It seemed to come almost out of nowhere. The United States usually protects Israel from critical resolutions at the UN Security Council. However, in a dramatic move, the US abstained and a resolution criticizing recent settlement activity was passed by the 15-member body.
But this was not the end. John Kerry, Obama’s former Secretary of State, gave a lengthy address a few days later. Kerry’s speech was not so different from the statements of previous leaders, both Democrats and Republicans. He defended Israel’s existence, and denounced almost all forces actively opposing Israel.
However, Kerry harshly criticized specific Israeli policies. While Kerry’s speech defending the UN abstention uttered the standard, mildly critical, pro-Israeli talking points, it did contain some words that, taken out of context and spread throughout the internet, could and did indeed make a lot of Israelis and Zionists very angry. The most quoted one was: “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both.”
Kerry was alluding to the fact that if Palestinians are absorbed into Israel in a “one state solution” but Israel remains a “Jewish State” this will not be democratic. According to Kerry, under such circumstances Palestinians would be second class citizens, i.e. non-Jews in a Jewish state.
Immediately, Kerry’s speech was decried by Israelis. Netanyahu fired back, as did the entire pro-Israeli blogosphere. The Republican and Likud Party aligned voices escalated the shrill accusations that Obama was a secret Muslim, a member of the Muslim brotherhood, a terrorist sympathizer, a Neo-Nazi, a Communist, and everything else he has been called for 8 years straight.
Meanwhile, Israel did not stop its settlement activity, and was not really affected at all by the resolution. The billions of dollars in US aid to Israel continued. Obama has left the office on January 20th, and is now replaced by Donald Trump, who claims to be more pro-Israel than Obama. The UN Security Council is not taking any specific action to halt the settlement activities condemned in its resolution.
Nothing really changed, but a lot of dramatic, heated words were exchanged between the USA and its closest Middle Eastern ally. Why did this happen?
Napoleon & Obama: “I Come to Restore Your Rights”
In 1798, the French militarist Napoleon Bonaparte, who seized power in the aftermath of the revolution and eventually became Emperor, set out to conquer Egypt. He issued a proclamation saying:
People of Egypt! You will be told by our enemies that I am come to destroy your religion. Believe them not. Tell them I am come to restore your rights, punish your usurpers, and revive the true worship of Mohammed. Tell them that I venerate, more than do the Mamelukes, God, his prophet, and the Koran.
Among the people of Egypt and Syria, as well as the entire Arab world, there was deep hatred for the British and Ottoman empires, who functioned as Napoleon’s rivals. Napoleon hoped that he could convince Muslims throughout the region to support him, and on this basis that he could defeat their hated colonial enemies, and conquer the region for France.
Napoleon was lying. He was not an adherent of the Islam faith. Some speculate that he may have been a freemason, and became familiar with the Koran and Islam due to their inclusion in Masonic rituals. Regardless, years later, Napoleon explained the proclamation to his fellow French Christians saying:
A change of religion, inexcusable for the sake of private interests, becomes comprehensible when immense political results are involved…. Do you think the Empire of the East and perhaps the subjugation of the whole of Asia was not worth a turban and some loose trouser? The state of feeling in the army was such that it would have undoubtedly lent itself to a joke.
Barack Obama, like Napoleon Bonaparte, is not a Muslim. As offensive and heretical as some evangelical Christians and Catholics may consider the teachings of the United Church of Christ and Reverend Jeremiah Wright, they are not Islamic in any conceivable way. Barack Obama was married in a church. He has been photographed drinking wine and eating hot dogs.
Obama’s middle name is “Hussein.” As a child, while living in Indonesia, he attended an Islamic elementary school. Obama apparently did meet with the Palestinian-American professor Edward Said. With all of this to cite as evidence, the allegation that he was a “secret Muslim” has not vanished.
The endless, semi-hysterical attacks on Obama for having alleged links to Islam certainly had an impact outside of US borders. This impact may not have been accidental. Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 2007, the self-described conservative Andrew Sullivan considered the colorful background of the future president to be an asset:
What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy… The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this.
Sullivan’s widely read and cited article said:
If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
The USA certainly had a lot of credibility to regain as the Bush era came to an end. The unilateral invasion of Iraq had been widely opposed, not just in the Middle East, but even among NATO states. Bush had gone as far as to say “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” The word “crusade” doesn’t exactly bring up pleasant feelings among Muslims around the world.
Meanwhile, the federal agencies of the United States flew into a very Islamophobic mode after the 9/11 attacks. The leaders of a religious charity known as the “Holy Land Foundation” were imprisoned for nothing other than running soup kitchens for Palestinian children. Mosques across the United States were then and continue to be widely surveilled.
His Middle Name is “Hussein”
Voices like Andrew Sullivan’s hoped that Obama’s background could restore the credibility of the USA in the eyes of Muslims. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. What came about in the first term of the Obama administration? In 2011 the world watched the “Arab Spring.” Across the Middle East, impoverished people rose up against their governments.
Analysts often argue that the Arab Spring was spawned by the global financial crisis and the regional drought. Throughout the Arab world, crops failed, water was scarce, and impoverished people piled into the cities facing dire economic conditions. The uprisings that eventually erupted were predictable. Such conditions are known to spark unrest.
But the world did not see a repeat of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, where the Persians toppled a western puppet dictator under the slogans of “Not Capitalism but Islam” and “War of Poverty Against Wealth.” The western capitalist apparatus was ready. The Arab Spring was immediately redirected to serve their ends. Social media outlets based in western countries, and the global apparatus of pro-American NGOs swung into action.
With a commander-in-chief who most people in the Middle East had a favorable opinion of, the forces of global power were able to ensure that the revolt did not become an uprising against western capitalism. No new anti-imperialist regimes were born. Rather, the opposite happened.
In Egypt, the pro-US regime of Hosni Mubarak fell, but what replaced it? First, Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the CIA-linked Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was then toppled by a military coup d’etat. Now General Sisi, a top military leader under Mubarak, is in power.
The US backed Saudi regime was allowed to crush the uprisings within its own borders. Ayatollah Nimr Al-Nimr, a Shia cleric who led protests demanding civil liberties and religious freedom in the country was eventually beheaded for his role in the Arab spring. Saudi troops poured into Bahrain to keep the monarchy in power and crush the Shia majority that demanded their rights. In the aftermath of the revolt, Yemen staged a sham election in which Mansour Hadi, a Saudi puppet, was the only candidate on the ballot. Yemen is now torn apart by war, as many Yemenis reject Hadi’s pro-Saudi and Pro-US regime.
The energy and momentum of the Arab Spring, amplified and directed by the western TV networks along with Twitter and Facebook, went toward targeting two anti-imperialist, socialist governments. Gaddafi’s Libya had the highest life expectancy in Africa. Syria’s Bashar Assad presides over a centrally planned economy, supports Palestinian resistance, and is aligned with Iran, Russia and China.
In both Libya and Syria the United States began actively working to transform the Arab Spring into a successful regime change operation. Though the faces promoted on western television were often middle class, secular young people who dreamed of American consumerism while mouthing words about “democracy,” the brute force behind the Syrian and Libyan “revolutions” were religious extremists.
Based from the Syrian and Libyan countryside, forces linked to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood were joined by many foreign Jihadist fighters from throughout the region. The forces who toppled the Libyan government and continue to fight against the Syrian Arab Republic are dominated by those who adhere to Wahabbism, the ideology of Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden. These deeply religious forces, working to topple anti-imperialist governments, happily took guns and funding from a country led by a man who went to a Muslim school, met with Edward Said, and whose middle name happened to be “Hussein.”
Imagine what could have happened in the region, if the wave of uprisings had taken place while George Bush “the crusader” was still in office. Obama’s presidency played a decisive role in manipulating and redirecting the events of 2011.
Netanyahu vs. Obama: A Made For TV Drama
It is not uncommon for celebrities to clash with each other in the public arena. Often, these fights are not spontaneous, but intentionally provoked, or even planned, in order to generate publicity for both parties involved. For example, long before running for President, Donald Trump captured the attention of news headlines by having a spat with TV personality Rosie O’Donnell.
The perceived tension between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama has the looks of a “made for TV drama.” It is a prolonged public spat that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Do they actually dislike each other when the cameras are not rolling? Who knows.
While Obama and Netanyahu have butted heads, the US aid to Israel has not decreased or been cut off. Under Obama, the United States has worked to topple the Baathist Syrian government, one of Israel’s primary regional opponents. Israel has supported the regime change efforts with airstrikes in Syria targeting the anti-ISIS fighters of the Hezbollah organization.
The 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, championed loudly from the White House, toppled the Islamic Socialist government that had a long record of opposing Israel and arming Palestinian resistance.
Obama boasts that he has ended Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program, and is making Israel safer from a supposed Iranian threat in the process. While there is occasionally criticism of Israel’s settlement activities, they continue unabated.
However, Obama’s clash with Netanyahu plays well for him, and the United States, in the Arab world. Throughout the Middle East, Netanyahu and Tel-Aviv are the most hated villains. Obama’s trading of nasty words with Israeli leaders raises the credibility of the United States. It gives the United States a kind of distance from Israel on the international stage, while US support remains key and keeps flowing in without pause. Obama’s Department of Justice has even conducted raids against pro-Palestinian activists.
Netanyahu benefits from the spat as well. Fear and hatred of Palestinians, Muslims, and Arabs has been key in securing the recent electoral victories of the Likud Party. If Netanyahu looked like he was friendly toward someone who attended an Islamic elementary school, or had the middle name “Hussein” this would discredit him in the eyes of his base.
Despite the fact that Israel receives billions of dollars from the United States, as well as weapons and other assistance, Netanyahu looks as if he is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. Fighting with Obama allows Netanyahu to look like a brave, fearless, true believer in the Zionist cause.
“Don’t Forget About Obama!”
Though many Israelis and supporters of Israel in the United States dislike Donald Trump, he has presented himself during the campaign as a pro-Israeli hardliner. His speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee was a repetition of standard pro-Israeli talking points, saying:
“When you live in a society where the firefighters are the heroes, little kids want to be firefighters… In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews.”
Trumps statements about banning Muslim immigration haven’t exactly been popular in the Arab world. Statements like “Islam hates us” don’t go over so well either.
The fear among certain forces in the United States is that Trump could alienate the many Muslim allies of the United States in the Arab world. Wall Street oil companies make lots of money from the various autocratic regimes in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arab, UAE, and elsewhere. Pentagon weapons manufacturers also make lots of money from selling their hardware to these regimes.
Like Napoleon’s strategy in Egypt, efforts to portray Obama as sympathizer with Muslims and Arabs haven’t exactly worked out so well. While the elites within the US aligned Gulf States and some of extremists forces who have poured into Syria have bought into the idea Obama is a trustworthy ally, many people in the region have not. The Syrian government has not fallen. Iran has not really been weakened.
The economic problems and other factors that fueled the discontent of 2011 have not vanished. There is no guarantee that the oil bankers of the United States will keep their grip over this vastly important territory. Certain sectors harbor real fear that Trump’s brash tone could now ruin everything. [emphasis added]
The last minute moves at the UN Security Council, publicly invoking Israel’s wrath, was a message to the Arab world. It was a desperate, final attempt to say: “Whatever Trump does, don’t forget about Obama! Not all Americans are hardline supporters of Israel! Not everyone in Washington hates the Arabs! Muslims of the world, keep trusting us, don’t turn against America!”
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College.
A Kremlin readout on the phone call made by President Vladimir Putin to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Friday to formally congratulate the latter on the liberation of Aleppo, highlighted that the Russian leader “stressed that the main task now is to focus on furthering the peace process, in particular by signing an agreement on comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis.”
Putin’s remark is an important signpost of the way forward in Syria. Moscow disfavours continuation of military operations by the Syrian government forces to regain control of the entire country (which would be the likely preference of Damascus and Tehran) and prefers that conditions must be made available to open the peace track. At any rate, all 5 major cities in Syria and the entire Mediterranean coast, where the bulk of Syrian population is concentrated, is in government hands already and the opposition is left to hold Idlib and isolated pockets in the south and east, with supply lines under immense pressure.
A ceasefire all across Syria is in the making. This appears to be the understanding reached at the 2-track ‘trilateral’ of the foreign and defence ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran which was held in Moscow on Tuesday. Interestingly, at a meeting in the Kremlin on Friday to report to Putin on the conclusion of the operations to liberate Aleppo and the successful downstream activities to evacuate civilians and render humanitarian assistance (in terms of a deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran), Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also made a significant remark that “In our (military’s) opinion, we are close to reaching an agreement on a complete ceasefire across Syria.” Putin responded:
- Together with our partners from Iran and Turkey, and of course with the Syrian government, other countries in the region and all countries concerned, we will need to continue efforts to achieve a final settlement. We must make the greatest effort now to end hostilities everywhere in Syria, and we will, at least, do our sincerest best to achieve this goal.
Of course, the campaign against the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliates will continue. A ceasefire all across Syria has been a key demand by Turkey. Interestingly, Putin referred to the objective of drawing “other countries in the region” (other than Turkey and Iran) into these processes. The reference is to Saudi Arabia and Qatar principally. Conceivably, Russian diplomacy is at work on this front.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said he expected the peace talks to take place in Astana in mid-January. But TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying: “I wouldn’t talk now about timing. Right now contacts are being made and preparation is under way for the meeting.” He said Putin would have a series of international telephone calls later to discuss the Astana talks.
Whether the Gulf sheikhs will be willing to drink from the chalice of poison remains to be seen. But what alternative is left for them now that the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria is off the rails? Equally, a shift in Saudi and Qatari policies, away from further intervention in the Syrian conflict, will also at some point raise another ticklish question: What about the role of Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militia groups from Iran and Iraq who have been fighting in Syria? How an all-Syria ceasefire will be enforced remains to be seen.
Moscow’s objective will be to create new facts on the ground by the time the Trump administration shifts gear on Syria policies. Moscow has signalled on Friday that it is preparing for the long haul as well, with Putin signing a presidential decree ordering the signing of a deal with Syria that will “expand the territory” of Russia’s naval facility in Tartus and allow Russian warships into Syrian waters. The Soviet-era base is currently inadequate to serve most of the modern ships in the Russian Navy.
If the Syrian peace talks take off in the coming weeks, it will amount to a huge victory for Russia’s prestige in the Middle East and for Putin, in particular. But that is a big ‘if’. The good part is that with a relatively cooperative US administration settling down in Washington soon, which may be inclined to collaborate with Russia.
A senior Iranian diplomat emphasizes the need for a peaceful settlement of regional issues, saying warfare in the Middle East only benefits Israel through undermining the resources of regional nations.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaber Ansari made the remarks during a meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Thursday.
“The solution to the region’s crises is not a military one. Not only doesn’t war lead to resolution of complications, but it will result in the erosion of the regional countries’ competencies, and has [hence] no winner other than the Zionist regime [of Israel],” the Iranian official asserted.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Ansari also said the cure to the existent confrontations among the region’s political movements only lies in “serious dialog.”
Ansari described his talks with Hariri as “very favorable and constructive,” saying regional affairs as well as the expansion of Tehran-Beirut ties were discussed in the meeting.
The Iranian official further praised Lebanon’s positive role in the region as well as its “effective and proactive resistance against the Zionist regime’s occupation, expansionism and aggrandizement” over the past two decades.
The Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah is credited with defending the country against two wars launched by Israel, in 2000 and 2006. It has also been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syrian conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
Hariri likewise said political solutions need the participation of domestic factions and the recognition of their views.
“If it were not for empathy and understanding among all Lebanese sides and political movements, we would not be witnessing their agreement and election of General Michel Aoun as president, the formation of a government, and the introduction of cabinet ministers,” he said.
On October 31, Lebanese legislators elected Aoun as president, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum. The Maronite Christian founder of the Free Patriotic Movement succeeded Michel Sleiman.
On Sunday, the country announced forming a new 30-minister cabinet led by Hariri. The government brought together the country’s whole political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party, which did not accept the portfolio it had been offered.
Ansari congratulated the Lebanese premier on the inauguration of the national unity government.
The Iranian official is to meet with other senior Lebanese political officials on Friday.
He arrived in Lebanon via Syria, where he had met separately with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem.
A “declassified” map of an alleged Hezbollah military buildup in southern Lebanon shared by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been exposed by Twitter users as a fake, forcing the IDF to admit the picture was just a “visual illustration” of the militant group’s “war crimes.”
The map titled “Declassified map of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure in Lebanon” was posted on the official IDF Twitter account on Tuesday, highlighting 85 towns and villages in the southern part of the country.
Spots, showing civilian settlements were surrounded by numerous multicolored dots, labeled with names such as “weapon warehouse” or “rocket launcher” and other military facilities.
The tagline of the image said “Hezbollah’s hiding behind Lebanon’s civilians,” while the tweet’s caption was the simple and rather dramatic statement, “this is a war crime.”
Such a level of detail and awareness of alleged Hezbollah activities would be truly impressive, if the map had not turned out to be a fake. Some Twitter users pointed out that it was unlikely the image was a “declassified map,” since its history showed that it had been created using Google Maps via an IDF spokesperson account. The dots, marking the alleged “military buildup,” even featured a repetitive pattern.
IDF later said the map had been an “illustration,” and users simply misinterpreted it as a piece of declassified intelligence. The map’s title, tagline and caption were presumably “illustrative” too.
“The illustration reflects how Hezbollah has positioned its terrorist infrastructure within the civilian arena,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.
The map, despite its ”illustrative” nature, has been shown to almost every foreign diplomat visiting Israel, to demonstrate that while Hezbollah participates in the Syrian civil war, it continues preparations for conflict with Israel and hides among civilians located near the border, according to a Channel 2 report.
Israel has attacked targets allegedly linked to Hezbollah in neighboring countries, mainly in Syria. The most recent incident of this kind reportedly happened on Wednesday, when Israeli rockets hit the Mezzeh military airport near Damascus.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented on the issue at a meeting with European Union envoys in Israel Wednesday.
“We are first and foremost making efforts to maintain the security of our citizens and protect our sovereignty, and trying to prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah,” Lieberman said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April also admitted multiple strikes on targets in Syria in order to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining “game-changing” weaponry.
Buses carrying militants in Homs
Twenty buses carrying militants left Khan El-Sheikh area in western Ghouta of Damascus toward Idlib city on Monday after they handed over their weapons, Hezbollah Military Media Bureau said in a statement.
“300 Kalashnikov guns were handed over to the Syrian army as another five buses transferred families from the same area toward Zakiya region,” the statement read.
The Military Media said that all gunmen will be gradually transferred by Tuesday in accordance with the deal between the national military and allied forces, and the armed groups operating in Khan El-Sheikh, Zakiya, Moqailabiyah and Taibeh.
A senior Israeli official says Tel Aviv should be concerned about deepening disconnect with Moscow over Russia’s role in the Syria conflict.
Avi Dichter, chairman of Israel’s foreign affairs and military committee and the former head of the Shin Bet intelligence agency, says Russia’s interests in the region by no means coincide with Israel’s.
“The gap between us and them is large and disturbing,” he told Reuters news agency after returning from a visit to Moscow where he held high-level meetings last week.
Dichter said Russia’s views on Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese group Hezbollah were in sharp contrast to Israel’s and a growing source of potential conflict.
Russia does not view Iran and its allies “according to the level of threat they pose or broadcast towards Israel,” he said.
The Russians, he said, “view Hezbollah positively” and are backing the group’s assistance to the Syrian government in the war against Takfiri and other terrorists.
“Russia thinks and acts as a superpower and as such it often ignores Israeli interest when it doesn’t coincide with the Russian interest,” Dichter said.
Israel is believed to have been assisting militants fighting to topple President Assad in Syria. The Israeli regime’s worries have risen as Takfiri terrorists have suffered major setbacks over the past few months.
Tel Aviv’s main concern is to be able to attack Hezbollah, with which it fought a war in 2006. Over the past two years, Israeli artillery and warplanes have carried out several strikes against alleged weapons convoys in southern Syria that Israel claimed were destined for Hezbollah.
The occupying regime’s freedom of movement in the area is now more restricted because of the presence of Russian jets and advanced anti-aircraft batteries that Moscow has put in place.
With Russia becoming more deeply involved in the Syria conflict, Tel Aviv has sought to keep lines of communication with Moscow open to avoid an accidental confrontation.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited President Vladimir Putin three times this year, apparently in an effort to persuade him to drop Russia’s engagement in Syria.
But Dichter said Russia thinks Assad should stay in power, that Iran is a stabilizing force and that the nuclear deal the word powers struck with Tehran was largely positive.
The most fateful chapter of the war in northern Syria may be deemed to have commenced on Sunday with the launch of the offensive by Syrian Kurdish militia, backed by American and French Special Forces, to retake control of Raqqa, ‘capital’ of the Islamic State, situated almost mid-point between Aleppo and Mosul. (Japan Times )
Raqqa’s fall will be a lethal blow for IS. But expert opinion has been that US is ill-prepared for a full-bodied campaign on Raqqa. A former US Army colonel Daniel Davis wrote in the National Interest magazine last week that with no state-supported military unit leading the assault, no allied militia, no resupply lines through friendly territory, wresting control of a major city such as Raqqa, “in a hostile foreign land enmeshed in a years-long civil war… could… result in deadly consequences.” (National Interest )
Yet, President Barack Obama decided otherwise. US soldiers have been spotted on the frontline. (RT)
What is the US gameplan? Indeed, driving the IS out of Raqqa is invested with symbolism, as Obama will be fulfilling his pledge to “degrade and defeat” the IS before leaving office. With the November 8 election no longer constraining him, Obama hopes to notch up a legacy in Syria as the president who ‘defeated’ the IS.
Second, there is the ‘big picture’. Washington is hoping to stall the capture of Aleppo by Syrian government forces (backed by Russia and Iran) so that the next US president has the option to revisit Syrian conflict. Control of Raqqa would allow the US to keep a direct influence on Aleppo.
Again, in immediate terms, the IS fighters coming under pressure in Mosul may evacuate to Raqqa and the US intends to blockade Raqqa at least partially so as to revisit the front after the battle for Mosul has been won.
To be sure, Raqqa is shaping up to be the bloodiest battle yet in the Syrian conflict. An estimated 5000 IS fighters are located in Raqqa.
The ‘known unknown’ will be the reactions of Turkey and Russia. The Turkish-Russian rapprochement faces a litmus test here. Suffice it to say, Russia will be watching Turkey’s ‘strategic autonomy’ vis-à-vis the US. There are conflicting signals that US and Turkey have a tacit understanding over Raqqa. (KUNA )
Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds also claim to have an understanding with the US to keep Turkey out in the cold. (Rudaw )
The Americans are playing a smart game. Turkey couldn’t have chosen this moment to push to capture the hugely strategic town of al-Babi without informing US, because the operation’s main aim is to thwart Kurdish plans to establish a contiguous enclave in northern Syria. Simply put, how is it possible that Turks are ostensibly hitting the Syrian Kurds hard just when the latter are fighting Obama’s war on IS in Raqqa? How could that possibly happen without some back-to-back US-Turkish understanding? (Read an excellent analysis in Al-Monitor on the Turkey’s plans in northern Syria)
In the developing situation, a Russian-Syrian consolidation in Aleppo becomes complicated if Americans and the French manage to establish a base camp in Raqqa from where they can lend support seamlessly to rebel groups in Aleppo. Prima facie, Obama’s one-year old warning of a ‘quagmire’ for Russians in Syria no longer seems far-fetched. (Reuters )
But then, Russians seem to estimate that capturing Raqqa is beyond the US’ capability anytime soon. For Tehran, too, Turkey and US’s control of al-Bab and Raqqa could foreclose a direct Iranian access route via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, which is crucial for bolstering the military capability of Hezbollah. In fact, Raqqa leads to Zeir e-Zor city in eastern Syria, just 120 kilometers away, which is under Syrian government control and is a gateway for Iran to access Lebanon. The US and Israel have been hoping to bring Zeir e-Zor under control of Salafi groups hostile to Iran.
Read an impromptu commentary by Russian news agency Sputnik titled Operation Euphrates Rage: What is Known So Far About Raqqa Offensive.
Deputy chief of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qawook
Deputy chief of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qawuq stressed on Saturday that the Saudi sanctions against the party have failed to weaken it, the state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday.
“The political developments and field achievements confirm the failure of the Saudi sanctions against Hezbollah, especially since Saudi Arabia wanted to weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon which has only grown stronger at the political, popular and military levels inside Lebanon and regionally,” said Qawuq.
“By renewing sanctions and terrorism ranking against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is but reflecting an outrage, despair and disappointment in the face of the Resistance, because the Saudi penalties have changed nothing of Hezbollah’s stances in Syria,” his eminence went on to say.
“Regardless of the pressures, we will not leave our national duty to protect our people and our nation, and we will complete the battle against takfiri terrorism, which has no choice but to be defeated in Syria, and we have no choice but to win.” added Qawuq.
He concluded: “The next phase that Lebanon is approaching will emphasize the strength of the strategic alliance between Hezbollah and Amal movement. Those who were betting on discord and division between the two were disappointed.
“If it was not for the Army, People and Resistance equation which Lebanon renews adherence to at this stage, and without the sacrifices of the Lebanese army and the resistance that has protected Lebanon from being sacked by the ISIL and al-Nusra Front, the Lebanese would not have had the chance to elect a president.”
The events in the Middle East, Syria and Aleppo are the focus of global attention. Rarely has a battle been so decisive to the outcome of a war and the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world
Hillary Clinton in the last presidential debate repeatedly called for the establishment of a no-fly zone (NFZ) in Syria. The concept, reiterated several times, clashes with the revelation contained in her private emails admitting that the implementation of a NFZ would entail the increased deaths of Syrian civilians. In a recent hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Philip Breedlove was asked what kind of effort would be required for the US armed forces to impose a NFZ over Syrian skies. With obvious embarrassment, the General was forced to admit that such a request would involve hitting Russian and Syrian aircraft and vehicles, opening the door to a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington, a decision the General was simply not willing to take. The military leadership has always shown a readiness to implement the military option; so this time they must have sniffed the danger of a direct conflict with Moscow.
The Kremlin has publicly admitted to deploying in Syria the S-400 and S-300V4 advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems respectively. The presence of the defense complex was intentionally announced as a factor of deterrence and is a logical strategy. The message to Washington is clear: any unidentified object in Syrian skies will be shot down. The United States bases much of its military strength on the constant need to project power, making its opponents believe that it possesses capabilities that others do not hold. Therefore it is very unlikely that the Pentagon would want to reveal to the world the worth of their stealth systems and their ‘legendary‘ American cruise missiles when faced with the S-300V4 or S-400. The Kosovo War serves to remind us of the F-117 that was shot down by Soviet systems (S-125) dating from the 1960s.
Hillary Clinton’s threats against Moscow were not the only ones. The present policy makers in Washington continue to make aggressive statements demonstrating their total loss of touch with reality. In recent weeks, hysterical reactions were recorded by the Pentagon, the State Department, top military generals, and even representatives of American diplomacy. To emphasize the unhappiness prevalent in some Washington circles, several articles appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times calling for the imposition of a US no-fly zone in Syria, ignoring the consequences highlighted by Dunford. There are two hypotheses under consideration: hitting the Syrian army air bases with cruise missiles, or the use of stealth planes to bomb Damascus’s A2/AD installations.
Behind Washington’s frantic reactions and vehement protests is the probability of military defeat. The US does not have any ability to prevent the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Russian Federation. In the last fifteen days, the SAA and Russia have achieved significant progress, and it is this that has led to an escalation of tensions. Some of the most significant episodes reflecting this over the last few days include: jets of the international coalition hitting the SAA, causing 90 deaths; US government officials threatening Russia with the downing of her planes and the bombings of her cities, resulting in Russian civilian deaths; and the blaming of Moscow for an attack on a humanitarian convoy. The climax seemed to have been reached at the United Nations where the US representatives prevented a Russian resolution condemning the terrorist attacks on the Russian embassy in Damascus. It is interesting to note that fifteen years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Washington finds itself defending Al Nusra Front (AKA Al Qaeda) in an official United Nations meeting; something to ponder. But apparently there is no limit to provocations, and a few days after this incredible denouement, the Pentagon was keen to point out that the possibility of a preventive nuclear strike against Russia is still valid.
It therefore seems almost simplistic to emphasize that because of the success of the SAA, Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, Doha and Tel Aviv are showing unprecedented signs of weakness and nervousness. Their commitment to overthrowing the legitimate government of Assad has failed. The combined action of the Syrian and Russian ground, air and sea forces pushed Washington and the corporate media to move from words of condemnation to increasingly open threats.
Last month the situation against the terrorists quickly changed in the north of Syria thanks to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies supported by the West. In Aleppo, the SAA continues to work every day with great success toward the city’s liberation. Neighborhoods and large areas are back under government control. The relentless advances of the troops loyal to Assad are altering the course of the war in Syria in favor of Damascus, eliminating the US attempts to remove the legitimate Syrian government. A victory in Aleppo would mean the near certainty of defeat for the terrorists in the remaining areas of the country. The closing of the border with Turkey would cut the supply lines, with consequences and repercussions throughout Syria. What would still remain open are a few crossing areas in the south of the country near the border with Jordan that have always been a supply source for terrorists. However, it would be very difficult for this supply line alone to sustain the conflict or adequately replace the one closed north of Aleppo. Especially in the north through Turkey, and to the west through the uncontrolled border with Iraq, the terrorists receive continuous supplies. The liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi army, Aleppo by the SAA, and Der Al-Zur in the near future, will pave the way for the strategic recapture of Raqqa, the last bastion of Daesh, thereby defeating even the Plan B to partition the country.
With the failure of the northern front, the terrorists will be faced with the probable prospect of the complete collapse of their operations nationwide. Some will continue to fight, but most will throw down their weapons knowing that they have lost the war. Once this is achieved, the liberation of the rest of Syria should be a matter of a few months. It should be remembered that the recapture of Aleppo would guarantee a crushing defeat for the regional sponsors of international terrorism (Qatar and Saudi Arabia).
Still, it is not only the advance of Aleppo that is cause for concern for enemies of Syria. Obama and his administration are now irrelevant, also because of one of the most controversial presidential elections in recent history. The uncertain future of Washington’s foreign policy has prompted partners such as Riyadh, Doha, Ankara and Tel Aviv not to hesitate in further adding fuel to the Syrian conflagration, worried about any future inactivity from Washington and eager to advance their own military solution to the conflict.
In the case of Ankara, the invasion of Iraq and Syria is a serious danger that risks plunging the region into further chaos and destruction, with the Iraqi prime minister not hesitating to label the Turkish move reckless and warning of the conflict expanding into a regional conflict. Saudi Arabia’s problems are even greater, as it does not have the ability, in terms of men and means, to intervene directly in Syria because of its disastrous involvement in the war in Yemen. The speed with which confidence in Riyadh is crumbling is unprecedented. Her large currency reserves are dwindling, and it seems it is because tens of billions of dollars have been squandered in financing the military action against Yemen. Another example of independent military action concerns Israel. Four years into the Syrian conflict, Israel continues its secret war against Hezbollah and Iranian troops, who are engaged in areas bordering Israel in fighting al-Nusra Front and Daesh. For Tel Aviv, there are still two options desirable to the Syrian crisis, both in line with their strategy, namely, the continuation of chaos and disorder, or a balkanization of Syria. In both cases, the objective is to expand Israel’s sphere of influence far beyond the Golan Heights, which were occupied illegally years ago.
The unsuccessful attempts of Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia to change events in Syria have highlighted the growing strategic misunderstandings between the United States and regional partners, misunderstandings that often oblige Ankara, Riyadh and Tel Aviv to turn to the Russian Federation for confidential dialogue, since Moscow is the only player able to adjust the delicate Middle East equilibrium.
In the near future, it remains evident to Moscow and Damascus that some risks still exist, despite a well-considered overall strategy. The acceleration in the liberation of Aleppo also has an ancillary purpose that aims to minimize maneuverability for the next American administration. In a certain way, it is a race against time: Aleppo must be liberated in order to chart the way towards the end of the conflict before the next US president comes into office in January 2017. It is yet to be seen whether Clinton or Trump plan to go beyond Obama’s empty threats, but understandably Damascus and Moscow have no intention of being caught off guard, especially with a probable Clinton presidency.
After years of negotiations with the schizophrenic diplomacy of the US, Moscow and Damascus have decided to protect themselves against any sudden decisions that may come from the American «deep state». Deploying the most advanced systems existing in air defense, Moscow has called Washington’s bluff as no one has done in years. The red line for Moscow was crossed by the tragic events of September 17 in Der al-zur. The creation by the Russians of a no-fly zone over Syrian skies has been repeatedly suggested. But incredibly, in the hours immediately after the cowardly attack against Syrian troops, the US Department of Defense and the State Department proposed the creation of a no-fly-zone that would serve to ground Russian and Syrian planes. It was a brazen and provocative proposal for Damascus and Moscow if there ever was one.
Sensing the danger in these words, Moscow acted immediately, deploying cutting-edge systems to protect Syrians skies with equipment that can shoot down cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and even ballistic missiles (S-300 and S-400). To make sure Washington fully understood the message, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reiterated what was already publicly announced, namely that any unidentified object would be shot down immediately, as there would not be any sufficient time for Russian operators to verify the original launch, trajectory and final target of any objects detected. It is a clear warning to the US and its long-standing strategy that requires the use of large amounts of cruise missiles to destroy anti-aircraft systems in order to pave the way for a no-fly zone as was seen in Libya. The Russian MoD has even specified that American fifth-generation stealth aircraft could be easily targeted, alluding to a radius of operation of the S-200 systems, S-300 and S-400 (and all variants) that would surprise many international observers. This statement also seems to indirectly confirm another theory that remains pure speculation, which is that during the September 17 attack by the US on the SAA in Der Al-Zur seem, some jets from the international coalition were targeted by Russian or Syrian air-defense systems (perhaps S-200s or S-400s), forcing the airplanes to retreat before facing the prospect of being shot down.
Whatever the intentions that are hidden behind Washington’s hysterical threats, Moscow has suggested several asymmetrical scenarios in response to a direct attack on its personnel in Syria. In addition to the S-300 and S-400 systems, the MoD has openly declared its knowledge of the exact locations of US special forces in Syria, a clear reference to the Syrian and Russian ability to strike US soldiers operating alongside terrorists or ‘moderate’ rebels.
All of Major-General Igor Konashenkov’s recent press conferences have clearly shown new systems deployed in Syria for air defense, a more than intentional advertisement. Aside from deterrence continuing to be one preferred instrument adopted by Moscow, the unusually strong, direct and unambiguous words of the Russian MoD easily show how the patience of Moscow and Damascus has been exhausted, especially following the recent sequence of events as well as repeated threats.
In such a scenario, the US can only rely on one weapon: complaints, threats and hysterical crying amplified by the mainstream media, generals and the official spokespeople of dozens of agencies in Washington. Nothing that can actually stop the liberating action of the SAA and its allies.
The United States has no alternatives available to prevent an outcome to the conflict that is undesirable for it. Whichever route it chooses, there is no way to change the events in Syria. Even American generals had to admit that a no-fly zone in Syria is out of the question. It is easy for US State Department spokesperson Admiral Kirby to launch empty threats, but it is more difficult for the military to act on these threats while avoiding a nuclear apocalypse. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections, the war in Syria for the United States and its regional partners is irretrievably lost, and the hysteria and provocations of recent weeks is symptomatic of the frustration and nervousness that has not been common for Americans in recent years.
Goldberg in a meeting with President Obama. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.”
These are the not-so-prescient words of Jeffrey Goldberg, named this week the new chief editor of the 159-year-old Atlantic Magazine, one of the most famous journalistic institutions in U.S. history.
The openly-Zionist Goldberg moved to Israel nearly 25 years ago and served in the Israeli Defense Forces. Since then, he has been the opening speaker for numerous Zionist functions, including the American Jewish Committee conference and Zionism 3.0.
Most garishly, he worked as a prison guard at Ktzi’ot, Israel’s largest detention camp for Palestinian political prisoners, where he boasted of helping beat Palestinian political prisoners. Ktzi’ot is one of Israel’s largest detention camps and has long been criticized for its inhumane conditions, which include frequent beatings, lack of drinking water and forced labor.
In his 2006 book Prisoners, Goldberg describes a scene at the detention camp, in which his friend repeatedly hits a Palestinian prisoner in the head with a sharp-edged object, beating him to a bloody pulp, a beating that Goldberg described “was prompted by something (the prisoner) said.” Goldberg covered up the crime by saying, “I found another military policeman, and handed off the wobbling prisoner, who was by now bleeding on me. ‘He fell,’ I lied.”
Goldberg himself took part in beatings, justifying them by saying, “Unlike (Goldberg’s camp guard friend), I never hit a Palestinian who wasn’t already hitting me.”
Additionally, his credibility as a journalist is most unsavory. At the New Yorker magazine, Goldberg authored dozens of articles that were later discovered to be false but provided the United States with a pretense for invading Iraq. In 2002, Goldberg also published a two-part series in the New Yorker in which he alleged that the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah was running a black market cigarette ring on U.S. soil to finance a terrorist operation. No evidence of any such activity has since been discovered. Indeed, the new head honcho of one the United States’ most prominent publications has become so fringe in his shilling for Israel and the U.S. empire, that even former key conservatives and staunch Zionists such as former New Republic Editor Andrew Sullivan have heavily criticized him.
Ben & Jerry’s Says Black Lives Matter, but Do Palestinians?
In Latest Media Attack, Israel Shoots Palestinian AP Reporter
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, addresses a ceremony on October 11, 2016 on the occasion of Tasu’a.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, has warned of plots by the US, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies to partition Syria in order to serve the Israeli regime’s interests in the Middle East.
The “real goal” of the countries that have neither democracy nor elections was not democracy or elections in Syria, Nasrallah said on Tuesday.
“The goal was for Syria to fall and be fragmented and be ripped apart” in line with Israel’s interests, he added.
Nasrallah made the remarks at the Sayyed al-Shohada Complex in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on the ninth day of the lunar month of Muharram, Tasu’a, the eve of the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam, and his 72 companions.
He said the Daesh Takfiri militants and al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra, “are being used to serve and achieve US and Israeli goals.”
Nasrallah further noted that the US seeks to concentrate Daesh terrorists in eastern Syria, adding that Washington is allowing and “opening the roads for” Daesh militants to flee from Iraq into Syria.
He cited the recent “deliberate action” by the US to launch airstrikes against Syrian army positions in eastern Syria as an example of Washington’s attempts to boost Daesh in the region, adding, “US raids on Dayr al-Zawr were targeting the Syrian army positions so that the whole area would fall to Daesh.”
The Hezbollah leader said, “All those who are defending Syria defend the Resistance and look forward to a political solution and not to more bloodshed,” but “US, Saudi Arabia and some regional states are demanding crippling conditions to neutralize the political solutions.”
Pointing to a recent abortive truce deal between the US and Russia on Syria, the Hezbollah chief said Washington withdrew from the agreement because it called for the separation of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham from other militant groups and the identification and targeting of Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham positions.
Nasrallah said the US, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies are obstructing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria and the easing of the sufferings of the Syrian people.
He expressed regret that “more escalation and tensions” is on the horizon in Syria, but called for “perseverance and firm stance” in order to counter the plots of the country’s enemies.
The Hezbollah chief said Syria’s foes sought “a decisive victory within a few weeks” but have faced stiff resistance from the Syrian government and nation and their allies for over five years.
Sana’a carnage major scandal for Saudi Arabia
In another part of his speech, Nasrallah pointed to the recent bloody air raid by Saudi Arabia on a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and said the strike was a major scandal for Al Saud regime.
Hezbollah leader said some media circles had noted that his remarks on Saudi attack in Sana’a would affect chances of Michel Aoun becoming Lebanon’s next president, which could end a political crisis in the country.
Noting that the demand was tantamount to political blackmail, Nasrallah added, “Even [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon has condemned this strike, although he has always been silent, so how do you want me to remain silent?”
Nasrallah added that the Saudi regime committed a “historic mistake” in Yemen by thinking that it could emerge victorious from the battle within weeks.
The Hezbollah chief condemned the international community’s silence on the bombardment of Yemen by Saudi warplanes and said the world must convince Riyadh that it cannot win this war.
He emphasized that the Sana’a massacre must provide a motive for ending the war in Yemen and added that the Saudi regime has no option but to accept the political solution.
“Saudi Arabia’s insistence on carrying on with the war will not only make it lose Yemen, but will also make it lose itself. The current Saudi leadership is pushing the kingdom to the brink of the abyss,” Nasrallah pointed out, recommending the Saudi rulers to come to their senses.
All parties must preserve Lebanon’s peace and security
The Hezbollah secretary general further stressed the importance of preserving security, stability and civil in Lebanon, describing them as the “pillars of everything,” and adding, “Despite their differences, the Lebanese have managed to preserve security, stability and peace.”
Nasrallah stated that Lebanon has entered a positive political phase during the past few weeks with regard to the presidential election.
“We support and welcome any positive political developments regarding the presidency and we will acknowledge the efforts and courage of anyone who makes efforts in this regard,” Nasrallah pointed out.
He noted that Hezbollah has always pursued a clear stance on Lebanon’s presidential election, adding, “We support every positive political change, which may solve the presidency challenge.”
Hezbollah leader concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of supporting the Lebanese army without any political reservations.
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has retained the leadership of the opposition political party after a bruising campaign.
Corbyn, who was initially elected last year, took 62 percent of the vote, beating challenger Owen Smith on Saturday.
Surveys had indicated that Corbyn would easily defeat his challenger as he maintained widespread support of party members attracted by his socialist anti-austerity policies and “authentic” image.
On Wednesday, Corbyn urged for the party to unite behind his leadership. He reminded lawmakers that he has the support of rank-and-file members of the party and warned them not to challenge him again.
“We owe it to the millions of people Labour exists to represent to end the sniping and personal attacks, and work together for all those who depend on the election of a Labour government. Anything else would be destructive self-indulgence,” Corbyn said in a statement.
“All Labour Party members and MPs have a responsibility to work within the democracy of our party and respect the leadership of whoever is elected.”
The 67-year-old socialist and peace campaigner has shown little interest for Britain’s special relationship with the US and is opposed to nuclear weapons, including the costly Trident nuclear missile system that is maintained by the US.
Corbyn also is a critic of Israel and NATO. As member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, he invited members of the Hezbollah and Hamas resistance movements in 2009 to parliament where he called them “friends.”
By Jon Vale | The Independent | September 23, 2016
The Campaign Against Anti-semitism (CAA) has filed a formal complaint against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The group has taken action over a video posted on Mr Corbyn’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
In the video, Mr Corbyn’s supporters answer questions on topics they are “tired of hearing” about, which includes whether they promote anti-semitism.
The video has subsequently been deleted from social media.
The CAA said this is the latest in a long of line of incidents where Mr Corbyn and his supporters have failed to address anti-semitism. […]
The letter accuses Mr Corbyn of “committing acts that are grossly detrimental to the party, namely characterising Jewish people as dissembling and dishonest in their reporting of anti-semitism, and by using the influence and prestige of his office to disseminate and normalise that lie”.
It continues: “The allegation that Jews lie and deceive in order to further hidden agendas is an age-old anti-semitic trope.
“It has now been manifestly deployed by Mr Corbyn in his leadership campaign video.” … Full article