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Iraq on precipice of deeper chaos as US steps up meddling

Press TV – December 8, 2019

Alarm bells are starting to ring for Iraq where a series of suspicious events, including unknown assailants machine-gunning protesters in Baghdad and a drone targeting an anti-US cleric, have raised fears of the country slipping deeper into violence and chaos.

Armed men emerged from cars overnight Friday, opening fire on protesters and killing at least 25 people who were in a building where many supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr gathered to stage demonstrations.

Sources said nearly 130 others were wounded by gunfire and stabbings which targeted protesters at the Sinak bridge near Tahrir Square. At least three of the dead were policemen.

The demonstrators called on the Iraqi military to intervene, but some soldiers were attacked when they arrived, adding to the confusion and forcing them to retreat.

Witnesses said at least some of the attackers, and maybe all of them, fled the scene in white pickup trucks. Video footage showed at least seven vehicles.

No one has claimed responsibility for the lethal assaults, which have been rare since the protests began more than two months ago, but such assaults bear all the hallmarks of Takfiri terrorist groups.

President Barham Salih on Saturday said the attack on protesters was “a criminal, armed attack carried out by criminal and outlaw gangs,” calling on security forces to “chase the outlaw criminals and arrest them and bring them to the judiciary for punishment.”

According to witnesses, some of the gunmen involved in the Baghdad attack appeared to be wearing the military uniforms of government forces, a tactic which Takfiri groups have frequently used in the past.

Some of the attackers were wearing uniforms of the pro-government Hashd al-Sha’abi, and some were in civilian clothes, they said.

US targets regular bete noire

The US was quick to implicate Hashd al-Sha’abi, a combination of some 40 groups of mostly Shia fighters as well as Sunnis and Christians, which are currently integrated into the regular armed forces.

In a statement released on Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions on Qais al-Khazali and his brother Laith, two leaders of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, as well as Hussein Falil Aziz al-Lami of Kata’ib Hezbollah.

Iraqi groups denounced the measure, with the Hikma bloc of the Iraqi parliament decrying it as an instance of “blatant meddling in Iraq’s affairs.”

“Die of your anger, for we lead the resistance against occupation, Takfiri terrorism, separatism and ambitions,” spokesperson for the al-Sadiqoun parliamentary bloc Mohammad al-Rabiei said, adding that his groups stand “against the hegemonic plans of the US.”

Washington has long pressured Iraqi governments to counter Hashd al-Sha’abi which is staunchly opposed to the presence of American forces and closely watches their steps in Iraq.

Daesh link

On Friday, Hashd al-Sha’abi sources said the US was allowing Daesh to roam freely under its watch in Iraq’s western Anbar province.

“The way in which American aircraft act in regard to Daesh positions in al-Anbar’s northern areas has raised many questions,” Iraq’s al-Maalomah news agency quoted an unnamed source in Hash al-Sha’abi’s Operations Command in Anbar as saying.

“American planes fly over these regions for long durations without striking any Daesh cell positions,” the source said.

The American behavior was “surprising,” specifically because the mission of US forces deployed in Anbar’s Ayn al-Assad military base was to “strike Daesh sleeper cells,” the source added.

Hashd al-Sha’abai was formed shortly after the Daesh terrorist group emerged in Iraq in 2014. In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the group into the regular armed forces despite US efforts to sideline it.

US forces and Israeli-operated drones have repeatedly targeted Hashd al-Sha’abi forces in the past, Iraqi officials have said.

On Friday, a drone hit the al-Hannanah neighborhood in the holy city of Najaf, where the residence of staunch anti-American cleric al-Sadr is located.

Iraqi officials called for an investigation into the attack apparently targeting Sadr as well as the killing of protesters in Baghdad.

The attack in Baghdad came just after Iraqis took to the streets in the capital to back top Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

During his weekly Friday sermon, Ayatollah Sistani said violence and chaos will only hinder true reforms as demanded by anti-corruption and economic protesters in Iraq, calling on demonstrators to counter violent rioters.

A representative of Ayatollah Sistani conveying the cleric’s sermon to worshipers during the Friday prayers in Karbala, advised the protesters against allowing rioters to infiltrate the rallies and target “security forces and destroy public and private property.”

December 8, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | 12 Comments

Will the ICC Prosecute Perpetrators of the ‘War on Terror’?

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 30, 2019

On May 13 2014, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor announced it would reopen the investigations into alleged war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, following additional submitted information pertaining to the investigation which had been concluded in 2006.

A recent BBC Panorama investigation, in collaboration with the Sunday Times, ascertained a cover-up by the UK government of British soldiers torturing and murdering Iraqi and Afghan civilians, including children since 2003, when the UK participated alongside the US in invading Iraq under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror”.

In 2010, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was tasked with investigating allegations of abuse in Iraq, with the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators. However, mismanagement and corruption within the body, including claims that solicitor Phil Shiner had paid people to find clients for IHAT, failed to open a single case from its investigations. For the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the allegations against IHAT were an opportune moment to discredit the claims of human rights violations committed by British troops. Rather than prioritise the allegations of human rights violations, IHAT was deemed harmful and “making soldiers on the battlefield anxious about later legal repercussions.”

In a 2018 report issued by the ICC, UK soldiers are alleged to have committed war crimes against 61 Iraqis in custody, including killings, torture, rape and sexual violence. Seven deaths occurred in custody and 54 victims died of “mistreatment”. The ICC report specifies: “At this stance, these incidents should not be considered as either complete or exhaustive, but rather illustrative of the alleged criminal conduct.”

In July 2019, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted a follow-up to the ICC Prosecutor, informing the office about the UK’s failure to investigate or prosecute those responsible for war crimes, “despite significant and growing evidence indicating that liability extends up the chain of command to senior military and civilian officials.” The ECCHR also described the closing down of IHAT as a politically motivated decision to avoid ICC prosecution.

The UK’s intention was clearly to preserve its impunity. During the course of the BBC investigation, it was revealed that “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.” Among the concealed crimes, a soldier from an SAS unit shot 4 Afghan civilians, three of them children, in the head, while they were in their own home, drinking tea. “When I entered the room, the bones, teeth, blood and brain were all over the place,” a witness to the aftermath stated. The UK government dismissed the war crime allegation by stating the four Afghans were Taliban suspects and commanders.

Other war crimes were concealed through fabricated evidence in order to evade such classification. Evidence of sexual abuse was also revealed to have occurred at Camp Stephen in Basra, Iraq, which was under the command of the Black Watch.

If the ICC does investigate the UK government for these violations of the Geneva Convention, it would have set a precedent, given that the Court has, so far, focused on investigating the leaders of African nations as opposed to the crimes of Western governments and foreign intervention. The “war on terror” is characterised by two main factors – perpetual aggression and extended impunity for the perpetrators. Justice for the Iraqi and Afghan people, by now, is worse than a macabre farce. Yet the ICC must fulfil its duty to lay bare the dynamics that have so far shielded the UK military and governmental collaboration from judicial scrutiny.

December 1, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Demands are Changing’: Iraqi Protesters Continue to Die as Demonstrations Lose Focus

Sputnik – November 23, 2019

At least seven protesters were killed and more than 50 people injured during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad on Thursday. Despite previous concessions by the Iraqi government, an anticipated end to the protests seems further away than ever before as the protesters’ messaging now appears more and more fractured, an expert told Sputnik.

In the last few weeks, waves of protests in Iraq has seen the deaths of some 325 individuals and injuries to thousands more. Citing police and hospital sources, Reuters reported that police have killed protesters using live ammunition and also fatally fired tear gas canisters at people’s heads.

According to Al Jazeera, another three individuals were killed on Friday and at least 27 were injured.

Massoud Shadjareh, founder of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Friday to provide his thoughts on why demonstrations are taking a turn for the worse.

Shadjareh told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that while there appeared to be hope and room for demonstrators voices to be heard by the government in the beginning of the protests, “demands are changing” and “the whole nature of the demonstrations [is] changing.”

Initially, demonstrators were rallying around the common goal of ridding the Iraqi government of “corruption,” highlighting officials’ “failure [to] look after everyone” and creating “an infrastructure that was supportive of the people,” he explained.

In addition to protestors having a common goal, strides were made to change the Iraqi government earlier this month when Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi pledged to step down after his successor was named.

Shadjareh pointed out that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s head Shia cleric, also recently expressed support for the protesters as said that “new faces” were necessary to restore the public’s trust in the government.

“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” the Shia leader said on November 15, as reported by Al Jazeera. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful.”

This formerly cohesive message has now become skewed, and according to Shadjareh, larger, more complex issues such as sectarianism are being pushed as primary issues by select groups of demonstrators.

“We need to recognize that there are interests in Iraq,” Shadjareh asserted. “Those interests are going to be … pushed on the back of these genuine concerns of the Iraqis, and there will be manipulation.”

However, he argued, it is essential to remember that the problem with Iraq, in addition to Daesh and the lack of military assistance, “was the invasion” by the US in 2003. “The whole of the infrastructure of Iraq was shattered,” Shadjareh said. “Iraq had to rebuild” with the help of Iran, and now, Tehran’s positive relationship with Baghdad is being reframed by “colonial powers” as a malign influence.

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Is the Middle East Beginning a Self-Correction?

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 18, 2019

“Two years, three years, five years’ maximum from now, you will not recognize the same Middle East”, says the former Egyptian FM, Arab League Secretary General and Presidential Candidate, Amr Moussa, in an interview with Al-Monitor.

Mousa made some unexpected points, beyond warning of major change ahead (“the thing now is that the simple Arab man follows everything” – all the events). And in reference to the protests in Iraq, Moussa says that Iraq is in “a preparatory stage for them to choose their way as Iraqis — emphasizing that “the discord between Sunni and Shia is about to fade away.”

The present regional turbulence, he suggests, is [essentially] a reaction to the US playing the sectarian card – manipulating “the issues of sect and religion, et cetera, was not only a dangerous, but a sinister kind of policy”. He added however, “I don’t say that it will happen tomorrow, but [the discord between Sunnis and the Shi’a fading away], will certainly happen in the foreseeable future, which will reflect on Lebanon too.”

What we are witnessing in Iraq and Lebanon, he adds, “are these things correcting themselves. It will take time, but they will correct themselves. Iraq is a big country in the region, no less than Iran, no less than Turkey. Iraq is a country to reckon with. I don’t know whether this was the reason why it had to be destroyed. Could be. But there are forces in Iraq that are being rebuilt … Iraq will come back. And this phase – what we see today, perhaps this is the — what can I say? A preparatory stage?”

Of course, these comments – coming from a leading Establishment Sunni figure – will appear stunningly counter-intuitive to those living outside the region, where the MSM narrative – from Colombia to Gulf States – is that the current protests are sectarian, and directed predominantly at Hizbullah and Iran. Certainly there is a thread of iconoclasm to this global ‘Age of Anger’, targeting all leaderships, everywhere. In these tempestuous times, of course, the world reads into events what it hopes and expects to see. Moussa calls such sectarian ‘framing’ both dangerous and “sinister”.

But look rather, at the core issue on which practically all Lebanese demonstrators concur: It is that the cast-iron sectarian ‘cage’ (decreed initially by France, and subsequently ‘corrected’ by Saudi Arabia at Taif, to shift economic power into the hands of the Sunnis), is the root cause to the institutionalised, semi-hereditary corruption and mal-governance that has infected Lebanon.

Is this not precisely articulated in the demand for a ‘technocratic government’ – that is to say in the demand for the ousting of all these hereditary sectarian Zaim in a non-sectarian articulation of national interests. Of course, being Lebanon, one tribe will always be keener for one, rather than another, sectarian leader to be cast as villain to the piece. The reality is, however, that technocratic government exactly is a break from Taif – even if the next PM is nominally Sunni (but yet not partisan Sunni)?

And just for clarity’s sake: An end to the compartmentalised sectarian constitution is in Hizbullah’s interest. The Shi’i – the largest minority in Lebanon – were always given the smallest slice of the national cake, under the sectarian divide.

What is driving this sudden focus on ‘the flawed system’ in Lebanon – more plausibly – is simply, hard reality. Most Lebanese understand that they no longer possess a functional economy. Its erstwhile ‘business model’ is bust.

Lebanon used to have real exports – agricultural produce exported to Syria and Iraq, but that avenue was closed by the war in Syria. Lebanon’s (legal) exports today effectively are ‘zilch’, but it imports hugely (thanks to having an artificially high Lebanese pound). All this – i.e. the resulting trade, and government budget deficit – used to be balanced out by the large inward flow of dollars.

Inward remittances from the 8 – 9 million Lebanese living overseas was one key part – and dollar deposits arriving in Lebanon’s once ‘safe-haven’ banking system was the other. But that ‘business model’ effectively is bust. The remittances have been fading for years, and the Banking system has the US Treasury crawling all over it (looking for sanctionable Hizbullah accounts).

Which brings us back to that other key point made by Moussa, namely, that the Iraqi disturbances are, in his view, “a preparatory stage for them to choose their way as Iraqis … and that will reflect on Lebanon too”.

If the ‘model’ – either economically or politically – is systemically bust, then tinkering will not do. A new direction is required.

Look at it this way: Sayyed Nasrallah has noted in recent days that other alternatives for Lebanon to a US alignment are possible, but have not yet consolidated into a definitive alternative. That option, in essence, is to ‘look East’: to Russia and China.

It makes sense: At one level, an arrangement with Moscow might untie a number of ‘knots’: It could lead to a re-opening of trade, through Syria, into Iraq for Lebanon’s agricultural produce; it could lead to a return of Syrian refugees out from Lebanon, back to their homes; China could shoulder the Economic Development plan, at a fraction of its projected $20 billion cost – and, above all it could avoid the ‘poison pill’ of a wholesale privatisation of Lebanese state assets on which the French are insisting. In the longer term, Lebanon could participate in the trade and ‘energy corridor’ plans that Russia and China have in mind for the norther tier of the Middle East and Turkey. At least, this alternative seems to offer a real ‘vision’ for the future. Of course, America is threatening Lebanon with horrible consequences – for even thinking of ‘looking East’.

On the other hand, at a donors’ conference at Paris in April, donors pledged to give Lebanon $11bn in loans and grants – but only if it implements certain ‘reforms’. The conditions include a commitment to direct $7 bn towards privatising government assets and state property – as well as austerity measures such as raising taxes, cutting public sector wages and reducing social services.

Great! But how will this correct Lebanon’s broken ‘business model’? Answer: It would not. Devaluation of the Lebanese pound (almost inevitable, and implying big price rises) and further austerity will not either make Lebanon a financial safe-haven again, nor boost income from remittances. It is the classic misery recipe, and one which leaves Lebanon in the hands of external creditors.

Paris has taken on the role of advancing this austerity agenda by emphasising that only a cabinet acceptable to the creditors will do, to release crucial funds. It seems that France believes that it is sufficient to introduce reforms, impose the rule of law and build the institutions – in order to Gulliverise Hizbullah. This premise of US or Israeli acquiescence to this Gulliverisation plan – seems questionable.

The issue for Aoun must be the potential costs that the US might impose – extending even to the possible exclusion of Lebanese banks from the dollar clearing system (i.e. the infamous US Treasury neutron bomb). Washington is intent more on pushing Lebanon to the financial brink, as hostage to its (i.e. Israel’s) demand that Hizbullah be disarmed, and its missiles destroyed. It might misjudge, however, and send Lebanon over the brink into the abyss.

But President Aoun, or any new government, cannot disarm Hizbullah. Israel’s newly ambiguous strategic situation (post – Abqaiq), will likely hike the pressures on Lebanon to act against Hizbullah, through one means or another. Were Aoun or his government to try to mitigate the US pressures through acquiescence to the ‘reform’ package, would that be the end to it? Where would it all end, for Lebanon?

And it is a similar conundrum in Iraq: The economic situation though, is quite different. Iraq has one-fifth of the population of neighbouring Iran, but five times the daily oil sales. Yet the infrastructure of its cities, following the two wars, is still a picture of ruination and poverty. The wealth of Iraq is stolen, and sits in bank accounts abroad. In Iraq, it is primarily the political model that is bust, and needs to be re-cast.

Is this Moussa’s point – that Iraq presently is in the preparatory stage of choosing a new path ahead? He describes it as a self-correcting process leading out from the fissures of sectarianism. Conventional Washington thinking however, is that Iran seeks only a Shi’i hegemony for Iraq. But that is a misreading: Iran’s policy is much more nuanced. It is not some sectarian hegemony that is its objective, but the more limited aim to have the strategic edge across the region – in an amorphous, ambiguous, and not easily defined way – so that a fully sovereign Iraq becomes able to push-back against Israel and the US – deniably, and well short of all-out war.

This is the point: the end to sectarianism is an Iranian interest, and not sectarian hegemony.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cornering and Strangulating Iran Has Backfired on Israel

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 11, 2019

What happens if the two premises on which Israel and America’s grand Iran strategy is founded are proven false? ‘What if’ maximum pressure fails either to implode the Iranian state politically, nor brings Iran to its knees, begging for a new ‘hairshirt’ nuclear deal? Well …? Well, it seems that Netanyahu and Mossad were so cocksure of their initial premise, that they neglected to think beyond first move on the chess board. It was to be checkmate in one. And this neglect is the cause of the strategic bind in which Israel now finds itself.

Lately, these lacunae in strategic thinking are being noticed. Iran is doing just fine, writes Henry Rome in Foreign Affairs:

“Some analysts predicted that Iran’s friends in Europe and Asia would defy the United States to lend Iran economic help. Others reckoned that the sanctions would send Iran’s economy into a “death spiral,” leaving Tehran the choice to either surrender or collapse. Neither of these predictions came to pass.

“Rather, Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners are therefore likely to continue on their current course: Iran will go on tormenting the oil market, while bolstering its non-oil economy—and it will continue expanding its nuclear program while refusing to talk with Washington.”

Similarly, the (US) Crisis Group reports that on the eve of the US oil sanctions snapback in November 2018, Secretary Pompeo was asked if Iran might restart its nuclear program. He responded: “we’re confident that the Iranians will not make that decision”. But, Iran did just that: In April 2019 – after the US revoked the sanction waivers that had previously allowed eight countries to import Iranian oil – the Iranian leadership started pushing back.

They are still doing it. “Iran’s responses on the nuclear and regional fronts call into question the core premises of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign … Tehran [effectively] has broken the binary outcome of concession or collapse by instead adopting what it touts as “maximum resistance”. As a result … there can be little doubt that the [US] strategy has fallen short, delivering impact without effect and rather than blunting Iran’s capabilities only sharpening its willingness to step up its [push-back]”, the Crisis Group report concludes.

So here we are: Iran’s “fourth step” in its incremental lessening of compliance with the JCPOA (injecting nuclear gas into the – hitherto empty – centrifuges at Fordo; augmenting enrichment to 5% and unveiling substantially improved centrifuges), effectively tests the very core to the Obama JCPOA strategy.

The Accord was built around a framework that meant Iran would remain at least 12 months away from break-out capacity (the moment when a state can transition into a nuclear weapons’ state). Iran – in these de-compliance steps is inching under that limit, if it is not already under it. (This does not, however, imply that Iran is seeking weapons, but rather that it is seeking a change in western behaviour.)

Yes, Israel – which pushed hard its assessment (albeit, onto a Trump team wholly receptive to this Israeli analysis) of an Iran entering into a death-spiral within one year, under Trump’s maximum pressure – can plead reasonably that its grand strategy was struck by two ‘black swans’. The double ‘punch’ quite evidently has knocked Israel – it is now all at sixes and sevens.

One was the 14 September strikes on the two Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia (claimed by the Houthis), but demonstrating a level of sophistication which Israelis explicitly admit took them wholly by surprise. And the second was the accumulated evidence that the US is in the process of quitting the Middle East. Again, Israel – or at least Netanyahu – never believed this could happen under Trump’s ‘watch’. Indeed, he had built a political platform on his claim of intimate rapport with the US President. Indeed, that did seem at the time to be perfectly true.

Israeli historian, Gilad Atzmon observes, “it now seems totally unrealistic to expect America to act militarily against Iran on behalf of Israel. Trump’s always unpredictable actions have convinced the Israeli defense establishment that the country has been left alone to deal with the Iranian threat. The American administration is only willing to act against Iran through sanctions”.

And the former Israeli Ambassador to Washington put the consequences yet more bluntly under the rubric of The Coming Middle East Conflagration: “Israel is bracing itself for war with Iranian proxies … But what will the United States do if conflict comes?” — by this Oren implies the US might do little, or nothing.

Yes. This is precisely the dilemma to which the Israeli policy of demonising Iran, and instigating ‘the world’ against Iran, has brought Israel. Israeli officials and commentators now see war as inevitable (see here and here) – and they are not happy.

War is not inevitable. It would not be inevitable if Trump could put aside his Art of the Deal pride, and contemplated a remedy of de-escalating sanctions – especially oil export sanctions – on Iran. But he has not done that. After a quick (and wholly unrealistic) ‘fling’ at having a reality-TV photo-op with President Rouhani, his Administration has doubled down by imposing further, new sanctions on Iran. (Friends might try to tell their American counterparts that it is well time they got over the 1979 Tehran Embassy siege.)

And war is not inevitable if Israel could assimilate the reality that the Middle East is in profound flux – and that Israel no longer enjoys the freedom to strike wherever, and whomsoever it choses, at will (and at no cost to itself). Those days are not wholly gone, but they are a rapidly diminishing asset.

Will Israel shift posture? It seems not. In the context of the Lebanon protests, the local banks are becoming vulnerable, as capital inflows and remittances dry up. Israeli, plus some American officials, are favouring withholding external financial assistance to the banks – thus making the banking system’s survival contingent on any new government agreeing to contain and disarm Hizbullah (something which, incidentally, no Lebanese government, of whatever ‘colour’, can do).

That is to say, US and Israeli policy is that of pushing Lebanon to the brink of financial collapse in order to leverage a blow at Iran. Never mind that it will be the demonstrators – and not Hizbullah – who will pay the heaviest price for pushing the crisis to the brink – in terms of a devalued pound, rising prices and austerity. (Hizbullah, in any case, exited the Lebanese banking system, long time past).

Iran, on the other hand, faced with maximum pressure, has little choice: It will not succumb to slow-strangulation by the US. Its riposte of calibrated counter-pressure to US max-pressure, however, does entail risks: It is predicated on the judgement that Trump does not want a major regional war (especially in the lead up to US elections), and also predicated (though less certainly) on the US President’s ability to avoid being cornered by his hawks into taking responsive military action (i.e. were another US drone to be shot down).

So, what do all these various geo-political ‘tea-leaves’ portend? Well, look at Lebanon and Iraq through the geo-political spectacles of Iran: On the one hand, it is well understood in Tehran that there is justified, deep popular anger in these states towards corruption, the iron sectarian structures and hopeless governance — but that is only one part of the story. The other is the long-standing geo-strategic war that is being waged against Iran.

Maximum pressure has not produced a chastened, and repentant Iran? So, now Iranians see the US and Israel resorting to ‘Euromaidan warfare’ (Ukrainian protests of 2013) against Iran’s Lebanese and Iraqi allies. (It was, after all, during President Aoun’s visit to Washington in March, that Trump first warned Aoun of what was coming – and presented his ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah, or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid).

Fresh sanctions, plus an Euromaidan-type assault on Iranian allies (Hizballah and Hash’d A-Shaabi)? Might we then expect another ‘Gulf surprise’ – in coming weeks?

This tit-for-tat of pressure and counter-pressure is set to continue — Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the US, lays it out:

“The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.

“Rockets, many carrying tons of TNT, would rain on Israel; drones armed with payloads would crash into crucial facilities, military and civilian. During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the rate of such fire reached between 200 and 300 projectiles a day. Today, it might reach as high as 4,000. The majority of the weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal are standoff missiles with fixed trajectories that can be tracked and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. But Iron Dome is 90 percent effective on average, meaning that for every 100 rockets, 10 get through, and the seven operational batteries are incapable of covering the entire country. All of Israel, from Metulla in the north to the southern port city of Eilat, would be in range of enemy fire.”

Of course, the claim that Israeli air defences are 90% effective is ‘for the birds’ (Israeli officials would not be in such a panic if it were true). But Oren sets out the course to a region-wide war plainly enough. This is the end to which their Iran strategy has brought them.

And just to recall, this strategy was always a ‘strategy of choice’ – taken for domestic political purposes. Israel’s demonization of Iran did not begin with the Iranian Revolution. Israel initially had good relations with the revolutionary republic. The relationship transformed because an incoming Israeli Labour government needed it to transform: It wanted to upend the earlier political consensus, and to make peace with the ‘near enemy’ (i.e. its Arab neighbours). But Israel then required a ‘new’ villain threatening ‘plucky little Israel’ to keep unstinting US Congressional support coming through: Iran became that villain. And then, subsequently, Netanyahu made his twenty-year career out of the Iranian (nuclear) bogeyman.

Reaping what a long-term strategy of threats and incitement sows …? In one of the most detailed assessments of Iran’s strategy and doctrine across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concludes that Iran’s “third party capability” has become Tehran’s weapon of choice: “Iran now has an effective military advantage over the US and its allies in the Middle East, because of its ability to wage war using third parties such as Shia militias and insurgents”, the report concludes. It has the military edge? Well, well …

And doesn’t this fact help explain what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon today?

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The ‘War’ for the Future of Middle East

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 4, 2019

Oh, oh, here we are again! In 1967, it was then the ‘threat’ of the standing Arab Armies (and the ensuing six-day war on Egypt and Syria); in 1980, it was Iran (and the ensuing Iraqi war on Iran); in 1996, it was David Wurmser with his Coping with Crumbling States (flowing on from the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper) which at that time targeted secular-Arab nationalist states, excoriated both as “crumbling relics of the ‘evil’ USSR” and inherently hostile to Israel, too; and in the 2003 and 2006 wars, it was Saddam Hussein firstly; and then Hezbollah that threatened the safety of the West’s civilizational ‘outpost’ in the Middle East.

And here we are once more, Israel cannot safely ‘live’ in a region containing a militant Hezbollah.

Not surprisingly, the Russian Ambassador in Beirut, Alexander Zasypkin, quickly recognized this all too familiar pattern: Speaking with al-Akhbar on 9 October in Beirut (more than a week before the protests in Beirut erupted), the Ambassador dismissed the prospect of any easing of regional tensions; but rather identified the economic crisis that has been building for years in Lebanon as the ‘peg’ on which the US and its allies might sow chaos in Lebanon (and in Iraq’s parallel economic calamity), to strike at Hezbollah and the Hash’d A-Sha’abi — Israel’s and America’s adversaries in the region.

Why now? Because what happened to Aramco on 14 September has shocked both Israel and America: the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force wrote recently, “recent events are forcing Israel to recalculate its path as it navigates events. The technological abilities of Iran and its various proxies has reached a level at which they can now alter the balance of power around the world”. Not only could neither state identify the modus operandi to the strikes (even now); but worse, neither had any answer to the technological feat the strikes plainly represented. In fact, the lack of any available ‘answer’ prompted one leading western defense analyst to suggest that Saudi should buy Russian Pantsir missiles rather than American air defenses.

And worse. For Israel, the Aramco shock arrived precisely at the moment that the US began its withdrawal of its ‘comfort security blanket’ from the region – leaving Israel (and Gulf States) on their own – and now vulnerable to technology they never expected their adversaries to possess. Israelis – and particularly its PM – though always conscious to the hypothetical possibility, never thought withdrawal actually would happen, and never during the term of the Trump Administration.

This has left Israel completely knocked, and at sixes-and sevens. It has turned strategy on its head, with the former Israeli Air Force Commander (mentioned above) speculating on Israel’s uncomfortable options – going forward – and even postulating whether Israel now needed to open a channel to Iran. This latter option, of course, would be culturally abhorrent to most Israelis. They would prefer a bold, out-of-the-blue, Israeli paradigm ‘game-changer’ (i.e. such as happened in 1967) to any outreach to Iran. This is the real danger.

It is unlikely that the stirring of protests in Lebanon and Iraq are somehow a direct response to the above: but rather, more likely, they lie with old plans (including the recently leaked strategy paper for countering Iran, presented by MbS to the White House), and with the regular strategic meetings held between Mossad and the US National Security Council, under the chairmanship of John Bolton.

Whatever the specific parentage, the ‘playbook’ is quite familiar: spark a popular ‘democratic’ dissent (based on genuine grievances); craft messaging and a press campaign that polarizes the population, and which turns their anger away from generalized discontent towards targeting specific enemies (in this case Hezbollah, President Aoun and FM Gebran Bassil (whose sympathies with Hezbollah and President Assad make him a prime target, especially as heir-apparent to the leadership of the majority of Christians). The aim – as always – is to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and the Army, and between Hezbollah and the Lebanese people.

It began when, during his meeting with President Aoun in March 2019, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo reportedly presented an ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid. Leaked reports suggest that Pompeo subsequently brought ally, PM Hariri into the picture of the planned disturbances when Hariri and his wife hosted Secretary Pompeo and his wife for a lunch banquet at Hariri’s ranch near Washington at the end of the Lebanese premier’s August visit to the US.

As the Lebanese demonstrations began, reports of an ‘operations room’ in Beirut managing and analyzing the protests, and of large scale funding by Gulf states proliferated; but for reasons that are not clear, the protests faltered. The Army which originally stood curiously aloof, finally engaged in clearing the streets, and returning some semblance of normality – and the Central Bank governor’s strangely alarmist forecasts of imminent financial collapse were countered by other financial experts presenting a less frightening picture.

It seems that neither in Lebanon or in Iraq will US objectives finally be achieved (i.e. Hizbullah and Hash’d A-Sha’abi emasculated). In Iraq, this may be a less certain outcome however, and the potential risks the US is running in fomenting chaos much greater, should Iraq slip into anarchy. The loss of Iraq’s 5 million barrels/day of crude would crater the market for crude – and in these economically febrile times, this might be enough to tip the global economy into recession.

But that would be ‘small beer’ compared to the risk that the US is running in tempting ‘The Fates’ over a regional war that reaches Israel.

But is there a wider message connecting these Middle East protests with those erupting across Latin America? One analyst has coined the term for this era, as an Age of Anger disgorging from “serial geysers” of discontent across the globe from Ecuador to Chile to Egypt. His theme is that neoliberalism is everywhere – literally – burning.

We have noted before, how the US sought to leverage the unique consequences arising from two World Wars, and the debt burden that they bequeathed, to award itself dollar hegemony, as well the truly exceptional ability to issue fiat credit across the globe at no cost to the US (the US simply ‘printed’ its fiat credit). US financial institutions could splurge credit around the world, at virtually no cost – and live off the rent which those investments returned. But ultimately that came at a price: The limitation – to being the global rentier – has become evident through disparities of wealth, and through the incremental impoverishment of the American middle classes that the concomitant off-shoring brought about. Well-paid jobs evaporated, even as America’s financialised banking balance sheet ballooned across the globe.

But there was perhaps another aspect to this present Age of Anger. It is TINA: ‘There is no alternative’. Not because of an absence of potentiality – but because alternatives were crushed. At the end of two World Wars, there was an understanding of the need for a different way-of-being; an end to the earlier era of servitude; a new society; a new social contract. But it was short-lived.

And – long story, short – that post-war longing for ‘fairness’ (whatever that meant) has been squeezed dry; ‘other politics or economics’ of whatever colour, has been derided as ‘fake news’ – and in the wake of the 2008 great financial crisis, all sorts of safety-nets were sacrificed, and private wealth ‘appropriated’ for the purpose of the re-building of bank balance sheets, preserving the integrity of debt, and for keeping interest rates low. People became ‘individuals’ – on their own – to sort out their own austerity. Is it then, that people now are feeling both impoverished materially by that austerity, and impoverished humanly by their new era servitude?

The Middle East may pass through today’s present crises (or not), but be aware that, in their despair in Latin America, the ‘there is no alternative’ meme is becoming reason for protestors ‘to burn the system down’. That is what happens when alternatives are foreclosed (albeit in the interests of preserving ‘us’ from system collapse).

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Trump seeks grand bargain with Erdogan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 24, 2019

The morning after a summit meeting often holds surprises. Turkey lost no time to follow up on President Recep Erdogan’s hugely successful but “difficult” talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Tuesday.

On Wednesday itself, Ankara formally conveyed to Washington Erdogan’s decision that the Turkish military is stopping combat and is ending the offensive in Syria, codenamed Peace Spring, and making the ceasefire agreed with the United States last week during the visit by Vice-President Mike Pence to be permanent.

President Trump promptly reciprocated by lifting the US sanctions against Turkey imposed on October 14 in response to Peace Spring. Trump, characteristically enough, claimed credit for “an outcome created by us, the United States, and nobody else, no other nation.”

The Turkish intimation comes handy for Trump to scatter critics who predicted apocalypse now in Syria. Trump sounded confident that the ceasefire will hold.

Enter General Mazloum. Trump disclosed that he spoke to the general who is  the military supremo of the YPG (Syrian Kurdish militia), before making his announcement on the lifting of sanctions against Turkey.

Trump hailed the Kurdish chieftain’s “understanding and for his great strength and for his incredible words today to me.” The optics works just perfect for Trump to push back at critics who allege that he’s thrown the Kurds under the bus.

But Trump also disclosed that he is on to something bigger. One, that Gen. Mazloum has assured him that “ISIS is under very, very strict lock and key, and the detention facilities are being strongly maintained.” The Kurdish-held regions have detention camps holding thousands of ISIS cadres and their families.

Two, Trump recalled, “We also expect Turkey to abide by its commitment regarding ISIS.  As a backup to the Kurds watching over them, should something happen, Turkey is there to grab them.” Interestingly, Trump also called on European countries to accept the ISIS prisoners.

In the infamous “undiplomatic” letter to Erdogan a few days ago, Trump had voiced an audacious idea that Gen. Mazloum could be a potential negotiator with Erdogan. To quote Trump, “General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you (Erdogan), and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.”

Yet, General Mazloum is Turkey’s most wanted terrorist who worked in the ranks of the separatist PKK for nearly 3 decades and it is necessary to connect some dots at this point.

Looking back, when Erdogan came to power as prime minister in 2003, he had unfolded a bold vision on the Kurdish problem via a negotiated political reconciliation. His approach was encouraged by the US. But he ran into headwinds and eventually lost his sense of direction.

To recap further, in late 2012 Erdogan went public with a dramatic announcement that top Turkish officials had begun negotiations with the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan who was captured in 1998 and is undergoing life imprisonment on Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul.

Öcalan responded in March 2013 to Erdogan’s overture by calling for a cease-fire, and PKK guerrillas actually began to withdraw from Turkey. As peace talks faltered, however, the cease-fire collapsed in July 2015.

But, significantly, Öcalan has continued to advocate for a negotiated agreement to bring about Kurdish autonomy within Turkey. Now, isn’t it an interesting coincidence that Gen. Mazloum, Trump’s interlocutor among the Syrian Kurdish leadership, also happens to be the adopted son of Öcalan?

Gen. Mazloum is likely to visit Washington in a near future; so is Erdogan. Trump is promoting Kurdish reconciliation with Turkey. The last fortnight’s developments on the diplomatic front have removed the single biggest source of tension in the US-Turkey relations — US’ alliance with YPG and the presence of Kurdish fighters along Syria’s border with Turkey.

Curiously, Trump also said in his announcement yesterday, “We’ve secured the oil, and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil.  And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”

Most of Syria’s oil comes from Eastern Syria, which is now under the control of the US-backed Kurdish militia or YPG. (Before the war, Syria produced 387,000 barrels per day of which 140,000 bpd were exported.)

In February last year, Syrian forces backed by Russian mercenaries made a serious incursion in the area but retreated in disarray after suffering heavy casualties following merciless US air strikes. Relative calm prevailed in the region since then.

Evidently, in the geopolitics of Syrian oil, US, Turkey and the Kurds can have “win-win” partnership, which in turn can also provide underpinning for an enduring political reconciliation between Turks and Kurds.

Trump said Washington is mulling over Syria’s oil reserves. Meanwhile, he’s put across a tantalising proposition for Erdogan to ponder over. It demands a leap of faith on Erdogan’s part, but it could be rewarding.

Erdogan has allowed Öcalan access to his family and lawyers and even to relay messages to Kurdish activists. Erdogan knows that if ever he is to solve the 30-year-long conflict with the PKK, he may have to do so with the involvement of Öcalan.

In December 2017, Erdogan had deputed Turkey’s spy chief and trusted aide Hakan Fidan to Imrali island for talks with Öcalan. Two Kurdish MPs were also allowed to visit the PKK leader.

No doubt, Öcalan is a bridge between the Kurds and Turks. And in today’s circumstances, Öcalan can as well become a bridge between his adopted son Gen.  Mazloum and Erdogan.

While accompanying Pence to Ankara last week, state secretary Mike Pompeo had hinted that the US is looking for an expanded regional partnership with Turkey and if Erdogan works “alongside” Trump, it “will benefit Turkey a great deal.”

Countering Iran’s influence / presence in Syria and Iraq is the US policy. The decision to transfer the US troops from Syria to Iraq and the continued stationing of troops in Al-Tanf base highlights that cutting off Iran’s land route to Syria and Lebanon continues to be a priority.

Broadly, many challenges lie ahead in Syria and the US realises that Turkey is irreplaceable as regional partner. Trump always thought of Erdogan as someone he can do business with.

Ankara will welcome a grand bargain between Erdogan and Trump and regards the US’ backing for a Turkey-led “safe zone” on Syrian territory as a step in the right direction. In the final analysis, however, for all of this to happen, one way or another, Turkey’s tensions with Kurds should ease.

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sam Husseini: The Entire US Establishment Helped Lie Their Way into the Iraq War

By Slava Zilber | American Herald Tribune | October 14, 2019

Sam Husseini is a senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, independent journalist and contributor to The Nation and FAIR.

Slava Zilber: Sam, three years ago, you appeared on Talk Nation Radio with David Swanson and spoke about the case of the GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun. You pointed out that the people involved in the spying on the UN and the people authorizing the Iraq War were not held accountable:

“Virtually everybody who went along with the war, whether it is Kerry or Clinton, of course, the Bush administration themselves has falsified their own records in terms of why, what they did, when they did, why they did it, to the extent that they’ve been scrutinised at all.”

You also address it in a recent article. And recently, Joe Biden has been lying about his position on the Iraq War. How can such an important issue escape meaningful scrutiny?

Sam Husseini: Because the media and the political system uses constant distractions of other issues, of personalities, of punditry to distract from these core issues. The entire US establishment helped lie their way into the Iraq War. More than that, the Katharine Gun case, which is featured in a new movie, Official Secrets, shows how the US attempted to blackmail other members of the Security Council by spying on them to try to get a second UN Security Council resolution authorizing the Iraq War. It shows the length to which they wanted to go to make sure that they got their war, both the US and Britain and others.

So all of these diabolical efforts to launch an aggressive war haven’t been seriously held accountable to it. Biden is a very notable example. I mean, the entire political system is guilty, but he is incredibly important because he was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, during the build-up of the Iraq War. It is not just that he voted wrong, as some people say. Even somebody like Bernie Sanders says it was the wrong vote. It was far worse than the wrong vote. Biden, in his hearings, prevented meaningful scrutiny and dissent and the basic facts from being highlighted in terms of the false case that was being put forward for war in 2002 and in 2003.

And he has continued to lie about his own record. Biden recently has said all kinds of things: That he was opposed to the war as soon as it started, which is totally false. He continued to back it. He even said at one point that he was always against it, which is utterly ridiculous. I mean, he always couched his criticism in bizarre ways basically agreeing with the war but saying that Bush had to do a better job of getting the UN on board. Well, as the Katharine Gun case shows, the Bush administration and the Blair government were going so far as to spy on other countries to blackmail them in order to get them on board. So saying that the US needed to do a better job of getting the UN on board is a way of saying that it should have been even more coercive than it was. His story is, in a sense, an indictment of the entire political system since before the Iraq War because he, in the 1990s, said all kinds of aggressive things about Iraq.

And it is also an indictment of the media. Do you see you a connection to what you describe in another FAIR article titled “Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran/Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record”? Are they giving those lies a pass for the same reason they are doing this with the record of Attorney General William Barr?

It is funny that you mention that. Part of what I know about Barr is that Biden was a big backer of his.

The really notable thing about Barr’s record is that he was Attorney General for George H. W. Bush and when Iran/Contra pardons happened. This was a huge scandal during the Reagan/Bush years, and at the end of it, it was basically ended. As the prosecutor, L. Walsh, a straight-shooting Republican, said, it was a cover-up pardon. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger and others. And Barr basically approved all of that. And what’s remarkable about that is that just as Barr was rehabilitated by the media, so too was – Biden helped rehabilitate him as well.

Biden’s record closely parallels that of the major media. Very often, his claims dovetail very strongly with them. He is sort of the closest thing that the Democrats have to a John McCain: Somebody who constantly appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and pulled together what the late great journalist Robert Parry called conventional wisdom. So a whole series of fabrications about the Iraq War, before and after it happened, were perpetrated by the major media as well as people like Joe Biden. And Biden was rehabilitating criminal, basically, figures like Barr who was Bush’s Attorney General and helped cover-up the Iran/Contra scandal and who now is Trump’s Attorney General and, I think, playing a major role in terms of ensuring that the Trump administration maintains an establishment orientation in terms of foreign policy as well as other things. I think that he is playing a very nefarious role, and he was largely rehabilitated by Biden. We have transcripts of Biden in the mid-1990s talking him up: “What a great guy! And we have disagreements, but I have a lot of respect for you” and so on and so forth. So Biden continuously helps resurrect figures like that and does other things to maintain a very militaristic orientation in terms of foreign policy.

I had to think about a recent incident: The talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres attended a game with former President G.W. Bush. Could you please talk about what her response to the criticism that followed and the reactions from, for example, Obama administration officials Samantha Power and David Axelrod indicate? Is it also this kind of cooperation that you have just described with Mr. Barr and Mr. Biden?

Yes, I think since the Bush administration there’s been an attempt to rehabilitate it and that has gone into overdrive during the Trump administration: That is the establishment media attempt to contrast the gentlemanly Bushes, both of them, the father and the son now, as fundamentally decent, earnest people who are trying to do the right thing in contrast to this crass baffoon Donald Trump. So you had literal Obama embrace of the Bushes since Bush leaving the White House and then his father’s funeral a year ago. Barr was brought on as Attorney General just after Bush the father’s funeral at the National Cathedral. And in the Trump years, you had a total Trumpwashing of Bush and other people in his administration, much of the former CIA officials some of whom actually were already Trumpwashed before Trump because Obama brought them into his administration. Obama brought in Brennan. Obama even brought in Gates. He kept the same so-called “Defense Secretary” that Bush had. So there is a longstanding cooperation between what are sometimes called liberal interventionists and sometimes called neocons. But they all fundamentally share the same neo-imperial, colonialist mindset in terms of how the US should deal with the rest of the world. And I think that does include certain people like Samantha Power. Her rationale around the Iraq War – sort of backing it without backing it or backing it and facilitating it while attempting to pretend that they had a critique of how Bush was doing it – is actually quite similar to Biden’s as I recall. I have not looked at her record recently but recalling that record, there is a serious interplay there. So it is interesting that you’ve mentioned her as well. But it’s all based on the same sort of falsifications for war.

But again, they started and they were articulated by the major media and by figures like Biden before the Iraq War itself. For example, the weapons inspections regime of the 1990s was ended because then-President Clinton bombed Iraq and withdrew the weapons inspectors. And then he had to figure what the heck you were going to do after that. The media and people like Joe Biden continually talked about: ‘Saddam Hussein kicked out the weapons inspectors’ and ‘When are we going to get them back in?’ The weapons inspections regime didn’t end because Saddam Hussein kicked out the weapons inspectors. It ended because the US government pulled them out in order to launch a bombing campaign which people might recall happened just as Clinton’s scheduled impeachment vote was supposed to happen in 1998. And you saw much the same thing happen in 2003. How did the Iraq War begin? It didn’t begin because Saddam Hussein was not cooperating with the weapons inspectors. He was totally cooperating with the weapons inspectors. He said over and over again, including on US shows like 60 Minutes, that he had no weapons of mass destruction. So how did the war begin? The war began with G. W. Bush saying: ‘This process has gone on long enough. You, Saddam Hussein, have 48 hours to get out of Bagdad with your sons.’ And then they put out a statement that even if he got out of Iraq in 48 hours with his sons, they would still start the bombing. And they told the UN to get the weapons inspectors out of the country so they wouldn’t bomb them. And then they started their shock and awe bombing campaign. That’s how the war started.

Some people claim that Biden is now becoming senile or something. And that’s why he hasn’t been able to articulate his position on Iraq. Hardly! He has been lying about his position on Iraq for years. In 2007, he was asked about his Iraq War vote, and he actually had the temerity to say: ‘Why didn’t Saddam Hussein say that he didn’t have the weapons!’ Of course, Saddam Hussein was saying that he didn’t have the weapons! But there he is: Biden pretending that it wasn’t known that Saddam Hussein was denying they had the weapons. And that’s also another lie that major media themselves perpetrated, including 60 Minutes itself. 60 Minutes had an interview with Saddam Hussein before the Iraq War in which he said ‘I don’t have any weapons of mass destruction.’ And then several years later, after the Iraq War, they did some so-called reporting about: ‘Why didn’t Saddam Hussein say that he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction?’ So it’s the level of absurdity you have with the record of establishment media and establishment figures like Joe Biden. And there is a remarkable lack of scrutiny, especially when it most matters. One of Biden’s falsifications, when he had an interview with NPR, got a little bit of scrutiny. It wasn’t nearly enough, and sometimes the scrutiny actually helped build up other Iraq War lies. But none of the scrutiny in the major media happened right after the Democratic debates. He has lied about his Iraq War record during each of the Democratic debates. It is Sanders who I think needs to be far more forceful if he is to comport with the indicting facts in this case. But he at least brought it up. In his words: He led the effort against the Iraq War in the Senate, and Biden voted for it. That’s an understatement again. But at least he has brought it up, and that has compelled Biden to explain his position and lie about it in the process.

It is such a loser strategy as well because it’s quite similar to Kerry’s position. You remember Kerry looked ridiculous in 2004 because he was forced to explain his position then, and he was saying things like ‘I was for the war before I was against it’ and this kind of doubletalk. Biden, if anything, is even worse than that. So it’s factually vacuous and demented, and it is probably not going to galvanize voters and be a very poor strategy electorally. 

You have been covering the Iraq War and the discourse about the Iraq War. Do you have the impression that invading another country and causing immense suffering is either considered irrelevant or treated just as something one disagrees with, especially from episodes like the one with Ms. DeGeneres, Samantha Power, and David Axelrod? Do you think it would have been different had there been an Iran/Contra trial with convictions and had the Obama administration prosecuted the people involved in torture? Would it have made a difference?

Yes, I think it would have made a difference. All of those things could have made some difference to try to have some kind of meaningful accountability in US law and political life, that people who engage in torture or launching war of aggression or other war crimes be held accountable for that. It would get those people out of public life, make them pay some measure of penalty for their own conduct, and become an example so that others don’t simply perpetuate as it is. We have some of the same figures coming back. There you have Elliott Abrams, and John Bolton, who committed criminal acts under the Bush administrations, come back under the Trump administration. In spite of its isolationist veneer, it has basically adopted a Bush type of foreign policy in many respects.

And I mean this ‘Let’s all get along even if we have disagreements!’ Well, you know, ok. So I fully expect Ellen DeGeneres to have somebody from ISIS on to talk about how she can have disagreements with him. But perhaps they can be fond of each other personally. Or pick the group of your choice that is totally distasteful or allegedly totally distasteful. I mean, in some ways, people allege the US has coordinated with groups like ISIS in terms of destabilizing Syria. But pick whatever group the US establishment most despises, and it’s not as if their members or leadership are humanized. I mean Hezbollah and Hamas are regarded as terrorist organizations even though they are political parties that do a lot of good for people. I have serious disagreements with them. And they do use violence, on a far smaller scale than the US and Israel and other states do. But it would be very refreshing if Ellen DeGeneres and other political talk show hosts took their word seriously, that they want to have a dialogue with people, even people they disagree with, and they still view them as human. So let’s have Nasrallah and the leader of Hamas on late-night talk shows. Well, I don’t think it is going to happen any time soon. It is just an exercise in making the criminality of the US establishment palatable to the public.

And it is interesting that in this case there was a fair amount of pushback. I think that’s partially because you still have some semblance in social media of evenhandedness of discourse, but I think that that has been pushed away gradually as Twitter and Facebook and other social media are tilting the playing field more and more, excluding voices, using opaque algorithms to marginalize some voices further and increase others. So the war against accountability and for meaningful dialogue about issues of war and peace – on many levels, that fight is happening.

Sam, are there cases where the question of whether one opposed the war in Iraq or supported it is being reduced to a talking point, for example, in 2016 against Hillary Clinton? How many people actually care about the human cost of that war to Americans and Iraqis?

I think a lot of US political system is trying to make the Iraq War an irrelevant thing in the distant past and the decision and the mechanisms used to launch the Iraq War. It is not a coincidence that Obama cast himself as an anti-war candidate. And he won. Trump cast himself as an anti-war candidate. And he won. I think there is a hunger in the American public for a different way to orient itself to the rest of the world. It’s a very difficult thing for the American public to sort out because it doesn’t get adequate information. Instead, it gets lies upon lies upon lies. But it is notable that the candidates that were brazenly part of the pro-war establishment have generally lost on the national stage. Now, Obama and in different ways, Trump were deceitful in casting themselves as anti-war. But I think it doesn’t change the fact that there is this underlying hunger. And there are serious opportunities because the wars continue and they continue to threaten to spiral further out of control, and they continue to have this devastating effect as most recently Turkey killing Kurds not only on its side of the border but dramatically escalating their killing of Kurds on the Syrian side of the border. And the colonial prerogatives are still the same: We can invade Iraq because we can invade Iraq. And now we can do all kinds of things in Syria because we can do all kind of things in Syria.

I think there is an attempt to reduce the Iraq War to a mere talking point. And it is facilitated in part because virtually nobody left in ruling circles got it right. Sanders did not get the Iraq War right. He bought some of the establishment lines. And I think it would do him some good to say: ‘Even I bought part of the establishment line!’ Sanders was not out there saying: ‘Iraq doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction.’ There were some people like Scott Ritter, who was saying that. I was saying there has been no evidence for saying that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. But Sanders was not saying that. He was simply saying: ‘War is a bad idea. It is going to make things worse. It could compel Saddam Hussein to use his weapons of mass destruction.’ Sanders actually made that argument. Pelosi and others made even worse arguments even though they cast their votes against war. Some of them actually helped to facilitate war even though they technically cast their votes against it.

So the entire political system – right now, I feel the correct analogy is geology in the 17th century. Geology in the 17th century was a debate between people who thought that the earth was 5000 years old versus people who thought that the earth was maybe a hundred million years old. The correct answer – that the earth was over a billion years old – was off the charts. It wasn’t part of the mainstream discussion. And I think we have a similar thing right now with coming to grips with fundamental questions of US foreign policy like the Iraq War. The correct, empirically-driven answer is well outside the current acceptable discourse. And this leads to all kinds of perversities one of which is the rise of somebody like Trump who does say perverse truths at times and that grants him a measure of legitimacy because nobody who articulates those truths in a principled way is allowed to take part in a meaningful way in public discourse because of the constrictions of major media. So these are some of the problems that have to be overcome.

Do you see them being overcome? What can be done to change things?

There is a pat answer to that: Getting information out, doing what you can. And there are all kinds of good webpages and periodicals out there. And some people try to use social media as best they can. Your program is a very good example, as well.

But I think we need to get to concrete proposals. One proposal I wanted to start building for some time and perhaps some of your listeners can help is to build what would now be called a Wiki with the relevant lies and fabrications of the establishment figures: In very short concise format so there would be a go-to place for whatever establishment figure, whether it is Biden or Wolf Blitzer or Samantha Power, to in very concise form have a thing contríbuted to by many people doing research, but then distilled so it is not a mass of treaties. So it is literally about 500 words but linked to, with substantial documentation of their various fabrications, whether it is about Iraq WMDs or other issues that we might achieve a culture of accountability so that these people could be challenged when they speak at universities or elsewhere. You could have it as a PDF so that it can be printed out and then distributed at events where these individuals are speaking. It could be distilled into a graphic form that could proliferate over social media, for example. I think it is a matter of people who do have a commitment to relevant facts and to a fundamental humanity, driven by respect for things like opposing aggressive war to organise our efforts better so we can more effectively challenge and expose people who deceit on such a massive scale to do things that have caused such harm and will continue to cause more and more harm, potentially threatening nuclear war.

I’ve been doing work lately with the Institute for Public Accuracy about the Plowshares actions. They have had an action in Georgia with these religiously-driven activists to destroy nuclear weapons symbolically. And many of them have spent much of the last year and a half in jail. Now they are facing decades in prison, and their trial begins in a couple of weeks.

I wanted to be inspired by their dedication in terms of their actions: to try to have the same dedication for laying out the critical facts in a way that is irrefutable and solidly documented and working with others to do that so that the force of that is so great that it, in effect, winds its way into the mechanisms of war and the lies that feed them and causes them to come to a grinding halt.

Slava Zilber is the host of the political podcast “Conversations with Slava” and a guest contributor to The Canary.

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Iraq says all evidence points to ‘malicious hands’ in protests

Press TV – October 7, 2019

Iraqi officials say there are “malicious hands” behind the killing of both protesters and security forces during the recent spate of unrest in Baghdad and some other cities.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan confirmed for the first time on Sunday that 104 people had been killed, including eight security officers, and more than 6,000 wounded in the protests.

Maan said the ministry was working with other government institutions to find out who was behind the killings. According to medical sources, the majority of protesters killed were struck by bullets.

The protests began last Tuesday, with demonstrators calling for better living conditions. The rallies soon turned into riots as some protesters started vandalizing public properties and attempted to enter the Green Zone in the capital Baghdad — which houses government offices and foreign diplomatic missions.

On Saturday night, armed elements and violent rioters attempted to take over local TV stations in Baghdad after the government removed a days-long curfew.

Maan said protesters burned 51 public buildings and eight political party headquarters but Iraqi security forces did not confront them.

According to the spokesman, most of those killed on Friday had been shot in the head or heart, a sign that skilled snipers had carried out the killings.

Officials say there are attempts at “sedition” from “unidentified snipers” who shot police and protesters indiscriminately.

“We can’t accept the continuation of the situation like this,” Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told his Cabinet late Saturday. “We hear of snipers, firebombs, burning a policeman, a citizen.”

Parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi echoed the premier’s remarks, saying that “infiltrators” were wreaking havoc. He said the parliament had formed a committee to investigate the matter.

Iraqi security officials have made it clear that their forces would not use lethal force against protesters unless their lives were in danger.

On Sunday night, at least 13 people were killed in clashes with security forces in a district of capital, where the military admitted some forces had violated the rules of engagement.

“Excessive force outside the rules of engagement was used and we have begun to hold accountable those commanding officers who carried out these wrong acts,” the military said in a statement.

There are unconfirmed reports that some foreign diplomatic missions are trying to keep the flames of the unrest alive by sending mercenaries into the ranks of protesters to cause more violence.

Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Baghdad had been hiring paid snipers to take out people and guards alike. The report made similar allegations against the US Embassy staff.

There were no immediate official reactions to the claims.

On Sunday, the Iraqi government announced a series of reforms after an “extraordinary” session overnight in response to the sweeping unrest.

The governor of the province of Baghdad, Fallah al-Jazairi, also stepped down and members of the provincial council accepted his resignation.

Confronted by its biggest challenge since coming to power just under a year ago, Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet issued a decree including 17 planned reforms, such as land distributions and increased welfare stipends for needy families.

Authorities have asked protesters to give them time to implement reform. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia cleric of Iraq, on Friday urged security forces and protesters to avoid violence.

Iraq declared victory over the Daesh terrorist group at the end of 2017 — after nearly four years of conflict.

The violence comes as millions of Shia pilgrims are preparing to travel to the Iraqi holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to attend Arba’een ceremonies, marking the fortieth day after the martyrdom anniversary of their third Imam, Hussein ibn Ali (AS).

Iraq recently reopened its al-Qa’im border crossing with Syria and accused the occupying regime of Israel of orchestrating a string of recent drone strikes on Iraqi popular mobilization forces.

Tehran-based political analyst Hussein Sheikholeslam said Saturday the unrest is a product of US efforts to weaken “the resistance axis,” which is the key pillar of rising opposition to American and Israeli plans in the Middle East.

Hashd ready protect government, punish saboteurs

Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or Hashd al-Sha’abi, announced Monday that it is ready to help prevent “a coup d’etat or a rebellion” in the wake of the violence.

Faleh al-Fayyad, the PMU head and Iraq’s national security Adviser, told reporters that he wanted to see “the fall of corruption, not the fall of the government.”

He was referring to demands by some protesters for Abdul-Mahdi to step down in order to perform a complete overhaul of the country’s political system.

“We tell the enemies and the conspirators that their efforts have failed,” he said in a press conference. “We will defend the constitution and the government that we have established with our blood and our lives.”

Fayyad said eradicating corruption and achieving economic prosperity is only possible if the government stays in office.

“The government and on top of it the prime minister do their best to complete the transition,” Fayyad said. “In the absence of government security is lost and it is only within this framework that a solution can be reached.”

He also pledged a crushing response to those who perpetrated violence and killed and injured people.

“We know who is behind letting some saboteurs infiltrate the demonstrations,” he said, adding “we have footage and intelligence that we will present when time is appropriate.”

Iraqi PM discusses situation with Pompeo

Abdul-Mahdi’s office issued a statement on Monday, saying the prime minister had discussed the situation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

According to the statement, Abdul-Mahdi told the US top diplomat that the government was in full control and planning to continue taking practical steps to meet people’s demands.

Later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Baghdad on what Moscow said was a two-day working trip.

October 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s been Trying to Destabilize Iraq?

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 07.10.2019

The wave of protests that erupted across Iraq on October 1, according to a number of reports, resulted in dozens of civilian deaths and several hundred injured protesters. As it’s been reported by Al Arabiya TV station, human rights activists claim that at least a hundred people lost their lives in the course of the protests, while some 3 thousand got injured.

The unrest that was sparked by the frustration that local residents share over the massive corruption, high unemployment rates, frequent power outages and water shortages, would soon lead to demands for the resignation of the sitting government, followed by all sorts of other political demands. In spite of the attempts that local authorities make to restore order by imposing a curfew, the intensity of the protests wouldn’t die down. There’s tires burning in the streets, demonstrators assaulting airports and government buildings.

Egypt‘s Sasapost states that Iraq has not seen a mass movement as popular since the days Iraqis tried to repel the US attack on their country. Demonstrations have swept all the large cities of the country, except for those that remain in the hands of ISIS terrorists in the northern and western parts of the country.

Even though Al Jazeera alleges there’s no leader to head the protest movement, a number of Arab observers have already expressed their doubts about the validity of such allegations. In their opinion a “rebellion of the starving” doesn’t resemble an armed assault on the police and security forces, as there’s been reports about law enforcement units suffering losses.

Most protesters are young people under the age of 20. They can hardly be described as religious conservatives and it is difficult to suspect them of being influenced by clerics. Over the past few weeks their demands have underwent a major change and it’s clear that such a transition could only occur if they were under some sort of external influence. What started out as youth’s attempt to express frustration over the existing social policies would be hijacked by an angry mob chanting extreme political demands, like the replacement of the parliamentary republic with a presidential one, stepping down of Adil Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntafiki and his substitution with the former security chief General Abdul Wahab al-Saidi. All this goes in line with protesters chanting anti-Iranian slogans and burning Iranian flags. It is also noteworthy that those protests started in southern parts of the country mostly inhabited by the Shiites, as well as in Baghdad.

It’s clear that the increasingly anti-Iranian tone of the protests serves as yet another indicator of the possible involvement of external forces in the events that unfold in Iraq these days. Against this backdrop, it’s noteworthy that the Lebanese Al Akhbar recalls that last summer an informed source in the Iraqi military department predicted what was about to happen, while stating that Washington was extremely concerned about the growing influence of Iran in his country. In his opinion, such protests would serve as a warning served to the Iraqi authorities in a bid to prevent the two countries from leaning closer together.

It’s also noteworthy that a couple of weeks ago the sitting US Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Marshall Billingslea announced that the people of Iraq fell “victims” of the close ties that Baghdad and Tehran share.

However, the US is not the only player that would try combating Iran’s influence in Iraq, as Israel has been trying to achieve same end. Since mid-summer, both Israeli and US combat aircraft and drones have made over two dozen sorties, bombing a number of targets across Iraq from those near the border with Syria in the Al Anbar Governorate to those on the borderline with Iran. But primarily these air attacks were directed against the bases of the Iraqi Shia “people’s militia”, which has already been dubbed as “Iranian proxies” in the West.

Against this background, there was a visible increase in anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments in Iraq, resulting in the shelling of the US embassy that was forced to suspend its work until the date when the curfew is lifted.

The moment chosen by the “external instigators” to stir the unrest is particularly noteworthy, as it coincides with the preparation for the Arba’een Pilgrimage made by millions of Iranians. This gathering is the commemoration of the memory of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia imam, who fell in combat together with his faithful comrades-in-arms in 680 at the hands of the caliph Yazid’s soldiers from the Umayyad dynasty. This year the pilgrimage to Iraq is bound to start in two weeks. The annual public gathering is no less important for millions of Shiites than the regular pilgrimage to Mecca for the rest of the Muslims of the planet: according to official Iraqi media, more than 22 million believers took part in the ceremony at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura last year, making this gathering a couple of times more numerous that last year’s Hajj. To coordinate and facilitate the movement of Iranian pilgrims, Tehran sent its representatives to Iraq mere days before the protests broke out. This collaboration and other bilateral contacts between Iraq and Iran that are only getting more numerous are received rather enviously both in Washington and Tel-Aviv.

However, as protests started taking an anti-Iranian turn, Tehran was forced to close two border checkpoints with Iraq (Khosravi and Khazabekh), that are commonly used by Shia traveling to Iraq to visit the shrines of Shia imams.

There’s little doubt that by sabotaging this year’s Shia pilgrimage those forces behind the protests will increase the frustration of the populations of Iraq and Iran. But this is precisely what certain anti-Iranian forces are aspiring to achieve, primarily in the United States and Israel, in order to increase the scale of their military operations in Iraq, while Baghdad is busy dealing with the unrest.

October 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

The Duplicitous Agenda Endorsed by the UN and NATO

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 4, 2019

To the undiscerning, the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) perform different roles in the international arena. Yet both organisations have a common aim – the promotion of foreign intervention. While the UN promotes its humanitarian façade, NATO provides the militarisation of the UN’s purported human rights agenda.

NATO’s participation at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September provided an overview of the current collaboration the organisation has with the UN. Jens Stoltelberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, mentioned the organisations’ collaboration in “working closely to support Afghanistan and Iraq”.

Since the 1990s, the UN and NATO cooperation was based on a framework which included decision-making and strategy on “crisis management and in the fight against terrorism.” In 2001, US President George W Bush launched his ‘War on Terror’ which eventually expanded to leave the Middle East and North Africa in perpetual turmoil, as the coined euphemism morphed into the so-called Arab Spring.

While the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were led by the US, it is worth remembering that the absence of the organisation at that time is not tantamount to the exclusion of warfare from NATO member states. Notably, the US invasion of Afghanistan invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which stipulates that an attack on a NATO member state constitutes an attack on all member states.

“For NATO-UN cooperation and dialogue to remain meaningful, it must continue to evolve.” The statement on NATO’s website is a bureaucratic approach which detaches itself from the human rights violations created and maintained by both parties, which form the premise of such collaboration.

UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), upon which NATO based its collaboration with the UN, reaffirms, “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence as recognised by the Charter of the United Nations.” The resolution provides impunity for member-states and other collaborators with the UN, including NATO, to define what constitutes terrorism while eliminating foreign intervention as a terror act, despite the ramifications which last long after the aggression has been terminated or minimised.

The UN-NATO duplicity is exposed in Stoltenberg’s speech when he states, “NATO has also contributed to developing UN disposal standards to counter improvised explosive devices, which remain one of the greatest threats to peacekeepers.” Why are the UN and NATO selecting rudimentary forms of warfare over precision bombing which has killed thousands of civilians in the name of fighting terror or bringing democracy?

In 2011, the UNSC’s arms embargo was supposed to prevent the proliferation of weapons to the rebels in Libya – a contradiction given the UNSC’s authorisation for NATO to bomb Libya. France, however, defied the resolution by publicly declaring its proliferation of weapons to rebels in Libya, on the pretext of their necessity to protect Libyan civilians. NATO denied its involvement as an organisation in providing arms to the rebels, despite the fact that action was taken by a NATO member. With the UN endorsing foreign intervention and NATO implementing the atrocities, the UN can fall back on its alleged peace-building and humanitarian roles, of which there is never a decline due to the irreparable damage both organisations have wreaked upon exploited, colonised and ravaged countries. The cooperation lauded by NATO does not rest on a division of roles but rather on blurring the differentiation between war and humanitarianism, in order to generate both as a duplicitous agenda.

NATO maintains that the UNSC holds “primary responsibility” for maintaining international peace and security. What the statement evades is the individual interest of each member, as well as their collective framework as NATO members. To satisfy the UNSC, individual interests and NATO membership, a common denominator is imperative. For the perpetrators of foreign intervention, war constitutes the binding legacy.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqi PM approves reopening al-Qa’im border crossing with Syria

Press TV – September 28, 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has authorized the reopening of the al-Qa’im border crossing with Syria as both countries manage to restore security to the region.

The Iraqi state news agency INA quoted the Arab country’s border agency chief as saying on Friday that the crossing will be opened for travelers and trade on Monday.

The crossing, which connects the town of al-Qa’im in Iraq’s Anbar Province to the Syrian city of Bukamal in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr Province, was closed in 2013 to support Iraqi forces in their fight against al-Qaeda militants and later Daesh terrorists.

Al-Qa’im and Bukamal lie on a strategic supply route and the crossing between them had only been open to government or military traffic.

The planned opening of the border crossing comes at a time that both Syrian and Iraqi governments have mostly purged their countries of Takfiri terrorist outfits.

In October 2018, the Nassib crossing border crossing between Jordan and Syria opened to people and goods after being closed for three years.

In recent weeks, however, Israel has launched attacks on the pro-government Iraqi military force Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or Hashd al-Sha’abi, which has been protecting the Arab country’s border from infiltration attempts by foreign-backed Syria Takfiri terrorists.

On Friday, sources in Iraq reported that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) struck targets within a base belonging to the Hashd al-Sha’abi on the Syrian border.

Similar attacks have been reported in Bukamal, where members of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah are allegedly helping the Syrian army to secure the crossing and its surrounding areas.

The Israeli attacks are considered an attempt by the regime to prop up Takfiri terrorist outfits that have been suffering heavy defeats in the region.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment