Spy poisoning: why Putin may have engineered gruesome calling card | UK news | The Guardian

Source: Spy poisoning: why Putin may have engineered gruesome calling card | UK news | The Guardian

The Skripal attack also appears to have been calculated for its domestic impact. It sends a chilling message to anyone from inside Russia’s spy agencies and bureaucracy thinking of cooperating with western intelligence. The message: that the state can mete out punishment at its own pleasure and in the most barbaric way. Oh, and your family might suffer too.

Moscow’s covert operation to support Trump during the 2016 US election was a large enterprise. It involved career intelligence officers, cyber-criminals and professional trolls. Only Putin and a few top officials know its full scope. But a wider group of individuals understand parts.

Anyone thinking of cooperating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating collusion, will think twice.

On Mahmoud Darwish’s Birthday, 13 Poems

The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (d. 2008) was born in al-Birwa on this day in 1941. To commemorate his entrance into our world on March 13, ArabLit has 13 poems (and poemish texts):

1) “The Moon Did Not Fall Into the Well,” from Journal of an Ordinary Grieftr. Ibrahim Muhawi

Muhawi’s translations have a wonderful sense of the rhythm of the original, and this particular text is narrative, open-hearted, and with deeply etched characters. It opens:

—What are you doing, father?

—I’m searching for my heart, which fell away that night.

—Do you think you’ll find it here?

—Where else am I going to nd it? I bend to the ground and pick it up piece by piece just as the women of the fellahin pick up olives in October, one olive at a time.

—But you’re picking up pebbles!

—Doing that is a good exercise for memory and perception. Who knows? Maybe these pebbles are petrified pieces of my heart.

2) “Love, like meaning,” from In the Presence of Absencetr. Sinan Antoon.

Perhaps the greatest of Darwish’s works, this version brought Antoon the 2012 National Translation Award:

Love, like meaning, is out on the open road, but like poetry, it is difficult. It requires talent, endurance, and skillful formulation, because of its many stations. It is not enough to love, for that is one of nature’s magical acts, like rainfall and thunder. It takes you out of yourself into the other’s orbit and then you have to fend for yourself. It is not enough to love, you have to know how to love. Do you know how?

3) The Dice Player,” from If I Were Anothertr. Fady Joudah

The charming “The Dice Player” with a visual adaptation:

4) “The Horse Fell off the Poem,” from The Butterfly’s Burdentr. Fady Joudah

There is no margin in modern language left
to celebrate what we love,
because all that will be … was

5) “The Second Olive Tree,” tr. Marilyn Hacker

And with horses, olive trees:

The olive tree does not weep and does not laugh. The olive tree

Is the hillside’s modest lady. Shadow

Covers her one leg, and she will not take her leaves off in front of the storm.

Standing, she is seated, and seated, standing.

6) “Nothing But Iraq,” tr. Shareah Taleghani

A cry to Badr Shakir al-Sayyab:

I remember as-Sayyab screaming into the Gulf in vain:

Iraq, Iraq. Nothing but Iraq.

And nothing but an echo replies

I remember as-Sayyab, in that Sumerian space

A woman triumphed over the sterility of mist

She bequeathed to us earth and exile . . .

For poetry is born in Iraq,

So be Iraqi to become a poet, my friend.

7) “And where is my will?” from Memory for Forgetfulnesstr. Ibrahim Muhawi

And where is my will?

It stopped over there, on the other side of the collective voice. But now, I want nothing more than the aroma of coffee. Now I feel shame. I feel shamed by my fear, and by those defending the scent of the distant homeland–that fragrance they’ve never smelled because they weren’t born on her soil. She bore them, but they were born away from her. Yet they studied her constantly, without fatigue or boredom; and from overpowering memory and constant pursuit, they learned what it means to belong to her.

“You’re aliens here,” they say to them there.

“You’re aliens here,” they say to them here.

8) “Diary,” tr. Tania Tamari Nasir and John Berger.

If you were told: you’re going to die here this evening What would you do in the remaining time? Look at my watch Drink a glass of juice Munch an apple Watch an ant who has found what to eat Then look at my watch There’s still time to shave have a bath I say to myself: One needs one’s finery when about to write So I’ll wear the blue shirt I sit til noon alive at my desk I do not see the effect of color on words Whiteness whiteness whiteness I prepare my last lunch I pour out wine into two glasses For me and for the one who will come Unannounced Then I take a siesta in between two dreams

9) “The Tragedy of Narcissus,” from If I Were Anothertr. Fady Joudah:

10) “A Noun Sentence,” The Butterfly’s Burdentr. Fady Joudah

A noun sentence, no verb

to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed

after making love … a salty perfume

or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy

like the sunset at your strange windows.

11) “If I Were a Hunter,” tr. Shakir Mustafa

If a hunter I were

I’d give the gazelle

a chance, and another,

and a third, and a tenth,

to doze a little. My share

of the booty would be

peace of mind under

her dozing head.

12) “Mural,” translated by John Berger and, Rema Hammami

My nurse says: you are better now

and injects me with a tranquillizer:

Be calm

and worthy of what you’re about to dream

even a little…

13) “ID Card,” tr. Salman Masalha and Vivian Eden

This would not likely be a poem Darwish would choose among only 13 of his works. But it is one that, although written in his early days, in 1964, continues to have great political resonance:

Write it down! Im an Arab

My card number is 50000

My children number eight

And after this summer, a ninth on his way.

Does this make you rage?

I am an Arab.

Putin’s Approach to the West Now ‘a Game without Rules,’ Feltshtinsky Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, March 12 – The Skripal case shows that Vladimir Putin, whether he is dealing with former spies, his own enemies, or Western governments, is now playing “a game without rules,” an approach that reflects the underlying weakness of his position but that makes it difficult for others to know what to anticipate or how to respond, Yury Felshtinsky says.
            In the case of the former British spy, Putin has violated all the norms of the spy game as it has come to be played: he has exchanged a Russian subject for Russian spies, apparently because he had not choice and wanted to get Anna Chapman and the other Russian “sleeper” agents in the US so desperately, the US based Russian historian says.
            And the Kremlin leader used poison to attack Skripal even though poisoning by its very nature invites continuing investigations about what kind it is, where it comes from and who was behind it even many years after the attack, thus potentially harming the interests of those who employ it (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AA56998848E7).
            Just as with Litvinenko, Felshtinsky continues, the Skripal case will invite continuing investigations even when the conclusions are obvious. Putin will simply laugh at those who make charges. And many may forget that both Skripal’s wife and his son were killed earlier, certainly on the orders of the Kremlin. Now Skripal and his daughter are at risk.
            Putin has poisoned many people in Britain, but his failure to live by the rules is far from limited to that, the historian says because “unfortunately, after the death of Litvinenko, the only conclusion which the Russian government drew is that punishment will not follow such crimes” and that Moscow need not worry about Western public opinion.
            “After all these deaths, after the invasion of Georgia in 2008, after the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine in 2014, after interference in the elections of a number of European countries and in t eh 2016 American elections, after Putin’s last foreign policy speech where he boldly and directly threatened the world with atomic war, the Kremlin shows that it spits on the opinion of the rest of the world,” confident nothing serous will happen to it.
            The Soviet state when it could sought to eliminate all those who worked against it especially if they fled abroad, but, Felshtinsky points out, Putin has added a new and mafia-like dimension to this: he has sought to kill all the members of the family of those who he views as his enemies.
There is, of course, one precedent for this: Stalin killed the members of Trotsky’s family before he had his political rival eliminated.
            Perhaps, the historian continues, the removal of Skripal represents only “a threat to all those Russian citizens who were involved in the long and complex operation of the FSB in interfering in the American elections which led to Donald Trump’s victory.” Don’t talk or else, they are being told, and not just you but members of your family.
            But even if that is the case, Putin has not so much changed the rules as abolished them in this area as in others, Felshtinsky concludes.
            There may be a method to Putin’s madness, others are suggesting. In an essay for the Republic portal, Moscow commentator Vladimir Frolov argues that what this is all about is a desire by Putin to get Washington to negotiate, that it is all about “talks instead of rules of the game” because such contacts would elevate his status (republic.ru/posts/89924).
            If so, then Putin is more like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un than anyone would like to believe.