TEHRAN – Syria is entrapped in a mesmerizing and unusual conflict these days. Fighters from more than 80 countries, mostly the European and Arab allies of the United States, have taken up arms against the Syrian government and persistently push for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power. Opinion polls, however, show that the majority of Syrians support President Assad and want him to remain in power.
Thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives in the clashes that have erupted in the recent months between the Army forces and the foreign-backed mercenaries, and the international community is divided over finding a definite solution to the crisis in Syria.
Political commentator and Middle East geopolitics analyst Sharmine Narwani believes that the United States, fearing the growing domestic and international popularity of President Assad, has long sought the destabilization of Syria with the final objective of breaking down the axis of resistance comprising Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
Sharmine Narwani said in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency that the Syrian opposition forces have been “funded and assembled by foreign foes of Syria for geopolitical gain”.
She said the goal of the opposition was to unseat Assad so that they could then come in and establish their own foreign-backed “dictatorship” at the heart of the Resistance Axis.
“The reason this opposition has never been able to articulate a cohesive, inclusive, political platform for the Syrian people is because they are all backed by different, sometimes competing, interests, and because their goal is not a politically reformed Syria, but instead the establishment of their own power and economic bases,” she added.
Sharmine Narwani is a political commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics. She is currently a Senior Associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and a blogger for Al Akhbar English in Lebanon. She has a Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree in both Mideast studies and journalism from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and has written commentary for numerous publications including Al Jazeera English, the New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today, Huffington Post, BRICS Post, Asia Times Online and others.
What follows is the text of FNA’s interview with Ms. Narwani about the ongoing conflict in Syria and the future of war in the crisis-hit Arab country.
Q: The United States and its European and Arab allies have been calling for a military invasion of Syria for a long time. They view the military option as the only solution to the Syrian crisis. However, they are apparently ignoring the massive support of the Syrian people for President Assad as echoed in the street demonstrations of the pro-Assad citizens and the opinion polls which show that a strong majority of the Syrian people want President Assad to remain in power. Aren’t these states disregarding the will of the Syrian people?
A: The conflict in Syria today has been a long time in the making. For years, the US and its western allies have sought to undermine Iran’s influence in the Mideast by targeting its staunchest allies, Syria and Hezbollah. Wikileaks Cables show this quite clearly – a 2006 cable after the Israeli war on Lebanon shows US officials worried about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s improved domestic and regional status, and urges the development of a plan of action to “exploit vulnerabilities” – sectarian, economic, political – that could chip away at his legitimacy.
The Arab Uprisings provided a unique opportunity for the US and its allies to exploit the narratives of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and impose them on Syria through blatant media propaganda and subversive activities on the ground. I have often wondered why, for instance, at the same time that Syrian government officials were offering conciliatory measures, dialogue and reforms to defuse tensions in early 2011, vulnerable Syrians in “hot” areas were being sniped at. From the start of events in Syria there has been a determined effort by its adversaries to use sabotage, assassinations, political violence and information warfare to whip up popular sentiment and sway large segments of the populations into supporting a rebellion.
I can’t speak for the veracity of polls taken during this conflict, but it isn’t hard to cobble together a picture of the population demographics that have supported Assad – or specifically, that have rejected the armed rebellion. You have the major cities (Aleppo and Damascus), minorities (Alawite, Druze, Christian, Kurds, Shiite), Baathists (3 million members, most Sunni), the armed forces, the business community, the government elite – most of whom have rejected the militarization of the opposition, if not outright supported Assad. This, in itself, constitutes millions and millions of Syrians whose voices have been entirely ignored until recently.
Karen Koning AbuZayd, a UN commissioner for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, said much the same thing earlier this year about persistent support for Assad inside Syria: “There’s quite a number of the population, maybe as many as half – if not more – that stand behind him.”
Q: What do you think about the activities of the foreign-backed rebels and mercenaries who have taken up arms against the Syrian government and are hell-bent on removing President Assad from power? Why are the foreign powers backing, financing and arming them? Isn’t it strange that even some of the Arab states in the region have joined them and are contributing to the destabilization of Syria?
A: The armed opposition has been opportunistic and bloody from the start, targeting security forces, on and off duty, and pro-government civilians since March 2011. While there were indeed Syrian army defectors who joined the “revolution” early on in the conflict in response to government clampdowns and/or their own genuine political sentiments, much of the armed rebellion has been funded, assisted and organized from outside Syria’s borders. We know, for instance, that non-Syrians were entering the country right from the beginning – we have video, photographic and anecdotal evidence of this happening over the Lebanese border, for example. These people were provided with wages, weapons, intelligence and training, with the expectation that a hard thrust against Assad’s government would unseat him in short shrift, much like what had already happened in other Arab states.
When this did not happen, foreign intervention increased substantially, always with the notion that “one more” big effort would cause Assad to fall. Whereas in the past, the enemy had been the US, some European states and Israel, we suddenly started to see the ferocious engagement of Arab regimes in the Syrian conflict – Qatar and Saudi Arabia, assisted by a smattering of other Persian Gulf states, Jordan, Turkey, and jihadists from all corners.
Each may have had their own reasons for participating, but at the core, the Arab states that threw weapons, funding and fighters at Syria were seeking to undermine the Resistance Axis in the region and to create a counter-revolution that would push back Arab popular uprisings against illegitimate regimes. For some though, the fight in Syria became existential. Saudi royals – who view the uprisings and Iran’s influence in the region as being a threat to their very survival – have said that a loss in Syria would mean the loss of their oil-rich, Shiite-dominated Eastern Province. It isn’t a very rational train of thought, but it has been the main impetus behind Saudi support for the armed rebellion.
Q: It sounds like the anti-Syrian opposition groups are not united and cannot follow a cohesive path. Some of them call for dialogue with the government to resolve the disputes, while some of them utterly reject any kind of negotiation, calling for the removal of President Assad and the dissolution of his government. What’s your viewpoint on this inconsistency and lack of harmony among the Syrian opposition?
A: I am assuming you are referring mainly to the externally-based Syrian opposition here. This opposition has been funded and assembled by foreign foes of Syria for geopolitical gain. Their goal was to unseat a “dictator” so that they could then come in and establish their own foreign-backed “dictatorship” at the heart of the Resistance Axis. The reason this opposition has never been able to articulate a cohesive, inclusive, political platform for the Syrian people is because they are all backed by different, sometimes competing, interests, and because their goal is not a politically reformed Syria, but instead the establishment of their own power and economic bases.
The lack of cohesion in this group and the embarrassing infighting that has plagued them from their inception, is a testament to the fact that you cannot just manufacture revolutions, assign leadership, cobble together “governments in exile.” Legitimacy comes from the people who are within the state. Leaders have to earn their positions, based on consensus of some kind that is accepted by the majority. Meanwhile, inside Syria, for nearly three years a peaceful domestic opposition has been ignored by foreign media and governments. These are activists who have credibility among their communities and have the potential to create grassroots movements that can exert pressure on the government to produce desired reforms. But these domestic opposition types were never empowered and encouraged. It goes to show that the foreign backers of the Syrian “revolution” were less interested in reform than they were in assuming power.
And no, I do not foresee the possibility of a last-minute delegation with common goals representing the “opposition” at Geneva talks. It is too late for some things. I believe the major issues that must be tackled to achieve a political solution will be resolved between the Syrian government and key regional and international players in advance of any Geneva talks. The “public” negotiations will just put a pretty face on things for mass consumption. Today, if you want a political solution, you first need the disarmament of the conflict – and this will not be an issue for Syrians to resolve, it is a concession that can only be wrenched from states that arm both the rebels and the Syrian armed forces.
As for whether Assad stays or goes, that is not something that should be decided by external parties at negotiations in Geneva. It is a choice for Syrians only. And I sincerely hope that the Syrian government is obliged to conduct transparent elections under the rigorous supervision of impartial, professional, international observers. It is the only way the next government can enjoy legitimacy.
Q: Why haven’t the international organizations, especially the UN Security Council, prevented the influx of illicit arms and weaponry into Syria which directly reach the rebels and insurgents who not only kill the Syrian army forces, but the innocent civilians, children and women? The Security Council surely knows that the smuggling of arms and ammunition to the rebels and mercenaries is taking place furtively, but it doesn’t condemn or take action to stop it. Why?
A: At this juncture in our collective political evolution, it befits us to be honest about what we call the “international community.” In effect, this term really only ever refers to those countries that politically and economically dominate our global political system. For the past few decades, “international community” has come to mean the United States and a handful of its allies. Even UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China haven’t truly counted. Nor have the next generation of fast-growth economies and major population centers like India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa – until very recently. These second tier players have suddenly begun to insert themselves into critical political and economic developments – and Syria has been the theater in which some of these geopolitical battles have been fought.
The reason the UN and other western-dominated NGOs have not sought to impose punitive measures on parties that weaponized the Syrian conflict is simply because the UN and these NGOs are absolutely dominated by parties backing one side in this conflict. It was not in their interest to do so. Nobody understands the issue of weaponizing conflicts better than these groups – they have spent years churning out analyses and reports that document the dangers of “small arms” in conflict. They know better than anyone that weaponizing conflicts has a direct correlation with the breakdown of law and order, and that human rights violations spike dramatically. They know that even after “peace treaties” are signed, these weapons continue to change hands and keep conflict “humming.”
The fact is that the UN could not take action against the weaponization of the Syrian conflict because its dominant members were still seeking a military solution to oust Assad. Now that the US and key western allies are reassessing this route and are pursuing diplomatic solutions for a Syrian exit, we may see an altered NGO posture, where violators are named and punitive actions are taken. It is important to note that the only parties to have vocally advocated for the mutual de-weaponization of the conflict are those states outside the old international “power paradigm” like the BRICS and Iran.
Q: What’s your viewpoint on the state of Syrian refugees who have fled to the neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey? They are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, foodstuff, medicine and above all, a permanent shelter; however, it seems that there’s no entity assuming responsibility for them. How does their future life look? With the current destruction and instability imposed on Syria, can they foresee an early return to their homeland?
A: Nobody is assuming responsibility for them because refugee absorption requires money, which many states have preferred to throw at a military solution inside Syria. When I visited Syria in early 2012, an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told me very specifically, “if the fighting stops today people can return home tomorrow.” At that time, the biggest humanitarian problem they were facing was internal displacement, so he was mainly referring to the fact that continued violence from both sides inside towns and villages was the primary inhibitor of Syrians being able to return to their homes.
Today, that problem has grown exponentially with millions of refugees seeking safety outside Syria’s borders and even more millions being displaced internally. Again, for those interested in assisting refugees, I tell you that the moment the political violence and military operations cease, is the moment that these people can start returning to their communities. Obviously, this would have been easier a year ago – today, so many areas have been leveled by fighting with homes, schools, infrastructure destroyed, that there is sometimes nothing to go home to. But the best solution still remains one that involves rebuilding of communities – that’s where the international financial assistance should go, and not to resettling Syrians outside their countries or in unfamiliar areas within, which is why a solution to this conflict is urgent. We are approaching winter in the Levant, and it is unconscionable that international and regional parties cannot diplomatically agree to demilitarization of the Syrian conflict, so that more lives can be spared. Otherwise our attention will be turned from Syrians getting shot and bombed and beheaded, to Syrian starving and freezing to death.
Q: It was on the reports that US President Barack Obama has ordered a temporary lift on the arms ban to Syria so that certain weaponry and ammunitions could be delivered to the rebels and those whom Secretary of State John Kerry has called “moderate” terrorists. Isn’t this order somewhat hypocritical as the United States has always depicted itself an ardent opponent of terrorism and extremism? How is it possible to justify its overt support for the terrorists in Syria?
A: The US has acted very opportunistically inside Syria, prioritizing interests over values at every turn. It has tacitly and sometimes actively supported those individuals and groups which were Washington’s targets in a decade-long “war on terror.” Washington knows full well that weapons cannot be funneled specifically to “moderates” – rebels will sell them for good money at a moment’s notice, and many of these rebels change groups with great frequency. When Kerry first made that statement about arming the moderates, I got in touch with a US State Department spokesman and asked him repeatedly to name one “moderate” rebel group that “could” potentially be a recipient of American military largesse. He couldn’t.
As is the case with most US foreign policy in the Mideast, we now see an “unintended consequence” emerge – Salafi-Jihadist cells, gangs, militias and networks have grown like weeds, not just in Syria, but throughout the Levant, Persian Gulf and North Africa. This is the main reason the US is now reassessing its interests in Syria and the broader Mideast.
It is ironic that the US spent so many years allegedly fighting terror, when in fact its policies spawned an unprecedented growth in terror groups, networks and activities, both in and out of the Middle East. Today, this arm of American policy has been crippled by the challenges it faces against Salafi extremists. It is why Washington is rapidly altering its position vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US actually needs Iran now to regionally lead the charge to eliminate these groups, secure borders and help stabilize a very chaotic region.
Q: And a final question; how does the future of Syria look? On one hand, we have the United States and its regional allies that seem to be strangely intractable and unwilling to allow the Syrian people to decide their fate, and on the other hand, there are the foreign-backed terrorists, Al-Qaeda fighters and Al-Nusra Front warriors that are carrying out bloody operations every single day. Can we foresee a peaceful future for Syria one day?
A: I’m a rare optimist on Syria. I firmly believe we have the potential to see the reestablishment of a secure and unified Syria with a modified and reformed central government.
I don’t believe that this can be achieved only via a political solution, however. As I said earlier, a political outcome must first be reached between the regional and international parties that weaponize the conflict. This is stage one. The next stage will need global consensus because it entails a massive military push to purge Syria and its neighbors of jihadists and their local brethren. This will consist of several things: aiding and empowering the Syrian army to use full military force against these groups inside Syria; a worldwide effort to inhibit the financing of militants by individuals and states and slapping punitive measures against violators; heavily policed borders in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon.
This may not be easy, but it is not difficult either – if the political will is there. And I believe we are coming to that stage – where Syria’s western and Arab foes, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Israel and wealthy financiers of jihad, have fully realized the dangers of allowing this conflict to continue and political violence to escalate to these levels. Jihadists from dozens of countries, from all continents, have found a haven in Syria, and are spreading with relative impunity into neighboring states. If this trend is not stemmed, they will come back home and wreak their carnage there.
The final stage is reconstruction – which will again require the material assistance of the international community – and elections.
How is all this possible? And if it were, why haven’t we seen these measures being implemented earlier? I do not believe the political will existed until recently. I think Washington’s threat to launch military strikes against Syria was a “last stand,” and it failed because the west knows it cannot fight any more wars in the Mideast or predict outcomes. It also knows that Syria’s rebels have become everyone’s worst nightmare. The US knows it is going to need regional help to unwind this conflict – and that its traditional allies are unable to deliver, hence the “unprecedented” negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva. Geopolitical realities have fundamentally shifted. Yesterday’s enmities do not compare to the horrors ahead for the international community if the jihadi genie is not put back into its bottle.
These new alliances will not only work to resolve the Syrian conflict and re-stabilize the state, but will also serve to push “stability” throughout the region.
By Phillip F. Tourney | January 17, 2009
I have heard it for the entirety of my 61 years of life, Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. In fact, in recent memory I have heard this phrase more than I’ve heard ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ or even ‘Have a Good 4th.
Israel seems to exist quite well. Her people have a very high living standard compared to the rest of the world. Israel has the most sophisticated armed forces in the Middle East, if indeed not the world. According to one of our former presidents, Israel is said to possess several hundred nuclear weapons and if we are to believe some of the things said by Israel’s leaders in recent years she is ready to destroy mankind if her leaders choose to do so.
Israeli’s live a very good life style, second to none. A swimming pool in every back yard on stolen land, plenty of food, jobs, stocks, cash, you name it. Their quality of life continues to grow and prosper every month of every year.
Now what I have a problem with is this–doesn’t the United States of America also have a ‘Right to Exist’?
Yes we do, but unfortunately that right is being taken away from us every second, every minute, every hour, every month and every year and all for the sake of Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. What’s wrong with this story? Well, I’ll explain what’s wrong with it and believe me, its not that hard to figure out.
Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’ has virtually bankrupted the United States, and all of it off the backs of hard-working Americans for the last sixty years. We’ve given Israel untold billions of dollars NEVER TO BE REPAID, to say nothing of the military hardware in the billions we (I should say the United States) just flat-out gives them, including free training for their fighter pilots.
The United States continues to supply Israel with cash payments every day in the millions of dollars, and remember–THIS IS BORROWED MONEY. Do you understand this my fellow Americans? We borrow money for the sake of Israel but yet we do not barrow it for the sake and safety of our own citizens. This money must be paid back by us our children, their children and their children and this cycle will never be broken until the Untied States gives up its passionate attachment to the Jewish state.
Our sons and daughters are paying a very heavy price in Iraq. 4000+dead, tens of thousands wounded so badly that their lives will never be the same and who knows when it will end.
The United States is fighting this war in Iraq all for the sake of Israel. Americans getting killed, wounded and us spending billions of tax dollars we don’t have, and for what? Let me remind you, in case you have forgotten–FOR ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST.
The ugly truth is that the United States can’t take much more. It is bending to the very breaking point of no return, and now the war drums beat once again in Israel that we must attack Iran or they will. When Israel spouts this aggression the gas prices go up and up, along with the price of food and just about everything else we need so that America can exist. It is a heavy burden on the American people, Israel’s benefactors. Many in this country are losing their homes, their jobs and can’t even afford food and all because they gave everything they had for Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’.
This year the United States has gone through so many natural disasters it boggles the mind. One after the other–fire, floods, tornadoes, you name it and we’ve had it and up to our collective eyeballs. And through all of this, where has America’s greatest ally been? I haven’t seen Israel hand over a red cent to this country when it was in need. Israel could care less about us, their benefactors the USA. If we were broke and down to our last cent, you can bet the ranch that Israel would demand it go into her coffers and God help any politician who would vote against it.
But then, why do we even bother discussing such business as politicians voting in America’s best interest? It goes without saying that when Israel wants something she gets it, no strings attached from a subservient President and congress.
It’s time we cut this step child Israel loose and let her make it on their own. No more wars for Israel. No more money, no more nothing. If Israel wants money let her people earn it. If they want a war LET THEM FIGHT IT ON THEIR OWN. NO MORE AMERICAN BLOOD OR TREASURE SPENT ON ISRAEL’S ‘RIGHT TO EXIST’.
For those who think I am wet behind the ears on this one, think twice–I know all too well what Israel thinks about Americans, because 41 years ago I saw them murder my shipmates in cold blood with no remorse in their black hearts or in their vacant souls. Their entire war machine was bought and paid for– you guessed it–by you, the people of the United States and they used that to murder America’s sons.
History will repeat itself if the Government doesn’t wise up soon, and they won’t unless they hear from you, me and the rest of the American public as we demand no more free rides for any country, and especially not Israel. America has its own ‘Right to Exist’ and no one, not even the Jewish state, should come before our own family and friends.
Survivor, USS Liberty June 8 1967
The recent interim accord between the six world powers and Iran has been hailed as an “historic breakthrough”, a “significant accomplishment” by most leading politicians, editorialists and columnists (Financial Times, (FT) 11/26/13, p. 2), the exceptions being notably Israeli leaders and the Zionist power brokers in North America and Western Europe (FT 11/26/13, p. 3).
What constitutes this “historic breakthrough”? Who got what? Did the agreement provide for symmetrical concessions? Does the interim agreement strengthen or weaken the prospects for peace and prosperity in the Gulf and the Middle East? To address these and other questions, one also has to include the powerful influence wielded by Israel on US and European policymakers (Stephen Lendman).
The Historical Record: Past Precedents
For over a decade the major US intelligence agencies have published detailed accounts of Iran’s nuclear program (see especially the National Intelligence Estimate 2007 (NIE)). The common consensus has been that Iran did not have any program for developing nuclear weapons (National Intelligence Estimate 2004, 2007). As a consequence of this ‘absence of evidence’, the entire Western offensive against Iran had to focus on Iran’s “potential capacity” to shift sometime in the future towards a weapons program. The current agreement is directed toward undermining Iran’s potential ‘capacity’ to have a nuclear weapons program: there are no weapons to destroy, no weapon plans exist, no war plans exist and there are no strategic offensive military operations on the Iranian ‘drawing board’. We know this, because repeated US intelligence reports have told us that no weapons programs exist! So the entire current negotiations are really over weakening Iran’s ongoing peaceful, legal nuclear program and undermining any future advance in nuclear technology that might protect Iran from an Israeli or US attack, when they decide to activate their “military option”, as was pulled off in the war to destroy Iraq.
Secondly, Iran’s flexible and accommodating concessions are not new or a reflection of a newly elected President. As Gareth Porter has pointed out: Nearly ten years ago, on November 15, 2004, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities” (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/26/13). According to Porter, Iran was ending “all manufacturing, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components”. Despite these generous concessions, on March 2005, the Europeans and the US refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement that would guarantee against enrichment toward weapons grade. Iran ended its voluntary suspension of all enrichment activity. The US, led by Zionists embedded in Treasury, (Stuart Levey) then escalated sanctions. Europe and the UN Security Council followed in kind. The practice of the US and Europe first securing major concessions from Iran and then refusing to reciprocate by pursuing a comprehensive settlement is a well established diplomatic practice. Iran’s flexibility and concessions were apparently interpreted as “signs of weakness” to be exploited in their push toward ‘regime change’ (An Unusual Success for Sanctions Policy, FT 11/27/13, p. 10). Sanctions are seen as “effective” political-diplomatic weapons designed to further weaken the regime. Policy-makers continue to believe that sanctions should be maintained as a tool to divide the Iranian elite, disarm and dismantle the country’s defensive capacity and to prepare for “regime change” or a military confrontation without fear of serious resistance from the Iranians.
The entire charade of Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons as a threat’ has been orchestrated by the Israeli regime and its army of ‘Israel Firsters’ embedded in the US Executive, Congress and mass media. The ‘Big Lie’, promoted by Israel’s propaganda machine and network of agents, has been repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by the sixteen major US Intelligence Estimates or NIE’s, especially in 2004 and 2007. These consensus documents were based on extensive research, inside sources (spies) and highly sophisticated surveillance. The NIEs categorically state that Iran suspended all efforts toward a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not made any decision or move to restart that program. However, Israel has actively spread propaganda, based on fabricated intelligence reports, claiming the contrary in order to trick and push the US into a disastrous military confrontation with Israel’s regional rival. And the President of the United States ignores his own intelligence sources in order to repeat Israel’s ‘Big Lie’!
Given the fact that Iran is not a ‘nuclear threat’, now or in the past, and given that the US, European and Israeli leaders know this, why do they continue and even increase the sanctions against Iran? Why do they threaten to destroy Iran with pre-emptive attacks? Why the current demands for even more concessions from Tehran? The current negotiations and ‘agreement’ tell us a great deal about the ‘ultimate’ or final strategic aims of the White House and its European allies.
The ‘Interim Agreement’: A Most Asymmetrical Compromise
Iran’s negotiators conceded to the’ 5 plus 1’ all their major demands while they received the most minimum of concessions, (FT 1/25/13, p. 2).
Iran agreed (1) to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, (2) reduce the existing 20 percent enriched stockpile to zero, (3) convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to a higher level, (4) halt progress on its enrichment capacity, (5) leave inoperable half of its centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of those at Fordow, and (6) freeze all activities at Arak heavy water facility which when built could produce plutonium. Iran also agreed to end any plans to construct a facility capable of reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel. The Iranian negotiators agreed to the most pervasive and intensive “inspections” of its most important strategic defense facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been closely allied with the US and its EU counterparts. These “inspections” and data collection will take place on a daily bases and include access to Natanz and Fordow. The strategic military value of these inspections is inestimable because it could provide data, heretofore unavailable, for any future missile strike from the US or Israel when they decide to shift from negotiations to the ‘military option’. In addition, the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to access other strategic facilities, including sites for developing centrifuges, uranium mines and mills. Future “negotiations” may open highly sensitive military defense sites such as Parchin, where conventional missiles and warheads are stored.
Obviously, there will not be any reciprocal inspections of the US missile sites, warships and military bases in the Persian Gulf, which store weapons of mass destruction aimed at Iran! Nor will the IAEA inspect Israel’s nuclear weapons—facilities in Dimona – despite Israeli threats to attack Iran. No comparable diminution of “military capacity” or nuclear weapons, aimed at Iran by some members of the ‘5 plus 1 and Israel’ is included in this “historic breakthrough”.
The ‘5 plus 1’ conceded meager concessions: Unfreezing of 7% of Iranian-owned assets sequestered in Western banks ($7 billion of $100 billion) and ‘allowing’ Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent –and even that “concession” is conditioned by the proviso that it does not exceed current stockpiles of 5% enriched uranium. While the Iranian negotiators claim they secured (sic) ‘the right’ to enrich uranium, the US refused to even formally acknowledge it!
In effect, Iran has conceded the maximum concessions regarding its strategic national defenses, nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment in what is supposedly the ‘initial’ round of negotiations, while ‘receiving’ the minimum of reciprocal concessions. This highly unfavorable, asymmetrical framework, will lead the US to see Iran as ‘ripe for regime change’ and demand even more decisive concessions designed to further weaken Iran’s defensive capacity. Future concessions will increase Iran’s vulnerability to intelligence gathering and undermine its role as a regional power and strategic ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the current beleaguered governments in Syria and Iraq and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
The ‘Final Settlement’: Decline and Fall of the Islamic Nationalist Republic?
The real goals of the US sanctions policy and the recent decision to enter into negotiations with Iran have to do with several imperial objectives. The first objective is to facilitate the rise of a neo-liberal regime in Iran, which would be committed to privatizing major oil and gas fields and attracting foreign capital even at the cost of strategic national defense.
President Rohani is seen in Washington as the Islamic version of the former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. Rohani, like his ‘model’ Gorbachev, ‘gave away the store’ while expecting Iran’s imperial adversaries to reciprocate.
The ‘5 plus 1’, mostly veterans of the ‘imperial shake down’, will take all of Rohani’s concessions and demand even more! They will “allow” Iran to recover its own frozen assets in slow droplets, which the neo-liberals in Tehran will celebrate as ‘victories’ even while the country stagnates under continued sanctions and the people suffer! The US Administration will retain sanctions in order to accommodate their Israeli-Zionist patrons and to provoke even deeper fissures in the regime. Washington’s logic is that the more concessions Teheran surrenders, the more difficult it will be to reverse the process under public pressure from the Iranian people. This ‘rift’ between the conciliatory government of Rohani and the Iranian people, according to CIA strategists, will lead to greater internal discontent in Iran and will further weaken the regime. A regime under siege will need to rely even more on their Western interlocutors. President Rohani ‘relying on the 5-plus-1’ will be like the condemned leaning into the hangman’s noose.
Rohani and the Neo-Liberal Collaborators
The ascendancy of Rohani to the Presidency brings in its wake an entire new political-economic leadership intent on facilitating large-scale, long-term penetration by Western and Chinese oil and gas companies in the most lucrative sites. Iran’s new oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has made overtures to all the oil majors, and offers to revise and liberalize the terms for investment and provide concessions designed to greatly enhance multinational profits, in the most lucrative fields (FT, 11/27/13, p. 2). Zangeneh has kicked out the nationalists and replaced them with a cohort of liberal economists. He is preparing to eventually lay-off tens of thousands of public sector oil employees as an incentive to attract foreign corporate partners. He is prepared to lower fuel subsidies for the Iranian people and raise energy prices for domestic consumers. The liberals in power have the backing of millionaires, speculators and political power brokers, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani head of the key Expediency Council, which drafts policy. Many of Rafsanjani’s followers have been appointed to key positions in President Rohani’s administration (FT, 11/26/13, p.3).
Central to the ‘Troika’s (Rohani-Rafsanjani-Zangeneh) strategy is securing the collaboration of multi-national energy corporations. However that requires lifting the US-imposed sanctions against Iran in the shortest time possible. This explains the hasty, unseemly and one-sided Iranian concessions to the ‘5-plus-1’. In other words, the driving force behind Iran’s giveaways is not the “success of sanctions” but the ascendancy to power of the Iranian comprador class and its neo-liberal ideology which informs their economic strategy.
Several major obstacles confront the ‘Troika’. The major concessions, initially granted, leave few others to concede, short of dismantling the entire nuclear energy infrastructure and lobotomizing its entire scientific and technical manpower, which would destroy the legitimacy of the regime. Secondly, having easily secured major concessions without lifting the sanctions the ‘5-plus-1’ are free to escalate their demands for further concessions, which in effect will deepen Iran’s vulnerability to Western espionage, terrorism (as in the assassination of Iranian scientists and engineers) and preemptive attack. As the negotiations proceed it will become crystal clear that the US intends to force the ‘Troika’ to open the gates to more overtly pro-western elites in order to eventually polarize Iranian society.
The end-game is a weakened, divided, liberalized regime, vulnerable to internal and external threats and willing to cut-off support to nationalist regimes in the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The US recognized and seized upon the rise of the new neo-liberal Rohani regime and secured major unilateral concessions as a down payment to move step-by-step toward bloody regime change. Washington’s “end game” is the conversion of Iran to a client petrol-state allied with the Saudi-Israeli axis.
As far-fetched as that appears today, the logic of negotiations is moving in that direction.
The Israeli-US Differences: A Question of Tactics and Timing
Israeli leaders and their Zionist agents, embedded in the US government, howl, pull out their hair and bluster against the ‘5-plus-1’ transitional agreement with Iran. They downplay the enormous one-sided concessions. They rant and rave about “hidden agenda”, “deceit and deception”. They fabricate conspiracies and repeat lies about secret “nuclear weapons programs” beyond the reach (and imagination) of any non-Zionist inspector. But the reality is that the “historic breakthrough” includes the dismantling of a major part of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, while retaining sanctions – a huge victory of the Zionists! The ‘5-plus-1’ negotiated a deal which has secured deeper and more extensive changes in Iran while strengthening Western power in the Persian Gulf than all of Netanyahu’s decade-long campaign of issuing ‘military threats’.
Netanyahu and his brainwashed Zionist-Jewish defenders in the US insist on new, even harsher sanctions because they want immediate war and regime-change (a puppet regime). Echoing his Israeli boss Netanyahu, New York Senator Chuck “the schmuck” Schumer, commenting on the interim agreement brayed, “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will pass additional sanctions” (Barrons 12/2/13 p14) This is the same stupid policy that the embedded Zionists in Washington pursued with Iraq. Under the Bush Presidency, top neo-con Zionists, like Wolfowitz, Ross, Indyk, Feith, Abrams and Libby, implemented Ariel Sharon’s war dictates: (1) murdered Saddam Hussein (regime change) (2) destroyed Iraq’s economy, society and modern infrastructure, and (3) provoked ethnic fragmentation and religious war – costing the US over 2 trillion dollars on the war, thousands of US lives (millions of Iraqi lives) and at a cost of hundreds of billions in high oil prices to US consumers – further shattering the US domestic economy.
Among the few moderately intelligent and influential Zionist journalists, Gideon Rachman, who realizes the strategic value of the step-by-step approach of the Obama regime, has called for the White House “to take on the Israel lobby over Iran” (FT, 11/26/13, p. 10). Rachman knows that if Israel’s howling stooges in the US Congress drag the country into war, the American people will turn against the Israeli lobby, its fellow travelers and, most likely, Israel. Rachman and a few others with a grain of political sophistication know that the Rohani regime in Tehran has just handed over key levers of power to the US. They know that the negotiations are moving toward greater integration of Iran into the US orbit. They know, in the final instance, that Obama’s step-by-step diplomatic approach will be less costly and more effective than Netanyahu’s military ‘final solution’. And they know that, ultimately, Obama’s and Israel’s goal is the same: a weak neo-liberalized Iran, which cannot challenge Israel’s military dominance, nuclear weapons monopoly, annexation of Palestine and aggression against Lebanon and Syria.
Having secured a “freeze” on Iran’s consequential nuclear research and having on site intelligence on all of Iran’s major national defense and security facilities, the US can compile a data base for an offensive military strategy whenever it likes. Iran, on the other hand, receives no information or reports on US, European or Israeli military movement, weapons facilities or offensive regional capabilities. This is despite the fact that the ‘5-plus-1’ countries and Israel have recently launched numerous devastating offensive military operations and wars in the region (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria). Having set the agenda for negotiations as one of further unilateral concessions from Iran, the US can at any point, threaten to end negotiations – and follow up with its ‘military option’.
The next step in the unilateral disarmament of Iran will be the US demand to close the strategic Arak heavy water plant. The US will demand that Iran produce a basic minimum amount of uranium and retain a stock pile to cover a few days or weeks for energy, research or medical isotopes. Washington will strip Iran of its capacity to enrich by imposing quantitative and qualitative limits on the centrifuges that Iran can possess and operate. During the next round of negotiations, the US will preclude Iran from undertaking the reprocessing of uranium at Arak or any other site. The US will tell ‘the Troika’ that the “right” (sic) to enrich does not extend to the right to reprocess. The US will demand stringent “transparency” for Iran, while maintaining its own high level secrecy, evasion and ambiguity with regard to its military, diplomatic and economic sanctions policy.
In a word, the US will demand that Iran surrender its sovereignty and subject itself to the colonial oversight of an imperial power, which has yet to make a single move in even reducing economic sanctions. The loss of sovereignty, the continued sanctions and the drive by the US to curtail Iran’s regional influence will certainly lead to popular discontent in Iran – and a response from the nationalist and populist military (Revolutionary Guards) and the working poor. The crisis resulting from the Troika’s adoption of the “Gorbachev Model” will lead to an inevitable confrontation. Over time the US will seek out an Islamist strongman, an Iranian version of Yeltsin who can savage the nationalists and popular movements and turn over the keys to the state, treasury and oil fields to a “moderate and responsible” pro-Western client regime.
The entire US strategy of degrading Iran’s military defenses and securing major neo-liberal “reforms” depends on President Rohani remaining in power, which can only result from the Obama regime’s compliance in lifting some of the oil and banking sanctions (FT 12/1/13, p. 6). Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to achieving Washington’s strategic roll-back goal is Netanyahu’s power to block sanction relief – and impose even, harsher sanctions. The result of such an Israel Firster victory in the US would be the end of negotiations, the strengthening of Iran’s nuclear program, the demise of the oil privatization program and added support to regional nationalist movements and governments. President Rohani desperately needs western imperial reassurance of the benefits (sanction relief) of his initial giveaways. Otherwise his credibility at home would be irreparably damaged.
The imperial prize of a militarily weakened and neo-liberalized Iran, collaborating in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, is enormous but it clashes with the Zionist Power Configuration, which insists on all power to the Jewish state from the Suez to the Persian Gulf!
By Stephen J. Sniegoski ~ 2003
Is there any evidence that Israel and her supporters have managed to get the United States to fight for their interests?
To unearth the real motives for the projected war on Iraq, one must ask the critical question: How did the 9/11 terrorist attack lead to the planned war on Iraq, even though there is no real evidence that Iraq was involved in 9/11? From the time of the 9/11 attack, neoconservatives, of primarily (though not exclusively) Jewish ethnicity and right-wing Zionist persuasion, have tried to make use of 9/11 to foment a broad war against Islamic terrorism, the targets of which would coincide with the enemies of Israel.
For some time prior to September 11, 2001, neoconservatives had publicly advocated an American war on Iraq. The 9/11 atrocities provided the pretext. The idea that neocons are the motivating force behind the U.S. movement for war has been broached by a number of commentators
To understand why Israeli leaders would want a Middle East war, it is first necessary to take a brief look at the history of the Zionist movement and its goals. Despite public rhetoric to the contrary, the idea of expelling (or, in the accepted euphemism, “transferring”) the indigenous Palestinian population was an integral part of the Zionist effort to found a Jewish national state in Palestine. Historian Tom Segev writes:
The idea of transfer had accompanied the Zionist movement from its very beginnings, first appearing in Theodore Herzl’s diary. In practice, the Zionists began executing a mini-transfer from the time they began purchasing the land and evacuating the Arab tenants…. “Disappearing” the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its existence…. With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the desirability of forced transfer — or its morality.
However, Segev continues, the Zionist leaders learned not to publicly proclaim their plan of mass expulsion because “this would cause the Zionists to lose the world’s sympathy.”
The key was to find an opportune time to initiate the expulsion so it would not incur the world’s condemnation.
A clear illustration of the neoconservative thinking on war on Iraq is a 1996 paper developed by Perle, Feith, David Wurmser, and others published by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, titled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm.” It was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper stated that Netanyahu should “make a clean break” with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza. It presented a plan whereby Israel would “shape its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Note that these Americans — Perle, Feith, and Wurmser — were advising a foreign government and that they currently are connected to the George W. Bush administration: Perle is head of the Defense Policy Board; Feith is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy; and Wurmser is special assistant to State Department chief arms control negotiator John Bolton. It is also remarkable that while in 1996 Israel was to “shape its strategic environment” by removing her enemies, the same individuals are now proposing that the United States shape the Middle East environment by removing Israel’s enemies. That is to say, the United States is to serve as Israel’s proxy to advance Israeli interests.
In September 2000, the neocon think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued a report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” that envisioned an expanded global posture for the United States. In regard to the Middle East, the report called for an increased American military presence in the Gulf, whether Saddam was in power or not., maintaining that “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The project’s participants included individuals who would play leading roles in the second Bush administration: Cheney (Vice President), Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense), and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was also a co-author.
The September 11 atrocities provided the “revolutionary times” in which Israel could undertake radical measures unacceptable during normal conditions. When asked what the attack would do for U.S.-Israeli relations, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” Netanyahu correctly predicted that the attack would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.” Sharon placed Israel in the same position as the United States, referring to the attack as an assault on “our common values” and declaring, “I believe together we can defeat these forces of evil.”
In the eyes of Israel’s leaders, the September 11 attacks had joined the United States and Israeli together against a common enemy. And that enemy was not in far-off Afghanistan but was geographically close to Israel. Israel’s traditional enemies would now become America’s as well. And Israel would have a better chance of dealing with the Palestinians under the cover of a “war on terrorism.”
In the October 29, 2002, issue of The Weekly Standard, Kagan and Kristol predict a wider Middle Eastern war:
When all is said and done, the conflict in Afghanistan will be to the war on terrorism what the North Africa campaign was to World War II: an essential beginning on the path to victory. But compared with what looms over the horizon — a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States — Afghanistan will prove but an opening battle…. But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously. It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, administration heavyweights debated the scope of the “war on terrorism.” According to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, as early as September 12 Rumsfeld “raised the question of attacking Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? he asked. Rumsfeld was speaking not only for himself when he raised the question. His deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war on terrorism.”
Woodward adds, “The terrorist attacks of September 11 gave the United States a new window to go after Hussein.” On September 15, Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Wolfowitz expressed the view that “attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain,” voicing the fear that American troops would be “bogged down in mountain fighting…. In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.”
Within Israel herself, however, the Arabs would not be expected to adopt a “new political culture”; they would be expected to vanish.
Even the dean of Israel’s revisionist historians, Benny Morris, explicitly endorsed the expulsion of the Palestinians in the event of war. “This land is so small,” Morris exclaimed, “that there isn’t room for two peoples. In fifty or a hundred years, there will only be one state between the sea and the Jordan. That state must be Israel.”
As is now apparent, the “war on terrorism” was never intended to be a war to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 atrocities. September 11 simply provided a pretext for government leaders to implement long-term policy plans. As has been pointed out elsewhere, including in my own writing, oil interests and American imperialists looked upon the war as a way to incorporate oil-rich Central Asia within the American imperial orbit. While that has been achieved, the American-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan is in a perilous situation. Karzai’s power seems to be limited to his immediate vicinity, and he must be protected by American bodyguards. The rest of Afghanistan is being fought over by various war lords and even the resurgent Taliban. Instead of putting forth the effort to help consolidate its position in Central Asia, Washington has shifted its focus to gaining control of the Middle East.
It now appears that the primary policymakers in the Bush administration have been the Likudnik neoconservatives all along. Control of Central Asia is secondary to control of the Middle East. In fact, for the leading neocons, the war on Afghanistan may simply have been an opening gambit, necessary for reaching their ultimate and crucial goal: U.S. control of the Middle East in the interests of Israel. That is analogous to what revisionist historians have presented as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “back door to war” approach to World War II. Roosevelt sought war with Japan in order to be able to fight Germany, and he provoked Japan into attacking U.S. colonial possessions in the Far East. Once the United States got into war through the back door, Roosevelt focused the American military effort on Germany.
The deductions drawn in this essay seem obvious but are rarely broached in public because Jewish power is a taboo subject. As the intrepid Joseph Sobran puts it: “It’s permissible to discuss the power of every other group, from the Black Muslims to the Christian Right, but the much greater power of the Jewish establishment is off-limits.”
So in a check for “hate” or “anti-Semitism,” let’s recapitulate the major points made in this essay. First, the initiation of a Middle East war to solve Israeli security problems has been a long-standing idea among Israeli rightist Likudniks. Next, Likudnik-oriented neoconservatives argued for American involvement in such a war prior to the atrocities of September 11, 2001. Since September 11, neocons have taken the lead in advocating such a war; and they hold influential foreign policy and national security positions in the Bush administration.
If Israel and Jews were not involved, there would be nothing extraordinary about my thesis. In the history of foreign policy, it has frequently been maintained that various leading figures were motivated by ties to business, an ideology, or a foreign country. In his Farewell Address, George Washington expressed the view that the greatest danger to American foreign relations would be the “passionate attachment” of influential Americans to a foreign power, which would orient U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of that power to the detriment of the United States. It is just such a situation that currently exists.
More – entire essay
From an article published December 2nd:
‘The UN commissioner’s statement, reported from Geneva, coincided with the publication of a new death toll of 125,835 for the last 33 months. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), based in the UK, said the dead included 44,381 civilians, including 6,627 children and 4,454 women. The SOHR said at least 27,746 opposition fighters had been killed, among them just over 19,000 civilians who took up arms to fight the Assad regime. The opposition toll also included 2,221 army defectors and 6,261 non-Syrians who joined the rebels’.
The glaring omission is, of course, the ’50,430 deaths among the Syrian armed forces and local militias supporting Assad’ – the biggest single documented toll among any of the groups.
Why Black would omit this figure is anyone’s guess. But it’s a strange oversight, and one you couldn’t imagine him ever making if it was the supposed Good Guys being killed in such numbers.
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
A handy dictionary/rules book for anyone writing on the Middle East issues in the mainstream media. To get published as a news journalist, it seems you have to follow these rules.
Caught in the Crossfire: When Palestinian civilians are killed.
Retaliation: When Israeli army or settlers kill Palestinians.
Escalation: Any act of violence or resistance by the Palestinians.
Murdered: When Israeli Civilians are killed.
Brutal/cowardly/ghastly: adjectives describing attacks on Israelis.
Self defense: Any act of violence by Israelis.
Terrorism: Any act of violence by the Palestinians.
Civilians: Armed settlers are civilians when killed. Try to avoid using this term for Palestinians.
Neighborhoods: Areas inhabited by Israeli settlers.
Positions: Any Palestinian towns and villages especially when bombed by helicopter gunships or raked with large caliber machine guns.
Tragedy: Any Israeli death.
Deserved: Any Palestinian death.
Squatters: Palestinian natives.
Democratic ally: Synonym for Israel.
Disputed Areas: Any Palestinian or Arab land occupied by Israel in defiance of International law.
Anti-Semite: Person condemns Israeli violations of Palestinian civil and human rights.
Victims: Any Jewish Israeli.
Attacker: Any Palestinian engaging in any form of resistance.
Targets: Palestinian buildings, homes, offices – What the Israeli military designates as military targets.
Attack/bombing/murder: Acts the Palestinians commit when directed at Israelis.
Clashes: This is a difficult term to understand but is generally used when Palestinians die.
Measures (e.g. Economic measures, security measures): Any acts the Israelis commit (blockades, collective punishment, shelling neighborhoods, starving a population etc).
Security: Anything the Israeli government chooses to do. This can include land confiscation, extra-judicial killings, home demolitions, destruction of groves, uprooting trees, blockades etc. The term security is reserved for use only with the word Israel or Israeli and must never be applied to Palestinians. Lashing out: A term reserved for Palestinians and acts they commit against Israelis.
Under siege: Again a term for use by the Israelis as in Palestinians have put Israelis under siege. Exact meaning depends on the circumstances. Never use for Palestinian towns or villages.
When to use Passive voice: If the violent action is committed by Israelis (e.g. 2 Palestinians were killed, one of them a 9 year old).
When to use active voice: If the action is committed by Palestinians (e.g. Palestinians killed a Jewish child, Palestinians kills teenager).
While reporting about Israelis: “2 Israelis were injured”, while reporting about Palestinian use the verbs claimed, say etc. “Palestinians say woman dies of teargas inhalation in West Bank” (e.g. Ha’aretz)
Names: Must be included for any Jewish victims, always avoid names for Muslim or Christian victims but use numbers in stead (remember in the passive voice, e.g. 2 Palestinians died in clashes).
When an Israeli is killed: It is important to note his or her profession, where he/she is from and was going, whether or not he/she is religious, and whether or not he/she is an immigrant from the U.S. or Russia. If the dead person is survived by a spouse and children, this should be noted. If the victim is a youngster, the school they attended should be mentioned, and their friends’ feelings should be noted. in general, people who knew the dead person should testify to their humanity.
When a Palestinian is killed, they should not be personalized in any way.
When an Israeli is killed, it is useful to include graphic descriptions of the death scene – the covered body, the fragments of flesh, the path of flowing blood, etc.
Please ensure that your local media editor/journalist receives this list.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
You cannot negotiate with Iran. That is what they told us for years. The Iranian leadership is too fanatical, they are not rational actors, they are “not like us.” One US official even recently said that deception is part of the Iranian DNA. But just over a week ago negotiations between the five permanent UN Security Council Members plus Germany and the Iranians produced an historic agreement that may be the first step toward a new era in US relations with the Middle East.
As Middle East expert Eric Margolis pointed out this week, for Iran’s major concessions it will only receive “$7 billion – of its own money, which has been frozen abroad by US-led sanctions.” That sounds like quite a bit of compromise for such a “fanatical” country.
Earlier this summer the same people made the same arguments about Syria. You cannot negotiate with Syrian President Assad, they said. He is insane; he is another Hitler. But not only was it possible, a deal was signed ending the threat of a US strike in exchange for Syria agreeing to give up its chemical weapons and the ability to manufacture new ones. Syria upheld its end of the agreement and the chemicals were all accounted for on schedule.
Why have the interventionists, the neocons, and the special interest groups claimed for so long that negotiation and diplomacy was tantamount to surrender; that countries such as Iran and Syria “only understand force”? It is because these groups are afraid of diplomacy. They do not want a peaceful resolution to these conflicts. They see US foreign relations only in the starkest terms: do what we say and we will give you aid, disobey us and we will bomb you.
Now the warmongers who call themselves “foreign policy experts” have been exposed. The whole world sees that they are wrong. Their advice is bad. Their limited vision of how foreign affairs should be conducted is actually dangerous to the United States. It is now clear that there are workable alternatives.
As with the US threats against Syria, public opinion polls on talks with Iran demonstrate that the American people are solidly behind diplomacy and opposed to another war. According to one recent poll, Americans support the deal reached with Iran by a margin of two-to-one.
Congress, however, is once again far behind the American people. Even as US negotiators were reaching agreement with their Iranian counterparts, US representatives and Senators were drafting legislation to increase sanctions on Iran. Instead of listening to the American people, many in Congress seem attached to special interests like the Israel and Saudi lobbies, which oppose anything less than full Iranian capitulation. Israel refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty yet it seeks to dictate the rules of the treaty to those who have signed it. Saudi Arabia is desperate to control the region politically and economically, and it views an Iran that is free to sell oil and other products on the open market as a threat to Saudi power.
For too long both Israel and the Saudis have benefited from a US military guarantee. It has created “moral hazard” that only encourages more belligerent behavior on both of their parts. It remains to be seen whether this six month trial period will develop into a permanent move toward normalization of relations with Iran. What if Congress refuses to give Iran its own money back? But we are moving in the right direction and we should be optimistic.
A better US relationship with Iran may signal the beginning of the end of US meddling in the region and serve as an incentive for Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Gulf States to solve their problems themselves. This would be a great boost to US national security, just as an Iran open to US business and trade would be a great boost to our economic security. Is peace finally breaking out? Let’s hope so.
A message from Ken – December 1, 2013
Well my first show on The People’s Voice will air on Sunday from 1600-1800 GMT.
It is a great programme with Gilad Atzmon and I having a conversation about the control of language and Jewish power, politically incorrect through and through.
I am also very happy to debut the series of stories about families in Gaza I met in 2011 when I lived there for 6 months. These are powerful, emotional stories and I must thank brother Ashraf Elwakhery for being the man who finally edited all the raw footage. There are 24 stories about 21 families and we are starting off with the heartbreaking story of Zeinat Samouni, it brings tears to my eyes to watch this story every single time, if you are not moved by what this beautiful woman and her children have been through then you have clearly lost your humanity. And lastly, I am very happy to have sister Noor Harazeen as our TPV Correspondent in Gaza, she will be giving us regular reports and also giving us an update about Zeinat and her children.
Please share this far and wide, please tune in, the show is called ‘Ken O’Keefe’s Middle East’, it will repeat later in the day, prime time in the US and other places throughout the week. We may have call in opportunities, stayed tuned for info for that.
If Joshua did not conquer Jericho, was there any conquest?
The Narrative Challenge
The war of narratives shaped as a “slam dunk” win for the Palestinian people, and had the potential to change the lineup of forces in the struggle for a just solution to the Middle East crisis. After all, unlike the Zionists, the Palestinians are a singular people, speak a common language, have common customs, and lived a shared history. They inhabited the area for centuries, if not for millennia, and tilled and watered the land to which they had legal title. Western nations restructured the Middle East, denied the Palestinians a country, and placed them in a British Mandate. Refusal to agree to surrendering any of their lands to the UN Partition Plan led to the catastrophe in 1948 (Al-Nakba), which left them stateless and subject to Israeli occupation and oppression. As a community, the Palestinians are now headed toward destruction. Can they prevent that destruction by winning the war of narratives?
A Palestinian Negligence
Despite their more compelling narrative, the Palestinians have been unable to successfully articulate their experiences or implement a powerful rebuttal to Israel’s narrations, and Israel has prevailed in the war of narratives, a feat that defies the possible. Adding to the failure is the perplexing manner by which Palestinian institutions and persons unknowingly validate portions of the Zionist narrative and its falsifications of history. As an example, this excerpt appears on the website of the Palestine center, the foremost Palestinian “think tank” in Washington, DC:
The Canaanites were the earliest known inhabitants of Palestine. They became urbanized and lived in city-states, one of which was Jericho. Thus Jericho is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth.
“The Israelites, a confederation of Hebrew tribes, defeated the Canaanites, but found the struggle with the Philistines more difficult. The Philistines had established an independent state on the southern coast of Palestine and controlled the Canaanite town of Jerusalem. The Philistines were superior in military organization to the Israelites [and] severely defeated them about 1050 BCE.
“David, Israel’s king, united the Hebrew tribes and eventually defeated the Philistines. The three groups assimilated with each other over the years. The unity of Israelite tribes enabled David to establish a large independent state, with its capital at Jerusalem. However, that did not last long as that state split into two: Israel in the north and Judea in the south.
Unknowingly, The Palestine Center has published a dubious biblical history, which Israel’s propagandists use to advantage. History and archaeology contest the presentation:
(1) Jericho, one of the earliest cities, no longer existed at the time of the later Canaanites (it eventually recovered), which means it was not continually inhabited, and there was no Jericho for Joshua, and probably no conquest by a Joshua of other tribes.
(2) The Exodus, Conquest and lives of David and Solomon are myths. If a David and/or Solomon existed, they were minor chieftains and not leaders with a capital in Jerusalem.
Exodus and Lack of Proof
Although the ancient Egyptians kept meticulous records, no manuscripts, drawings or documents describe Hebrew slaves in Egypt or an exodus. Besides, Egypt was not, as Rome, a slave state and only kept foreigners captured in war as slaves. If they wandered 40 years in the desert, would not the 100,000 plus Hebrews have left some traces for future collaboration – pottery shards, implements, shreds of garments, or weapons? If they had the latter, which they needed for conquest, how were they obtained or forged? Lastly, because the earliest examples of written Hebrew date from the 10th century B.C. would not the Hebrews, after being captive in Egypt for centuries, have spoken and written a Middle Egyptian language? What language did they speak?
Did Joshua Assault Jericho?
Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, in her book Digging up Jericho: The Results of the Jericho Excavations, 1952-1956, Praeger, New York, estimated the city was destroyed before 1550 BC, 150 years prior to Joshua’s supposed arrival, and remained dormant until the 11th century B.C. Radiocarbon tests by Hendrink J. Burns, Tell es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon results of short-lived cereal and multiyear charcoal samples from the end of the middle Bronze age, Jacob Blaustein, Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, confirmed Ms. Kenyon’s conclusions.
Jericho: Was There any Conquest?
The most definitive rebuttal to biblical history before the 9th century B.C. comes from recognized Tel Aviv University archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, who documented their explorations in The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Their archaeological diggings demonstrated that “the Israelites were simply Canaanites who developed into a distinct culture. Recent surveys of long-term settlement patterns in the Israelite heartlands show no sign of violent invasion or even peaceful infiltration, but rather a sudden demographic transformation about 1200 BCE in which villages appear.”
Finkelstein and Silberman continue with discoveries, which “suggest that Jerusalem was sparsely populated and only a village during the time of David and of Solomon. During the time of Solomon, the northern kingdom of Israel had an insignificant existence, too poor to be able to pay for a vast army, and with too little bureaucracy to be able to administer a kingdom, certainly not an empire.” It was not until the eighth century B.C., 200 years after David, that Jerusalem began to grow.
Control of Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s status is furiously debated in “balanced” discussions. Israel demands total control of a “united city,” which it claims is essential to its heritage, and Palestinians are willing to defer to Jerusalem becoming a shared city. In these “balanced” meetings, the Palestinians cannot gain the offensive, and are unable to obtain a reply to a simple question: Why are Jews allowed to settle in East Jerusalem and reclaim a few dubious properties, while Palestinians are not allowed to settle in West Jerusalem and regain multitudes of usurped properties?
Examine the Holy Basin. The Holy Basin contains well-marked Christian and Muslim institutions and holy places that have had historical placement for more than a millennium – Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Al Asqua Mosque, Dome of the Rock, and Mosque of Omar.
Although Hebrews had major presence in Jerusalem during the centuries of biblical Jerusalem, which included rule by several kingdoms and control by the Hasmonean dynasties, their control and major presence were interrupted between the kingdom and dynasty and became insignificant after 70 A.D. Commentary has enabled the more than two thousand years of lack of control and presence to seem as if they never happened, and that today is only a short interval from the ancient years of King Hezekiah. Centuries of Christian and Crusader rule and more than one thousand years of Muslim rule are less noted, and their tremendous constructions and creations in Jerusalem are downplayed. The Christian and Muslim everythings become nothing and a minor Hebrew something becomes everything. Myth replaces reality. Ethereal spirituality replaces physical presence.
Some remains of Jewish dwellings, burial grounds and ritual baths can be found, but few, if any, major Jewish monuments, buildings or institutions from the Biblical era exist within the “Old City” of today’s Jerusalem. The oft cited Western Wall is the supporting wall for Herod’s platform and is not directly related to the Second Temple. No remains of that Temple have been located.
The Western Wall, which erroneously entered the vernacular as the Wailing Wall by someone during the 19th century, is considered to be close to the “holiest of the holies,” the most revered site in Judaism. According to historian Karen Armstrong, in her book Jerusalem, Ballantine Books; April 29, 1997, Jews did not pray at this part of the Western Wall until the Mamluks in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from a dangerous Mount of Olives and pray daily at the Wall. At that time, she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem.
This portion of the Western Wall lacks absolute proof of its being close to the “holiest of the holies,” and therefore has religious significance by default – there is no other readily apparent religious construction from the ancient Hebrew’s Jerusalem. Or, is it significant because Israel wants control of part of the wall that surrounds the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, a site it hopes to control one day?
In an attempt to connect ancient Israel to present day Jerusalem, Israeli authorities apply spurious labels to Holy Basin landmarks.
• Neither King David’s Tower nor King David’s Citadel relate to the time of King David.
• Neither the Pools of Solomon nor the Stables of Solomon relate to the time or life of King Solomon.
• Absalom’s Tomb is an obvious Greek sculptured edifice and therefore cannot be the tomb of David’s son.
Why should anyone acquiesce to Israel’s demand for incorporating all of a Jerusalem that has no ancient religious institution standing? The answer is conditioning – the constant repetitions of “If I forsake thee Jerusalem,” and “Jerusalem is indivisible” – internalization of a dubious argument and done for covert reasons.
Israel is a physically small and new country with an eager population and big ambitions. It needs more prestige and wants to be viewed as a power broker on the world stage. To gain those perspectives, Israel needs a capital city that commands respect, contains ancient traditions and is recognized as one of the world’s most important and leading municipalities. To assure the objectives, there can be only one Jerusalem and it must be the one that contains the Holy City. A united Jerusalem with a single tourist and business authority is worth a lot of Shekels.
It is distressing to witness “balanced” discussions characterize Jewish identity in Jerusalem as the same, if not of greater intensity, than that of the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian), not have this “balance’ politely refuted, and be tacitly approved by audiences.
And not only is Jewish identity in Jerusalem questioned; modern Judaism’s roots also deserve to be questioned.
Modern Judaism and the Holy Land
In a posted interview on Nov 18, 2008 of an American PBS program Archeology of the Hebrew Bible, William Dever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, who has investigated the archeology of the ancient Near East for more than 30 years, exclaimed, “This is awkward for some people, the notion that Israelite religion was not exclusively monotheistic. But we know now that it wasn’t. Monotheism was a late development. Not until the Babylonian Exile and beyond does Israelite and Judean religion—Judaism—become monotheistic.”
The last sentence is significant.
After the prophets returned from Babylonian exile, possibly influenced by Zoroastrianism, a religion whose God of good and light fought evil and dark, the Hebrews became Jews, instilled with a change in belief from monolatry, exclusive worship of one God without excluding foreigners to worship other Gods, to monotheism, exclusive worship of one universal God. David Danzig in an article Evidence for Survivals of Mesopotamian Civilization in the Babylonian Talmud: clarifies the reason: “The concept of a single God whom all nations would eventually worship evolved among a conquered and exiled people no longer assured of their divinely protected status.”
Many Jews remained in the regions of their exile. Later, hundreds of thousands of Jews arrived in Mesopotamia and Persia during the Persian Parthian and Sassasian Empires, (248 B.C. to 641 A.D.) In this area, schools of Judaism flourished, eventually codifying the oral and written laws and producing the Babylonian Talmud, which, rather then the Jerusalem Talmud, became the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the basis for all Jewish law. In Iraq and Persia, from 500 B.C. and through the Middle Ages, the Jews from Judah shed themselves from the restraints of arid lands and a controlling priestly class, achieved almost total male literacy, developed intellectual prowess, and by 650 A.D., had changed their occupations from artisans, and struggling farmers to those of agriculturists, merchants, and traders, many becoming wealthy from the silk trade.
The biblical “Exodus” story did not free the Jews. Just the opposite, it has been used to keep Jews in perpetual bondage to a spurious history and to promote an attitude of constant victim hood, while distracting them from realizing they might also play a role in the injustices done to others.
The Jewish exodus from their birth lands to Babylonia and Persia (and throughout the Roman Empire), during the centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. and several centuries after its occurrence, freed the Jews from a pastoral life, arid conditions, and restricted economics. The already weakened and dispersed Israelite tribes completely disintegrated, and the Hebrews lost a place in an ongoing history. As in the hypothesis of punctured equilibrium, where new species suddenly arise to replace a dying species, new communities of Mesopotamian Jews, knowledgeable and worldly, quickly appeared in the Fertile Crescent. In that region, which soon housed the three great Jewish universities of Surah, Pumbadita and Nehardea, the legacy and heritage of modern Jews and Judaism are best expressed. In The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship, by Maristella Botticini, Zvi Eckstein, Princeton University press, 2012, the authors claim that “Judaism reached its Golden Age in 800 -1200 A.D. During that time, Mesopotamia and Persia contained 75% of world Jewry with the rest in North Africa and Western Europe.”
Battle between Dead and Dying
The World War II Holocaust, which cost the lives of several million Jews, is firmly established in the Israeli conscience and its history is continually circulated throughout the world. The Palestinian catastrophe, Al-Nakba, hides in the shadows of the World War II onslaught. Why is it not more revealed?
Because the Zionist movement to Palestine started decades before World War II and almost all refugees from the conflagration had been relocated before establishment of the state of Israel, the relationship between the state of Israel and the European Holocaust is tenuous. Nevertheless, Israel makes full use of the Jewish tragedy to secure sympathy, periodically reminding the world of previous era horrors, repeating them daily to its children, as if they are being threatened, and convincing a world they need to define their own security in order to prevent the next genocidal attack against them.
The Palestinians have not been alert in changing the direction of the dispute, still regarding it as a conflict between them and the Israelis, when it is now only a crisis for them. The initial disputes between the Zionists and the Palestinians erupted into a conflict. After Israel achieved military victory in 1967, the conflict essentially ended; the Palestinian allies had been defeated and the Palestinians were subjected to Israeli occupation. From then on it has been a growing crisis, which could lead to total destruction of the Palestinian community. This is not semantics; it focuses on the real problem and prevents resources and attention from being diverted to useless activities. As a matter of fact, the attacks on the Palestine community resemble the UN definition of genocide:
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Israeli forces have been continuously guilty of the first four acts. Without assistance from international organizations, Arab countries, philanthropies, individuals and private fund raisers, all of whom have supplied the Palestinians with food, energy, training, funds, education and resources that counter Israeli oppression, the precarious plight of the Palestinians would have reached a critical level a long time ago.
Genocide is not necessarily broadcasted; it can be silent and stealth – breaking bones and imprisoning males to deny children of working fathers, preventing expansion of food, water and housing supplies so a population is economically deprived and exists at subsistence levels, confining families to limited areas to stifle education, knowledge and community interaction, restricting travel so that people are not able to contact others and learn the new tools and mechanisms for adaptation to a modern world, planting harassment and sowing fear to create psychological disturbances. Recipients of these policies applied by the Israeli government in the West Bank and Gaza have no recourse to reply, except to leave the area or suffer until death.
The World War II Holocaust is over, the dead cannot be reclaimed and yet their lives are continually discussed. In Palestine, the destruction continues, lives can be reclaimed and yet the threat to their existence is insufficiently discussed. The crisis started with Al-Nakba and the Palestinians have not been able to make the world react to the seriousness of the growing catastrophe.
War of Narratives
What have Jews accomplished by in-gathering and becoming citizens of the state of Israel? They have bolstered a spurious interpretation of history, and identified themselves with twelve tribes who established some states and administration, but apparently vanished from history and left little imprint of having been a strong or extensive civilization for a long period of time. By incorporating biblical history into its ‘reason to be,’ Israel has exalted Joshua the warrior, guilty of nine genocides, David, a bandit, suspected murderer of those who barred his route to kingship, and philanderer who coveted the wives of others, and Solomon, who used forced labor and exorbitant taxes to build huge construction projects (For this, Moses took them out of Egypt?), and kept a harem of 700 wives. Evidently, the Israelis intend to accomplish in real life what a mythical Joshua and his Israelites accomplished – conquer the city of Jericho, lay the entire West Bank to waste and “let the people be hewers of wood and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.”
It seems strange that Jews embrace the dubious connection with wandering tribes and errant kings and reject the well established memories of their most precious epochs and proud moments of history – their centuries of sojourn in Mesopotamia and Persia. Readily absorbing the new wisdom they encountered after their exodus to ancient Iraq and Persia, the Jews compiled the Talmud, and moved rapidly into achieving almost total male literacy, obtaining economic advancement, and becoming leaders for progress and modernity. Hopefully, Jews who absorb actual history will awaken other Jews to the destructive impulses generating from Israel, which prevents them from recognizing the roots of modern Judaism and instead reverts them to become atavistic and reactionary relics of the ancient Hebrew world.
The Palestinians have found themselves thrust in an unenviable role with specific challenges – expose the contrived narrative of the Israelis and impress the world with their narrative of continuous transitory life as Canaanites, or possibly Hebrews, to Christians, to Muslims, to Arabs, to citizens of the Ottoman Empire and finally to suffering the Al-Nakba, which started their route to being oppressed. Despite decades of mental, physical and emotional fatigue, they owe this task to themselves, to their communities in Diasporas, to Jews who don’t want to be involved in the injustices, to a Middle East that suffers from the expansion of the crisis, and to a world that might soon face a related catastrophe. They owe it and should show it.
The agreement between the US and Iran is the best news coming out of the Middle East for some time. As Iran is not developing nuclear weapons it is not giving away too much, although it still went a long way to meeting US demands. Israel is furious. Netanyahu has done his best to prevent this point being reached and will be striving hard to make sure it goes no further. He will be appealing to Congress over the head of the president, the traditional tactic of Israeli prime ministers when they can’t get their own way. Israel’s lobbyists will be fully mobilizing for what is being represented as the greatest challenge to Israel in its history.
This is a major blow to Israel and a well-deserved slap in the face for Netanyahu. He has lost no opportunity to humiliate the US president so there is probably a personal element in all of this amidst the grander strategic considerations. But the outcome is good for the Middle East and good for the US. The agreement sets up the development of a relationship which will reconfigure geostrategic realities. By signing it the US is implicitly accepting Iran’s right to maintain its own special relationship with Syria and Hizbullah. The Syria experience has clearly been a sharp learning curve. In the name of political transition the so-called ‘Friends of the Syrian People’ have unleashed the hounds of hell at the geographic heart of the Middle East. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is only the worst of the pack. The US administration has been backing away from its involvement and now clearly accepts that Bashar staying in power is the best option.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are dismayed at the refusal of their erstwhile allies to push the assault on Syria any further. Now they have the agreement with Iran to contend with and they are furious. Some of the commentary in the Israeli media is nothing short of demented. These two states have now formed their own axis of resistance – resistance to change, resistance to peace, resistance to the end of occupation, resistance to the White House and resistance to common sense. The recent bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut can safely be regarded as the work of one of them if not involving both. The Saudis are completely obsessed with destroying Shi’ism and Shia across the region. If they keep going like this their own special relationship with the US is going to suffer as well but they have already dropped hints that they don’t care.
Now that the Americans are talking to Iran they might start wondering what all the fuss was about. They are getting on with the Iranian negotiators, who are far more civilized and sophisticated than shills like Netanyahu and louts like Avigdor Lieberman. Furthermore, while Israel is an occupying state that has repeatedly gone to war to defend its ill-gotten gains, Iran, as commentators are pointing out, has not launched an aggressive war for more than two centuries, so which country shapes up as the most stable ally for the US in the region?
Saudi Arabia is another story. It is one of the most reactionary states in the world. It buys people, politicians, entire governments and newspaper editors. Money is its true god. Much of the revenue from its oil has gone into arms purchases from the US and European governments, all of which know that if they want this bonanza to continue they have to remain silent in the face of Saudi Arabia’s flagrant abuses of human rights. If there ever was a case for ‘regime change’ it is surely smack bang in the middle of Riyadh.
The agreement with Iran opens the way to significant commercial, political and strategic benefits for the US. It may well not be to Russia’s liking. By comparison, Israel is a dead weight around America’s neck from any perspective. It bleeds the US Treasury of more than $3 billion in arms and economic aid every year. It spies on the US and regularly defies the US. It has killed US servicemen in pursuit of its own strategic ends. It opens no doors and is of no commercial or economic benefit to the US and the days when it might have served some purpose as an armory during US military actions in the Middle East have probably gone for good. The American people have made it perfectly clear they do not want their government to be involved in any more wars in the Middle East and peace certainly offers the US far greater rewards than war.
The nuclear issue always was a distraction. The real issue for Israel is Iran’s growing influence across the region and its refusal to back away from its strategic alliance with Syria and Hizbullah despite economic sanctions and regular threats of war. The ruins of Gaza are testimony to Israel’s determination to destroy anyone and any thing standing in its way. Palestine is the wellspring but dig deep enough into the ruins of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and you will find Israel at the bottom. It will see the whole Middle East flattened rather than retreat from the territory it has seized through its wars of aggression. Since the war of conquest of 1948 it has launched six other wars against Egypt, Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, apart from shorter incursions, assassinations and aerial attacks such as those launched on Syria this year. By comparison the only war involving the Islamic republic of Iran is the one launched by Saddam Hussein in 1980.
Israel cannot afford to alienate the US. It needs American economic aid and weapons and it will need US support if it ever gets into a war which it can’t win. Israel’s defeats at the hands of Hizbullah confirm a picture of relative military decline over the past three decades. Even Gaza with its miniscule defences has been able to withstand the fury of Israeli assaults. The fortress state is beginning to crumble at its foundations and if Israel continues to alienate even its friends the day will come when it finds itself alone with its nuclear bombs.
This is an existential moment for Israel. It refuses to change, expecting its friends endlessly to accommodate its outrageous behavior. The White House is sending signals that it has had enough and indeed the agreement with Iran may even mark the beginning of the setting of the sun on the US-Israel ‘special relationship.’
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis — as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics — fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.
The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as “making the desert bloom” and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective — along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.
This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.
From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel — and its many allies in the United States — to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.
Oil prices dropped on Monday morning in Asia’s exchange markets after Iran and world powers reached an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Iran holds the fourth largest oil reserves in the world. Brent price fell by 2.26 per cent, or $2.51 down to $108.54 per barrel, while US light sweet crude fell by 89 cents to $93.95 per barrel (a less than one per cent decline).
After five days of intense negotiations, the major world powers and Iran announced a deal on Saturday evening stipulating that Iran will curb its nuclear activities in return for an easing of the economic sanctions against it. The interim deal paves the way for a new phase of negotiations in six months’ time. Western countries and Israel suspect Tehran of secretly developing nuclear military capabilities behind its civilian programme, but this is a claim that Tehran denies.
The oil markets had been intensely following the negotiations in Geneva. Economic analysts believe the deal could eventually lead to lifting the ban on Iran’s oil exports, which would supply the markets with a million additional barrels a day and help to reduce oil prices, which have dramatically risen as a result of the Iranian crisis and the geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.
Victor Shum, the managing director of IHS Purvin & Gertz Group in Singapore, observed on Monday that: “the impact of the deal on the global oil supply will be limited in the short term because the majority of the sanctions remain.”
Experts also confirmed that if sanctions are indeed lifted, then Iranian exports will increase while Saudi exports will decrease. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
An oil expert told the Dow Jones newswire that the agreement “does not mean that we will see an influx of oil exports in the markets, because Iran is a member of OPEC and any increase in the Iranian oil supply should be done within the quota system.”