The US administration is preventing the country’s banks from doing business with Iran despite the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Washington says it has eased “secondary” sanctions targeting companies outside the US and Americans seeking certain businesses in Iran but most “primary” sanctions related to terrorism and rights accusations remain in place.
“Broadly, the US primary embargo on Iran is still in place,” John Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), told a congressional panel on Thursday.
That means the opening with Iran following the implementation of the nuclear accord “does not have any impact on us,” the AFP news agency quoted an official with one large New York bank as saying.
“We’re still very prohibited from engaging in just about any business activity with Iran except on very limited exceptions,” the official added.
US banks interested
According to AFP, several leading US banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, are keen to enter the Iranian market.
They have reportedly turned to teams of lawyers and other specialists as they plumb the shifting legal terrain.
“We continue to monitor the developments in Iran,” Citigroup spokesman Kamran Mumtaz told the French news agency.
Several leading US banks are keen to enter the Iranian market, AFP says.
According to OFAC, all foreign banks operating in the US are forbidden from clearing US dollar-denominated transactions involving Iran through US banks.
Smith said non-US companies who provide support to Iranian entities “may face being cut off from the US financial system.”
Iranian officials say the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has decided to carry out all foreign trade in euros to avoid any complications.
Meanwhile, non-US banks that work in both Iran and the US are reportedly isolating Iranian business from their US assets to avoid possible American punishments.
The US government has also freed banks to make loans in some specific businesses and activities involving Iran such as sales of airplane parts.
Banks can further provide financing to US companies that import Iranian foods or carpets, pistachio nuts and caviar.
However, the nuclear accord still faces threats from US presidential candidates who have pledged to undo it after President Barack Obama is gone.
‘Business as normal’
Those threats have only harmed American entities which are blocked from joining a rush by non-US companies to cash in on trade opportunities in Iran.
On Monday, the world’s largest independent oil trader Vitol Group said it’s “business as normal” with Iran after the end of economic sanctions.
Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) also said it wanted to open a branch in Tehran “as quickly as possible,” becoming the first foreign lender to set up shop in Iran after the lifting of sanctions.
Major companies from Asia to Europe are rushing to resurrect trade with the global energy superpower which sits on the worlds’ biggest oil and gas reserves combined as well as massive mineral deposits.
Italy and France signed initial deals worth more than $40 billion in a variety of fields — from oil and gas to car manufacturing, construction, health and agriculture and clean energy development — last month during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe.
Seeking to reassure, Paris unveiled an accord offering state guarantees to back French investments in Iran through credit management firm Coface in order to cover onsite non-payment risks.
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.
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.
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.
Hillary Clinton has written a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban (left), pledging to speak out publicly against the BDS campaign aimed at Israel
American billionaire George Soros donated $6 million to a super-PAC financing US Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton last month, a report says.
Soros has now provided a total of $7 million in this election cycle to Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC which raised $41 million on behalf of Clinton in 2015, according to the committee’s statement issued on Sunday.
The super-PAC raised $25.3 million during the last 6 months, and Soros’s contribution accounted for almost a quarter of its funding haul.
Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media tycoon, and his wife Cheryl have contributed a total of $5 million to Clinton’s super-PAC.
Clinton has written a letter to Saban, pledging to speak out publicly against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel.
Wealthy individuals, who are restricted by law from giving large amounts directly to candidates’ campaigns, donate to political action committees, commonly known as super-PACs.
American billionaire George Soros has contributed a total of $7 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign so far
In the 2010 Citizens United case ruling, the US Supreme Court allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations in elections.
According to a study published by the New York Times, wealthy individuals and corporations have begun to replace powerless people as direct beneficiaries of the US political system and the Constitution.
Clinton is maintaining a slim lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa, according to a poll released on Saturday.
Clinton beat out rival Sanders in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll. She has 45 percent support, with Sanders at 42 percent.
On Saturday, The New York Times endorsed Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, a potential boost for the candidate two days before the Iowa caucuses.
Times editors wrote that they chose Clinton over her main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, due to her experience and policy ideas.
The editorial board described Clinton as “one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.”
Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor who writes The Wall Street Journal’s weekly “Global View” column, is not really a bad prose stylist, and his logic is not always unsound. But his unexamined assumptions lead him astray.
His latest installment is typical. Entitled “Why the U.S. Should Stand by the Saudis Against Iran,” it begins with not one premise, but two. The first, as the title suggest, is that the U.S. should stand by Riyadh in its time of woes. The second is that if the kingdom stumbles, only one person is to blame – President Obama.
The article opens on a promising note: “There is so much to detest about Saudi Arabia,” Stephens writes. It bans women from driving, it shuts its doors to Syrian refugees, it promotes “a bigoted and brutal version of Sunni Islam,” and it has “increased tensions with Iran by executing … a prominent radical Shiite cleric,” i.e., Nimr al-Nimr.
So why continue siding with a kingdom “that Israeli diplomat Dore Gold once called ‘Hatred’s Kingdom,’” Stephens asks, “especially when the administration is also trying to pursue further opening [sic] with Tehran?”
It’s a question that a lot of people are asking especially now that the collapse in oil prices means that the Saudis are less economically important than they once were. But Stephens says it would be wrong to abandon the kingdom “especially when it is under increasing economic strain from falling oil prices.”
Get that? It would be wrong to abandon the kingdom when oil is scarce and prices are high — because that’s when we need the Saudis the most — and it’s wrong to abandon the monarchy when oil is plentiful and prices are low when we need them the least. Oil, in other words, has nothing to do with it. It’s wrong because it’s wrong.
But Stephens thinks it’s wrong for another reason as well: because Saudi Arabia “feels acutely threatened by a resurgent Iran.” Why is Iran resurgent? Because the nuclear deal that it recently concluded with the U.S. has set it free from punishing economic sanctions.
He then goes on to list all the bad things Iran has done thanks to the power that the Obama administration has just handed it on a silver platter. “Despite fond White House hopes that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran’s behavior,” Stephens says, “Tehran hard-liners wasted no time this week disqualifying thousands of moderate candidates from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, and an Iranian-backed militia appears to be responsible for the recent kidnapping of three Americans in Iraq.”
Scary, eh? Yes – until one considers how Stephens has loaded the dice. His statement about Iran’s hardliners is accurate as far as it goes. But he might have pointed out that while Iran’s theocratic rulers certainly hobble democracy, they at least allow some sort of parliamentary elections to take place whereas Saudi Arabia, the regime he is now leaping to defend, allows exactly none. (Sorry, but last month’s meaningless municipal-council elections don’t count.)
In the Saudi kingdom, political parties, protests, even seminars in which intellectuals get to sound off are all verboten. Since March 2014, Saudis have been expressly forbidden to do anything that might undermine the status quo, including advocating atheism, criticizing Islam, participating in any form of political protest, or even joining a political party.
Stephens’s statement about the three kidnapped Americans is equally misleading. While Iran does indeed back such militias, Reuters cited U.S. government sources saying that “Washington had no reason to believe Tehran was involved in the kidnapping and did not believe the trio were being held in Iran.”
Plus, to follow Stephens’s logic, if Iran is responsible for specific actions like these, then Saudi Arabia is responsible for specific actions of the Sunni Salafist forces that it funds in Syria, which include lopping off the heads of Shi‘ites and committing many other such atrocities.
Stephens says that the U.S.-Iranian accord “guarantees Iran a $100 billion sanctions windfall,” a figure that the Council on Foreign Relations, no slouch when it comes to Iran bashing, describes as roughly double the true amount. He says Iran now enjoys “the protection of a major nuclear power” thanks to Russia’s intervention in Syria and agreement to supply Tehran with high-tech weaponry.
As a result, “Iranian proxies are active in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, and dominate much of southern Iraq. Restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province and neighboring Bahrain provide further openings for Iranian subversion on the Arabian peninsula.”
Possibly so – except that Stephens might have noted that Saudi proxies, up to and including Al Qaeda, are active in the same countries and that Shi‘ites in Bahrain and the Eastern Province might be a little less restive if Saudi repression were a little less savage.
Then Stephens gets to his main point, which is the nefarious role of Obama:
“Add to this an American president who is ambivalent about the House of Saud the way Jimmy Carter was about the Shah of Iran, and no wonder Riyadh is acting the way it is. If the administration is now unhappy about the Saudi war in Yemen or its execution of Shiite radicals, it has only itself to blame.
“All this means that the right U.S. policy toward the Saudis is to hold them close and demonstrate serious support, lest they be tempted to continue freelancing their foreign policy in ways we might not like. It won’t happen in this administration, but a serious commitment to overthrow the Assad regime would be the place to start.”
In other words, if the Saudi monarchy chops off the heads of dissident Shi‘ites and sentences liberal blogger Raif Badawi to a thousand lashes, it’s because Obama doesn’t show enough love. Ditto Yemen. If Saudi air raids have killed some 2,800 civilians according to the latest UN estimates, including more than 500 children, it’s because Obama has allowed his affections to flag for the Saudi royals. If only he would hug the Saudi princes a little closer, they wouldn’t feel so lonely and bereft and would therefore respond more gently to their neighbors in the south. No blame should be cast on the Saudi leaders. Their behavior can’t be blamed on the contradictions between their playboy lifestyles and the ascetic extremes of Wahhabism or the baleful effects of raking in untold oil riches while doing no work in return. No, everything’s the fault of Obama and his yuppie ways.
What can one say about reasoning like this? Only that it makes Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem like paragons of mental stability. But given that The Wall Street Journal has long filled its editorial pages with such swamp gas, why dwell on the feverish exhalations of just one right-wing columnist?
The answer is that Stephens speaks not just for himself, but for an entire neocon establishment that is beside itself over the mess in the Persian Gulf and desperate to avoid blame for the chaos (which is now spreading into Europe). So, talking points must be developed to shift responsibility.
The Lost Saudi Cause
But the Saudis may be beyond saving. With Iran preparing to put a million more barrels on the world oil market per day, prices – down better than 75 percent since mid-2014 – can only go lower. The Saudis, hemorrhaging money at the rate of $100 billion a year, know that when the foreign currency runs out, their power runs out too. Hence, they fear winding up as yet another failed Middle Eastern state like Syria.
“Islamic State and other jihadist groups would flourish,” Stephens observes, this time correctly. “Iran would seek to extend its reach in the Arabian peninsula. The kingdom’s plentiful stores of advanced Western military equipment would also fall into dangerous hands.”
It’s not a pretty picture, which is why the neocons are pointing the fingers at others, Obama first and foremost. As Jim Lobe recently observed, all the usual suspects are pitching in in behalf of their Saudi friends – Elliott Abrams, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and so on. All are furious at what Obama administration has done to their beloved petro-sheiks.
As neocon theorist Max Book put it at the Commentary Magazine website: “The American policy should be clear: We should stand with the Saudis – and the Egyptians, and the Jordanians, and the Emiratis, and the Turks, and the Israels [sic], and all of our other allies – to stop the new Persian Empire. But the Obama administration, morally and strategically confused, is instead coddling Iran in the vain hope that it will somehow turn Tehran from enemy into friend.”
Something else is also at work, however – the I-word. As Lobe notes, neocons have done an about-face with regard to the Saudis. Where Richard Perle once called on the Bush administration to include Riyadh on his post-9/11 hit list, the neocons are now firmly on the Saudis’ side.
Why? The reason is Israel, which has decided since tangling with Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War that the Shi‘ites are its chief enemy and the Sunni petro-monarchies, comparatively speaking, its friend. Like Communists responding to the latest directive from Moscow, the neocons have turned on a dime as a consequence, churning out reams of propaganda in support of Arab countries they once loathed.
A Saudi Makeover
In the neocon domain, Saudi Arabia has undergone a wondrous makeover, transformed from a bastion of reaction and anti-Semitism to a country that is somehow peace-loving and progressive. Formerly an enemy of Washington – or at best a distasteful gang of business associates supplying lots of oil and buying lots of guns – Saudi Arabia has been re-invented as America’s dearest friend in the Arab world.
People like Bret Stephens have done their bit in behalf of the cause, turning out article after article whose real purpose is hidden from view. Where neocons formerly scorned anyone who spoke well of the Saudis, they now denounce anyone who speaks ill.
The funny thing is that Obama is to blame for the disaster in the Middle East, not because he disregarded the latest diktat from the Washington neocon-dominated foreign-policy establishment, but because he has accepted its priorities all too dutifully. He stood by as Qatar steered hundreds of millions of dollars to Salafist jihadis in Libya and while the Saudis, Qataris, and other Gulf states did the same to Sunni fundamentalists in Syria.
Obama’s response to Saudi Arabia’s repression of Arab Spring protests in Bahrain was muted, he refused to condemn the beheading of al-Nimr — the best the State Department could come up with was a statement declaring that the execution risked “exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced” — and Obama has even given military support to the kingdom’s air assault on Yemen.
Yet now the neocons blame him for not doing enough to keep the Saudis happy.
According to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal represents a “dangerous moment” for America.
The implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal represents a “dangerous moment” for America, and it is essential to make Iran meet the commitments it made when it accepted the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said Sunday.
“This is a dangerous moment for America and our allies. We need to hold Iran to the commitments it made when it accepted the JCPOA,” AIPAC, America’s most influential pro-Israel lobbying organization, stated following the implementation of the Iran deal.
The statement stressed that “Congress and the executive branch must also live up to their own commitments,” which means it has to respond to Iranian violations of the JCPOA “with certain, swift and severe penalties.” The organization also noted it is necessary to shut out the possibility of Iran building up “its ability to pursue regional dominance” as a “terrorist state”.
“Iran can repatriate tens of billions of dollars from frozen foreign accounts, fueling its efforts to expand its reach across the region. The international community will dismantle its elaborate sanctions regime, and Iran will start down the path to legitimize its illicit nuclear program,” the statement reads.
AIPAC also asserted that Iran demonstrated its irresponsibility in the past when it violated mandatory United Nations Security Council resolutions by conducting prohibited ballistic missile tests.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made skeptical comments on the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal as well, saying that Iran hasn’t yet abandoned its ambitions to possess nuclear weapons.
Iran and six major international powers (the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) reached an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in July 2015. The deal entailed Iran agreeing to ensure that its nuclear program is of a peaceful nature.
‘Trump is blaming Bill Clinton for 9/11, that’s partly true, the full truth is that bin Laden was a US asset’
American scholar Dr. Kevin Barrett says the full truth about the 9/11 Zionist coup d’état in the United States is probably too politically explosive for Donald Trump to ever tell since it would destabilize the US political system.
Dr. Barrett, a founding member of the Scientific Panel for the Investigation of 9/11, told Press TV on Wednesday that if the Republican presidential front-runner did that he would be immediately shut down and taken out physically or attacked quite brutally in the media.
The author of Questioning the War on Terror made the remarks when asked to comment on Trump’s recent statement in which he blamed former US President Bill Clinton for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The New York billionaire said Clinton could have prevented the death of thousands of American people had he authorized Osama bin Laden’s assassination.
“Donald Trump started a big controversy in the Republican Party when he blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 – quite correctly. He didn’t go so far as to point out that the Bush administration itself was actually complicit in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which it was, but he implied that perhaps Bush allowed 9/11 to happen through incompetence,” Dr. Barrett said.
“Now he is blaming Bill Clinton for 9/11, and that’s partly true too. Of course, Trump is basically seeking political gains from these remarks. I don’t think that Donald trump is a truth teller by any means, but he is letting a little bit of truth to seep out as he seeks political gains,” he added.
“He did gain enormously by blaming Bush for 9/11. He essentially destroyed the candidacy of Bush’s brother, Jeb. And now he is doing what many Republicans and Conservatives have been telling him to do which is shift the blame toward Clinton. And that’s not entirely wrong.”
CIA had 10 opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden
Dr. Barrett said, “We do know that according to Michel Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s ‘Get bin Laden Unit’, that Scheuer and his unit had ten opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden during the run-up to 9/11, and every single one of them was nixed by higher-ups. So clearly bin Laden was a protected asset of the United States, or whoever is really in charge of the United States, from 1996 to 1999, when Scheuer was the head of that unit.”
“We also have a number of other indications suggesting that bin Laden was under protection not only during the Clinton administration but also during the early days of the Bush administration prior to 9/11, and perhaps even thereafter,” he stated.
Bin Laden was treated in American Hospital in Dubai
Dr. Barrett said that” bin Laden met with the CIA station chief when bin Laden was being treated in the American Hospital in Dubai in July 2001. He was treated there by Dr. Terry Callaway, an American kidney specialist. And of course bin Laden had fatal kidney disease.”
“He was apparently such a valuable asset that the CIA – the real CIA, not the division that Scheuer headed, because they apparently were not in the loop – was keeping bin Laden alive and protecting him for a reason, and that reason became clear on the night of 9/11 itself when bin Laden was under treatment once again for his fatal kidney disease in the military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, under the watchful eyes of the Pakistan military and intelligence people who themselves were very closely linked to American military intelligence,” he noted.
“So the upshot here is that Donald Trump is getting at little bits and pieces of truth, but the full truth probably is too politically explosive for Donald Trump to ever tell – not that it would help him politically to tell it, because he would be immediately shut down and taken out—whether physically, by being killed, which certainly could happen, or by being attacked quite brutally in the media.”
Full truth about 9/11
The American analyst said, “The full truth is that bin Laden was a US asset, an undeniable American asset, since the days he was recruited by the CIA and the Saudi leadership to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, and he continued to play that role right up until his death in 2001.”
“He almost certainly died in December 2001, but the American neoconservative faction that engineered the 9/11 Zionist coup d’état in America needed bin Laden to play the role of a pasty, the big bad wolf, the villain with which they were trying to scare the American people into submission to their plans for perpetual war for Israel and the shredding of their constitutional rights,” he argued.
“So they kept bin Laden, blew him up into a myth, and the myth of Osama bin Laden lived on. We have also these stories about how Obama finally killed him and threw him in the ocean according to Islamic custom, the story which had been completely proven ridiculous and false by none other than Seymour Hersh among others,” he stated.
“I don’t know that Donald Trump even would consider telling this full horrible truth, but it would be nice if somebody would, because the American people are being taken for a ride – we’re losing our rights, we’re losing our economy, and we’re dragged into this endless cycle of wars to destroy Middle Eastern countries for the benefit of Israel,” the scholar concluded.
The policies adopted by Riyadh are under the influence of Israel, which seeks to see tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a senior Iranian military official says, amid strained relations between the two Muslim countries.
“Al Saud policies are influenced by the Zionist regime (Israel); and this regime is more inclined than the United States toward dragging the region to insecurity, unrest and chaos,” Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said on Monday.
He said that Tel Aviv’s impact on Saudi policies should be examined, adding that Riyadh’s actions have led to the massacre of the people in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, describing the killings as the “Zionists’ policy.”
The regime in Riyadh began its military aggression against Yemen in late March 2015. The campaign was meant to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. More than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 injured since the beginning of the Saudi strikes.
Al Saudi is also widely believed to be one of the main sponsors of Takfiri terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian general expressed hope that Muslims in regional countries would be “alert,” since “Israel is seeking to create tension” between Iran and Saudi Arabia and benefits from insecurity in the region.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been strained in recent days following the Saudi execution of top opposition cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which was announced on January 2.
Nimr’s execution was widely censured by Muslims and human rights activists around the globe as well as different governments.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 following demonstrations held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the killing of Nimr. Some people mounted the walls of the consulate in Mashhad while incendiary devices were hurled at the embassy in Tehran. Almost 60 people were detained over the transgression.
Russia says the Iranian missile program constitutes no basis on which the US can impose potential new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“We have no confidence that there are any grounds for the imposition of sanctions against Iran in connection with its missile program,” Interfax quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying.
Talk of new US sanctions against Iran emerged after the Islamic Republic successfully test-fired a precision-guided long-range missile on October 11, 2015.
Several US politicians have said the test violated a United Nations resolution against Iran, and called on the US administration to introduce new sanctions against Tehran.
“The Americans interpret the relevant provision of Resolution 1929 as prohibiting any ballistic missile launches, whereas the text speaks about a ban on launches of ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads,” the Russian source also said, referring to the UN resolution adopted against Iran in June 2010.
The US administration, however, announced last month new sanctions against nearly a dozen companies and individuals for their alleged role in developing Iran’s missile program.
Fearing Iran’s reaction, the White House delayed implementing the sanctions for an unspecified time.
The sanctions would be the first ever since Iran and the P5+1 group reached a nuclear deal, dubbed as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in July 2015.
The agreement would see the removal of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran in return for enhanced transparency by Iran in its peaceful nuclear program.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei had warned that any new sanctions against Iran under any pretext would be interpreted as a violation of the JCPOA.
The unnamed Russian source further said the Kremlin is against “any exacerbation that can obstruct the beginning of the implementation” of the JCPOA that “should apparently happen in January, around its middle.”
Iranian officials say no limits can be imposed on the country’s conventional military capabilities.
They say none of the Iranian missiles have been “designed for a nuclear capability,” and thus their production and test are not in violation of the UN resolution.
It’s difficult enough for the Left to make any headway against the formidable forces arrayed against it without some of its members abandoning concrete analysis and coherent argument in favor of fantasy and appeal to emotions.
In May 2013, a group calling itself the Global Campaign for Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution promoted a petition which called for “Solidarity with the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and Freedom.” The petition listed Gilbert Achcar, Richard Seymour, Tariq Ali, Vijay Prashad, Norman Finklestein and Ilan Pape among its supporters.
Appearing to equate Islamists seeking a harsh theocratic rule in Damascus to “revolutionaries” linked to the struggles of Palestinians and opponents of neo-liberalism in the West, the petition called on the Syrian president to leave immediately and submit to a peaceful transition. One problem. The petition’s drafters failed to mention that this could only mean surrender to the rule of murderous sectarian fanatics in Damascus, with regrettable consequences for anyone who didn’t share the fanatics’ religious views. Or that the bulk of Syrians didn’t favor this outcome.
Nowhere did the petition mention:
o Takfirism or Wahabbism;
o Political Islam, backed by imperialist powers and their regional allies, as the driving force of the rebellion;
o Washington’s efforts to “build” a US partner who would govern in Damascus;
o The material support Washington provided to anti-Assad forces even in advance of the Arab Spring;
o Constitutional changes the Syrian government made in 2012 in response to the March 2011 uprising to open political space in the country;
o The reality that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria was, then as now, the Syrian Arab Army;
o The fact that Assad had commanded sufficient popular support to continue in power despite, at that point, two years of war and the concerted opposition of the world’s most formidable powers and their regional allies— hardly a feat to be expected of a government that was oppressing its people.
In place of concrete realities to engage our minds, the petitioners offered honeyed, nebulous, words to play on our emotions. We were to sign up to a romantic vision of heroic revolutionaries struggling for freedom and dignity against an evil dictator in a fairy book world where imperialism; sectarian intolerance; Saudi, Turk, Qatari and US agendas; the Syrian government’s concessions; al Qaeda; and a decades-long struggle within Syria between political Islam and secularism, didn’t exist.
Instead, they asked us to “defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries,” but didn’t say who the revolutionaries were or what gains they had won.
They called for “a peaceful transition of power,” but didn’t say to what.
They asked us to “support the people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria,” but didn’t say who they were or where we could find them, or what a democratic and free Syria would look like (free from what and to do what?)
They said that the rebellion in Syria was linked to “the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation,” and “the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality,” yet they didn’t say how. Was it also linked to the revolt of the southern states against the Union?
And yet while they demanded that “Bashar al-Assad leave immediately,” the Syrian government was the only organization on the ground of any significance, then as now, that (a) (with the constitutional changes of 2012), offered Syria a democratic future of multi-party parliamentary and contested presidential elections and (b) offered freedom from domination by the political agendas of outsiders, both those of the Western powers who seek a US “partner” to govern in Syria and the sectarianism of the West’s retrograde anti-democratic regional allies.
It’s as if in the middle of Operation Barbarossa—Nazi Germany’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union—that a call had been made for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to leave immediately and arrange “a peaceful transition” so that Russia could “begin a speedy recovery toward a democratic future.” Of course, a call for a peaceful transition would have meant nothing but surrender to the Nazis and their multinational coalition of Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and Spain, with the consequent enslavement of the Slavs. (The United States isn’t the only country that could put together a multinational coalition.)
Likewise, it’s clear that, then as now, Assad leaving immediately would bring al Qaeda-linked organizations to power in Damascus, with carry-on massacres of populations the “revolutionaries” deemed heretics and apostates. Demanding Assad leave immediately and peacefully was a call for surrender to sectarians backed by retrograde despotisms allied to Washington—an odd way to show solidarity with the Syrian people and hardly likely to promote their freedom and dignity.
Of course, much has happened since the petition was drafted in May 2013, and some of petition’s supporters may have changed their views since, but others, including Gilbert Achcar, continue to use demagogic methods, appealing to emotion rather than reason, to authority rather than evidence, taking cover in ambiguities and romantic fantasies, while shunning concrete social, political, military and economic realities.
To anyone who insists on evidence and critical analysis, Achcar and company are a good part of the reason it’s still possible to refer to a “loony left.” For the cautious, they’re suspected of advancing a sinister political agenda under cover of promoting leftist and humanitarian concerns. Neither possibility is pleasant to contemplate.