Tag Archives: Iraq

Another disgusting move by the Danish government

by Rasmus Christian Elling and Sune Haugbolle.

Last night at around 2:30 AM, baton-wielding police forces in riot gear entered a Danish church in Copenhagen where Iraqi refugees have taken sanctuary since May. Seventeen men of the 60 Iraqi men, women and children whose applications for asylum and protests against forced repatriation to Iraq have been rejected by the Danish government are now in custody. Demonstrators were beaten with batons and attacked with pepper spray during an attempt to prevent the forcible relocation of the Iraqis. Five were arrested.

It is nothing less than utterly disgusting how the Danish government – one of the nations that joined US in the war against Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq – can not and will not live up to its humanitarian responsibilities. It is particularly disgusting when Iraq has clearly rejected to receive forcibly repatriated asylum-seekers. Even last night, just hours before the riot police stormed the church, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki stated that there are no agreements for repatriation.

It is also disgusting to see how far right politicians such as MP for Danish People’s Party (and himself a priest!), Søren Krarup, applauding the raid and declaring that the church is not a sanctuary and that it is not “holy”.

The storming of the church was clearly a political ploy initiated by the nationalist forces in Danish politics who claim to represent Christian decency and the Danish national spirit but in reality have destroyed Denmark’s image across the globe. It is sad to see that the Danish government is in effect coerced and ultimately, under the power of, these nationalist forces.

The responsible politicians will hide behind legislation and the supposed “independence” of Danish police to make decisions about when and how to carry out orders. They will fail to acknowledge the connection between the war that brought these people here and their current predicament.

But the sad fact is that these same politicians have contributed to a gradual change in our society, which is reflected in other European countries too. And which means that large parts of our society today are standing idly by, or even applauding the heavy-handed treatment of innocent people caught in a cross-fire of politics. Our society has become dominated by a cynical view of “other” people and of human beings in general. It is a sad day for Denmark and for human compassion.

Obama, Iran and Iraq

by Rasmus Christian Elling.

[Updated]

Admittedly, there are many confusing, contradictory and ambiguous signs of where US-Iran relations are heading right now. On the one hand, you have both oppositional and conservative pro-regime forces in Iran together with left-wing commentators in the US saying that nothing will change, and that it might even get worse as Obama will gradually be forced to increase pressure on the Iranians. On the other hand, there are optimistic signs. Take this comment for instance: Robert Dreyfuss argues that the reason the US-Iraq Security Pact has finally been drafted and is up for approval is Iranian support. Even though it is ‘not a done deal’, the fact that the drafters could reach this stage points, in Dreyfuss’ opinion, to Iranians’ giving it the green light. If this is so, it is of course a sign of willingness to cooperate with a US under Obama:

“The election of Barack Obama changed Iran’s calculus, and so Iran decided, very subtly, to shift to neutral on the pact. As a result, many politicians in Iraq who are either influenced by Iran or who are outright Iranian agents now support the pact. It’s an important sign from Tehran to Obama that they’re willing to work with the United States” writes Dryfuss.

On the other hand, Dreyfuss reminds us that Iran is not ‘thrilled’ over US forces staying for another three years; and that ‘if things get sour’, Iran can again start supporting militant insurgent groups like Sadr’s forces.

Apparently, Ayatollah Shahrudi – head of the Iranian Judiciary and considered a close (yet somewhat ‘moderate’) aide to Khamene‘i – has endorsed the pact, stating that “security and stability is in the interest of the regional nations”… Now, I guess the next question would be: does this mean Khamene‘i agrees with this point? Even though Khamene‘i sometimes drop his veil of ‘neutrality’ in domestic factual disputes and sometimes deliberately parts from his favorite image of ‘impartiality’, Khamene‘i doesn’t need to state his views. This is why the Iranian foreign policy line appears so opaque or engimatic to many observers: since Khamene‘i is not a President but a fatherly ‘Guardian’ / supreme-authority-behind-the-curtains, he can just let various aides and associates voice different policy options or views without us knowing which one is actually going to be implemented.

Thus, I see this as yet another classic example of Iran’s two-pronged strategy of suddenly airing surprisingly moderate/constructive/appeasing signals (enhanced when stated by conservative figures and clerics) – while letting other officials repeat the same old songs against the Global Arrogance of Imperialist Powers etc. Nonetheless, I cannot help labelling this as a comparatively ‘suprising’ and relatively ‘conciliatory’ statement.

On a relevant note: it seems Iran has ‘accepted’ Turkey playing the possible role of mediator between US and Iran if Obama is to go ahead with talks. Nonetheless, this acceptance was of course followed by usual skepticism from Tehran:

… the reality is that the issue and problems between Iran and the United States go beyond the usual political problems between two states”; “Some 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, the US still has a negative stance towards Iranians,” the Iranian spokesman said.