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America’s ‘Allies’ Are Setting Up Another Trap for US in the Middle East

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.11.2017

Whatever their plans, the stakeholders in the Middle East must remember that clever plans to remake the Middle East have hitherto been remarkable for their inability to anticipate countermoves by opposing forces.

Tension is increasing all across the Middle East and the United States is again falling into a trap set up by its so-called allies to act against its own interests by getting deeply involved in what might turn out to be an escalating conflict. The recent victories by the Syrian Army and its Russian allies, which suggest that the active phase of the Syrian civil war will soon be drawing to a close, means that the perennial unrest in the region will be shifting gears and possibly leading to new conflict in areas that have until now been quiet. The lack of any real American policy for the region will enable the Saudis and Israelis, who have hegemonistic dreams of their own, to manipulate a casus belli, quite likely starting in Lebanon, where Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri recently resigned his office and fled to Saudi Arabia, claiming that he was fearing for his life due to his resistance to Iran’s influence over his country.

Hariri headed a coalition pulled together in 2016 that included nearly all of Lebanon’s main parties, including Hezbollah. It took office in a political deal that made Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian who has an understanding with Hezbollah, president. The inclusion of Hezbollah and the presence of a friendly Aoun was seen as a victory for Iran.

The Hariri resignation was certainly carried out in collusion with Riyadh, to include the damning of Iranian influence as his reason for leaving. It suggests that the Saudis and Israelis, who have been hyperbolically claiming that Tehran is about to take control of much of the Middle East, are feeling confident enough to move towards some kind of showdown with the Mullahs. As a first step, expected deteriorating sectarian interaction between Sunni and Shi‘ite Muslims in Lebanon will eliminate any possibility of a bipartisan and functioning government, providing a pretext for foreign intervention to stabilize the situation.

The United States is clearly privately approving the Israeli and Saudi moves, as Washington, Riyadh and Tel Aviv have all adamantly opposed the existence of the Lebanese coalition dominated by Aoun and Hezbollah’s Nasrullah because of the Hezbollah presence. The next step will be for Israel fighter aircraft to increase their incursions into Lebanese airspace in light of the alleged instability north of the border derived from the claims by Hariri that he was about to be assassinated. The activity would be intended to provoke a Lebanese response that would escalate into an incident that will lead to a major strike to bring the Beirut government down. The ultimate objective is to create a Saudi and Israeli-led grand Sunni alliance, which might be a fantasy, to pushback Iranian influence in the entire region. Lebanon’s Hezbollah, opposed by the Saudis because it is Shi’a and by Israel because of its missile arsenal, would be targeted as the first marker to fall.

A supportive Washington role in the conflict will of course be indispensable and there is every sign that it would be forthcoming, with grand strategists like Generals Mattis and McMaster no doubt envisioning a roll-up of Shi’as starting in Lebanon and working eastward while the Saudis continue their aggression against Yemen to counter alleged Iranian interference in that area. Israel will also undoubtedly step up its attacks on Syrian Army positions, claiming that it is striking Hezbollah, to further complicate any countermoves by the Iranians. Israel has made it very clear that it will attack any Iranian military positions that are established in Syria.

It is important to recall that clever plans to remake the Middle East have hitherto been remarkable for their inability to anticipate countermoves by opposing forces. Bashar al-Assad has survived an onslaught directed by the very same alignment now out to reverse a perceived Iranian-led Shi’a ascendancy and Hezbollah proved so successful against Israel that Israeli war plans now rule out any action on the ground due to the high casualty levels experienced in 1990-2000. The US would be playing a supporting role in any conflict, but might well suffer collateral damage if Iran is drawn in directly, a development that could easily lead to armed conflict between Washington and Tehran.

November 10, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN SAUDI ARABIA?

Trump Says Saudi Elites Caught In Anti-Corruption Probe Were ‘Milking’ Kingdom For Years

By John Chuckman | Aletho News | November 10, 2017

This is just nonsense from Trump.

Corruption is and has been everywhere in Saudi Arabia. How else could it be with all the countless billions changing hands in a fairly closed society?

So, it is easy for a guy like the new Crown Prince to glance around and conveniently find some corruption among people he wants to discredit anyway.

It may go beyond merely discrediting them to having hundreds of billions seized by the Crown Prince. Not a bad day’s work.

What is going on is a kind of coup against the old order by the new usurper Crown Prince. His recent appointment was by a King well known for his senility, and it suddenly and surprisingly upset the established order of succession and all kinds of extended family compacts.

We likely will never know what truly happened in this secretive kingdom. But we do know the abrupt changes created lots of enemies who needed attending to, and that seems to be what is happening.

And the enemies have no friends in Washington to whom they can appeal. The old order in Saudi Arabia suffered terribly in the wake of 9/11, and despite great efforts to pacify the US with new levels of cooperation, it is now being swept out.

Now, whatever is considered good for a hyper-aggressive United States is coincidentally good for its de facto colony in the Middle East.

Trump himself has already proved to be one of Israel’s best-ever American friends. Israel has long had great influence, but it possibly never had it so good as it does now, as with a UN Ambassador who speaks as though she were a joint appointment of Trump and Netanyahu. Trump’s only competitor in this regard would be Lyndon Johnson.

The US and Israel closely embrace the usurper because he has proven his dependability with bloody projects like making illegal war on Yemen. That war is exactly like the proxy war waged by mercenaries – ISIS and Al-Nusra et al – in Syria except that in this case it is the open work of a nation-state. And now he joins Israel in making threats on Lebanon.

In all the Neocon Wars in the Mideast, great effort has been made, one way or another, not to have Israel at center stage, to avoid having Israel appear as aggressor. But, in fact, without the influence of Israel, none of these terrible wars would have happened.

Yes, the Crown Prince will be a dependable component in the years-long American-Israeli project of creating a new Middle East. The Crown Prince is essentially Israel’s man in Saudi Arabia, just as President el-Sisi is in Egypt. Israel is comfortable being surrounded by absolute governments, so long as they are absolute governments beholden to its patron, the United States.

Right now, the new Crown Prince is doing another bloody service for Israeli interests. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, was called to come to Riyadh in the King’s name for some business, as it turned out on false pretenses. Hariri had his plane surrounded and he was effectively arrested upon landing. Just pure modern piracy. Later, and who knows after what threats, he announced his sudden and unexpected resignation as prime minister, and he remains in Saudi Arabia.

It just so happens, in very recent time, Netanyahu and some of his officials have made some very ugly noises against Lebanon and even staged a large-scale set of war games, including calling up reservists, clearly threatening the country.

Israel just cannot stand the idea of Hezbollah being part of the Lebanese government whereas a reasonable observer would say Lebanon had achieved a peaceful balance in governing a land of many diverse political and religious groups.

After all, it hasn’t been that long ago since Israel helped catapult Lebanon into a terrible, bloody civil war, and it did so with its own bloody and unwarranted invasion of the country. Hezbollah, an organization which has never been a true terrorist group no matter what Israel goes on about, came into its own by opposing Israel’s long-term, illegal occupation of Southern Lebanon.

They were only defending what is theirs, but they made Israel look very bad, and that is an unforgivable offence. So, here we have the new Saudi Crown Prince doing more dirty work on Israel’s behalf, much as with his war in Yemen where he bombs civilians regularly, saving Israel from having to act on its own to get what it wants in someone else’s country.

You see, if Israel itself actually had to do all the ugly deeds it wants done in the region, the world would see it with blinding clarity for the pariah state that it truly is, starting wars incessantly. Proxies – whether mercenary gangs like ISIS and Al-Nusra in Syria or tyrants like the new Saudi Crown Prince in Yemen and Lebanon – are the latest fashion statement from Tel Aviv.

November 10, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

What Is Happening In Saudi Arabia? – Marwa Osman on The Corbett Report

Corbett Report Extras | November 9, 2017

The Lebanese Prime Minister has “resigned” on Saudi tv. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has rounded up a dozen other princes in the House of Saud in a startling move that threatens to upset the kingdom. Reports saying that King Salman will step aside for the crown prince abound. What the hell is happening? Joining us to help sort through the rubble of this incredible week is Marwa Osman, a political analyst and commentator in Beirut.

SHOW NOTES AND MP3: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=24886

November 9, 2017 Posted by | Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hezbollah MPs urge Riyadh to stop meddling in Lebanon

Press TV – November 9, 2017

The parliamentary bloc of Hezbollah has called on Saudi Arabia to stop interfering in Lebanon’s domestic affairs after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while on a trip to Riyadh.

In a televised statement on Thursday, Hezbollah lawmaker, Hassan Fadlallah, said the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc supported President Michel Aoun’s refusal to accept the resignation as long as it was not “voluntary.”

Fadlallah further underlined the need to preserve security and stability in Lebanon.

Hariri’s announcement in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia on Saturday has rattled Lebanon. Unidentified Lebanese authorities told Reuters on Thursday that Saudi authorities had ordered him to quit and were holding him in detention.

“When he went (to Saudi Arabia) he was asked to stay there and ordered to resign. They ordered him to read his resignation statement and he has been held under house arrest since,” said a senior Lebanese politician close to Hariri.

“Lebanon is heading towards asking foreign and Arab states to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to release Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri,” the official added.

Following Hariri’s resignation, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he described as aggression by Hezbollah.

The Lebanese people, he said, “must choose between peace or aligning with Hezbollah.”

Saudi Arabia accuses the Lebanese government of declaring war on the kingdom because of “aggression” by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is represented in the Lebanese parliament and in the national unity government formed by Hariri last year.

The resistance group has played a critical role in the Syrian military’s counter-terrorism operations over the past few years.

Hezbollah’s achievements have raised worries in Saudi Arabia, which has long supported Takfiri groups wreaking havoc in the region.

November 9, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Hamas delegation meets with the Lebanese president

Palestine Information Center – November 8, 2017

BEIRUT – Member of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ezzat al-Resheq, on Wednesday led a Hamas delegation on a visit to Lebanon to meet with the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, and a number of Lebanese officials.

Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, said in an interview with Quds Press that the delegation will discuss with the Lebanese officials the latest developments in the Palestinian arena and the reconciliation file.

Baraka affirmed that the delegation is interested in conveying a message to the Lebanese leadership that Hamas cares about Lebanon’s security and civil peace and rejects using the Palestinian refugee camps in the country to spark internal conflicts.

He added that the Hamas delegation had earlier today met with the head of the internal security service, major-general Ibrahim Basbous, Lebanon’s Mufti, Abdullatif Derian, and the secretary-general of the Islamic Group in Lebanon, Azzam al-Ayyoubi, and briefed them on the latest developments in the Palestinian issue in general and the reconciliation in particular.

The Hamas official noted that Hamas has asked for a meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, before his resignation but the recent developments prevented the meeting from taking place.

Baraka stressed that Hamas’s visit to Lebanon comes within the framework of the Movement’s efforts to inform the Arab and Muslim leaders about the latest developments in the Palestinian scene, including the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in October, and has nothing to do with any other agendas.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

“Explosive” Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination To Provoke War

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | November 7, 2017

Early this morning, Israeli Channel 10 news published a leaked diplomatic cable which had been sent to all Israeli ambassadors throughout the world concerning the chaotic events that unfolded over the weekend in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which began with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation after he was summoned to Riyadh by his Saudi-backers, and led to the Saudis announcing that Lebanon had “declared war” against the kingdom.

The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, constitutes the first formal evidence proving that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East.

The explosive classified Israeli cable reveals the following:

  • On Sunday, just after Lebanese PM Hariri’s shocking resignation, Israel sent a cable to all of its embassies with the request that its diplomats do everything possible to ramp up diplomatic pressure against Hezbollah and Iran.
  • The cable urged support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
  • The cable stressed that Iran was engaged in “regional subversion”. 
  • Israeli diplomats were urged to appeal to the “highest officials” within their host countries to attempt to expel Hezbollah from Lebanese government and politics. 

As is already well-known, the Saudi and Israeli common cause against perceived Iranian influence and expansion in places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq of late has led the historic bitter enemies down a pragmatic path of unspoken cooperation as both seem to have placed the break up of the so-called “Shia crescent” as their primary policy goal in the region. For Israel, Hezbollah has long been its greatest foe, which Israeli leaders see as an extension of Iran’s territorial presence right up against the Jewish state’s northern border.

The Israeli reporter who obtained the document is Barak Ravid, senior diplomatic correspondent for Channel 10 News. Ravid announced the following through Twitter yesterday:

  • I published on channel 10 a cable sent to Israeli diplomats asking to lobby for Saudis/Harir and against Hezbollah. The cable sent from the MFA in Jerusalem [Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to all Israeli embassies toes the Saudi line regarding the Hariri resignation.
  • The Israeli diplomats were instructed to demarch their host governments over the domestic political situation in Lebanon – a very rare move.
  • The cable said: “You need to stress that the Hariri resignation shows how dangerous Iran and Hezbollah are for Lebanon’s security.”
  • “Hariri’s resignation proves wrong the argument that Hezbollah participation in the government stabilizes Lebanon,” the cable added.
  • The cable instructed Israeli diplomats to support Saudi Arabia over its war with the Houthis in Yemen. The cable also stressed: “The missile launch by the Houthis towards Riyadh calls for applying more pressure on Iran & Hezbollah.”

Below is a rough translation of the classified Israeli embassy cable using Google Translate as released by Israel’s Channel 10 News:

“To the Director-General: you are requested to urgently contact the Foreign Ministry and other relevant government officials [of your host country] and emphasize that the resignation of Al-Hariri and his comments on the reasons that led him to resign illustrate once again the destructive nature of Iran and Hezbollah and their danger to the stability of Lebanon and the countries of the region. 

Al-Hariri’s resignation proves that the international argument that Hezbollah’s inclusion in the government is a recipe for stability is basically wrong. This artificial unity creates paralysis and the inability of local sovereign powers to make decisions that serve their national interest. It effectively turns them into hostages under physical threat and are forced to promote the interests of a foreign power – Iran – even if this may endanger the security of their country.

The events in Lebanon and the launching of a ballistic missile by the signatories to the Riyadh agreement require increased pressure on Iran and Hezbollah on a range of issues from the production of ballistic missiles to regional subversion.”

Thus, as things increasingly heat up in the Middle East, it appears the anti-Iran and anti-Shia alliance of convenience between the Saudis and Israelis appears to have placed Lebanon in the cross hairs of yet another looming Israeli-Hezbollah war. And the war in Yemen will also continue to escalate – perhaps now with increasingly overt Israeli political support. According to Channel 10’s commentary (translation), “In the cable, Israeli ambassadors were also asked to convey an unusual message of support for Saudi Arabia in light of the war in which it is involved in Yemen against the Iranian-backed rebels.”

All of this this comes, perhaps not coincidentally, at the very moment ISIS is on the verge of complete annihilation (partly at the hands of Hezbollah), and as both Israel and Saudi Arabia have of late increasingly declared “red lines” concerning perceived Iranian influence across the region as well as broad Hezbollah acceptance and popularity within Lebanon.

What has both Israel and the Saudis worried is the fact that the Syrian war has strengthened Hezbollah, not weakened it. And now we have smoking gun internal evidence that Israel is quietly formalizing its unusual alliance with Saudi Arabia and its power-hungry and hawkish crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

November 7, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Saudi Arabia accuses Lebanon of being ‘kidnapped’ by Hezbollah & ‘declaring war’ on Riyadh

RT | November 7, 2017

Riyadh has accused Lebanon of “declaring war” on Saudi Arabia by allowing Hezbollah “aggression” against the Gulf Kingdom. Earlier, the Lebanese militant group accused the Saudis of forcing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri out of office.

Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation on Saturday in a televised statement recorded in Saudi Arabia. In his resignation speech, Hariri accused Iran and Hezbollah of a “desire to destroy the Arab world.” The next day, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, accused Saudi Arabia of forcing the premier out of office and writing his resignation statement for him. Tehran meanwhile firmly rejected Hariri’s accusations, saying that Iran only seeks “peace and stability” and pointing out its “excellent” relationship with Beirut.

Amid the political uncertainty, on Monday the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news network reported that King Salman had met with Hariri in Riyadh, where the monarch shared the details of Hezbollah’s alleged aggression against Saudi Arabia.

According to the Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, Hezbollah is accused of smuggling drugs and providing terrorist training to Saudi youngsters. During the meeting, King Salman allegedly accused the Lebanese militant group of being involved in “every terrorist act that threatens Saudi Arabia,” Al-Arabiya reported. The ruler of the kingdom also allegedly vowed to use “all political and other means” to confront Hezbollah, which he called the “Party of Satan.”

“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring war because of Hezbollah militias,” Al-Sabhan told al-Arabiya. “Lebanon is kidnapped by the militias of Hezbollah and behind it is Iran.”

“We expect the Lebanese government to act to deter Hezbollah,” the minister said. “The Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return.”

Al-Sabhan did not clarify what actions Saudi Arabia might take against Lebanon. There was also no immediate reaction from Beirut, where Lebanese President Michel Aoun is yet to accept the prime minister’s resignation. Aoun plans to decide on the issue after Hariri returns to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia, presidential spokesman Nabih Berri told reporters Monday.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia blames Iran for missile launched from Yemen, warns it could be considered ‘act of war’

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Win for Hezbollah as Saudi-backed Lebanese premier resigns

By Sami Moubayed | Asia Times | November 6, 2017

The writing has been on the wall in Lebanon since early summer. Many expected the marriage of convenience between Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun to snap — but not as abruptly as it did on Saturday.

Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address delivered from Riyadh. Aoun was neither consulted nor informed beforehand, which sent shockwaves throughout Lebanon. It may well be that Hariri was asked to resign by Saudi Arabia, a country that has long backed him and indeed bankrolled both his own career and that of his father and predecessor, Rafik al-Hariri.

During his previous tenure as premier, he was forced out of office during a meeting at the Oval Office with President Barak Obama. Back then, Hariri’s cabinet collapsed when ministers from Hezbollah and Amal walked out on him, embarrassing him at the White House. His latest resignation may have had an element of revenge.

Weeks after Saudi Arabian State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer Al Sabhan called for the toppling of Hezbollah, promising “astonishing developments” in the upcoming days, the Lebanese politician blamed his resignation on Hezbollah and Iran.

Hariri was never very fond of Hezbollah, accusing its top command of being behind his father’s 2005 murder. He briefly set aside political differences with its secretary-general, Hasan Nasrallah, back in 2009, creating a cabinet that promised to “protect” Hezbollah’s arms. More recently, in November 2016, he reached another understanding with the group, agreeing to accept their ally – Aoun – as president on the condition that Auon return him to the premiership. This power-sharing formula was regarded as a tentative truce between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but its foundations were shaky, too good to last.

Hariri remained highly critical of Hezbollah’s military involvement in the Syrian conflict, claiming that it had attracted ISIS and other jihadi groups into Lebanese territory. Putting his full weight behind the Syrian Opposition, he repeatedly called on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to pull his troops out of Syria and famously said he would only visit Syria once the regime of Bashar al-Assad was toppled.

In August, two of his cabinet ministers – members of Hezbollah and its parliamentary ally, the Amal Movement – visited Syria against his will, taking part in a high-level economic function. The two infuriated the prime minister by firing off statements from Damascus in their official capacities. Then, in September, Hariri’s foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, also defied him as he met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Mouallem, at the United Nations. Some weeks later, Hezbollah launched a full-fledged offensive against ISIS pockets near the Lebanese border, without approval from the Lebanese Government.

Another wedge issue has been Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Hezbollah has been pressing hard for their return, claiming that their native cities and towns are now safe. Hariri insists their lives are still in danger back home and wants them to stay. Hezbollah media outlets have accused him of wanting to keep them in Lebanon because they are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims opposed to the Damascus government, which helps to balance Lebanon’s sectarian dynamics.

In his resignation speech, Hariri lashed out against Hezbollah, saying its arms were targeting the “chests of Lebanese and Syrians.” He repeated a long-held demand that all arms should be in the hands of the Lebanese State, and not with non-state players, be they Shiite or Sunni.

He also lashed out at the Iranians who back Hezbollah, saying: “The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it.” Hezbollah’s actions, he added, have put Lebanon “in the eye of the storm,” thanks to rising numbers of Islamic fundamentalists in certain pockets since 2014.

Hariri hinted that he feared for his life, saying that Lebanon was living in a climate “similar to the atmosphere that prevailed” at the time of his father’s assassination. “I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.” He then boomed: “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”

President Aoun has yet to comment on Hariri’s resignation, saying that he will discuss the matter with his Prime Minister once he returns from Saudi Arabia. Many suspect, however, that Hariri will not be returning to Beirut anytime soon.

Constitutionally, Aoun is able to refuse the resignation but this is unlikely, as both he and Hezbollah will be glad to see the end of Hariri. They will likely call on a friendly independent Sunni to assume the premiership, since by convention neither a Shiite nor a Christian can assume the job. Hariri’s departure now gives them a free hand to tailor Lebanese politics to their liking ahead of parliamentary elections set for next May 2018.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

How US Blunders Strengthened Iran

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | November 5, 2017

Behind only North Korea, Iran is the country the Trump administration vilifies most. The White House endorses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s injunction that “We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”

Parroting Netanyahu’s claim that Iran is “busy gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East, CIA Director and conservative GOP stalwart Mike Pompeo warned in June that Iran — which he branded “the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism” — now wields “enormous influence . . . that far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago.”

In an interview with MSNBC, Pompeo elaborated, “Whether it’s the influence they have over the government in Baghdad, whether it’s the increasing strength of Hezbollah and Lebanon, their work alongside the Houthis in Iran, (or) the Iraqi Shias that are fighting along now the border in Syria . . . Iran is everywhere throughout the Middle East.”

Few would deny that Iran’s influence in the region has grown over the past decade. What’s missing from such dire warnings of its imperial designs, however, is any reflection on how aggressive policies by the United States and its allies have consistently backfired, creating needless chaos that Iran has exploited as a matter of self-interest and self-defense.

Consider the case of Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based Shiite organization that Israeli leaders describe as a major threat and almost certainly the target of Israel’s next war. Although the Iranian-backed force intervened actively in Syria to back the Assad government, it disclaims any intent to start a war with Israel.

It does, however, declare with great bravado its intent to deter another Israeli invasion of its homeland. “Israel should think a million times before waging any war with Lebanon,” said its leader earlier this year.

Spurred by Israeli Invasions

In fact, Hezbollah owes its very existence to Israel’s repeated invasions of their country. In 1982, Israel broke a cease-fire with the Palestine Liberation Organization and invaded southern Lebanon with 60,000 troops. The Reagan administration took no steps to stop that invasion, which caused thousands of civilian casualties and turned much of the population against Israel.

With Iranian money and guidance, the Shiite resistance in Lebanon coalesced around the organization that became known as Hezbollah. “We are only exercising our legitimate right to defend our Islam and the dignity of our nation,” the group claimed in one of its ideological tracts. “We appealed to the world’s conscience, but heard nothing.”

Years later, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak conceded that “It was our presence [in Lebanon] that created Hezbollah.” Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin seconded that assessment, saying that Israel had let the “genie out of the bottle.”

In 2006, Israel again invaded Lebanon, this time to wipe out Hezbollah. Israel’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians drew condemnation from international human rights organizations. They also succeeded in strengthening the very enemy Israel sought to annihilate.

“Especially since the 2006 war with Israel, . . . an overwhelming majority of the Shi’a have embraced Hezbollah as the defender of their community,” writes Augustus Richard Norton in his study, Hezbollah: A Short History. “This suggests that outsiders . . . seeking to reduce Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon must redress the security narrative rather than take steps that validate it.”

Instead, of course, the United States and its Sunni Arab and Turkish allies promoted the violent overthrow of Syria’s government, drawing Hezbollah forces into the fight for the survival of their longtime ally. While Hezbollah has paid a political and human price for its military expedition, its soldiers have gained tremendous battle experience, making them all the more formidable a foe.

The Iraqi Gift

Washington’s greatest geostrategic gift to Iran was the unprovoked U.S. overthrow of Iran’s arch enemy, Saddam Hussein, in 2003. Iran had lost hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in an eight-year war with Iraq, triggered by Saddam’s invasion in 1980. The Bush administration not only killed Saddam, but handed political power to Iraq’s majority Shiite population, which looked to Iran for spiritual and political guidance.

That windfall may not have been entirely luck. The leading Iraqi lobbyist for war, the neoconservatives’ darling Ahmed Chalabi, was later identified by U.S. authorities as a key Iranian intelligence asset. U.S. counterintelligence agents concluded that Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles, who peddled false claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, had “been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service … to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government,” in the words of a Senate Intelligence Committee report.

But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office shut down the investigation, leaving Chalabi to direct the political purge of Iraq’s government and then become Iraq’s deputy prime minister and oil minister. The Chalabi-led purge targeted Iraq’s Sunni politicians, aggravating the country’s sectarian divide and fueling the insurgency that still plagues the country today. The violence strengthened Iran’s hand in the country, as Shiite militia sought Tehran’s help to defend their communities.

At the same time, popular opposition to the U.S. occupation led to the rise of radical Sunni terrorists. It was from their swelling ranks in Iraq’s prisons that ISIS was born. ISIS made lightning gains across much of western Iraq in June 2014, with the conquest of Fallujah, Tikrit, and Mosul, the country’s second most populous city. With its very existence in jeopardy, Iraq’s beleaguered government welcomed Iran’s immediate dispatch of 2,000 soldiers to help block the ISIS offensive. Syria’s air force also began striking ISIS bases in coordination with Baghdad.

Misguided Pressure

Washington, in contrast, rejected Iraq’s call for air strikes and suggested that its Shiite-led government should step down to placate aggrieved Sunnis. Only in August 2014 did President Obama authorize limited bombing of ISIS to protect minorities threatened by their military advance. Needless to say, many Iraqis were grateful to Iran for its military support at a critical time.

“The Iranians are playing a long game and a waiting game,” said Sajad Jiyad, the director of the Al Bayan Center for Planning and Studies in Baghdad. “They put their skins on the line. They lost three or four generals plus a dozen senior officers.”

So when a “hamfisted” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking in Saudi Arabia, recently demanded that Baghdad send home Iranian-backed paramilitary units that helped defeat ISIS, it didn’t go over well with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” his office stated. Abadi called the Popular Mobilization forces “Iraqi patriots,” not mere proxies of Iran, and insisted that they “should be encouraged because they will be the hope of country and the region.” Score another few points for Tehran.

ISIS might never have spread into Syria had not the United States publicly promoted the overthrow of the Assad government in 2011, following years of covert efforts by Washington and Israel to weaken the regime and promote sectarian divisions within Syria.

Contributing greatly to the rise of radical Islamist forces in Syria was the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, which unleashed large stocks of arms and hundreds of hardened fighters to spread their revolution into Syria.

By late 2011, Sunni-led states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar began financing and arming militant Islamist rebels in Syria, including Al Qaeda and even ISIS. The resulting war killed hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians, uprooted millions of refugees, and laid waste to ancient cities.

The Obama administration proved itself just as deluded as the Bush administration about the efficacy of armed intervention. Describing hopes by the White House that Libya’s uprising would “ripple out to other nations in the region” and fuel anti-regime movements in Syria and Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Syria has served for 30 years as Iran’s closest strategic ally in the region. U.S. officials believe the growing challenge to Mr. Assad’s regime could motivate Iran’s democratic forces.”

Instead, of course, Syria’s conflict prompted Iran’s hardliners to send Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah forces to the defense of their ally. With the help of Russian air power, they turned the tide in Assad’s favor, leaving the Damascus regime intact and greatly in Tehran’s debt.

The Yemeni Mess

Echoing longstanding claims by Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration also insists that Iran is a major backer of Houthi tribal forces who swept down from northern Yemen to seize control of most of the country in early 2015. That March, with U.S. backing, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states launched a scorched–earth military campaign to oust the Houthis, in the name of resisting Iran.

The coalition’s indiscriminate bombing of industrial and other civilian targets, including schools and hospitals, has laid waste to much of the country and destroyed the economy. Its blockade of ports caused mass hunger and triggered the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

“Cynics can argue that the real strategy of the Saudi coalition is to rely on starvation and disease to wear down the Yemeni people,” observed former White House adviser and CIA analyst Bruce Riedel. “The United Nations has labeled the war the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world . . . (Yet) Iran is the only winner, as it provides aid and expertise to the Houthis at a tiny fraction of the cost of the Saudi war effort while the Islamic Republic’s Gulf enemies spend fortunes on a conflict they jumped into with no endgame or strategy.”

Experts point out that Washington picked the wrong ally in this fight. “The Houthis are one of the few groups in the Middle East that has little intention or ability to confront the United States or Israel,” writes Harvard lecturer Asher Orkaby. “And far from being aligned with extremists, the Houthi movement has repeatedly clashed with the Islamic State . . . and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It is Saudi Arabia that has long supported Sunni Islamist groups in Yemen.”

To compound the irony, the paranoid sheiks in Riyadh created the very threat they set out to crush with their invasion in 2015. Iranian ties to the Houthis were negligible before then. Remarking on years of attempts to smear them as pawns of Iran, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen reported in a classified cable in 2009, “The fact that . . .  there is still no compelling evidence of that link must force us to view this claim with some skepticism.”

Two former members of the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning have recently confirmed that “the vast majority of the Houthi arsenal . . . was seized from Yemeni army stockpiles,” not provided by Iran.

As the devastating war grinds on, however, Iran has provided the Houthis with modest training, advice, and ground munitions. “Iran has exploited, on the cheap, the Saudi-led campaign, and thus made the expansion of Iranian influence in Yemen a Saudi self-fulfilling prophecy,” they observe.

“By catering to the Saudis in Yemen,” they add, “the United States has . . . strengthened Iranian influence in Yemen, undermined Saudi security, brought Yemen closer to the brink of collapse, and visited more death, destruction, and displacement on the Yemeni population.”

Qatar and Beyond

In a moment of particular lunacy, President Trump this June tweeted his support for a Saudi-led political and economic blockade of Qatar, a tiny but gas-rich Gulf emirate. Riyadh is aggrieved in part by Qatar’s sponsorship of Al Jazeera, the politically nettlesome broadcaster. Trump’s action surprised and embarrassed the Pentagon, which operates a huge military base in Qatar.

Iran quickly took advantage of this latest Saudi blunder. It opened its airspace to Qatari flights that were barred from crossing the Arabian Peninsula. It shipped food to replace supplies lost by the closure of the Saudi-Qatari border. In gratitude, Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran after recalling its ambassador two years ago.

“This dispute has pushed Qatar towards other players in the region who are critical: Iran, Turkey, Russia, China,” said Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA. “These are players who now have a lot more influence as we diminish our influence in the region. In this way, the blockade has actually undermined everything that the Saudis and Emiratis wanted by pushing the Qataris into the arms of these other regional players.”

Time after time, in other words, the United States and its regional supporters have made a mess of matters with their overt and covert military interventions in the Middle East. It’s only natural that Iran, having long been targeted by Washington and its allies (sometimes for understandable reasons), tries to seize opportunities to defend its interests.

The lesson we should learn is that curbing Iran and promoting U.S. security interests will require less intervention from afar, not more self-defeating forays into the region.

As Chatham House research fellow Renad Mansour recently observed, until the United States overcomes its counterproductive reactions to obsessive fears of Iranian influence, “the Iranophobes will be right about one thing: Iran is the smarter player in the region.”

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi succession struggle enters home stretch

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 5, 2017

Within hours of a decree by the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Sunday announcing the constitution of a new committee to combat corruption under the chairmanship of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS], an unprecedented purge of top establishment figures unfolded, signaling a pre-planned political campaign. The purge involves the sacking and/or detention of dozens of princes, ministers and former ministers. Several senior ministers, including those in charge of the kingdom’s National Guard, economy, and planning have also been dismissed. Notably, billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is among those detained. The security forces grounded private jets in Jeddah to stop any high-profile figures from leaving the country.

King Salman’s decree invests the new anti-corruption committee with draconian powers. The decree says that the anti-corruption committee shall be exempted from “laws, regulations, instructions, orders and decisions”, while performing its tasks of identifying “offenses, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption.” It empowers MBS to issue “arrest warrants, travel ban, disclosure and freezing of accounts and portfolios, tracking of funds, assets” as well as take “precautionary measures”.

Corruption is synonymous with oligarchies and the House of Saud is no exception. The Saudi way is traditionally to throw money at problems. Make no mistake that Saturday’s purge signifies another step in the no-holds-barred attempt by the 32-year old Crown Prince for consolidating absolute political power and paving the way for his ascension as the next ruler. Evidently, MBS intends to strike fear into the hearts of the elites who could be rival power centres when the time for succession arrives, which could be in a conceivable future as per indications.

An intriguing twist to the tale lies in the recent speech by MBS at a ceremony launching a $500 billion project on the Red Sea where he vowed to “destroy extremism” and return to a “a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions”. MBS was addressing an international audience and the speech was widely interpreted as an attempt to give a new face of Saudi Arabia aimed at the Western world, primarily, by pressing all the buttons that the West may like to hear pushed about entrepreneurship, liberalism, moderate Islam.

However, such a facile explanation is insufficient. For, there is indeed a contradiction insofar as the Saudi royal family has traditionally depended on backing from the ultra-conservative religious establishment to ensure its claim to legitimacy, while under MBS’s watch during recent months, the regime has begun implementing unprecedented economic and social reforms that might potentially undermine the regime’s deeply conservative power base. The noted Saudi editor and opinion maker Jamal Kashoggi told Deutsche Welle in a recent interview his explanation of what MBS is attempting:

“It is hard for Saudi Arabia to disown Wahhabism, seeing as how it created a hard-line Salafi current that has been in power for 30 years… I believe that the prince’s (MBS) social and economic reforms enjoy wide popular support and great momentum… The country needs to be freed from the hard-line Salafi approach that has been prevailing for 30 years with the state’s permission… Today, the carpet has been pulled from underneath this current’s feet, and it does not have the strength to prevent reform… On the other hand, there will always be Saudi hardliners who oppose those reforms… but they are not sufficiently powerful to prevent that march… It is hard to disown Wahhabism… it is the basis on which the Kingdom was built. But it can replace it with a centrist Islam… There are modern Islamic ideas available to the state, and it can use them without having to announce its disowning of Wahhabism.

Doesn’t it look like a Saudi-style “cultural revolution” where ideology and reform become the leitmotif of what is at the core a transition in the calculus of political power? By means of liberalizing rhetoric, MBS is on the one hand engaging the West and appeasing ordinary Saudis (and even sections of conservative clerics), while on the other hand also aiming to consolidate his and his father’s power by removing opposition voices. Arguably, they form two sides of the same coin.

Clearly, there is a foreign-policy angle to all this, which will impact regional security. The Saudi Crown Prince cannot do without American backing. (The former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, rival to MBS who was ousted earlier this year, used to be Washington’s favorite as successor to King Salman.) Now, the exit of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday is the latest telling evidence of a growing US-Saudi-Israeli congruence. A relatively stable set-up in Beirut (involving co-habitation between Hariri and Hezbollah), which acquitted itself remarkably well in the war against terrorist groups, has been suddenly thrown into disarray. What follows next in Lebanon dovetails into the US-Israeli-Saudi strategy toward post-ISIS Syria and Iraq where the balance of forces currently works in favor of Iran. Interestingly, Hariri announced his resignation in a speech broadcast from Saudi Arabia following a meeting with MBS. (Read the report in Tehran Times titled Hariri makes surprise resignation under Saudi pressure.)

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Netanyahu: Lebanese PM’s Resignation a ‘Wake-Up Call’ to Unite Against Iran

Al-Manar | November 5, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have turned Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s resignation to Israel’s advantage by attacking Iran and Hezbollah.

“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 said, adding that Iran was “trying to turn Syria into a second Lebanon,” Netanyahu, who is in London, tweeted.

“This aggression endangers not only Israel, but the entire Middle East. The international community needs to unite and stand against this aggression,” the Israeli PM added.

For his part, Israeli DM warned that Lebanon “would become like Iran.”

“Lebanon=Hezbollah. Hezbollah=Iran. Lebanon=Iran,” Liberman tweeted.

“Iran is a danger to the world. Saad Hariri proved this today. Period,” the Israeli minister added.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Saudi gamble risks plunging Lebanon into war

Press TV – November 5, 2017

Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation from Lebanon’s premiership, announced from Saudi Arabia, has raised fears that regional tensions were about to escalate and that the small country would once again pay a heavy price.

Hariri quit his post on Saturday in a televised speech broadcast by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya television, during which he appeared tense as he carefully read out from a written statement.

He claimed that he feared the same fate as his assassinated father and accused Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah of meddling in Arab countries’ affairs.

Hariri’s departure sent shockwaves through Lebanon as the country is struggling to maintain stability at a time when much of the Middle East is gripped by Takfiri violence rooted in Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon’s Minister of Justice Salim Jreissati said the development was “confusing and suspicious in its timing and location as well as the way it was delivered and the content of the resignation.”

“The optics are terrible — for Hariri to resign from Riyadh, imagine how his audience [in Lebanon] feels watching that,” said Emile Hokayem, a regional analyst at the Institute for Strategic Studies.

“God protect Lebanon from the evil of Saudi Arabia’s reckless adventures,” Sheikh Nabil Kawouk, a member of Hezbollah’s central committee, told Lebanon’s Al Jadeed television.

Last week, Qatar’s former prime minister Hamad bin Jassim revealed how the US coordinated support by Doha, Riyadh and Ankara for terrorists operating against the Syrian government.

Syria has always been a thorn in the side of Israel. The Arab country is part of the “axis of resistance” along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran, which has brought Daesh to the brink of elimination.

The triangle of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US is alarmed and the prospect of an eventual triumph of this axis which has now become inevitable has prompted them to take drastic measures.

On Friday, as Syria began celebrating the capture of Dayr al-Zawr, Nusra Front terrorists launched a massive assault on a Druze village neighboring the occupied Golan Heights.

According to Syrian state media, the onslaught was carried out with Israeli coordination and assistance but Tel Aviv used the occasion to threaten direct intervention in the war.

Hariri’s resignation over what he called Hezbollah’s “grip” on Lebanon is the latest drastic step which Saudi Arabia and its allies have taken to tip the scales even at the cost of turning Lebanon into another Syria.

With the prime minister out of the political landscape, the architects of the new “plot” could claim that Lebanon was exclusively under Hezbollah’s control. That idea was articulated by Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday.

“Lebanon=Hezbollah. Hezbollah=Iran. Lebanon=Iran,” he tweeted.

Hariri was appointed as the Lebanese premier in late 2016, after two years of political deadlock in the country. He formed a national unity government that included almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

Under the Lebanese constitution, the prime minister should be picked from among the Sunni community, but Saudi Arabia has tried to use the prerogative to maintain its influence in the country.

Riyadh says the government should be purged of Hezbollah, especially at a time when the resistance movement is emerging stronger from the Syria conflict.

Over the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan had unleashed a series of vitriolic attacks against Hezbollah, saying the group “should be punished… and confronted by force.”

The accusations coincided with new sanctions approved by US House of Representatives on the Lebanese resistance movement.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, a senior Iranian politician, told Al Mayadeen TV that Hariri’s’ resignation had been coordinated before between US president Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He said, “After the defeat of Daesh and the US in the region, Washington and Riyadh are trying to fuel tensions in Lebanon and the region.”

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an adviser to the Iranian parliament speaker, agreed. “The decision has been made by the anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah front following the disillusionment of US and its allies with Daesh,” he said.

In Lebanon, political leaders expressed their apprehension, including the leader of Lebanon’s Druze minority, who has frequently played kingmaker in Lebanese politics.

Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), warned of the political burden and consequences of the resignation.

Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said Hariri’s departure was “a dangerous decision whose consequences will be heavier than what Lebanon can bear.”

“Hariri has started a cold war that could escalate into a civil war, bearing in mind that Hezbollah is unmatched in Lebanon on the military level,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, welcomed the decision and said Hariri’s departure should be a “wake-up call” to the international community to what he described as the threat posed by Iran.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment