Salehi: Iran to Remain Committed to Its Promises if EU Can Keep JCPOA Alive
Local EditorHead of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said the Islamic Republic is more powerful than any time and cannot be easily pressured in the face of US plans to re-impose sanctions on the country.
“Iran’s authority and position are such that it cannot be easily pushed around. Today, Iran is in a more powerful position than the past,” Salehi told a joint press conference with EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete in Tehran Saturday,
Canete is in Tehran to reassure Iran that the European Union remains committed to salvaging a nuclear deal with Tehran despite US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the accord and reimpose sanctions on the country.
“We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the agreement, the Europeans will… fulfill their commitment,” he said, adding the bloc hoped to boost trade with Iran.
Salehi said Iran hopes the European Union will fulfill its pledges “in the near future” after the bloc launched “the blocking statute” process on Friday to protect Europeans from US sanctions on Iran.
“However, until these promises are not implemented and put into practice, we could not speak firmly,” he said. “We hope that in the near future, we could witness the materialization of these pledges.”
Otherwise, “the Iranian nation should rest assured that we will press ahead on the path of progress with strength and firmness without any worries and there will be no serious problems even though there might be some disruptions which may slow down the pace but they cannot stop us,” Salehi added.
The European Union, he said, had made proposals and taken initial steps toward using the euro in dealings with the Islamic Republic.
Salehi also described US exit from the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a foolish move.
Trump announced US withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8 and vowed to reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose “the highest level” of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.
Tehran has said it would make a decision on its future role in the nuclear agreement in the coming weeks following negotiations with the other signatories of the deal.
EU powers have scrambled to save the JCPOA and protect their businesses in Iran against the US sanctions.
Salehi said EU efforts to preserve the nuclear pact shows that “the JCPOA is a very important agreement in line with our national interests and regional interest as well as those of the international community.”
Iran’s nuclear chief further stressed that the US pullout of the JCPOA shows “the correct impression of senior government officials that the US cannot be trusted.”
Now the whole international community has come to the understanding that “the US is not a reliable and trustworthy country in international dealings,” he added.
Canete, for his part, said that preserving the nuclear deal, despite the US withdrawal, was “fundamental for peace in the region.”
“For sure there are clear difficulties with the sanctions,” the EU official said. “We will have to ask for waivers, for carve outs for the companies that make investments.”
Canete is due to meet Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zanganeh and head of the Department of Environment Isa Kalantari later on Saturday, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team
19 May 2018
The publication of this week’s open letter by leading academics protesting Google’s role in the military’s drone assassination program exposes the close partnership between the major technology giants and the US military/intelligence complex.
The letter, now signed by nearly 1,000 academics, declares that “Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally.” It adds, “While Google regularly decides the future of technology without democratic public engagement, its entry into military technologies casts the problems of private control of information infrastructure into high relief.”
In March, Google admitted to helping the Pentagon develop artificial intelligence software to identify objects in video recordings captured by drones, within the framework of a program called Project Maven. While Google claims that the technology is not being used to kill people, the letter’s authors note that the system can be easily modified to identify human beings for assassination.
The letter by the academics follows an open letter from Google workers protesting the company’s involvement in Project Maven, supported by over 3,100 employees. A recent report by Gizmodo cited the resignation of a dozen workers following the revelations.
In considering the operations of Google, a distinction must be made between the corporation and the technology workers who are employed by it, many of whom may have been attracted to the company by its original (recently removed) corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil.”
The involvement of Google in the US military’s drone program points to the extraordinarily dangerous amalgamation of giant technology corporations and the major capitalist states. It is increasingly difficult to tell where the CIA and the Pentagon end, and the technology companies begin.
Google itself has many ties to the state and the military. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, serves as an advisor to the Pentagon and the chair of its Defense Innovation Advisory Board. Schmidt plays a leading role in the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a private/military joint partnership located just minutes from Google’s main headquarters.
Google is by no means an exception. Amazon is a leading supplier of cloud computing infrastructure to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Verizon, AT&T and other internet service providers have served as willing partners in the National Security Agency’s program of global and domestic surveillance, as exposed by leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Google’s relations with the military put into sharper focus the significance of the changes it made to its search algorithms, beginning in April of last year. When Google first announced these measures, it claimed that its actions were aimed at “improving” its search system and “helping people find what they are looking for.” It told a New York Times reporter that its actions were free of “political… bias.”
In fact, the company’s involvement with the military and its manipulation of search results are two sides of the same process, both done for political purposes. In the one case, it is providing the state with artificial intelligence technology to aid its military and intelligence operations. In the other case, it has initiated a massive program of censorship, also using powerful artificial intelligence technology, to suppress domestic opposition.
As the WSWS has documented, the changes to Google’s algorithms have significantly impacted search traffic to left-wing, anti-war, and socialist publications.
The WSWS is itself a central target of these repressive measures. Its search traffic fell by 75 percent, and, when it first reported the decrease, the top 45 search terms that previously linked readers to the WSWS no longer did so. By the latest count, the top 61 terms that previously brought readers to the WSWS no longer do so.
In the year since Google announced its censorship measures, it, together with Facebook and Twitter, have hired thousands of additional content “moderators,” many with backgrounds as intelligence agents, prosecutors, and police officers, to censor political speech. By the end of this year, more than half of the people employed at Facebook and Google will be assigned to its “security” and “moderation” departments.
The claims by Google, Facebook and other social media companies that, in manipulating their algorithms, they are acting as private corporations, are untenable. Such rationales do not justify actions that suppress free speech and political views. Moreover, these companies are not acting by themselves, but in close coordination with the capitalist state, speaking on behalf of the ruling class as a whole.
The integration of corporations and the military-intelligence-state apparatus is not a new phenomenon. It is 57 years since President Eisenhower issued his famous speech warning of the “military-industrial complex.” However, amidst feverish preparations for war and domestic repression, this integration is taking on new and ever more ominous forms. Moreover, the military is rapidly moving to incorporate into its operations the most advanced artificial intelligence technologies, developed by companies like Google.
The fight against this military-intelligence-censorship complex can only be carried forward on the basis of a revolutionary, socialist program. The domination and control of the Internet and associated technologies by gigantic corporations, run by billionaires, has the direst consequences for democratic rights.
The ending of corporate control of the Internet must be connected to the mobilization of the international working class to abolish the stranglehold of the financial oligarchy over economic and political life, transform all giant corporations into publicly-owned utilities, and reorganize global economy on the basis of social need, not private profit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said a naval standing force, including warships with Kalibr long-range land attack cruise missiles, will be permanently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. The statement was made at a meeting with top military officials and defense industry leaders that took place in Sochi on May 16. One of the missions is delivering strikes against terrorist targets in Syria. 102 expeditions of ships and submarines are planned in 2018. The force will go through intensive training.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet has become a much different force in comparison to what it was just three years ago. Since 2015, the year the operation in Syria was launched, it has received 15 new ships, including two frigates and six conventional submarines armed with Kalibr cruise missiles. With S-400 and S-300V4 air defense systems, Krasukha-4 electronic warfare systems and shore-based anti-ship Bastion batteries deployed on the Syrian coast, the ships in Eastern Mediterranean operate in a relatively safe environment. Kalibr missiles have already been fired from frigates and submarines at terrorist targets in Syria.
Last July, a 15-strong Mediterranean Task Force was established to be based out of Tartus, Syria’s leased naval facility. The ships provide a buffer on the southern flank of NATO. Russia needs to counter aggressive activities of the bloc in the region, including the Black Sea. Maintaining robust presence in the Mediterranean is the best way to defend Russia’s Black Sea borders.
All southern Europe, including such NATO military assets as Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, Combined Air Operations Centers in Larissa, Greece, and in Poggio Renatico, Italy, Headquarters Allied Land Command and Air Power Command in Izmir, Turkey, NATO Incirlik air base in Turkey, Graf Ignatievo and Bezmer air bases in Bulgaria used by US Air Force as well as a lot of other key NATO defense infrastructure sites happen to be within the range of Kalibr missiles installed on the platforms patrolling the Mediterranean Sea. They’ll all be knocked out with first salvos in case a Russia-NATO war starts.
The Fleet’s operations are not limited to the Black Sea basin and the Mediterranean. It is on the way of transition from a green-water naval formation to a blue water force, demonstrating the Russian flag as the ships move beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal on the way to the World Ocean.
The establishment of permanent naval presence in the region can be explained by a number of rational calculations. The Mediterranean Sea is Russia’s only exit to the open ocean for the Black Sea Fleet. The permanent presence is a logical step in view of Russia’s growing political influence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Foreign Ministries are not the only ones to shape external policy. Any port call is a diplomat mission, providing an opportunity for official meetings and public diplomacy, with the events covered by media. Take the famous German Kiel Week or Kieler Woche in German, the biggest annual maritime festival and international forum visited by about three million people coming from all over the world. Warships from many countries are an important element of the event. Ships also take part in the Irish maritime festival at Drogheda Port. Russian frigate The Shtandart, a replica of the man-of-war built by Peter the Great in 1703, will visit Drogheda on June 10-11 this year.
The naval visits reflect foreign policy trends. In 2017, Russian ships made 46 port calls to drop anchor at 28 ports of 27 countries worldwide. The list includes five Western or West-friendly states: Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Japan and South Korea, which account for 19% of the countries visited by Russian ships. Nine (33%) of the states on the list belong to the Asia-Pacific region, with other 13 (48%) situated in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The 81% vs.19% ratio illustrates Russia’s rebalancing from the “collective” West toward other countries and power poles. The Russian Navy also conducted six international exercises, demonstrating its global presence and power projection capability.
The growing trade brings to the fore the task of sea lanes’ protection. Russia has longstanding economic ties with many Mediterranean states, including Greece, Libya, Cyprus, and Algeria. The relations include defense cooperation.
US Navy deployments in support of ballistic missile defense are viewed as provocative moves to downgrade Russia’s strategic nuclear capability. With Russia’s continuous presence in the region, Aegis ships as well as aircraft carriers become sitting ducks for state-of-the art anti-ship missiles.
Like it or not, the Mediterranean Sea has ceased to be a “NATO Lake” dominated by US 6th Fleet. American vessels don’t own these waters anymore. As a great power, Russia has its own interests in the region and it has a powerful naval force permanently deployed to defend them.
In this situation report we look at the consolidation of the Syrian government space, discuss the upcoming operations to secure the vital M5 highway, clear up the S-300 confusion and provide a bit on the political developments.
Over the last twelve months the Syrian Arab Army and its allies made a lot of progress.
The government held area was extended to the Euphrates and the Syrian-Iraqi border. Deir Ezzor was liberated. The border to Lebanon was secured. All “rebel” enclaves within the government held areas (except the ISIS desert pocket) were consolidated.
After clearing up east-Ghouta east of the capital Damascus the Syrian government forces were concentrated around the Yarmouk camp south of the city. Yarmouk, originally a Palestinian refugee camp, is an upbuilt area which was held by Islamic State fighters as well as “rebels” paid by foreign countries. The “rebels” have since given up and were evacuated to Idleb governorate. The ISIS held area is reduced to less than a square mile of dense urban terrain. There were contradicting reports today that the ISIS fighters had given up and were ready to evacuate. Whatever they decide the area will be liberated in a week or so. The Syrian capitol will then be completely secure.
Until two weeks ago a large area around al-Rastan between Homs and Hama was still held by mostly local “rebel” forces. The Syrian government sent its Tiger forces and an ultimatum – give up or die. The “rebels” decided to avoid a fight which they would surely have lost. They agreed to be evacuated and were dumped into Idleb. Al-Rastan is back in government hands. This move freed the M5 highway between Homs and Hama.
The M5 highway is the main north-south artery of Syria. It connects Gaziantep in Turkey with Amman in Jordan. The highway runs through the main Syrian cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus. Before the war started all transit traffic between Turkey and the rich Gulf countries as well as most of the internal Syrian commerce ran along this road. Turkey, Syria and Jordan have a common economic interest in securing and reopening this important lifeline.
The next strategic task for the Syrian army is therefore to secure the M5 highway in its full length.
In the south of Syria the M5 connection to Jordan runs through the eastern part of the “rebel” held area (green) towards al-Mafraq in Jordan. The border to Jordan is closed for the “rebels” and tightly controlled. There have been talks between Jordan and some of the “rebel” groups with the aim of ending the conflict in the south but they have so far failed.
The Syrian army has two possible ways to proceed in the south.
It could move from the northern border triangle of Lebanon, Syria and the Zionist occupied Golan heights (purple) southwards along the demarcation line and down to the border of Jordan. UN observers could return to the Golan demarcation line, monitor the operation and prevent it from escalating into a war with Israel. The move would isolate the al-Qaeda and ISIS “rebels” in the area from their Israeli supplies. The Takfiris could then be pressured from the west, north and east and a general cleanup would follow. The move would be militarily and politically dicey as Israel would probably try to prevent it. But it would also solve an important political problem once and for all. The Russian command should talk with Israel and discuss this plan.
The politically and militarily easier move is to proceed from Daraa to the Jordan border and to thereby encircle the eastern part of the rebel held area. The eastern part can then be liberated slice by slice. This would allow for unhindered M5 traffic from Damascus towards al-Mafraq and Amman but it would leave the ISIS/al-Qaeda pocket along the occupied Golan heights as a festering problem.
In the north the M5 highway between Hama and Aleppo runs through the eastern part of the “rebel” held Idleb governorate. The Syrian army will have to take control of it before the road can be reopened. North of Aleppo towards Turkey the highway goes through an area which is currently controlled by Turkish forces. These are for now able to secure the road.
Idleb governorate is held by various “rebel” groups with the the al-Qaeda aligned Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) being the strongest one. Idleb had been declared a de-escalation zone under Astana rules and Turkey set up twelve observation points to watch over the border of the area. There has been an immense amount of infighting between HTS (dark green) and other “rebel” groups (light green).
On May 14 and 15 Turkish, Russian and Iranian negotiators met for the ninth round of Syria negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan. There was no announced progress but the joint statement again empathizes “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.”
It was probably in Astana that an agreement was made about the northern part of the M5 highway. Shortly after the Astana talks a report by a well connected source (nicknamed after a Russian sniper hero) said that Turkey informed the “rebels” in Idleb governorate that they will have to evacuate the area east of the M5 highway between Hama and Aleppo. The Syrian army would move in to secure the highway. Should the “rebels” not follow the Turkish advice the Syrian army will move into Idleb governorate by force from the east and south to push the “rebels” westwards beyond the highway line.
As soon as the M5 is under full control Syria’s commercial lifelines to all neighbors will be reestablished. The economy of Syria will then experience an urgently needed significant boost.
There have been discussion in the comments here and elsewhere about the Russian on and off announcement of S-300 air defenses in Syria. These discussions lacked military knowledge.
Air defenses are layered:
- Local air defense uses man portable air defense missiles (MANPADs), 20 mm machine cannons and machine guns. Its reach is about 2,000 meters.
- The next level are systems with a range of up to 20 kilometers. Syria has about 40 Pantsyr-S1/2 systems mounted on trucks. (The Russian forces in Syria have about 20 additional Pantsyr-S systems to protect their bases.) These are mobile and an excellent point defense for airports and other significant assets. During its last attack on Syria an Israeli missile could destroy one Pantsyr system only because it was being reloaded and could therefore not react.
- The next air defense layer are mid range systems like the Syrian S-200 or the more modern Russian BUK-2. These systems have a reach of about 150 kilometers. The old S-200 system Syria currently uses are fired from fixed positions. That makes them extremely vulnerable to pre-programmed precision missile attacks. Israeli strikes have destroyed several such systems in Syria.
- The fourth layer of air defense are high attitude, long range area defense systems. The U.S. has THAAD and Russia has the S-300/ S-400 systems. These have ranges beyond 300 kilometer.
The longer range systems of the higher layers always need additional protection by the lower layers. An S-300 missile costs several ten-thousands of dollars but cannot defeat a small toy drone of the kind ISIS uses to drop hand-grenades onto targets. It needs be protected against these. Pantsyr systems and a few dozen men with MANPADs and machine-guns can do that.
It would make no sense to drop S-300 systems into Syria without having established and secured sufficient air-defense layers 1, 2 and 3 below the long range class. They would soon go up in smoke. There are also additional elements of reconnaissance (radar and electronic warfare systems) and communication, command and control that need to be more sophisticated and widespread to operate S-300 systems. All these high end long range systems need highly trained operators and are very expensive.
What Syria currently needs are more Pantsyr systems. It urgently needs to replace the old S-200s with the modern and mobile BUK-2. These systems make way more sense for the Syrian battlefield than the famed S-300. They also have the advantage of being significantly cheaper.
For a more general discussion of Russia’s role in Syria beyond the S-300 nitpicking, I highly recommend the latest piece by Elijah Magnier: Russia is in the Middle East to halt the war, not take part in the Iran-Israel Conflict.
On May 14 the Syrian President Assad met the Russian President Putin in Sochi. The discussed the political process needed to bring an end to the war. Assad committed to UN supervised negotiations about constitutional changes in Syria but rejected the significant changes of the Syrian system which the outside powers wanted to impose. He said:
“We focused on the issue of the Constitutional Committee that should be established following the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. We expect to start the corresponding work with the UN. I have confirmed to President Putin today that Syria will send the list of its delegates to the Constitutional Committee to discuss amendments to the current Constitution. It will be done as soon as possible.”
That this was said after a meeting with Putin confirms that the Russian attempt to write a new constitution for Syria is dead. There will be no semi-federalization for the Kurds or others which would weaken the central government and no measures that would weaken the position of a Syrian presidency.
What killed democracy was constant lying to the public, by politicians whose only way to win national public office is to represent the interests of the super-rich at the same time as the given politician publicly promises to represent the interests of the public — “and may the better liar win!” — it’s a lying-contest. When democracy degenerates into that, it becomes dictatorship by the richest, the people who can fund the most lying. Such a government is an aristocracy, no democracy at all, because the aristocracy rule, the public don’t. It’s the type of government that the French Revolution was against and overthrew; and it’s the type of government that the American Revolution was against and overthrew; but it has been restored in both countries.
First here will be discussed France:
On 7 May 2017, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France with 66.1% of the vote, compared to Marine Le Pen’s 33.9%. That was the second round of voting; the first round had been: Macron 24.0%, Le Pen 21.3% Fillon 20.0%, Melenchon 19.6%, and others 15%; so, the only clear dominator in that 11-candidate contest was Macron, who, in the second round, turned out to have been the second choice of most of the voters for the other candidates. Thus, whereas Le Pen rose from 21.3% to 33.9% in the second round (a 59% increase in her percentage of the vote), Macron rose from 24.0% to 66.1% in the second round (a 275% increase in his percentage of the vote). In other words: Macron didn’t just barely win the Presidency, but he clearly dominated both rounds; it was never at all close. But once in office he very quickly disappointed the French public:
On 11 August 2017, Le Figaro bannered (as autotranslated by Google Chrome) “A hundred days later, Macron confronted with the skepticism of the French”, and reported that 36% were “satisfied” and 64% were “dissatisfied” with the new President.
On 23 March 2018, Politico bannered “Macron’s approval ratings hit record low: poll” and reported that, “Only 40 percent of the French population said they have a favorable opinion of Macron, a drop of 3 percentage points from last month and 12 percentage points from December, while 57 percent said they hold a negative opinion of the president.”
On 22 April 2018, Europe 1 reported that 44% were “satisfied” with Macron, and 55% were “dissatisfied” with him; and that — even worse — while 23% were “very dissatisfied” with him, only 5% were “very satisfied” with him.
So, clearly — and this had happened very quickly — the French public didn’t think that they were getting policies that Macron had promised to them during his campaign. He was very different from what they had expected — even though he had won the Presidency in a landslide and clearly dominated both rounds. That plunge in support after being elected President required a lot of deceit during his campaign.
Second, is US:
The situation in the US was very different in its means, but similar in its outcome: it was a close election between two candidates, each of whom had far more of the electorate despising him or her than admiring him or her. Neither of the two candidates in the second round was viewed net-favorably by the public. The key round of elimination of the more-attractive candidates, was in the primaries; and, after that, it became merely a choice between uglies in the general election. Any decent (or even nearly decent) person had already been eliminated, by that time. Consequently, the ultimate winner never had the high net-favorable rating from the US public, that Macron did from the French public.
America’s system of ‘democracy’ is very different than France’s: Throughout the primaries-season — America’s first round — the most-preferred of all candidates in the race was Bernie Sanders, who, in the numerous one-on-one polled hypothetical choices versus any of the opposite Party’s contending candidates, crushed each one of them except John Kasich, who, throughout the primaries, was the second-most preferred of all of the candidates (and who performed far better than did Trump did in the hypothetical match-ups against Clinton). In the hypothetical match-ups, Sanders beat Kasich by 3.3%, whereas Kasich beat Clinton by 7.4% — that spread between +3.3% and -7.4% is 10.8%, and gives a pretty reliable indication of what the Democratic National Committee threw away when rigging the primaries and vote-counts for Hillary Clinton to win the Party’s nomination. Sanders beat Trump by 10.4%, whereas Clinton beat Trump by 3.2%. That spread was only 7.2% in favor of Sanders over Clinton; but, in any case, the DNC cared lots more about satisfying its mega-donors than about winning, when they picked Clinton to be the Party’s nominee. (Ms. Clinton’s actual victory over Mr. Trump in the final election between those two nominees turned out to be by only 2.1% — close enough a spread so as to enable Trump to win in the Electoral College (which is all that counts), which counts not individual voters but a formula that represents both the states and the voters. Sanders would have beaten Trump in a landslide — far too big a margin for the Electoral College to have been able to go the opposite way, such as did happen with Clinton. This fact was also shown here and here. That’s what the DNC threw away.)
Hillary Clinton received by far the biggest support from billionaires, of all of the candidates; Sanders received by far the least; and this is why the Democratic Party, which Clinton and Barack Obama (two thoroughly billionaire-controlled politicians) effectively controlled, handed its nomination to Clinton. On 7 June 2016, the great investigative journalist Greg Palast headlined and documented “How California is being stolen from Sanders right now”, and four days later a retired statistician’s review of other statisticians’ statistical analysis of data from all of the primaries and caucuses, reaffirmed their findings, that the Democratic nomination had been stolen by the Democratic National Committee, and he concluded that “the whole process has been rigged against Bernie at every level and that is devastating even though I don’t agree [politically] with him.” A more detailed study was published on 1 August 2016, titled “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries”. Basically, what had happened is that the most-preferred of all the candidates got deep-sixed by Democratic Party billionaires, who ultimately control the DNC, just as Republican billionaires control the RNC. The US Government is squabbles between billionaires, and that’s all. That’s what’s left of American ‘democracy’, now.
On 12 August 2016, Julian Assange noted: “MSNBC on its most influential morning program, Morning Joe, was defending Bernie Sanders. Then Debbie Wasserman Schultz [head of the DNC] called up the president of MSNBC. Amazingly, this is not reported in the US media. It is reported in the US media that they called up Chuck Todd who’s the host of Meet The Press. Something much more serious is not reported — that Debbie Wasserman Schultz herself personally called up the president of MSNBC to apply pressure in relation to positive coverage about Bernie Sanders on Morning Joe.” That was typical of what went on.
Hillary Clinton’s favorable rating, by Election Day, was 40.3%, her unfavorable was 55.3%. Donald Trump’s favorable was 39.8%, unfavorable was 53.4%. Bernie Sanders, as of the end of the primaries on 29 June 2016, was 50.8% favorable, 39.6% unfavorable, and it has been getting steadily better afterward. But the suckered Democratic Party voters (the ones who were counted, at any rate) voted slightly more for Hillary than for Bernie. Even despite Sanders’s having had support from few if any billionaires, he almost won the Democratic nomination, and that’s remarkable. He might actually have received more votes during the primaries than Hillary did, but we’ll never know.
So: America is a dictatorship by the billionaires. And this means that it operates by fooling the public. France is similar, though it achieves this via a different way. And, in both countries, deceit is essential, in order to achieve its dictatorship. Fooling the public is now what it’s all about, in either case. Democracy can never be won by fooling the public; because fooling the public means removing the public’s ability to control the government. So, calling such a nation a ‘democracy’, is, itself, deceiving the public — it’s part of the dictatorship, or else support of the dictatorship.
In former times, this system was rationalized as ‘the divine right of kings’. Now it’s rationalized as ‘the divine right of capital’. But it’s also become covered-over by yet another lie: ‘democracy’. This is a ‘democratic’ aristocracy; it is an ‘equal opportunity’ aristocracy. In it, each citizen has ‘equal rights’ as every other citizen, no matter how wealthy. It’s just a castle of lies. And its doors are actually open only to the few richest-and-well-connected.
Here, a former CIA official tries to describe how the American dictatorship works — the enforcement-part of the system, and he does (even if only by implication) also touch upon the financial sources of it. Starting at 1:07:35 in that video, he discusses his personal case: why he could no longer tolerate working for the CIA. But his description of how he, as an Agency official, saw the system to function, starts at 3:45 in the video. Key passages start at 12:45, and at 20:15. Maybe any American who would email this article to friends who don’t understand how the system functions, will come under increased US surveillance, but that CIA official’s career and family were destroyed by what the system did to him, which was lots worse than just surveillance. Remarkably, he nonetheless had the courage to persist (and thus did that video). However, when one sees how politically partisan (and so obtuse) the viewer-comments to that video are, one might be even more depressed than by the account this former CIA official presents. But, even if the situation is hopeless, everyone should at least have the opportunity to understand it. Because, if the aristocracy are the only people who understand it, there can’t be any hope for democracy, at all.
I have read The Art of War many times, and you can bet that Vladimir Putin has too. I found the quote above to be the most important maxim in that masterpiece, and I think Putin would agree. And when the “fighting” could potentially lead to the 3rd World War and the extinction of Humanity, then to avoid fighting becomes as important as avoiding defeat, because the 3rd World War is a war no one will win. Once it starts, we all lose. And so far, it is Putin who has prevented the war from starting.
The recent criticism of Vladimir Putin for “betraying” Syria or the Donbass Republics or even Russia itself is as impudent as it is misguided, and it comes from the usual collection of armchair warriors and self-styled pundits who actually seem to think they know more about geopolitics than Vladimir Putin does.
They seem to fail to understand that war requires sacrifices, as well as deception, and that perhaps all may not be exactly as they think it is. They also fail to understand that preventing war sometimes requires distasteful compromises. These self-appointed critics and “strategists” should look at the results of Putin’s work, rather than be confused by their amateur interpretation of how he accomplishes it. And they should keep in mind the fact that Putin’s objectives may not be the same as their own, and that it is always easy to talk when you have no skin in the game.
Let’s start with the recent words of “The Saker”, aka Andrei Raevski, an alleged “Pro-Russian analyst” who is “personally bitterly disappointed” by the nomination of Dmitri Medvedev as Prime Minister. He goes on to quote a comment he read on Youtube – “Putin betrayed the people, we didn’t vote for Medvedev”. While the second part of the comment is technically correct, it is the parliament, not the people, who votes for or against the President’s nominee, the “Putin betrayed the people” lie is straight off the Strelkov/Suchan/5th column troll farm.
Note that The Saker doesn’t actually say it himself, but by quoting an anonymous comment off Youtube, he does actually say it himself, and then our illustrious analyst goes on to say he is “afraid” it’s going to be a “very widely shared feeling”. As he himself shares it as widely as he can. It is not a feeling shared by those with any sense or any skin in the game, but perhaps among some of the credulous naifs who read and believe his drivel.
There are a number of legitimate explanations for Medvedev’s appointment, but The Saker “doesn’t buy any of them”. Or apparently even understand any of them. He then goes on to claim the appointment pours fuel on the fire of rumors that Putin will cave in on Syria and/or Donbass, even as he pours fuel on the fire of those rumors by spreading them himself.
He claims to be aware (as “we all” are) of “alarmist rumors circulating all over the internet about this for many days”, and goes on to say the nomination will strengthen these “very dangerous” rumors, even as he spreads and strengthens them himself. Is it treachery or idiocy? Either way, it’s anti-Russian propaganda by a White Russian immigrant who lives in the USA, and pretends to support Russia’s battle against US hegemony.
A calm and rational examination of the facts shows the above interpretation of Medvedev’s appointment to be baseless, melodramatic fear-mongering. The fact is, the Prime Minister, whose actual official title is “Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation”, serves at the pleasure of the President, and can be fired and replaced at the President’s discretion. The President may himself chair meetings of the Cabinet, may give obligatory orders to the PM, and may revoke any act of the government. The term “Prime Minister” is strictly informal and is actually never used in the Russian Constitution, federal laws or official documents.
The President has complete control of the PM. Putin is the immensely popular President, Medvedev is the unpopular PM who Putin appointed and can fire at any time. No need for fear or bitter disappointment. Or abject misinterpretation. What better way could Putin have to keep Medvedev on a short leash than to have him as PM under these conditions?
I am no fan of Medvedev or his oligarch clique, but Putin’s appointing him doesn’t mean that he is either. There is a well-known quote that is from the book The Godfather – “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” The simple interpretation of this quote is “know your enemy”, but the much more profound meaning is that you don’t want your enemies to know that you are enemies. This vital distinction may be lost on some Russian voters, Youtube commenters and self-styled analysts who think they are qualified to advise and criticize the former KGB Colonel and current President of the Russian Federation, but I am quite certain that Putin himself understands it perfectly. So, only a fool or a liar would say “Putin betrayed Russia” by appointing Medvedev.
Sergey Kurginyan (the only Russian I trust and admire as much as Putin) pointed out that Putin has six years to complete the monumental tasks he has set for Russia, and realistically, he needs the Medvedev Bloc’s help. Their report card comes out two years from now. If they help, they stay, if they don’t, they get booted, all Russia sees it, and Putin sill has four more years to install a new team of oligarch hunters, and to do some hunting himself. And if you haven’t heard of Kurginyan or want to know where he stands on other huge questions facing Russia, check out this clip where he breaks down who Gorbachev really was, and what he was all about. His analysis is cutting. He’s no liberal, no bourgeois reformer.
If Putin did not betray Russia, what about Syria and the Donbass Republics? The quick, simple and obvious answer is that the fact that they still exist proves that he continues to support them and has not betrayed them in any way. The idea that Syria or the Republics could have survived without Putin’s support is laughable, and only an idiot could put forth such a proposition. Yet some do. They say that Putin has “betrayed” Syria by not responding to recent provocations and that Russian forces should have attacked US forces that are illegally in Syria after the US attack in which Russian contractors were killed.
The story about “500 Russians killed” is a lie. There were about 100 soldiers killed by the US air attack, mostly Syrian Army, with about 15 to 20 Wagner contractor/advisers. And unlike the various keyboard commandos who called for the start of WW3 over the incident , I actually know what happened. A friend of mine was there, and I have seen the video. Yes, it was a treacherous and underhanded attack by the US, knowing there were Russians among the Syrian soldiers, but this provocation is not worth risking a real world war over, is it? What kind of imbecile could possibly think it would be?
The same goes for Trump’s impotent and ridiculous missile attacks, and Israel’s as well. Yes, all these attacks were “allowed” by Russia, but Russia told both the US and Israel where they were, and were not, allowed to shoot, and both obeyed the Russian mandate. The cost of the attacks for the US was far greater than the destruction they imposed on Syria, and the Israelis probably just barely broke even. Enough Pyrrhic victories like these, and the US and Israel will defeat themselves. And Putin will stand aside and allow them to. He will win without fighting.
Of course, the Russians are fighting in Syria, against ISIS and other Western terrorist proxies, and they are winning. The US and Israeli attacks are absolutely meaningless in regards to the final outcome of the war, so why should Putin escalate? Putin and the Russian military have drawn their lines in the sand, and it is clear the US and their allies understand and respect them. If they are foolish enough to cross them, those who now call for war will soon be begging the Russians for peace. Yes, soldiers were killed, but they were not Russian soldiers or Bashar al Assad. And getting killed is a risk every soldier must face. It’s part of the job, and sometimes they must even be sacrificed. That too is part of the job. This is sometimes hard for keyboard commandos and those who have never been soldiers to understand. And they should refrain from commenting on things they don’t understand.
As for Putin’s “betrayal” by inviting Netanyahu to Moscow, yes, a rather disgusting sight considering Israel’s recent actions, but a very shrewd move, not “stupid” or a betrayal.
There’s a difference between bad optics, and bad moves. Bad optics can be a bad move, but there’s much more to reality than optics – much more than meets the eye. This is so basic, the expression itself is currency.
No doubt Netanyahu standing beside Putin made Trump, Poroshenko and Netanyahu nervous. Yes, Russia has again put the S-300 delivery to Syria on hold, but the sale and delivery of S-400’s to Turkey is still on schedule. Think about Erdogan calling for all Muslim countries to unite against Israel.
Erdogan truly is a megalomaniac, with dreams of being a new Salahudin and leading the ME, and a war against Israel makes him exactly that. And I doubt he’s forgotten about the US engineered coup attempt against him, and where Fetullah Gulen lives. But Turkey doesn’t even need the S-400’s. It’s still in NATO, so basically bulletproof from Israel, even from their nukes. Because if Israel gets into a shooting war with Turkey, it invokes Article 5, and either NATO has to go to war against Israel, or NATO falls apart, because if the US and EU NATO members don’t defend Turkey, how can they trust each other?
Either way, Putin wins without fighting. The more you think about it, the more you like it!
The same applies to those who say Putin “betrayed” Donbass. Take my word for it or figure it our for yourself. After four years of war, the Republics still stand.
While we certainly do have our problems, life has gotten better in every measurable way, and continues to, just as it has gotten continually worse in Ukraine. If not for Putin’s support, we would have been attacked and overwhelmed long ago. Putin has said these exact words – “If the Ukraine army overruns Donbass there will be a genocide of ethnic Russian people. We will not allow that.” What do you think he means, “We will not allow that”? I know, the people here know, the Ukrops and US military knows, and so far, they have not been suicidal enough to try it. Putin will never betray Donbass.
I’d bet my life on it. In fact, I do bet my life on it. Millions of us here do. And we know it. We respect and appreciate it. We are still here because he is with us. As long as the Republics exist, we are winning. Time is on our side, and just like NATO, the Kiev junta and Ukrop Nazis will eventually consume themselves. The Republics too, can win without fighting.
There are few men in history, much less alive today, who have the courage, the honor and the true genius of Vladimir Putin. Those who call themselves “pro-Russian” and use the words “Putin” and “betrayed” in the same sentence only prove themselves, without exception, to be either fools, or liars and traitors. Remember the lesson Girkin (“Strelkov”) taught us here in Donbass. A false comrade is a real enemy. As for the fools, they are not just wrong, they’re irrelevant. They blow wind about actions they don’t even understand. The dog barks, and the caravan moves on. What matters is the results. And the results speak for themselves. Things have gotten better in Syria, Donbass and Russia itself ever since Putin came along, he hasn’t betrayed anybody, and he’s not going anywhere till the job is done.
The job is to protect Russia, and protecting Syria and Donbass does protect Russia. It also prevents World War Three. And preventing World War Three protects us all. So far, Vladimir Putin has done it, and done it well. He is refusing to escalate, minimizing violence as long as his red lines are not crossed. And those lines have not yet been crossed. It is important for those who live under the regimes that make provocations and call for war to do whatever they can to prevent their governments from going too far and crossing those lines. We should all give Vladimir Putin a hand in trying to prevent World War Three. If we win without fighting, we all become most excellent warriors.
The May 16-17 EU-Western Balkans summit did address the problems of integration, but it was eclipsed by another issue. The meeting turned out to be a landmark event that will go down in history as the day Europe united to openly defy the US. The EU will neither review the Iran nuclear deal (JPCOA) nor join the sanctions against Tehran that have been reintroduced and even intensified by America. Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JPCOA was the last straw, forcing the collapse of Western unity. The Europeans found themselves up against a wall. There is no point in discussing further integration or any other matter if the EU cannot protect its own members. But now it can.
President Trump has his own reasons to shred the Iran deal, but he needs Europe to strong-arm Tehran into signing a “better” agreement. Were it to do so, the US administration would make it look like a big victory. Washington does not shy away from threatening its allies with punitive measures but the EU is standing tall, deepening the rift. As European Council President Donald Tusk put it, “With friends like Trump, who needs enemies?” According to him, the US president has “rid Europe of all illusions.” Mr. Tusk wants Europe to “stick to our guns” against new US policies. Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the EU Commission, believes that “Europe must take America’s place as global leader” because Washington has turned its back on its allies. Washington “no longer wants to cooperate.” It is turning away from friendly relations “with ferocity.” Mr. Juncker thinks the time is ripe for Europe “to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor.” It would have been unthinkable not long ago for a top EU official to say such things and challenge the US global leadership. Now the unthinkable has become reality.
The process of shifting away from America does not boil down to just words of indignation and open defiance. Plans are underway to take practical steps. For instance, the EU is to ditch the use of the US currency in its payments for Iranian oil. It can be done. Russia and Iran have already launched an oil-for-goods exchange program in order to leave the greenback behind. The bloc plans to activate a 1996 law (the blocking statute), which bans European businesses from compliance with US sanctions on Iran. The legislation protects “against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country.”
The EU-Iran discussions have already been held. And it is America’s closest ally who is to deal the first powerful blow against US global dominance. This is a demonstration of the “no retreat, no surrender” spirit before the not-yet-unleased war is in full swing.
True, this applies to only a relatively small sector of business activities, and Iran’s $400-billion market can’t be compared to the $18-trillion US market, but the important factor here is the show of political will to stand up to America’s challenge. This rift is taking place amid a looming trade war over aluminum and steel, the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem with no regard for the allies’ opinion, and the controversy over Europe’s NATO spending.
On May 15, the EU defense heads gathered at a meeting of the European Union Military Committee to discuss deeper integration and an independent defense policy, which envisages greater efficiency to reduce expenditures, given the US demands to increase those outlays under the auspices of NATO. The PESCO agreement is the backbone of the EU defense policy and it’s purely European.
Sandra Oudkirk, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, has just threatened to sanction the Europeans if they continue with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to bring gas in from Russia across the Baltic Sea. That country is also seen by the US as an adversary and its approach is by and large the same – to issue orders for Europe to adopt a confrontational policy, doing as it is told without asking too many questions.
Iran and Nord Stream 2 unite Moscow and Brussels in their opposition to this diktat. On May 17, Iran signed a provisional free-trade-zone agreement with a Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that seeks to increase the current levels of trade valued at $2.7 billion. The deal lowers or abolishes customs duties. It also establishes a three-year process for reaching a permanent trade agreement. If Iran becomes a member of the group, it would expand its economic horizons beyond the Middle Eastern region. So, Europe and Russia are in the same boat, both holding talks with Iran on economic cooperation.
President Donald Trump has just instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prepare a list of new sanctions against the Russian Federation for its alleged violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This is the agreement the US has so egregiously and openly breached. But nobody in Europe has announced that they want US nuclear-tipped intermediate- range weapons on their territory that will be a target for a potential retaliatory strike by Russia. It’s an example of yet another European problem with having the decision-making process located in Washington.
If Europe is resolved to fend off US attempts to dictate its policy on Iran, why should it reconcile itself to the pressure to keep the sanctions against Russia intact? May 17 marked a turning point in the US-European relationship. Europeans joined ranks to resist a policy that encroaches on their right to decide their own fate. It’s Europe, not the US, who is negatively affected by the punitive measures, creating deep divisions within the EU at a time when that group is faced with many problems. The time is ripe for Brussels to stop this sanctions-counter-sanctions mayhem and stake out its own independent policies on Russia, Iran, defense, and other issues, that will protect European, not US, national interests. May 17 is the day the revolt started and there is no going back. Europe has said goodbye to trans-Atlantic unity. It looks like it has had enough.
by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)
Top officials, including former CIA officers, Pentagon officials, US Army officers and former diplomats demand explanation of Israeli actions
By Pepe Escobar May 19, 2018 11:57 AM (UTC+8)
In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, with copies to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Security Council, four top former officials at the highest level of the US government have given him legal notice about his duty to advise the US Congress, the ICC and the UNSC, among others, about Israel’s actions coinciding with the “70th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.”
The letter is signed, among others, by former CIA operations officer Phil Giraldi; former Pentagon official Michael Maloof; former US Army officer and State Department coordinator for counterterrorism contractor Scott Bennett; and former diplomat and author of Visas For al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World, Michael Springmann.
Maloof, Bennett and Giraldi, as well as Springmann and this correspondent, were among guests at the 6th International New Horizon conference in the holy city of Mashhad, eastern Iran. The top themes of the conference’s debates were Palestine and the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
As Maloof and Bennett separately confirmed to Asia Times, the letter was written by Giraldi and Maloof at an airport lounge as they were waiting for a flight from Mashhad to Tehran, where it was presented at a press conference this past Tuesday. This correspondent was on a reporting trip in Karaj. We all reunited on Thursday at Mashhad’s airport. The press conference in Tehran was virtually ignored by US corporate media.
Visas for the visiting Americans were an extremely delicate matter debated at the highest levels of the Iranian government between the Foreign Ministry and the intelligence services. In the end, the visitors, under intense scrutiny by Iranian media, ended up finding a huge, eager audience all across Iran.
A new psyops in the making
The letter signatories make a direct connection about Israeli actions that may trigger “and escalate American military actions against Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Russia since these nations are opposed to the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem; and rising tensions already exacerbated by the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.”
President Trump is also served legal notice that the letter “will be included as evidence in all matters relating to the US Embassy move to Jerusalem/Al Quds and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The letter is to be listed as “exhibit 1 in any war crimes investigation and prosecution (past, present, future) relating to this matter, at all times.”
As Bennett told Asia Times, the main concern is that according to his military sources the current, volatile situation may establish the preconditions for “a new psyops campaign.”
Trump has been served legal notice – pursuant to 18 US Code 4, and 28 US Code 1361 – of “national and international legal violations.” The letter also doubles as “a legal notice to the American people” – and is established as legal protection “against any retaliation, detainment, investigation, sequestration, interrogation, discrimination, imprisonment, torture, financial consequences, or any other negative or prejudicial consequences or actions.”
Moreover, “any action taken against the undersigned will be interpreted as a violation of the following; 18 USC 242 (conspiracy to deny/violate constitutional civil rights); 42 USC 1983, 1984, 1985 (civil action for rights violations); 18 US 2339A (providing material support to terrorists).
The letter may also be interpreted as an olive branch; apart from requesting full whistleblower protection, the signatories offer themselves to fully debrief the President as well as Congress.
The letter is copied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.
There has been no White House response so far.
Considering the US embassy transfer to Jerusalem; the unilateral abrogation of the JCPOA followed by a declaration of economic war against Iran; the new narrative on the DPRK — as in there’s only our deal, or you will be destroyed like Libya; not to mention the treatment of whistleblower Julian Assange, the prospects for a fruitful dialogue remain bleak.
The horrendous bloodshed this week in Gaza is directly related to US President Trump’s controversial decision to relocate the American embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem.
The US bears responsibility in large part for the atrocity in which more than 60 unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli military. This was a cold-blooded massacre.
Thousands of others were maimed from live fire. An eight-month-old baby girl, Layla Ghandour, was among the victims after she died from asphyxiation from tear gas fired at the protesters.
Washington’s shameless defense of Israel’s brutal use of lethal force as “restrained” and its subsequent blocking of an independent UN inquiry into the mass shootings only compound Washington’s culpability in the massacre. A massacre which threatens to add further tensions to an already combustible region.
The question is how much of US complicity was a deliberate calculation by Washington to provoke widespread violence, not just in the occupied Palestinian territories, but in the wider Middle East?
Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was implemented despite international warning that the move violated global consensus that Jerusalem should be a shared capital between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Trump’s decision recklessly snubbed Palestinian rights by symbolically siding with Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its “undivided capital”.
Not only that but the US embassy move was pointedly scheduled to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s foundation as a state on May 14, 1948. The date is also marked by Palestinians as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, when millions of Palestinians were forced from their homes and ancient land by Israeli settlers.
Such a move by the Trump administration was bound to exacerbate already heightened Palestinian grievances after decades of injustice against their right to statehood and their right to return to ancestral homelands. Some 70 per cent of Gaza’s two million residents claim to be refugees who demand the right to return to their homelands in what is now Israeli-occupied Jerusalem and elsewhere in the modern state of Israel.
Trump’s blatant partisan intervention on the side of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory flies in the face of UN resolutions and international consensus which views Palestinians as having an inalienable claim to statehood. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory has expanded without relent despite countless UN resolutions condemning such expansion as illegal.
At least one thing is incontestably clear now. Washington’s role in the decades-old conflict no longer has the pretense of being “an honest broker” or “neutral mediator”. For decades, the US has tacitly sponsored Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. It is 25 years since President Bill Clinton oversaw the Oslo Peace Accords. Today, the so-called peace process is dead and Palestinians are further than ever from realizing their right to a state in coexistence with Israel.
Trump has made it clear that as far as the US is concerned there is no peace process, that there is no “Two State Solution”.
It is telling that Palestinian leaders no longer recognize the US as a mediator. The US is part of the ongoing problem of an illegal colonialism against Palestinian people. Israeli governments are not interested in finding an honorable peace settlement. Their tacit position seems to be one of relentless conquest and driving the remaining Palestinian population out of the entire land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
What is the solution? It seems now that the only decent arrangement is for a One State Solution to be striven for, in which all the people of the Holy Land are entitled to share equal rights. However, that is something that is anathema to the Israeli leaders who want only to create a solely Jewish state.
The international community must face up to the illusion of a Two-State Solution. The world must somehow muster the political will to advocate for the rights of Palestinians to live in the land which was formerly known as Palestine.
For seven decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the source of ongoing conflict in the entire Middle East. Without a proper, just peace settlement that recognizes and delivers on the rights of Palestinians the region will continue to be wracked by violence.
Washington’s brazen and reckless intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be recognized now as an incendiary role. The US has forfeited any claim to be a mediator. It is a malevolent actor.
Israel’s project of conquest is part and parcel with the wider US ambition to control the Middle East for its imperialist designs. America is not some benign player as its mythical image-making would pretend.
The mass murder this week in Gaza in conjunction with the US giving its stamp of approval to Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory is a fitting proof of Washington’s real role in the Middle East. Washington cares not a jot for democracy or peace in the region. It is motivated entirely by hegemonic control for American imperial power.
Chaos and conflict is the fuel for American presence and control. Dispossession of Palestinians goes hand-in-hand with Washington’s strategic planning to balkanize and destroy states. We have seen this nefarious policy with regard to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. Washington needs Israeli conquest in the same way it needs a cluster of other client despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab dictatorships. To crush indigenous democratic rights in order to project its power interests, chiefly for the huge oil wealth of the region, as well as for denying perceived global rivals from gaining influence, especially if that influence might be more progressive.
The US is hellbent on keeping the Middle East in turmoil and conflict. Forget about lofty claims of “democracy building”. Washington’s power relies on creating war and bloodshed. The Project for a New American Century, and other neocon strategy documents, have long prescribed this very policy of creative-destruction, in hoc with Israel, as a formula to consolidate US power, no matter the cost in millions of innocent lives.
Washington’s callous and criminal disregard for Palestinians is a piece of its strategy for mayhem. The renewed confrontation with Iran is also testimony to this pernicious policy.
The cynicism of the US is staggering. This week at the UN, the American ambassador Nikki Haley walked out when the Palestinian envoy, Riad Mansour, began his address to the Security Council about the atrocity in Gaza. For months, Haley has been denouncing Syria, Russia and Iran over alleged violations. Yet she had not the conscience to listen to how Israeli troops butchered unarmed Palestinians in cold blood.
Haley’s rank hypocrisy is closely matched by Western mainstream news media. Their saturated coverage and hysterical distortions over Syria blaming the Assad government and Russia for alleged atrocities was in stark contrast to their muted response to the US-backed cold-blooded murder in Gaza this week.
The criminal arrogance of the US and its complicity in mass murder was exposed this week. It was an object lesson on how the US is not a force for good, as it so often proclaims. Rather, it is evidently a force for destruction in the interests of its own selfish imperialist designs.
Israel has generated global outrage by picking off demonstrators – holding flags, slingshots, stones and incendiary kites, using burning tires, mounds of sand and improvised gas masks as defenses against heavily fortified soldiers armed with US-made Remington M24 sniper rifles – during weeks of protest in Gaza.
Now Israel is trying to spin away the damage by claiming that many of those killed were members of Hamas, and therefore deserved to die.
But as international law experts and international officials have stressed, the political affiliation of those killed on Monday is irrelevant when it comes to the legality of Israel’s actions.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured during the Great March of Return protests. Only one Israeli, a soldier, has reportedly suffered an injury, a minor one, in the context of the protests.
As Amnesty International documented in recent weeks, “Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.”
In most of the fatal cases analyzed by Amnesty International prior to last Monday’s massacre, “victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind.”
Canadian emergency doctor Tarek Loubani told The Electronic Intifada Podcast he was shot in the leg when everything was quiet around him: “No burning tires, no smoke, no tear gas, nobody messing around in front of the buffer zone. Just a clearly marked medical team well away from everybody else.”
An hour later, a paramedic who was part of his team, and who had rescued Loubani, was himself shot and killed.
Gaza’s medical system – already on the brink of collapse before the influx of thousands of injuries comparable to that of a war situation – urgently requires millions of dollars worth of drugs and medical supplies, as well as additional emergency personnel, as a result of this new crisis.
“For many, especially those who lost a loved one, who will now suffer a permanent disability or who will need intensive rehabilitation, the impacts of recent violence will be felt for months and years to come,” United Nations humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick stated on Thursday.
Israel has meanwhile been triaging the damage done to its international standing. It too may feel the impact of the violence for years to come.
A top Israeli military spokesperson acknowledged its public relations disaster during a briefing with the Jewish Federations of North America this week.
The spokesperson granted that the crisis was borne of the deadly violence that Israel warned it was prepared and planning to use both before the launch of the Great March of Return on 30 March and before Monday’s protests.
Both the bloodshed and the global backlash against Israel were preventable and predictable.
Seeking to deflect calls for accountability, Israel’s professional spin doctors have been pushing a video clip in which Hamas official Salah Albardaweel claims 50 of those killed on Monday belonged to the Islamist group.
The video has proven a major PR coup for Israel.
Israel’s military and political leadership have sought from the beginning to portray the Great March of Return as a Hamas stunt exploiting civilian protests as a cover for “terror” activities which pose an existential threat to Israeli communities near the Gaza boundary.
Israel seeks to obscure the reality that the Great March of Return is a popular mobilization that includes the participation and leadership of Palestinians of all political stripes who seek an end to the siege and to exercise their right to return to lands just over Gaza’s boundary from which their families were expelled 70 years ago.
Seven of Monday’s fatalities were children.
Several of those killed on Monday were buried in Hamas’ green flag, but not all. Fadi Abu Salmi, a double amputee, was shrouded with the flag of Islamic Jihad. Ahmad al-Adaini was buried in the flag of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
This was a point made by veteran French-Israeli journalist Charles Enderlin.
“On the Palestinian side, Hamas is presenting itself as victorious, that is to say it has annexed the dead, who most probably overwhelmingly did not belong to Hamas,” Enderlin told French television on Thursday. “Moreover, we did not see many Hamas flags during these demonstrations.”
“Doesn’t change the rules”
Whether or not Albardaweel sought to inflate Hamas’ role in the protests, the political affiliation of those killed on Monday is irrelevant when it comes to the legality of Israel’s actions.
“It doesn’t matter whether the victims were members of Hamas or not,” Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth stated on Thursday.
“Israeli snipers, entrenched behind two substantial fences, had no right to use lethal force … against anyone unless as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat.”
Calling the dead “ ‘terrorists’ doesn’t change the rules,” Roth added.
“This wasn’t a war where combatants were shooting at each other. It was a protest, where law enforcement rules apply.”
This is a central claim by human rights groups regarding Israel’s conduct more generally: that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law.
Israel claims the Gaza protests and its crackdown on them are “part of the armed conflict between the Hamas terrorist organization and Israel.”
It prepared for the demonstrations “as it would for a military operation,” according to Al Mezan and Adalah, two Palestinian rights groups petitioning the Israeli high court over the use of lethal force against Gaza protesters.
Israel “invents” law
In response to the challenge from the two Palestinian organizations, as well as another petition submitted by several other human rights groups, the Israeli government told the high court: “Hamas has been leading a new tactic of terrorist activity under the cover of ‘national commemoration events’ and ‘popular protests.’”
The Israeli government claims, as summarized by Al Mezan and Adalah, “that the careful planning of the events included the use of tire-burning allegedly to conceal attempts to infiltrate Israel, and the use of Molotov cocktails to damage the border fence and the Israeli military.”
The state argues that the makeup of the protests “were unusual in their size and in the intensity of their threat,” “occasionally” posing a threat to Israeli civilians.
Israel says that its forces were prepared for a massive breach of the boundary fence and “execution of attacks by terrorist cells,” and that the threat “may be caused by a single person or a crowd.”
Thus Israel argues that “the legal framework that regulates the opening of fire is the laws of warfare,” or international humanitarian law.
It claims to be operating from a hybrid of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, stating: “The complex nature of the events require, within the laws of warfare, distinction between the opening of fire within a paradigm of hostilities … and the opening of fire within a paradigm of law enforcement.”
Adalah and Al Mezan counter that such a paradigm “does not exist as an established body of law and has been invented by Israel in an attempt to justify greater leeway to use lethal fire than provided for in the regular paradigm of law enforcement.”
Eliav Lieblich of the Tel Aviv University law school has written that “the international legal source” for this paradigm put forth by the state “is unclear,” adding that “the very few sources cited by the government do not support its existence.”
One apparent source, the International Committee of the Red Cross, has slammed Israel for distorting a Red Cross legal report in order to justify its open-fire policy.
On Monday, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that the ICRC “strongly disagreed” with Israel’s interpretation of its legal analysis and had “forwarded its reservations to the Israeli authorities.”
Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard told Haaretz that “the huge number of casualties we have seen in recent weeks is a direct result of [Israel’s] legal thesis, which is completely baseless.”
He added: “It contradicts the most fundamental principles of laws governing the use of force, which adhere to the formula that endangering the lives of civilians can only be done to defend life – and nothing else.”
Sfard is among the lawyers representing human rights groups petitioning the high court, the first major review of the Israeli military’s classified open-fire regulations in decades.
“Diplomacy, external pressure and internal moral backbone have all failed here, and I hope the judiciary will not,” Sfard said.
But Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.
Tel Aviv University’s Lieblich points out that “The court refrained from making any decision before the tragic events of 14 May, and a final decision might be rendered only after this particular episode of violence ends.”
UN votes for international investigation
Israel’s ambassador stated during a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday that “The loss of life could have been avoided had Hamas refrained from sending terrorists to attack Israel under the cover of the riots, while exploiting its own civilian population as human shields.”
“It is Israel, certainly not Hamas, which makes a real effort to minimize casualties among Palestinian civilians,” Aviva Raz Shechter stated.
Israel’s argument failed to persuade the Human Rights Council against adopting a resolution to establish an international commission of inquiry into recent events in Gaza.
Only two countries – the US and Australia – voted against the measure. Fourteen others abstained, including countries like the UK which have called for independent inquiries into the killing of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Twenty-nine states voted in favor.
Dozens of human rights groups and civil society organizations had urged the Human Rights Council to launch an inquiry ahead of the special session.
“The Israeli judicial system has demonstrated that it is unable and unwilling to ensure accountability for such serious crimes according to international standards,” nearly 100 groups stated earlier in the week.
Meanwhile the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expressed “grave concern” over the deteriorating situation in Gaza on Wednesday.
The court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2015.
“Any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to the office’s legal scrutiny,” the prosecutor stated. “This applies to the events of 14 May 2018 and to any future incident.”
- Great March of Return
- Jamie McGoldrick
- Fadi Hassan Salman Abu Salmi
- Ahmad al-Adaini
- Salah Albardaweel
- Kenneth Roth
- Human Rights Watch
- international humanitarian law
- international human rights law
- Al Mezan
- israeli high court
- Eliav Lieblich
- Michael Sfard
- UN Human Rights Council
- International Criminal Court
- Charles Enderlin
- Amnesty International
- Tarek Loubani
- International Committee of the Red Cross