Washington, We Have A Problem

Ukraine is going from a simmer to a rolling boil……..troops attacking troops……and now an incident in the Black Sea could be the coming of days……..

A Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, a US military official said today. In the first public account of the incident, the official said the Russian Fencer flew within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, a Navy destroyer, at about 500 feet above sea level. Ship commanders considered the actions provocative and in violation of international agreements, prompting the ship to issue several radio queries and warnings. The fighter appeared to be unarmed and never was in danger of coming in contact with the ship, said the official, and the passes, which occurred in the early evening there, ended without incident.

The USS Donald Cook has been conducting routine operations in international waters east of Romania. The ship, which carries helicopters, was deployed to the Black Sea on Thursday, in the wake of the Russian military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and ongoing unrest there. The official also said that a Russian Navy ship, a frigate, has been shadowing the US warship, remaining within visual distance but not close enough to be unsafe. Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov today called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the east of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents have occupied buildings in nearly 10 cities, and EU foreign ministers are meeting today to consider additional sanctions against Russian officials.

This oughta give the ammo needed for a further build up…….does this bring us to the brink?  yet again?

Algerian youth speak out ahead of election – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

With Tunisia looking like a good solid democracy in the making which would be a good thing for North Africa….its neighbor to the West may be traveling the same road as Tunisia…..it looks good…at least for now…..but I know how things can drop into the crapper at a moments notice…..


Algerian youth speak out ahead of election – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.


Was Arab Spring A Success?

Inkwell Institute

Middle East Desk

How many of my readers remember the Arab Spring?

A couple of years ago the Arab World blew up…..blew up into demonstrations, protests, civil disobedience and yes….revolution.  It hit almost every country across North Africa and the Middle East…….Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, even countries like Syria, Bahrain,  Jordan….so many protests and so many changes occurring……

Well the whole  exercise did change some things and some things not so much……regime changes in Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia….then nothing in places like Bahrain, Jordan…….and then there is the situation in Syria…….that one is a bloody mess.

So far not much has really changed other than the leadership….not much democracy breaking out…….lots of violence and protests and government changes, mostly to appease the multitudes and to prevent all out revolution……..

Ah, Tunisia……when I went to the Middle East many years ago I went for a job with the UN headquartered in Tunis…..unfortunately I did not get the job….my Arabic was not as good as it should have been and my French just sucked…….after a couple of weeks I landed a job with a Spanish newspaper with their North Africa desk located in Tunis……and from there the rest is as they say….history.

The one bright spot has been the country of Tunisia……..the country where it all began…….the Arab Spring was fueled by a situation in Tunisia…….18 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi‘s self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill treatment….from that one seemingly small occurrence fueled the events that spiraled out of control.

(BTW, if you are a Star Wars fan….what was the name of the planet that Luke lived on?  Take a good look at the map……in southern Tunisia….look familiar?)

Since the beginning Tunisia has struggled but after many months of legislative deadlock….a constitution and elections to be held in late 2014…….Tunisia is emerging as a secular society meaning that extremists are having a hard time establishing a foothold……..it’s economy is getting better but not far from the toilet……unfortunately the IMF will step in and destroy the economy so they can strengthen it…….

Tunisia has a way to go but it is tracking well to be the first true democracy in North Africa…….we should do all we can as a country to help these brave souls accomplish what they are hoping to do…….a true secular democratic society.

What say you?


Are We Still Paying For Sykes-Picot?

Inkwell Institute

Middle East Desk

Note:  I wrote this post about a month and got distracted from my main interests, the Middle East, by the situation in Ukraine……I hope to rectify my oversight this week.

On another note….this is my 6,666th post…..The Highway To Hell!

Good Morning………Today’s lecture is about the formation of the Middle East as we know it today……

Sykes-Picot?  What the hell?

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 was a secret agreement between Great Britain and France regarding the division of territory in the Middle East after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Although Russia did not sign the treaty, they acknowledged and accepted the terms of Sykes-Picot, which allocated to them parts of a defeated empire. Sykes-Picot is named for its negotiators who were French diplomat in Beirut, Francois Georges Picot and senior British diplomat, Sir Mark Sykes. It is important to note that the Sykes-Picot Agreement was independent from and did not account for any mandates from the League of Nations. The territory partitions described in the Sykes-Picot Agreement were later reaffirmed and ratified at the inter – Allied San Remo conference in April of 1920, which further resulted in mandates from the League of Nations in July of 1922.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed on 16 May 1916, partitioned the Ottoman Empire into different zones of control or zones of influence for Great Britain, France, Russia and an Allied Powers or International Zone stretching from Haifa to Gaza. Great Britain was allocated the areas of Mesopotamia (southern Iraq), modern day Jordan, modern day Kuwait, north coast of modern day Saudi Arabia and an area around Haifa which allowed them access to the sea port. France was to control modern day Syria, modern day Lebanon, northern Iraq and Mosul, Armenia and parts of central-southern Turkey.

Once the war was over the empires set about setting up what is today’s modern Middle East countries…..BTW, in the Arab world T.E. Lawrence is NOT the hero or well admired person that the West thinks he is……you see he knew about this agreement but yet he continued to lie to the Arabs bout their chances of home rule….on a side note….the borders of the Middle East we designed by Gertrude Bell (a little trivia for you)……

This is how the Middle East was divided up…….

Basically it was empires dividing up the old Ottoman empire for their benefit….in other words to expand their dwindling empires at home…..a land grab.

I say a land grab because during all the bureaucratic negotiations no Arab was included….just the 3 major powers of the day….England, France and Russia, although Russia was excluded after the 1917 revolution…..so it came down to the “Big Two” to divide the conquered land among themselves….

Then there was the “international zone” or as we shall call it, by its name, Palestine…..

Following the outbreak of World War I, Zionism was first discussed at a British Cabinet level on 9 November 1914, four days after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire. At a Cabinet meeting David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, “referred to the ultimate destiny of Palestine.”  Lloyd George’s law firm Lloyd George, Roberts and Co had been engaged a decade before by the Zionists to work on the British Uganda Programme.  In a discussion after the meeting with fellow ZionistHerbert Samuel, who had a seat in the Cabinet as President of the Local Government Board, Lloyd George assured him that “he was very keen to see a Jewish state established in Palestine.” Samuel then outlined the Zionist position more fully in a conversation with Foreign Secretary Edward Grey. He spoke of Zionist aspirations for the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish state, and of the importance of its geographical position to the British Empire. Samuel’s memoirs state: “I mentioned that two things would be essential—that the state should be neutralized, since it could not be large enough to defend itself, and that the free access of Christian pilgrims should be guaranteed. … I also said it would be a great advantage if the remainder of Syria were annexed by France, as it would be far better for the state to have a European power as neighbour than the Turk”  The same evening, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith announced that the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire had become a war aim in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet.

(thanx to wikipedia for the above piece)

Yes, you read it correctly……there was a plan or at least a serious thought of taking Palestine and making it a Jewish state.

Fast forward to today……all the violence and discontent in the Middle East can be traced back to the end of WW1 and the Sykes-Picot Agreement…..there was No Arab involvement in the decisions to make countries out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire…..there were no considerations for tribal loyalties or ethnic problems or cultural difference….nothing was considered other than who gets what and where….

Because of this secret agreement…..we are still paying for the pact and its impact on the Middle East.