Aletho News


Hamas delegation in Malaysia for Kuala Lumpur Summit

MEMO | December 19, 2019

A senior delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday morning to attend an international summit in Malaysia’s capital. The movement said that its delegation is attending at the invitation of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The delegation is headed by Hamas Political Bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook and includes his colleagues Khalil Al-Hayya, Izzt Al-Rashiq and Husam Badran along with other officials such as Sami Abu Zohri, Osama Hamdan and Jamal Isaa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani are also due to attend the summit, at which representatives and delegations from 18 Muslim states are expected to participate. Pakistan has pulled out, apparently after pressure from its allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE and concerns that it could challenge the position of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.


December 19, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Thousands of Russia immigrants to Israel left again after getting passports

MEMO | December 19, 2019

Thousands of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union “may have come only to receive an Israeli passport before moving back abroad”, reported JTA, with the total such cases amounting to up to a quarter of all Russian immigrants.

The article, citing reporting done by Israeli weekly newspaper Makor Rishon, described how “a cottage industry of companies promising expedited Israeli citizenship, and the passport that comes with it” emerged in Russia, “since the passage of a law allowing new immigrants to receive the travel document within the first three months of [moving to Israel]”.

According to the report, “for many in the post-Soviet world, an Israeli passport is considered as desirable as a European Union passport is to Israelis.”

Now, Russian “fixers” are advertising that they can help those able to emigrate to Israel to obtain Israeli citizenship “within two days” for “a cost of thousands of euros”.

JTA added that, according to Makor Rishon,

Under certain circumstances… the three-month period can be shortened to as little as a day, and some immigrants have even been able to receive their passports without having to leave Ben Gurion International Airport.

Based on data from Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, it is estimated that approximately 8,500 immigrants from the former Soviet Union “have come just for the passport before immediately leaving the country”.

One official from the Jewish Agency suggested that as many as 25 per cent of the immigrants came for a passport and “left the country immediately after receiving it”.

In 2018, roughly 10,500 Russians and 6,400 Ukrainians emigrated to Israel, “which was the first year that the majority of new immigrants were not considered Jewish under…Jewish religious law”.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 3 Comments

Dialogue between Kiev & people in eastern Ukraine needed to resolve conflict – Putin

RT | December 19, 2019

Kiev’s reluctance to engage in direct dialogue with the people living in Ukraine’s eastern regions, collectively known as Donbass, is still the biggest obstacle to resolving the long-standing crisis, Vladimir Putin has said.

Putin was asked about crisis resolution in Ukraine and the future of the Normandy Four talks between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany. The president said that some progress has been made in resolving the crisis, but it is direct dialogue between the authorities in Kiev and the people of Ukraine living in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics that could really help the cause. Yet, this is precisely what is lacking.

“A direct dialogue with Donbass is needed. Yet, there is no dialogue.”

Any move related to the status of the rebellious eastern Ukrainian regions should be coordinated with those regions, Putin said, adding that Kiev should not unilaterally take decisions on any “decentralization” issues that go beyond the framework of the Minsk Agreements which still remain the only plausible way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

Some positive steps have been made, the president admitted, such as troop withdrawal from several areas in eastern Ukraine, and the extension of the law on the special status of Donbass. Some new areas along the line of contact were further designated for troop withdrawal in 2020, during the latest Normandy Four meeting.

Yet, it is not enough, Putin added, questioning in particular Kiev’s reluctance to pull its forces out from the entire line of contact in Donbass. “It was Kiev that cut the Donbass off by imposing a blockade of this territory,” Putin told the media conference.

After the eastern regions of Ukraine declared their independence from Kiev in 2014 following the coup against then-President Viktor Yanukovich, the post-coup Ukrainian authorities reacted by launching a military campaign against the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The violent conflict has since claimed the lives of 13,000 people, according to the UN. Former President Petro Poroshenko also imposed an economic blockade against Donbass.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

US Middle East Policy in a Future Democratic Administration

By As`ad AbuKhalil – Consortium News – December 18, 2019

It is too early to speculate on the prospects of a Democratic administration for next year’s election. If a switch in the party occupying the White House occurs, it would be significant for the direction of domestic policy. But less change should be expected in foreign affairs. In fact, a Democratic president could easily produce more wars and military intervention than Donald Trump. Democratic voters should expect that as they shop among the candidates.

Trump wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and those positions have been rejected not only by the military establishment but also by the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Mainstream media have become a central element in the war lobby: They only cheered Trump when he bombed Syria, and called for more bombing.

With both parties now serving as the lobby for unending wars in the Middle East, a Democratic president is likely to expand U.S. military involvement and intervention. In Syria, it will be in the name of helping the Kurds or fighting terrorism or whatever other excuse they will produce.

None of this is to say that Trump has presided over an era of peace in the Middle East region; far from it. Trump inherited a full legacy of war and conflict from his predecessors and while he tried to disengage from some of those conflicts he was unable to do so due to heavy pressure from the military establishment (which seems to have unofficial control over editorial pages of mainstream newspapers); the foreign policy elite in Congress, and from think tank world in Washington, D.C. Trump also continued the long-standing U.S. policy of subsidizing Israeli aggression and occupation.

Trump’s policies toward the Middle East are most likely to have greatest impact on occupied Palestine, but such is the record of every U.S. president: every president wants to prove he is more pro-Israel than his predecessor.

Not Always Eye to Eye

The Democratic candidates do not necessarily see eye-to-eye on U.S. foreign policy priorities. Pete Buttigieg, for example, represents the traditional “muscular” (how is that for patriarchal terminology in U.S. foreign policy?) viewpoint of American foreign-policy — and domestic policy as well. Buttigieg is the Democrat that Wall Street and the military industrial complex appear most to support. He’s also become mainstream media’s favorite Democrat because he embraces U.S. foreign policy dogma and veers away from a progressive domestic agenda.

For many decades Israel has had a wish list of what it wants the U.S. to accomplish on its behalf, not only for the Arab-Israeli conflict, but for the region as a whole. In all those years, Israeli wishes have been largely fulfilled, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Israel no longer has to spy on the U.S. military. Instead it has succeeded in getting the U.S. to share raw satellite intelligence data. Over the years, Israel has obtained the loan guarantees it sought to build settlements and spend more on its military aggression.

Israel has persuaded the U.S. to share more of its military technology and intelligence on Arab countries (including key U.S. allies.) Under former President Barack Obama, the steady supply of U.S. funding of the Israeli military war machine hit an unprecedented level. Obama committed the U.S. to basically subsidizing Israel occupation and aggression for the next 10 years. Israel today remains the only country with the per capita income of a developed country that continues to rely on U.S. foreign aid.

Absent From Debates

Foreign policy does not figure prominently in the Democratic debates or in candidates’ stump speeches. But there has been a significant shift this year compared to previous years, especially since 1983, when I first arrived in the United States.

It was customary then for Democratic presidential candidates to outdo each other in shows of fanatical loyalty to Israeli interests. I remember how every presidential candidate — during the 1980s and 90s and even after — was eager to prove his intent on relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv (occupied Jaffa) to occupied Jerusalem. The competition was over who would be the fastest.

So, when Democratic pundits today express outrage over Trump’s relocation of the embassy they should remember that the seeds of this step began with Democrats such as President Bill Clinton and a party then of strident Zionism.

Not that the Republican Party was less loyal to Israel. But it had at least some leaders who were were willing to criticize Israel. By contrast, the Democrats had no equivalent to Charles Percy or Charles Mathias — two highly influential Republican senators who were willing to violate the conventional wisdom on Israel. [The Jewish vote was overwhelmingly Democrat in those days.]

Shift in Democratic Base

In recent years, however, the base of the Democratic Party has caused that to change. Hillary Clinton’s endorsement of the Iraq war; the Democrats’ enabling of the George W. Bush administration’s war on Iraq and the debacles brought by the war on terrorism all spread disillusionment with the party’s foreign policy dogma. While the Democratic Party’s foreign policy may not have shifted much in Congress, the changing tide was evident in the party’s liberal base in 2016, when Senator Bernie Sanders’ less blindly pro-Israel position (only measured by the criterion of conventional Democratic Zionism) opened a gap with his establishment rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It would be a stretch to say Trump radically altered the contours of U.S. foreign-policy towards the Middle East, specifically towards Israel. His policies are merely the culmination of a decades’ old, whole-hearted U.S. endorsement of Israeli aggression and occupation.

A Democratic administration is unlikely to even alter Trump’s course on Israeli settlements or the location of the U.S. embassy.

U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements has been softening for many years. With the exception of George Herbert Walker Bush, successive presidents since Ronald Reagan have largely allowed Israel to continue to expand settlements with very little rebuke. This paved the way for the Trump administration, in November, to change the U.S. position on those settlements. Declared illegal under international law since the end of the 1967, the Trump team declared them legal.

Given a staunchly pro-Israel Congress, a Democratic president is unlikely to do anything about that.

It would let Israel keep building new settlements and refrain from moving the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv (occupied Jaffa). The new embassy location, after all, has been sought by the U.S. Congress, by both Republicans and Democrats, since at least the 1990s.

A possible exception is Sanders (who nevertheless prefaces every remark he makes on Israel by asserting that he is “100 percent pro-Israel.”) A Sanders administration might go back to registering U.S. disapproval of settlements. Sanders has even expressed willingness to levy economic sanctions against Israel in reprisal for the settlements. But these promises could be hard to keep if he became president and had to face the entrenched vigilance in Congress against any measures it deems harmful to the interests of Israel.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Afghanistan Fiasco and the Decline and Fall of the American Military

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | December 19, 2019

A devastating investigative report was published in the Washington Post on December 9th. Dubbed the “Afghanistan Papers” in a nod to the Vietnam War’s famous “Pentagon Papers,” the report relied on thousands of documents to similarly expose how the US government at the presidential level across three administrations, acting in collaboration with the military brass and civilian bureaucracy, deliberately and systematically lied repeatedly to the public and media about the situation in Afghanistan. Officials from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have all surged additional troops into Afghanistan while also regularly overstating the “success” that the United States was attaining in stabilizing and democratizing the country. While they were lying, the senior officers and government officials understood clearly that the war was, in fact, unwinnable.

The story should have been featured all across the US as Afghanistan continues to kill Americans and much larger numbers of Afghans while also draining billions of dollars from the United States Treasury, but the mainstream media was largely unresponsive, preferring to cover the impeachment saga. Rather more responsive were the families of Army Chief Warrant Officer Second Class David C. Knadle, 33, of Tarrant, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer Second Class Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, of Keaau, Hawaii. Both were killed in a helicopter crash on November 20th in Afghanistan’s Logar province while assisting troops on the ground, according to a Pentagon press release. They were participating in what was characteristically dubbed Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Both men were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas. The Taliban took credit for the downing of the chopper, but the Army is still investigating the cause.

Knadle and Fuchigami are only the most recent of the more than 2,400 American service members who have been killed in Afghanistan since October 2001, together with 20,589 wounded and an estimated 110,000 Afghan dead. In the wake of the Post’s report, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told a CNN reporter that the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers exposed the same governmental dysfunction: “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”

The New Republic observes how “The documents are an indictment not only of one aspect of American foreign policy, but also of the US’s entire policymaking apparatus. They reveal a bipartisan consensus to lie about what was actually happening in Afghanistan: chronic waste and chronic corruption, one ill-conceived development scheme after another, resulting in a near-unmitigated failure to bring peace and prosperity to the country. Both parties had reason to engage in the cover-up. For the Bush administration, Afghanistan was a key component in the war on terror. For the Obama administration, Afghanistan was the ‘good war’ that stood in contrast to the nightmare in Iraq.”

The Afghan War’s true costs have never been precisely calculated, though they certainly exceed $1 trillion and counting. The documents relied upon for the Post report include more than 2,000 pages of confidential interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, including soldiers and diplomats, as well as civilian aid workers and Afghan officials. Many of the interviews were initially carried out by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The Post divided the interviews and supporting documentation into subject categories that demonstrate how the situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate as soon as the United States followed up on its rapid invasion with a plan for nation building. Resorting to the usual American expedient, the occupiers flooded the country with money, which meant that the only thing blooming on the thin soil was corruption, apart from the poppies that have made Afghanistan the world’s leading supplier of opium.

One contractor who was involved in nation building described how he was required to spend $3 million daily for projects in an Afghan district roughly the size of a US county. He asked a visiting congressman if he could be authorized to spend that much money in the US “[The lawmaker] said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’”

In another interview the report cites Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, the White House Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, who told the interviewers in 2015. “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” later adding “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

Army Colonel Bob Crowley, who served in Kabul in 2013-4, described how at headquarters “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” adding also how “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

Part of the problem with Afghanistan was the rotation of American soldiers in and then out after one year or less, just as they were learning about the country and the problems they faced. It has led to the joke that the United States has not fought an eighteen-year war in Afghanistan: it has fought a one-year war eighteen times.

The Post investigative report coincides with an interesting deconstruction of the US military and how it operates. David Swanson of World BEYOND War provides a lengthy review of West Point Professor Tim Bakken’s new book The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the US Military. Per Swanson, the book “traces a path of corruption, barbarism, violence, and unaccountability that makes its way from the United States’ military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs) to the top ranks of the US military and US governmental policy, and from there into a broader US culture that, in turn, supports the subculture of the military and its leaders. The US Congress and presidents have ceded tremendous power to generals. The State Department and even the US Institute of Peace are subservient to the military. The corporate media and the public help maintain this arrangement with their eagerness to denounce anyone who opposes the generals. Even opposing giving free weapons to Ukraine is now quasi-treasonous.”

Bakken even disputes the widely held view that the military academies have high academic standards. He describes how the “system” pays to get potential athletes and accepts students nominated by congressmen commensurate with donations made to fund re-election campaigns. Swanson sums it up by observing how the academies offer “a community college-level education only with more hazing, violence, and tamping down of curiosity. West Point takes soldiers and declares them to be professors, which works roughly as well as declaring them to be relief workers or nation builders or peace keepers. The school parks ambulances nearby in preparation for violent rituals. Boxing is a required subject. Women are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted at the three military academies than at other US universities.”

Bakken concludes that appreciating the fundamental structural flaws in the US armed forces “leads to a clearer understanding of the deficiencies in the military and how America can lose wars.” In fact, he does not even seek to identify a war that the United States has won since World War 2 in spite of the country being nearly constantly engaged in conflict.

Together the Bakken book and the Afghanistan Papers reveal just how much the American people have been brainwashed by their leaders into believing a perpetual warfare national narrative that is more fiction than fact. Donald Trump may have actually appreciated that the voters were tired of the wars and was elected on that basis, but he has completely failed to deliver on his promise to retrench. It suggests that America will remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and the inevitable next war, wherever it might be, will be another failure, no matter who is elected in 2020.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Brexit Could See the Return of the Falkland Islands to Argentina

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 19, 2019

The Islas Malvinas, or more commonly known as the Falkland Islands, archipelago was invaded by the United Kingdom in 1833 and its occupation has continued to date. Argentina’s claim for sovereignty through diplomatic means has been a state policy since the failed liberation attempt through military means in 1982. Although it lost intensity during the Mauricio Macri government, President Alberto Fernández of the leftist Justicialist Party, reinforced in October his commitment to “renew the claim of sovereignty” of the 750 islands of the archipelago. In a patriotic tone, the then presidential candidate criticized the relations Macri had with the United Kingdom during a debate that took place on October 13.

“In these years the government has been very busy doing business with the United Kingdom and has forgotten sovereignty [over] the Falklands. Over 700 soldiers have died there. In memory of them all I will make things different,” Fernández said during the first Argentine presidential debate.

Fernández will re-establish a Secretariat for the ​​Malvinas, demonstrating that he is taking the issue against the British very seriously. During his swearing in speech before the National Congress on December 10, the new president informed that he will create a Secretariat, with the participation of “all political forces,” the southern province of Tierra del Fuego that is closest to the Malvinas, representatives of the academic world and former fighters of the 1982 war, to concentrate on the reclamation of the occupied archipelago.

Fernández included the claim by the Falkland Islands in his speech when he assumed the presidency and said “there is no more place for colonialism in the 21st century.”

“We know that for this task it does not reach the mandate of a Government, but a medium and long-term State policy, so I will convene a Congress where all political forces participate,” he announced.

Fernández decision to re-establish the Malvinas Secretariat and to convene a Council on the subject restores confidence and firmness in Argentina’s demand against the British after complete servitude by Macri. The importance the new president has given to Argentina’s demand for sovereignty over the islands is a good sign and it is the first time a new president has spoken with such depth to the Malvinas issue when they first take office.

Fernández’s stance demonstrates that the Malvinas do not belong to any president, they are a state matter in which it is necessary to work as a state policy for not only the present, but also looking to the future. The establishment of the Secretariat is aimed to positively re-establish consensus on the basis of and essential demand for sovereignty, leaving the differing approaches in Argentina to the cause and the 1982 war conflict in the past with the aim of looking only towards the future.

It must be remembered that a new Sao Paulo-Malvinas flight opened on Argentine National Sovereignty Day on November 20, a massive slap in the face to the Argentinian veterans from the 1982 war, who did not hesitate to go out protest. LATAM inaugurated the flight which has a stop in the Argentine city of Córdoba. War veterans protested in front of the Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires against what they described as treachery by Macri. Fernández has an opportunity to gain even more popular support by forcing the cancellation of flights by LATAM to the Malvinas and by ensuring the islands have no lifeline except with their colonial masters in London approximately 13,000 kilometers away.

Conservative Boris Johnson won the British election on December 12, which put the South American islanders on alert. The possibility of the definitive implementation of Brexit will harm the local economy, whose production has the European Union as one of its main markets. Brexit is a favorable situation for Argentina because in the view of the European Union, the Malvinas are an extracontinental territory, something that will complicate the local economy, just as what will happen with British-occupied Gibraltar on the Iberian Peninsula and areas in Cyprus.

In this context Argentina must start seeking new alliances with European countries and condemn the maintenance of a British colony on the complete opposite side of the Atlantic and with total impunity. With Spain wanting the return of Gibraltar and Cyprus wanting the return of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Argentina can very easily find new allies in the European Union willing to cooperate efforts to reclaim sovereignty over territory occupied by the British. Brexit therefore not only threatens the breakup of the United Kingdom with a push for Scottish independence and Irish unification, but it could potentially see the return of the Malvinas to Argentina.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment