Veteran Meteorologist Says John Kerry’s Claim Climate-Change Drought Is Causing Refugees Is Completely False
Veteran meteorologist Joe Bastardi at his latest Weatherbell Analytics Saturday Summary explains why US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that the refugee crisis is caused by climate-change-driven drought is total nonsense and is easily disproved.
Secretary Kerry would like to have the public believe that the refugee crisis from Syria and Africa is due to man-made climate drought in the region – and not his abject foreign policy debacle.
Chart shows Nigeria has been too wet. Source Weatherbell.
At the 2:34 mark Joe shows a precipitation chart for western Africa which clearly depicts how rainfall has in fact been above average over the past 15 years, and thus drought cannot be cited as a reason for the Boko Haram terror group. Bastardi says:
There’s no drought here. And so you cannot blame drought in Nigeria for the rise of Boko Haram.”
The above chart’s blue shows that it’s been too wet in Nigeria, and not too dry. Indeed there are number of scientific papers showing that the Sahara region has been getting greener over the past 30 years.
In the Middle East Bastardi shows that the drought has hit part of Turkey, but that most of Syria has had normal precipitation, and explains that “drought” is the normal climate condition there. At the 4:20 mark the Weatherbell meteorologist puts up a precipitation chart for the Middle East for the last five years:
The chart above shows more wet (blue) than dry (yellow/green) with Syria being completely normal. Joe shakes his head at how anyone could even make the claim that Kerry does:
What’s really interesting about all this is, this is just so easy to disprove. […] So I don’t understand why that was said.”
Most readers here do understand why. The falsehood was said because US foreign policy has been a total catastrophe in that region, and now Kerry is desperate for any excuse. And he couldn’t have picked a lamer one. In real life any company or employee blaming poor performance on climate change would be immediately shown the door. This is a blatant unwillingness to accept any responsibility.
The nonsense of climate change leading to terrorism excuse is so clear on so many fronts that it’s a wonder than anyone with even a few points of IQ would take it seriously.
During his Senate years, no congressional member was more one-sidedly pro-Israeli than John Kerry. It shows in his current capacity, blaming Palestinian victims for Netanyahu’s high crimes.
It’s hard believing his latest scheme, concocted in cahoots with Israeli officials, their absurd way to restore calm in East Jerusalem – supposedly to show Israel won’t change its holy site status, a smokescreen showing nothing.
The proposed idea calls for installing round-the-clock security cameras on what Arabs call al-Haram al-Sarif, the Noble Sanctuary – what Jews call the Temple Mount. Longtime Israeli collaborator Mahmoud Abbas approved. So did Jordanian King Abdullah, both part of the problem, not the solution.
Israel will maintain full control over recorded footage, revealing or concealing whatever it wishes – easily able to produce fake footage to show what it wants, claiming it’s legitimate.
This scheme fools no one. Over the weekend, Kerry sounded buffoon-like, saying: “I am pleased that Prime Minister Netanyahu has reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to upholding the unchanged status quo of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, both in word and in practice.”
He absurdly called installing cameras “a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site. Netanyahu “reaffirmed” nothing, not now, earlier or ahead. Kerry’s remarks were willful deception.
Netanyahu and Abbas “expressed their strong commitment to ending violence and restoring calm as soon as possible,” he added – code language for wanting Palestinians to continue agreeing to be treated like dogs, leaving the deplorable status quo unchanged, victimizing an entire population, letting Israel continue stomping on it at its discretion.
PA Prime Minister Riyad al-Maliki blasted the camera-installing scheme, saying: “We are falling into the same trap once again. Netanyahu cannot be trusted. Who will monitor the screens of these cameras?”
“Who will record the movements of those worshipers wishing to enter? How will these cameras be employed, and will the recordings later be used to arrest young men and worshipers under the pretext of incitement?”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said “(t)his is a despicable attempt by Netanyahu, with American collusion, to entrench the Zionist control of Al-Aqsa Mosque by granting the occupation the right to authorize and prohibit Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
He called Kerry’s statement “pathetic” – an attempt “to beautify the Zionist Judaizing project and rescue Netanyahu from the crisis he is in as a result of his racist, extremist policy.”
Maliki failed to explain the issue for Palestinians goes way beyond assuring the sanctity of Islam’s third holiest site. Longstanding occupation harshness is the root cause of justifiable popular anger – led by a new generation of youths, wanting fundamental freedoms everyone deserves.
The only way to stop daily violence and persecution in Palestine is by ending occupation and effectively challenging US imperial lawlessness.
Washington arms and funds Israel’s killing machine. Without its support, real change is possible. With it, longstanding state terrorism persists, Palestinians blamed for Israeli high crimes, on their own with no outside help against a ruthless occupier.
Kerry, Netanyahu, Abbas, and Abdullah changed the subject, ignored the fundamental issue vital to address equitably to change the destructive dynamic on the ground.
Courageous, justifiable Palestinian resistance won’t end until long abused people are free from repressive occupation.
The only solution is revolutionary change, justice for a long-suffering population too intolerable to accept any longer.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III”.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has summoned military attaches of NATO countries and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, asking the officials to clarify their countries’ allegations that Russian airstrikes in Syria have hit civilian targets.
“Today we invited military attaches from the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the NATO bloc to ask them to give official validation to their statements, or make a rebuttal,” Defense Ministry deputy head Anatoly Antonov said on Tuesday.
It particularly touches upon Western media’s “outrageous accusations” that the Russian Air Force has allegedly bombed hospitals in Syria, the military official said.
Information attacks on Moscow’s anti-terror efforts in the region have intensified recently, Antonov said, adding that the Russian military is “blamed not only for conducting airstrikes on the ‘moderate opposition,’ but also on civilian buildings, such as hospitals, mosques and schools.”
The MoD official stressed that such blame is put upon Russia not only by the media, but also officials and politicians from a number of Western states, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and the UK’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.
Allegations will be considered “stove-piping” should Russia not receive proof in the next following days, Antonov said, adding that the Defense Ministry “closely monitors and analyzes such statements.”
The MoD deputy head once again called on foreign military officials to join efforts in fighting Islamic State, saying that a wider international coalition should be immediately formed to defeat terrorists in the region.
“We are still waiting… for cooperation in defining concrete targets to be bombed in order to annihilate ISIS bases, or [providing] coordinates of facilities that should not be targeted by the Russian Air Force,” Antonov said.
Reports of a field hospital in northwestern Syria destroyed by Russian airstrikes, killing civilians, emerged last week, based on information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Russian Foreign Ministry has disputed the media reports, having questioned the credentials of the source, which is based in Britain, has no direct access to the ground in Syria, and is run by one man.
US to reduce aid to the Palestinian Authority
The United States is the “proxy” for Israeli interests in the Middle East and “blindly supports” the regime’s position in the region, says an American political scientist.
In a phone interview with Press TV, Wilmer Leon pointed to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday in the Jordanian capital of Amman, saying “anything is really going to come out of this.”
“I don’t really see anything substantive or long term coming out of these meetings,” he said, because “the United States has failed to do anything substantive in order to get Israel to honestly negotiate.”
He also noted that Kerry first held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “took Netanyahu’s position to Palestinian Authority President [Mahmoud] Abbas, instead of meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas first and taking the Palestinian positions to the Israelis.”
On Thursday, Kerry held talks with Netanyahu in Berlin and called for an immediate end to “all incitement” and “violence” against the Palestinians.
“For all intents and purposes, the United States is the proxy for the Israeli interests and until the United States decides to become an unbiased real arbiter actually working for peace in the region, instead of continuing to blindly support the Israeli position, I don’t see how anything is going to happen,” Leon added.
In supporting the regime’s positions, the US State Department said it will reduce its annual aid to the Palestinian Authority from $370 million to $290 at the end of September.
The 22-percent cut for the 2015 fiscal year came after US Congress sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, telling him that the US funds were contingent on tamping down “incitement.”
The latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian clashes began when Tel Aviv restricted the entry of some Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque on August 26.
The surge in tensions, triggered by Israeli raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque in East al-Quds (East Jerusalem), as well as increasing violence by Israeli settlers, has seen some 54 Palestinians killed and hundreds more injured since October 1. Eight Israelis have also died in the same time period.
You have to hand it to Russia. In recent weeks, one move after another by Moscow over the Syrian crisis could be accompanied by the audible word “check”, leaving Washington and its minions grappling with disorientation about how to respond to the Russian moves.
At the heart of the West’s disorientation what is being exposed is its glaring criminal deceptions over Syria.
This week, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zahkarova probed the Western rationale towards Syria with this incisive proposition.
She said that if Washington insists that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stand down, then the United States government should henceforth remove its signature from the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. The same logical ultimatum applies to Britain and France.
That communiqué, signed three years ago by international governments, as well as the United Nations, European Union and Arab League, clearly states that “the political future of Syria must be determined by the Syrian people themselves”.
The binding document had followed lengthy negotiations between Russia, China and the Western powers, and it was signed in Geneva in the summer of 2012 under the auspices of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Hillary Clinton was the US Secretary of State at the time.
Nowhere in the Geneva accord is it mentioned that Syria’s Assad should relinquish power.
It merely endorses a political process of dialogue among Syrian parties, the outcome of which is to be mandated by the Syrian people. In fact, two years after the communiqué was signed the Syrian people voted by a huge majority to re-elect Assad as the country’s leader.
Yet Western powers continue to assert that Assad “has to go”.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel this week appeared to break the Western ranks when she said that Bashar al-Assad must be part of the political negotiations to solve the Syrian conflict.
Nevertheless, Washington, Britain and France remain implacable in their insistence that the Syrian president has to stand down. In other words, these Western powers are unilaterally demanding regime change in spite of the fact that they signed up to the Geneva Communiqué, which makes no such stipulation. With typical unreasonable arrogance, Washington and its allies appoint themselves to over-ride the sovereign right of the Syrian nation.
Last week, while in London, Clinton’s successor John Kerry repeated the American demand that “Assad must go”. Speaking alongside his British counterpart Philip Hammond, Kerry said he was open to talks with Russia on the Syrian crisis, but that the bottom-line for Washington and London was that the Syrian leader had to vacate office.
“We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table?” said Kerry.
The New York Times elucidated further Washington’s intentions. It reported: “[American] officials indicated that the larger goal was to draw the Russians into a political process that would ultimately replace Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of the Kremlin.”
Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokesman, has subsequently nailed that Western lie on Syria. If Washington insists on Assad’s removal, then the US government should repudiate the Geneva Communiqué. “Otherwise,” said Zakharova, “the US is deceiving everybody.” Check!
This follows the move earlier this month when Russia placed its support full square behind the Assad government. Moscow has delivered military aid to Damascus in line with legal bilateral agreements.
Russian President Vladimir Putin explained that the Syrian government is the primary offensive force against the terrorist networks tearing Syria apart.
Therefore, if Washington and its Western allies claim to be fighting against terrorism in Syria, then they should have no objection to Russia’s support for the government in Damascus. Check!
Again, the Russian move deftly exposes another Western deception.
Since Moscow beefed up its military support for Syria, Washington, London and Paris have been reeling from their own contradictions. The West says it is alarmed that Moscow is “shoring up the Assad regime”.
But if these powers were genuinely in the business of “degrading and defeating” the so-called Islamic State and other jihadist terror groups, then why should they be alarmed by Russia supporting the principal force – the Syrian government – in the battle against the terrorists?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out that the West’s logic is “upside-down”. He has also commented that the West’s “anti-terror” coalition bombing Syria and Iraq does not appear to be genuine in its ostensible aims. After a year of US-led air strikes on Syria and Iraq, the terror groups seem to be stronger than ever.
Clearly, the West’s “anti-terror” strategy is ineffective, suggesting that the real aim of the West is to further weaken the Syrian state.
Scrabbling around to find some cover for its naked upside-down logic, Washington, London and Paris are now saying that they fear that Russia’s military intervention in Syria “may lead to an escalation of the conflict” or to a clash with the US-led coalition.
John Kerry and his Western counterparts have even resorted to this oxymoron. Kerry said the “root cause” of the refugee crisis assailing Europe is the “conflict in Syria” and that is, in his view, further “rationale” for the removal of President Assad. How convoluted can you get?
The four-year-old conflict in Syria is so obviously the driver for millions of Syrian refugees. But the “root cause” that Kerry so deceptively misplaces is the criminal covert war of regime change that Washington has launched on that country, along with the collusion of Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf Arab dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
That US-led regime-change war has involved unleashing thousands of terrorist mercenaries on Syria. It’s a well-worn American strategy played time and again in different parts of world down through the decades. Ukraine and Yemen are two other current case studies of Washington’s covert state-sponsored terrorism. Fiendishly, Western propaganda in the form of “Western news journalism” helps to mask what should be transparent criminality committed by Washington and its so-called allies and clients.
Deciphering the West’s lies and deceptions is not always an easy task.
But thanks to Russia’s logical policy, the West’s lies in Syria are at last being nailed. We might even say “Checkmated!”
Washington is committed to be fully engaged in the talks aimed at settling the Transnistria conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated in a statement on Wednesday.
“You may be sure that America will remain unwavering in its support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to play an active role in the 5+2 negotiations aimed at peacefully resolving the Transnistria dispute,” Kerry said.
Kerry issued his statement on the occasion of Moldova’s National Day. The secretary stressed the US support for Moldova government’s efforts to undertake reforms.
Transnistria, a region with a predominantly Russian and Ukrainian population broke away from the Soviet republic of Moldova in 1990, fearing its government could seek reintegration with neighboring Romania. The initiative triggered Moldova’s offensive on the region in 1992, after which it lost control over the Dniester River’s left bank.
The region is now striving for international recognition, while Moldova offers Transnistria autonomy within a unitary state.
The 5+2 format negotiators include Russia, Moldova, Transnistria, Ukraine, the OSCE and observers from the European Union and the United States.
During a recent interview, I was asked to express my conclusions about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, prompting me to take another hard look at Official Washington’s dubious claims – pointing the finger of blame at eastern Ukrainian rebels and Moscow – based on shaky evidence regarding who was responsible for this terrible tragedy.
Unlike serious professional investigative reporters, intelligence analysts often are required by policymakers to reach rapid judgments without the twin luxuries of enough time and conclusive evidence. Having spent almost 30 years in the business of intelligence analysis, I have faced that uncomfortable challenge more times than I wish to remember.
So, I know what it feels like to confront issues of considerable consequence like the shoot-down of MH-17 and the killing of 298 passengers and crew amid intense pressure to choreograph the judgments to the propagandistic music favored by senior officials who want the U.S. “enemy” – in this case, nuclear-armed Russia and its Western-demonized President Vladimir Putin – to somehow be responsible. In such situations, the easiest and safest (career-wise) move is to twirl your analysis to the preferred tune or at least sit this jig out.
But the trust-us-it-was-Putin marathon dance has now run for 13 months – and it’s getting tiresome to hear the P.R. people in the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still claiming that the U.S. intelligence community has not revised or updated its analysis of the incident since July 22, 2014, just five days after the crash.
Back then, Clapper’s office, trying to back up Secretary of State John Kerry’s anti-Russian rush to judgment, cited very sketchy evidence – in both senses of the word – drawn heavily from “social media” accounts. Obviously, the high-priced and high-caliber U.S. intelligence community has learned much more about this very sensitive case since that time, but the administration won’t tell the American people and the world. The DNI’s office still refers inquiring reporters back to the outdated report from more than a year ago.
None of this behavior would make much sense if the later U.S. intelligence data supported the hasty finger-pointing toward Putin and the rebels. If more solid and persuasive intelligence corroborated those initial assumptions, you’d think U.S. government officials would be falling over themselves to leak the evidence and declare “we told you so.” And the DNI office’s claim that it doesn’t want to prejudice the MH-17 investigation doesn’t hold water either – since the initial rush to judgment did exactly that.
So, despite the discomfort attached to making judgments with little reliable evidence – and at the risk of sounding like former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – it seems high time to address what we know, what we don’t know, and why it may be that we don’t know what we don’t know.
Those caveats notwithstanding I would say it is a safe bet that the hard technical intelligence evidence upon which professional intelligence analysts prefer to rely does not support Secretary of State Kerry’s unseemly rush to judgment in blaming the Russian side just three days after the shoot-down.
‘An Extraordinary Tool’?
When the tragedy occurred U.S. intelligence collection assets were focused laser-like on the Ukraine-Russia border region where the passenger plane crashed. Besides collection from overhead imagery and sensors, U.S. intelligence presumably would have electronic intercepts of communications as well as information from human sources inside many of the various factions.
That would mean that hundreds of intelligence analysts are likely to have precise knowledge regarding how MH-17 was shot down and by whom. Though there may be some difference of opinion among analysts about how to read the evidence – as there often is – it is out of the question that the intelligence community would withhold this data from President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and other top officials.
Thus, it is a virtual certainty that the Obama administration has far more conclusive evidence than the “social media” cited by Kerry in casting suspicions on the rebels and Moscow when he made the rounds of Sunday talk shows just three days after the crash. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry told David Gregory that “social media” is an “extraordinary tool.” The question is, a tool for what?
The DNI report two days later rehashed many of the “social media” references that Kerry cited and added some circumstantial evidence about Russia providing other forms of military equipment to the rebels. But the DNI report contains no mention of Russia supplying a Buk anti-aircraft missile system that Kerry and the DNI cited as the suspected weapon that downed the plane.
So, why does the administration continue refusing to go beyond such dubious sources and shaky information in attributing blame for the shoot-down? Why not fill in the many blanks with actual and hard U.S. intelligence data that would have been available and examined over the following days and weeks? Did the Russians supply a Buk or other missile battery that would be capable of hitting MH-17 flying at 33,000 feet? Yes or no.
If not supplied by the Russians, did the rebels capture a Buk or similar missile battery from the Ukrainians who had them in their own inventory? Or did some element of the Ukrainian government – possibly associated with one of Ukraine’s corrupt oligarchs – fire the missile, either mistaking the Malaysian plane for a Russian one or calculating how the tragedy could be played for propaganda purposes? Or was it some other sinister motive?
Without doubt, the U.S. government has evidence that could support or refute any one of those possibilities, but it won’t tell you even in some declassified summary form. Why? Is it somehow unpatriotic to speculate that John Kerry, with his checkered reputation for truth-telling regarding Syria and other foreign crises, chose right off the bat to turn the MH-17 tragedy to Washington’s propaganda advantage, an exercise in “soft power” to throw Putin on the defensive and rally Europe behind U.S. economic sanctions to punish Russia for supporting ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine resisting the new U.S.-arranged political order in Kiev?
By taking a leaf out of the Bush-Cheney-Tony-Blair playbook, Kerry could “fix the intelligence around the policy” of Putin-bashing. Given the anti-Putin bias rampant in the mainstream Western media, that wouldn’t be a hard sell. And, it wasn’t. The “mainstream” stenographers/journalists quickly accepted that “social media” was indeed a dandy source to rely on – and have never pressed the U.S. government to release any of its intelligence data.
Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the MH-17 shoot-down, there were signs that honest intelligence analysts were not comfortable letting themselves be used as they and other colleagues had been before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
To buttress Kerry’s shaky case, DNI Clapper arranged a flimsy “Government Assessment” – reprising many of Kerry’s references to “social media” – that was briefed to a few hand-picked Establishment reporters two days after Kerry starred on Sunday TV. The little-noticed distinction was that this report was not the customary “Intelligence Assessment” (the genre that has been de rigueur in such circumstances in the past).
The key difference between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment” and this relatively new creation, a “Government Assessment,” is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an “Intelligence Assessment” often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.
The absence of an “Intelligence Assessment” suggested that honest intelligence analysts were resisting a knee-jerk indictment of Russia – just as they did after the first time Kerry pulled this “Government Assessment” arrow out of his quiver trying to stick the blame for an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus on the Syrian government.
Kerry cited this pseudo-intelligence product, which contained not a single verifiable fact, to take the United States to the brink of war against President Bashar al-Assad’s military, a fateful decision that was only headed off at the last minute after President Barack Obama was made aware of grave doubts among U.S. intelligence analysts about whodunit. Kerry’s sarin case has since collapsed. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case”]
The sarin and MH-17 cases reveal the continuing struggles between opportunistic political operatives and professional intelligence analysts over how to deal with geopolitical information that can either inform U.S. foreign policy objectively or be exploited to advance some propaganda agenda. Clearly, this struggle did not end after CIA analysts were pressured into giving President George W. Bush the fraudulent – not “mistaken” – evidence that he used to make the case for invading Iraq in 2003.
But so soon after that disgraceful episode, the White House and State Department run the risk that some honest intelligence analysts would blow the whistle, especially given the dangerously blasé attitude in Establishment Washington toward the dangers of escalating the Ukraine confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. Given the very high stakes, perhaps an intelligence professional or two will summon the courage to step up to this challenge.
Falling in Line
For now, the rest of us are told to be satisfied with the Sunday media circus orchestrated by Kerry on July 20, 2014, with the able assistance of eager-to-please pundits. A review of the transcripts of the CBS, NBC, and ABC Sunday follies reveals a remarkable – if not unprecedented — consistency in approach by CBS’s Bob Schieffer, NBC’s David Gregory (ably egged on by Andrea Mitchell), and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, all of whom hewed faithfully to a script apparently given them with two main talking points: (1) blame Putin; and (2) frame the shoot-down as a “wake-up call” (Kerry used the words repeatedly) for European governments to impose tight economic sanctions on Russia.
If the U.S. government’s hope was that the combination of Kerry’s hasty judgment and the DNI’s supportive “Government Assessment” would pin the P.R. blame for MH-17 on Putin and Russia, the gambit clearly worked. The U.S. had imposed serious economic sanctions on Russia the day before the shoot-down – but the Europeans were hesitant. Yet, in the MH-17 aftermath, both U.S. and European media were filled with outrage against Putin for supposedly murdering 298 innocents.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders, who had been resisting imposing strong economic sanctions because of Germany’s and the European Union’s lucrative trade with Russia, let themselves be bulldozed, just two weeks after the shoot-down, into going along with mutually harmful sanctions that have hurt Russia but also have shaken the EU’s fragile economic recovery.
Thus started a new, noxious phase in the burgeoning confrontation between Russia and the West, a crisis that was originally precipitated by a Western-orchestrated coup d’état in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, ousting Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touching off the current civil war that has witnessed some of the worst bloodshed inside Europe in decades.
It may seem odd that those European leaders allowed themselves to be snookered so swiftly. Did their own intelligence services not caution them against acquiescing over “intelligence” from social media? But the tidal wave of anti-Putin fury in the MH-17 aftermath was hard if not impossible for any Western politician to resist.
Just One Specific Question?
Yet, can the U.S. concealment of its MH-17 intelligence continue indefinitely? Some points beg for answers. For instance, besides describing social media as “an extraordinary tool,” Kerry told David Gregory on July 20, 2014: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Odd that neither Gregory nor other “mainstream” stenographers have thought to ask Kerry, then or since, to share what he says he “knows” with the American people and the world – if only out of, well, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. If Kerry has sources beyond “social media” for what he claims to “know” and they support his instant claims of Russian culpability, then the importance of his accusations dictates that he describe exactly what he pretends to know and how. But Kerry has been silent on this topic.
If, on the other hand, the real intelligence does not support the brief that Kerry argued right after the shoot-down, well, the truth will ultimately be hard to suppress. Angela Merkel and other leaders with damaged trade ties with Russia may ultimately demand an explanation. Can it be that it will take current European leaders a couple of years to realize they’ve been had — again?
The U.S. government also is likely to face growing public skepticism for using social media to pin the blame on Moscow for the downing of MH-17 – not only to justify imposing economic sanctions, but also to stoke increased hostility toward Russia.
The Obama administration and the mainstream media may try to pretend that no doubt exists – that the “group think” on Russia’s guilt is ironclad. And it seems likely that the official investigations now being conducted by the U.S.-propped-up government in Ukraine and other close U.S. allies will struggle to build a circumstantial case keeping the Putin-did-it narrative alive.
But chickens have a way of coming home to roost.
One year ago, the world experienced what could become the Tonkin Gulf incident of World War III, the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. As with the dubious naval clash off the coast of North Vietnam in 1964, which helped launch the Vietnam War, U.S. officials quickly seized on the MH-17 crash for its emotional and propaganda appeal – and used it to ratchet up tensions against Russia.
Shocked at the thought of 298 innocent people plunging to their deaths from 33,000 feet last July 17, the world recoiled in horror, a fury that was then focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin. With Putin’s face emblazoned on magazine covers, the European Union got in line behind the U.S.-backed coup regime in Ukraine and endorsed economic sanctions to punish Russia.
In the year that has followed, the U.S. government has continued to escalate tensions with Russia, supporting the Ukrainian regime in its brutal “anti-terrorism operation” that has slaughtered thousands of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. The authorities in Kiev have even dispatched neo-Nazi and ultranationalist militias, supported by jihadists called “brothers” of the Islamic State, to act as the tip of the spear.
Raising world tensions even further, the Russians have made clear that they will not allow the ethnic Russian resistance to be annihilated, setting the stage for a potential escalation of hostilities and even a possible nuclear showdown between the United States and Russia.
But the propaganda linchpin to the West’s extreme anger toward Russia remains the MH-17 shoot-down, which the United States and the West continue to pin on the Russian rebels – and by extension – Russia and Putin. The latest examples are media reports about the Dutch crash investigation suggesting that an anti-aircraft missile, allegedly involved in destroying MH-17, was fired from rebel-controlled territory.
Yet, the U.S. mainstream media remains stunningly disinterested in the “dog-not-barking” question of why the U.S. intelligence community has been so quiet about its MH-17 analysis since it released a sketchy report relying mostly on “social media” on July 22, 2014, just five days after the shoot-down. A source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the reason for the intelligence community’s silence is that more definitive analysis pointed to a rogue Ukrainian operation implicating one of the pro-regime oligarchs.
The source said that if this U.S. analysis were to see the light of day, the Ukrainian “narrative” that has supplied the international pressure on Russia would collapse. In other words, the Obama administration is giving a higher priority to keeping Putin on the defensive than to bringing the MH-17 killers to justice.
Like the Tonkin Gulf case, the evidence on the MH-17 case was shaky and contradictory from the start. But, in both cases, U.S. officials confidently pointed fingers at the “enemy.” President Lyndon Johnson blamed North Vietnam in 1964 and Secretary of State John Kerry implicated ethnic Russian rebels and their backers in Moscow in 2014. In both cases, analysts in the U.S. intelligence community were less certain and even reached contrary conclusions once more evidence was available.
In both cases, those divergent assessments appear to have been suppressed so as not to interfere with what was regarded as a national security priority – confronting “North Vietnamese aggression” in 1964 and “Russian aggression” in 2014. To put out the contrary information would have undermined the government’s policy and damaged “credibility.” So the facts – or at least the conflicting judgments – were hidden.
The Price of Silence
In the case of the Tonkin Gulf, it took years for the truth to finally emerge and – in the meantime – tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and millions of Vietnamese had lost their lives. Yet, much of the reality was known soon after the Tonkin Gulf incident on Aug. 4, 1964.
Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1964 was a young Defense Department official, recounts – in his 2002 book Secrets – how the Tonkin Gulf falsehoods took shape, first with the panicked cables from a U.S. Navy captain relaying confused sonar readings and then with that false storyline presented to the American people.
As Ellsberg describes, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced retaliatory airstrikes on Aug. 4, 1964, telling “the American public that the North Vietnamese, for the second time in two days, had attacked U.S. warships on ‘routine patrol in international waters’; that this was clearly a ‘deliberate’ pattern of ‘naked aggression’; that the evidence for the second attack, like the first, was ‘unequivocal’; that the attack had been ‘unprovoked’; and that the United States, by responding in order to deter any repetition, intended no wider war.”
Ellsberg wrote: “By midnight on the fourth, or within a day or two, I knew that each one of those assurances was false.” Yet, the White House made no effort to clarify the false or misleading statements. The falsehoods were left standing for several years while Johnson sharply escalated the war by dispatching a half million soldiers to Vietnam.
In the MH-17 case, we saw something similar. Within three days of the July 17, 2014 crash, Secretary Kerry rushed onto all five Sunday talk shows with his rush to judgment, citing evidence provided by the Ukrainian government through social media. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” David Gregory asked, “Are you bottom-lining here that Russia provided the weapon?”
Kerry: “There’s a story today confirming that, but we have not within the Administration made a determination. But it’s pretty clear when – there’s a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence. I’m a former prosecutor. I’ve tried cases on circumstantial evidence; it’s powerful here.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Latest Reckless Rush to Judgment.”]
Two days later, on July 22, the Director of National Intelligence authorized the release of a brief report essentially repeating Kerry’s allegations. The DNI’s report also cited “social media” as implicating the ethnic Russian rebels, but the report stopped short of claiming that the Russians gave the rebels the sophisticated Buk (or SA-11) surface-to-air missile that the report indicated was used to bring down the plane.
Instead, the report cited “an increasing amount of heavy weaponry crossing the border from Russia to separatist fighters in Ukraine”; it claimed that Russia “continues to provide training – including on air defense systems to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia”; and its noted the rebels “have demonstrated proficiency with surface-to-air missile systems, downing more than a dozen aircraft in the months prior to the MH17 tragedy, including two large transport aircraft.”
Yet, despite the insinuation of Russian guilt, what the public report didn’t say – which is often more significant than what is said in these white papers – was that the rebels had previously only used short-range shoulder-fired missiles to bring down low-flying military planes, whereas MH-17 was flying at around 33,000 feet, far beyond the range of those weapons.
The assessment also didn’t say that U.S. intelligence, which had been concentrating its attention on eastern Ukraine during those months, detected the delivery of a Buk missile battery from Russia, despite the fact that a battery consists of four 16-foot-long missiles that are hauled around by trucks or other large vehicles.
I was told that the absence of evidence of such a delivery injected the first doubts among U.S. analysts who also couldn’t say for certain that the missile battery that was suspected of firing the fateful missile was manned by rebels. An early glimpse of that doubt was revealed in the DNI briefing for several mainstream news organizations when the July 22 assessment was released.
The Los Angeles Times reported, “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mystery of a Ukrainian ‘Defector.’”]
The Russians also challenged the rush to judgment against them, although the U.S. mainstream media largely ignored – or ridiculed – their presentation. But the Russians at least provided what appeared to be substantive data, including alleged radar readings showing the presence of a Ukrainian jetfighter “gaining height” as it closed to within three to five kilometers of MH-17.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov also called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems to sites in eastern Ukraine and why Kiev’s Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.
The Ukrainian government countered by asserting that it had “evidence that the missile which struck the plane was fired by terrorists, who received arms and specialists from the Russian Federation,” according to Andrey Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council, using Kiev’s preferred term for the rebels.
On July 29, amid this escalating rhetoric, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of mostly retired U.S. intelligence officials, called on President Barack Obama to release what evidence the U.S. government had, including satellite imagery.
“As intelligence professionals we are embarrassed by the unprofessional use of partial intelligence information,” the group wrote. “As Americans, we find ourselves hoping that, if you indeed have more conclusive evidence, you will find a way to make it public without further delay. In charging Russia with being directly or indirectly responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry has been particularly definitive. Not so the evidence.”
But the Obama administration failed to make public any intelligence information that would back up its earlier suppositions.
Then, in early August, I was told that some U.S. intelligence analysts had begun shifting away from the original scenario blaming the rebels and Russia to one focused more on the possibility that extremist elements of the Ukrainian government were responsible, funded by one of Ukraine’s rabidly anti-Russian oligarchs. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Flight 17 Shoot-down Scenario Shifts”and “Was Putin Targeted for Mid-air Assassination?”]
Last October, Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence service, the BND, also had concluded that Russia was not the source of the missile battery – that it had been captured from a Ukrainian military base – but the BND still blamed the rebels for firing it. The BND also concluded that photos supplied by the Ukrainian government about the MH-17 tragedy “have been manipulated,” Der Spiegel reported.
And, the BND disputed Russian government claims that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to MH-17, the magazine said, reporting on the BND’s briefing to a parliamentary committee on Oct. 8, 2014. But none of the BND’s evidence was made public — and I was subsequently told by a European official that the evidence was not as conclusive as the magazine article depicted. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Germans Clear Russia in MH-17 Case.”]
Dog Still Doesn’t Bark
When the Dutch Safety Board investigating the crash issued an interim report in mid-October, it answered few questions, beyond confirming that MH-17 apparently was destroyed by “high-velocity objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.” The 34-page Dutch report was silent on the “dog-not-barking” issue of whether the U.S. government had satellite surveillance that revealed exactly where the supposed ground-to-air missile was launched and who fired it.
In January, when I re-contacted the source who had been briefed by the U.S. analysts, the source said their thinking had not changed, except that they believed the missile may have been less sophisticated than a Buk, possibly an SA-6, and that the attack may have also involved a Ukrainian jetfighter firing on MH-17.
Since then there have been occasional news accounts about witnesses reporting that they did see a Ukrainian fighter plane in the sky and others saying they saw a missile possibly fired from territory then supposedly controlled by the rebels (although the borders of the conflict zone at that time were very fluid and the Ukrainian military was known to have mobile anti-aircraft missile batteries only a few miles away).
But the larger dog-not-barking question is why the U.S. intelligence community has clammed up for nearly one year, even after I reported that I was being told that U.S. analysts had veered off in a different direction – from the initial blame-the-Russians approach – toward one focusing on a rogue Ukrainian attack.
For its part, the DNI’s office has cited the need for secrecy even as it continues to refer to its July 22 report. But didn’t DNI James Clapper waive any secrecy privilege when he rushed out a report five days after the MH-17 shoot-down? Why was secrecy asserted only after the U.S. intelligence community had time to thoroughly review its photographic and electronic intelligence?
Over the past 11 months, the DNI’s office has offered no updates on the initial assessment, with a DNI spokeswoman even making the absurd claim that U.S. intelligence has made no refinements of its understanding about the tragedy since July 22, 2014.
If what I’ve been told is true, the reason for this silence would likely be that a reversal of the initial rush to judgment would be both embarrassing for the Obama administration and detrimental to an “information warfare” strategy designed to keep the Russians on the defensive.
But if that’s the case, President Barack Obama may be acting even more recklessly than President Johnson did in 1964. As horrific as the Vietnam War was, a nuclear showdown with Russia could be even worse.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on May 12th, responding to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s assertions that Ukraine will retake Crimea and will conquer Donbass:
“I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, as communicated by the U.S. State Department’s Press Office on May 15th, reiterating Poroshenko’s view:
“Assistant Secretary Nuland’s ongoing visit to Kyiv and her discussions with Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk and President [Petro] Poroshenko reaffirm the United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.”
Will John Kerry reprimand his subordinate for her contradicting what he, her boss, had said three days earlier? If not, then will President Barack Obama fire his Secretary of State John Kerry? If not, then will Victoria Nuland be fired? If not, then who is to trust anything that comes from the U.S. State Department, when the Secretary of State can be contradicted three days later by his subordinate, and both remain in their respective jobs?
Republicans are already preparing to weaken Kerry over this. The far-right news-site Frontpage Mag headlined on May 21st, John Kerry’s Seven Hours of Weakness in Russia, and condemned the “attempt by Kerry to re-set the ‘re-set’ button [on U.S. policy toward Russia] first pushed by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.” The special subject of their ire: “The promise of ‘rolling back’ the mild sanctions regime the West imposed on Russia on account of Putin’s annexation of Crimea and support of separatist rebels was bandied about, if only Russia would behave in the future.” But winning changes in behavior is what international diplomacy is supposed to be all about — otherwise the State Department wouldn’t even be needed, and only the Pentagon would handle America’s foreign relations.
If Victoria Nuland stays in her job, then John Kerry will be neutered even if he’s not fired.
The only person with the power to fire Nuland is actually U.S. President Barack Obama. Perhaps the request for him to do that is already on his desk. If it’s not, then Kerry’s job is in jeopardy, because his diplomatic efforts can be obliterated by a subordinate and that subordinate will suffer no penalty for doing this. Nobody then would respect anything that the U.S. Secretary of State says, because it wouldn’t necessarily represent the President’s policies. If the Secretary of State isn’t backed up by the President, then the Secretary of State has no real power at all.
As neocons are working to destroy Iran’s tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America’s policy or give in to Israel’s lobby and Saudi Arabia’s paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.
If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades – Iran’s nuclear dossier – it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.
If by any account Iran’s nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel’s neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.
With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?
However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the “Iraqi enemy,” its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.
But back to Iran’s nuclear deal
To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal – and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran’s concessions attest to its officials’ determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.
As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, “The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy.”
And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington’s fears vis-a-vis its “great Satan” – especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.
With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud’s petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran’s nuclear deal would be.
One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.
As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.
Echoing his minister’s narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so – If Netanyahu’s drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran’s evil in 2012 then nothing will!
Just as Israel’s lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace’s neck.
Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!
Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma – one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.
If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel’s lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it’d like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans’ patience. Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.
If Israel and Saudi Arabia’s foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment – their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.
In Netanyahu’s officials’ own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] 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 an 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.
Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies – Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.
Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?
Iran’s nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh’s billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.
With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America’s foreign policy.
And that’s not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran – economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh’s fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.
Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.
America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America’s exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.
And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen’s war came to yank at diplomacy’s already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia’s feathers.
For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements. A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others. In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.
The U.S. government has charged into another civil war in the Middle East. When you find yourself repeatedly asking, “Will they ever learn?” the answer may be that the decision-makers have no incentive to do things differently. What looks like failure may be the intended outcome. Quagmires have their benefits — to the ruling elite — if American casualties are minimized.
The Obama administration is assisting Saudi Arabia in its bombing of Yemen, creating — in concert with the Saudi embargo — a humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East’s poorest country. Civilians are dying, and what infrastructure the country has is being destroyed.
Why? Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States won’t “stand by while the region is destabilized.” Kerry is a veteran, and presumably a student, of America’s Indochina war. So he must know that bombing is a terrible way to prevent destabilization. Kerry isn’t stupid — but that means he’s a liar and a demagogue.
Note that he says “the region,” not “Yemen.” Why would a civil war in Yemen affect the region? Because according to the official narrative, faithfully carried by most of the news media, Yemen is under siege by agents of Iran, the Houthis.
Iran today serves the same purpose the Soviet Union, or the International Communist Conspiracy, served from the end of World War II until 1989-91, when the Soviet empire collapsed. Iran is the all-purpose arch enemy on which virtually any evil can be blamed. So the war party and its Saudi and Israeli allies tell us every day that Iran is on the march, controlling capitals throughout the Middle East: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and now Sana’a.
But this is absurd. Iran is not on the march. George W. Bush knowingly delivered Baghdad to Iran-friendly Iraqi Shiites in 2003. The Assad regime in Syria is a long-time Iranian ally that Obama and his first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, declared open season on, emboldening al-Qaeda and its more-virulent mutation, ISIS. Iran’s friends in Lebanon, the political party Hezbollah, formed itself in response to Israel’s 1982 invasion and long occupation. None of these demonstrate an aggressive Iran. A better explanation is that those alliances help Iran cope with the American encirclement. (Recall: the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953 and was complicit in Iraq’s 1980s offensive war against Iran, in which Saddam Hussein used U.S.-facilitated chemical weapons. Since then, U.S. presidents and Israel’s government have attacked Iran in many ways: economic, cyber, proxy-terrorist, and covert.)
And what of Yemen, where the Houthis drove out the U.S.-backed autocratic president while also fighting declared enemies of the United States, Sunni al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Yemeni affiliate of ISIS? Yes, the Houthis practice a kind of Shiite Islam, Zaidi, but it differs importantly from Iranian Shiism. In fact, the Houthis are merely the latest manifestation of a long-oppressed Yemeni religious minority seeking autonomy from the central government. After years of being frustrated, lied to, and double-crossed, it finally moved on that government. Say what you will about the group, but don’t call it an agent of Iran.
Saudi Arabia sees Iran as a menace, but the kingdom is hardly credible, and the Obama administration is likely to be placating the royal family now that a nuclear deal with Iran may be at hand. As independent researcher Jonathan Marshall notes, “Decades before Iran became an enemy, however, Saudi Arabia began intervening in its southern neighbor [Yemen]. Besides grabbing land, the Saudis poured vast sums of money into Yemen to promote its extreme brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. In 2009, it invaded northern Yemen to attack the Houthis, unsuccessfully.”
Marshall adds, “Washington has also inserted itself in Yemen’s civil conflicts for decades.”
Of course Washington has been killing Yemenis with drones — not all of them even “suspected terrorists” — since 2001, when the corrupt and oppressive government in Sana’a became an ally in the “war on terror.”
“Yemen’s government repeatedly used U.S. military aid to support an all-out assault against the Houthis (“Operation Scorched Earth”),” Marshall writes, “causing extensive civilian casualties.”
As we should know by now, U.S. intervention is no innocent mistake.
The New York Times Reports on What the Rest of the Western Hemisphere Thinks About the Conflict Between the US and Venezuela
In a significant change in reporting at The New York Times, the newspaper yesterday became the first major news outlet in the English language media to report on what the rest of the governments in the Western Hemisphere think of U.S. policy toward Venezuela.
This is potentially important because this part of the story, which has heretofore been ignored, could begin to change many people’s perceptions of what is behind the problems in U.S.-Venezuelan relations, if other journalists begin to report on it. The Obama administration is more isolated in Latin America than even George W. Bush was, but hardly anyone who depends on the major hemispheric media would know that, because the point of view of governments other than the U.S. is not reported.
The Times article contains this very succinct and eloquent comment on the new U.S. sanctions against Venezuela from Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa:
“It ought to be a joke in bad taste that reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by the imperialists,” Mr. Correa wrote. “Can’t they understand that Latin America has changed?”
The last line really sums up the situation: They really don’t understand that Latin America has changed. One can follow all the foreign policy debates in Washington about Latin America, in the media or in journals such as Foreign Affairs, and there really is almost no acknowledgment of the new reality. In this sense the discussion of hemispheric relations is different from most other areas of U.S. foreign policy, e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, even Israel and Palestine – where there is at least some debate that reaches the intelligentsia and the public. (The new Cold War with Russia is perhaps exceptional in the pervasiveness of a sheep-like mentality and uniformity of thinking – as Russia expert Stephen Cohen of Princeton has pointed out reminiscent of the 1950s; but it remains to be seen how long this can last, and even in this robust display of groupthink there is a small smattering of exceptions that break through.)
Latin America really has changed, drastically, and Correa’s view represents the vast majority of governments in the region, even if some are more diplomatic in their expression of it. This can be seen in the strong statements criticizing U.S. actions from regional organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes every country in the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada; and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). (The Times article mentioned that these two organizations “issued statements expressing concern,” although that was a bit of an understatement.)
More generally, the vast majority of Latin American governments now have a foreign policy independent of Washington, which has never been true before the 21st century; and they are also much more independent of Washington in their economic policies. As recently as 2002, for example, the U.S. was able to exert a major influence on the economic policy of even the region’s largest economy, Brazil, through the International Monetary Fund.
The White House’s latest move is seen throughout the region as so outrageous and threatening that it will likely be reversed, eventually, under pressure from Latin American governments. That is what happened in April 2013, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry refused to recognize the results of Venezuela’s presidential election, even though there was no doubt about the outcome. At first, Washington was able to get OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, and the right-wing government in Spain, to join in refusing to recognize the result; but then these two allies gave in under pressure, and Kerry was left completely alone, whereupon Washington recognized the results.