The Syrian Army and its allies have clearly turned the tide in the Syrian war. The “facts on the ground” have changed dramatically for all the major players, and constitute a major reversal for all the forces that have tried to institute “regime change” in Syria, in violation of its sovereignty. The Geneva “Peace Conference” opposition delegation, composed of marginal figures representing a tiny fraction of the armed anti-government factions but ostensibly speaking for all of them, is now largely irrelevant. As the terrorists and foreign mercenaries and their families flee Aleppo, thousands or tens of thousands of Syrian civilians are returning to their homes in secure government held areas.
Given the reversal of fortunes for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US, NATO and their allies and mercenaries, what’s next? The sensible thing would be for all the actors to declare victory by finishing off the ostensible terrorist enemy and accepting a face saving solution that includes a Syrian government commitment to reform, with expertise provided by a friendly international team of experts that puts Russia, the US, Europe, Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia on the same side.
But this is not the advice we are hearing from the advisers that got us into this mess in the first place, and who are disappointed that Syria might not go the way of Iraq, Libya and Somalia after all. They are suggesting that a more and bigger war is the way to complete the job of turning Syria into a failed state. Such a war would involve an invasion of Turkish forces amassed and poised on the border, direct intervention by Saudi forces, US and perhaps other NATO ground forces, and potentially Israeli forces as well.
Such a plan risks putting these forces directly in confrontation with Syrian and Russian units and objectives. It is a recipe for great power confrontation on a scale rarely seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Rarely, but not totally. When Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft on November 24, 2015, only very cool Russian heads prevented the unthinkable by deciding that the Russian response might best be served cold.
That dish is now on the table, and it is for the Turks and bigger warmongers to decide if they want to risk Armageddon by unleashing even greater forces of destruction. There are players that would love to do so; they profit from death, misery and cataclysm, and would never miss such an opportunity. Chief among them are the arms merchants that dominate in the US and Israel, the neoconservative movement, also heavily subsidized by Israel and its Zionist lobbies in other countries, and by Israel’s investment in weakening all potential adversaries. Saudi Arabia has decided that it has much the same adversaries and has therefore thrown its lot in with Israel. The Erdogan administration in Turkey finds that its interests, including territorial aggrandizement, are congruent, and US objectives are defined by the neoconservative movement and the Israel Lobby, which have kidnapped US strategic policy in this regard, to the dismay of the Foreign Service, intelligence and military professional core of the American government.
The Syria Solidarity Movement suggests that further escalation is not a solution, but that the application of international law can bring the hostilities to a close. Astonishingly, this a war in which there are few declared enemies. Of the many parties and their sponsored combatants, only the armed groups and the Syrian government have declared themselves to be enemies, unless you count the insincere protestations that “terrorist” groups are also enemies of the same nations that are aiding and abetting them.
Syria is still recognized universally and diplomatically as a sovereign state, and under international law no power may interfere in its security considerations except by invitation from the recognized government of that state. To seek “regime change” (overthrow) is strictly illegal under international law, and prohibited by the United Nations. Governments that are pursuing such an objective should be sanctioned by the UN, although there is no realistic possibility of such action.
The Syria Solidarity Movement believes that it is time to complete the expulsion of the terrorist and mercenary forces that have been attacking Syria for the last five years. This can be accomplished by denying all support of arms and funding from the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and other countries. In addition, these countries can choose to either cooperate with the Syrian government and its allies to rid Syria of this scourge, or at least not interfere while Syrian, Russian and other allied forces complete the job. In this case, Syria can resume its role of providing government services and representation for its people, and its people can resume shaping their own government without outside interference.
It is time to end this ill-advised adventurism, and to put to flight the rascals and criminals, not only in Syria but also inside the countries whose strategic policies have been hijacked by gangs who are in many respects worse than those who bring beheadings and crucifixions to our computer screens.
The Syria Solidarity Movement
ILLEGAL USE OF OUR NAME: Counterpunch recently published an article from an individual claiming to be from “Syria Solidarity UK”. This constitutes infringement of the use of the name of the Syria Solidarity Movement and a misrepresentation of who we are. We wish to caution all persons and organizations against the fraudulent use of our name, even if published in good faith as a result of information provided by third parties. We are pursuing legal remedy and would not wish anyone to unnecessarily incur liability.
The recently released minutes from a November meeting between Erdogan and the EU prove that the Turkish strongman is manipulating the immigrant flow into Europe for strategic ends.
The Greek financial website euro2day.gr published the shocking record of what transpired at a November meeting between Erdogan, Tusk, and Juncker in Antalya. In attempting to squeeze more money out of Brussels for his cooperation in halting the refugee flow, the Turkish leader thuggishly threatened that “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses”, snarling to the EU leaders and rhetorically taunting them by asking “how will you deal with refugees if you don’t get a deal? Kill the refugees?”
€3 billion later, Erdogan shut up but he didn’t shut his borders, and the human wave continues to crash into Europe.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag and there’s a smoking gun to prove what most Europeans had already figured out by now — that the immigrant crisis is a strategically engineered weapon against them — the US has gone into full spin mode by doing what it does best, blaming Russia.
A day before the minutes were leaked, Carnegie Europe published a mudslinging piece which alleges in its title that “Putin Uses The Refugee Crisis To Weaken Merkel“, and a day after the Erdogan bombshell was made public, George Soros followed up with one of his famous speculative attacks (albeit this time non-financial) in which he ludicrously proclaimed that “Putin’s current aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood the EU with Syrian refugees.”
Ironically, but as is the established pattern, every time that the US is caught doing something unsavory, they always reflexively resort to blaming Russia for their own sins, and the immigrant crisis is no different. What’s new this time around, however, are the strange “anti-imperialist” bedfellows that they’ve aligned with in doing so.
‘Weapons Of Mass Migration’
The first thing to understand about the immigrant crisis is that the on-the-ground conditions for it were created by the US’ aggressive unipolar wars on the Mideast and North Africa, and that the resultant humanitarian catastrophe has been strategically weaponized by Washington and its allies for various geopolitical and economic ends.
Kelly M. Greenhill, an Associate Professor at Tufts University and Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, published a groundbreaking 2010 book about “Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy” in which she proved that there are at least 56 instances in which states have purposefully generated, provoked, and exploited massive waves of human migrations as an instrument to further their respective policies. Excerpts from her book were culled to form a summarized article that’s available for free at the Naval Postgraduate School’s website.
In terms of the present application of “Weapons Of Mass Migration”, the US and Turkey have a few overlapping goals in mind. Ghassan Kadi brilliantly explained that Erdogan wants to use the immigrants as leverage in order to extract financial and institutional concessions from the EU, while concomitantly flooding the West with Islamist-sympathizing individuals that can act as a fifth column of support for his expansionist policy of Neo-Ottomanism.
The latter goal segues in nicely with what the US wants to do, which is to kaleidoscopically fracture hitherto largely homogeneous European societies via provoked and prolonged Hobbesian conflict between the locals, refugees, and host governments. It’s aware that the civilizational dissimilarity between the native Europeans and the migrating Muslim masses will inevitably lead to multifaceted tension, and it aims to perpetually exploit the resultant identity cleavages in order to conveniently craft various Color Revolution scenarios in keeping certain governments in check and away from pragmatic cooperation with Russia and China (e.g. Nord Stream II, Turkish/Balkan Stream, and the Balkan Silk Road).
Qualifying Caveats And The Smoking Gun Pattern
It’s useful at this moment to point out that while there definitely are some legitimate refugees reaching Europe’s shores, many of the newcomers are economic migrants that aren’t even from Syria, and that a highly disproportionate number of the people who have come to the continent are draft-age young males. This is why the author collectively and more accurately refers to these people as immigrants and not “refugees”. Russian Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov, American Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian have all recently warned that Daesh terrorists are actively infiltrating borders under the guise of being “refugees”, so there are absolutely some legitimate concerns about the types of people getting into Europe undetected.
Another thing is that “Islamist” isn’t a synonym for Muslim (as it’s commonly mistaken to be), but rather a label in referring to those that seek to impose Islam on others, such as Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabi sympathizers. These individuals don’t have to be instructed on how to stir up problems in their host countries because their Islamist ideology naturally inspires them to clash with the locals, which thus organically satisfies the US’ 21st-century “Operation Gladio” plans. Regrettably, the sexual terrorist attacks in Cologne and other cities leave no doubt that many of these undesirable immigrants have already gotten into the EU, confirming that the US and Turkey’s destabilizing geopolitical plans are already in full swing.
Most Europeans figured out on their own that something was amiss about the whole immigrant crisis, questioning why so many of the new arrivals, if they were genuine refugees, would behave with such arrogant, ungrateful, and callous disregard for the host population that literally (as they were led to believe) saved their lives. The smoking gun of Erdogan’s transcribed threat, proving the degree of control that he has over the floodgates and his willingness to leverage this in as self-interested of a manner as possible, showed many Europeans that they weren’t wrong for questioning the mainstream media’s narrative on this whole matter.
Similar smoking guns have dispelled the Western myth about other high-profile crises as well. The Nuland-Pyatt recording proved that the US was scheming for regime change in Ukraine, and a 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency memo explicitly states that the Syrian “opposition” was full of terrorists from the beginning and that a “declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, which later turned out to be Daesh, was “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want”. The latest revelation validates many people’s prior fears that the immigrant crisis had been strategically engineered, and it casts a damning light on the US’ role and intended agenda behind it. Tellingly, the faked hysteria that Putin is “flooding the EU with Syrian refugees” to “weaken Merkel” seems to imply that the German Chancellor’s days are numbered, but the US wants to cover its tracks and clumsily pretend that it’s Moscow which actually has something to gain by deposing its strategic Nord Stream II partner and not Washington like is actually the case.
Up until the point where the US had to begrudgingly acknowledge that strategically engineered “Weapons of Mass Migration” were being used against the EU and predictably blame it all on Russia, its allied “NGOs” and information outlets had categorically denied that such a planned phenomenon was taking place, slurring anyone who dared to even infer this possibility as being “racist”, “fascist”, and “white supremacist”. Astonishingly, this mainstream media-imposed “political correctness” and ideological intimidation was aggressively repeated by social and alternative media “activists” who fashioned themselves as (militant) far-left “anti-imperialists” — typically the sort of individuals who speak out against the US’ “thought police” or at least respect others’ right to do so.
These “anti-imperialists” claim to support Russia’s role in the world, yet state that border controls and assimilative & integrational immigration policies are some kind of “new fascism”. Apparently they never read President Putin’s 2012 manifesto on the topic, otherwise they would know that the Russian leader has a very firm and publicly declared stance against open borders and the Western conception of “multiculturalism”. By attacking concerned individuals that espouse these exact same principles as “racist”, “fascist”, and “white supremacist”, they’re indirectly attacking Russia and associating it with those slurs. It’s a documented fact that the tentacles of unipolar influence are long and deeply embedded in all sorts of social and political movements, so it’s reasonable to question whether these “anti-imperialist” voices are just “misguided activists” or if they’re really just anti-Russian provocateurs with an ideological ax to grind.
Almost a month after Iran saw a series of nuclear-related economic sanctions lifted, new indications show certain segments of the Iranian economy still remain shut out in what could be a violation of the nuclear deal that the country reached with the P5+1 last summer.
The US Treasury Department is reportedly warning European countries and companies to shut out a leading sanctioned Iranian airline – Mahan Air – or risk US retaliation.
“Treasury is engaging closely with stakeholders around the world, including our partners in Europe, regarding our sanctions targeting Iran,” a Treasury official told Al-Monitor. “Regarding Mahan Air specifically, we are doing this by working with our partners to prevent Mahan Air from acquiring aircraft and aircraft parts and software, preventing the opening of new routes and working to get existing routes canceled.”
Certain economic sanctions against Iran were lifted in mid-January when a deal that the country had reached with the P5+1 – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was implemented.
A central sector that saw the sanctions lifted was Iran’s aviation industry and a lucrative contract that the country later signed with Airbus over the purchase of planes clearly testified to that.
Even before the JCPOA was implemented, US President Barack Obama ordered to lift a decades-long ban on the sales of planes to Iran.
The Treasury official – who has not been named by Al-Monitor – has emphasized that the JCPOA “does not preclude us from designating any entities that support Mahan Air or facilitate its activities.”
Iranian officials are yet to react to this.
Mahan Air, which isn’t sanctioned by the European Union, currently operates flights to Milan, Athens, the German cities of Dusseldorf and Munich, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and several other destinations in the Middle East and Asia. Mahan Air had announced that flights to Copenhagen, Denmark, were to start next month but the route opening was discreetly delayed last month.
An ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria with verifiable results within a week, revive the Geneva-3 peace talks, and immediately begin delivering humanitarian aid to civilians has been unveiled in Munich, Germany after talks including the US, Russia, and the UN.
Hostilities in Syria could come to a halt within a week after confirmation by the government of President Bashar Assad and the opposition, according to an official communiqué from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting.
A mechanism to help resolve humanitarian issues in Syria has been developed, which includes the creation of a task force that will begin work on Friday.
A press conference was held after the meeting of the so-called Syria Support Group, with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Kerry noted that the commitments agreed upon during the Munich meeting are only on paper and that the “real test” of progress will be to get all of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict to sign on and honor them.
Russia is counting on the US and other ISSG countries to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to cooperate with the UN, Lavrov said.
The main objective that everyone agrees on is to destroy Islamic State, Lavrov added. He also called the notion that the situation in Syria would improve if Assad’s regime was to abdicate an “illusion.”
Talk about the need to prepare ground troops for an invasion of Syria will only add fire to the conflict, Russia’s foreign minister stressed.
The aim now is to resume peace talks without preconditions between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the opposition, which is the only format in which they could be successful, Lavrov emphasized.
“The goal of resuming the negotiation process, which was suspended in an atmosphere where part of the [Syrian] opposition took a completely unconstructive position and tried to put forward preconditions, was stressed [at the ISSG meeting]. We noted [today] that the talks must resume as soon as possible in strict compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, without any ultimatums or preconditions,” he said.
While Lavrov, Kerry and Mistura held a press conference to explain the results of the ISSG meeting, separate statements came from several EU leaders. Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the US and Russia should coordinate their military actions in Syria “more closely.”
Syria Support Group talks ran longer than expected on Thursday, beginning at 7 pm local time and running over five hours, before resuming again for the finalizing of a communique. The last Syria Support Group meeting was held in Vienna on November 14.
In the beginning of February, the United Nations temporarily suspended peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year civil war. The UN said that the process was to be resumed on February 25 and called on the sides involved to do more to achieve progress.
“I have concluded, frankly, that after the first week of preparatory talks, there is more work to be done, not only by us but by the stakeholders,” the UN mediator, Staffan de Mistura, said after meeting with the opposition delegation at a Geneva hotel.
The latest inconclusive Syrian peace talks were attended by representatives of the Syrian government, the Saudi-backed coalition, and the High Negotiation Committee (HNC), which sent 35 leading members, excluding Syrian Kurdish groups, along with some additional moderate opposition members supported by Russia. Turkey insisted on the exclusion of the Syrian Kurdish party, the PYD.
One could hardly find a person both within the UK or outside it that would look positively at the steps that have been taken by David Cameron and his government if, of course, we’re not talking about members of the Conservative Party and certain military circles. The reasons are plenty, but the most obvious ones are the crimes against humanity committed by this government, along with a total disregard for the social needs of UK citizens and the revanchist policies it pursued in the Middle East and Africa.
It will suffice to note that Cameron’s government is going to cut its social spending to the lowest possible level to be able to carry on foreign military campaigns. The Guardian notes:
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities.
As a direct result of the steps that are being taken by British government, those citizens that are facing retirement today will lose all means to pay their expenses in the next 10 years.
The benefits cuts on sheltered housing that have been recently announced by the UK government will literally make tens of thousands of those in dire need homeless. Those that are forced to experience the consequences of the shortsighted policies of London are to be the most vulnerable, namely older residents, domestic violence victims and people with mental illness. Those caps were first announced last autumn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
However, the Guardian refuses to mention that the army is still enjoying substantial budgets just as it always has, to the benefit of countless military contractors and those politicians who represent them in the parliament. It is therefore not surprising that these lobbyists are among the most ardent supporters of David Cameron’s plan of the possible British military engagement in Syria, despite attempts of some sane politicians to put an end to airstrikes that the UK is carrying out in this Arab country, calling them “infanticide“
The above mentioned activities predictably result in an ever growing body count that British troops are producing with their “fire and sword” across the world in the name of vague “democratic principles”, while actually protecting the interests of the City of London.
Therefore, the British political elite are putting every effort into a bid to prevent the investigation of their criminal policies in the Middle East, Africa and other regions around the world. For instance every possible step has been taken to derail an inquiry of the commission headed by Sir John Chilcot that was entrusted back in 2009 to give an answer on how justified Tony Blair’s decision was to go to war against Iraq, which resulted in 179 British soldiers killed and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left suffering in lawlessness and bitter misery to this date. Moreover, a few days ago it was announced that the British Ministry of Defense was going to close the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) that was created in 2010 to study at least 58 allegations against British servicemen allegedly involved in murder cases in Iraq. And although the IHAT was investigating the deaths of 1,500 possible victims, out of which 280 were allegedly unlawfully killed, there’s every reason to believe that it won’t be funded up to 2019 as originally intended.
David Cameron is anticipating complete impunity for his actions, therefore refusing to launch an investigation of war crimes that were carried out with the use of British weapons, especially those supplied by the British to Saudi Arabia. Cameron excused himself for this decision by announcing that arms exports are being “closely monitored”.
Lately Amnesty International has been vocal in condemning the UK role in the Yemeni conflict, while directly pointing to the shameful support of routine brutality that the Saudi regime has been exhibiting. At the same time The Independent published an article that stated a member of the British government, while staying in Riyadh, praised Saudi authorities for the “remarkable progress” in the field of human rights, a month after the public execution of 47 people!
As for the British responsibility in the massive civilian killings in Yemen, it is necessary to recall that during the first nine months of 2015 the United Kingdom supplied Saudi Arabia with 2.95 billion pounds worth of arms, which were used to launch airstrikes against heavily populated urban areas. The total worth of weapons sold to Saudi Arabia throughout all of Cameron’s premiership amounts to 7 billion pounds, including a contract to supply the regime with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. Numerous media sources have been calling repeatedly to bring to justice those responsible in the bloody conflict in Yemen. So there’s little wonder that the UN Security Council decided to form a special committee to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law by all the parties of the Yemeni conflict to identify those responsible. And the UK is not particularly happy about that fact.
As it was reported by The Independent :
An influential joint committee of MPs is set to investigate claims that British-made weapons may have been used for strikes against civilian targets. The Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), made up of members of the Foreign Affairs, International Development, Defence and Business select committees, has not sat so far this Parliament, but will be re-established.
Crispin Blunt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Stephen Twigg, chair of the International Development committee, have both indicated that they want the CAEC to investigate whether UK arms have been used for military strikes against civilians, and also to scrutinise the role of UK personnel working in Saudi command and control centres orchestrating airstrikes.
Taking into account the steps that David Cameron has made to hide numerous crimes committed by him and his government both in the UK and abroad, it’s about time for the international community to take such investigations into its own hands, to ensure that no felon, whether a politician or not, escapes justice.
Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst.
Documents obtained by Muckrock under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that chemical leaks at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa may be the culprit behind the contamination of local drinking water.
Not content with poisoning just their own citizens with contaminated water, it seems that an array of accidents and acts of “vandalism” at the US base over the past 15 years have deployed at least 21,000 liters of fire extinguishing agents — some of which are toxic.
The Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau announced last month that from February 2014 through November 2015, high levels of toxic Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) — an ingredient found in many fire extinguishing agents — was found in waterways that supply drinking water to seven municipalities. They reported finding levels of 80 nanograms per liter (ng/L) at its Chatan Purification Plant and 1,320 ng/L in the Dakujaku River.
PFOS have a half-life of up to nine years and is easily absorbed orally and accumulates in the blood, kidneys, and liver.
Last May, a drunk US Marine reportedly activated a fire fighting system, filling a hangar with 1,500 liters of JET-X 2.75 percent — a foam classified by the U.S. government as hazardous, the Japan Times reports. Despite the fact that the agent ran into waterways, officials mistakenly labeled the chemical as nontoxic and the military did not report the incident to residents or the Japanese government.
“Okinawa Prefecture and municipalities near the base should conduct an independent investigation into the leaks. Moreover the Japanese government should require the U.S. military to notify it of any potentially harmful leakage — regardless of the amount. To decide the significance of a leak should not be left up to the U.S. military,” Manabu Sato, a political science professor at Okinawa International University, told the Japan Times.
MEMO | February 11, 2016
A delegation from the European Parliament was blocked by the Israeli authorities from entering Gaza on Tuesday, the EU said in a statement.
The lawmakers, who are part of the working group of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Palestine, arrived in Jerusalem on Monday and was due to visit Gaza to assess the destruction caused in the 2014 conflict and the reconstruction efforts funded by the European Union.
According to the statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO’s reporter in Gaza, no justification was given to explain the refusal.
Delegation Chair Irish MEP Martina Anderson stated: “The systematic denial by Israel of access to Gaza to European Parliament delegations is unacceptable. The European Parliament has not been able to access Gaza since 2011.”
Anderson added: “This raises questions: what does the Israeli government aim to hide? We shall not give up on the Gazan people.”
The Delegation was led by Anderson and included six other lawmakers: Margrete Auken (Vice-Chair of Delegation, Greens), Roza Thun (EPP), Eugen Freund (S&D), Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL), Rosa D’Amato (EFDD) and Konstantinos Papadakis (NI).
Benjamin Netanyahu pets his dog Kaia, a biter, at the Prime Minster’s residence in Jerusalem. (Credit: Facebook)
“Anyone who approaches the Zionist problem in a moral aspect is not a Zionist.” – Moshe Dayan, quoting David Ben-Gurion
Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid reported yesterday:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a tour to the construction site of a barrier on the eastern border on Tuesday that he wishes to surround the country with fences and barriers “to defend ourselves against wild beasts” that surround Israel.
Dehumanization of one’s real or perceived adversaries, often in the form of animalization, has long been a hallmark of propaganda. As Netanyahu reinforces Israel’s garrison mentality, he continues building a literal fortress by extending the apartheid wall further around the Zionist state, promising more division, segregation, discrimination, and violence.
“For most human beings, it takes an awful lot to allow them to kill another human being,” Anthony Pratkanis, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told ABC News back in 2003, as the United States was gearing up to invade Iraq. “The only way to do it is to justify the killing, to make the enemy look as evil as possible.”
The report also quoted Hayward communications professor James Forsher, an expert on propaganda films. “The secret in propaganda is that when you demonize, you dehumanize,” Forsher explained. “When you dehumanize, it allows you to kill your enemy and no longer feel guilty about it. That is why during World War II, a lot of caricatures became animals… You can kill a monkey a lot more easily than you can kill a neighbor.”
Nazi dehumanization of Jews as “vermin” to be exterminated and American anti-Japanese caricatures of rats and snakes from the 1940s are especially grotesque, but the phenomenon was around long before that. Anti-Tsarist and, subsequently, anti-Soviet propaganda often employed the image of an octopus, spreading its imperial tentacles across the globe. During World War I, Germany was depicted a crazed, club-wielding gorilla in a U.S. Army poster encouraging enlistment.
In their 1994 book, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam note that the common colonial/racist trope of “animalization” was “rooted in a religious and philosophical tradition which drew sharp boundaries between the animal and the human” and “renders the colonized as wild beasts… projected as body rather than mind.”
Zionist colonists and Israeli officials have for years employed this type of rhetoric to dehumanize those they seek to forcibly displace, dispossess, disenfranchise, oppress, occupy and subjugate. The Zionist project is always presented as a bulwark of civilization against the savagery and barbarism of the brutish Eastern, Arab, and/or Muslim hordes; the settlement on the hill; the light amidst the darkness; the “villa in the jungle,” as Ehud Barak once said.
“At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu fantasized yesterday. “I’ll be told, ‘this is what you want, to protect the villa?’ The answer is yes. Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”
The animalization of Palestinians, and other perceived enemies, in Israeli rhetoric goes back decades.
Dogs, Animals, Roaches, Grasshoppers and Worms
Shortly after Israel seized military control over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan told officials in his center-left political party, Rafi, that unless Palestinians in the newly-occupied territories make “peace” with Israel, they “shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.”
On June 8, 1982, two days after the Israel invaded Lebanon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered remarks before the Knesset justifying the military assault as a defense of Jewish lives worldwide. Begin insisted that the widespread rallying cry of terrorists around the globe was that “there is no innocent Jew. Every Jew is doomed – he must be killed.” In response, he declared, “This terror must be eradicated.” Setting Jewish people apart from the rest of humanity, Begin said:
The fate of a million and half a million Jewish children has been different from all the children of the world throughout the generations. No more. We will defend our children. If the hand of any two-footed animal is raised against them, that hand will be cut off, and our children will grow up in joy in the homes of their parents.
In April 1983, outgoing Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan (who was losing his post due to his responsibility for the 1982 Sabra-Shatila Massacre) reportedly told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “The Arabs will never win over us by throwing stones. Our response must be a nationalist Zionist response. For every stone that’’s thrown, we will build ten settlements. If 100 settlements will exist, and they will, between Nablus and Jerusalem, stones will not be thrown. If this will be the situation, then the Arabs will only be able to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”
During the First Intifada, on March 31, 1988, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told reporters at the ruins of an ancient Herodian fortress in the occupied West Bank, “Anybody who wants to damage this fortress and other fortresses we are establishing will have his head smashed against the boulders and walls,” adding that Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation “are like grasshoppers compared to us.”
In late 2004, Yehiel Hazan, a Likud minister and leader of the biggest settler lobbying group, declared on the floor of the Knesset, “The Arabs are worms. You find them everywhere like worms, underground as well as above,” adding, “Until we understand that we’re doing business with a nation of assassins and terrorists who don’t want us here, there will be no let up. These worms have not stopped attacking Jews for a century.”
On June 30, 2012, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party posted a Facebook message that identified “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and calling for the total elimination of Palestine, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” The post, alleged written years ago by now-deceased settler leader Uri Elitzur, added that Palestinian mothers should be executed for giving birth to “little snakes,” that is, Palestinian children. Less than a year later, Netanyahu appointed Shaked to be Israel’s Minister of Justice.
Netanyahu, too, has a penchant for animal allusions when speaking about those he despises most, be they Palestinians, Iranians, or Muslims, in general.
While a possibly apocryphal quote has then-Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak saying in August 2000, “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more,” Netanyahu brought the reptilian analogy up to date when, during a typically verbose and combative speech before the UN General Assembly in September 2011, he said:
[Israel’s] critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.
Netanyahu probably didn’t realize he was channeling his fellow apartheid champion, P.W. Botha, who led South Africa from 1978 to 1989, and is credited with complaining that “the free world wants to feed South Africa to the red crocodile [Communism], to appease its hunger.” Botha, incidentally, was widely known by the Afrikaans nickname Die Groot Krokodil, or “The Big Crocodile.”
The following March, in one of his most tedious diatribes about the non-existent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu told attendees at AIPAC’s annual conference that Iran’s fully safeguarded uranium enrichment facilities and medical research reactor were actually a cover for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck – but this duck is a nuclear duck. And it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Appearing on Face The Nation on July 14, 2013, Netanyahu decried Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” whose devious Persian strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.” He repeated this description to a group of U.S. lawmakers the following month.
On October 1, 2013, Netanyahu returned to the UN General Assembly and accused Rouhani of being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” Netanyahu wailed. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community.”
Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003
Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)  The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.
The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria.  As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.
The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals.
In 2005, Congress’s researchers reported that a consensus had developed in Washington that change in Syria needed to be brought about, but that there remained divisions on the means by which change could be effected. “Some call for a process of internal reform in Syria or alternatively for the replacement of the current Syrian regime,” the report said.  Whichever course Washington would settle on, it was clear that the US government was determined to shift the policy framework in Damascus.
The document described the Assad government as an impediment “to the achievement of US goals in the region.”  These goals were listed as: resolving “the Arab-Israeli conflict;” fighting “international terrorism;” reducing “weapons proliferation;” inaugurating “a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraqi state;” and fostering market-based, free enterprise economies. 
Stripped of their elegant words, the US objectives for the Middle East amounted to a demand that Damascus capitulate to the military hegemony of Israel and the economic hegemony of Wall Street. To be clear, what this meant was that in order to remove itself as an impediment to the achievement of US goals—and hence as an object of US hostility—Syria would have to:
o Accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on territory seized from Palestinians, and quite possibly also Syrians and Lebanese, possibly within borders that include the Golan Heights, annexed from Syria by Israel in 1987 and occupied by Israel since 1967.
o End its support for militant groups seeking Palestinian self-determination and sever its connections with the resistance organization Hezbollah, the main bulwark against Israeli expansion into Lebanon.
o Leave itself effectively defenceless against the aggressions of the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel, by abandoning even the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction (while conceding a right to Israel and the United States to maintain vast arsenals of WMD.)
o Terminate its opposition to US domination of neighboring Iraq.
o Transform what the US Congress’s researchers called Syria’s mainly publicly-owned economy, “still based largely on Soviet models,”  into a sphere of exploitation for US corporations and investors.
US government objections to Syrian policy, then, can be organized under three US-defined headings:
o Economic reform.
These headings translate into:
o Support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.
o Economic sovereignty.
Terrorism (support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups)
The researchers noted that while Syria had “not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986” that “Syria has continued to provide support and safe haven for Palestinian groups” seeking self-determination, allowing “them to maintain offices in Damascus.” This was enough for the US government to label Syria a state sponsor of terrorism. The researchers went on to note that on top of supporting Palestinian “terrorists” that Damascus also supported Lebanese “terrorists” by permitting “Iranian resupply via Damascus of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.” 
US Secretary of State Colin Powell travelled to Damascus on May 3, 2003 to personally issue a demand to the Syrian government that it sever its connections with militant organizations pursuing Palestinian self-determination and to stop providing them a base in Damascus from which to operate. In “testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 12, 2004, Powel complained that ‘Syria has not done what we demanded of it with respect to closing permanently of these offices and getting these individuals out of Damascus’.”
The Syrian government rejected the characterization of Hezbollah and Palestinian militants as “terrorists,” noting that the actions of these groups represented legitimate resistance.  Clearly, Washington had attempted to discredit the pursuit of Palestinian self-determination and Lebanese sovereignty by labelling the champions of these causes as terrorists.
“In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2002, then US Under Secretary (of State John) Bolton grouped Syria with Libya and Cuba as rogue states that… are pursuing the development of WMD.”  Later that year, Bolton echoed his earlier accusation, telling the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Bush administration was very concerned about Syrian nuclear and missile programs. By September 2003, Bolton was warning of a “range of Syrian WMD programs.” 
Syria clearly had chemical weapons (now destroyed), though hardly in the same quantities as the much larger arsenals of the United States, Russia and (likely) its regional nemesis, Israel.  Citing the Washington Post, Congress’s researchers noted that Syria had “sought to build up its CW and missile capabilities as a ‘force equalizer’ to counter Israeli nuclear capabilities.”  It should be noted, however, that the idea that chemical weapons can act as a force equalizer to nuclear weapons is not only untenable, but risible. In WWI it took 70,000 tons of gas to produce as many fatalities as were produced at Hiroshima by a single US atom bomb.  To have any meaning at all, the concept of WMD must include weapons that kill massive numbers of people (nuclear weapons) and exclude those that don’t (chemical weapons.) Otherwise, it is a propaganda term used to magnify the non-threat posed by countries seeking independence outside the US orbit which have CW and biological weapons, but which weapons are no match for the United States’ nuclear weapons and are dwarfed by the Pentagon’s own CW and BW arsenals. Deceptively labelling these weapons as WMD, makes a non-threat a large threat that must be dealt with through military intervention and thereby provides a public relations rationale for a war of aggression.
As to the substance of Bolton’s assertion that Syria had a wide range of WMD programs, the CIA was unable to produce any evidence to corroborate his claim. Alfred Prados, author of a 2005 Congressional Research Service report titled “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” listed CIA assessments of Syrian nuclear and BW programs but none of the assessments contained any concrete evidence that Syria actually had such programs. For example, the CIA noted that it was “monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions with concern” but offered nothing beyond “intentions” to show that Damascus was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Prados also noted that Syria had “probably also continued to develop a BW capability,” this based on the fact that Damascus had “signed, but not ratified, the Biological Weapons Convention.” Prados conceded that “Little information is available on Syrian biological programs.”
US president George H.W. Bush is responsible for rendering the concept of WMD meaningless by expanding it to include chemical agents. Before Bush, WMD was a term to denote nuclear weapons or weapons of similar destructive capacity that might be developed in the future. Bush debased the definition in order to go to war with Iraq. He needed to transform the oil-rich Arab country from being seen accurately as a comparatively weak country militarily to being seen inaccurately as a significant threat because it possessed weapons now dishonestly rebranded as being capable of producing mass destruction. It was an exercise in war propaganda.
In 1989, Bush pledged to eliminate the United States’ chemical weapons by 1999. Seventeen years later, the Pentagon is still sitting on the world’s largest stockpile of militarized chemical agents. US allies Israel and Egypt also have chemical weapons. In 2003, Syria proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Middle East become a chemical weapons-free zone. The proposal was blocked by the United States, likely in order to shelter Israel from having to give up its store of chemical arms. Numerous calls to declare the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone have also been blocked by Washington to shelter Israel from having to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Bolton, it will be recalled, was among the velociraptors of the Bush administration to infamously and falsely accuse Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of holding on to WMD that the UN Security Council had demanded it dismantle. In effect, Iraq was ordered to disarm itself, and when it did, was falsely accused by the United States of still being armed as a pretext for US forces to invade the now defenceless country. Bolton may have chosen to play the same WMD card against Syria for the same reason: to manufacture consent for an invasion. But as Congress’s researchers pointed out, “Although some officials… advocated a ‘regime change strategy’ in Syria” through military means, “military operations in Iraq… forced US policy makers to explore additional options,”  rendering Bolton’s false accusations academic.
Since the only legitimate WMD are nuclear weapons, and since there is no evidence that Syria has even the untapped capability of producing them, much less possesses them, Syria has never been a WMD-state or a threat to the US goal of reducing WMD proliferation. What’s more, the claim that Washington holds this as a genuine goal is contestable, since it has blocked efforts to make the Middle East a chemical- and nuclear-weapons-free zone, in order to spare its protégé, Israel. It would be more accurate to say that the United States has a goal of reducing weapons proliferation among countries it may one day invade, in order to make the invasion easier. Moreover, there’s an egregious US double-standard here. Washington maintains the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but demands that countries it opposes should abandon their own, or forswear their development. This is obviously self-serving and has nothing whatever to do with fostering peace and everything to do with promoting US world domination. One US grievance with Assad’s Syria, then, is that it refused to accept the international dictatorship of the United States.
Economic reform (economic sovereignty)
In connection with Syria impeding the achievement of US goals in the Middle East, the Congressional Research Service made the following points in 2005 about the Syrian economy: It is “largely state-controlled;” it is “dominated by… (the) public sector, which employs 73% of the labour force;” and it is “still based largely on Soviet models.”  These departures from the preferred Wall Street paradigm of free markets and free enterprise appear, from the perspective of Congress’s researchers, to be valid reasons for the US government to attempt to bring about “reform” in Syria. Indeed, no one should be under the illusion that the US government is prepared to allow foreign governments to exercise sovereignty in setting their own direction economically. That this is the case is evidenced by the existence of a raft of US sanctions legislation against “non-market states.” (See the Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” for a detailed list of sanctions imposed on North Korea for having a “Marxist-Leninist” economy.)
To recapitulate the respective positions of Syria and the United States on issues of bilateral concern to the two countries:
On Israel. To accept Israel’s right to exist as a settler state on land illegitimately acquired through violence and military conquest from Palestinians, Lebanese (the Shebaa Farms) and Syrians (Golan), would be to collude in the denial of the fundamental right of self-determination. Damascus has refused to collude in the negation of this right. Washington demands it.
On Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the principal deterrent against Israeli territorial expansion into Lebanon and Israeli aspirations to turn the country into a client state. Damascus’s support for the Lebanese resistance organization, and Washington’s opposition to it, places the Assad government on the right side of the principle of self-determination and successive US governments on the wrong side.
On WMD. Syria has a right to self-defense through means of its own choosing and the demand that it abandon its right is not worthy of discussion. The right to self-defense is a principle the United States and its allies accept as self-evident and non-negotiable. It is not a principle that is valid only for the United States and its satellites.
On opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. The 2003 US-led aggression against Iraq was an international crime on a colossal scale, based on an illegitimate casus belli, and a fabricated one at that, and which engendered massive destruction and loss of life. It was the supreme international crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials. Applying the Nuremberg principles, the perpetrators would be hanged. US aggression against Iraq, including the deployment of “sanctions of mass destruction” through the 1990s, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and was blithely accepted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “worth it,” was undertaken despite the absence of any threat to the United States. The deliberate creation of humanitarian calamities in the absence of a threat, as a matter of choice and not necessity, in pursuit of economic gain, is an iniquity on a signal scale. What, then, are we to think of a government in Damascus that opposed this iniquity, and a government in Washington that demands that Damascus reverse its opposition and accept the crime as legitimate?
Whatever its failings, the Assad government has unambiguously adopted positions that have traditionally been understood to be concerns of the political left: support for self-determination; public ownership and planning of the economy; opposition to wars of aggression; and anti-imperialism. This is not to say that on a spectrum from right to left that the Assad government occupies a position near the left extreme; far from it. But from Washington’s point of view, Damascus is far enough to the left to be unacceptable. Indeed, it is the Syrian government’s embrace of traditional leftist positions that accounts for why it is in the cross-hairs of the world’s major champion of reactionary causes, the United States, even if it isn’t the kind of government that is acceptable to Trotskyists and anarchists.
In 2003, the Bush administration listed Syria as part of a junior varsity axis of evil, along with Cuba and Libya, citing support in Damascus for Hezbollah and groups engaged in armed struggle to achieve Palestinian self-determination.  An invasion of Syria following the US take-over of Iraq in 2003 was contemplated, but was called off after the Pentagon discovered its hands were full quelling resistance to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Assad through sanctions and by strengthening the opposition in Syria, hoping either to force Assad to accept Israel’s territorial gains, end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, and to remake the economy—or to yield power. However, as Congress’s researchers reveal, there were concerns in Washington that if efforts to bolster the opposition went too far, Assad would fall to “a successor regime (which) could be led by Islamic fundamentalists who might adopt policies even more inimical to the United States.” 
On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “development of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything.) This was reinforced with an additional (and largely superfluous) ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States. 
On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria.  And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination, refusing to accept as valid territorial gains which Israel had made through wars of aggression, and operating a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy, based on Soviet models. 
In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian government, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting democracy in Syria… as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds (emphasis added).” 
By 2006, Time was reporting that the Bush administration had “been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included “the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.” Front representatives “were accorded at least two meetings” at the White House in 2006. Hence, the US government, at its highest level, was colluding with Islamists to bring down the Syrian government at least five years before the eruption of protests in 2011. This is a development that seems to have escaped the notice of some who believe that violent Islamist organizations emerged only after March 2011. In point of fact, the major internal opposition to secular Syrian governments, both before and after March 2011, were and are militant Sunni Islamists. Syria expert Joshua Landis told Time that White House support for the Syrian opposition was “apparently an effort to gin up the Syrian opposition under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘election monitoring,’ but it’s really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government into doing what the United States wants.” 
The US Congress researchers noted that despite “US calls for democracy in the Middle East, historically speaking, US policymakers” have tended to favor “secular Arab republics (Egypt) and Arab monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)”  They noted too that since “the rise of political Islam as an opposition vehicle in the Middle East decades ago, culminating in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, US policymakers have been concerned that secular Arab dictatorships like Syria would face rising opposition from Islamist groups seeking their overthrow.”  “The religiously fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Bush administration enlisted to pressure the Assad government, had long been at odds with the secular Syrian government, the researchers noted. 
Today, Islamic State operates as one of the largest, if not the largest, rebel groups in Syria. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report cited an “unnamed senior State Department official” who observed:
[W]e’ve never seen something like this. We’ve never seen a terrorist organization with 22,000 foreign fighters from a hundred countries all around the world. To put it in context—again, the numbers are fuzzy—but it’s about double of what went into Afghanistan over 10 years in the war against the Soviet Union. Those Jihadi fighters were from a handful of countries.” 
Islamic State differs from other militant Islamist opponents of the Syrian government in seeking to control territory, not only in Syria, but in Iraq and beyond. As such, it constitutes a threat to US domination of Iraq and influence throughout the Middle East and north Africa. In contrast, ideologically similar groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, limit the scope of their operations to Syria. They, therefore, constitute a threat to the Syrian government alone, and have proved, as a consequence, to be more acceptable to Washington.
The US government has publicly drawn a distinction between Islamic State and the confined-to-Syria-therefore-acceptable rebels, seeking to portray the former as terrorists and the latter as moderates, regardless of the methods they use and their views on Islam and democracy. The deception is echoed by the US mass media, which often complain that when Russian warplanes target non-Islamic State rebels that they’re striking “moderates,” as if all rebels apart from Islamic State are moderates, by definition. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that “moderate” means little more than “not Islamic State.” He told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with” Islamic State. 
The rebels are useful to the US government. By putting military pressure on Damascus to exhaust the Syrian army, they facilitate the achievement of the immediate US goal of “forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict that will see President Assad and some his supporters leave office while preserving the institutions and security structures of the Syrian state,”  as Congress’s researchers summarize US strategy. Hence, Islamic State exists both as a useful instrument of US policy, and as a threat to US domination and control of Iraq and the broader Middle East. To Washington, the terrorist organization is a double-edged sword, and is treated accordingly. US airstrikes on Islamic State appear calculated to weaken the terrorist group enough that it doesn’t gain more territory in Iraq, but not so much that pressure is taken off Damascus. A tepid approach to fighting the hyper-sectarian terrorist group fits with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Islamic State, which appears to mean destroying it only after it has served its purpose of exhausting the Syrian army. In the meantime, the anti-Shiite cut-throats are given enough latitude to maintain pressure on Syrian loyalists.
Congress’s researchers concur with this view. They conclude that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government.  This means that the US president is moderating efforts to destroy Islamic State to allow a group he decries as “simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations”  continue their work of brutalizing local populations. If he truly believed Islamic State was a scourge that needed to be destroyed, the US president would work with the Syrian government to expunge it. Instead, he has chosen to wield Islamic State as a weapon to expunge the Syrian government, in the service of building up Israel and fostering free market and free enterprise economies in the Middle East to accommodate US foreign investment and exports on behalf of his Wall Street sponsors. 
1. Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.
2. Prados and Sharp.
7. Alfred B. Prados, “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” Congressional Research Service, March 13, 2006.
11. Israel signed the global treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, but never ratified it.
13. Stephen Gowans, “Rethinking Chemical Weapons,” what’s left, August 14, 2015.
14. Prados and Sharp.
16. Steve R. Weisman, “US threatens to impose penalties against Syrians,” The New York Times, April 14, 2003.
17. Prados and Sharp.
22. Adam Zagorin, “Syria in Bush’s cross hairs,” Time, December 19, 2006.
23. Prados and Sharp.
26. Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, December 28, 2015.
27. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195
28. Blanchard and Humud.
29. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,”Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.
30. Blanchard and Humud.
31. Virtually every member of the Obama administration, past and present, is a member of the Wall Street-dominated Council on Foreign Relations, or additionally, has spent part of his or her career on Wall Street. Wall Street was a major source of Obama’s election campaign funding. The strong interlock between Wall Street and the executive branch of the US government is not unique to the Obama administration. See my “Aspiring to Rule the World: US Capital and the Battle for Syria,” what’s left, December 15, 2015.
Despite reports that state repression in Egypt is taking place on a greater scale than it has been for generations, the Obama administration is seeking to roll back human rights conditions Congress had placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military.
The request, which was tucked into the Obama administration’s 182-page budget proposal, seeks foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and “the sale of crowd control weapons to ‘emerging democracies.’” The discovery was made by The Intercept.
If the new proposal, which was released on Tuesday, is adopted, it would end a Congressional restriction stipulating “that 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions.”
Interestingly, Congress was able to temporarily waive those restrictions in a foreign aid bill in June of 2015, arguing it was in the national security interest of the United Station, according to Al-Monitor. The conditions were that Egypt would have to hold “free and fair” parliamentary elections and take steps to foster democracy and protect human rights for an additional $1.3 billion in military aid to be released.
The US State Department issued a scathing report in May of 2015, arguing that “while Egypt had implemented parts of its ‘democracy roadmap’ the overall trajectory of rights and democracy had been negative.”
It pinpointed restrictions on freedom of expression, the press, and freedom of association, as well as lack of due process. It further said that “impunity remains a serious problem in Egypt.”
It was well known at the time the Egyptians were “infuriated” by the report.
Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, told The Intercept that the White House probably didn’t want to explain why it had to waive restrictions this year.
“They had to basically do an assessment. … Here’s how they’re doing on political prisoners, here’s how they’re doing on freedom of assembly, and so on,” Bockenfeld said.
The Guardian reported in January that Egypt has jailed more journalists than any other country on earth except China under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Three reporters were imprisoned, one forcibly “disappeared” and was later charged with being a member of a banned organization, and six were referred to judicial hearings because of their work.
Also in January, Italian academic Giulio Regeni, who was researching labor unrest and independent trade unions in Egypt, went missing during a security crackdown on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Egypt’s revolution. His body was discovered nine days later by the side of the road marked with cigarette burns, bruising, and multiple stab wounds. The Guardian reported more than 4,600 academics worldwide have signed an open letter protesting his death and demanding an investigation into the growing number of forced disappearances. Egyptian officials appear to be cooperating with the investigation, according to the Italian foreign minister.
The budget also contains a request that would remove a provision from a law passed in 2012 in reaction to the Arab Spring protests that prohibits the transfer of tear gas and other crowd control weapons to countries that are “undergoing democratic transition.”
“It’s basically going to be free for all,” Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, told the Intercept when speculating on the results of the administration rolling back that provision.
Among the Middle Eastern countries seeking this equipment are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain – all of which are simmering with pro-democracy challenges.
Turkey’s embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is resurrecting the “deep state” alliance of secret intelligence operatives and extreme rightists that he so notably challenged just a few years ago while putting hundreds of military officers and other opponents on trial for conspiring against Turkish democracy. In a remarkable about-face, Erdogan is now emulating the ruthless tactics of previous authoritarian rulers at the expense of Turkey’s evolution as a liberal state.
Like many of his secular predecessors, Erdogan has reverted to waging an all-out war against radical Kurdish separatists, the PKK. He is dramatically expanding the once discredited National Intelligence Agency, which in years past recruited Mafia criminals and right-wing terrorists to murder Kurdish leaders, left-wing activists and intellectuals. And he appears to be forging an alliance with ultranationalist members of the National Action Party (MHP), who supplied many of the ruthless killers for those murderous operations.
These developments should alarm U.S. and European leaders. They are ominously anti-democratic trends in a country that once promised to meld the best of Western and Near Eastern traditions. They are also helping to drive Turkey’s secret alliances with Islamist extremists in Syria and its violent opposition to Kurdish groups that are leading the resistance to ISIS in that country.
Erdogan successfully cultivated a democratic image after his moderate Islamic party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), gained a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the November 2002 elections. Then in 2008, with public support for his party sagging, Erdogan oversaw the mass indictment of more than 200 former military officers, academics, journalists, businessmen and other opponents of the AKP.
The 2,455-page indictment alleged a vast conspiracy by members of an alleged “Ergenekon terrorist organization,” named after a mythical place in the Altay Mountains, to destabilize Turkish society and overthrow the government.
The alleged Ergenekon plot drew credibility from an all-too-real alliance of intelligence operatives, criminals and rightist terrorists exposed in the aftermath of the so-called “Susurluk Incident.” A car crash in the Turkish town of Susurluk in 1996 connected one of the country’s leading heroin traffickers and terrorists with a member of the conservative ruling party, the head of the counterinsurgency police, and the Minister of Interior.
Subsequent investigations linked this “deep state” network to a former NATO program — sometimes known by the name of its Italian version, “Operation Gladio” — to foment guerrilla resistance in case of a Soviet occupation of Turkey.
In contrast to the legitimate revelations that grew out of the Susurluk affair, the Ergenekon proceeding at times resembled a Soviet show trial. A court handed down life sentences to a former head of the Turkish military and several top generals, the heads of various intelligence organizations, a prominent secular ultranationalist, secular journalists, and a prominent deputy from a secular opposition party, among others.
A separate proceeding, known as “Sledgehammer,” convicted more than 300 secular military officers of involvement in an alleged coup plot against the AKP government in 2003.
Critics accused the Erdogan regime of using the cases to neutralize its potential rivals as part of its broader suppression of political dissent.
“The intimidation and the number of arrests have steadily risen in the last 10 years,” Der Spiegel observed in 2013. “Many journalists no longer dare to report what’s really happening, authors avoid making public appearances and government critics need bodyguards. The anti-terrorism law is an effective instrument of power for the government as the supposed terrorist threat is an accusation that’s hard to disprove. It plays on a deep-rooted fear among Turks that someone is trying to destabilize and damage the nation.”
The two big trials that fanned that fear were based on falsified evidence and a politicized judicial system. The injustice was effectively recognized by Istanbul’s high criminal court in 2014 when it freed the former army chief of staff convicted in the Ergenekon case. In March 2015, a prosecutor admitted that evidence submitted in the Sledgehammer case was “fake” and 236 convicted suspects were acquitted.
However, just as Erdogan had used those two cases to purge the Turkish power structure of his secular critics, so he used the discrediting of those cases as an excuse to purge supporters of another rival, the exiled moderate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Erdogan accused them of terrorism and of creating a “parallel state” to challenge his rule. The crackdown followed judicial actions and news leaks, attributed to Gülen followers, that implicated Erdogan’s family and supporters in high-level corruption. As the New York Times observed, Erdogan turned his back on those show trials “for the simple reason that the same prosecutors who targeted the military with fake evidence are now going after him.”
Now, in a complete reversal of his previous warnings about the dangers of the deep state, Erdogan is actively cultivating the very institutions that were at its core.
For example, the government is planning a 48 percent increase in spending for the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) in 2016, on top of a 419 percent increase over the past decade. The new money is slated to pay for construction of a big new headquarters building and to expand the agency’s operations.
According to Turkish expert Pinar Tremblay, “What we are observing here is a national intelligence agency that has become a prominent player in the decision-making process for Turkish politics. … [MIT head Hakan] Fidan acts as a shadow foreign minister. He is present in almost all high-level meetings with the president and prime minister. It is an open secret that both the president and the prime minister trust Fidan more than any other bureaucrat.”
After MIT trucks were caught in 2013 and 2014 smuggling ammunition, rocket parts, and mortar shells to radical Islamic groups in Syria, Erdogan’s allies put police and other officials involved in the raids on trial for allegedly conspiring with Gülen against the government.
A recent report also suggest that Erdogan is also seeking support for his Syrian adventures from members of the National Action Party (MHP), sometimes known as the Grey Wolves. Once openly neo-fascist in ideology, the party figured prominently in terrorist violence in the 1970s and 1980s with backing from military and police officials. Mehmet Ali Agca, the terrorist who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was a member of the Grey Wolves.
Members of a youth branch of the MHP are reportedly now fighting in Syria to support that country’s Turkish ethnic minority, the Turkmen, against Syrian Kurds. (The Turkmen are also being armed by the MIT.) At least one MHP notable was killed recently by a Russian bombing raid; one of the mourners at his funeral was the Turkish gunman who murdered the pilot of the Russian jet shot down by Turkey in November.
A leading Turkish expert on the Grey Wolves, journalist Kemal Can, says they are drawn to supporting the Turkmen less for ideological reasons than because of state recruitment. “I think that, directly or indirectly, the state link is the decisive one,” he said. “The ultranationalists are the most fertile pool for secret operations.”
Many members of the MHP are also drawn to the cause by their violent opposition to the Kurds and other non-Turkish minority groups.
After PKK militants attacked Turkish soldiers and police last summer and fall, Grey Wolves attacked 140 offices of the HDP, the Peoples’ Democratic Party which supports the rights of Kurds and other minorities, according to the leftist Turkish journalist Sungur Savran, setting many offices on fire:
“Ordinary Kurds were hunted on the streets of the cities and towns of the Turkish-dominated western parts of the country, intercity buses stopped and stoned, and Kurdish seasonal workers attacked collectively, their houses and cars burnt down, and they themselves driven away en masse.”
Such polarizing violence suited the needs of Erdogan’s AKP party, which wants to eliminate the HDP from parliament in order to gain the super-majority it needs to revise the constitution to enhance Erdogan’s powers as president.
Last September, intriguingly, one leader of the ultranationalist MHP urged restraint against ordinary Kurds, saying that “equating the PKK and our Kurdish-origin siblings is a blind trap” that would ensure wider ethnic conflict. Further, he claimed that groups acting in the name of the Grey Wolves to attack Kurds were actually “Mafia” fronts for President Erdogan.
His claim about the “Mafia” may have been more than metaphorical. Following Erdogan’s recent denunciation of hundreds of Turkish academics as “traitors” for protesting the government’s vicious crackdown on Kurdish communities, an ultranationalist organized crime boss – who was briefly imprisoned for his alleged role in the Ergenekon conspiracy but is today chummy with Erdogan – promised to “take a shower” in “the blood of those so-called intellectuals.”
So there you have it: The Erdogan regime has revived an alliance of intelligence officials, right-wing ultranationalists and even organized criminals to crush Kurdish extremism, to cow political critics, and to support radical Islamists in Syria.
The Erdogan regime, once the great scourge of alleged anti-democratic conspirators, has recreated the Turkish deep state as part of a menacing power grab. It represents a direct threat not only to Turkish democracy, but to Turkey’s neighbors and NATO allies, who will bear the consequences of Erdogan’s ever-more risky, erratic and self-serving policies.
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).
Days after criticizing North Korea for launching a satellite into space, the United States sent its own, brand new military satellite into orbit Wednesday morning.
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is the agency in charge of the United States’ fleet of spy satellites, and early Wednesday morning, the NRO sent its latest above stratosphere. The NROL-45 satellite was sent into space on the back of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The NRO already has three additional launches scheduled for the upcoming year. Two will lift off in May and June, both from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The third will launch from Vandenberg in December.
The NRO will not say, specifically, what kind of operations these satellites will be conducting. Its payload remains classified, and a statement on the ULA’s website vaguely describes NROL-45 as being necessary for the “support of national defense.”
The timing of this launch is surprising given Washington’s condemnation of a North Korean satellite launch on Sunday.
The United States views any rocket launch by Pyongyang as a veiled attempt to perfect its ballistic missile technology. In the wake of Sunday’s launch, President Obama reaffirmed America’s commitment to defending South Korea.
“The United States stands in solidarity with the ROK [South Korea] and will take the necessary steps to fulfill our ironclad commitment to defend the ROK and our other allies in the region,” Obama told South Korean president Park Geun-hye on Monday night.
“Our concern though is that they do a space-launch but really it’s the same technology to develop ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles],” a US official said earlier this month, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Leaders from South Korea, Japan, and the US have already agreed to pursue stricture United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang over Sunday’s launch.
“[The sides] agreed to closely cooperate to make sure that the Security Council can adopt a resolution for strong and effective sanctions on North Korea,” said a press service for South Korean President Park.
It’s hard to imagine that the NRO’s series of satellite launches will elicit a similar reaction from Washington’s allies.