A Bahraini court on Wednesday jailed 29 people, including an award winning photographer, for up to 10 years for an alleged attack on a police center in April 2012.
A judicial source and activists said the verdicts were based on defendants’ confessions that were extracted under torture.
Twenty-six of those convicted were handed 10-year prison terms and three others jailed for three years, a source told AFP.
Among those sentenced to 10 years was Ahmed Humaidan, a 26-year-old photojournalist abducted by plainclothes police in late-2012.
Humaidan’s lawyer said the court presented no evidence to suggest that he was involved in any attack against police aside from a confession he made under torture.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented cases of torture against the young photojournalist in prison, which included being blind-folded and told to hold an object for hours that police claimed was a bomb.
The prosecution accused the defendants of attacking a police center in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, with petrol bombs and iron rods, wounding a policeman.
The other defendants also told the court that they were tortured and their confessions obtained under duress, according to the judicial source.
Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, remains in a constant state of turmoil since authorities launched a bloody crackdown on a popular uprising three years ago, with hundreds of protesters and activists jailed on “terror” charges.
Authorities in the Gulf dictatorship last year increased the penalties for those convicted of violence, introducing the death penalty or life sentences in certain cases.
This is an episode from a planned series on several aspects of the Syrian conflict.
Full transcript and links available at: http://apophenia.altervista.org/syria…
Until now, Israel has been getting away with anything it likes. A series of revolutions and counter-revolutions in the Arabic world has driven it into chaos, and seems to have pushed the Palestinian issue off the international agenda for good.
And yet Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has now called a tribunal for war crimes and produced a genocide ruling – against whom?
Not against Assad, as one might have expected, but against Israel, the state that considers itself to be beyond the jurisdiction of any court or tribunal.
In Hamlet, the message that the king killed his brother to marry his widow and seize the throne is delivered by the murdered king’s spirit – which literally means by someone who cannot testify in court. As a result, Prince Hamlet spends a long time tormenting himself about whether he should believe the spirit and avenge his father. After that, he undertakes a smart move – asking a troupe of actors to stage a play reenacting his father’s murder, while he watches the murderer’s reaction. At the end of the play, everyone dies, but Hamlet has gotten his revenge.
That’s how people’s justice usually works – it takes a long time, it’s messy and ultimately useless from a rational viewpoint. It would have been much more rational for Prince Hamlet to pay due honor to the new king and his new wife, Hamlet’s mother, pray for his deceased father, marry Ophelia and have lots of children, then inherit the throne in due time and just keep on living…
The spectators watch how the prince’s world and values are shattered to the ground. The father’s spirit has its word. The actors have played out their play, and the murderer has been betrayed by his reaction.
For the first time, an international war crimes tribunal has charged the State of Israel of genocide, an unprecedented event, as so far no international court or tribunal has ever delivered a verdict against Israel to date.
The International Tribunal convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Israel refused to send any representatives. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has no official ties to the UN and acknowledges that it has not authority to deliver punishment. Opinions differ on the subject of its jurisdiction, and the only sanction it has in its power is to enter the name and title of the party found guilty in the Tribunal’s registry and announce it publicly to the world. In 2011, the tribunal found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.
It seems that one could just as well ignore this tribunal; much like Israel ignores the condemning UN resolutions, protests, severed diplomatic relationships and all other kinds of protests against the military actions and acts of violence applied against the Palestinians on a daily basis. However, a detailed trial like this indicates that the mechanism has been set in motion, which will have consequences for the entire world, not just for Israel or the Middle East.
The International Tribunal is part of the Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes; however, these two institutions are not part of Malaysia’s judicial system, even though they employ judges and prosecutors of Malaysian background. Israel has no agreements signed with this or any other international court. Yet the Tribunal acts on the basis of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, which was signed and ratified by Israel. And this very signature, Israel’s membership in the UN and the fact that Israel owes its very existence to the UN and to the condemnation of genocide against Jews in the course of World War II – all this at the very least gives us the right to challenge and discuss whether Israel’s own actions could fall into the category of genocide.
Interestingly, the USA has been refusing to sign this document for 37 years, having reasonable fears that many lawyers would want to charge the USA itself with genocide of the Indians and African slaves, as well as the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese and many others. Israel, in its turn, did not foresee that the very convention it pushed the world to adopt after the war will one day be used against it. The very formation of the State of Israel was made possible by the agreement of the victorious powers to acknowledge that Jews were victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany and that only having a nation state of its own can guarantee them proper protection.
“The victims of genocide became themselves the source of it.” This is how Hedi Epstein sees the essence of the ruling against Israel. A German Jew who survived WWII, she lost her parents to a concentration camp. Epstein was a prosecution witness in the Nuremberg Trials. And in 1982, she learned that the Israeli Army occupied Lebanon and provoked mass executions in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. From that moment on, Epstein and hundreds of other Jews embarked on an anti-military and anti-Zionist campaign. However, Israel has refused to listen to their voices. They were labeled “self-hating” Jews and banned from the country which, incidentally, announced itself to be the homeland of all Jews in the world. Israel remained deaf to their warning that the Jews who survived genocide do not wish Israel to be committing genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people in their name.
Israel was convinced that the US would never cease to provide it with military and political assistance, so it had nothing to worry about. The Jewish “weirdos” are free to organize as many useless marches and “freedom flotillas” as they wish; no one will dare to find Israel guilty.
And now Israel has received its first wake-up call.
The hearings on the genocide lawsuit started in August 2013. But the news soon faded into the background as the media extensively covered the mass shooting of hundreds of Egyptians who disagreed with President Morsi’s arrest and the growing tensions around Syria due to a possible American missile strike.
On November 20-25, the final stage of the proceedings took place, initiated by a group of Palestinians, who reported a number of incidents.
The first one involved Israeli soldiers who killed 29 members of the extended Samouni family in the Zeitoun neighborhood of the Gaza Strip during the 22-day Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009.
This is the most notorious crime against Palestinians over the last few years. Judge Goldstone incorporated it into his report, which he submitted to the UN after the operation was over.
The Samounis were a large family of peaceful farmers. None of them had ever participated in armed resistance. They were some of the few Palestinians who got on well with the Israeli settlers and they were frustrated by the removal of the settlements from the Gaza Strip.
In January 2009, an Israeli helicopter landed on their field. A few gunmen demanded that the Samounis turn in the Hamas militants to them. The next thing they did was bring the whole family under one roof and shoot them down dead, including the infants. Those who survived were found under the bodies of their relatives.
One of the survivors was the children’s mother. She repeatedly tried to get a criminal case started in various courts of law, but failed to get any compensation or apologies from Israel.
The second story revolved around the mass shooting of women and children in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982.
Other incidents included:
- lethal firing of teargas canisters and rubber bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests;
- intensive, indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008;
- a university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper, firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;
- a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;
- a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism;
- a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada; and
- Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip, caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.
The Tribunal found the State of Israel guilty of genocide of the Palestinian people in each of these cases, blaming former general Amos Yaron for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
The Tribunal’s verdict reads as follows:
“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, [General] Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”
Even though the Israeli authorities ignored the summons, several highly experienced lawyers were appointed by the Tribunal to represent Israel.
So far we can only see separate elements without fully comprehending the full picture. There are several things worth noting here.
Israel’s case wasn’t brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague; in fact, it wasn’t a European court at all. In Europe, the guilt for failing to save the Jews from genocide 70 years ago is still alive and associated with Israel. Hearing this case in the Malaysian tribunal sends a message to the whole world that Israel should be treated like any other state, like Rwanda, Serbia, Libya or Cambodia.
The fact that the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal condemned Israel is hardly surprising – Malaysia actively supports the Palestinians. In early 2013 the Malaysian prime minister visited the Gaza Strip – there aren’t many political leaders who can afford to make such a provocative step.
Malaysian Islam is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that suffered such a crushing political defeat in Egypt. Malaysia’s ex-leader, Mahathir Mohamad, is a very influential figure in the Muslim world, especially among Muslim Brotherhood supporters, specifically in the part of the Muslim establishment that’s close to Britain.
Malaysia is even more determined to get revenge for the damage the Muslim Brotherhood sustained than Turkey, so this influential political faction dealt their opponents a glancing, but painful blow. It’s the first time an international tribunal convicted not individual generals, but the State of Israel of genocide. Israel’s main weapon has been turned against it.
It’s also important to note that a year ago Henry Kissinger, a key figure in US politics and architect of the Middle East peace deal, unexpectedly said that he perused a report by 16 American intelligence agencies which arrived at the conclusion that in 10 years’ time there will be no more Israel. The report itself, as well as Kissinger’s comment, can only be viewed as proof that a certain section of the American political elite intends to finish Project Israel. Otherwise, they would’ve kept the report under wraps and started working on a plan to save Israel. And most importantly, if saving Israel was on their agenda, no tribunal would be hearing this case.
Moreover, most of the Israel’s supporters wanted to believe that almost three years of revolutions in the Arab world and two years of fighting in Syria have pushed the Palestinian issue to the sidelines. Israel rejoiced that the focus shifted from the Palestinian issue, which united everyone, to the Syrian conflict, which became a bone of contention for the entire world.
Contrary to Israel’s expectations of two months ago, the Tribunal is not trying Assad for crimes against the Syrian people. Instead, it is trying Israel for genocide of the Palestinians. All of a sudden, Israel has lost its momentum. The Palestinians are back in the political spotlight, and the trap designed to lure Assad has turned into a trap for Israel.
Last but not least, many pundits rushed to argue that both the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and their fall is all the doing of the US. The veteran commentators would say that those who are to blame for the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will not go unpunished by the US and UK. The Israeli agents had put too much effort into cajoling major governments to support the Sisi-led coup to oust Mubarak and ignore the 3,000 deaths caused by the junta and the lies of the world media about the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly burning down the Coptic churches. Encouraged by the UK and Obama, full of arrogance and reluctance to reach any kind of compromise, Israel paved its own way to the genocide verdict.
Right now, Israel’s supporters are acting as though the Kuala Lumpur verdict can be neglected. But it won’t be long before they realize how dramatic the situation actually is: were the court to be situated in Europe, Israel would have lobbied its way out of the trial. But it did not reach as far as Kuala Lumpur. The precedent has been set.
Nadezhda Kevorkova is a war correspondent who has covered the events of the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts around the world, and the anti-globalization movement.
By Paul J. Balles | August 3, 2009
Most of us have had fears of one kind or another. Some fears are quite rational. If someone threatens you, and you have reason to believe that person will carry out his threat, your fear is rational. Not all fears are rational.
Have you ever been short of breath, shaking, nauseated and light-headed within elevators, closed rooms or crowded places? Experienced a panic attack in a high-rise building? Do you have an irrational fear of germs? Of strangers or foreigners? Of shadows? Of thunder or lightening? Of spiders? Of public speaking? Afraid of flying?
If you’ve experienced any of these, you’re suffering from a type of irrational fear called a phobia. These are some of the most common phobias. People suffer from literally hundreds of phobias.
A relatively recent irrational phobia that hasn’t even appeared on all the lists is Islamophobia – fear of Islam.
Kofi Annan told a UN conference on Islamophobia in 2004: “When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.”
In 1996, the Runnymede Trust established the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia. The term was defined by the trust as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination”.
The Runnymede report identified eight perceptions related to Islamophobia:
- Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- It is seen as separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
- It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
- It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
- It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
- Criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
- Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
- Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.
Of course, Muslims and others who have lived in Muslim countries know how absurd these perceptions are. Why, after more than a decade, do Westerners still believe these false assumptions about Islam? What are the sources of the baseless fears feeding these perceptions?
Many of the distorted impressions come from Zionist propaganda:
- Israel’s use of words like disputed territory rather than occupied, redeeming for stealing land, terrorists rather than resistance fighters for Palestinians, anti-Semites for critics of Israel (self-hating Jews if the critics are Jewish).
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) bulletins and lobbying – AIPAC’s only purpose is to ensure American support for Israel. No matter what Israel does, it cannot do any wrong.
- American Jewish Committee (AJC) newsletters – despite efforts by Jewish organizations to stifle criticism of Israel and objections to Zionism, anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Not all Jews are Semites. Most Arabs are.
- ZOA – Zionist Organization of America.
Western brainwashing comes from the media:
- Articles by writers like Daniel Pipes, (who claims an Islamist goal is to take over the United States and replace the constitution with the Koran).
- Anti-Arab, anti-black radio broadcasts by Rush Limbaugh and Arab-hater Ann Coulter.
- TV influence of Fox News anchors, like Bill O’Reilly, labelling Arabs as anti-Semites and terrorists.
- Hollywood films have been vilifying Arabs for more than 50 years.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Fear always springs from ignorance.”
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.
Those who claim that the United States went to war for oil seem to assume that since Iraq has huge reserves of oil, gaining control of that resource must have been the reason that the United States invaded the country. As the most prominent intellectual exponent of that view, Noam Chomsky, has put it:
Of course it was Iraq’s energy resources. It’s not even a question. Iraq’s one of the major oil producers in the world. It has the second largest reserves and it’s right in the heart of the Gulf’s oil-producing region, which U.S. intelligence predicts is going to be two thirds of world resources in coming years. 
Operating from that assumption, the proponents of the war-for-oil thesis have endeavored to produce evidence that proves it, at least in their eyes.
I have offered counter-evidence in my book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, and elsewhere to show that the existing arguments in support of the oil-war thesis just do not provide anything close to compelling proof. 
The fact that Iraq has a large amount of oil does not mean that the oil companies would necessarily push for war; instead, they could seek to exploit that oil in peaceful ways.
Indeed, the companies were pushing for an end to sanctions against Iraq. A Business Week article in May 2001, for example, reported that the easing of sanctions on “rogue” states “pits powerful interests such as the pro-Israeli lobby and the U.S. oil industry against each other. And it is sure to preoccupy the Bush Administration and Congress.” 
In short, an easing of sanctions supported by the oil companies, which would enable them to have access to Iraq’s oil, would serve to strengthen Saddam and make it more difficult to overthrow his regime, which was the goal of the neocons, a leading element of the Israel lobby.
Moreover, the oil companies were quite fearful of the impact of war on oil production. According to oil analyst Anthony Sampson in December 2002, “Oil companies have had little influence on U.S. policy-making. Most big American companies, including oil companies, do not see a war as good for business, as falling share prices indicate.” 
Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that advised petroleum firms, stated that “[t]he big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” maintaining that “[c]orporations like Exxon-Mobile and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region.” 
Despite the lack of solid evidence, and the existence of contrary evidence, the war-for-oil argument just will not die, for various political, psychological, social, and economic reasons.
It fits the prevalent belief in the rapacious nature of capitalist companies, and it is also a safe view to hold — it is doubtful that anyone ever lost a job or a friend for blaming the oil interests, unless one were actually employed by an oil company. In contrast, the explanation involving the neoconservatives and Israel represents a dangerous taboo.
Given the strong attraction of the oil argument, therefore, it is appropriate to examine a prominent piece of purported evidence used by its adherents. Thus, this article will look at the role of the National Energy Policy Development Group, which President George W. Bush created in his second week in office. The group had as its purpose the creation of a national energy policy for the United States. Chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney — who in the war-for-oil scenario is assumed to be an archetypal oil man — it would be dubbed the Cheney Energy Task Force.
As Cheney’s biographer Barton Gellman points out, the task force became, in many respects, a “creature of Cheney’s worldview.”  De-emphasizing conservation and environmental protection, Cheney believed that the United States needed a “near-term boost in domestic energy production,” which had suffered from over-regulation.  In short, Cheney’s view on energy production coincided with that of the producers of fossil fuels. And in developing the energy policy, he would consult closely with leading figures in the fossil-fuels industry while giving short shrift to the opinions of environmentalists, with whom he rarely met.
Perhaps because of the biased nature of the sources of his information, but also in line with his expansive view of the executive branch’s prerogatives, Cheney kept the meetings secret, and only as a result of legal efforts was any information about them revealed to the public; and even then it was far from everything. It was that secrecy that the war-for-oil theorists fell upon in order to substantiate their claim that the oil interest played the leading role in bringing about the U.S. attack on Iraq.
To the adherents of the thesis, it seemed apparent that the secrecy meant that something very ominous had been discussed in those meetings that could not be made known to the public, and the most ominous development in the early Bush administration was assumed to be the planning for the attack on Iraq.
Now, there is plenty of evidence that such planning was underway, and in fact had already been made, by the neoconservatives, with whom Cheney was certainly in league and whom he had actually brought into the Bush administration. However, there is no evidence that an attack on Iraq garnered substantial support from the oil industry. Far from pushing for war, industry representatives publicly supported the elimination of sanctions on Iraq (and elsewhere) so that they could have access to oil.
Moreover, they were concerned about any form of instability in the Middle East, fearing that war would disrupt the extraction and transportation of oil. Thus, ex-President George H.W. Bush and his cronies, who according to the oil-war scenario are associated with the war on Iraq, were at least cool to the war.
Brent Scowcroft, for one, was actively opposed. Scowcroft had been the elder Bush’s national security advisor and during the run-up to the 2003 war sat on the board of Pennzoil-Quaker State. 
As an aside, let me deal with the implication that the oil companies were advocating war only in secret meetings with high Bush administration officials, with their pro-war views unknown to the media.
That invisible approach is highly unlikely. Any contention that the oil interests primarily work behind the scenes is belied by the fact that they have been quite visible indeed in their public advocacy on many issues: fracking regulations; the termination of restrictions on the export of American-produced crude oil; the Keystone XL pipeline; regulations on refineries; and opposition to limitations on the use of fossil fuels because of “climate change” (anthropogenic global warming). And as mentioned, the oil companies were visible in their public opposition to the existing oil sanctions in 2001. The oil companies have been not only quite vocal in those matters but also far from successful in getting their way.
The war-for-oil theorists’ suggestion that the oil interests could be more successful taking an invisible approach instead of a public one does not seem plausible. The neocons had developed and publicized their Middle East war agenda before 2001; once George W. Bush took office, they openly promoted an attack on Iraq, both in the media and from their key positions in the administration. All of that being so, it is reasonable to believe that it was their efforts that accounted for the U.S. attack. There is no need to posit any undocumented, invisible support from the oil lobby; by the standards of proof in argumentation, the neocon explanation fits the simplicity principle of Occam’s razor. In an example of reverse logic, proponents of the oil thesis deny, ignore, or at least downplay the role of the neocons in bringing about the war on Iraq.
Despite counter-evidence, proponents of the war-for-oil thesis claim to find solid evidence for the coming invasion in the documents produced by the Cheney Energy Task Force. Some war-for-oil proponents, for example, have cited the maps of Iraqi oil fields used by the task force as evidence of plans for how those fields would be divvied up among U.S. companies. As the result of a court order, Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related U.S. Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of oil fields, terminals, and pipelines, as well as a list titled “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” But the papers obtained also included a detailed map of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a list of oil and gas development projects in those two countries. The U.S. secretary of commerce said there were also maps of other key oil-producing regions of the world, including Russia, North America, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea region. It seems quite reasonable that a task force on energy would seek clear knowledge about the key global locations of oil production. 
Strategic-Energy-Policy-Challenges-for-the-21st-CenturyIraq is barely mentioned in the final report from the Cheney task force, but it is given more, though still quite limited, attention in a report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century,” by an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A.Baker III Institute of Public Policy.
According to the Baker Institute, that task force was “comprised [of] 52 prominent Americans from government, industry, and academia … [and] offered 110 recommendations to the Cheney task force and U.S. Congress regarding steps to build a comprehensive energy policy and national consensus.”
The chairman of the task force was Edward L. Morse, an energy economist and at the time an advisor at Hess Energy Trading Co. During the Carter administration he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, from 1979 to 1981.
Adherents of the oil-war argument have connected the Baker report to the Cheney task force and have interpreted its few references to Iraq as indications of the forthcoming American invasion. 
The Baker group urged four “immediate steps”; one such step, labeled “Deter and Manage International Supply Shortfalls,” was in five parts; the Iraq issue was merely one of those five parts. The “immediate steps” were “to be considered in the very short term to assure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to deal with potential supply disruptions and to buffer the economy from adverse impacts of price volatility.” 
The recommendation pertaining to Iraq read: “Review policies toward Iraq with the aim to lowering anti-Americanism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and set the groundwork to eventually ease Iraqi oil-field investment restrictions.” The report acknowledged that “Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.” 
The report stated that “[t]he United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.”  The emphasis, however, was not on military action against Iraq but on a sanctions policy toward Iraq that was better-coordinated with other countries, the existing sanctions being perceived as harming the Iraqi people without effectively weakening Saddam’s power and ability to acquire weaponry.
“The United States,” the report thus maintained, “should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia and with key countries in the Middle East to restate the goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies…. Actions and policies to promote these goals should endeavor to enhance the well-being of the Iraqi people. Sanctions that are not effective should be phased out and replaced with highly focused and enforced sanctions that target the regime’s ability to maintain and acquire weapons of mass destruction. A new plan of action should be developed to use diplomatic and other means to support U.N. Security Council efforts to build a strong arms-control regime to stem the flow of arms and controlled substances into Iraq.” 
The Baker report continued: “Once an arms-control program is in place, the United States could consider reducing restrictions on oil investments inside Iraq. Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade.” 
The report acknowledged that if a diminution of the sanctions led to an increase in Saddam’s oil revenues, he “could be a greater security threat to U.S. allies in the region if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sanctions, weapons regimes, and the coalition against him are not strengthened.” Nonetheless, it supported making a change since the continuation of the “oil sanctions is becoming increasingly difficult to implement” and “Saddam Hussein has many means of gaining revenues, and the sanctions regime helps perpetuate his lock on the country’s economy.”  A one-sided reading of that passage alone might seem to include war as one alternative to the existing sanctions, but, in fact, the report explicitly prescribed narrowing the scope of sanctions.
The Baker Institute report’s fundamental concern that “energy disruptions could have a potentially enormous impact on the U.S. and world economy, and … affect U.S. national security and foreign policy in dramatic ways”  would suggest that the United States not engage in military adventures that could destabilize the region. The U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly did cause such destabilization and explains why the oil interests and the traditional American foreign-policy establishment in general were cool or opposed to the attack on Iraq. 
Now, once it had become clear that the United States would attack Iraq, and certainly after it actually had invaded, one may assume that the oil companies would want to take advantage of the situation and jockey for a favored position in postwar Iraq. But that does not somehow prove by itself that the oil interests pushed the country into war. And as it happened, the U.S. government did little to guarantee a favorable position for American oil companies after the war. As I pointed out in The Transparent Cabal, the U.S. government never made plans (much less implemented such plans) to dominate Iraq, to the extent of being able to control Iraq’s oil for its own benefit and that of its oil companies at the expense of the Iraq government and people. To exercise any permanent control of Iraq’s oil reserves, Washington would have had to turn the country into a virtual colony (which would have been very difficult, if not impossible).  It was inevitable that an Iraqi government with any type of autonomy would sell oil leases to the highest bidder.
Under the oil argument, the violence and political resistance that sprang up in Iraq during the occupation thwarted the U.S. plan to control oil. The likelihood of such internal violence, however, was fully recognized in a number of pre-invasion government studies.  About the only ostensibly knowledgeable group that claimed otherwise was the neocons, and if their expressed view here is accepted as a candid account, it seems necessary to accept also their public pronouncements about establishing democracy and ridding Iraq of WMDs as reasons for the war.
When Iraq began to sell oil leases to foreign companies in 2009, only a very few went to American companies while a disproportionate number went to America’s major rivals, China and Russia. That could hardly be a goal of American foreign policy. One reason given for those countries’ success has been that their companies were government-owned or government-supported, and thus could better afford to incur risk and accept low profits than their American counterparts, which were strictly private.  Of course, if the U.S. government really fought a multi-trillion-dollar war for the purpose of gaining control of Iraqi oil for its companies, one would expect it to subsidize any oil leases in Iraq by American companies, the cost of which would pale beside the overall war costs.
In sum, there does not seem to be any real evidence that Washington went to war against Iraq to enhance the profits of the oil industry, or control oil for the United States, nor is there any logical reason to think that would be the case. Nevertheless, as I indicated at the beginning, there are strong political, psychological, social, and economic motivations for maintaining that belief, especially as opposed to the non-P.C. and rather dangerous alternative view to which I adhere — focusing on the role of the pro-Israel neocons. In most cases, those concerns are far more important in determining the prevalence of any view in modern America than logic and evidence, even for that very small minority of the population with high intellectual ability who are actually knowledgeable about the issues.
In fact, such people are often far more affected by concerns involving employment and social status than average Americans, and are thus less open-minded and less willing to alter their views in light of the facts. Whatever their actual personal views, the oil argument provides a safe position for those who want to oppose America’s war policies in the Middle East without endangering themselves by expressing a view that could bring on lethal accusations of anti-Semitism.
However, a false view of reality will not serve to effectively solve problems. If we focus on a false culprit, the neocons and the overall Israel lobby are apt to flourish, and American military adventures are apt to continue in the Middle East.
1. Noam Chomsky, interview with Dubai’s Business Channel, “‘Of course, it was all about Iraq’s resources,’” December 2, 2003.
2. Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, Va.: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 333-50; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
3. “Rogue States: Why Washington May Ease Sanctions,” Business Week, May 6, 2001. Quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
4. Anthony Sampson, “Oilmen don’t want another Suez,” The Observer, December 21, 2002. Sampson is author of The Seven Sisters(New York: Bantam Books, 1976), which deals with oil companies and the Middle East; quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
5. Quoted in Roger Burbach, “The Bush Ideologues vs. Big Oil in Iraq,” CounterPunch, October 3-5, 2003.
6. Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), p. 90.
7. Ibid., p. 91.
8. Transparent Cabal; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004; “Brent Scowcroft,” Sourcewatch.
9. “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Detail Iraqi Oil Industry,” Fox News, July 18, 2003; “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oil Fields,” Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003.
10. James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy, Energy Forum Policy Research.
11. Ritt Goldstein, “‘Oil War’ Questions Surround Cheney Energy Group”; Michael T. Klare, “The Bush/Cheney Energy Strategy: Implications for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy,” a paper prepared for the second annual meeting of the Association for Study of Peak Oil, Paris, France, May 26-27, 2003; Carol Brightman, Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence, London: Verso, 2004, p. 190; Jason Leopold, “Eager to Tap Iraq’s Vast Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion,” The Public Record, July 1, 2009.
12. “Strategic Energy Policy,” p. 42.
13. Ibid., p. 46.
14. Ibid., p. 46.
15. Ibid., p. 46-47.
16. Ibid., p. 47.
17. Ibid., p. 47.
18. Ibid., p. 2.
19. The traditional foreign-policy establishment’s opposition to the neocon position is brought out throughout The Transparent Cabal, but especially see: pp. 59, 270-73, 291-297, 343-350; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
20. Transparent Cabal, pp. 340-42; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
21. Transparent Cabal, pp. 336-38.
22. Mohammed Abbas, “No boon for U.S. firms in Iraq oil deal auction,” Reuters, August 12, 2009.
Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in American history,with a focus on American foreign policy, at the University of Maryland. His focus on the neoconservative involvement in American foreign policy antedates September 11, 2001. His first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack. He is the author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”.
Alison Weir’s new book is by far the most comprehensive and precise expose of the depth of Zionist interference with American life in general and the politics of the United States in particular. It is a book every American should obtain, read and discuss openly.
In spite of its succinctness, the book is saturated with information and insights that are backed by valuable historical references and primary source quotes. Since I am an avid reader of modern Jewish history, I was surprised to learn so much from such a relatively short text.
The story that is told by Weir is devastating – for more than a century, a matrix of Jewish political lobbies, pressure groups, media operators and agents within the American government and legal system have been dominating the United States’ public life as well as its foreign policy. Consequently, the United States has been operating against its own best interests. It has compromised its most precious principles and even its own security.
For many years, it was largely Jews and people of the Left who dominated the Anti Zionist discourse. The outcome is very clear. The criticism of Zionism and Israel was partial and Judeo-centric by nature. It evaded broad scrutiny of Jewish power and the tribal operation involved. The majority of anti Zionist texts were designed to vindicate the Jews of crimes committed by the Jewish State and Zionism. Consequently, the anti Zionist discourse achieved very little as far as Palestinians are concerned. In fact, it was successful in diverting attention from the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East.
Weir however, approaches the topic from a completely different perspective. Weir is an American patriot. She examines the extensive Zionist operation that hijacked her country and robbed the United States of its most precious values. Weir points out that time after time there has been an ethical and political clash between American national interests and the policies dictated by the Jewish pressure groups.
Against Our Better Judgment throws light on the depth, intensity and the efficiency of Zionist operators within America. The book reveals a ferocious, unified and coordinated campaign by the Zionists, and it is far from clear that the American people can find the political and cultural means to deal with this form of foreign and immoral intervention. Weir’s new book is a crucial and bold step in an attempt of a nation to restore its immune system.
By JAMES G. ABOUREZK | June 29, 2009
Wherever I heard that hackneyed phrase, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” it applies more today than anytime I can remember. What I don’t understand is, when our government has spent billions on bank bailouts (not a good idea) on bailing out the stupidity of the automobile executives (a better idea because it saves jobs for working people), why are members of Congress and the drug and insurance lobbies feeding this fairy tale that we cannot afford single payer health care.
Virtually every industrialized country in the world has a health care system that is paid for by tax revenues, making sure that it is available to everyone. Even Syria, which is not a rich country, sends medical students to medical school, then requires them, upon graduation, to serve in a village clinic at a very low salary. Medical care is provided for every Syrian citizen, although there is a private medical system for those who want to pay.
Neither, we are told, can we afford a national passenger rail system that would do a great deal to decrease pollution, cut down on the use of oil, and that would move people to every part of our country, just like it’s done in Europe and in Japan.
But we can’t afford either of these common sense projects, even though we are digging our financial hole deeper and deeper with other projects that we should bring to a close.
Israel. We are still shoveling money out of the door of our national treasury giving Israel all the money they need to finance their brutal occupation of the Palestinians, plus giving them one of the highest living standards in the world. The last time I checked with the Library of Congress, Israel had drained our treasury (money from American taxpayers) to well over 100 billion dollars.
And what have we received in return? Well, I am currently reading Attack on the Liberty, written by James Scott, a journalist whose father was an ensign on board the Liberty when Israel tried to destroy the U.S. Navy ship during the 1967 Middle East War. Whenever I feel like having my blood boil, I pick up the book and read another chapter describing the deliberate attack on our ship, which killed over 30 American sailors and wounded another 170. As bad as the attack was, the continuing cover up both by Israel and the U.S. government is an ongoing outrage.
Add to that, the unknown number of Israeli spies who are burrowing into our government to learn our secrets. Jonathan Pollard, for example, was paid by Israel to unload what authorities have described as “a truckload of secret documents” to Israel’s agents in this country. The latest episode of Israeli spying is notable for the speed with which the U.S. Justice Department dismissed the charges against the two pro-Israeli spies, despite the finding of guilty and a 12 year sentence to the U.S. official–Larry Franklin–who handed over the documents to the spies.
Other things we can do without include the manned space program. The shuttle program, which costs American taxpayers several billion dollars a year, would look better viewing it from the rear view mirror. Several Nobel laureate scientists, as well as this writer, have advocated an unmanned program for space exploration instead of the much costlier manned program. First of all, the manned program cannot go as far into space as an unmanned program can, and secondly, it is vastly cheaper while being more rewarding. But it’s difficult to stop the bleeding of taxpayers’ money once it starts
We have the same trouble financing our NATO involvement. Now, NATO was designed during the Cold War to protect Europe from the nasty Soviets. Now that the Soviets are no longer around, who does NATO protect? Only the arms manufacturers who benefit from weapons sales both to the U.S. and to NATO members.
I don’t think a lot of explanation is needed for reasons to get the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, I include Afghanistan in my exit strategy, mostly for the reason that we shouldn’t need the second kick of a mule to learn to stay away from the mule. We all witnessed the Soviets who were almost destroyed by their adventure in Afghanistan, and we should have learned that American troops are a natural target in places like that country. The only logical conclusion is to get our troops out of there, leaving it to the Taliban and the warlords and the Pakistanis to deal with that quagmire.
Although the pro-Israeli Zionists do not like to hear it, but a lot of our Middle East woes derive from the brutality of the continuing occupation of Palestine by the Israelis. What is unfortunate is that the American press spends its time and its talents trying to avoid discussing what Israel is doing in the Middle East.
I saw NBC’s David Gregory interviewing Bibi Netanyahu on Meet the Press. Discussing Iran, Netanyahu said that true democracies such as Israel would never commit violence against protesters. Gregory let that one go right past him, going on to the next puffball question to Bibi, which again he knocked over the fence. If I recall, it was another bit of hypocrisy meted out by the slick talking Prime Minister.
But that’s the state of our media today. There is 40 times the coverage of Michael Jackson’s heart attack than there was of the slaughter of 1,200 Gazans during Israel’s invasion last year. At times I feel sad about the death of America’s newspapers, but after seeing how they behave, and how they fail in their job of watching the government for the rest of us, maybe it’s for the best to let them all go under. They contribute little more than crossword puzzles and sports scores (which are for the betting public anyway).
We’ve reached the place in the hole we’re digging which might make us think about stopping.
James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. This article also runs in the current issue of Washington Report For Middle East Affairs. Abourezk can be reached at email@example.com
A Review of Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgment”
Having studied enough American Indian Tribes over the years, I have grown accustomed to creation myths that each Tribe assigns itself as its reason for being. And the definition of “chutzpah” that I’ve been taught is that of a young man on trial for murdering his parents, who throws himself on the mercy of the Court on grounds that he is an orphan.
That, as Alison Weir has made clear, is Israel’s situation. In Against Our Better Judgment, Ms. Weir writes with great clarity how the Zionist movement was able to move politicians, both in America and in England, to legalize a most illegal act–that of stealing an entire nation, and crying foul when those from whom it was stolen complained, then tried to retake the land.
Ms. Weir’s in depth research to expose Zionist actions in earlier times provides a solid basis for her conclusions about creating Israel from a land called Palestine. And she documents the intense lobbying done by Israel’s Zionist creators in order to legalize an action that was clearly illegal.
We are now living with the consequences of that bit of grand theft, i.e., the continuing violence in the Middle East, affecting everything America might want to do in the Middle East. We only recently have witnessed Bibi Netanyahu’s so far failed effort to have America invade and conquer Iran, a country that obviously is too much of a mouthful for Israel to bite off. Suddenly, even Barak Obama recognizes the danger in following Israel’s advice on how to conduct itself in the Middle East. The President tiptoed to the edge of the abyss but backed away when Israel’s trained seals in the U.S. Congress tried to push the nation over the edge.
We saw Congressional supporters of Israel shamefully initiating the dozens of applauses by the Joint Session of Congress when they entertained Prime Minister Netanyahu, who obliged the assembled mass with aggressive applause lines, designed to favor those who have a liking of violence and to show how Israel is “America’s staunchest ally” in the Middle East.
During the 1970s, when I was a member of the U.S. Senate, I was waiting my turn to testify on the Middle East situation before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As is the custom, the Administration witness was testifying ahead of me. I do not recall his name, but I felt very sorry for him when New York’s Senator Javits asked from the dais, “Please explain why Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East.”
The poor fellow did not have an answer. Granted, he was a lower level State Department official, but his lack of an answer was indicative of the lack of a story provided to him by his seniors in the State Department.
So Sen. Javits asked him again, and again, and again, trying to have a statement from some government official which Israel’s Lobby could use in its propaganda campaign to maintain Israel’s lofty position in the American mind. But the State Department official was unable to find an answer, which left Sen. Javits and his cohorts to try some other avenue. The Israel-is-a-vital-ally shibboleth has since been made into an overused slogan by supporters of Israel.
But each time I hear that phrase, “staunchest ally,” I think of the American sailors on the U.S.S. Liberty, who, during the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, died when the Israeli military was order to destroy its “ally’s” intelligence ship. During that act of friendship, America’s staunchest ally killed some 34 American sailors, and wounded another 170.
I also think of Jonathan Pollard, an American employee of our Pentagon, who sold what has been described as “a truckload” of the Pentagon’s secrets to Israel. I say “sold,” because Israel paid Pollard for the secrets, which Israel then traded to the Soviet Union for that country’s relaxation of rules with respect to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel.
With Ms. Weir’s well researched history in mind, I am forced to think of the cadre of American journalists who lately have assigned “oil” as the reason for George Bush’s Folly–the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They say nothing of the well known fact that George Bush had a number of Israel’s supporters giving him advice on the issue of Iraq. I’ve lost count of the billions of American dollars that were sucked up by that war, as well as the precious American lives that were lost to satisfy Israel’s agents in the Bush Administration, those who convinced President Bush to do something that Israel wanted, but knowing it was better if “America did it.” President Obama should be applauded for refusing to fall into the same trap with respect to Syria.
This provocative book documents a history that is essential in understanding today’s world. Scholarly, yet readable, it is a must for all Americans. We all need to know what we have spent by coddling Israel and its aggressions, and why the cost has become more than we have bargained for.
James Abourezk is a former U.S. Senator from South Dakota who plunged into the Middle East morass when he saw the cost to our country of Israel’s efforts to connive to have our country do Israel’s dirty work. His memoir, Advise & Dissent, has recently been re-published, along with a new Introduction by Sen. Fred Harris.
By James Petras | Clarity Press
This book provides a unique conception of US empire building, linking overseas expansion with:
- the growth of a police state and declining living standards;
- advanced technologically driven global spying on adversaries and allies with declining economic competitiveness and military defeats;
- large scale, long term commitments of economic and military resources to wars in the Middle East to the detriment of major corporate interests, but for the benefit of a pariah state, Israel; and
- the power of a foreign state (Israel) over US policy via its domestic pro-Zionist power configuration The interplay of these four specific features of US empire building has no past or present precedent among imperial states.
Because of Israeli-Zionist influence on US imperial policy, the main targets and objectives of imperial wars are located in the Middle East. The objectives of Israeli and Zionist- influenced US policy in the Middle East is to enhance Israeli regional power and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. The trillion dollar cost of US wars for Israel, however, has alienated the vast majority of US society and driven a wedge between the political elite backing new wars for Israel, and the public prioritizing of domestic economic welfare. This study highlights how the domestic foundations of empire building have deteriorated and forced the imperial presidency to modify its approach, seeking diplomatic negotiations over new military interventions, specifically in the cases of Syria and Iran.
Imperial politics is viewed as a multi-sided power struggle between military and economic elites, Israel and the Zionist power configuration, overseas resistance movements and nationalist regimes, and the US public. The resolution of this power struggle is more than an academic question; it will determine whether the US will become a full blown police state, ruled by the pawns of a racist-colonial state engaged in endless wars or return to its roots as an independent democratic republic “free of foreign entanglements”.
The politics of empire. The US, Israel and the Middle East
by James Petras
ISBN: 978-0-9860731-0-6 $18.95 / pp. / 2014
Available from Distributors in the USA, the UK/Europe, Middle East, Malaysia/Singapore
Request a review or desk copy
I’m seeing a false narrative being constructed by the media around the Iran nuclear talks which, as usual, will become repeated so often that it becomes ‘true’ by virtue of repetition, as is the case usually with most of the conventional wisdom about Iran.
According to this false narrative, Iran was engaged in nuclear “weapons-related” research which was stopped in 2003, mostly, and this was the cause of the confusion all along and the reason why the US thought Iran was making nukes and not negotiating with Iran.
And now Iran has to ‘come clean’ about this past research which misled the US into thinking that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, causing the US to impose sanctions on Iran, which then led to Iran ‘giving in’ to the sanctions and accepting talks whose ‘goal’ is to reduce or eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.
This is of course a PR spin that was invented by someone. It has the benefit of providing a nice little story line in which everyone comes out not a bad guy, and we can all just put it down to a case of miscommunication — like some sort of TV sitcom episode.
But that’s not what happened at all.
The only question is why they’re pushing this spin in the media. An optimist would say that the US side is pushing this narrative in order to portray its eventual agreement with Iran as some sort of victory, and the Iranian side may allow this face-saving move by the US if only to remove sanctions. BUT, i’m not an optimist. I think that just as the entire nuclear issue was always a red herring and distraction, just as ‘WMDs in Iraq’ was always just a pretext for an entirely different policy, I think that the presumption should be that the talks too are just pretextual and a tactic.
But we’ll see.
Anyway, everything in that narrative that the media is trying to cook and feed average Americans is complete baloney, and I could type out a book to debunk it. So just for example about the claim that Iran was involved in ‘nuke-related’ research: When the 2003 NIE came out saying that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the IAEA, whilst welcoming that conclusion, also pointed out that they had no evidence of a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003 either and NOTHING has changed since then, except that the IAEA head Elbaradei was replaced by US puppet Amano, who had sworn loyalty to the US and then started trying to give credence to the “Alleged studies” claims by renaming them ‘possible military dimensions’ and then issuing the ‘secret annex’ as part of the IAEA’s 2011 report that the previous IAEA head had dismissed as unverified claims. And to date NONE of the the claims have ever been verified, aside from anonymous claims of additional supporting information which no one has seen.
And that’s just one problem with this narrative. I could go on and on.
The point is, watch out for these false narratives and ‘conventional wisdom’ and don’t just ignore these claims in analysis pieces or reportage that proceed on such assumptions.
Aside from tha,t “nuclear related” research per se does not have to be reported by Iran to the IAEA anyway.
The Israeli military deployed a new division to the border with Syria in a move described as “a significant boost to border security and stability,” the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The 210th Regional Bashan Division replaced the 36th Armor Division and the Har Dov sector, which have been stationed on the occupied Golan Heights for 40 years.
The 36th Armor Division will become “an all-purpose wartime division, designed to be sent to any combat arena, such as Lebanon or Gaza, to support other divisions,” while the 210th Regional Bashan Division, with it’s “enhanced capabilities” backed by air defense systems and intelligence operations, will also have the ability “to carry out a ground maneuver in enemy territory.”
The deployment, dubbed “historic” has been planned months in advance, spurred by the volatile events across the border in Syria particularly in terms of fears that “there is no Syrian state sovereignty in areas bordering the southern Golan Heights, and global jihadi forces are expected to get stronger in such areas,” the Jerusalem Post said, citing Israeli intelligence assessments.
“The military sources said they do not expect Syria to recover from the civil war and go back to being a sovereign state in the foreseeable future, and they described the conflict as a strategic change that will be studied in future textbooks on Middle East history. It is impossible to know how Syria will turn out,” the report said.
“The IDF’s map of territory controlled by the Assad regime and the rebels is changing continuously,” it added.
Furthermore, the Jerusalem Post report noted that the 210th Division will be assisted by “a recently created Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, active along the Syrian border, and by a new security fence complete with electro-optical surveillance means and radars.”
The 210th Division will also have the ability to conduct military operations without seeking higher approval.
Yesterday, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) MP Michel Aoun announced that he mediated between Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, and the leader of the Future Movement (FM), former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which coincided with the restoration of security and political channels of communication between Hezbollah and the FM.
Is Lebanon witnessing a new political scene based on a five-party alliance in the government that can manage a truce, which would in turn allow the election of a new president?
In 2005, the four-party alliance excluded the FPM which had won an unequivocal majority of the Christian vote in the parliamentary elections. The new alliance includes, in addition to Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, the FM, the FPM’s Change and Reform bloc, the Phalange Party and the Progressive Socialist Party. Based on the sectarian considerations governing Lebanese politics, the sectarian representation in this alliance appears to be complete. This five-party alliance seems to have become a reality, as an increasingly positive environment seeps out little by little.
Aoun announced yesterday that he mediated between Hezbollah and the FM, and specifically between Nasrallah and Hariri. In addition, a step was taken in the same direction yesterday, prior to Aoun’s announcement, when the head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Wafiq Safa, visited the new Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi at his apartment in Achrafieh.
The official goal of the meeting was to offer congratulations to Rifi for his ministerial appointment, but the form the meeting took gives it additional significance. In addition to Rifi and Safa, the meeting was attended by the head of the Internal Security Force’s (ISF) Information Branch, Colonel Imad Othman and director of the ISF Operations Room, Colonel Hussam al-Tannoukhi.
According to political sources, Tannoukhi – who is on good terms with the leaders of both Hezbollah and the FM – arranged the meeting which relaunched the security and political communication back channels between the two sides. This back channel had maintained contact between both parties until Rifi’s retirement and the rising political tension between Hezbollah and the FM.
While at Rifi’s home, Safa called the new interior minister, Nohad al-Machnouk, and congratulated him on his new post. Political sources said that this “positive environment comes as a follow-up to the efforts that resulted in the formation of the new government and can be relied upon to carry the government through future political junctures such as the ministerial statement and the presidential elections.”
In a related matter, Aoun confirmed that he met both Hariri and Nasrallah, explaining: “Whoever wants to conduct mediation to bring disparate parties closer together has to talk to everyone, that is why I met both of them.”
When asked if his willingness to accept Rifi as interior minister during consultations on government formation angered Hezbollah, Aoun replied: “I was not present during the distribution of ministries and I am not the prime minister charged with assigning ministers to the various ministries. There was a difference of opinion between Hezbollah and the FM on this issue. To form the government, we suggested a kind of solution based on exchanging posts.”
Regarding concerns over the ministerial appointments of Machnouk and Rifi, especially since the Interior and Justice ministries could facilitate the work of terrorists and takfiris, Aoun argued “this issue is handled by the judiciary and the government as a whole and does not rely on the authority of one or two ministers.”
Akhbar Al-Yawm News Agency revealed that a family dinner was held Thursday evening at Aoun’s home in Rabieh and it included FPM minister Gibran Bassil and the director of the Future Movement’s presidential office, Nader Hariri. The obstacles that were still facing the formation of the government were overcome at this meeting.
In addition, information emerged in the past few days that Bassil traveled to Saudi Arabia last week where he met Saad Hariri.