The Levant is now Russia’s stage of influence and operations – And the US knows it – By Elijah J. Magnier (ejmagnier.com) (SOTT)

russian mps undof golan

Russian forces with the UNDOF on the 1974 line with Israel.

Russian military police forces have established eight static positions along the 1974 disengagement line and have registered a strong presence with UNDOF observer forces on the occupied Golan Heights line. Moreover, a Russian force headed by a Russian General arrived, for the second time this year, at the Lebanese Hezbollah post at the Syrian-Lebanese borders at al-Jdeideh. The Russians wanted to establish communication equipment, dishes, and electronics in the same area controlled by Hezbollah. The Lebanese organisation maintains a substantial force in the area after defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS early this year. Hezbollah’s presence is said to be focused on preventing the smuggling of weapons and jihadist Takfiris between the two countries. It is clear that Russia is expanding its control, slowly but surely, over the Levant. However, it is still unclear how far the Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to go.

High ranking sources operating in Syria confirmed to me that “a Russian General arrived with a unit at al-Jdeideh asking to establish a communication system and dishes connecting the Russian forces deployed in the area with a military base in Hmeymim and with Moscow, considered to be the centre of the entire Russian and Syria military operation since mid-2015. The Russian unit wanted to use Hezbollah’s location but was asked to choose another one much higher and further away. Following a quick inspection of the place, the Russian General accepted the offer and based his men at a distance from Hezbollah.”

According to these sources, there are tens of thousands of Russian troops spread all over Syria, with the exception of the north, occupied by Turkey and the US.

There is no doubt that Russia has reached an understanding with the US that the Levant has become its own operational stage and area of influence. This will lead to an expansion of Russian forces all over Syrian territory without exception. This also means that Moscow won’t accept the presence of al-Qaeda or “Hurras al-Deen” or whatever name the group hides behind, and therefore will work towards taking away the territory it is controlling to-date (even if eliminating the ideology is not possible.)

In the south, Syria’s allies (Hezbollah and Iran) have pulled back their troops because the reason for their presence has come to an end following the liberation of all borders and the elimination of ISIS in the Quneitra pocket. These forces have taken up another position facing ISIS in the east of Suweida province and in al-Badiya to eliminate the last ISIS presence in the area. The Idlib battle seems to have been halted to give the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan time to regroup his proxies and move al-Qaeda away from the territory he controls in north-east Syria.

The south of Syria has returned to the control of the Syrian government and only Syrian forces remain in Suweida, Daraa and Quneitra provinces, as was the case prior to 2011, the year the war on Syria began. The presence of Iranian advisors continues to be registered in every Syrian unit, offering advice and coordination with the central command and control in various provinces.

Russian forces are reaching distant territories in Syria, even areas that are not under threat. The Russian command does not consider Hezbollah an enemy force; on the contrary, as a Russian General told Hezbollah forces in al-Jdeideh: “You are our allies, we want to be next to you and we are not asking you to leave”.

This put the Hezbollah forces at ease and they asked their command for advice. Another location, not very far away from the one chosen by the General, was indicated to him. The General accepted the new location and based his men on higher ground to install his sophisticated equipment.

It is not clear if Russia will ever ask Hezbollah to leave Syria, or even to leave the Syrian-Lebanese borders. If Moscow does one day decide to take over the entire Syrian-Israeli dossier (securing a peace agreement and the return of occupied territory), it is most unlikely that such an audacious step will be successful. Israel is not ready for peace nor to give back the wealthy and strategic Golan Heights to Syria. This will limit Russian president’s freedom of action and confront him with the very complicated reality of the Middle Eastern dossier Russia has been absent from since 1990. Dealing with Hezbollah’s presence in Syria in the near future is most unlikely even if the Lebanese organisation has no intention of confronting Russia or nor of competing with Russia in the Levant.

Israel is not only unwilling to let go of the Syrian and Lebanese occupied territories but is even escalating its demands: During the Netanyahu-Lavrov meeting, Israel requested the withdrawal of all Iranian forces, the removal of all long range and accurate missiles from Syria, and the cessation of all weapon shipments from Syria to Lebanon-Hezbollah.

Russia can’t and won’t ask Iran to leave Syria because Tehran is a part of the strategic alliance with President Assad within the “Axis of Resistance.” Moreover, it can’t ask Syria to stop arming itself because it is the same Russia that is providing and equipping the Syrian army. It can’t ask Damascus to stop the transit of weapons through its territory either, because Syria and Hezbollah are tied by a very strong bond. Indeed, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad opened his warehouses to Hezbollah when the Israelis attacked Lebanon in 2006, and the organisation rushed to support Assad in the war imposed on Syria in 2011.

Russia is also struggling with Israel’s continuous bombing and violations of Syrian air space. Moreover, Tel Aviv continues to say that it has the “right to defend itself” by bombing targets in Syria.

Even if the battle of Idlib has been postponed to allow Turkey to “cleanse” the city first from al-Qaeda, the battle against the vestiges of ISIS is ready and will aim to put an end to the group’s control of all territory, restoring it to Syrian army control. However, the final chapter of the war in the Middle East hasn’t yet been written. The balance in the Levant is bigger than Middle Eastern players now that Russia has decided to continue its heavy involvement in Syria. The presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops is the best witness to this. Russia will manage to push the US away from Syria, but this doesn’t mean it has become the only partner for Middle Eastern countries.

Proofreading by: Ollie Richardson @O_Rich_

If you read this reporting and you like it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

About the Author

Veteran War Zone Correspondent and Senior Political Risk Analyst with over 35 years’ experience covering the Middle East and acquiring in-depth experience, robust contacts and political knowledge in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Specialised in terrorism and counter-terrorism, intelligence, political assessments, strategic planning and thorough insight in political networks in the region. Covered on the ground the Israeli invasion to Lebanon (1st war 1982), the Iraq-Iran war, the Lebanese civil war, the Gulf war (1991), the war in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1996), the US invasion to Iraq (2003 to date), the second war in Lebanon (2006), the war in Libya and Syria (2011 to date). Lived for many years in Lebanon, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria.

US “waste, fraud and abuse” in Afghanistan has cost $15.5billion – And counting – By RT

money changer

© Jalil Ahmad / Reuters
FILE PHOTO: A money changer counts US dollar banknotes at a market in Herat province, Afghanistan, on June 3, 2018.

Billions of tax dollars have been lost on “waste, fraud and abuse” and spent on massive reconstruction projects in Afghanistan that utterly failed and even contributed to corruption, a US government watchdog has said.

As much as $15.5 billion spent by the US to rebuild Afghanistan over 11 years has effectively gone to waste, the US government’s leading oversight authority on the issue, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said in its response to a request by three members of Congress.

The estimated amount of mismanaged funds accounted for 29 percent of the total sum audited by SIGAR, the report said. However, it also warned that the examined spending of $52.7 billion amounts to only a fraction of the total sum of $126 billion which has been appropriated for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. “Our products have likely uncovered only a portion of the total waste, fraud, abuse, and failed efforts,” the SIGAR head, John Sopko said in a statement.

The analysis conducted by SIGAR mostly covered the period between the watchdog’s inception in 2008 and 2017, the report says. The document also reports that most of the mismanaged funds were spent on just two major projects that failed to deliver any tangible results.

“The $4.7 billion spent on ‘stabilization programs’ in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017 was largely unsuccessful in building and reforming government institutions in Afghanistan,” the report says, adding that US money, on the contrary, “often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents.”

The fight against drug production and trafficking turned out to be another major US failure in Afghanistan as, according to the SIGAR, “almost $7.3 billion spent by the United States in Afghanistan on counternarcotics programs appears to have done very little to stem the production and exportation of illicit drugs.” The watchdog also says that the illegal drug business in Afghanistan “still thrives” while opium production stands “at the highest levels since 2002.”

Between $2.2 billion and $3.5 billion were also lost in as many as 643 other “instances of waste, fraud and abuse,” the US government watchdog said. “The U.S. government overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan as part of the stabilization strategy, and set unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved. As a result, US government agencies spent far too much money, far too quickly, and in a country woefully unprepared to absorb it.”

The watchdog also criticized the approach Washington used to assess its success in rebuilding the country that the US and its allies invaded back in 2001. “Money spent was often the metric of success, instead of more nuanced performance metrics,” it said.

The facts presented in the report provoked a wave of outrage from members of Congress that filed the request to the SIGAR. “As the SIGAR report shows, reconstruction programs in Afghanistan have been mismanaged and poorly run for years. This level of wasteful spending is simply staggering and unacceptable,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R – Michigan) said in a Twitter post, commenting on the issue.

“We are now 17 years into the endless war in Afghanistan. This report barely scratches the surface of its enormous human and financial toll. I applaud [Inspector General John] Sopko for his persistent efforts to put a spotlight on rampant waste and fraud in Afghanistan spending. Congress must do its job and take action to end it,” Rep. Peter Welch (D- Vermont), said.

“The clock continues to run on this 17-year endless war while congressional leaders look the other way, refusing to allow us to vote on the war or conduct oversight of its wasteful spending,” he added in a Tweet.

Rep. Walter Jones (R – North Carolina) vented his fury in a statement published on his website:”Tragically, $15.5 billion is only the verified amount of wasted money – the number is much greater. That is why we are requesting other agencies for an in-depth review of tax dollar usage within their jurisdiction. The American people deserve a better understanding of where their money is going – to the black hole, known as Afghanistan.”

“It is time. Enough blood and money has been shed in Afghanistan,” he added.

Reports on US funds being improperly used on some projects for Afghanistan have been coming for years. In 2015, it was reported that the Pentagon spent $36 million on constructing a command facility in Afghanistan that was unused by any troops. A year later, another report said that the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Pentagon wasted another $90 million on an airplane designed to identify drug-producing sites in Afghanistan, which never left its hangar.

In 2017, the SIGAR itself reported that the US lost some $9.7 million in assets in Afghanistan since 2012 because of the army’s negligence, while some of the resources on which the money were spent might have ended up in the hands of the US enemies.

Back in December 2017, US President Donald Trump complained that Washington “foolishly spent” $7 trillion in the Middle East, arguing that all that money could have been spent to rebuild the US instead. According to the USAID, Washington spent some $164.3 billion worth of aid on both Afghanistan and another country the US invaded – Iraq. This figure fades in comparison to what the US has spent on its military adventures in the Middle East.

Comment: One can be sure that some of this ‘wasted’ money hasn’t been wasted at all and instead found its way into the hands of the people it was intended for; whether that be the US’ proxy-army in the middle east, ISIS, or as fraudulent projects with the intent to funnel the money elsewhere:

Also check out SOTT radio’s:

Where it all began: Syrian Army liberates Daraa from western-backed terrorists – By Hugo Turner Anti-Imperialist U (SOTT)

syria daraa

Early in the Syrian war Daraa became a terrorist hotbed in part because it was extremely close to Israel and their illegally occupied Syrian territory the Golan Heights. Israel has made it abundantly clear that the Daraa terrorists are its terrorist proxies and it hoped to steal even more Syrian territory when Syria was destroyed. However with Eastern Ghouta liberated the Syrian Arab Army was finally able to turn its full attention to liberating Southern Syria. Israel has launched illegal airstrike after illegal airstrike in a desperate bid to save its terrorist proxies including ISIS. It has threatened to launch a region-wide war targeting not just Syria but Lebanon, Iraq, in addition of course to their endless ongoing war on the Palestinians, their butchery of women and children which will never cease until Palestine is liberated. However Syria refused to give in to Israeli or American threats. Syria along with its allies Iran and Hezbollah were prepared to fight a full-scale war if necessary. Russia after some foot dragging also decided to help the SAA liberate Daraa. Israel was forced to watch as their terrorist proxies were routed in a matter of months. The battle of Daraa is not over but it is clear that a decisive victory has already occurred. Syria has secured the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan liberated huge swathes of territory encircled the terrorists and cut off their supplies. Today July 12 they entered the southern part of the city of Daraa.

The war in Syria continues. ISIS have been launching increasing attacks in an attempt to save Daraa but Syria have been launching a major campaign to clear them out of their desert stronghold. Once Daraa is liberated the SAA may turn its attention to Idlib and to ejecting the Turks. The Syrians are holding secret negotiations with the Kurds who are rethinking their treachery after America has decided to let Turkey occupy more and more SDF held territory. Plans are already in place to kick out the American, British and Italian occupation forces with resistance groups being formed in the north of Syria. Unfortunately the Americans are stubborn, vindictive and very sore losers so there is no telling what new plan they are hatching to extend the war and bring still more misery to the long-suffering Syrian people. Even if the US forces do leave, the propaganda war against Syria could go on for decades. More tragically the economic war on Syria that began back in 2003 with sanctions on Syria will continue. Vital supplies needed to repair Syria, vital medicines and equipment needed to heal the people of Syria are being prevented from entering the country. There is no telling how many thousands of people have already died as a result of these sanctions which are usually overshadowed by the brutal crimes of the western backed terrorists.

Despite the obstacles they face Syria continues to march towards victory. With the help of its allies it has defeated America, Israel, NATO, the Saudis and the many other members of the axis of chaos. They have withstood untold misery and nearly every family has given a martyr to the cause of Syrian independence. When the war is won the balance of power will forever be shifted in the region and hopefully the empire will be forced to vacate Iraq and the Axis of resistance will be able to turn it’s attention to the liberation of Palestine. Unfortunately in much of the world the future is much bleaker.

Sources

Read the full article at Anti-Imperialist U.

Comment: The Syrian Army have now retaken the city of Daraa after encircling the last remaining terrorists within the southern part of the city. The “rebels” holding the area agreed to the terms of reconciliation offered by the Syrian government and Russian Reconciliation Center:

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has allowed the Russian military police to enter the districts they control in Daraa, as they begin the process of reconciliation.

In the next 48 hours, the Free Syrian Army is expected to handover their heavy and medium weapons to the Russian military police.

The Free Syrian Army fighters that do not want to reconcile with the Syrian government and the jihadist rebels from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham will be given safe passage to western Daraa.

As shown in the footage below, Russian military police were filmed entering the Daraa Al-Balad District that was controlled by the rebel forces for several years:

Here’s a map view of the Syrians’ progress (today, compared to January):

daraa map

© syria.liveuamap.com
daraa map

© syria.liveuamap.com

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations – By Alex GORKA (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations
Alex GORKA | 04.07.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Until now, it has been generally believed that the era of left rulers in Latin America was over. In December 2017, Sebastián Piñera of the National Renewal party, won in Chile after right-wing forces came to power in Argentina (2015) and Brazil (2016). Three leading economies of the continent had right-wing governments. It all changed on July 1 with the sweeping victory held by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate representing the country’s Left. His party Morena, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), was formed only in 2014 to lead Obrador to victory over other candidates from political parties that have ruled the country for the entire century. Now he has enough power for implementing drastic changes. The Mexican revolution took place 101 years ago. This is the first time the Left have come to power.

One of the president-elect’s promises was standing up to Donald Trump if need be. His election is a blow to the United States influence in Latin America. The US and newly elected Mexican presidents don’t see eye-to-eye on NAFTA, bilateral trade and border security.

During the race, Obrador had to deny the rumors that originated from the United States, not Mexico, that he had received money from Moscow. As in the course of the 2016 US election, the invented stories were spread around. Then US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he had seen “signs” of Russia’s meddling into Mexican election campaign. The affirmation was left unconfirmed as the official offered no details but US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) lost no time to chime in. So did Enrique Ochoa Reza, the chairman of the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party that lost the election. Rumors remained rumors but media did its part to make people believe the concoctions were true. Andres Obrador used the strongest weapon against lies – humor. He jibed the stories to win even more popular support.

During the 128 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations there were few downturns to cloud Russia’s relations with Mexico, the second most populous nation in Latin America with as estimated population of over 120 million, which boasts the fifteenth largest nominal GDP in the world and the eleventh largest by purchasing power parity. Its economy is strongly linked to NAFTA – the economic union US President Trump wants to end so much, replacing it with separate deals. Perhaps, this is the time for Mexico to diversify its economic partners. Russia, China and other BRICS nations can offer a good alternative to the rocky relationship with the northern partner having become so unpredictable recently. Obrador’s victory may provide an impetus to the development of Russian-Mexican ties, including energy, security and political interaction on the global stage.

The sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have prompted Moscow to expand contacts with other world economies. Russia has a strong diplomatic presence in such countries as Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Cuba. Promoting ties with the nations of the region through cooperation with CELAC is one of directions of Moscow’s foreign policy. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept states that “Russia remains committed to the comprehensive strengthening of relations with the Latin American and Caribbean States taking into account the growing role of this region in global affairs.”

Russia’s strongest trade relationships are Brazil and Mexico, which together account for about half of all of Russian trade in the continent. The Russian twin-engine MC-21 short-to-mid-range airliner with a capacity for between 150-211 passengers offers a potential lucrative deal Mexico has paid interest in. In January, the Mexican Association of Importers and Exporters (ANIERM) opened its trade office in Moscow. Mexico is eager to explore a partnership with Russia to purchase and assemble helicopters. Mi-35M and the Mi-28NE combat helicopters as well as Mi-17 military transport rotary wing aircraft are under consideration. Russia’s Lukoil energy giant has won two tenders to expand its drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Grupo Maseca and Nemak are operating in Russia.

Experts believe that Obrador’s election is a good chance to spur the Russian-Mexican cooperation in all spheres. President Putin also expressed hope that with Andrés Obrador at the helm, the bilateral relationship will get a new impetus. The two leaders will meet at the upcoming G20 summit, scheduled for November 30–December 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Israel bows to Russia’s will: Battle of South Syria coming to an end – By Elijah J. Magnier (ejmagnier.com)(SOTT)

As Trump and Xi Wage Trade Roar, Kim Sees Both Sides of His Bread Buttered – By Elliott Gabriel – (MINT PRESS)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, hosts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Dalian, China in this undated photo released on May, 9 2018 by KCNA.
How Not to Win a Trade War

 

Donald Trump has backed himself into a corner with his tariff-imposed trade war with China, undercutting the most important lynchpin of peace with North Korea.

BEIJING – Tremendous; great, incredible and tremendous; very historic, and very, very comprehensive. Such were the terms U.S. President Donald Trump used to praise last Tuesday’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and he was far from alone in welcoming what appeared to be a major breakthrough in burying the memory of nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

A week later, Chinese President Xi Jinping also hailed the “positive” outcome of the meeting as he welcomed Kim to Beijing for a two-day trip, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea chairman’s third visit to the Chinese capital in only three months.  

The Chinese leader has plenty of reason to hail the unfolding peace process, as it represents the triumph of the dual suspension or “double freeze” proposal China offered last year, which prescribed an end to the DPRK’s weapons’ tests in exchange for an end to U.S.-South Korea war games.

The process is also lifting the shroud of diplomatic and financial pressure from Beijing’s shoulders when dealing with its counterparts in Pyongyang, who are counting on China’s diplomatic and technical reinforcement as it introduces further market reforms and seeks reintegration with the global economy.

According to Chinese press reports, the two held a candid and in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations while agreeing to work closely together to further deepen ties, including joint efforts to denuclearize the peninsula.

“No matter the changes in the international and regional situation, China’s party and government’s resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change,” Chinese reports quoted Xi as saying.

The DPRK will require China’s assistance to ensure that the U.S. remains committed to fulfilling the security guarantees it gave to the country, rather than veering toward the so-called “Libya option” of disarming Pyongyang before proceeding to violently topple Kim.

While U.S.-DPRK negotiations have progressed at a stunning breakneck pace, they have also coincided with increasing strains in relations between Beijing and Washington, especially over the trade war Trump has launched against China.

 

Trade war heats up

As Chinese newspapers have brimmed over with quotes of officials hailing Trump’s U-turn on the Korean nuclear issue, the same media has spared no effort piling derision on the U.S. president’s successive introduction of tariffs on Chinese goods.

Just last week, Washington announced the introduction of a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion of Chinese goods, provoking Beijing’s retaliation in the form of its own tariffs on U.S. products. China’s reaction resulted in Trump demanding that the U.S. Trade Representative’s office compile a new list of $200 billion in goods that would be subject to a 10-percent tariff. The reality TV star noted that if China follows through on its threat to levy retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, the U.S. would introduce duties on yet another $200 billion in trade.

A giant TV screen broadcasting the meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, June 19, 2018. Andy Wong | AP

China has reacted furiously to what it sees as a blatant attempt at strong-arming it into accepting unfair trade terms, promising strong countermeasures to Trump’s “intimidation.” On Tuesday, a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman noted:

Such practice of imposing extreme pressure and blackmailing is contrary to the consensus the two sides have reached through rounds of consultations, and disappoints the international community …The trade war waged by the United States is against both the law of the market and the development trend of today’s world. It undermines the interests of both Chinese and American people, the interests of companies and the interests of the people all over the world.”

The backdrop of fierce trade negotiations bordering on an all-out trade war between the two major powers may have led to the DPRK finding itself in the crosshairs of love-bombing attempts by both Washington and Beijing.

For the famously shrewd U.S. president, the prospect of disrupting the Chinese relationship with North Korea may be seen as a means of depriving China of leverage in trade talks. The former real-estate mogul may well believe that loud promises of glistening timeshares along Mount Paektu and Ritz Carlton hotels along the country’s east coast will entice Kim to drop his nukes and join the U.S. fold.

 

China-DPRK relations supported by the weight of modern history

Meanwhile, Beijing has pulled out all stops in feting Kim during his visits, which acclimates global public opinion to the idea that “Chairman Kim” isn’t some horrific dictator who should be treated as a pariah unless the U.S. says otherwise – no, he’s just the head of state in a nation seeking development.

In the meantime, the Communist Party of China and Workers’ Party of Korea have promoted a range of exchanges meant to promote the “all-round” fraternal relations and “mutually beneficial” alliance between the historically-intertwined organizations, whose ties date back to the 1930s, when first-generation leaders of their respective parties like Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, fought as comrades-in-arms as guerilla fighters versus the Japanese.

For the DPRK leadership, which spent the Cold War practicing a policy of equidistance between its mutually-opposed allies the Soviet Union and China, the position is comfortable and allows Kim to enjoy the benefits of amicable relations with both powers.

Reports have also emerged detailing how Chinese firms producing goods for the DPRK are resuming operations while North Korean laborers are being hired by clothing manufacturers in China, a sign that sanctions on the North are increasingly being shrugged off despite Washington’s unmet conditions for their relief.

“Although it seems there is a booming romance between Kim Jong-un and Trump, Kim understands the hierarchy. He knows that Xi is the Asian Godfather,” said Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, an economic research firm in Beijing. “[Kim] is making a pragmatic calculation that China can provide economic assistance to integrate North Korea diplomatically and economically into Northeast Asia.”

Now, with Xi’s go-ahead, the trade between the two countries could skyrocket in a manner that wipes away the foul taste of existing sanctions faced by Pyongyang, drastically undercutting Trump’s option of renewing the U.S.’s hostile policies toward a non-compliant DPRK.

Either way, war and pain are fast fading as prospects for the people of the Korean peninsula.

Top Photo | Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, hosts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Dalian, China in this undated photo released on May, 9 2018 by KCNA.

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales calls out US imperialism in Venezuela and Latin America: ‘We are no longer your backyard’ – By teleSUR (Sott)

Evo Morales

© EFE
Morales explained, however, that United States’ interventionism is not only militaristic.

The Bolivian President warned that the United States is trying to orchestrate a military coup in Venezuela.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that Latin America “is no longer the United States’ backyard” while denouncing the United States’ attempt to convince its South American allies to help it orchestrate a military intervention or coup in Venezuela.

In an interview with news agency EFE, Morales explained that several Latin American leaders have confided in him that U.S. Vice president Mike Pence is “trying to convince some United States-friendly countries” help them seize control of the South American country and replace the current government led by Nicolas Maduro.

The real target, Morales explained, is not the Venezuelan president but “Venezuelan oil, and Venezuelans know that.”

Drawing parallels to 2011 military intervention in Libya, Morales said the U.S. isn’t interested in helping with alleged humanitarian crisis since, despite the current political and social turmoil in Libya, the U.S. will not intervene there since “the country’s oil is now owned by the U.S. and some European oil companies,” Morales asserted.

“One military intervention (in the region) would only create another armed conflict,” he added pointing to Colombia’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a general sign of an escalation of “military aggression to all Latin America and the Caribbean” region.

Comment: Morales is correct in expressing this concerning development: NATO adds Colombia to its list of members, and it’s about more than just Venezuela

Morales explained, however, that U.S. interventionism is not only militaristic.

“When there are no military coups, they seek judicial or congressional coups” as in the case of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s imprisonment, which is barring him from running in the upcoming 2018 elections.

“I am certain we will free Lula. If he returns, some countries in Latin America will again strengthen the ideological, programmatic and liberation struggle against the North American empire,” Morales said.

Comment: The President of Bolivia can count himself as one of the world’s few (but ever growing number) of leaders who has the knowledge and the guts to speak out on the egregious and destructive behavior of the US. Viva Morales! See also:

Does the US provide military assistance to 73% of world’s dictatorships – truth or narrative? – By Rich Whitney – Truthout – (Sott)

US boots

© Sputnik News.com
US boots on the ground.

For decades, the American people have been repeatedly told by their government and corporate-run media that acts of war ordered by their president have been largely motivated by the need to counter acts of aggression or oppression by “evil dictators.” We were told we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. We had to bomb Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was an evil dictator, bent on unleashing a “bloodbath” on his own people. Today, of course, we are told that we should support insurgents in Syria because Bashar al-Assad is an evil dictator, and we must repeatedly rattle our sabers at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin because they, too, are evil dictators.

This is part of the larger, usually unquestioned mainstream corporate media narrative that the US leads the “Western democracies” in a global struggle to combat terrorism and totalitarianism and promote democracy.

I set out to answer a simple question: Is it true? Does the US government actually oppose dictatorships and champion democracy around the world, as we are repeatedly told?

The truth is not easy to find, but federal sources do provide an answer: No. According to Freedom House‘s rating system of political rights around the world, there were 49 nations in the world, as of 2015, that can be fairly categorized as “dictatorships.” As of fiscal year 2015, the last year for which we have publicly available data, the federal government of the United States had been providing military assistance to 36 of them, courtesy of your tax dollars. The United States currently supports over 73 percent of the world’s dictatorships!

Most politically aware people know of some of the more highly publicized instances of this, such as the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt. But apologists for our nation’s imperialistic foreign policy may try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. They may argue that our broader national interests in the Middle East require temporarily overlooking the oppressive nature of those particular states, in order to serve a broader, pro-democratic endgame.

Such hogwash could be critiqued on many counts, of course, beginning with its class-biased presumptions about what constitutes US “national interests.” But my survey of US support for dictatorships around the world demonstrates that our government’s support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule.

Sources and Methods

It was not easy to find out how many of the world’s dictatorships are being supported by the United States. No one else seems to be compiling or maintaining a list, so I had to go at it by myself. Here is how I came up with my answer.

Step 1: Determine how many of the world’s governments may be fairly characterized as dictatorships.

A commonly accepted definition of a “dictatorship” is a system of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute state power, thereby directing all national policies and major acts – leaving the people powerless to alter those decisions or replace those in power by any method short of revolution or coup. I examined a number of websites and organizations that claimed to maintain lists of the world’s dictatorships, but most of them were either dated, listed only the world’s “worst dictators” or had similar limitations, and/or failed to describe their methodology. I ultimately was left with the annual Freedom in the World reports published by Freedom House as the best source for providing a comprehensive list.

This was not entirely satisfactory, as Freedom House has a decidedly pro-US-ruling-class bias. For example, it categorizes Russia as a dictatorship. In the introduction to its 2017 Freedom In the World report, it opines that

“Russia, in stunning displays of hubris and hostility, interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory.”

A more objective view would note that claims of interference in the US election by the Russian government have not been proven (unless one is inclined to take certain US intelligence agencies at their word); that Russia was asked by the UN-recognized Syrian government for assistance, in compliance with international law (unlike US acts of aggression and support for insurrection there); and would at least acknowledge that any Russian intervention in Ukraine occurred in the context of the United States’ brazen support for a coup in that nation.

Nonetheless, the Freedom House reports appear to be the best (if not the only) comprehensive gauge of political rights and freedoms covering every nation in the world. It utilizes a team of about 130 in-house and external analysts and expert advisers from the academic, think tank and human rights communities who purportedly use a broad range of sources, including news articles, academic analyses, reports from nongovernmental organizations and individual professional contacts. The analysts’ proposed scores are discussed and defended at annual review meetings, organized by region and attended by Freedom House staff and a panel of expert advisers. The final scores represent the consensus of the analysts, advisers and staff, and are intended to be comparable from year-to-year and across countries and regions. Freedom House concedes that, “although an element of subjectivity is unavoidable in such an enterprise, the ratings process emphasizes methodological consistency, intellectual rigor, and balanced and unbiased judgments.”

One can remain skeptical, but a key consideration is that Freedom House’s pronounced pro-US bias is actually a plus for purposes of this project. If its team of experts tilts toward a pro-US-government perspective, this means that it would indulge every presumption in favor of not categorizing nations supported by the United States as dictatorships. In other words, if even Freedom House categorizes a government backed by the United States as a dictatorship, one can be fairly confident that its assessment, in that instance, is accurate.

For purposes of the present assessment, I used Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom in the World report, even though its 2017 report is now available. I did so because the 2016 report reflects its assessment of political rights and civil liberties as they existed in 2015, which would roughly correspond with the military assistance and arms sales data that I had available for federal fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015) and calendar year 2015. (I will work on a new report when such data for fiscal year 2016 becomes available.)

Freedom House uses a scoring system to gauge a nation’s “political rights” and “civil liberties,” in order to rate each country as “free,” “partly free” or “not free,” with a range of scores for each category. It describes its scoring system as follows:

“A country or territory is assigned two ratings (7 to 1) – one for political rights and one for civil liberties – based on its total scores for the political rights and civil liberties questions. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the greatest degree of freedom and 7 the smallest degree of freedom, corresponds to a specific range of total scores.”

For purposes of deciding whether a nation could be categorized as a “dictatorship,” however, I focused only on the “political rights” scores, classifying nations with a political rights score of 6 or 7 as a dictatorship. This does not mean that civil liberties are unimportant, of course, but the objective here is to assess the degree of absolutism of the political leadership, not freedom of expression, press, etc. Of course, in the overwhelming majority of cases, nations with low political rights scores also have low civil liberties scores. However, a political rights score of 6 or 7 corresponds most closely with our definition of dictatorship, based on Freedom House’s characterization:

6 – Countries and territories with a rating of 6 have very restricted political rights. They are ruled by one-party or military dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. They may allow a few political rights, such as some representation or autonomy for minority groups, and a few are traditional monarchies that tolerate political discussion and accept public petitions.

7 – Countries and territories with a rating of 7 have few or no political rights because of severe government oppression, sometimes in combination with civil war. They may also lack an authoritative and functioning central government and suffer from extreme violence or rule by regional warlords.

While it may be debatable whether it is appropriate to consider a country with no “functioning central government” as a dictatorship, I would submit that the label is appropriate if that nation is ruled de facto by warlords or rival armies or militias. In effect, that simply means that it is ruled by two or more dictators instead of one.

By Freedom House’s measure, then, there were 49 nation-states that could be fairly characterized as dictatorships in 2015, as follows:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

It should be noted that Freedom House included in its ratings several other entities with a political rights score of 6 or 7 whose status as an independent state was itself disputed:

Crimea, the Gaza Strip, Pakistani Kashmir, South Ossetia, Tibet, Transnistria, the West Bank and Western Sahara.

My count of 49 dictatorships in the world in 2015 excludes these subordinated or disputed state territories.

Step 2: Determine which of the world’s dictatorships received US-funded military or weapons training, military arms financing or authorized sales of military weapons from the United States in 2015.

For this step, I relied on four sources, the first two of which took considerable digging to locate:

A. Foreign Military Training in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 Volume I and Volume II (Country Training Activities), US Department of Defense and US Department of State Joint Report to Congress.

This is the most recent annual report, required by section 656 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. § 2416), and section 652 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), which requires

“a report on all military training provided to foreign military personnel by the Department of Defense and the Department of State during the previous fiscal year and all such training proposed for the current fiscal year,” excluding NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

This report provides data on US expenditures for military training programs under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, the Section 2282 Global Train and Equip (GT&E) program, the Aviation Leadership Program to provide pilot training (ALP), and the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) drawdown program, which authorizes the president to direct the drawdown of defense articles, services and training if an “unforeseen emergency exists that requires immediate military assistance to a foreign country” that cannot be met by other means. Such expenditures are listed by recipient country, in some detail. For purposes of this study, I include expenditures under these programs as US-funded military training.

The report also provides data on US expenditures for narcotics and law enforcement, global peace operations, centers for security studies, drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, mine removal assistance, disaster response, non-lethal anti-terrorism training and other programs that I did not count as military assistance or training for purposes of this survey. It is certainly more than possible that US assistance under these programs could play a role in providing de facto military assistance to recipient countries, but I err on the side of caution.

The report describes the IMET program as including civilian participants, and including training on “elements of U.S. democracy such as the judicial system, legislative oversight, free speech, equality issues, and commitment to human rights.” One could conceivably criticize my inclusion of IMET training, therefore, on the ground that it actually trains foreign civilians and soldiers in democratic, anti-dictatorial values. However, the IMET program is presumably called “military” training and education for a reason. It trains students in “increased understanding of security issues and the means to address them,” and provides “training that augments the capabilities of participant nations’ military forces to support combined operations and interoperability with U.S. forces.” Accordingly, I think it is fair to count IMET as a form of military assistance, while acknowledging that it arguably might, at times, play a pro-democracy role.

B. US Department of State, “Congressional Budget Justification FOREIGN ASSISTANCE SUMMARY TABLES, Fiscal Year 2017.”

Table 3a of this publication provides the actual fiscal year allocations for foreign assistance programs, by country and by account, including the two programs that interest us here, Foreign Military Financing and IMET. In that regard, it is somewhat duplicative of the previous source, but I reviewed it as a check.

C. Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Financial Policy And Analysis Business Operations, “Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales And Other Security Cooperation Historical Facts As of September 30, 2015.”

This source provides the total dollar value of military articles and services sold to foreign governments for FY 2015, including the value of agreements for future deliveries and the value of actual deliveries, which I have provided in the table below. It also includes other data on foreign military financing (credit or grants) extended to foreign governments and provides yet another source on IMET training.

D. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),Transfer of major conventional weapons: sorted by recipient. Deals with deliveries or orders made for year range 2015 to 2016.”

SIPRI provides an interactive tool by which the user can generate a list of major weapons transfers by supplier, all or some recipients, and the year. Although it only counts “major” conventional weapons transfers, I reviewed it as an additional check on the accuracy of the chart. It essentially affirmed the accuracy of the DSCA report but there were some possible anomalies. For example, the DSCA reports only $8,000 worth of military sales to Uganda in FY 2015 but SIPRI reports the transfer of 10 RG-33 armored vehicles, two Cessna-208 Caravan light transport planes, and 15 Cougar armored vehicles in 2015. The discrepancy may be due to the three-month difference between fiscal year 2015 and calendar year 2105, different methods of dating the transfer, differences in valuation or some unknown factor.

Step 3: Generate the Chart

The first column in the chart below lists the 49 countries classified by Freedom House as dictatorial in nature.

The second column shows those nations that received some US military training in FY 2015, relying primarily on source B, but also checking source C.

The third column shows those nations that received an agreement for future military sales or transfers from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

The fourth column shows those nations that received an actual delivery of military articles from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

whitney chart
Whitney chart 2

© Rich Whitney

I plan on providing similar reports on US support for dictatorships around the world on an annual basis. I will begin work on a report covering Fiscal Year 2016 as soon as the relevant data becomes available.

Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, radio commentator and disk jockey, Illinois Green Party activist and former Green Party candidate for governor.

Comment: Military sales of equipment and services represent a very lucrative business (see the chart for 2015 which represents ‘dictatorship’ remunerations only). Peace and minding US’ own business, in this sense, has no ‘value’.

Deal of the century? No peace in sight as Israel carries on lying, stealing and killing with US approval – By Jonathan Cook /Middle East Eye – (Sott)

trump protest palestine

© AFP
‘He will be given free rein to do what he likes,’ Israeli analysts tells MEE

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 90s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 90s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

golan map

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

jerusalem map

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

east jerusalem

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 90s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Palestinian protester

© Reuters
A Palestinian protester hits the Israeli separation barrier with a hammer in Abu Dis in October 2015

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 90s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

aqsa settlers

© AFP
Settlers accompanied by Israeli security guards pose for a photo during a visit to al-Aqsa

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 90s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

gaza sinai

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

The Elite: Not on your side now and never will be – By Kurt Schlichter -Townhall (SOTT)

trump group of 7 summit G7

I guess I should just be quiet and let the liberal establishment continue to attack President Trump for refusing to submit to the demands of a bunch of foreigners. As Napoleon warned, perhaps apocryphally but accurately, never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. And it is crazy to think that the American people are going to punish a president who sides with them over that schnitzel-snarfing frau, Monsieur les Eyebrows, and the rest of the globalist twits.

Oh, and let’s not even get started on how they can’t help but manufacture reasons why Trump shouldn’t take a chance on avoiding a war that would lead to thousands of Normal American families burying sons and daughters. Yeah, shaking Rocket Man’s hand is pretty much Munich 2: The EnNorkening.

But I shouldn’t complain. It’s getting so the elite needs to register their activities as in-kind contributions to the Trump 2020 campaign.

Who thinks Normal Americans will be mad about Trump fulminating over how we are putting our cash and our blood on the line against Putin for the Europeans and they won’t even meet the piddly 2% defense spending level they promised? One of the elite’s favorite fallbacks is that demanding our allies carry their own rucksacks for once is totally playing into Vlad’s hands. How? Reasons. And because.

Putin is the all-purpose boogie man now, though the transnational liberal elite was perfectly happy to suck up to him until he became more useful as a pumped-up threat than as a cash cow. A half mil for a speech? Seems legit. Uranium One, anybody? Cool. Weird how the fussbudgets who were AWOL during the real Cold War don’t seem upset about that stuff, only about stuff that involves taking America’s side.

Who does the elite side with?

Not America.

Never America.

I say we should side with ourselves. So does the president.

I keep asking the establishment shills why America has some moral obligation to tolerate foreign countries imposing higher tariffs upon us than we impose upon them. Seems facially unfair, right? So, there’s got to be a really good reason because how can you support our working people facing a higher obstacle to trade than the foreigners do? I’m just wondering what’s wrong with a level playing field. Fair is fair, right? But I never get a good answer.

Oh, I do get responses. Most of them are weakly snarky tweets informing me that I don’t know anything about economics. The rest are a smorgasbord of puny personal attacks. But no one can seem to tell me why we have some sort of moral duty to engage in trade relationships with other countries that are not precisely equal. Maybe I am an idiot like they say, but calling me one doesn’t answer the question.

I don’t like tariffs. I like free trade. But in what world is free trade free when we are only free to face higher tariffs than our competitor countries? Apparently, in the world of the liberal transnational globalist elite. They are citizens of the world, you know.

I’m a citizen of the United States. How about you?

And I thought collusion with foreign leaders to influence American policy was wrong. Yet all I see are liberals, their Fredocon travelers, and their media minions commiserating with outsiders, with foreigners, against the guy who Normal Americans elected as the president. Collusion, if you will, to change American policy to what foreigners want. Gosh, it’s almost as if all this talk about collusion was a bunch of baloney from the word go.

No wonder the Normals are getting militant.

Actually, the elite doesn’t think they are really colluding with outsiders. They are colluding with insiders, their real constituency, the like-minded elites across the globe. They don’t represent the United States. They don’t care about the United States. And they don’t care about the people of the United States. That is not whose interests they are seeking to protect.

When your job gets shipped to Oaxaca so somebody who looks like Mitt Romney can import the products you used to make back into the USA, don’t look to the elite to care. Care? They’ll applaud.

They are seeking to ensure their own gravy train doesn’t get derailed. This is why they tell you, in between informing you how stupid you are, that there are only a few tariffs out there and they don’t matter. Well, they sure as heck don’t matter to these think tank jockeys and media scribblers. They are not the guys getting up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows or to harvest the soybeans the tariffs target. They’ve never worked on a vehicle assembly line in their lives, so what’s it matter to them if Germany’s tariff on US cars is four times ours to theirs? Of course, the tariffs on US products don’t matter to the elite. They aren’t the guys who lose their jobs when their company picks up and moves to Vietnam.

I don’t like tariffs. I’d tear them all down, everywhere, just like Trump proposed. But the elite isn’t for that. It’s only against tariffs we impose to retaliate for the tariffs the foreigners impose.

And the elite are now apparently against peace talks, but they aren’t the ones who would fight the war Donald Trump is trying to prevent in North Korea. Turns out peace talks have been terrible since January 2017. Who knew?

Donald Trump is a disruptor. He is disrupting the fat, arrogant, and corrupt elite and the web of self-dealing it has spun over the last seven decades. Is Trump putting at risk everything that’s been built in the last 70 years? I sure hope so. Because the system that was built over the last 70 years is no longer working for all of us. It’s working really well for a few of us, but that’s just not enough anymore.

We’re woke. We’re militant. And the tan, tweeting reckoning that is Donald Trump is at hand.

Kurt Schlichter (Twitter: @KurtSchlichter) was personally recruited to write conservative commentary by Andrew Breitbart. He is a successful Los Angeles trial lawyer, a veteran with a masters in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, and a former stand-up comic.

%d bloggers like this: