A senior Iranian commander strongly criticizes France and Saudi Arabia over their cooperation with the anti-Iran terrorists, including the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), saying any act of terror in the Islamic Republic would be blamed on Riyadh and Paris.
“Incriminating finger would be pointed at Riyadh and Paris over potential acts of terror in Iran,” Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, said on Sunday.
Paris on July 9 hosted an annual meeting organized by the MKO terrorist group which was attended by former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. The former Saudi spy chief gave a 30-minute-long address to the gathering.
The MKO is the most hated terrorist group among the Iranians because of its dark history of assassinations and bombings and for siding with Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.
Jazayeri said the Paris meeting in the presence of some Western political officials and the former Saudi intelligence chief further cast light on the link between Wahhabism and the MKO terrorists and marked a stain on the French government’s record and constituted a blatant act of intervention in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic.
“Hosting the MKO terrorist group as one of the most dangerous and criminal terrorist groups in the world and the presence of Arab and Western political figures show these countries’ support for terrorism,” he said.
“Although the evil hands of the MKO traitors have been cut off thanks to the resolve of the Iranian nation as well as the vigilance and readiness of the Armed Forces and security and intelligence organizations, the network of founders and promoters of global terrorism jumps at every opportunity to revive this deceased and hated current and present it as an active and influential element against [Iran’s] Islamic revolution and establishment,” the Iranian commander added.
Jazayeri said terrorism is an ominous phenomenon that takes many forms and shapes, including Takfiri-Salafi groups like Daesh, counter-revolutionary groups supported by Zionists, the US and their allies, atrocities committed in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Saudi war crimes against Yemen and MKO terrorism in the past but they all share a “single evil spirit.”
He added that hegemonic powers “see terrorism as a tool for achieving their ominous objectives” and devise their policies accordingly.
Jazayeri expressed regret that the Saudi regime and other “reactionary regimes in the region” are conspiring with the US and the Zionists in spreading acts of terror in Muslim states, saying, “The Muslim world is today the main target of the international terrorism.”
He said France’s double-standard polices regarding terrorism and its classification of terrorist groups into good and bad as well as its blatant discriminatory policies have contributed to the rise of international terrorism.
“The role of the French in supporting and directing the phenomenon of terrorism is undeniable,” the commander said, adding, “The advocates of combating terrorism, especially Western governments, better set aside their dual policies and genuinely step into the arena of fighting the ominous phenomenon of terrorism.”
The influential Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat, which belongs to Prince Faisal bin Salman (son of King Salman), Governor of Madinah, tore into Turkish President Recep Erdogan with a series of vicious attacks that brings to the fore the cracks in the politics of the Muslim Middle East following the failed coup in Turkey last Friday. On successive days, three Op-Eds have appeared, authored by two of the most authoritative establishment talkers in the Saudi media – Abdulrahman Al-Rashed (currently general manager of Al-Arabiya television and formerly editor-in-chief of the daily) and Eyad Abu Shakra (incumbent managing editor of the daily).
The first Op-Ed entitled Will Turkey Boycott the West? by Al-Rashed appeared on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey. Its message to Erdogan was two-fold: a) Do not annoy the West (read US); and, b) There will be dire consequences if Erdogan pressed for the extradition of the Islamist cleric Fetullah Gulen from the US.
Evidently, Erdogan ignored Al-Rashed’s advice and doomsday predictions and went ahead to allege a likely US role in the coup attempt and warn that Washington will be making a “big mistake” if Gulen is not extradited. On Thursday, Shakra and Al-Rashed in separate articles followed up with a scathing attack on Erdogan personally and his politics.
Shakra in his article titled About Erdogan and Turkey’s Coup Attempt condemned Erdogan for the crackdown on ‘Gulenists’ and all but cited Gulen as a torch bearer of political Islam as much as Erdogan claims himself to be. The article hinted that Gulen casts an appeal within the ruling party AKP. Shakra pointedly brought in former president and AKP’s co-founder Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu). He virtually advised a patch-up between Erdogan and Gulen.
Al-Rashed in a second article alleged that Erdogan is grandstanding on the ‘Arab Street’ and his fate cannot be any different from that of Abdel Gamal Nasser and Sadam Hussein. Worse still, he drew comparison with Imam Khomeini. His article They All Walked This Path also seems to suggest Saudi displeasure that Erdogan draws support from parts of the Arab world. Qatar — whose Emir is close to Erdogan?
What is it that is frightening the Saudi royal family? Prima facie, the disclosures by the famous Saudi whistleblower Mutjahid (who many suspect to be a dissenter within the House of Saud) to the effect that Gulen has strong links with Saudi Arabia and that the powerful deputy crown prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman was in the know of the Turkish coup seems to have some basis. There is indeed a tone of panic in the Saudi media attack on Erdogan.
According to Mutjahid, Mohammed bin Salman apparently suspects that the Turkish intelligence knows about the Saudi-UAE role in the attempted coup against Erdogan. (Curiously, according to reports, Turkish military attaché in Kuwait tried to flee to an unnamed western country from the Saudi airport of Dammam before being detained for involvement in the coup attempt.) The Saudi talkers have probably gone on the offensive as the best form of defence, fearing a retaliation by Erdogan.
More importantly, Saudis must be feeling frightened about the manner in which the coup attempt in Turkey was countered by Erdogan, who invoked ‘people’s power’. Shades of ‘Arab Spring’! This is the spectre that always haunted the Saudis – masses pouring out into the streets in their tens of thousands as the final arbiters of political power in a Muslim country. Worse still, this political tactic also leaps out of the manifesto of the Muslim Brotherhood, which poses an existential threat to the Saudi regime.
The point is, from the Saudi viewpoint, the most dangerous thing about Erdogan is not his ‘neo-Ottomanism’ but his close links with the Brothers for whose sake he even sacrificed Turkey’s state-to-state relations with the Egyptian regime of President Abdel Fattah- el-Sisi (who came to power through a Saudi-backed military coup).
Finally, the Saudis are big losers – next only to Israel – in the rapprochement between Turkey and Iran that is getting under way in regional politics. Erdogan told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone conversation on Tuesday that he is ready to work with Iran and Russia to restore regional peace. The Iranian official news agency quoted Erdogan as saying,
- Today, we are determined more than ever before to contribute to the solution of regional problems hand in hand with Iran and Russia and in cooperation with them.
Of course, such a realignment in the Muslim Middle East would profoundly impact the balance of forces in regional politics, virtually isolating Saudi Arabia.
Adam J. Szubin, US Treasury Department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence
The United States has imposed new sanctions on Syria, targeting the arms and financial networks of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Department of the Treasury on Thursday included eight individuals and seven entities to its sanctions blacklist, which aims to cut them out of the global financial system.
The Treasury said the Syrian firm Hesco Engineering and Construction is operating energy production facilities in Syria, and added its Russia-based representatives to the sanctions list.
The Treasury also claimed that Yona Star International and T-Rubber are supplying the Syrian defense ministry, air force and other military bodies from their international offices and slapped sanctions on them.
Sanctions were also imposed on many individuals and businesses involved in international money transfers.
Adam Szubin, Treasury Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the Assad government is engaged in “destabilizing behavior.”
“Treasury will continue to act against those responsible for fueling the Assad regime’s repressive actions and dangerous weapons proliferation,” Szubin added.
Since March 2011, the United States and its regional allies, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have been conducting a proxy war against Syria.
The conflict has left more than 470,000 Syrians dead and half of the country’s population of about 23 million displaced within or beyond the Arab country’s borders.
In September 2014, the US and some of its allies started conducting airstrikes inside Syria against Daesh terrorists, many of whom were initially trained by the CIA to fight against the Syrian government.
In September of last year, Russia launched its own air offensive against the terrorists who were still wreaking havoc in Syria. The Russian campaign, analysts say, has broken the backbone of ISIL and other militants.
A 5-hour meeting between a visiting foreign minister and Russian President Vladimir Putin is not only rare but difficult to recall. Putin makes rare exceptions to receive foreign ministers. And he always receives them after their talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. By all these yardsticks, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Putin last Thursday in the Kremlin was extraordinary.
He drove into the Kremlin straight after touching down in Moscow Thursday evening and had talks with Putin lasting till 1 am in the wee hours of Friday morning. Putin’s rare appearance for a joint press briefing with a foreign minister (Kerry), Puitn’s ‘body language’ and, of course, the subsequent joint press conference by Kerry and Lavrov — they distinctly sought to convey the impression that the US and Russia were on to a big joint venture apropos the Syrian conflict. (here and here)
None of the three statesmen – neither Putin and Lavrov nor Kerry – was even remotely affected by the negative energy radiated by the high-profile summit meeting of the NATO, which had taken place in Warsaw hardly four days ago whose leitmotif was the strong determination of the western alliance to defend and deter Russia’s perceived aggressive tendencies in Eurasia.
Kerry is going to meet a select group of European allies later today in London to brief them on “the concrete steps that the U.S. and Russia are planning to take”. He disclosed that he had a phone conversation with Lavrov on Tuesday, and,
- We both [with Lavrov] believe that we have understanding of the direction we are going in and what needs to be achieved. Our teams will meet shortly in order to continue to do that, in order to bolster the cessation of hostilities, in order to increase our capacity to fight against Al Qaeda, an Nusra, as well as fight back against ISIL.
It all sounds too good to be true. But then, Kerry is a seasoned diplomat with 30 years as a senator behind him during which he also headed the senate foreign relations committee and now as America’s top diplomat for over 3 years. Why is the US all of a sudden giving such hype to a peace project with Russia, an aggressive regional power, to kickstart a political process Syria?
The US has always sought a “selective engagement” of Russia on issues of concern to Washington while pursuing the containment strategy on another track. Lavrov may have gently rubbed this in when Kerry phoned him on Thursday to discuss the “concrete steps” on Syria as follow-up to his talks in the Kremlin last week. Curiously, the Russian Foreign Ministry readout makes a wry reference to Lavrov also, inter alia, availing of the opportunity to gently remind Kerry how the Obama administration is also simultaneously moving heaven and earth to humiliate Russia on another front by keeping it out of the Rio Olympics. These seasoned diplomats must be having the hide of rhinoceros — the readout says, “Mr. Kerry agreed that sports should not be politicized”. (here)
Won’t Moscow be aware that Kerry might even be dissimulating a concord with Russia over Syria? Won’t Moscow know that the Obama administration is on its last leg and time has run out? The point is, there is a powerful lobby in Washington, including the Pentagon and apparently within the State Department itself, which opposes any form of US-Russia cooperation in Syria that does not lead to the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad in a near term. (Read a briefing by the Brookings Institution, on the hawkish opinion in Washington.)
Indeed, the US is engaging Russia assiduously against the backdrop of the dramatic events in Turkey. The ground has shifted in the geopolitics of the region. Interestingly, Kerry made the hurried unscheduled trip to Moscow last week within 4 days of the NATO summit even as the failed coup attempt was getting under way in Turkey. Actually, Kerry was about to meet with Putin in the Kremlin — or had been conversing with him already –even as the coup began in Turkey. Something doesn’t quite gel here, isn’t it? Suffice it to say, much depends on how far back Kerry (Obama administration) actually had known about the coup that was in the making in Turkey. (Read a breath-taking, blow-by-blow account of the ‘Turkish coup’ by senior editor Murat Yetkin in today’s Hurriyet.)
Of course, the failed coup in Turkey becomes a defining moment for the Syrian conflict. The Turkish military and state intelligence – and the political leadership – are all passing through such turbulence that Ankara simply lacks the presence of mind or the sheer capacity to continue to pursue an interventionist policy in Syria in a foreseeable future. Meanwhile, great uncertainties have crept into Turkey’s relations with the US and Europe. Moscow cannot but be aware that Turkey desperately needs to hold the Russian hand — and that indeed adds to Russia’s politico-military options in Syria. The thinking is reflected in a commentary by a top Kremlin pundit Fyodor Lukyanov in Moscow Times.
Clearly, the US policies on Syria are floundering. The Syrian forces have laid siege to Aleppo and the US-backed rebels are trapped inside the city, while Turkey may have begun disengaging from reaching aid to them. Washington has no option but to engage Moscow to work out some sort of face-saving compromise formula.
But what does Russia get in return? Participation in Rio Olympics? It shouldn’t be surprising if the International Olympics Committee has a last-minute change of heart and says ‘Da‘ to the Russian team, finally. If that happens, it will be in the best traditions of Russian-American trade-offs, and Kerry worked hard on it.
A senior European Union security official says the body is looking into Israeli technology for online surveillance in Europe.
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said Tuesday that the bloc was turning to Israeli methods after internet companies proved reluctant to monitor individuals.
The official cited a series of deadly attacks across Europe which had prompted officials to think of using Israeli technologies.
Once focused on “meta data” or information regarding individuals’ communications patterns, Israeli spy agencies now have refocused on social media as a complementary means of snooping on Palestinians.
An Israeli military official who administers these methods said human intervention is required to set parameters such as age, religiosity, socio-economic background for the population being monitored.
Traditionally a source of funds for the Israeli military to maintain its “edge” in the Middle East, the US and Europeans have recently turned to a major customer of Israeli weapons.
Last month, the US military said it had tested an Israeli short-range missile for possible use in its European network of missile systems to deter Russia.
Major General Glenn Bramhall of the US Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command said a variant of the Israeli “Tamir” rocket which is incorporated to Tel Aviv’s so-called Iron Dome missile system had been tested.
Last month, a report said European countries were increasingly purchasing weapons from Israeli arms manufacturers, promoting their products on the grounds that they have been “field-tested” against Palestinians.
The report came as 29 Israeli arms makers displayed their military technologies earlier this week at the Eurosatory conference in Paris, one of the world’s largest land defense exhibitions.
French purchases of weaponry from Israeli firms more than doubled in 2015 compared to a year earlier, amounting to $355 million.
In 2016, Israel is projected to overtake Italy as the world’s seventh-largest weapons exporter, the report said, citing IHS Jane’s.
Many of the Israeli arms technologies being sold to Europe are used in the repression of Palestinians, including in the destructive 2014 war on the besieged and densely-populated Gaza Strip.
The war left over 2,200 dead — mostly civilians — while injuring thousands more and displacing nearly 500,000 people, according to UN figures.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the purchase of field-tested Israeli weapons, saying the group has documented “violations of the rules of war that appear to rise to the level of war crimes in Gaza using some of these weapons.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin did on Sunday what no major western leader from the NATO member countries cared to do when he telephoned his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan to convey his sympathy, goodwill and best wishes for the latter’s success in restoring constitutional order and stability as soon as possible after the attempted coup Friday night.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry instead made an overnight air dash to Brussels to have a breakfast meeting on Monday with the EU foreign ministers to discuss a unified stance on the crisis in Turkey. The French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was in an angry mood ahead of the breakfast, saying “questions” have arisen as to whether Turkey is any longer a “viable” ally. He voiced “suspicions” over Turkey’s intentions and insisted that European backing for Erdogan against the coup was not a “blank cheque” for him to suppress his opponents.
The US has expressed displeasure regarding the Turkish allegations of an American hand in the failed coup. Indeed, the Turkish allegation has no precedent in NATO’s 67-year old history – of one member plotting regime change in another member country through violent means. Clearly, US and Turkey are on a collision course over the extradition of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen living in exile in Pennsylvania whom the Turkish government has named as the key plotter behind the coup. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has warned that Ankara will regard the US as an “enemy” if it harbored Gulen. The dramatic developments expose the cracks appearing in the western alliance system. (See the commentary in the Russian news agency Sputnik entitled NATO R.I.P (1949-2016): Will Turkey-US Rift Over Gulen Destroy Alliance?)
Interestingly, the senior Turkish army officials detained so far include the following:
- Commander of the Incirlik air base (and 10 of his subordinates) where NATO forces are located and 90 percent of the US’ tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are stored;
- Army Commander in charge of the border with Syria and Iraq;
- Corps Commander who commands the NATO contingency force based in Istanbul; and,
- Former military attaches in Israel and Kuwait.
Most certainly, the needle of suspicion points toward the Americans having had some knowledge of the coup beforehand. Two F-16 aircraft and two ‘tankers’ to provide mid-air refuelling for them and used in the coup attempt actually took off from Incirlik.
Of course, Ankara has been wary of the US and France establishing military bases in northern Syria with the support of local Kurdish tribes, which it suspected would be a stepping stone leading to the creation of a ‘Kurdistan’. (The advisor on foreign affairs to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, who is an influential figure in Tehran alleged on Sunday that the US is attempting to create a Kurdistan state carved out of neighboring countries with Kurdish population, which will be a “second Israel” in the Middle East to serve Washington’s regional interests.)
Today, the famous Saudi whistleblower known as ‘Mujtahid’ has come out with a sensational disclosure that the UAE played a role in the coup and had kept Saudi Arabia in the loop. Also, the deposed ruler of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (who is a close friend of Erdogan) has alleged that the US, another Western country (presumably France) had staged the coup and that Saudi Arabia was involved in it. (here and here) Meanwhile, word has leaked to the media that in a closed-door briefing to the Iranian parliament on Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif hinted at Saudi and Qatari involvement in the coup.
Putin’s phone call to Erdogan suggests the possibility that Russian and Turkish intelligence are keeping in touch. The two leaders have agreed to meet shortly.
The timing of the coup attempt – following the failure of the US push to establish a NATO presence in the Black Sea and in the wake of the Russian-Turkish rapprochement – becomes significant. Equally, the signs of shift in Turkey’s interventionist policies in Syria would have unnerved the US and its regional allies.
Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have a great deal to lose if Turkey establishes ties with Syria, which is on the cards. Thus, stopping Erdogan on his tracks has become an urgent imperative for these countries. The spectre of the Syrian government regaining control over the country’s territory haunts Israel, which has been hoping that a weakened and fragmented Syria would work to its advantage to permanently annex the occupied territories in the Golan Heights. Again, Turkey’s abandonment of the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria means a geopolitical victory for Iran. On the contrary, a triumphant and battle-hardened Hezbollah next door means that its vast superiority in conventional military strength will be rendered even more irrelevant in countering the resistance movement. Significantly, Israel is keeping stony silence.
Will the US and its regional allies simply throw in the towel or will they bide their time to make a renewed bid to depose Erdogan? That is the big question. Erdogan’s popularity is soaring sky-high today within Turkey. He can be trusted to complete the ‘vetting’ process to purge the Gulenists ensconced in the state apparatus and the armed forces. The meeting of the High Military Council due in August to decide on the retirement, promotions and transfers of the military top brass gives Erdogan the free hand to remove the Gulenists.
M. K. Bhadrakumar is the former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service.
The commission monitoring the implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers is to convene for a fourth meeting in Vienna.
The Iranian delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, arrived in the Austrian capital on Tuesday to attend the Joint Commission meeting, which is to convene later in the day.
The first meeting of the commission was held last October, agreeing to reconvene every three months.
The deal between Iran and the world powers, namely Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, envisages Tehran scaling back its nuclear program in return for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
However, months after the accord went into effect in January, the US and the European Union (EU) continue to maintain some sanctions on Iran, scaring off companies from resuming trade with the country.
European banks have balked at the idea of resuming transaction with Iran, fearing punitive US measures. US Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing through three anti-Iran bills in the Congress.
Commenting on the upcoming commission meeting on Sunday, Araqchi said it would be trying to prevent any potential problems from turning into “critical obstacles” in the way of the implementation of the deal, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“There are numerous instances of insufficient progress in the removal of the sanctions. It was up to the opposite side to bring about some circumstances, but it did not,” he complained.
He acknowledged that major banks have not resumed transactions with the Islamic Republic, attributing this to the atmosphere surrounding the agreement.
The Americans “did not create the requisite circumstances needed for the removal of the sanctions… In some places, they even created a destructive atmosphere,” he said.
On Monday, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also said that, “If the sanctions are not supposed to be lifted and banking transactions to take place, there would remain no reason [to continue with] this agreement.”
“Iran has lived up to all its commitments in the nuclear agreement, from the reduction of centrifuges to decreasing of heavy water and enriched materials. But there has been reneging on promises by the other side, especially the US,” he said.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said the Islamic Republic is keeping a close eye on the US “bullying, illogicality, and disloyalty” under the JCPOA.
Shamkhani said Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei had raised the alarm as to the opposite side’s potential backtracking on its promises at the start of the negotiations.
Elizabeth Richard, 65, seems interested to operate in Lebanon, where she commenced her missions last week. And she, according to the video introducing her at the US embassy, is “interested to get introduced to Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage (in the video’s background, there are scenes showing the cedars, the Bay Rock and women stuffing vine leaves, edited in a bad and unrefined manner.) The new American ambassador, who visited the “land of cedars” in 2007 under an American initiative to train Internal Security Forces and arm them, seems assertive in her first message to the Lebanese people: “As Lebanon works to save its security and build the strong government’s institutions (…) the American people will stay by your side.” It was a nice diplomatic speech that covers unplanned intentions of the new ambassador, especially regarding her concept of “saving security” and “the state’s strong institutions.” Richard was clearer in her attestation at the congress after she was nominated for the post months ago. Thereat, the specialized in law announced her actual agenda, classifying the “main” problems in Lebanon; all what the Lebanese are suffering from currently in economics, security and politics is because of one single thing: the resistance.
In economics, Richard uncovered a magic equation to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, saying: “our target is to dismantle Hezbollah’s international financial network and help the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people, which will contribute directly to activating the economic prosperity in Lebanon.” How would targeting the international funding for resistance lead to refreshing the country’s economy?! Richard didn’t explain this in her testimony; she was not asked to do so in her country, neither the Lebanese government, nor diplomats moved to hold accountable a diplomat who publicly announced that she is going to work from inside Lebanon to fight one of the Lebanese parties that is represented in the parliament and participating in the government! Nobody even dared to demand explanation of the ambassador’s words. Richard, as if she is holding everything in her hands, with the old American unashamed boldness, said she will work hard “not to let Hezbollah break through the Lebanese banking sector” because this is “the interest of Lebanon and the United States.” The new ambassador raised her wand in front of the Lebanese state before she arrived at the host country, yet none of the officials’ sovereignty was touched.
On the security level, Richard had her own philosophy as well. Of course, “Israel” was absent from her speech regarding the security threats Lebanon is subject to, yet ISIL and al-Nusra threats were present. However, the ambassador seems assured in threatening the two organizations that were brought by al-Qaeda. She is convinced that “partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Security Forces, through the generous Congress support, played a decisive role in saving Lebanon’s security facing such threats.” Therefore, there is no fear on the Lebanese people from ISIL and al-Nusra, so what is the first threat Lebanon is subject to according to Richard? The answer is: Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s activities in Syria create serious security threats in Lebanon,” the ambassador said as she vowed to support the Lebanese army since it is “the only legitimate protector of Lebanon.”
The third “main problem” the Lebanese are suffering from, as Richard identified, is the political void and decrying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, which she will also work on solving, this time in cooperation with “the voices calling for moderation and progress.” Against whom? Against “Hezbollah that is still interfering in Syria without the Lebanese consent,” Richard explains. The new ambassador’s swaggering made her talk on behalf of the Lebanese people, without the need to use numeric evidences, even if fabricated, to verify her announcement on the Lebanese people’s accepting or rejecting Hezbollah’s interference in Syria. The conclusion, as Richard informed the congressmen: Hezbollah went to Syria despite the will of most of the Lebanese, which decries Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Usually, western diplomats complain that they couldn’t understand the happenings in Lebanon, and complain about its complicated social structure, economic system and political scene. However, it seems that Elizabeth Richard doesn’t suffer from any of this. Her vision is clear, and so is her single goal: to target the Lebanese resistance through its party, people and money using every possible means.
In her latest post before being appointed to custodianship on the Lebanese people, Richard was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In her testimony at the congress in July 2015, she boasted the State Department’s achievements; counting the projects she supervised, such as: the initiative to qualify and develop industrial cities, creating job opportunities, activating exportation in Egypt, Jordan and “Israel”, the General Motors agreement to provide Egypt with huge amounts of electric energy, qualifying the railways in Algeria, buying tons of Iraqi rice, encouraging investments in the Gulf countries, supporting the youth initiatives and medical cooperation with “Israel” and the Arab Emirates… Most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries were present, yet Lebanon was absent from the achievements of Richard and her department last year, and now she comes to the weakest country in the region, having in her pocket a single (non-developmental) political project, promises of armament… and a raised wand!
When friends of friends are enemies
A friend recently observed to me that it is ironic that the neoconservatives, whose bottom line foreign policy issue is the uncritical support of Israel, should be obsessed with constantly confronting and goading Russia even though Tel Aviv and Moscow get along just fine. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has traveled to Russia three times in the past year and he and President Vladimir Putin reportedly understand each other very well.
To be sure, part of the reasoning behind the Israeli offering the hand of friendship is certainly demographic and electoral as many Israelis are Russian in origin and also characteristically strongly support recent right wing governments. They are regarded as essential members of Netanyahu’s coalition, but there is clearly more to it than counting votes.
From the Israeli point of view, Russia, though allied with Syria and friendly with Iran, does not threaten Israel and it also is an available resource to help Tel Aviv develop, refine and market its claimed offshore energy resources. Israel, increasingly isolated because of its repression of the Palestinians, is always eager to make new friends who will help protect it in international fora, witness Netanyahu’s recent charm offensive in Africa.
From the Russian point of view, Israel is a useful friend given its unparalleled access to the U.S. Congress, the White House and the American media. The Netanyahu government also understands Moscow’s concerns about radical Islam in the Arab world and Central Asia and is willing to share information that it obtains to contain the problem. For both Israel and Russia terrorism is not an abstraction – it sits right on and even inside their borders.
Even though Israel is undercutting the neocon plan to isolate and punish Russia at every opportunity people like Bill Kristol, the Kagans and John Bolton make no effort to criticize Netanyahu for his temerity. It is a policy of deliberately looking the other way and it underlines the essential phoniness of what the neoconservatives stand for. To put it bluntly, the neocons claim to support American military dominance globally for altruistic reasons but the reality is that they are largely in it for the money as well as the political and media access to power that money brings with it in contemporary America. What would Sunday morning talk shows be like without a beaming Bill Kristol?
And the cash for the neocons comes mostly from defense contractors who are eager to have a clearly defined serious enemy to boost military spending coupled with an articulate group of pundits who insist on seeing threats worldwide and are willing to promote that viewpoint. Keeping the cash flowing to fund that nice corner office with a view of the Capitol even trumps the Israel relationship but the neocons are careful to make sure the two issues never bump up against each other when they are fulminating against Obama’s national security policies.
We are currently witnessing neocon perfidy at its most refined. They are jumping over themselves to support Hillary Clinton for president in spite of her manifest corruption and unreliability because Donald Trump has threatened to do two things: first he has expressed his unwillingness to enter into new wars in the Middle East or anywhere else and second he has stated that Washington should be even handed when attempting to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Both are anathema to the neocons and Trump has further complicated matters by indicating that he would be willing to talk with Vladimir Putin. If Trump were to win, many neocons would likely find themselves having to look for a real job, a terrifying prospect for people with few skills to fall back on.
Hillary Clinton on the other hand will do what is right from the neocon point of view – confronting the world one nation at a time starting with Iran, which she has threatened to “obliterate.” She will also need to boost defense spending to support her wars, will stiff Vlad, and will allow Bibi to move in down the hall at the White House as Bill will often be out on the town and his room in the East Wing is not needed.
Hillary’s bellicosity guarantees that the military industrial complex cash machine will continue to operate full speed, driving scores of leading neocons to announce that they will vote for her. Reuel Marc Gerecht, one of the neocons’ favorite Iran bashers, concluded in an article appearing in a recent issue of the Weekly Standard that Hillary’s “not a neoconservative, but Hillary Clinton isn’t uncomfortable with American power. Unlike Obama, she isn’t the apologetic type. Whatever her opinions were in the Vietnam era, she doesn’t now view the Cold War ambivalently. She’s certain that might married right in that struggle, even in the Third World, where Obama and many on the left have serious doubts.” I’m not completely sure what that pompous bit of prose is supposed to mean but Gerecht in a backhanded fashion also provided what is for me a ringing endorsement of Donald Trump, though he of course meant to do the opposite having stated his intention to vote for Hillary, writing “Trump is probably the most anti-interventionist presidential candidate since Eugene V. Debs, the indefatigable socialist, in 1912.”
The issue of Israel has, of course, been somewhat hidden during the lead-up to the major party nominating conventions, with everyone inevitably expressing his or her deep affection for Netanyahu, but it has surfaced somewhat in the Democratic Party platform deliberations where Cornel West and James Zogby attempted to introduce some language critical of the occupation of the former Palestinian West Bank. They failed in that attempt though it is possible that something similar will be introduced from the floor during the actual convention. It will undoubtedly also fail even if it succeeds as it did in 2012 when the presiding chairman seemed to hear more “yea” votes than anyone else present in the hall.
The Republicans, still firmly under control of the neocon foreign policy clique, have outdone the Democrats. On July 12th the platform committee, with input from Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, advisers to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, approved a plank on Israel that does not accept creation of a Palestinian state at all unless Israel decides to take action to permit that to develop. On that and all other issues there will be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. The subcommittee that drafted the position reportedly approved it by an overwhelming majority followed by a standing ovation.
The document calls Israel a “beacon of democracy and humanity.” It states that “support for Israel is an expression of Americanism” and declares that the U.S. Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem. It denies that Israel is an “occupier,” and calls for legislation to combat the “anti-Semitic” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The plank could have been written by Netanyahu’s Foreign Ministry or perhaps by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and basically cedes to Israel control over the direction of U.S. foreign policy in a critical and unstable region.
And there has been additional activity in Congress lately regarding Iran, with a large sale of Boeing jets being blocked and three additional bills submitted for consideration that will punish that country by, among other steps, denying it access to international finance. Indeed, the unrelenting neocon hostility towards Iran is a subset of the pro-Israel bias as Tehran is perceived as a problem for Tel Aviv while the arguments made to suggest that Iran threatens Europe and the United States lack any plausibility.
The creation of enemies unnecessarily, as applied to both Iran and Russia, is a symptom of the neoconservative disease. It is a pointless search for full spectrum military dominance that panders to an inchoate fear that the U.S. is surrounded by foes that can only be dealt with by decisive kinetic action which will require large defense budgets. Today’s neo-conservatism is a movement born from a curious amalgam of interests that have come together at a time when the United States is in reality militarily unchallenged worldwide and is threatened neither by any other country nor by the pinpricks inflicted by terrorists. Neocons and their associated liberal interventionists have to an extent dominated the foreign and defense policy thinking of the two major parties and most of the media but their message is ultimately based on emphasizing national insecurity, which in the current context is somewhat inexplicable. The United States has never been more secure internationally, if not domestically, and the only problems it is confronting are themselves part and parcel of the imbroglios that have been engineered by the interventionists and their friends. Speculation is that a Trump victory will actually end their dominance. If that is so, it might just be sufficient reason to vote for Donald Trump.
Norman Solomon betwixt the political sheets with Robert Kagan? How could that be? Has our political world turned upside down?
Driving south to Mountain View in my new home state of California, I tuned into KPFA, the Pacifica outlet in the Bay Area. Norman Solomon, longtime prominent figure in Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and co-founder of “Roots Action” was being interviewed on a program called “Talkies.” Just a few hours earlier Bernie Sanders had endorsed Hillary Clinton, betraying the millions who voted for him (and voted against her) and losing the respect of many millions more.
On air Solomon was commenting on the termination of Bernie Sanders’s milquetoast campaign against Hillary Clinton. And he was contrasting Hillary unfavorably with Bernie in a very detailed way with lots of references to Hillary’s policies. No personality analysis, no psychobabble. He mentioned that perhaps the most prominent neocon these days, Robert Kagan, was supporting Hillary Clinton for President. Yes, the same Kagan who calls for ever more US wars in the Middle East and for confrontation with the second mightiest nuclear power, Russia. Solomon pointed out quite correctly that Kagan had even said that Hillary shared his beliefs, but she would call them something other than neoconservatism.”
Then in almost the next breath Solomon called on Bernie’s followers to support Hillary for President. No, not Jill Stein, but Hillary.
No sooner did he say that than a caller to the show got on air and asked a very pointed question. The caller asked Solomon why he was throwing in with Robert Kagan. Solomon seemed mystified. The caller reminded him that, by his own admission minutes before, he and Kagan were now backing the same candidate – Hillary.
Solomon promptly went berserk. He quickly changed the subject to Trump who was not mentioned by the caller. Moreover, Solomon had no substantive comments on Trump, merely responding with psychobabble that Trump is “crazy.” The KPFA host quickly shut the caller off before he could utter any more heresy. (So much for real discussion on what passes for the media of the left these days.)
It may seem harsh on poor Norm to point out the sleazy company he is now keeping. But facts are facts. Both Norm and Robert Kagan will be supporting Hillary. And the main reason for Kagan’s opposition to Trump is quite clear. Trump is not a reliable warmonger. Thus Trump is a threat to the further depredations of the US Empire and the machinations of Israel which Kagan so loves.
It is fully understandable for progressives to back Jill Stein. It is a morally and ethically defensible position for a progressive – as is staying at home and not voting at all. In that regard the Bernie or Bust people have been right on the money. But backing a mass murderer like Hillary, who is intent on doing more of the same and threatens the whole human race with a bellicosity that may lead on to World War, is not morally defensible.
To be fair to Norm, he was not advocating a vote for Hillary in “safe states,” ie., states where she is sure to win, but “only” in states, where she needs every vote she can get. In other words vote for Hillary wherever your vote will count. Mr. Kagan would certainly rub his bloated hands in satisfaction with Solomon’s recommendation.
Some may feel that this is all very unfair to poor Norm and the many fake “progressive” leaders who will soon join him in embracing Kagan’s candidate, Hillary – if they have not already done so. Watch for other “progressive” leaders to jump on board the Hillary bandwagon in the next few days and weeks. Norm is not alone. Progressives who do not like this kind of thing should speak up now and do so forcefully.
What makes such a position not only unethical but downright criminal is that Hillary has labeled Putin as “Hitler.” You only do one thing with a Hitler. You go to war with him. So Hillary puts the entire human race at risk of nuclear conflict. There is no greater evil than that. Many people not just former DoD capo, William Perry, are pointing out that we are now closer to nuclear conflict than we have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. And Hillary is the most likely to get us into such an Armageddon.
So Norman, as a leader amongst progressives where are you and others like you taking them?
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has denounced sanctions on Lebanese banks and other financial institutions as a form of Israeli aggression.
Speaking at the Lebanese Emigrants Economic Conference in Beirut on Thursday, Berri said Israel is constantly trying to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy.
Berri was apparently making reference to the US law, which calls for the closure of bank accounts of individuals and organizations suspected of links to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel – the US’s staunchest ally in the region – in 2000 and 2006.
Berri said Lebanon, through the assistance of its diaspora, will eventually emerge triumphant over a plot seeking to harm the country’s economy.
“We only have hope from the expatriates, and right now we no longer have hope but from you,” he said.
Berri further lashed out at Arab states for failing to commit to promised funds to Lebanon following Israel’s war on the country in the summer of 2006, saying only a third of the aid has been paid.
In February, Riyadh suspended USD 3 billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD 1 billion to the country’s internal security forces.
The kingdom also imposed sanctions on some Lebanese firms and individuals it accused of having links with Hezbollah.
Last month, Governor of Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh stated that 100 bank accounts linked to Hezbollah members and legislators had been closed.
Hezbollah criticized the Central Bank of Lebanon for submitting to US pressures, saying the measures violated Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The worst disservice Sanders has done to his supporters, other than to lead them on a wild goose chase for real change, is to virtually ignore his rival’s vaunted “experience.” He need not have mentioned Hillary Clinton’s Senate record, since there was nothing there; her stint as law-maker was merely intended to position her for a run for the presidency, according to the family plan. But there was a lot in her record as Secretary of State.
As she recounts in her memoir, she wanted a heftier “surge” in Afghanistan than Obama was prepared to order. Anyone paying attention knows that the entire military mission in that broken country has been a dismal failure producing blow-back on a mind-boggling scale, even as the Taliban has become stronger, and controls more territory, than at any time since its toppling in 2001-2002.
Hillary wanted to impose regime change on Syria in 2011, by stepping up assistance to armed groups whom (again) anyone paying attention knows are in cahoots with al-Nusra (which is to say, al-Qaeda). In an email dated Nov. 30, 2015, she states her reason: “The best way to help Israel…is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”
In her memoir she criticizes Obama for not doing more to oust the secular Assad regime. She has repeatedly stated during her campaign that she favors a no-fly zone over Syria, like the one she advocated for Libya. That means conflict with Russia, which is bombing sites in Syria, with the permission of its internationally recognized government, under what Russia’s leaders (and many rational people) consider to be terrorists’ control.
Sanders–sorry, I cannot call him “Bernie” anymore, since he has become precisely as avuncular as Dick Cheney—could have effectively attacked Hillary the Skjaldmær (Old Norse for “Shield-maiden,” referring to an often berserk warrior-woman) for her role in the destruction of Libya. But no! Always referring to her deferentially as “Secretary Clinton”–as though her actions in that role merit respect—he rarely alluded to her greatest crime at all. That’s unforgivable.
(Yes, in one debate he mentioned Libya in passing–timidly, and with no follow-up. While he repeatedly mentioned how The Secretary had voted for the Iraq War and he hadn’t, he hardly exuded moral outrage about that or any other Clinton decision. His campaign was all about her Wall Street ties and well-paid, secret talks, the transcripts of which he once wanted to see but has now apparently lost interest. It was never about “foreign policy,” which is supposedly her forte. He may call himself a “socialist,” but he’s no anti-imperialist. He has voted in favor of every “defense spending” bill, supported the NATO assault on Serbia in 1999, supported Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014, etc.)
He could have attacked Clinton savagely–with the savagery of mere matter-of-fact honesty–by citing those emails exchanged between Clinton and her vicious confidant and former adviser Anne-Marie Slaughter, in which the latter—under the subject line “bravo!”–congratulates her on engineering Obama’s agreement for the bombing of Libya. (On March 19, 2011, as the bombing of Libya began, Slaughter wrote: “I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be after this week, but I have NEVER been prouder of having worked for you. Turning [Obama] around on this is a major win for everything we have worked for.”
He could have quoted that email from Sidney Blumenthal, that Svengali figure who has long been Clinton’s unofficial mentor (along with Henry Kissinger and others): “No-fly! Brava! You did it!” (Brava, if you’re interested, is the feminine form of Bravo.)
He could have repeatedly used that damning clip that reveals Hillary’s joy at the grotesque murder of Muammar Gaddafi–who had become a friend of Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and the CIA as of 2011–at the hands of Islamist thugs, who rammed a stick and knife up his anus on camera just to make it more humiliating. His ads could have started with some appropriately edited version of this:
And ended with this:
And left the people to draw their own conclusions.
He could have asked, “Why the hell did you appoint Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary of State for Eurasia, and support and fund that coup in Ukraine in 2014 in your goddamn ambition to expand NATO?”
But no. He didn’t have it in him. And now he wants his youthful erstwhile followers to transfer their support to someone who is not only the embodiment of Wall Street, with all its blood-sucking and all its crookedness, but the personification of U.S. imperialism in an era when its depth of crisis has produced a state of perpetual war.
Savvy people in Syria and elsewhere surely understand what the Sanders endorsement means: Syria is the next Libya.
Hillary in the Oval Office, Binyamin Netanyahu at her side, will laugh as Assad gets her knife up his ass, chaos deepens, the draft is re-instated, and boys and girls–of all ethnicities, gay and straight together–march off to fight the Brava Wars drastically reducing youth unemployment and making legions more eligible for the GI Bill.
Even if Sanders doesn’t vote for the war (and why should there be a vote, after all, in this post-constitution era?), he will share responsibility.
Shame! And shame on any once “Bernie” supporter who follows him into his moral morass.
*****Feel the burn. The burn of the rigged system. Why be drawn into it—the object of Hillary’s praise, for switching so readily from him to her (for the sake of “unity”)?
What is there to unite with, but more corruption, exploitation, and wars based on lies?
The votes that matter are the votes on the street. Either Trump or Clinton will provoke mass upheaval. The key contribution of the Sanders campaign has been to lay bare for idealistic youth the magnitude of the rot in the system itself, while raising (however dishonestly) the prospect of “political revolution.”
It’s the hope Sanders has sold out. But yes, that’s what we need. Social, economic, and political revolution. Too bad he’s chosen the other side.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org