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US allegations on Yemen missile ‘provocative’, ‘destructive’: Iran

Press TV – December 14, 2017

Iran’s UN mission has categorically dismissed as “unfounded” US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s claim that a missile fired at Saudi Arabia from Yemen last month was supplied by the Islamic Republic.

In a statement released on Thursday, the mission denounced the US allegations as “irresponsible, provocative and destructive,” saying “this purported evidence … is as much fabricated as the one presented on some other occasions earlier.”

“These accusations seek also to cover up for the Saudi war crimes in Yemen, with the US complicity, and divert international and regional attention from the stalemate war of aggression against the Yemenis that has so far killed more than 10,000 civilians, displaced three million, crippled Yemen’s infrastructure and health system and pushed the country to the brink of the largest famine the world has seen for decades, as the UN has warned,” the statement read.

It went on to accuse the US government of being “constantly at work to deceive the public into believing the cases they put together” to advance its agenda.

“While Iran has not supplied Yemen with missiles, these hyperboles are also to serve other US agendas in the Middle East, including covering up for its adventurist acts in the region and its unbridled support for the Israeli regime,” the statement read.

It also stressed “the Yemenis’ right to self-defense” and reiterated that the conflict in the impoverished country had no military solution.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also took to twitter to compare Haley’s allegations against Iran to those of former US secretary of defense, Colin Powell, who alleged in 2003 that former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was hiding weapons of mass destruction in order to make a case for attacking the country.

The anti-Iran accusations come at a time that the US and Saudi Arabia themselves are under fire for secretly providing weapons to the militants fighting the Syrian government.

Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a UK-based organization that monitors the movement of conventional weapons, warned on Thursday that the sophisticated arms given to the so-called Syria militants fell into the hands of the Daesh terrorist group.

The weapons included anti-tank rockets purchased by the US military that ended up in possession of Daesh within two months of leaving the factory, according to the study, which was funded by the European Union and German government.

This came after the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a confidential report obtained by AFP on Monday, December 11, that the world body’s team, which visited Riyadh last month to scrutinize the alleged evidence, had not yet established a link between them and the Islamic Republic.

On November 4, a missile fired from Yemen targeted the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, reaching the Saudi capital for the first time.

The Houthi movement, which has been fighting back a Saudi aggression, said it had fired the missile but the Riyadh regime was quick to point the finger at Iran.

Tehran rejected the allegations as “provocative and baseless,” saying the Yemenis had shown an “independent” reaction to the Saudi bombing campaign on their country.

Speaking at a press conference at a military base in Washington on Thursday, Haley presented what she claimed to be “undeniable” evidence, including the allegedly recovered pieces of the missile, saying it proved that Iran was violating international law by giving missiles to the Houthis.

“It was made in Iran then sent to Houthi militants in Yemen,” she added.

However, a panel appointed by the United Nations Security Council said last month that it had seen no evidence to support Saudi Arabia’s claims that missiles had been transferred to Yemen’s Houthi fighters by external sources.

The Security Council-appointed panel said in its confidential assessment that it had seen no evidence to back up the Saudi claims that short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) had been transferred to Yemeni fighters in violation of the Resolution 2216.

It said the tightening of the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition and its invoking of Resolution 2216 had been an attempt to merely “obstruct” the delivery of civilian aid.

“The panel finds that imposition of access restrictions is another attempt by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition to use paragraph 14 of resolution 2216 as justification for obstructing the delivery of commodities that are essentially civilian in nature,” the assessment read.

The Saudi war since 2015, accompanied by the land, naval, and aerial blockade on Yemen, has killed over 12,000 people so far and led to a humanitarian crisis as well as a deadly cholera epidemic.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war in a bid to crush the Houthi movement and reinstate the former Riyadh-friendly regime, but the kingdom has achieved neither of its goals.

The UN has listed Yemen as the world’s number one humanitarian crisis, with 17 million Yemenis in need of food and gripping the country.

The US, which has long been a staunch Saudi ally, signed a deal to sell the kingdom $110 billion in weapons in May.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 3 Comments

Congress takes no action on Iran sanctions as deadline passes

Press TV – December 13, 2017

The US Congress misses a deadline to decide on re-imposing anti-Iran sanctions, which were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, with reports saying the lawmakers sought to kick the decision on the issue back to President Donald Trump.

On October 13, Trump refused to certify that the Islamic Republic was complying with the agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under a domestic US law and directed his administration “to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws.”

The US Congress was given until December 12 to decide whether to slap economic sanctions on Tehran anew.

On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a press briefing that the Trump administration “continues to make encouraging progress with Congress to fix the US–Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues.”

“There was actually no deadline to act by this week as the administration did not ask that Congress to introduce legislation to re-impose JCPOA-related sanctions,” she added.

Micah Johnson, a spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, told ABC News on Monday that “productive discussions” were underway “about the appropriate path forward.”

However, the Congress has so far announced no plans to introduce a resolution to re-impose sanctions. Congressional aides said on Tuesday that the American lawmakers would let the deadline pass without action, Reuters reported.

By doing that, Congress passed the ball back to Trump, who must decide in mid-January if he wants to continue to waive sanctions on Iran.

Trump’s failure to do so would blow apart the deal, a course opposed by European allies, Russia and China, the other parties to the accord.

Eight reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, have so far confirmed Iran’s full commitment to its side of the bargain.

Trump, however, has defied the IAEA reports and warned that he might ultimately “terminate” the Iran deal.

A new poll conducted by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, showed that 70 percent of Americans agree that the JCPOA is beneficial for US interests, while 26 percent disagree.

The JCPOA was reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries — namely the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany — in July 2015 and took effect in January 2016.

Under the accord, Iran undertook to apply certain limits to its nuclear program in exchange for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.

Other parties to the deal, along with the entire international community, have voiced firm support for the JCPOA, warning Washington against attempts at undermining the landmark deal.

Since Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s compliance, senior European officials have been intensely lobbying Congress to decide against the re-imposition of anti-Iran bans.

December 13, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

UN experts do not confirm Iran link to Yemen missiles: Report

Press TV – December 12, 2017

UN experts, who examined the debris from missiles fired from Yemen at Saudi Arabia earlier in the year, have not confirmed that the projectiles were “Iranian-made” as claimed by the Riyadh regime and the US.

The missiles were fired by Yemeni Houthi fighters at the Saudi capital on July 22 and November 4 in retaliation for Riyadh’s deadly raids against the country.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a confidential report obtained by AFP on Monday that the world body’s team, which visited Riyadh last month to scrutinize the alleged evidence, had not yet established a link between them and the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia, which accuses Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement against the kingdom, claims the missiles, which it says were fired at its capital city, had been supplied to Yemeni forces by Iran.

Following the first missile launch, Riyadh also angered the international community and human rights groups by tightening the already crippling siege against Yemen.

Tehran has invariably dismissed having ever armed the movement and any accusation of regional interference for that matter.

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “Whatever happens inside Yemen concerns the Yemeni people and resistance and does not concern the Islamic Republic.”

The Houthis have been defending Yemen against a Saudi-led military offensive, which seeks to restore the former Riyadh-allied government. The war has killed some 12,000 people and reduced the country’s infrastructure to smithereens since its start in early 2015.

Guterres wrote that UN officials were “still analyzing the information collected and will report back to the [UN] Security Council.”

The investigators also examined two drones allegedly recovered in Yemen, but did not confirm a Saudi claim that one of them was “Iranian-made.”

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

How Jerusalem issue plays into Iranian, Turkish (and Russian) hands

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | December 11, 2017

Iran has, predictably enough, taken a hard line on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There were public demonstrations in several Iranian cities following Friday prayers and statements by President Hassan Rouhani and other senior politicians. Notably, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned: “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be the place where the Zionist regime will be buried.”

It was Turkey’s reaction that set the mind thinking that the ground beneath our feet is shifting, however. President Recep Erdogan used exceptional language in his response, calling Israel a “terrorist” state. His stance is important for a variety of reasons. Turkey is currently chairing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has called for an emergency summit in Istanbul on Wednesday. This puts Erdogan in the driving seat.

The OIC has traditionally kowtowed to Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi regime finds itself on the defensive at the moment. The unsavory talk in the bazaar is that King Salman and the Crown Prince have played footsie with Trump and Jared Kushner. Erdogan hears bazaar gossip, for sure. Will the OIC recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine? This is a possibility.

Both Iran and Turkey repudiate the notion of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. Iran has brought into play the politics of “resistance,” whereas Erdogan stresses “We will continue our struggle decisively within the law and democracy.” The distinction must be noted – but then, so must the degree of convergence.

Iran and Turkey have both long wished for an end to Saudi Arabia calling the shots in the Muslim Middle East. Now that the issue of Jerusalem has come to the fore, the Saudi regime must be wary of being seen to coordinate with Israel, or dancing to Trump’s tune.

The Saudi regime is also grappling with the quagmire in Yemen, where it is shedding “Muslim blood.” Pressure will now increase to end the war in there. Rouhani put forth on Sunday two preconditions to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia – stop “bowing” to Israel and, secondly, end the war in Yemen.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s Rouhani to Depart for Emergency Session on Jerusalem in Turkey

Sputnik – 10.12.2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will leave for Turkey to participate in an emergency session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Jerusalem, a source from the president’s administration told Sputnik.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the current chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has announced that the leaders of the OIC members would adopt a road map on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. He has also vowed to urge the OIC to cut ties with Israel.

Commenting on Trump’s controverisal move, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated at a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Tehran on Sunday that the decision adds fuel to tensions in the Middle East.

Previously, the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision that has been widely criticized by the international community, saying that it violated the UN resolutions.

The international community does not recognize the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, a holy site for three religions, and believes its status should be determined based on an agreement with the Palestinians, who seek to create their own state with the capital in the Holy City.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

India to send first cargo to Russia through INSTC

The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) connects India’s Mumbai to Russia’s St Petersburg and beyond
Press TV – December 6, 2017

India says it is preparing to send a consignment to Russia through a much-awaited new intercontinental multi-modal corridor that connects its port city of Mumbai to Russia’s St Petersburg.

The consignment would depart for Iran’s Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas in mid-January and would be thereon taken through the Iranian territory to Azerbaijan’s Baku through road and rail. It would be then taken to Russia by train.

India’s media reported that this would formally launch the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) that had been in the making for 17 years. Nevertheless, the INSTC would technically function fully in a few months thereafter, reported the Economic Times.

The report added that hectic preparations were already underway to firm up all elements of the corridor in all key stakeholder states and that a Russian railway operator was expected to play key role in the INSTC.

The ship, road and rail route connects India’s Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bander Abbas and further to Baku in Azerbaijan as well as Astrakhan, Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia before stretching to northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Currently, a cargo from India to Russia is carried on freight ships via the Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel and then the Baltic Sea.

The INSTC – which has an estimated cargo capacity of 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year – is expected to provide faster and more efficient trade connectivity between Europe and Southeast Asia.

Dry runs of the route were conducted in 2014, from Mumbai to Baku and Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas. Results showed transport costs will be 30 percent cheaper and transportation period will be 40 percent shorter than the existing routes.

The INSTC will be India’s second corridor after the Chabahar Port to access resource rich Central Asia and its market, the Economic Times wrote.

The launch of Chabahar Port – whose Phase 1 was inaugurated on Sunday – coupled with INSTC will be a game changer for India’s strategic and economic goals in the Eurasian region, added the report.

INSTC could get linked to the Chabahar Port besides Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, the daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.

India also hopes that INSTC would be connected with various other connectivity projects that the five Central Asian and other Eurasian countries have undertaken among themselves, the official said.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

The Inevitable Collapse of Israeli-Saudi-American Alliance Against Iran and Resistance

By Miko Peled | American Herald Tribune | December 2, 2107

From the earliest years of the Zionist project, the leaders of the movement which then morphed into the State of Israel understood that regional coalitions were crucial to its success. But Israel is a settler colonial project and therefor it was and still is very much hated by people in the region. Israel and its leaders invested in creating and promoting corrupt unprincipled despots to leadership in the countries around it, men who would control the Arab world by keeping its people poor, uneducated and without representation and would pose no threat to Israel and its policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing perpetuated against the people of Palestine. Israel has had some degree of success in this, especially with the reactionary monarchies. Countries who had leaders that resisted Israel ended up paying a heavy price. These were states like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya which are now destroyed and so it can come as no surprise that the new Saudi Crown Prince is keen to take his regime’s relations with Israel to a new level, some say he even intends to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

It is ironic that some of the greatest perpetrators and supporters of terrorism are those who talk of fighting terrorism. The latest unholy alliance between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt is a source of unspeakable terror which without fail is inflicted on innocent civilians but guarantees Israeli interests will be safe. The new boss calling the shots from Riyadh, Mohammad Bin Salman is for now at the center of this unholy alliance which in the short term will satisfy his hunger for power and influence but is sure to fail and in the meantime, will surely produce more misery in Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and God only knows where else. But state terrorism like that perpetuated by Israeli military against Palestinians and the Saudis in Yemen is heralded by the weapons suppliers in the US and the UK as heroic while the people who fight for their rights are inevitably forgotten and left to die.

Two issues that have been brought to the forefront by the unholy alliance are Iran and its fictional threat to world peace and stability and its mythical support for terrorism. Iran which has invaded no one and attacked no one but supports Hezbollah and Hamas in their resistance against Israel is the favorite enemy in Tel-Aviv, Washington, DC and Riyadh. The new Saudi boss wants to consolidate regional power and he thinks he can do so by aligning with Israel and the US in order to weaken Iran. What he may not realize is that Iran is not a threat and cannot be threatened. While the Saudi monarchy gets its legitimacy from oil and money and from Israel and the US who supply it with weapons, Iranian legitimacy stems from its people, its long history and extraordinary culture. As for weakening Iranian influence in the region by weakening Hezbollah and Syria, that has been a colossal failure. Hezbollah is strong and well respected and is seen as the guarantee for stability in Lebanon. Furthermore, having been struck by Hezbollah might twice, Israel will not dare challenge it. And in Syria regardless of what one may think of the regime, it has clearly maintained the upper hand as a result of the support of Iran and Hezbollah.

What Israel wants however is legitimacy. It wants to continue the genocide of the Palestinian people uninterrupted, it wants to demonstrate to the world that it won on all fronts and it wants the US embassy to move to Jerusalem once and for all. And while Israel is being allowed to destroy Palestine and kill its people, the Jerusalem issue is a more complicated one and can only happen if ambitious yet ignorant and careless people are in power. And so it happens that at this moment in time there is precisely such a combination in place. With the new Saudi Crown Prince, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, let the games begin. Interrupting the status quo regarding Jerusalem is so dangerous and has such destructive potential that even King Abdullah of Jordan, who himself owes his power to Israel and the US is warning the US to avoid meddling with it. Jerusalem has been a Muslim city with a minority of other religions who are living there for around fifteen hundred years. It was only the sheer brutality of the Israeli military and the ethnic cleansing campaign Israel has put in place that has somewhat changed the nature of the city. But no recognition was ever given to the Zionist conquest of Jerusalem and hard as they try, it will never be seen as legitimate. Although for seven decades Israel has maintained that Jerusalem is its capital, the rest of the world was not able to swallow this breach of international law and common sense. And even today after seven decades of destruction the city of Jerusalem still maintains its Muslim heritage and is considered to be an icon of Islam peppered with symbols of other religions which reside within it. If Mohamad Bin Salman, Trump and Netanyahu attempt to make change this, it will surely hasten the collapse of the unholy alliance but it is also sure to bring a great deal of misery and violence.

In the meantime, the three musketeers have a plan for the Palestinians. They are to give up their dignity, forgo their rights and swallow an indignation designed especially for them. With their land stolen, rights taken away, water denied and existence ignored at best and mostly destroyed, they should accept a small fraction of Palestine designated as Area A of what used to be the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian state. But what if they do not accept this indignation? The US is threatening to close down the PLO mission in Washington DC. The mission is not an embassy and in many ways its existence is in and of itself an indignation which the Palestinian Authority seems to be willing to swallow. Palestinians will be no worse off if it is closed and as was said by my friend Issa Amro, co-founder and leader of Youth Against Settlements in Hebron, recently, there are enough Palestinians in the US to represent the Palestinian voice proudly and truthfully until such time that a real ambassador of an actual Palestinian government presents credentials to the president of the United States.

Mohammad Bin Salman summoning the Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and attempting to force him to discredit Hezbollah – a legitimate and stabilizing part of the Lebanese government – and the summoning of Mahmoud Abbas from Ramallah and ordering him to accept the new peace deal, is nothing more than a show of muscle by a new and inexperienced player. Even the praise Thomas Friedman heaped on him in the New York Times, and rather foolishly wrote that, “The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today,” only shows that Bin Salman is over reaching and that he is too young and inexperienced to understand the Middle East. Having failed miserably in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia lost massive ground to the Iranians and he hopes that Trump and Netanyahu will come to his aid. But he is relying on some very weak allies: The very legitimacy of Netanyahu and the entire Zionist project are now being brought to question and Trump will be fortunate if he is able to see the end of his first term as president without being forced to resign. One hopes that with the inevitable collapse of this alliance a new one will rise, one that will support a free Palestine and a peaceful Middle East.

December 2, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Hitler Analogies Obscure Understanding of Mideast Power Struggle

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 30.11.2017

While growing up in America during the 1950’s, one would sometimes encounter supermarket tabloid headlines asserting that Adolph Hitler had not died in May 1945 in the ruins of the Reich’s Chancellery. It was claimed that he had somehow escaped and was living under a false identity somewhere in South America, most probably in Argentina. Eventually, as the Fuhrer’s hundredth birthday came and went in 1989, the stories pretty much vanished from sight though the fascination with Hitler as the ultimate manifestation of pure evil persisted.

The transformation of Hitler into something like a historical metaphor means that his name has been evoked a number of times in the past twenty years, attached to Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafi, Vladimir Putin and, most recently, to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. The attribution in the cases of Hussein and Gaddafi was essentially to create popular support for otherwise unjustifiable wars initiated by the United States and its European and Middle Eastern allies. Putin, meanwhile, received the sobriquet from an angry Hillary Clinton, who certainly knows a thing or two about both personalizing and overstating a case.

The Hitler designation of the Iranian spiritual leader, which appeared one week ago in a featured profile produced by Tom Friedman of The New York Times, is particularly ironic as it came from the de facto head of state of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose country has long been regarded as cruel and despotic while also being condemned for its sponsorship of a particularly reactionary form of Islam called wahhabism. Bin Salman described the Iranian leader as “the new Hitler of the Middle East.”

Both Khamenei and bin Salman exercise power without a popular mandate. Khamenei was named to his position in 1989 by a so-called Assembly of Experts, which is a quasi-religious body, and bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince by his father King Salman in June. Both have considerable power over other organs of state, but the comparison largely ends there as Iran does have real elections for an actual parliament with enumerated powers and a president who is also serves as head of government.

Iran is also tolerant of long established religious minorities whereas Saudi Arabia, which is seen by most observers as a theocratic based autocracy that is a personal possession of the House of Saud, is hostile to them. In particular, Riyadh has been actively promoting hatred for Islam’s second largest sect, Shi’ism. The Saudis have also been assisting al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and ISIS, though denying the considerable evidence demonstrating those links, while Iran and its allies have been destroying those terrorists on the battlefield.

Crown Prince bin Salman has been preaching an anti-corruption drive of late, which includes torture of those arrested. Many observers believe it is actually a bid to shake down some billionaires while also diminishing the power exercised by some members of the extended Royal Family. The Prince has also suggested that he will be promoting a “more open and modern” form of Islam, which might reduce some beheadings and amputations as punishment. But the death penalty will still apply for heresy, which includes the Shi’ism practiced by Iran, Iraq, some Syrians and Hezbollah. Nor will it put an end to the current horrific slaughter by disease and starvation of Yemenis being implemented by Riyadh with some help from its friends in Tel Aviv and Washington.

Liberal journalists like Tom Friedman, who have editorially sided with the Saudis and Israelis against Iran, have largely bought into the anticorruption theme. The Times profile accepts at face value bin Salam’s claims to be a reformer who will somehow reshape both Saudi Arabia and Islam. Friedman, a passionate globalist, largely goes along for the ride because it is the kind of language a poorly-informed progressive hopes to hear from someone who walks around wearing a keffiyeh and sandals. It also serves Friedman’s other regular agenda justifying Israeli threats to go to war against its neighbors, starting with Lebanon. Make no mistake, the offerings of war abroad and repression at home being served up by Riyadh and Tel Aviv are not the birth pangs of a New Middle East. That died a long time ago. It is instead a fight over who will dominate the region, the same as it always is.

November 30, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Bows to Israeli/Saudi Alliance in Blaming Iran

By Ted Snider | Consortium News | November 29, 2107

At first, American officials couldn’t believe it. In 1993, the Israelis began pressuring the Clinton administration to view Iran as the greatest global threat. Only a short time earlier, in the 1980s, Israel had been cooperating with the Iranians militarily and selling them weapons to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Back then, the Israelis were Iran’s best lobbyists in Washington, pushing the Reagan administration to talk to Iran, to sell arms to Iran, and even to ignore Iran’s tough talk on Israel. In that process, Israel was aided by a group of staunchly pro-Israeli officials within the Reagan administration whom we now know as the neoconservatives.

In 1981, just months after Iran had held 52 American diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days, senior State Department officials Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz were advocating on behalf of the Israeli desire to sell Iran weapons. That initiative, which was continued by McFarlane when he became President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, ultimately led to the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986 when Reagan’s secret approval of U.S. arms shipments to Iran became public.

Yet, even in the wake of that scandal and the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the neoconservatives who remained influential under Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush, pressed ahead with the goal of getting the U.S. to warm its relations with Iran. Iraq’s defeat at the hands of the U.S. military and its allies in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 further reduced the Arab threat to Israel’s security and encouraged more thinking about a possible U.S.-Iranian détente.

The Bush-I administration’s 1991 “National Security Strategy of the United States” said the U.S. was open to “an improved relationship with Iran,” a country that a 1991 National Intelligence Estimate said was “turning away from revolutionary excesses . . . toward more conventional behavior.”

However, in 1993, with the Clinton administration in power, the Israelis changed their tune, urging the U.S. government to find Iran lurking behind every terrorist attack, every conflict and every threat.

There appear to have been several factors leading to this Israeli switch – from the fact that the Cold War was over and thus Arab states that had relied on Soviet weaponry were weakened; that Iran-backed Hezbollah was challenging Israel’s military occupation of southern Lebanon; and that Israel could no longer profit from Iran’s desperate need for weapons (with the war with Iraq over and Iran’s treasury depleted) while the Arab oil states offered a more lucrative opportunity for both geopolitical and financial gain.

Hooked on the Money

Israeli leadership had found the billions of dollars from arms sales to Iran useful in maintaining Israel’s large military/intelligence infrastructure as well as Israel’s development of Jewish settlements inside Palestinian territories on the West Bank. With that cash source gone, Israel began recalculating its longstanding Periphery Strategy, which had called for countering Arab pressure from close-in states by cultivating relations with non-Arab regional powers on the periphery, such as Iran and Turkey.

There were also two other seismic events that altered the geopolitical landscape. The Cold War was over and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been humiliated in the Persian Gulf War. While the Israelis saw both events as positive, there were unintended consequences. The end of the Cold War meant the exit of the Soviet Union from the Middle East: that left Israel’s traditional Arab enemies even more enfeebled and the U.S. government less worried about losing influence in the oil-rich region. Iran also emerged as relatively stronger than Iraq due to Iraq’s failed invasion of Iran and its catastrophic defeat after its invasion of Kuwait.

Israel’s 1992 elections also brought Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and the Labor Party to power, raising the possibility of finally reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians and thus the possibility of more normalized relations with the Arab world. In turn, that raised the potential for more lucrative arrangements with oil-rich sheikdoms by, in effect, renting out the Israel Lobby to the Sunni-ruled Gulf states so they could push their historic conflict with the Shiites whose power base was Iran.

“There was a feeling in Israel that because of the end of the Cold War, relations with the U.S. were cooling and we needed some new glue for the alliance,” Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center told Trita Parsi. “And the new glue was radical Islam.”

But it was a very selective kind of radical Islam: not the kind Saudi Arabia was financing and exporting through Wahhabi fundamentalism and violent jihadists like those in Al Qaeda, but Iran’s radical Shiite Islam. Selling Iran as the number one global terror threat gave birth to a new Middle East enemy that replaced the Soviet Union and reinflated Israel’s value to the U.S. in the region. “Iran,” Inbar went on to explain, “was radical Islam.”

A New Alliance

For the first time, an alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States became possible with Iran as the designated enemy. The Israeli-Saudi relationship has evolved mostly in secret over the past couple of decades but has popped into view in recent years as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle have emphasized the common interests – especially animosity toward Iran – that they share with Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu has recently referred to this Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states.” He referred to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states. … The good news is that the other guys are getting together with Israel as never before. It is something that I would have never expected in my lifetime.”

Nine months ago, Netanyahu delivered the same message when he said “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.”

Though the Israeli-Saudi relationship is rarely spoken of out loud, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz admitted recently that Israel “has ties that are . . . partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries.” Saudi Arabia was the only one he specifically named. According to Reuters, he said those ties are fueled by “common concerns over Iran.”

But there are other foundations for this relationship. For years, Saudi Arabia sought to buy influence in Washington’s policy circles regarding the Middle East but was largely unsuccessful because Israel had cornered that market and Israel’s influential American supporters demonized lobbyists, academics and others who took Saudi money. Eventually, it became clear to Saudi Arabia that it made more sense to rent out Israel’s sophisticated lobbying apparatus rather than to fight it.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry reported that Saudi money helped seal this Israel-Saudi alliance, with the Saudis giving Israel billions of dollars and Israel reciprocating by giving Saudi Arabia added influence in Washington.

But Official Washington was surprised in the 1990s when Israel’s turnabout began — and Iran went from being a misunderstood nation tilting toward moderation to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Despite some bewilderment, U.S. policymakers soon readjusted their rhetoric as the legendary Israeli influence operations carried the day. Shiite Iran became the new terror threat, even after the 9/11 attacks that were organized by Al Qaeda, a Sunni fundamentalist group associated with Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic State

The gap between the facts on the ground – the recognition that Al Qaeda and Islamic State remain the real chief terror threats from radical Islam – and the propaganda of principally blaming Iran for terrorism has led to a quandary for U.S./Israeli propagandists. They want to focus Americans’ fury on Iran and its allies, Syria and Hezbollah, but it is Saudi-and-Gulf-connected terror groups, such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, that were chopping off heads of innocents and sponsoring terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

That disconnected reality explains why America’s response to the emergence of the Islamic State can best be characterized as confused and bizarre. Though the Obama administration claimed it was taken by surprise by the Islamic State’s emergence in Iraq and Syria, it really wasn’t. Rather, policymakers had sought to persuade the American public on the need for a “regime change” conflict in Syria, an Iranian ally. This strategy went back years.

A WikiLeaks-released cable dated Dec. 13, 2006, and written by the charge d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in Damascus to the Secretary of State recommended that the U.S. “coordinate more closely with” Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a policy to weaken President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria and “to play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence.” The cable also recognized that Islamist extremists were “certainly a long-term threat” to the Syrian government.

Over the years, there was little change in this inconvenient truth that jihadists were playing a crucial role in achieving these geopolitical goals.  For instance, in a December 2009 cable, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban . . . and other terrorist groups.”

By Aug. 12, 2012, the U.S. government knew explicitly that Islamic extremists were the engine in the Syrian insurgency. A classified Defense Intelligence Agency Information Intelligence Report unambiguously declares that “The salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, later ISIS and the Islamic State] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Section 8.C. of the report astonishingly predicts that “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria.” Section 8.D.1. of the report goes on specifically to say that “ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

So, the U.S. government knew that the Islamic extremists drove the Syrian insurgency that Washington and its regional allies were supporting. U.S. intelligence analysts also had a surprisingly good idea what the possible outcome of that support was.

Yet, to advance the regional goals of the Israeli-Saudi tandem – i.e., the overthrow of the Syrian government because of its ties to Iran – the U.S. government was, in effect, supporting the very terrorists the war on terror was meant to eradicate.

Selling Al Qaeda

At times, senior Israeli officials made clear their preferences for Sunni extremists over more moderate Arabs associated with Shiite-ruled Iran. For instance, in September 2013, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Syria’s largely secular President Bashar al-Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Oren reiterated this position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was then massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” said Oren, who is now a member of the Knesset and part of Netanyahu’s government.

Other senior Israelis have expressed similar sentiments. Sima Shine, who is in charge of Iran for Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, urged Assad’s removal even if that might turn Syria over to extremists. “The ‘devil we know’ is worse than the devil we don’t,” she said in June 2013. “If Bashar remains in power, that would be a huge achievement for Iran.”

So, in 2014, when Islamic State jihadists advanced through Syria and Iraq and knocked on the door of Lebanon, their success should not have come as a surprise to President Obama and other U.S. policymakers. Today’s Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have in common that they are Iran’s three principal allies in the region.

In other words, the Islamic State’s interests largely corresponded to those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.: isolating and weakening Iran. Only the Islamic State’s shocking excesses of videotaped beheadings of Americans and other captives – as well as its military successes inside Iraq – forced President Obama’s hand in committing U.S. forces to stop the Islamic State onslaught.

Obsessed with Assad

Still, America has long been bent on removing Assad from Syria. The coincidence of Islamic State and American interests in this regard is revealed in section 8.C of the DIA report: “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

So, the Islamic State’s advance into this region was consistent with American (and more to the point, Israeli and Saudi) interests because these Sunni extremists would block the supply lines from Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Thus, initially at least, the U.S. government acquiesced to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front taking the lead in damaging or destroying Iran’s allies in Syria.

And Iran suspected as much. According to Iran expert Trita Parsi, the Iranians believed that the initial relaxed approach by the U.S. government toward the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was because those militants were the point of the spear against pro-Iranian Shiite influences in not only Syria but Iraq and Lebanon as well.

So, the Saudi government provided the “clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region,” according to a leaked Hillary Clinton email on Sept. 17, 2014.

Less than a month later, on Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Biden told a seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates … poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.”

The DIA report also named the Gulf States as among the “supporting powers” of the Syrian opposition. And at a May 2015 meeting between President Obama and the Princes of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “Obama and other US officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.”

However, with the Israel lobby redirecting Official Washington’s ire toward Iran, more political space was created for these Saudi-connected terror groups to carry out the regime change missions in Syria and elsewhere.

And Israel didn’t just prefer a victory in Syria by the extremists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. United Nations observers in the Golan Heights reported witnessing cooperation between Israel and Syrian rebels, and Israel has frequently bombed Syrian targets (and here and here).

Netanyahu also reported that Israel has hit Hezbollah forces fighting against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Syria dozens of times. Recently, it has been revealed that Israel also provided funding, food and fuel to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

Lebanon’s Crisis

But the Syrian “regime change” strategy didn’t work. With help from Iran and Hezbollah and Russia’s intervention in 2015, Assad and his army not only survived but routed the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra and other jihadists from major urban strongholds. Instead of Iran losing an ally in the region, Iran emerged with a stronger alliance and greater influence.

This setback, however, has not changed the Israeli-Saudi priorities; it has only made them more intense. As the outcome in Syria became more apparent, the anti-Iran gun sight pivoted to Lebanon. The recent confusing events in Lebanon, like the earlier ones in Syria, are best made sense of by looking through the gun barrel that is targeted on Iran.

On Nov. 4, after being summoned to Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly and mysteriously resigned. Hariri’s resignation came just one day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, that was reportedly very positive. Velayati praised Hariri and reaffirmed Iran’s support for his coalition government.

Yet, a day later, speaking from Saudi Arabia, Hariri claimed his resignation was catalyzed by fear of an Iranian-Hezbollah assassination. But the Lebanese army said “it had not uncovered any plans for assassinations in Lebanon.” Neither had the army. So, why resign?

The clue may be provided by Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, who expressed Saudi Arabia’s desire for “toppling Hizbullah.” He promised that “The coming developments will definitely be astonishing.” He said the desire was not just his own, and that people “will see what will happen in the coming days.”

The Saudis said Hariri resigned because Hezbollah had “hijacked” his coalition government. Al-Sabhan called Hezbollah “the Party of Satan.”

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, said that the resignation was “imposed on Prime Minister Hariri” by the Saudis. Nasrallah said Hezbollah did not want Hariri to resign, having been a part of Hariri’s coalition government for almost a year. Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, seemed to share Nasrallah’s suspicion, insisting that he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until Hariri returned to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia because his “resignation must be voluntary.”

In Lebanon, there was the suspicion that Hariri was held under house arrest. On Nov. 10, President Aoun told a meeting of foreign ambassadors that Hariri had been “kidnapped.”

Now, having finally returned to Lebanon after a French intervention brought him to Paris, Hariri met with President Aoun who asked him “to temporarily suspend submitting [his resignation] and to put it on hold ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it.” Hariri agreed.

Israel seems to have applauded Saudi Arabia’s Lebanese action and reaffirmed the Iranian motivation behind it. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and his statements are a wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian aggression.”

Netanyahu also made a rare public acknowledgement of the Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states,” referring to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states.” According to reporting by Israel’s Channel 10, a leaked classified cable from the Israeli foreign ministry to Israeli ambassadors reveals that Israel ordered them to support Saudi Arabia’s efforts and to rally support for Hariri’s resignation.

Iran has also suggested that President Trump and the United States approve of this Lebanese intervention. The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister came days after Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia on a trip that was not made known publicly.

Yemen’s Tragedy

While this new alliance took aim at Iran by targeting Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, it also has targeted a Shiite spin-off sect, the Houthis in Yemen. Since 2015, the Saudis have been bombing and blockading Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country. But on Nov. 5, Saudi Arabia expressed outrage after intercepting a ballistic missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen toward Riyadh. The Saudis accused Iran of providing the missile and ordering the attack – and called this an “act of war” by Iran and Hezbollah.

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, called the charge against Iran “baseless,” as did Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo. Even Saudi officials were calling the missile a Yemeni Burqan 2H missile when it was intercepted. The Houthis said they fired the missile in response to the long-running Saudi bombardment that included a recent attack that killed 26 people.

Despite these denials of Iranian responsibility and the context of Saudi Arabia’s air war, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nikki Haley called on the U.N. to hold Iran accountable for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions by supplying the missile. She called on the U.N. to take “necessary action” against Iran.

The U.S. government has consistently rationalized the Saudi bombardment of Yemen as necessary to thwart Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. U.S. accusations about Iran allegedly supplying the Houthis with weapons hang precariously on an “assessment” that Iran has used fishing boats to smuggle weapons into Yemen.

However, according to investigative journalist Gareth Porter, the U.S. was never able to produce any evidence for the link between Iran and the Houthis because the boats were stateless, and their destination was Somalia, not Yemen. An earlier ship was, indeed, Iranian but was not really carrying any weapons.

The Houthis also are allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who maintains control over the army, so the Houthis could get all the weapons they need from local arms supplies, including military bases stocked with American-made weapons.

And just as Iran does not substantially arm the Houthis, so it does not control them. In fact, they have proven to be beyond Tehran’s efforts to influence them. In 2014, the Iranians specifically discouraged the Houthis from capturing the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. However, the Houthis captured the city anyway, demonstrating Iran’s lack of control.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Huffington Post that “It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran.” Yemen specialist Gabriele vom Bruck has called Iran’s influence over the Houthis “trivial.” She said the Houthis want to be independent, not controlled by Iran: “I don’t think the Iranians have influence in their decision-making.” To the extent that Iran is involved in Yemen at all, that involvement came as a result of the devastating Saudi air war.

Dating back to the Obama administration, the U.S. government has made the Saudi aerial bombardment of Yemen possibleThe U.S. refuels the Saudi bombers in flight, supplies the bombs and provides targeting intelligence.

This U.S. complicity in what is widely regarded as a humanitarian catastrophe has continued into the Trump administration. A White House statement as recently as Nov. 24 reaffirmed U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, declaring: “We remain committed to supporting Saudi Arabia and all our Gulf partners against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law. Backed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Houthi rebels have used destabilizing missile systems to target Saudi Arabia.”

The statement again reveals, not only the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the silence about its devastating bombing attacks, but the strategy of turning Yemen’s human tragedy into another excuse to blame Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry said the White House statement “clearly and without question proves America’s participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen”.

Bahrain & Qatar

Washington’s Saudi-Israeli-supplied blinders on the Middle East carry over to other regional conflicts, too. For instance, in 2011, protesters in Bahrain demanded a true constitutional monarchy, the resignation of the Prime Minister, greater civil liberties and a real elected parliament. Though Bahrain has a parliament, it is actually governed by the U.S.-backed dictator, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, whose family has ruled Bahrain for over 200 years. The prime minister, the king’s uncle, is the longest reigning prime minister in the world, in power now for nearly 40 years.

Bahrain’s population is about 70 percent Shiite, though the ruling family, the government, the army and the police are all Sunni. The Shia have long been victims of discrimination. And the government maintains its control through repression, including the use of torture. Bahrain is located between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran and is seen by the U.S. as a strategically located check on Iranian influence and power.

Though the Obama administration touted itself as a big proponent of the “Arab Spring” and its promised democratization, Washington sided with the Bahraini dictators against the majority of the Bahraini people.

Days after mass arrests and beatings of protesters, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, went through with his planned visit to Bahrain where he reaffirmed the U.S.’s strong commitment to its military relationship with Bahrain and called Bahrain’s response to the protests “very measured.” Mullen stressed the U.S.-Bahrain “partnership” and “friendship.”

On the same day, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also gave full support to the Khalifa dictatorship. The U.S. continued to support the regime and to call for “stability” and “reform”: two words that are code for standing by dictatorships.

To help put down the protests in Bahrain, 1,000 Saudi troops invaded Bahrain across a causeway that connects the countries. The Obama administration remained silent.

Qatar also has suffered under the new Saudi-Israeli alliance because Qatar has pursued a more independent foreign policy than Saudi Arabia likes and now faces a Saudi-led siege as a consequence. Former British diplomat Alastair Crooke explained that Qatar’s principal sin is seeking peaceful coexistence with Iran.

When Washington asked Saudi Arabia to make reasonable proposals for the termination of the siege, Saudi Arabia included the demand that Qatar break all ties with Iran.

In other words, many of the most important events of the past several years are best explained as attempts to weaken Iran by weakening its proxies or allies or by setting up situations that appear to implicate Iran to justify hostility toward Iran.

A problem, however, has been that the major terrorist groups that have infuriated the American public are not Iranian-linked Shiites but rather Saudi-connected fundamentalist Sunnis. Still, the claim that “Iran is the chief sponsor of terrorism” has become a rote and routine refrain from both Republicans and Democrats – as well as the U.S. mainstream media.

Much as Russia now gets blamed for every negative turn in Western democracies, Iran is the all-purpose villain whenever anything goes wrong in the Middle East. Yet, to understand these conflicts and crises, it is best to view them through the perspective of the hostility that the Saudi-Israeli alliance directs toward Iran and the acquiescence of U.S. governments, regardless of which party is in power.

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s light at the end of Syrian tunnel

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 24, 2017

For the 330,000 dead souls of Syria it may be small comfort that the bloody conflict in their homeland is drawing to a close, finally, but it is brilliant news nonetheless.

Although there has been a struggle against terrorism on Syrian soil, the struggle was quintessentially geopolitical. The decades-long US agenda – at least, dating back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – was at the core of it. That agenda, which sucked in regional and extra-regional powers, has conclusively failed. Therefore, it is the regional settlement that becomes crucial at this stage.

Peacemaking makes strange bedfellows because protagonists are jockeying for position to secure their interests. The trilateral summit in Sochi between Russia, Iran and Turkey on Wednesday can be regarded as a celebratory event insofar as Russia and Iran have not only ‘won’ the Syrian war but also cemented the ‘defection’ of Turkey to their side. The locus of Middle East politics itself has shifted. This is one thing.

Equally, Russian diplomacy has effectively ‘neutralized’ Saudi Arabia and encouraged that country to ‘sanitize’ the Syrian opposition groups who are under its influence and nudge them toward swallowing the bitter pill and drop their persistent pre-condition that President Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of any solution to the Syrian problem.

With Qatar and Jordan having already moved to a ‘neutral position’ on their own accord in the recent months – each for its own reasons of self-interest – and with Egypt all along being fully behind the Russian leadership, there is no regional state that is any longer in the business of prolonging the fratricidal war by putting up proxy groups.

Except, of course, Israel. But then, Israel is a small country and non-Muslim and lacks the clout to influence the prevailing winds or to create new facts on the ground in Syria. The Russian President Vladimir Putin who spoke to all key regional leaders and (US President Donald Trump) on Tuesday night in a flurry of ‘telephone diplomacy’ pointedly ignored Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who then had to initiate a request to the Kremlin to solicit a briefing by Putin. (Putin graciously obliged.) But it was a signal of displeasure to ‘Bibi’ from the Kremlin as well as a warning to behave responsibly in the period ahead.

Added to the Saudi back-tracking in Lebanon, Israel has been virtually put out of business. Besides, the fact of the matter is that ISIS has been defeated and the Syrian army controls over 98 percent of territory (according to Russian estimates.) There is already talk of a winding down of the Russian military presence in Syria before the end of the year.

So, how will the post-conflict scenario look in Syria? The Sochi summit provided some signposts. There are five main ‘takeaways’.

  • Turkey has a deal with Russia and Iran to accept Assad’s continuance as leader through the transition – and even beyond (more of that below) – and in return, President Erdogan scored a major victory in keeping the Kurds from inclusion in the settlement.
  • The troika – Russia, Iran and Turkey – will be in the driving seat to shepherd the Syrian parties to the negotiating table in Geneva where the UN will notionally preside over the talks. The three countries will decide the participants for the upcoming Syrian Dialogue to be held in Sochi in early December to discuss a constitution and deliberate on the broad contours of a settlement.
  • The troika will also continue to be the ‘guarantor powers’ ensuring the ceasefire and will coordinate the maintenance of security within Syria through the uncertain period ahead. But the so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ as such will be an interim measure, which will be disbanded once the transition is complete. That means, there is no scope for external powers to carve out ‘spheres of influence’ on Syrian territory.
  • A US withdrawal from Syria becomes inevitable, no matter what Defence Secretary James Mattis might say or not. In fact, an open-ended US military presence (such as in Afghanistan) will be possible only through the establishment of a puppet government in Syria, which is inconceivable.
  • Russia has emerged as the Master of Ceremonies. This is not at all surprising since Russia is the only power on earth which has networking with all protagonists within Syria, in the region and internationally. The Russians displayed a masterly performance in optimally conducting ‘coercive diplomacy’. It is an incredible feat that they entered the Syrian conflict only in September 2015 but turned the tide of the war within a short period of time, went on to crush the ISIS, and consolidated Assad’s position as the unassailable future leader – all within a matter of two years flat – and are now putting together the nuts and bolts of a settlement almost suo moto, while also carrying along the ‘losers’ in the war and altogether eschewing triumphalism.

Trump himself appears to be on board Putin’s settlement formula, which is of a unitary Syrian state and a democratically government that comes out of UN-supervised elections in which all Syrians (including Assad) can contest. (To jog memory, the Trump-Putin statement on Syria after their meeting in Da Nang even made a reference to Assad.)

Indeed, there are grey areas still. The most important one involves the continued presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the militia supported by Iran and Hezbollah who have been the real source of strength on the ground for the Syrian government. But it is unrealistic to expect the Syrian army to handle the security all by itself through the delicate period of transition. There are terrorist groups present on Syrian soil, as the massive attack in Damascus today shows.

The bottom line is that the above becomes a non-issue if Assad remains in power because as the democratically elected leader of a sovereign country, it will be his prerogative to seek help from any quarter to strengthen national security. And the plain truth is that there is no credible opposition figure who can rival Assad in a free and fair election in Syria. If anything, the 7-year bloody civil war strengthens Assad’s appeal to the Syrian people cutting across religion or sects as the only bulwark against instability and chaos. To my mind, all that Assad needs is a level playing field in the nature of an inclusive democratic process.

Russia and Iran insisted throughout that it is for the Syrian people to elect or reject candidates in a democratic election. Turkey has now virtually identified with that principled stance. In a very significant remark, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said after the Sochi summit that he does not rule out resuming contacts with Assad in the coming period. The principle that it is simply not for outsiders to prescribe the political future of Syria is only going to get wider regional and international acceptance. In fact, one can visualize even European countries re-establishing ties with Damascus in a near future.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hariri’s Resignation and More Plans for War

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | November 21, 2017

Undoubtedly the media’s account of Saad Hariri’s ‘forced’ resignation is not the whole story, but how true or untrue is it? As Hariri is a Saudi-US asset, the ‘forced’ resignation seems more like the sacking of a company executive who has not lived up to expectations. Told to step out of office Hariri did what he was told, following through by issuing a Saudi-scripted statement accusing Hezbollah and Iran of sowing discord across the region, and talking of a plot to assassinate him.

In fact, it was Saudi Arabia sowing discord, by blaming Hezbollah and Iran for Hariri’s resignation, with the apparent aim of throwing Lebanon into chaos. Predictably, Netanyahu jumped in immediately, saying the resignation was a call to the ‘international community’ to take action against Iranian aggression but no-one else bought it, not even Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims. Hezbollah reacted calmly and if anyone came out of it badly it was Saudi Arabia.  In the Iranian view the removal of Hariri was a plot cooked up by Trump and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Hariri himself did not return to Lebanon where he could have defied the Saudis and resumed his position but moved on to France, where he was welcomed by President Macron at the Elysee Palace. Soon after talking to Hariri, Macron was on the phone to Trump, discussing the Iranian ‘threat’ and how to deal with it.  According to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, Hariri told him he would return to Beirut by Independence Day, November 22, marking the end of the French mandate. The Lebanese parties, including Hezbollah, still regard Hariri as the country’s Prime Minister so how all of this plays after Hariri’s return will be interesting to see.

What lies behind all this?  What is the connection between Hariri’s resignation (forced or otherwise) and the other events running concurrently in Saudi Arabia, namely the arrest of some of the most powerful figures in the kingdom and the confiscation of their assets, estimated at about $800 billion?  One has to assume there is a connection. It seems far too much of a coincidence for there not to be one.

The claim that the purge of the princes was part of an anti-corruption drive is bunk, seeing that corruption is intrinsic to how the Saudi government operates, domestically and in its foreign policy.  If corruption is a cover story, why were these princes removed?  Could it be their opposition to Saudi Arabia’s policy failures, in Syria and Yemen, and their opposition to what is now clearly being moved from the drawing board to implementation, a war on Iran, involving the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia?  They would hardly be alone in seeing Crown Prince Muhamad bin Salman as reckless, foolhardy and lethally dangerous to the stability of the Saudi kingdom: his accession to the throne they would regard, literally, as a crowning act of folly.

That another war is on the horizon is clear from all the signals coming out of Israel in the past six months. That not just the US but Saudi Arabia will be part of it is obvious. Intermittently, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for war on Iran for a decade.  With the US refusing to bite, to the extent of launching an open military attack, Syria was chosen as the next best target: if the government in Damascus could be destroyed, the strategic alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would collapse at its central arch. This plan B was partly foiled by the refusal of the UN Security Council, thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China, to sanction an aerial war on Syria along the lines of the assault on Libya. Plan C had to come into effect, reliance on a war of attrition fought by takfiri proxies organised, financed and armed mainly by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Britain and France, and coordinated with the assistance of governments ranging from the Balkans to Central Asia.  Seven years later Plan C has now ground to a halt. The ‘axis of reaction’ (the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia) has suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the ‘axis of resistance’ (Iran, Syria and Hezbollah). Russian intervention has been critical, so the victory is Russia’s as well, and a particular humiliation for the US.

This does not end the list of defeats suffered by the ‘axis of reaction.’ Another severe blow has been suffered through the collapse of the Kurdish drive for independence in northern Iraq. Both the US and Israel have assiduously cultivated the Kurds for decades, seeing northern Iraq as a new strategic centre for military and intelligence operations across the Middle East. The US and British ‘no fly’ zone and ‘safe haven’ initiatives of 1990/91 were the first steps in the planned breakup of an Iraq that no longer suited imperial purposes. The invasion of 2003 and the imposition of a constitution dictated by the US, weakening the authority of the central government, led to Kurdish autonomy which, in time, would have been expected to end in independence and a new base for US/Israeli operations across the Middle East.

Even the US was against the referendum called by Masoud Barzani: seeing that it was already getting what it wanted, the referendum would be premature and cause more trouble than it was worth.

This proved to be the case. Turkey and Iran reacted viscerally, ending flights and closing border crossings: the Iraqi army retook Kirkuk and all the territory conquered by the Peshmerga in 2014. Barzani stepped down as president of the KRG: Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), had died only recently, leaving the Kurds leaderless and at each other’s throats over who was responsible for this debacle. Iraq is now being reconstituted as a unitary state. The largely Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has developed into a powerful annex to the regular army. Moreover, the government in Baghdad has a close working relationship with the government of the Islamic Republic in Tehran.

The paradox of these defeats is that they increase to a critical level the danger of a new attack by the ‘axis of reaction’ on the ‘axis of resistance.’ Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah cannot be allowed to get away with these victories.  The Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Eisenkot, hardly needed to say, as he did recently, that there is ‘complete agreement between us and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ on the question of Iran’s spreading influence across the Middle East, or ‘control’ of the region as he put it. Unable to impose its will on one of the poorest countries in the world, Yemen, Saudi Arabia would be of little help on the front line in a war against dangerous targets such as Hezbollah and Iran.  But it has money and according to Hasan Nasrallah, has offered to pay Israel billions of dollars for a new war on Hezbollah.

As Israel always has the next war on the drawing board, the central question is ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ it will be launched. In recent months it has held some of the largest-scale land and air exercises in its recent history in preparation for a new war on Hezbollah, including training for fighting in tunnels. It has warned repeatedly over the years that the next time around the ‘Dahiyeh strategy’ will be applied across Lebanon and is busy selling the propaganda package that there really is no Lebanon any more but only a Hezbollah enclave controlled by Iran.

Dahiyeh, of course, is the largely Shia Beirut suburb and urban HQ of Hezbollah that was pulverised from the air in 2006. Given the huge civilian casualties Israel is willing to inflict in the next war, Iran and Syria would be hard pressed to stay out but the moment they intervene, Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia will have their three primal enemies directly in their line of fire. The refusal of the US to withdraw its forces and dismantle its air bases in Syria now that the Islamic State has been ‘defeated’ (if still being used as an American tool) is probably connected with preparation for the coming conflict.

Israel’s existential struggle in the Middle East since 1948 has now reached the point of crisis. Israel may think it has all the time it needs to completely engorge the West Bank but it does not have such a luxury on the regional front. If Iran is stronger now than before the wars on Iraq and Syria, it will be even stronger in two or three years’ time. It has a large standing army, fought an extremely destructive war against Iraq (1980-89), has been deeply involved at the planning and combat level in the defence of Syria and has built up a large arsenal of locally developed short and long-range missiles.

By comparison, Israel has not even fought a regular army since 1973: in 2000 it was driven out of Lebanon by a guerrilla force and when it attempted to retrieve lost ground by launching a new war in 2006 its ground troops proved incapable of taking villages even a few kilometres from the armistice line. Its attacks on Gaza have been onslaughts on a largely defenceless civilian population.

Given that since 1948 its security/insecurity situation has ultimately been based not on diplomacy but on full spectrum military domination from the possession of nuclear weapons down to conventional warfare, Israel cannot allow the current situation of strengthening enemies to continue. Hostile to any kind of diplomatic settlement that would generate a real peace, Israel must go to war. It says it is much stronger and better prepared than in 2006 but so are Hezbollah and Iran. Hezbollah alone has a large stockpile of missiles able to reach any corner of occupied Palestine: Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system will stop some of them but not all.

If it does go to war Israel is certainly going to suffer civilian casualties unprecedented in its history but the politicians and generals around Netanyahu will argue that its existential situation will demand these sacrifices. The US would come in behind Israel, but Russia could not be expected to sit by while its diplomatic alliances and strategic assets in the Middle East are destroyed. The commentator Abd al Bari Atwan has warned that such a war would be the most destructive in the region’s history, developing into a global conflict, and has raised the question of whether Israel, having started it, could survive it. This is a truly apocalyptic scenario.

As usual the Palestinians find themselves caught in the middle. Mahmud Abbas is being told to go along with the Trump-Kushner-Israel ‘peace initiative’ or else, even by Saudi Arabia. This would involve Abbas publicly sharing the anti-Iranian, anti-Hezbollah and anti-Shia views of the Saudis at a time he is engaged in a reconciliation process with Hamas, which has refused to take a stand against Hezbollah. Furthermore, several of its senior leaders have recently been in Tehran.  For the moment all eyes are on Hariri as he returns to Beirut: how will he explain himself, will he resume his position as Prime Minister and on what terms?

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran’s top military commander arrives in Russia for talks

Press TV – November 20, 2017

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri has arrived in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi to attend a tripartite meeting with his Turkish and Russian counterparts.

The sides are scheduled to exchange views about ways to enhance trilateral defense cooperation on Wednesday.

The military brass of Iran, Turkey and Russia will also discuss the latest developments in Syria and trilateral cooperation on the fight against Daesh terrorist group.

The meeting will be held on the same day that Iranian, Russian and Turkish Presidents Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to hold talks in Sochi about the Syrian crisis and ways to resolve it.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Turkish and Russian counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu and Sergei Lavrov, respectively, held preparatory talks in the southern Turkish city of Antalya on Sunday ahead of the Sochi summit.

Speaking after the meeting, the Iranian foreign minister criticized some countries such as Saudi Arabia for pursuing policies aimed at sowing discord among regional states.

“If they change their methods, they can also be involved in [promoting] regional peace instead of warmongering [policies],” Zarif said.

Iran, Russia and Turkey are acting as the guarantors of a ceasefire in Syria that came during the intra-Syrian talks brokered by the three countries in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

So far, seven rounds of the Astana talks have brought representatives from Syria’s warring sides to the negotiating table in a bid to end the foreign-backed militancy in the Arab country, which broke out in March 2011.

Syrian army soldiers, backed by pro-government fighters from popular defense groups, on Sunday fully liberated the strategic city of al-Bukamal in the country’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr and on the border with Iraq from the clutches of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. The city was the extremist group’s last stronghold in the Arab country.

November 20, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment