A recently declassified CIA document prepared in 1983, and released on 20 January 2017, shows that the United States had at the time encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Syria, which would have led to a vicious conflict between the two countries, thus draining their resources.
The report, which was then prepared by CIA officer Graham Fuller, indicates that the US tried adamantly to convince Saddam to attack Syria under any pretense available, in order to get the two most powerful countries in the Arab East to destroy each other, turning their attention away from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And since Saddam was already knee-deep in a bloody war against Iran, he needed to be incentivized and encouraged by American client states in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, who offered to fund such a war in order to deal a deadly blow to the growing Syrian power in the region.
Hence, the US provided modern technology to Saddam in order to close the ring of threats around Syria, in addition to Jordan, Turkey, and Israel. The report expected that such pressures from three fronts, possibly more, would force Syria to give concessions in the struggle with Israel. And the report asserts that it was of utmost importance to convince Saddam to play along this scenario, because it would have divided the Arab line and distracted attention from the American-Israeli role in this scheme.
Therefore, the United States worked to achieve a substantial consensus among its client Arab states to support Saddam in such a move. Israeli policy at the time welcomed the idea of creating tensions along Syria’s borders with Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, because Israel saw Syria as it biggest problem and not Saddam.
Three decades earlier, a colonial alliance was formed during the Cold War, the so-called Baghdad Pact, which included Turkey, the Shah’s Iran, and British-controlled Iraq, with support from the Gulf States. The alliance was geared against Jamal Abdul Nasser, and aimed at stopping the Nationalist wave sweeping Arab countries, and to also halt Egypt’s support for liberation movements in Africa and Asia. But the 1958 revolution in Iraq ended this alliance, and this was followed by Syria and Egypt merging into the United Arab Republic, which Iraq intended to join, but this tripartite unity never materialized.
It is noteworthy that Turkey was always an enemy of Arab Nationalism, especially in Syria and Iraq, and this tendency is still there until today, because Turkey never forgave the Arabs’ for their role in the collapse of the Ottoman empire, and never accepted the loss of its Arab colonies.
Reading through history, it also shows the naivety of Saudi and Gulf rulers in dealing with their issues, and their superficial reading of events.
If we go back to Nasser’s speeches in 1962 and 1963, in which he gave ample rebuttal against Arab reactionaries, especially its inability to stand up for Palestine, because they get their weapons from the same supplier as Israel, and therefore they were forced to stand alongside Israel and host American military bases.
The Gulf States, were in a real and established alliance with Israel, which was secret at first, before it became an open alliance today.
Juxtaposing this history with recent events, one can’t help but notice a clear pattern. Today, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are once more joining the US and Israel in an alliance to prolong the six-year-old ongoing war against Syria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and the Arab Nations, in order to destroy their infrastructures, economies, armies, institutions, civilizational heritage, and cultural identity.
Under American pressure, Arab rulers either participate in secret or stand idly by during the Arab Spring War. Erdogan’s Ottoman Turkey is building a close alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, with American and Israeli support, in order to prolong the war against Syria under the pretense of isolating and weakening Iraq [Iran?].
But the real American-Israeli objective is destroying all Arabs, including those who walk the American line and finance American wars.
We can conclude that the tools used against Arabs since the 1950s remain the same. These tools are Arab States loyal to America and Israel, whether in secret or in public, and at every historical juncture, new schemes are contrived to destroy Arab civilization and drain Arab resources in order to weaken all Arabs, both resistors and collaborators. And even though the Arab reaction against the Baghdad Pact was good in theory, and led to a closer union between Syria and Egypt, the right mechanisms, however, were never put in place in order to ensure the viability and continuity of this union.
Arabs always lose time, they’ve been suffering for the past seventy years from reactionary forces’ loyalty to the Nation’s enemies, conspiring with them, hosting their military bases, and financing their wars against Arabs. Nonetheless, no opposing Arab movement that would construct an alternative to the Zionist-Turkish reactionary project has ever emerged. How many times do events have to prove that the West and Israel are implementing their schemes through operatives such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called oppositions?
Today, what is needed, is to establish a strong Arab alliance on solid foundations and modern mechanisms, which at times we have to learn from our enemies.
Today, Erdogan, Israel, and the US deplete Gulf money in order to finance the terrorist war against Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Egypt, in the same way the West and its Arab clients encouraged Saddam to continue the war against Iran, in what was then called “dual containment,” with the hope of weakening both Iraq and Iran.
The end result, however, was the destruction and later occupation of Iraq, while Iran became a nuclear [energy] power. Arabs, therefore, must stand side-by-side and prepare for a long war, the schemes of which might be revealed three decades from now, possibly more!
Dr Bouthaina Shaaban is a Political and Media Advisor to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Turkey has decided to pick up a quarrel with Iran. It all began with President Recep Erdogan’s sudden outburst on February 14 in the first leg of a regional tour of Gulf States – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — when he said, “Some people want both Iraq and Syria to be divided. There are some that are working hard to divide Iraq. There is a sectarian struggle, a Persian nationalism at work there. This Persian nationalism is trying to divide the country. We need to block this effort.”
Tehran hit back by accusing Turkey of supporting terrorist organizations “to destabilize neighbouring countries.” And there has been much back and forth in mutual recriminations since then. The spat makes a mockery of the “trilateral alliance” between Russia, Turkey and Iran that Moscow has been promoting at the recent Astana talks on Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry had announced as recently as February 16 that Russia, Turkey and Iran have formed a tripartite operational group to stabilize the ceasefire in Syria. The most puzzling aspect is that this is happening just when the Syrian peace talks began in Geneva today under UN auspices.
But then, there is always a method in Erdogan’s madness. Succinctly put, Erdogan’s outburst reflects an overall frustration that Iran has greatly outstripped its traditional rival Turkey in expanding its influence in both Iraq and Syria. The Iranian militia played a big role in taking Aleppo city and vanquishing the rebel groups supported by Turkey.
Turkey had fancied that it would play a similar lead role in wresting control of Mosul from the hands of the ISIS. But to its great consternation and anger, Iran has wrested that role too. The latest reports show that Iraqi forces have stormed Mosul airport. Iraq (and Iran) opposed any role for Turkey in the liberation of Mosul.
Conceivably, with an eye on the new US administration’s reported plan to create an anti-Iran alliance in the region, Turkey is repositioning itself. There are several developments pointing in this direction. The US and Turkey have been holding a series of top-level meetings through the past fortnight since President Donald Trump made his first phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on February 7. The American visitors to Ankara since then included CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US the senator who heads the Armed Services Committee John McCain.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has undertaken a tour of the GCC states, which aimed at harmonising the Turkish stance on Syria with that of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. (During Erdogan’s tour, Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed a defence agreement.) Ankara has noted that in the past fortnight there have been important visitors from the US to the Gulf region –CIA chief Pompeo, Senator John McCain and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Pompeo conferred on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz the CIA’s George Tenet Medal for his exceptional contributions in the fight against terrorism. It doesn’t take much ingenuity to figure out that the US is promoting a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.
Equally, Ankara and Washington are edging toward a mutually satisfactory resolution of a discord that had set them apart in the recent past – the fate of Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. The Trump administration may act to curb Gulen’s activities, while Erdogan may no longer press for his outright extradition to Turkey.
However, one other contentious issue still remains unresolved – US military support for Syrian Kurds. This is a non-negotiable issue for Turkey, which considers the Syrian Kurdish militia to be an affiliate of the separatist Kurdish group PKK. Turkey and the US are actively discussing at the moment the modalities of a Turkish military operation aimed at liberating Raqqa, the ‘capital’ of the Islamic State. The Turkish Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim discussed the Raqqa operation with the US Vice-President Mike Pence in the weekend at the Munich Security Conference. It will be a major military operation with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery. Turkey seeks US Special Forces’ participation, which will also serve the purpose of deterring Russian intervention, apart from weakening the Syrian Kurds’ drive to create an entity in northern Syria.
Without doubt, the capture of Raqqa will be much more than a symbolic event. Raqqa determines how much of Syria will be under the control of the Syrian regime. Clearly, Erdogan hopes to project Turkish power right into Damascus and have a big say in Syria’s future. Yildirim sounded upbeat after meeting Pence. See a report in the pro-government Turkish daily Yeni Safak – PM Yildirim: Turkey, US turning over a new leaf.
Suffice to say, Erdogan seems confident that the Trump administration is viewing Ankara once again as a “strategic partner and a NATO ally” (as Trump indeed told him). Just another 5 days remain in the timeline given by the Trump administration to the Pentagon to prepare a comprehensive plan to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. But Turkey is already acting as if it had a preview of the Pentagon plan.
A lengthy dispatch from Damascus by Xinhua underscores that Turkey’s journey back to its American ally also coincides with the “re-emergence of the Gulf states as the backers of the rebels” and with a growing probability of US putting boots on the ground in Syria — all in all a “remilitarization” of the Syrian conflict. Read the insightful report titled Spotlight: Gloomy outlook shadows Syrian talks in Geneva.
Only a few months ago, interventionists were demanding a militant response by Washington to what George Soros branded “a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions” — the killing of “hundreds of people” by Russian and Syrian government bombing of rebel-held neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo.
Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former New Republic editor, was denouncing the Obama administration as “a bystander to the greatest atrocity of our time,” asserting that its failure to “act against evil in Aleppo” was like tolerating “the evil in Auschwitz.”
How strange, then, that so many of the same “humanitarian” voices have been so quiet of late about the continued killing of many more innocent people in Yemen, where tens of thousands of civilians have died and 12 million people face famine. More than a thousand children die each week from preventable diseases related to malnutrition and systematic attacks on the country’s food infrastructure by a Saudi-led military coalition, which aims to impose a regime friendly to Riyadh over the whole country.
“The U.S. silence has been deafening,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, last summer. “This blatant double standard deeply undermines U.S. efforts to address human rights violations whether in Syria or elsewhere in the world.”
Official acquiescence — or worse — from Washington and other major capitals is encouraging the relentless killing of Yemen’s civilians by warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its allies. Last week, their bombs struck a funeral gathering north of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, killing nine women and a child and injuring several dozen more people.
A day earlier, officials reported a deadly “double-tap” airstrike, first targeting women at a funeral in Sanaa, then aimed at medical responders who rushed in to save the wounded. A United Nations panel of experts condemned a similar double-tap attack by Saudi coalition forces in October, which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians, as a violation of international law.
The Tragedy of Mokha
On Feb. 12, an air strike on the Red Sea port city of Mokha killed all six members of a family headed by the director of a maternal and childhood center. Coalition ground forces had launched an attack on Mokha two weeks earlier.
Xinhua news agency reported, “the battles have since intensified and trapped thousands of civilian residents in the city, as well as hampered the humanitarian operation to import vital food and fuel supplies . . . The Geneva-based UN human rights office said that it received extremely worrying reports suggesting civilians and civilian objects have been targeted over the past two weeks in the southwestern port city . . . Reports received by UN also show that more than 200 houses have been either partially damaged or completely destroyed by air strikes in the past two weeks.”
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator further reported that “scores of civilians” had been killed or wounded by the bombing and shelling of Mokha, and that residents were stranded without water or other basic life-supporting services.
That could be Aleppo, minus only the tear-jerking photos of dead and wounded children on American television. However, unlike Syria, Yemen’s rebels don’t have well-financed public relations offices in Western capitals. They pay no lip service to the United States, democracy, or international human rights. Their foe Saudi Arabia is a friend of Washington, not a long-time adversary. In consequence, few American pundits summon any moral outrage at the Saudi-led coalition, despite findings by a United National Panel of Experts that many of its airstrikes violate international law and, in some cases, represent “war crimes.”
Aiding and Abetting
The United States hasn’t simply turned a blind eye to such crimes; it has aided them by selling Saudi Arabia the warplanes it flies and the munitions it drops on Yemeni civilians. It has also siphoned 54 million pounds of jet fuel from U.S. tanker planes to refuel coalition aircraft on bombing runs. The pace of U.S. refueling operations has reportedly increased sharply in the last year.
The Obama administration initially supported the Saudi coalition in order to buy Riyadh’s reluctant support for the Iran nuclear deal. Over time, Saudi Arabia joined with anti-Iran hawks to portray Yemen’s rebels as pawns of Tehran to justify continued support for the war. Most experts — including U.S. intelligence officials — insist to the contrary that the rebels are a genuinely indigenous force that enjoys limited Iranian support at best.
As I have documented previously, all of the fighting in Yemen has damaged U.S. interests by creating anarchy conducive to the growth of Al Qaeda extremists. They have planned or inspired major acts of terrorism against the West, including an attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in 2009 and a deadly attack on the Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. The Saudis tolerate them as Sunni allies against the rebels, in the name of curbing Iran.
Though the Obama administration is gone, the Trump administration is flush with ideologues who are eager to take a stand against Tehran through Yemen and look tough on “terrorism.” Within days of taking office, President Trump approved a commando raid targeting an alleged Al Qaeda compound in central Yemen that went awry, killing an estimated 10 women and children. The administration has also diverted a U.S. destroyer to patrol Yemen’s coast.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to his credit, has cited “the urgent need for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen,” according to a department spokesman. But no amount of humanitarian aid will save Yemen’s tormented people from the bombs made in America and dropped from U.S.-made warplanes, with little protest from Washington’s so-called “humanitarian interventionists.”
Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military intervention in Yemen, is the world’s second-largest arms importer, according to a new report. Riyadh’s arms imports increased 212 percent compared with 2007–11, with the US remaining the world’s top weapons exporter.
Between 2007–2011 and 2012–2016 arms imports by states in the Middle East rose by 86 percent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on Monday.
India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2012–2016, accounting for 13 percent of the global total, the study said.
“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program, said.
“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions,” he added.
With a one-third share of global arms exports, the USA was the top arms exporter in 2012– 16. Its arms exports increased by 21 percent compared with 2007–2011.
Almost half of US arms exports went to the Middle East, SIPRI said, adding that arms imports by Qatar went up by 245 percent.
“The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world—significantly more than any other supplier state,” Dr. Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program, said.
“Both advanced strike aircraft with cruise missiles and other precision-guided munitions and the latest generation air and missile defense systems account for a significant share of US arms exports.”
Saudi Arabia’s defense expenditure grew by 5.7 percent to $87.2 billion in 2015, making it the world’s third-largest spender at the time, according to a SIPRI report from April.
During Barack Obama’s two terms as president, the US offered Saudi Arabia $115 billion worth of arms in 42 separate deals, the Center for International Policy, a US-based anti-war think tank reported in September. It estimated that US arms offers to Saudi Arabia were more than any US administration in the history of the US-Saudi relationship.
In December, the White House blocked the transfer of some weaponry to Saudi Arabia, over concerns about the civilian death toll from the kingdom’s bombing campaign in Yemen.
“We have made clear that US security cooperation is not a blank check,” a senior administration official told AFP. “Consequently, we have decided to not move forward with some foreign military sales (FMS) cases for munitions.”
“This reflects our continued, strong concerns with the flaws in the coalition’s targeting practices and overall prosecution of the air campaign in Yemen,” he added.
Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist, told RT earlier in February that “the Obama administration has been essentially tied to the Saudi interests in Yemen, as they have been in Syria to a great extent of the past by the degree to which the permanent government in the US – the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA – all have very, very close relations with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia.
“These war powers in the US are very unwilling to have any US policy that would criticize, much less take away, support for the Saudi war so that these arrangements can continue. I am very much afraid that the Trump administration will be subject to the same logic, the same political forces that have kept the Obama administration from taking any responsibility for what is going on in Yemen,” he said.
The death toll in the Yemeni conflict has surpassed 10,000 people, and almost 40,000 people have been wounded, a senior UN official said in January.
The British government refused to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia in November, rejecting calls from two parliamentary committees and human rights groups. According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Britain licensed £3.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) of arms sales to Riyadh during the first 12 months of the Yemen war.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in October that since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, which began on March 26, 2015, the Saudi coalition, “with direct military support from the US and assistance from the UK,” conducted at least 58 “unlawful airstrikes,” with other human rights organizations and the UN having “documented dozens more.”
Since the beginning of the conflict, there have been multiple reports of Saudi jets targeting schools, hospitals, marketplaces and other civilian buildings.
Airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition of nine Arab states in Yemen are responsible for the majority of civilians killed in the ongoing conflict, the UN found in August, while calling for an international investigation into the coalition’s violations there.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed the formation of a forum with the participation of Persian Gulf Arab states in order to build a common goal toward overcoming problems.
“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction of erecting realistic regional arrangements. It can perhaps start with a modest regional dialog forum,” he said on Sunday.
Zarif addressed the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defense officials, urging Arab states to work with Iran to address “anxieties” and violence across the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week traveled to Oman and Kuwait to try improve ties, his first visit to the Persian Gulf states since taking power in 2013.
“On regional dialog, I’m modest and I’m focusing on the Persian Gulf. We have enough problems in this region so we want to start a dialog with countries we call brothers in Islam,” Zarif said.
“We need to address common problems and perceptions that have given rise to anxieties and the level of violence in the region,” he added, when asked whether Tehran would also consider a region-wide dialog.
Zarif earlier criticized four-decades of well financed “Takfiri” ideology which has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is followed by extremist groups such as Daesh, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed ties with Iran last January after protesters in Tehran and Mashhad attacked its diplomatic premises following the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Some of Riyadh’s allies followed suit and cut or downgraded their ties with Iran.
It was choosing regional enmity, Zarif said, that had in part spawned such extremist outfits such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.
“For nearly four decades, a well-financed global proliferation of Takfiri ideology based on division, hatred and rejection, which everybody would agree has nothing to do with Islam, has been sold as promoting a so-called ‘moderate Islam’ to confront an erroneously-framed ‘radical Iran,” he noted.
The other contributors to the rise of such groups were “the endemic problem of foreign occupation and invasion,” and their arming and financing by some states in the region, Zarif added.
‘War not the answer’
Addressing other crises in the Middle East, the top Iranian diplomat said conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain “do not have military solutions,” adding “each requires a political solution, where no genuine actor is excluded.”
As a case in point testifying to “the success of diplomacy over coercion” is the 2015 conclusion of a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, he said.
The accord, he said, held “an important political lesson: All parties concerned defined the problem in a mutually acceptable way so that they could find a solution in a mutually acceptable way.”
Zarif brushed aside new pressure from the United States, declaring that his country is “unmoved by threats” but responds well to respect.
President Donald Trump has adopted a harsh language towards Iran, threatening to “tear up” the nuclear deal, calling Iran “terrorist state number one,” and imposing new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Zarif said, “Iran doesn’t respond well to threats. We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”
“Iran is unmoved by threats. Everybody tested us for many years — all threats and coercions were imposed on us,” Zarif added.
The minister once again dismissed any suggestions Iran would ever seek to develop nuclear weapons. He mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which he said merely ended with Iran having acquired thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium.
Iran has always said it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Asked how long it would take to make one if it did decide it wanted such weapons, Zarif replied: “We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”
The Munich event discusses such issues as the future of the US-led military alliance of NATO, world order and security, terrorism, extremism, and various regional matters.
Beware ego, well two egos actually. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law who seems to believe that he can solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and who is trying to persuade his father-in-law that “a foreign policy coup” can be his.
Behind the scenes, stand the dubious former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (lobbying via media baron Rupert Murdoch’s former wife Wendy Deng, who reportedly reconciled Kushner and Ivanka Trump after their 2008 split) and the equally dubious gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, plus the Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer (who is a Bibi Netanyahu confidant, reportedly).
Trump would not be the first U.S. President to be glamour-struck by the prospect of being the one to solve the Palestinian conflict, if he should take the bait. He would be one of many. Yet it has proved to be a prize for none of these former Presidents, but rather has proved itself to be a poisoned chalice, time after time.
For Trump however, it would not be the standard hemlock imbibed by his predecessors, but more a case of welcoming into his Administration a Trojan Horse. It is, as journalist Robert Parry rightly asserts, a Trojan Horse carrying the neocons right back into the heart of foreign policy. It would result in “President Trump’s foreign policy sliding toward neoconservative orthodoxy on the Middle East …”.
What is “the bait” this time? Something very simple. Instead of Israel making peace with the Palestinians, leading to peace with the surrounding world, it would be the other way round: Israel would befriend the Arab world, which would then agree on some “solution” with Israel and impose it on the Palestinians.
This plan has been given a catchy sound-bite by Netanyahu: “Outside” (i.e. the Arab world), “in” (imposition on Palestinians), instead of “inside out.” The selling point is that the Palestinians are now so weak and divided, it is claimed, they have not the strength to object.
Leaving aside the fact that if the Israeli government had actually wanted a negotiated solution – the premise on which the 1993 Oslo Accords was founded (that it was in both parties’ interests to agree on a compromise) – there have been any number of occasions over the last quarter century, when Israel could have had one. History shows that Israel has always preferred continuing the (so-called) Peace Process to actually concluding peace. This understanding of the situation is common ground for both American and European officials, who have been part of “the process” over the years, (of which I was one).
The Wrong Starting Point
But for Trump, it is not the probability of failure in this venture that makes the Israeli initiative potentially so damaging, but rather that to launch his foreign policy from this platform may well prove lethal to his wider aims. Where you start matters. It matters a lot. It dictates the subsequent alignment of alliances.
Initially (and perhaps it still is so), Trump’s start point was détente with Russia. In terms of his aim to transform America’s foreign policy, that made sense. And one can understand why President Trump might be treading somewhat slowly on Russia, in the wake of the Deep State coup against Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the continuing attrition aimed against the President, but simply, were he to pursue his son-in-law’s plan, Trump will be handing over his foreign policy to the neocons.
Why? Because if Trump wants the Arab world (and Saudi Arabia in particular), to help Israel impose a settlement on the Palestinians, Trump will have to embrace Israel’s false narrative that Iran is the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. And, Trump equally will have to pay court to the equally false Israeli narrative of the threat of the Iranian “nuclear bomb.” He already has, at his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It has never been Iran’s non-existent “bomb” that has concerned Israeli security officials: It has been Iran’s conventional military power and even more so, its soft, revolutionary power.
It is precisely this back-to-front neocon world view that has so corrupted American foreign policy: America, for decades now, has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia and Gulf States who finance, arm and support terrorist movements (such as Al Qaeda), while labeling Iran, which actually fights and defeats these “jihadists,” as the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. One really cannot get it more back-to-front. This is now more widely understood by the American public, yet the neocons never pull back; they never desist in trying to tie America to the Saudi Arabia-Israeli axis and to promote phobia towards Iran.
Will President Trump see the danger? His vaunted “war” on radical Islam will be laughed off the stage in the Middle East – as was Obama’s – if he is seen to have aligned himself this way: with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It will be viewed in the Middle East as another round of America “at war” with terrorism, and tucked up “in bed” with it, too.
And in Moscow, eyebrows too, will be raised at such a strategic alignment: Will Trump be any more serious than Obama in defeating radical jihadists, policy-makers in Russia may be asking? It will be yet another question mark to put beside the bigger question mark arising from President Trump’s acceptance of General Flynn’s resignation.
Journalist Pepe Escobar notes that “even before Flynn’s fall, Russian analysts had been avidly discussing whether President Trump is the new Victor Yanukovich – [the Ukrainian President] who failed to stop a color revolution on his doorstep.”
This has become a key question. Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador over an open telephone line (which he will have known to be routinely monitored by the security services), broke no rules: He spoke, as any diplomat about to assume office might. There was nothing improper in his conduct.
A British Shadow Foreign Secretary would be constantly in touch with foreign Ambassadors. It is expected, and required of him or her. If there were any breaking of rules, it would seem to have occurred elsewhere: in the intelligence services perhaps, or in the Department of Justice. The rules are that you do not intentionally tap your own officials (or about to be officials), and should this occur inadvertently, their identity and their contribution to the conversation should be minimized, i.e., redacted under privacy rules. Never should it leak.
And if there is a puzzle to this episode, it lies not so much in Flynn’s conduct, but in the response by the President. So, Vice President Mike Pence was miffed that General Flynn had been economical with his account of events to him. Why not call them both in: tell Flynn to apologize and Pence to accept the apology? End it there. Why give a scalp to Deep State opponents?
A puzzle it remains. Eli Lake on Bloomberg View draws out the wider implications: “…unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government.
“Flynn was a fat target for the national security state. He has cultivated a reputation as a reformer and a fierce critic of the intelligence community leaders he once served with when he was the director the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Flynn was working to reform the intelligence-industrial complex, something that threatened the bureaucratic prerogatives of his rivals.
“He was also a fat target for Democrats. Remember Flynn’s breakout national moment last summer was when he joined the crowd at the Republican National Convention from the dais calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed.
“In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.
“In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. [Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin] Nunes told me Monday night, that this will not end well. ‘First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,’ he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entrée.”
So this is the question: Has the Deep State already neutered Trump’s foreign policy? It is too early to tell, but there are straws in the wind suggesting that Trump’s policy might be sliding towards neocon orthodoxy on Russia (as well as on Palestine), as Moon of Alabama web site observed:
“[On Feb. 14] the White House spokesperson said: President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.
“[On Feb. 15] Trump tweeted: Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
4:42 AM – 15 Feb 2017
“That is a position Trump had not previously taken. ‘Return Crimea’ is a no-no to any current and future Russian government. If Trump insists on this, the prospective détente is already dead.”
Flynn’s sacrifice does not allow a final judgment to be made. On the bigger chessboard, Trump has decided that “a pawn” can be sacrificed. The General had certain qualities (the ruthlessness perhaps necessary to wield an axe to the intelligence agencies), but also he had displayed a lack of political “nous” and basic understanding in Flynn’s book, The Field of Fight, (that unwisely he had co-authored with neocon Michael Leeden). Trump chose not to risk a more important piece to defend a pawn (especially as one more important “piece” (Bannon) reportedly was calling for this pawn to be sacrificed).
The question, finally, is about Trump’s character: Has he the “steel” to “drain the swamp”? Can he recruit tough-minded allies within the Deep State, ready to conduct a vicious internal war and to purge it thoroughly? Can he eliminate the sleeper cells from within his own administration? Tweets will not be enough. He will have to act soon.
Or else, will he “slide” (towards the neocons), and take the Netanyahu bait. And fall into the embrace of the neocon alignment with the Saudi-Israeli axis – and, having absorbed the basic hook of Iranophobia, go on to try to split President Putin from Iran (and China), in true neocon style?
This portends a vicious internal war within the U.S. – for even were the Deep State “color revolution” to succeed, it would not represent the end of the war, but perhaps the loss of a major battle within the wider war.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.
Iran still the victim of unshakable Israeli influence over the UK’s political establishment
Here in the UK the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has initiated a judicial review in a bid to halt UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia on suspicion that they are being used against civilians in Yemen. The indiscriminate nature of Saudi air-strikes makes it highly likely that British weaponry is being deployed in breach of international humanitarian law.
The slaughter has been going on for nearly 2 years leading to a humanitarian crisis of appalling magnitude and great cruelty. Since the Yemen campaign began the British government has granted export licences for more than £3.3 billions worth of war equipment when there was a “clear risk” that some of it would be used in violation of all norms of human conduct.
It is claimed that the Government has ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and some records of expressed concern have gone missing. This is no great surprise when we discover that export licensing is overseen by none other than the Secretary of State for international trade, Liam Fox. For Fox has ‘form’ as a crazed stooge of Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran.
Fox, while Secretary of State for Defence, was quoted on the Conservative Friends of Israel website as saying: “… We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”
And in June 2015 Fox declared: “It is logical to assume that Iran’s intentions are to develop a nuclear weapons capability and any claims that its intentions are exclusively peaceful should not be regarded as credible… Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be seen outside the context of its support for terror proxies, arguably the defining feature of its foreign policy. The risks are clear.”
Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011 following scandalous goings-on between him, his ‘close friend’ Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel (Matthew Gould) and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.
Just lately prime minister Theresa May has accused Iran of working with Hezbollah, interfering in Iraq, sending fighters to Syria to help Assad, and supporting the Houthis in the conflict in Yemen. The British Government, of course, can meddle where it pleases and recently concluded another huge arms deal with the Saudis which, says Mrs May, is for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. She argues that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe: “Gulf security is our security.”
However, public pressure to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia is now so great that the Government has adopted a new export licensing scheme that hides the value and scale of weaponry being supplied.
The reason for the British Government’s current hostility towards Iran was plain from what David Cameron told the Knesset in 2014: “A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world not just Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.” That position carries forward into the present day and beyond, and serves as an excuse for the rednecks who rule our political swamp to carry on being unpleasant to the Muslim world.
Oh, How he loves these Photo Ops!
Theresa May lost no time in welcoming Mr Netanyahu to London. The two leaders this week agreed to establish a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group to strengthen their existing trade and investment relationship and “to prepare the ground for a post-Brexit trade agreement”. What good that will do in the face of rising popularity among the public of boycotting everything Israeli remains to be seen.
Regional issues including Syria and Iran are to be on the agenda for discussion. And regarding Palestine May repeated the mantra that “We remain committed to a two-state solution as the best way of building stability and peace for the future”…. though she doesn’t say what that will look like.
Netanyahu also met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and they sat alongside the desk on which the Balfour Declaration was composed in 1917. As for the forthcoming Balfour Declaration centenary celebrations, a statement said that May invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend events taking place in the UK “as a Guest of Government” and that Prime Minister Netanyahu “also invited her to visit him in Israel”.
Netanyahu didn’t miss the opportunity to warn that Iran “seeks to annihilate Israel” and called on nations to back renewed sanctions against the Iranian regime.
I looked up one of my old reports about how Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, argued five years ago that British policy was being driven in an underhand fashion by the Israel lobby. He linked Matthew Gould, the then British ambassador to Israel, with the Fox-Werritty scandal and raised questions about meetings between Gould, Liam Fox and Fox’s strange friend Adam Werritty. Werritty was referred to as Fox’s adviser but according to reports he was backed financially by Israel lobbyists and had no security clearance and therefore no authorised role.
Murray, with many useful contacts from his days as an ambassador, claimed to have serious evidence connecting Gould with a secret plan to attack Iran, but the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Secretary blocked questions. Murray published his story ‘Matthew Gould and the plot to attack Iran’ here.
In it he pointed out that “Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as ‘not just an ambassador who is jewish, but a jewish ambassador’. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.”
He went on to say that Gould stood suspected of participating with Fox and Werritty “in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in co-operation with Israel”. The stonewalling by the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office led Murray to conclude that “something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government”.
Labour MP Paul Flynn remarked that no previous ambassadors to Israel had been Jewish so that a conflict of interest and accusations of going native would be avoided. He was immediately rebuked. Flynn also asked about meetings between Werritty and Gould, as some reports suggested that Gould, Werritty and Fox discussed a potential military strike on Iran with Mossad. “I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories,” said Flynn, “but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran.”
Fox had earlier made the idiotic claim: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies”, and the Jewish Chronicle hailed him as “a champion of Israel within the government”. Furthermore Fox continually rattled the sabre against Iran which, of course, is no threat to Britain but regarded by Israel as a bitter enemy. Iraq too was Israel’s enemy, not ours. Yet Fox, according to the theyworkforyou.com, voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Afghanistan.
Given that Fox so eagerly waved the flag of a foreign military power and was a man with dangerous beliefs and demonstrably weak judgement, how could those who appointed him not see that he was unfit to serve as a Minister of the British Crown – unless they were similarly tainted?
When the Werritty relationship came to light Fox jumped before being flung from the battlements. But instead of melting into obscurity he has now been rehabilitated into the senior ranks of Government and is once again a Minister of the Crown. And after watching the trail blazed by our former Jewish ambassador to the Jewish State, we now gawp with fascination at the inevitably messy conflicts of interest arising from Trump’s pick for US ambassador to Israel – David Friedman, a Jewish lawyer with scant respect for international law or Middle East sensitivities.
Despite the strong whiff of misconduct David Cameron rewarded Gould with head of The Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA), which includes e-crime, working with private sector partners on exchanging information, and engaging with international partners in improving the security of cyberspace and information security. Did it seem right for such a person to be in charge of crucial security matters at the heart of our Government? What was in fellow Zionist David Cameron’s mind when he appointed him?
Could it have had anything to do with the UK-Israel academic collaboration ventures with cyber research funding, which involve partnerships between British and Israeli universities and cover research areas such identity management, regulating cyber security, privacy assurance, mobile and cloud security, human aspects of security, and cryptography?
Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on digital co-operation in March 2014. And Gould’s new appointment came at a time when the Cameron government was lecturing us on threats to national security and announcing plans to trawl through our personal emails and web browsers in order to “keep us safe”. Question was, who would trawl Gould’s private emails?
The vipers in our bosom
CAAT expect a decision on the judicial review on arms to Saudi Arabia in 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime an undercover Al Jazeera report has revealed that a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Shai Masot, was plotting with stooges among British MPs and other vipers in the political snake-pit to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan, a noted sympathiser of the Palestinian’s struggle. This should have resulted in the expulsion of the ambassador himself, the Israeli propaganda maestro and Netanyahu’s pet, Mark Regev, who took up the post last year. Regev is the sort of person no sensible government would let into their country. But he was let off the hook and the affair hurriedly smoothed over with an announcement from the Foreign Office that the matter was closed.
Craig Murray, however, has been digging again. The Foreign Office deflected his many questions and dismissed the idea that Masot was anything more than a member of the technical and administrative staff at the embassy. “This is plainly a nonsense,” says Murray. “Masot, as an ex-Major in the Israeli Navy and senior officer in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is plainly senior to many who are on the Diplomatic List.” He concludes that the Foreign Office is complicit in “a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, was so astonishingly muted.”
All this and the recent UN resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s continuing squats on Palestinian land as illegal and an obstacle to peace, has done nothing to disturb the cosy relationship between Her Majesty’s Government and the obnoxious Israelis
On the contrary, after May’s meeting with Netanyahu a Downing Street spokesperson said they focused on, yes, cyber security: “In their discussions, the Prime Ministers committed to working together to build on our longstanding relationship and the strong ties that already exist between our two countries in a wide range of areas, from trade and investment, to innovation and technology, and defence and security. They talked about the important work we do together on intelligence-sharing and cyber-security, and committed to talk further about how we can deepen this cooperation, to help keep our people safe”.
Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Aramco) has chosen the New York-based boutique investment bank Moelis & Co to advise on its initial public offering, reports say.
The sale of the world’s biggest oil company is the latest of several moves by the Saudi government to generate revenues in the face of a gaping budget deficit.
Aramco had invited banks in January to pitch for an advisory position on what is expected to be the world’s biggest initial public offering.
JPMorgan, which has been Aramco’s commercial banker for years, and Michael Klein, a former star Citigroup banker, had been advising Saudi authorities on the IPO.
However, the kingdom’s decision to pick a small banker has surprised many observers. International business outlets such as Bloomberg and the Financial Times said the choice represents a coup for Moelis founded no earlier than 2007.
The IPO, which is predicted to raise about $100 billion, is set to yield millions of dollars in fees and push Moelis up in global investment bank rankings.
Last year, Moelis hired Shlomo Yanai, a retired Israeli military officer, to join the firm as a senior adviser. Yanai had earlier been offered the directorship of the Israeli spy agency Mossad by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but he turned it down.
The oil giant’s initial public offering, holding $2 trillion in assets, is expected to take place in 2018 with an initial sale of a five-percent share.
According to Bloomberg, Aramco expects Moelis to help it select underwriters for the sale, make decisions on potential listing venues and ensure the IPO goes smoothly.
Saudi Arabia is currently dealing with a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion caused by a sharp slump in oil prices as well as Riyadh’s rising military expenditure. The kingdom emerged as the world’s third largest military spender in 2015 when it began its military campaign against Yemen.
The Saudis have also been forced to introduce a series of austerity measures that include canceling of some bonuses offered to state employees and increasing of entry visa fees for residents and foreigners.
The ruling Saudi family will transfer the revenue from the sale of Aramco to the country’s public investment fund (PIF), which will then be tapped to purchase strategic financial and industrial assets abroad.
Within days of the flawed roll-out for Trump’s Executive Orders regarding Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the President’s promises on the campaign trail and his Inaugural Address that the US would not pursue regime change or initiate new foreign interventions and that his administration would pursue a new foreign policy based on engagement, have been called into question.
The week began with President Trump praising, as a success, the administration’s first attack on al Qaeda in Yemen which inexplicably included special ops from UAE. Reports state that the group of Navy Seals unexpectedly walked into an hour long fire fight which contained elements of an ambush including hand grenades and a certain amount of panic with indiscriminate gunfire; leaving one Navy Seal dead with several injured, at least a dozen civilians dead including an eight year old girl and destroyed a $75 million Osprey – you might say the raid was more of the same kind of failure with which the US military has some long-standing familiarity. Black Hawk Down in 1993 comes to mind.
Described by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer as a “very, very well-thought out and executed raid”, the mission began on November 7 when the Pentagon presented President Obama with a plan. From there, the proposed raid went through all the necessary channels arriving in front of Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis on January 24th. Mattis approved and forwarded the plan to the White House for the President’s approval which he gave the next day at a dinner which included several key staff members including special assistants to the White House Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon and after consulting with National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn.
All of the reviews and approvals, however, did not guarantee success as there is reason to believe that the alQ stronghold was expecting an American raid with armed female and AQ snipers on a rooftop. After the raid, anonymous U.S. military officials told Reuters that “Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” In addition, Reuters quoted three unnamed US military officials that “the attacking SEAL team found itself dropped into a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.” This does not sound like a surprise raid but more like a disaster waiting to happen.
These unprecedented ‘leaks’ indicate an undercutting of the Administration by anonymous military officials who are in direct contradiction to the timeline as presented by Spicer that the entire plan had been appropriately vetted by the government’s foreign policy structure – with the exception of Rex Tillerson who had not yet been confirmed as Secretary of State.
It has been said that the mission needed to receive a green light to take advantage of a Moonless night and that the mission was to acquire certain computer hard drives with speculation that there was some urgency of obtaining the intel contained potentially embarrassing data regarding the interconnections between the terrorists and certain foreign nations which support terrorists. In any case, it was a botched mission that was poorly planned and executed and appears to have a major security problem given the unauthorized disclosures by anonymous military officials who disagreed about what the public has been told about the raid. So which is it – was the raid properly vetted and the right questions asked – or was it insufficiently vetted?
US CommCentral released the clip that they say was obtained from a series of videos during the raid which shows a black hooded individual giving instructions on how to make a do-it-yourself bomb. The clip, which has no audio and its written instructions are written in perfect English, is now reported to be a decade old AQ training video [sourced from SITE]. It is assumed that the President’s Monday trip to Central Command and Special Ops in Florida was not just a get-to-know-you visit.
As if that were not enough faux pas for the week, General Flynn took an unprecedented place on center stage at a press conference sounding like the Commandant of Stalag 19, stridently warning Iran and spouting old, worn out rhetoric that the “Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermines security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East which places American lives at risk. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
The accusations came after Iran reportedly fired a test of a medium-range ballistic missile on February 1st with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stating that “The test did not violate the nuclear deal or (U.N.) Resolution 2231″ and that “… we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs,” striking a chord with Trump’s Inaugural statement that “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
On the heels of Flynn’s rant, the Trump administration quickly announced economic sanctions on twenty five Iranian individuals and entities that have unnecessarily escalated tensions with:
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in and supports violent activities that destabilize the Middle East.”
“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. “
“The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”
The Flynn/Trump obsession against Iran has little basis in rational thought and is not the kind of nation-building and “forming of new alliances” that the President promised in his Inaugural address. Flynn may be myopic on the subject of Iran since Iran supported the insurgents in Iraq during the US invasion in 2003 but he may also be blowing smoke with the realization that the administration must know that any serious effort to eliminate ‘radical Islamic terrorists’ will be dependent upon Iran’s participation.
As Ron Paul has repeatedly suggested, Iran has every reason to want its own nuclear capability, if only as a defensive mechanism to protect itself from Israel and the US. A spokesperson for the EU foreign policy chief in Brussels said that the “Iranian ballistic missile program was not part of the 2015 nuclear pact and hence the tests are not a violation of it.”
On February 3rd, President Trump tweeted “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!” to which Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted “We will never, I repeat never, use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.”
If the Trump Administration believes Iran is in violation of the Plan, they have the option to initiate a dispute resolution process or to engage the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to verify that Iran is in compliance. Iran says it will impose its own sanctions and release its own list of US-related ‘entities’ entwined with supporting terrorists.
With an imminent visit to the US, it is not outside the realm of possibility that all this Tough on Iran talk is to impress Bibi Netanyahu who hailed Flynn’s statement with “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered” which sounds reminiscent of Sen. John McCain. As if to tone down the US inflammatory reaction, new Defense Secretary James Mattis said he sees ‘no need to increase number of troops in the Middle East” in response to the Iranian missile crisis.
Of special interest will be how Trump deals with whatever demands Netanyahu has in his pocket and how Trump’s high regard for Israel may be affected, assuming that he is already apprised of Israel’s role in funding ISIS in Syria and its support and participation in fomenting terrorist actions throughout the Middle East. If Flynn/Trump are concerned with who is causing instability in the Middle East, they have no further to look than Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is difficult to image that Trump does not already have an appreciation for Netanyahu’s expectation to continue to run the show otherwise known as US foreign policy.
As if the Trump foreign policy objectives had not already experienced a week of upsets, contradictions and overall confusion, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s diatribe against Russia was stunning in its vitriolic attack on Russia alleging “aggressive actions of Russia” and “dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” In addition, Haley asserted, in contradiction to President Trump’s previous position on Crimea that “The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea” and that “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
In his February 3rd press conference, Trump press secretary backed up Haley with “I think Ambassador Haley made it very clear of our concern with Russia’s occupation of Crimea. We are not — and so I think she spoke very forcefully and clearly on that.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin responded that ‘the belligerent rhetoric toward Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis is nothing new” and that “it is Kiev that has escalated the situation there”. He also cited “OSCE reports and surveillance data which places the blame squarely on the Ukrainian government and not the rebel forces.”
After the initial shock at Haley’s level of hostility, an immediate reaction was that as a former Republican Governor of South Carolina, Haley had to have a working relationship with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), the alter ego of Sen. John McCain who remains an irrational proponent of intervention wherever possible around the globe and that her maiden speech before the Security Council had somehow gone askew as a more combative, divisive script found its way into her file.
However, U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, met with her Ukrainian counterpart “to reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a statement.
In view of another pending humanitarian disaster as a result of US intervention in Ukraine, the best that the State Department could do, prior to Tillerson taking office, was to issue a statement calling for a ceasefire and return to implementation of the Minsk Agreement.
It is reported, though unconfirmed, that soon after her speech, Haley visited Russian Ambassador Churkin at his home, presumably to reassure him that there was a bureaucratic snafu and that US policy toward Russia was not accurately reflected in her introductory remarks.
As a result of a week of significant snafus, the Trump Administration has either caved in to neo-con pressure like Eliot Abrams (convicted of lying to Congress during Iran-Contra) who is currently vying for the Deputy Secretary position at the State Department or they are dealing with repeated staff blunders and turmoil that are seriously threatening any hope of credibility for Trump’s oft-stated foreign policy goals.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
The United States has highlighted a recent missile test by Iran and imposed new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Washington claims the missile test is violating the spirit of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries including the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. Iran ruled out the allegation explaining that the test has nothing to do with the nuclear agreement. According to the nuclear deal, Iran must avoid testing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
America is worried about Iranian military might because it sees Iran as a regional power whose deterrent might can be a big hurdle in the way of the United States’ hegemonic intervention in the Middle East, said Kaveh Afrasiabi, an author and political scientist.
The US is not genuinely concerned about the Iranian missile being nuclear capable, “their real concern is Iran’s military strength that’s deterrent vis-à-vis America’s intrusive force in the region,” Afrasiabi told Press TV’s Top 5.
The American officials are “doing whatever they can in order to diminish the Iranian power in the region,” he said on Friday night.
Since Tehran is facing a lot of security threats from the United States, Iran has the right to enhance its defensive capabilities to confront any potential American aggression when needed, the analyst argued.
The UN Resolution 2231, which endorses the nuclear deal dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), underlines implementation of obligations of the accord as an international agreement.
Afrasiabi went on to say that “Iran’s missile technology is for deterrent purposes” and there is no evidence to support Americans’ allegations against Iranian missile program.
Russia and other world powers do not believe in what the United States says about Iran’s missiles, because they are aware the Islamic Republic does not have any nuclear weapons program that could be connected to its missile technology, he noted.
The commentator also expressed hope some rational figures among the Trump administration would prevent hawkish American elements from pushing the US into another war in the Middle East.
The US government has blacklisted 13 individuals and a dozen businesses under the Iran sanctions authority, a day after President Donald Trump’s administration threatened a response over Tehran’s ballistic missile tests.
The Treasury Department posted a listing on Friday, naming the individuals and the companies added to the sanctions list. Eight of the individuals are listed as Iranian citizens, three appear to be Chinese, and two Arab.
Most of the businesses listed in the announcement are based in Iran, though one of the entities is located in the United Arab Emirates, two are in China, and three are in Lebanon.
“Today’s action is part of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad,” said John E. Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States,” Smith said. “We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior.”
Meanwhile, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole arrived in the waters off the coast of Yemen on Friday, where it will conduct patrols to “protect waterways” from the Houthi rebels, unnamed US officials told reporters.
“Iran is unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people,” Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said ahead of the announcement. “We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense,” he added later.
We have witnessed big payoffs to the Pentagon in the form of the ability to sell arms to the Saudis – at least to $200 billion estimated over two decades – to American arms makers, Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, told RT.
US House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi lashed out at the Trump administration’s handling of the conflict in Yemen on CNN, after a Yemeni refugee in one of the programs told the tragic story of her family.
Pelosi said that girl’s family is suffering because the US president “is reckless and his administration is incompetent.”
However, Pelosi failed to acknowledge the Obama administration’s own contribution to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen due to arms contracts and other forms of cooperation with Riyadh.
RT: Why did US Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi focus on Trump’s travel ban and not the real reasons for the suffering of the girl’s family?
Gareth Porter: Well, Nancy Pelosi is the Democratic leader in the House, the minority leader in the House of Representatives. She is going to support the partisan position on this question of policy toward Yemen, which means that she’s going to be unwilling to acknowledge the responsibility of the Obama administration for the war that has afflicted the population of Yemen, and is now a humanitarian catastrophe, as far as I know, the worst in the world, or at least in that part of the Middle East.
It seems to be much more serious than the crisis in Syria in terms of the actual danger to millions of people; in terms of their access to food. Therefore, we have a situation where there is a great deal of famine already or, at least close to famine-like conditions in Yemen, because of the bombing carried out by the US ally, Saudi Arabia.
RT: In December, just a month before Obama left office, his administration decided to limit military support to Saudi Arabia on concern over civilian casualties. What do you make of the timing of that decision?
GP: Well, I think the point about that decision by the Obama administration is that it was far too little, far too late. It was merely a reduction in US support for the war that is direct support by the US personnel taking part in the assistance to the Saudis in Riyadh. It did not end the really crucial aspects of the Obama administration’s assistance to the Saudis and their allies, which was primarily to provide the refueling for the planes that have carried out the air attacks, which have so completely destroyed the society in large parts of Yemen – in more than half of Yemen. This is the crucial issue, which the Obama administration has never been willing to deal with in terms of its complicity with the war crimes of the Saudi government and its allies.
In addition to that, after months of this bombing which Amnesty International regards as filled with war crimes, because of the deliberate targeting of cities that were regarded as supportive of the Houthis, the US then renewed the agreement to provide bombs to the Saudi government for carrying out this war. So it was in effect a sort of public support for the Saudi war. The US still remains completely complicit in this war…
RT: Critics are branding the US approach to Yemen, one of ‘cautious approval,’ on the one hand, keep supplying the Saudis with arms, on the other staying silent on the country’s growing humanitarian catastrophe. What’s your take on that approach?
GP: Well, my take is that what is happening here – the Obama administration has been essentially tied to the Saudi interests in Yemen, as they have been in Syria to a great extent of the past by the degree to which the permanent government in the US – the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA – all have very, very close relations with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia. Arrangements which have provided big payoffs to the Pentagon and these other agencies in the form of the ability to sell arms to the Saudis – at least to $200 billion estimated over two decades – to American arms makers, and the contracts with the Saudis to provide intelligence services by the CIA and NSA, which are very lucrative for those agencies.
So these war powers in the US are very unwilling to have any US policy that would criticize, much less take away, support for the Saudi war so that these arrangements can continue. I am very much afraid that the Trump administration will be subject to the same logic, the same political forces that have kept the Obama administration from taking any responsibility for what is going on in Yemen.