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Foreign Affairs – Remaking the Middle East

The US has been trying to remake the Middle East for decades. (
By Jim Miles | Palestine Chronicle | November 12, 2010

The title from this issue of Foreign Affairs struck me as rather odd, in particular the subtitle ‘New Challenges Call for New Policies. Are the U.S. and Israel Ready to Change Course?’ (September/October 2010) The U.S. has been trying to remake the Middle East for quite some decades now as it gradually took over the role of the British and French as the local imperial power.

The first article “Beyond Moderates and Militants – How Obama can Chart a New Course in the Middle East” struck me as a non-starter as Obama has done nothing to do away with Bush’s heritage and has extended it further east with another surge into Afghanistan and incursions and covert actions into Pakistan. The authors introduce Obama with what I perceive as an error in that “the Obama administration has rejected…the worldview of the Bush administration.” Perhaps rhetorically with vague talk about change and hope, neither of which offer any practical solutions, leaving Obama’s actions to speak for themselves: unconditional support for Israel; kowtowing to AIPAC; supporting military occupation as a theoretical means to bring peace into the region; and basically not challenging any of the previous actions of the Bush administration. His appointees in a variety of positions within the executive are mainly from the previous Bush and Clinton administrations.

Much of the article emphasizes the Palestinian/Israeli problem. This “resumption of crises in the Persian Gulf, Lebanon, and between the Israelis and the Palestinians prompted an ongoing, persistently vicious, and periodically violent renegotiation in the balance of power among nations…and within nations.” There is much to argue with here. There has been no resumption of crises as it has been ongoing for decades and the “vicious and violent renegotiation” rises almost entirely from Israeli contravention of international laws of all kinds with U.S. support ideologically, financially, and militarily. This is combined with U.S. vicious and violent actions in pre-emptive wars in the region very similar in nature with regards to international law as the Israeli actions. That context is missing.

The article argues on, coming to a mid-point conclusion that Obama is pursuing policies that, “had Bush implemented them during his administration, may well have worked.” That is a rather bizarre argument as Obama has not changed the U.S.’ military or economic posture in the region, only the rhetoric. Following that the authors say the U.S. “risks making vital policy adjustments only after it is too late.” Adjustments? Such as removing the military from the Middle East? Israel’s “undeclared nuclear program, foot-dragging approach to peace, and often single minded reliance on military means to resolve conflicts are hard to reconcile with Obama’s intention to restore [U.S.] standing in the Arab and Muslim worlds.” The rhetoric may well be working, as people generally do want change, but U.S. actions, which have been pretty much identical to the Israelis on the military side, do not support the supposed benevolence of Obama’s words.

The article to its credit does at least recognize Israeli intransigence and the “one dimensional approach” used by the west, and it recognizes the contradiction about the U.S.’ “promotion of liberal values [as] a pillar of Middle East policy” at the same time “trampling the very principles underlying that vision.” U.S. history is filled with good intentions (rhetorically) and murderous deeds in foreign countries. It also recognizes that with its military and economic power the U.S. “still enjoys veto power over virtually all significant regional initiatives,” but some of those regional initiatives – Iran supporting the Shi’ites of Southern Iraq, Hezbollah gaining and so far maintaining a degree of political power in Lebanon – have not exactly worked according to U.S. desires.

The nuclear issue receives brief comment without discussing the overwhelming predominance of Israeli nuclear power under its official policy of maintaining ambiguity by not stating anything. There really is no ambiguity, but by not stating that it has nuclear weapons, Israel avoids all sorts of political posturing that would be necessary in its rhetorical arguments about peace, freedom, democracy, equality, and its position as the underdog victim in the region. It also avoids coming under attack for having double standards vis-à-vis Iran within the context of the NPT.

Finally the article settles on the idea that the U.S. must “grasp the necessity of including new regional actors to help achieve what is now beyond the ability of Washington and its allies to do on their own: giving legitimacy and credibility to an Israeli-Palestinian accord.” Obama will have to “go further and close the book on the failed policies of the past.” This of course contradicts the statement about having veto power over regional initiatives, but ignoring that for now, there is little discussed about what the alternates to the reality of the failed policies could be. So many have been offered here and elsewhere, yet the authors seem reluctant to address the various alternate solutions as to their chances of success or not.

If it is beyond the ability of Washington to be successful what are the alternatives? Getting out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and stopping military and financial support for Israel would certainly change the U.S. policy in the region. Stop threatening Iran indirectly with the “all options” phrase used so often in current political discourse, threats contrary to international law. Or perhaps least likely, the U.S. and its allies – Great Britain and Canada in particular – could step up and announce a credible Israeli-Palestinian accord that recognizes the true nature of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and, combined with military and financial counter-actions, pressure the Israelis into accepting a rational settlement with a functioning contiguous Palestinian territory as a neighbor to a democratic Israel. That alone would settle much of the discord in the region. It is within the realm of the possible; unfortunately maintaining course, maintaining the status quo seems to be the path of least resistance for the U.S. – and unfortunately serves Israeli interests all too well as they slowly take in more and more Palestinian land.

Are they ready to change course? Short answer, no. They have neither the moral courage nor the humanitarian instinct to do so.

– Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Foreign Affairs – Remaking the Middle East

Netanyahu assumes command in Washington

By Paul Woodward | War in Context | November 13, 2010

After winning the US midterm elections, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hardly needs to worry about holding his own coalition government together. The fact that he so transparently now has Washington in his pocket should duly impress anyone who might have doubted America’s willingness to tolerate its increasingly servile relationship with Israel.

Even so, after the announcement that 1,345 new housing units will be built for Jewish occupants in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, President Obama’s reaction — to suggest that this move is “unhelpful” during peace negotiations — set off alarm bells. The White House was swift to assure those concerned, that the administration is not stepping out of line.

On a conference call with American Jewish leaders today, a White House official said the administration hadn’t sought a confrontation with the Israelis over a new construction announcement.

President Barack Obama answered a question at a press conference on the subject straightforwardly but hadn’t specifically planned to make a statement criticizing new Israeli building, National Security Council official Dan Shapiro said on the call, according to a participant.

Perhaps the press can avoid causing Obama any further embarrassment by henceforth not asking questions on such sensitive topics.

Still, this administration remains an object of mistrust and so when Netanyahu met his leading representative in Washington a few days ago, Eric Cantor, the congressman and likely GOP majority leader assured his prime minister that the Republican party will now be able impose the required discipline.

Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington. He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.

Unfortunately, a few Americans might be perplexed by this claim that the security of the United States is dependent on the security of Israel. Cantor believes “most Americans understand that Israel’s security is synonymous with America’s security.”

Mutual dependence and the security of these two nations being synonymous are not quite the same thing.

It’s easy to see that Israel is capable of having such a disruptive impact on the Middle East that this will damage US interests and in that sense that the US depends on Israel not to undermine its national security even more than it already does.

But to say that Israel’s security is synonymous with America’s security suggests another possibility. If our interests do indeed so perfectly overlap, then we really don’t need to think about Israel’s security. If America focuses on its own interests, Israel’s — in as much as their interests are identical — will be taken care of. In as much as our interests differ — well that’s Israel’s problem, not ours.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Netanyahu assumes command in Washington

They can’t contain themselves

By Peter Voskamp | Mondoweiss | November 13, 201

Dum Spiro Spero: “While I breathe I hope” is South Carolina’s state motto. With that in mind, it was unsettling to hear Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina call for military action against Iran from, of all places, the Canadian Maritimes.

“The last thing America wants is another military conflict, but the last thing the world needs is a nuclear-armed Iran… Containment is off the table,” the Agence France-Presse quoted Graham as saying in Halifax. This week’s calls for ratcheting up the military option with Iran have an odd geographic discordance to them.

While a senator of the south was in foggy Nova Scotia, Israeli’s Benyamin Netanyahu was in humid New Orleans.

“Containment against Iran won’t work,” Netanyahu told the Jewish Federations of North America, echoing his American friend.

In the wake of the mid-term elections, it feels like a pile on — a version of “when did you stop beating your wife?” When, President Obama, did you become soft on potentially nuclear-armed Holocaust denying sponsors of terrorism who want to obliterate Israel and the West?

These containment-dismissers follow veteran Washington Post columnist David Broder and his suggestion of an invigorating war with Iran to get the country into the swing of things and to raise Obama’s poll numbers for 2012.

Even the recent WikiLeaks document-drop on Iraq has been used to rationalize belligerence. The New York Times focused on Iran; Michael Gordon and Andrew Lehren filed a 2,267-word front-page piece detailing various border skirmishes and intelligence that suggested various Shiite insurgents were being trained and armed by elite Iranians.

Der Spiegel, meanwhile, in its English-language International on-line edition, devoted about a paragraph or two to Iran, of an entirely different flavor:

“The special attention the Americans were paying to weapons shipments from Iran reads more like a deliberate search for proof that Iran was one of the main supporters of the Shiite militias in Iraq, especially given the relatively sporadic discoveries of such weapons. The reports do show, however, that such weapons shipments existed. Nevertheless, the documents offer no evidence that the government in Tehran controlled the arms trade centrally.”

The Guardian had a similar response to how U.S. publications reacted to the WikiLeaks revelations:

“Much of the U.S. press also focused on the claim that the WikiLeaks papers supported the former president George Bush’s claim that the war in Iraq was severely complicated by Iran’s covert role. The Washington Times said the leaked documents showed ‘Iran was orchestrating one side of the Iraqi insurgency.’”

And, back in July when the first WikiLeaks material was published, the Weekly Standard made the most of reports in the Guardian of various alleged collaborations between al Qaeda and Iran.

“One of the more interesting aspects of the WikiLeaks document dump is the persistence of intelligence reports indicating collusion between al Qaeda, al Qaeda-affiliated parties, and Iran.”

The same Standard article went on to qualify that it could not vouch for the veracity of the reports.

Arthur Brisbane, the current Public Editor for the Times, offered an email from Executive Editor Bill Keller to explain in part the venerable paper’s choices with WikiLeaks:

“‘We chose the documents that struck us as most interesting,’ Mr. Keller said in an e-mail message. ‘We did our own analysis of the material. We decided what to write. We did not discuss any of those matters with WikiLeaks, or give them an advance look at our stories.’”

With all this impatience with containment, one must ask: what’s the rush? Iran is a country of 72 million people and not yet a single nuclear weapon. The world lived nearly a half a century with a Soviet Union armed with thousands of nuclear warheads. Not to mention China, India, Pakistan and Israel herself.

Stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a noble aim, but the proliferation of heated exhortations that could needlessly spark another ill-starred cataclysm in the Middle East feels like the clearer, and more present, danger.

Voskamp is the editor of the Block Island Times.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on They can’t contain themselves

Chernobyl region to be put back under the plow for EU biodiesel mandate

RIA NOVOSTI | November 12, 2010

Ukrainian officials are studying the possibility of growing crops in the 30-km zone of radioactive pollution near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, a popular Russian daily said on Friday.

A number of Ukrainian services and departments are conducting numerous studies to establish “areas that could be used for agriculture, some partially and some in full,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted acting head of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry Mykhailo Bolotskykh, as saying.

An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) exclusion zone was introduced following the accident.

Vast areas, mainly in the three then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout from the major nuclear meltdown. Some 200,000 people were relocated after the accident.

The agriculture revival plan, initiated by the European Union, proposes cultivating rapeseed, also known as canola oil and widely seen as the most popular primary product to produce biodiesel, in the contaminated area. Similar plans have earlier been voiced by Belarus, another country severely affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

“This crop has great potential, with the European Union, the U.A.E., Turkey and Pakistan expressing their readiness to buy it from Ukraine. This is really profitable,” a source close to the Ukrainian government told the newspaper.

Ukraine is currently among Europe’s largest rapeseed producers.

“The problem is that rapeseed depletes the soil. It may be grown only as part of a five-year crop rotation cycle. Or, it may be grown on lands which have no agricultural importance,” he said.

The government did not comment on the information.

The paper quotes an expert as saying that scientists have developed mechanisms of rehabilitating nuclear-polluted soil, which include growing certain crops and combining various types of fertilizers.

“Experiments show that… areas where rehabilitation measures were conducted can produce crops with almost normal radionuclide levels, hundreds of times lower than those where such measures were not taken,” the unnamed scientist told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

But many experts say that any attempt to cultivate crops in Chernobyl is “simply a crime,” saying that many dangerous isotopes buried in soil could be released back into the air and water when the polluted soil is ploughed.

“It is simply a crime – increasing air and water pollution by turning over polluted soil,” a former official with the country’s radiation and ecology watchdog said.

The plan is expected to be officially announced in March 2011, shortly before the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | 2 Comments

Israeli Army Isolates the Village of Nabi Saleh to Prevent Commemorative Folk Festival

By Mays Al-Azza – IMEMC & Agencies – November 12, 2010

After the Fatah movement called the Palestinian people in Ramallah for a folk festival to commemorate late president Yasser Arafat, as a new step in escalating the popular resistance, the Israeli army imposed an intensive blockade upon the village of an-Nabi Saleh, northwest of Ramallah.

Israeli army personnel also erected military barriers to separate the villages of Beit Ramba and Kufr Aein, northwest Ramallah, and tightened measures and obstructed the passage of the vehicles through the Israeli checkpoint, Attara.

Muhammad Tamemi, an official in the media office in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlement Construction, stated that Israeli army personnel imposed a blockade upon the village and obstructed the passage of vehicles preventing international peace activists and journalists from entering the village. He pointed out that these measures had been carried out after the Israeli army entered the village at dawn threatening the villagers with harsh measures if the festival went ahead.

He added that Israeli army personnel closed all the entrances of the village and intensified the presence of the soldiers there in order to prevent the residents of the nearby villages from participating in the festival which is scheduled to be held at mid-day.

The Popular committee Against the Wall and Settlement Construction has called the Palestinians to go by foot to participate in the festival and face all the Israeli measures.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Israeli Army Isolates the Village of Nabi Saleh to Prevent Commemorative Folk Festival