UNITED NATIONS–Defying dire polls, deflating many media pundits, and derailing a left-wing lurch from the Labor Party, Prime Minister David Cameron Conservative Party swept back into power for a second term with a shock election win and a reinvigorated majority. Cameron’s victory was all the sweeter as it precluded his party from having to enter the messy business of coalition politics and the political “horse trading” which could have hampered him for weeks. Continue reading
- Category Archives Op/Ed by Metzler
UNITED NATIONS—The targeted killings of journalists, the suffocating censorship in many countries, and the widening governmental controls on media activities, characterize the contemporary media landscape in large parts of the world. Add the ghastly shock effect of beheadings of journalists in the Middle East by Islamic State or the barbaric attacks in the heart of Paris against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, or the pervasive intimidation against the investigative press in Mexico by drug lords, and the picture becomes more alarming. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS–The rhetoric reached the heights of the Himalayas, the pomp and pageantry evoked that of an operetta, but the political optics delivered a clearly focused political message; Pakistan has a firm and reliable friend in the People’s Republic of China. The high profile visit to Pakistan by China’s paramount leader Xi Jinping brought more than political bromides from Beijing to beleaguered Pakistan; China has put $46 billion in infrastructural investment on the table for its long-time South Asian ally. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS – It’s been forty years since the wars in Indochina ended and the curtain dropped ushering in a new period of darkness for the people of Vietnam and Cambodia. Four long decades since the stunning imagery of North Vietnamese tanks smashing through the gates of Saigon’s Doc Lap Independence palace seizing the South Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS -There’s an urgent food crisis in communist North Korea, where shortages affect up to 70 percent of the population. According to an alarming new UN humanitarian report, some 18 million people out of the population of 24 million are considered “food insecure” and don’t have access to an adequate and diverse diet to live healthily. To meet the challenge the UN needs $111 million for humanitarian aid over the next year. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS – Throughout the chaos, calamity and conflict which has befallen the Middle East, there are few groups which have come under such intense attack as Christians and minority ethnic communities. As countries like Iraq and Syria face the sharp end of ethnic and political strife, the persecution of small but significant Christian communities by terrorist elements such as Islamic State (IS) has tragically followed. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS – Afghanistan’s long and tortuous road to peace and reconciliation still seems a near mirage as an entrenched terrorist insurgency seems to rebuff political and security gains made by the Kabul government and international military assistance. Still the UN mission in the war torn South Asian country seems cautiously optimistic and offered a renewed hope for a still complex peace process. Continue reading
IS Destruction Sweeps Ancient Sites
UNITED NATIONS–The barbarians are inside the gates of Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian city in northern Iraq now being plundered, pillaged, and bulldozed by the forces of Islamic State (IS). The destruction of Nimrud, a city dating from 900 BC follows the planned and systematic smashing of priceless Mesopotamian statues and artifacts in the Mosul Museum weeks earlier. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS–Amid a near unquenchable thirst for natural resources, a desire to develop new trading partners, and an opportunity to press for political influence in a vast region increasingly ignored by the United States, the People’s Republic of China is forging ahead to develop closer ties with Latin America. Continue reading
UNITED NATIONS – The spate of brutal and systematic attacks on Christian communities in Syria, Iraq and Egypt by the Islamic State has surged. Yet despite this targeted violence, there’s a climate of international indifference by many governments and even some Christian communities in the West towards this modern-day religious persecution.
Look at the recent roster of IS terror: in Libya, jihadi militants capture and then behead 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. This barbaric attack prompted the UN Security Council to issue a statement condemning the “heinous and cowardly” murders. The Council added, “ISIL must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence and hatred it espouses must be stamped out.”
The UN’s Human Rights Chief Zeid Raaad Al-Hussein called the executions a “vile crime targeting people on basis of their religion.” This action carried out in the increasing lawlessness of Libya, was not the first time Coptic Christians or their churches have been attacked.
Speaking from Rome, Pope Francis stated, “It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants…the martyrs belong to all Christians.”
A week later in Syria’s remote Hassakeh Province, IS terrorists seized hundreds of Assyrian Christian women and children for a yet undetermined fate while 33 Christian villages were attacked.
In Iraq, ISIL’s lightening military advances into the northern cities such as Mosul have targeted minority groups such as Christians, Yezidis and Kurds. A recent UN Report on Iraq conceded, “The safety and security of members of Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities in areas controlled by ISIL remain of grave concern, particularly the thousands of women and children who remain in captivity.”
After ISIL seized Mosul city, Christians were targeted for conversion to Islam or death. Christian houses were marked by the sign of “N” for Nazerene.
Middle Eastern Christians form an ancient quilt of Assyrian, Coptic, Chaldean Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholic communities from Egypt through Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Christians have formed a unique fabric in these overwhelmingly Muslim societies and have traditionally excelled in business, education and the arts. These are Arab Christians whose roots in the region stretch back two thousand years predating Islam.
During Syria’s secular regime before the civil war, Christians made up about ten percent of the population of 22 million people. In neighboring Lebanon, Christians comprised over a third of this once prosperous and secular land. Conflict and diaspora have dwindled their numbers.
The vengeful intolerance and white heat hated ISIL and its affiliates have for Mideast Christians, seems only matched for an equally hateful mass killings of fellow Muslims. Though the tiny Christian communities pose no real political threat to the IS rise, the very same communities can be held hostage for propaganda and intimidation value.
Vulnerable Mideast Christians have long been targeted by Al-Qaida and Al Nusra terrorists. Just a year ago IS was proclaimed by President Obama as no more that a “junior varsity” terrorist organization. Six months later its warriors had seized large parts of northern Iraq and were at the gates of Baghdad. American airstrikes on IS started only in August, and while partially effective, have failed to stem the IS surge.
The rise of ISIL has initially been helped by the initial American underestimation of the threat and embarrassing indecision over policy. The wider reason rests with a regional power vacuum created in part by the Obama Administration’s indifference to the fate of Iraq’s fragile stability in the wake of the American troop pullout and a dithering disconnect on defense issues.
But does ISIL wish to use Christian persecution as a trap to lure Western (and let’s admit post-Christian countries) back into the Middle East cauldron? Possibly.
Significantly, despite the use of American and allied airpower against IS targets, changing the regional chessboard will require boots on the ground to counter, confront, and defeat this scourge. But the troops should be Arab, not American as not to fall into the trap of “the Christian West” fighting Islam, of the French to revive the argument of an ex -colonial power, or the Turks to avoid the pitfall of the former Ottoman colonial ruler returning to the region.
IS strives to forcibly create a Sunni Moslem Theocratic State. We are not talking about a reasonably pluralistic state nor a typical Arab autocracy, but a medieval Islamic caliphate, where there’s no room for any religious nor social dissent. It’s doubtful most Sunni Moslems favor this path but it is equally certain that IS intimidation and terror are quite convincing given no serious counterforce.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations; Germany, Korea, China (2014).
UNITED NATIONS–The vast swath of nine countries bordering the southern reaches of the Sahara desert are marked by poverty, drought and chronic instability. Yet these oft-forgotten lands are increasingly making the headlines as in the case of Mali a few years ago, when militant Muslim factions made power grabs against weak and often unstable governments. The widening attacks by the Islamic jihadi group Boko Haram in Nigeria underscore the challenge.
Now the UN and its humanitarian partners have launched a massive $2 billion aid appeal which shall offer humanitarian assistance to the twenty million people who are short of food and the nearly three million people who have been uprooted from their homes. People who have lost hope and could be the prey of terror groups. Continue reading
by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS – In recent years there’s been a dearth of media coverage of Darfur’s humanitarian crisis. What had once been a focus for both diplomatic and high profile celebrity efforts to detail human rights abuses during more than a decade of inter-ethnic conflict in Sudan’s troubled western region, has subsequently been bypassed by both crisis fatigue and a host of other larger African regional conflicts. Continue reading
by John J. Metzler, syndicated columnist
UNITED NATIONS – There’s been a disturbing decline in global freedoms over the past year with a clear erosion of political rights for the ninth consecutive year. These are among the dire findings of the Freedom House report which rates rights and freedoms in 195 countries around the world. The report underscores that, after the higher water-mark of liberties a decade ago, world events have taken a turn for the worse with a corresponding crackdown on rights and freedoms.
In its annual overview, “Freedom in the World 2015: Discarding Democracy; Return to the Iron Fist,” Freedom House, the respected human rights monitor, paints a complex picture of the status and sustainability of civil, political and human rights. During 2014, for example, nearly double the number of countries, 61, saw declines in freedoms while 33 experienced advances. Continue reading
by John Metzler
Weirs Times Columnist
UNITED NATIONS – While America seems transfixed on a spate of six separate Mid- East crises, there’s been far less attention paid on the brewing storm in Europe. Thus as politico/military efforts are focused on trying to sort out Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran, Washington policymakers have been blindsided by fast unraveling events in Ukraine. We had better take notice of a very dangerous situation.
Though there’s been some reporting on the seesaw struggle between Russian-backed separatists and the Kiev government over territory in eastern Ukraine, the UN Security Council has remained laser focused on this dangerous situation where more than 5,000 people have been killed and over a million people have been displaced from their homes.
France’s UN Ambassador Francois Delattre warns the country is slipping into a “spiral of violence,” with the renewed rebel attacks. Continue reading