Putin’s Syria policy all about oil: Kasparov

Updated 13 June 2013
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Putin’s Syria policy all about oil: Kasparov

GENEVA: Russia’s staunch backing of ally Syria can be pinned squarely on President Vladimir Putin’s need to buttress oil prices in order to protect his own regime, ardent Kremlin opponent Garry Kasparov said Tuesday.
The former chess king turned political campaigner said Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad should be seen through the domestic Russian prism, rather than as a need to maintain the alliance with Damascus or spar diplomatically with the West.
“In supporting Assad, I think Putin not only supports someone from the dictators’ brotherhood, but he does something very important for his own survival,” Kasparov told reporters in Geneva.
Kasparov, one of the key players in the informal opposition group The Other Russia, likened Putin to a mafia godfather who needs to both sow fear and offer favors.
“The boss demands 100 percent loyalty, but in return for 100 percent protection,” he said.
“What is the number one priority for Putin today? Cash. He needs money, to buy off the bureaucracy and to buy favors, or at least time to make the Russian people, the majority of the crowd, quiet. Money in Putin’s Russia comes from oil and gas. So oil prices become absolutely crucial for the survival of the regime,” he added.
Kasparov underlined that in 2000, when oil prices were around $20 a barrel, Russia’s economic growth was rosy.
At the helm continuously since then, either as premier or president, Putin has smothered democracy while using oil wealth to buy off potential critics, rather than invest wisely, according to Kasparov.
Now, even at around $100 a barrel, Russia faces stagnation and a growing budget deficit, he said, and a fall to below $80 would be a major blow to Putin’s system.
“It seems that the trend now is no longer up. It looks down. Anything that helps oil prices to climb, to change the trend, is positive. What is the greatest factor that may add to oil prices? Fear of war in the Middle East,” Kasparov claimed.
With no sign of an end to the spiralling Syria conflict, which broke out in March 2011, there are increasing concerns that other nations in the region could be dragged into the highly sectarian civil war.

‘Organ-eating’ rebels

Putin, meanwhile, said he hoped that Syria’s opposition will not send organ-eating rebels to proposed peace talks to resolve the Syrian civil war.
Speaking to an EU-Russia summit in Yekaterinburg, Putin described seeing televised footage in which “members of the Syrian armed opposition pull out internal organs of their enemies and eat them.”
He was referring to a video uploaded to YouTube in May which showed a rebel apparently cutting out and eating the heart of a Damascus regime soldier.
“I hope that such participants of the negotiations do not appear at Geneva 2,” Putin said of world powers’ second attempt to solve the crisis through direct negotiations in Geneva this summer.
“Otherwise, it will be hard for me to ensure the safety of the Russian participants. It would also be hard to work with such people,” Putin deadpanned.
The video showed a rebel leader leaning over the body of a uniformed soldier before cutting out his heart and then raising it to his mouth, provoking horror around the world.
Washington said it was “appalled,” while the moderate Supreme Military Council of Syrian rebel fighters insisted it did not support such actions.
While Assad’s regime has agreed “in principle” to attend the talks, the main opposition National Coalition is refusing to take part until key demands are met.
The National Coalition has been recognized by many Western and Arab governments as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.


UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

Updated 23 April 2018
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UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

  • UAE donates over $50mn to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri
  • The five-year project aims to give hope to Iraqi youths

BAGHDAD: The United Arab Emirates and Iraq on Monday launched a joint effort to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and its iconic leaning minaret, ravaged last year during battles to retake the city from militants.
During the ceremony at Baghdad’s National Museum, UAE Culture Minister Noura Al-Kaabi said her country would put forward $50.4 million (41.2 million euros) for the task.
“The five-year project is not just about rebuilding the mosque, the minaret and the infrastructure, but also about giving hope to young Iraqis,” she said.
“The millenia-old civilization must be preserved.”
The deal was signed by Kaabi and her Iraqi counterpart, Faryad Rawanduzi, in the presence of UNESCO’s Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“This is an ambitious, highly symbolic project for the resurrection of Mosul and Iraq,” said Haxthausen.
“The work has already begun, the site is now protected... we must first clear the site, remove the rubble (and) document, before we can begin reconstructing the mosque and its minaret.”
The famed 12th century mosque and its leaning minaret — dubbed “the hunchback,” or Al-Habda, by locals — was destroyed in June 2017.
The Iraqi army accused Daesh militants of destroying it with explosives as Iraqi forces steadily retook ground in the embattled city.
It was in this mosque in 2014 that Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliph,” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, made his only public appearance as leader. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Kaabi, the Emirati minister, called on the international community “to unite to protect universal heritage sites, especially those in our Arab region” in theaters of conflict.
The Al-Nuri mosque is named after Nureddine Al-Zinki, who once ruled over Aleppo and Mosul and ordered the construction of the mosque in 1172.
Al-Habda, which maintained the same structure for nine centuries, was one of the only remnants of the original construction.
Decorated with geometric brick designs, the minaret was long a symbol of the city.
It was printed on 10,000 Iraqi dinar banknotes before it became a symbol of Daesh rule, when the militants planted their black flag at the top of its 45-meter spire.
“This is a historic partnership, the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
The first year of reconstruction will focus on documenting and clearing the site, UNESCO said.
The following four years will focus on the restoration and “faithful reconstruction” of the mosque, its minaret as well as the city’s historic gardens and open spaces.