Category Archives: Middle East

Where our Western democratically (or not) elected leaders will bring us?

Like one century ago we are living troubling times. Europe, in its broadest definition (including Russia) is passing again from economic, democratic and identity crisis and so is searching for a scapegoat, with new imperialisms, new xenophobia, under the forms of Islamophobia or migrantophobia, and a new fascist renaissance. The recent victory of Le Pen in France, but also other fascist style leaders, as Orban or Putin, send bad sensations in that direction. But this time similar trends seems to happen surprisingly also in this other side of the Atlantic, at least if we look at the increasing support to Trump, that has been defined as a new ‘soft’ and ‘joker style’ Hitler or Mussolini. And in the unfortunate case he would be elected as Republican candidate, and moreover in the possible tragedy to be elected President, we should really start to reflect on the mechanisms of democracy. Because in a democracy the political leaders need the follow “the logic of political survival” (Bueno de Mesquita, 2003) that means they need to be elected and when elected to keep their power. In order to do so they have to use deeds and narratives to fulfill the needs and instincts of their constituencies, including fears and xenophobia.
Even if personal and historical analogies are not more than what they are, analogies, sometimes it is useful to study them deeply. As Nye says “historical analogies, though sometimes useful for precautionary purposes, become dangerous when they convey a sense of historical inevitability” (1914 Revisited, Project-Sindicate, 1/13/1914). So will we go downhill again towards clashes and authoritarianisms, with these kind of leaders exploiting fears with hate narratives, even if not exactly in the same way, as one century ago? Fortunately the current technological and information revolution make the people brain washing of propaganda less powerful, but today we are in the times of globalization, homogenization and superficiality and the culture that we receive is not always so deep.
Actually one big difference in the current social and political regression respect to one century ago is that it doesn’t seem counterbalanced by the creative cultural moment of the 1910s and the 1920s: we don’t know if we will live again the only good things of the Roaring twenties, les Années folles in France or il Futurismo in Italy. The problem is also that no European leaders think much on how to improve culture and stimulate innovation and creativity, and if they think to culture is represented as a polarized diversity not as an element of individual empowerment, opening minds and hearts, increasing the respect, tolerance and integration of different people.

Only one leader today in Europe, and in the West in general, seems to believe in the force of culture, Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, may be also because he comes from Florence, the cradle of Renaissance, and started to work just one year after another leader that search for dialogue and respect of cultures, who he estimates much, being a fervent religious person, Pope Francis. The irony is that Renzi is probably the only leader of a Western democracy that has not been formally elected, in the sense that he was not the candidate when his party won and after being elected just Secretary of the Democratic Party he stole the PM place of its predecessor with a “soft coup”. Renzi went to “la prima” of La Scala on December 7, the season opener of the most important Opera theatre in Italy, defying security fears that were waiting some attacks, saying “they will not close us in the houses”. After the attacks in Paris, Renzi and his government refrained from starting to bomb Syrian or Iraqi people and allocated instead 1 Billion Euro for home security and the same exact amount for culture. The funds will be used especially in the suburbs where youth of different cultures sometimes clashes, and 500 Euro will go to every 18 year old Italian person in a form of a culture card that can be spent on theaters, museums etc. These actions, besides fighting the fear instead of abusing it, sending people to assist to cultural events, are based on the belief that radicalization, and so risk of terrorism and clashes, will be limited by cultural, besides economic, integration in our countries. This is an logic and common sense reflection to do but our European leaders seems to not buy it, if we look for example at the increased discriminatory policies towards immigrants, especially Muslims, happening in Europe, and specifically in France. The problem is that democratically elected leaders know that “with the culture we don’t eat”, as Tremonti, the Minister of Economy and Finances with Berlusconi in Italy, said. And so if it doesn’t benefit the bellies of the voters is a useless policy, at least for the short term goal to be re-elected.
But the current internal policies of Renzi’s government are also coupled, in the foreign policy, by a diplomatic instead of warring approach, as Italy has a history of pro-Arab, pro-Middle East and mediating foreign policies, since WWII. Opposite to France, that today seems to rediscover its Grandeur or UK that starts again with its old imperialist vision, may be because they feared to lose ground respect to Germanic leadership in Europe or Russian involvement in the Middle East. As we all know it is not bombing more the Middle East, after one century since the Ottoman defeat and its “conquest” by Europe, that we will help it to find a new order. We need to support diplomatic tools, democratic movements and long visionary policies, we need to help Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to go towards cooperative and pluralistic approaches, in the relationship among themselves and inside their countries, we need to recreate the social fabric and the moderate ideological debate destroyed  by sectarianism and authoritarianism. Authoritarian regimes supported by the West and the search for only national interest without opening common grounds for regional cooperation, have been useful for the old divide et impera, but will not be conducive to a sustainable and stable order in the future of the region.

Culture is what makes people free. As Paulo Freire said: “Education does not transform the world. Education changes people. People transform the world”. Our hopes resides therefore, more than ever, with the people and their possibility to learn from cultures and empower themselves through education, as our leaders, apart rare cases, don’t seem able today to guide masses to more tolerance, collaboration, prosperity and integration. In particular leaders like Donald Trump, a business man not a politicians, at least in the higher sense of this word, that more than to Mussolini I would compare to Berlusconi, another business man that went to politics just for pure interest of power, and remained in power for almost 20 years, destroying the culture of the Italian people with its superficial televisions and making Italians more racist and fearful of the “others”.

Daesh attacks and the European fight against terrorism

Who speaks about the Third World War already started is either an ignorant or a fool. The two world wars were total wars, fought among states with gigantic armies and making millions of victims. DAESH is an armed Wahhabi/Salafi extremist militant group, based on a destructive cult, that took advantage of two failed states and Western proxy wars to take control of Mosul, Raqqa and a piece of territory between Syria and Iraq. It would be not difficult to defeat a small terrorist pseudo state that declared war to everyone apart them, first of all against their fellow Muslim brothers, as we can see from the bombs in Baghdad and Beirut. But the terrorism that they are using abroad will not stop. To limit terrorism we need securitization but to stop it there is only one way: integration.

After the new Paris attacks now we are waiting for a French Patriot Act on the style of the American one after 9-11 and French boots on the ground against DAESH. Europe and NATO too could intervene as France is part of NATO and could be considered under attack (according to Article 5 “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”). But as we know from the past (Iraqi war that contributed to create DAESH) a war, even if important, will not be enough, and could be also counterproductive, if not done with a long vision and proper tools of inclusive state reconstruction. This is what the EU and also the UN should start to think about now: how to help to reconstruct a new order in the Middle East. Yes we need a new order in the region after the end of the post-Ottoman one based on the Sykes-Picot agreements, but it has to be an autochthonous order, not an imperialist one. Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to compromise sooner or later with Iran, and they will have to help reconstruct the new states coming out of Syria and Iraq (probably four new states) like Europe helped ex Yugoslavia to build the new countries. The EU, US and Russia will have to support from outside, not put their hands inside again, as they did in the past. Otherwise the terrorist groups will start again, under new forms.

On the other front, to stop terrorism abroad, we need first of all to understand that we are facing a new type of war, asymmetric, hybrid and dynamic, and so we need new tools to face it, not armies and bombs but intelligence and police. Otherwise as the US failed to understand the guerrilla warfare in Vietnam we may fail to understand the terrorist war in our countries. Unfortunately this new tools could create permanent “state of emergencies” as already in France, so we will need to take care of not falling in the risk of Big Brother as the NSA did in the US. But is the temporary solution needed to control the terrorist cells. In the long run though to really stop terrorism, as we did with Nazism, we will need a new integration in Europe and the West in general, between the old inhabitants and the new immigrants. The foreign fighters born because of lack of integration and strong identity, not because of some innate hate towards the West, as racists everywhere say. Therefore a Patriot act and policy and intelligence measures will just limit but not solve the problem. Europeans are mourning now some innocent victims, like the US did 14 years ago, and like different parts of Middle East suffered for decades, because of European colonialism and Western imperialism. Yes we rich people of the West, we are responsible of the suffering of many populations, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly and often without completely knowing it (as the media didn’t show us the suffering we created with our wars and our economic exploitation). But today is the time to invert the trend: we need a new reconciliation between the ex-invaders and current hosts and the ex-invaded and current refugees. In Europe we need to build a new integration, this time social instead of economic, we need a new multiculturalism, based on respect of diversity. Europe until now thought too much about the money and too little about the souls. But the new wave of immigrants and refugees will help the continent to reflect that to live together we need rules but also awareness, to live together means to eat together but also talk together, and learn from each other. We need to teach tolerance and respect of different cultures, starting with the children and their program of education and following with ethical/solidarity/cultural tourism instead of those useless, ridiculous and offensive holiday resorts, counterproductive also for the local economies that remain dependent on foreign flows. If wars and neocolonialism are the parents of terrorism, racism and Islamophobia are its siblings: they don’t limit terrorism they fuel it. The path is long but is not eternal. As Giovanni Falcone once said of Mafia we can say today of terrorism: terrorism is a human phenomenon, and as all human phenomena has a start, an evolution and will have also an end.

The strategy of securitization of Kurdish issue could turn against Turkish democratic and unitary future


Erdogan thought that the only way to make the pro-Kurdish party, guided by Selahattin Demirtaş, lose the incredible support received last June was to call for new elections and in the meantime reinstate the war against PKK. But someone or something suggested him that it could not be enough to win this life-or-death political struggle with the HDP. The Ankara massacre has to be read with these lens.

The break of the truce with the PKK, the Kurdish nationalist organization, after the last elections had a clear goal to make Turkish people afraid of instability and even a possible civil war, and so vote in big numbers for the nationalist and Islamist AK party. Erdogan, since got the power in 2002, has the plan to build a new powerful regional Middle Eastern Turkey, on the old Ottoman style example. He needs the support of the majority of the population to do that, with the creation of a strong presidential system through a Constitutional reform. But his plan has been blocked by the surprising success of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) a leftist secular and inclusive party, born in 2012, that supports the Kurdish cause and has anti-capitalist, environmental and pro minority rights identity. This party represents a real threat to the AK party goal, as it challenges basic foundations of the new strong Turkey with an Islamist identity, that Erdogan wants to create. Among other things the HDP guarantee a 50% quota to women and 10% to LGTB community, and geopolitically supported the peace process with the PKK party for more autonomy to the Kurdish region. The secular and modern soul of Turkey, the same soul that helped Tunisia to avoid the creation of an Islamist state, completing the only successful democratic transition in the Arab Spring, could not have died in just a decade of AK rule. The winning of HDP demonstrates it.

When this party became the third parliamentary force in Turkey last June, Erdogan understood that he could not make his goal real. He started to revive the war between Turkey and Kurdish militants in order to break the alliance between liberals and Kurds that allowed the HDP party victory. But something or someone told him that this was not enough. The recent attack in Ankara against HDP supporters (also two HDP candidates died in the attack) could show that he might have turned to a strategy that in Italy we have known for long time, since the 1970s (when the state used it against the risk of a strong Communist Party): the “strategy of tension”. Actually the Ankara massacre remembers me the famous Bologna massacre at the train station in 1980. There is a difference with Italy though: after the Bologna massacre the broken clock of the station that stopped at 10.25am was left as a symbol of the massacre. After the Ankara bombings the government rushed to clean the place and fix the destructions of the station to go back as soon as possible to normality, and erase any sign of the attack avoiding any possible memorial symbols. Will a memorial monument be built in the place of the massacre? This is the parameter to understand if Turkey will have reached a social peace in the future.

The “strategy of tension” occurs when the “deep state” of a country give the “go ahead” to some acts of violence and terrorism in order to create a climate of fear in the population, bringing it towards more right wing and nationalist positions, to support parties that guarantee the status quo with a strong hand. For Erdogan would not be difficult to allow DAESH cells to act on its territory, as Turkey has been helping in some way DAESH to form in Syria and Iraq (against the Shia ruling in both countries). But this strategy, if is the one Erdogan is really pursuing, could not work in Turkey today, and on the opposite could even turn against not only the AK plan but also against the Turkish future.

The reason is that the situation of Kurdish minority is not a Turkish national problem: it is a regional problem. Since the Treaty of Lausanne Kurdistan is divided between four states: Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. And today the DAESH’ success on the dismemberment of the Syrian and Iraqi states works in favor of a possible final creation of a Kurdish state. When (in few years or in a decade we don’t know) Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the presence of Russia, the US, the EU and may be China, will finally seat at an international conference to decide the destinies of the Levant region, after the end of post-Ottoman order, a Kurdish state will have to be built, to answer to the need of self determination of a population since more than one century. And Turkey will have to accept it, and deal with it may be even giving some part of its national territory to the new state, as more than half of the Kurdish population lives in Turkey today. What could be done otherwise, a forced migration of 15 million people? Fortunately a genocide like the one against Armenians one century ago is today unthinkable.

Therefore the strategy used today by the AK party to securitize the Kurdish issue and cut the support to the HDP party, could represent a mistake for the future of Turkey. To block the HDP from having rallies for fears about security, to restrict media freedom and to exacerbate the conflict with Kurdish population can only go against Turkish democratic and unity interest. While starting a new inclusive policy, in which also the Muslim Kurdish minority would be integrated in the state besides the non-Muslim minorities that have already a legal status in Turkey since one century (the Armenians, Greeks and Jews) would facilitate a social peace that is the only path for a stable future. Unfortunately leadership with long vision is what is missing today, also in the Middle East (a part may be from Iran, who not by chance has been called back by the international community to help to solve the Middle East quagmire).

We will see what will happen in the next elections in November in Turkey, unless Erdogan will stop them for some more months, as he has the Constitutional right to do so in case of unrest and insecurity. What will be the result of those elections? What will do the Army in case of a too polarized result, intervene like they already did in the past? Is Turkish democracy a healthier one today? The Turkish people could demonstrate this in two weeks, voting for the parties that look for national dialogue and inclusiveness instead than for the ones that call for divisive nationalism and strong state. One thing is certain: the blood spilled in Ankara will not be forgotten soon, neither by the Kurdish nor by the Turkish youth. And this is not a good news in the long term for the AK party.

PS It is better to call the Salafi jihadist extremist militant group present in Syria and Iraq with the correct Arabic acronyms for this criminal organization based on a destructive cult that wants to create a Caliphate: DAESH. This because to use the English terms ISIS/ISIL/IS or “Islamic State” supports the propaganda of DAESH, who aspire to represent the Islamic world (that nobody of common sense in both Islamic and non-Islamic world would agree on) and aspire to have a state (that also nobody of common sense should support).

Thank you Germany to show the obligation of ethics. The migrant’s flow that is changing the face of Europe.


The migrants that arrive alive to the shores of our south European countries or jump the fences erected in Central-Eastern Europe, represents the biggest exodus of people after WWII in Europe and are changing the face, and soon also the policies, of the continent. Europe in one century will be like the United States: a land of immigrants. Refugees and economic migrants arriving in hundreds of thousands, and in the future probably in millions, will not be stopped by the fences that Hungary is building on the 110 miles of border with Serbia (anyway soon Croatia will be also in the Schengen area). These migrants will not be fend off by the racist attitudes that a a nationalist conservative prime minister of a landlocked country is trying to create in Europe (looking to the fortresses of the past instead of to the bridges of the future). These immigrants on the opposite will be welcome by the European values of tolerance, democracy and universalism, that today are stronger than its fears. Neither economic depressions nor fear of invasions will make us Europeans to go back to the barbarity of nationalism, fascism and nazism. And exactly the best part of Germany, both with its leadership and its people, showed to Europe and the world in these days what it means the Kantian duty of ethics. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, foresaw a “perpetual peace” based not only on republicanism and federalism but on “universal hospitality”: this is what all Europe, with Germany in the first row, today has to show. German people experienced on their skin what does it mean to be refugee after WWII and so they have to fight against the xenophobia that is present in some part of the population and right wing party (like in Austria, that today also showed its best part with the caravan of cars going to Hungary to pick up the refugees). Ms Merkel said it well: there has to be zero tolerance for hate and xenophobia.

But there is more than fight between tolerance and racism in this epochal change. In the same way as the internal migration among European states created what is today the European culture, maintaining the diversity of each country but also integrating them in a common identity, the people from the Maghreb, the Levant of Middle East and farther, will create a Euro-Mediterranean identity based also on South and Southeastern peripheries of the continent (like Russian people will do with the Eastern periphery). Even if European institutions don’t want to expand yet to its southeast border (first of all Turkey) people will create naturally a European enlargement decades before the European Union will expand. It is a normal and natural process, as migrations cannot be blocked, neither with walls nor with fears, in particular if they are the result of wars that Europe didn’t want to stop or that even facilitated. And here we come to the third effect of these migrations: they will not change only the face of the continent but they will also modify its institutions and its policies, both foreign and internal policies.

Europe cannot escape anymore from its own responsibilities in keeping the Middle East and Africa backwards and in constant conflict, from centuries of colonialism to the current Western wars and arms trade. From the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Syrian proxy war and Libyan military intervention, the EU, guided by the US, is looking today at the effects of its recent actions. These effects don’t remain anymore only in the region (keeping the Middle East exceptionalism in the failure of democracy and development) but arrives to our own territories with the migratory event, with its security, economic, social and cultural consequences. Therefore our governments cannot play anymore with the fire hiding the hand: they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this will put foreign policies into question. Germany is the less involved in these failed foreign policies (it opposed strongly Iraq war and Libyan intervention for example) and at the same time is the country that assumes more responsibility. Sure, also because its growing economy and markets need worker and citizens with a new drive of building a better life, but also because if Germany wants to become the real leader of European integration it has to do it with legitimacy and ethics. Anyway Germany cannot be the only one to take the burden of the crisis on its shoulders, and the costs but also the benefits of millions of migrants (that will sustain an ageing continent and its pensions system) will have to be shared. Even if the UK is obviously the less affected by the migratory crisis it is the main responsible for the Middle East situation, and so together with the US will have to assume its responsibility too. Cameron said that UK has the most migrants of all the European nations, but forgot to say that (a part one million of polish coming during Blair era) these migrants mostly came from the Commonwealth, so were not refugees in needs of help but almost English citizens already.

Therefore this crisis will shake and change Europe and will make the continent to think twice in the future also on its foreign policy, and may be a sustainable, development oriented, foreign policy in the outskirts of the continent will see the light sooner or later. As we did for the ex-Yugoslavia we need to help these populations to not become refugees, and the refugees that are in neighboring countries to be protected and helped. Also, this crisis already changed the Dublin rule that asylum seekers are required to claim a refuge in the first EU state they arrive in, but will also make Europe think to more internal integration, less frontiers and a real European citizenship for the future. So migrations, and in general the elements of globalization, are having strong effects on state sovereignty: the modern countries have to rethink their integration and citizenship policies based on new realities of nation states, member states and federal states.

Thank you Germany, this time you showed what does it mean to be a great power, a great democracy and a great leader: it takes “power and morality”, as Edward Carr would have said. An ethical and not authoritarian leader is what we need for a new Europe. Look and learn UK: forza European democracy and integration.

Again the Mediterranean: Greek democracy and ISIS terrorism will change the 21st century of Europe and farther?


“Events my dear boy, events”. This is what Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, had said when was asked by a journalist what is most likely to blow governments off course.
Events are what they are: events. But the context, the path that lead to them and the reactions that follow, make them fundamental shocks that impact the future of our lives, sometimes not only in the countries where they happen (like 9/11) or just random facts. Last ten days there have been two events that could have an impact much further than their short time and space range: the Greek referendum and the Tunisian attack. Let’s try to put them in perspective.
Many things have been said before the Greek referendum on the new proposal to “save” Greece, made by the ECB AND the IMF (even if many times we forget about it, the IMF is deciding on the future of European countries as much as the European Central Bank). There have been many attempts to jeopardize the referendum, trying to politically kill the Syriza party, after its “dangerous” victory in the last elections, as well as the democratic renaissance of a small country of few millions of people who invented democracy more than two millennia ago. Even not so much veiled threats and blackmails, like the one by Ms Merkel, the European substantial leader, who said “if the Euro falls Europe falls” (ironically she was not so wrong as the European Union until now has been a monetary union but the end of that could represent its renaissance).

Besides all that has been said the population of Greece demonstrated that even in mature democracies in crisis, like the European ones, we can give back power to the people, to empower the citizens, who has the right to decide on their future, instead of a bunch of technocrats and bankers, representing private interests of few European and world groups. Greece used the referendum as the tool to give back to people the sovereignty, a tool that, even on difficult things, should be used more as a democratic element in modern representative democracies in crisis of legitimacy. And it is not a case that Greece give us the example: we have to go always back to the original inventors if we want to retake that invention and give it vital lymph again. As Italians did for the Renaissance, going back to the Roman classics, also to remake the European integration and improve our poor modern democracies, we have to go back to the Greek classics. Greece demonstrated that the people can decide on their future, and not only on general things but also on technical decisions. Today everyone can get information through internet, and this give more power to the people who can express themselves on different things (like the referendum text, that gave the exact names of the documents so all who wanted could go to read them). And the referendum showed also another important element for the future of Europe and in general the international system: nation sovereignty is still the principal form of modern societies, and the integration of nation states needs to pass from the people, not from the technocrats, from the nations not from the banks, from the ideas not from the money. This is the Europe that we want today, not a fake supranational entity but a real confederation of states, made by all the national entity that compose it.

But in the Greek case there is even more than this, there is a fight between the old style welfare state, the third way between total capitalism and total communism that Europe had conquered with difficulties, and the modern capitalism. As Žižek masterly explained in its recent article (1) the real question today in Europe is the fact that global capitalism cannot afford a return to the old welfare state. And Syriza is a danger for this. A danger or a salvation, if we follow Varoufakis programmatic declaration: “If this means that it is we, the suitably erratic Marxists, who must try to save European capitalism from itself, so be it”. Future will say but for now we can celebrate as democracy and people’s voice are back to Europe, and they came back to remain.

Besides the Greek case there has been another event in the last few days in the Mediterranean that could represent another shift in the future of Europe and the Mediterranean (including the Middle East/ME): last attack at the Tunisia resort of Sousse ten days ago could represent the lethal hit to the Tunisian democracy. Unfortunately more terrorist attacks will follow probably, as there is a type of “state” now that finance these acts of “political-identitarian” mass killings, and this state is not Iran, the big devil, who the West accuses often to support terrorism (while in reality it supports self-determination and anti-discrimination Shia movements, that have been repressed for long time, in particular by the Sunni monarchies). There is a state now, the Islamic (or we should say Islamist) State that will not see its end soon, on the contrary it will probably expand more and sooner or later it will have to socialize with the other sovereign actors, nation states, of the region (unless some war will annihilate it, but this war is not on the horizon). Tunisia demonstrated again that even if the current international terrorism wants to destroy its experiment with democracy (that is quite dangerous for both the Islamists and the world powers, as it is not following the diktats of the international capitalism, including banks, international markets and finance, exactly like Greece) the right path is the path of the government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. That is why Tunisian democracy will not die, because it is coming from the people and it goes back to them, even if the ISIS, and probably many other regional or global powers, wants it to fail.

The probable escalation of future ISIS attacks will have strong consequences for Europe and the ME like 9-11 had, both internationally and internally, for the US. Specifically the ISIS violent escalation, could have three main consequences during the first half of this century, in Europe, the ME and also inside Islam.
Europe evidently will have to deal with it not only military, but culturally, socially and economically, engaging with the south coast of the Mediterranean that after the events of the Arab Spring and Western wars (direct of proxy) ended the post-Ottoman order of the region. Europe in particular will have to decide if it wants to remain a fortress with lack of visionary politics of integration (substituted by a superficial multilateralism that make society ghettoized and open to the problems of radicalization of conflicts) or to improve its process of integration, in particular for the thousands of refugees that are knocking at its doors. Will Europe close or open itself to the world? If it doesn’t want to end in the arms of a never ending Cold War with Russia, Europe has to embrace Africa, as Mahbubani says (2), rediscovering its Mediterranean identity and making of it a real “Sea between lands” (from the Latin Mediterraneus) passing from fortress to square, and becoming a real democratic space that lives up to its values of diversity and tolerance creating a new experiment of melting pot, with equal possibilities for all, on the US style.

The ME will have to solve its problems of poverty and backwardness respect to the rest of the world, and this unfortunately will not come without more conflicts and suffering. Not that the ME didn’t suffer until now, with colonialism, occupations and dictatorships sustained by the West, but this century could be even worst. Hopefully will be the last one of great suffering, as it has been the 20th century for Europe. There will not be another world war for the ME, as the world is too big, too interdependent and too dangerous today to be involved in a total war, but to avoid regional wars, we will need to create among the regional powers, in primis Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that order ended in the last few years. And the democratization will arrive to the ME too, facilitating hopefully the creation of a regional unity, a sort of confederation similar to the one that Europe started to build after the WWII (even if is still trying to complete it today). In particular if the West will leave the ME to work on itself without much interference. Finally Islam will have to reform, like Christianity did, following its own path but doing it in order to integrate itself in the modern world, where globalization doesn’t allow intolerances or lack of fundamental human rights for the future “planetary citizens”.
We will not see all of this but that’s why we have to help to build it.



EU where are you in the refugees crisis?


Europe contributed with its colonialism, postcolonialism, recent military interventions and proxy wars to the backwardness and conflicts in its periphery of North Africa and Middle East for the last two centuries, now she has to do something first of all for the humanitarian catastrophe and then for the stabilization of the region…by will or by force. Until Europe will not start foreign policies with long vision and will not stand up to its role of real regional power, helping the countries in the south of Mediterranean to develop with security, there will be more suffering like the recent tragedy, where almost one thousand people died.

For every shipmaster the obligation to render assistance at sea in normal, and for Italian Cost Guard too, also because we have a geography and history made on the sea….but for the EU is not the same, that is why Frontex, the new program of the EU for the refugee crisis, complains often about rescues outside our territorial waters. The point is: does the EU understand that this is an epochal event that cannot be restricted to rules of frontiers? The actions of the Italian Cost Guard and now also of Medici Senza Frontiere going outside territorial waters near Libya to rescue who is calling for help is like going directly to Libya to help them, as nobody is trying to solve the conflicts in that country and in the others, that finally have been created by us…

There is no way EU can build bridges for millions of people from Africa and Middle East in the next decades…it is unsustainable. But the EU at least can think strategically and act wisely in three direction. Emergency rescue is the first one, but is not going to be enough, it is just a temporary solution. Secondly we need a new refugee policy (with long term integration plans for a new force that the immigrants could represent for Europe in crisis). And finally, but this has to be done with all the international community that is also absent or not fully engaged (in primis the UN): new mediation efforts to solve the conflicts that we fueled and new foreign policies to foster structural development of those regions in the long run. There is no easy solution but these are important paths to follow. For now, as the political will languishes, the EU just thinks about emergency, but unfortunately it is again with the fortress idea. Fighting the traffickers is not going to change the need of millions of people to escape from wars and poverty. The EU doesn’t speak about rescue, protection, shelter or immigration policies. Just bomb the boats before they leave. This is like confuse the causes with the effects. Traffickers and boats are not the causes, are the effects of the problems of conflicts and poverty the people are living.

We are not going far, and I see decades of troubles in front of us…as Gramsci said we need the pessimism of the intelligence and the optimism of the will. May God welcome those perishing in the water, who from hopeless became hopeful for a short time. They were just looking for a better life.

Iranian nuclear deal: the clock of ISIS and its root, Wahhabism, have the “minutes counted” (i.e. few hours of life)


The consequences of bringing back Iran to the international community after 35 years cannot be foreseen right now. Israel and Saudi Arabia are not afraid of an Iranian bomb, but of a new leader in the Middle East apart themselves. If the right wing regime of Netanyahu in Israel and the Saudi regime in Saudi Arabia could become in the last decades more and more extreme in their philosophy and actions, it is because they could use the external ‘enemy’ as a factor of social cohesion. And because their possible rivals on the geopolitical chess were weak. It is the divide et impera, ‘divide and rule’ philosophy of the Roman Empire, that made the complexity of the region of the Middle East anarchic, chaotic and never able to integrate itself, since at least one hundred years, since the end of the Ottoman Empire. But these divisions sooner or later will have to give space to some alliances and unions, and the region one day will be united as Europe today. That day people will remember the 2015 as the start of the end of the chaos in the Middle East. It seems a far stretch now but if we deeply think and analyze the history and the politics of that region it doesn’t seem so impossible.

Diplomacy is back in the international relations, after decades of power politics, and this not only with Iran, but with Russia and Cuba too. Also for us, the political scientists, a new paradigm, more European than North American, might start to see the light in the international relations theory: mediations and negotiations as the only solutions to security dilemmas, anarchic system and mistrusting realist views. In particular two non-Arab countries of the Middle East could play a fundamental role for the stabilization and development of the area. In the future regional order of the Middle East Iran could be what Germany has been for Europe, the engine, and Turkey what France has been, the torch. When Iran and Turkey will finally understand that supporting each other is better than competing, that will create the leadership that the Middle East desperately need since one century. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries sooner or later will have to understand that their role is the bridge between Maghreb and Southwest Asia, the region to which they belong historically, geographically and ontologically, is not the Levant but North Africa. It is with their Arab brothers that they have to find a new Renaissance, starting with a renovated Arab League, a new economic integration and a new approach between religion and politics, instead of looking for spheres of influence in the Levant fighting with their competitors, in the Shia crescent.

At the domestic level they need to overcome the fixation in the Shari’atization of civic life and public policy and understand that democracy and emancipation is a natural development of human empowerment. They have good example in the Maghreb to follow, first of all Tunisia, but also Morocco. When the education and the globalization will increase in Gulf countries, together with the end of the oil blessing, on which bases the monarchies maintained their societies backwards, also the Saudis will have to find other ways for their legitimization respect to the Wahhabi sect. And some good Iranian military blow in the next few years (not nuclear fortunately since today) against the Salafist terrorism and may be also the countries backing it, will accelerate the process. But Saudi Arabia will do its process of democratization gradually, as Turkey and Iran already did one century ago. And even if Iranian people have been imprisoned by a religious and military elite that betrayed the ideals of the 1979 revolution (as everyone who hijack the revolutions, since the Bolshevik one in 1917 to the Arab Spring in 2011) also Iran will soon go towards a more modern democracy, as the cold war is ended and the Ayatollah regime finally starts to be out of touch with the contemporary world and with his people. That will be the moment in which also Israel will feel more safe. Today is the starting of this process. As the welcome back of China in 1979 after 30 years contributed to the stability in Asia, the new Iranian rapprochement will be a fundamental element for the stability in the Middle East in the XXI century.

ISIS and the rest of Jihadists will make more blood unfortunately, like yesterday with the poor students of the college in Kenya, but when the need of money, the request of weapons and the thirst of power will not be satisfied anymore, also the Jihadist threat to the world will be erased, as it has been done with the Soviet one. Iran will have its role in this, militarily and culturally, together with Turkey, when both countries will have walked also on their path to empower their democracies, going back to the ideals that at the beginning of XX century inspired their Constitutional revolutions. But for today we need to celebrate and be enthusiast, as the Iranian people on the streets. The prodigal son is back for this Good Friday. I am happy for Iran, for Israel and for the Middle East. I am happy also for China, Russia, the US and Europe, that learned to cooperate and mediate. I am happy that the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today is an Italian diplomat, Federica Mogherini. Remembering how Berlusconi stupidly refused 10 years ago the Iranian offer to participate to the negotiation. And I am happy that Obama will not be remembered only because of being black. The American Congress will have to learn to be more humble in these last years of his mandate. The Norwegian Noble Committee had been farsighted as usual.

Tunisia and the democratic failure in the Middle East


Among all the Arab Spring countries Tunisia is the only one that had a successful transition, at least until now. In the rest of the countries the democratization process failed, having as a result civil wars and failed states like in Syria, Libya or Yemen or praetorian regimes like in Egypt. But the recent attacks in Tunisia, that killed many tourists at the Museum of Bardo, seem to tell us that also Tunisian transition risk to fall in the hands of Salafists and Jihadist terrorists, also considering that thousands of Tunisians went to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But the Tunisian people are a democratic and republican people in the marrow of their identity. The republican values have been displayed even during the attacks against the Bardo, when the members of the Congress, hided in their Parliament, started to sing the national anthem, as a demonstration of their principles to be held even until the death. It was a way to say to the terrorists: they shall not pass. Will this save the Tunisian transition?

We shall see, but for now we can analyze what make of Tunisian people a people that could empower their transition fighting for its success and saving the country from failing backwards. One of the main reasons that made the transition in Tunisia more successful respect to Egypt and the other countries is the maturity and democratic identity of the civil society. The Tunisian population is the population among Arab countries that is the closest to European, and particularly French, identity. Tunisians enjoy one of the highest level of education in Maghreb and the Arab World, with a high number of civil society organization (including an important trade union) and many NGOs that work for civil rights that have been either reconstituted after the revolution or born new. Tunisia has a diverse and mixed ethnic identity (between Berber, Arabs, Europeans, Jews, Centralafrican etc.) and a diverse and mixed cultural identity, with outside influence during its history from many populations such as Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Italians, Spaniards and finally French. This gave to the country a custom of diversity and openness to external views of political institutions and state forms that was useful during the moment of transition towards a new democracy. Another important element for the success of Tunisian transition until now has been that the Tunisian military is a small army, composed by less than thirty thousand people, professional and with an apolitical role, that account just for 1.6% of the GDP, that means a much different situation from Egypt. Instead the trade union is a very big institutions, trusted, powerful and representative of those secular and democratic values that helped Tunisia to strengthen its institutions. So Tunisia has a civil society, institutions and history that can defend her from the attacks of the Salafists and make her stand for the democratic transition. But in the long run, to really win against the possible Jihadists metastasis that from Libya could reach their country, Tunisian people need to address the root causes of their problems, that are similar to all the Middle East and that have been until now facilitated also by the West that supported dictators for its neocolonialist interests.

The real problems that Tunisia and in general Muslim communities of the Middle East face today lies not in the theological debate if Islam is compatible with democracy and neither in the religious foundations of terrorist groups that mixed political Islam with violent Islamism, but in dealing with the root causes of social conflict, economic backwardness and lack of freedom that, together with doomed foreign interventions in the Middle East, caused the growth of violent Islamist movements. As Abu-Nimer (1) among other scholars argues, the real root causes of underdevelopment to address in the Middle East are several: the economic deprivation first of all; then the global cultural invasion in communities unable to integrate it; the authoritarian states with a legitimacy based on external Western support and internal acceptance of authoritative-security practices; the theology of stagnation, with lack of space for reinterpretation of Islamic history and traditions; the patriarchal structures and tribal loyalties, that limit the freedom of individuals, especially women; and finally a disempowering educational system, without emphasis in critical debate, self-examination, and openings to global societies, even if as I said Tunisia is probably in the best position in the Middle East.
Hopefully the West will help the Arab countries to come to terms with these problems instead of keep creating a narrative of clash of civilizations useful just for imperialistic interests, a la divide et impera. Even the threat of ISIS should be treated in these terms, clearly identifying it with Salafist or Jihadist terrorism and not ‘Islamic terrorism’. To speak about Islamic terrorism today is an big mistake, as the word Islamic has to do with the ideals of Muslim religion (like to say Christian or Judaic) and we cannot identify the criminal actions of a group with the ideals of a religion. That is why even President Obama refused to speak of ‘Islamic terrorism’, in order not to fuel the idea that a religious tradition authorize the deployment of terrorism, while there is no religions that look for that, being it an oxymoron. The risk in the “West” is to follow the narrative of Islamophobia, facilitated by the masses that have no time to think or reflect deeply on how words are used and identities are constructed for political reasons. As Juan Cole remembered in a recent article (2), when a sectarian religious group start doing crimes or using violence (either it be the Ku Klux Klan or ISIS) we have to speak of “destructive cults”. Destructive cults appeal to people on the basis of religious symbols, as they go at the core of the identity of the people. We need therefore to deconstruct realities to understand deeply the development of the current international terrorism instead of following essentialist ideas.
History is made of men and women, besides institutions and policies, and the people can make it and remake it. Therefore we need to turn to the wish of the people to understand the future of regions like the Middle East. The Arab Spring brought many hopes, even if obviously it was not easy to respond to such high expectations as democracy is always a long transition, a ‘never ending’ process. But it demonstrated that people can change regimes and ask for what they believe not what their leaders or foreign countries want. Today we can say that the Arab Spring practically failed everywhere, from Syria to Yemen, from Libya to Egypt, apart only from Tunisia. In the Arab world the answer to a very common question today in international studies, “is democracy in decline?” (3), is unfortunately yes. The reasons may be many, from the weakness of local political institutions, to the ‘winner take all’ mentality, the type of ‘political culture’ as Lipset would have said, as well as indicators of the modernization of the country, like the rates of education and the female emancipation. But as Courbage and Todd argued in a recent book (4), there is a current spread of massive ‘modernization’, based on reduction of fertility and raise of female literacy, throughout the Muslim world, similar to the history of Christianity. The hope is that sudden events like the Arab Spring and social trends like the ‘modernization’ process in the Muslim world, are signals that also the Middle East will be able to free itself from conflicts and disempowerment that kept it going backward instead of forward. And maybe one day not far also the Middle East will enjoy the stability, security and prosperity that many other parts of the world live in this so called ‘post-modernity’ of the contemporary world.

1)Abu-Nimer, Mohammed. Peace building principles and values in Islam. In Matyok, Thomas et al. eds. “Peace on earth. The role of religion in peace and conflict studies”. Lexington books, 2014. P. 375-390

2)Juan Cole, “How ‘Islamic’ Is the Islamic State?” The Nation, February 24, 2015

3)Is democracy in decline? Journal of Democracy, Twenty-fifth anniversary issue, Vol. 26, Number 1, January 2015

4)Youssef Courbage, and Emmanuel Todd. A convergence of civilizations: the transformation of Muslim societies around the world. Columbia UP, 2011.

The Islamic State: is there any long term solution to this already ‘metastatic cancer’ in XXI century?


The beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians today, well shooted with high video skills as usual, keep on the path of expansionism and barbarization that in the sick minds of ISIS members should create the Western revenge in a sort of Clash of Civilization. Clash that will not happen and even if might theoretically be would result in just keeping down the Arab world instead of helping it to stand up again, after a century of colonialism and dictatorships guided by Europe and the US. Six months ago the American journalist James Foley was beheaded by a British militant of the Islamic State/IS remembered to the ‘West’ that the horrors of Al Qaeda not only didn’t stop but, after a dozen of years of Iraq disasters and a couple of Syrian ones, have been now overcome by a stronger terrorist group in Middle East, richer, more organized and for the first time with a territory that allowed it to build a sort of ‘terrorist state’. The declared goal of this ‘pre-modern state’ (based on submission instead of consensus) is to kill all who think differently from it, being them heretical like Shia or Sunni that are not following their interpretations of Islam, infidels like Christian or other non-Muslim minorities or ‘westerners’ like anyone coming from Europe or America (unless is in their group of brainwashed people) and build a caliphate that should extend from Spain to India (as the map shows).

To stop this terrorism that live between craziness and barbarity the EU decided last summer to start selling weapons to the populations that were resisting to the advancements of the ISIS (mostly Kurds) and start a military intervention based on strategic bombings. But those solutions, besides being late, resulted as we suspected not sufficient to defeat the terrorist group. We all know that to fight against this type of terrorism we need stronger military interventions and also longer term regional policies, and so hopefully soon the ferocious actions of this self-denominated ‘caliphate’ at the doors of Italy will make Europe reflects that its intervention cannot be delayed anymore. The awaking of the EU to its role of regional power, probably again with NATO as we did in Libya, will need to go together with the creation of bigger coalitions of regional powers (in particular Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and regional organizations (Arab League and African Union). Even if Middle Eastern powers want to use ISIS for their interests against the neighbors’ ones they will have to come to terms with the fact that cancers when go in metastasis as the ISIS today are much harder to extirpate, so better to start when is not too late. The military actions that the US and Europe (may be with NATO) and regional powers will take in the near future in Libya, Iraq and Syria will decide the future of ISIS and most likely in a relatively short time this group will be reduced to another Al Qaeda with smaller power to harm (even if many analysts are warning about a near European 9/11). But the political actions, that should accompany the military ones, should also put the bases for the future order in the Middle East, as it is not postponable anymore to address the root causes of the terrorism and the consequences of the wars that since the partition of the Ottoman Empire one century ago tormented this area of the world.

What should be the long term policies in order to extirpate this metastatic cancer from the Middle East? President Obama in his speech after the murder of the American journalist last summer spoke about not only military intervention but long term solutions. Unfortunately today he doesn’t speak anymore about those, but just about the “Three years plan”. I am not very happy with his visions as we all expected him to be the “transformational leader” that the US in this era would have need. But anyway to stop once and for all from Maghreb to central Asia this type of barbarity, that appeal to the suffering of the people, manipulate Muslim religion to stimulate clash of civilizations, and use the weapons of ‘Western’ countries against the same Western countries that are too dependent on this industry for their economies, the world will need to address exactly these three main topics: 1) the arms trade to the area 2) the development and democratization of the states with the integration of the moderate political Islam and, most importantly, 3) the new regional order in the Middle East, that will have to deal with the suffering of the populations after a century of colonization and dictatorships. In other words a long term solution against terrorism and a lasting peace in the Middle East need to pass from the control of the arm exportation and financing of terrorism, the support to democratization processes that aim to modern states based on consensus and inclusiveness, and the facilitation sooner or later of a type of EU, a ‘Middle Eastern Union’, that will allow integration, stability and prosperity. It seems an impossible dream for the XXI century? Also a European Union seemed impossible one hundred years ago with the end of totalitarianism and millennial conflicts (in particular between France and Germany) but it happened (even if after two world wars) so we need to believe and work for giving back also to that area of the world the tolerance and prosperity that the Ottoman Empire guaranteed for centuries. It is time for the Middle East to govern itself, as Sachs says, and there are powers that can do it during this century.

The first element, the control of the arms exportation, needs to address the arms flow from both ‘Western’ and Arab countries to these terrorist groups. How to do it for countries so dependent on this industry is the question. The quick answer would be to become less dependent on this industry but in the meantime an international moratorium from Arab League and EU/US/Russia would be also urgent. The second element needs a longer process for the facilitation of economic development and political democratization, first of all because democracy and development are never ending processes that needs inclusion and pluralism and not the easier ‘tyranny of the majority’ (realized recently by inexpert Islamist leaders as Morsi or al-Maliki). Second because the type of democracy adapt for Middle East will not necessarily resemble our ‘Western’ system based on secular state or complete division between Church and State, and instead will have to born from the grassroots level of every country, with also the possibility of “unsecular democracies”, as Jocelyn Cesari explains very well in her last book (1). Finally the issue of democratization will have to go together with the third element, the promotion in the future decades of a new regional order, to answer the needs of security and stability, that a decolonization made with geometrical partitions and secular dictators answered just temporarily, with disastrous consequences today. A regional integration in the Middle East as it happened in the European Union will not only create lasting peace and security but will show that civilizations can learn from each other instead of clash and that terrorism is a global security threat, for everyone, a transnational challenges of our times (like climate change, pandemics, organized crime or gender violence) and cannot be linked to religion, culture or ethnicity. Globalization and transformational leaderships instead of political leaders that foster hatred and bloody conflicts might make possible collective security communities even in a ‘realist’ geographical area as Middle East. We could even think to a sort of confederation in the future also between Israel, Iran and the Arab League. But we need visionary leaders, active citizens and political will of international community to do so.

Will the Middle East be able to do it in the first half of this century avoiding the risk of a world war like Europe experienced one hundred years ago? The future will say it as it will depend on many factors, but the most important thing will be the political intention of the local governments (especially the regional powers that stay at the four corners of Middle East: Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and the one of the world powers that have always a say in it, in a way or in another, in particular United States, European Union, Russia and China. If the local governments, with the drive of their people, will decide for the ‘future interest of all’ instead of the ‘present interest of mine’, anything will be possible and a first international conference for a new regional order could be called even today by the UN together with the African Union or Arab League. It would be the rebirth of these moribund organizations and may be the occasion to reform them too. In the meantime Europe should think to some kind of military intervention to contain the international threat of ISIS. It will not be easy for Europe, that since WWII never had to think about it, and it hoped that peace would have been forever. But unfortunately, in a connected and globalized world, either there is peace for everyone or peace for nobody.

(1) Jocelyn Cesari. The awakening of Muslim democracy. Religion, modernity and the state. Cambridge UP, 2014