We had just sent our February issue on the Gulf off to the printer when Jimmy Carter, in his State of the Union message of January 23, announced that any challenge to the historic US sphere of influence in the Gulf region would provoke US military intervention. In this issue we document and analyze developments since then, as the US gears up its military capacity for such a move. In an accompanying roundup of US military relations with the states of the region, we give special attention to the US-Egyptian relationship as it has evolved since 1974.
In the months ahead we expect to devote continued attention in our pages to questions concerning US strategy toward the Middle East, including detailed examinations of US and other outside interests there. We urge any of our readers who are pursuing related investigations or analyses to contact us regarding the publication of future issues around this theme.
An American branch of Amnesty International has contacted us with regard to the case of Sion Assidon, a political prisoner in Morocco. He was arrested in the spring of 1972 with a group of leftist students whose crime was the possession of anti-regime leaflets. Assidon received one of the harshest sentences — 15 years for “endangering the internal security of the state.” In October 1979 he escaped from a prison hospital but was recaptured and sentenced to an additional term. His poor health has been badly aggravated by prison conditions and, Amnesty believes, by torture and mistreatment. Although Assidon was arrested prior to the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, he has since publicly stated his opposition to King Hassan’s Saharan war. This probably accounts for his continued imprisonment and harsh treatment.
An Amnesty International research mission visited Turkey from May 19-30, and later issued a report saying that torture in that country had become “widespread and systematic.” The report, released on June 9, recounted the testimony of some of those brutalized by the police, and took note of doctors’ reports that trade unionist Yasar Gundogdu died of brain damage caused by torture. A report in the Boston Globe on July 20 extensively recounted the findings of an investigation by the Turkish Bar Association, which came to the same conclusion as Amnesty. According to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, more than 46,000 persons were detained for political reasons in the first three months of 1980 alone. In mid-July the interior minister in the present regime was forced to resign after boasting that right-wing terror groups had been enlisted by the regime as part of a general assault against leftist forces. Turkey is the largest recipient of foreign aid in the world today, with a list of donors headed by West Germany and the United States.