What follows is an approximate transcription of an interview with Ken O’Keefe, a peace activist from London.
Press TV: Do you see this as a project that the United States really wants to stop this terrorist group or not?
O’Keefe: Absolutely not, and I find it laughable that anybody would even consider the United States to be seriously interested in ending terrorism.
We have had over 13 years of this farcical war on terror, all of it built on lies, from the false-flag of 9/11 to the non-prosecution of Osama bin Laden because the FBI admitted that there was no evidence linking him to 9/11, from every policy since the invasion, occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq; the attack on Libya, destroying that country; attempting to fully destroy Syria, all of this is terrorism – terrorism on a grand scale!
Let’s throw in Israel and its genocide against the Palestinians, the use of white phosphorus, depleted uranium and all sorts of other weapons of mass destruction against a civilian population in Gaza, which is comprised of over 900,000 children, and you find that the United States is without question the number one terrorist of the 20th and 21st century.
How in the world can anyone seriously believe that the United States has any interest in ending terrorism?
It is the ultimate terrorist.
Its little boogeyman creations of al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL – whatever the hell they call themselves tomorrow – is nothing more than the boogeyman necessary to justify this military industrial complex which is running roughshod over the world.
Press TV: Does the killing of an American citizen always trigger a specific type of a reaction from the United States?
O’Keefe: These beheadings have largely been debunked.
At the very least the people that are being executed in these videos are not alive.
We know when you execute somebody by cutting off their head when their heart is still beating blood will pour forth very profusely. This is not the case with these videos.
It also is one massive manipulation to suggest that the life of one or two Americans somehow justifies yet another invasion and occupation in which we have destroyed three countries at the very minimum in terms of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
We have largely caused the breeding grounds for so-called terrorism all around the region.
It beggars’ belief that anyone would be manipulated in yet another policy in which invasion, bombing, occupation and ultimately destruction of entire areas is somehow going to make the world a better place.
We have seen this all before and the United States is repeating its same role as it has been and it will make for more blood and more guts and more misery, and ultimately a breeding ground for those who see the West for what it is: absolutely hypocritical.
The West has no moral authority whatsoever.
It is in no position at all to discuss any issue regarding morality because it is the most corrupt and most violent of all peoples on this planet.
The West is the problem, not the rest of the world.
Our little boogeyman that we create will stop once we stop having the power through the global reserve currency of the US dollar to be able to pay these psychopaths to run around and behead and so on and so forth.
Press TV: What kind of precedent does this send? – Because US President Barack Obama has basically sent a message to the Syria government that if the Syrian government attacks any of their airplanes that they will take out their anti-aircraft system, basically that they would be under attack.
What does this mean when you’re talking about a sovereign country that another country has the right to go in and do whatever they want? – Whether they agree or disagree with the way that government does this business. What type of precedent does this set?
O’Keefe: It is not a precedent at all.
We have already been bombing Pakistan, Yemen. We have been running around the world and basically in a lawless kind of way have been carrying out policies including executions of anyone anywhere anytime based on the so-called president of the United States having a meeting and declaring somebody to be a terrorist.
This even includes American citizens. There is no sovereignty of nations. There is no international law.
This so-called intelligence analyst, this intelligence analyst seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that it was the United States which supported the Mujahideen which became al-Qaeda, which morphed into the al-Nusra Front, then ISIS, ISIL, IS – whatever the hell you want to call it – has been funding these people, training these people, providing bases, training in Jordan and also in Turkey, their little proxies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Kuwait have been funneling money and arms.
And now we’re being told that they are going to be training these so-called moderate factions of resistance in Syria in Saudi Arabia. That bastion of moderate behavior, the Wahabi Saudi Arabia regime, one of the most offensive – if not the most offensive regimes – on the planet, a place that we give weapons and we give cover to, political cover, media cover.
The idea that an intelligence analyst could be so oblivious and so completely incompetent at its own field that he does not recognize that the United States having supported, armed, trained, coddled and protected all these terrorists for decades now is beyond belief.
He cannot be so stupid, surely, not to know that the United States has an inherent interest in propping up continuously one boogeyman after another to justify what I said earlier, the military industrial complex, the goal of full spectrum dominance, military bases all around the world, and people with half a brain know this.
Press TV: We are looking at this type of scenario that it seems to repeat itself time and time again, especially if we are looking at a post-9/11 world. As you have said, we see boogeyman after boogeyman sort of being created.
I want to look at then the American people and do you think that this time they had to take it or it appears that the extremist nature that ISIL is presenting itself was something that it had to be that extreme in order to shake the American people up, who are extremely war-weary but because of the extent of the violence that they’re seeing that actually they will get on the bandwagon for another war in the region?
O’Keefe: What we have really is an amazing point in human history in which the sleeping masses that are literally mind-controlled through many different mechanisms from childhood in schools are brainwashed with all sorts of rubbish.
Even the pledge of allegiance which I said, along with every other school kid, ends with “liberty and justice for all”.
We have been indoctrinated with such incredible insanity that it becomes a reality for us, and many Americans are still caught up in that as are many people around the world.
But we also have at this time a growing number of people who are recapturing the ability to think for themselves and to recognize the history of both the United States and the West in general, and also the crimes of others – let us not be oblivious to the crimes of others.
But at the end of the day I come from the West and what we can see is that my birth nation, the United States, is the number one terrorist. This is simply not debatable.
I understand that many people are still being conned into believing this nonsense, the latest boogeyman creation, but ever-growing numbers of people are not buying it. They are not. And this is extremely promising and a necessary step for us to create a better world.
If we really wanted to end ISIS we would cut off their funding. And if we wanted to we could help the Iraqi government and the military and they could wipe them out in no time with a little bit of genuine financial support to be able to do what they need to do.
Iran would be an excellent partner in this. I would encourage Iraq to invite Iran in to help them wipe them out, because Iran definitely has an interest in ending real terrorism. That is why the foreign minister all too rightly said we are not all too convinced that America is serious about it. I think he is way too diplomatic, quite frankly.
But at the end of the day the United States is not serious about ending terrorism. It thrives on terrorism. Many Americans are growing to understand this.
Press TV: What scenario is this setting up, Ken, if we are looking at on the one hand, as you said that the United States does not really want to end terrorism, and on the other hand they are directly once again involved in the region, not that they were not in the region but now more directly in Iraq and again Syria.
What is this setting up? Tell me, how do you see this basically? How are you reading what is going to happen with the United States getting involved with this situation with ISIL? What is it? Do you think that they really want to destroy them because perhaps they have served their purpose or no, do they just want to see this chaos continue in the region?
O’Keefe: Chaos in the region is extremely advantageous.
The Project for a New American Century and Clean Break is an important document to read also.
Also, Oded Yinon’s strategy for Israel in the 1980s made it very clear that Iraq was target number one because of its strong Arab nationalist dictatorship.
Ultimately in the overall scheme you have this fantasy agenda of greater Israel: Israel expanding as the next great empire into Iraq, into Syria, Lebanon, also in part of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. This is their goal and it is a psychopath’s goal.
Right now all of this chaos that you see in that region fits perfectly in line with strategy papers. The policy is being carried out exactly as it was written. And the seeds of sectarian hatred and divide, which are necessary to fracture the people of the region so that they will be in a weakened state and therefore be subject to the real intention and goal, is again to expand the Israeli empire.
Ultimately this is all going to fall flat on its face but right now the chaos that is being sown is extremely advantageous for the powers that be.
Let us be clear, if that is possible, about President Obama’s plan to deal with ISIS, the boogeyman of America’s own making. The president last week swore that he would “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, after having spent three years providing weapons and money to jihadists fighters, including ISIS, in hopes that they would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Syrian state of president Bashar Assad. So, the Americans set out to destroy one state, in Syria, whose government had never presented any danger to the U.S., and wind up creating another state, a caliphate astride the borders of Syria and Iraq, that openly declares its intention to do battle with the U.S.
Obama assures us that he is assembling a new coalition of the willing to join him in smashing ISIS. It turns out that every prospective member of the coalition was a co-conspirator with the United States in giving birth to ISIS – Britain and France and other Europeans, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates…ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.
Obama appears to be leaving the natural gas-rich nation of Qatar out of his coalition, which doesn’t seem fair, since Qatar was a loyal ally of the United States and NATO just three years ago, when Obama was busy trying to degrade and destroy another state, Libya, which also posed no threat to the U.S. The emir of Qatar worked his gaseous little butt off for Obama, sending money and guns and mercenaries to help the Libyan jihadists that the U.S. wanted to install as the new government.
Once regime change had been accomplished in Libya, Qatar helped the Americans send hundreds of Libyan jihadists to Syria, to put that regime out of business. But, Libya never did get a new state, to replace the one that was destroyed in 2011. Instead, the country is wracked by civil war, that is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its friends and Qatar.
Wars Within Wars Within Regime Changes
It seems that Qatar backed the wrong side – the Muslim Brotherhood – after the regime change in Egypt in 2011. The Saudi Arabian royal family hates the Muslim Brotherhood, because the Brotherhood advocate elections, and kings don’t do elections. So, the Saudis bankrolled another regime change in Egypt, putting the military back in charge, and are now fighting a proxy war with Qatar in Libya. Which is why the Saudis blackballed Qatar from participating in Obama’s coalition of the willing against ISIS. (You do understand all this, right?)
Turkey, which is part of NATO, has been a wonderful father to ISIS, allowing the caliphate’s fighters free use of its long border with Syria and Iraq. In return, Turkey gets to buy the cheap oil from the fields that ISIS seized from Syria and Iraq, which makes the Turks somewhat reluctant to try to kill little baby ISIS.
It’s starting to look like Obama might have to take out the caliphate on his own, which is why the president’s top military advisor is talking about putting serious U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, and maybe in Syria. Meanwhile, Obama is putting together a new army of rebels to continue the job of degrading and destroying the Syrian state – unless, of course, these new fighters just take the money and guns and join ISIS, too.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
There’s nothing like a war and the bombing of a foreign bogeyman to unite Americans. Since President Barack Obama made his nationwide announcement last week of open-ended war to destroy the militant ISIS network in Iraq and Syria – a terror network covertly set up by the US in the first place – the polls show a majority of American public now supporting the call for all-out air strikes.
And American politicians on both sides of Congress are also united in their support for the president’s burnished war effort. House Republican leader John Boehner has opposed Obama on all manners of domestic policies, but when it comes to going on a foreign blitzkrieg, well, that’s a “compelling case.”
Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to finalize on how much budget cuts to slash ordinary American citizens with, but they sure can close ranks on drumming up an extra $500 million to pour more weapons into war-torn Syria. It must be the “smell of napalm in the morning” that stimulates their erogenous zones.
Beyond the US, however, the newly formed “international coalition” for the American-led fight against ISIS, also known as IS or ISIL, is far from united. Indeed, early signs are that Anti-Terror Team USA is self-imploding from its own internal contradictions and dubious criminal nature.
Earlier this week, on the day before Obama’s 9/11 reminder speech for expanding the fraudulent war on terror, his secretary of state John Kerry was scouring the Middle East soliciting allies to bomb extremists in Iraq and Syria. On Wednesday, Kerry was telling CNN that such a coalition would involve “40 participating nations.”
After tours of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Kerry was able to dragoon just 10 Arab states into joining the US bombing manifest.
‘Arab States Give Tepid Support To US Fight Against ISIS,’ reported the New York Times on September 12. These states include Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf medieval oil sheikhdoms of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman, plus Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. That’s hardly a constellation of legal probity and virtue; more like a rogue’s gallery of serial human rights violators.
A joint communiqué signed in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah stated a “shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism”. But the NYT noted: “The underlying tone was one of reluctance.” Even two of the signatories, Egypt and Jordan, expressed uneasy reservations about US plans to bomb ISIS into oblivion, despite signing up to the communiqué.
The Magnificent Ten in Jeddah vowed to: end financing of extremist groups; prevent the flow of weapons to such groups; halt the supply of fighters; curb the spread of extremist ideology; and increase humanitarian aid to Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia also promised to set up training camps for “moderate rebels” who would allegedly counteract the extremist ISIS network.
That chore list sounds rather more like a confession of past crimes that some of these US allies have been up to over the past three years: financing, arming, manning and promoting ISIS and its ilk to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and Iraq. As for Wahhabi head-chopping Saudi Arabia setting up training camps to counteract its very own Wahhabi-sponsored head-chopping extremists in ISIS that’s just a risible joke.
Kerry tried to put a brave face on his dysfunctional regional posse. “Arab nations play a critical role, indeed a leading role,” he said in Jeddah, with a bravado that belied the fact that this proposed bombing campaign against ISIS is a US-led operation to give itself a license to bomb Syria for its long-held regime-change objective; the only critical role that these Arab puppets have is to give the covert campaign a veneer of Arab consent so that it doesn’t look like American imperialism on another criminal, murderous rampage – which it is.
NATO member Turkey, although non-Arab, dealt a blow from the outset to the US coalition by refusing to sign up. The Ankara government said it would not allow American warplanes to use its territory for air strikes against ISIS either in Iraq or Syria. Turkey has nearly 50 of its citizens currently held in captivity by the extremist groups in Syria and said that its “hands were tied.”
Ankara has also been a covert arms supplier of ISIS and other extremists, such as Jabhat al Nusra, along with the US and other NATO members, in a bid to oust the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad since mid-March 2011. That regime-change plan in Syria has failed miserably, with Assad winning overwhelmingly a presidential election last June, thus disproving the Western propaganda campaign of a popular revolution rising up against a tyrant.
Where the covert Western-backed terrorist campaign has failed on the ground, now Washington wants to add air power under the guise of “destroying” the ISIS terror network – a network that it in fact has spawned for the purpose of regime change in Syria. What are the bets that any US-led bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will soon morph into US air strikes on Assad government forces, which is the main target for Washington, not its CIA-sponsored mercenaries in ISIS?
Turkey is mindful of blowback terrorism if it were to publicly join in US-led air strikes against ISIS. All of the Arab bombing coalition are no doubt mindful of the same treacherous contradiction, hence their reported reluctance to sign up to the scheme, as the New York Times noted.
Meanwhile, Russia, Syria and Iran immediately warned of the legal consequences of Obama’s bombing strategy. The Iraqi government has approved, so that gives Washington a claim on legality for continuing its strikes against ISIS in the north of that country. But not so the Syrian government.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that without the consent of the Syrian government in Damascus or a UN Security Council mandate, any US-led air strikes on ISIS inside Syrian territory would amount to “a gross violation of international law”. The Syrian authorities added that any such US intervention would be “an act of aggression on a sovereign country.”
Obama claims that he has “executive war powers” to bomb and kill whomever he wants, under the fascistic post-9/11 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). But this White House Murder Inc. policy is increasingly threadbare and morally abhorrent. All the more so because Washington is exhorting the European Union to slap tougher economic sanctions on Russia for allegedly intervening militarily in Ukraine – which Moscow adamantly says it is not and moreover points out that there is no evidence of.
The dubious legality, not to mention logistical viability, of Washington’s latest bomb-first-ask-questions-later proposals to defeat the Frankenstein monster of its own creation in Iraq and Syria is cause for pause among even America’s pathetic European lackeys.
The French are balking at the prospect of bombing its former Syrian colony. French President Francois Hollande said: “France is ready to act, but once the political accord is there and in respect of international law.” That’s French diplomacy-speak for: “Don’t count on us being caught complicit in American war crimes.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was even more categorical in spurning the US-led coalition. Speaking in Berlin the day after Obama’s bravura televised speech to his nation, Germany’s top diplomat said of possible air strikes: “To be quite clear, we have not been asked to do so and neither will we do so.”
Britain’s Foreign Minister Philip Hammond also ruled out British involvement in US-led air strikes inside Syria. Hammond said his government supported the US-led coalition – placating the megalomaniac Yanks – but he told Reuters : “Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria. We have already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won’t be revisiting that position.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to quickly snub Hammond later on Friday when he said that “nothing was being ruled out” as far as British warplanes are concerned in possible Syria operations with the Americans.
Nevertheless, despite Cameron’s obviously compensatory bluster, it seems clear that the US-led campaign to “destroy ISIS” is already running out of commitment, even among Washington’s most dutiful, pathetically servile allies; and no wonder, too. This US-led anti-terror bombing coalition is such a barrel of volatile lies, unstable contradictions and inflammatory expediency it is bound to implode before it even starts to roll.
Syrian media accused Arab governments Tuesday of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against jihadists, with one daily calling for Damascus to form an alternative alliance with Moscow and Tehran.
The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.
“Washington, which used the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter the region militarily in 2003 and draw new geopolitical lines… is returning today under a new false pretext, the fight against terrorism,” said the Al-Baath newspaper.
“The Arabs meanwhile, are absent from every decision and are playing secondary roles,” it added.
The Baath party daily was referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which notoriously the alleged chemical and biological weapons that were used to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime were never found.
Kerry is set to meet foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the six Gulf Arab states in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
The talks are part of US efforts to build a coalition to tackle ISIS, which has seized large tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and carried out abuses including the decapitation of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese and two American journalists.
On Sunday, the Arab League pledged to take “necessary measures” to confront ISIS, and said it was ready for “international cooperation on all fronts.”
But Syria, and its ally Iran, will not be present at the talks in Saudi Arabia, and Damascus fears efforts to tackle ISIS will involve air strikes on its territory without its permission.
State-run newspaper Al-Thawra warned: “The United States is setting the stage to bring new wars to the region.
“Its local partners are ready to carry out its orders without even knowing the details of the American plan,” it added.
Government daily Tishrin questioned why Kerry and US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel were coming to the region “when the Arab League has already given its prior agreement for a new war in the region organized by the United States.”
A newspaper called for the formation of an alternative “Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition” against the jihadists to that being put together by Washington.
“Western and regional governments are excluding the nations that really want to fight terrorism,” it said, charging that the US-led coalition included nations that “support terrorism financially, military and logistically.”
Damascus considers all rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists” and has long accused the rebels’ supporters, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of funding “terror.”
Similarly, critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.
On Monday, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.
Media Myths and Distortions
Syria will be an important subject of discussion at this week’s NATO Summit meeting in Wales. The US and NATO powers will evaluate whether to expand air strikes against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq & Syria) into Syria, whether to do it in cooperation with the Syrian government and whether to increase support to the “moderate” armed opposition. The US mainstream media and politicians have been beating the war drums with Republican Senator McCain calling for military escalation and Democratic Senator Feinstein criticising President Obama for being “too cautious”.
There has been little mention of the fact that it is one year since the highly publicized chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta outskirts of Damascus. The same elements who are pushing for “regime change” military action now were doing so one year ago. Since then, the case that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack has been effectively discredited. The diplomatically negotiated agreement to remove all Assad’s chemical weapons has been successfully implemented. One would think this would merit attention, but it has been widely ignored.
One good thing in the media this week is recognition that Libya is now in chaos. This is the country which was “liberated” by NATO bombing which led to the murder of President Ghadaffi and collapse of that government. Nine months ago a plurality of Libyans said they are worse off than before the regime change. It’s very likely that even more Libyans are unhappy with their externally imposed regime change today. Three years ago NATO members were congratulating themselves on the air war against Libya. Now they are hopefully more sober as it goes public that Libya is in chaos, the airport shut down, competing extremists fighting for dominance, with one faction enjoying themselves in the US Embassy swimming pool.
The Obama Administration is at another turning point where it may choose to escalate its aggression against Syria. Clearly Obama and team do not want to go solo. The dreams of a“New American Century” with unchallenged US dominance have been broken by reality in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. But the hounds of war and aggression are noisy and persistent.
As NATO begins to deliberate whether and how to escalate aggression against Syria, let’s review some recent and long standing myths and lies about the Syrian conflict.
Some articles and even the (current) Wikipedia entry for James Foley (journalist) claim that he was a prisoner of the Syrian military and that they turned him over to ISIS. This is in perfect keeping with the pervasive demonization of the Assad government. However it’s false. A serious investigation into the disappearance of Foley is in the May 2014 Vanity Fair. Foley was captured by Nusra Front (or allied rebels) in November 2012 and later transferred or sold to ISIS.
Both NY Times’ Anne Barnard and John McCain suggest or assert that the Syrian government has collaborated with ISIS. The “evidence” of this is that the Syrian Army did not actively attack ISIS in eastern Syria during the past year.
The reality is that Syrian Army needs to pick and choose its battles and priorities. They are weakened by over three years of intense conflict resulting in at least 65 THOUSAND Syrian army and militia deaths. For reference, the total US death count in Vietnam was 58 thousand and Syria today is one tenth the size of the US in the 1970’s. In the past year the Syrian military has focused on confronting armed opposition in Aleppo (the largest city), Homs, outer Damascus and the Lebanese border area. The Syrian military has gained ground in each of these areas along with implementing the national “reconciliation” policy.
In the past two months, ISIS has gone on the offensive in eastern Syria and is pressing towards Aleppo and central Syria with US equipment and weaponry captured in Iraq. The battles have taken a heavy toll on both ISIS and the Syrian military. According to rebel aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 346 ISIS fighters were killed in a four day assault on Tabqa Air Base near Raqqa. The fighting has been brutal with heavy losses on both sides.
Longtime Mideast journalist Patrick Cockburn writes, “A conspiracy theory, much favoured by the rest of the Syrian opposition and by Western diplomats, that Isis and Assad are in league, has been shown to be false.”
In contrast with the myth, ISIS has in fact been aided and abetted by US allies. This includes funds from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, ideology and recruitment by Saudi media, transportation and safe haven through Turkey.
It is usually claimed that the Syrian conflict is a civil war that started with peaceful protests in 2011. In reality the seeds of the conflict were planted much earlier. General Wesley Clark’s 2007 memoir described plans for “regime change” in Syria and other countries. Also in 2007 Seymour Hersh documented the US strategy of fomenting conflict in Syria (and Iran) by working with Sunni extremists:
“The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
When mass protests began in Syria they included violent attacks and murders of police from the beginning. The situation was the same in other regions. Jesuit priest Father Frans Van Der Lugt was widely respected by Sunni Muslims and Christians in the Old City of Homs. He described the start of the protests thus:
“From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”
The conflict in Syria has been primarily instigated and continued by some of the world’s wealthiest and powerful governments. They make no secret and call themselves, with Orwellian chutzpah, the “Friends of Syria”. Their division of labor including who pays the salaries of the rebel mercenaries, who supplies communication equipment, who does training and who supplies weapons. Thus the conflict in Syria is primarily a war of aggression using domestic and foreign mercenaries.
It is often suggested the “moderate opposition” is popular, democratic and secular.
President Obama has recently proposed giving $500 million to the “moderate opposition”.
Patrick Cockburn sums up the reality in the newly released book “The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising”:
“It is here that self-deception reigns, because the Syrian military opposition is dominated by ISIS and by Jabhat Al Nusra, the official Al Queda representative, in addition to other extreme jihadi groups. In reality there is no dividing wall between them and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”
This siuation is not new. A NY Times article in summer 2012 discussed the hidden presence of Al Queda within the “Free Syrian Army”. When he read this, James Foley sent out a tweet linking to the article and pondering whether the photographed black flag was necessarily Al Queda. He did not recognize the flag and wondered whether it was “some misc jihadi group”. Ironically that was the unique flag of ISIS before it was widely recognized. The “misc jihadi” group is the one that would later murder him.
Foley’s last article documented the overall unpopularity of the rebels in Aleppo:
“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.”
Finally there is the myth that the Free Syrian Army and other “moderate opposition” groups were not supported. In reality, huge quantities of weapons and ammunition have flowed which is exactly what has allowed the terrorist organizations to continue the mayhem and bloodshed. Starting in November 2012 three thousand TONS of weapons and ammunition were flown from Zagreb to Turkey and then transferred to the Syrian rebels. In addition there were huge shipments from Benghazi Libya and more shipments paid by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
DO USA AND NATO REALLY WANT TO STOP ISIS?
One week after the Syrian Presidential election where 73% of the electorate turned out, ISIS made its advance through western Iraq to Mosul and other cities. There were virtually no battles. Iraqi military leadership simply departed and in the confusion troops fled or disbanded. Was this a military collapse or was it planned, with key Iraqi figures either bribed or otherwise in alliance with ISIS? Whichever is the truth,we can see the consequences and who has benefited: the campaign for greater autonomy in the oil rich Kurdish region has advanced; the split between Shia and Sunni has been exacerbated; and one of the world’s greatest overnight military arms transfers took place with ISIS effortlessly taking control of vehicles, humvees, tanks, lethal mortar launchers, high grade military equipment and tons of ammunition.
Did US military officers, who spent years and billions of dollars “training” the Iraqi military, have advance notice or knowledge of this seeming collusion between ISIS and Iraqi military officers? Did wealthy enemies of Syria simply bribe the Iraqi officers? Was it a “collapse” or is there much more behind this? How can a few hundred jihadi militants traveling in new Toyota pickup truck convoys surprise and overtake military checkpoints and bases without a fight unless there was collusion at the highest levels?
Actions reveal more than words. If the US and NATO really are worried about ISIS they can and will implement measures such as the following:
* shut down the Jihadi Highway through Turkey.
* shut down safe haven and supply routes of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Turkey
* provide useful information from surveillance flights to the Syrian army which is doing the main on-the-ground fighting
* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar stop broadcasting TV programs featuring hate speech which serve to recruit jihadis to join ISIS.
* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar implement measures to stop funding for ISIS through their banks and other financial operations.
Will the US and NATO take practical steps to counter ISIS or will they escalate their aggression against Syria, violating Syrian air space and looking for a pretext to impose a “no fly zone” as done in the disastrous aggressions against Iraq and Libya?
Will the US and NATO start a bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria which will ignite MORE support for the group in the Arab world?
Will they violate Syrian air space as a stepping stone to US bombing of Syrian army positions?
Or will the US and NATO resist the hounds of war and finally put aside the campaign of regime change against a secular, socialist inclined government that is supported by a big majority of its people?
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be contacted at email@example.com
As Israel continues to prosecute its criminal war against the people of the Gaza Strip, its leaders in Tel Aviv are counting more and more on the Arab regimes to confront the Palestinian resistance and reduce its effectiveness. Former Defence Minister and Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, General Shaul Mofaz, has called for a role to be “allocated” for Saudi Arabia and the UAE to disarm Hamas and other resistance groups.
Speaking on Israel’s Channel 10, Mofaz explained that it would be impossible for its army to demilitarise the Strip by force even if it were to re-occupy it completely. As such, he claimed, the matter requires a comprehensive diplomatic, political and economic plan for such an objective to be achieved.
He pointed out that there is an urgent need to convince the people of Gaza of the necessity to collaborate in implementing such a plan. This would require offering the carrot, represented by a generous financial reward, to convince them to cooperate with any international or regional effort that could contribute to achieving this goal. He noted that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE could, in the present circumstance, play an important role in providing the finances for this reward.
Meanwhile, a prominent Israeli military commentator has called for an official investigation into the political, military and intelligence failures of Israel’s war on the coastal territory. This follows growing indications that the Zionist state is not achieving its objectives.
In an article in Maariv newspaper on Saturday, Ran Edelist said that there is cause to suspect that the assessment of the internal security intelligence agency, Shin Bet, on the basis of which the Netanyahu government took the decision to go to war in Gaza, might have been influenced by the ideological motives of its leaders. Edelist pointed out that Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen belongs to the religious Zionist movement, and his deputy, who is referred to as “R”, is a settler known for his ideological extremism. They produced the recommendations for the government regarding Hamas from an extremist viewpoint rather than from an objective professional position, he claimed. Edelist accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of ordering the campaign against Gaza in the hope of improving his political status and reducing opposition to him within his own Likud Party. There are growing calls for his resignation.
According to Audi Siegel, the political affairs commentator on Channel 2 TV, the only solution for the Gaza predicament is for Israel to recognise Gaza as an independent entity and deal with all the consequences. Also writing in Maariv, Siegel said that it has become evident that Israel’s ability to control the resistance in Gaza and destroy the Hamas movement is zero. He noted that all the assumptions upon which Israel made the decision to launch a war on Gaza have collapsed.
Siegel said that recognising the Hamas government in Gaza might improve the security environment for Israel. If not, he added, it would possible to garner international support to justify any military step Israel might then take against the territory.
Egyptian comedian and TV satirist Bassem Youssef said Monday his show has been cancelled, citing pressures faced by the Saudi-owned MBC group to suspend his show.
According to producers of the show, as quoted by Reuters, the latest episode poked fun at the latest presidential elections, particularly the staggeringly low turnout and the resulting pro-Al-Sisi media panic.
MBC spokesman Mazen Hayek said that his group “had no hand” in the decision to suspend the show, saying the channel “did its best” to keep the show on air.
He refused to respond to questions regarding Saudi government pressures to cancel the show.
The Saudi government is one of the main backers of the former army chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who led the July 3 military coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi. Al-Sisi won a controversial presidential election last week in what has been internationally denounced as an illegitimate and unfair process.
Introduction by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett
Ongoing nuclear diplomacy between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 has both Iranian and non-Iranian players in the international oil market focused on the prospects for Iran’s re-emergence as a major oil producer and exporter.
–For most market players, the ideal scenario is one in which conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 leads to a lifting of all sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
–Of course, even if a deal is reached, its implementation—especially in terms of sanctions relief—could be messier and more protracted than this ideal scenario would posit.
–And, as we’ve argued previously, if negotiations fail to produce a final nuclear agreement, Tehran calculates that Iranian willingness to conclude what the rest of the world besides America, Britain, France, and Israel would consider a reasonable deal will make it easier for other countries to rebuild and expand economic ties to the Islamic Republic—and make those countries less willing to continue accommodating U.S. demands for compliance with its (grossly illegal) secondary sanctions.
In any event, it seems likely that Iran will be putting more of its oil onto international markets. Against this backdrop, we are pleased to publish below a piece by Erfan Ghassempour, “The Geneva Nuclear Deal and Its Effect on Iran’s Approach in OPEC.” Erfan is a young Iranian lawyer who studied at Tabriz University and is now finishing his masters in international law at Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran. He works for Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Corporation and also writes as an independent energy analyst. We are pleased to welcome him as an Going to Tehran contributor.
How the Iran Nuclear Deal May Impact Iran’s Approach in OPEC
by Erfan Ghassempour
Iran is thinking seriously about how to put its crude oil back on the market, and—following the November 2013 Geneva interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program—is planning for a future when sanctions no longer hamper its oil industry. The country is changing its contracts for the exploration, development, and production of its oil and gas resources to tempt major international oil companies to return to its petroleum sector. Iran’s Petroleum Minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, has expressly invited seven oil giants to invest in Iran after sanctions are lifted.
Iranian ambitions are also reflected in Tehran’s approach to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). At the most recent OPEC meeting, held in December 2013—in the wake of the Geneva nuclear deal—Zanganeh made a powerful impression, warning other members to make room for Iranian crude. One way or another, he declared, Iran plans to increase its oil output to four million barrels per day (bpd), even if prices decrease to twenty dollars per barrel. (Some analysts think that the highest output Iran could achieve in the near-to-medium term after the lifting of sanctions would be 3-3.5 million bpd—but even that would mean a significant increase in Iranian oil exports, which, according to Zanganeh, are now at 1.5 million bpd.)
Iran’s reemergence on the international oil scene comes at a time when developments in other OPEC member states are increasing the likelihood of an appreciable rise in Middle Eastern oil production—e.g., Iraq’s security is improving, and strikes and rebel attacks seem to be ebbing in Libya. Zanganeh argues that, even in this context, Iran’s return to the oil market should have no negative impact on prices. As he told the OPEC Bulletin, over the years other OPEC members had “gone out of the market” for some time, “but when they returned to the market, OPEC knew how to deal with the situation—to create room to maintain the extra capacity, so that these countries can have a good return and for it not to have a bad impact on prices.”
At least on the surface, other OPEC players responded positively to Zanganeh’s message. OPEC’s secretary general, Abdalla el-Badri, welcomed Iran’s return to the market, denying any concern at this prospect. Even Iran’s biggest political and oil rival, in the region, Saudi Arabia (the biggest oil producer in OPEC), welcomed an increase in Iranian production. Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister, Ali Naimi, told reporters that he did not see a price war on the horizon: “They are welcome, everyone is welcome to put in the market what they can; the market is big and has many variables—when one comes in, another comes out.” Mr. Naimi also stated, “I hope Iran comes back [and] produces all it can.”
Iran is also stepping up its cooperation with Iraq on oil issues. At the December 2013 OPEC meeting, Iraq vigorously defended Iran’s plans to raise oil production, while also making clear that Iraq would remain outside OPEC’s quota system and that other members should decrease their production, if necessary, to make room for both Iran and Iraq. (Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussein al-Shahristani, has announced that his country intends to increase its oil output to nine million bpd by 2020, partly through cooperation with Iran.) Recently, Iraq has been helping Iran to develop new contracts to attract more foreign investment to its oil sector. Baghdad and Tehran have also established a committee to oversee the joint exploitation of fields lying astride the Iranian-Iraqi border. Some analysts think that the two countries are drawing closer to maximize their relative power and influence—on oil-related issues as well as on strategic and political matters—vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia.
As the six-month deadline for the Geneva interim deal approaches, Iran’s determination to produce more crude becomes stronger. If a permanent nuclear deal is reached at the end of six months (that is, on or around July 20), it would mean that sanctions will be lifted and Iran will renew its upstream and downstream activities.
So far, the interim deal has been well implemented. The International Atomic Energy Agency affirms that Iran is fulfilling its commitments; the West has returned some of the Iranian funds that have been frozen in Western banks and has eased some sanctions. None of the parties has been motivated to breach the interim agreement. On the Iranian side, the political and economic atmosphere in Iran suggests that Iranian officials are willing to continue this approach; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has publicly expressed his support for the ongoing nuclear negotiations. On the American side, while some political factions in the United States want President Obama to increase pressure on Iran, this seems more a matter of political posturing than serious action. At this point, there is little appetite in the United States for torpedoing nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
Iran knows that any improvement in its oil industry is dependent on the nuclear talks. As the negotiations progress, Iranian officials are playing a bolder role in the region and in international organizations to which Iran belongs. At the next OPEC meeting in June, Zanganeh is likely to take an even tougher approach than at the previous meeting in December. It seems that other OPEC states are progressively accepting the inevitability of Iran’s return to the international oil scene.
There are two ways in which OPEC can handle prospective increases in Iranian, Iraqi, and Libyan output: other members—especially Saudi Arabia—can decrease production to make room for increased production by others, or the organization can raise its current 30 million bpd production ceiling. Politically as well as economically, much will hinge on what OPEC decides.
Can the United States Come to Terms with an Independent, Technologically Sophisticated, and Truly Sovereign Iran?
As negotiations on a final nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 proceed, CCTV’s news talk program, The Heat, invited Hillary earlier this week to offer her perspective on the requirements for successful negotiations, click on the video above or see here. The program also included interview segments with Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran and with former Iranian diplomat and nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian. All three segments are worth watching. We want to highlight here some of Hillary’s more important points.
Hillary notes that, while the chances for diplomatic breakthrough between Washington and Tehran are “the best they have been for at least a decade,” gaps between the United States and Iran remain “wide” on key issues. Most importantly, “at this point, the United States doesn’t want Iran to have an industrial-scale nuclear program.”
In Hillary’s view, the “big picture” strategic challenge for the United States in pursuing a diplomatic opening with Iran is recognizing that the Islamic Republic “has sovereign rights, treaty rights, and can be treated like a normal state.” In the context of the nuclear talks, more specifically, the question is whether the United States “can countenance a country that will be strong, independent, and a real nuclear power—not a weapons power, but a real nuclear power.”
On this point, Seyed Mohammad Marandi says that, from an Iranian perspective, “the crux of the problem is the very notion that Western powers are in a position or they have the authority to determine what Iran is allowed to have and is not allowed to have. Iran is not going to accept anything less than its full rights within the framework of international law.”
Hillary describes how, to a considerable degree, Washington has been compelled to drop thirty-five years of rejecting the Islamic Republic’s very legitimacy and to consider cutting some sort of deal with it because of the erosion of U.S. military options vis-à-vis Iran and the strategic failure of American sanctions policy.
–With regard to military options, Hillary observes that “one of the things that has made these negotiations possible in a constructive manner is that, from August 2013, when President Obama declared that the United States would attack Syria after chemical weapons were used there, and then had to walk it back and say, “No, actually I can’t do that, Congress isn’t going to support me, no one around the world is going to support me’—with that, the United States’ ability to credibly threaten the effective use of force greatly diminished. So now you don’t hear President Obama say nearly as much, ‘all options are on the table’—not because the United States doesn’t want to have that [option], but because we don’t have it. We lost it over Syria, and over some of the other failed military interventions over the last decade.”
–While “the idea that sanctions have so crippled the Iranians, and especially the Iranian leadership, that they have come crawling to the table” is popular in American political discourse, this is a false assessment, “put out there to justify a policy that we have put in place for thirty-five years that has not brought down the Islamic Republic, has not overthrown its government, and has not weakened it. We’ve seen Iranian power rise and rise. And I think in some ways the Iranians are letting us have a bit of that narrative, to justify how sanctions have, in a way, let the United States come to the table…It’s a bit the reverse of what the American rhetoric is here, from Washington—it’s not so much that sanctions brought the Iranians to the table; they really brought the Americans to the table.”
Hillary explains that, because of these difficulties, the Obama administration has, over the last two years, determined that the United States might be able to “accept” the Islamic Republic—but “only if it can become part of a pro-American, U.S.-led security and political order in the Middle East.” To join such an order, “states in the region have to give up some elements of sovereign rights—to have a big, functioning military; to have full industrialization—and to have policies that support the United States. So I think what the U.S. team is really trying to test is whether the Islamic Republic of Iran can join this pro-American political and security order”—and, to show that the Islamic Republic could do this, whether Iran “would limit [its] ability to have a civilian nuclear program, according to American wishes.”
Hillary elaborates that, in broader perspective,
“The nuclear deal is almost like, when Nixon and Kissinger first went to China and the relationship opened, we had the Shanghai Communique. At the end of the day, it was just a piece of paper; it means nothing in the broader scheme of what has become a huge relationship between the United States and China. The nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran would essentially serve that function; it would be the equivalent of the Shanghai Communique, to allow for this opening of a relationship between Iran and the United States.
Now the big difference is that the United States wants this relationship on terms that would shore up a pro-American political and security order throughout the region, throughout the Middle East. What Iran wants in that relationship is to maintain its independence, maintain its sovereignty, and to continue to have this ability to rise as an important power. Now it may be possible for those two goals to be met, but it’s going to be extremely difficult.”
This difference in fundamental goals is also manifested in U.S.-Iranian disagreements over sanctions, with the Iranians seeking to end sanctions while the Americans talk about suspending them, with specific triggers for re-imposing them. Hillary explains that the U.S. position grows out of Washington’s greater goal,
“which is to bring Iran into this pro-American political and security order in the region that allows the United States to punish states that don’t go along with U.S. policy preferences—including by the re-imposition or increasing of sanctions on them. So that is a big strategic goal for the United States.
For Iran, though, Iran has not had trade relations with the United States for thirty-five years. Their strategy is, if they can get all U.S. sanctions lifted, great. But the real goal is not this idea that the United States is somehow going to change overnight. But if the United States can at least get out of the way, stand to the side, not enforce those sanctions, waive those sanctions at least every six months, that would allow room for other states that Iran is very focused on—in Europe, in Asia, especially with China, and other countries—to allow them to trade and invest more freely (and without the constant threat of punishment from the United States), to allow them to invest in the Iranian economy. That’s the real economic prize; it’s not to open up U.S. trade or U.S. investment per se.”
Looking ahead to a prospective final agreement, Hillary cautions that negotiators “are going to try to have it as specific as possible, to really hold each side to account—not to build trust, but essentially to build in triggers to punish the other side if something goes wrong. That is not going to be a durable agreement.” Instead of this approach, Hillary argues that
“the most effective agreement that could come to fruition, whether its July 20 (the self-imposed deadline) or after that, will be something more vague. It will be something more along the lines of the Shanghai Communique between the United States and China, which essentially will say that Iran will be recognized as a sovereign state. There may be some interim period for confidence building, but that will be temporary, and after that interim period Iran will be recognized—especially by the United States, but by all of the P5+1—as a normal sovereign state exercising normal sovereign rights, including those for a civilian nuclear program…If they get bogged down in the details of exactly how many centrifuges Iran can run for exactly how much time, that’s a recipe for failure.”
The rest of Hillary’s interview is worth watching, as are the segments with Seyed Mohammad Marandi and Seyed Hossein Mousavian.
Statements by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday point to a significant development in the relationship with Iran. Saudi’s so called “hawk” and Iran’s number one enemy in the kingdom is now welcoming a dialogue with the Islamic Republic. But the implications will not be felt in Tehran or Riyadh, but in Baghdad, Homs, Beirut, and Vienna.
Saudi Arabia’s call for a dialogue with Iran is no small matter, neither in its substance, “to settle differences and make the region safe and prosperous,” or in its timing, regionally, internationally, and in relation to the nuclear issue, or the fact that it was issued by one of the kingdom’s most hawkish members.
Information from Tehran maintains “the Iranian position did not change.” It indicated that, “ever since President Hassan Rouhani reached power, [Iran] declared its openness to dialogue with the Saudis and announced the issue publicly several times.” This included statements during the recent tour of Gulf countries by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, in which he kept hoping to visit Riyadh. However, “the rejection was also coming from the Saudis, despite all the openness to reconciliation expressed by Iran.”
According to the same sources, several mechanisms were proposed to start a constructive dialogue, following negotiations through Omani mediation. Muscat was later forced to suspend its role after its relations with Saudi Arabia began to falter. However, a few months ago, Kuwait took up the mantle and became the main mediator between the two sides. The sources revealed that one such mechanism was suggested by the Saudis and entailed parallel trust-building steps. They would begin with a meeting between representatives of both countries’ foreign ministers, then between the two actual foreign ministers, and then to ultimately have a visit by Rouhani to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah.”
The information, which was obtained from circles concerned with relations between Tehran and Riyadh, maintained that the Saudis recently proposed through the Kuwaitis a visit by assistant Iranian foreign minister, Amir Abdel-Lahian, to hold talks. However, “Iran was not satisfied with the suggestion. They believed the atmosphere in Saudi and that surrounding the proposal, its mechanisms, and the position and authority of negotiators from either side would not lead to a serious breakthrough.”
So why did the invitation come now, at this particular time? And what are the motives behind it?
The sources point to the wider picture. “The Iraqi elections show that [Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki will have a larger parliamentary bloc than in the previous parliament and it is certain that he will continue through a third term. This is in addition to the latest developments in Homs, which means that the axis supporting [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad now has the upper hand on the ground. There is also the situation in Lebanon, which shows beyond doubt that there will be no presidential elections, without the consent of the axis of resistance. It seems all those factors, including pressure by the US and the push by Kuwait, led the Saudis to take such a step.”
US pressure was manifested in the visit by US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, meeting with the kingdom’s leadership to discuss the Syrian and Iranian files. Kuwait’s push, on the other hand, will be apparent during the visit by the Kuwaiti Emir to Tehran on June 1. He is expected to discuss bilateral relations, including disagreements concerning the continental shelf. But the essence of the meetings will be relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Saudis in particular, in addition to Syria and other matters.
The Saudi foreign minister had announced earlier that the kingdom sent out an invitation to Mohammed Javad Zarifi, “We want to meet with him. Iran is a neighbor with whom we have relations and we will conduct negotiations with Iran.”
Faisal was speaking at a press conference during the First Forum on Economy and Cooperation of Arab Countries with the Central Asian States and the Republic of Azerbaijan. “We will talk to them and if there are disagreements we will settle them in a manner that will satisfy both countries,” he explained. “We also hope that Iran would join the efforts to make the region safe and prosperous and not be part of the problem of a lack of security in the region.”
Saud al-Faisal also expressed the desire to resume contacts between the two countries as expressed by Iran’s president and foreign minister, “We sent out an invitation to the [Iranian] foreign minister to visit Saudi Arabia, but the will to make the visit has not become a reality yet. However, we will meet him anytime he wishes to come.”
Whether by coincidence or planning, Hagel’s visit and Faisal’s call coincided with the final phase of nuclear talks between Iran and the West. But it came at a time when Zarif had just arrived to Vienna to head the delegation to the nuclear talks.
What is certain, however, are the statements by Ali Khamenei on Tuesday and the several signals he gave, which aimed to provide an umbrella to the Vienna negotiations. He emphasized that the US is unable “to do anything rash, militarily or otherwise…We depend on our own powers, strengthening them and focusing our efforts on our own potential, which will defeat plans by the Americans and other powers to force the Iranian people to surrender through exerting pressures.”
Khamenei spoke in front of a large crowd of residents in the Ilam province on the anniversary of Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb’s birth. “The major powers ought to know that the Iranian people will not yield to their ambitions, because it is a living people and its youth are moving and acting in the right direction.”
These clear words are perhaps behind Zarif’s assertions from Vienna that “the difficult part” had only started and the desired deal might be aborted, even in the absence of a consensus on just “2 percent of the topics for discussion.” Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 groups is entering a new highly sensitive phase, with the drafting of what has become known as the “final agreement.” Tuesday night, Zarif met with the EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the P5+1 countries, over dinner. Actual negotiations will begin on May 14 and will continue until Friday.
Unlike previous sessions, Zarif and Ashton will be heading most of the meetings.
The most contentious issue in this round is the item related to the Arak heavy water reactor, which the West wants closed, and the ability to enrich uranium, which Iran hopes to keep.
The West’s belief that it could reach some kind of nuclear deal is probably due to both sides’ need for an agreement. In addition to building his foreign policy on reaching a settlement with Iran, US President Barack Obama has his hands tied in congressional midterm elections at the end of this year. It has become clear that he needs a foreign victory to ensure the victory of his party, especially after the collapse of his project for the Arab Spring and failing to reach a Palestinian-Israeli settlement or to topple Bashar al-Assad, not to mention his crisis in Ukraine.
Rouhani, on the other hand, seems to be betting on a nuclear deal that would lift the sanctions, and thus improve the economic situation inside Iran, which would give him leverage over his fundamentalist opponents. However, he realized, albeit late, that international sanctions are linked to four files, of which nuclear power is a minor issue. The other three are terrorism, human rights, and the rockets. The sanctions would only be lifted after closing all four files. And even if that happened, Obama has to solve his problems with the US Congress, which still rejects any lifting of sanctions against Iran.
Top Israeli and US military officials discussed on Monday the possibility of “security cooperation” between the Zionist entity and some Arab states in the Persian Gulf.
The New York Times reported that a meeting took place on Monday between Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Gen. Martin Dempsey, visiting chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in al-Quds.
Prior to the meeting, Gantz hinted that even in the current period of instability there could be opportunities, Israeli daily, Haaretz reported.
Those opportunities became clearer when Dempsey said after the meeting that the discussions included “an outreach to other partners who may not have been willing to be partners in the past,” the Israeli daily said according to NYT.
“What I mean is the Gulf States in particular, who heretofore may not have been as open-minded to the potential for cooperation with Israel, in any way.” Dempsey said.
Haaretz noted that while Dempsey did not go into specifics, other American military officials said that possibilities include “intelligence-sharing, joint counterterrorism exercises and perhaps looking for how Israeli and Saudi troops could jointly work on the training of Syrian opposition fighters.”
Remarking that “world jihadists are not fighting only against Israel,” Gantz added that it would be in the interests of both Israel and neighboring states to “look for ways to combat common enemies.”
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Over 140,000 people have been reportedly killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by the foreign-backed militants.
Western powers and some of their regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are reportedly supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
The United States is considering allowing shipments of portable air defense systems to Syrian opposition groups, a U.S. official said Friday, as President Barack Obama sought to reassure Saudi Arabia’s king that the U.S. is not taking too soft a stance in Syria and other Mideast conflicts.
A Washington Post report said Saturday that the U.S. is ready to step up covert aid to Syrian armed groups under a plan being discussed with regional allies including Saudi Arabia.
The plan includes CIA training of about 600 Syrian opposition forces per month in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius wrote on Thursday. That would double the forces currently being trained in the region.
The Obama administration was debating whether to use U.S. Special Operation forces and other military personnel in the training, something Syrian mercenaries have argued would carry less political baggage than the CIA, according to the column.
The Obama administration has been criticized by some in Congress for failing to do more in Syria, where 140,000 people have been killed so far, millions have become refugees and thousands of foreign gunmen have been trained since 2011.
Washington was also considering whether to provide the armed opposition with anti-aircraft missile launchers, known as MANPADS, to stop President Assad’s air force, the column said. Saudi Arabia wanted U.S. permission before delivering them, it said.
The plan, which was still being formalized, also called for vetting of opposition forces for “extremist links” during and after training, according to Ignatius.
Qatar has offered to pay for the first year of the program, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the column. The program would try to stabilize Syria by helping local councils and police in areas not under Assad’s control and seek to establish safe corridors for humanitarian aid, it said.
Saudi rulers are hoping for the United States to shift its position on support for Syrian armed opposition, whom Riyadh has backed in their battle to oust President Bashar al-Assad.