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Plot thickens in great game over post-ISIS Iraq and Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 26, 2017

The post-ISIS future of Iraq and Syria has been a topic of animated discussion among American think tankers, the assumption being that the US is staging a military comeback in Iraq and well on the way to establishing a long-term presence in Syria. But political winds are blowing in an opposite direction.

The ‘working visit’ by Iraq’s vice-president Nouri Maliki to Moscow this week signals the revival of Russia’s historical role as Iraq’s key partner. Maliki’s remarks in Moscow are very revealing:

  • “It’s well known that Russia has historically strong relations with Iraq, therefore we would like Russia to have a substantial presence in our country, both politically and militarily. This way, a balance would be established that would benefit the region, its peoples and its countries.”
  • Baghdad believes “in Russia’s role in solving most of the key international issues as well as improving stability and balance in our region and worldwide.”
  • A Russian presence in Iraq would bring the necessary balance which cannot be “undermined in a political sense in favour of any external party.”
  • “Today we need Russia’s greater involvement in Iraqi affairs, especially in the energy field. Now when we are done with Islamic State, Iraq needs investments in energy and trade.”
  • Moscow and Baghdad “should enhance… cooperation in countering terrorism in the region. We believe that both our countries are targets for terrorists and those who stand behind them.”

Maliki’s remarks found positive resonance with the Russian side. While receiving Maliki, President Vladimir Putin emphasised military-technical cooperation and a “proactive” role in that area. Putin cast the Russian-Iraqi relationship in the broader framework of “the situation in the region in general.” The latter remark takes into account the Iraq-Syria-Iran regional axis as a bulwark against terrorism.

The unity of Iraq and Syria is a core issue for Russia. Maliki told Putin that the fractured Iraqi polity where political power “continues to be divided on the religious or ethnic principle between the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Arabs, the Kurds, Christians and Muslims” becomes a breeding ground for terrorism and, therefore, Baghdad has prepared a “special project” to address this systemic deficiency. The Kremlin readout quoted Maliki as saying,

  • “The idea is to restore real democracy, when the power is based on the victory of a political majority rather than on the assignment of quotas to various movements.”

In sum, Baghdad hopes to switch to a political system based on the ‘one-man, one-vote’ principle of representative rule, as in Syria or Iran. Clearly, the aim is to block foreign power from manipulating the minorities against the majority Shia community. No doubt, it will be a major reform not only in politico-economic terms, but also from the geopolitical perspective. Principally, Baghdad intends to resist any US-Israeli attempt to create an independent Kurdistan.

Maliki’s ‘working visit’ to Russia coincides with the signing of a defence agreement between Iraq and Iran. Maliki had signed an arms deal with Russia in 2012, estimated to be in the region of $4.2 billion (which couldn’t be implemented due to pressure from the Obama administration.) In sum, we’re witnessing a back-to-back effort by Iran and Russia to push back at the US.

Fundamentally, Iraq’s power calculus is getting reset. The tens of thousands of Iraqi Shi’ite militia trained and equipped by Iran, who played a decisive role in defeating the ISIS, will likely get integrated into the Iraqi security forces. These battle-hardened militia, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashed al-Shaabi in Arabic) have moved into the deserts held by ISIS west of Mosul, massing around the town of Tal Afar and have taken a border crossing between Iraq and Syria.

They are in control of highways bisecting the Sunni heartland in western Iraq, which are used as vital military and civilian supply lines connecting Iran with Syria. According to official Iraqi figures, the Popular Mobilization Forces now number about 122,000 fighters. Clearly, the military balance in the region is dramatically shifting against the US (and Israel.) The Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah warned recently that hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite fighters in the region will jointly resist any future Israeli invasion.

In geopolitical terms, Russia and Iran have shared interest in the unity and stability of post-ISIS Iraq and Syria. Unsurprisingly, China is not far behind them, either.

Thus, China’s Special Envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyan is currently on a regional tour. While in Tehran on Tuesday, he stressed that China’s stance vis-à-vis the Syrian endgame is similar to Russia and Iran’s. Xie announced that China is “ready to act upon its responsibility to reconstruct Syria and we are prepared for it.” (here and here)

Incidentally, on Tuesday China’s Exim Bank signed an agreement in Tehran on a financial package of US$1.5 billion for the upgrade of Iran’s trunk railway line connecting Tehran with Mashaad (near Turkmenistan border.) No doubt, Xie’s visit to Tehran flags that China has set its eyes on Iran as the gateway leading to Iraq and Syria.

Since March 2016 a China-Iran “Silk Road train” has been running once a month from Yiwu in China’s eastern Zhejiang province to Tehran. Its frequency is expected to increase once trade picks up. The “Silk Road train” slashes travel time from 45 days via sea route to less than 14 days. Clearly, China is positioning itself to play a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq and Syria and will be on the same page as Russia and Iran. 

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ceasefire takes effect on Lebanese-Syrian border: Reports

Press TV – July 27, 2017

A ceasefire has reportedly taken effect on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria near the town of Arsal, where Hezbollah resistance fighters have been combating Takfiri militants over the past week.

Lebanon-based al-Manar television network and the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) reported on Thursday that the ceasefire in the Juroud Arsal area came into force at 0300 GMT and halted fighting on all fronts.

The NNA said the truce was part of a deal brokered by Lebanon’s general security agency chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim.

Under the agreement, the report said, the remaining al-Nusra terrorists would withdraw from the region to Syria’s Idlib Province, parts of which are controlled by Takfiri militants.

It added that Ibrahim was expected to release a statement on the deal later on Thursday.

Hezbollah launched a major push last Friday to clear both sides of Lebanon’s border with Syria from “armed terrorists.” Lebanon’s army has not formally declared its role in the operation, but has shelled terrorist positions in the area.

On Tuesday, the resistance group’s media bureau announced in a statement that its battle to eliminate members of the Takfiri Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – previously known as the Nusra Front – militant group from the Syria-Lebanon border is 85 percent complete.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said Wednesday that the operation to recapture the border area from Nusra was almost complete, and that nearly 100 percent of the territories that used to be controlled by the Takfiri terrorists were now liberated.

In August 2014, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Daesh terrorist groups overran Arsal, killing a number of Lebanese forces. They took 30 soldiers hostage, most of whom have been released.

Since then, Hezbollah and the Lebanese military have been defending Lebanon on the country’s northeastern frontier against foreign-backed terrorist groups operating in neighboring Syria.

Hezbollah fighters have fended off several Daesh attacks inside Lebanon. They have also been providing assistance to Syrian army forces to counter the ongoing foreign-sponsored militancy.

The movement has accused Israel of supporting Takfiri terrorists operating in the Middle East.

Israel, which continues to occupy Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms and Syria’s Golan Heights, is widely reported to be offering medical help to Takfiri terrorists injured in Syria. In December 2015, British newspaper the Daily Mail said Israel had saved the lives of more than 2,000 Takfiri militants since 2013.

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War?

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | July 25, 2017

Israel, which has played a precarious role in the Syrian war since 2011, is furious to learn that the future of the conflict is not to its liking.

The six-year-old Syria war is moving to a new stage, perhaps its final. The Syrian regime is consolidating its control over most of the populated centers, while Daesh is losing ground fast – and everywhere.

Areas evacuated by the rapidly disintegrated militant group are up for grabs. There are many hotly contested regions sought over by the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and its allies, on the one hand, and the various anti-Assad opposition groups and their supporters, on the other.

With Daesh largely vanquished in Iraq – at an extremely high death toll of 40,000 people in Mosul alone – warring parties there are moving west. Shia militias, emboldened by the Iraq victory, have been pushing westward as far as the Iraq-Syria border, converging with forces loyal to the Syrian government on the other side.

Concurrently, first steps at a permanent ceasefire are bearing fruit, compared to many failed attempts in the past.

Following a ceasefire agreement between the United States and Russia on 7 July at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, three provinces in southwestern Syria – bordering Jordan and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – are now relatively quiet. The agreement is likely to be extended elsewhere.

The Israeli government has made it clear to the US that it is displeased with the agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading strong efforts to undermine the ceasefire.

Netanyahu’s worst fears are, perhaps, actualizing: a solution in Syria that would allow for a permanent Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country.

In the early phases of the war, such a possibility seemed remote; the constantly changing fortunes in Syria’s brutal combat made the discussion altogether irrelevant.

But things have now changed.

Despite assurances to the contrary, Israel has always been involved in the Syria conflict. Israel’s repeated claims that “it maintains a policy of non-intervention in Syria’s civil war,” only fools US mainstream media US mainstream media.

Not only was Israel involved in the war, it also played no role in the aid efforts, nor did it ever extend a helping hand to Syrian refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have perished in the merciless war; many cities and villages were totally destroyed and millions of Syrians have become refugees.

While tiny and poor Lebanon has hosted over a million Syrian refugees, every country in the region and many nations around the world have hosted Syrian refugees, as well. Except Israel.

Even a symbolic government proposal to host 100 Syrian orphans was eventually dropped.

However, the nature of the Israeli involvement in Syria is starting to change. The ceasefire, the growing Russian clout and the inconsistent US position has forced Israel to redefine its role.

A sign of the times has been Netanyahu’s frequent visits to Moscow, to persuade the emboldened Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of Israel’s interests.

While Moscow is treading carefully, unlike Washington it hardly perceives Israeli interests as paramount. When Israel shot down a Syrian missile using an arrow missile last March, the Israeli ambassador to Moscow was summoned for reprimand.

The chastising of Israel took place only days after Netanyahu visited Moscow and “made it clear” to Putin that he wants to “prevent any Syrian settlement from leaving ‘Iran and its proxies with a military presence’ in Syria.”

Since the start of the conflict, Israel wanted to appear as if in control of the situation, at least regarding the conflict in southwestern Syria. It bombed targets in Syria as it saw fit, and casually spoke of maintaining regular contacts with certain opposition groups.

In recent comments before European officials, Netanyahu admitted to striking Iranian convoys in Syria ‘dozens of times.”

But without a joint Israeli-US plan, Israel is now emerging as a weak party. Making that realization quite belatedly, Israel has become increasingly frustrated. After years of lobbying, the Obama Administration refused to [openly] regard Israel’s objectives in Syria as the driving force behind his government’s policies.

Failing to obtain such support from newly-elected President Donald Trump as well, Israel is now attempting to develop its own independent strategy.

On June 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been giving “secret aid” to Syrian rebels, in the form of “cash and humanitarian aid.”

The New York Times reported on July 20 of large shipments of Israeli aid that is “expected to (give) ‘glimmer of hope’ for Syrians.”

Needless to say, giving hope to Syrians is not an Israeli priority. Aside from the frequent bombing and refusal to host any refugees, Israel has occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and illegally annexed the territory in 1981.

Instead, Israel’s aim is to infiltrate southern Syria to create a buffer against Iranian, Hezbollah and other hostile forces.

Termed “Operation Good Neighbor,” Israel is working diligently to build ties with various heads of tribes and influential groups in that region.

Yet, the Israeli plan appears to be a flimsy attempt at catching up, as Russia and the US, in addition to their regional allies, seem to be converging on an agreement independent from Israel’s own objectives or even security concerns.

Israeli officials are angry, and feel particularly betrayed by Washington. If things continue to move in this direction, Iran could soon have a secured pathway connecting Tehran to Damascus and Beirut,

Israeli National Security Council head, Yaakov Amidror, threatened in a recent press conference that his country is prepared to move against Iran in Syria, alone.

Vehemently rejecting the ceasefire, Amidror said that the Israeli army will “intervene and destroy every attempt to build (permanent Iranian) infrastructure in Syria.”

Netanyahu’s equally charged statements during his European visit also point at the growing frustration in Tel Aviv.

This stands in sharp contrast from the days when the neoconservatives in Washington managed the Middle East through a vision that was largely, if not fully, consistent with Israeli impulses.

The famed strategy paper prepared by a US study group led by Richard Perle in 1996 is of little use now, as the region is no longer shaped by a country or two.

The paper entitled: “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, saw a hostile Arab world masterfully managed by US and Israel.

For a fleeting moment, Tel Aviv hoped that Trump would bring about change to the US attitude.

Indeed, there was that euphoric movement in Israel when the Trump administration struck Syria. But the limited nature of the strike made it clear that the US had no plans for massive military deployment similar to that of Iraq in 2003.

The initial excitement was eventually replaced by cynicism as expressed by this headline in al Monitor:Netanyahu puts Trump on notice over Syria.”

In 1982, taking advantage of sectarian conflicts, Israel invaded Lebanon and installed a government led by its allies. Those days are long gone.

While Israel remains militarily strong, the region itself has changed and Israel is not the only power holding all the cards.

Moreover, the receding global leadership of the US under Trump makes the Israeli-American duo less effective.

With no alternative allies influential enough to fill the gap, Israel is left, for the first time, with very limited options.

With Russia’s determined return to the Middle East, and the decided retreat by the US, the outcome of the Syria war is almost a foregone conclusion. Surely, this is not the ‘new Syria’ that Israel had hoped for.

Read: Israel’s new occupation zone in Syria

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Impressions of Iran

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | July 25, 2017

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Iran. I spent time in the capital city of Tehran, the country’s largest city, and Mashhad, a large city in the northern part of Iran. I saw what I expected to see: each was a bustling city. The downtown area of each was crowded and busy, not unlike other cities I’ve visited in different parts of the world.

Where I gained the impression that Iran was a prosperous, modern nation before my visit, I don’t know. Prior to my departure, when I announced to friends and acquaintances that I would soon be visiting Iran, I was met with shocked reactions. Here are some of the questions I was asked at that time:

  • Is it safe?
  • Don’t you worry about being arrested?
  • Don’t people disappear there all the time?

Following my invitation to visit, but before the actual visit, Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in several years. I was then asked if I was still going. My response: ‘London has had a few terrorist attacks, but if I were planning a visit there, I’d still go’. This seemed to make sense to my questioner.

Since my return, some of the questions I’ve been asked indicate that my view of Iran as a modern nation is not shared by everyone else. The following are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my visit to Iran:

  • How do the people there live?
  • Did you feel safe?
  • Did anyone stop you from taking pictures?
  • Were you afraid when visiting mosques?

The U.S. demonizes Iran, mainly because it is a powerful country in the Middle East, and Israel cannot countenance any challenge to its hegemony, and when Israel talks, the U.S. listens. Apparently, this demonization is working at least somewhat successfully, judging by the comments I received concerning my trip there.

I have to wonder how this is acceptable in the world community, but then again, there really isn’t much question. The U.S. uses its military might and its declining but still powerful economic strength to intimidate much of the world. This is why the Palestinians still suffer so unspeakably, but that is a topic for another conversation. The U.S. again, in the last few days, asserted that Iran is complying with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that regulates Iran’s nuclear development program. Yet it continues to sanction Iran; for some bizarre reason, Iran must comply with its part of this agreement, but the U.S. government doesn’t feel any obligation to maintain its part. If Iran’s leaders were to say that, since the U.S. was not keeping to its word, Iran has no obligation to do so, the U.S.’s leaders would then say, ‘See? We told you so! Iran isn’t living up to the agreement!’.

The U.S.’s continued criticism and sanctions of Iran adds to the impression that it is a rogue nation, funneling all its money into the military, while its oppressed citizens cower in the streets, awaiting arrest for just about anything.

How much, however, does this impression actually mirror the U.S? A few facts are instructive:

  • Currently, the U.S. is bombing 6 nations; Iran, none.
  • The U.S. has used nuclear weapons, resulting in the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of people; Iran has never used such weapons.
  • Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has invaded, destabilized and/or overthrown the governments of at least 30 countries; Iran hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years.
  • The U.S. has the largest per capita prison population in the world: 25% of all people imprisoned in the world are in prisons in the U.S. In the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, 716 of every 100,000 people are in prison. Iran’s rate is 287 per 100,000.
  • The U.S. finances the brutal apartheid regime of Israel, and has full diplomatic relations with that rouge nation and Saudi Arabia, both of which have human rights records that are among the worst in the world. Iran supports Palestine, and the Palestinians’ struggle for independence.
  • The poverty rate in the U.S. is 13.1%; between 2009 and 2013, Iran’s poverty rate fell from 13.1% to 8.1% (that has increased somewhat since 2014, but details were not readily available).

Based on this limited information, it seems that despite its somewhat successful efforts to demonize Iran, the U.S. is, in fact, the more dangerous and threatening nation.

But such facts are not what interests Congress. Beholden first and foremost to the lobbies that finance election campaigns, and Israeli lobbies chief among them, truth, justice, human rights and international law all take a back seat. And so the propaganda continues, with Iran being portrayed as an evil empire, when all evidence contradicts that view.

It is unfortunate that not everyone in the U.S. is able to visit Iran, to learn for themselves that it is nothing like what the corporate-owned media, working hand-in-hand with the government, portrays. The U.S. government seems anxious to extend its wars to Iran; this would be a global disaster. It is to be hoped that such a catastrophe can be prevented.

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

EU To Retaliate “Within Days” If US Imposes New Sanctions On Russia

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | July 24, 2017

In what appears set to be major diplomatic showdown between Washington D.C. and Brussels, on Sunday the White House said that President Trump was open to signing legislation toughening sanctions on Russia after Senate and House leaders reached agreement on a bill late last week.

“We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved and it certainly isn’t right now,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” program.

As noted yesterday, congressional Democrats said on Saturday they had agreed with Republicans on a deal allowing new sanctions targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea in a bill that would limit any potential effort by Trump to try to lift sanctions against Moscow. A White House official quoted by Reuters later said the administration’s view of the legislation evolved after changes were made, including the addition of sanctions on North Korea. The official said the administration “supports the direction the bill is headed, but won’t weigh in conclusively until there is a final piece of legislation and no more changes are being made.”

As RT notes, restrictions against Russia come as part of the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, targeting not only Tehran, but also North Korea. Initially passed by the Senate last month, the measures seek to impose new economic measures on major sectors of the Russian economy. The draft legislation would also introduce individual sanctions for investing in Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, outlining steps to hamper construction of the pipeline and imposing sanctions on European companies which contribute to the project.

Other energy projects, such as the Caspian Sea oil and gas pipelines, the Ukraine gas transit, and the Zohr field off the Egyptian coast, may also be affected due to the participation of Russian companies.

Yet while Russia’s adverse reaction is to be expected, and will likely lead to immediate counter-sanctions, perhaps coupled with the expulsion of the aforementioned 35 diplomats as well as confiscation of US properties in Russia, it is the EU’s response that will be closely watched.

According to an internal memo leaked to the press, Brussels said it should act “within days” if new sanctions the US plans to impose on Russia prove to be damaging to Europe’s trade ties with Moscow. Retaliatory measures may include limiting US jurisdiction over EU companies. The memo, reported by the Financial Times and Politico, has emerged amid mounting opposition to a US bill seeking to hit Russia with a new round of sanctions. The bill, if signed into law by the U.S. President, would also give US lawmakers the power to veto any attempt by the president to lift the sanctions.

The document reportedly said European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was particularly concerned the sanctions would neglect the interests of European companies. Juncker said Brussels “should stand ready to act within days” if sanctions on Russia are “adopted without EU concerns being taken into account,” according to the Financial Times.

The EU memo also warns that “the measures could impact a potentially large number of European companies doing legitimate business under EU measures with Russian entities in the railways, financial, shipping or mining sectors, among others.”

The freshly leaked memo suggests that the EU is seeking “a public declaration” from the Trump administration that it will not apply the new sanctions in a way that targets European interests, as cited by Politico.  Other options on the table include triggering the ‘Blocking Statute,’ an EU regulation that limits the enforcement of extraterritorial US laws in Europe. A number of “WTO-compliant retaliatory measures” are also being considered, according to the memo.

Earlier on Sunday, we reported that Brussels expressed its concerns over the sanctions bill, when the European Commission said in a statement that “the Russia/Iran sanctions bill is driven primarily by domestic considerations,” adding that it “could have unintended consequences, not only when it comes to Transatlantic/G7 unity, but also on EU economic and energy security interests.”

As RT adds, on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we heard of some corrections to the administration’s stance on sanctions and will wait patiently until it is clearly articulated.” He reiterated that Russia believes the restrictions are “counterproductive” and are harming both US and Russian interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin also warned that any new sanctions on Russia will only result in the deterioration of US-Russia relations.

Germany, Russia’s main European trading partner, called the bill “a peculiar move,” also promising a swift response to it. Some American corporations, including BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing, Citigroup, MasterCard, and Visa, have reportedly lobbied against the move. The corporations, according to a CNN report, want changes to the bill, while lobbyists and trade associations have been visiting Capitol Hill in recent days meeting with members of Congress.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the controversial sanctions bill on Tuesday. Previously, adoption of the draft was put on hold as the House was reluctant to pass it, citing “procedural issues.”

With the vote assured passage it will be up to Trump to determine if the feud with Russia dumped on his lap now escalates, and involves European nations who are far closer to Russia in socio-economic terms than they would like to admit.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

John McCain and The Cancer of Conflict

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | July 21, 2017

This week some devastating news befell John Sidney McCain III.

On Wednesday, his staff announced that the US Senator had been diagnosed with a brain tumor called glioblastoma discovered during recent testing at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

Since then warm wishes and tributes have been pouring in for the former Republican Presidential candidate. Both the US media and political establishment have closed ranks and are rallying around the Senator to help soften the blow.

Putting previous feuds aside, President Donald Trump was magnanimous and cordial to the Arizona Senator, wishing him and his family the very best.” Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family,” said Trump. “Get well soon.”

Even former electoral rival President Barack Obama pitched in a little love for the 80 year old:

“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

Regarding McCain’s diagnosis, we all can acknowledge the difficulties and risks involved with various cancer treatments, especially with brain cancer. Likewise, nearly everyone these days can attest to losing a friend, a loved one or family member to the disease.

As with anyone suffering from this terrible condition, we wish the Senator well, along with a successful treatment and recovery.

Still, McCain has a lot in his favor. Unlike most Americans, he will not have to worry about his medical care, and will be receiving the best cancer treatment money can buy, if not the best in the world, and with absolutely no expense spared. In this way, the Senator is extremely fortunate.

And for those reasons, this is not an easy article to write. For fear of appearing too cruel in the face of his dramatic medical disclosure, one would be expected to suspend any political critique for now. Hence, the media has placed an unofficial moratorium on any negative coverage of McCain.

That said, he is a special case.  As much as any political leader – he deserves to be panned, even under the present circumstances, because his geopolitical handiwork continues to cause havoc in certain corners of the world.

Cancer Treatment in Syria

Immediately after McCain’s major health announcement, the US mainstream media and Republicans began fretting over the prospect that his extended absence from the legislature might jeopardize his party’s ability to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare).

With that in mind, maybe it’s worth asking: how many innocent Syrians have been denied basic medical treatment, supplies and pharmaceuticals as a result of the harsh US-led regime economic sanctions imposed on Syria? This brutal campaign of collective punishment has been led by US Senator John McCain.

Of course, the idea of sanctions as a form of economic warfare hardly registers in the West as being at all harmful to the population of Syria. “Sanctions? They’re not against the people of Syria, only against Assad.”  That’s the general mainstream phantasm when it comes to sanctions, even though the official numbers show a vivid tale of devastation.

One can only imagine how many among Syria’s population of 20 million are no longer able to receive cancer treatment in Syria as a result of McCain’s insistence on punitive sanctions. Before the conflict in Syria began in 2011, citizens were able to get free medical treatment including high-end state-of-the-art cancer treatment (consider that one simple aspect of this war, as men like John McCain still claim to be delivering ‘freedom’ to the Syrian people by backing armed terrorist factions).

Before the terrorist forces occupied the eastern part of the city, Aleppo was home to one of the Middle East’s top cancer treatment centers, Al-Kindi Hospital. This is important because after McCain’s secret trip to the Aleppo area in May 2013, the very same ‘rebels’ he was cavorting with and supplying weapons to – the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (under the command of Jabbat al Nusra aka al Qaeda in Syria) would later order the bombing on this cancer treatment hospital.

Professor Tim Anderson explains the destruction of Al Kindi Hospital in December 2013, including the shameful spin applied after the fact by BBC and western mainstream media:

In an Orwellian revision of events the BBC (21 December 2013) reported the destruction of Al-Kindi with the headline: “Syria rebels take back strategic hospital in Aleppo”. The introduction claimed the “massive suicide lorry bomb” had managed “to seize back a strategic ruined hospital occupied by Assad loyalists.” Al-Kindi was said to have been “a disused building” and “according to an unconfirmed report, 35 rebels died in the attack”. In fact, these ‘rebels’ were a coalition of Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al Nusra, while the ‘Assad loyalists’ were the staff and security guards of a large public hospital.

Watch as McCain’s ‘freedom fighters’ in Syria drive a suicide truck bomb into the ground level of Al Kindi Cancer Treatment Center in Aleppo:


How many Syrian lives were needlessly cut short as a direct result of that bombing carried out by McCain’s own Free Syrian Army? For the cost of McCain’s treatment at the world-famous Mayo Clinic, who knows how many Syrians could have received desperately needed treatment at Al Kindi or other similarly crippled facilities in Syria? One hundred, or possibly one thousand?

Add to this, how many have died or suffer permanent health afflictions as a direct result of US economic sanctions which have crippled Syria’s own National Health Service? One hundred thousand, or maybe five hundred thousand? One million? One day, those figures will be recorded and we will have the answer.

The other piece of US legislation currently on the table which Republicans are desperate to pass is the $1-trillion US infrastructure spending package. Juxtapose that scene next to the systematic destruction of Syria’s infrastructure by US Coalition and Israeli airstrikes and destruction by proxy militant forces on the ground. Estimates for the cost to Syria range from $180 billion to $275 billion. If the conflict continues past 2020, then these numbers could easily double.

In spite of all this, John McCain claims to have no regrets about the damage that he and his fellow war hawks have inflicted on Syria.

The Cancer of Conflict

At the same time that political figures like Barrack Obama dutifully respect the official Washington line on John McCain as the consummate “Vietnam War hero”, very few in the establishment would dare to criticize the powerful Arizona Senator for his central role in engineering instability and violent conflict in foreign countries.

John McCain sneaks into Syria illegally in May 2013 to meet with known terrorists, promising them weapons and regime change by way US bombs would drop in the Fall of 2013.

Americans should be reminded that more than any other single US official, John McCain has been the driving force behind the training and arming of violent jihadist and terrorists fighting groups in Syria, and that those same terrorists have slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent civilians including women and children in Syria and beyond – all sacrificed at the altar of a US-led geopolitical power play in the Middle East, and in the name of Israeli ‘security interests.’

Back in 2012, a delusional McCain, along with another dotty war enthusiast, Connecticut Senator Joe Liberman, insisted that the US needed to arm the ‘rebels’ in Syria in order to “save lives.” Their statement read:

“The bloodshed must be stopped, and we should rule out no option that could help to save lives. We must consider, among other actions, providing opposition groups inside Syria, both political and military, with better means to organize their activities, to care for the wounded and find safe haven, to communicate securely, to defend themselves, and to fight back against Assad’s forces.”

From the onset of hostilities in 2011, the bold-faced lie that McCain and partner Lindsey Graham have promulgated is that violent jihadists were nothing more than affable “moderate rebels.” That piece of Washington fiction has been widely discredited by now.

Later on in 2015, McCain announced that the US should be supplying stinger missiles to the so-called ‘rebels’ in Syria:

“We certainly did that in Afghanistan. After the Russians invaded Afghanistan, we provided them with surface-to-air capability. It’d be nice to give people that we train and equip and send them to fight the ability to defend themselves. That’s one of the fundamental principles of warfare as I understand it,” said McCain.

Soon after that statement, thousands of US-made TOW Missiles were smuggled into Syria and used by terrorists groups under the command umbrella of Al Nusra.

In her recent exposé for Trud Newspaper, Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva revealed the massive scale and scope of the illegal US-NATO weapons trafficking operation to arm thousands of terrorist fighters in Syria.

Despite the overwhelming destruction in Syria and the abject failure of his policies, McCain has never given up on the policy of illegal weapons trafficking in Syria. Just this week, McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, openly protested against the Trump Administration’s latest announcement to bring an end to the CIA’s failed program of illegally arming and training ‘anti-Assad’ terrorists in Syria. Rather than admitting what everyone else in the world seems to know already – that the US “train and equip” program has been a debacle – instead he feigns defiance, while demonstrating a breathtaking level of ignorance by accusing the White House of being part of a Russian conspiracy:

“If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”

“Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and short-sighted.”

When promoting their latest war, McCain is normally part of a tandem act, accompanied by his geomancing interest, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who arguably views the world through an even more deranged, albeit binary comic book prism:

“Breaking Syria apart from Iran could be as important to containing a nuclear Iran as sanctions.”

“If the Syrian regime is replaced with another form of government that doesn’t tie its future to the Iranians, the world is a better place.”

Like a world view gleaned straight from Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger.

In his seminal 2008 interview with McCain heading to the GOP presidential nomination, The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg asked, “What do you think motivates Iran?”.… to which McCain replied:

“Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.”

McCain’s views on Iraq were even more disturbing, essentially surmising that the invasion and occupation was a good thing, and that we shouldn’t have left because ‘leaving Iraq gave rise to al Qaeda.’ OK. Admittedly, it’s a bit counter intuitive, but it works for neoconservatives.

These statements by McCain and Graham are not admissions made by normal well-adjusted individuals, but rather by cold, dark hearted sociopaths who generally view the lives of Arabs (along with Slavs, Russians and others) as necessary cannon fodder in the pursuit of military industrial profits for a select cadré of transnational corporate ‘defense’ contractors – whose interests Senator John McCain represents in his home state of Arizona; Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the list goes on, and on.

The geopolitical hubris doesn’t end there, as McCain still maintains – even after 6 years of absolute implosion of his own foreign policy agenda – that removing Syrian President Bashar al Assad from power is still a “key pillar” of the US strategy for Syria.

“The administration has yet to articulate its vision for Syria beyond the defeat of ISIL, let alone a comprehensive approach to the Middle East,” said McCain this week.

The reality, of course, is that ISIL/ISIS could have been defeated already had the US-led ‘Coalition’ and Israel not illegally intervened in Syria territory. Far from doing much to “defeat ISIS” since they have invaded Syrian airspace since 2014, the US has conveniently stretched-out the ‘ISIS problem’ through the extension of its own self-styled international mandate which was originally intended to serve as a precursor to the eventual break-up of Syria into federal states and ethnic cantons. This might explain McCain’s rush to enact regime change in Syria before lording over the eventual break-up of the sovereign nation-state.

All Things Russian

The other country which McCain is determined break is Russia.

“Vladimir Putin is a murder and a KGB thug,” crowed McCain on CNN last year, as he protested against positive statements about Russia made by then candidate Trump.

Suffice to say, he, along with the boards of Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, are all extremely happy about NATO pressing right up against the Russian border in eastern Europe.

But 2013 was indeed a busy year for the Senator stirring up trouble internationally. As part of his opening gambit against Moscow, it was McCain who was the driving force behind the US-backed coup d’etat in Ukraine in February 2014 – which ultimately led to a bloody civil war which continues to this day in the Ukraine. Apparently, this was McCain’s way of ‘stopping Putin.’

His has a very dodgy track record; whether it’s NeoNazis, or Jihadi Terrorists, McCain seems always ready to do a deal with the devil, and that’s what makes him particularly dangerous.

Below we can see McCain helping to whip-up Nazi-linked, neofascist street mobs in Kiev helping to bring the ensuing junta into power. Some mainstream US pundits have claimed that this never happened, and that it’s just a conspiracy theory invented by ‘Russian propagandists’ to discredit McCain. Unfortunately for them – it is true, and here is the photo to prove it:

John McCain shares the stage in Kiev with Right Sector strongman, Oleg Tyhanbock, ahead of violent street protests in Ukraine in December of 2013, prior to the US-backed coup.

Looking back at his erratic and flippant behavior, attacking nearly anyone who even suggested détente with Russia or that supplying lethal arms to militants in Syria was a bad idea, it’s no surprise that cognizant onlookers have questioned whether or not McCain is in a normal frame of mind.

Frankly speaking, how could any one in their right mind be so consistently on the wrong side of every issue? How could any politician’s judgement be that poor? Unless there was something else going on below the surface…

The questions didn’t stop there. McCain’s performance during a recent Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on “Russian Influence in US Elections” was an embarrassment. Onlookers were stunned when McCain lost the plot during the hearing when asking former FBI Director James Comey:

“Well, at least in the minds of this member, there’s a whole lot of questions remaining about what went on, particularly considering the fact that as you mentioned, it’s a “big deal” as to what went on during the campaign, so I’m glad you concluded that part of the investigation, but I think that the American people have a whole lot of questions out there, particularly since you just emphasized the role that Russia played.”

“And obviously she was a candidate for president at the time. So she was clearly involved in this whole situation where fake news, as you just described it, is a big deal took place. You’re going to have to help me out here. In other words, we’re complete, the investigation of anything former Secretary Clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don’t have to worry about it anymore?”

… to which Comey replied:

“With respect to — I’m a little confused. With respect to Secretary Clinton, we investigated a criminal investigation with her use of a personal email server.”

McCain then finished digging his own hole by responding:

“So at the same time you made the announcement there would be no further charges brought against then-Secretary Clinton for any activities involved in the Russia involvement and our engagement and our election. I don’t quite understand how you can be done with that but not done with the whole investigation of their attempt to affect the out of come our election.”

It was clear McCain had no idea what was going on. At that point any reasonable person would have concluded that John McCain had in fact lost his mind – and was no longer fit to serve in public office.  In fact, 21WIRE made this very same case back in 2013 after McCain was caught playing video poker on his iPhone during a Senate Committee where lawmakers were debating the very war of which he is a chief architect. Here is the photo:

As stunning displays of ignorance go, the video poker incident was one of McCain’s greatest ever, and certainly should have been a warning to everyone that this man had no business making military decisions, let alone litigating war and peace between nuclear superpowers like the United States and Russia.

Perhaps an announcement is forthcoming, but it’s surprising after being diagnosed with brain cancer at 80 years old – why McCain has not yet announced his resignation from office?

It’s fair to say that while this Senator is being treated in the world’s leading medical facilities, thousands of innocents will have died needlessly because of US sanctions and support for terrorists – all [supposedly] in the name of defense, energy and ever vast corporate profits. Strange as that might sound to some, for those who consider themselves members of a ruling elite and its mandarin management class, that is perfectly acceptable quid pro quo in 2017.

After World War II, the military industrial complex and the international arms trade has spread conflict like a disease across the planet, metastasizing in ways, in places, and on a scale which no one could have previously imagined before. Undoubtedly, over the last decade, John McCain has played a key role in spreading that anguish. For the people of Syria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine, that will be his legacy, not the chimerical image of a ‘maverick’ Senator or the ‘war hero.’

Once again, we implore the Senator to do the right thing by the American people and for those innocents around the world who have suffered at the hands of an arms industry whose interests John McCain represents.

Please retire.

July 22, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is Iran in Our Gun Sights Now?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • July 21, 2017

“Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender.”

Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War.

Why is containment surrender? “Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power,” says Gingrich.

But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?

Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. “In our country that was George Washington and … the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi,” says Gingrich.

Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, “Maryam Rajavi.”

Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the Shah, broke with the old Ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein, and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand.

Calling Iran’s twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, “a violent, vicious murderer,” Giuliani said, “the time has come for regime change.”

Bolton followed suit. “Tehran is not merely a nuclear weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region,” he said. Hence, “the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.”

We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful.

Good luck. Yet, as The New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. “A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.”

Is this what America wants or needs — a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq?

After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East?

Bolton calls Iran “a nuclear weapons threat.”

But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor, and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility.

Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war?

To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session.

We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

And who created this Shiite Crescent?

It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah.

As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War.

The Ayatollah’s regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States — for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted.

Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Iran’s oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Iran’s ties to Europe and the advanced world.

And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies.

Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS?

Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders, and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq.

President Trump is key. If he does the War Party’s bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.

Copyright 2017 Creators.com.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac

By M K Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 16, 2017

“Now, as the world marks the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is more remote than it has been in decades … Iran’s nuclear program has been defanged and all its pathways to a bomb blocked… Two years later, the results are in, and they show the effort has been a clear success.”

At first glance, the above might seem a triumphalist narrative by the former US President Barack Obama – or his Secretary of State John Kerry. But, they actually happen to be excerpts from an opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine on Thursday, penned by Carmi Gillon, formerly the director of Israel’s General Security Service, the Shin Bet, whose responsibility it was to counter the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

While it is too much to expect the Trump administration or a large section of America’s political elites to show the moral courage and honesty that the erstwhile Israeli spymaster has shown, it is nonetheless soothing to the nerves that the US State Department will “very likely” notify Congress on Monday that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

President Donald Trump could have fulfilled by now his campaign pledge to “rip up” what he called “the worst deal ever”. But he hasn’t. Instead, he is walking a fine line.

On one hand, he has acquiesced with the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions while, on the other hand, he is desperately keen to maintain and even reinforce the sanctions regime on different grounds – relating it to Iran’s missile program or its human right record and regional policies.

Trump did not stop Iran’s big multi-billion dollar landmark deal to buy aircraft from Boeing. Nor did he try to prevail upon French President Emmanuel Macron to stop oil major Total from concluding a mega deal with Iran to develop the South Pars gas fields.

To be sure, the Trump administration can draw vicarious satisfaction that Iran’s nuclear program has been contained and is under strict international scrutiny and yet Tehran is unable to receive ‘peace dividends’ in terms of substantial economic benefits.

There is no scope to renegotiate the JCPOA to bring non-nuclear issues within its ambit. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani outlined this point when he said in May that the deal is multilateral and irreversible, as it would be tantamount to “saying we should turn a shirt back to cotton.”

The European Union stance largely concurs with the Iranian view. Russia and China are strong supporters of the JCPOA. Thus, the US is pretty much on its own if it undercuts or derails the JCPOA, an option that exists only in principle.

Quite obviously, although normalization of relations between the US and Iran is not on the cards, that does not prevent Trump administration officials from attending the meetings of the monitoring mechanism of ‘world powers’ on the implementation of the JCPOA, where US and Iranian representatives come face to face on a regular basis.

The point is, even the JCPOA’s most trenchant critics admit grudgingly that the deal has had a positive impact. Gillon wrote:

“In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after leading a vociferous international campaign against the agreement, now remains mostly silent on the subject. And while the majority of my colleagues in the Israeli military and intelligence communities supported the deal once it was reached, many of those who had major reservations now acknowledge that it has had a positive impact on Israel’s security and must be fully maintained by the United States and the other signatory nations.”

All in all, therefore, the Trump administration is coming to recognize it must implement the JCPOA, no matter the outcome of the National Security Council-led review of the deal that is evaluating whether the suspension of sanctions against Iran under the agreement is ‘vital to the national security interests of the United States’.

Anything else will be motiveless spite. The big question is whether the Trump administration sees the writing on the wall? Of course, it is capable of showing realism – the hint of a rethink on the Paris agreement on climate change or the belated articulation of commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter are recent examples.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s project to isolate Iran by creating an ‘Arab NATO’ and by creating an Arab-Israeli alliance against it is unlikely to take off. The rift between Qatar and the boycotting states creates a new quandary in regional politics.

Washington helplessly watches the unraveling of the Gulf Cooperation Council as contradictions in Saudi Arabia’s regional leadership grow in ways no one imagined possible until a month ago.

Iran’s cooperation is badly needed if the crisis in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Bahrain) is to be effectively managed. In Syria, the Trump administration outsources to Moscow the responsibility of bringing Iran on board. But it is not an option in the other three theatres.

The sooner realism prevails, the better. A beginning could be made on Monday when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be in New York to attend the High-Level Political Forum under UN auspices.

Four years ago, on the sidelines of the same annual UN meeting, Kerry met Zarif and set the ball rolling on negotiations that culminated in the JCPOA on July 15, 2015.

Fresh from the mediatory mission to the Gulf, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must be in a chastened mood. A meeting with Zarif is just what is needed to inject a much-needed realism into the US’ Middle East policies. Even Israel must be quietly pleased.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump shows realism toward Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 18, 2017

The United States’ regional strategies in the Middle East face multiple challenges and it needs strong nerves and robust realism not to overreact. Importantly, the temptation to display ‘muscular’ diplomacy must be curbed. Thus, the decision by the Trump administration on Monday to certify for the second time Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal signifies strategic maturity.

However, this judicious decision does not mean that the sea of troubles is receding. The media leak by the Washington Post, attributed to US intelligence officials, exposing that the UAE had pre-planned the rift with Qatar, can only be seen as a display of Washington’s disenchantment with the ‘boycotting states’ (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain) and a gentle warning to them not to exacerbate tensions. The UAE, in fact, was just about to initiate Qatar’s formal expulsion from the GCC when the ‘media leak’ created a new ‘fact on the ground’ and Abu Dhabi hastily beat a retreat.

In geopolitical terms, the rift in the Gulf puts the US in a quandary. Whatever hopes it had of creating an alliance system between the Gulf Arab Sheikhs and Israelis to contain Iran have evaporated. The fallout in the Gulf doesn’t lend itself to resolution easily. Which means two things: a) US’ containment strategy toward Iran has floundered; and, b) US’ regional allies are bogged down in an internal quagmire that preoccupy then for a conceivable future.

Enter Israel. Unsurprisingly, Israel is both despondent and furious that its best-laid plans to confront Iran (with American help) have collapsed. The implications are most serious for the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory under illegal Israeli occupation since the 1967 War. Put simply, Iran is on a roll and with the support of the Shi’ite militia supported by it and Hezbollah, Syrian government forces may push toward territory straddling Golan Heights which Israel had planned as a buffer zone controlled by by al-Qaeda affiliates (with Israeli military backing).

On Sunday, in a sudden outburst, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the recent US-Russian accord on the ‘de-escalation zone’ in Southern Syria. It is a disturbing signal that Israel might be planning a military operation in Syrian territory to consolidate a buffer zone straddling the Golan Heights. Any Israeli invasion is assured of success because of its military superiority. But the question is, what happens thereafter? Without doubt, Syrian government, Iranian militia and Hezbollah will open a ‘resistance front’.

Succinctly put, Netanyahu feels let down that Trump is not unleashing a war on Iran and is piling on pressure at a time when Trump’s popularity is at an abysmally low point and the US media is smelling blood that the investigations over the so-called Russian meddling in the November election is now touching the president’s son and son-in-law as well. The Jewish lobby controls the US media.

Significantly, Al-Masdar News from Beirut reported on Monday that the Russian military has deployed to the proposed ‘de-militarization’ zone in southern Syria. Indeed, the Russian media have shown irritation toward the Israeli belligerence and have questioned Israel’s intentions in consorting with al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the US-Russian accord on ‘de-escalation zone’ in southern Syria was finalized only after making sure that “Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration.” Of course, it is possible that Israel has since shifted the goal post, typically. Plan B could be to invade Syria. Or, Israel could be bargaining with the Trump administration to get a bigger say in any Syrian settlement. Or, Israel is aligning with the Russophobes in the Washington establishment who never really warmed up to Trump’s 126-minute dalliance with President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg.

In view of the above, clearly, the Trump administration’s decision Monday to certify on Iran nuclear deal compliance signals that it understands the limits to the US’ capacity to confront Iran in the overall context of regional realignments, which run on several templates:

  • Iran’s dominating presence on the ground in Iraq and Syria;
  • Iran’s unwavering support of President Bashar Al-Assad;
  • The US-Turkish alienation in northern Syria;
  • Turkish-Israeli antipathies;
  • Rift among the US’ Gulf allies;
  • The collapse of the Syrian rebel groups;
  • The impending defeat of ISIS;
  • Stalemate in the war in Yemen; and,
  • The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Quite obviously, Iran is a serious player in the geopolitics of the ‘Greater Middle East’. The point is, a direct high-level contact between Washington and Tehran will be a ‘force multiplier’ for US diplomacy. Outsourcing to Moscow the job of getting Tehran on board assumes that Iran doesn’t have its own interests. That is far from the case. (Read my opinion piece in Asia Times, Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac.)

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US adding new sanctions against Iran over missile program

Press TV – July 18, 2017

The administration of US President Donald Trump says it is imposing new economic sanctions against Iran over the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

The US Departments of Treasury and State said Tuesday they are targeting 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks.

The new sanctions freeze any assets the targets may have in the US and prevents Americans from doing business with them.

The restrictions ranged from a company that allegedly aided Iran’s drone program to a Turkey-based provider of naval equipment and a China-based network that provided electronics to Iran, according to the Associated Press.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions “send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior.”

The move comes one day after the Trump administration certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which lifted nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.

The Trump administration notified the Congress of Iran’s compliance for the first time in April.

The White House is bound by US law to notify Congress of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days. The Trump administration had notified the Congress of Iran’s compliance for the first time in April.

The certification that Iran is technically complying with the nuclear agreement clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted.

Washington claims Iran’s missile program is in breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed Tehran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 states in 2015.

However, Tehran insists its missile tests do not breach any UN resolutions because they are solely for defense purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The Islamic Republic has said it will spare no effort to meet its national security needs, and does not allow any party to intervene in the imperative.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 18, 2017

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

 (Official White House Photo by Dan Hansen)

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

Neophyte Trump

Trump – a relative neophyte in global intrigue – has been slow to comprehend how his outreach to Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman runs counter to his collaboration with Putin on efforts to defeat the Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have served as the point of the spear in the war to overthrow Assad.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have received direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel and even the Obama administration, albeit sometimes unwittingly. To block Assad’s overthrow – and the likely victory by these terror groups – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah came to Assad’s defense, helping to turn the tide of the war since 2015.

In his nearly half year in office, Trump has maintained an open hostility toward Iran – sharing a position held by Washington’s neocons as well as Netanyahu and Salman – but the U.S. President also has advocated cooperation with Russia to crush Islamic State and Al Qaeda inside Syria.

Collaboration with Russia – and indirectly with Iran and the Syrian military – makes sense for most U.S. interests, i.e., stabilizing Syria, reversing the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe, and denying Al Qaeda and Islamic State a base for launching terror strikes against Western targets.

But the same collaboration would be a bitter defeat for Netanyahu and Salman who have invested heavily in this and other “regime change” projects that require major U.S. investments in terms of diplomacy, money and military manpower.

So, in last weekend’s trip to Paris, Netanyahu chose to raise the stakes on Trump at a time when Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media are pounding him daily with the Russia-gate scandal, even raising the possibility that his son, Donald Trump Jr., might be prosecuted and imprisoned for having a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer.

If Trump wants the Russia-gate pain to lessen, he will be tempted to give Netanyahu what he wants and count on the savvy Israeli leader to intervene with the influential neocons of Official Washington to pull back on the scandal-mongering.

The problem, however, would be that Netanyahu really wants the U.S. military to complete the “regime change” project in Syria – much as it did in Iraq and Libya – meaning more American dead, more American treasure expended and a likely wider war, extending to Iran and possibly nuclear-armed Russia.

That might fulfill the neocon current menu of “regime change” schemes but it runs the risk of unleashing a nuclear conflagration on the world. In that way, liberals and even some progressives – who have embraced Russia-gate as a way to remove the hated Donald Trump from office – may end up contributing to the end of human civilization as well.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Message from the High Court: Carry on Arming The Saudis (And Never Mind the Slaughter in Yemen)

Campaign Against Arms Trade 8628d

Campaigners are furious with a High Court decision in London allowing the UK Government to carry on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia for use against Yemenis
By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | July 13, 2017

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) brought the legal action against the Secretary of State for International Trade for continuing to grant export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia, arguing that this was against UK policy, which states that the government must refuse such licences if there’s a clear risk that the arms might be used to commit serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

It is undeniable that Saudi forces have used UK-supplied weaponry to violate International Humanitarian Law in their war on Yemen. According to the United Nations, well over 10,000 people have been killed, the majority by the Saudi-led bombing campaign which has also destroyed vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and contributed to the cholera crisis. 3 million Yemenis have been displaced from their homes and 7 million are on the brink of dying from famine. UNICEF reports that a child is dying in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable causes including starvation and malnourishment.

A crippling naval blockade of the country by the US has been key to the cruel onslaught. The European Parliament and numerous humanitarian NGOs have condemned the Saudi air strikes as unlawful. And 18 months ago a UN Panel of Experts accused Saudi forces of “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians.

Yet the UK has licensed £3.3 billions worth of arms such as aircraft, helicopters, drones, missiles, grenades, bombs and armoured vehicles to the Saudi regime and refused to suspend the supply of  weaponry for use in Yemen in the face of the horrors perpetrated. It is claimed that the Government has even ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and that some records of expressed concern have gone missing.

So who is the UK’s helping hand behind that vile regime’s murderous adventure in the Yemen? Why, it’s none other that senior Israel stooge Dr Liam Fox, now Secretary of State for International Trade and the lead on trade and investment in the defence and security sector. He of course oversees export licensing.  He also has ‘form’ when it comes to thinking silly thoughts and doing stupid things in the foreign affairs arena, and he’s known as a crazed flag-waver for Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran.

While Secretary of State for Defence, Fox told us: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”

Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011 following the scandal involving him, his ‘close friend’ Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel, and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.

The reason for the British government’s hostility towards Iran was spelled out by David Cameron in a speech to the Knesset in 2014: “A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world not just Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.” That position carries forward into the present day.

And in June 2015 Fox declared: “It is logical to assume that Iran’s intentions are to develop a nuclear weapons capability and any claims that its intentions are exclusively peaceful should not be regarded as credible… Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be seen outside the context of its support for terror proxies, arguably the defining feature of its foreign policy. The risks are clear.”

What he omitted to say was that Iran’s intentions must also be seen in the context of Israel’s foreign policy, its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the grave threat posed by the Zionist regime’s 200 (or is it 400?) nuclear warheads. Israel hasn’t signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either, and has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, likewise the Chemical Weapons Convention. Iran and all the other nations in the region have every right to feel nervous.

As is well known, Israel and Saudi Arabia have formed a cosy alliance. No entities deserve each other more. And Britain will do anything, it seems, to get at Iran through these repulsive ‘friends’.

Instead of dangling from a lamp-post on Tower Bridge, Fox was quickly rehabilitated and re-promoted to senior office by fellow stooges like Theresa May. Just lately prime minister May has accused Iran of working with Hezbollah, interfering in Iraq, sending fighters to Syria to help Assad, and supporting the Houthis in the conflict in Yemen. The British Government, of course, can meddle where it pleases and do dirty weapons deals with the Saudis which, Mrs May assures us, are for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. “Gulf security is our security,” she says, arguing that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe.

Toxic relationship with Saudi Arabia exposed

So how did Fox manage to defeat the campaigners in court? After all, as Rosa Curling of Leigh Day (acting for CAAT) said, “The law is clear: where there is a clear risk that UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arm sales cannot go ahead.

“Nothing in the open evidence presented by the UK government to the court suggests this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real…. Our government should not be allowing itself to be complicit in the grave violations of law taking place by the Saudi coalition in Yemen.”

Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law….

“This case has seen an increased scrutiny of the government’s toxic relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is a relationship that more than ever needs to be examined and exposed. For decades the UK has been complicit in the oppression of Saudi people, and now it is complicit in the destruction of Yemen.”

Rachel Sylvester in The Times noted that the judges concluded there was “a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the [Saudi-led] coalition committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, but the ruling was based on a narrow legal point about whether ministers had followed proper procedures and acted rationally in assessing the risks.

“Whatever the result of the legal process,” she wrote, “it’s time for the government to reconsider Britain’s poisonous relationship with Saudi Arabia, starting with the suspension of arms sales to a country that stands accused of appalling human rights abuses within its own borders as well as the funding of extremism abroad. What is UK foreign policy for if not the promotion of this country’s values around the world?”

And, as she points out, last year the UK committed £85 million to the aid effort in Yemen, making the Department for International Development the fourth largest donor to the crisis.

So, just as we pour £millions of aid into the Palestinian Territories to subsidise the illegal Israeli occupation while at the same time supplying the regime in Tel Aviv with arms to sustain its occupation, we are spending all this taxpayers’ money in Yemen to clean up the mess we’re helping the Saudis to make.

Secret evidence favours the evil

Fox succeeded thanks to ‘closed sessions’. This meant that CAAT and their legal team weren’t allowed to see much of what was presented by the Government, which could only be examined by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

The secret evidence is said to have included Saudi Arabia’s “fast-jet operational reporting data”, “high-resolution MoD-sourced imagery” and “UK defence intelligence reports and battle damage assessments”. The MoD and Foreign Office analysis had “all the hallmarks of a rigorous and robust, multi-layered process of analysis” while the evidence presented by the campaigners was “only part of the picture”. The Court said the secret evidence could not be referred to in open court for reasons of “national security”.

But what has all the MoD’s high-faluting technical tosh to do with justice? Or the basic concept of right and wrong? An especially International Humanitarian Law?

And our national security? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the slaughter must go on in that distant land…

Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardenier suggested in the House of Commons that the “secret” evidence should be made available to MPs for scrutiny “on privy council terms” or handed to the Intelligence and Security Select Committee. Sounds reasonable enough.

But Fox is reported saying: “This idea that somehow, if we have closed sessions, that makes the judgment less valid, I simply don’t accept. Because I don’t accept this idea that we simply can’t have closed sessions that protect our national security or the personnel involved in our national security. Our sources need to be protected.”

Yeah, and so do Yemeni civilians…. from us.

He admitted that “Yemen is indeed a humanitarian disaster” but said it was right to keep selling arms to Saudi Arabia. He may have won the legal point – for now. But he has clearly lost his moral compass, if he ever had one.

As Rachel Sylvester remarks, “So craven is the Whitehall establishment that the government has refused to publish a report on the foreign funding of terrorism, for fear of annoying its Saudi friends.”

*(London, UK. 11th July, 2016. Human rights campaigners dressed as Grim Reapers protest against the Farnborough International arms fair, and in particular against arms sales to Saudi Arabia used in human rights abuses in Yemen, at Waterloo station. Image credit: Campaign Against Arms Trade/ flickr).

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment