Spain has authorized the temporary deployment of US Marine forces to an airbase in the southwestern city of Moron de la Frontera, Seville Province.
The Spanish government granted the air base to the US forces on Friday for a period of one year for 500 Marines and eight aircrafts.
The United States Embassy in the capital, Madrid, stated that it needed a force able to respond quickly to crises in northwest Africa. On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in the city of Benghazi, Libya.
Africa has experienced a surge in the US military involvement recently.
On February 14, Army General David Rodriguez, the head of US military’s African Command, said in a Senate hearing that the military needed to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold.”
In December 2012, the Pentagon announced that the “Dagger Brigade” consisting of 3,500 combat troops was set up to be deployed to as many as 35 African nations to train local forces.
The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany, since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty.
Spain also granted the US another temporary deployment from March to November 2011, in which up to 45 US aircraft were stationed at the Moron and Rota airbases in the southwestern parts of the country.
Spain’s authorizations originate from a 1988 defense cooperation agreement between Spain and the United States.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has suggested the creation of a peacekeeping force in Mali that would include West African troops already operating in the country. He also said that a “parallel force” must be built to confront Islamist threats.
“Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the UN mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,” Ban wrote in his report on Mali.
Such a force could be built on the French troops already active in Mali, some diplomats say.
Once the African nations’ soldiers become a UN peacekeeping force, most of their troops and police would operate in northern Mali, while there would be a “light presence” based in the country’s capital, Bamako, Ban suggested.
“The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,” he said.
The parallel force proposed by Ban Ki-moon would specifically target Islamist extremists, and could be based in Mali or elsewhere in West Africa. Diplomats expressed hope that the UN Security Council will vote on the peacekeeping proposal in mid-April.
France launched its military intervention in Mali in January to combat Islamist groups that had taken over the north of the country a year ago. The French army succeeded in driving the Islamists out Mali’s main northern cities and into desert and mountain hideouts. Still, Ban’s report said Mali suffered from a “crisis of governance” marked by “endemic corruption,” and a lack of state authority.
The 11,200 African troops converted into peacekeepers could only cover the main towns “assessed to be at highest risk,” Ban explained. The bulk of the contingent would come from a West African force known as AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali), comprised of armed forces from many African nations and already operational in Mali.
France said it would start withdrawing 4,000 of its troops in late April as part of a handover to the UN-backed African force. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly vowed that the troops will remain in the region only until a legitimate government can take over.
The Mali intervention has cost France more than 100 million euros so far.
Obama’s Second Term: Selling Death and Buying Assassins In the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia
As President Obama enters his second term with a new Cabinet, the foreign policy legacy of the past four years weighs heavily on their strategic decisions and their empire-building efforts. Central to the analysis of the next period is an evaluation of the past policies especially in regions where Washington expended its greatest financial and military resources, namely the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.
We will proceed by examining the accomplishments and failures of the Obama-Clinton regime. We will then turn to the ongoing policy efforts to sustain the empire-building project. We will take account of the constraints and opportunities, which define the parameters resulting from imperial military ambitions, Israeli-Zionist influence in shaping policy and the ongoing anti-imperialist struggles. We will conclude by examining likely polices and outcomes resulting from current strategies.
The Clinton-Obama Imperial Legacy: The Accomplishments
The greatest success of the Obama-Clinton (OC) imperial legacy was the virtual elimination of organized domestic anti-war dissent, the demise of the peace movement and the co-optation of virtually the entire ‘progressive’ leadership in the US – while multiplying the number of proxy wars, overt and covert military operations and ‘defense’ spending. As a result, the entire political spectrum moved further to the right toward greater militarization abroad and increased police-state measures at home.
Facing mass revolts and the overthrow of long-standing client regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the Obama-Clinton (OC) Administration moved rapidly to reconfigure new client regimes while preserving the state apparatus – the military, intelligence, police, judicial and civilian bureaucracy. The empire dumped incumbent regimes in order to save the repressive state, the key guarantor of US strategic interests. Washington reminded its client rulers that ‘There are no permanent alliances, there are only permanent imperial interests’. Washington successfully engineered a political pact between conservative Islamist leaders and parties and the old military elite. The new political blocs in Egypt upheld Israeli annexation of Palestine, the brutal blockade of Gaza and the neo-liberal economic order. Washington repeated the ‘reshuffle of clients’ in Yemen and Tunisia. The OC intervention temporarily aborted the pro-democracy, anti-Zionist and anti-corruption popular revolt. The OC policies secured a temporary respite, but the subsequent effort by Egypt to secure an IMF loan has led to a stalemate amid deteriorating economic conditions and rising political protest. The successful imposition of new client regimes amenable to US hegemony in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, in the face of popular revolts, marked the beginning of a series of favorable political-military outcomes in the region for the OC regime.
Facing Israeli annexation of ever-widening swaths of Palestinian land and the end of any pretense of ‘peace negotiations’, Washington continued to provide Israel with massive military assistance, modern weapons systems and unconditional political support in the UN. By submitting to Israel the OC regime succeeded in retaining the political support of the domestic Zionist power configuration (ZPC). The OC regime’s economic handouts supported the puppet Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as it policed the West Bank for Israel. Despite losing the vote to seat the Palestinians as a non-voting member in the UN, Washington succeeded in blocking full membership. The OC regime succeeded in fulfilling its role as Israel’s handmaiden, despite opposition from the vast majority of UN members.
The OC regime succeeded in tightening sanctions on Iran, by securing Russian, Chinese and Arab League support, without provoking a potentially destructive war. The US sanction policy toward Iran is largely designed and implemented by key Zionist appointees in the Treasury (formerly Stuart Levy, now David Cohen) and in Congress, by legislators bought and directed by the powerful America-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The US, under Obama-Clinton, destroyed the independent nationalist Gadhafi government via a joint air war with the EU and tried to set up a client regime. In turn, Libya became a key recruiting ground for violent Islamist mercenaries invading Syria and weapons depot supplying Islamist terrorists. The OC regime’s military success in Libya was part of a general strategy to accelerate the expansion of US and European military operations in Africa. This includes setting up drone bases and promoting African mercenary armies from Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia to expand imperial control in Somalia, Mali and elsewhere.
In the Gulf region the US succeeded in propping up the autocratic Bahrain monarchy, as it killed and jailed opponents and outlawed the mass pro-democracy social movement among its oppressed Shi’a majority population. The OC regime successfully secured Gulf state financing for the Libyan and Syrian wars.
In Iraq, the US has succeeded in dividing the devastated nation into fragments of warring fiefdoms, Shi’a, Sunni, Kurd and subsets of each. It succeeded in destroying a once modern and secular society, an advanced economy and independent nationalist regime. Initially the OC regime hoped to establish a client outpost in Iraq from which to secure Washington’s wealthy petro-clients in the Gulf, especially among the patrimonial dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.
Washington, in alliance with other NATO powers and its Gulf state clients, succeeded in converting a peaceful civilian protest movement in Syria into a full scale civil war and military invasion, increasingly dominated by armed Al Qaeda ‘internationalists’. The US-EU-Gulf State-Turkey-Israeli alliance has armed, financed, trained and advised Islamist and mercenary terrorists to effectively destroy the Syrian state, society and economy, dispossessing and uprooting a million refugees across the border and resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands. The US promoted invasion of Syria has seriously weakened one of the last governments defending the Palestinians, opposing Israeli colonization of the West Bank and providing a refuge for persecuted Palestinian leaders. By virtually destroying the Syrian state, the OC regime has driven a wedge between Hezbollah, the leading nationalist force in Lebanon and its ally Iran, while tightening the military encirclement of Teheran and exerting cross-border pressure against Iraq. A brutal Islamist regime in Syria will [could] replace the secular state with prospects of massive ethnic cleansing against minority populations, especially Christians and Allevis.
Obama and Clinton successfully expanded the drone assassination program throughout the Middle East and South Asia, killing more civilian non-combatants than suspected adversaries especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The OC regime successfully imposed the presidential doctrine of killing of US citizens via drones with the support or acquiescence of the US Congress, judiciary and most of the mass media and without a shred of judicial due process. Accompanying the license to assassinate civilians via drones, Obama/Clinton successfully expanded the use of Special Operations death squads, dispatching them to seventy countries to assassinate political adversaries, destabilize independent governments and bolster client regimes.
The OC regime has spent tens of billions of dollars and succeeded in building a 350,000 man mercenary army in Afghanistan to defend US strategic interests, sustain its military bases and destroy the nationalist-Islamic opposition (‘Taliban’). OC hoped to cover Washington’s retreat from the combat front. Despite the military build-up and in the face of a sharply deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan, the OC regime has been negotiating with political sectors of the ‘Taliban’, to dump the current client ruler, Karzai, and ‘reshuffle the regime to save the state’, hoping to pull-off a coalition-collaborator Islamist-military regime such as has been shoe-horned in place in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.
Vulnerability and Failures of the Obama-Clinton Legacy
The apparent and real empire-building successes of the Obama-Clinton regime are fraught with vulnerabilities and are based on fragile political and socio-economic foundations. Temporary tactical gains reveal strategic weaknesses and high military costs without commensurate imperial economic gains.
The Obama-Clinton counter-revolutionary offensive and its political military successes are driven by a military conception of empire building without a shred of economic thinking. It is not surprising that many of the key decision-makers promoting military-driven empire building are militarist ideologues and Zionist policy-makers, who specialize in utterly destroying adversaries (of Israel) and not in promoting or protecting US imperial oil, manufacturing and service interests.
A telegraphic point-by-point analysis and critique of the major policy interventions of the Obama-Clinton regime highlights strategic weaknesses and failures, even in areas that the empire-builders currently celebrate as ‘successes’.
While the OC regime succeeded in procuring close to fifteen billion US tax payer dollars in tribute payments to Israel, they failed to secure a neo-colonial settlement of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, even one based on conceding a truncated part of the West Bank composed of disconnected enclaves (‘Bantustans’). As a result of the total dominance of US Middle East policy by the Zionist power configuration (representing less than 1% of the US populace), the OC regime was repeatedly ‘humiliated’ by their Israeli overlords. The supremely confident, beefy Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu launched and flaunted massive new exclusive Jews-only colonial settlements on Palestinian land, despite near universal condemnation, knowing he could count on the veto power of Washington in the United Nations and its political leverage over EU allies and Arab clients. Strategically, the OC regime’s deep links to the Zionist power configuration includes the appointment of Israel Firsters to top positions in the US foreign policy establishment. These appointments ensured that Israeli interests would continue to determine US policies in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region. The Zionist appointees designated which political clients would be acceptable and which adversaries would be targeted for destruction. The OC regime’s biggest failure as US empire-builders was their inability to achieve independence from the Zionist incubus and accommodate the emergence of new socio-political forces as well as its failure to reap economic gains commensurate with its budget-busting military expenditures.
The successful imposition of new client regimes in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) is a short-term victory, based on force and the continuation of the authoritarian repressive state apparatus. The introduction of regressive neo-liberal policies will doom this short-term success. If the US ‘won’ the first round in the ‘Arab Spring’, its client rulers face a more radical social upheaval, one which goes beyond the earlier anti-dictatorial struggle and which explicitly targets the US, EU and the IMF. The new clients’ prospects of achieving stability via economic recovery are virtually non-existent. The full implementation of the OC-IMF agenda of ending popular food and fuel subsidies, increasing regressive taxation and wide spread privatizations will create a powder-key among the Arab masses. Under pressure from new waves of mass uprisings against brutal neo-liberal economic policies, the Arab clients’ US-mandated complicity with Israel may end.
The OC regime’s successful overthrow and assassination of President Gadhafi was accompanied by the utter destruction of the Libyan nationalist state, its economy and social fabric. The OC policy of total war has produced a miserable, lawless, chaotic society ‘headed’ by powerless expat neo-liberals at the top and run by local tribal chiefs, Islamist thugs and criminal gangs on the ground. They specialize in running guns, dispatching armed mercenaries abroad (especially to Syria), trafficking in migrant workers, drugs and sex slavery. The oil industry enclave has partially recovered but few if any oil profits make it to the US. Meanwhile, even US Embassy personnel (including the Ambassador) have been murdered and visiting US officials only travel in heavily armed conveys. Instead of a political victory, Washington has lost a potential oil partner for its own extractive industry. One might say the only real ‘beneficiary’ of the US-EU war to destroy Libya was Israel: Gadhafi had been a staunch ally and supporter of the Palestinian people. The invasion of Libya led to the massive displacement of armed ethnic communities, which has exacerbated conflicts in resource-rich sub-Sahara neo-colonies.
The Zionist power configuration, embedded in Congress, Treasury and inside the OC regime, has succeeded in imposing new and harsher economic sanctions on 75 million Iranians in support of Israel’s goal of ‘regime change’ in Teheran. However, the effect has been to strengthen the unity of the ethnically diverse Iranian population, especially when overt military threats, emanating from nuclear-armed Israel, are amplified by the White house and the Zionist-occupied US Congress.
Iran’s peaceful nuclear program continues; oil and gas sales to China, Japan, India and Korea and Pakistan continue. A new billion-dollar gas pipeline agreement with Pakistan has been signed. Iran has replaced the US as the major foreign influence in Iraq.
In other words the Obama-Clinton diplomatic success (‘sanctions against Iran’) have not enhanced US power nor achieved any strategic goals. Moreover Zionist-designed sanctions have had a negative effect on US energy prices and oil company profits. The OC regime’s policy toward Iran has ‘succeeded’ in maintaining Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East, a goal of Tel Aviv.
Obama and Clinton’s success in expanding outposts, missions, drone platforms and mercenary armies in Africa has been costly, politically destabilizing and has not prevented large-scale long-term Chinese economic penetration in the most lucrative resource sectors of the region. The US may have closer ties with African generals and dictators; its bankers come and go; but capital flight out of Africa accompanies inflows of US foreign aid. While the OC regime were building drone platforms, thousands of Chinese miners, investors, construction and transport companies were establishing an economic empire that over time will enhance China’s power, long after the US military empire has collapsed.
The OC regime claims ‘military victory’ in Iraq when, in fact, what we see is ‘defeat via retreat’ on the ground. The US has spent $2 trillion dollars in order to overthrow and execute the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Bush and Obama-Clinton regimes have made absolute fools out of the entire executive branch of the US government by justifying the war on the basis of crudely manufactured intelligence (falsely claiming the existence of weapons of mass destruction) through a series of lies cooked up by Israeli-collaborators in the Pentagon, White House and New York Times (especially the infamous propagandist Judith Miller). The end result is a failed state: savage ethnic-religious divisions, millions of dead, displaced and injured, daily terror bombings against a brutalized population, and a great leap backward in terms of Iraq’s economic, scientific and social development. In political terms, Iraq is now ruled by a thuggish Shia elite closely tied to Iran – which is the biggest beneficiary of the US invasion of Iraq and principal adversary of US empire building. The OC regime’s post-war Iraq is composed of an overwhelmingly hostile population, a divided and fragmented country pitting Arabs against Kurds, where the most qualified and educated have been driven out or assassinated and entire ancient Christian communities have been obliterated. The OC regime claims to ‘success in Iraq’, in fact, show a weakening of the overall US presence in the Gulf region. Economically, Turkey has become Iraq’s main trading partner with trade growing by double and triple digits each year.
In other words, the US invasion of Iraq destroyed an adversary of Israel, broke the US economy ($2 trillion and counting), increased the influence of Iran and handed Iraq’s petro-dollar consumer market and lucrative reconstruction contracts over to Turkey. The Obama-Clinton regime’s claims of military victory ring hollow in the empty coffers of the US Treasury – where are the ‘spoils of this imperial war’? Most of the intellectual authors of the invasion of Iraq have departed from the US government and are now comfortably ensconced within Zionist think tanks (propaganda mills) in Washington or flaunt lucrative ‘consultant’ contracts in Wall Street and Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the American taxpayers are left to struggle with an enormous war debt and to grieve the several hundred thousand American casualties – soldiers who lost their lives, limbs and minds – all for a blatant lie perpetrated at the behest of a foreign power, Israel.
The people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria – serial victims of the US-EU military machines and their Islamist mercenaries – face an increasingly militarized Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, out of which new wars are already emerging, like pus from festering wounds. In Libya, the US and EU diplomats cringe in their bunkers and travel only in armed convoys, the consequences of their ‘humanitarian’ imperial-Islamist alliances.
As the US and EU supply arms to Islamist terrorists and murderous gangsters who plunder Syrian cities, decapitate captured government soldiers and execute civilian suspects (civilian government functionaries, such as school teachers), Syria’s diverse secular society is on the brink of extinction. Islamist fanatics bristling with advanced weaponry bought by the Saudi monarch and Gulf petro-oligarchs capture sophisticated Syrian cities and impose medieval Sharia law on what was one of the region’s most diverse and sophisticated secular societies. The large communities of Alawites, Orthodox and Syriac Christians, Kurds and educated secular Syrians face mass extermination or expulsion by Saudi-funded Wahhabi fanatics. The EU-US backed ‘secular’ clients (mostly ex-pat Syrians with US or UK passports) serve as propaganda cover for the armed Islamists thugs and mercenaries. Authoritarian Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, himself a ‘soft-core’ Islamist, provides bases, training, and logistical support for the Syrian invasion. Turkey has become the Islamist pivot for fundamentalist power taking over Syria and the Levant. Islamist terrorist violence is spilling over the border into Lebanon today, Jordan tomorrow and may eventually lead to multiple wars involving vulnerable Gulf clients.
Yes, the Obama-Clinton regime undermined an independent, secular, nationalist adversary in President Assad and by doing so they destroy an advocate of Palestinian self-determination, but the ultimate results will not favor US imperial military, economic or diplomatic interests. The OC regime’s wars have destroyed US commercial prospects for decades ahead; the victory of their mercenary Islamist ‘rebels’ is setting in motion a more virulent armed version of Al Qaeda with a territorial base and access to immense quantities of modern weapons in areas contiguous to US client regimes.
The OC regime claim to have discovered a low-cost (in terms of American blood) technique to project US military power: killing anti-imperial opponents by drone and Special Forces. According to the OC regime’s strategists the advantages of assassination by drone warfare is that it would not result in the death of US combat soldiers and the Special Forces, whose high-intensity, low visibility operations are ‘off-budget’ would not elicit any public or legislative scrutiny. But drones have become highly visible, even to the usually complacent and highly myopic US Congress and are routinely condemned even by client regimes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The United Nations has publically condemned drones as civilian casualties have far exceeded the number of so-called ‘terrorist’ targets. Most experts agree that drone assassinations have vastly increased the number of opponents and facilitated the recruitment of resistance fighters. Drone warfare has increasingly isolated client regimes like Yemen that permit US drone attacks against its citizens. The strategy of foreign policy by ‘drone and death squad’ has not replaced the need for ground troops in the task of empire building. Once US troops do withdraw, its mercenary armies have proved incapable or unwilling to obey US advisors, trainers or Special Forces.
The clearest expression of the failed strategy is the rising number of defections from Afghan security forces and the killing of NATO and US officers by Afghan soldiers and officers – even those with the highest security clearance. This infiltration into the highest ranks of the Afghan military and police points clearly to the near-future demise of the puppet Karzai regime. The various ministers in the Afghan client regime and their banker cronies know they have no chance of surviving a post-US withdrawal situation: they have multiple passports in hand and millions in stolen funds stashed in Gulf State bank accounts; their families are safely housed abroad; and their private planes are ready to take off at a moment’s notice. We may witness the panic scenes at the US Embassy, reminiscent of the last days in Saigon (Viet Nam), with local ‘small-fry’ collaborators clamoring to board the ‘last flights out’ before the advancing Taliban insurgents – if our jaded media even bother to cover the debacle. The current attempt by the US to strike a face-saving deal with the ‘political Taliban’ (under auspices of ‘our friends’, the Saudi autocrats) has infuriated our current puppet in Kabul, Hamid Karzai. As a result he is publically condemning Special Forces operations and their arbitrary killing and torture of villagers, as well as US drone attacks against Afghan civilians.
The OC regime’s overtures to the Taliban have so far failed because the sine quo non-condition of the Islamist nationalists is the total withdrawal of all US military and civilian occupation forces: in other words an unconditional collapse of US power in Afghanistan. The Taliban do not need to offer Obama a ‘face-saving’ formula allowing for a ‘residual’ US presence. As the withdrawal proceeds, more and more Afghan military officers will switch sides, dumping the losers and building bridges toward the new rulers. If the US decides to reverse course and retain ‘garrison bunkers’ in Afghanistan, they will face a continuing and deepening war of attrition under conditions of growing budgetary constraints and US electoral hostility.
Results and Perspectives: The Obama-Kerry-Hagel (OKH) Era
The Obama-Kerry-Hagel (OKH) regime has few imperial assets with which to confront the next four years of US empire building and has powerful constraints against devising strategic innovations or even tactical advances, capable of limiting US losses.
The most significant obstacle to any shift from costly and ineffective military-driven empire building to economic and diplomatic informed policies is the influence of the Zionist power configurations (ZPC) over the ‘troika’ (OKH) and the Congress. The new Israeli coalition regime is even more extreme and militarist, as indicated by the powerful presence of a radical settler-colonist party intent on violently annexing what remains of the Palestinian West Bank. The effective Israeli veto over US foreign policy in the Middle East is enforced by the Presidents of the Major American (sic) Jewish Organizations (representing over 50 powerful Zionist groups) that exclude any possibility that the Obama-Kerry-Hagel regime can even paste a tiny fig leaf ‘peace process’ onto Israel’s accelerating seizure of Palestinian land. The OKH regime, under war-mongering ZPC tutelage, will never attempt any reasonable negotiations with Iran.
The OKH regime is openly committed to entering a war on Israel’s behalf, if the Jewish state unilaterally decides to attack Teheran. Obama’s visit to Israel, and his obligatory ‘consultation’ with leading Jewish-Zionist leaders prior to the trip, was designed ‘to fix’ the White House agenda: US lock-step conformity with Netanyahu’s policy of provoking war against Iran and Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The Zionists have even dictated Obama’s own body language toward Netanyahu: no public spats, only smiles and handshakes, the lapdog US President agreed. If anything, the OKH regime will be even more servile to Israeli demands over the next four years because the Zionist occupied US Congress has given Israel a ‘free hand’ in deciding US foreign policy in the Middle East, including the timing of war and the substance of negotiations.
Obama’s newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are unconditional lifetime Zionists who can be expected to advance economic sanctions against Iran in hopes of strangling its economy and provoking a military confrontation.
Given Washington’s costly commitment to Israeli war plans and the constraints of US budget cuts, the new OKH regime will try to ‘coordinate’ policies with the other NATO powers, including sharing material resources and devising complementary strategies in counter-insurgency operations in sub-Sahara Africa, Islamist mercenary operations in Syria and managing ‘Muslim–neo-liberal’ regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Kerry’s visit to Europe was designed to strengthen inter-imperial efforts and especially to bolster French ‘Socialist’ President Hollande’s imperial war policies in Mali and Niger and the ‘Franco-Saudi’ efforts against Syria.
Under pressures from the puppet Syrian mercenary army invading Syria, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Hollande, the OKH regime will step-up the flow of US arms in an attempt to forestall the advance of the Wahhabi Islamist terrorists who have effectively taken over regions of Syria with backing from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf petro-dictatorships. The great fear in Washington is that its modern weapons will not just contribute to overthrowing the secular nationalist Assad regime but will put in power a new Al Qaeda-type regime on the borders of the most vulnerable client rulers in Jordan and Lebanon. An Islamist fundamentalist Syria could serve as a ‘headquarters’ and trampoline for cross border attacks on US bases throughout the region. Israel will finally annex the strategic Syrian ‘Golan Heights’, which it has occupied since 1967, on the pretext of protecting itself from the Islamists it worked hard to put in power. The Kurds will try to seize regions of Northern Syria as part of ‘Greater Kurdistan’, to Ankara’s consternation. Turkey will traffic its ‘gentler’ version of ‘Islamist nationalism’. Washington, London and Paris will be unable to enthrone their London-based ex-pat clients in Damascus … The OKH regime may have ousted the secular, nationalist President Assad but it will certainly reap the whirlwind of long-term bloody strife pitting regional powers, rival clients and Al Qaeda terrorists all intent on pillaging the war-ravaged Syria.
Faced with its dubious prospects in Syria, unable to secure a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and impotent to regain influence over Shi’a Iraq, the new OKH regime will make an effort to bolster the military-Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia by co-opting sectors of the liberal secular opposition. This won’t be an easy task given the growing socio-political polarization. Washington’s prospects for consolidating a new set of client regimes will be severely tested by its support for brutal IMF demands on Morsi to eliminate popular food and fuel subsidies – a policy guaranteed to provoke large-scale rioting among impoverished Egyptians and even the threat of a mass national uprising, uniting secular leftists and poor Muslims. The key concern in Washington is that the ouster of its Islamist client Morsi might jeopardize Egypt’s subservient deal with Israel to enforce the economic blockade of millions of Palestinians in Gaza and to accept the Jewish State’s seizure of more Palestinian land in the West Bank.
So far the OKH regime has relied on the combined repressive power of the intact Mubarak military, police and intelligence services to prop-up its client Morsi. But in a pinch, if he falls, the US may try to reshuffle the deck and seek a new set of ‘liberal’ political clients or impose an outright military dictatorship on the Egyptians.
In Obama’s never-ending pursuit on behalf of Israeli interests, his new Secretary of State John Kerry made a point of directly attacking Prime Minister Erdogan for equating Zionism with fascism as soon as he landed in Turkey. While his ham-fisted tirade made little headway in achieving a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, Obama convinced Erdogan to accept a pro-forma apology from Netanyahu. Erdogan now has to face the political reality that 90% of the Turkish people clearly oppose Israel’s savage repression of the Palestinians. In the meantime, Turkish capital has been the main beneficiary of the US military-imposed ‘partition’ of Iraq. Turkish traders and oil speculators dominate the market in Iraqi ‘Kurdistan’. The US may have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in the invasion but the Turks have made many billions in profits from a war they did not support and immensely increased Turkey’s regional influence. The OKH regime can do nothing about Turkey, an opponent of Washington’s Iraq invasion, reaping huge profits from that $2 trillion-plus investment of US treasure and blood. The OKH regime may have secured Erdogan’s support for the violent overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria … but it will be for Turkey’s own hegemonic interests. Erdogan’s interest in overthrowing the secular-nationalist Assad is based on his plans to establish a compliant client Islamist regime in Damascus and market to be dominated by Turkish business leaders and policy makers. Erdogan has taken a page from the Israeli playbook of manipulating the US military machine for its own regional interests and profit.
Washington will continue to rely on Saudi and Qatari financing of mercenary armies and Islamist terrorists to destabilize and invade anti-imperialist regimes but with the caveat that the battle-hardened mercenaries are also fanatics – profoundly hostile to the US and the EU.
Qatar’s billions of petro-dollars are like a venereal disease, ‘here, there and everywhere’, infecting a region through the funding and arming of Islamist terrorists in tandem with NATO missiles and bombs to destroy Gaddafi’s nationalist welfare state in Libya, savaging the independent secular government in Syria and providing billions of dollars to prop up the puppet Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia (Financial Times, 3/19/2013, p.7). Qatar’s autocratic monarchy enriches its extended royal family and the foreign imperial protectors – namely the US and UK, in exchange for buying and distributing weapons to Islamist mercenaries attacking independent nationalist regimes.
The OKH regime will retain the presence of its naval armada in the Gulf and its training missions and military bases in order to prop-up the decadent Gulf petro-monarcho-dictatorships. However, the entire Gulf-US complex could become the scene of a grisly military conflagaration if the extremist Israeli regime decides to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran and provoke a generalized regional war. As it stands, the stability of the entire US-Gulf oil alliance rests on the whims of a ‘third party’ (Israel) and its Fifth Column embedded in the US Congress and Executive branch.
Obama’s second term depends on a precarious set of alliances, conditioned by the decisions of a fanatical ultra- militarist foreign power (Israel) and subject to a rising tide of mass pro-democracy movements in an arc extending from Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen over to Pakistan. Moreover, many of the crucial outcomes are beyond the control of the US White House. The OKH regime does not control the mass movements in North Africa and the mercenary Islamists currently taking over Syria are sworn enemies of both Washington and Damascus. Washington may retain, within a shrinking budget and in concert with the EU, the power to brutally destroy independent regimes. However, in the process they rip the very fabric of complex societies and shatter their economies, thus undermining their own capacity to reap the economic spoils of imperial conquest. Indeed the main ‘booty’ extracted from Washington’s imperial wars has derived from the US Treasury, as rapacious contractors, corrupt politicians and US military officials pillage billions of US taxpayer dollars in ‘aid and reconstruction programs’ for themselves.
A 2011 report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that defense contractors had wasted or lost to fraud as much as $60 billion dollars – or $12 million a day since 2001 (Financial Times, 3/19/2013, p. 4). The biggest military contractor ($39.5 billion dollars) is Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton – formerly run by George W. Bush’s Vice President Richard Cheney. Cheney was a co-architect of the Iraq war along with the Pentagon Zionists Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Corrupt war profiteers and Zionist Fifth Columnists (for Israel) teamed up to pillage the US Treasury for self-enrichment and to destroy Iraq, a key ally of Palestinian liberation and consolidate what Obama hails as Israel’s military supremacy in the Middle East.
The legacy of the Bush regime and Obama’s first term is one of pyrrhic military victories: an Iraq shredded by sectarian wars and the reversal of half a century of socio-economic, educational and scientific progress under a secular nationalist government. The OKH regime cannot undo the growing ties between Iraq and Iran. Nor can they reverse the growing commercial, gas and energy ties between Iran and Pakistan. The US has secured greater Israeli military links with NATO and the European Union, but a growing popular European and North American boycott against Israeli goods and investments is taking its toll on the Jewish state. The Obama-Kerry-Hagel regime shows no sign of making even a partial break with the costly policy of ‘military driven imperialism’ in the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, it lacks economic resources to prop up its new clients in North Africa. While they scurry to fund the current brutal war against Syria, they will have to prepare for new wars against Lebanon and Iran. The OKH regime will have to rely on low-cost, high-risk, mercenary warfare in Syria. It will try to carve out defense perimeters around its political and petroleum enclaves in Libya. It will have to concede even greater economic and Islamist ideological influence to Turkey. Above all, it will need to appease the Jewish State’s annexation of the West Bank, under pressure from the ZPC!
The old RCA Victor Company marketed its Victorolas, ancient phonograph players with huge horn-like amplifiers, with the image of an attentive dog sitting before the machine in eager anticipation of ‘his master’s voice’. The recent trip by Obama to Israel evokes such an image. Obama’s speech to Jewish students in Jerusalem included such ecstatic praise of everything Israeli or Jewish that he exceeded any propagandistic AIPAC press release, surpassed any fabrication by Netanyahu and embellished (almost to the point of caricature) every racist myth of Jewish superiority. He lauded Israel as a ‘land of peace and democracy’ in the face of 45 years of brutal military rule and expropriation of 60% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He spoke of ‘negotiations without conditions’, a euphemism for giving Israel the green light to annex what remains of Palestinian land in the West Bank. He praised Israel’s creativity and courage in founding the Jewish State, ignoring the violent ethnic cleansing and expulsion of over 850,000 Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians. He spoke of Israeli technological genius, forgetting that Israel’s main exports are weapons of massive destruction. No US leader, past or present (or any other imperial ruler), has so faithfully echoed and embellished the lies of such a bloody colonial power and its US-based Fifth Column with greater fervor than Obama’s degrading effort to satisfy his Zionist handlers in Washington. His performance far exceeded their highest expectations of US servility. In style and substance he fulfilled and over-fulfilled their demands for unconditional US subordination to the Jewish state. In fact, one might suspect that in doing so he set a new standard for the boot-licking belly crawl so familiar to observers of US Congressional servants to Israel. Needless to say, the entire Zionist propaganda apparatus from neo-cons to liberals were ecstatic. Here was a Shabbat goy out-Zionizing the most fanatical Zionist.
The day Obama spoke in Jerusalem will be remembered as a day of shame for all Americans who believe in freedom and dignity and peace with social justice. To listen to the President of the United States grovel before a racist colonial power is degrading. It was also a day of anger for the five billion people of the world who have broken their chains of colonial racist oppression. Obama has made his choice: His administration will have to live with this for the next four years.
The OKH regime’s attempt to penetrate Africa via military missions and the promotion of Pan-African mercenary forces will require an accommodation of France’s rising imperial militarism. It will have to acknowledge China’s increasing economic supremacy in Africa’s extractive sectors, infrastructure and trade. The OKH regime’s ‘pivot to Asia’ involving trans-Pacific free trade agreements excluding China, military bases encircling Beijing and encouraging Japan’s provocation over disputed territory has had no impact on China’s economic growth and burgeoning trade relations. China’s trade with Asia now surpasses its trade with the US. The two way flow of investments into and out of China trump all the OKH regime’s offshore war mongering. The OKH regime’s Asian ‘pivot’ has failed to produce any imperial economic rewards for Washington’s coffers. However, it has incited greater military tensions between Japan and China and between North and South Korea. This is occurring at a time when the Pentagon faces major budget cuts and US Treasury Secretary Lew is trying to drum up greater trade with China.
In sum, the past military commitments, the links to Israel, the legacies of political failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fragility of new client rulers mean that the OKH regime will play an increasingly marginal economic role in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The Obama-Kerry-Hagel troika will do their best to salvage the US military bases and political influence among autocratic petro-states in the Gulf.
- A Zionist Friendly, Right-wing Texan Islamist to Lead Syria? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hezbollah: Obama Stances Prove Correctness of Resistance Path (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- President Chavez: A 21st Century Renaissance Man (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Adrienne Gnandé sells rice in the bustling Gouro market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial centre. The rice she’s selling comes from the west of the country, where she herself is a farmer. “This is ‘made in Côte d’Ivoire’, cheaper and better tasting,” she tells people walking past her stall.1
Competition with cheap imports means that the margins are thin for Ivorian rice farmers and small traders like Gnandé. Côte d’Ivoire was self-sufficient in rice in the mid 1970s, but under pressure from international donors, the national rice company was privatised, public support for production was dismantled and the market was opened up to imports. Within two decades, two thirds of the rice consumed in the country came from Asia.
These imports generated immense profits for the handful of international grain traders and powerful local businessmen who dominate the market. Yet they’ve been deadly for local production. Only the hard work and ingenuity of the country’s farmers and small traders have kept local rice production alive.
Today the situation is changing. International prices for rice spiked in 2008, and have not come down to previous levels. Local rice now costs 15 percent less than imports, and demand is growing along with production and sales.2 Women rice traders have recently formed several cooperatives and have even created brands for local rice.
This has not escaped the attention of the big rice traders. The same grouping of government, donors and corporations that demolished Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic rice sector is now conspiring to take control of it – from farm to market.
New Alliance for Food Security and Corporate Control
Details of this plan are found in a 2012 agreement between the government of Côte d’Ivoire, the G8 countries represented by the EU, and a grouping of multinational and national companies involved in the rice trade. Known as a Cooperation Framework, the agreement is part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – a partnership between the G8, a number of African governments, transnational corporations and some domestic companies.3
Under its Cooperation Framework, Côte d’Ivoire promises to reform its land laws and make other policy changes to facilitate private investment in agriculture. In exchange, it gets hundreds of millions of dollars in donor assistance and promises from eight foreign companies and their local partners to invest nearly US$ 800 million in the development of massive rice farms (see Table 1).
One of these companies, Groupe Mimran of France, wants an initial 60,000 ha, and plans to eventually expand its holdings to 182,000 ha. Another, the Algerian company Cevital, is reported to be seeking 300,000 ha.4 On January 31, 2013, the CEO of the French grain trader Louis Dreyfus, the biggest importer of rice in Côte d’Ivoire, signed an agreement with the country’s ministry of agriculture, giving it access to between 100,000-200,000 ha for rice production.5 These three projects alone will displace tens of thousands of peasant rice farmers and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small traders – the very people that the G8 claims will be the “primary beneficiaries” of its New Alliance.6
Smells like structural adjustment
The New Alliance is phase two of the G8′s coordinated response to the global food crisis. The first was the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, launched by G8 leaders in 2009. They committed to mobilise $22 billion in donor funding to support national agricultural plans in developing countries.
Both initiatives have been spearheaded by the US government.
“The L’Aquila initiative was more than just about money,” says US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman. “In that initiative leaders agreed to put their money behind country plans that had been developed and that were owned by the developing countries themselves.”7
For Africa, the G8 funds were to be aligned with the country agriculture plans developed through the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
The New Alliance, which carries forward the funding commitments of the L’Aquila Initiative, is supposed to do the same: align donor funds with the CAADP national plans. But this is not what is happening.
The G8 has signed Cooperation Frameworks with six countries since the New Alliance was launched in May 2012: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania.8 The Frameworks involve a set of 15 or so different policy measures that each African government commits to implement within clearly defined deadlines.
But few of these policy commitments are found in the CAADP plans that these countries developed through national consultations.9 And, while the national plans are extensive documents covering a wide range of issues, the frameworks zero in on only a small number of measures. almost exclusively aimed at increasing corporate investment in agricultural lands and input markets (see Annex).
So where do these specific policy commitments come from? “The policy commitments in the Cooperation Frameworks were identified through a consultative process between the respective African governments and the private sector,” says USAID in a written response to GRAIN.10
Such behind-the-scenes consultations between African officials and corporate executives are being facilitated by the World Economic Forum’s Grow Africa Partnership. The partnership’s mandate is to bring business executives from companies like Monsanto and Yara together with African governments to convert the CAADP national plans “into increased flows of private sector investment.”
The G8 tasked Grow Africa to identify the private sector investments that are included in the Cooperation Frameworks. Many of these investments and the government policy commitments in the frameworks target the specific geographic areas for farmland investment that Grow Africa is focussing on, such as the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor in Tanzania and Burkina Faso’s Bagré Growth Pole for private investment.
The involvement of the G8 gives a boost to the wish lists drawn up by Grow Africa’s members with African governments behind closed doors, because it ties their implementation to donor funding. The “performance” of African governments in implementing the policy measures they have committed to under the Cooperation Frameworks will be regularly reviewed by a joint Leadership Council of the G8 and Grow Africa, which USAID describes as a “high-level accountability mechanism to drive implementation.”11
On the eve of the G8 leaders summit in 2012, Mamadou Cissokho, Honorary President of the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA), sent a letter to the President of the African Union on behalf of African civil society networks and farmers’ organisations expressing his concerns over how the G8 was dictating agricultural policy in Africa.
“At the moment when the President of the United States, acting in good faith I am sure, has decided to organise a Symposium on Food Security in Washington on 18-19 May 2012, on the eve of the G8 meeting at Camp David, I address myself to you, the President of the African Union – and through you to all African Heads of State – to ask what leads you to believe that Africa’s food security and food sovereignty could be achieved by international cooperation and outside the policy frameworks formulated in inclusive fashion with the peasants and producers of the continent…
The G8 and G20 can in no way be considered appropriate places for such decisions.”12
Straight through the heart
One of the main corporate partners of the G8′s New Alliance is US-based Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader. In a rare interview, the vice chairman of this secretive, family-owned company, Paul Conway, told Al Jazeera that the key to resolving the current global food crisis is “to make better use of the land in Africa and, at the very heart of that, is better property rights.”13
Land is a top priority for Cargill and the other agribusiness corporations targeting Africa. This is why it figures so prominently in the Cooperation Frameworks of the G8′s New Alliance.14
Each Cooperation Framework contains a set of policy commitments by African governments that are designed to make it easier for companies to identify, negotiate for and acquire lands in key agricultural areas of the continent. Ghana will create a database of suitable land for investors, simplify procedures for them to acquire lands, and establish pilot model 5,000 ha lease agreements by 2015.15 Tanzania will map the fertile and densely populated lands of Kilombero District to make it easier for outside investors to find and acquire the lands they want. Burkina Faso promises to fast forward a resettlement policy, and Mozambique commits to develop and approve highly controversial “regulations and procedures that authorise communities to engage in partnerships through leases or sub-leases (cessao de exploração)” by June 2013.16
Ethiopia, for its part, will extend protections for commercial farms and establish a one-window service for investors to cut through the red tape involved in acquiring land. The Ethiopian government has already allocated more than three million hectares of land to corporate investors under an agricultural development plan linked to gross human rights violations. It has only three policy indicators to live up to in its Cooperation Framework with the G8: “improved score on Doing Business Index,” “increased dollar value of new private-sector investment in the agricultural sector,” and “percentage increase in private investment in commercial production and sale of seeds.”17
There are no policy commitments in the framework for Ethiopia – or any of the other countries involved – to protect peasants and pastoralists from the growing number of land grabs taking place.
The New Alliance instead promotes a voluntary approach to regulate the corporate investment in land that it encourages. Within each framework, the New Alliance partners confirm their “intentions” to “take account” of both the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI).18
The PRAI, which were initiated by the World Bank in 2009, have been fiercely rejected by civil society organisations for legitimising land grabs. And while the principles have been endorsed by both the G8 and the G20, the FAO-hosted Committee on World Food Security (CFS) refused to do so.
The Voluntary Guidelines, on the other hand, were adopted by the CFS in May 2012, after a three-year process of bottom-up consultation and are acclaimed for putting emphasis on the rights and needs of women, indigenous peoples and the poor. The effectiveness of these guidelines will depend entirely on how they are implemented, and this is being fiercely contested.19 Social movements and NGOs in the CFS want the Voluntary Guidelines translated into binding national laws; corporations want them to remain voluntary.
The New Alliance is posing as a programme for the implementation of both the Voluntary Guidelines and the PRAI. Both will be implemented through “pilot implementation programs” that the New Alliance partners – i.e. the very actors doing the land grabbing (governments and companies) – commit to develop together under each Cooperation Framework.
Louis Dreyfus will thus “take account” of the Voluntary Guidelines and the PRAI as it takes over 100,000-200,000 ha of farmlands in Côte d’Ivoire to produce rice. So will the Japanese trading house, Itochu, as it works with the Japanese government and Brazilian farming companies to establish large-scale soybean and maize farms in Northern Mozambique.20 These will serve as models for how to responsibly handle the transfer of African farmlands to corporations.
At the next G8 meeting, in the UK in June 2013, the British government will propose an initiative to encourage companies and developing countries to disclose basic information on large scale land acquisitions. The proposed Global Land Transparency Initiative is intended to demonstrate concrete and effective implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines. But it will remain voluntary and would provide only rudimentary information about land deals.
The UK’s Department for International Development is organising an invitation-only session to discuss the initiative on the sidelines of the World Bank’s Annual Conference on Land and Poverty in April 2013.
Holding the G8 to account
In the five years since the global food crisis began and investors started to turn their attention to African farmland, there have been hundreds of conflicts – some of them violent – between marginalised peasant communities and powerful foreign companies over access to Africa’s lands and water for agriculture.
By using their influence as donors to push African governments to enact policies that make it easier for transnational companies to acquire farmlands in Africa, the G8 governments are taking sides. They are contributing directly to the displacement of peasants and pastoralists to make way for foreign agribusiness.
The Cooperation Frameworks for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are available here: http://feedthefuture.gov/article/unga2012
The national agriculture and investment plans that have been published by Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are available here: http://www.grain.org/e/4662
GRAIN, “Responsible farmland investing? Current efforts to regulate land grabs will make things worse,” August 2012: http://www.grain.org/e/4564
1 Fulgence Zamblé, “Les femmes rurales et l’autosuffisance alimentaire en riz,” IPS, 16 juillet 2009
3 The G8 countries are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK, US and the EU.
4 “Cevital, 1ère entreprise privée algérienne, choisit la Côte d’Ivoire pour sa 1ère implantation à l’étranger,” 20 minutes, 11 juin 2012:
5 “Côte d’Ivoire : Louis Dreyfus investira 60 millions de dollars dans le riz,” Jeune Afrique, 31 janvier 2013
6Food security: EU supports G8 initiative for a “New Alliance” with partner countries, donors and the private sector, Letter from African Civil Society Critical of Foreign Investment in African Agriculture at G8 Summit
8 According to USAID: “These African countries [participating in the New Alliance] have committed to major policy changes that open doors to more private sector trade and investment, such as strengthening property rights, supporting seed investments, and opening trade opportunities. G8 members identified development assistance funding aligned behind these nations’ own country investment plans for agriculture, and private sector firms from within these countries and from around the world have laid out investment plans in the agricultural sectors of these countries.” Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
9 The Cooperation Frameworks reference both the national agriculture plans and the national agricultural investment plans, which involved varying degrees of national consultation in their formulation. In Mozambique, for instance, the national peasants union was involved in the formulation of national agriculture plan but not the investment plan.
10 Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
11 Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
14 Seeds and fertilisers are another major area of focus for transnational agribusinesses like Monsanto and Yara that are also part of the New Alliance, and there are several policy commitments dealing with both of these as well. Tanzania, for instance, commits to approve a new seeds act based on UPOV 91, while Mozambique will “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds.”
16 The exact same policy commitment is found in a Development Policy Operation (DPO) that Mozambique is negotiating with the World Bank.
17 Figures on land come from the 2011 Oakland Institute report on Ethiopia. For information on land grabs and human rights violations in Ethiopia, see the 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, “Waiting Here for Death”; and, “Ethiopia’s resettlement scheme leaves lives shattered and UK facing questions,” Guardian, 22 January 2013, which points the involvement of the UK government.
19 Both the B20, the business lobby that reports to the G20, and Via Campesina, the largest global peasant movement, have called on governments to adopt the voluntary guidelines.
20 UNAC, Via Campesina Africa, GRAIN, “Brazilian agribusiness invades Africa,” 30 November 2012; ASA-IM – Special Report – US Soybean Export Council (pdf)
The signing of twenty-seven new economic and social agreements between the nations of South America and Africa was the product of three days of meetings held between representatives of more than 60 countries in Equatorial Guinea last week.
The Third South America Africa Summit (ASA) took place just outside the capital of Malabo, where heads of states and high-ranking officials outlined ways to improve commercial, technological and transportation collaboration between the two continents.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as well as Bolivia’s President Evo Morales were in attendance on Friday as were the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Suriname and Cape Verde, among others.
“We are here to contribute with our experiences together, always thinking about the liberation of our countries in Africa as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean”, said President Morales on Friday.
During his speech, Morales drew attention to the need to take back the natural resources that have been “looted” by the United States and Europe, highlighting the gains that have been made as a result of such policies in the Americas.
“We began to take back our resources and the result has been a change in the economic and financial history of much of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean”, the Bolivian head of state asserted.
“Unity for the dignity of our peoples, unity for equality, and, above all, unity for our liberation”, he added.
This sentiment of economic and political independence was echoed by the majority of ASA representatives including Nigerian Foreign Minister, Viola Adaku Onwuliri.
“Let’s show our ability to make tangible decisions that will lead to economic development and the integration of Africa and South America.
With true political will, we will be able to achieve it, just a s we have already been able to overcome the burdens of colonialism and racism”, Onwuliri said.
For his part, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua read a letter written by Hugo Chavez who apologized for his inability to participate personally in the conference.
“I truly lament, in the deepest of ways, my inability to be physically present with you and I reiterate once again…my most irrevocable commitment to the cause of union between our people”, the Venezuelan President wrote.
In his missive, Chavez hailed the “indivisible historic ties” that bind the regions and which have obliged the two continents “to walk together until the very end”.
“I will never be tired of saying it: we are one people. We must find each other, beyond the formalities and the speeches, in the feeling of unity.”
“In this way we will take our people out of the labyrinth where they had been cast by colonialism and, in the 20th century, by neoliberal capitalism”, the head of state said.
EXPANDING THE ALLIANCE
Apart from the commercial accords inked on Saturday, participating countries also expressed their support for Argentina in its territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands.
A further resolution saw the condemnation of the more than 50 year-old US blockade on Cuba and a declaration calling for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.
Many countries expressed their desire for the expansion of the ASA alliance, advocating the inclusion of all of Latin America and the Caribbean, not only those members belonging to the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) bloc.
President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea described the absence of these nations as “unjustifiable” given the important commonalities that exist between Africa and the developing nations of the Americas.
“The history of our continents, largely exploited by other countries, compels us to take measures of South-South cooperation which will allow us to emerge with liberty, independence and coexistence in this globalized world of confronting interests”, Nguema said.
Following this line, the President of the Spanish-speaking African nation proposed that ASA be incorporated into the recently established Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) alliance that includes all countries in the Americas except the United States and Canada.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jaua reported that Nguema’s proposal has received the support of many allied Latin American nations and that “what needs to be done is to discuss [the proposal] with Unasur and then with CELAC”.
Jaua additionally informed that there will be an encounter between the leading members of ASA next month in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to guarantee the materialization of the agreements signed last weekend.
“On April 26, there will be a meeting of the Follow-Up Commission which is made up of Nigeria, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea to see through the accords that have been solidified in this third summit,” the Venezuelan Minister said.
FINDING ITS FOOTING
The tri-annual ASA first took place in Abuya, Nigeria in 2006 and was followed by a second encounter in Margarita Island, Venezuela in 2009.
While many member nations agree that more needs to be done to strengthen the alliance, trade between the continents has grown from $7.2 billion in 2002 to $39.4 billion in 2011.
Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino explained that relations between the two regions have not been easy over the years “because we don’t know each other very much and we don’t have much work experience together.”
At the same time, Patino affirmed that there are great possibilities for collaboration and that the two continents “have much to offer one another” in ways that go beyond pure commercial relations.
Ecuador is slated to host the next ASA summit in 2016.
- Venezuela’s Chavez to Africa – South America Summit: We Must Unite (venezuelanalysis.com)
A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.
Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.
“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.
Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.
The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.
The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.
This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.
Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.
It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”
Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.
The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.
- At Pentagon, ‘pivot to Asia’ becomes ‘shift to Africa’ (stripes.com)
- US plans military war games with African nations in ‘urgent’ mission (ethiotribune.net)
Press TV’s documentary program “Tanzania’s shift toward Israel” Looks at how Nyerere’s policies of supporting the oppressed and the Palestinian cause have been abandoned in Tanzania in favor of economic diplomacy advocated by the West.
Tanzania’s Shift towards Israel (I)
Tanzania’s Shift towards Israel (II)
Paris – Within the next few days, France will have deployed some 2,500 troops to Mali. That’s as large a commitment as France made to what became a profoundly unpopular war in Afghanistan. No one knows how long the troops will be there, but the price tag will surely be tens if not hundreds of millions [or billions rather] of Euros, this to born by a French economy already in woeful shape.
The danger is that President Francois Holland and the French state, may shortly find themselves in the disastrous situation of the hapless coyote in the cartoon, Roadrunner, so intent on chasing his prey that he scurries right over a cliff and suddenly finds himself flailing in mid air, about to plunge to the desert below.
President Holland said the menace of a radical Islamic takeover was so imminent that he had no choice but to intervene—to save not just Mali, but all of Western Africa, and, the French now imply, Europe as well.
Strange thing though, despite the supposed urgency of the situation, France has had precious little luck so far in convincing its European partners to contribute their own troops to the intervention. Indeed, the last thing those countries want, after the traumatic experience of Iraq, Libya and the Afghan crusade, is to become enmeshed in what risks to be an open-ended conflict, on behalf of an unelected Malian government, against a vague assortment of ethnic rebels and jihadis in the desert wilds of North Africa. Thus, so far there have been a lot of pats on the back from France’s allies, offers of logistic support, intelligence, a few troop transports, drones, but that’s it.
“You say, ‘We’ll give you nurses and you go get yourselves killed,’” said French deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, railing at his fellow deputies in the European Parliament. “We [Europe] will only be credible if French soldiers are not the only ones getting killed.”
Actually, it was surprising to learn that France, still considered a major military power, doesn’t have the capability to transport a couple of thousand troops and their equipment to North Africa. France even had to rely on an offer from the Italians for tankers to handle in-flight refueling of French fighter jets.
Despite the tepid response from France’s allies, French government spokesman are still reassuring the public that French troops are not going to play the major combat role in the coming ground battles.
The fact is, that even if they wanted to play a major role, there are nowhere near enough French boots on the ground. It’s instructive to speculate on France’s combat strength, using what is known as the “tooth to tail” ratio, that is, the number of support troops in the rear needed to support each combat soldier at the front. For the U.S. military that ratio is about three to one. If we use the same figure for France, that means that out of 2500 French troops deployed to Mali, probably about 600-700—a thousand at best–would actually see front-line combat.
And Mali, don’t forget, is twice the size of France, or Afghanistan or Texas.
The actual down-and-dirty fighting, we are told, is to be done by troops from West Africa, some of whom have finally begun arriving in Mali. But all the reports about those contingents indicate a woeful lack of equipment, morale, and training, particularly in being able to fight a guerrilla war in the desert reaches of the Sahel.
After months of discussion, this week—in the wake of the hostage crisis in Algeria– France’s European allies finally agreed to dispatch 250 troops to help train the Malian army and perhaps other African units. But—unless the fallout from the Algerian disaster changes things–it’s already determined that those European trainers are to be non- combatants. They will not even be advising the Malian soldiers in battle. As one senior EU official made very clear. “We will not go north. We will stay in the training areas,”
By the way, one thing I can never figure out—whether it be Mali or Afghanistan–we‘re always hearing about how the forces being backed by the U.S. and its allies, like France in this case, invariably seem to be poorly trained and equipped and demoralized, despite hundreds of millions of dollars and years of training. [Think Afghanistan where only one out of 23 battalions is able to function independently of U.S. support.]
Meanwhile, the ragtag rebels they’re combating, usually from those same third world countries, like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Tuareg in Mali are portrayed as dedicated, fierce, battle-hardened warriors, who wreak havoc on their opponents with often the most primitive improvised weapons or suicide bombs. Reports are that it will take many weeks, probably months, before the various African troops will be ready to do any serious fighting. And there are other problems to deal with apart from training and equipment: the danger, for instance, of unleashing Christian soldiers from Nigeria to suppress Islamic rebels in Northern Mali.
Ironically, as I’ve pointed out in a previous blog, while France’s allies are hanging back, the Chinese, who have huge economic interests and construction projects underway in every one of Mali’s neighbors, continue to go about their business, apparently still content to leave the police work to France and Europe and the West African states.
The French, for the record, insist that the groups they are battling in Mali –and now in Algeria–are all lumped together as “terrorists”, linked to al-Qaeda. There is no recognition of the fact that most of the different rebel groups, are mostly driven by strong ethnic and nationalist aspirations, as much as by religion–not that different perhaps, from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In that case, it’s obvious that the only way this conflict will ultimately be settled is not by somehow eradicating the “terrorists”, but by sitting down to negotiate a deal, as will probably be the case in Afghanistan.
In Mali, such a deal may not be that different from the kind of settlement that was offered the Tuareg years ago after a series of rebellions, but which the Malian government ultimately reneged on.
So, how do the French feel about this?
Estimates are that anywhere from 400,000 to one million French took to the streets of Paris last weekend. A counter-protest, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of other militant French, is now being organized. Tempers are flaring.
What’s the issue?
Well, actually, no. It’s whether the French government should legalize gay marriage.
As for the intervention in Mali, at first the French, from all ends of the political spectrum, seemed to be solidly behind their government and their fighting men.
That consensus is already unraveling, and it’s certain that as the intervention drags on, the casualties and costs mount, and France’s European allies still drag their heels, the patriotic surge will flag
Which bring us back to the Roadrunner. At some point the French may suddenly look down to find that their president has taken them over a precipice, and they’re suspended there, gazing in horror at the chasm below.
- France Formally Requests US Military Aid for Mali Invasion (economicpolicyjournal.com)
British Prime Minister David Cameron called off his long-awaited speech on the relations with the European Union on Friday to deal with the hostage-taking in Algeria as his country actively assisted France in its military intervention in Algeria’s neighbor Mali.
Cameron was outraged by, what he described in an address to the MPs on Thursday, as the Algerian government’s “all guns blazing” tactic against the “terrorist” kidnappers at BP’s In Amenas gas plant because it could endanger British and other western lives.
“I won’t hide, of course I was… we were disappointed not to be informed of the assault in advance,” Cameron told the MPs.
In effect, Cameron was telling Algeria that they are not supposed to be fighting “terrorists” at the cost of British lives while he and his French allies were – and are — exactly killing innocent Malians for the alleged ‘greater good’ they tend to name fighting terrorism.
There are no precise figures on the number of Malian civilians killed in the French Britain-assisted airstrikes near the country’s borders with Algeria but Human Rights Watch said on the second day of the attacks last Sunday that 10 civilians including three children, were killed during airstrikes.
The situation has also been grave enough for international organizations to call for restraint.
“Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs, and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director.
However, there has been no such restr aint to the point that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming warned on Friday “that in the near future there could be up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali, and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries” many of them escaping indiscriminate attacks on Malian rebels and civilians.
Nor has Cameron advised French president Francois Hollande to hold back attacks to avoid collateral damage to women and children probably because their skins are not as white as the British hostages in Algeria.
This comes as Hollande said on Friday that the attack and hostage crisis in the remote desert gas plant show the French military intervention in Mali was justified.
However, one comes to think that matters are exactly the other way round, especially after the hostage-takers said their move was in response to the French intervention in Mali.
One should also note a report by Amnesty International on brutality on the part of the ally of Britain and France, the Malian government, against the Tuareg ethnic minority where rebels are rooted.
When the conflict originally exploded, Tuaregs were arrested, tortured, bombed and killed by the security forces, “apparently only on ethnic grounds”, Amnesty said in a report on December 21.
Meanwhile, last July, 80 inmates arrested by the Malian army were stripped to their underwear, jammed into a 5 sqm cell and cigarettes were burnt into their bodies.
Also, back in September 2012, 16 Muslim clerics were rounded up at a checkpoint and summarily executed by the Malian army, which is now Britain’s ally.
Indeed, Britain could apparently pat itself on the back for setting the stage for the kidnapping of its own nationals in Algeria by helping the Malian government.
Britain should also answer whether the “botched” Algerian operation to free hundreds of hostages that left a few western hostages killed would have been also botched if the hostages were not white westerners, or if the scenario was one of British forces and its allies pounding Malian targets with huge civilians casualties on people with darker skins.