκρων, μπορούν να θεωρηθούν ανθρώπινα, αφού μορφολογικά είναι παρόμοια και η μόνη εμφανής διαφορά είναι το κατά πολύ μεγαλύτερο μέγεθός τους».
Πολιορκίες με ελέφαντες
Το «ταξίδι» συνεχίζεται στη Μεγαλόπολη το 319 π.Χ., όταν η Αρκαδία ενεπλάκη στους πολέμους των διαδόχων του Μεγάλου Αλεξάνδρου για την κατάκτηση της εξουσίας της μεγάλης του αυτοκρατορίας. Ένας από αυτούς, ο Πολυπέρχων, εκστρατεύει στη Μεγαλόπολη. Μεταξύ των δυνάμεών του ήταν και 65 ελέφαντες. Το πώς κατάφεραν οι Μεγαπολίτες να τον νικήσουν αναφέρεται στις αρχαίες πηγές (Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης, Βιβλιοθήκην ιστορικήν, ΙΗ' 69-72). Όσο για το θέμα των ελεφάντων, εκείνο που κάνει ιδιαίτερη αίσθηση είναι, σύμφωνα με τον Δ. Σικελιώτη, «...η επινοητικότητα ενός ανθρώπου, του Δάμι, που είχε πάει με τον Αλέξανδρο στην Ασία και γνώριζε τη φύση και τη χρησιμότητα των πελώριων αυτών ζώων».
Αυτό που έκανε ο Δάμις ήταν να πάρει μεγάλες πόρτες, να καρφώσει πάνω τους πυκνά, μυτερά καρφιά και να τις στρώσει μέσα σε ρηχά ορύγματα, κρύβοντας τις μύτες των καρφιών. Έπειτα, άφησε ελεύθερη δίοδο για την πόλη, που περνούσε από πάνω τους, μη βάζοντας αντιμέτωπο κανέναν στρατιώτη, αλλά τοποθέτησε στα πλάγια ένα πλήθος ακοντιστών, τοξοτών και καταπελτών που εκσφενδόνιζαν βέλη.
Όταν ο Πολυπέρχων διέταξε την ομαδική έφοδο των θηρίων, συνέβη κάτι τελείως απροσδόκητο στους ελέφαντες: με την πίεση που τους ασκούσαν οι Ινδοί αναβάτες τους και καθώς το πέρασμα ήταν ελεύθερο, οι ελέφαντες, που είχαν πάρει φόρα, άρχισαν να πατούν πάνω στις πόρτες με τα καρφιά, με αποτέλεσμα τα πόδια τους να τραυματίζονται και από το βάρος να καρφώνονται γερά επάνω στα καρφιά, μην μπορώντας να προχωρήσουν άλλο μα ούτε και να γυρίσουν πίσω λόγω της δυσκινησίας τους. Ταυτόχρονα από τα πλάγια έπεφταν βροχή τα βέλη, ενώ από τους Ινδούς άλλοι σκοτώνονταν και άλλοι τραυματίζονταν βαριά, μη μπορώντας πλέον να οδηγήσουν τα ζώα.
«Τα θηρία, από την άλλη, πληγωμένα από τα βέλη και από τα καρφιά, πονούσαν πολύ και γύρναγαν προς τους ανθρώπους που γνώριζαν καταπατώντας, όμως, πολλούς από αυτούς. Τέλος, ο ελέφαντας ο πιο ρωμαλέος και επιβλητικός έπεσε, ενώ από τους υπόλοιπους άλλοι αχρηστεύονταν εντελώς και άλλοι έφερναν τον θάνατο στους δικούς τους», αναφέρει ο ομιλητής μέσω της αρχαίας πηγής (Διοδ. Σικελιώτης ΙΗ' 71-72).
Οι Μακεδόνες μετά το 319 π. Χ. δεν ξαναχρησιμοποίησαν ελέφαντες σε πολεμικές επιχειρήσεις στον σημερινό ελλαδικό χώρο. «Η μεγάλη νίκη των Μεγαλοπολιτών εναντίον των Μακεδόνων του Πολυπέρχοντα ίσως να αποτέλεσε την αφορμή να αφιερωθεί αυτό το μικρό μολύβδινο ειδώλιο του ελέφαντα σε κάποιο ιερό η ναό της περιοχής ως ένδειξη ευγνωμοσύνης στους θεούς, που προστάτευσαν τον στρατιώτη και την πόλη», καταλήγει.
Η τελευταία χρήση των ελεφάντων για πολεμικούς σκοπούς έγινε από τον Πύρρο, τον βασιλιά της Ηπείρου, ο οποίος προσπάθησε και αυτός να αλώσει με τη βοήθεια των πολεμικών ελεφάντων το 272 π.Χ. τόσο την Σπάρτη όσο και το Άργος. Όμως, η τόλμη και η επινοητικότητα των κατοίκων της Σπάρτης, ανδρών και γυναικών, ανέκοψε την πορεία του. Το τραγικό τέλος του όλου εγχειρήματος -αλλά και του ίδιου του Πύρρου- γράφτηκε στο Άργος, όπου οι στενοί δρόμοι της πόλης έγιναν θανάσιμη παγίδα για τα πελώρια ζώα, που στην προσπάθειά τους να κινηθούν τραυματίζονταν και καταπλάκωναν φίλους και εχθρούς.
Βιβλιογραφία
1. Λ.Σουχλέρης, Οι ελέφαντες της Λήμνου. Αρχαίο Θέατρο Ηφαιστίας (Επιμ.Α.Αρχοντίδου). 2004
2. Λ.Σουχλέρης, Πήλινα ειδώλια ζώων και αντικείμενα μικροτεχνίας από την ανασκαφή του αρχαίου θεάτρου της Ηφαιστίας στη Λήμνο. Τα πήλινα ειδώλια των ελεφάντων. Κοροπλαστική και μικροτεχνία στον αιγαιακό χώρο από τους γεωμετρικούς έως και τη ρωμαϊκή περίοδο. Διεθνές Συνέδριο στη Μνήμη της Ηούς Ζερβουδάκη, Ρόδος, 26-29 Νοεμβρίου 2009. (Υπό έκδοση).
Πηγή: ΑΜΠΕ
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Στις 25-8-2012 η τουρκική εφημερίδα Zaman παρουσίασε τις τουρκικές θέσεις, μέσω δηλώσεων του υπουργού Εξωτερικών Αχμέτ Νταβούτογλου, για τις επόμενες κινήσεις της Άγκυρας αναφορικά με την κρίση στη Συρία. Συγκεκριμένα ο Νταβούτογλου δήλωσε τα εξής: «Για τη δημιουργία Ζώνης Ασφαλείας νοτίως των τουρκοσυριακών συνόρων θα πρέπει να υπάρξουν οι ακόλουθες προϋποθέσεις. Πρώτον, εάν διογκωθεί ο αριθμός των προσφύγων, θα πρέπει οι άνθρωποι αυτοί να βρουν άσυλο και να τους παρασχεθεί ανθρωπιστική βοήθεια εντός των εδαφών της Συρίας. Δεύτερον, εάν κατά μήκος των τουρκοσυριακών συνόρων δημιουργηθούν ασύμμετρες απειλές, τότε θα πρέπει να ληφθούν τα αναγκαία αντίμετρα. Δεν θα πρέπει να αυτονομηθεί καμία περιοχή της Συρίας και κανένας δεν θα πρέπει να ενεργήσει μονομερώς για την εξεύρεση της οποιασδήποτε λύσης. Ένα άλλο θέμα που πρέπει να εξετασθεί είναι η ασφάλεια των χημικών όπλων του Άσαντ. Ως εκ τούτου επεξεργαζόμαστε όλα τα σενάρια.»

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Syria Between Scylla and Charybdis

By K. P. Fabian
With the Free Syrian Army being supplied aid by the West and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the endgame for the Syrian regime has begun. Does Assad's exit guarantee the replacement of autocracy with democracy? What implications will it have on regional politics?

The key question is: When, how, and whether President Basher al-Assad will relinquish office? He is turning 47 on September 11. He has ruled Syria since 2000. He was not elected into office through a democratic process. He was selected by his father who ruled for three decades after capturing power through a coup. He has no divine right to rule.

If Assad goes, does it mean that there will be democracy? Not necessarily. History shows with painful clarity that it is not possible to replace dictatorship or autocracy immediately with democracy. The French Revolution begat Napoleon. The Russian Revolution gave rise to Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat followed by Stalin’s. Even the latter’s demise did not usher in democracy.

Kofi Annan's six-point plan that he advanced as the joint envoy of UN and the Arab League had no chance whatsoever of succeeding. He was chasing a mirage. Neither the international community nor Syria wants a negotiated settlement. Assad does not want to step down as part of a negotiated settlement. His adversaries want him to step down even before they sit down to talk.

It follows that unless he can defeat his adversaries, the only possible way to end the killing is for Assad to step down under compulsion. There is no practical way he can defeat them. Let us send our good wishes to Annan’s successor, the veteran Lakhdar Brahimi. It needs boundless optimism to conclude that he will succeed.

Defections

Over 40 officials, some senior, including a Prime Minister, have defected. So far Assad's army and the security set-up, both dominated by his minority Alawite sect, have stood by him, by and large. The question is: For how long? It is beyond the means of the regime to put down the uprising. The rebels claim to hold 60% of Aleppo, close to the Turkish border. Their claim may or may not be accurate, but it is clear that they hold substantial territory. The regime has resorted to aerial bombing, so far without decisive result. The rebels, mainly the Free Syrian Army, have reportedly resorted to using captured prisoners as suicide bombers. The capital Damascus, the oldest inhabited city in history, is a battlefield.

President Obama has drawn a "red line". He stated that there would be "enormous consequences" if chemical agents are moved or used. The background is that last month (July), Assad's government announced that it had chemical weapons and that it would use them against "external aggression".

Intelligence agencies of Turkey have claimed that Syria has 1000 tonnes of chemical agents, including sarin and mustard gas, positioned in fifty towns and villages. The claim may or may not be true. But it is reasonably clear that Syria has such agents, and the intention of the reference to "external aggression" was to threaten anyone planning such aggression. One cannot rule out the use of chemical agents by a desperate regime facing defeat. However, the NATO has no plans to send in troops.

Russia and China

The principal supporters of Assad are Russia, China, and Iran. The first two used their veto three times at the Security Council. Why are Russia and China supporting Assad? They are allergic to any international intervention to topple dictators friendly to them. Russia has access to the Tartus port. It has made a lot of money by supplying arms to Syria. China has a visceral antipathy to popular movements against established dictatorships. Russia, China and Iran want no intervention in Syria, no sanctions, and no threat of action under chapter VII of the UN Charter.

They should know that if they oppose action at the Council, action will be taken outside the Council. That is precisely what’s happening. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been giving arms and money to the Free Syrian Army, while the U.S. and UK have been giving "non-lethal" support. There have been reports that special teams from the U.S. and UK have been training the anti-Assad forces in Turkey.

Turkey

Turkey's role is crucial, and over 70,000 Syrians have fled to the country. Turkey has said that it would not be able to take in more than 100,000 and that the UN should organize a 'safe zone' inside Syria across the border. Such a "safe zone" will be a 'liberated zone' and to prevent Assad from bombing the area it will be necessary to declare a "no-fly zone". Will the U.S. and others declare a "no-fly zone" and enforce it? What will Russia and China do in retaliation? They will not send their airforce to Syria, but they might fortify Syria's air defence system. Suppose the U.S. or Israel was to disable the information network of Syria with the result that utilities such as water, telephones, and electricity, are disrupted?

Turkey’s role is crucial for another reason. As it has married Islam with modernity and democracy with singular success, it can be an example for others. Turkey's high ambitions are reflected in the words of its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu: "Turkey would henceforth lead the movement for change in the Middle East. We will continue to be the leader of this wave…There is a new Middle East. We will be its owner, leader, and servant."

There are, however, constraints for Turkey to realize its ambitions. Turkey can be associated with the past of Ottoman domination of the region. Assad has already played his 'Kurdish card' against Turkey. He withdrew forces from the north-east border region and the Kurds have taken over local administration. Will that turn out to be a mini 'Kurdistan' attracting the Kurds in Turkey with whom the state has been waging a war for decades? Ankara is deeply worried about the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. It has sent in its armed forces to Iraq without seeking permission from Baghdad as part of ‘hot pursuit.’

Kurdish Issue

It is useful to put the Kurdish issue in context. The most famous Kurd is Saladin, who captured Jerusalem in 1187 during the Crusades. When the Ottoman Empire fell, the Kurds sought independence. The Treaty of Sevres of 1920, that ended the war between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies, specifically contained a provision for the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan. But it was never implemented. The Kurds found themselves in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. None of these states want an independent Kurdistan. They have used Kurds as pawns from time to time in their games against each other. In this regard, Turkey is particularly vulnerable. It is a sad commentary on Turkey’s search for modernity that it has so far failed to come to a Modus Vivendi with the Kurds – a failure that casts a shadow over its ambitions to join the European Union.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar

The support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for regime change in Syria is slightly intriguing. They are not democracies and it is not in their interest to see a strong democratic wave in the Muslim world. Their main interest is to weaken Iran by toppling Assad. They want to see a Sunni dominated regime in Syria, which is friendly to them and not close to Iran.

We do not know what might happen in Syria. We can be sure, unfortunately, that more human beings will be killed. Assad will have to go. But when? After how many more deaths?

It is sad and sobering to recall that the United Nations was established to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime brought untold sorrow to mankind."

- Ambassador K. P. Fabian served in the Indian Foreign Service between 1964 and 2000, and is currently the President of AFPRO (Action For Food Production) and IGSSS (Indo-Global Social Service Society). This article was originally by Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. [This article was provided by IDN-InDepthNews – August 24, 2012]

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