Trump’s Drastic Cuts to UNRWA Spell More Poverty, Hopelessness, and Radicalization in Palestine – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D (MINT PRESS)

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from abut $350 million to $65 million and pressured other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, was established in December 1949 by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 to address the basic humanitarian needs of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who became refugees in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

As its name reveals, UNRWA’s mission was centered on providing relief rations, basic healthcare, education and employment opportunities for the refugees who lost all of their livelihood. Underlying UNRWA’s establishment was the goal to integrate refugees into the neighboring Arab host countries, so as to diffuse tensions and promote regional peace and stability.

Motivated by political objectives, the United States and Britain have been the biggest contributors to UNRWA’s budget. This has remained the case until recently when U.S. President Donald Trump announced in February of this year his decision to drastically cut U.S. contributions to UNRWA. Over the years, these two big powers saw in this humanitarian agency an effective vehicle for containing frustration and despair among the refugees.

 

Indeed, in spite of some of its shortcomings, UNRWA has been able to provide badly needed services, particularly for destitute refugee families. UNRWA became an important apparatus of employment for many skilled refugees.

Until it began in the past few years to introduce reductions in its services, UNRWA’s schools once provided the best education to be had in their communities, employing the most talented Palestinian teachers and graduating very successful students who excelled in various fields of knowledge and expertise.

School girls listen to Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, during the launch of a global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza. Adel Hana | AP

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from about $350 million to $65 million and, against all advice from his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, he pressured some other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

 

The first impact of Trump’s drastic cuts

UNRWA, which had already been struggling financially to meet its increasing demands, owing to the influx of more Palestinian refugees as a result of the Syrian crisis, found its operations severely hampered at a most critical time for so many Palestinian refugees. Supposedly compelled by the financial constraints, UNRWA recently decided to further shrink most of its modest services. Then, more worrisome for the refugees, it dismissed more than 1,000 Palestinian refugee employees from work in the Gaza, which has been lingering under siege for about 12 years.

Gaza, where unemployment has exceeded 80 percent, is considered one of the most troubled places on earth for human survival. Due to the tight siege, clean water is very scarce; Gazans get fewer than four hours of electricity per day; and the healthcare system has practically crumbled, as medical supplies are not coming in. On the whole, people are tormented by, on the one hand,  the ongoing contest of powers between Hamas, which has unilaterally controlled the strip since 2007, and the Palestinian Authority, and, on the other, the Israeli occupation that dominates the airspace and sea as well as all entry points by land.

A Palestinian employee sits during a protest at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City, July 25, 2018. UNWRA staff are protesting the agency's decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

UNRWA’s decision, which seems to be the product of financial considerations, is nonetheless interpreted by many Palestinians as a politically-motivated move, owing to its timing and place of execution. Palestinians maintain that of all places where UNRWA operates, Gaza cannot be the first where such severe austerity measures should be introduced. The agony in the Gaza Strip is incalculable, especially as people have endured three wars with Israel in the past decade alone.

The new measures by UNRWA fell like a thunderbolt on refugee employees who have been dismissed, as no other opportunities for employment are available. Such measures led one of the dismissed employees, caught in despair and anguish, to try to set himself on fire in protest. Employees whose jobs were terminated have carried out an open-ended hunger strike with their families inside UNRWA headquarters.

 

Hopelessness and frustration: the breeding ground for extremism

Especially in a troubled area like the Middle East, the many crises that have developed over the years have contributed to the deepening of extremist tendencies among some groups and organizations.

By all accounts, the displacement of many refugees in the most recent conflicts during the past few years has widened the base of radicalization in the region. Radicalization becomes inevitable during times of total despair and profound frustration unless alternative creative, innovative solutions are introduced — i.e., unless some robust, systematic international programs of aid to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and to replace despair with hope are instituted.

In essence, radicalization of individuals can be viewed as a factor that leads to abnormalizing the behavior of those who fall victims to this tendency. More broadly, when radicalization spreads in a group or community, it can deform the social structure and lead to behavior that lacks balance — this may be called “the imbalancing” of communities. Creative and innovative policies are required to tackle the underlying root causes of radicalization.

Palestinian children sit next to hanged clothes, on the First day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. A U.N. inquiry has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed and at least 227 injured by "Israeli actions" while sheltering at U.N. locations during last year's Gaza war. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday, April 27, 2015, he deplores the deaths and calls U.N. locations "inviolable."

UNRWA’s measures of cutting its services and dismissing close to 10 percent of its Palestinian workforce in Gaza are bound to hamper the educational process for hundreds of thousands of students, especially as other Palestinian employees in other locations feel quite vulnerable and may, as a result, resort to protesting such measures. In effect, the learning process of Palestinian students will be impacted and their educational rights violated.

The implications of violating the educational rights of refugees cannot be overlooked. Radicalization usually finds its way among disgruntled and frustrated young people, those who believe that their future offers them nothing more than despair and anguish. The Gaza Strip has been in a state of war and under total siege for many years — thus, to begin with, services are limited if provided at all. Dismissing of employees in the thousands by the organization in whose name and for whom it was created adds insult to injury, as it threatens the very livelihood of tens of thousands of people, when accounting for the members of the families of those who are dismissed and whom they support.

 

An impact that rolls on into a darkened future

Wars, especially when compounded by chronic despair and frustration, usually affect societies both in the present and the future: while present effects might be measurable, those that might occur in the future are often accompanied by surprise. With the continuation of such measures by UNRWA, entire generations may be expected to be kept without formal education. These may be easily subjected to some kind of informal, unstructured education — i.e., indoctrination and radicalized mobilization by a number of organizations that generally thrive in an environment of chaos and anarchy.

Some scholars have studied the interplay between radicalization and feelings of deprivation. For example, Fathali M. Moghaddam (2005) has stressed the need for education to nurture feelings of tolerance and equality among different groups. Ervin Staub (2007) has focused on preventive measures against radicalization, mainly through teaching, learning and education. More recently, however, Kartika Bhatia and Hafez Ghanem (2017) drew the link between the decline in education, rise of unemployment and empowerment of radicalization.

By writing this article, the author hopes to shed light on such an important underlying problem faced by Palestinian refugees. Coming to terms with this problem now, policy-makers and strategists can avert crucial problems in the future, mainly the deepening of frustration and the potential rise of radicalization in the region.

School girls look while pass the house morning of Mohammed Ayyoub, 14, who was killed by Israeli soldiers during a protest on Gaza's border with Israel, east of Jebaliya,, April 21, 2018. Adel Hana | AP

The recent waves of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding a number of European countries could have been averted with sound, foresighted policies. In writing this article, the author is motivated by the sense of urgency to highlight the ramifications of the ferocious assault of displacement on the rights of the refugees, particularly those pertaining to education. At the same time, the author is also motivated by his own background as a Palestinian refugee who was born and grew up in a refugee camp, Dheisheh near Bethlehem: every time I read about the plight and the agony of new refugees, I cannot help reflecting on my own upbringing and observation of the effect of deprivation on the lives of so many people around me.

Palestinian refugees have been subjected to serious injustice everywhere they went. UNRWA’s recent measures of reducing the already modest services it provides to the refugees, and its termination of thousands of jobs solely for Palestinian employees, raise a number of compelling moral and legal questions. The international community is responsible for the catastrophe endured by Palestinians. Thus, even if the United States under Trump resorts to punitive financial measures to achieve political ends, the world community should not allow UNRWA to crumble. Cutting services and dismissing Palestinian employees from their jobs is not the answer, nor is it the solution to the worsening financial problem.

 

Constructive reforms, not drastic and destructive cuts, are needed

A comprehensive assessment of UNRWA’s structure needs to be carried out, as its bureaucracy has massively expanded. It is a well-documented fact that the average salary of a foreign employee in UNRWA is about 10 times that of a Palestinian employee. UNRWA was created to serve Palestinian refugees and to employ them, as its mandate stipulates.

Attempts by the U.S. Congress to redefine the refugee status for Palestinians — i.e., to exclude all descendants from the current UNRWA definition of Palestinian refugees — aim at liquidating the problem of those refugees in time by dissolving UNRWA. The specific goal is to limit the definition to fewer than 40,000 Palestinian refugees, rather than the current 5.3 million. The calculation is that even the new limited number will further shrink, as elderly refugees will die and the definition will not apply to their descendants.

This can only exacerbate the already fragile security environment in the Middle East. Such attempts stem from many concerted efforts by Israel and its lobbying groups in the U.S. to influence American decision-makers. For example, in its annual conference in the last week of July, CUFI, Christians United For Israel in the United States, an organization that has become synonymous with AIPAC, lobbied members of Congress for redefining the status of Palestinian refugees. This is quite short-sighted, as it completely evades the political, legal and humanitarian consequences of this action. From a cost-benefit analysis, securing the necessary funds for UNRWA to maintain its operations, and actually to enhance them, is less costly than having to deal with increasing instability, deepening frustration and the resultant growing radicalization.

The High Commissioner of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, has reflected an excellent understanding of the potential ramifications of cutting services and terminating jobs for Palestinian refugees. In a number of interviews he gave to the media, especially after Trump announced that he will be reducing U.S. contributions to UNRWA’s budget, Krahenbuhl clearly spoke of the impending radicalization among young refugees. Therefore, it is inconceivable to allow the dissolution of UNRWA to happen under his supervision. This stands in total contradiction with the reputable record he has.

With a comprehensive assessment, serious reform, and reliance on more skilled Palestinian expertise, UNRWA can be enabled to cross this threshold and continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission. Sadly, the Palestinian problem is not over, and no just settlement for the refugees has been achieved. Therefore, the outcry of Palestinian refugees should be heard at the highest level of decision-making in the UN, including that of the office of the Secretary-General himself, Antonio Guterres.

This is the time to heed the call for human justice and dignity for Palestine’s refugees. This is the time when perspicacity should override narrow political considerations. This is the time to prevent more seeds of radicalization from being planted.

Top Photo | A wall painting made by Palestinian employees is seen at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City. July 25,2018. UNWRA staff were protesting the agency’s decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

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.

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

The Deal: Smelling a Rat, Arabs Sense a Coming Humiliation – By Alastair CROOKE (Strategic Culture Foundation)

 

 

The Deal: Smelling a Rat, Arabs Sense a Coming Humiliation

“The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

What on earth does this tweet from President Trump – “I am asking for World Peace” – mean? It does not at all gel with NY businessman pragmatism: that he wants to diss Obama; or, that he wants to implode Iran in order to recover US energy dominance; or, that with Iran’s implosion, the hitherto obstructed path, would thus be cleared for all Sunni Arab states desirous of normalising and trading with Israel – so to do.

But the extravagant capitalisation of WORLD PEACE implies that Trump has some wider vision, behind this new American ‘war of choice’ on Iran. ‘WORLD PEACE’: It strongly suggests Trump leading us toward a definite destiny: not just for America, but for all humanity (‘no less’). It is an apocalyptic vision. (i.e. an event that implies something not bad, but rather that the implosion of Revolutionary Iran, somehow will bring human Salvation). 

The conviction that the crimes and follies of the past can be left behind in some all-encompassing transformation of human life is a secular reincarnation of early Christian beliefs. The very idea of ‘an event’ which transforms humanity and leads to ‘Salvation’ owes to religious conviction – in this case the Jewish apocalyptic current (of which Jesus was an adherent) that was assimilated into early Christianity.

Is this religious eruption Trump’s own? Or, did he absorb it from Ivanka’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism; or, has it emerged out from Trump and Pence’s Evangelical base?

We do not know. But once we move into the domain of human salvation, we need to re-calibrate our understanding of what is afoot here. We may need – when we try to understand Trump and Israel, in particular – to set aside the standard image of a hard-nosed, real-estate negotiator, and instead at least consider if there is religious impulse lurking here. Here, we must go to US [Evangelical] Pastor Robert Jeffress, who was specifically tasked by Trump and his family to travel to Jerusalem in order to Preside at the ceremony marking the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem for clues to what may lie behind Trump’s exotic tweet. Jeffress states:

“Jerusalem has been the object of the affection of both Jews and Christians down through history and [constitutes] the touchstone of prophecy [that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews in eternity];

Let us unpack and be a little clearer about the religiosity that lies behind Jeffress’ quite strong language: Dating from Exodus, Israel formed a separate, chosen people. In this way, through choosing his people, and with his Covenant, Yahweh constitutes them as a people. This boils down to saying that Israel will exist as people for only so long as it recognises Yahwey as its God. What is true for the people is true also for the land, for it is only in Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) that the Torah can be perfectly fulfilled – and conversely, Eretz Israel only has (religious) ‘meaning’ as long as the Torah is observed there. Hence the particularity of the Land – as of the people.

As we said, this was the voice elected by the Trump family to officiate at the Jerusalem ceremony. This choice signifies something, perhaps. Otherwise, as John Limbert, a retired professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the US Naval Academy and former deputy secretary for Iran (and an veteran of the US Embassy siege in Tehran) writes: nothing makes sense:

“What has President Trump done? Obsessed with Obama and a sucker for Israeli and Saudi flattery, he has rejected the idea that diplomacy might accomplish more with the Islamic Republic, than forty years of futile, mutual chest-beating.

He has chosen an approach that combines bullying, threats, accusations, and unrealistic demands, with an offer to talk. In doing so, Trump has led with his chin and given the Iranians a gift: the opportunity to say “no”, and defy a strong and threatening foreign power.

In Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s words of three decades ago still resonate. Asked about negotiating with the United States, he famously said, “Why should the sheep negotiate with the wolf?” In other words, the Americans have no interest in reaching an agreement with us: They want to eat us.

Trump has filled his administration with shills for the widely-hated Iranian dissident group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a Jonestown-like cult with a dubious past and a more dubious present … Iranians know that, as bad as the present regime is, MEK rule will be much worse—an Iranian version of the Khmer Rouge.

Trump has threatened to punish any country or company doing business with Iran and to stop Tehran from selling its crude oil. These tactics repeat those of the British during1951 – 1953 before they joined the CIA to stage a coup d’état to remove the nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Trump has issued an all-caps threat to annihilate millions of Iranians followed by an offer to talk with anyone, anywhere, anytime, without preconditions.

In the meantime, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has further muddled the message—whatever it is. In his recent speech to an Iranian-American audience in Los Angeles, Pompeo referred to Iran as “that country” and denounced the entire Islamic revolution, thus denigrating the sacrifices of millions of Iranians who fought and died to overthrow the monarchy and defend their country against Iraqi invaders. With such statements, his professions of respect for individual Iranians and for the country’s ancient culture lack any shred of sincerity”.”

Plainly a deeply frustrated and confused US Iran expert. (Perhaps that is in part owing to reading events from the standard secular, US foreign policy perspective.)

Professor Elizabeth Oldmixon however explains that for a subset of the US [Christian] evangelical community, “the status of Israel is really, really important because of the way they understand the end of time “. She continues: “When we talk about the Holy Land, God’s promise of the Holy Land, we’re talking about real estate on both sides of the Jordan River. So the sense of Greater Israel, and expansionism, is really important to this community. Jerusalem is just central to that. It’s viewed as a historical and biblical capital… These are the folks who believe that there will be a millennium in the future, a golden age, where Christ reigns on Earth, [and] they believe that before Christ will return, there will be a tribulation where Christ defeats evil.”

And how big is that subset? “Roughly a third of the American evangelical population, which is something like 15 million people.”

So, we have a triumvirate of US religious Orthodox envoys (all Trump family members, or former family retainers) – who are charged with the mission of ‘WORLD PEACE’. What can this possibly mean – when said so emphatically (all capitals) by Trump, and included within the context of his imposing ‘crushing’ sanctions on Iran – other than a desire finally to instantiate “the promised Holy Land, for the Jews” – and thus bring to a close the long running Middle East conflict? The theology also suggests that with Salvation, ‘peace’ will be established.

“There’s something that these Christians have in common with religious Zionists in Israel” Prof. Oldmixon adds, as something of a footnote – though it is crucial: “The founding generation in Israel was fairly secular. Their support for a Jewish state wasn’t about biblical prophecy. Religious Jews were always unhappy that the founding generation wasn’t really motivated by a religious understanding of the Jewish people in the world. That’s something that evangelicals in this country share. They support Israel for religious reasons.”

Well let’s look what’s actually happening? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a “defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel”, when the Knesset enacted last month, a basic law [named – tellingly – ‘the nation-state law’], which specifies that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historic right to self-determination.”

The law further enshrined religiously based differentiation, including a clause that points to priority for Jewish-only communities by declaring “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value” and promising “to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

The law has been a subject of controversy in Israel. It passed the Knesset by the narrow margin of 62 to 55. Opponents argue that it constitutes a step away from democracy and from equality of citizenship. However, just to be clear, the new basic law changes nothing – for now.

Differentiated political and legal rights already exists in Israel, and legal ways to create segregated communities in Israel also exist. There is no ‘right’ to equality, and Israel is not a state of all its citizens.

The point here is not so much the issue of discrimination which is occupying the media, but rather the shift from a secular state, as the original Zionists conceived it, to a state operating to a religious impulse. In a sense, Israel moves towards a constitution based on the first books of the Old Testament, which constitute the Torah. (Much in the way that Saudi Arabia simply asserts the Qur’an to be its constitution.)

So, in what way has the Trump family been acting? What does that tell us? Well, firstly, Trump has ‘gifted’ Jerusalem to Israel – the other prophetically mandatory element (apart from occupying all Eretz Israel), for the instantiation of a Jewish Holy Land. Kushner, meanwhile, has been working away to take the refugee status of 1948 Palestinians and their descendants, ‘off-the-table’, by proposing to subsidize recipient states to assimilate their Palestinian refugees, in loco. And Trump too has now committed to ‘undoing’ Iran, the ‘demon’ threatening the Jewish project, and has committed to publishing his Deal of the Century.

Of course we do not know what is in the ‘deal’, but Netanyahu has just slipped into place the legal framework (the Nation-State law) that might facilitate the present Israeli state becoming a ‘unitary’, religiously Jewish state. It cannot be a coincidence that this comes after the IDF recently informed the Knesset that the populations of Jews and non-Jews, between the River (Jordan) and the Sea (the Mediterranean) are now equal – at 6.5 million, each. The nation-state law effectively forecloses on the risk of political pluralism and equality of political rights.

Reports suggest that in Trump’s plan, the US acting alone might acknowledge a Palestinian state by declaration, but without specifying where situate, and with effectively no attributes of a state. A state ‘in name only’, in other words. No Jerusalem as its capital, and plainly no right of return for refugees – and no refugee status for the 1948 Palestinians (so-called because of their dispossession of homes in 1948); and likely no mention of settlements. (We understand that the Deal is currently in limbo, as religious parties in Netanyahu’s coalition want no mention of any Palestinian state at all – not even ‘in name only’).

White House officials say furthermore that if the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage with the plan, that the US will publish it anyway – which, effectively will be an invitation for the Israeli Religious Right to impose those parts that if favours (annexation of land in the West Bank, and further expansion under the rubric of consolidating Jewish communities – as per the Nation-State Act).

Well, it seems that the Arab world is waking up. It is dawning on them that The Deal of the Century will be as humiliating to their prestige – as was the outcome to the Six Day War. Has this been Trump’s objective all along: to instantiate a State of the Jews? Perhaps Limbert has it back to front? Rather than that the Saudis suckering Trump, Trump has been playing to the flaws in MbS’ character: drawing the Arabs into a project whose theological foundation and import they never grasped?

In any event, the wind is now blowing in another direction: King Salman has yanked the Palestinian file from out of the hands of MbS – and, after a year of secrecy surrounding the Deal, disquiet amongst Arab leaders is growing. Their acquiescence is no longer assured. They smell a rat.

The bottom line? Iran will not be crippled by sanctions, and whatever becomes of Trump’s Deal, an introverted, fortress Israel will find itself in a region in which the locus of politics is slowly, but surely, drifting towards the alliance of forces who prevailed in the epic struggle over Syria. Today it is Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey who are turning their face to the East. Tomorrow, when the Iran siege turns out to be a flop, and the Deal stands naked, it may be that parts of the Gulf (Dubai, Kuwait and Oman) will be drifting, together with Qatar, towards the Russia-China axis.

The Afghan Quagmire Gets Deeper, Denser and Bloodier – By Brian CLOUGHLEY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

The Afghan Quagmire Gets Deeper, Denser and Bloodier

In April 1971 John Kerry, who served gallantly in Vietnam and was later Secretary of State, stood in front of a US Senate Committee and asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Today, we could do with a John Kerry to ask the same question about the war in Afghanistan.

On August 5 it was reported that “a suicide bomber has killed three Czech NATO soldiers in an attack in eastern Afghanistan. The victims were targeted while on a routine foot patrol alongside Afghan forces, NATO officials said in a statement. A US soldier and two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the attack in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province.”

Just what is being achieved by Czech soldiers on fighting patrols 5,000 kilometres from home is not explained by any of the authorities responsible for their deployment — and thus for placing them in jeopardy of their lives — but the usual nauseating platitudes were promptly mouthed by some of them.

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, declared that the dead soldiers were “heroes who fought against terrorism so far from home.” Well, he should know about operating far from home. Forbes lists him as being worth four billion dollars and owning “a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Paloma, in the French Riviera” which is no doubt some consolation to the relatives and friends of the men who were killed. Babis, of course, sent his “deepest condolences to their families,” as did the ever-ready General John Nicholson, the sixteenth commander in Washington’s seventeen years of war, who, never at a loss for futile banality, babbled that “Their sacrifice will endure in both our hearts and history and further strengthen our resolve.” What utter garbage.

The “sacrifice” of these Czech soldiers won’t be felt by any hearts other than those of their grieving families, and it is insulting to claim that it will. And their deaths won’t get even the tiniest footnote in history. As to “strengthening our resolve” — resolve to do what? — to carry on mouthing phoney inanities about the utter chaos in Afghanistan?

This tawdry exhibition of fake emotion sticks in the gullet — but it’s not as sickening as the observation in The Economist that the war’s “current cost — roughly $45 billion and around a dozen lives a year — is modest enough to invite little interest from Congress or the media. That suggests Mr Trump’s strategy is sustainable.”

The talented intellectuals of The Economist think that the deaths of a dozen American soldiers every year in the unwinnable Afghan War indicate that the policies of Trump and the Pentagon can be maintained indefinitely. What’s a dozen lives, after all?

Well, listen to me, you clever little intellectuals and you swaggering military strategists, because I’m going to tell you a few home truths.

The soldiers who have died — and those who are going to die —have relatives who love them. They have parents, brothers, sisters, wives, partners, children, all of whom suffer when the lives of their nearest and dearest are sacrificed by a bunch of no-hopers as part of a “modest” cost in a supposedly “sustainable strategy” in a country that is ungovernable.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in the war in Afghanistan. They weren’t all soldiers, of course, because in conflicts like this, the civilian population always suffers from action by both militants and the armed forces involved. In July, the UN reported that 1,692 Afghan civilians were killed, and 3,430 injured in the first six months of 2018, which is the record for that period in the seventeen years of this catastrophe.

But let’s get back to the soldiers who are dying.

On August 9 it was finally acknowledged by the Kabul government that over twenty Afghan soldiers had been killed in an insurgent attack on August 3 in Uruzgan province. There were no US-NATO troops involved, so there has been little reporting of the disaster by the western media, and no mention of it whatever by NATO headquarters, but it is the most serious setback suffered by the Afghan Army for several months.

Consider what happens to the dependant families of dead Afghan soldiers: the widows are entitled to pensions, of course — but Afghanistan is the third most corrupt country in the world. Do you imagine for a moment that these anguished women receive a fraction of the tiny amount to which they are entitled? Of course they don’t. Usually, they don’t get a bean, because the money is stolen by crooked and heartless government officials. What have you to say to that, General Nicholson? Does it strengthen your resolve to do anything?

As reported by the Japan Times, “Help for Afghan Heroes, an Afghan non-profit organization supporting 5,000 families of wounded or dead security forces, said corruption is a key reason many women do not receive assistance.” Nasreen Sharar, special projects officer for the group, said that “they are asked to pay a bribe to get the application processed and they often don’t have the money.”

Of course they don’t have the money. They are just tiny inconsequential and stricken blobs in a “sustainable strategy” that costs $45 billion and “around a dozen lives a year.”

Hashratullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for Kabul’s Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, told Arab News “We are in a state of war. The number of women who become widows is increasing. Those who fight on the government side and those on the side of the Taliban and the militants have wives and mothers too. People on both sides suffer and women on all sides are affected more than anyone in this war.”

But what about the Czech army soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan? The western media carried the 130 word Reuter‘s report about their deaths, and then forgot all about them, which makes a sick joke of Nicholson’s pompous pronouncement that “Their sacrifice will endure in both our hearts and history.”

They were Staff Sergeant Martin Marcin, 36, and Corporals Kamil Benes, 28, and Patrik Stepanek, 25, about whose deaths the Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar declared that “We have witnessed a tragedy that can hardly be prevented when you serve in the army.” I would really like to be able to put that grubby politician on a patrol in Afghanistan, along with the intellectuals of The Economist and all the other smart-assed commentators to whom soldiers’ lives and grieving widows mean nothing.

Not that the Czech government told us much about the widows or other relatives of the soldiers Mr Metnar sent to die in Afghanistan. All that was reported by Czech Radio was “One leaves behind a widow and a three-month-old baby.”

At least, she’ll probably be paid her pension, unlike so many widows of Afghan Army soldiers who also died for… What?

In all the years of useless conflict in Afghanistan the western media has never listed the names of Afghan Army soldiers killed in action, because these soldiers don’t matter in the greater scheme of things — the “sustainable strategy” — in which they are but inconsequential pawns, as are all the civilians who are killed by bombing, whether on the ground by the Taliban, or from the sky by Afghan-US-NATO airstrikes.

The BBC reports that “Since President Trump announced his Afghanistan strategy . . . the number of bombs dropped by the US Air Force has surged dramatically. New rules of engagement have made it easier for US forces to carry out strikes against the Taliban” and this surge in aerial blitzing has certainly had an effect.

In the first six months of 2018 the UN documented “353 civilian casualties (149 deaths and 204 injured) from aerial attacks, a 52 per cent increase from the same period in 2017. The mission attributed 52 per cent of all civilian casualties from aerial attacks to the Afghan Air Force, 45 per cent to international military forces, and the remaining three per cent to unidentified Pro-Government Forces.”

While Afghan and foreign air forces blitz the country, and the Taliban and other militants wreak havoc with their constant attacks, all that happens politically is that corruption thrives and the murderously criminal vice-president, Abdurrashid Dostum, returns from self-imposed exile to create further chaos. The place is ungovernable, and the foreigners should get out, now.

As John Kerry said, almost fifty years ago: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”


Ten Years After Georgia, NATO Still Pushes War – By Strategic Culture Foundation

Ten Years After Georgia, NATO Still Pushes War

On the tenth anniversary this week of the Russo-Georgian War, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a serious, albeit commonsensical, warning. He said the proposed membership of Georgia in the US-led NATO military alliance could result in a “horrible conflict”.

However, Western news media sought to portray Medvedev’s cautionary words as conveying a sinister intent. Britain’s Independent headlined: “Russia threatens [sic] ‘horrible’ conflict if Georgia joins NATO”.

Other news outlets, such as Reuters and Associated Press, did not go as far as using the word “threatens”. But their implied tone relaying Medvedev’s remarks was one of Russia flexing its muscles with intimidation towards the South Caucasus state.

That mischievous insinuation fits in with the wider Western narrative of Russia’s alleged “malign activity” and “threatening posture” towards Eastern European countries in the Baltic, Balkans and Ukraine.

Both the United States and European Union this week reiterated accusations that Russia was illegally occupying Georgian territory owing to Moscow’s support for the two breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which border with Georgia in the South Caucasus region.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the five-day war in August 2008, the foreign ministers from Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine’s Kiev regime were reportedly in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to demonstrate their solidarity over what they called “Russian aggression”.

Georgia is continually cited – along with Ukraine – by American and European politicians as two examples that purportedly prove Russian malfeasance, and thereby justify the relentless buildup of NATO forces along Russia’s Western flank. In other words, Georgia and Ukraine are cause célèbre for NATO’s existence, and for the American and European policy of sanctions against Russia.

Indeed, both Georgia and Ukraine have been cordially invited to join the NATO alliance. The fast-track invitation was reiterated at the NATO summit in Brussels last month where the two countries were hosted as guests of honor by the 29-member bloc.

Subsequently, following the NATO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated Russia’s well-known opposition to such a further expansion of the US-led military alliance. The proposed additions of Ukraine and Georgia could potentially lead to the installation of American missiles and warplanes smack on Russia’s borders. Putin said that Russia would respond vigorously to such a move, although he did not specify what the “consequences” would entail.

Similarly, Dmitry Medvedev issued a warning this week regarding Georgia and NATO.

Nevertheless, Russia’s reasonable position of perceiving NATO’s expansion as an offensive threat is bizarrely distorted and turned on its head by Western governments and media.

By merely pointing out its grievance stemming from US-led military forces moving ever-closer to its national territory, astoundingly, Russia is portrayed in Western media as the one that is making the threats. It’s quite a feat of mental engineering.

If we listen to Medvedev’s words, he is patently not conveying any sinister intent, as Western media tried to make out.

“There is an unresolved territorial conflict… and would they bring such a country [Georgia] into the [NATO] military alliance?” said Medvedev. “Do they understand the possible implications? It could provoke a horrible conflict.” 

The Russian premier is simply stating what should be an obvious fact: namely, that NATO membership by Georgia in the midst of a territorial dispute with its pro-Russian neighbors, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, would lead to a dangerous conflict.

What Western governments and news media need to do is critically examine the whole premise of NATO’s eastwards expansion since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

That expansion violated commitments given by American leaders to Russian counterparts at the end of the Cold War, first by George Bush Senior and later Bill Clinton.

It is precisely the doubling membership of NATO based mainly on the absorption of former Soviet countries that has so alarmed Russia about military encirclement. Given the relentless anti-Russian rhetoric out of Washington and some of its European allies casting Russia as an enemy it is by no means alarmist that Moscow sees the entire trajectory over the past two decades as a strategic offensive.

Recall too that existential threats to Russia over the past two centuries have come from an eastward expansion of armies out of Europe, under Napoleon and then Nazi Germany. Given the loss of up to 30 million of its people from Nazi imperialist aggression, it is perfectly understandable that Russia today is deeply wary of any military advancement on its territory. And NATO fits that nefarious pattern.

On the specific cases of Ukraine and Georgia, NATO has been very much the instigator of conflicts there, yet it is NATO that poses now as a defender. That inversion of reality is made possible in part because of Western news media distorting historical events, just as they did again this week with regard to reporting Medvedev’s comments on NATO and Georgia.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Georgia have been solicited by Washington, the EU and NATO, as with other former Soviet states. That soliciting has created tensions and instability, not least because that was supposed to be what American leaders said they wouldn’t do.

The conflict in Ukraine came about from American and European Union support for a coup against an elected government in February 2014. The CIA and NATO were also instrumental. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine between the NATO-backed Kiev regime and pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk is not due to Russian aggression; it is a result of the irresponsible and provocative intervention by Washington and its European allies.

The West accuses Russia of “annexing” Crimea, an historical part of Russia, whenever it was the West that allowed a faction of Neo-Nazi Ukrainians to annex Kiev and its government. The ongoing four-year conflict in Ukraine which has killed over 10,000 people is a direct result of NATO imperialist meddling.

On Georgia, after the Western-backed so-called Rose Revolution in 2004 which brought the mercurial Mikhail Saakashvili to power, the former Soviet Republic suddenly became a staunch proponent of NATO. Saakashvili was enthusiastically supported by Washington with weapons and finance. He also made the retaking of Abkhazia and South Ossetia into Georgian territory his big mission. The three neighboring states broke up after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia requested the Russian Federation to recognize their statehoods in March 2008, prompted by the American and European recognition of Kosovo in the Balkans as a self-declared state during the previous month in February 2008. Kosovo broke away from Serbia largely as a result of the military intervention of NATO. Again, NATO was setting the precedent, not Russia.

At Washington’s bidding, Georgian leader Saakashvili sent NATO-backed troops to attack Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia on August 8, 10 years ago this week. The rapid intervention by Russian troops along with Abkhaz forces repelled the Georgian offensive. Wisely, NATO declined to push its support for Saakashvili any further. The war was over in five days, resulting in the formal recognition by Russia of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Today, the US and Europe continue to accuse Russia of illegally occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia and of violating Georgia’s sovereignty.

Western media make an upside-down analogy with Ukraine. The real analogy is that both Georgia and Ukraine have been destabilized by NATO expansionism, not Russian.

But such are the lies, distortions and self-serving propaganda churned out over and over by Western media in the service of their governments and NATO, there is an appalling failure in the West to learn from history.

When Russia warns that NATO’s expansion is risking horrible conflict that is a straightforward, reasonable observation which is borne out by history. Tragically, thousands of lives have been destroyed by not heeding this warning.

And thousands more – perhaps millions – continue to be put in danger because the Western media willfully misinterpret and misrepresent Russia.

Photo: Twitter

Alexis de Tocqueville Was Wrong – By Strategic Culture Foundation

Alexis de Tocqueville Was Wrong
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 10.08.2018

From inception, democracy in America was pure fantasy. No rule of the people ever existed – governance of, by, and for the privileged few alone at the expense of most others.

American exceptionalism and moral superiority don’t exist. The state of the nation is deplorable – more an obscenity than a responsible sovereign state. Count the ways.

Hypocrisy, not democracy, defines how America is governed – an increasingly totalitarian plutocracy, oligarchy and kleptocracy.

Elections when held are farcical. Dirty business as usual always wins. Republicans and undemocratic Dems represent two sides of the same coin on issues mattering most – differences between them largely rhetorical.

Corporate predators and high-net worth households never had things better. Protracted main street depression conditions affect most others – social justice fast eroding, heading for elimination altogether.

The world’s richest nation doesn’t give a damn about its most disadvantaged people.

Chicago’s upscale Magnificent Mile reveals a reality check. Countless numbers of homeless, hungry, desperate people line both sides of the avenue, hoping passers-by will offer loose change to help them make it through another day.

Many are combat veterans, treated with disdain by the nation they served. Others have families with children. Some have part-time work when able to find it – paying poverty or sub-poverty wages and no benefits.

On Chicago’s mean winter streets, they’re in doorways, on benches, or wherever they can huddle from winter cold – at times extreme. An uncaring nation treats them like nonpersons.

It’s permanently at war on humanity against invented enemies. No real ones exist. Peace, equity and justice are anathema notions – rule of law principles consistently breached.

America’s rage for dominance is humanity’s greatest threat. Homeland police state rule targets nonbelievers.

It’s just a matter of time before full-blown tyranny emerges, martial law replacing rule of law entirely – on the phony pretext of protecting national security at a time the nation’s only threats are invented ones.

Bipartisan neocons infesting Washington threaten everyone everywhere. Increasing online censorship is the mortal enemy of speech, media and academic freedoms.

Social and other media scoundrels are gatekeepers for wealth, power, and privileged interests – at war on dissent, making censorship the new normal, aiming to banish views contrary to the official narrative.

Truth-telling is increasingly equated with terrorism, incitement, hate speech, and harassment, considered anti-American instead of praised.

During the late 1930s and 40s, hundreds of Hollywood actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, musicians, songwriters, and other artists were accused of communist sympathies.

They were blacklisted, notable ones called the Hollywood Ten, including author/screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

His classic novel titled “Johnny Got His Gun” was a stunning anti-war polemic, one of the most powerfully moving ones ever written, a chilling account of the barbarity of war. Few soldiers in combat escape its horrors, the human cost ignored in the mainstream.

Trumbo and many others were victims of baseless slander, unscrupulous fear-mongering, and political lynchings – blacklisted for their beliefs, not for any crimes committed.

What goes around, comes around – today more malicious and dangerous than earlier. Censorship is the new normal in America, blacklisting in new form.

Dark forces running things want views opposed to the official narrative suppressed.

They want digital democracy undermined, thought control becoming the law of the land, social and other media giants serving as gatekeepers, sanitizing news, information and opinions, suppressing what’s most important for everyone to know – the hallmark of totalitarian rule.

America is unfit and unsafe to live in, fundamental freedoms eroding in plain sight, police state rule replacing it.

US imperial madness, its rage for endless wars, is worst of all – threatening humanity like never before.

stephenlendman.org

Tags: US 

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords – By Robert BRIDGE – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords

Let’s face it: reading stories about the ongoing destruction of planet Earth, the life-sustaining blue marble that all of us – aside from maybe Elon Musk – are permanently trapped on, has got to be one of the least-favorite topics of all time. The reasons are understandable, but no longer feasible.

In the realm of politics, replete with its cast of colorful culprits, the possibility of radical change always hovers just over the horizon, which gives the subject much of its universal appeal. Stories devoted to environmental issues, on the other hand, inundate the reader with a dizzying array of mind-boggling statistics that are not only incredibly depressing, they seem impossible to do anything about.

For example, take what I consider to be the most depressing story in recent memory – the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling garbage dump trapped in a vortex between Hawaii and California, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. How is anyone expected to wrap their brain around that modern monument to our collective stupidity over their morning cup of coffee? Somehow we always expected the oceans, due to their sheer size and vastness, to remain beyond the reach of mankind’s destructive tendencies. Yet the story of the slowly dying oceans and its vibrant sea life – despite some truly fantastic schemes to reverse the trend – proves not just how wrongheaded that belief is, it belies the destructive nature of our hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles.

This leads to yet another reason so many people shy away from apocalyptic stories of environmental degradation: their own collusion in the ongoing tale of planetary destruction, which is part and parcel of our inquisitive lifestyles. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all deeply indebted consumers of the corporate cornucopia. The majority of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time earning a living just to feed the monkey of our worldly desires, which our corporate overlords happily provide in superabundance – at excessive interest rates, I might add.

In fact, when our situation is viewed critically and objectively, human beings now live like astronauts, totally cut off from the natural world, yet, at the same time, connected by a fragile umbilical cord to the corporate world. Such a scenario must give any thinking person tremendous pause, for it highlights our dangerous level of dependency on external economic forces – namely, the corporate world – to sustain us. Here is where the idea of ‘environmental destruction’ should really pique our interest.

It is not so difficult to conduct a thought experiment that involves the ramifications of a massive economic downturn, or some unexpected natural disaster (on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, for example, multiplied by 10,000) of such magnitude that corporations are no longer able or willing to provide for our most basic daily needs. It may be exceedingly difficult to imagine such a grim scenario, especially since we now take it for granted that grocery stores will always remain open for business and stocked full of goodies, but the majority of us would quickly perish in the event that some unexpected crisis brought the global economy down on our heads. Such a nightmare may be easier to imagine when it is considered that just 10 companies control the entire global food supply, while most people have no means or knowledge of tilling the land for their food supplies.

Perhaps it is on this point that the topic of ‘environmental destruction’ can become not only sexy, like the exciting world of politics, but vital for mankind’s continued existence. It’s time to stop acting like children and face an ugly truth: our current materialistic lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term, and probably not in the short term either. Our incredible level ofwastefulness, compounded by Earth’s finite resources, guarantees that the planet’s 7 billion people are living on borrowed time. Exactly what ‘short-term’ means, however, is a question none of us can really answer. It may mean the day after tomorrow or another 500 years. Again, nobody can say. But given the upsurge of interest, for example, in “doomsday prepping” among people of average means (a topic that even the high-brow Financial Times reported on), to the construction of sprawling underground bunkers for the elite, there is a growing consensus among many people that it is time to start taking back some control of our lives.

Currently, I am living in Russia, where the difference between Russians and Americans when it comes to preparing for the ‘unknown’ could not be greater. While Americans spend untold hours per week mowing their lawns, pulling weeds and trimming the hedges, Russians are toiling at their ‘dachas’ (in Russia, it is common for people to own an apartment in the city and a piece of land in the countryside), growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and collecting mushrooms in the forest (picking mushrooms is a veritable art form, where it can literally mean the difference between life and death to choose the correct variety among dozens of species). Every Russian I have met in the countryside also have their own private source of water from painstakingly dug wells on their land. This is no small consideration when it is remembered that corporations are gradually buying up, in addition to our food supplies, the rights to our water supplies as well.

The entire notion of ‘prepping’ in Russia is completely nonexistent since the knowledge of working the land, which became absolutely critical during the severe food shortages of the communist years, has been a traditional part of Russian life since the country’s inception. Although Russians, like any other people, would suffer grave hardships in the event of a severe economic downturn, many of them would still be able to feed themselves due to their time-tested ‘survival’ skills. I am not sure the same could be said of their American and European counterparts.

There is a memorable scene in the 2009 post-apocalyptic US film, The Road, where a father and son, forced to trek across a devastated American landscape following some sort of unspeakable disaster, stumble upon a discarded underground bunker that is loaded with food, allowing them to survive the next leg of their impossible journey.

It is film I would highly recommend every person watch to get a sense of what an unexpected turn of environmental and economic events could mean for them and their loved ones.

Since corporations not only greatly control to what extent the environment will remain viable for our survival, but also the keys to the corporate cornucopia, there is no better time than the present to consider what would happen if or when, to put the matter bluntly, the shit hits the fan.

Israeli air force pound Gaza, kill pregnant Palestinian woman and 18-month-old daughter, destroy city infrastructure – By Yumna Patel Mondoweiss (SOTT)

Israel pregnant mother toddler house

© Ashraf Amra
Palestinians inspect a house that was damaged in an Israeli airstrike on Dair al Balah in the center of Gaza Strip on August 9, 2018.

Three Palestinians were killed during pre dawn Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip Thursday. Among the dead were a woman, who was nine months pregnant, and her 18-month-old daughter.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza identified the pregnant woman as 23-year-old Inas Khamash, and her 18-month-old daughter as Bayan Khamash.

The two were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit their home in the Jaafari area of central Gaza. Khamash’s husband, Muhammad, was severely injured during the strike.

While some local media outlets were reporting that Muhammad succumbed to his wounds early Thursday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health has maintained that he is still in critical condition and being treated in the ICU.

funeral toddler killed gaza

© Ashram Amra/ APA
Mourners carry the bodies of Palestinian Enas Khammash 23, and her 18-month-daughter Bayan, during their funeral in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on August 9, 2018.

The third slain Palestinian, reportedly a Hamas fighter, was killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza. He was identified as 30-year-old Ali al-Ghandour.

The health ministry added that around 12 Palestinians were injured, two critically, and were transferred to the hospital for treatment.

Israeli air forces pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting over 100 sites in the besieged coastal enclave. The Israeli army said in a statement that forces struck 150 “terror targets.”

In a statement on Twitter, the army said the strikes were “conducted in response to the rockets launched from Gaza at Israel throughout the night,” adding that 180 rockets – at least 30 of which were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system – were fired from the Gaza Strip.

air strike gaza 2018

© Dawoud Abo Alkas/ APA
A picture taken on August 8, 2018 shows a fireball exploding during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City.

Israeli media outlets reported that 11 Israelis were injured in the town of Sderot. One woman was reported to be in serious condition, while nine others were taken to the hospital. Thirteen other Israelis were reportedly treated for “shock.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss that they could not confirm the number of Israelis reportedly injured.

The Israeli army said they held Hamas “fully responsible” for the escalation in violence, and that it was “determined to secure the safety of Israelis, is on high alert, & prepared for a variety of scenarios.”

“Hamas is responsible & bears the consequences for the ongoing events,” the army said on Twitter.

The army’s rhetoric has been echoed by Israeli politicians and government bodies over the course of Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Israel was “defending itself from from Hamas’ aggression.”

The US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt released the following statement on Twitter: “Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities. Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.”

Neither Greenblatt, the foreign ministry, nor the army made any mention of the killing of Inas Khimash and her daughter Bayan.

The family’s neighbor told RT that he heard “a huge explosion” and then rushed onto the street. He saw “big huge smoke” coming from the Khammash’s house. When he entered the house, he said he saw the bodies. “We found the woman’s body shattered into pieces, her little daughter too,” he said, adding that the woman’s husband was injured in the leg, stomach, and head.
Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that it was Israel who was responsible for the violence, and that “in the event of continued aggression, shelling and killing of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the resistance will not be silent. It’s duty to respond and break the occupation.”

On Twitter, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri echoed similar sentiments, and called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibilities towards Israel’s aggression and siege.”

Thursday’s events are the latest in a series of severe flare ups over the past few months in Gaza, leading many local and international officials to speculate that another large-scale Israeli offensive on the Palestinian territory could be imminent.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Israeli commander as saying that the military is “nearing launching an operation in the Gaza Strip” if the current situation persists.

The official told Haaretz that Hamas “will pay the price for its violations in the last four months,” seemingly referring to the ongoing Great March of Return protests that began on March 30th, over which time Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians and injured 17,000 more.

“Hamas must go back to the understandings after the [2014 Gaza war], and if it doesn’t, it will understand the hard way,” Haaretz quoted the officer as saying.

gaza water plant destroyed

© Mohamed Mosleh/Facebook
Retaliation: Gaza’s Water & Sanitation Plant of al-Mughraqa city in central Gaza. The plant was completely destroyed by several Israeli air strikes.

With fears of a new Israeli onslaught on the horizon, reports have emerged of the UN scrambling to negotiate a ceasefire.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, said in a statement issued on early Thursday that he was “deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence.”

“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risk a devastating conflict that nobody wants. The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development,” he said.

Mladenov added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, over 70% of which are refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes in present-day Israel when the state was established in 1948.

A more than decade-long Israeli air, land, and sea blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy, which boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44 percent, leaving an estimated 80 percent of the territory’s population dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Gaza has often been compared to an “open air prison,” and in 2015, the UN warned that the it could become “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to improve the situation.

Yumna Patel is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on twitter @yumna_patel.

Comment:

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

russian mps undof golan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proofreading by: Ollie Richardson @O_Rich_

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

About the Author

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

Israel’s policies in Gaza are genocidal – By Haidar Eid. (MONDOWEISS)

The 1948 Genocide Convention clearly states that one instance of genocide is “the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.” No matter whether this happens at a fast rate, or in “slow motion.” That is what has been done to Gaza since the imposition of the blockade by Israel, and the subsequent massacres which led to the death of more than 4000 Palestinians in three successive genocidal wars.

Palestinians of Gaza live an ongoing, illegal, crippling Israeli siege that has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk, to describe it as “a prelude to genocide”. In 2009, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by the highly respected South African judge, Richard Goldstone, found Israel guilty of “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity,” as did major international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone report, for example, concludes that Israel’s war on Gaza was “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

The same scenario was repeated in 2012, and a worse one in 2014 only because Israel feels that it can carry on its war crimes with full impunity. And last week Israel has decided to tighten the siege by closing the only commercial crossing, even to increase its attacks by targeting peaceful protesters demanding the implementation of UN resolutions, and an end to this deadly, hermetic siege.

In her visit to Gaza, Professor Sara Roy, an expert on Gaza, describes the Strip as “a land ripped apart and scarred, the lives of its people blighted. Gaza is decaying under the weight of continued devastation, unable to function normally…” Professor Roy concludes that “[T]he decline and disablement of Gaza’s economy and society have been deliberate, the result of state policy–consciously planned, implemented and enforced… And just as Gaza’s demise has been consciously orchestrated, so have the obstacles preventing its recovery.” In addition to Israel’s daily attacks and air strikes, Gazans also suffer from the contamination of water, air and soil, since the sewage system is unable to function due to power cuts necessitated by lack of fuel to the main generators of the Gaza power grid. Medical conditions due to injuries from internationally prohibited butterfly bullets and other illegal Israeli weapons as well as from water contamination cannot be treated because of the siege. In addition to the ban on building materials, Israel also prevents many other necessities from being imported: lights bulbs, candles, matches, books, refrigerators, shoes, clothing, mattresses, sheets, blankets, tea, coffee, sausages, flour, cows, pasta, cigarettes, fuel, pencils, pens, paper… etc. In Gaza, people are wondering whether the current Israeli government, the most fascist in the county’s history, might even discuss a ban on Oxygen! Add to this the punitive measure taken by the PA, and the drastic cuts endorsed by UNRWA, not to mention the constant closure of the Rafah crossing–the only exit Gaza has to the external world– leading to one of the highest unemployment rates and poverty on the face of earth.

In fact, the conclusion Gazans have reached is that Israel is intent on destroying Gaza because world official bodies and leaders choose to say and do absolutely nothing. The brazen refusal of Israel to cooperate with the decision of the International Community to re-construct Gaza, for which several billions of dollars were pledged in Sharm El-Sheikh, should not be tolerated. Israel’s attacks have damaged or completely destroyed many public buildings and have according to the UN’s own Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports severely damaged or completely destroyed some thousands of family dwellings, schools, universities and factories. Many other Palestinians who have spent the past several winters and summers in tents and caravans have also been promised the means to rebuild homes and schools, though to date nothing has been done to alleviate their suffering.

The practice of wanton willful killing of civilians exemplified in the extra-judicial sniping of non-violent protesters at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip is not an isolated incident. It is part and parcel of an ongoing, comprehensive policy targeting the civilian Palestinians of the Gaza strip and systematically denying them their rights to movement, work, medical care, study, livelihood and increasingly life itself. But it is also a reflection of the nature of the state of Israel.i. e., a settler-colony. Israel’s leading, anti-Zionist historian, Ilan Pappe,  sheds light  on the driving ideology behind this genocidal policy:

Zionism is, in essence, a settler colonial movement, which was interested in having as much of the land of Palestine with as few Palestinians on it as possible. As the late scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, has put it; the encounter between the settlers and the indigenous population triggered ‘the logic of the elimination of the native’. In some places, such as North America, annihilation was literally a genocide of the native; in Palestine it was a different kind of elimination, obtained through segregation, ethnic cleansing and enclavement

In spite of Israel’s alleged unilateral withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, it still maintains a permanent military presence in Gaza’s territorial waters and controls the movement of people and goods onto the strip by land and water in addition to movement within the strip through targeting anyone entering the “no go” zone designated by the Israeli military. Israel also continues to control Gaza’s population registry. Yet, Israel claims that it is no longer the occupying power in the Gaza strip and uses this excuse, in addition to the results of 2006 democratic elections, to intensify its policy of siege and lethal attacks on Gaza’s civilians.

And now, Israel has decided to become openly an apartheid state by legalizing racial discrimination. I have tried very hard to find out whether there are constitutions or laws in the world similar to Israel’s “new” Nation-State Basic Law which aims to establish a legal basis for Jewish supremacy and racism against indigenous Palestinians, including those living in what has become the largest open-air prison on earth; only South Africa under apartheid and America in the eras of slavery and segregation.

So, what to do?!

In a piece published in MEE, Gideon Levy asks “Israel, where is your outrage at the legislation of Apartheid?” Actually, we are not expecting a settler-colonial community to act against its own racism. The outside world has to intervene. Hence our call for #BDS. But, in Palestine, we are in urgent need of serious discussions about a program of radical political transformation, what with the disastrous failure of the existing programs, right and left, a program that divorces itself from the racist two-state solution, one that endorses a more inclusive program that guarantees the rights of all segments of the Palestinian people.

About Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

AngloZionist attack options against Iran – By THE SAKER – [This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

 

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

In the past few days, the Internet has been flooded with a frankly silly rumor about the US soliciting Australia’s assistance in preparing an attack on Iran.  Needless to say, that report does not explain what capabilities Australia would possess which the USA would lack, but never-mind that.  Still, the report was picked up in too many places (see here, here and here ) to be ignored.  In one of these reports, Eric Margolis has described what such a US attack could look like.  It is worth quoting him in full:

Outline of a possible AngloZionist attack on Iran

The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980. This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, waterworks, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two-thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

There is a lot of interesting material in this description and I think that it is worth looking into it segment by segment.

First, I can only agree with Margolis that neither the USA nor Israel want a ground war against Iran: the country is too big, the Iranians too well prepared and the size of the force needed for such a campaign way beyond what the Empire can currently muster.

Second, Margolis is absolutely correct when he says that Iran does not have the means to stop a determined AngloZionist (missiles and aircraft) attack. Iran does have some modern air-defense capabilities, and the attackers will sustain a number of losses, but at this point, the size disparity is so huge that the AngloZionists will achieve air superiority fairly soon and that will give them an opportunity to bomb whatever they want to bomb (more about that later).

[Sidebar: assessing Iranian air defenses is not just a matter of counting missiles and launchers, however, and there is much more to this.  According to one Russian source Iran has 4 long range anti-aircraft missile S-300PMU-2 systems (with 48Н6Е2 Mach 6,6 interceptor missiles), 29 military anti-aircraft self-propelled missile complexes Tor-M1, some fairly advanced anti-aircraft missile complexes like the Bavar-373, a passive electronically scanned array radar (whose illumination and guidance system almost certainly includes modern Chinese electronics) and an impressive number of radar systems early warning radar of the Russian, Chinese and Iranian manufacture.   This category includes systems like the high-potential long-range radar detection and target designation Najm-802 radar (has 5120 receiving and transmitting modules, operates in the decimeter S-range and is designed to detect ballistic targets and small elements of high-precision weapons), the Russian meter radar “Nebo-SVU” advanced early warning and control system with a fixed-array radar, as well as a meter range early warning radar of the type “Ghadir” .  Most importantly, these radars are all integrated into the network-centric missile defense system of Iran. For example, the “Ghadir” radar is able to detect not only the tactical fighters of the USAF, the KSA and Israel, but also ballistic missiles immediately after launch (at a distance of about 1100 km). As a result, the presence of Iranian radio engineering units of multi-band radar detection facilities in the Western direction (the Persian Gulf) will allow the Iranians to prepare a flexible echeloned air defense to defend against high-intensity missile strikes.  And yet, no matter how much the Iranians have improved their air defenses, the sheer number of of missiles (including the new advanced AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile delivered by B-1B bombers) means that the Iranian defenses will inevitably be overwhelmed by any massive attack.]

I therefore also agree with Margolis that the Iranian oil industry cannot be protected from a determined US/Israeli attack.  In fact, the entire Iranian infrastructure is vulnerable to attack.

Margolis’ final paragraph, however, makes it sound like Iran does not have credible retaliatory options and that I very much disagree with.

Example one: Iranian capabilities in the Strait of Hormuz

For one thing, the issue of the Strait of Hormuz is much more complicated than just “the US Navy has practiced for years to combat this threat“.  The reality is that Iran has a very wide range of options to make shipping through this strait practically impossible.  These options range from underwater mines, to fast craft attacks, to anti-shipping missiles, to coastal artillery strikes, etc.

[Sidebar: Therein also lies a big danger: the Israelis and or the US could very easily organize a false flag attack on any ship in the Strait of Hormuz, then accuse Iran, there would be the usual “highly likely” buzzword from all the AngloZionst intelligence agencies and, voilà, the Empire would have a pretext to attack Iran.]

In fact, the mere fact of issuing a threat to shipping through this narrow body of water might well deter insurances from providing coverage to any ships and that might stop the shipping all by itself.  Should that not be enough, Iran can always lay even a limited amount of mines, and that will be enough (please keep in mind that while the USN could try to engage in mineclearing operations, to do so right off the coast of Iran would expose USN minesweepers to an extreme danger of attack).

Margolis does mention this issue when he writes:

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

However, I believe that grossly under-estimates the Iranian capabilities in this context.  Let’s take one example, the Iranian submarine force.

The Iranian submarine force is a highly specialized one.  According to the 2018 Edition of the IISS’s Military Balance, the Iranians currently have 21 submarines deployed:

  • 3 Taregh-class diesel-electric submarine  (Russian Kilo-class Project-877EKM)
  • 1 Fateh-class coastal submarine
  • 16 Ghadir-class midget submarines
  • 1 Nahand-class midget submarine

When most people hear “diesel-electric,” they think of old diesel trucks, and are not impressed, especially when these are contrasted with putatively “advanced” nuclear attack submarines. This is, however, a very mistaken opinion because submarines can only to be assessed in the environment they are designed to operate in. Naval geography is typically roughly divided into three types: blue water (open ocean), green water (continental shelves) and brown water (coastal regions). Nuclear attack submarines are only superior in the blue water environment where autonomy, speed, diving depth, weapon storage capacity, advanced sonars, etc. are crucial. In comparison, while diesel-electric submarines are slower, need to resurface to recharge their batteries and are typically smaller and with fewer weapons onboard, they are also much better suited for green water operations. In shallow brown water, midget submarines reign, if only because nuclear attack submarines were never designed to operate in such an environment. Now take a quick look at the kind of environment the Strait of Hormuz constitutes:

 

Notice the interesting combination of very shallow and shallow depth typical of brown water and then the green water type of environment when going further into the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.  With this in mind, let’s see what kind of submarine force Iran has acquired/developed:

For brown water operations (Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz) Iran has a relatively large and capable fleet of midget submarines. For green water operations (the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea), Iran has three formidable Taregh/Kilo-class submarines (which are even capable of limited blue water operations, though with much less autonomy, speed, armament or sonar than a nuclear attack submarine).  Just like “diesel-electric”, the term “midget” submarine makes it sound that we are talking about a toy or, at best, some primitive third world hack which, at best, could be used to smuggle drugs. In reality, however, the Iranian “midgets” can carry the same heavyweight torpedoes (533 mm) as the Kilos, only in smaller quantities. This also means that they can carry the same missiles and mines. In fact, I would argue that Iranian Ghadir-class “midget” submarines represent a much more formidable threat in the Persian Gulf than even the most advanced nuclear attack submarines could.

[Sidebar: the USA has stopped producing diesel-electric submarines many years ago because it believed that being a hegemonic power with a typical (aircraft carrier-centric) blue water navy it had no need for green or brown water capabilities. Other countries (such as Russia, Germany, Sweden and others) actively pursued a diesel-electric submarine program (including so-called “air-independent propulsion” – AIP – ones) because they correctly understood that these submarines are much cheaper while being also much better suited for coastal defensive operations.  Ditching diesel-electric submarines was yet another major mistake by US force planners; see this article on this topic.  The new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer were supposed to partially palliate to this lack of green and brown capabilities, but both turned out to be a disaster]

The Russian Kilo-class submarines are some of the most silent yet heavily armed submarines ever built, and they could potentially represent a major threat to any US naval operations against Iran.  However, we can be pretty sure that the USN tracks them 24/7 and that the Kilos would become a prime target (whether in port or at sea) at the very beginning of any AngloZionist attack. But would the USN also be capable of keeping track of the much smaller (and numerous) Iranian midget submarines? Your guess is as good as mine, but I personally very much doubt that, if only because these relatively small subs are very easy to hide. Just take a look at this photo of a Ghadir-class submarine and imagine how easy it would be to hide them or, alternatively, create decoy looking just like the real thing. Yet this midget submarine’s torpedoes could sink any vessel in the Persian Gulf with a single torpedo.

While the US definitely has a lot of very capable reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities available to try to locate and then destroy these threats, we also know that the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario and that they are truly masters at what is called maskirovka in Russian military terminology: a combination of camouflage, concealment, deception, and misdirection. In fact, the Iranians are the ones who trained Hezbollah in Lebanon in this art and we all know what happened to the Israelis when they confidently waltzed into southern Lebanon only to find out that for all their reconnaissance/intelligence capabilities they were unable to deal with even a relatively primitive (technologically speaking) Hezbollah missile capability. For all the patriotic flag-waving, the truth is that if the Iranians decide to block the Strait of Hormuz the only option left for the US will be to land a force on the Iranian shore and engage in a limited but still extremely dangerous offensive land-attack operation. At this point, whether this counter-attack is successful or not will be irrelevant, as there will be so much combat activity in this narrow bottleneck that nobody will even consider to bring ships through it.

I also believe that Margolis is wrong when he writes that all Iran could do would be to stage “isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value“.  One very real Iranian option would be to strike US targets (of which there are plenty in the Middle-East) with various missiles.  Furthermore, Iran can also launch missiles at US allies (Israel or the KSA) and interests (Saudi oil fields).

Example two: Iranian missile capabilities

I would not trust everything the CSIS writes (they are a very biased source, to put it mildly), but on this page, they posted a pretty good summary of the current Iranian missile capability:

On the same page, CSIS also offers a more detailed list of current and developed Iranian missiles:

(You can also check on this Wikipedia page to compare with the CSIS info on Iranian missiles)

The big question is not whether Iran has capable missiles, but how many exactly are deployed.  Nobody really knows this because the Iranians are deliberately being very vague, and for obvious and very good reasons.  However, judging by the example of Hezbollah, we can be pretty sure that the Iranians also have these missiles in large enough numbers to represent a very credible deterrent capability.  I would even argue that such a missile force not only represents a capable deterrent capability, but also a very useful war-fighting one.  Can you imagine what would happen if US bases (especially airbases and naval facilities) in the region came under periodic Iranian missile attacks?  Judging by the Israeli experience during the First Gulf War or, for that matter, the recent Saudi experience with the Houthi missiles, we can be pretty sure that the US Patriots will be useless to defend against Iranian missiles.

Oh sure, just like the US did during the First Gulf War, and the Israelis did in 2006, the AngloZionists will start a massive hunt for Iranian missile sites, but judging by all the recent wars, these hunts will not be successful enough and the Iranians will be able to sustain missile strikes for quite a long time.   Just imagine what one missile strike, say, every 2-3 days on a US base in the region would do to operations or morale!

Reality check: the US is vulnerable throughout the entire Middle-East

Above I only listed two specific capabilities (subs and missiles), but the same type of analysis could be made with Iranian small speedboat swarms, electronic warfare capabilities or even cyber-warfare.  But the most formidable asset the Iranians have is a very sophisticated and educated population which has had decades to prepare for an attack by the “Great Satan” and which have clearly developed an array of asymmetrical options to defend themselves and their country against the (probably inevitable) AngloZionist attack.

You have probably seen at least one map showing US military installations in the Middle-East (if not, see here, here or here).  Truth be told, the fact that Iran is surrounded by US forces and bases presents a major threat to Iran.  But the opposite is also true. All these US military facilities are targets, often very vulnerable ones.  Furthermore, Iran can also use proxies/allies in the region to attack any of these targets.  I highly recommend that you download this factsheet and read it while thinking of the potential of each listed facility to become the target of an Iranian attack.

The usual answer which I often hear to these arguments is that if the Iranians actually dared to use missiles or strike at the US bases in the region, the retaliation by the USA would be absolutely terrible.  However, according to Eric Margolis, the initial and main goal of a US-Israeli attack on Iran would be to “totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era“.  Now let me ask you this simple question: if Margolis is correct – and I personally believe that he is – then how would that outcome be different from the “absolutely terrible” retaliation supposedly planned by the USA in case of Iranian counterattack?  Put differently – if the Iranians realize that the AngloZionists want to lay waste to their country (say, like what the Israelis did to Lebanon in 2006), what further possible escalation would further deter them from counter-attacking with the means available to them?

To answer this question we need to look again at the real nature of the “Iranian problem” for the AngloZionists.

Real AngloZionist objectives for an attack on Iran

First and foremost, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran has any kind of military nuclear program.  The fact that the Israelis have for years been screaming about this urbi et orbi does not make it true.  I would also add that common sense strongly suggests that the Iranians would have absolutely no logical reason to develop any kind of nuclear weapons.  I don’t have the time and space to argue this point again (I have done so many times in the past), so I will simply refer to the US National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” and leave it at that.

[Sidebar: I don’t believe that the Iranians ever had a nuclear weapons program either, but that is irrelevant: even if they once had one, that would put them on par with many other countries which took some initial steps in the development of such a capability and then gave it up.  The only point is that it is the official US position that there is no current military nuclear program in Iran.]

The real problem of Iran is very simple.  Iran is the only country in the world which is:

  1. Islamic and leads the struggle against the Saudi/Daesh/ISIS/al-Qaeda/etc. ideology of takfirism and the terrorism they promote
  2. Openly anti-Zionist and anti-Imperialist and combines conservative religious values with progressive social policies
  3. Successful politically, economically and militarily and thereby threatens the monopoly of power of Israel in the region

Any one of those features by itself would already constitute a grievous case of crimethink from the point of view of the Empire and would fully deserve a reaction of absolute hatred, fear and a grim determination to eliminate the government and people which dare to support it.  No wonder that by combining all three Iran is so hated by the AngloZionists.

This entire canard about some Iranian nuclear a program is just a pretext for a hate campaign and a possible attack on Iran.  But in reality, the goals of the AngloZionists is not to disarm Iran, but exactly as Margolis says: to bomb this “disobedient” country and people “back to the pre-revolutionary era”.

Here is the key thing: the Iranians perfectly understand that. The obvious conclusion is this: if the purpose of an AngloZionist attack will be to bomb Iran back into the pre-revolutionary era, then why would the Iranians hold back and not offer the maximal resistance possible?

Because of the threat of a US nuclear retaliation?

US nuclear attack options – not much of an option in reality

Here again, we need to look at the context, not just assume that the use of nuclear weapons is some kind of magical panacea which immediately forces the enemy to give up the fight and to unconditionally surrender. This is far from being the truth.

First, nuclear weapons are only effective when used against a lucrative target.  Just murdering civilians like what the USA did in Japan does absolutely no good if your goal is to defeat your opponent’s armed forces.  If anything, nuking your opponents “value” targets will might only increase his determination to fight to the end.  I have no doubt that, just as during the first Gulf War, the USA has already made a typical list of targets it would want to strike in Iran: a mix of key government buildings and installations and a number of military units and facilities.  However, in most cases, those could also be destroyed by conventional (non-nuclear) weapons.  Furthermore, since the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario (the USA has always had Iran in its sights since the 1979 Revolution), you can be quite sure that all the peacetime facilities have been duplicated for wartime situations. Thus while many high-visibility targets will be destroyed, their wartime counterparts will immediately take over.  One might think that nukes could be used to destroy deeply buried targets, and this is partially true, but some targets are buried too deep to be destroyed (even by a nuclear blast) while others are duplicated several times (say, for 1 peacetime military headquarters there would be 4, 5 or even 6 concealed and deeply buried ones).  To go after each one of them would require using even more nukes and that begs the question of the political costs of such a campaign of nuclear strikes.

In political terms, the day the USA uses a nuclear weapon against any enemy it will have committed a political suicide from which the Hegemony will never recover. While a majority of US Americans might consider that “might makes right” and “screw the UN”, for the rest of the world the first use of nuclear weapons (as opposed to a retaliatory counter-strike) is an unthinkable abomination and crime, especially for an illegal act of aggression (there is no way the UNSC will authorize a US attack on Iran). Even if the White House declares that it “had to” use nukes to “protect the world” against the “nuclear armed Ayatollah”, the vast majority of the planet will react with total outrage (especially after the Iraqi WMD canard!). Furthermore, any US nuclear strike will instantly turn the Iranians from villains into victims. Why would the US decide to pay such an exorbitant political price just to use nuclear weapons on targets which would not yield any substantial advantage for the US? Under normal circumstances, I would think that this kind of unprovoked use of nuclear weapons would be quite unthinkable and illogical. However, in the current political context in the USA, there is one possibility which really frightens me.

Trump as the “disposable President” for the Neocons?

The Neocons hate Trump, but they also own him.  The best example of this kind of “ownership” is the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem which was an incredibly stupid act, but one which the Israel Lobby demanded.  The same goes for the US reneging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or, for that matter, the current stream of threats against Iran.  It appears that the Neocons have a basic strategy which goes like this: “we hate Trump and everything he represents, but we also control him; let’s use him to do all the crazy stuff no sane US President would ever do, and then let’s use the fallout of these crazy decisions and blame it all on Trump; this way we get all that we want and we get to destroy Trump in the process only to replace him with one of “our guys” when the time is right“.   Again, the real goal of an attack on Iran would be to bomb Iran back into a pre-revolutionary era and to punish the Iranian people for supporting the “wrong” regime thus daring to defy the AngloZionist Empire.  The Neocons could use Trump as a “disposable President” who could be blamed for the ensuing chaos and political disaster while accomplishing one of the most important political objectives of Israel: laying waste to Iran.  For the Neocons, this is a win-win situation: if things go well (however unlikely that is), they can take all the credit and still control Trump like a puppet, and if things don’t go well, Iran is in ruins, Trump is blamed for  a stupid and crazy war, and the Clinton gang will be poised to come back to power.

The biggest loser in such a scenario would, of course, be the people of Iran. But the US military will not fare well either. For one thing, a plan to just “lay waste” to Iran has no viable exit strategy, especially not a short-term one, while the US military has no stomach for long conflicts (Afghanistan and Iraq are bad enough). Furthermore, once the USA destroys most of what can be destroyed the initiative will be in the Iranians’ hands and time will be on their side. In 2006 the Israelis had to fold after 33 days only, how much time will the US need before having to declare victory and leave? If the war spreads to, say, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, then will the US even have the option to just leave? What about the Israelis – what options will they have once missiles start hitting them (not only Iranian missiles but probably also Hezbollah missiles from Lebanon!)?

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan was fully correct when he stated that a military attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”.  Alas, the Neocons have never been too bright, and stupid stuff is what they mostly do.  All we can hope for is that somebody in the USA will find a way to stop them and avert another immoral, bloody, useless and potentially very dangerous war.

The Saker

%d bloggers like this: