By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014
Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.
The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».
Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».
The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.
The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.
However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.
More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».
Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?
Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.
Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.
Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».
Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.
The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».
A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.
By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.
Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.
Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.
In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.
Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».
Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».
European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.
With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.
Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.
The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.
Members of Congress and the Obama administration have consistently placed the blame for the violence stemming from protests on the Venezuelan government, while overlooking or ignoring violent incidents by opposition protesters, including the decapitation of motorcycle riders, the burning of government buildings and metro stations, attacks against state media companies, and the killing of individuals seeking to dismantle barricades, including a National Guard officer. Officials have referred instead to “systematic” human rights abuses and government repression, without citing evidence.
Based on these assertions, momentum is building to implement sanctions on members of the Venezuelan government. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) told the press on Monday that, “There should be sanctions on individuals. … The administration is looking at those.” Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, cited a “high-level” State Department official that she had recently spoken to.
That the administration is considering sanctions comes on the heels of demands from members of congress that the Obama administration go further in its application of pressure on the Venezuelan government. After introducing legislation “supporting the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stated that:
“But this resolution can only be the first step to hold Maduro and his fellow regime thugs accountable for their violent response and their abuses of the Venezuelan people’s liberties and human rights. I have already begun circulating a letter amongst my colleagues in the House, addressed to President Obama, asking him to take immediate actions against Maduro and other Venezuelan officials who are responsible for violations of their people’s human rights. We are calling for the President to enact immediate sanctions against these officials, under authorities granted to him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), including denying them visas to enter the United States, blocking their property and freezing their assets in the U.S., as well as prohibiting them from making any financial transactions in the U.S.”
Ros-Lehtinen also plans to introduce a bill that would require the administration to take these steps. The moves from the House of Representatives have been echoed in the Senate, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have introduced a resolution calling for sanctions. Menendez stated:
“Now is the time to pursue a course of targeted sanctions by denying and revoking visas, and freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials complicit in the deaths of peaceful protestors. Human rights violators should be held accountable for the crimes they committed and their presence should not be welcome in our nation. Venezuelans today are denied basic rights, freedoms, and the ability to peacefully protest the dire economic circumstances caused by President Maduro and his government. We stand with the Venezuelan people and the brave opposition leaders in their pursuit to build a more hopeful Venezuela that embraces a bright future while discarding a failed past.”
Marco Rubio even made the case for sanctions on NBC News’ “Meet The Press,” telling host David Gregory that, “I would like to see specific U.S. sanctions against individuals in the Maduro government that are systematically participating in the violation of human rights and anti-democratic actions.” Florida Governor Rick Scott has also called for sanctions. Although neither the House nor the Senate have passed these resolutions calling for sanctions, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters last week that, “with respect to Venezuela, Congress has urged sanctions.”
The call for sanctions has also been trumpeted by the press, with Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer saying that if Venezuela does not respond to “international diplomatic pressures,” then the Congress “should revoke the U.S. visas of Venezuelan government and military leaders.” Further, Otto Reich, the former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the time of the U.S.-backed coup of 2002, wrote an opinion piece for the National Review titled “It’s Time for Sanctions in Venezuela.”
None of the members of congress nor any of the resolutions mention the fact that of the 18 tragic deaths in Venezuela since the protests began, many were not protestors, but individuals removing barricades and motorcyclists killed by wires strung across streets, or by crashing into barricades. In one case, a member of the Venezuelan National Guard was shot and killed. The Senate resolution makes no call for both sides to refrain from violence nor does it condemn the violent actions of some from the protest movement, however it does deplore “the use of excessive and unlawful force against peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela and the inexcusable use of violence…to intimidate the country’s political opposition.”
While, undoubtedly, excessive force has been used by members of the Venezuelan security forces, over 10 individuals have been arrested for these actions and further investigations are under way. According to the Attorney General (AG) of Venezuela, there are currently 27 investigations into violations of human rights. The AG, Luisa Ortega Diaz, stated that her office “will not tolerate violations of human rights under any circumstance and that any official turns out to be responsible will be sanctioned as established by the laws of Venezuela.” Far from censoring information or trying to hide the extent of the arrests or of those killed in the last few weeks, Diaz has provided regular updates to the press and has kept the public informed about the status of investigations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is proposing for the Palestinians to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state in Beit Hanina instead of all of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Beit Hanina is located to the north of the old city, on the road to Ramallah.
According to the newspaper, Kerry’s proposal for the Palestinian capital to be located in only a small part of East Jerusalem, along with his other suggestions, enraged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who left his meeting with Kerry last week furious, threatening to torpedo the framework agreement. Kerry is said to have adopted the Israeli positions completely, including demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state and retain the ten Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank as part of a land swap. Kerry also hinted that the Jordan Valley will not be part of a future Palestinian state and refused having any international presence in the Palestinian territories when Israel pulls out.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that US President Barack Obama has decided to intervene in the talks and “pressure both sides” to reach a framework agreement within the set deadline. Obama is meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday and has invited Abbas to visit Washington next month.
Regarding the possibility of extending the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel after the April deadline, Kerry told reporters that the parties took seven months to reach an understanding on their positions and he did not believe that anyone would feel concerned if it took another nine months to reach a final agreement. “I very much hope we should be able to make both parties take what is necessary to enter the most important stage, that is the final stage. To negotiate the final status based on a clear and specific framework.”
The US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal currently being negotiated by US Secretary of State of John Kerry will include recognition of Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people”,The Times of Israel reported on Friday.
Citing an interview Shapiro conducted with Israel Radio on Friday morning, The Times of Israel quoted him as saying, “It’s too early to know what compromises and concessions both sides will make. But we do believe… that Israel deserves recognition as a Jewish state. That has always been US policy — that Israel is a Jewish state and should remain a Jewish state. That will be one of the elements of the framework we’re working on.”
“I assume that under the framework that we’re currently preparing, that we’ll see that recognition of Israel and a Jewish state, as the nation state of the Jewish people, will appear in the framework,” he added.
“And in the end, we’ll need to know that this is the end of the conflict, and that’s one way of verifying that… that everyone in the region and all of [Israel’s] neighbors will accept that there is a nation state of the Jewish people here, in the Jewish homeland.”
Shapiro’s comments come a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held more than two hours of “constructive” talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace on Thursday, their second session in as many days.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year break. At the time, Kerry said, “Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.”
As that deadline has approached, US officials appear to have scaled back their ambitions, saying they are trying to forge a “framework for negotiations” as a first step though they still hope to hammer out a full agreement by April 29.
Israel’s demand on recognition of its Jewishness is a recent addition to its list of final-status issues to be resolved with the Palestinians in a negotiated settlement, and the ultra right-wing government has rapidly forced it to the top of agenda, making it all but a precondition for entering talks.
Palestinians have refused to recognize of Israel as a “Jewish state” because it would ultimately signify the end of the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces in 1948, as well as offer legitimacy to the discrimination of the remaining non-Jewish population within the 1948 borders.
Chaos, Corruption, Grand Theft, and an Experiment
On September 12, 2013, Syria’s President al-Assad committed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons, with the caveats that the United States must stop threatening his country and supplying weapons to the terrorists. He has been as good as his word. The same cannot be said for the US and its boot licking allies.
Three days earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry – who had been killing Vietnamese in the US onslaught on Vietnam as American ‘planes rained down 388,000 tons of chemical weapons on the Vietnamese people – had threatened Syria with a military strike if the weapons stocks were not surrendered within a week, stating that President Assad “isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”
The ever trigger-happy Kerry was right on the second count. It can’t be done for two reasons — extracting dangerous chemicals from a war zone is, to massively understate, a foolhardy and hazardous business. Additionally, it seems having received Syria’s agreement, the “international community” and the Nobel Peace Prize winning Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had no disposal plan in place and had not a clue what to do with them, whilst at every turn Syria is blamed.
As ever double standards and hypocrisy rule. According to CNN (October 10, 2013): “The United States estimates it will be at least another decade before it completes destruction of the remaining 10% of its chemical weapons, estimated at more than 3,100 tons.” And Syria? “U.S. intelligence and other estimates put its chemical weapons stockpile at about 1,000 tons.” They are believed to be “stored in dozens of sites”, in the circumstances a logistical nightmare and a massive danger to the public and those driving them to be insisting on transporting them anywhere.
CNN also quotes Wade Mathews who had worked on “the U.S. project to destroy its chemical stockpile” who doubted that Syria could meet the deadlines. The US operation, he said, “took billions of dollars, the cooperation of many levels of government – including the military – and a safe environment to make sure the destruction was done safely. We had a coordinated effort, we had a government that insisted that it be done safely and that the community was protected … I don’t think those things are in place in Syria.”
Having received Syria’s compliance, the OPCW started shopping around for a country – any country it seems – to destroy the weapons. Norway, approached by the US, was first choice. They declined, since the country had no experience in dealing with chemical weapons, the Foreign Ministry website stating: “… Norway is not the most suitable location for this destruction.” The second country approached was Albania, a request which the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said also came direct from the United States.
According to the Berlin-based Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, Albania is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and the most corrupt in the Balkans, plummeting from a woeful 95 out of the 176 countries monitored in 2011, to 113 in 2012 and 116 in 2013, on their Corruption Perception Index.
In their end of year Report, the Initiative quotes Transparency International:
In Albania corruption is registering a new physiognomy in a favorable political environment, with characteristics like a new systems for money laundering, financing of political parties from illegal activities, the capture of the state through the control of procurement and privatization, human and narcotics trafficking and the impunity of high State officials before the justice system and the law.
Protestors against the weapons destruction took to the streets in thousands, some wearing gas masks and protective clothing. Protests also took place in neighbouring Macedonia, with rallying outside the Albanian Embassy.
Albania finally rejected with Rana apologetically grovelling to Washington: “Without the United States, Albanians would never have been free and independent in two countries that they are today”, he said referring to Albania and Kosovo and the massive March 24, 1999 – June 10, 1999 NATO and US assault on the former Yugoslavia with depleted uranium weapons which are, of course, both chemical and radioactive. A Science Applications International Report explains re the residue from the weapons:
Soluble forms present chemical hazards, primarily to the kidneys, while insoluble forms present hazards to the lungs from ionizing radiation … short term effects of high doses can result in death, while long term effects of low doses have been implicated in cancer.
In addition to concerns regarding corruption in Albania – terrorist groups would undoubtedly offer high sums for such weapons – safety might surely have been a consideration. In 2008 an explosion at an ammunition storage depot near Albania’s capitol Tirana, killed 26 people, wounded 300, and damaged or destroyed 5,100 homes. The disaster was said by investigators to be caused by a burning cigarette – in a depository for 1,400 tons of explosives.
Worse, when Albania was pressured to destroy its own chemical weapons stocks, some tons left over from the Cold War.
The U.S. offered to pay for their destruction and later hired some private company which destroyed the weapon capability of the chemicals but otherwise left a horrendous mess.
Hazardous waste was left in containers, on a concrete pad. Inevitably they started to leak.
“In late 2007-early 2008, the US hired an environmental remediation firm, Savant Environmental, who determined the problem was worse than originally thought. Many of the containers were leaking salts of heavy metals, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury.”
Moreover, the conexes – large, steel-reinforced shipping containers – were not waterproof, thus lethally contaminated condensation and water leakage dissolved some of the contaminants which leaked onto the ground.
“Savant Environmental repackaged the waste and placed it in twenty shipping containers. There it sits, visible from space”, on the concrete pad – in the open.
All in all, why was Albania considered?
It is surely coincidence that on October 3, 2013, Tony “dodgy Iraq dossier” Blair, also an enthusiastic backer of Washington and NATO in their Balkans blitz, was appointed as adviser to the Albanian government to advise the impoverished country how to get into the EU. Heaven forbid he might have advised that taking on lethal weapons no one else was prepared to touch, might tick quite a big approval box and made a call to someone somewhere in Washington. This is, of course, entirely speculation.
However, as Pravda TV opined at the time, apart from the sorely needed financial boost: “It will increase the status and prestige of a poor country in Europe, Albania is in Europe’s backyard, in this case it will be going foreground.”
Belgium and France also declined an invitation to dispose of Syria’s weapons, with Ralph Trapp, a consultant in disarming chemical weapons, quoted as saying that “there remain very few candidates” for the task; “the hunt continues” commented The Telegraph (November 18, 2013.)
The trail goes cold as to how many other governments may have been frantically begged to accept cargo loads of poisoned chalices as the US imposed clock ticked, but Italy caved in allowing around sixty containers to be transferred from a Danish cargo ship to a US ship in the Italian port of Giola Tauro, in Calabria, with further consignments also expected to arrive.
The permission caused widespread demonstrations in Southern Italy, the government accused of secrecy and one demonstrator summing up the prevailing mood: “They are telling us that the material carried is not dangerous, but, in fact, nobody knows what is inside those containers.” Not dangerous eh? Does any government, anywhere ever tell the truth?
The Giola Tauro port, which accounts for half the Calabria region’s economy “has been in crisis since 2011”, with 400 workers on temporary redundancies – out of a total workforce of 1300. Not too hard to arm twist, the cynic might think.
The port also suffers from allegations of being a “major hub for cocaine shipments to Europe by the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta mafia.” However, Domenico Bagala, head of the Medcenter/Contship terminal where the operation is planned, countered with: “Since Gioia Tauro handles around a third of the containers arriving in Italy, it is normal that it has more containers that are seized”, adding, “We operate in a difficult territory but we have hi-tech security measures in place.”
Calabria is, in fact, plagued by corruption and organized crime. A classfied cable from J. Patrick Truhn, US Consul General in Naples (February 2, 2008) obtained by Wikileaks stated:
If it were not part of Italy, Calabria would be a failed state. The ‘Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate controls vast portions of its territory and economy, and accounts for at least three percent of Italy’s GDP (probably much more) through drug trafficking, extortion and usury.
During a November 17-20 visit to all five provinces, virtually every interlocutor painted a picture of a region … throttled by the iron grip of Western Europe’s largest and most powerful organized crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta.
Moreover: “The ‘Ndrangheta is the most powerful criminal organization in the world with a revenue that stands at around fifty three billion Euros (seventy two billion U.S. dollars – forty four billion British pounds)” records Wikipedia, noting operations in nine countries, on four continents. Arguably, a less ideal transit point than Calabria for a stockpile of chemical weapons would be hard to find.
Of special concern to Carmelo Cozza of the SUL trade union is the port’s neighbouring village of San Ferdinando which has protested the operation: “The schools are right next door!”
However, when it comes to dodgy dealings, organized crime could seemingly learn a thing or two from the EU. Large amounts of Syria’s financial assets, frozen by the European Union, have simply been spirited from accounts, in what the Syrian Foreign Ministry slams as: “a flagrant violation of law.”
Last week the EU endorsed the raiding of Syria’a financial assets frozen across Europe and the the transfer of funds to “ … the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) … a flagrant violation of the international law and the UN Charter and understandings reached by the executive board of the OPCW”, commented a Foreign Ministry source, adding: “the European step violates the resolution of the OPCW executive board adopted on 15th November 2013 which acknowledged Syria’s stance which was conveyed to the Organization, officially stating the inability to shoulder the financial costs of destroying the chemical weapons.”
The theft of Syria’s monies was condemned as a “swindle policy practiced by some influential countries inside the EU at a time when they reject to release frozen assets to fund purchase of food and medicine which is considered the priority of the Syrian state … (meanwhile) the EU allowed its members to arm the terrorist groups which are responsible for bloodshed in Syria … ” the source added.” It is hard to disagree.
The EU/UN/OPCW has apparently learned well from the UN weapons inspectors and other UN benefits from the Iraq embargo, which bled the country dry from “frozen” assets, to which they helped themselves, as the children died at an average of six thousand a month year after year, from “embargo related causes.” As the UN spent Iraq’s monies, Iraq’s water became a biological weapon, the lights went off and medical and educational facilities largely collapsed. Are UN embargoes the UN’s shameful new money spinner?
So, can things get worse in the black farce which is the chaotic, dangerous, disorganised disposal attempts of Syria’s chemical materials? You bet they can. The companies selected to destroy the chemicals are Finland’s Ekokem and the US subsiduary of the French giant Veolia.
“The most dangerous materials are to be neutralized at sea by the Cape Ray, an American naval vessel specially outfitted for that purpose, which departed its Norfolk, Va., home port on Jan. 27 for the Mediterranean.” (New York Times, February 14, 2014.) A method which has never been tried before, an experiment seemingly to take place in the Mediterranean, not in US territorial waters. “It’s Not Just a Job, It’s An Adventure”, was a US Navy recruiting slogan. Doubt the population of the countries bordering the near enclosed Mediterranean feel quite the same, from Europe to Anatolia, North Africa to the Levant.
Additionally, the inclusion of Veolia as a suitable partner in the whole dodgy venture is in a class of its own. The company has long been involved in waste management and vast transport projects in the illegal settlements in Israel.
In November 2012 Professor Richard Falk, wrote, on UN notepaper, to the (UK) North London Waste Authority who were considering awarding £4.7 billion worth of contracts to Veolia. His letter quoted in part below, detailing his concerns regarding the company’s compliance with international legal norms, speaks for itself:
I am writing to you in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to urge you not to select Veolia for public contracts due to its active involvement in Israel’s grave violations of international law.
Due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law and the strength of concern of Palestinian, European and Israeli civil society about the role played by Veolia, I decided to select Veolia as one of the case studies to include in my report. I have attached the report for your consideration.
Veolia is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, a set of principles regarding business conduct. Yet its wide ranging and active involvement in Israel’s settlement regime and persistent failure to exercise due diligence show utter disregard for the human rights related principles of the Global Compact.
It is my view that Veolia’s violations of the UN Global Compact principles and its deep and protracted complicity with grave breaches of international law make it an inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.
Professor Falk concludes:
I urge you to follow the example set by public authorities and European banks that have chosen to disassociate themselves from Veolia and take the just and principled decision not to award Veolia any public service contracts. Such a measure would contribute to upholding the rule of law and advancing peace based on justice.
So a company in breach of international law is being awarded a contract to a UN body (the OPCW) in spite of being condemned by a distinguished UN legal expert and Special Rapporteur.
The final anomaly, for now, as Bob Rigg – former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, and former senior editor for the OCPW and former Chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament – points out:
At present, Israel has a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the middle east. Once the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons is complete, Israel will enjoy a near regional monopoly over a second weapon of mass destruction -chemical weapons. In addition to Israel, Egypt is the only regional power with a chemical-weapons capability.
At all levels, lawbreakers rule supreme.
Yet again, we hear that President Mahmoud Abbas has more or less conceded the lawful right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Last year he told Israelis that although he would like to visit his birthplace in Safed, which is now in Israel, he did not expect to live there. Now he has told a group of Israelis visiting Ramallah that he has no wish to “drown the Jewish character” of Israel with returning refugees. This is an astonishing thing for him to say because its implications are so serious.
For a start, let us make it clear that the right to return is an individual right so it is not within the Palestinian Authority leader’s power to concede it on behalf of anyone other than himself. It may be that he was well aware of that when he signalled his own reluctance to return to Safed but his latest statement is worrying for the millions of refugees festering in squalid UN-run camps around the region.
One journalist said that Abbas’s comments “seemed to signal a significant concession on the so-called right of return – the Palestinian demand that several million descendants of 700,000 refugees expelled during Israel’s 1948 war of independence be allowed to go back to their homes.” For the benefit of the Daily Telegraph’s Robert Tait, it should be remembered that the right to return is not a “Palestinian demand”, it is enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 dated 11 December 1948: “… refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…” Israel’s membership in the UN was conditional inter alia on it implementing this resolution, something which, of course, it has never done.
Israel’s unilateral “Declaration of Independence” of 1948 is clear that it was established as “the Jewish State in Palestine”. Among other things, the founding document insists that Israel “will loyally uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter”, among which is a commitment to implement resolutions; Israel has ignored more UN resolutions than it has ever implemented.
This “Jewish State” was recognised implicitly by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1993 when the former “terrorist” group came in from the cold and recognised Israel’s “right to exist”. That being the case, it must be asked why Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting on Palestinian recognition of the “Jewish character” of Israel as a pre-condition for a peace agreement.
Experience shows that Israel is an expansionist state; it has never declared its borders and has grown exponentially ever since it was created. Indeed, even by then it had morphed itself from the “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine mentioned in the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917 to a “Jewish State” by 1948. The land it occupied by the 1949 armistice was greater in area than the allocation of the UN Partition Plan of 1947; this was increased yet again when Israel launched the Six-Day War in 1967 and occupied all of historic Palestine. While not occupying the Gaza Strip physically since 2005, Israel controls its borders, territorial waters and air space; it is an occupation legally and in all but name. As the “negotiations” (a euphemism for Palestinian concessions) drag on for 20 years and counting, Israel creates more facts on the ground, grabbing ever more land for its illegal settlements, settler-only roads, military zones and “nature reserves”. I think that it is fair to say that Israel’s leaders have no intention whatsoever of giving up any land upon which Jews are now living as they push to create “Eretz Israel”, the Greater Israel that is Zionism’s dream.
Recognition of the “Jewish character” of Israel will give it the green light to complete the ethnic cleansing started in 1948, with the 20 per cent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens being “transferred” to the rump statelet of Palestine that may or may not come into being; ideally, from a Zionist perspective, the transfer won’t end there and life will be made so miserable for Palestinians in the West Bank that they will cross into what many Israelis already call the state of Palestine; the rest of us know this as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This is the “alternative homeland” scenario dreaded by Palestinians who have no wish to leave their historic homeland.
Israel will cite “security” concerns in order to get its way, though, and willing dupes like US Secretary of State John Kerry, ever-ready to do the pro-Israel Lobby’s bidding, will put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to concede even more than it has already. This includes agreement to a strong Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, so that an “independent state of Palestine” will be nothing of the sort; it will have an army of occupation on its territory from Day One.
Once Israel is cleared of the “demographic time-bomb” of its Palestinian citizens it can claim, with hand on heart, that it is indeed both Jewish and democratic in nature. Fear of being an obvious apartheid state with a democratic façade is genuine; Jewish students in America are already being coached about how to defend the case for declaring a Jewish state while basically disenfranchising 1-in-5 of Israel’s citizens and implementing a raft of discriminatory laws.
That is why Mahmoud Abbas needs to wake from his stupor and understand that while he is free to give up his own right of return, he has no right whatsoever to concede that right for all Palestinian refugees. Israel and its Western backers will, of course, continue to ignore the UN resolutions in any case and so won’t mind that the legal niceties are chewed up and spat out as long as what Israel wants, Israel gets. But that will never produce a just and lasting peace in the region. Maybe that doesn’t bother the military-industrial complex upon which Israel is so reliant; it certainly won’t bother the neoconservatives running America. Their plans for the Middle East don’t include a state of Palestine; they want to see US-Israeli hegemony at any cost.
More than anything else, Abbas’s ill-advised statements demonstrate the ridiculous nature of the whole peace process, which is producing neither peace nor much of a process at the moment. The one-state solution is being talked about in all sorts of circles these days, as more and more people realise and accept that two-states are a non-starter. If the message can get through to Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies in Ramallah on board the Palestinian Authority gravy train, maybe peace will have a chance after all.
The secretary of the PLO Executive Committee has revealed the details of John Kerry’s plan for the Israel-Palestine negotiations. Yasser Abed Rabbo spoke to London’s Al-Hayat newspaper.
According to Abed Rabbo, the US Secretary of State’s proposal includes Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; establishing part of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; resolving the refugee problem in accordance with the vision of former US President Bill Clinton; maintaining Israeli control of major settlement blocs and leasing the others back to Israel; Israel’s control over border crossings and air space; and the presence of US-Israel-Jordan-Palestinian security forces on the border. “The Israelis would also have the right of ‘hot pursuit’ of fugitives or suspected criminals in the Palestinian state,” he revealed. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected these ideas because he wants to carve out the land he wants and refuses to discuss the Jerusalem issue. He also refuses the intervention of any other party in security matters, even America.”
The PLO official pointed out that this way of thinking was essentially unacceptable. “We Palestinians have been more than clear when it comes to this matter. We have stated many times that we reject the concept of a so-called national homeland for Jews in historic Palestine or the concept of a ‘Greater Israel’. Netanyahu has expressed that he not only wants to legitimise the Zionist national narrative and the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 but also Israel’s ongoing settlement projects, which aim to achieve the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel.”
As for security arrangements, Abed Rabbo said that there is talk of potential security arrangements and the standards by which these arrangements will be run. “They will last for many years and are supposedly subject to improved Palestinian security performance. However, this will ultimately still be controlled by Israel, which will maintain control even though America has pledged that it will remain involved as these arrangements are made and see to it that Israel withdraws from certain areas including the Jordan Valley.”
Such security arrangements, he claimed, will maintain Israel’s security strongholds on mountain tops and in Palestinian airspace. Israel will maintain the right to fly over Palestinian land should it feel an impending security threat. “At this point, any semblance of Palestinian sovereignty or geographic unity has been completely torn apart”, warned Abed Rabbo.
Settlements, Jerusalem and refugees
He pointed out that there have been numerous discussions about Israel’s vast settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank. Rumours suggest that Israel wants to rent out settlement units to settlers in the event that a Palestinian state is established. What this means, he claims, is that the settlements will remain as they are and settlers will continue to live there as Israeli citizens with special status in the Palestinian state.
“According to Israel, Jerusalem is not up for negotiation and will remain under full Israeli control as its undivided capital,” he explained. “There is rather mysterious general talk about Palestinians establishing their future capital in Jerusalem but, from Israel’s point of view, Jerusalem extends from Ramallah to Bethlehem to the Jordan Valley border. Thus, it could easily be argued that Abu Dis or Kufr Aqab could be named as the future Palestinian capital.”
As far as Palestinian refugees are concerned, said the PLO official, there are four possible outcomes, as envisioned by President Clinton; one of them suggests the return of a limited number of refugees, as stated in Israel law.
The Palestinian Authority’s position
According to Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Authority cannot accept any of these potential solutions, especially given that Netanyahu is believed to insist on there being no Arab presence in Jerusalem and rejects outright the refugees’ right of return.
“Netanyahu does not want the involvement of any third party, American or non-American, in any of his security arrangements in the Jordan Valley even if it remains under Israeli control. He wants all decisions to be Israeli decisions and judging by our previous attempts in the past, any of our attempts to abide by a plan or time table will be disrupted completely by Israel”, he noted. Israel and America claim that the Palestinian people will be able to get territory equivalent to the West Bank’s 1967 borders through land swaps. “I do not understand how this is possible with settlement blocs, Israeli security zones and the apartheid wall, which divides the eastern and western regions of the West Bank completely. We are supposed to believe that we can gain territory through land swaps? This is impossible.”
The PLO veteran described those Israelis who suggest “people swaps” to accompany land swaps as “racist”, pointing out that the organisation would not accept any population exchanges.
“Palestinian Arabs living inside Israel are not settlers,” he stressed. “They did [not] come to Israel through an invasion or by migration. They are the owners of that land and no one can uproot them from their homes. Swapping settlers for Israeli-Arabs would mean swapping Israeli citizens for Israeli citizens; how is this possible?” For Abed Rabbo, this shows that the Israeli government does not consider Arabs to be true citizens of the state. “They regard them as second or third class citizens with no rights, which is absolutely racist. They seek to ethnically cleanse that territory more than they want to swap land.”
That is the framework under which most ideas were discussed, said Abed Rabbo. “We do not have any official documentation to prove it but the information gets leaked from Israel in one way or another.”
Reasons for Israeli refusal
He is not surprised that Israel rejects most proposals for the simple reason that it wants to carve out as much land as possible from the occupied West Bank and maintain absolute control, especially in security zones. This would give Israel the “right” to intervene to protect settlements, which would also mean that it has control of the road networks leading to them.
“We are being confronted with an ultimatum,” he added. “We are not standing in front of two different options with various formulas that we can accept or reject. However, any attempt to sweeten the language of these agreements instead of criticising their prejudices will lead us to disaster.”
He ruled out any blame being attached to the Palestinians should Kerry’s plan fail. “The blame game does not concern us and we do not take it in our political consideration. Who will blame us for wanting to have our country based on 1967 borders, and to have East Jerusalem as our capital, and to have a fair and agreeable resolution for the refugee issue?”
Although John Kerry has “done his best” to make proposals acceptable to both sides, argues Abed Rabbo, it seems that he has read the Israeli position at the beginning and accepted the verbal, generic, vague and ambiguous assurances that Netanyahu usually offers to whoever he meets. “He must have interpreted them in some form and when he looked at the fine print realised that there are two different Israeli positions.”
As such, he believes, Netanyahu lured Kerry to discuss the issue of security first and Kerry fell for it, thinking that it will lead to a big breakthrough for the negotiations and will open the way for discussion of other issues. “To his surprise, he discovered that the Israelis want to use security as an excuse to justify their ambitions for expansion,” concluded Abed Rabbo. “This explains how and why we have reached the current impasse.”
Iran’s pushback against statements by Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House that Tehran must “dismantle” some of its nuclear programme, and the resulting political uproar over it, indicates that tough U.S. rhetoric may be adding new obstacles to the search for a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto Wednesday, “We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we’re not dismantling any equipment, we’re simply not producing, not enriching over five percent.”
When CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asked President Hassan Rouhani, “So there would be no destruction of centrifuges?” Rouhani responded, “Not under any circumstances. Not under any circumstances.”
Those statements have been interpreted by U.S. news media, unaware of the basic technical issues in the negotiations, as indicating that Iran is refusing to negotiate seriously. In fact, Zarif has put on the table proposals for resolving the remaining enrichment issues that the Barack Obama administration has recognised as serious and realistic.
The Obama administration evidently views the rhetorical demand for “dismantling” as a minimum necessary response to Israel’s position that the Iranian nuclear programme should be shut down. But such rhetoric represents a serious provocation to a Tehran government facing accusations of surrender by its own domestic critics.
Zarif complained that the White House had been portraying the agreement “as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear programme. That is the word they use time and again.” Zarif observed that the actual agreement said nothing about “dismantling” any equipment.
The White House issued a “Fact Sheet” November 23 with the title, “First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program” that asserted that Iran had agreed to “dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.”
That wording was not merely a slight overstatement of the text of the “Joint Plan of Action”. At the Fordow facility, which had been used exclusively for enrichment above five percent, Iran had operated four centrifuge cascades to enrich at above five percent alongside 12 cascades that had never been operational because they had never been connected after being installed, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported.
The text of the agreement was quite precise about what Iran would do: “At Fordow, no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium, and not increase enrichment capacity. Not feed UF6 into the other 12 cascades, which would remain in a non-operative state. No interconnections between cascades.”
So Iran was not required by the interim agreement to “dismantle” anything. What Zarif and Rouhani were even more upset about, however, is the fact that Kerry and Obama administration spokespersons have repeated that Iran will be required to “dismantle” parts of its nuclear programme in the comprehensive agreement to be negotiated beginning next month.
The use of the word “dismantle” in those statements appears to be largely rhetorical and aimed at fending off attacks by pro-Israel political figures characterising the administration’s negotiating posture as soft. But the consequence is almost certain to be a narrowing of diplomatic flexibility in the coming negotiations.
Kerry appears to have concluded that the administration had to use the “dismantle” language after a November 24 encounter with George Stephanopoulos of NBC News.
Stephanopoulos pushed Kerry hard on the Congressional Israeli loyalist criticisms of the interim agreement. “Lindsey Graham says unless the deal requires dismantling centrifuges, we haven’t gained anything,” he said.
When Kerry boasted, “centrifuges will not be able to be installed in places that could otherwise be installed,” Stephanopoulos interjected, “But not dismantled.” Kerry responded, “That’s the next step.”
A moment later, Kerry declared, “And while we go through these next six months, we will be negotiating the dismantling, we will be negotiating the limitations.”
After that, Kerry made “dismantle” the objective in his prepared statement. In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee December 11, Kerry said the U.S. had been imposing sanctions on Iran “because we knew that [the sanctions] would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear programme.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed Zarif’s comment as “spin” on Iran’s commitments under the Joint Plan of Action “for their domestic political purposes”.
He refused to say whether that agreement involved any “dismantling” by Iran, but confirmed that, “as part of that comprehensive agreement, should it be reached, Iran will be required to agree to strict limits and constraints on all aspects of its nuclear programme to include the dismantlement of significant portions of its nuclear infrastructure in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the future.”
But the State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, was much less categorical in a press briefing January 13: “We’ve said that in a comprehensive agreement, there will likely have to be some dismantling of some things.”
That remark suggests that the Kerry and Carney rhetoric of “dismantlement” serves to neutralise the Israel loyalists and secondarily to maximise U.S. leverage in the approaching negotiations.
Kerry and other U.S. officials involved in the negotiations know that Iran does not need to destroy any centrifuges in order to resolve the problem of “breakout” to weapons grade enrichment once the stockpile of 20- percent enriched uranium disappears under the terms of the interim agreement.
Zarif had proposed in his initial power point presentation in October a scheme under which Iran would convert its entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium into an oxide form that could only be used for fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor.
U.S. officials who had previously been insistent that Iran would have to ship the stockpile out of the country were apparently convinced that there was another way to render it “unusable” for the higher-level enrichment necessary for nuclear weapons. That Iranian proposal became the central element in the interim agreement.
But there was another part of Zarif’s power point that is relevant to the remaining problem of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium: Iran’s planned conversion of that stockpile into the same oxide form for fuel rods for nuclear power plants as was used to solve the 20-percent stockpile problem.
And that plan was accepted by the United States as a way of dealing with additional low-enriched uranium that would be produced during the six-month period.
An element included in the Joint Plan of Action which has been ignored thus far states:
Beginning when the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has decided to convert to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA.
The same mechanism – the conversion of all enriched uranium to oxide on an agreed time frame — could also be used to ensure that the entire stockpile of low-enriched uranium could no longer be used for “breakout” to weapons-grade enrichment without the need to destroy a single centrifuge. In fact, it would allow Iran to enrich uranium at a low level for a nuclear power programme.
The Obama administration’s rhetoric of “dismantlement”, however, has created a new political reality: the U.S. news media has accepted the idea that Iran must “dismantle” at least some of its nuclear programme to prove that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.
CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo was shocked by the effrontery of Zarif and Rouhani. “That’s supposed to be the whole underpinning of moving forward from the United States perspective,” Cuomo declared, “is that they scale back, they dismantle, all this stuff we’ve been hearing.”
Yet another CNN anchor, Wolf Blitzer, who was an official of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee before becoming a network journalist, called Zarif’s statements “stunning and truly provocative,” adding that they would “give ammunition” to those in Congress pushing for a new sanctions bill that is clearly aimed at sabotaging the negotiations.
The Obama administration may be planning to exercise more diplomatic flexibility to agree to solutions other than demanding that Iran “dismantle” large parts of its “nuclear infrastructure”.
But using such rhetoric, rather than acknowledging the technical and diplomatic realities surrounding the talks, threatens to create a political dynamic that discourages reaching a reasonable agreement and leaves them unresolved.
In response to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding a potential military strike on Iran, Brigadier General Seyyed Masoud Jazayeri – Iran’s deputy chief of staff - said in an interview that, in the event of an attack, American interests in the region would be “completely destroyed.”
Speaking to Al Arabiya this week, Kerry defended the interim international deal over Iran’s nuclear program and the alleviating of some sanctions, but declared that if Iran were to back out of its commitments, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”
Such rhetoric is par for the course for American officials focused on diplomacy, but still eager to appear bellicose and aggressive to certain influential communities and audiences.
|President Barack Obama|
Last month, in a conversation at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama said much of the same. “What I’ve consistently said is even as I don’t take any options off the table,” Obama told Haim Saban, the organization’s Israel-obsessed billionaire benefactor, “what we do have to test is the possibility that we can resolve this issue diplomatically.”
The president repeated this a number of times during the conversation. “The best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that,” he said, adding later that “when the President of the United States says that he doesn’t take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously.”
Following Obama’s own appearance, Secretary Kerry also addressed the Saban conference in December. He assured the attendees that “as we negotiate, we will continue to be perfectly clear that, for Iran, the price of noncompliance, of failing to satisfy international concerns about the nuclear program, will be that we immediately ratchet up new sanctions, along with whatever further steps are needed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, including – as President Obama just made clear – a military option, if that were necessary.”
|MP Hossein Naqavi Hosseini|
In his own recent comments, General Jazayeri emphasized that the U.S. government is well aware that “the military option against Iran is not practical.”
Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, an Iranian parliamentarian and spokesman for the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, reacted to Kerry’s new comments by saying, “These statements are indicative of the U.S. double standards and will bring about nothing but tarnishing the US image,” adding, “Definitely, we also announce that if the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) commit the least breach of the Geneva agreement, we will also have all the options on our table.”
“Under pressures by the Zionist lobby, the U.S. adopts dual policies; on the one hand, they talk about agreement and positive relations with Iran, but on the other hand, they use an intimidating tone,” Hosseini said.
Israel is often viewed by Washington politicians as the most ‘stable’ ally in the Middle East. But stability from the American perspective can mean many things. Lead amongst them is that the ‘ally’ must be unconditionally loyal to the diktats of the US administration. This rule has proven to be true since the United States claimed a position of ascendency, if not complete hegemony over many regions of the world since World War II. Israel, however, remained an exception.
The rules by which US-Israeli relations are governed are perhaps the most bewildering of all foreign policies of any two countries.
An illustration of this would be to consider these comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quoted in the Israeli news portal Ynetnews. “The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” he said, referring to efforts underway since July by American Secretary of State John Kerry, “who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor.” Kerry “cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” said Ya’alon.
So far, Kerry has made ten trips to the Middle East with the intention of hammering out an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Based on media reports, it seems that the potential agreement is composed in such a way that it mostly accommodates Israel’s ‘security’ whims and obsessions, including a proposal to keep eastern West Bank regions and the Jordan Valley under Israeli military control. In fact, there is growing interest in the idea of ‘land swaps” which was floated by Israel’s notorious Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ten years ago.
“When Mr. Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel, he was branded a racist firebrand,” wrote the Economist on Jan. 18. “Liberals accused him of promoting the forcible ‘transfer’ plan, akin to ethnic cleansing, proclaimed by a rabbi, Meir Kahane, who vilified Arabs while calling for a pure Jewish state.”
Those days are long gone, as Israeli society drifted rightward. “Even some dovish Israeli left-wingers find such ideas reasonable.” Back then, the Americans themselves were irked, even if just publically, whenever such ideas of ‘population transfers’ and ethnic cleansing were presented by Israel’s ultra-right politicians. Now, the Americans find them malleable and a departure point for discussion. And it’s Kerry himself who is leading the American efforts to accommodate Israel’s endless list of demands – of security and racial exclusiveness even if at the expense of Palestinians. So why is Ya’alon unhappy?
The Defense Minister, who sat immediately next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Kerry, was unapologetic about his reasoning: “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure.” It means unrelenting Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu is hardly an innocent bystander in all of this, although for diplomatic reasons he often entrusts his government minions to deliver such messages. The Prime Minister is busy issuing more orders to populate the occupied West Bank with Jewish settlements, and berating every government that rejects such insidious behavior as being anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ or worse, anti-Semitic. This was the case again in recent days following another announcement of settlement expansion.
On Jan. 17, Netanyahu called on Europe to stop its “hypocrisy”. On the same day, Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain, “accusing their countries of pro-Palestinian bias,” reported the BBC online. According to the ministry, the “perpetual one-sided stance” of these countries is unacceptable.
Yet, considering that Europe has supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories for decades, economically sustained the ‘Jewish state’ and its over 100 illegal Jewish settlements, and continue with its often unconditional military support of Israel, the accusations may appear strange and equally bewildering to that of Ya’alon against John Kerry.
How could a country the size of Israel have so much sway over the world’s greatest powers, where it gets what it wants and more, hurls regular insults against its sustainers, and still asks for more?
European countries found themselves in Israel’s firing line because a day earlier, the four EU countries took the rare step of summoning Israeli ambassadors to object to the Netanyahu government’s latest announcement of illegal settlement expansion (that of an additional 1,400 new homes). EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton even went to the extent of calling the settlements “an obstacle to peace”, although hardly an advanced position considering that Israel’s colonial project in Palestine has been in motion for 46 years.
But even that is too much from the Israeli point of view. “The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses?” Netanyahu asked as if baffled by a seemingly foreboding act, in a Jan 16 press conference. He even had the audacity to say this: “This imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace,” and also this, “I think it pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians: ‘Basically you can do anything you want, say anything you want and you won’t be held accountable.”
There is no sense in arguing with Netanyahu’s strange logic, but the question regarding Israel’s stronghold over the US and EU remains more pressing than ever, especially when one considers the ruckus in US Congress. No, the congress is not revolting because of the unmitigated power of the Zionist lobby, but for something far more interesting.
There seems to be a level of confusion in US Congress because members of the Senate are yet to feel serious pressure by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over a bill that proposes more sanctions on Iran.
“The powerful pro-Israel lobby has not engaged in a shoe-leather lobbying campaign to woo wayward senators and push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote on the bill. While the group supports the bill — authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — it is not yet putting its political muscle behind a push for an immediate vote,” reported Politico, citing key senators and their aides.
To say the least, it is disturbing that the US Senate is completely bewildered that AIPAC, which lobbies for the interest of a foreign power, is yet to provide its guidelines regarding the behavior of America’s supposedly most respected political representatives.
“I don’t know where AIPAC is. I haven’t talked to anybody,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “I don’t know what they’re doing,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
This alone should shed some light on the seemingly bewildering question of the ‘strong bond’ and ‘stable’ alliance of Israel and the US – and to a lesser degree EU countries. This is not to suggest that Israel has complete dominance over US foreign policy in the Middle East, but to ignore Israel’s indispensable role in shaping the outlook of US foreign policy is dishonest and inconsistent with the facts, to put it mildly.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).