Raised Rates Ahead

By Jorge Ortiz  According to the Federal Fund rate “The federal funds rate is an important benchmark in financial markets. The interest rate that the borrowing bank pays to the lending bank to borrow the funds is negotiated between the two banks, and the weighted average of this rate across all such transactions is the federal funds effective rate.”

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The federal fund rate is the only national rate that the Federal Reserve controls. The next meeting with their board of governors is going to be this coming Dec. 15 and 16, and their decision will impact the national economy in a drastic way. The decision balances between inflation or growth. In the past six and a half years, the interest rate has been close to zero and during that time the national inflation rate has been stable at a rate of less than 2 percent. while the national growth rate is slow.

The Fed adopted this monetary policy in order to survive the past recession by letting the banks lend and borrow money at a lower interest rate in order to motivate the economy. According to the theory, if the banks get the money in a cheaper manner, the banks would be able to lend this money with a better interest rate. Therefore, the people and businesses would be able borrow more money in order to create jobs and increase the consumption. On the other hand, when the rates are low, the banks do not pay much to hold the money of their customers and that affects trades and the stock market. Due to these reasons, the Fed has been considering an increase in the rate.

Indeed, it is a moment with challenges and raising the rate could benefit savers and investors, but those borrowing money to buy houses or cars may have to pay more. Due to slow economy recovery and the workers pressing for higher wages, the United States economy seems to be stable, but the results of these past years are unsatisfying to the public.

The Fed's mission is to motivate economic growth, which would affect global markets such as China and the European Union. Keeping the rate close to zero would stabilize the economy in the long term in a way that wouldn’t get the growth that the Fed is looking for. The labor force seems to maintain unstable, as a matter of fact, labor participation rate is at 63.2 percent, which is at its lowest in our generation. Two thirds of all new hires over the last year are temporary employees. It seems that 2016 would be the year for a rate hike hoping for progression in both employment and labor.

Kurdish People Betrayed Once Again

By Josh Gasbarra

In an interview with PBS, the sixth Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said "President Woodrow Wilson, when he drafted the League of Nations, he said that Kurdistan, Arabia and Armenia must not go back to the yoke of the Turks. ... He was the first American president who gave his promise to the Kurdish people." Since then, many U.S. presidents have promised much to the Kurdish people only to pull the rug from under their feet when Washington’s priorities change.

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The Kurdish population has suffered systematic discrimination and oppression from the four governments whose countries they reside in, those being Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Kurds have been discriminated against in government employment and have had little control over even their local affairs. In Iraq, oil wealth was denied to the Kurds despite the fact that the oil wells lay in their land. In Turkey, the Kurdish language is officially banned from both public and private life.

There is no denying that their grievances are justified; to date they are the 4th largest ethnic group without a state. Because they are an oppressed people surrounded by hostile governments, the U.S. has often used them as a tool against their home countries (Iraq, Syria) to achieve their strategic goals. Our military has given them substantial aid in order for them to fight on our side only to abandon them once the goal has been met or a better offer arrives. The first blatant example of this occurring was under the Nixon administration.

In 1972, the Nixon administration along with the pro-American Iranian Shah devised a plan to weaken Iraq under Saddam Hussein—to instigate a rebellion by the oppressed Kurdish minority. Both governments gave millions of dollars in military aid and assured the Kurds they could expect more. The U.S. goal, however, was neither victory nor self-determination for Iraqi Kurds, but rather to put the sabre-rattling Saddam in his place.

Once an agreement between Iran and Iraq over border issues was finalized, the aid to the Kurds ended with no forewarning whatsoever. The Kurdish leader at the time, Mustafa Barzani, had even written a letter to Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. National Security Advisor, pleading desperately for help. Kissinger didn't bother replying. To this day, young Kurds remember and loathe Henry Kissinger. Barzani himself died lamenting having trusted the U.S.

The second betrayal occurred in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war. As this occurred after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US was now supporting Saddam against the Iranians.  During the campaign, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurdish village of Halabja; thousands of people were killed, most of them civilians. While these acts were publicly denounced by the U.S., the military was in fact supporting Saddam’s campaign with critical planning and intelligence with full knowledge chemical weapons would be used against Saddam’s enemies.

According to the New York Times, "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern" to Reagan and his aides, because they "were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." While the U.S. was not involved in the planning of chemical attacks against civilian Kurds, they did nothing to prevent them or to punish Saddam at the time. By allowing and assisting a country to use chemical weapons, against former allies no less, the U.S. betrayed the principles of International Law.

The decades that followed showed hope for Kurdish-U.S. relations. The U.S. established a no-fly zone to protect the Kurds during the First Gulf War and the aftermath that followed. When the Kurdish civil war broke out, the U.S. negotiated a peace treaty between the warring factions. The American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 allowed the Kurdish region in Iraq to gain de facto autonomy resulting in one of the most well-developed and pluralist regions in the Middle East.

All of this makes the most recent betrayal, having occurred but a month ago as part of the Syrian civil war, all the more shocking. When the civil war broke out in 2011, primarily between the government of Bashar al-Assad and Sunni rebels, the Kurds once again fought for their own autonomy. The United States' initial reaction to the conflict was to support the rebels and the Kurds with non-lethal aid against the Syrian regime.

As the war lingered on, a new threat emerged in the form of the Islamic State (ISIS). This rebel group opposed not only Assad, but all people who refused to accept their extreme interpretation of Islam. This included the Kurds, whose pluralistic values clashed with ISIS's ideology. The Kurds proved to be the United States' most effective ally against ISIS. While the Iraqi army fled, the Kurds fought and won several battles against ISIS, once again with substantial U.S. aid.

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The U.S. has made a deal with a longstanding Kurdish enemy, Turkey, that has resulted in the heavy bombardment of Kurdish areas and imprisonment of Kurds within Turkey.  What the U.S. receives in this deal is Turkish support against ISIS, but as of now Turkey has been attacking the Kurds far more than the Islamic State. According to journalist Patrick Cockburn, “the majority of those detained by the security forces turn out to be Kurdish or left-wing activists and not suspected ISIS sympathizers.” Turkey has even entered Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, expanding the hostilities of the Syrian civil war even further.

This deal was another betrayal to the Kurds, who have been ISIS’s most resolute opponents. It will spread the violence of the civil wars in Iraq and Syria into Turkey, and it will rekindle a Kurdish-Turkish civil war that had long been dormant. This betrayal is simultaneously immoral and strategically dubious, reminding us of the days when the shots were called by Henry Kissinger.

14 Kobane Demo is copyright (c) 2014 Montecruz Foto and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share-Alike 2.0 license.

A State of Fear In Syria

By Curtis Pederson

From the United States’ War on terrorism, to sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the expanding and destructive self-described Islamic State, and current fighting between the Syrian-backed forces and rebel groups, the Middle East has been and is experiencing grave instability. Since January of this year, more than 430,000 people have fled the war torn regions of the Middle East, according to Lisa De Bode for Al Jazeera. Richard Cohen for The New York Times says that the current conflict in Syria has already killed 200,000 people, while creating over 4 million refugees. The highly complex regional actions and conflicts have produced a very basic and devastating consequence—death, displacement and fear.

As the call and hope for peace fades to a dim reality for civilians in the battle zones, millions have been forced to seek refuge. The Union Nations estimates that everyday 3,000 migrants begin the long and treacherous journey towards Western Europe in seek of asylum, as reported by The New York Times. Thousands have died thus far in the attempt to seek refuge in Europe, and the entire dynamics of the European Union (EU) as a whole are being challenged.

According to James Kanter for The New York Times, On September 9, president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, called for a quota of 160,000 migrants to be distributed among member states based on factors such as wealth, current asylum applicants, population and unemployment rates. Yet, Eastern European states have been vocal in their opposition to such mandatory impositions. Hungary has been an outspoken critic of this call, blaming Germany for the vast numbers of migrants that pour through their borders and also citing their Christian identity as a reason not to allow predominantly Muslim migrants into their country. A visible symbol of this apparent lack of compassion can be seen with fences that Hungary has rapidly constructed in an attempt to stop the influx of refugees into and through their country.

Diplomatic means within the EU have been quite polarized and a unified response to this crisis is yet to be found. Border patrols and fences are shifting the nature of the once open-border policy in many European Union member states. While the European Union as a whole is in flux as a response is sought to this crisis, the root cause remains. The war in Syria rages with death and displacement as the conflict's constant companion.

Yusif Rayah, president of the Middle Eastern Student Association at North Park added a powerful insight as a Middle Eastern, whose perspective is noteworthy in trying to understand the dynamics of the region and the Syrian conflict. Rayah alludes to the peculiarity in the demographics of refugees making their way to Europe, pointing out that more so than just women and children are making the journey, but men of all ages are leaving as well. The significance of this is the implicit statement it makes––that the civilians who make up the fighting-age population are choosing to not side with any of the warring regimes and instead are leaving the country altogether.

To understand why the refugees are not supporting the Syrian-backed forces or the rebels in the current conflict, a more appropriate picture must be painted of the dynamics within the state of Syria. The Islamic State holds vast territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria; rebel groups, the Assad-backed Government, as well as Hezbollah vie for power throughout the western part of the country; Kurdish forces in the northeastern section of the country and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the southwestern tip offer a very basic picture of territorial power in the country. What isn’t fully known here is the impact that other countries have on the circumstances. With Russia, Iran, the U.S. and many other world powers offering aid through weapons and funds to different regional powers, the extreme complexity becomes clear, however unclear the intentions and true nature of the region and conflict are.

What can be done? To what ends should the threat of terrorism by actively pursued and combatted, when military intervention only seems to make the threat increase? To what ends should sectarian divides within a religion result in the death of innocent lives? Where do we fit into this devastating reality––as a country, as individuals and at North Park, as a Christian institution in at least addressing this problem? John Kerry recently asserted that the United States will take in 100,000 refugees per year starting in 2017, but is it enough? The Hungarian government claims their Christian identity supports the closing of their borders to refugees. Is this logic consistent with the Biblical calling "to welcome the stranger"?  These are questions that must be addressed as we seek to understand not only the reality of the situation, but also as we seek to identify what our role is as global citizens.