Rogue Bodyguard Scandal Fouls Macron’s Squeaky-Clean Image – bY Finian CUNNINGHAM – Strategic Culture Foundation

Rogue Bodyguard Scandal Fouls Macron’s Squeaky-Clean Image
Finian CUNNINGHAM | 22.09.2018 | WORLD / Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron’s plummeting popularity received another blow this week with the continuing scandal of an ex-bodyguard who was given elite access to Élysée Palace – even though he had no professional background in the state security services.

What’s more, Macron’s personal security minder, Alexandre Benalla, is accused of impersonating a police officer while beating up two protesters during a May Day rally in Paris earlier this year.

The thuggish behavior of a top Macron aide raises questions about this president’s ethics and politics. It conveys a disturbing image of fascist street brawling entering the very seat of French government.

Benalla has since been dumped from his post as Macron’s bodyguard over the scandal which has become dubbed “Benalla-gate”.

But the affair reinforces growing public anger over what they see as Macron’s self-inflated presidential style. He is increasingly seen as arrogant, aloof, and unaccountable, with delusions of grandeur.

Ironically, the former Rothschild investment banker, with his youthful “fresh face”, was elected in May 2017 on the back of his much-hyped self-proclaimed mission to renew French politics. Macron (40) even started a brand new political party, En Marche, which was billed as transcending “old” Left-Right rigidities and renovating French democracy.

The president’s honeymoon period with the French public has long worn off. His much-touted social policy reforms are seen as draconian cuts in workers’ rights and public services for the benefit of the wealthy. He has even gained the moniker, “president of the rich”.

On several occasions, Macron has shown a galling elitist conceit, such as when he publicly berated a protesting teenager to “show respect”, or when he floated the idea of bestowing a new formal title of “first lady” to his 25-years-senior wife, Brigitte (65), thus attempting to turn the French parliamentary republic into an American-style executive power.

Recently, when he was challenged by an unemployed gardener about lack of jobs in that profession, Macron haughtily told the young man to try his hand at laboring in building construction. His lack of empathy provoked a public outcry over what appeared to be a “let them eat cake” attitude.

This week, the president’s former bodyguard was summoned by the French Senate to answer questions on his exact relationship with Macron. The enquiry could go on for weeks.

But what the Senate hearings point to is a growing frustration with Macron’s self-styled majesty as a leader who sees himself above reproach. He has often talked about how his presidency is aimed at “restoring France’s greatness”, and seems to have a penchant for addressing parliamentarians beckoned to the Versailles Palace, as if they are his subjects.

His former appointment of Benalla (27) as personal bodyguard raised eyebrows. It smacked of political favoritism towards a personal friend. Benalla has no professional background in the French police or military which is the normal career path for someone appointed to be the president’s top security official. It is said that the former bodyguard’s only experience in security work was being previously employed as a bouncer in a nightclub. How he came to know Macron is an intriguing question, and it is this relationship that lawmakers want to find out about in their ongoing questioning.

Their relationship became a scandal when Benalla was videoed by May Day protesters beating up a man and woman on the streets of Paris earlier this year, while demonstrating against Macron’s social reforms. In the video, Benalla is seen wearing a police helmet and an armband purporting to identify him as a member of the police force. He is also seen viciously punching the man on the head and stomping on his stomach as he fell to the ground. It appears to be a shocking display of gratuitous, sadistic violence.

One can only imagine how Western news media would explode with sensational front page headlines if, somehow, a similar event took place in Moscow, in which an aide to President Putin was filmed being involved in assaulting protesters. You would never hear the end of that in Western media.

Why President Macron’s personal security guard would take time off to go to a rally and beat up protesters is a troubling question. Did Benalla get some perverse pleasure from his violent conduct? It is also a serious offense under French law to impersonate a law enforcement officer, which could result in a prison conviction.

When French media finally identified Benalla from the amateur video footage in mid-July, the accusation was then leveled at Macron of engaging in a cover-up. Hence the term “Benalla-gate” was coined.

Macron at first ignored the furore in typical supercilious mode. Under mounting public pressure, he then eventually broke his silence. Though he reacted in a petulant manner as if the media were picking on him, which only served to underline the perception that this president views himself as some kind of regal figure above the fray of “commoners”.

Bizarrely, Macron riposted to the media questions about Benalla’s seeming privileged employment with a sarcastic quip: “He’s not my lover!”

Was it a Freudian slip? It’s not the first time that Macron’s sex life has been rumored to be secretly gay.

During the presidential campaign, Russian news media carried a report quoting French political opposition sources claiming that Macron’s private life was more nuanced than his marriage to a much older woman suggests. Macron then hit back defensively, accusing Russia of interfering in the French election, based on one throwaway gossip story.

Whatever the precise relationship is between Macron and his rogue bodyguard, one thing does seem clear however. This president has a Napoleon complex, or perhaps a Bourbon Sun King complex. He seems to think exceedingly highly of himself, as being a ruler who is above the rule of law and public accountability.

Just over a year in office, the supposed squeaky-clean Emmanuel Macron is showing himself to have the whiff of the same old corruption that has marred so many of his predecessors in Élysée Palace.

Russia Brings Turkey to the Right Side of History – Terrorists and Israel React Badly to Sochi Agreement on Idlib – ByAndrés Perezalonso – Sott.net

Putin erdogan netanyahu

© Fort Russ News

With Turkey’s military presence in northern Syria and its support of militant groups in Idlib, it was to be expected that the Syrian Army offensive in the region would be postponed until a compromise was reached between Erdogan and Assad’s allies, as I explained earlier. Russian president Vladimir Putin held talks with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan, for the third time in less than a month, in Sochi on September 17th. They agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib; later, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed to journalists there would not be a large military operation in the province.

According to Russian diplomatic sources who spoke with Al-Watan newspaper, the Russian-Turkish agreement will be implemented in three stages:

  1. The first stage will go into effect by mid October to create a 15 to 20 km weapons-free zone along the contact line between militant groups and government forces. All radical groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra/Al Qaeda will have to leave this zone, which will be patrolled jointly by Russian and Turkish military units.
  2. In the second stage the heavy weapons will be collected from the region until November 10 and the militants will leave civilian areas.
  3. In the third stage, lasting to the end of this year, state institutions will resume activities in Idlib.

Notice that for the completion of all three stages, the cooperation of militant groups is necessary. This is the point that may result in the partial or complete collapse of the demilitarization efforts – but that is not necessarily a failure.

South Front reports that pro-militant sources claim that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (the coalition affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria) and some other groups, including the Islamic Turkistan Party (composed of die-hard Uyghur Muslims from China) have rejected the agreement. (It was originally reported that Jaish al-Izza, a Free Syria Army group, had also rejected it, but now that appears to be incorrect). Furthermore, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation warned after the Putin-Erdogan meeting that the White Helmets and members of Al-Nusra were still preparing a false-flag chemical attack to blame the Assad government. This is not surprising; after all, Syria is dealing with jihadi factions – literally terrorists – not with a mix of “moderate rebels” and a few bad apples as the Western narrative insists. By definition, terrorists are uncooperative to say the least, especially when asked to give up their weapons and let the state do its job.

Uyghur jihadis

© Radio Alwan
Uyghur jihadis: some shy, some not

If the information on the reaction of the terrorist groups is correct, the Turkey-sponsored and FSA-affiliated Jabhat al-Wataniya al-Tahrir (aka the National Front for Liberation) and Jaish al-Izza would be the only parties potentially willing to go along with the plan. In fact, Putin and Erdogan never expected or intended to make deals with groups everyone recognizes as radical – particularly with Al-Nusra, which was singled-out by Putin at the Sochi press conference, while Erdogan vowed to “clear these territories of radical elements”. Therefore, in the context of Idlib, when we hear Russia or Turkey discuss ‘moderate rebels’, they mean Turkish proxies.

Before the latest Sochi summit, Erdogan demanded a political solution to the situation in Syria, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, when in reality he had three objectives:

  1. To salvage the forces in the area loyal to Turkey.
  2. To minimize the amount of refugees and jihadists crossing the border into Turkey.
  3. To retain as much influence on the future of Northern Syria as he could.
putin erdogan

Clearly, Putin understood that Turkey would not simply leave the region of its own accord, and thus the Idlib offensive would have risked a dangerous direct confrontation between states. So he agreed to proceed via the ‘political route’, fully aware that Turkey would then have to commit to join the fight against groups officially recognized as terrorists – even those Turkey directly or indirectly supported in the past – while pulling the reins on its proxies or even turning its guns against those who rebelled. Furthermore, Turkey takes another step towards Russia, Iran and Syria, and away from NATO and its machinations in the Middle East. Ultimately, the crucial point of the agreement is not how many militants will give up their weapons or not, but that Turkey is now on board with the liberators of Syria. One could say that Putin ‘gently coaxed’ Erdogan into doing the right thing.

Lose The Match, Knock Over The Board

Of course, there is another advantage to calling off a major offensive in Idlib: It makes it harder – though not impossible – for Western countries and their allies to protest, threaten, and retaliate against some imaginary war crime, and for terrorists to stage an attack on civilians, inviting such retaliation.

syria map

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

Some geopolitical players bent on war seem to have taken the news hard enough to make significant mistakes. There are a number of observersincluding an advisor to Erdogan – who believe that Israel’s latest insanely criminal stunt, which resulted in the downing of a Russian Il-20 military plane and the death of 15 Russian servicemen, was a response to the Sochi agreement reached a few hours earlier. Indeed, there are barely any coincidences in politics, although we must not forget that on the same day (Monday, September 17th) the Russian Ministry of Defense presented evidence countering the Dutch report on the MH17 flight tragedy over Ukraine – a non-negligible event that may have inspired Machiavellian Israeli minds to distract the public from such data.

The tragedy of the Russian Il-20 was the product of typical duplicitous, cowardly Israeli military ‘strategy’. While on an illegal and unprovoked bombing operation against government targets in Syria – of which the Russian MOD was notified with less than a minute’s notice – four Israeli F-16 fighter jets flying at low altitude “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region… The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” an MOD statement said. The reaction of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was bitter:

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” the Russian minister said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Evidently, the Israelis were intentionally looking to cause trouble for the Russian military. However, judging by the amount of time they took to officially respond to an angry Russia, it appears they miscalculated and did not expect that a Russian aircraft would be lost, nor did they expect Russia blame them. This was Israel’s big mistake: Russia is likely to forcefully make difficult or even obstruct any future Israeli operations in or above Syria. Putin’s words about boosting the safety of Russian personnel in Syria and taking “steps that everyone will notice” point in that direction.

A bad situation was made worse when an arrogant Israeli response finally came. No apologies were offered; all Russia got was an expression of “sorrow” and much blaming of third parties:

To add insult to injury, the Israelis disputed the Russian version of the facts. Somebody is lying here, and I doubt it is the aggrieved party:

There is another interesting fact to this story, that seems to be rapidly slipping out of media reports. The French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” was in the region at the time, and according to the Russian MOD, several missile launches were detected from that ship. At what were those missiles aimed? What role did the French Navy play in Monday night’s bombing of Syria and/or the loss of the Russian Il-20?

With diplomatic skill, Putin again managed to solve the ‘Turkey problem’ in Syria – at least for now. Unfortunately, it will be much harder to fix the ‘Israel/NATO problem’. The discourse and behavior of neocons and zionists shows that they have no interest whatsoever in a stable, prosperous Syria – or in a peaceful Middle East. While commenting on US politics, Putin once observed that is “difficult to have a dialogue with people who confuse Austria and Australia”. We could add that it is even harder to reason with people who confuse war with peace and truth with lies.

Avatar

Andrés Perezalonso

Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.

Zakharova requires explanations from Israel – Lieberman blames ‘unprofessional’ Syrian military for shooting down Russian aircraft – By Joaquin Flores – FRN -SOTT

Tragedy with Il-20 over Latakia

The tragedy with Il-20, shot down over the Mediterranean Sea in Syria, will require additional explanations from Tel Aviv. Israeli pilots in the current situation acted unprofessionally, Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova believes, saying:

“For my part, I believe that the Israeli pilots, as a result of whose actions a threat was created and the Russian aircraft was killed, – this is evidenced by the data of our military experts – behaved at least unprofessionally. I want to say that it’s embarrassing to hide behind those who provide including your safety, and, fulfilling your duty, can not deviate from the bullet, which is not addressed to you, ”

According to the diplomat, new data on the crash of the Russian military aircraft will be received in the very near future and will be made public. “The tragedy that took place on September 17 will require additional investigations and, of course, clarification from the Israeli side.” I am sure that they will follow in the near future,” Zakharova summed up.

The Russian Il-20 was shot down on September 17 by a missile from the S-200 air defense complex in Syria, in response to a raid by the Israeli Air Force. As a result of the tragedy, 15 Russian servicemen were killed. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Israeli pilots, under the cover of a Russian aircraft, put him under fire. The effective reflecting surface of the IL-20 is an order of magnitude larger than the Israeli F-16, so the Syrian missile fell into the Russian aircraft.

FRN has determined that France is also a likely culprit, however given that French foreign policy in the region, especially under Macron, is largely determined by Israel and Gulf Monarchies, the general Russian claim that ‘Israel is ultimately responsible, even if indirectly’ in fact may be more true than skeptics have hitherto believed.

Comment: The Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman stated on Thursday morning that the ‘unprofessional’ Syrian military was to blame for shooting down the Russian aircraft off the coast of Latakia on Monday evening.

“The plane was shot down by irresponsible and unprofessional Syrian air defense personnel who fired when (our) air force jets had already returned to Israeli territory,” Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio.

See also: Satellite images show Syria strike as Israeli Air Force chief goes to Moscow to explain Il-20 incident

As Twitter Purges Real Iranians, US-Backed MEK Cult Revealed to Run Anti-Iran Troll Farm – By Elliot Gabriel – MINT PRESS

Iran Social Media Bans
#YouAreBots

 

While “actual” Iranians face social media bans, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to the US-backed former terror group, MEK, have been permitted to run rampant across Twitter and other platforms.

TIRANA, ALBANIA – Iran is once again being subject to double standards as part of an ongoing effort to deprive it of access to media platforms where it can influence audiences overseas – in this case, on Twitter.

The effort has seen hundreds of Iranian accounts allegedly tied to Iranian pro-government “propaganda” efforts subject to a massive cull across platforms owned by Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google parent company Alphabet Inc.

Those purged from the platforms include profiles, channels, and accounts belonging to Iranian nationals who have been accused of involvement in alleged “coordinated manipulation” of information related to Middle Eastern events and ”divisive social commentary.”

 

On YouTube, this has included accounts belonging to media entities owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the state media corporation that operates such channels as the English-language PressTV and Spanish-language HispanTV.

Watch | Al Jazeera on Albania’s Iranian Regime Change Bot Factory

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/g-D5s_yCTQM?rel=0&showinfo=0&start=834

Yet while “actual” Iranians face bans from social media, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to U.S.-backed opposition groups posturing as the “Iranian people resistance” have been permitted to run rampant across the web.

 

#YouAreBots

Last month, nearly 800 accounts based in Iran were suspended by Twitter for allegedly violating the network’s policies, per an investigation alongside “industry peers” that allowed the social media giants a better “understanding of these [Iranian] networks.” Twitter hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to investigate the networks tied to such alleged “Iranian interference,” but users including patriotic university student SeyedMousavi7 and Press TV journalist Waqar Rizvi were among those suspended.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Zarif directly addressed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a tweet aiming to highlight the contradiction:

Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an ‘influence op’. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots”

Another tweet by Iranian legislator Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi addressed to the Twitter chief said:

You suspended my official account as MP of Iran for my violation of not determined twitter rules, but why you have not blocked bots of MEK in Tirana, a group that killed 17000 Iranian people, used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda? #YouAreBots”

The tweet followed a report by Al Jazeera English which detailed how monitors and researchers were able to pinpoint a sharp uptick in a trend of actual social media manipulation.

 

The Wizard Behind the “Resistance” Curtain – Maryam Rajavi and the MEK Cult

The report connected the growing phenomenon to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a cultish group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. until 2012 and have been based in a camp outside the Albanian capital, Tirana, since the U.S. began openly backing it in 2013.

The group has long enjoyed the backing of the Iranian government’s enemies, ranging from toppled dictator Saddam Hussein to Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hiding behind various front groups like the France-based “parliament-in-exile,” The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the MEK has sought to depict itself as a representative, democratic coalition that speaks for all of Iran’s religious, ethnic, and political groups proportionately” and is committed to a secular, pro-market, and free Iran.

MEK Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani

The group has paid a number of top Trump administration officials to speak at its functions and echo its calls to enact a “regime change” in Tehran, including former New York City Mayor and top White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, among a long list of U.S. lawmakers and officials.

Yet the group, which have also been described as “skilled manipulators of public opinion,” are said by ex-members to tolerate little internal dissent and are seen by many as little more than a well-funded, mafia-style cult commanded by self-styled “Iranian President-in-Exile” Maryam Rajavi and backed by her friends across Western and Gulf capitals.

Some who escaped the MEK and remain stranded in Tirana spoke to Al Jazeera and described the manner in which the cult orchestrated what appeared to be a trending wave of support for the group and its anti-regime message toward the end of last year, when Iranians took to the streets to protest adverse economic conditions largely caused by a mixture of domestic legislation and intense pressure by Washington.

Much of this trend was clearly fueled by bots – accounts that are often fraudulent and behave in an automated fashion, amplifying messages through swarm-like behavior such as retweeting, liking, and republishing videos and articles posted alongside hashtags such as #FreeIran and #IranRegimeChange.

In many cases these trends – which sought to focus, variously, on the plight of Iran’s national or religious minority groups ranging from Kurds to Christians, women’s rights groups, and dissidents –grew as a direct result of work by MEK members toiling away in an Albanian troll farm to boost their group’s online propaganda.

Former MEK militant Hassan Heyrani told the outlet:

Overall I would say that several thousand accounts are managed by about 1,000-1,500 MEK members … It was all very well organized and there were clear instructions about what needed to be done.”

Another former “keyboard warrior,” Hassan Shahbaz, added:

Our orders would tell us the hashtags to use in our tweets in order to make them more active … It was our job to provide coverage of these protests by seeking out, tweeting and re-tweeting videos while adding our own comments.”

 

Useful Tools in the Age of Trump

Journalist, writer and scholar Azadeh Moaveni told Al Jazeera that the 2016 election of former real estate mogul Donald Trump, who surrounded himself during his campaign with a range of zealous anti-Iran and pro-Israel hawks, was a turning point in such anti-IRI media operations.

“Once it became clear that there would be heightened hostility with Iran, there was a profusion of new accounts, anonymous accounts who were single-mindedly and purposefully going after people who wrote about, talked about Iran with nuance,” she noted.

Whether the report, or Iran’s demands, will have any impact on the continued backing of MEK by Iran’s opponents remains yet to be seen. In the last year alone, a bevy of U.S. figures including late Senator John McCain, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, and various senators have visited the Rajavi cult’s compound in Albania as U.S. rhetoric against Iran’s “regime” has escalated and the U.S. has unilaterally withdrawn from the six-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear accord.

In the meantime, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have squirmed as the same U.S. lawmakers have sought to crack down on alleged Russian and Iranian “interference” online.

Without a doubt, the troll farms of the MEK will remain an important weapon in the arsenal of those seeking to manufacture the illusion of widespread anti-government fervor in an Iran under the gun of economic sanctions, media terrorism, and the low-intensity warfare of sustained “regime change” efforts.

Top Photo | Iranians surf the Internet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran, Sept, 17, 2013. Ebrahim Noroozi | AP

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.

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Target Syria Will a new war be the October Surprise? – By Philip Giraldi – THE UNZ REPORT

BlogviewPhilip Giraldi Archive

Syrian Army

It’s official. The Syrian Army assisted by Russian air support is closing in on the last major pocket of terrorists remaining in the country in the province of Idlib near Aleppo. The United States, which has trained and armed some of the trapped gunmen and even as recently as a year ago described the province as “al-Qaeda’s largest safe haven since 9/11,” has perhaps predictably warned Syria off. The White House initially threatened a harsh reaction if the Bashar al-Assad government were to employ any chemical weapons in its final attack, setting the stage for the terrorists themselves to carry out a false flag operation blamed on Damascus that would bring with it a brutal response against the regime and its armed forces by the U.S., Britain and France.

In support of the claims relating to chemical weapons use, the Trump Administration, which is itself illegally occupying part of Syria, is as usual creating a bogus casus belli. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a news conference that “This is a tragic situation, and if they [Russia and Iran] want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that. But they cannot do it with chemical weapons. They can’t do it assaulting their people and we’re not going to fall for it. If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly who’s going to use them.” As with all Haley commentary, the appropriate response should be expressing wonderment at her ability to predict who will do something before it occurs followed by “Not quite Nikki.” She should familiarize herself with her own State Department’s travel warning on Syria which states explicitly that “tactics of ISIS, [al-Qaeda affiliate in Idlib] Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of…chemical weapons.”

Setting the stage for a false flag provoked attack on a country that does not threaten the United States was bad enough, but now Washington has apparently hardened its line, indicating that any use of the Syrian Army to clear the province of rebels will “…not be tolerated. Period.” Haley again spoke out at the United Nations, saying “…an offensive against Idlib would be a reckless escalation. The regime and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms.” In support of its inflexible stance, the White House has been citing the presence of a large civilian population also trapped in the pocket even though there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in Washington actually cares about Syrian civilian casualties.

And there is always Iran just waiting to get kicked around, when all else fails. Haley, always blissfully ignorant but never quiet, commented while preparing to take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council last Friday, that Russia and Syria “want to bomb schools, hospitals, and homes” before launching into a tirade about Iran, saying that “President Trump is very adamant that we have to start making sure that Iran is falling in line with international order. If you continue to look at the spread Iran has had in supporting terrorism, if you continue to look at the ballistic missile testing that they are doing, if you continue to look at the sales of weapons we see with the Huthis in Yemen — these are all violations of security council resolution. These are all threats to the region, and these are all things that the international community needs to talk about.”

And there is the usual hypocrisy over long term objectives. President Donald Trump said in April that “it’s time” to bring American troops home from Syria -once the jihadists of Islamic State have been definitively defeated. But now that that objective is in sight, there has to be some question about who is actually determining the policies that come out of the White House, which is reported to be in more than usual disarray due to the appearance last week of the New York Times anonymous op-ed describing a “resistance” movement within the West Wing that has been deliberately undermining and sometimes ignoring the president to further Establishment/Deep State friendly policies. The op-ed, perhaps by no coincidence whatsoever, appeared one week before the release of the new book by Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House, which has a similar tale to tell and came out on Amazon today.

The book and op-ed mesh nicely in describing how Donald Trump is a walking disaster who is deliberately circumvented by his staff. One section of the op-ed is particularly telling and suggestive of neocon foreign policy, describing how the White House staff has succeeded in “[calling out] countries like Russia…for meddling and [having them] punished accordingly” in spite of the president’s desire for détente. It then goes on to elaborate on Russia and Trump, describing how “…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But the national security team knew better – such actions had to be taken to hold Moscow accountable.”

If the op-ed and Woodward book are in any way accurate, one has to ask “Whose policy? An elected president or a cabal of disgruntled staffers who might well identify as neoconservatives?” Be that as it may, the White House is desperately pushing back while at the same time searching for the traitor, which suggests to many in Washington that it will right the sinking ship prior to November elections by the time honored and approved method used by politicians worldwide, which means starting a war to rally the nation behind the government.

As North Korea is nuclear armed, the obvious targets for a new or upgraded war would be Iran and Syria. As Iran might actually fight back effectively and the Pentagon always prefers an enemy that is easy to defeat, one suspects that some kind of expansion of the current effort in Syria would be preferable. It would be desirable, one presumes, to avoid an open conflict with Russia, which would be unpredictable, but an attack on Syrian government forces that would produce a quick result which could plausibly be described as a victory would certainly be worth considering.

By all appearances, the preparation of the public for an attack on Syria is already well underway. The mainstream media has been deluged with descriptions of tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who allegedly has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. The rhetoric coming out of the usual government sources is remarkable for its truculence, particularly when one considers that Damascus is trying to regain control over what is indisputably its own sovereign territory from groups that everyone agrees are at least in large part terrorists.

Last week, the Trump White House approved the new U.S. plan for Syria, which, unlike the old plan of withdrawal, envisions something like a permanent presence in the country. It includes a continued occupation of the country’s northeast, which is the Kurdish region; forcing Iran plus its proxies including Hezbollah to leave the country completely; and continued pressure on Damascus to bring about regime change.

Washington has also shifted its perception of who is trapped in Idlib, with newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey arguing that “. . . they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, it should be noted, was pulled out of retirement where he was a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spin off. On his recent trip to the Middle East he stopped off in Israel nine days ago to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The change in policy, which is totally in line with Israeli demands, would suggest that Jeffrey received his instructions during the visit.

Israel is indeed upping its involvement in Syria. It has bombed the country 200 times in the past 18 months and is now threatening to extend the war by attacking Iranians in neighboring Iraq. It has also been providing arms to the terrorist groups operating inside Syria.

And Netanyahu also appears to be preparing his followers for a bit of bloodshed. In a recent ceremony, he boasted that “the weak are slaughtered” while “the strong” survive — “for good or ill.” Commentators in Israel noted that the words were very close to those used by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf in a chapter describing the historical inevitability of domination by the Aryan race. They also observed that Netanyahu, like Trump, also needs a war to free himself from his legal problems.

Taking the president, the U.N. Ambassador, the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.S. Special Representative for Syria at their words, it would appear that the Washington Establishment and its Israeli manipulators have narrowed the options for dealing with Syria and its regional supporter Iran to either war or war. Add to that the closing time window for doing something to ameliorate the Trump Administration’s panic over the impending midterm election, and it would seem that there is a certain inevitability regarding the process whereby the United States military will again be on the march in the Middle East.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

 

The Deal that Lurks Behind the Calm: US, Israel Seek to Exploit Palestinian Divisions and Create More of Them – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D – MINT PRESS

Trump Kushner Netanyahu
“Deal of the Century”

Trump’s “deal of the century,” which lurks behind the calm, is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

OCCUPIED PALESTINE — (Analysis) This article is not written to support one Palestinian group and/or to criticize another. The writer does not condone Palestinian partisanship and factionalism. The writer strongly believes that this is the time for true open-mindedness and objectivity. The problem at hand is bigger and greater than all Palestinian groups when dealt with separately: the new calm agreement under discussion impacts the Palestinian problem and threatens the Palestinian people in their entirety.

It is no exaggeration to say that concepts such as calm, reconciliation and division have become very burdensome for the Palestinian psyche and that they have started to cause tremendous anxiety and fear. This is because these words carry so much significance for Palestinian life and destiny.

It is also no exaggeration to say that the Palestinian people have become fed up with the repeated back-and-forth discussions about reconciliation and division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. For the Palestinian people, it seems that priorities other than the Palestinian national interest and the public good have risen to the surface in the past few years, despite the fact that ending the seemingly chronic state of division has been the main demand by the Palestinian people of their leaders all along.

 

With time, this demand has become a dream. However, now it seems to have been turned into a fantasy, as the credibility of Palestinian factions to end the state of division and arrive at reconciliation has been crushed.

Most Palestinias feel that even in the most difficult times for them, there was always hope for liberation and independence. With the split among Palestinians at the present stage, this goal seems almost impossible, as no real fundamental transformation can be brought about.

Division — be it caused by internal, external, or a mix of reasons — cannot but bring about more Israeli control of, and hegemony over, the Palestinian people. Although it is difficult to speak of rigid fixed rules for how the world of politics operates, one of the absolute basics is that a house united is always stronger, more immune, and a lot more resistant in the face of the many challenges and storms. At the same time, a leaky house does not protect even those who hide in one corner or another.

As every Palestinian continued to be hopeful that the state of division would end and that reconciliation would be achieved, even in the midst of the darkest moments and the most difficult circumstances, the Palestinian problem faces today something more detrimental than even division and the absence of reconciliation: this lies in the legitimization of the state of division and the burial of the idea of reconciliation, once and for all. This may be caused by the looming, deadly, supposed calm on the horizon between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

 

Renewed Oslo

There is near consensus that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is quite catastrophic. All bases for human survival — water, food, fresh air and electricity — have reached record low levels. The United Nations and a number of non-governmental organizations have reported that the current humanitarian situation may cause untold consequences, as it is neither livable nor sustainable.

The whole Gaza Strip has been turned into the largest human prison on earth. This has made the process of teaching and learning, work, acquiring health care, and travel unattainable. It is no exaggeration to say that all human rights in the Gaza Strip have been violated. Friends and foes alike of the Palestinian people recognize that the current state of affairs cannot endure under any circumstances. There is a widespread perception in the world that the Gaza Strip stands at a critical threshold: either all bases for human life collapse completely; or alternatively, the world pretends that it is doing something to ameliorate the humanitarian situation, albeit by using deceptive, twisted political and economic tools that could in fact lead to a worse humanitarian situation in the Strip than the one that exists today.

Enemies of the Palestinian people calculate that the cost of maintaining the current situation seems to exceed, by far, the benefits they might reap by pretending to end the misery. The proposed humanitarian solutions to rescue the Strip from its dilemma are meant to lead the Palestinian people, particularly those who might participate in crafting an agreement in this regard, into a vicious circle.

Palestinian Gaza power cut

Sure, those on the frontline need, and certainly deserve, some rest. However, the timing, place for, and the circumstances surrounding any desired rest are of prime importance. Under the current conditions and circumstances — and in light of regional and international pressures, as work on implementing Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” intensifies, even without any formal declaration — a Palestinian-Israeli Agreement for “calm” does not amount to providing the necessary rest, but rather, to falling in the trap of an attempt at marginalizing all forms of resistance to the occupation.

Using the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as grounds to justify the arrival at a new calm cannot be separated from the overall context of diabolically trying to put the “deal of the century” into effect. This is no different from using the awful humanitarian situation in the occupied territories as a justification for signing the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

Many Palestinians feel that the regurgitation of a bad experience is worse than trying it again from the start. Failure to learn the lessons of the wasteful and aimless Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that have hurt the Palestinian cause is not just a mistake: rather, it is sinful. The Palestinian problem, in its entirety, is targeted now by some of the most senseless minds. Therefore, caution and precision, in dealing with any political bait in the form of proposed solutions, are in order and required. Caution and precision are national necessities for Palestinians that, if eschewed, can only result in catastrophic consequences exceeding in their magnitude the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip today.

Critics of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for calm that might be arrived unilaterally by Hamas remind everyone of the seriously impending dangers surrounding the Palestinian problem on the eve of signing the Oslo agreement. Various different details notwithstanding, the situation then for all Palestinians was not better than the one that exists in Gaza today. The nights and days of Israeli imposed curfews in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967 still live in Palestinian memory. No Palestinian can forget the impact of the continued clashes with the Israeli occupation army during the Intifada (uprising) of the Stones, as it is called, in 1987.

The suffering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the diaspora due to siege, bombardment and isolation cannot be overlooked. Many Palestinian refugees, especially in Lebanon, were reduced to eating dogs, cats and rats in order to stay alive. Scenes of the waves of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian employees working in the Gulf being expelled with their families following the Gulf Crisis of 1990-91 cannot be erased. This is on top of all the massacres Palestinians have been subjected to since the conflict with the Israeli occupation started.

Critics further argue that if the Oslo agreement had brought the Palestinian people calamity, the new looming agreement for calm on the horizon can be even more dangerous, causing more harm to the steadfast Palestinian people.

Palestinian refugee Lebanon

The new proposed calm seems to be no more than a renewed Oslo. With renewal, it is expected that the producer will pay more attention to earlier flaws in order to perfect control and oppression of the Palestinian people. The Gaza Strip, which was to come first in the Oslo accords, had witnessed a relative relaxation of tensions in the first couple of years of Oslo: it had a small airport and work was to begin for establishing a port for people to travel in and out of the Strip.

This means that it is not entirely strange for the Israeli occupation to make a promise of lifting the siege off the Strip, allow reconstruction, establish a sea pathway between Gaza and Cyprus, and even to turn Gaza into Singapore of the Arabs today, and then break its promises tomorrow, depending on how Israeli institutions interpret their national interest at a given point in time. There is no deterrent power to prevent the Israeli occupation from breaking its promises. The occupation aims at getting rid of the Palestinians who live in Gaza: the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said unequivocally that his wish was to wake up one morning and find Gaza sunk in the sea.

Those who embrace the new calm may say that they will retaliate by withdrawing from any new agreement if the Israelis break their promises or violate the agreement. However, this is not convincing for most Palestinians, as they consider such a retaliation, if it were to take place, a reactive rather than a proactive measure. The effectiveness of any given action is often measured by its timing. Israelis might find it beneficial to make promises at this stage and to break them at another. It all depends on what their plans are at any given time.

For example, Oslo was an Israeli need at one point, while its abrogation seems to be a necessity now. Israelis needed Oslo to buy more time to help them confiscate more Palestinian land and build more Israeli settlements under the cover of the erroneous peace. In other words, what might seem to be useful today might be harmful tomorrow. Critics warn that no Palestinians should deceive themselves that they can withdraw from the calm whenever they like and when the Israelis decide to sidetrack it. Palestinians have been engulfed in the Oslo swamp for many years and unable to get out of its grip until now.

 

Why is Israel gasping behind the calm now?

Those who follow the Israeli media closely have no doubt noticed that a number of outlets have tirelessly tried to release some information that made it look like an agreement for calm has been practically reached with Hamas. About two weeks ago some outlets even confirmed that the agreement had become effective. Although there had been no confirmation from the other side, it seems that the Israeli media was interested in preparing Israeli public opinion for what might be coming, in fulfillment of the desires of Israeli leaders, especially in the mini-security cabinet. Never mind all the talk about tense discussions within the mini-security cabinet regarding the viability, utility and content of the calm agreement.

Over the past few months, especially since the start of the weekly Great Marches of Return in the Gaza Strip, one cannot help but detect serious anxiety within Israeli institutions, as they have been trying to repeatedly demonstrate Israeli strength through some airstrikes on Gaza, on the one hand, and to enter into a number of ceasefire understandings, on the other. The bombing in Gaza and entry into ceasefire agreements have been pursued almost in parallel. One could go to sleep with the news of airstrikes on Gaza, and wake up with an announcement for a ceasefire.

This signifies that the Israelis seem to be more interested in arriving at an agreement for calm with Gaza at this stage, rather than in a military confrontation. Assuming this hypothesis is valid, why then would Israel pant for an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip, specifically at this stage? Ten reasons seem to stand behind Israeli thinking:

 

1 | Using the suggested agreement for calm as a natural prelude for Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Here, the objective is to use humanitarian and economic considerations to achieve political and legal ends. More specifically, the plan is to promise Palestinians in Gaza some humanitarian relief in exchange for some political concessions. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch.

The Trump administration has blessed the ongoing talks in Cairo between Hamas and Egyptian officials, as well as other Palestinian factions, to broker some deal. The Trump administration is convinced that an agreement for calm is consistent with, and supports its scheme to deal with the Palestinian problem in fragments. It further believes — as has been expressed in statements by Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor to the president on the Middle East — that some humanitarian cover will have to be used, ostensibly to end the conversation around the future of Palestine by removing all viable options for a future Palestinian state through the deal of the century.

Observers can easily detect the profound paradox in recent U.S. moves: on the one hand, the Trump administration has cut its annual financial contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, a clearly humanitarian organization; and on the other, the administration has declared that it supports efforts that could lead to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Cutting support to UNRWA has been most detrimental, as it led this UN organization to freeze a good number of its projects, and in the process terminate the employment of hundreds very needy Palestinian workers and staff in the Gaza Strip. As such, imagining a separation between an agreement for calm and the deal of the century is an exercise in daydreaming. All aspects are suspicious: he parallel timing, the content, and the dynamics.

UNRWA school in Beirut

 

2 | To serve Benjamin Netanyahu personally.

Some might wonder why Netanyahu has succeeded in becoming the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. It is attributable neither to the fact that Netanyahu is a pathological liar nor to any advantage in intelligence compared to others who were in his position before. Certainly, his hostility towards the peace process from the start has boosted his position among radical Israeli rightists. However, it is doubtful that this would be the determining factor that enabled Netanyahu to last so long in office and manage to stand in the way of a viable contender against him, despite the fact that he has been bombarded with allegations of financial and political corruption.

The secret behind Netanyahu’s success, compared to his political foes, can be primarily found in his ability to provide Israelis with more security relative to that provided by other prime ministers, especially since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. In a society where security is paramount, the Israeli voter does not seem to be able to find a more effective leader than Netanyahu, in spite of all his shortcomings.

Accordingly, an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip very directly serves Netanyahu’s secret of success. It sends a strong message to Israeli society, especially to radical rightist groups. At a time when Netanyahu is quite self-centered on his political and personal ambitions, elevating them over other considerations, and is quite concerned that a military confrontation with the Gaza Strip might have some negative ramifications for his political future, he tries to sound and act tough, while deep inside he wishes for calm. No one would believe that Netanyahu might embark on an agreement for calm out of a good heart towards Palestinians. Certainly, an improved humanitarian life for Palestinians in Gaza is not high on his agenda. Nevertheless, pursuing an agreement for calm with Hamas seems to be his choice at this stage.

 

3 | Improving Israel’s image in the world.

It is worth remembering here that one of Israel’s main goals for entangling the PLO, and subsequently the Palestinian Authority, in the dark alleys of Oslo was exactly to brighten Israel’s worsening image in the world — especially in the West, where it has many friends — an image deteriorating particularly as a result of Israel’s gruesome crimes against unarmed Palestinian children, men and women during the 1987 Intifada of the Stones.

Scenes of heavily armed Israeli soldiers brutally beating unarmed Palestinians, and breaking their bones had immensely affected the image of the Israeli army as the most disciplined in the world. Mounting official criticism and increasing public protests against Israeli brutality and oppression of the Palestinian people around the world had compelled Israeli occupation institutions to search for an effective, extensive and organized public-relations campaign to show that Israel was peace-loving, and not aggressive or hostile.

In this context, Israel continued to market itself as a power searching for peace and negotiations through Oslo, while at the same time, it continued unabated confiscation of more Palestinian land; building more settlements; and, in every way possible, strengthening the occupation regime throughout all the occupied Palestinian territories.

What mattered to Israel was that it appeared as a power involved in negotiations and peace talks with the Palestinians, so as to alter world public opinion. Of course, most experts know that this marketed picture of Israel was quite deceptive because the negotiations were used only to further solidify the occupation regime. However, Israel succeeded in ending a great deal of the isolation it was experiencing as a result of its practices: once it entered into the Oslo talks, a number of countries in the region and in the world renewed their relations with Tel Aviv.

The timing could not be better now for another, more intensified public-relations campaign to revitalize Israel’s tarnished world image, and most specifically after BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — efforts have taken their toll on Israeli products and reputation. Even in countries where Israel has strong friends, BDS has been quite effective. There have been increasing expressions and moves of solidarity with the besieged Gaza Strip over the past few years. Israel has found itself with a dire need to undo its negative image, especially in Western societies.

Some of Tel Aviv’s diplomatic relations have been affected. Israel has also suffered serious economic losses from Palestinian use of fiery paper kites and incendiary balloons against settlements around the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu wants to revive Israeli settler confidence in him as an effective provider of security, especially around the Gaza Strip. Israel’s improving relations with some Arab countries have not compensated for its worsening image in and relations with friendly Western countries.

Boycott Israel France

Therefore, Israel believes that pretending that it is trying hard for calm with the Gaza Strip might lessen the extent of sharp criticism it is facing from the world community, although it is widely known that Israeli leaders do not usually give much weight to protests against them in the world. They do consider themselves to be above international law. For them — whether the calm is arrived at or not, whether it succeeds or not, and regardless of how long it may last — what matters is that Israel appears as its initiator, supporter and keeper, even though it might in reality assault every semblance of human life in the Gaza Strip, as it has always done since the start of the conflict. Israel adheres to agreements only when violating them become more costly — politically, militarily, diplomatically, economically, and, above all, in terms of security.

While Palestinians in the Gaza Strip might be facing a dire humanitarian situation today due to the prolonged siege and continued bombardment, Israelis, especially in settlements around the Gaza Strip, are not reaping the fruit of security, particularly after the start of the Great Marches for return and the launching of kites and balloons.

 

4 | Subjecting Palestinians to more divisions and splits.

Colonial powers have not stopped using the traditional tactic for control, which is based on the idea of “divide and conquer.” One of the most detrimental aspects of the Oslo Agreement has been its fragmentation of Palestinians in a number of ways, politically, demographically and geographically: between returnees and insiders; West Bankers, Gazans, Jerusalemites; 1948 Palestinians and those in the diaspora; those in areas A, B and C; and those focused on varying issues subject respectively to transitional phase negotiations and permanent resolution. All these layers of division seem to have helped the Israeli occupation tighten its noose around the neck of the Palestinian people and plant more seeds of fragmentation.

Segregated Palestine Map

The calm under discussion is not the culmination of a full-fledged military confrontation: its timing and place of execution is consistent with the terms of the deal of the century that have come to the surface thus far. It is doubtful that it will bring about any real meaningful change in Palestinian life that goes beyond the symbolic and short-lived; and — because it does not have the support of most Palestinian political forces, factions and partie — it becomes then a dense recipe for more Palestinian divisions. Such a state of affairs will inevitably help the Israeli occupation regime boost its power and control, and contribute to saving its institutions at a most critical moment.

At a time when the Palestinian Authority has rejected the deal of the century, as have all other Palestinian factions, going along with one of the deals most dubious components — giving it a humanitarian face and claiming that it will bring about development, reconstruction and modernization for the Gaza Strip — is quite risky and dangerous. Among other things, this will further fragment the already divided Palestinian society. Equally true, paying lip service to the recently resurfacing confederacy option between the West and East Bank of the Jordan River is meant to disguise the assault on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their historic homeland, Palestine, and thus threatens the Palestinian national interest.

The Trump administration, which seems to live in the past when proposing this option, hastens to unmask the true objective of its policy by attempting to liquidate the Palestinian refugee question, once and for all, by completely cutting off the U.S.’ annual financial contributions to UNRWA.

 

5 | Legitimizing and boosting the split and, as a result, declaring the death and burial of reconciliation.

Division among Palestinians has already happened. Political, geographic and social division has become a part of Palestinian life. It is no secret that all attempts at ending it have failed thus far. The last thing Palestinians need is another cause to make that existing division deeper.

Each time an attempt at reconciliation fails, trust and credibility between the parties in dispute are further shattered. To be sure, no Palestinian side has come out to publicly announce that it is not concerned with ending the division and achieving reconciliation. All sides compete with each other to assert their adherence to reconciliation efforts and terms, and each works diligently to blame the other for the impending failures. Despite the fact that most statements and expressions of progress towards reconciliation have not been able to put an end to the state of division, still hope has not completely dissipated. Palestinians remain hopeful that the clouds of split overshadowing the Palestinian people will eventually pass and that the sun of reconciliation will rise again.

However, for one party to embrace the calm alone, in the midst of the most complicated regional and international circumstances surrounding the Palestinian problem, becomes a situation that legitimizes Palestinian division in all of its aspects, even if the embracing party does not accept and/or recognize this fact.

It is certainly true that the Gaza Strip has been suffering immensely under one of the most unfair sieges human history has ever recorded. It is also true that the Strip has been subjected to enormous, unprecedented bombardment in the course of three wars between 2008 and 2014. It is even more valid to suggest that the Strip has been left practically alone since the start of the siege. But it is also sound to maintain that wisdom is most needed not during times of comfort and relaxation but rather during times of crises and hardships.

Reacting to the worsening situation in Gaza because of the siege, without consensus among Palestinians and in the midst of deepening divisions, does sustain the split and makes it chronic. In effect, this could totally destroy any semblance for reconciliation thereafter, at least for an extended period of time. In addition to the already-existing reasons for the split, a single Palestinian faction unilaterally entering into an agreement for calm will add insult to injury, and thus make the potential for a true solution almost nonexistent. One major danger lies in the possibility of managing the split by Palestinians themselves, rather than in ending it. Regional and international financial tools can be used to further pull Palestinians away from each other. After all, there are a number of powerful forces of disintegration that have not wished the Palestinians well over the years.

 

6 | Provoking the Palestinian Authority, which has hitherto rejected the deal of the century, to search for a role for itself to play in dealing with new developments.

It is no secret that enemies of the Palestinian people always try to set one side against another. They always attempt to trigger unhealthy, rather destructive competition over limited opportunities and narrow benefits. Promise of the so-called peace dividends to various competing parties is a way to achieve this goal. The prevalence of relative deprivation in a society like that of the Palestinians enhances the likelihood of embracing and furthering individual and small group interests and benefits at the expense of the public good and/or the national interest. It is no surprise that Palestinian society already suffers from the widespread focus on the “I” more than the ”we.” Acceptance of the other becomes rare, especially as the primacy of the faction, family, and/or the small locality takes over.

Israeli and American planners apparently believe that by making Hamas think that some positive change will take place in Palestinian life if they enter in an agreement for calm with Israel that the Palestinian Authority might be sufficiently provoked, and hence led to follow suit. The belief even goes further to assume that the Authority might want to intensely compete with Hamas, so as to become the power In charge of any possible deal. Such planners calculate that only by further dividing Palestinian society they can get Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to become more competitive. This is the most timely moment to instill more division, so as to pave the way for the implementation of the deal of the century.

Indeed, there are some striking implications and ironies in some relevant political moves. If one reviews the record of political statements by Netanyahu and other Israeli officials before talk about the deal of the century started, one would certainly see that one of the recurring conditions for Israel to resume the political process was for the Palestinian Authority to terminate its ties with Hamas. In almost every talk or statement he gave, Netanyahu would demand of the President of the Authority, Mahmud Abbas, to choose between peace and Hamas. However, all of a sudden after the Authority declared its rejection of the deal of the century, Netanyahu finds it appropriate to work on striking a deal for calm with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, even in the absence of the Authority.

It is also interesting to note in this regard that the UN special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, stated that he would be content with dealing with Hamas alone regarding life in Gaza, in the event the Authority does not catch up with the move towards the calm. We can surmise that Mladenov would not have made his statements without prior coordination with the United States, which has given its approval for efforts to arrive at an agreement. Such statements can only serve one purpose: to pressure and provoke the Authority to accept its role before it is too late to do so.

Even more important was what one of Israel’s foremost strategists — former head of the Israeli National Security Council, Reserve General Giora Eiland — said. In an article he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth on August 19, Eiland was direct and quite unequivocal, as he called upon Netanyahu to drop the Palestinian Authority and its president, and to continue working on striking a long-term agreement for calm with Hamas. Again, in a dramatic shift of direction, Eiland reconstructs the discourse in a manner that serves his perspective, as he justifies his call by saying that Hamas was democratically elected in 2006. So Israel brands Hamas as a terrorist organization when such charges serve its interests, then embraces the same group as democratic and opens avenues of negotiations with it when this path seems to promise more benefits.

In any case, no one would believe that Mladenov’s statements and Eiland’s perspective aim to brighten Hamas’s picture and/or to lend legitimacy to Hamas in the world. Rather, they are meant to foment more factional discord in Palestinian society, and to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to eventually accept the deal of the century. In so doing, Israel wants to keep Palestinian factions preoccupied with each other, so as to divert attention from the ongoing and intensifying oppressive measures by the occupation against Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, and more specifically in the Aqsa Mosque. Apparently this is, in part, what John Bolton, Director of the National Security Council in the U.S., wanted to achieve during his latest visit to Israel in late August.

 

7 | Extracting a Palestinian approval to abrogate the ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas that followed the 2014 agression on the Gaza Strip.

This understanding was not the first that Israel signed, nor will it be the last. As usual, it should have come as no surprise that Israel has repeatedly violated the terms of that understanding. However, Israeli planners often resort to legitimizing their violations of a given agreement by arriving at a new agreement. By definition, a new agreement supersedes any prior agreements on related issues. By signing a new agreement for calm, Israeli planners believe that the world will no longer view Israel as the violator of the 2014 ceasefire understanding.

 

8 | Instilling divisions within the axis of resistance — made up of some Palestinian resistance groups, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Iran — by neutralizing Hamas in preparation for a new upcoming great war.

The possibility for a U.S.-supported and/or -led big war in the Middle East is greater than any time in the recent past. Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. and Israel have failed in a number of wars they waged in the region, lessons of earlier experiences do not seem to be heeded. The fact that such a war has not been waged yet does not mean doing away with the idea, but rather, engaging in more preparations while buying more time.

Especially at a time when the U.S. lives one of its most difficult moments domestically because of the ongoing investigations surrounding Trump’s violations and possible collusion with Russia during the last presidential elections, the possibility of resorting to exporting the crisis externally by creating the conditions for war is not to be underestimated. Certainly, Netanyahu would not object to this kind of development: for a long time, he has been trying to drag the U.S. into a calamitous war against Iran and its allies in the region. Measured by the extraordinarily close relation between the two of them, Trump will certainly be ready to act at the right moment.

Therefore, splitting the axis of resistance from within is high on the agenda of the Israelis and the United States. Israel continues to worry about the formation of a united front by all members in the axis of resistance against it in the event of a war. Hence, fragmentation of the axis of resistance is not a matter of luxury, but rather a matter of strategic necessity.

Hamas Palestine Gaza

Israel and the U.S. did not succeed in achieving this goal through the steadfast Hezbollah: the Lebanese group was given a number of offers by the United States to attract it to drop Iran — as the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed in one of his speeches — but to no avail. Hamas is believed to be a more amenable target to fall for this ploy: through promises of reconstruction and prosperity projects for the Gaza Strip, it is believed that Hamas will go along with an extended agreement for calm, and hence with staying away from the axis of resistance. Israeli planners believe they can capitalize on a precedent in this regard: the stand Hamas took at the beginning of the Syrian Crisis in opposition to the Syrian government and in support of some armed opposition groups, in a manner that stood in total contradiction to and conflict with that taken by Hezbollah and Iran.

Therefore, the least that can be achieved, Israel calculates, is to neutralize Hamas and free a whole front with the Gaza Strip in the event of a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, or even with Iran. The Israeli thinking is that Hamas itself becomes interested in holding onto the state of calm once it sees the money pouring in for reconstructing the Gaza Strip.

 

9 | Planting seeds of conflict within the Gaza Strip between supporters and opponents of the calm.

It is an established fact now that there is no Palestinian consensus over an agreement for calm with Israel at this critical stage because of the tricky surrounding international and regional circumstances. Therefore, it is expected that the Gaza Strip will witness intense interaction between supporters and opponents. It is also no secret that those who count on Hamas’s failure cannot be overlooked. There are some who do not wish Hamas well, and as such, will do everything they can to topple any attempt towards calm. At the same time, Israel is not just sitting idly by watching what’s happening: as it has done numerous times in the past, Israel will do everything at its disposal, through its intelligence services, to heighten the level of tensions in the Gaza Strip. This would be one of the most effective ways to keep Hamas occupied with internal matters.

As Oslo created a fertile ground for lasting internal fueds and frictions among Palestinians, the calm under discussion is bound to trigger unavoidable confrontations within the Gaza Strip. At best, Hamas will inevitably find itself compelled to take harsh and necessary security measures against any disrupters of the calm. This may position Hamas to fight against other resistance groups in the Gaza Strip. Israel will surely not shed any tear over such possible developments.

 

10 | Tainting the image of Hamas as a movement for resistance in Palestinian society.

Many observers and analysts suggest that Hamas did not acquire its popularity and legitimacy in Palestinian society due to its political and ideological positions, as much as by virtue of its resistance against the Israeli occupation. In Palestinian society, the effectiveness of any movement, faction or party is usually measured by the extent to which it is involved in the national struggle and in resistance against the occupation. The popularity of political forces goes up or down depending on the size, magnitude and effect of their role in resistance efforts.

In this regard, aside from political positions, friends and foes of Hamas recognize that Hamas has played a pivotal role in resistance activities, not the least of which being its ability to withstand and remain steadfast in the face of three subsequent Israeli agressions in the last decade.

However, in spite of this recognition, many consider the timing and the context of the calm suspicious at this stage, and such considerations may alter this image of Hamas among many Palestinians. Palestinian critics argue that Gazans have been sacrificing, not so as to get a loaf of bread, so to speak, as important as it may be for human survival, but rather to achieve political and national objectives — i.e., freedom and independence. Critics also suggest that such a path has been tested before and failed: Israel does not abide by agreements it signs.

They say that the alternative is not for Hamas to go to war against Israel, but rather to cooperate with other Palestinian parties to capitalize on international solidarity with the Gaza Strip so as to end the state of siege, once and for all, without having to make detrimental political concessions.

In addition, there does not seem to be uniformity of opinion within Hamas itself regarding the calm. Some Hamas leaders, cadres, members and supporters oppose the calm under the current conditions and circumstances. Some have expressed profound disenchantment with the regurgitation of failing experiences. Arguments by the defenders of the calm from within Hamas have not been all that convincing for many rank and file members. Therefore, it is widely expected that pursuing the calm in the midst of internal disagreements can also lead to splits within Hamas itself.

 

The calm would bring anything but calm

Accordingly, the imminent dangers of the would-be calm for Palestinians are enormous, and may exceed by far the detrimental effects of the Oslo Agreement. Regional and international circumstances are less conducive for Palestinians, particularly with the burning desire of the Trump administration to put its deal of the century into effect. Even those Palestinians who have been heavily and staunchly involved in negotiations with the Israelis have come out sharply criticizing the timing and the context of the calm now.

Even in the event there is a symbolic temporary lifting of the siege off the Gaza Strip, the main beneficiary remains the Israeli occupation itself, as it controls the flow and prices of entering goods and commodities, and as it exercises total control over all entry points, from land, air and sea.

Palestinian police officers sit in a small boat as they pass near an Israeli naval vessel

It doesn’t seem to be the case that the calm under discussion will bring about much calm. Any unilateral agreement by one Palestinian party is bound to fail and take Palestinians into a more difficult situation than the one lived in the Gaza Strip today. The timing and overall context of an agreement for calm now are quite questionable, especially in light of the ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to liquidate the question of Palestine through its so-called deal of the century: it is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

The key to the way out does not lie in more partisanship and factional bickering: it is this deterioration in Palestinian cohesion that made it possible for Trump to gin up a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without the Palestinian people.

The solution lies in real unity among Palestinians, dictated by interest, necessity and circumstance. This can prove to be beneficial not only for Palestinians but, as surprising as this may sound, for all other players involved in this conflict, including the Israelis themselves.

While Israel and the United States may plan to instill more division and fragmentation among Palestinians to achieve short-term objectives, the state of chaos, and perhaps anarchy that may ensue can have far-reaching destabilizing effects for Israel. Geography is not on their side. Their schemes have not always succeeded in the past. Indeed they have been wrestling with one strategic failure after another. They should not be captivated by a sense of instantaneous gratification. The Palestinian people have persevered all along and, in spite of the impending heavy cost, they are expected to survive again, and emerge much stronger. No one can argue that the current state of affairs, or one that is worse, is sustainable.

The Palestinian people are the party that needs a genuine calm the most. The occupation has turned their life into total misery, day-in and day-out. All aspects of their life have been severely affected because the occupation is after them 24/7. At the same time, Palestinians have become quite wary of deceptive, misleading agreements for calm, which give the occupation more time to become more entrenched under the cover of peace.

The would-be agreement for calm does not promise to be any different. Actually, it more directly threatens Palestinian well-being and existence, as it is linked to the deal of the century, which aims to dissolve the question of Palestine.

What is needed is an agreement that ends the Israeli occupation of Palestine once and for all, and grants the Palestinian people their rights to real, full statehood, freedom, independence and self-determination, as dictated by international law. Any other way is bound to deepen and intensify the conflict. No one should be misled by fake cosmetic political moves here or there. Genuine calm requires genuine intentions, not a recycling of the occupation.

Top Photo | Left to right, US President Donald Trump , Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Flickr

Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D. was Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Politics Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, he was a Fulbright scholar in Palestine, where he wrote his book: From Religious Salvation to political transformation: the rise of Hamas in Palestinian Society. Ahmed is the author of numerous studies dealing with the Middle East. Ahmed is frequently called upon by the local and international media for analyses of various political issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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All Watched Over by The Anglosphere of Loving Grace: Big Brother is keeping ‘Five Eyes’ on you – By Darius Shahtahmasebi – – RT

five eyes surveillance

Just last week, the world’s leading snooping powers quietly and without notice issued a disturbing warning to tech giants, telling them to surrender unprecedented backdoor access to their citizens’ data.

Not many people know this, but the United Kingdom has some of the most extreme spying powers in the developed world. At the end of 2016, passing what some people called the “Snooper’s Charter,” the UK put into law some of the most draconian anti-privacy laws that we have ever known, allowing its government to compel companies to break their own encryption.

The UK plays a pivotal part in the so-called Five Eyes alliance, which also includes the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Nobody knew it at the time, but the American military base which my family and I grew up next to has played a crucial role in delivering US drone strikes across the Middle East and beyond. America’s drone-strike regime, largely considered illegal for numerous reasons, is not something that countries should willingly participate in lightly and without public scrutiny.

Why am I mentioning this? Because it goes to the very heart of my point: the extent to which we know or do not know what our governments are doing behind closed doors is quite literally a matter of life and death.

Now, it has been revealed that the Five Eyes alliance, dedicated to a global “collect-it-all” surveillance task, has issued a memo calling on their governments to demand that tech companies build backdoor access for states to access users’ encrypted data or face measures that will force companies to comply.

The memo was released quietly with little media coverage last week by the Australian Department of Home Affairs, and essentially demanded that providers “create customized solutions, tailored to their individual system architectures that are capable of meeting lawful access requirements.” The memo was reportedly released after ministers for the intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes nations met on Australia’s Gold Coast last week.

The most laughable aspect, of course, was the opening sentence, which ironically reads: the “governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are committed to personal rights and privacy, and support the role of encryption in protecting those rights.”

Yes, of course. Also worthy of note is the order in which those countries appear in the memo, clearly ranking from biggest bully in the playground to the push-over child at school who is just happy and content to be a part of the “club.”

If we are to take the memo at its face value, end-to-end encryption is potentially our best friend. The memo itself admits that some encrypted data is nearly impossible for intelligence agencies to crack on their own, as they are struggling to make sense of the data they are currently intercepting. This is why they are forcibly calling on the world’s leading tech providers to do their work for them.

Will those tech companies cave in to these government’s demands? You can bet your bottom dollar that eventually, yes, they very well might. While Facebook did not comment directly on the memo, instead attempting to refer questions to a public blog that the social media giant published in May explaining its policies on encryption, there is one important ingredient missing from the future of these policies.

After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the US establishment and its media cohorts went into a “fake news” frenzy that saw Barack Obama deliver a stern attack on Facebook directly, supposedly being one of the main disseminators of fake news. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder, completely dismissed the idea that Facebook played a substantial role in this, stating:

“Voters make decisions based on their lived experience. We really believe in people. You don’t generally go wrong when you trust that people understand what they care about, and you build systems that reflect that.”

Despite this statement, hoping no one had noticed, barely a few days later, Facebook then announced it was adopting a string of measures to fight “fake news” after all.

Why the sudden change in heart? Could it be that, according to the Washington Post, in that trivial space of time, Barack Obama personally pulled aside Zuckerberg in a private room, on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Peru, so that the president could make a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of “fake news” more seriously?

Comment: More likely, the same people who controlled Obama ‘let Zuckerberg know’ which side his bread was buttered on. They can regulate FB, destroy it, take it out of the Zuck’s hands, or simply have him ‘have an accident’. As should be patently clear to everyone now, real power is exercised from the shadows…

In other words, these big companies will always inevitably cave to government pressure whether or not they even agree with what these governments are saying. According to the New York Times, one Facebook official said that the Australian memo had “no teeth,” but was in fact “part of an escalating war between governments and Silicon Valley tech giants over access to people’s private data.”

Comment: ‘Silicon Valley’ is the US deep state military-industrial complex ‘in the flesh’. All of it began with, and is thus still founded on, DARPA, i.e. the Pentagon and ‘the intelligence community’.’Silicon Valley’ IS the government. Together they form CorpGov.

In that context, the warnings speak for themselves. The companies who do not comply with these nations’ demands will be hit with “technological, enforcement, legislative, or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions,” according to the memo, which does not detail what sort of measures these will be. Also unclear is how much access and to what, exactly, the governments of the Five Eyes are proposing. However, it seems likely that the least it would allow each government is access to encrypted call and message data relating to their citizens.

Given that Facebook has been breaching our privacy in favor of government agencies for a long time now, you can rest assured that Zuckerberg will not put up any meaningful resistance to this new decree issued by the Five Eyes network.

This idea of “fake news” and still-unsubstantiated claims of extensive foreign interference in Western democracies more or less set the tone for the Five Eyes gathering in Australia. Perhaps, just perhaps, the aim of these governments was not to discuss what to do about child-trafficking or international crime as they claim, but actually something more broadly related to containing these powers’ number-one adversary (here are two clues).

It is worth noting that there has been next to no criticism of these Five Eyes powers for delivering such a blatant attack on our right to privacy. Remember that, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to “wrest control of the internet,” as the Guardian wrote approximately three years ago. But these same Western media companies are awkwardly silent about what their own governments are proposing to do, something which other nations could only dream about achieving on such a global scale.

It needs to be said that now is the time to start paying attention. If you think the same governments that facilitate terrorism all over the planet want to access your data to in good faith to do nothing other than foil terrorist plots, you are nothing short of naïve.

Privacy matters, whether you think you matter or not; and if you don’t believe me, who better to demonstrate this point than Mark Zuckerberg himself?

“This same division can be seen with the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who in an infamous interview in 2010 pronounced that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm,'” journalist Glenn Greenwald noted in his TEDtalk, “Why Privacy Matters.”

“Last year, Mark Zuckerberg and his new wife purchased not only their own house but also all four adjacent houses in Palo Alto for a total of $30 million in order to ensure that they enjoyed a zone of privacy that prevented other people from monitoring what they do in their personal lives,” Greenwald continued.

So, why does all of this matter anyway? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, am I right?

Firstly, security researchers and other critics of these backdoor access proposals have stated time and time again that there is no workable way to create a “secure backdoor” that would not be vulnerable to intercept by hackers who have not been sanctioned access to the data.

Secondly, this line of nonsensical thinking was graciously debunked and tossed into the fire, never to be seen again, by none other than infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden, who stated:

“…privacy isn’t about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect. That’s who you are. Privacy is baked into our language, our core concepts of government and self in every way. It’s why we call it ‘private property.’ Without privacy you don’t have anything for yourself.”

“Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like arguing that you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

For those of us who have plenty to say, the memo is nothing but an attack on all our fundamental rights and freedoms, and should be rejected in the same manner in which the media has chosen to ignore it.

About the author

Darius Shahtahmasebi is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst, currently specialising in immigration, refugee and humanitarian law.

Comment: ‘All watched over by machines of loving grace’ was a Californian hippy’s poem from the 1960s, envisioning a computing/digital utopia. British docu-maker Adam Curtis named his 2011 series after it, in which he explored how the computing/internet age enslaved rather than liberated people. The original techie innovators and gurus predicted that politics-as-usual would disappear. Instead, everything has become intensely political, and the predominantly anglophone structure of world power is arguably more entrenched and brutal than ever before.

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IDF gets caught with pants down in Syria—again – By Jonas E. Alexis – VT

Brace yourself. The Israeli Defense Force has been caught again. The Jerusalem Post has posted an article saying that the IDF has militarily and financially supported the Syrian rebels/terrorist in Syria.

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…by Jonas E. Alexis

Brace yourself. The Israeli Defense Force has been caught again. The Jerusalem Post has posted an article saying that the IDF has militarily and financially supported the Syrian rebels/terrorist in Syria. The article, however, was removed from the Jerusalem Post just a few hours of its release. David Brinn, the managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, said:

“We were told by the army’s military censor to remove that part of the story.”[1]

Russia Today reported: “The report, ‘IDF confirms: Israel provided light-weapons to Syrian rebels’, which claimed that the Israeli military acknowledged for the first time that it had provided money, weapons, and ammunition to the Syrian militants, was removed just hours after being published without any explanation. According to Brinn, the story was removed “for security reasons evidently.” The IDF told RT that it would not comment on the issue.”[2]

This is obviously not a surprise. But we know that Israel has been helping their terrorist friends in Syria since the beginning of the Syrian war. We also know for a fact that Israel wanted Assad to go. Assad is still in power, and the Israeli Defense Force seems to be saying that Israel is not going to lose without a fight. The diabolical recourse?

Well, they want to continue their work with terrorist cells in the region. At the same time, they want to give the impression that they are just trying to stop Iran and Hezbollah from attacking them. The million-dollar question is simply this: Where did Israel get the money to continue to support terrorist cells in Syria?

From America. Keep in mind again that Israel is receiving at least three billion dollars a year from the United States of America—or shall we say the Zionist State of America. The government takes the money from the average American, sends it to Israel, and Israel graciously sends them to the terrorists in Syria.

If that doesn’t make you want to puke, then you are an enemy of millions upon millions of decent Americans who don’t want their tax dollars to be sent to the Israeli regime, which never ceases to drink blood in the Middle East and elsewhere.

[1] “Report on IDF funding Syrian rebels pulled on request of ‘army’s censor’ – Jerusalem Post to RT,” Russia Today, September 5, 2018.

[2] Ibid.

Libya in chaos seven years after NATO’s ‘liberation’, but who cares? – By Neil Clark – RT

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Libya in chaos seven years after NATO's 'liberation', but who cares?
Libya remains a lawless land, with rival militias fighting battles in the streets of Tripoli and over 1 million people in need of aid. But the West’s ‘liberal interventionists’ aren’t interested in the catastrophe they created.

Hundreds escape prison amid deadly clashes in Tripoli,” a headline on the BBC News website declared this week. 

Over 60 people have died in the current fighting with many more injured and hundreds of ordinary citizens displaced. The latest disturbances began after the Tarhuna’s 7th Infantry ”Kaniat‘ Brigade made advances into the capital from the south and clashed with a coalition of Tripoli militias. 

It’s really hard to keep up with who’s fighting who. If you think the situation in Syria is complicated, you haven’t been paying much attention to Libya. As the BBC article acknowledged: “Libya has faced continuing chaos since NATO-backed militia forces, some of them rivals, overthrew long-serving ruler Colonel Gaddafi in October 2011.”

Libya has rival governments but even they don’t control the majority of the country. There is no ‘rule of law’, only the rule of the gun. Libya’s regression from the country with the highest Human Development Index figure in the whole of Africa just ten years ago, to a fragmented and very dangerous failed state, is hard to take in. Last year, the UN Agency IOM reported that slave markets had returned to the country. 

Economic and societal collapse has had a devastating impact on the life of ordinary Libyans.

Take health care. A 2017 Service Availability and Readiness Assessment survey, conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health, found that 17 out of 97 hospitals are closed and only four hospitals were functional between 75-80% of their capacity. Over 20% primary health care facilities are closed and the rest are not “well ready for service delivery“.

In May 2016, the WHO also expressed ‘great concern’ over the deaths of 12 newborns in the Sabah Medical Centre neonatal intensive care unit in Sabha, southern Libya. It records: “The deaths occurred as a result of a bacterial infection and lack of specialized health staff to provide medical care.

The education system is also in a state of collapse or near-collapse. In 2016, it was reported that the start of the school year was postponed because of a “lack of books, lack of security and many other factors.”

It was noted that the Libyan school year had not been regular since the fall of Gaddafi. This year, UNICEF said that 489 schools were affected by the conflict and that around 26,000 students had been forced to change schools due to closures. 

UNICEF also says that 378,000 children in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance, 268,000 are in need of safe water, sanitation and hygiene and 300,000 are in need of education in emergency support. Overall 1.1m people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Given the dire situation it is no surprise that so many Libyans have left, or are leaving. In 2014, it was reported that between 600,000 and 1m had fled to Tunisia

If we add those who went to Egypt and elsewhere, the figure is likely to be in excess of 2 million, quite staggering when you consider that the 2011 population of Libya was around 6 million.

As I argued in a previous op-ed, the Western assault on Libya was an even worse crime than the invasion of Iraq because it came later. There was really no excuse for anyone, seeing how the ‘regime change’ operation of 2003 had turned out, supporting a similar venture in North Africa.

Yet, those responsible for what happened have faced no comeback. The UK Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, is blamed for Brexit (by Remainers), but not for what he did to Libya and the claims he made to justify the military action. This is despite a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report concluding, five years later, that “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President in 2011, faces a trial (or trials) in relation to three different investigations, including accepting money from Gaddafi to help his election campaign, but he has not yet been prosecuted for his role in the war.

Bernard-Henri Levy, the philosopher considered by some to be the intellectual godfather of the Western intervention – and who boastedwe are the first to say that Qaddafi is no longer the legal representative,” is performing a one-man anti-Brexit play, as the country he helped ‘liberate’ burns. 

Stateside and in ‘liberal’ circles across the West, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are lionised for not being Donald Trump, but what the duo did to Libya is far worse than anything Trump has done up to now.

And the British Home Secretary under whose watch control orders on members of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were lifted, one Theresa May, is now Prime Minister, and trying to take the moral high ground against Russia. To add insult to injury, it is a politician who opposed the NATO action in 2011, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under constant media attack and painted as beyond the pale. Just how wrong is that?

Returning to the current violence, a UN-brokered ceasefire to end the fighting in south Tripoli is reported at time of writing to be holding, but bearing in mind how previous ceasefires have collapsed, we can’t be optimistic. Part of the problem is that the country is awash with arms. The sad truth is that Libya is broken and probably will never be put back together again. A great crime has been committed, but you would never think it, judging by the lack of media coverage.

We’ve had a lot of debate this summer in Britain about Israel’s ‘right to exist’- and whether challenging this makes one ‘anti-Semitic’ but the reality is that Libya – as a modern, functioning state – has ceased to exist. And no one in elite, establishment circles seems the least bit bothered. Consider how many column inches were devoted to ‘saving’ Libya in the build up to NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ intervention seven and a half years ago, with the lack of opinion pieces about the country today.  

Try googling the names of some of the leading media war hawks and ‘Libya’ and you see they tend to go as silent after 2011 – shifting their attention to propagandising for ‘regime change’ in Syria. The only conclusion one can draw is their sole interest in the country was seeing Muammar Gaddafi toppled. After that was achieved, who cares?

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Insanity of Political Leaders: More Common Than Thought – By Wayne MADSEN – Strategic Culture Foundation

Insanity of Political Leaders: More Common Than Thought
Wayne MADSEN | 06.09.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Political scientists would argue that the rigors of running for political office coupled with the glaring microscope of press attention would normally weed out any candidate suffering from mental illness. Whether political leaders gain office democratically or from unconstitutional means, the degree of mental illness among the top leadership of nations around the world in recent history has been remarkably high.

For example, in 2014, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, where several convicted and executed war criminals from World War II are buried, it was over the strong objections of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Prime Minister Executive Secretary Imai Takaya. The prime minister’s assistants warned him that Japan’s relations with China and South Korea would deteriorate even further over the shrine visit. Abe disregarded their advice.

Abe’s infuriation with Washington over the Barack Obama administration’s criticism over his Yasukuni visit plus his ignoring the advice of his closest aides led many senior governing Liberal Democratic Party politicians to wonder whether Abe was completely sane. In Japan, as in the United States, it is next to impossible to force a chief executive to submit to a mental examination.

The US Central Intelligence Agency has long psychologically profiled foreign leaders. In 1984, CIA deputy director for intelligence Robert Gates, who later became CIA director under George H. W. Bush, renamed the CIA’s Political Psychology Division the Political Psychology Center (PPC). Gates also gave the unit higher visibility within the Intelligence Community. Today, the PPC develops – based on intelligence sources and methods – psychological profiles on various world leaders. These include North Korea’ Kim Jong Un, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Worldwide intelligence agencies, likewise, maintain psychological profiles of US leaders. Recent revelations have revealed that President Donald Trump suffers from paranoia, emotional delusions, fits of rage, and compulsive lying. Trump’s psychological profiles maintained by intelligence agencies certainly dwarf those held on other world leaders. Trump provides a rich subject for intelligence agency psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuro-linguistic experts.

Trump is not the first US president to suffer from mental illness. On September 20, 2007, President George W. Bush suggested at a White House news conference that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein killed Nelson Mandela. Bush said, “I heard somebody say, ‘Now where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela is dead. Because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” Mandela, at the time, was alive at the age of 89. In 2003, Mandela conducted his own psychoanalysis of Bush, stating that Bush is “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly.”

A 1977 CIA analysis of the personality traits of various world leaders concluded that Israel’s Shimon Peres as “arrogant.” British Prime Minister James Callaghan was deemed to be an “intellectual lightweight.” French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s psychological dossier was summed in two words: “aristocratic” and “cold.” West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was described as “cocky,” Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau a “charmer” with a lot of personal problems with his marriage, Chinese leader Hua Kuo-feng, “shrewd” and not totally committed to Communist ideology, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, “wily, skillful, and tactful,” and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, “unpredictable” and a “potential mass murderer.”

Amin was, in fact, a mass murderer. The CIA also concluded that several leaders suffered from alcoholism. Others were pegged as gossip mongers. The CIA challenged the world’s perception of Costa Rican three-time president, Jose Figueres Ferrer, as a widely respected statesman. The CIA determined that Figueres and certain family members were nothing more than crooks.

Earlier CIA psychological profiles provided unusually honest assessments of certain leaders. For example, one agency profile described Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev as a “ham actor, who sometimes illustrates his points with the crudest sort of barnyard humor,” but also noting, “Khrushchev is endowed on occasion with considerable personal dignity.” Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was reported to be “not psychotic,” but having “a strong paranoid orientation.”

In 2009, after Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a CIA-planned military coup, The Miami Herald, the paper-of-choice for Latin American oligarchs and despots, floated a poorly-sources story that Zelaya was “an anti-Semitic lunatic.” In Zelaya’s case, charges that he suffered from a mental illness were clearly contrived and disseminated by Israeli intelligence sources in Miami who were pushing back against Zelaya’s valid assertions of Israeli involvement in the Honduran coup. The Zelaya case shows that not all allegations that a leader suffers from mental impairment are true. Similar tactics were used falsely against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The CIA has been known to lie about some leaders in its psychological profiling. Its report on former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a case in point. The CIA profile stated that Aristide “suffered from manic depression, had sought treatment at a Montreal hospital in the early ’80s, and was taking a powerful antipsychotic drug.” Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital in Montreal responded, stating Aristide was never a patient. Aristide denied using any sort of anti-psychotic medications, including Lithium Oligosol.

Although it is a cheap shot to falsely accuse a political leader who is perfectly sane of being the opposite, there remains enough documentation from medical sources to question the mental capacities of some world leaders. In July 1998, a psychological analysis was commissioned on current Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. The analysis was made during Duterte’s annulment of his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, which took place during Duterte’s term as mayor of Davao City. Dr. Natividad Dayan diagnosed Duterte as suffering from “antisocial narcissistic personality disorder” marked by “gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness,” as well as “grandiose sense of self-entitlement and manipulative behaviors.” Dayan’s report also said of Duterte that he had a “pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings,” “was unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions,” had a “poor capacity for objective judgement,” and that he failed to “see things in the light of facts.” 

As far as Duterte’s marriage was concerned, Dayan concluded that Duterte was “psychologically incapacitated to handle essential marital obligations” because of his “inability for loyalty and commitment” and “lack of capacity for remorse and guilt.” Such a psychological profile could easily apply to another well-known world leader. In recent remarks delivered in Jerusalem, Duterte said that Trump is a “good friend” who “speaks my language.”

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s sanity was also questioned toward the end of his presidency. Chris Mutsvangwa, a special adviser to current Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said in May 2017 remarks to the Harare Press Club that Mugabe was “mentally unstable.” In January 2018, Mnangagwa stated that former First Lady Grace Mugabe was “not mentally sound.”

There is nothing to suggest that leaders suffering from mental illness should be removed from office merely because of their conditions. It is when such illness results in destructive actions that removal is warranted. President Abraham Lincoln is said to have suffered from clinical depression. However, Lincoln’s actions as president are generally commended by historians for saving the United States. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s physician diagnosed his patient’s depression as arising from bipolar disorder. However, no one suggested that Churchill was incapable of carrying out both peacetime and wartime duties as prime minister. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler’s panoply of reported mental disorders, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality, sadistic personality, and antisocial personality disorders, made him a legitimate target for removal by any means possible.

When the line is crossed between a benign leader suffering from mental depression to a malignant leader suffering from sociopathic desires to threaten death and destruction, it is a clear signal that such a menace should be removed from power forthwith and without rancorous political debate. 

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