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

Putin erdogan netanyahu

© Fort Russ News

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

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

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

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

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

Uyghur jihadis

© Radio Alwan
Uyghur jihadis: some shy, some not

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

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

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

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

Lose The Match, Knock Over The Board

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

syria map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Andrés Perezalonso

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

US Biological Warfare Program in the Spotlight Again – By PETER KORZUN – Strategic Culture Foundation

US Biological Warfare Program in the Spotlight Again
Peter KORZUN | 13.09.2018 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

This is a scoop to bring the US biological warfare effort back into the spotlight. On Sept. 11, Russian media reported that the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research laboratory, a research facility for high-level biohazard agents located near Tbilisi, Georgia, has used human beings for conducting biological experiments.

Former Minister of State Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze said about it during a news conference in Moscow, urging US President Donald Trump to launch an investigation. He has lists of Georgians who died of hepatitis after undergoing treatment in the facility in 2015 and 2016. Many passed away on the same day. The declassified documents contain neither the indication of the causes of deaths nor real names of the deceased. According to him, the secret lab run by the US military was established during the tenure of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The viruses could spread to neighboring countries, including Russia, Igor Giorgadze warned.

The laboratory’s work is tightly under wraps. Only US personnel with security clearance have access to it. These people are accorded diplomatic immunity under the 2002 US-Georgia Agreement on defense cooperation.

Eurasia Review reported that in 2014 the Lugar Center was equipped with a special plant for breeding insects to enable launching the Sand Fly project in Georgia and the Caucasus. In 2014-2015 years, the bites of sand flies such as Phlebotomins caused a fever. According to the source, “today the Pentagon has a great interest to the study of Tularemia, also known as the fever of rabbits, which is also equated with biological weapons. Distributors of such a disease can be mites and rodents”.

It makes remember the statement made by Nikolai Patrushev, Head of Russia’s Security Council, in 2015. He warned about the threat stemming from biological weapons laboratories that operate on the territories of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). He specifically mentioned the Richard G. Lugar Center in Georgia.

The US has bio laboratories in 25 countries across the world, including the post-Soviet space. They are funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Foreign inspectors are denied access to them. It should be noted that independent journalist investigations have been made public to confirm the fact that the US military conducts secret research to pose a threat to environment and population. Jeffrey Silverman, an American journalist who has lived in Georgia for many years, is sure the Richard Lugar Center, as well as other labs, is involved in secret activities to create biological weapons. Georgia and Ukraine have been recently hit by mysterious disease outbreaks, with livestock killed and human lives endangered. The US military operates the Central Reference Laboratory in Kazakhstan since 2016. There have public protests against the facility.

In 2013 a Chinese Air Force Colonel Dai Xu accused the US government of creating a new strain of bird flu now afflicting parts of China as a biological warfare attack. According to him, the American military released the H7N9 bird flu virus into China in an act of biological warfare. It has been reported that the source of Ebola virus in West Africa were US bio-warfare labs.

Russian experts do not exclude the possibility of using a stink-bug by the US military as a biological weapon. A couple of years ago, mosquitoes with Zika virus have been spotted in Russia and South Ossetia to cause outbreaks of human and animal flu.

The US activities violate the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms. It effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In force since 1975, the convention has 181 states-parties today. The BWC reaffirms the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the biological weapons use. In 1969, US President Richard Nixon formally ended all offensive aspects of the US biological warfare program. In 1975, the US ratified both the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the BWC.

Negotiations on an internationally binding verification protocol, which would include on-site inspections by an independent authority to the BWC, took place between 1995 and 2001. The US did not sign up. Its refusal to become a party to the verification mechanisms makes any attempt to enhance the effectiveness of the BWC doomed. A Review Conference is held every five years to discuss the convention’s operation and implementation. The last one, which convened in November 2016, was a frustration with minimal agreement on the final document and no substantive program of work to do before the next event takes place in 2021. There is little hope the BWC will ever be strengthened to have teeth. With no verification mechanism, the US military bio-warfare labs will always be a matter of concern. The issue is serious enough to be included into global security architecture. The UN General Assembly is the right place to raise it. Its 73rd session will open on September 18. 

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

Trump Kushner Netanyahu
“Deal of the Century”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Renewed Oslo

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

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

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

Palestinian Gaza power cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestinian refugee Lebanon

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

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

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

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

 

Why is Israel gasping behind the calm now?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

UNRWA school in Beirut

 

2 | To serve Benjamin Netanyahu personally.

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

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

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

 

3 | Improving Israel’s image in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boycott Israel France

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

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

 

4 | Subjecting Palestinians to more divisions and splits.

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

Segregated Palestine Map

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Hamas Palestine Gaza

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The calm would bring anything but calm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Mossad became the world leader in assassinations with over 800 ‘operations’ in the last decade – By Dominic Sandbrook ( The Daily Mail) (SOTT)

Mossad logo

Forty years ago, Wadie Haddad was one of the world’s most wanted men. Bold, determined, ruthless, Haddad was the founder of the far-Left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He trained notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal and masterminded the hijack of an Air France plane that was flown to Entebbe in Uganda and later rescued by Israeli commandos.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli secret service, Mossad, wanted him dead. But six years after they first put out a ‘kill order’, Haddad was still very much alive, living in apparent comfort in Baghdad.

What happened next was worthy of a James Bond thriller. On January 10, 1978, a Mossad agent inside Haddad’s inner circle, known only as Sadness, switched his toothpaste for an identical tube laced with a deadly toxin, developed in a secret laboratory near Tel Aviv.

Wadie Haddad

Forty years ago, Wadie Haddad was one of the world’s most wanted men. Bold, determined, ruthless, Haddad was the founder of the far-Left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Every time Haddad brushed his teeth, a tiny quantity of the toxin worked its way through his gums into his bloodstream.

Little by little, he began to die. His Palestinian friends contacted the East German secret police, who flew him to a hospital in East Berlin. Ten days later, bleeding from every orifice, Haddad died in agony.

The doctors were baffled. But back in Israel, Mossad congratulated itself on a job well done.

What happened to Haddad, argues Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in a riveting new book, was merely the most melodramatic example of what is now an enduring pattern.

Israel, a country born in bloodshed, has become the world leader in assassinations.

The numbers alone are extraordinary. Not only have Mossad’s secret agents killed more people than the agents of any other state since World War II, but the pace has rapidly increased, with some 800 operations in the past decade.

The number of deaths will never be known for sure, but they are in the thousands.

There is, of course, something irresistibly fascinating about the idea of the globe-trotting secret agent, moving through the murky world of Middle Eastern politics with a licence to kill. And some of Bergman’s stories do have the flavour of a Hollywood spy blockbuster.

One operation in 1968 was directly inspired by the film The Manchurian Candidate, with Mossad hiring a Swedish-born psychologist to brainwash a Palestinian prisoner into murdering Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The psychologist picked a suitable prisoner and spent three months hypnotising him with the simple message: ‘Arafat bad. He must be removed’.

The prisoner, known only as Fatkhi, was trained to shoot at pictures of Arafat, hidden in a specially prepared room.

On December 19, 1968, a Mossad team smuggled Fatkhi across the River Jordan, from where he was supposed to infiltrate Arafat’s headquarters.

Then they waited. Five hours later, news came. Fatkhi had wasted no time. He had gone straight to a police station and accused Mossad of trying to brainwash him. The operation was an abject failure.

In recent years, however, Mossad has lived up to its reputation as the most efficient secret killing machine in the world. One operation in Dubai proves the point. In January 2010, a team of several dozen Mossad agents flew to the oil-rich emirate on false passports, wearing wigs and false moustaches.

Disguised as tourists and tennis players – some of them even carried racquets – they broke into a room at the luxurious Al-Bustan Hotel.

There they waited for their quarry, top Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. As soon as al-Mabhouh let himself into his room, they grabbed him and used a high-tech ultrasound instrument to inject poison into his neck without even breaking the skin.

He died within moments. Four hours later, most of the team had already flown out of Dubai. Job done.

killed in a Mossad bombing

Revenge: Ali Hassan Salameh, whose group murdered 11 Israeli athletes, was killed in a Mossad bombing, pictured

All this might sound swashbuckling or heroic. In reality, there is nothing glamorous about Bergman’s story.

Indeed, the first man to die in his book is not some Palestinian terrorist or Left-wing extremist. It is a British policeman: Detective Superintendent Tom Wilkin, from Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.

In the autumn of 1944, Wilkin was in Jerusalem, where he was in charge of cracking down on Zionist guerillas.

At the time, Jerusalem was part of British-governed Palestine, where the authorities were struggling to keep a lid on the tensions between Zionists – who wanted an independent Jewish state – and their Palestinian neighbours.

To the Jewish militants in the terrorist Stern Gang, Wilkin was not a man. He was a target. In September, 1944, as he was strolling down a street, a boy sitting outside a grocery store threw down his hat – a sign the target was in range.

Moments later, two young Jewish men opened fire with revolvers. Wilkin ‘managed to turn around and draw his pistol,’ one assailant, David Shomron, recalled, ‘but then he fell face first. A spurt of blood came out of his forehead, like a fountain.’

Shomron did not feel the slightest remorse. ‘Not even a little twinge of guilt,’ he said later. ‘We believed the more coffins that reached London, the closer the day of freedom would be.’

The Manchurian Candidate

One operation in 1968 was directly inspired by the film The Manchurian Candidate

That terrible phrase – ‘the more coffins that reached London’ – captures the mood of Bergman’s book. For, as cold-blooded as this sounds, Shomron was proved right.

Faced with a wave of killings, including the infamous 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, in which 91 mostly British officials were killed, Clement Attlee’s government decided to get out. The Zionists got what they wanted.

But the blood that gushed from poor Tom Wilkin’s head would soon become a torrent.

The state of Israel was born amid brutal ethnic cleansing, with Jewish and Palestinian neighbours slaughtering one another in their thousands, while the new country’s Arab neighbours tried to strangle it at birth. It is hardly surprising that, ever since, Israel’s leaders have been driven by insecurity. After all, Israel has always been surrounded by hostile states, most of which deny that it even has the right to exist.

Comment: The author would seem to be putting Palestinian self defense on par with Israel’s acts of ethic cleansing. And then justifies whatever culpability he does give Israel with ‘because the holocaust’ – which, if anything, should make Israelis more sensitized to racial and religious injustice and genocide – not less.

On top of that, no Israeli can ever forget the awful shadow of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis.

Even today, hatred of Jews remains a monstrous feature of Europe’s political landscape – as evidenced by the appalling goings – on inside the Labour Party, where leader Jeremy Corbyn and his friends have turned a blind eye to the resurgence of the most poisonous anti-Semitism. No wonder, then, that in the struggle for survival, Israel’s leaders have reached so often for the bomb and bullet.

‘If someone comes to kill you,’ says the sacred Jewish text, the Talmud, ‘rise up and kill him first.’

As Bergman argues, that has been the principle guiding Mossad, as well as Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet and the army intelligence agency Aman, since the state’s foundation 70 years ago.

Former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who ordered hundreds of assassinations between 2002 and 2011, kept a picture of his Polish-born grandfather, on his knees and surrounded by German soldiers, moments before he was shot and thrown into a mass grave.

Meir Dagan

Former Mossad director Meir Dagan (pictured) who ordered hundreds of assassinations between 2002 and 2011, kept a picture of his Polish-born grandfather, on his knees and surrounded by German soldiers, moments before he was shot and thrown into a mass grave

The lesson, Dagan told Bergman before his death in 2016, was that ‘most of the Jews in the Holocaust died without fighting. We must never reach that situation again, kneeling, without the ability to fight for our lives.’

Comment: And yet this same sentiment cannot be afforded to Palestinians who must be labelled terrorists – when they have the legal right to resist an occupation that is killing them a bit at a time, a bit at a time, a bit at a time…

Bergman’s own story, by the way, is fascinating. Although this book has earned him a reputation as a whistle-blower, he is the very antithesis of a simplistic, bleeding-hearted activist.

Born in 1972 to parents who were both Holocaust survivors, he did his national service in the intelligence unit of Israel’s Military Police Corps, has a PhD from Cambridge and is now a senior correspondent for Israel’s largest newspaper.

Based on 1,000 interviews and vast numbers of leaked documents, his book often reads like a John le Carre novel. But it took considerable courage for him to publish it.

While he was working on it, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces accused him of ‘aggravated espionage’ and even asked the security services to take action against him.

Why? The reason is that Bergman sheds an unsparing light on the human cost of Israel’s targeted killings policy. He shows, for example, that when operations have taken place overseas, Israel’s agents were, and probably still are, unforgivably casual about civilian victims.

Comment: Wow, a little objectivity finally!

Perhaps the most chilling section of his book concerns an operation in 1973 – and which was about as far from the glamour and romance of a James Bond thriller as you could possibly imagine.

That summer, Mossad was on the hunt for Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the most wanted men in the world. Salameh was chief of operations for Black September, the Palestinian terrorist group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

Mossad wanted him dead, but the trail had gone cold. Then came a miracle. In Lillehammer, Norway, an Israeli secret agent spotted Salameh in a cafe. Word went back to Tel Aviv and a hit squad was assembled. On July 21, as Salameh and his girlfriend got off a bus on their way home from the cinema, the assassins were waiting in a rented Volvo. They leaped out of the car, fired eight shots, jumped back in their car and screeched away, leaving their target in a pool of blood.

It was almost the perfect hit, but for just one problem. They had killed the wrong man.

It was not Salameh, but Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan waiter with a heavily pregnant wife.

In the aftermath, Norwegian police arrested six Israeli agents. Five served time in Norway, though all were released quickly under a secret deal. When the five returned to Israel, they were greeted as heroes. Few questioned the basic morality of the operation; it was just a shame, they thought, that Mossad had got the wrong man.

But they did get him eventually. On January 22, 1979, Salameh had just left his Beirut apartment when a female Israeli agent, watching from her balcony, pressed a button and a gigantic car bomb ripped through the street.

Eight bystanders were also killed, including a German nun and a British student, but nobody at Mossad cared. ‘You get used to killing,’ explains former security chief Ami Ayalon. ‘Human life becomes easy to dispose of. You spend a quarter of an hour, 20 minutes, on who to kill.’

In a chillingly familiar phrase, Ayalon even calls this the ‘banality of evil’ – words borrowed from the German philosopher Hannah Arendt, who used it to describe the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. That tells its own story.

And although Bergman shows why decent people can feel they have no choice but to take terrible decisions, he also shows the consequences of crossing the line between good and evil.

In the early Eighties, for example, Israeli defence minister, and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon’s obsession with killing Yasser Arafat led him into one of the darkest chapters in Israel’s modern history. At the time, Israel was embroiled in a horrific civil war in Lebanon, which killed at least 120,000 people.

There, on Sharon’s orders, his army colluded with the local Christian Phalange, a militia who murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslims in a Beirut slaughterhouse, cut off their ears as souvenirs and buried their bodies in lime pits. Almost incredibly, Sharon did not stop there.

Some of Bergman’s interviewees told him that on five occasions in 1982, Sharon seriously contemplated shooting down an ordinary civilian airliner when he heard that Arafat might be aboard.

On each occasion the Israeli military refused to obey, sometimes deliberately dithering until it was too late. Had they not done so, hundreds of ordinary passengers would have died in what Bergman calls ‘an intentional war crime’.

No doubt all this will be grist to the mill of Israel’s critics. On the Left, in particular, criticism of Israel has become an automatic reflex, often tinged with more than a hint of anti-Semitism.

There are, of course, good reasons to be critical of Israel. I find it impossible to justify its harsh treatment of the defeated Palestinians, or its callous, cynical policy of expanding Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Comment: Sounds about right, but then…

Yet after all the Jews have suffered – pogroms, persecution and the unspeakable obscenity of the Holocaust – what reasonable person would begrudge them a homeland of their own?

And who can blame them for fighting to defend that homeland from those who would destroy it?

Comment: Defending one’s homeland is one thing – instigating wars of aggression (both overt and covert) in order to create Israel’s version of lebensraum – is quite another: From Yinon to Ya’alon: Israel’s strategy to balkanize the Middle East at any cost

Ever since 1948, as Bergman himself points out, the threats to Israel’s existence have been only too real. One of his book’s most powerful images is a picture of an Israeli woman, drenched in her own blood, being carried away after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Sharon used to show it to foreign diplomats whenever they questioned Israel’s targeted assassination programme. Given Israel’s bloody history and dangerous present, I understand why its agents feel they must act as they do.

The question, though, is whether the killings are working. For the past 70 years, the deaths have piled up, yet still there is no peace. The blood flows, but still Israel is not safe.

Its enemies, of course, deserve a large share of the blame. But perhaps killing has become so easy that Israel’s leaders have stopped looking for other solutions. Either way, the end is nowhere in sight – and so Mossad’s killings go on. Because of their secretive nature, they rarely make the headlines.

But even as you are reading these words, someone, somewhere, is planning the next hit.

Rise And Kill First: The Secret History Of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, by Ronen Bergman, is published by John Murray, price £20.

Comment: And this is just what we know:

Global war with no oversight: US special forces deployed to 133 countries in first half of 2018 – By RT

US special forces soldier

© Shah Marai / Reuters
An American special forces soldier mans a tripod mounted sniper rifle on the roof of a vehicle in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, 20 August 2003.

US special forces have already deployed to 133 nations in the first half of 2018, signaling a sharp increase in the Pentagon’s shadowy operations when compared to previous years, according to a new report.
America’s Special Operations forces (SOF) are stationed all around the world, where they participate in a wide range of missions, including special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, hostage rescue, as well as training and advising foreign troops. But special forces soldiers are also regularly involved in shadowy combat operations that receive little to no oversight. Shrouded in secrecy, these global operations continue to grow in quantity, size and expense – despite the fact that even Congress is often left in the dark, veteran investigative journalist Nick Turse recently revealed.

According to Turse, last year US special forces deployed to a staggering 149 countries -about 75 percent of the nations on the planet. But the figure for 2018 is likely to be considerably higher: US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) told Turse that America’s elite forces have already carried out missions in 133 countries – nearly matching the number of deployments during the last year of the Obama administration, and more than double the number of deployments during the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. If America’s special operators deploy to just 17 more countries by the end of the fiscal year, they will top last year’s record-breaking total.

The growing number of secretive deployments has been complemented by SOCOM’s ballooning size and budget. In 2001, for example, an average of 2,900 commandos were deployed overseas in any given week. This number has nearly tripled to 8,300. Likewise, “Special Operations-specific funding,” which totaled $3.1 billion in 2001, has increased to an astonishing $12.3 billion. But the grand total actually surpasses $20 billion, since an additional $8 billion is spent annually by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps for each branch’s special operations.

Despite the worrying implications of an expanding fighting force with little accountability, there’s no reason to believe that US Special Operations forces are going to be downsized anytime soon. According to Turse, SOCOM’s 2019 budget request calls for adding about 1,000 personnel to what would then be a force of 71,000.

Of course, not all of the deployments are malicious or covert in nature. For example, Air Force special operators were recently sent to Thailand to aid the successful attempt to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave.

But as Turse notes: “Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans.”

Comment: Here are a few of the deployments that are known:

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained – By Tom ENGELHARDT – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 18.06.2018

Tom ENGELHARDT

Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim.

If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a passage in The New York Times from a piece on the topsy-turvy Trumpian negotiations that preceded the Singapore summit. “The Americans and South Koreans,” wrote reporter Motoko Rich, “want to persuade the North that continuing to funnel most of the country’s resources into its military and nuclear programs shortchanges its citizens’ economic well-being. But the North does not see the two as mutually exclusive.”

Think about that for a moment. The US has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proved eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

And when it comes to cluelessness, there’s another, far stranger path the United States has been following since at least the George W Bush moment that couldn’t be more consequential and yet somehow remains the least noticed of all. On this subject, Americans don’t have a clue. In fact, if you could put the United States on a psychiatrist’s couch, this might be the place to start.

America contained

In a way, it’s the oldest story on Earth: the rise and fall of empires. And note the plural there. It was never – not until recently at least – “empire,” always “empires.” Since the 15th century, when the fleets of the first European imperial powers broke into the larger world with subjugation in mind, it was invariably a contest of many. There were at least three or sometimes significantly more imperial powers rising and contesting for dominance or slowly falling from it.

This was, by definition, the history of great powers on this planet: the challenging rise, the challenged decline. Think of it for so many centuries as the essential narrative of history, the story of how it all happened until at least 1945, when just two “superpowers,” the United States and the Soviet Union, found themselves facing off on a global scale.

Of the two, the US was always stronger, more powerful, and far wealthier. It theoretically feared the Russian Bear, the Evil Empire, which it worked assiduously to “contain” behind that famed Iron Curtain and whose adherents in the US, always modest in number, were subjected to a mania of fear and suppression.

However, the truth – at least in retrospect – was that, in the Cold War years, the Soviets were actually doing Washington a strange, if unnoted, favor. Across much of the Eurasian continent, and other places from Cuba to the Middle East, Soviet power and the never-ending contest for influence and dominance that went with it always reminded American leaders that their own power had its limits.

This, as the 21st century should have (but hasn’t) made clear, was no small thing. It still seemed obvious then that American power could not be total. There were things it could not do, places it could not control, dreams its leaders simply couldn’t have. Though no one ever thought of it that way, from 1945 to 1991, the United States, like the Soviet Union, was, after a fashion, “contained.”

In those years, the Russians were, in essence, saving Washington from itself. Soviet power was a tangible reminder to American political and military leaders that certain areas of the planet remained no-go zones (except in what, in those years, were called “the shadows”).

The Soviet Union, in short, rescued Washington from both the fantasy and the hell of going it alone, even if Americans only grasped that reality at the most subliminal of levels.

That was the situation until December 1991 when, at the end of a centuries-long imperial race for power (and the never-ending arms race that went with it), there was just one gigantic power left standing on Planet Earth. It told you something about the thinking then that, when the Soviet Union imploded, the initial reaction in Washington wasn’t triumphalism (though that came soon enough) but utter shock, a disbelieving sense that something no one had expected, predicted, or even imagined had nonetheless happened. To that very moment, Washington had continued to plan for a two-superpower world until the end of time.

America uncontained

Soon enough, though, the Washington elite came to see what happened as, in the phrase of the moment, “the end of history.” Given the wreckage of the Soviet Union, it seemed that an ultimate victory had been won by the very country its politicians would soon come to call “the last superpower,” the “indispensable” nation, the “exceptional” state, a land great beyond imagining (until, at least, Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a slogan that implied greatness wasn’t all-American any more).

In reality, there were a variety of paths open to the “last superpower” at that moment. There was even, however briefly, talk of a “peace dividend” – of the possibility that, in a world without contesting superpowers, taxpayer dollars might once again be invested not in the sinews of war-making but of peacemaking (particularly in infrastructure and the well-being of the country’s citizens).

Such talk, however, lasted only a year or two and always in a minor key before being relegated to Washington’s attic. Instead, with only a few rickety “rogue” states left to deal with – like… gulp … North Korea, Iraq and Iran – that money never actually headed home, and neither did the thinking that went with it.

Consider it the good fortune of the geopolitical dreamers soon to take the reins in Washington that the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, which ended less than a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, prepared the way for quite a different style of thinking. That instant victory led to a new kind of militarized dreaming in which a highly tech-savvy military, like the one that had driven Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in such short order, would be capable of doing anything on a planet without serious opposition.

And yet, from the beginning, there were signs suggesting a far grimmer future. To take but one infamous example, Americans still remember the Black Hawk Down moment of 1993 when the world’s greatest military fell victim to a Somali warlord and local militias and found itself incapable of imposing its will on one of the least impressive not-quite-states on the planet (a place still frustrating that military a quarter-century later).

In that post-1991 world, however, few in Washington even considered that the 20th century had loosed another phenomenon on the world, that of insurgent national liberation movements, generally leftist rebellions, across what had been the colonial world – the very world of competing empires now being tucked into the history books – and it hadn’t gone away. In the 21st century, such insurgent movements, now largely religious, or terror-based, or both, would turn out to offer a grim new version of containment to the last superpower.

Unchaining the indispensable nation

On September 11, 2001, a canny global jihadist by the name of Osama bin Laden sent his air force (four hijacked US passenger jets) and his precision weaponry (19 suicidal, mainly Saudi followers) against three iconic targets in the American pantheon: the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and undoubtedly the Capitol or the White House (neither of which was hit because one of those jets crashed in a field in Pennsylvania). In doing so, in a sense bin Laden not only loosed a literal hell on Earth, but unchained the last superpower.

William Shakespeare would have had a word for what followed: hubris. But give the top officials of the Bush administration (and the neocons who supported them) a break. There had never been a moment like it: a moment of one. A single great power left alone, triumphant, on planet Earth. Just one superpower – wealthy beyond compare, its increasingly high-tech military unmatched, its only true rival in a state of collapse – had now been challenged by a small jihadist group.

To president Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney, and the rest of their crew, it seemed like nothing short of a heaven-sent opportunity. As they came out of the shock of 9/11, of that “Pearl Harbor of the 21st century,” it was as if they had found a magic formula in the ruins of those iconic buildings for the ultimate control of the planet. As secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld would instruct an aide at the Pentagon that day, “Go massive. Sweep it up. Things related and not.”

Within days, things related and not were indeed being swept up. The country was almost instantly said to be “at war,” and soon that conflict even had a name, the Global War on Terror. Nor was that war to be against just al-Qaeda, or even one country, an Afghanistan largely ruled by the Taliban. More than 60 countries said to have “terror networks” of various sorts found themselves almost instantly in the administration’s potential gunsights. And that was just to be the beginning of it all.

In October 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan was launched. In the spring of 2003, the invasion of Iraq followed, and those were only the initial steps in what was increasingly envisioned as the imposition of a Pax Americana on the Greater Middle East.

There could be no doubt, for instance, that Iran and Syria, too, would soon go the way of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush’s top officials had been nursing just such dreams since, in 1997, many of them formed a think-tank (the first ever to enter the White House) called the Project for the New American Century and began to write out what were then the fantasies of figures nowhere near power. By 2003, they were power itself and their dreams, if anything, had grown even more grandiose.

In addition to imagining a political Pax Republicana in the United States, they truly dreamed of a future planetary Pax Americana in which, for the first time in history, a single power would, in some fashion, control the whole works, the Earth itself.

And this wasn’t to be a passing matter either. The Bush administration’s “unilateralism” rested on a conviction that it could actually create a future in which no country or even bloc of countries would ever come close to matching or challenging US military power. The administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter bluntly: The US was to “build and maintain” a military, in the phrase of the moment, “beyond challenge.”

They had little doubt that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force on Earth, hostile states would be “shocked and awed” by a simple demonstration of its power, while friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as Bush said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the US military was “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.”

Though there was much talk at the time about the “liberation” of Afghanistan and then Iraq, at least in their imaginations the true country being liberated was the planet’s lone superpower. Although the Bush administration was officially considered a “conservative” one, its key officials were geopolitical dreamers of the first order and their vision of the world was the very opposite of conservative. It harkened back to nothing and looked forward to everything.

It was radical in ways that should have, but didn’t, take the American public’s breath away; radical in ways that had never been seen before.

Shock and awe for the last superpower

Think of what those officials did in the post-9/11 moment as the ultimate act of greed. They tried to swallow a whole planet. They were determined to make it a planet of one in a way that had never before been seriously imagined.

It was, to say the least, a vision of madness. Even in a moment when it truly did seem – to them at least – that all constraints had been taken off, an administration of genuine conservatives might have hesitated. Its top officials might, at least, have approached the post-Soviet situation with a modicum of caution and modesty.

But not George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and pals. In the face of what seemed like the ultimate in possibilities they proved clueless when it came to the possibility that anything on Earth might have a shot at containing them.

Even among their critics, who could have imagined then that, more than 16 years later, having faced only lightly armed enemies of various sorts, still wealthy beyond compare, still with a military funded in a way the next seven countries couldn’t cumulatively match, the United States would have won literally nothing?

Who could have imagined that, unlike so many preceding imperial powers (including the US of the earlier Cold War era), it would have been able to establish control over nothing at all; that, instead, from Afghanistan to Syria, Iraq deep into Africa, it would find itself in a state of “infinite war” and utter frustration on a planet filled with ever more failed statesdestroyed citiesdisplaced people, and right-wing “populist” governments, including the one in Washington?

Who could have imagined that, with a peace dividend no longer faintly conceivable, this country would have found itself not just in decline, but – a new term is needed to catch the essence of this curious moment – in what might be called self-decline?

Yes, a new power, China, is finally rising – and doing so on a planet that seems itself to be going down. Here, then, is a conclusion that might be drawn from the quarter-century-plus in which America was both unchained and largely alone.

The Earth is admittedly a small orb in a vast universe, but the history of this century so far suggests one reality about which America’s rulers proved utterly clueless: After so many hundreds of years of imperial struggle, this planet still remains too big, too disparate, too ornery to be controlled by a single power. What the Bush administration did was simply take one gulp too many and the result has been a kind of national (and planetary) indigestion.

Despite what it looked like in Washington once upon a time, the disappearance of the Soviet Union proved to be no gift at all, but a disaster of the first order. It removed all sense of limits from America’s political class and led to a tale of greed on a planetary scale. In the process, it also set the US on a path to self-decline.

The history of greed in our time has yet to be written, but what a story it will someday make. In it, the greed of those geopolitical dreamers will intersect with the greed of an ever wealthier, ever more gilded 1%, of the billionaires who were preparing to swallow whole the political system of that last superpower and grab so much of the wealth of the planet, leaving so little for others.

Whether you’re talking about the urge to control the planet militarily or financially, what took place in these years could, in the end, result in ruin of a historic kind. To use a favored phrase from the Bush years, one of these days we Americans may be facing little short of “regime change” on a planetary scale. And what a piece of shock and awe that’s likely to prove to be.

All of us, of course, now live on the planet Bush’s boys tried to swallow whole. They left us in a world of infinite war, infinite harm, and in Donald Trump’s America where cluelessness has been raised to a new power.

atimes.com

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

US boots

© Sputnik News.com
US boots on the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources and Methods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Generate the Chart

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

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

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

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

whitney chart
Whitney chart 2

© Rich Whitney

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

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

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

In Yemen, Selling, Borrowing, Begging To Save Loved-Ones as Cholera Rages – By Ahmed Abdulkareem (MINT PRESS)

A man is treated for suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

What is taking shape across this Texas-sized nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula is an awful, perfect storm, a disastrous collaboration between nature and man that has caused a cataclysm unlike anything the world has ever seen.

SANA’A, YEMEN — When his wife’s vomiting and diarrhea simply wouldn’t stop, 40-year-old Ali Sherwaid, an English teacher, did a quick accounting in his head, calibrating the catastrophe that had befallen him. With cholera ravaging his wife, 28 years-old and nine-months pregnant with the couple’s first child, Sherwaid needed to get her medical treatment. Problem was, the constant Saudi airstrikes had decimated the healthcare infrastructure in Yemen’s northern Sa’ada province, and his village of Fudh was at least 6 hours drive, on bad country roads, to the nearest hospital.

Compounding the crisis was the fact that Sherwaid had no money — Yemen’s civil servants haven’t been paid in months — and he had nothing to pay a doctor to treat his wife, Fatimah.

And so Sherwaid auctioned off his wife’s jewelry, borrowed money from neighbors, bundled his wife’s doubled-over frame into his car, and sped off in the night, headed for al Jomuri Hospital in the city of Sa’ada, some 80 miles away. Days later, as her health continued to break down, his wife was taken to Al Sabeen Hospital in Sana’a, the capital.

In an interview, Sherwaid told MintPress News:

When we finally reached the hospital, my wife was inching towards death.”

What is taking shape across this Texas-sized nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula is an awful, perfect storm, a disastrous collaboration between nature and man that has caused a cataclysm, unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Yemen’s is the 21st century’s worst humanitarian crisis and, when measured by the proportion of the population affected, it might well be the worst in a century. Since the armed conflict erupted in March of 2015, more than 10,000 Yemenis have died, and 22.2 million people — out of a total population of just under 28 million — are now in need of food, medicine, water and shelter. Of that number, 11.3 million — mostly women, children, and the elderly — are at risk of dying, according to international relief agencies.

A nurse cares for a malnourished boy at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

In addition to an aggressive bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and supported by the United States and the United Kingdom — targeting Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and clinics — the coalition’s blockade of Yemen’s land, sea and air routes has left more than 12 million people without wheat and other food staples. The combination of the blockade and bombing of Yemen’s electrical grid has left nearly 15 million Yemenis without access to health care, and 10 million are in jeopardy of losing access to potable water.

The shortage of potable water has driven Yemenis to drink from water sources polluted with their neighbors’ feces and urine, resulting in a cholera outbreak that is believed to have infected more people than any cholera epidemic in modern history. Since the spring of 2011,”nearly 1,490,000 cases of a particularly aggressive strain of the waterborne disease have been reported in Yemen,” Abdul Hakeem al-Kuhlani, general manager of the cholera observation unit in Sana’a said to a Journalist for MintPress; “tens of thousands have proven fatal.”

Even before the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East. The war has deepened poverty; millions of public-sector employees have gone months without a paycheck.

“Everything in Sa`ada has been destroyed by Saudi airstrikes,” Sherwaid told MintPress. “My wife, who is pregnant with our first child, contracted cholera; I didn’t have money and was forced to sell everything to save my wife and child.”  

 

The room of horrors

The cholera ward at Al Sabeen Hospital is a room of horrors. A dozen patients lie motionless in their beds; a couple watches their child take his last breath. A man vomits into a pan, his eyes dry and dazed. Patients’ families kneel in prayer to Allah. When Sherwaid arrived at the camp, the families welcomed him and helped his wife find a new bed. Saeed — a father of two children, ages six and nine, who are infected with cholera — whispers to Sherwaid: “I only want to see my two sons recover from cholera, and then we can celebrate.” He tells MintPress, “My youngest son Salem, six, was first infected, and then he transmitted the disease to his brother.”

“We expect to see a surge of cases during the rainy season,” Anton Camacho, lead author of a study on the epidemic published in The Lancet Global Health journal, told Reuters.

MSF`s cholera treatment center in Hajjah’s Abs, destroyed by Saudi airstrikes on June 11, 2018. Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News

The Saudi-led coalition targeted this particular center for the second time, and facilities managed by Doctors Without Borders have been targeted on six different occasions. According to a statement by the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana`a: “The U.S.-Saudi-led coalition deliberately undermines the health system,” in Yemen, and the “United States of America bears responsibility for these attacks.”

 

After attack on Hodeida, the humanitarian situation worsens

The Saudi-led coalition escalated its airstrikes on the city of Hodeida in western Yemen, which is the lone remaining supply line for the millions of Yemenis in the north who rely on foreign aid for food, fuel, medicine for cholera, and other necessities. The number of Yemenis in danger of starving to death could rise from 8.4 million currently to 18.4 million by December of this year, according to UN officials.

On May 6, 2018, national health authorities launched an oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaign in cooperation with the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Almost 275,000 doses of OCV were administered in May across five priority districts in Aden, reaching nearly 70 percent of the target population.

A billboard raising awareness of the environmental campaign against cholera in the Tahrir district of Sanaa, June 11, 2018. Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News

For his part, Sherwaid gets a double-dose of horrible news: His unborn child died and his wife has an incurable kidney disease and will need dialysis for the rest of her life. Realizing it could be worse, Sherwaid says almost jubilantly: “Praise Allah.”

Top Photo | A man is treated for suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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Assad Vows Resistance Against US, Israeli, Turkish “Occupying Forces” in Syria – By SPUTNIK

Middle East

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In an interview with the al-Alam News Network on Wednesday, President Bashar Assad underscored his country’s full support for “any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces regardless of their nationality.”

President Assad has described the US, French, Turkish and Israeli troops present in his country as “occupying forces.”

Mentioning the presence of fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in his country, President Assad said that “the battle is long and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time.”He added that even though Iran has no military bases in Syria, Damascus is ready to let them in if necessary.

In an earlier interview with the Daily Mail, President Assad accused the West of attempts to oust his government.

“We are fighting the terrorists, and those terrorists are supported by the British government, the French government, the Americans and their puppets whether in Europe or in our region,” Assad said.

“They tell lies, they talk about chemical weapons, they talk about the bad president killing the good people, freedom, peaceful demonstrations,” he added.

Invited by Damascus, Iranian military advisors are on the ground in Syria helping the government forces win the war, while Hezbollah units have been helping flush out terrorists in areas along Syria’s border with Lebanon.

READ MORE: Daesh Continues Resistance in Syria Only in US-Controlled Areas — Russian MoD

 
 
 
 

Related:

West Attacked Syria When Normalization Was Becoming Irreversible – Russian MoD
West Seeks to Bypass Russian UN Veto Amid Deepening Impasse Over Syria – Reports
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“occupying forces”, foreign troops, allies, Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah, Bashar Assad, Syria

James Corbett: Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are the Deep State’s geopolitical Trojan horses (VIDEO) – By James Corbett/The Corbett Report (SOTT)

NGOS Deep State

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. That psyop continues to be deployed on unsuspecting populations and it is just as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations. In today’s edition of The Corbett Report, we’ll learn about how NGOs are the deep state’s Trojan horses.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Troy, 12th century BC.

The Greeks’ decade-long siege of Troy is drawing to a close. The cunning Odysseus has hit upon a plan to subvert the Trojans’ defenses. The Greeks build a giant wooden horse and then pretend to sail away, leaving the horse at the gates of Troy as an apparent offering to the goddess Athena. The Trojans, believing the gift will make their city impregnable, take it within the city gates.

But it is a trick. Odysseus and his men are hidden inside the hollow horse and they emerge during the night to open the gates and let in the Greek army, who have returned to take the city. The Trojans don’t get a chance to learn from their mistake; the Greeks sack the city and massacre its inhabitants.

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. The lesson of the story, recorded in the counsel to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” is that we should not let down our defenses when an erstwhile enemy offers us aid. Today, that counsel is as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations.

The bitter truth is that in a surprising number of cases, NGOs are the Deep State’s Trojan Horses.

This is The Corbett Report.

In 2015, Kyrgyzstan made what might seem at first glance to be a surprising move: It canceled a cooperation treaty with the US that had been in place since 1993. The treaty granted tax breaks and customs privileges to organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and gave their workers diplomatic immunity in the country. All of that came to an end after the US granted a human rights award to Azimjon Askarov, an activist swept up and thrown in jail for life for “creating a threat to civil peace and stability in society” after the Uzbek riots in South Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

Reaction from the usual Western outlets was swift and predictable: Kyrgyzstan has lost its mind. Or, to be more precise: It’s all Putin’s fault. Somehow. But don’t worry, the US will continue aiding Kyrgyzstan anyway, whether they like it or not, because that’s just how they roll. Go, Team America!

But Kyrgyzstan is not the only country to crack down on “aid” from foreign NGOs. In the last few years a series of countries, including Russia, China and India, have passed laws placing stricter controls on the operations of these organizations within their borders.

MARGARET HOWELL: Russia is throwing the smackdown on poor little old NGOs, these charitable organizations that were set up. Their reasoning behind them? That they might be trying to take down the Kremlin.

The Kremlin is moving to ban the US-backed MacArthur Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and ten of their foreign groups, calling them “unwelcome organizations” by law. They’re also mulling over something called a “patriotic stop list.” Anyone caught collaborating with these groups, they’re facing six years in prison.

SOURCE: Russia Bans Foreign NGO’s

ANCHOR: China has passed the country’s first law regulating overseas NGOs, or non-governmental organizations.

HAO YUNHONG (VOICEOVER): The Chinese government always welcomes foreign NGOs to come to China to expand cultural and charity activities, and your achievements are highly spoken of by the Chinese authorities. But there are a few illegal exceptions in which NGOs came to China to harm its national security.

ANCHOR: The law covers activities of NGOs founded outside the Chinese mainland. They must register with public security authorities and declare where their funding is coming from.

SOURCE: China adopts law regulating overseas NGOs

REPORTER: India has placed Ford Foundation on a watch list and ordered all funds from the US-based nonprofit organization to be routed to recipients only after the Home Ministry’s approval. Citing national security concerns, the Home Ministry has asked the Reserve Bank of India to ensure funds given by Ford Foundation to Indian recipients be brought to its notice and dispersed only after its clearance. The ministry said in its order that it wanted to ensure funds coming from Ford Foundation were utilized for bona fide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security.

SOURCE: Ford Foundation on India government watch list


REPORTER: An Egyptian Court has convicted 43 Egyptian and 16 American NGO workers for working illegally in Egypt while encouraging unrest. The defendants, who were mostly absent from court, were sentenced to up to five years in jail. The verdict calls for the closing of US nonprofit groups such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, which back in 2012 Egypt accused of receiving illegal funding and operating without licenses.

SOURCE: Egyptian court sentences NGO workers including Americans to up to five years in prison

So what on earth is going on? Why are all of these countries kicking out all of these US-based non-governmental and quasi-governmental entities? Why would they be opposed to charity and aid?

The answer is not difficult to understand. These organizations are Trojan horses: designed to appear as gifts, but containing secret trap doors through which hidden forces can enter the country and covertly undermine the governments in question. This explanation only sounds outlandish to those who look no further than the organizations’ names and have no idea of their history of operations.

Take USAID, for example. Created in 1961 by executive order, it’s a US government agency that seeks “to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” So why did President Morales kick them out of Bolivia in 2013? Because he’s crazy and irrational? Or because USAID ran a program through its remarkably frankly-named Office of Transition Initiatives that provided $10.5 million of funding for “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” throughout the country, including in opposition stronghold areas? Was it paranoia on Morales’ part, or merely the recognition that mealy-mouthed rhetoric about “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “overthrowing the government,” exactly as leaked diplomatic documents proved was the case for USAID’s identically named program in Venezuela?

EVA GOLINGER: USAID was originally an agency created to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to countries in need, and throughout the 1980s and the 1990s and more into the 21st century it’s evolved into a political arm and a funding branch of the US government for what they call “promoting democracy.” And it’s actually now a part of US counterinsurgency campaigns that involve the Pentagon [and] the State Department, in terms of diplomacy and obviously war activities. And USAID is the third agency involved in counterinsurgency, and their goal precisely is to provide what they called aid for promoting democracy or stabilizing or helping a country through some kind of political transition or economic transition.

In the case of Venezuela, Venezuela is a country that is oil wealthy so it’s never qualified for any kind of direct USAID help. Therefore, USAID has never had an office here officially, and they didn’t actually come the country and set up an office until 2002, right before the coup d’etat against President Chavez. And the documents-internal documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act-reveal that the sole intention of setting up the office here in Venezuela was to aid opposition forces to eventually ouster Chavez from power.

SOURCE: Is the US trying to “fix” Venezuela?

Should governments trust USAID after it was revealed that the agency secretly created its own social media network in Cuba for the express purpose of undermining the Castro government? Or when it was revealed that USAID had sent a team of agents to Cuba under the guise of “health and civic programs” to incite rebellion amongst youth, including creating a phony HIV-prevention workshop that the agency itself described as the “perfect excuse” to “identify potential social-change actors?” Or when it was revealed that the agency had attempted (and miserably failed) to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene “to break the information blockade” and spark a youth movement of “social change” in the country?

ANCHOR: A US agency infiltrated the Cuban hip-hop world in an attempt to launch a youth movement against the government there. The secret operation tried to use Cuban rappers to build a network of young people seeking social change. But the Cuban regime caught on and the operation failed. In the process the US Agency for International Development unintentionally compromised a vibrant music culture that produced hard-hitting grassroots criticism of the country. Several artists that the agency tried to promote ended up leaving Cuba or stopped performing after pressure from the government.

SOURCE: USAID Attempt to Co-opt Cuban Hip-Hop Scene Fails

In fact, USAID’s black ops programs for undermining foreign governments go all the way back to the founding of the agency itself. Some of the lowlights include USAID’s “Office of Public Safety” and its part in running a CIA front program for training foreign police in torture and terror tactics in Latin America; co-funding (with the CIA) the opium-smuggling Xieng Khouang Air Transport, a private airline for narcotics trafficker (and CIA point man in Laos) General Vang Pao; and co-funding opposition groups in Ukraine (prior to the 2014 coup) with Glenn Greenwald-backer Pierre Omidyar and, of course, George Soros.

FAREED ZAKARIA: George Soros, pleasure to have you on.

GEORGE SOROS: Same here.

ZAKARIA: First, on Ukraine: One of the things that many people recognize about you was that you-during the revolutions of 1989-funded a lot of dissident activity, civil society groups in Eastern Europe and Poland, the Czech Republic. Are you doing similar things in Ukraine?

SOROS: Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia, and the foundation has been functioning ever since and played an important part in events now.

SOURCE: George Soros admits playing an integral part in the Ukraine crisis

But this NGO/Trojan horse problem is by no means confined to USAID and its associated organizations. Take the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as another example.

The official story is that the NED was created in 1983 by an act of Congress in order to “encourage the establishment and growth of democratic development” in target countries around the world in line with US foreign policy goals.

The actual story is that the NED was created expressly as a front for funding CIA activities inside target countries, a fact that Allen Weinstein, one of the members of the study group that led to NED’s founding, openly bragged about in The Washington Post: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” he was quoted as saying. Even more blatant is an admission by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, who wrote a memo to the White House advocating for the creation of NED but cautioning that “we here [at the CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor do we wish to appear to be a sponsor or advocate.”

The NED’s participation in covert destabilization campaigns rivals that of USAID and, like USAID, involves too many operations to detail them all here. Lowlights include:

RON PAUL: What about Ukraine? I understand there are a few organizations that have been involved through this in Ukraine, trying to disturb that government. Of course, we have visited on this subject quite a bit, but I didn’t realize how much the NED is involved over there.

DANIEL MCADAMS: And this is a big issue, because I think the argument could definitely be made that NATO should have ended after the Cold War, but definitely the National Endowment for Democracy should have been ended after the Cold War. Instead, they say, like with every government program, “No, now’s the time we need more!”

But in Ukraine just this past year…Ah, this is an interesting article written by the president of the National Endowment for Democracy-he’s president for life-Carl Gershman. I know this might shock you, but he’s actually a Trotskyite. He was a founding member of a communist breakaway party, the Trotskyite Social Democrats USA. He wrote an editorial in The Washington Post [in] September of ’13, just before the events happened in Ukraine, and he wrote as the president of the National Endowment for Democracy. He said, “Ukraine is the biggest prize.” And he mentioned that “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” and “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” So his real goal is regime change. He spelled it out just before all of these events took place.

SOURCE: National Endowment for Democracy? Hardly!

These types of Trojan horse operations have been used hundreds of times in the past, and there is no sign that the deep state is ready to abandon the trick now. Quite the opposite.

It worked during the “Arab Spring” when even The New York Times blithely admitted that the leaders of the protests had “received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House” and the State Department blithely admitted they had spent $50 million helping activists in the region network, communicate and organize with each other through Trojan horse NGOs like Movements.org.

The deception also worked in Syria, where leaked documents proved the US had been providing millions of dollars of support to opposition groups in the country since 2006 through a variety of Trojan horse NGOs like the Movement for Justice and Development.

And as we saw earlier this year in “The White Helmets Are A Propaganda Construct,” even first responder groups like the “Syria Civil Defense” (founded by an ex-British military intelligence officer) have been used as Trojan horses to spread propaganda and advance the agenda of the US and its allies in their quest to topple President Assad.

Let’s be clear: This is not to say that all NGOs are Trojan horses. It is not the case that every group or program that receives money from USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy or a similar organization is thereby automatically a deep state change agent. That is not how the Trojan horse technique works.

No, what makes these NGOs so effective as disguises for regime change operations is that much of the time, they are doing what they claim to be doing: providing aid, assistance and charity where it is needed. It is for this very reason that the US and its allies can so effectively smear NGO skeptics as crazy.

But consider this: In 1938, the US Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). With the notable exception of AIPAC, NGOs, lobby groups and individuals who are representing a foreign agent are required to register under the act and are subjected to greater scrutiny of financial records and other activities. The irony is that FARA is essentially the same type of legislation that has recently been passed in China, but when the Chinese do it, it’s craziness; when the US did it 70 years ago, it was just good common sense. Once again, the hypocrisy is evident for those who wish to see it.

If there is any good to come out of this, it is that the public is increasingly aware of these types of covert activities. Perhaps more to the point, victims of these operations are now more willing to stand up to the US (and suffer its potential diplomatic wrath) by scrutinizing, monitoring, watchlisting, regulating, or even kicking out these agents of chaos.

And now, just like the Trojans thousands of years ago, the world is learning the hard way that sometimes a “gift” is better left unopened.

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