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World View: European Commission Expected to Recommend Visa-Free Travel for Turkish Citizens

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Reader question on Iran and Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr
  • European Commission expected to recommend visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey

Reader question on Iran and Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr

Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr

My recent article “2-May-16 World View — Iraq government faces climatic Awakening era political crisis” evoked some reader questions, mostly about the relationship between Muqtada al-Sadr and Iran:

Hey John, if you’re still reading the comments, I’d love to have an answer to a layman’s question, and I value your insight. What are the chances that Iraqi Shia al-Sadr is financed by the Iranian Shia, located in Tehran?

This is a very interesting question today (Tuesday), because al-Sadr has apparently shocked his supporters today by making an unannounced visit to Tehran. The visit is apparently embarrassing to both Iran and al-Sadr, since early reports from Iran’s media denied that any such visit was taking place.

There is really no great love for Iran among Iraqi Shias. Recall Iraq’s last generational crisis war. It was the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988 with Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons on the Kurds and the Iranians. It was a war between Iran and Iraq, not between Sunnis and Shias. Memories of that extremely bloody and brutal war are still fresh and deeply embedded in the minds of both Iraqis and Iranians today.

Al-Sadr himself has been carving out a largely nationalist non-sectarian path, trying to appeal to both Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. In Saturday’s protests, his supporters were vocal about their hatred for Iran, so it’s unlikely that Iran has been providing much support to al-Sadr.

If Iran has been supporting anyone, it would be the government of prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who depends on Iran for military support in fighting ISIS.

But even if Iran is not supporting al-Sadr, Iran undoubtedly has leverage over al-Sadr. There may also be the involvement of al-Sadr’s “boss,” the senior cleric al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, born in 1930. He grew up during Iraq’s last generational Awakening era, so he has seen it all before, and may be acting as a mediator between Iran and the youthful al-Sadr.

(The political chaos in Iraq’s generational Awakening era today is very similar to the 1930s Awakening era, as I described in my April 2007 article, “Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq”.)

At any rate, it is quite possible that when al-Sadr told his followers to retreat on Sunday, he was forced to do so by Iran. And he is visiting Iran today because he has been ordered to.

There may also be a threat of massive violence. Iran, Syria and Russia all have the policy of meeting peaceful protests with massive violence, filling the streets with dead bodies and rivers of blood, bludgeoning, massacring, torturing and mutilating peacefully protesting women and children, rather than allow anyone to peacefully protest against the government. Iraq’s government did not do anything like that on Saturday, but it is possible that Iran is threatening to use its own Revolutionary Guards military to massacre al-Sadr’s protesters if they protest again.

The situation is that al-Sadr has called for massive protests after Friday prayers at the end of this week. Iran undoubtedly wants al-Sadr to call them off. But if al-Sadr calls off the protests after going to Tehran, then his protesters will be furious, and may become violent, triggering a violent response. So Friday should be interesting.

Some analysts are saying that Iraq’s current Shia-led government is on the verge of collapse, because the Shias are fighting among themselves. According to Kurdish official Muhammad Ahmad, a former member of Iraq’s parliament:

There are historically three factors behind Shiite unity: when they face a common adversary, when they are guided by their supreme religious leaders, when they are told and directed by Iran. At the moment their common enemies are not so powerful and that has left some space for inter-Shiite tensions. I expect it to become even harsher. […]

[The] Sunnis have been left with no real power. At the moment they have no land, they have no wide popular support and consequently their political power is very much weakened. It wouldn’t be all too wrong to say that the Shiites no longer are intimidated by the Sunnis or Kurds. That is why the rivalries within the Shiite block have intensified.

So your question was: “Is al-Sadr financed by Iran?” My guess is that the answer is NO, but al-Sadr is THREATENED by Iran, at a time when Iraq’s entire Shia government is threatened by an existential political crisis from within. Asharq Al-Awsat (London) and Press TV (Tehran) and Rudaw (Iraq, Kurdistan)

European Commission expected to recommend visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey

European media are reporting that the European Commission (EC) will back visa-free travel for Turkish citizens when they make their recommendations on Wednesday.

The recommendation would apply to the Schengen Zone, which is a group of 26 European countries that permit visa-free border crossings among them. Last year, because of the flood of migrants entering Europe, some Schengen zone countries imposed border controls under the “emergency situation” terms of the Schengen rules. However, with the closing of the “Balkan Route” for migrants, many of these border controls are being lifted.

If the EC recommendation is adopted, then citizens of Turkey will be able to travel anywhere within the Schengen zone without a visa. The UK, Ireland and Cyprus are not in the Schengen zone, so those countries will continue to impose a visa requirement.

Turkey had demanded that the visa requirement be scrapped as part of the EU-Turkey deal to handle Europe’s migrant crisis. Turkey agreed to take back migrants who land in Greece, but agreed only on condition that the EU end the visa requirement by June.

The visa liberalization is extremely controversial in Europe. Turkey is an enormous country of 75 million people, and many Europeans fear that there will be a flood of Turkish citizens coming to Europe to look for work. However, the visa-free agreement will not grant Turks the right to get a job in Europe.

Germany and France have proposed an emergency brake or “snap back mechanism” under which it could halt visa-free travel if large numbers of Turks stay in the EU illegally or if there are a large number of asylum applications by Turks.

The EC’s visa liberalization recommendation still requires approval by the EU parliament, where it is expected to meet with considerable opposition. Turkey is required to meet 72 separate conditions by May 4 to earn the visa liberalization.

It is thought that Turkey has met most but not all of the conditions. The failures are in two areas:

  • Freedom of speech is in danger in Turkey, especially after the shocking order by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to takeover Turkey’s most important opposition media, the Zaman media group, publishers of Turkey’s largest newspaper Zaman, its English language version, Today’s Zaman, plus the Cihan News Agency and Aksiyon magazine. ( “6-Mar-16 World View — Turkey’s ‘shameful day for free press’ as government seizes Zaman media”)
  • Turkey is practically at war in southeastern Turkey with militias from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whom Erdogan describes as “terrorists.” There have been a string of terrorist attacks across Turkey, attributed to both the PKK and the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The EU-Turkey deal itself has raised human rights concerns, with activists claiming that Turkey is not a safe country to return migrants to.

However, EU officials believe that they have no choice but to approve the visa liberalization anyway, even if Turkey has not met all 72 requirements, because otherwise Turkey will cancel the migrant deal. BBC and Hurriyet (Ankara)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr, Haider al-Abadi, Iran/Iraq war, al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, Muhammad Ahmad, Turkey, Schengen Zone, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK
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