Monthly Archives: May 2011
I’ve been warning for months that Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other Arab oil-importing countries face a total economic meltdown (see Food and failed Arab states, Feb 2, and The hunger to come in Egypt, May 10). Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed my warnings.
The leaders of the industrial nations waited until last weekend’s Group of Eight (G-8) summit to respond, and at the initiative of United States President Barack Obama proposed what sounds like a massive aid program but probably consists mainly of refurbishing old programs.
The egg has splattered, and all of Obumpty’s horses and men can’t mend it. Even the G-8’s announcement was fumbled; Canada’s Prime Minister John Harper refused to commit new money, a dissonant note that routine diplomatic preparation would have pre-empted.
The numbers thrown out by the IMF are stupefying. “In the current baseline scenario,” wrote the IMF on May 27, “the external financing needs of the region’s oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.” That’s almost three years’ worth of Egypt’s total annual imports as of 2010. As of 2010, the combined current account deficit (that is, external financing needs) of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia was about $15 billion a year.
What the IMF says, in effect, is that the oil-poor Arab economies – especially Egypt – are not only broke, but dysfunctional, incapable of earning more than a small fraction of their import bill. The disappearance of tourism is an important part of the problem, but shortages of fuel and other essentials have had cascading effects throughout these economies.
“In the next 18 months,” the IMF added, “a greater part of these financing needs will need to be met from the international community because of more cautious market sentiments during the uncertain transition.”
Translation: private investors aren’t stupid enough to throw money down a Middle Eastern rat-hole, and now that the revolutionary government has decided to make a horrible example of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, anyone who made any money under his regime is cutting and running. At its May 29 auction of treasury bills, Egypt paid about 12% for short-term money, to its own captive banking system. Its budget deficit in the next fiscal year, the government says, will exceed $30 billion.
And the IMF’s $160 billion number is only “external financing”; that is, maintaining imports into a busted economy. It doesn’t do a thing to repair busted economies that import half their caloric intake, as do the oil-poor Arab nations.
Egypt’s economy is in free fall. Its biggest foreign exchange earner was a tourist industry that won’t come back for a decade, if ever. The IMF’s $160 billion doesn’t take into account the costs of teaching two-fifths of the Egyptian population to read, or raising crop yields to more than a fifth of American levels, or training university graduates to do more than stamp identity cards and shuffle papers. As the international organization made clear, this is what Egypt and its neighbors require merely to pay for essential imports.
Of course, the IMF’s admission that Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen can’t meet the majority of their import bill without foreign aid does not increase the probability that these countries will obtain financing on that scale. On May 30, the IMF announced that it would lend $3 billion to Egypt – a tenth of its budget deficit – sometime in June. The G-8 offered the grandiose pledge of $20 billion in their own money along with $20 billion from the IMF, World Bank, and so forth, to support the “Arab Spring”, with the dissension of the Canadian prime minister. But it is unclear whether that represents new money, or a shuffling of existing aid commitments, or nothing whatever.
Whatever the Group of Eight actually had in mind, the proposed aid package for the misnomered Arab Spring has already become a punching bag for opposition budget-cutters. “Should we be borrowing money from China to turn around and give it to the Muslim Brotherhood?” Sarah Palin asked on May 27.
“Now, given that Egypt has a history of corruption when it comes to utilizing American aid, it is doubtful that the money will really help needy Egyptian people. Couple that with the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is organized to have a real shot at taking control of Egypt’s government, and one has to ask why we would send money (that we don’t have) into unknown Egyptian hands,” the former Republican vice-presidential candidate added.
Whether any amount of foreign aid will stabilize Egypt’s economic position is questionable, even if the industrial nations and the Arab Gulf states opened their purses, which is doubtful.
From Arab-language online media, it appears that Egypt’s economic troubles have metastasized. Last month, rice disappeared from public storehouses amid press reports that official food distribution organizations were selling the grain by the container on the overseas market. Last week, diesel fuel was the scarce commodity, with 24-hour queues forming around gasoline stations. Foreign tankers were waiting at Port Said on the Suez Canal to pump diesel oil from storage facilities, as government officials sold the scarce commodity for cash.
This is the sort of general breakdown I observed in 1992 in Russia, following the collapse of the communist government. As an adviser to finance minister Yegor Gaidar, I heard stories of Russian officials selling unregistered trainloads of raw materials on foreign markets and depositing the proceeds in Swiss banking accounts. Anything of value that could find a buyer overseas was sold. I didn’t last long as an adviser; looting and pillaging wasn’t my area of competence. Russia, it should be recalled, is largely self-sufficient in food and is among the world’s largest oil producers, while Egypt imports half its food. Russia had enormous resources on which to draw. Egypt, Syria and Tunisia have nothing.
For 60 years, the Egyptian army and associated crony capitalists ran the economy as a private preserve. Although the army remains in nominal charge, the public humiliation of Mubarak serves notice on the previous masters of Egypt’s little universe that they are as vulnerable as their former patron. Everyone who can get out will and will take with them whatever they can.
Syria is also vulnerable to hunger, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned May 23. “Continuing unrest in Syria will not only affect economic growth but could disrupt food distribution channels leading to severe localized shortages in main markets,” according to the FAO. ”Syria hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world, including nearly one million Iraqis who have become more vulnerable because of rising food and fuel prices.”
Nearly 700,000 Libyan refugees have reached Libya and Egypt, fleeing their country’s civil war. At least 30,000 Tunisian refugees (and likely many more) have overwhelmed camps in Italy, and perhaps a tenth of that number have drowned in the attempt to reach Europe. A large but unknown number of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon and Turkey.
Robert Fisk wrote in the London Independent on May 30 that Turkey fears a mass influx of Syrian Kurdish refugees, so that “Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a ‘safe area’ for Syrian refugees inside Assad’s caliphate.” The borders of the affected nations have begun to dissolve along with their economies. It will get worse fast.
Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. Comment on this article in Spengler’s Expat Bar forum.
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Obama is the wrong target
By Alan Hart
May 31, 2011 “Information Clearing House” —— When I was reflecting on Netanyahu’s domination and control of the Congress of the United States of America, the first headline that came into my mind for this article was Goodbye to peace. I’ll now explain why I think the headline above is more appropriate.
Because of its flirtation with the proposition that peace between an Israeli and Palestinian state must be based on pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps, President Obama’s speech on Middle East policy principles did one useful thing. And it was Ha-aretz’s Gideon Levy, the conscience of Israeli journalism, who put his finger most firmly on it. We should be grateful to Obama, he wrote, because his speech “exposed the naked truth – that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want peace.”
The Gentile me almost always agrees with Gideon but on this occasion, and leaving aside the fact that it was Netanyahu’s rejection of what Obama said initially that exposed the naked truth, I think Gideon’s version of it needs two clarifications.
One is that the truth was exposed like never before only to those who have not been brainwashed by Zionist propaganda – only a minority of Americans, for example.
The other boils down to this. What Netanyahu does want, and only because of his concern about Israel’s growing isolation in the world, is peace on Zionism’s terms, which means the Palestinians giving up their struggle for an acceptable minimum of justice and accepting crumbs from Zionism’s table in the shape of three or four Bantustatans on about 40% of the West Bank, and which they could call a state if they wished. That’s what Netanyahu meant but did not say when, at his arrogant, insufferably self-righteous and devious best, he assured both houses of the U.S. Congress that “We’ll be generous about the size of the Palestinian state.” Put another way, what Netanyahu doesn’t want is peace on terms the vast majority of Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims could accept – a complete end to Israel’s 1967 occupation and a contiguous and viable Palestinian mini state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem an open city and the capital of two states.
The only question of interest about Netanyahu is this. Does he really believe the nonsense he speaks about the alleged threats to Israel’s security or is he a smooth-talking but diabolical salesman, selling what he knows to be Zionist propaganda lies as truth?
Obama’s speech also exposed (again) the weakness of his own position on policy matters for Israel/Palestine when he said: “Ultimately it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them – not by the United States, not by anybody else.”
As things are that means Israel remains free to continue its criminal ways:
– defying UN Security Council resolutions and international law;
– pushing ahead with more and more illegal settlements to consolidate its hold on those parts of occupied West Bank it intends to keep for ever;
– oppressing the occupied Palestinians in the hope that, out of complete despair, they will either give up their struggle for an acceptable minimum amount of justice and be prepared to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table or, better still from Zionism’s perspective, will abandon their homeland and seek a new life elsewhere in the Arab world and beyond; and
– resorting to state terrorism (attacks on neighbouring Arab countries and possibly Iran) whenever its leaders feel the need to impose their will on the region.
Because of Israel’s dependence on the U.S. in a number of ways, not the least of them being the American veto of Security Council resolutions not to Israel’s liking, Obama does have the leverage to impose a Middle East peace on terms that would provide the Palestinians with an acceptable amount of justice without any risk to Israel’s security. And there’s a very compelling case for saying he ought to do so if only to best protect America’s own interests. I believe Obama knows this, so the question of real interest about him is this. Why won’t he act?
The answer of almost all of his critics who call and campaign in various ways for justice for the Palestinians is that he’s a willing tool of the Zionist lobby. I don’t believe this to be the case. I think the reality of Obama’s position was best summed up by Professor John J. Mearsheimer. To Al Jazeera recently he said this:
“ The sad fact is that Obama has remarkably little manoeuvre room on the foreign policy front. The most important item on his agenda is settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and there he knows what has to be done: Push both sides toward a two-state solution, which is the best outcome for all the parties, including the United States. Indeed, he has been trying to do just that since he took office in January 2009. But the remarkably powerful Israel lobby makes it virtually impossible for him to put meaningful pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is committed to creating a Greater Israel in which the Palestinians are restricted to a handful of disconnected and impoverished enclaves. And Obama is certainly not going to buck the lobby – with the 2012 presidential election looming larger every day… The bottom line is that the US is in deep trouble in the Middle East and needs new policies for that region. But regrettably there is little prospect of that happening anytime soon. All of this is to say that there was no way that Obama could do anything but disappoint with Thursday’s speech, because he is trapped in an iron cage.”
This cage is, of course, the Zionist lobby’s control through its many stooges in Congress of policy for Israel-Palestine. It’s the cage in which post Eisenhower every American president has been trapped. As former ambassador Chas Freeman put it in a recent interview with Russia Today, Israeli leaders don’t have to listen to the president because they know their lobby can block him in Congress.
And that’s why, despite the fact that like Ilan Pappe I am sick and tired of Obama’s rhetoric, I’ve come to the conclusion that no useful purpose is served by supporters of justice for the Palestinians attacking him. He’s the wrong target. The right target is America’s pork-barrel system of politics which puts what passes for democracy up for sale to the highest bidders. In this context I say, have always said, that I don’t blame the Zionist lobby for playing the game the way it does. It is only playing by the rules. It’s the rules that need to be changed if Obama in a second term, or any future American president, is going to be able to escape from the cage and use the leverage he has to oblige Israel to be serious about peace on terms virtually all Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept.
Some members of Congress who applauded Netanyahu in a scene that reminded me of the enthusiasm for Hitler at Nazi rallies accused Obama of betraying Israel. There has indeed been a betrayal, but what has been betrayed is democracy in America. The many members of Congress who read from Zionism’s script and dance to its tune in order to secure election campaign funds and organized Jewish votes in tight races are not merely stooges. Because they are putting the interests of a foreign power above those of their own country, it’s time to call them what they really are – traitors.
In my view exposing them as such should be given the highest priority by all who campaign in various ways for justice for the Palestinians and peace for all.
Memo to all concerned in Congress and the White House.
Israel is not a “Jewish state”. How could it be when about a quarter of its citizens are Arabs and mainly Muslim? Israel is a Zionist state. It will only be a Jewish state when it has completed its ethnic cleansing program.
Vision: How to Make Media Reflect the Popular Views of Americans, Not Those of Elites | Economy | AlterNet
by Webster G. Tarpley*
n multiplying its military attacks on Pakistani territory and accusing Islamabad of having harbored Osama Bin Laden, the Obama Administration aims to penetrate China’s sphere of influence. However, Beijing was quick to supply Islamabad with an air arsenal and deliver an ultimatum to Washington: any attack on Pakistan would be considered as an unfriendly act against China.In Beijing on 18 May 2011, where he arrived to ask China for help, Pakistani Minister Gilani was given 50 JF-17 fighter jets to defend his country against a possible attack from the U.S. or India.
China has officially put the United States on notice that Washington’s planned attack on Pakistan will be interpreted as an act of aggression against Beijing. This blunt warning represents the first known strategic ultimatum received by the United States in half a century, going back to Soviet warnings during the Berlin crisis of 1958-1961, and indicates the grave danger of general war growing out of the US-Pakistan confrontation.
“Any Attack on Pakistan Would be Construed as an Attack on China”
Responding to reports that China has asked the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty in the aftermath of the Bin Laden operation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu used a May 19 press briefing to state Beijing’s categorical demand that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan must be respected.” According to Pakistani diplomatic sources cited by the Times of India, China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.” This ultimatum was reportedly delivered at the May 9 China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington, where the Chinese delegation was led by Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Chinese warnings are implicitly backed up by that nation’s nuclear missiles, including an estimated 66 ICBMs, some capable of striking the United States, plus 118 intermediate-range missiles, 36 submarine-launched missiles, and numerous shorter-range systems .
Support from China is seen by regional observers as critically important for Pakistan, which is otherwise caught in a pincers between the US and India: “If US and Indian pressure continues, Pakistan can say ‘China is behind us. Don’t think we are isolated, we have a potential superpower with us,’” Talat Masood, a political analyst and retired Pakistani general, told AFP. 
At her regular press conference on 19 May 2011, Chinese Spokesperson Jiang Yu declared: “We believe that Pakistan has made major contribution to international counter-terrorism campaign with huge sacrifice. The international community should understand and support Pakistan’s efforts to safeguard domestic stability and realize economic and social development. Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.”
In Washington to attend the third cycle of the China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks on 9 May 2011, the Chinese delegation headed by Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo reportedly delivered an ultimatum to the Obama Administration. Vice-President Joe Biden and State Secretary Hillary Clinton were also in attendance. ©Xinhua
The Chinese ultimatum came during the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani in Beijing, during which the host government announced the transfer of 50 state-of-the-art JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, immediately and without cost . Before his departure, Gilani had stressed the importance of the Pakistan-China alliance, proclaiming: “We are proud to have China as our best and most trusted friend. And China will always find Pakistan standing beside it at all times….When we speak of this friendship as being taller than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans it truly captures the essence of our relationship.” . These remarks were greeted by whining from US spokesmen, including Idaho Republican Senator Risch.
The simmering strategic crisis between the United States and Pakistan exploded with full force on May 1, with the unilateral and unauthorized US commando raid alleged to have killed the phantomatic Osama bin Laden in a compound at Abottabad , a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s national sovereignty. The timing of this military stunt designed to inflame tensions between the two countries had nothing to do with any alleged Global War on Terror, and everything to do with the late March visit to Pakistan of Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian National Security Council chief. This visit had resulted in a de facto alliance between Islamabad and Riyadh, with Pakistan promising troops to put down any US-backed color revolution in the kingdom, while extending nuclear protection to the Saudis, thus making them less vulnerable to US extortion threats to abandon the oil-rich monarchy to the tender mercies of Tehran. A joint move by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to break out of the US empire, whatever one may think of these regimes, would represent a fatal blow for the fading US empire in South Asia.
As for the US claims concerning the supposed Bin Laden raid of May 1, they are a mass of hopeless contradictions which changes from day to day. An analysis of this story is best left to literary critics and writers of theatrical reviews. The only solid and uncontestable fact which emerges is that Pakistan is the leading US target — thus intensifying the anti-Pakistan US policy which has been in place since Obama’s infamous December 2009 West Point speech .
Gilani: Full Force Retaliation to Defend Pakistan’s Strategic Assets
The Chinese warning to Washington came on the heels of Gilani’s statement to the Pakistan Parliament declaring: “Let no one draw any wrong conclusions. Any attack against Pakistan’s strategic assets, whether overt or covert, will find a matching response…. Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force. No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland.” . A warning of full force retaliation from a nuclear power such as Pakistan needs to be taken seriously, even by the hardened aggressors of the Obama regime.
The strategic assets Gilani is talking about are the Pakistani nuclear forces, the key to the country’s deterrent strategy against possible aggression by India, egged on by Washington in the framework of the US-India nuclear cooperation accord. The US forces in Afghanistan have not been able to conceal their extensive planning for attempts to seize or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear bombs and warheads. According to a 2009 Fox News report, “The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists.” This plan was developed by General Stanley McChrystal when he headed the US Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. JSOC, the force reportedly involved in the Bin Laden operation. is composed of Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and “a high-tech special intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange.” “Small units could seize [Pakistan’s nukes], disable them, and then centralize them in a secure location,” claimed a source quoted by Fox .
Obama Has Already Approved Sneak Attack on Pakistan’s Nukes
According to the London Sunday Express, Obama has already approved an aggressive move along these lines: “US troops will be deployed in Pakistan if the nation’s nuclear installations come under threat from terrorists out to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden… The plan, which would be activated without President Zardari’s consent, provoked an angry reaction from Pakistan officials… Barack Obama would order troops to parachute in to protect key nuclear missile sites. These include the air force’s central Sargodha HQ, home base for nuclear-capable F-16 combat aircraft and at least 80 ballistic missiles.” According to a US official, “The plan is green lit and the President has already shown he is willing to deploy troops in Pakistan if he feels it is important for national security.” 
Extreme tension over this issue highlights the brinksmanship and incalculable folly of Obama’s May 1 unilateral raid, which might easily have been interpreted by the Pakistanis as the long-awaited attack on their nuclear forces. According to the New York Times, Obama knew very well he was courting immediate shooting war with Pakistan, and “insisted that the assault force hunting down Osama bin Laden last week be large enough to fight its way out of Pakistan if confronted by hostile local police officers and troops.”
The Shooting Has Already Started
The shooting between US and Pakistani forces escalated on Tuesday May 17, when a US NATO helicopter violated Pakistani airspace in Waziristan. Pakistani forces showed heightened alert status, and opened fire immediately, with the US helicopter shooting back. Two soldiers at a Pakistani check post on the border in the Datta Khel area were wounded .
Possible Pakistani retaliation for this border incursion came in Peshawar on Friday, May 20, when a car bomb apparently targeted a 2-car US consulate convoy, but caused no American deaths or injuries. One Pakistani bystander was killed, and several wounded. In other intelligence warfare, Ary One television reported the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad, the second top US resident spook there to have his cover blown in six months.
US Envoy Grossman Rejects Pakistani Calls To Stop Border Violations
US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, the replacement for the late Richard Holbrooke, on May 19 arrogantly rejected Pakistani calls for guarantees that no more Abottabad-style unilateral operations would be mounted in Pakistan . In refusing to offer such assurances, Grossman claimed that Pakistani officials had never demanded respect for their border in recent years .
In the midst of this strategic crisis, India has gone ahead with inherently provocative scheduled military maneuvers targeting Pakistan. This is the “Vijayee Bhava” (Be Victorious) drill, held in the Thar desert of north Rajastan,. This atomic-biological-chemical Blitzkrieg drill involves the Second Armored Corps, “considered to be the most crucial of the Indian Army’s three principal strike formations tasked with virtually cutting Pakistan in two during a full-fledged war.” 
Recently named US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman is one of Washington’s most hawkish figures. Well-known for his ties with Israeli services, he strengthened collaboration between the CIA, the Mossad and the RAW.
The Nation: A CIA-RAW-Mossad Pseudo-Taliban Countergang
One way to provide the provocation needed to justify a US-Indian attack on Pakistan would be through an increase in terrorist actions attributable to the so-called Taliban. According to the mainstream Pakistani media, the CIA, the Israeli Mossad, and the Indian RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) have created their own version of the Taliban in the form of a terrorist countergang which they control and direct. According to one account, “Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives have infiltrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks, and have created their own Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) force in order to destabilize Pakistan.” The former Punjab Regional Commander of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), retired Brigadier General Aslam Ghuman, commented: “During my visit to the US, I learned that the Israeli spy agency Mossad, in connivance with Indian agency RAW, under the direct supervision of CIA, planned to destabilize Pakistan at any cost.”  Was this countergang responsible for last week’s double bombing in Waziristan, which killed 80 paramilitary police?
According to the same account, Russian intelligence “disclosed that CIA contractor Raymond Davis and his network had provided Al-Qaeda operatives with chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, so that US installations may be targeted and Pakistan be blamed….” Davis, a JSOC veteran himself, was arrested for the murder of two ISI agents, but then released by the Pakistani government after a suspicious hue and cry by the State Department Pakistan .
CIA Claims The New Al Qaeda Boss Lives in Waziristan
If the US needs a further pretext for additional raids, it will also be easy to cite the alleged presence in Waziristan of Saif al-Adel, now touted by the CIA as bin Laden’s likely successor as boss of al Qaeda . It is doubtless convenient for Obama’s aggressive intentions that Saif al-Adel can be claimed to reside so close to what is now the hottest border in the world, and not in Finsbury or Flatbush.
In the wake of the unauthorized May 1 US raid, the Pakistani military chief General Kayani had issued his own warning that similar “misadventures” could not be repeated, while announcing that US personnel inside Pakistan would be sharply reduced. In the estimate of one ISI source, there are currently about 7,000 CIA operatives in country, many of them unknown to the Pakistani government. US-Pakistan intelligence sharing has reportedly been downgraded. In response to Kayani’s moves, the CIA limited hangout operation known as Wikileaks once again showed its real nature by attempting to discredit the Pakistan commander with dubious US cable reports that he had demanded more Predator drone attacks, not fewer, in recent years.
Especially since Obama’s West Point speech, the CIA has used Predator drone attacks to slaughter civilians with the goal of fomenting civil war inside Pakistan, leading to a breakup of the country along the ethnic lines of Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan, and Pushtunistan. The geopolitical goal is to destroy Pakistan’s potential to be the energy corridor between Iran and China. Selig Harrison has emerged as a top US advocate for Baluchistan succession.
Since May 1, six reported US Predator drones attacks have slain some 42 Pakistani civilians, goading public opinion into a frenzy of anti-US hatred. In response, a joint session of the Pakistani parliament voted unanimously on May 14 to demand an end to American missile strikes, calling on the government to cut NATO’s supply line to Afghanistan if the attacks should continue  . Since the Karachi to Khyber Pass supply line carries as much as two thirds of the supplies needed by the Afghanistan invaders, such a cutoff would cause chaos among the NATO forces. All of this points to the inherent insanity of provoking war with the country your supply line runs through.
Before parliament, Prime Minister Yousouf Raza Gilani rejected US accusations of complicity with Osama Bin Laden. He retraced the history of Al-Qaeda’s creation by the CIA and of the “Bin Laden myth”. Last but not least, he warned Washington against any further interference.
US Wants to Use Taliban Boss Mullah Omar Against Pakistan
The State Department dropped all preconditions for negotiating with the Taliban back in February, and the US is now reported by the Washington Post to be talking with envoys of Mullah Omar, the legendary one-eyed leader of the Quetta Shura or Taliban ruling council. It is apparent that the US is offering the Taliban an alliance against Pakistan. US regional envoy Grossman is hostile to the Pakistanis, but when it comes to the Taliban he has been nicknamed “Mr. Reconciliation” . By contrast, the US is said to be determined to assassinate the head of the Haqqani network using a Bin Laden-type raid. The Pakistanis are equally determined to keep the Haqqani as an ally.
If China stands behind Pakistan, then Russia might be said to stand behind China. Looking forward to the upcoming June 15 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese President Hu praised Sino-Russian relations as being “at an unprecedented high point,” with an “obvious strategic ingredient.” In a press conference this week, Russian President Medvedev was obliged indirectly to acknowledge that the much-hyped Obama “reset” with Russia had amounted to very little, since the US ABM missile program in Romania and the rest of eastern Europe, so obviously directed against Russia, means that the START treaty is of dubious value, thus raising the specter of a “new Cold War.” Given the NATO assault on Libya, there would be no UN resolution against Syria, said Medvedev. Putin has been right all along, and Medvedev is trying to imitate Putin to salvage some chance of remaining in power.
Are We in July 1914?
The crisis leading to World War I began with the Sarajevo assassinations of June 28, 1914, but the first major declaration of war did not occur until August 1. In the interim month of July 1914, large parts of European public opinion retreated into a dreamlike trance, an idyllic la-la land of elegiac illusion, even as the deadly crisis gathered momentum. Something similar can be seen today. Many Americans fondly imagine that the alleged death of Bin Laden marks the end of the war on terror and the Afghan War. Instead, the Bin Laden operation has clearly ushered in a new strategic emergency. Forces which had opposed the Iraq war, from MSNBC to many left liberals of the peace movement, are variously supporting Obama’s bloody aggression in Libya, or even celebrating him as a more effective warmonger than Bush-Cheney because of his supposed success at the expense of Bin Laden. In reality, if there were ever a time to mobilize to stop a new and wider war, this is it.
Historian, journalist and analyst of US foreign policy. His most recent published work is Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography (Progressive Press, 2008).
This author’s articles
To send a message
 “China asks US to respect Pak’s sovereignty, independence, The Economic Times, 20 May 2011.
 “China-Pakistan alliance strengthened post bin Laden”, AFP, 15 mai 2011.
 Reflections on the official announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 8 May 2011.
 “White House says ’no apologies’ for bin Laden raid while Pakistan threatens retaliation against future attacks“, New York Post, 9 May 2011.
 “U.S. Has Plan to Secure Pakistan Nukes if Country Falls to Taliban”, by Rowan Scarborough, Fox News, 14 May 2009.
 “Pakistan military protests after NATO incursion wounds soldiers“, by Emma Graham-Harrison and Haji Mujtaba, Reuters, 17 mai 2011.
 “Getting leaner and meaner ? Army practices blitzkrieg to strike hard at enemy“, The Times of India, 10 May 2011.
 “CIA has created own Taliban to wreak terror havoc on Pakistan, claims Pak paper“, ANI, 12 May 2011.
 “Post-Osama, Pakistan threatens to cut NATO’s supply line“, by Nahal Toosi, Associated Press, 14 May 2011.
 “Resolution of the Pakistani Congress on Unilateral US Forces Action in Abbottabad“, Voltaire Network, 14 May 2011.
By John Stanton
Sun Tzu, Boyd, Svechin, Creveld, Clausewitz, Luttwak, Dayan, and Alexander are just a few of the heavyweights cited by US military/political strategists these days as they attempt to redesign national security strategy, operations and tactics to secure US interests around the globe.
Why the fixation by American military and political strategists on these undeniably sharp analysts each existing in his stovepipe of the day, or even today?
Reliance on any one famed strategic thinker of old/new schools to advance 21st Century strategy and tactics is perilous, yet it continues on. In the quest to design a modular, integrated and adaptive US national security strategy for a world that challenges US leaders daily; if not hourly, the grand strategic brains look for inspiration from the crypt.
This is not an era for specialists. It is critical that US military/political strategy designers become cross-disciplinarians.
Academicians, politicians, commanders, and bureaucrats can no longer rely on decades-old theses/degrees or studies that launched their careers. One brain, two eyes and ears, and a voice is no match for a global social network of many thousands who may be bringing their thoughts to bear on a problem one analyst believes he has mastered. As Brzezinski noted, for the first time in humanity’s existence, global populations are generally aware of the political, economic and social issues of the day. The grand brains need to spend time “down there” with them.
Today’s strategists absolutely must understand the dynamic and interrelated nature of the US instruments of national power: Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Finance, Law Enforcement Intelligence and Population (DIMEFLIP). They must then include information from key nodal elements of each area in any strategy, policy, operation or tactic. DIMEFLIP is also a useful tool for comparative analyses with other nations or non-state actors.
This was alluded to in a piece by Jacob Kipp and Lester Grau titled Military Theory, Strategy and Praxis (Military Review, March 2011). However, Kipp and Grau chose to focus on only four of the eight elements of DIMEFLIP which limits the practitioner.
The Kipp and Grau piece exudes frustration. In like fashion, the authors of the Defense Science Board’s (DSB) Counterinsurgency (COIN), Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations, released in May 2011, are equally flustered by the absence of an enlightened leadership/public that will hammer out an integrated US military strategy/practice to implement the requirements of the President’s US national security strategy, and the US State Department’s COIN strategy.
Beyond suggesting the creation of another managerial organization, the DSB authors blame most military leaders, US academia and the State Department for not being motivated to put COIN at the heart of US national and military strategy. They complain that the DOD has taken on COIN matters by default. A few points need airing here.
First, the national security budget of the USA is over $1 trillion (US). No other organization in the USA has the funding to engage in large-scale COIN, Left-of-Bang, preemptive shaping of the cultural terrain.
Second, as the DSB authors imply, terrorism, insurgencies, and crime are usually the direct result of a lack of food, clothing, shelter, and employment. Resolve these problems, and there is no need for COIN applications. But this is the province of civilian markets, economics, and employment.
Third, the political, economic and military intellect in the USA is isolated in its own stovepipes. DOD seeks the assistance of an American academia that has been increasingly corporatized and specialized in the quest to please donors/sponsors. Studies are targeted to standardized tests, not patterns of life/DIMEFLIP, or even the burgeoning field of evolutionary cognitive neuroscience and cross-disciplinary studies.
Keep it Simple Stupid!
The most adept American military/political strategists are struggling these days to come up with a national security strategy that; to use a US contact football metaphor, puts the USA in both the quarterback (QB) and middle linebacker (MLB) positions. Those positions are the premier leadership positions in this most American of sports. The QB spot requires a combination of field intellect, leadership and precision. The MLB position demands field intellect, leadership and unmatched ferocity.
But no matter the unearthly talents and resources of the individuals, they are doomed to failure without the support of teammates, coaches, trainers, doctors, dieticians and owners. Bluntly put, “you just can’t go it alone.”
And make no mistake. It is not altruism that drives a QB or MLB to sacrifice individuality or to learn the importance of team work. It is pure and timeless self-interest that fuels the engines of a QB or MLB. Just the same, it is this pure and timeless self-interest that pushes individuals, communities, state and nations to act as they do.
Military, political and economic leaders/thinkers in the USA often compare themselves, and their citizenry, to a US contact football team that is engaged in a struggle on the global gridiron. But unlike their QB/MLB counterparts on a team, America’s leaders/thinkers do not have a fully functional strategic/operational playbook (national strategy). They lack endurance to play for four quarters (finish the mission, stay on target); have too many head coaches (defense contractors, foreign influence; e.g.-Israel, Saudi Arabia, China); and can’t get the many units that make up a team to work together (interagency, cross-service effectiveness).
COIN will not Work
Counterinsurgency takes staying power and is a blade-to-blade, in your face practice. That has not changed since Spain’s guerilla war against the French in the early 1800’s. The USA has neither the long term funding nor the inclination to occupy countries with the millions of American citizens (armed or not) that it would take to overwhelm and convert indigenous populations to the American Way of Life (AWOL).
Americans are apathetic in their politics, particularly international affairs. Ironically, K-12 public and private education is not preparing American youth for the globalized world which the USA created. The Whole of Nation approach to war of any type is doomed because of this.
The American economy is not in recovery save for the wealthier in the land. Federal, state and local coffers are empty. Government services at all levels are being cut. Americans do not want to pay higher taxes even as their infrastructure and human capital crumbles before them.
The American leadership team, particularly at the federal and state levels, is dated and is simply not in intellectual or physical shape to face the challenges of today’s world and its emerging personalities.
American elites no longer control the historical narrative thanks to the Internet. Americans are fixated on developing technological solutions to every problem. Technology is religion.
The covenant that Americans had between their Constitution and the public servants entrusted to protect it has been broken. They realize the country is not theirs.
Those general observations can also be gleaned from more eloquent language in the Defense Science Board’s study.
“The defense intelligence culture is evolving slowly to meet the demands of supporting multi‐modal, hybrid operations (and whole‐of‐government operations). That culture is primarily focused on “targeteering” and “weaponeering” to enable U.S. military forces to destroy enemy combatants and their war‐making capacity. In addition, DoD tradecraft and culture separate targeteers and general analysts. There is insufficient attention to the need to provide intelligence support of complex operations and counteract hybrid, multi‐modal conflict.
As the COIN problem becomes more strategic and prevalent, the expertise of operators needs to be more closely coupled with the general analyst and with analysts in fields ranging from target analysis and mission planning to the social sciences…In the field, ISR assets are so scarce that they are allocated to locations where things are known, rather than places where things are relatively unknown.
Intelligence analysts discovered through painful experience that the lack of activity in an area does not mean there is nothing of interest about which to be concerned… Within the current operational environment, there are few effective, temporally‐acceptable methodologies for the integration (or fusion) of current levels of data streaming from the many space‐based, airborne, mobile, in situ, and terrestrial remote sensors, let alone realtime integration. This impedes DoD’s ability to leverage multiple, networked sensor/platform combinations in a timely fashion to achieve dominant situational awareness. This fusion problem will only be exacerbated by the flood of data from new collection systems about to be fielded…
DoD and its primary feeder, academia, lack the capacity to meet the demand for people with advanced language skills and cultural awareness for the current conflict. The shortcomings are even greater for the many languages and areas of the world where the next COIN situation might occur. Despite a national strategy and civil‐military campaign plan that calls for a whole‐of government, population‐centric approach to COIN, the USG is not employing all elements of national power in the planning and conduct of COIN operations. DoD has assumed responsibility for virtually all COIN intelligence requirements by default.”
It is incumbent upon American military/political strategists to remove themselves from their static intellectual/operational environs and get out and see the world as it is now, not as it was when Sumer military commanders, Machiavelli, Xin or Mao were roaming the world. This is not to say that the historical record should not be consulted, or the great strategists and tacticians studied, or that lessons learned can’t be applied to the 21st Century military/political experience.
What is being said is that military/political strategists need to immerse themselves in the activities of each of the eight venues of America’s Instruments of National Power (DIMEFLIP) before embarking on the development of US national security strategy and practice. DIMEFLIP must be understood and viewed as a symbiotic global interconnected system of self-interest driven by the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the harsh realism of the US Constitution.
After all, the US Constitution (plus amendments) is a systems engineering guide for developing and maintaining an integrated system of government. It actually speaks to elements of DIMEFLIP.
Has anyone noticed?
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at email@example.com
This video contain language that some people may find offensive.
By Lawrence Davidson
May 29, 2011 “Information Clearing House” — According to a 19 May report by the Wall Street Journal, the American Zionists are starting to turn the screws on President Obama and the Democratic Party. “Jewish donors and fund raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel.” If you doubt that this tactic can work just watch the video of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Those 20 plus “sustained and standing ovations” did not come from mere true believers. They came from the throughly bought and bullied. The Zionists have a strikingly successful and very long standing vote buying operation and they are, of course, applying it to the president and his reelection campaigners.
Thus the Wall Street Journal article goes on to say that Obama will “court Jewish donors at a June fund-raiser.” There is every indication that the Obama campaign plans to be “extremely proactive” in letting the “Jewish community” know that the president does not want to be “too critical of Israel.” All of this is very odd. In 2008 Obama took 77% of the Jewish vote. According to reliable pollsters there is no indication that it will be much different in 2012. Most Jewish voters don’t vote primarily on Israel or foreign policy issues. Like other Americans they vote on domestic, and particularly economic issues. According to pollster John Zogby, “the lines are drawn fairly well, and I think it is hard for it [the Jewish vote] to not be a 75 to 25 % split for Obama and the Democrats.” The 25% are the hard core Zionists and capitalists amongst us. Yet, considering that in 2008 Jews accounted for about 2% of American voters, the Zionist capacity to trigger a panic attack among Democrat campaign staffs cannot, except in a few select neighborhoods, possibly be about votes. And indeed it is not.
It is about money. It is estimated by multiple mainstream sources that approximately 60% of Democratic campaign funds come from Jewish sources of all kinds. That is not just from Jewish Zionists, but also from ordinary unaffiliated Jews. Indeed, the hard core Zionists probably give more to Republicans and their handouts account for about 20% of that party’s campaign funds.
It is hard to know what percentage of the 60% of Democratic campaign funds is given or withheld due to a politician’s stance on Israel. Let’s guess high and say that it is 40% of the 60%. That means about 24% of Jewish campaign funds are given on the basis of Israel. There are some very wealthy people who use Israel as a criterion for their contributions. One is Haim Saban, the self-made billionaire who helps fund the Brooking Institute. He is one of those who says his enthusiasm for the Democratic Party has waned due to Obama’s stand on Israel. Yet Saban also notes that “President Obama has raised so much money and will raise so much [additional] money through the Internet….[That] he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations….[However] will I donate if I am solicited? I will donate.” So it may well be that, at least when it comes to the Obama presidential campaign, the Democrats exaggerate the need to hold a pro-Israeli line in order to procure funds, even from Jews.
It is different at the level of Congress and the Senate. The Democratic Party is yet to organize itself to the point where each of its federal candidates can match the financial independence of the president’s reelection campaign. That makes candidates for these offices more dependent on lobby money. At this level 24% given on the basis of support for Israel is probably a crucial number and Zionists manipulate the money very well, shifting it around during both primary and regular election campaigns to those who swear allegiance (one has to literally sign a pledge). That is what makes the U.S. politicians dance to their tune. For the sake of that money they will greet the most outrageous nonsense with roaring acclaim. And last Tuesday (24 May 2011) the Israeli Prime Minister proved it to be so.
Part II – The Circus (or Dancing for Dollars)
Here is how one Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy of Haaretz, characterized Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, “It was an address…filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Bejamin Netanyahu….” If you are going to do this sort of thing, transforming Congress into a circus, you really have to know your audience.
Here are some of Levy’s comments on the speech,
1. “How can the Israeli prime minister dare to say that his country ‘fully supports the desire of the Arab peoples in our region to live freely’ (as long as they aren’t Palestinians)?” When the Arab popular protests started “he was…warning of the dangers of an extremist Islamic regime and rushing to build a fence along our border with Egypt.”
2. “How could he rain praise on Israeli democracy when his government has done more than its predecessors to deal [a] mortal blow to that democracy, to pass completely anti-democratic laws?”
3. “How dare he speak about freedom of worship in Jerusalem at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied that freedom for years?”
Levy observes that Netanyahu, is “the man who explicitly said he would do his level best to destroy the Oslo Accords.” And yet, “suddenly…he’s in favor of peace with the Palestinians.” That is indeed what Netanyahu asserted. The prime minister told Congress that, “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace…” This brought the Congress to its feet for one of those “sustained ovations.” But then came the qualifiers, which no politician in the audience seemed to find unreasonable. Nonetheless, they demonstrate conclusively that the prime minister is unwilling to compromise on just about everything the Palestinians want and need.
a. No compromise on the Right of Return. “This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
b. No compromise on Jerusalem. “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”
c. And here are a bunch of other non-negotiable demands: “a Palestinian state must be fully demilitarized….it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River….Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda [Hamas].”
While the Congress seemed not to notice that these qualifiers are fatal ones, another Israeli journalist did. Ben Caspit writing in Maariv, tells us that “Netanyahu knows very well that the conditions that he set [in his speech] for a peace process are complete non-starter[s]. There is no Palestinian in the world who will accept them, there is no Arab state in the world that will support them.”
Yet over twenty times our national leaders leapt to their feet and clapped their hearts out. How is one to explain this? Gideon Levy concludes that such behavior “says more about the ignorance of its [Congress’s] members than the quality of their guest’s speech.” Ignorance is certainly part of it. The bought and bullied are wilfully misinformed.
Part III – Money buys Reality
Most of Congress is ignorant about the real nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about the real consequences of American foreign policy relative to it. That ignorance is sustained by the fact that the U.S. information environment relating to the conflict is still largely controlled by the Zionists. For instance, much of the briefing material on the issue going to Congressional members is produced by AIPAC and allied Zionist organizations, the State Department has been purged of anyone sympathetic to the Palestinians or the Arabs in general, the media remains almost uniformly biased in favor of Israel, and finally, for the politicians, ignorance is underwritten by that 24% of their campaign contributions. It also helps enormously that this ignorance is shared by the American public at large.
The result is almost post-modernist in nature. Right and wrong becomes relative. Reality is one way for the Israelis and their boosters in Congress and another way for the Palestinians and their supporters. The stronger party, figuring that the winners ultimately write the history books are not really in a compromising mood. That is why Netanyahu’s version of compromise was such a farce. The Zionists figure that as long as they can militarily prevail, and continue to manipulate the U.S. version of reality, they will eventually be writing the definitive histories of this struggle. Essentially, ignorance makes all crimes invisible. Control of an information environment keeps them invisible.
Alas, in the long run this is really an impossible gambit. The required ignorance, though almost complete in the halls of Congress, is nowhere near so in the outside world. And so the truth must occasionally break through. It must do so even at an AIPAC staged speech by a duplicitous Israeli prime minister given within the inner sanctum of the U.S. government.
Early into Netanyahu’s speech a women rose up and shouted “stop the occupation.” It turns out that she is a Jewish Israeli peace activist and a member of the group Codepink. Her name is Rae Abileah. She was, of course, immediately attacked and silenced by the AIPAC supporters sitting near her. Netanyahu’s reaction was that of a consummate improvisation actor. He “seamlessly incorporated the moment into his overall narrative.” He told his audience, “I take it as a badge of honor that in our free societies you can have protests….This is real democracy.” As it turns out Ms Abileah was so injured by her attackers (none of whom have been charged with assault) that she ended up in the hospital where subsequently she was arrested for her protest. In Israel, not only would such a protest by someone in the galleries not be tolerated, but even Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset who protest Zionist policies are physically attacked as the address the chamber. That is the real meaning of Netanyahu’s “real democracy.”
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. Congress’s accepted version of reality is maintained by Zionist misinformation fortified by donor dollars to the campaigns of both parties. Without the one-sided story line and its attendant financial pillars (and the stealthy way the money is handed out or withheld), the incentive to dance the dance and see the conflict through Zionist tinted glasses would be considerably less. Yet that is not the way our system works. Within the realm of American politics it is the money that conditions the mind to an uncritical acceptance of a perverted reality. That is what allowed for the circus spectacle in Congress on 24 May–where men and women in positions of power were induced to give multiple “sustained and standing ovations” for little more than “lies and illusions.”
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
Pro-Western media are completing the “artillery preparation” against Syria. In the West they have already built an image of Assad as a tyrant hated by the people and who is inferior to Gaddafi only in terms of the degree of his undemocratic attitude. Now Western journalists are arguing how many “peaceful demonstrators” he has killed – one hundred, five hundred or two thousand. A special operation in a suburb of Damascus was made look like nearly a national uprising in the Syrian capital.
In fact, the Libyan case scenario is becoming increasingly important. Over the past two weeks, the sanctions against Syria were considerably toughened by the West. They began on May 9 with the restrictions on the movement of Syrian officials in Europe and on May 24 reached the point where Assad’s accounts in Swiss banks were frozen.
In this regard, the West is trying again to push a low-cost solution in the UN Security Council, which would give them a completely free rein. It would seem that Russia and China have closed the case. In late April, the West has tried to hold favorable solutions through the UN Security Council, but was defeated. In fact, Russia and China then securely covered up their ally. But what will happen tomorrow?
According to several media outlets, on May 24 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad pointed out to him the need to engage in a dialogue with the circles as wide as possible.
As pointed out by sources in the Arab countries, including Syria, Damascus was not given the names of specific representatives it could engage in a dialogue with. In return, Assad clearly stated that he would continue to “fight against extremists.”
In this regard it is important to refer to the material of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai al-Ulam citing U.S. sources, according to which Barack Obama in the near future intends to discuss with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev the situation in Syria and the question of tightening the sanctions against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.
Now the moment of truth has come. Talking about the distant Syria one should be aware that Russia’s conduct in this matter would mean a lot. It has nothing to do with the fact that it is virtually the only foreign country on whose territory (the port of Tartus) a base of Russian warships is located.
Russia’s strange behavior with regard to Gaddafi has caused many in the Arab world to become suspicious. Syria is something even more important for the country than Libya. Almost since the founding of the independent Syrian state this country was entirely within the orbit of Moscow’s influence.
Obviously, in terms of economic cooperation and net profit Libya was in a better position for Russia because the oil and gas reserves in Syria are only a fraction of what Libya has.
However, apart from purely economic considerations, there are no less important geopolitical ones. Of course, in terms of human resources or raw materials Syria does not reach the parameters of Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and therefore cannot be considered a leader in the Arab world. At the same time, it is considered one of the most important Arab countries, whose opinion is vital for solving problem in the region.
Russia’s alliance with other Arab countries like Egypt and Iraq was likely temporary rather than permanent. The situation with Syria is quite different. Russia does not have any other country like this in the Arab world since Algeria and Libya over the past decade have significantly diversified their connections.
Maintaining its dominant influence in this country, Russia could at least count on the fact that its voice in the Arab world will be heard. In many respects, this situation has persisted because of Russia’s close contacts with Assad. If Russia chooses to yield Syria to the West, thus paving the way to the rebel power backed by the Western countries, there are very serious doubts that the succession will continue.
However, the issue is not limited to the Arab world only because Russia’s future actions in respect of this country will become a litmus test of sorts.
When placing a military facility in Syria, Russia was pursuing well-defined goals. For Russia that has its own interests in the world, the acquisition of a base that could possibly be deployed into a real naval base in the Mediterranean was a real advantage.
However, stating the allied relations with this country, Russia automatically assumed certain obligations, in fact, guaranteeing Syria its military and political integrity.
If now Russia suddenly betrays its ally acting as it did in case with Libya, the independence of Russia’s foreign policy will be questioned and the country’s prestige around the world will be destroyed.
If this happens, few will want to deal with Russia, because there is no point in having relations with the country that makes ambitious statements in the spirit of great power, but conducts such a bizarre policy in respect of its allies.
By Sami Moubayed
DAMASCUS – Iraq has been absent from the world’s radar since upheaval rocked the Arab world in January, toppling the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and sending shockwaves through Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
A closer look at the political scene in Baghdad, however, shows that all is not well. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in hot water, like many of his Arab counterparts – and his government might collapse soon, if not through street power, then perhaps through the shattering of the delicate balance in the upper echelons of Baghdad.
Last week Maliki hinted that he may resign and call new elections, just five months after forming his second cabinet. Two months ago, large and angry demonstrations broke out in Baghdad, inspired by the Arab Spring, chanting against corruption, poor government services, and the prime minister.
Among other things, he was accused of mismanagement of public office, abuse of power, authoritarianism and sectarianism. Maliki promised immediate action within the next 100 days. That deadline expires in July and there is nothing on the horizon to prove that the prime minister is willing, or capable, of living up to his promises.
There is also a daily barrage of accusations against him by his predecessor Iyad Allawi, who is backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab heavyweights who are eager to topple Maliki – seen as an extension of Iranian influence in the Arab and Muslim world.
Iraq remains sharply divided between the prime minister and Allawi. The top seats in the ministries of defense and the interior are still vacant, and Maliki still denies Allawi the right to name the minister of defense. Even worse, he personally still controls the two jobs in a caretaker capacity, and seems in no hurry to give them up any time soon.
On Tuesday, Allawi nominated two people for the Defense Ministry, ex-army officers Nouri al-Duleimy and Abdul-Majid Abdul Latif, but neither of them to date has been accepted by the prime minister. At a recent press conference, Maliki accused his rival of sectarianism and of breaching an agreement between them, hammered out last November.
Then, Allawi sluggishly agreed to accept Maliki as premier, although the latter controlled only 89 out of 325 seats in parliament whereas Allawi’s secular National Iraqi List commanded a slim majority of 91 seats. Instead, Allawi would be given a new job, which rivals, and in some cases theoretically challenges, that of the prime minister – chairman of the National Council for Strategic Policies (NCSP). That post, six months down the road, is still nowhere close to being formed. Allawi complains that his coalition is being treated “not as a partner but as a participant” in the Maliki government.
Allawi accepted the novel post with a grain of salt. It took heavy lobbying by Saudi Arabia, and a phone call from US President Barack Obama, to convince him to settle for the NCSP, along with assurances that the body would have real powers, rather than ceremonial duties.
The new council was supposed to operate under the umbrella of the Iraqi executive branch and replace the National Security Council, mandated to monitor government ministers and make sure that they carry out their duties according to the constitution. Additionally, the council was supposed to have several branches: (domestic) political affairs, foreign policy, economic and monetary affairs, security and military affairs, energy, oil and gas, electricity, water and environmental affairs.
The council would have a president, or secretary general, an entire staff and premises allocated by the Iraqi government in Baghdad. The council will also have its own budget, which is yet to be determined but will equal that of the premiership, the parliamentary speaker and the presidency. Allawi will reportedly be entitled to approximately 100 advisers and two military units to protect him and the council from terrorist operations.
Because of so much deliberate delay, Allawi recently announced that he was no longer interested in the offer, and that he too would back out on his agreement with Maliki and call for early elections.
If that happens, there is no telling what kind of vacuum will emerge in Iraq and who will fill it, especially as Arab countries have too much on their plate at this stage to focus on Iraq.
Theoretically, with Saudi Arabia focused on the situation in Bahrain and Syria occupied by internal problems, the only country willing and able to do the job is Iran. All eyes are now focused on Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud al-Barazani, who has said he will launch a new initiative to bridge the gap between Maliki and Allawi.
A 15-man committee has been formed to conduct shuttle diplomacy between the two leaders, under the auspices of Barazani, and to date they have made no contacts with any of the Arab countries neighboring Iraq, or with the Iranians. Last October, Barazani’s name graced a deal, known as the Irbil Agreement, where all parties agreed to form a national partnership government. Under the agreement, Maliki and President Jalal Talabani would retain their posts, while Allawi would get to chair the NCSP.
The real problem facing Iraq today, and explaining Maliki’s delay, is fear of what the NCSP will mean for Iraq once both Maliki and Allawi are out of office. The November agreement did not state whether the council would permanently be under the control of Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, or whether different parties, or sects, would rotate within its leadership in future years.
Iraqis need to decide whether the council’s leader will always be a Shi’ite, given that Allawi is Shi’ite, or whether Sunnis, Kurds and Christians will be entitled to compete for the post. If the new council will have powers equal to that of the prime minister, will it become part of the sectarian division of power in Iraq? Will it become a permanent seat that is given to the “second runner up” in any parliamentary election? And what will its status become if Allawi becomes prime minister one day?
Would it stay with Allawi’s team or will it go to the “defeated” coalition in parliament? If this is the case, it needs to be said, either in writing or gentleman’s agreement; especially that in today’s case, Allawi’s team is not a minority in parliament, but actually, the coalition with the largest number of seats.
Sami Moubayed is a university professor, historian, and editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges”
By Conn Hallinan
May 27, 2011
“Information Clearing House” — The assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden did more than knock off America’s Public Enemy Number One, it formalized a new kind of warfare, where sovereignty is irrelevant, armies tangential, and decisions are secret. It is, in the words of counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, “an astounding change in the nature of warfare.”
It is also one that requires a vast intelligence apparatus, one that now constitute almost a fourth arm of government that most Americans are almost completely unaware of. Yet, according to the Washington Post, this empire includes some 1, 271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies in more than 10, 000 locations across the country, with a budget last year of at least $80.1 billion.
“At the heart of this new warfare,” notes the Financial Times,” is high-tech cooperation between intelligence agencies and the military” that blurs the traditional borders between civilians and the armed forces. And it fits with the U.S.’s penchant for waging war with robots and covert Special Forces.
But, by definition, the secrecy at the core of the “new warfare” removes decisions about war and peace from the public realm and relegates them to secure rooms in the White House or clandestine bases in the Hindu Kush. When the Blackhawk helicopters slipped through Pakistani airspace, they did more than execute one of America’s greatest bugbears, they essentially said another country’s sovereignty was no longer relevant and consigned Congress to the role of spectator.
Over the past several decades U.S. military theorists have clashed over how to use the armed forces, though it is a debate that gets distorted by the requirements of industry: the U.S, does not really need 11 immense Nimitz class aircraft carriers, but the Newport News Shipbuilding Company—and the aerospace giants that fill the flattops with fighter bombers—do.
The arguments have revolved around three different approaches, the Powell Doctrine, the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and the Petraeus Doctrine.
The Powell Doctrine is essentially conventional warfare a-la-World War II: massive firepower, lots of soldiers, clear goals. This was the formula for the first Gulf War, which, after a month of bombing, lasted only four days. But it is a very expensive way to wage war.
The Rumsfeld Doctrine merged high tech firepower and Special Forces with a minimal use of Army and Marine units. It also relies on private contractors to do much of what was formerly done by the military. The doctrine routed the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and quickly knocked out the Iraqi Army in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once the shock and awe wore off, however, the Doctrine’s weaknesses became obvious. It simply didn’t have the manpower to hold the ground against a guerilla insurgency. The 2007 “surge” of troops in Iraq, like last year’s surge in Afghanistan, was an admission that the doctrine was fundamentally flawed if the locals decided to keep fighting.
The Petraeus Doctrine is old wine in a new bottle: counterinsurgency. In theory, it is boots on the ground to win hearts and minds. It draws heavily on intelligence—what Gen. David Petraeus calls “bandwidth”—to isolate and eliminate any insurgents—and attempts to establish trust with the locals. It is cheaper than the Powell and Rumsfeld doctrines, but it also almost never works. Eventually the locals get tried of being occupied, and then counterinsurgency turns nasty. Building schools and digging wells give way to night raids and targeted assassinations that alienate the local population. According to U.S. intelligence, the current counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan is failing.
So, what is this “astounding change” that Nagl speaks of? If you want to put a name to it, “counter-terrorism” is probably the most descriptive, although with a new twist. Like counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism has been around a long time. The Phoenix Program that killed some 40,000 South Vietnamese was a variety of the doctrine. Phoenix, too, paid no attention to sovereignty. During the Vietnam War, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols secretly went into Cambodia and Laos.
In recent years, the U.S. clandestinely sent Special Forces into Syria and Pakistan in a sort of shadow war against “insurgents.” A number of other countries have done the same.
But the Obama administration openly admits to sending a Special Forces Seal team into Pakistan to assassinate bin Laden, and it was prepared to fight Pakistan’s armed forces if they tried to intervene. And when Pakistan asked the U.S. to curb its use of armed drones in Pakistani airspace, the Central Intelligence Agency said it would do nothing of the kind.
It is as if counter-terrorism reconfigured that classic line from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges, we got drones and Seals.”
The principle behind counter-terrorism is eliminating people you don’t like. There is no patina of “hearts and minds,” and the new strategy makes no effort to practice the subterfuge of “plausible deniability” that has deflected the ire of target countries in the past.
While clandestine warfare is not new, the boldness of the bin Laden hit is. Certainly the people who planned the attack wanted to make a statement: we can get you anywhere you are, and impediments like international law, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter be damned.
“Targeted assassinations violate well-established principles of international law,” says law professor Marjorie Cohn. “Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict.”
From the U.S.’s point of view, the doctrine has a number of advantages. It is cheaper, and its expenses are generally hidden away in a labyrinth of bureaucracy. For instance, the $80.1 billion figure is only an estimate and does not include the cost of the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan, or Homeland Security.
Recent moves by the White House suggest the administration is putting this new strategy in place. “Petraeus’s appointment to head the CIA is an important indication that the U.S. wants to fuse intelligence and military operations,” a “senior figure” at the British Defense Ministry told the Financial Times.
In the past the division between military and civilian intelligence agencies allowed for a range of opinions. While the U.S. military continues to put a rosy spin on the Afghan War, civilian intelligence agencies have been much more somber about the success of the current surge. That division is likely to vanish under the new regime, where intelligence becomes less about analysis and more about targeting.
The new warfare opens up a Pandora’s box, the implications of which are only beginning to be considered. What would be the reaction if Cuban armed forces had landed in Florida and assassinated Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, two anti-Castro militants who were credibly charged with setting bombs in Havana and downing a Cuban airliner? Washington would treat it as an act of war. The problem with a foreign policy based on claw and fang is that, if one country claims the right to act independently of international law and the UN Charter, all countries can so claim.
In the end, however, the biggest victims for this “new” warfare will probably be the American people. Once an enormous intelligence bureaucracy is created—there are some 854,000 people with top-secrecy security clearance—it will be damned hard to dismantle it. And, since the very nature of the endeavor removes it from public oversight, it is a formula for a massive and uncontrolled expansion of the national security state.
Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, “A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the journalism program at the University of California at Santa Cruz for 23 years, and won the UCSC Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award, as well as UCSC’s Innovations in Teaching Award, and Excellence in Teaching Award. He was also a college provost at UCSC, and retired in 2004. He is a winner of a Project Censored “Real News Award,” and lives in Berkeley, California.
By Pepe Escobar
They are a shish kebab of hereditary monarchies, emirates and outright theocracies. Most sit on oceans of oil (45% of the world’s reserves). They are addicted to the West’s glitter and glamour – from London to Monte Carlo, from the delicacies of Paris to the weaponized delicacies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO. They abhor democracy like they abhor poverty. Some would be glad to topple their own people – as indeed they do. And they view Shi’ite Iran as worse than the anti-Christ.
Welcome to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), formed in 1981 by top dog Saudi Arabia plus the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. A more appropriate denomination would be Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Council – or club; a Gulf club to end all golf clubs. As far as the GCC is concerned, the great 2011 Arab revolt will triumph over their (wealthy) dead bodies.
How can they be so sure? Republican dynasties as in Tunisia or Egypt may be toppled; Libya may be bombed to the Stone Age; Syria may be threatened. But nothing will happen to the GCC because the enlightened West – not Allah – is their supreme guardian.
New members welcome
It’s instructive to note that those 3,000-plus bombing raids on Libya since NATO took over the war on March 31 were conducted mostly by monarchies (Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar and the UAE), apart from republican France, and before that, via Africom, the United States.
Only a few hours before United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were enjoying a special relationship barbecue this week, NATO was turning 19 Libyan civilians into, well, barbecue, and slightly roasting at least 130 others. The GCC merrily applauded.
The European Union (EU) and the GCC have issued a joint declaration forcing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to go, not before handing over power to the Libyan Transitional National Council – which happens to be financed and armed exactly by NATO and the GCC.
Now the GCC has declared it would love the idea of Jordan joining the club – and the same applies to Morocco. As for Yemen – which has yearned to be a member since 1999 – forget it; it’s not a monarchy, and “unstable” to boot, with al those unruly people protesting. The best the GCC can do is to allegedly “mediate” into what is in effect regime change – fully supported by the US and the EU.
Apart from tiny Oman, whose Sultan Qabus follows the Ibadi school, all GCC members are hardcore Sunnis. There are plenty of Jordanian “advisers” among the Bahraini/Saudi repression machine.
Jordan and Morocco may get to become GCC members not only because they’re monarchies – but most of all because they hate Iran like the plague (even though they are not exactly located in the Persian Gulf.)
Jordan’s King Playstation, sorry, Abdullah II, invented the murky concept of the “Shi’ite crescent” way back in 2004, a conspiracy according to which Shi’ites from Iran and Iraq to Lebanon and Syria would violently take over the Middle East. Morocco’s King Muhammad VI for his part cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2009.
The GCC’s top moment of counter-revolutionary glory, so far, happened less than two days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates left Bahrain – when Saudi Arabia, with a minor contribution from the UAE, invaded Bahrain in support of their cousins, the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, and against the overwhelming majority of the peaceful, protesting Bahraini population. The GCC’s secretary general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, happens to be an al-Khalifa-aligned Bahraini.
There were no US, United Nations or EU sanctions, much less a NATO bombing spree to “celebrate” this invasion. Instead, earlier this week, EU foreign ministers slapped even more sanctions against Belarus, Iran, Libya and Syria. Not by accident all of them have been Washington targets for regime change, since the time of the neo-conservatives.
Let us play in your courtyard
Neo-colonial NATO and monarchic/theocratic GCC is a match made in weapons contractor heaven. The GCC will be incorporated into the global US missile shield system. Soon, there’ll be that juicy $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia – the largest in American history.
Western idolatry practitioners that they are, GCC members also wanna have fun and be part of the real post-modern action – neo-colonial war. After all, NATO itself can be interpreted as a professional mercenary neo-colonial army, ready to intervene anywhere from Central Asia to Northern Africa.
Take Qatar. Qatar was the first country to recognize that dodgy bunch, the Libyan “rebels”; the first GCC member to supply NATO with French Mirage fighter jets and American C-17 Globemasters; it set up satellite Ahrar TV for the Transitional Council; showered them with MILAN missile launchers; and most of all immediately started to “supervise” oil exports from Cyrenaica.
The reward was inevitable; on April 14, Obama hosted the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, at the White House, and lavishly praised him for his “leadership” in promoting “democracy in the Middle East” – a reference to Qatar’s role in Libya.
As for Salman al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, on May 19 he glowingly posed for a photo-op on the steps of 10 Downing Street in London with Prime Minister Cameron, proving that slaughtering civilian, unarmed protesters and giving a green light for the House of Saud to invade his country was definitely good for business.
But no one beats the UAE in the deadly toy realm. President Nicolas Sarkozy opened France’s first military base in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi. The UAE has sent fighter jets to NATO in Libya. They are a “troop-contributing nation” for NATO in Afghanistan. And they will be the first GCC and Arab nation to send an ambassador to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Along with Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, the UAE is a member of one of NATO’s myriad “partnerships” – the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative military partnership. Translation: NATO encroaching on the Persian Gulf, positioning itself to raise any amount of hell against Iran.
And then there’s Zayed Military City; a secluded training camp in the desert for a secret army of mercenaries, to be deployed not only in the UAE but throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Off with their heads!
Milking the GCC’s burning desire to outsource mercenaries; that’s the latest high-value-added scam of former Navy SEALS and former Blackwater supremo Erik Prince (in 2009 Blackwater was rebranded Xe Services.)
It was in Abu Dhabi that Prince – through a joint venture called Reflex Responses – signed a first contract of $529 million on July 13, 2010, to deliver his services to “progressive” Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The idea was Zayed’s.
The New York Times may have had its kicks depicting, in a May 14 story, Colombians entering the UAE posing as construction workers, with special visas stamped by the UAE’s military intelligence branch, so they could clear customs and immigration with no questions asked; yes, Prince wants battalions of Colombian and Central American mercenaries; he won’t recruit Muslims to kill their own cousins and be faced with malfunctioning units.
At least the paper pointed that Prince “is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, congressional investigators and Justice Department officials” – without asking any hard questions about it.
The mercenary army’s agenda contains everything one needs to know; they will be involved in special ops inside and outside the UAE; “urban combat”; the “securing of nuclear and radioactive materials”; “humanitarian missions” (?); the defense of oil pipelines and sleek glass towers from “terrorist attacks”; and most significant of all, “crowd-control operations”, where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons [clubs and stones]”.
There it is, spelled out; internal repression all across the Persian Gulf, as against the sprawling labor camps housing tens of thousands of South Asian workers; or in case citizens of the UAE get the Bahrain pro-democracy fever. The excuse for all these ops could not be less original: the Iranian bogeyman, or “aggression”.
Prince had always wanted Blackwater to be a mercenary army deployable anywhere in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even wanted the US Central Intelligence Agency to use it for global special ops – before the CIA decided to laser on drones as a more cost-effective method. Now Prince has a wealthy Sheikh – a Pentagon fan who’s in favor of bombing Iran – to bankroll his ”vision”.
The first battalion boasts 580 mercenaries. Zayed’s men have promised that if they prove themselves in a “real-world mission”, the Emirate will pay Prince for a whole brigade of several thousand men, to the tune of billions of dollars. Prince could then move to his dream of a desert mercenary training complex modeled after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, North Carolina.
So expect another “House of Saud does Bahrain” scenario. Like the mercenary army beating to death Pakistanis, Nepalis, Bangladeshis and Filipinos who want better working conditions in the UAE.
Or expect covert special ops in Egypt and Tunisia to ensure their next governments align themselves with the US and the EU. Or expect boots on the ground in Libya to “provide humanitarian aid to civilians” (oops, that was two months ago; even Obama now says it’s all about regime change).
Still, all those Libyan “oil facilities” must be in the safe hands of US and EU multinationals (and not Russian, Indian and Chinese). Still, Gaddafi’s inner circle must be “neutralized”. And still Libya must be kept subdued, according to the age-old imperial tenets of divide and rule.
So when the goin’ gets tough, who you’re gonna call? Definitely Xe Services’ “innovative solutions”, brought to you by Sheikh Zayed. No wonder the GCC club is the talk of the (counter-revolutionary) town.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Ratko Mladic has been arrested and his extradition to the International Penal Court is under way. As the NATO leaders make their victory speeches, let us ask this question: When is NATO going to stand in the dock and when are its leaders going to answer for their crimes? The answer in a world without international law is very simple: Never.
Well, well, Ratko Mladic, a tired, sick old man allegedly suffering from cancer, has been arrested and his extradition is being handled between Serbia and the International Penal Court at The Hague. How interesting. Why didn’t they just kidnap him as they did with Slobodan Milosevic and illegally take him to The Netherlands against every fibre of international and Serbian law?
Nobody ever accused NATO of that one. The arrest and kidnapping of Slobodan Milosevic was illegal. It violated the laws of the Republic of Yugoslavia, it violated the laws of the Republic of Serbia because the quorum necessary for authorising such an act was never obtained, therefore the detention of the ex-leader of Yugoslavia and Serbia was illegal and therefore those responsible for such detention were guilty of illegal imprisonment and kidnapping. His death under illegal custody aggravates the crime. Why is nobody bringing this up at The Hague?
So why did Carla del Ponte never appear in the dock? For the same reason that no American citizen will ever appear in the dock – in international law, there are two weights and two measures, because American law does not recognise the right of extradition to The Hague to stand trial. How fortunate. That exonerates Presidents Clinton and Bush and now Obama from standing trial for their war crimes. It does not exonerate them from blame for the crimes they committed however, nor does it free them from prosecution under other legal forums.
So where is the case against NATO for the use of depleted uranium in the Balkans? Where is the case against NATO for the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and where is the case against NATO for the use of depleted uranium in Libya? The use of depleted uranium amounts to a war crime and those responsible for its deployment are war criminals.
Where is the case against NATO for the illegal war against Yugoslavia and its bombing campaign from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999, the strafing of civilians (2,500 murdered including 89 children) and wanton destruction of public and private property, outside any declaration of war? Where is the case against NATO for the illegal attack against Iraq, the slaughter of up to one million citizens, the destruction of civilian structures with military equipment, the theft of Iraqi property, the torture, illegal detention, rape and murder of civilians by NATO security forces, all outside any form of legal jurisdiction?
Where is the case against NATO for the illegal bombing of civilian homes in Libya? Where is the case against NATO for the cold-blooded murder of three of Colonel Gaddafi’s grandchildren? Since when is precision-bombing a private home paramount to enforcing a no-fly zone and since when is the murder of three children an act which protects civilians from being attacked?
How come NATO can enter a civil war and take sides against the legitimate government forces, against UN law, how can NATO side with Islamist terrorists and continue to perpetrate terrorist acts day after day after day…and nothing happens? Simple: international law does not exist.
So when NATO is in the dock, call me and I shall be impressed. Until then, let us call a war criminal a war criminal, let us call a murderer a murderer and let us state loud and clear that the attempt to murder Colonel Gaddafi is illegal and renders today’s NATO leaders liable for criminal prosecution.
Finally, a question for Messrs. Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy: Can you hear the screams of the terrified grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi every night while you sleep, murdered in their home by one of your brave pilots who precision-murdered them from 30,000 feet?
And congratulations, Serbia. Now you can join the European Union. Wonderful! Stand back and watch your industry destroyed as what you export is assimilated by German industries, watch your agriculture decimated as you are paid not to produce and your production goes to France before you are left with barren fields, stand back and watch the EU label Slivovica illegal because some idiot in Brussels doesn’t like it. Stand back and watch your unemployment rate skyrocket, watch a clique of elitists whisked off to cushy jobs in Brussels, watch your prices treble and your salaries stagnate and watch your customs destroyed as you become assimilated first by the EU and then by NATO. You will have to pay for it, you know. The people, not the leaders, of course… Nobody will ask you if you want to join NATO but you will be expected to buy its equipment and participate in its wars.
So congratulations, Serbia. Nice one!
Photo: NATO officers cavorting with Albanian terrorist Hashim Thaçi
By John Pilger
“Information Clearing House” — — WhenBritain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser “destroyed … murdered … I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt”. Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven “into the gutter from which they should never have emerged”.
The language of colonialism may have been modified; the spirit and the hypocrisy are unchanged. A new imperial phase is unfolding in direct response to the Arab uprising that began in January and has shocked Washington and Europe, causing an Eden-style panic. The loss of the Egyptian tyrant Mubarak was grievous, though not irretrievable; an American-backed counter-revolution is under way as the military regime in Cairo is seduced with new bribes and power shifting from the street to political groups that did not initiate the revolution. The western aim, as ever, is to stop authentic democracy and reclaim control.
Libya is the immediate opportunity. The Nato attack on Libya, with the UN Security Council assigned to mandate a bogus “no fly zone” to “protect civilians”, is strikingly similar to the final destruction of Yugoslavia in 1999. There was no UN cover for the bombing of Serbia and the “rescue” of Kosovo, yet the propaganda echoes today. Like Slobodan Milosevic, Muammar Gaddafi is a “new Hitler”, plotting “genocide” against his people. There is no evidence of this, as there was no genocide in Kosovo. In Libya there is a tribal civil war; and the armed uprising against Gaddafi has long been appropriated by the Americans, French and British, their planes attacking residential Tripoli with uranium-tipped missiles and the submarine HMS Triumph firing Tomahawk missiles, a repeat of the “shock and awe” in Iraq that left thousands of civilians dead and maimed. As in Iraq, the victims, which include countless incinerated Libyan army conscripts, are media unpeople.
In the “rebel” east, the terrorising and killing of black African immigrants is not news. On 22 May, a rare piece in the Washington Post described the repression, lawlessness and death squads in the “liberated zones” just as visiting EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, declared she had found only “great aspirations” and “leadership qualities”. In demonstrating these qualities, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the “rebel leader” and Gaddafi’s justice minister until February, pledged, “Our friends … will have the best opportunity in future contracts with Libya.” The east holds most of Libya’s oil, the greatest reserves in Africa. In March the rebels, with expert foreign guidance, “transferred” to Benghazi the Libyan Central Bank, a wholly owned state institution. This is unprecedented. Meanwhile, the US and the EU “froze” almost US$100 billion in Libyan funds, “the largest sum ever blocked”, according to official statements. It is the biggest bank robbery in history.
The French elite are enthusiastic robbers and bombers. Nicholas Sarkozy’s imperial design is for a French-dominated Mediterranean Union (UM), which would allow France to “return” to its former colonies in North Africa and profit from privileged investment and cheap labour. Gaddafi described the Sarkozy plan as “an insult” that was “taking us for fools”. The Merkel government in Berlin agreed, fearing its old foe would diminish Germany in the EU, and abstained in the Security Council vote on Libya.
Like the attack on Yugoslavia and the charade of Milosevic’s trial, the International Criminal Court is being used by the US, France and Britain to prosecute Gaddafi while his repeated offers of a ceasefire are ignored. Gaddafi is a Bad Arab. David Cameron’s government and its verbose top general want to eliminate this Bad Arab, like the Obama administration killed a famously Bad Arab in Pakistan recently. The crown prince of Bahrain, on the other hand, is a Good Arab. On 19 May, he was warmly welcomed to Britain by Cameron with a photo-call on the steps of 10 Downing Street. In March, the same crown prince slaughtered unarmed protestors and allowed Saudi forces to crush his country’s democracy movement. The Obama administration has rewarded Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive regimes on earth, with a $US60 billion arms deal, the biggest in US history. The Saudis have the most oil. They are the Best Arabs.
The assault on Libya, a crime under the Nuremberg standard, is Britain’s 46th military “intervention” in the Middle East since 1945. Like its imperial partners, Britain’s goal is to control Africa’s oil. Cameron is not Anthony Eden, but almost. Same school. Same values. In the media-pack, the words colonialism and imperialism are no longer used, so that the cynical and the credulous can celebrate state violence in its more palatable form.
And as “Mr. Hopey Changey” (the name that Ted Rall, the great American cartoonist, gives Barack Obama), is fawned upon by the British elite and launches another insufferable presidential campaign, the Anglo-American reign of terror proceeds in Afghanistan and elsewhere, with the murder of people by unmanned drones – a US/Israel innovation, embraced by Obama. For the record, on a scorecard of imposed misery, from secret trials and prisons and the hounding of whistleblowers and the criminalising of dissent to the incarceration and impoverishment of his own people, mostly black people, Obama is as bad as George W. Bush.
The Palestinians understand all this. As their young people courageously face the violence of Israel’s blood-racism, carrying the keys of their grandparents’ stolen homes, they are not even included in Mr. Hopey Changey’s list of peoples in the Middle East whose liberation is long overdue. What the oppressed need, he said on 19 May, is a dose of “America’s interests [that] are essential to them”. He insults us all.
Written by Alan Woods
The Euro zone is in a mess. After a year of huge financial bail outs intended to calm the markets, the latter are very unstable, with a marked downward tendency. Signs of slowing global growth, and the continuing euro zone debt crisis, have caused the markets to slump. The nervousness of the markets is an accurate reflection of the growing anxiety of the bourgeois about the economic prospects for Europe.
The Euro – a bomb waiting to explode. Illustration: Latuff & Dromos“Events in Greece have brought the euro area to a crossroads: the future character of European monetary union will be determined by the way in which this situation is handled.” (Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president and European Central Bank governing council member, Hamburg, May 20)
The politicians are panicking once again. Their latest recipe to raise cash is to privatise on a massive scale. In a desperate attempt to raise cash, the Spanish government is selling off the family jewels. They are privatising the state lottery, as well as the state airports authority. The sale of the state lottery is expected to raise between €6.5bn and €7.5bn. If completed it would create Europe’s most valuable listed gaming group. That will make a lot of money for big business, but it will lose money for the Spanish state. The state lottery earned a net profit of just under €3bn in 2009, with €2.92bn going to the Spanish treasury. This is an excellent example of the plundering of the state: nationalizing the losses and privatizing the profits.
Already the big banks are queuing up to get their hands on this highly profitable business. Lazard is viewed by company insiders as a favourite to manage the process, with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley among several others that are in the running for other roles, which count among the most prestigious investment banking outfits. Given their record in gambling (and losing) billions of their clients’ money, thus provoking a collapse of the world’s banking system three years ago, they seem well qualified for the running of the world’s largest gambling company.
But the main concern is still Greece, which they are pressurizing to privatise more than the previously agreed €50bn. The only snag is that the EU doesn’t trust the Greeks to do it themselves. Instead, they want an “independent commission” to do the dirty work.
“Make the Greeks pay!”
“Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks – and the Acropolis too!” The hysterical headline of Bild, Germany’s leading tabloid when the dire state of Greece’s finances was first made public sounded like the usual exaggerations of the yellow press. But one year later, the same far from elegant message is being delivered by Europe’s finance ministers. As we predicted, the rescue package to Portugal was not enough to stop the crisis spreading to Spain, Belgium and Italy. Now everybody is talking about contagion.
At a time when the attentions of the world’s press were fully occupied with the exciting adventures of the (former) President of the IMF and a certain chambermaid in a New York hotel, the heads of European finance were busy deciding the destinies of millions of people in Greece. Serious commentators expressed concern lest the absence of DSK (unavoidably detailed as a guest of the New York Police Department) might affect the efficacy of the proceedings. They need not have worried.
The trials and tribulations of Monsieur Strauss Khan did not prevent the recent meeting in Luxembourg, where ministers from the countries that use the euro delivered a harsh message to the people and government of Greece: push through more reforms and privatize everything, or you will not receive a single euro more from your European “partners”.
This indicates that Europe’s financial crisis is not over. On the contrary, it is entering a new and even more dangerous phase. All the rescue packages have failed to save the Greek economy, which continues to fall. The mood in Germany is hardening. This is not just a reflection of public unease, or the fears of Angela Merkel that she will not be reelected. It is a realization that the financial resources of the Bundesbank are finite after all, and cannot serve to prop up the whole of Europe.
The Germans are taking an increasingly harsh line. The Bundesbank, which controls the EU’s purse strings, has warned that if politicians take even a modest step towards a restructuring of the Greek debt, the ECB will cut Greek banks off from its liquidity supply, triggering a financial collapse that would push the country’s economy into the abyss. Today’s Financial Times described the Bundesbank’s threat as the “nuclear option”:
“How the ECB responds to the conflicting pressures created by the Greek crisis matters enormously. Shunned by financial markets, the country’s banks survive only because the Frankfurt-based central bank meets in full their demands for liquidity against collateral of rapidly declining quality. Early next month, the ECB has to decide whether to continue that euro zone-wide “unlimited liquidity” policy; so far it has said it will last only until early July. The bank also owns about €45bn of Greek government bonds, acquired during the past year as part of efforts to calm financial market tensions.”
The indignation of the assembled dignitaries against Athens knew no bounds. “Urgent measures are needed in Greece in order to reach its fiscal targets,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who presided the aforementioned meeting. Greece had to “increase the volume of privatisation” as well as adopt further belt-tightening measures to meet its deficit-reduction target this year he said.
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, complained that the ungrateful Greeks had so far failed to act on their promise to raise €17 billion (raised earlier this year to €50 billion) from the sale of state assets. Why did Greece not behave like Portugal (whose bail-out was approved)? There both government and opposition parties have pledged to support the “reform” programme negotiated with the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund.
European leaders are pushing to work out measures that would ensure the Greek government lives up to its promise to deliver €50bn ($70bn) in privatisation proceeds. Privately EU officials believe that far bigger sums can be squeezed out of Greece from the sell-off of public assets – with estimates ranging from €250bn to €300bn. This massive sum would account for almost all of Greece’s outstanding debt.
The privatisation plan amounts to a systematic plunder of the country. These people are like bandits planning to skin their victim and sell his hide when he is still alive. They are planning to plunder Greece of its most treasured national assets to fill the bank accounts of the international money lenders. But there is a small difficulty. The leaders of Europe do not trust the Greeks to carry this out. They point to repeated failures by Athens to start such sell-offs and are questioning the way Papandreou is proceeding with the privatisations.
The practical Dutch advocated a more radical measure: the creation of an external agency run by the EU to take charge of selling the plundered assets. That is a blatant violation of national sovereignty that will provoke fierce resistance in Greece. The drive for an outside agency to run Greek privatisations is being spearheaded by Jan Kees de Jager the Dutch finance minister, whose comments sum up the mood of the European bourgeois:
“Right now we are beyond sensitivities. Our common predicament is too serious.” One wonders what would the French say if a committee in Brussels ordered them to sell off the Eifel Tower and the Louvre to pay off the National Debt. But Greece is a small and weak country and nobody is concerned about hurting its feelings.
But Greece cannot pay…
When the crisis in Greece first became news, I wrote the following:
“There has been talk of a German-led rescue scheme. But this has its own problems. If it materializes, other European countries may be queuing up, cap in hand, for assistance. The problem is by no means confined to Greece, as the bond markets are well aware! The international moneylenders are increasingly worried about the credit-worthiness of Spain, Ireland and Portugal, and there is dark muttering about the state of Britain’s finances. It is one thing to bail out the Greek economy, which is relatively small. But what will happen if they have to rescue Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even Britain?
“In order to reassure the markets that these countries are able and willing to repay their debts, the international Shylocks are insisting that they must increase taxes and cut spending. But such a policy spells disaster for economies that still remain trapped in a recession with rising unemployment. “This is madness. If we cut state spending now, it will destroy the recovery!” But the plaintive laments of the Keynesians have no effect on the icy hearts of the international bankers, who are only interested in getting their money back – with a handsome return.” (Euro crisis confirms Marxist perspectives, 16 Feb. 2010)
This was written in February 2011. Over a year later, I have no reason to change a single word. Later I wrote:
“Papandreou’s chances of actually implementing his austerity policy are therefore close to zero. In the end, no matter how much pressure is applied on the people of Greece, they will never be able to pay their debts. The so-called “aid” can only postpone the Day of Judgment. And the merciless pressure from Brussels to slash living standards, and therefore reduce demand, will only succeed in pushing Greece further along the road to national bankruptcy and default.” (A new stage in the crisis of capitalism, June 2010)
This is exactly what has happened. The bourgeois strategists usually come to the same conclusions as the Marxists with a slight delay. Now a growing number of economists believe Greece’s debt, already at about 150% of GDP, cannot be repaid. But they cannot agree on what is to be done about it. Some advocate “hard” restructuring, which would mean imposing losses on creditors.
Since most of the creditors are German, Germany is naturally unenthusiastic about this remedy, preferring instead a “softer” rescheduling of the debt to delay repayments. That means “softer” for the German creditors, of course, not for the people of Greece. Like the merciless money lender in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, the Shylocks in Brussels will demand their pound of flesh. The only discussion is about when and where to stick in the knife.
George Papaconstantinou, the Greek finance minister present at the meeting cut a pathetic figure, insisting that ministers had not been as harsh as may seem. After all, they acknowledged the unprecedented reduction of Greece’s budget deficit, worth 7% of GDP. “At the same time they acknowledged that we need to do more. We concur.” This is like a lamb brought to a slaughterhouse praising the butcher for his welcoming smile as he approaches the chopping block.
Yes, these apparently hard men of money have a human heart after all. Asked whether the absence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF’s boss sitting in jail in New York on charges of sexual assault, Mr Juncker said he had been “close to tears” at the sight of his friend in handcuffs. It is not recorded whether he shed any tears for the plight of millions of Greeks faced with bankruptcy, unemployment and poverty.
Whatever scenario one chooses, the consequences for Greece will be the same: a period of falling living standards, austerity and cuts, accompanied by extreme political instability and heightened class struggle.
Spotlight on Italy
After Greece, Ireland and Portugal and Spain, the markets are turning their unwelcome attentions to Italy, like hungry wolves seeking out the sickest and weakest members of a herd of reindeers. The EU is increasingly concerned. In March a meeting of the European Commission started talking about Greece and ended talking about Italy. Spain is far more important. But Italy is a key piece in the euro zone. A crisis in Italy would have the most serious effects on the euro. It would drag the rest of the euro zone down with it, including Germany and its pampered satellites, Austria, Belgium and Holland.
By Francis Boyle – Law Professor Illinois University
May 25, 2011
“Information Clearing House” — Israel’s Likudnik Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached into his bag of Zionist tricks and pulled out a brand-new demand that had never surfaced before in the history of the Middle East Peace Process going all the way back to their beginning with the negotiation of the original Camp David Accords conducted under the personal auspices of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978: The Palestinians must recognize Israel as “the Jewish State.” Not surprisingly, the Zionist controlled and funded Obama administration publicly endorsed this latest roadblock to peace that was maliciously constructed by Israel.
Netanyahu deliberately shifted the goal-posts on the Palestinians. It would be as if the United States of America demanded that Iran recognize it as the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) State as a condition for negotiating and then concluding any comprehensive peace settlement with it. Of course such demands are racist and premeditated non-starters to begin with.
Netanyahu’s racist ultimatum would lead to the denationalization of the 1.5 million Palestinians who are already less than third-class citizens of Israel and set the stage for their mass expulsion to the Palestinian Bantustan envisioned by Netanyahu as the “final solution” to Zionism’s “demographic problem” created by the very existence of the Palestinians. This racist and genocidal demand would also illegally terminate the well-recognized Right of Return for five million Palestinian refugees living around the world as required by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194(III) of 1948, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 13(2) (1948), and by general principles of public international law, international humanitarian law, and human rights law. This would doom all prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians forever, and pave the way for the creation of “Greater Israel” dominating the entire former Mandate for Palestine, both of which objectives have been the intention of Netanyahu and Likud all along.
But if Netanyahu is really serious about Israel being recognized internationally as “the Jewish State” then there is a simple manner by which this universal diplomatic status can instantly be achieved unilaterally and without the consent of the Palestinians. Under basic principles of international law, every state is free to change its own name if it so desires: e.g., from Congo to Zaire then back to Congo. Therefore Israel is free to change its name to Jewistan — the State of the Jews.
Thereafter every state in the world that has diplomatic relations and treaty relations with Israel will henceforth necessarily have to recognize it as Jewistan — the State of Jews — and deal with it as such by that name on a daily basis. The name of Jewistan would automatically replace the name of Israel in the United Nations System, at all other concerned international organizations, and on all bilateral and multilateral treaties to which Israel is currently a contracting party. Indeed, in the aftermath of its serial genocidal atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinians and the Lebanese, Israel has quite understandably been seeking to “re-brand” itself. Jewistan is Israel’s perfect new moniker.
In fact, Israel has never been anything but a Bantustan for Jews setup in the Middle East by the White racist and genocidal Western colonial imperial powers in order to serve as their racist attack dog and genocidal enforcer against the Arab and Muslim world. From the very moment of Western imperialism’s genocidal conception of Israel in 1947-1948, Israel has historically always functioned as Jewistan – the world’s Bantustan for the Jews. So Israel might as well finally change its name today to Jewistan, own up to its racist birthright, and make it official for the rest of the world to acknowledge.
Of course, all the Black Bantustans in racist criminal apartheid South Africa were eventually dismantled and no longer exist. The same will eventually happen to the racist criminal apartheid Jewish Bantustan in the Middle East no matter what name they call themselves. Actually, Jewistan/Israel is more closely analogous to the genocidal Yugoslavia that collapsed as a State, lost its U.N. membership, and no longer exists as a State for that precise reason.
In either event, when this Israeli Bantustan for Jews predictably collapses as a State, all the Palestinian refugees living in their Diaspora around the world will be able to return to their homes as guaranteed by Resolution 194. Such is the ultimate solution for securing the Palestinian Right of Return under International Law. In the meantime, the Palestinians should sign nothing with Jewistan/Israel and let this Bantustan for Jews collapse of its own racist and genocidal weight. Good riddance!
Professor Francis A. Boyle served as Legal Adviser to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations from 1991 to 1993. His newest book is “The Palestinian Right of Return under International Law” (Clarity Press: 2011).
Did anyone notice the supercilious smiles and smirks on the faces of Barack Obomber and David Camoron playing ping-pong against some kids in an inner-city school, acting as if they did not have a care in the world? What a perfect example of two cold-blooded child murderers cavorting together and having fun as their forces commit war crimes in Libya. What a shining insight into how the callous, calculating minds of two frauds, two resplendent failures, try to convince and deceive others based upon lies, skulduggery and sheer evil as they bask in a sea of self-proclaimed self-righteousness.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are two nasty pieces of work, two despicable specimens of the very worst the human race has to offer. These two apologies for men should lay down at night and hear the screams of the three murdered grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi – murdered by their forces – as they burnt to death, the victims of a NATO bomb dropped on a private house in Tripoli to enforce a no-fly zone and to prevent them from being part of a control and command chain which put innocent civilians in danger.
Before they sleep and as they dream, these two callous, cold-blooded killers should see the images of those three children drowning in their own blood, chocking and gasping for their last breath, as the temperature in the room around them reached one thousand degrees centigrade and as the skin on their tiny hands and feet and faces literally fried.
And when they wake up every single morning of every single day for the rest of their miserable lives, Barack Obomber and David Camoron should see the questioning horror in those three sets of innocent eyes, asking why?
And as these two child murderers look into the mirror each morning and look into their faces, they should see that horror, they should hear those screams, they should smell the stench of burning flesh, the flesh of the three innocent grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi who their forces precision-bombed so successfully.
And do you know what ladies and gentlemen? I bet neither of them could care less. I bet they even think they are justified, smug, clever, right, righteous.
Yet the rest of humanity knows the truth. The rest of humanity looks down upon these two despicable hate-filled pariahs with utter contempt, aware that Muammar Gaddafi has been wronged by a monumental smear campaign which overlooked the fact that he is fighting against Islamist terrorists, who these two murderers support, overlooked the fact that Colonel Gaddafi’s excellent humanitarian record was about to be awarded with a UNO prize in March and overlooked the great deal that he, not they, has done for Africa.
The petitions running the Internet, the outrage expressed in forums and the sheer, seething hatred felt for NATO and its illegal invasion must surely have turned the tide. Nothing these two evel men or their evil organization ever does again will pass without scrutiny. Just like that sickening bunch of mass murderers who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq (among them their two nations as usual) today half a dozen protagonists bomb Libya and kill Libyans based upon false premises and swansongs about innocent civilians as they openly and illegally support Islamist terrorists – the same ones fighting against NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq, led by the same man who was arrested fighting for Al-Qaeda.
When Obomber was given that Nobel Peace Prize, he was given it for a reason and with an implicit mission attached to it. It was an award of hope, hope for the future. In bombing Libya, in attacking the forces of Colonel Gaddafi fighting Islamist terrorists, Barack Obomber has proven himself totally unworthy of the prize and an insult to the international community.
The President of the United States of America has done nothing for his country, his people or the world. He is an abject sniveling failure and if anyone has to go, it is him. Let us hope he is forced to kiss the feet of Muammar al-Qathafi before he does so, for he is not fit to stand beside men such as he who fought against Apartheid, who outlawed Obama bin laden and Al-Qaeda after the USA armed them and fought alongside them. As Barack Obomber takes the side of Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, in breach of international law, against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, he is making one of the most crass mistakes of any leader in the history of Mankind.
Neither he, nor his friend-in-murder Camoron can see that is a measure of their ineptitude and proof of their inability to be in their positions. They are two silly little boys playing at politics and they do not make the mark.
If they wanted to save any reputation for the history book, they would admit their mistake, stop the attack against Libya, now, and allow the people of Libya to deal with the consequences. The firms from the clique of nations which engaged in this imperialist episode should be banned from any reconstruction process and indeed, should be banned from the African Continent. This however would not remove the blood from their hands because to the end of their days, Obomber and Camoron and their friends will have the death-screams of the three innocent grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi ringing in their ears.
Know what? I believe they couldn’t care less.
What can YOU do?
Middle East rift mars US-Russia ‘reset’
By M K Bhadrakumar
The last thing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did before departing for France to attend this week’s Group of Eight summit meeting in Deauville was place a call to Damascus.
Prima facie, one may think the call made sense, since as Reuters reported, “Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests” is going to be high on the agenda of the summit. But Medvedev had other thoughts on his mind; he wanted to ostentatiously pick up the thread from his previous conversation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on April 6.
According to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev on that occasion expressed Moscow’s “support for the Syrian leadership’s plans to carry out the internal reforms announced by Mr Assad in order to prevent the situation in the country from deteriorating, prevent human casualties, and maintain civil peace”.
According to reports, the casualty figure in Syria may since be approaching four digits and civil peace is in serious disarray. During his call on Tuesday, however, Medvedev repeated Moscow’s “principled position regarding the events in Syria and around it” and expressed the “hope that the reforms launched by Mr Assad will be implemented by the Syrian leadership dynamically and in a broad dialogue with the Syrian public”.
In response, Assad told Medvedev that he was “doing and will continue to do everything that guarantees the peaceful free expression of Syrian citizens’ will. At the same time, the Syrian leadership does not intend to allow the activities of radical and fundamentalist groups”.
Only last Thursday United President Barack Obama threateningly handed down an existential choice to Assad – preside over a peaceful transition of power in Syria or be ousted from power. Obama didn’t exactly say that Assad’s fate would be the same as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, but he likely meant something to that effect.
The point is, Medvedev and Assad have shown Obama the finger. Yet, Medvedev is scheduled to have a face-to-face meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the G-8 gathering on Thursday.
Libyan rebels in Moscow
One could call this tit-for-tat. Medvedev no doubt suffered a blow to his prestige from his decision to abstain during the voting on Libya in the United Nations Security Council, overruling the advice of highly professional Russian diplomats that Resolution 1973 was deeply flawed in many respects and was open to varying interpretations in the downstream. In retrospect, Medvedev gambled on behind-the-scene assurances held out by Western powers, and he lost face.
The Russian strategic community is aghast that the “coalition of willing” under the banner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has since militarily intervened in Libya and is about to bring about regime change. Moscow’s protests have been coolly ignored by Western powers.
To rub salt into the wound, France has extended invitation after invitation to Russia to join its contact group (“Friends of Libya”), despite Moscow questioning the legitimacy of such an enterprise that lacks a UN mandate.
Meanwhile, Moscow faces a fait accompli, having to scramble to adjust to the new realities of Western powers forcing a regime change in Tripoli. A representative of the Libyan opposition was received by Lavrov in Moscow on Monday. Following the meeting, Lavrov recognized the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) as a “legitimate partner”.
The Russian position has consistently been that “all political forces and tribes” should be involved in any future talks. Moscow may be estimating that it is better placed to advocate a peace plan and play a role in the forthcoming transition of power in Tripoli by having contacts with both the Libyan government and the opposition. (Gaddafi’s envoys too visited Moscow last week for talks.)
However, the TNC has already begun crowing about Moscow according it “recognition”, to which Western chancelleries must be smirking. TNC spokesman Abdel Rahman Shalgham told journalists in Moscow after his meeting with Lavrov: “We [the TNC and Russia] have a mutual understanding on the issue of recognizing the transitional government in Benghazi. The fact that I was received in Moscow by the Russian foreign minister speaks of the role and importance of the council.”
He has a point, no doubt. Shalgham also said the opposition would not hold any talks with Gaddafi.
Russia hails Palestinian unity
Evidently, Moscow kept the visit by the TNC official low-key, while it also decided to pay the US back. Even as the TNC man came to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Lavrov scheduled yet another meeting with Arab visitors – a composite Palestinian delegation of the leadership of Fatah and Hamas and five other groups that arrived in Moscow over the weekend. Unlike the semi-official session with Shalgham, Lavrov had a structured meeting with the Palestinian leaders.
Lavrov took the occasion to speak at length on the recent unity pact between Fatah and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt and signed in Cairo this month. He said the agreement had “historic significance” and Russia welcomed its content and would be supportive of its implementation.
Russia has taken a position on Fatah-Hamas unity that is diametrically opposed to the views expressed by Obama. Lavrov said the Cairo pact was “designed to establish favorable conditions” for resuming negotiations with Israel and underscored that Russia “actively contributed to the mediation efforts of Egypt”. Meanwhile, Russian commentators lost no time in poking fun at Obama’s Middle East speech last Thursday.
A seasoned Moscow commentator on the Middle East wrote: “Six months into the Arab Spring, Obama has finally taken the trouble to spell out his country’s policy in the Arab world, but he hasn’t gone anywhere beyond that. His speech … was not even close to a Cairo-2. In 2009, he told students at Cairo University he was going to shake up the Middle East, make friends with the Arabs and achieve peace; but none of that came to pass.”
The sherpas at the G-8 will have a hard time bringing Russia on board on Libya and Syria. Maybe, on the Palestinian issue Russia could share some common ground with European opinion, which also in principle welcomes Palestinian unity, but it will be interesting to see if the G-8 could bring itself to say something positive about the accord between Fatah and Hamas. Indeed, the US has upheld Israel’s strong objections to the accord.
Medvedev’s conversation with Assad on Tuesday signifies both an assurance of support to the Syrian leader as well as an early warning to Western powers at the G-8 that Russia would have a problem going along with any threatening noises against Damascus.
Once already – at his press conference in Moscow on May 17 – Medvedev has asserted that he would not allow a UN resolution authorizing sanctions against Syria to pass “even if my friends are going to beg me to”. What he meant was that he was prepared to be in a minority of one at Deauville.
These Middle Eastern discords do not provide a conducive setting for Obama and Medvedev to have a fruitful meeting at Deauville. It appears that Moscow has already estimated that Medvedev’s meeting with Obama is not going to produce any significant forward movement on the missile defense issue.
Although the Russian president recently declared that a failure to agree on “a model of cooperation in anti-missile defense” would result in “the kind of scenario that would throw us back into the Cold War era”, Washington has nothing new to offer to Moscow.
The Deauville meeting will be a turning point. It will reveal whether or not the US-Russia “reset” policy is still holding. Clearly, the two sides are no longer able to build on the “reset”. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty cannot be followed up and breaking the deadlock in arms control involving tactical nuclear weapons is proving difficult because of disagreements over missile defense.
Arguably, US-Russia cooperation over Iran and Afghanistan has also touched an optimal level already and in any case it alone cannot be the locomotive of the “reset”.
Overarching all this is the growing perception in the US that the Medvedev era may be drawing to a close by next year, which acts as a disincentive to build on the cooperative momentum of the “reset” and instead simply manage the uncertain partnership.
Anyhow, in immediate terms, Moscow’s stance on the Middle East – Libya and Syria in particular – underpins the retreat from “reset”.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
By Victor Kotsev
TEL AVIV – The last week or so witnessed an elaborate dance between United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An uncompromising speech before the Israeli Knesset (parliament) by Netanyahu was followed by a firm speech before the US Congress by Obama.
Then came a tense meeting between the two and a sweetened speech before the Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), by Obama, to be matched in tone by a speech before the US Congress by Netanyahu. A moment of pause inbetween, then Netanyahu’s address before AIPAC.
The dance has the steps of a waltz of sorts, but it conveys the drama and the theatrics of a tango. Amid roaring applause, both dancers bow elegantly and part ways, leaving the audience dazzled, full of contradicting emotions, and perhaps even a little bit rueful.
Such is the impact of good art; both politicians, as well as their speechwriters, deserve credit for their masterful performance. If only, one is left thinking, the show could go on a little longer; if only it could take the place of reality.
Too much was said in all the speeches to summarize comprehensively here, but several points and main threads stick out. The day after the Nakba day events (see my article Prelude to an Intifada, Asia Times Online, May 16), Netanyahu gave a hawkish speech before the Knesset in which he claimed the Palestinians were after Israel’s very existence and vowed not to compromise on the main issues. 
Several days later, Obama responded in a speech before congress in which he vowed support for the “democratic revolutions” in the Arab world and urged a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the 1967 lines, with borders and security to be discussed first, and other important issues, such as refugee rights and the status of Jerusalem, left for later. 
While, as many have pointed out, there was nothing new in these outlines, and in private it is often speculated on the ground that East Jerusalem will eventually be traded for the right of return, the reactions of both Israelis and Palestinians to the speech were negative.
Netanyahu’s reaction was particularly furious. Arguably, he was primarily upset that Obama, in the words of Herb Keinon writing for the Jerusalem Post, “had essentially thrown [a letter written by President George W Bush in 2004] out the window.”  He blasted that Israel could not return to the “indefensible” 1967 borders, and warned the American president in a press statement that “there are issues which just cannot be swept under the rug”. The tensions between the two leaders shot up dramatically, with Netanyahu’s associates calling Obama “detached from reality”  and Obama’s aides saying that Netanyahu would “never” do what it takes to achieve peace. 
A meeting between the two on Friday took considerably longer than planned, and though they issued conciliatory statements at the end, speculations and tensions continued over the weekend. “Obama is on Mars right now, and the prime minister is on another planet,” veteran American negotiator Aaron David Miller said in an interview with ABC on Sunday.
The dramatic histrionic breakthrough came during Obama’s speech before AIPAC on Sunday. The president sought to paper over the tensions, emphasizing that “the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad”. He assured the symposium that his mention of the 1967 borders included “mutually agreed swaps”, defining the latter in the following way: “the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967”. 
The crowning act was Netanyahu’s own appearance before congress on Tuesday. In one of the most elegant speeches of his political career, the Israeli prime minister in turn took a step back, thanked Obama for his support, and offered “painful compromises to achieve this historic peace”.
He promised that “we’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state”, but stated firmly that “Jerusalem must never again be divided”. He called on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, and on Abbas to “tear up” his agreement with Hamas, which he called “the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda”.
Notably, he spoke warmly of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is currently recovering from a heart attack and who will likely be ousted in the new national unity Palestinian government between Hamas and Fatah. 
Official reactions to the exchange varied, but it is clear that apocalyptic predictions about a full-blown collision between Netanyahu and Obama failed to materialize. White House spokesman Jay Carney expressed his “satisfaction” after the last Netanyahu speech. (It was hard to say otherwise after the standing applause which the Israeli prime minister received at the congress session.) Israeli analysts are raving about their prime minister’s performance. “Netanyahu will return to Israel today as a victor,” Yossi Verter wrote in Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Wednesday.
The Palestinians were surprised and outraged, scrambling for a response. Or so they said. For it was they who provided Netanyahu with the ammunition to shoot down Obama’s fledgling attempts to pressure him. “Abbas has given [Netanyahu] an incredible gift by unifying with Hamas,” Aaron David Miller wrote prior to the meetings in a Foreign Policy article that cautioned Obama not to make “big speeches”.
“Unless Hamas abandons the armed struggle, releases the kidnapped Israeli soldier it has held as hostage, and recognizes Israel, Netanyahu is more or less untouchable at home and can parry American pressure should there be any.” 
It seems that both Netanyahu and Obama took Miller’s advice to an extent, even though they kept the theatrics. Liberal commentators in Israel and the US were quick to attack Netanyahu for failing to create an opportunity for a real break-through. “We’re not talking about a peace process anymore; we’re talking about a PR process,” Rob Malley of the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group told The New York Times in reference to the Israeli prime minister’s speech before congress.
Malley acknowledged Netanyahu’s dazzling performance, but cautioned that it might have been “a pyrrhic victory” in light of the upcoming Palestinian declaration of independence in September and the need for a real progress in the peace talks in order to prevent such unilateral moves.
Yet if no real progress toward peace follows – and all indicators suggest there will be none – the American president is also to blame. “Obama’s foray into Israeli-Palestinian affairs was not intended to be serious; rather, it was merely a cover for his broader policy to reconstitute a coalition of the willing,” wrote influential American think-tank Stratfor in an article criticizing Obama’s approach toward the Arab uprisings.
Obviously, if Obama is going to call for sweeping change, he must address the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Obama knows this is the graveyard of foreign policy: Presidents who go into this rarely come out well. But any influence he would have with the Arabs would be diminished if he didn’t try. Undoubtedly understanding the futility of the attempt, he went in, trying to reconcile an Israel that has no intention of returning to the geopolitically vulnerable borders of 1967 with a Hamas with no intention of publicly acknowledging Israel’s right to exist – with Fatah hanging in the middle. By the weekend, the president was doing what he knew he would do and was switching positions. 
As mentioned above, the Palestinians and their supporters reacted furiously. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called Netanyahu’s congress speech “incitement against Arabs”. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, echoed that “This is not going to lead to any solution.”
Abbas himself kept a lower-profile, but called an urgent meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Wednesday to discuss the statements, and the reaction is unlikely to be positive. In an op-ed in The New York Times last week, which can be considered his two cents to the discussion (or pirouette to the dance, to go back to that metaphor), he laid down a sharply contrasting narrative to everything that the two leaders said, and vowed to continue on his path toward Palestinian independence. 
In-between the Washington speeches, he also defended his pact with Hamas and proclaimed that the new government would be one of technocrats directed by him. 
Something that emerges from the exchange is that Abbas and Obama were clearly out of step. In the last month, both made attempts to shake up the status-quo, but unfortunately their attempts cancelled each other. Their dance was never set up to be one of equal partners; one of Abbas’ main acts before the Americans has always centered on his weakness. “I need you to pressure Israel because I am too weak to do it myself or to make concessions,” he has been telling the White House all along.
For a while, Obama was also weak, following his party’s defeat in last year’s mid-terms, the WikiLeaks scandals, and the Arab uprisings. This created a vacuum. Abbas stepped in to fill it with his reconciliation with Hamas, which surprised the Americans and painted him as a newly-assertive actor.
But then, almost simultaneously, Obama also decided to go on the offensive, taking out Osama bin Laden and boosting significantly his domestic support and thus his hand against Netanyahu. At the time, many Israeli analysts predicted a disastrous showdown at the White House.
Unfortunately, the two initiatives did not go well together. If Abbas is strong and assertive, the Americans, who have always claimed to be an honest broker, have all the more reason to back off in order to preserve the balance between the two sides. This is exactly what happened in the last days.
Hamas’ extremism only added fuel to the fire. Abbas, for all his bluster, has few powerful cards to play – or so it seems. It remains to be seen if he will pull a rabbit out of the metaphoric hat and surprise everybody with another bold move; this is currently a major wild card, but the likelihood is low.
Israel benefits from the additional argument that in the wake of the Arab uprisings, it is widely perceived to be the only truly dependable ally of the United States in the Middle East, as Netanyahu repeatedly emphasized.
Overall, the Israeli premier’s trip to Washington showed that his relationship with the White House is as solid as ever, even though a lot of mistrust remains. For now, he found a brilliant way to say “yes, but” to Obama’s pressure. More serious tests, however, lie ahead, up to and through the widely expected Palestinian declaration of independence.
1. PM Netanyahu’s address at the opening of the Knesset summer session, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 16.
2. Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa, White House Press Secretary Office, May 19.
3. Analysis: What rankled Netanyahu in the Obama speech, Jerusalem Post, May 20.
4. Netanyahu associate: Obama detached from reality, Ynetnews, May 20.
5. Obama to aides: Netanyahu will never do what it takes to achieve Mideast peace, Ha’aretz, May 20.
6. Obama AIPAC Speech 2011: President Seeks To Smooth Out U.S.-Israel Tensions, Huffington Post, May 22.
7. Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to U.S. Congress, The Globe and Mail, May 24.
8. President ‘Yes, I Can’ Meets Prime Minister ‘No, You Won’t‘, Foreign Policy, May 17.
9. Obama and the Arab Spring, Stratfor, May 24.
10. The Long Overdue Palestinian State, The New York Times, May 16.
11. Abbas backs unity with Hamas , Ynetnews, 23 May 2011.
Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst based in Tel Aviv.
Interviews with several AIPAC delegates in the streets outside the conference reveals widespread ignorance by attendees of the controversial annual DC meeting.
By Max Blumenthal
On May 22, thousands of supporters of America’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, converged on Washington for the group’s annual conference. For two days they watched Democratic and Republican congressional leaders pledge their undivided loyalty to the state of Israel, and by extension, to AIPAC’s legislative agenda. Speeches by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted the conference, with Obama attempting to clarify his statement demanding that 1967 borders be the “starting point” for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
I interviewed several AIPAC delegates in the streets outside the conference. While few, if any, were able to demonstrate any degree of sophistication in the understanding of the Israel-Palestine crisis, they had been briefed inside on how to respond to critics. No one I spoke to would concede that Israel occupied any part of Palestinian territory; none would concede that Israel had committed acts of indiscriminate violence or that it had transferred Palestinians by force; one interviewee could not distinguish Palestine from Pakistan. With considerable wealth and negligible knowledge — few had spent much time inside Israel — the delegates were easily melded by the cadre of neoconservative and Israeli “experts” appearing in AIPAC’s briefing sessions.
As the day wore on, many delegates waded into confrontations with members of Code Pink and Palestine solidarity demonstrators who had set up a protest camp across the street. With conflict intensifying on the sidewalk, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin invited AIPAC delegates to express themselves from the protest stage. There, their most visceral feelings and deeply held views about Israel-Palestine crisis were revealed. See it for yourself.
Dispatch From Tripoli
By Cynthia McKinney