Category Archives: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Saudi Arabia has to be stopped and this time it may get stopped

It appears that the KSA has crossed all lines of decency, if there were ever any.

In the eyes of many in the West, it crossed them not because it has been brutally killing tens of thousands of innocent people in Yemen, not even because it keeps sponsoring terrorists in Syria, (and, in fact, all over the world), often on behalf of the West. And not even because it is trying to turn its neighboring country, Qatar, from a peninsula into an island.

The crimes against humanity committed by Saudi Arabia are piling up, but the hermit kingdom (it is so hermit that it does not even issue tourist visas, in order to avoid scrutiny) is not facing any sanctions or embargos, with some exceptions like Germany. These are some of the most barbaric crimes committed in modern history, anywhere and by anyone. Executing and then quartering people, amputating their limbs, torturing, bombing civilians.

But for years and decades, all this mattered nothing. Saudi Arabia served faithfully both big business and the political interests of the United Kingdom first, and of the West in general later. That, of course, includes Israel, with which the House of Saud shares almost a grotesque hatred towards Shi’a Islam.

And so, no atrocities have been publicly discussed, at least not in the Western mass media or by the European and the US governments, while weapons, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, have been arriving into the KSA, and the oil, that dark sticky curse, kept flowing out.

Was Riyadh enjoying total impunity? Definitely!

But all this may soon stop, because of a one single man, Mr. Jamal Khashoggi or more precisely, because of his alleged tragic, terrifying death behind the walls of the Saudi Consulate in the city of Istanbul.

According to the Turkish authorities, quoted by The New York Times on October 11, 2018:

Fifteen Saudi agents arrived on two charter flights on Oct. 2, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared.

Supposedly, they brutally murdered Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, and then they used sawmills to severe his legs and arms from the body.

All this, while Mr. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting for him on a bench, in front of the consulate. He went in, in order to take care of the paperwork required to marry her. But he never came back.

Now the Turkish nation is indignant.

Ten years ago, even one year ago, everything would have been, most likely, hushed up. As all mass murders committed by the Saudis all over the world were always hushed up. As was hushed up the information about the Saudi royal family smuggling drugs from Lebanon, using their private jets – narcotics that are clouding senses and are therefore used in combat zones and during terrorist attacks.

But now, this is the end of 2018. And Turkey is not ready to tolerate an atrocity by an increasingly hostile country; an atrocity committed in the middle of its largest city. For quite some time, Turkey and the KSA are not chums anymore. Turkish military forces were already deployed to Qatar several months ago, in order to face the Saudi army and to protect the small (although also not benign) Gulf State from possible attack and imminent destruction. In the meantime, Turkey is getting closer and closer to Iran, an archenemy of Saudi Arabia, Israel and US.

It has to be pointed out that Mr. Khashoggi is not just some common Saudi citizen – he is a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, but most importantly, in the eyes of the empire, a correspondent for The Washington Post. Critic but not an ‘outsider’. And some say, he was perhaps too close to some Western intelligence agencies.

Therefore, his death, if it is, after all, death, could not be ignored, no matter how much the West would like the story to disappear from the headlines.

President Trump remained silent for some time, then he became “concerned”, and finally Washington began indicating that it could even take some actions against its second closest ally in the Middle East. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been ‘cultivated’ both by Washington and other Western powers, but now he may actually fall from grace. Is he going to end up as Shah Pahlavi of Iran? Not now, but soon, or at least ‘at some point’? Are the days of the House of Saud numbered? Perhaps not yet. But Washington has a track record of getting rid of its ‘uncomfortable allies.

*****

The Washington Post, in its editorial “Trump’s embrace emboldened Saudi Crown Prince’, snapped at both the ‘Saudi regime’ (finally that derogatory word, ‘regime’ has been used against the House of Saud) and the US administration:

Two years ago it would have been inconceivable that the rulers of Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, would be suspected of abducting or killing a critic who lived in Washington and regularly wrote for the Post – or that they would dare to stage such operation in Turkey, another US ally and a NATO member. That the regime now stands accused by Turkish government sources of murdering Jamal Khashoggi, one of the foremost Saudi journalists, in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate could be attributed in part to the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler, who has proved as ruthless as he is ambitious. But it also may reflect the influence President Donald Trump, who has encouraged the Crown Prince to believe – wrongly, we trust – that even his most lawless ventures will have the support of the United States.

“Wrongly, we trust?” But Saudi Arabia and its might are almost exclusively based on its collaboration with the global Western ‘regime’ imposed on the Middle East and on the entire world, first by Europe and the UK in particular, and lately by the United States.

All terror that the KSA has been spreading all over the region, but also Central Asia, Asia Pacific, and parts of Africa, has been encouraged, sponsored or at least approved in Washington, London, even Tel Aviv.

The Saudis helped to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and then the socialist and progressive Afghanistan itself. They fought Communism and all left-wing governments in the Muslim world, on behalf of the West. They still do.

Now both the West and the KSA are inter-dependent. The Saudis are selling oil and buying weapons, signing ‘monumental’ defense contracts with the US companies, such as Lockheed Martin. They are also ‘investing’ into various political figures in Washington.

The current alleged murder of a journalist triggered an unusual wave of soul-searching in the Western media. It is half-hearted soul searching, but it is there, nevertheless. On October 2018, the Huffington Post wrote:

By directing billions of dollars of Saudi money into the U.S. for decades, Riyadh’s ruling family has won the support of small but powerful circles of influential Americans and courted wider public acceptance through corporate ties and philanthropy. It’s been a solid investment for a regime that relies heavily on Washington for its security but can’t make the same claims to shared values or history as other American allies like Britain. For years, spending in ways beneficial to the U.S. ― both stateside and abroad, such as its funding Islamist fighters in Afghanistan to combat the Soviet Union ― has effectively been an insurance policy for Saudi Arabia.

It means that the White House will most likely do its best not to sever relationships with Riyadh. There may be, and most likely will be, some heated exchange of words, but hardly some robust reaction, unless all this tense situation ‘provokes’ yet another ‘irrational’ move on the part of the Saudis.

The report by Huffington Post pointed out that:

One of the few traditions in American diplomacy that Trump has embraced wholeheartedly is describing weapons sales as jobs programs. The president has repeatedly said Khashoggi’s fate should not disturb the $110 billion package of arms that Trump says he got the Saudis to buy to support American industry. (Many of the deals were actually struck under Obama, and a large part of the total he’s describing is still in the form of vague statements of intent.)

Keen to keep things on track with the Saudis, arms producers often work in concert with Saudi Arabia’s army of Washington lobbyists, congressional sources say.

This is where the Western reporting stops short of telling the whole truth, and from putting things into perspective. Nobody from the mainstream media shouts: ‘There is basically no independent foreign policy of Riyadh!’

Yes, oil buys weapons that are ‘giving jobs to men and women working in the US and UK factories’, and then these weapons are used to murder men, women and children in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere; they threaten Iran, Qatar and several other countries. Oil and Western support also help to recruit terrorists for the perpetual wars desired by the West, and they also help to build thousands of lavish mosques and to convert tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere to Wahhabism, which is an extreme, Saudi-UK religious dogma. (My book Exposing Lies of the Empire. contains important chapter on this topic – “The West Manufacturing Muslim Monsters: Who Should Be Blamed for Muslim Terrorism”).

*****

Despite what many in the West think, there is hardly any love for Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. The KSA is sometimes supported, out of ignorance, commercial interests, or religious zeal, by such far-away Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, but as a rule, not by those who live ‘in the region’.

Many, if not most, in the Arab countries have already had enough of Saudi arrogance and bullying, by such monstrous acts like the war against Yemen, or implanting/supporting terrorists in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, or by recent the de facto kidnapping of the Lebanese Head of State, by moral hypocrisy and by turning holy Muslim sites into business ventures with vulgar commercialism all around them, and the clear segregation of the rich and poor.

Many Arabs hold Saudi Arabia responsible for turning an essentially socialist and egalitarian religion into what it has become now, of course, with the determined support from the West, which desires to have an obedient and rituals-oriented population all over the Muslim world, in order to control it better, while plundering, without any opposition, its natural resources. Saudi Arabia is a country with some of the greatest disparities on earth: with some of the richest elites on one hand, and widespread misery all around the entire territory. It is an ‘unloved country’, but until now, it has been ‘respected’. Mainly out of fear.

Now, the entire world is watching. Those who were indignant in silence are beginning to speak out.

Few days ago, an Indonesian maid was mercilessly executed in the KSA. Years ago, she killed her tormentor, her old ‘a patron’ who was attempting to rape her, on many occasions. But that was not reported on the front pages. After all, she was ‘just a maid’; a poor woman from a poor country.

All of us, writers and journalists all over the world, are hoping that Mr. Khashoggi (no matter what his track record was so far) is alive, somewhere, and that one day soon he will be freed. However, with each new day, the chances that it will happen are slimmer and slimmer. Now even Saudi officials admit that he was murdered.

If he was killed by Saudi agents, Mr. Khashoggi’s death may soon fully change both his country and the rest of the Middle East. He always hoped for at least some changes in his country. But most likely, he never imagined that he would have to pay the ultimate price for them.

This time, the Saudi rulers hoped for a breeze, which would disperse the smell of blood. They may now inherit the tempest.

The Saudi Arabian Model: Blueprints for Murder and Purchasing Arms

It reads like a swaying narrative of retreat.  A man’s body is subjected to a gruesome anatomical fate, his parts separated by a specially appointed saw doctor – an expert in the rapid autopsy – overseen by a distinctly large number of individuals.  Surveillance cameras had improbably failed that day.  We are not sure where, along the line, the torturers began their devilish task: the diligent beating punctuated by questions, followed by the severing of fingers, or perhaps a skipping of any formalities.  One Turkish investigator sniffing around the Saudi consulate in Istanbul saw such handiwork “like a Tarantino film.”

The result was clear enough: the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy on October 2 and never came out alive.  (Even an attempt of the gathered crew of death to procure a Khashoggi double was noted.)

For aspiring authoritarians, the Saudi state is a model instructor.  First came blanket denial to the disappearance: the Saudi authorities had no idea where the journalist had gone after October 2.  On October 18, Riyadh officially acknowledged Khashoggi’s death.  By October 21, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had come to the conclusion that this had, in fact, been murder, and a mistake. “This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had”.

Then, an improbable story of a fist fight developed through the media channels. (When one has to kill, it is best to regard the enemy as inappropriately behaved when they dare fight back.)  In the presence of 15 Saudi operatives, this was all richly incredulous – but the Kingdom does specialise in baffling and improbable cruelties.

It was clear that distancing was fundamental, hence the cultivation of the “rogue” theory, with Saudi operatives taking a merry trip off the beaten path.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was happy to pour water on the suggestion. “We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation.”  It had been executed “in a ferocious manner”.

The Turkish president has, however, danced around the issue of ultimate state sanctioned responsibility.  Neither King Salman, nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been publicly outed in any statements as either showing awareness of the killing or ordering it.  Prince MBS and his father are happy to keep it that way, severing their links with the killing as assuredly as the killers had severed the journalist’s fingers.  This is evidenced by the Crown Prince’s own labelling of the act as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor has also decided to move the case from one of accidental killing (fist fights will do that sort of thing) to one of planned murder.  A bit of cosmetic housecleaning has been taking place (another authoritarian lesson: look busy, seem engaged with heavy concern): 18 people have been arrested and two advisers sacked by the Saudi state.  The Crown Prince, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, has chaired the first meeting of a committee established to reform the country’s intelligence services.

This authoritarian blueprint also implies a staying power in the face of other states who see Saudi Arabia as cash cow and security partner.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a rich appetite for foreign arms, a point not missed on the weapons makers of the globe.  Some attrition is bound to take place: certain countries, keen to keep their human rights credentials bright and in place, will temporarily suspend arms sales.  Others will simply claim disapproval but continue leaving signatures on the relevant contracts of sale.

Some ceremonial condemnations have been registered.  Members of the European Parliament voted upon a non-binding resolution on Thursday to “impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.”  Germany, temporarily concerned, has suspended arms sales to the House of Saud, with Chancellor Angela Merkel deeming the Khashoggi killing “monstrous”. Canada’s Justin Trudeau briefly pondered what to do with a lucrative defence contract with Riyadh worth $12 billion, only to then step back.

The Canadian prime minister did acknowledge that the killing of Khashoggi “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” but has not made good any threats.  His predecessor has become the ideal alibi.  “The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract.”  Cancellation would lead to penalties which, in turn, would affect the Canadian tax payer.  How fortunate for Trudeau.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States remain the three biggest suppliers of military hardware to the kingdom, a triumvirate of competitors that complicates any effective embargo.  Which state, after all, wants to surrender market share?  It’s a matter of prestige, if nothing else.  President Donald Trump’s reaction is already clear: a suitably adjusted lid will be deployed to keep things in check till matters blow over; in the meantime, nothing will jeopardise a $110 billion arms deal.  Business with a theocracy can be patriotic.

The French angle has been reserved and coldly non-committal.  “Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context,” claimed foreign ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin, meaning that his country’s arms control policy was made on a case-by-case basis.  For France, keeping Riyadh in stiff opposition to Tehran’s regional ambitions has been a matter of importance in its Middle Eastern policy for decades, a point reiterated by President Emmanuel Macron in April.  And the Kingdom pays French arms exporters well: between 2008 and 2017, Saudi Arabia proved the second biggest purchaser of French arms (some 11 billion euros), with 2017 being a bumper year with licenses coming to 14.7 billion euros.  Riyadh can expect little change there.

Britain’s Theresa May, in the tradition of elastic British diplomacy (condemnation meets inertia), has insisted that her government already has the appropriately stringent rules on arms exports, another way of shunning any European resolution that might perch on human rights.  Such strictness evidently does not preclude the eager oil sheiks of Riyadh, though Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt did suggest the Khashoggi killing, should it “turn out to be true” would be “fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.”  Such actions are bound to be symbolic – much money has been received by the British arms industry, with earnings of £4.6 billion coming from sales to the Kingdom since the Saudi-led war on Yemen began in 2015.  Sowing death, even if through the good agency of a theocratic power, is lucrative.

The fate of Khashoggi, cruel and ghastly, seems a piddle of insignificance in that light.  “Brexit,” urged Philippe Lamberts, MEP and leader of the Group of the Greens, “must not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities.” That abdication, on the part of Britain and its arms competitors, took place sometime ago.

The Earthquake in International Alliances

• Author’s Note: (Update about the Khashoggi case, posted at end.)

America’s international alliances are transforming in fundamental ways. The likelihood of World War III is increasing, and has been increasing ever since 2012 when the U.S. first slapped Russia with the Magnitsky Act sanctions. In fact, one matter driving these changing alliances now toward unprecedented realignments is that some nations’ leaders want to do whatever they can to prevent WW III.

On October 17th, America’s Military Times bannered “Why today’s troops fear a new war is coming soon” and reported:

About 46 percent of troops who responded to the anonymous survey of currently serving Military Times readers said they believe the U.S. will be drawn into a new war within the next year. That’s a jarring increase from only about 5 percent who said the same thing in a similar poll conducted in September 2017.

Their special fear is of war against Russia and/or China: “About 71 percent of troops said Russia was a significant threat, up 18 points from last year’s survey. And 69 percent of troops said China poses a significant threat, up 24 points from last year.” The U.S. spends around half of the entire world’s military budget; and, after 9/11, has invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and perpetrated a bloody coup turning Ukraine into a rabidly anti-Russian government on Russia’s very doorstep and even an applicant for NATO membership, though in 2009, before Obama’s coup overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected Government, even U.S. media reported that “barely 25 percent of Ukrainians favor joining NATO“. After 1991 when Russia’s anti-American Warsaw Pact military alliance ended, America’s anti-Russian NATO military alliance expanded right up to Russia’s very borders. Nonetheless, these troops aren’t afraid that the U.S. is posing a threat to Russia and maybe to China, but that Russia and China are both posing threats against America; they trust their Government; it’s what they’re taught to believe. But the reality is very different. And it involves all of the “great power” relationships — not only U.S., Russia, and China.

The precipitating event for the breakup that’s now occurring in international alliances, happened on October 2nd, when Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the leader of Saudi Arabia, went into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Turkey, and disappeared.

Allegedly, the dictator of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, had Khashoggi murdered and chopped-up inside that Consulate, within no more than two hours of his entrance there. Russia announced exactly a week later, on October 9th, that Salman had just bought Russia’s world-leading S-400 anti-missile system, for $2 billion. U.S. President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress will thus now need to determine whether to slap sanctions against Saudi Arabia for that purchase of Russian weaponry, just like the U.S. has already been threatening to do to fellow-NATO-member Turkey after its leader, President Tayyip Erdogan, likewise, recently purchased S-400s. (Trump and Congress also threatened India’s Modi this way, for its purchase of several S-400s.)

But even without this Saudi S-400 purchase, some in Washington have been proposing cancellation of Saudi Arabia’s $404 billion purchase of U.S.-made weaponry, the largest armaments-sale in history, which Trump had negotiated with Salman in 2017 and which is the likeliest cause of today’s booming U.S. stock market. The news-media call it a $110 billion sale, but only the first-year of the ten-year commitment is $110 billion; the total deal is a 10-year commitment, at around $400 billion. (Though initially it had been 10 years at $350 billion, CNBC headlined nine months later, “Trump wants Saudi Arabia to buy more American-made weapons” and reported: “In the past nine months alone, the U.S. has secured $54 billion in foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia.” So, without seeing the actual signed deal to confirm with certainty, one can assume that the total now is $404 billion.) Low-balling the amount is done in order to hide the national embarrassment of the military-industrial-complex’s now being the actual basis of America’s booming stock market.

Salman’s purchase of that $2 billion Russian S-400 could place the vastly larger $404 billion U.S. arms-sale to Saudi Arabia (and America’s consequent stock-boom and full employment) even more in jeopardy than it already is. America’s two most-core Middle Eastern allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (and Israel is only a distant third, and has no other option than to do whatever the U.S. Government requires it to do), could soon become no longer U.S. allies. America’s most important international alliances have never before been in such jeopardy. Turkey is likelier to re-align with Russia than Saudi Arabia is, but even if Turkey becomes the only one to switch, that would be an earthquake in international relations. If both Turkey and Saudi Arabia go, it would be an earthquake, not just in international relations, but in world history. It could happen; and, if it does, then the reality that we know today will be gone and will become replaced by arrangements that virtually no one today is even thinking about at all.

Jamal Khashoggi, a member and champion of the Muslim Brotherhood (as is Tayyip Erdogan — which is another reason why Erdogan would be especially unlikely to relent on this matter), was a nephew of the recently deceased billionaire international-arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi; press adviser to the billionaire Saudi chief of intelligence and Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud; and, more recently, a protégé of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud (who also is a Muslim Brotherhood member). Of course, he was also a columnist for the Washington Post, which makes impossible his case being ignored in the U.S.

On 4 November 2017, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, and many other Princes and billionaires, were seized by the forces of the billionaire Prince Salman, the heir-apparent to the throne of his father, King Salman al-Saud, who is the world’s only trillionaire. What’s essential to understand is that in order for any Saud Prince (such as this Crown Prince, Salman) to become King Saud (and thus to inherit his father’s trillion-dollar-plus fortune), he must first win the approval of the nation’s Wahhab clergy or “Ulema”, and so Saudi Arabia is both a monarchy and a theocracy. There has long been a global competition between two fundamentalist-Sunni groups: the Saud-funded Al Qaeda versus the Thani-funded Muslim Brotherhood. Ever since the Saud family and the Wahhab clergy agreed in 1744 to take control of all Arabs and to convert or  kill all Shia, the Sauds have been (and are) anti-Shia and insist upon fundamentalist Sunni rule.

Al Qaeda represents the Wahhabist and Saud view, which advocates elimination of Shiites and accepts hereditary monarchy as the power to impose Sunni Islamic law and rejects democracy; the Muslim Brotherhood represents instead the more tolerant Thani view, which accepts Shia and also accepts imposition of Islamic law by means of democracy, and not only by means of dynasty. Both Prince and King Salman hate the Shia-accepting Muslim Brotherhood, whose top funder is the competing Thani family, who own Qatar; the Thanis don’t hate democracy and Shiites and Iran enough to suit the Sauds and especially the Salmans. They’re not sufficiently anti-Iran and anti-Shiite and anti-democracy.

Khashoggi had explained why he shared the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideals: “We were hoping to establish an Islamic state anywhere. We believed that the first one would lead to another, and that would have a domino effect which could reverse the history of mankind.” He was out to save the world by making it a fundamentalist Sunni world, somehow without using terrorism to do it. Like him, the Thanis and Erdogan don’t share such extreme extremism as the Sauds demand.

Furthermore, On October 16th, Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair bannered “How Jamal Khashoggi Fell Out with Bin Salman“, and he wrote that Khashoggi had told him, back in March, that the reason he had turned against Prince Salman, and why the Washington Post had hired him, was what had happened on 4 November 2017: “‘When the arrests started happening, I flipped. I decided it was time to speak,’ he told me. Khashoggi subsequently landed a column in The Washington Post.” Furthermore, Khashoggi told Sherman, “The people M.B.S. arrested were not radicals. The majority were reformers for women’s rights and open society. He arrested them to spread fear. He is replacing religious intolerance with political closure.” This was the difference between Al Qaeda versus the Muslim Brotherhood.

The competition between, on the one hand, the pro-Muslim-Brotherhood Thanis and Erdogan, versus the pro-Al-Qaeda Sauds, UAE and Kuwait, on the other; is forcing the U.S. to choose between those two sides, or else even possibly lose both of them and even to go instead with Shia Islam as America’s Muslim partners. The biggest U.S. military bases in the Middle East are Al Udeid in the Thanis’ Qatar, and Incirlik in Turkey. Both of those are Muslim Brotherhood Sunni territory, not Al Qaeda Sunni territory. The U.S. under Trump has been more pro-Al-Qaeda (pro-Saud) than the U.S. had been under Obama, but doesn’t want to lose those bases. (President Obama had supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in Egypt. But he also vetoed the congressional bill for investigating whether the Sauds had done 9/11. He wanted friends on both sides of the Sunni divide. But he killed Al Qaeda’s founding leader, bin Laden. And yet he continued being staunchly pro Al Qaeda against Russia.)

Turkey has been a U.S. ally through its membership (since 1952) in the NATO anti-Russia alliance. Saudi Arabia has been a U.S. ally since a major 1938 Rockefeller oil-discovery there, and especially since U.S. President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s switched gold for oil as the physical basis for the dollar’s value in international commerce. But for both of these till-now U.S. allies to be buying the world’s best anti-missile system from the very same country that the U.S. aristocracy has secretly been trying ultimately to conquer even after the U.S.S.R. and its Warsaw Pact military alliance and its communism all ended in 1991, is a shock, and an insult, to America’s aristocracy (the billionaires), coming from two of their most important former allies.

What is at stake now is not only the value-basis of the U.S. dollar and the continuance of America’s NATO alliance against Russia, but, more basically than either, is the full realization of the dream by Cecil Rhodes in 1877 and of George Soros today, for a unified and all-inclusive UK-U.S. empire to become ruler over the entire world — the first-ever all-encompassing global empire. Britain importantly bonded King Saud and his familiy to its Empire at the time of World War 1against the Ottoman Empire. That was the Sauds’ alliance against Turkey’s empire. After World War II, U.S. became the leader of this joint UK-U.S. empire, as Rhodes had expected ultimately to happen. Ever since 2000, Erdogan has been scheming to restore Turkey’s role as the world’s primary Islamic empire, and so to squelch the Saud family’s aspirations to achieve dominance over global Islam. Ever since 1744, the Saud family has been trying to achieve that dominance as being the fundamentalist-Sunni champion against the fundamentalist-Shiite leadership since 1979 in Iran. But, now, the Sunni Sauds’ main competitor might no longer be Shiite Iran, but instead turn out to be Sunni Turkey after all — which had been the Sauds’ main enemy at the very start of the 20th Century.

What will the U.S. do, as the collapse of its aristocracy’s dream of global conquest after the fall of communism, is now gathering force even to bring into question such key former allies of America’s aristocracy, as Turkey, and as the world’s richest family (by far) the Saud family (the owners of Saudi Arabia)?

Perhaps the Sauds are making this stunning weapons-purchase from Russia because the prominent critic of the Sauds, Saudi citizen (and nephew of the global arms-merchant Adnan Khashoggi) Jamal Khashoggi, was recorded by loads of hidden cameras and audio recording devices including the watch and cellphone of the victim Jamal Khashoggi himself, as he was being murdered and chopped-up inside the Saudi Embassy in Constantinople-Istanbul when seeking papers that were required in order for him to marry his Turkish fiancé — as the Turkish Government now claims. This is an incident that reverberates hugely against the more-than-a-century-long goal of the UK-U.S. aristocracies for those billionaires to take control over the entire world — including Russia.

Erdogan got shaken to resist the UK-U.S. alliance, when on 15 July 2016, there was a coup-attempt against him which endangered his life. The UK-U.S.’s establishments kept the coup-attempt’s very existence almost hidden in their media for several days, because the attempt had failed and the ‘news’-media hadn’t received instructions on how to report what had just happened — the usual CIA-MI6 pipelines ‘informing’ them were probably silent, because those sources were prepared only for delivering the storyline for a successful coup, and it hadn’t been successful — it instead failed.

So, for example, UK’s Independent headlined on July 18th, “Turkey coup attempt: Rebel jets had Erdogan’s plane in their sights but did not fire, officials claim“. ‘Why they didn’t fire is a mystery,’ former military officer says,” and they raised the question in their report of whether this had actually been a coup-attempt or instead an event that had been planned by the Erdogan regime in order for him then to be enabled to impose martial law so as to eliminate his political opponents: “Conspiracy theorists are saying the attempted military coup was faked, comparing it to the Reichstag fire – the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building used by Hitler as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests of his opponents.” If you then click onto that “attempted military coup was faked”, you will come to this same newspaper’s report, dated July 16th, which was headlined “Turkey coup: Conspiracy theorists claim power grab attempt was faked by Erdogan“. It’s unusual for an Establishment news-medium to provide any sort of credence to the possibility that a false-flag event has occurred, but if the empire’s intelligence services were providing no information, then even an Establishment ‘news’-medium can do such a thing — anything in order to pretend to have news that’s worthy of publishing about an important event.

But also on July 18th, yet another Establishment ‘news’-medium, Newsweek, headlined “Putin Calls Erdogan to Voice Support for Order in Turkey” and used this event as an opportunity to publicize a statement by an expelled Russian billionaire who had actually been expelled because he had cheated Russia on his tax-returns. Newsweek hid that fact. This supposed billionaire-champion of democracy was there approvingly quoted in a passage: “Many in Russia drew parallels between Erdogan and Putin, hinting Putin may fear mutiny in his own ranks. ‘Well done Turkey,’ Putin rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky tweeted as news of the coup broke on Friday.” (That’s “Putin rival,” instead of billionaire tax-crook. Brainwashing is done that way.) Every possible anti-Russian angle to this attempted coup was pursued: the angle here was the failed coup had been attempted for the sake of ‘democracy’.

On July 21st, Al-Araby headlined “Russia ‘warned Erdogan about coup’ moments before assassination attempt“, and reported that:

Russian intelligence warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that factions within the army were planning a coup – possibly saving the Turkish leader’s life – Iranian state media has alleged. Moscow reportedly received “highly sensitive army exchanges and encoded radio messages showing that the Turkish army was readying to stage a coup”, Fars News Agency said, citing Arab sources.

An unnamed Turkish diplomatic source confirmed that intelligence services “received intel from its Russian counterpart that warned of an impending coup”. Russian spies … informed Ankara that several military helicopters were dispatched to Erdogan’s hotel to “arrest or kill him”.

The CIA edits, and on some matters, even writes, Wikipedia articles; and their article on the “2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt” says nothing at all about this advance-notice by Putin — the key fact about the event, if it’s true. They don’t even mention it as something that might have happened (and which would explain even much that Wikipedia’s article does report). Is this absence because the CIA thinks that it’s not true, or because the CIA knows that it is true and perhaps also that the CIA itself was involved in the coup-attempt and so wants to keep this fact out of their account and out of the public’s consciousness altogether?

Also on July 21st, Alexander Mercouris, who is deeply knowledgeable about international relations, headlined at his The Duran, “Why Reports of the Russian Tip Off to Erdogan May Be True“, and he presented a stunning case, which could more accurately have been headlined “Why Reports of the Russian Tip Off to Erdogan Are Almost Certainly True.”

I further have documented its extreme likelihood, headlining at Strategic Culture Foundation on August 18th, “What Was Behind the Turkish Coup-Attempt?” But, of course, Wikipedia doesn’t link to sites such as The Duran, or Strategic Culture Foundation, because a controlled news-and-information system-environment is essential to the effective functioning of any dictatorship (and also see this and this, with yet further documentation that the U.S. is no democracy at all).

So ever since 15 July 2016, Turkey has been veering away from the U.S. and toward Russia, in its national-security policies.

But the only major prior indication that the Sauds might do likewise was when the Sauds’ intelligence-chief, head of the National Intelligence Council, and former U.S. Ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, secretly met with Putin in Moscow on 31 July 2013 in order to try to pry Russia away from protecting the Governments of both Syria and Iran — Bandar even told Putin, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the [upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic] games are controlled by us.” Bandar also promised to buy up to $15 billion of Russian-made weapons, if Putin would abandon protection of the sovereignty of the Syrian and Iranian Governments. Putin said no. Bandar was the long-time friend of Israel who had donated heavily to Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks, even out of his personal account. He was especially close to both U.S. President Bushes.

The Trump arms-deal with Saudi Arabia is enormous — $404 billion over ten years — and it very much is at stake now because of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. America’s ‘news’-media hide this reality.

For example, the 16 October 2018 NPR “Morning Edition” program headlined “Trump Says He Won’t Scrap Arms Deal Over Missing Saudi Journalist” and host Steve Inskeep diminished the importance of Trump’s enormous arms-deal with Saudi Arabia. Inskeep interviewed a supposed expert on international arms-sales. He asked her about Saudi Arabia, whether they are “a really lucrative market for weapons” and she said “Arms sales aren’t this lucrative big deal for the United States,” because “arms sales are a pretty inefficient employment mechanism,” which wasn’t even relevant to answering the question that had been asked. She went on to say they’re not lucrative because “sometimes weapons are given on grant or on favorable credit terms,” but that too was irrelevant but just pointed to the fact that the U.S. taxpayer is often subsidizing those extremely lucrative — for the weapons-firms — transactions. Her answer ignored that Lockheed Martin etc. benefit just the same; only taxpayers lose when it’s subsidized.

Inskeep: “You’re saying that there aren’t actually many jobs at stake?” She answered: “That’s what we’ve seen in the past.” But she again falsified, because what the econometric studies actually show is that armaments-expenditures produce less economic growth than non-‘defense’ spending does. (In fact, in the U.S., military spending actually decreases long-term GDP-growth.) Yet still, adding $404 billion to U.S. manufacturing sales in any field (‘defense’ or otherwise) is an enormous short-term boost. (Inskeep and his guest never even mentioned the amount, $404 billion in this deal; the program was geared to idiots and to keeping them such. It was geared to deceive.) Both the questioner and the ‘expert’ were geared toward hiding the basic reality, certainly not to explaining it.

Trump’s largest boost to U.S. GDP thus far has been that $404 billion arms-sale he made to Prince Salman in 2017. It caused stock-values of those armaments-firms to soar, and will (unless cancelled) produce an enormous number of new jobs in the U.S. making those weapons, once the specific contracts have become finalized. But the boosts to armaments-makers’ stock values are already evident. And yet not once in that segment was it mentioned that the Saudi deal was for $404 billion of U.S.-made weapons over a ten-year period. That sale dwarfs any previous weapons-sale in history. NPR simply lied; they deceived their audience. One might say it’s instead because of incompetence on their part, but those program-hosts and producers and guests are hired and engaged and retained because they possess this kind of ‘incompetence’. It’s no mistake, and it is systematic throughout the mainstream Western ‘news’-media. It is lying ‘news’-media. So, as a result, the American public cannot understand U.S.-Saudi relations and other matters that are basic understandings by and for the aristocracy. These are propaganda-media, not news-media.

In fact, just the day earlier, on October 15th, NPR had even headlined Fact Check: How Much Does Saudi Arabia Spend On Arms Deals With The U.S.?” The sub-head was “President Trump says he does not want to endanger what he describes as a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. But the actual figure is considerably lower.” They reported that, “Since Donald Trump has been president, the United States and Saudi Arabia have concluded less than $4-billion-worth of arms agreements.” No mention was made of the $350 billion figure, much less of the $404 billion one. It’s as if the agreements didn’t exist. (At the time of the signing of the ten-year arms-deal, the video, which starts with Trump signing some documents, shows that the Saud Government stated at 3:03 that the deal was for “an investment of more than $480 billion dollars” some of which was non-military, and at 3:15 it says that the deal will “provide hundreds of thousands of jobs” to the United States. Specific congratulations were given there as contracts were being handed to CEOs and Chairmen of Raytheon, General Electric, Dow Chemical, and other corporations.) Of course, the U.S. Government could have been lying, and the deal could have been different from what the PR says. But that’s not the type of lie which NPR alleged here. Anyone nowadays who trusts what either the U.S. Government or its news-media say, is trusting demonstrably untrustworthy sources — and this too is not the type of lying (their own lying) that NPR says exists. They just lie.

Saudi Arabia’s purchase now of Russia’s S-400 does indicate that the U.S. aristocracy might lose their most important foreign ally, the Saud family, and that international relations could transform in transformative ways, not just superficially. It’s only a sign, but what it signals is enormously significant — and U.S. ‘news’-media are hiding it.

The General Manager of the Saud family’s Al Arabya international TV channel that was established in order to compete against the Thani family’s Al Jazeera international TV channel, issued stark warnings to the U.S., on Sunday, October 14th. Headlining “US sanctions on Riyadh would mean Washington is stabbing itself,” he closed: “If Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh!” In between those were: The Kingdom is considering “more than 30 potential measures to be taken against the imposition of sanctions on Riyadh.” Included among them are: the price of oil “jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure.” Also “a Russian military base in Tabuk, northwest of Saudi Arabia.” More realistically, however, he threatened: “An oil barrel may be priced in a different currency, Chinese yuan, perhaps, instead of the dollar. And oil is the most important commodity traded by the dollar today.” And, he did not miss this one, either:

It will not be strange that Riyadh would stop buying weapons from the US. Riyadh is the most important customer of US companies, as Saudi Arabia buys 10 percent of the total weapons that these US companies produce, and buys 85 percent from the US army which means what’s left for the rest of the world is only five percent; [and that’s] in addition to the end of Riyadh’s investments in the US government which reaches $800 billion.

For the very first time publicly, a mouthpiece for the Saud family has now said publicly that the U.S. doesn’t control the Saudi Government; the Saudi Government controls the U.S.

If the relationship between the Saud family and the U.S. is the relationship between a dog and its tail, which is which? Perhaps Cecil Rhodes, were he to return, would be so shocked, he’d have a heart-attack and die a second time.

UPDATE: As this is being written, on October 19th, there has been speculation that the Saudi Government is planning to admit that individual(s) in it had made bad errors, which tragically ended in a botched interrogation of Khashoggi at the Consulate in Istanbul. This response would not be credible in any case, because of the long history, going back decades, of prominent potential opponents of the Saud family being inexplicably disappeared and never heard from (or about) again. For one example, the headline from this past May 30th, six months ago, remains current news, as of even today: “Nawaf al Rasheed, son of Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz al Rasheed, disappeared since May 12 Deportation to Saudi Arabia“.

And, going back to before Crown Prince Salman, to the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing ‘suspects’, all of them simply disappeared, never to be heard from (or about) again — no public trial, nothing at all. There are many such cases, of many different kinds. This is normal Saudi practice — not abnormal at all. What is abnormal is that Jamal Khashoggi had just been hired by perhaps the world’s second-wealthiest person, Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, to write articles against the Crown-Prince son, and future heir, of overwhelmingly the world’s wealthiest person, King Salman. That’s what is different from those such prior instances.

• First published at strategic-culture.org

Embassy Disappearances: Jamal Khashoggi and the Foreign Policy Web

Do this outside. You will put me into trouble.

— Mohammad al-Otaibi, Saudi consul, to Saudi agents, Istanbul, October 2, 2018

It smells, but anything wedged between the putrefaction of Saudi foreign policy, the ambition of Turkish bellicosity, and the US muddling middleman is bound to.  Three powers tussling over image and appearance; all engaged in a wrestle over how best to seem the least hypocritical.  US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi already seems to have found his name into the books of martyred dissidents, but we have no body, merely an inflicted disappearance suggesting a gruesome murder.

The journalist, a notable critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen on October 2 entering the residence of the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul, ostensibly to obtain a document necessary for his upcoming nuptials.  A senior Turkish official put forth a brutal scenario on Wednesday based on obtained audio recordings.  Saudi operatives, probably numbering 15 from the intelligence services and the Royal Guards, were waiting for Khashoggi’s arrival at 1.15 pm.  Within a matter of minutes, Khashoggi was dead, decapitated, dismembered, his fingers removed.  The entire operation took two hours.

The New York Times pondered how the brutality was inflicted.  “Whether Mr. Khashoggi was killed before his fingers were removed and his body dismembered could not be determined.”  The Saudi consul Mohammad al-Otaibi was revealed to be squeamish and worried, suggesting the agents ply their craft elsewhere.  The reply from one of the company was curt and unequivocal: “If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up.”  A Saudi doctor of forensics, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, a worthy addition to the crew, got to work disposing of the body.  His advice to any companions feeling wobbly: listen to music, soothe the savage breast.

A danse macabre has developed between the various power players.  US president Donald Trump has asked his Turkish counterparts for any audio or video evidence that might shed light on the journalist’s fate.  To date, these have been drip fed with tantalising timing, disturbing the White House’s neat and comfortable acceptance of the account put forth by Riyadh.  But Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an individual never shy to exploit a jingoistic moment, has remained cautiously reticent.

This is where the world of image, supposition, and make-believe, comes into play.  The procuring of evidence is being resisted.  Trump asks, but does not expect any. The Turkish side, thus far, supplies crumbs, finding their way into selected news outlets such as the Daily Yeni Şafak.  Trump, for his part, remains non-committal, even indifferent to what might emerge.  “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, probably does.”

The picture is patchy, gathered from audio surveillance, intercepted communications and a miscellany of sources, but on this point, Ankara remains ginger.  US intelligence officials have so far suggested that circumstantial evidence on the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed is growing.

Trump’s game with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of hedging and hoping: hedging on the issue of blood-linked complicity, and hoping that the sordid matter will simply evaporate in the ether of the next event.  “I just want to find out what’s happening,” he deflected. “I’m not giving cover at all.” But he has again fallen victim to the characteristic, off colour corker: allegations against the Saudis might be analogously seen with those of sexual assault against now confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent.  I don’t like that.  We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also shown a marked reluctance to go near any details, telling the press that any facts on Khashoggi will not be discussed.

Politicians in the United States have been attempting to add tears and remorse to the equation, though these dry quickly.  Rep. Eric Swalwell Jr. from California suggested that the explanations were needless. “If someone was killed in your home, while you were in it, and 15 days later you’re still coming up with an explanation… forget it.  We already know.”  US Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch are chewing over the prospect that Khashoggi’s fate might have been occasioned by an “interrogation gone wrong”.

The one person to again blow the cover off any niceties, to destroy the façade of propriety in what is otherwise a grizzly affair is the US president. He has avoided funereal respects and regrets. He has avoided referencing any idyllic notions of a free press.  The all-powerful dollar and arms sales remain paramount.  “You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales… we cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.”  And just to show that a love of God and the foetus won’t deter evangelicals from embracing a ghoulish Arab theocracy, Pat Robertson has added his hearty support. “For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis – look, these people are our allies.”

Whatever happens regarding Khashoggi, the relationship between Washington and Riyadh is assured.  Turkey, from first signs, is avoiding open confrontation.  Murder, alleged or otherwise, can take place in certain circumstances, however brazenly executed. The brutality against Khashoggi, should it ever come to be properly aired, is but another footnote in the program of a kingdom indifferent to suffering, from the saw doctor to the jet.  And business remains business.

Syria and the S-300s: Re-Centering the People in the Global Struggles for Power

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world [….] No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much less dissent.
— Gore Vidal, A View from the Diner’s Club, 1991

One of the most amusing elements of the current anti-Russian hysteria produced by U.S. state/corporate propagandists is the notion that Russia is this bold, aggressive challenger to “U.S. and Western interests” when the reality has always been the opposite. In the tumultuous period after the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Russian Federation emerged as the dominate power under the leadership of the clownish Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian capitalist oligarchy that developed during that period and expanded under the leadership of Vladimir Putin has always just wanted to be part of the global capitalist game. They had demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to cooperate with the agenda of Western powers.  However, they wanted to be respected with their regional interests recognized.

But as result of greed, hubris and just plain incompetence, U.S. policy-makers, especially the amateurs running foreign policy during the Obama years, pushed the Russians out of their preferred zone of caution in international affairs, with Syria being exhibit A. Forcing the Russians hand in Syria was followed by the Ukraine when the U.S. sparked a coup in that nation as the second front against Russian “intervention” in Syria.

So it was quite comical to see how the announcement that Russia will deliver the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government was met with feigned horror by U.S. and NATO forces. This decision was taken after the U.S. allowed or didn’t stop the Israeli Air Force from playing games that resulted in a Russia cargo plane being shot out of the air by Syrian ground defenses who mistook the Russia plane for an Israeli aircraft.

Without an adequate air defense system capable of covering the entire nation and strategic territories within Syria, the Israeli Air Force has had almost unimpeded access to Syria air space during the Syrian war to attack military forces associated with the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the Iranian state.

Yet in their zeal to push out anti-Russian propaganda, the state/corporate propagandists in the U.S.  exposed once again Russia’s conservatism and acquiensce to the global colonial U.S./EU/NATO agenda. While the headlines screamed traitor at Turkish President Erdogan for concluding a deal for the Russian S-400, the most advanced system the Russians are selling on the open market, very few seemed to have noticed that those wily, evil Russians that were propping up their partner in Syria hadn’t even delivered on the S-300 sale to the Syrian state that had been concluded five years ago!

The Russians said that they failed to deliver the system that the Syrians purchased due to a request from the Israeli government in 2013. This decision took place a year after the debacle of Geneva I, the United Nations sponsored conference to resolve the Syrian War, where the Russians appeared ready to abandon Assad as long as the Syrian state was maintained, and their interests protected.  Getting rid of Assad but maintaining the Syrian state was also U.S. policy at the time.

However, instead of a negotiated settlement in which the Russians would play a role, the Obama administration rejected Geneva I believing that it could topple the government in Syria through its jihadist proxies. The U.S. knew that those elements were never going to be allowed to govern the entire nation but that was the point. The Syrian state was slated to be balkanized with its territory divided and a permanent presence by the U.S. directly on the ground. Those forces in Syria would be bolstered by the thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq that had been reintroduced as a result of the U.S. reinvasion supposedly to fight ISIS – that it helped to create.

Although the Russian position on Assad came out just a year after the Chinese and Russians gave the green light to the U.S. and NATO to launch a vicious war on Libya is old news, it points out how in the global game of power relations the peoples of the former colonial world continue to lose. The Russians, like the Chinese, have demonstrated repeatedly their willingness to collaborate with the U.S. and the “Western colonialist alliance,” even as successive U.S. administrations have singled them out, along with Iran and Venezuela, as geostrategic threats to U.S. global hegemony.

This observation is not meant to be another Russia and China bashing that plays into the hands of the reactionaries driving U.S. policies who see military conflict with those two nations as inevitable. Instead what is being argued here is the absolute necessity for African/Black people and oppressed peoples and nations to be clear about the international correlation and balance of forces and competing interests at play so that “we” the people are not confused regarding our objective interests.

Russian intervention in Syria was not as cynical as the U.S. and Western European powers, which knew from the beginning that “progressive” forces in Syria could not win a military conflict. Nevertheless, they encouraged those forces to engage in military opposition while the U.S. and its allies decided to back various Islamist forces – not for democratic change – but to destroy the Syrian state.

Maintaining an independent, critical perspective on the national and global dispensation of social forces means not having any illusions about the world and the national, class and racial politics in play. We need to be clear that supporting Syria’s attempt to assert full sovereignty over its territory was only a secondary concern for the Russians. The back seat given to the Syrian government in the negotiations between Russia, Iran, and Turkey regarding Idlib confirms that. Protecting Russian interests in Syria and the Mid-East was and is the driving force for Russian military and diplomatic activity, nothing else!

The delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria resembles the Russia cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Turkey on the Turkish Afrin operation, which was basically an invasion of Syria by Turkey in order to establish a “buffer zone”.  These are all decisions based on the objective interests of Russia and secondarily the interests of the Syrian government.

It remains to be seen how the deployment of the S-300’s will alter the situation on the ground in Syria. It would not be surprising if the deployment was limited and only covered the territory around Latakia, the site of the Russian air base and close to its warm-water port. It may not be in Russia’s interests to allow the Syria government the means to block Israeli intrusions into Syrian air space. If the Syrian government had the ability to really ensure the security of its national territory from Israeli intrusions, it could mean that Russia would have less leverage over the Syrian government to force a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. Additionally, the land corridor and security of the “Islamic pipeline” between Iran, Iraq and Syria could be secured that may not be necessarily conducive for maintaining Russia’s share of the energy market in Europe.

The U.S. and Israel overplayed their cards and made a strategic blunder by precipitating the shooting down of the Russian cargo plane. Although National Security Adviser John Bolton claims that the decision to supply Syrian forces with the S-300 is a “significant escalation,” the escalation really took place in 2012 when the Obama administration decided to allow U.S. vassal states to significantly increase military support for radical Islamic forces. Michael Flynn revealed this as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – something the Obama forces never forgot.

Syria has been a difficult object lesson for the left that has had a devastating consequence for the people of that embattled nation. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been displaced primarily because left and progressive forces lacked the organizational, but more importantly, the ideological, political, and moral clarity to mount an opposition to the machinations of their national bourgeoisie in Europe and the U.S.  The very idea that the bourgeois leadership of their respective states might have some benevolent justifications for military intervention in Syria revealed a dangerous nationalist sentimentality that is driving the left version of white supremacist national chauvinism.

Before the dramatic rightist turn of the left in the U.S. and Europe over the last two decades, the left – at least much of the Marxist-Leninist left – opposed Western imperialist intervention out of a theoretical and principled commitment to the national-colonial question in the global South. As citizens in “oppressor nations,” opposing their own bourgeoisie’s interventions into oppressed nations was seen as a responsibility for the left and indeed was a measurement of what was actually an authentic left position.

That stance has virtually disappeared.

The first response by the Western left to plans or actual interventions by their nation’s ruling class is a strange conversation regarding rather or not the intervention is justified or not based on the nature of the government being toppled by the intervention.

For those of us who are members of oppressed peoples and nations, it is quite obvious that without independent organizations and global solidarity structures buttressed by the few progressive states that exist on the planet, we cannot depend on any bourgeois state to really care about our humanity or on the radical or left forces in Northern nations to put a brake on repression and intervention against non-Europe states and peoples.

The bloodletting will continue in Syria. Candidate Trump raised some serious questions about the wisdom of U.S. policies in Syria and indicated that he might be willing to reverse U.S. involvement. But President Trump surrendered to the pressure from the foreign policy establishment and the warmongering corporate press. Instead of extricating the U.S., the administration announced a few weeks ago that the U.S. will essentially engage in an illegal and indefinite occupation in Syria.

There is reasonable doubt that Israel and the U.S. will allow the deployment of the S-300s even if the Russians followed through with the delivery. Which means the possibility of another dangerous escalation in the conflict at any moment. It also means why despite one’s opinion about the nature of any government’s internal situation, it is important to reaffirm and defend the principles of national sovereignty and international law in opposition to the arbitrary and illegal interventions to effect a change in government by any outside forces.

The people’s movements for social justice and human rights around the world must not allow the people to be drawn into the machinations and contradictory struggles and conflicts between essentially capitalist blocs, which include the Russians and the state-capitalism of China. This is not to suggest a moral or political equalization between the emergence of capitalist Russia and China and the systematic degradation unleashed on the world by the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project that emerged in 1492 with the invasion of the “Americas.” That would be a perversion of history and divert us from the primary global contradiction and target: The Western capitalist alliance and the corporate and finance oligarchy at its center.

In the competition between blocs and the real possibility of global conflict, we must be vigilant not to repeat the tragic mistake made before the first world war when workers enthusiastically signed up as cannon fodder in the clash of capitalist empires. Imperialist war really is a class issue!

Totalitarian capitalist domination is not a figment of our imaginations, it is real. Penetrating the ideological mystifications that divert us away from the matrix of power that distorts consciousness and renders the people as collaborators in their own subjection is the task of the moment.

The global order is changing, the only question is what will emerge. Will the new order be a multipolar one dominated by emerging capitalist states or will a new transitional order develop that is oriented toward an association of states and people’s movements moving toward authentic de-colonization, ecological rationality, and socialist construction?

There is still time for the people to choose.

The Left and Wiggle Room

Jeux!

Patrick Cockburn’s recent article is one example of why I read CounterPunch less often than I used to.  Or, at the least, why I have become more critical of their editorial stance.  With this article, I have the impression I’m reading a Bernie Sanders speech, of being Judas-goated into the camp of what I consider a kind of useless caviar Left.  While maybe not as bad as The Guardian (I prefer OffGuardian), there are too many weasel words, phrases, and statements that reek of Establishment consensus.  That if you’re going to refer to the head-chopping proxies, armed and funded by the US and its good buddies, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and other assorted vassals, as “rebels” rather than the paid lieutenants of the criminal gang in DC, London, Riyadh or Paris, you’re basically saying it’s okay to murder at arm’s length, to somehow plausibly deny any real, true, strong connection to the crime or the perpetrators.  Plausible Deniability being spook-speak for basically lying, when timidly asked, about any crime they’ve just committed.

Here’s one example:

Pundits are predictably sceptical about the agreement reached by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on Monday to head off an imminent offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces directed against rebels in Idlib province.

See what I mean?  No qualifications or explanations of who these “rebels” are or why they are there.  If they’re “rebels”, they must be the good guys, right?  We all love a “rebel” when he’s creating mayhem in another country or in some movie theatre.  That statement is also a subliminal reminder that if they’re “rebels”, they must be “rebelling” against something, and that  “something” must be bad, hinting that Assad must be bad, even though words like “brutal dictator” or “thug” weren’t used.  This time.

*****

And speaking of “brutal dictators” or “thugs”, it’s pretty obvious that the US is now, as has been for quite a while, a dictatorship, and a brutal one, at that.  As are most of its allies/vassals in the West and elsewhere to differing degrees.  We’ve even got our own murderous “proxy army” right here in the “Homeland”.  It’s called the Police, who go around murdering with impunity, armed with surplus military gear.  How many homeless, uninsured, hungry, and dubiously incarcerated (modern day slaves, working in private prisons) do we have?  Do you think that minuscule percentage of the people (or their paid hitmen/women in Congress – Oligarch money put them there in the first place) who actually run things give a rat’s ass about any of this?  That’s what they do.  All of them.  They look around the entire planet to find (or create the necessary conditions for creating) the weakest possible “enemies”:  People who just want to be left alone to figure out their own futures, on their own terms, who don’t have imperial aspirations or the military means of carrying them forward even if they wanted to, but, for most part, don’t.  They’d rather spend what means they have on their own populations.  Call that behaviour what you will, but it certainly doesn’t include a blind obedience to the diktats of the Money Men and their military enforcers.

*****

But our “Left” editors at CP have a difficult time of saying that up front.  The term “rebel” also supports the claim/point of view that the conflict in Syria is a “civil” war.  It’s total nonsense, but here it is:

The Syrian civil war long ago ceased to be a struggle fought out by local participants. Syria has become an arena where foreign states confront each other, fight proxy wars and put their strength and influence to the test. 

“Long ago”, Patrick?  It was never a “civil” war.  In fact, no wars are “civil”, but that’s kind of beside the point here.  The conflict in Syria was aided and abetted, if not instigated, by the US and its local (and not so local, but closer to the scene, allies; i.e., France and the UK, the FUK of FUKUS) allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, two theocratic states who hate the idea of having a secular, tolerant, independent state in their neighbourhood, especially one friendly to/allied with other independent states like Russia and Iran.

Why can’t you say that?  Why can’t anyone, except for belittled independent journalists (Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett come to mind) let us know what’s really going on?  What really happened?

It’s a sad day when we we are pretty much denied by the MSM the reports of a couple of female journalists who apparently were really “there”, on the ground, as they say, and all the while tout the female #metoo movement.  There’s no coherency in all this.  But, yes, I’m giving too much credit to the #metoo movement, and all the cat fights that ensue.  Still, it takes up too much space in whatever media space you choose.

On to other stuff.

Then we have the term “arena” used as a descriptor for an invasion.  As if we’re sitting in the stands in the Colosseum watching an entertainment or in one of the corporate-sponsored arenas of the NBA.  War has suddenly morphed into spectacle and sport.  This kind of linguistic sleight of hand is clever and maybe downright deliberate.  But maybe he couldn’t come up with a better way of stating it.  Just goes to show how the whole idea of “otherness” and spectacle have come to invade the consciousness of much of the so-called Left.

There is a striking note of imperial self-confidence about the document in which all sides in the Syrian civil war are instructed to come to heel.

“Imperial self-confidence”?   Do you see what I mean?  It’s a ”document”.  Not an invasion.  There’s absolutely nothing “imperial” about it.  It’s an open declaration of what they see as a solution to a problem.  In other words, “Here’s what we’d like to do, given the circumstances.”  It’s an invitation to dialog, not a pre-emptive invasion.

And then, here we go again:

Moscow helped Assad secure his rule after the popular uprising in 2011 and later ensured his ultimate victory by direct military intervention in 2015.

“Popular uprising”?  Right, just like the vicious coup in Ukraine was a “popular uprising”?  The US supposed, I guess, that the Syrians were just as venal as the Ukrainians.  Or, if they had figured out that Syria would be a harder nut to crack, why not just simply create a reason to send money, arms, and the cooperation of its ideological opponents to do the dirty work?  Not the same situation at all.  But Cockburn would have us accept these fairy tales that anyone who hints that they might want to make an independent decision must be categorised as a dictator, a thug, someone who needs to be punished, not by his own people, but by the US.  By proxy, of course.  Can’t forget that.

And then there’s this “direct military intervention”.  As if Russia simply decided, unilaterally, that enough was enough.  Assad asked, invited, if not begged for Russia to help him out.  They are allies, after all.  Again, not quite the same thing.  Cockburn may believe all his nonsense, or he’s being very careful not to upset too many “humanitarian intervention” Lefties who still believe that Assad is a “thug” or whatever, as probably a good many of his readers, and those of CounterPunch do.

  … but politicians and commentators continue to blithely recommend isolating Russia and pretend that it can be safely ignored.

Again, “safely ignored”?  Then what about all the Russophobia constantly hyped by the MSM?  That’s not what I’d call ignoring something.  The architects for total world dominance by the US and its vassals (or should I say Israeli-US dominance?) are probably shaking in their collective boots at the new geo-political reality staring them in the face.  It’s not what I’d call “blithely recommending”, but it might pass for UK diplomatic-speak saying, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” Or, on the other hand, it could mean, “We have to do something, quickly, anything (does the Skripal case come to mind?), to turn this thing around.  Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s a total fabrication.  We’ll use our tried and true method of simply repeating our version, ‘creating our own reality’ as the Yanks are so fond of doing.”

Plus, Russia doesn’t need to show the world it’s a power player.  It has been since Mr Putin began turning Russia away from, in Matt Taibbi’s words, “the vampire squid”.  Granted, he hasn’t quite succeeded completely, has had his setbacks, but without spending trillions, he has stymied the overthrow of yet another middle eastern nation.  At least for the moment.  Things could get nasty.

If you read the entire article carefully, you’ll find all kinds of these little hidden exits where the author can argue pretty much anything, if you were to put the question to him.  It’s the intent, deliberate or not, that I have a hard time swallowing.  Too much wiggle room.

I’d like to add that Jonathan Cook has just written, in my view, two excellent analyses of the interplay of media and socio-political consciousness.  Must read.  The articles to which I am referring are here and here.

My problem is, when reading an article like this, I have the impression of submitting to a lecture by someone conveniently “left”, and of a certain stature, who can be trotted out when necessary.  Not a pleasant feeling (and yes, I admit that “feelings” are counter-productive, or not necessarily the best lens through which you can examine any particular phenomenon, in some sense, because marketing depends mostly on emotions) in that I sense a lack of empathy, a certain comfortable distance from what is actually happening.  Some may call it “objective reporting”.  But it affects me as a subtle sort of propaganda.  It reinforces the “us against them” paradigm but in this “imperialistic” manner, if I may say.  I refer to my “spectator” reference above.  We’re invited to see this from afar, as if we were pushing around armies on a map.  Cook’s argument, that we need to step back from the screen in order to see the big picture, does, in no way, contradict what I’m trying to say.

In other words, to use Cook’s analogy of being scrunched up against the IMAX screen so we can’t interpret the entire picture, we have to take the word of whoever is sitting at a comfortable distance as to what’s going on.  What may seem contradictory is the fact that some journalists may actually be present at the scene about which they are reporting.  Compare the reporting of Venessa Beeley or Eva Bartlett to Cockburn’s piece.  That is to say, they are, in a sense, close to the screen.  So do they have necessary perspective to provide us with an accurate view of what is going on?  While we, the readers of the reporting, aren’t even in the theatre.

Cockburn works for a mainstream publication, part of the present power structure.  What are we to make of that?

I’ve no personal beef with Mr Cockburn, nor is this really about him.  He does what he does for his own personal reasons.  I can choose to read his stuff or not, agree with him or not.  That’s not my point.  The only reason I’m writing this is that, given the present circumstances, I tend to carefully parse what I do read.  Call me a nitpicker if you like.  This particular article happened to make me grimace, contained an element of dissonance that made me stop and consider its possible effects.  That, plus the fact that I saw this article on a self-proclaimed, left-leaning, “muckraking” web site.  The writer is of less importance than the message conveyed.  Language is important and, outside of personal intimacy, it’s the only means we have of communicating.

I think we do ourselves an intellectual favour by entering into that contradictory world of being up close and distant at the same time.

• Author’s Note:  All bolds are mine.

Turkish-Syrian Border: Confusion, Destruction and Grief

Border wall between Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus

When we first met in 2017, the Turkish poet, Mustafa Goren, stood proudly and defiantly next to a monstrous concrete wall built on orders from Ankara. The partition has just recently separated two towns with the same culture: Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus.

The poet then read some of his verses, and my friend, a translator of my books, originally from the city of Adana, tried to keep pace, interpreting.

The poem began with quite an unusual opening, and it warned Europe and its people:

One day, true leaders of the world will come, and they’ll cut off all the gas and petrol supplies to you, and you’ll find yourself in even deeper shit than the one into which you are throwing this part of the world! You’ll have to burn your designer clothes and shoes, just to stay warm. You forgot, but you will soon be reminded, Europe: we are all human beings!

He was raising his right hand accusingly, shouting towards the sky. Somehow, he looked like the Soviet revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovski.

Turkish poet Mustafa Goren in Karkamis

The poet was obviously indignant. It was 2017 then. Everything at the border was still raw, new, and terribly painful. Everything, good and bad, seemed to be possible: full-scale Turkish – Syria war, even a war between Turkey and Russia, or perhaps a Turkish exit from NATO and much closer alliance with Russia and Iran against the West.

Like so many patriots and thinkers in his country, Mustafa Goren strongly disliked the West. He was expressing his full-hearted support for his friends – the people and the state of Syria.

Stopping the Syrian war was all that mattered to him; it was his mission. He was sustaining himself by selling cigarettes on the street of Carsi Mahallesi; a street that hugs the borderline and now the wall.

He did not care how he was making a living, as long as he had time to create, to write, to recite. He was full of determination, zeal and optimism.

*****

Now, when I met him one year later, things definitely looked different. It was 2018, a different era, and totally different Karkamis.

The wall was still there, as well as the Turkish military operations behind it. The poet was still living and struggling in Karkamis, too, but his face looked defeated and tired. Now he was working in a small café. He was broke. His eyes had lost all their previous shine:

“Turkey is now fighting against the European Union… in ,” he said. But somehow it did not sound convincing.

My comrades and I then drove one kilometer towards the Euphrates River; to the ancient cemetery with a commanding view of the border and the Syrian town of Jarabulus.

Syrian town of Jarabulus photographed from the Turkish cemetery in Karkamis

This has been the best place in the area to take a leak, to film the border and to observe Turkish military operations inside Syria.

This time, shrapnel was flying too close, and the explosions were loud.

Two veiled ladies who were visiting the cemetery, spotted us.

“What are you looking for in this godforsaken,” one of them asked. She gave us a hostile, or perhaps desperate look:

What do you think you will find here? We are tired of this fight. We are bored of this conflict. All we want to do is to leave this place; to go far, very far away…

We heard more shells flying nearby, and more explosions.

The lady couldn’t stop:

Go away! Don’t you understand: we don’t want any foreigners here. Foreigners are the cause of this conflict!

We tried to find our old contacts, including Mr. Bulent Polat, a Kemalist from the opposition Republican People’s Party. But his shop on the main street was gone, hermetically sealed. Nearby, an armored vehicle was parked, unceremoniously.

Like almost everyone we spoke to in Karkamis, Mr. Polat was a strong opponent of the war. And he was especially against the Turkish involvement in it:

I know what we are doing there, across the border! To mobilize people against Assad, the anti-government militants supported by Turkey and the West, have been dressing in official Syrian military uniforms, then shoot at the civilians, killing many. Then they say: ‘Assad did it!’ It has been happening all over Syria.

Now Mr. Polat was gone.

Mustafa Goren, the poet, ordered tea for all of us. Then he sat down at a simple table, holding his head between two palms, before beginning to speak:

Nobody wants to stay here, at the border, anymore. In Karkamis, there is more Syrians than Turks, now. If Syrians leave, the whole place will turn to a ghost town.

Then he begins mixing everything together:

Turkey is not fighting against the PKK and the Kurdish terrorist groups here and in Syria – it is fighting against the European Union. This is our own, internal issue, and if we have to die in this fight, we will!

Such discourse can be heard all over Turkey. It is difficult and for many foreigners, hard to follow, but it is how it is. Turkey is in a complex transition: from where is obvious, but to where, almost no one knows.

“Mustafa,” I asked him softly. Despite all this pain, desperation and confusion, he is my comrade, a fellow poet. “What about Russia?”

His eyes softened up, as well as his entire facial expression:

Russians never stabbed Turks in the back. During WWI, they helped us against the West, at Galipoli. They are honest people. We have to coordinate with the Russians…

He nods towards the explosions.

For a while, we sit quietly, listening. Then we embrace. It is time to go.

*****

Karkamis is getting de-populated. It is alarming but understandable. It is becoming truly dangerous to live here. Plus, there is almost no work left in this area.

The entire frontier region used to rely heavily on trade with Syria. There were strong friendships forged between the individuals and families on both sides of the border. People were visiting each other, and they were intermarrying. Goods and services were flowing between Turkey and Syria almost freely.

Now, there is a full stop. The border can only be crossed by armored vehicles, tanks, and ambulances. They are going back and forth, bringing soldiers, carrying the wounded and even corpses. No civilian can pass.

Entrance to a refugee camp near Elbeyli

Further west, Elbeyli town is a bizarre hive of spies, a fortification. Everything here is monitored. It is because from here, the Turkish military forces are constantly invading Syrian territory. Here, no one dares to speak. To ask questions leads to immediate phone calls, arrests and interrogations.

Now, many villages around Elbeyli are half-empty. It is an eerie sight. The war has ruined entire communities.

What is thriving is the construction business. Not of the infrastructure, but of the military bases, spy antennas and above all, of the walls. An enormous, monstrous wall, which separates two countries – Turkey and Syria, in the past two inseparable sisters – is now scarring this ancient land. It is around 900 kilometers long, they say. How much money, how much concrete is being poured into it, and why?

Then the City of Killis.

New Turkish military base near Killis and Syrian border

We are shown destroyed walls of a house; a place “where rockets fell recently from the Syrian territory”. This is what the Turkish government uses as its justification for the invasion.

The local people have it all very clear. Several of them declare openly, but without revealing their names:

If only the Turkish government and military would coordinate their operations with the legitimate government in Damascus!

Things are tough in Killis. Like elsewhere along the border, businesses are closing down. An owner of a kebab stall couldn’t find any job for more than a year and had to try his luck in far-away Jakarta; in Indonesia which is much poorer than Turkey. He came back, had some luck and has now turned into an ultra-nationalist:

“Now the world can see the power of Turks!” He declared, passionately, voicing his full support for the invasion.

But here, at the border, he is clearly in the minority.

At a barbershop, “Salon Hassan”, several people are gathered, just in order to discuss politics. The most common assessment of the situation is:

The biggest mistake is that the Turkish military is not coordinating its operations with President Assad.

We are told that “some 8,000 of the refugees living in the camps all over the region are now returning back to Syria.”

But Turkey is hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian migrants. The situation is extremely complex, as intercommunal violence between Turks and Syrians tripled in the second half of 2017.

Turkish president Erdogan often declares that it is mainly because of his military forces operating across the border, that so many Syrian refugees now feel safe to return home. “Nonsense”, most Syrian people reply to such claims. “It is because of the Syrian army, President Assad, and his Russian and Iranian allies! Legitimate Syrian government is now winning the war. Only because of that, things are much safer for the Syrian people.”

“We love Russians here,” a local man professed, loudly. Some citizens of Killis also love Erdogan, as well as President Assad of Syria. ‘Too much love?’ Too many contradictory feelings? It is Turkey, after all. Here, nothing is ever simple.

But what is Russia here, to these people? In many parts of Turkey and all over the Middle East, more than a country, Russia became a symbol of defiance, proof that the West and its deadly designs can be confronted and stopped.

*****

Things appear confusing, but in Turkey, they always are.

As we drive through this ancient, beautiful but wounded land, my Turkish friend and translator utters, in desperation:

“The ‘Elderdog’ (increasingly common derogatory nickname for the present leader) is going to lose during the next elections. I bet he is going to…”

“But is the Turkish policy towards NATO and towards Syria going to change, dramatically?” I wonder.

For a while, there is silence in the car.

“I wish hope,” friend, my comrade says, finally.

He doesn’t know. Of course, he doesn’t. In Turkey, anything is possible.

“I hope Turkey comes to its senses. I love this country,” I say honestly. “I am really tired of hating it.”

“So am I,” he nods.

We are literally licking a huge concrete wall. Behind it is Syria, clearly visible, beautiful.

Actually, it is all very simple. People there are fighting against terror and against the Western imperialism.

People here, in Turkey, are still at the wrong side of the barricade. But they are waking up; many of them already understand. They may soon join those who are fighting for the survival of humanity. They may. Hopefully they will.

(Note: as this essay goes to print, Turkish election polls are closing. 56 million voters have been able to cast their ballots, voting simultaneously in parliamentary and presidential elections. According to preliminary results, President Erdogan secured a comfortable lead.)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Draft Dodger in Chief Dodges “Historic” Opening of US Embassy, Jerusalem

It was NBC’s Cal Parry who summed up the obscenity of Donald Trump’s ignorant and igniting decision to move the US Embassy to West Jerusalem, then to celebrate the inauguration on Monday, 14th May: “Well dressed American and Israeli officials on one side of the screen: desperation, death and fires on the other.”

In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians began their flight from the city and the region trying to escape the massacres by Jewish militias on that date, seventy years ago. Commemorated ever since as the day of “Nakba” — disaster, catastrophe, cataclysm — following them to this day as land is stolen, families expelled and “settlements” encroach, and Palestinian history is bulldozed.

‘ “When the massacre started the (paramilitaries) took a kid and strapped him on an army jeep and drove him around different neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, saying ‘the same will happen to you if you don’t leave,’ ” Abu Kaya said, retelling his grandfather’s story to Middle East Eye.’

…  not a single country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem because such a move is widely considered to violate international law.

Further:

Under United Nations Resolution 181, which in 1947 set out the conditions for the partition of Palestine into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State”, Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN under a “special international regime.

The 1949 armistice agreement that formally ended the first Arab-Israeli war divided the city along the “Green Line” into Israeli-controlled western areas, and Jordanian-held East Jerusalem, which included the Old City.

Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war is widely recognised as illegal and violates further United Nations resolutions.

For Palestinians then, sovereignty over the city is not something for leaders of other countries to determine, as US President Donald Trump did when he announced the embassy move in December.

In the few minutes it took to jot down notes for this piece, the Palestinian death toll of those demonstrating rose from twenty-eight dead, shot by Israeli soldiers, to forty-three. The injured rose from 1,693 to “near two thousand.”

Fadi Abo Salah, 30, who lost both legs in a bombing by Israeli aircraft, was one who lost his life, in his wheel chair — targeted by an Israeli sniper — in front of his wife and three small children. (Palestine Live group.)

Israel, frequently declaring itself “the only democracy in the Middle East”, carried out a very democratic slaughter and target practice. Young, old, disabled, male, female, all were equally entitled to be shot, sniped at, tear gassed.

Tiny Laila al-Ghandour who died from tear gas inhalation was just eight months old.1

Journalist Sharif Kouddos recorded:

Wails of grief inside family home of Laila al-Ghandour, 8-month old who died of gas inhalation yesterday. Her aunt says the gas came from everywhere, including drones.

By Monday’s end he Tweeted:

Sharif Kouddous

@sharifkouddous

Casualty toll from today in Gaza now stands at 55 dead, including 6 minors. 2,770 wounded, including 225 children. Of the wounded over 1,350 were hit with live ammunition, according to Ministry of Health.

“It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time,” stated Médecins Sans Frontières.

As the Embassy partied and visitors “clapped and cheered”, Gaza’s hospitals, already teetering on collapse resulting from restrictions on all coming in to the besieged Strip — including electricity, with water contaminated — had surgeons operating day and night, with the injured being treated in the hospital car parks even, due to the overwhelming influx of those targeted.

In another world, just sixty miles away: ‘Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and said:

Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.  The crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.1

Deaths had risen to fifty nine.

Of the eighty six Ambassadors to Israel, only thirty two attended the ceremony, with fifty four boycotting and only four EU Member countries attending.

Moreover:

The Haaretz newspaper reported that most EU member States did not participate in the ceremony because they have a firm policy towards the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It said that the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, India, Japan and Mexico also did not attend the celebration.

Fallout has been swift. French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned the “violence of the Israeli armed forces …” and again criticized the moving of the Embassy.

King Abdullah, of course, has custodianship of all Jerusalem’s Holy Sites and: ‘has the right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard them, especially Al Aqsa Mosque, which is defined as “The Entirety of Al Haram Al Sharif.” ‘ As far as can be ascertained thus far, it seems that this important, indeed unique, historic custodianship was neither discussed with the King or his representatives, nor even a consideration of the Trump Administration as they bulldozed their way through diplomacy, history and all norms in their Jerusalem settlement.

NATO ally President Erdogan of Turkey has recalled his Ambassadors to Israel and the US.

South Africa recalled their Ambassador to Israel, with immediate effect, as the Embassy celebrations were ongoing.

Ireland has summoned Israel’s Ambassador to protest Israeli violence.

Kuwait moved for an emergency meeting of the UN, which was blocked by the US. A ‘draft statement included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.” ‘

‘It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, saying that recent events had “no legal effect” under international law. The statement was withdrawn once the US indicate that it would block it, a UN diplomat said.’ (CNN, 15th May 2018.)

Qatar condemned “a massacre” and “savage killings.”

Germany, somewhat weakly, expressed concern at the massacre saying: “The right to peaceful protest must also apply in Gaza”, via a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

In the UK, the Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry in an unusually unequivocal statement said:

We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been lied or injured as a result.

These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.

Throughout that six-week period, the UN’s Secretary General has been calling for an independent investigation into these incidents, one that should urgently determine whether international law has been broken, and hold the Netanyahu government to account for their actions. The UK should lead calls for the UN Security Council to order such an investigation today.

These incidents must also be the catalyst for urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu government to lift the blockade on Gaza, and end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No longer can Netanyahu act as a law unto himself, under the protection of the Trump administration, whose decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem today has further inflamed the situation.

Chile, with the largest population of Palestinians outside the Arab world, raised Palestinian flags outside the main entrance of the Presidential Palace of La Moneda.

Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, Bolivia’s UN Ambassador, read the names of the Gaza massacre victims at the UN session, wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh.

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau has demanded an arms embargo on Israel, demanding backing of Amnesty International’s call for a global arms embargo on Israel. Amnesty has condemned: “ … an abhorrent violation of International Law and human rights. “

Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

Writer, broadcaster and academic, Kenan Malik Tweeted:

@kenanmalik

Mark Regev, Israeli ambassador to the UK, considers the shooting dead of 58 Palestinians and the wounding of 2700 as “measured” and “surgical”. I’d hate to know what is his definition of “unmeasured” or “non-surgical.”

The death toll became sixty.

From the Trumposphere, Donald Trump input:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

May 14

Big day for Israel. Congratulations!

However, on this day of diplomatic thuggery  — which the US State Department flagged as a “historic move” — the five times Draft Dodger in Chief it seems reverted to type. The man to whom limelight is seemingly indispensible, stayed in Washington and addressed the Embassy gathering by video, from a safe 5,897 miles away, dodging any potential conflict, demonstrations, dissent. Trump, of course, pulled out of a visit to London in February, to open the new US Embassy, which has also relocated, reportedly for fear of the massive protests planned at his stay.

The man who can menace Iran, threaten North Korea with: “ … fire and fury and frankly the power the likes of which like this world has never seen”, cowers from peaceful protesters with placards. No wonder he had no intention of showing up in Jerusalem, even as guest of honour, surrounded by steel rings of security, in a region destabilized by the US and “allies” for decades, with the unarmed, indigenous population simply demanding some justice sixty miles away.

Donald Trump, it seems, talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. Perhaps someone also told him Armageddon is in Israel (site now named Megiddo.)

  1. Guardian, 15th May 2018.

Erdogan’s Turkey: When Knives Cut Both Ways

A Leader should be like a father… he helps the country grow, teaches it, provides for its future. Erdogan? He is no father to Turkey.

— Turkish citizen on the streets of Istanbul

Author’s Note: This is Part One of an on-scene investigative series direct from the streets of Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.

On the streets, cafes, and carpet shops of Istanbul a very different story than the one presented by western media is developing about the true allegiance of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While he continues to play a dangerous international game between Russia and the NATO/Israeli/US alliance his biggest future enemy walks the streets of his realm… the Turkish people. And he knows it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

While walking the ancient hilly streets here in Istanbul, where the ill-fated Occupy/Turkey movement and the purported “coup” once reared its populist head in the huge Taksim Square, police presence  is massive, intentional and obvious.

Since the coup of July 15, 2016, most street corners now have patrol cars sitting idly, their flashing lights always on, two cops per car, sitting inside doing little but smoking fat non-filtered Turkish cigarettes and staring at the passers-by. Six different police uniforms can be observed along with those of three different branches of military garb. The uniform seen most is a simple, very new looking royal blue and black jacket with “Polis” emblazoned on the back in white six inch letters. While some carry automatic weapons and/or pistols, these jackets are also worn by women whose only weapon seems to be a purse, young Turks in jeans who stand in groups observing the crowd, and rough looking characters in jeans and track shoes who walk about, fingers on the triggers of Kalashnikovs. In the tourist centers, such as Galata Bridge, police indiscriminately accost Arab looking passers-by; demanding their passports. They leave the many Asian and very few Caucasian tourists alone.

One of the many MRAP style vehicles

Nowhere in Istanbul is this police presence not obvious. The grim faces of these gendarmeries have already had the desired effect on the people. Istanbul is unusually unfriendly. From the airport staff to bus drivers, and subway attendants they too showcase the same dark, narrowed eyes of suspicion exemplified by the police presence. These are the faces of the new Turkey.  Erdogan’s Turkey.

Considering that President Erdogan has publicly stated that his preferred example of successful governance is Nazi Germany, it thus comes as no surprise that this long ago defeated example of authoritarian power is now his direction for his quest for unlimited, everlasting power.

This fact is not lost on the Turks who believe the coup of 2016 to be manufactured, similar to Hitler’s Reichstag Fire, thereby providing him the reason to put tens-of-thousands of Turkish citizens — judges, doctors, journalists, and teachers — in prison while next arranging his Supreme Court to his fancy, which allowed for a new national constitution which gave him virtually unchecked power over every aspect of Turkish life. Considered at that time by the western power triumvirate to be well within their sphere of influence, western media has given all of this a pass by failing to report it or fabricating false truths of support that are as distorted as the 2016 coup itself.

Consider the false western narrative that 1) There was an externally influenced coup to unseat Erdogan and 2) it was authorized by Fethullah Gulen from his hiding place in America. To the Turks, these mistruths fail to reveal that Gulen and Erdogan shared power and business interests for more than 15 years as the latter continued to grow in power and that they have always been and continue to be very close friends. Here on the streets, they add to this illumination that Erdogan came out unscathed in this coup while conveniently out of the country and avoiding arrest while the coup was actually a paltry effort at best being little more than the closing of the Galata Bridge by a few tanks that restricted the exit of the people from Istanbul’s “modern city” and Taksim Square where the Turks had gathered en masse. The result of this convenient theatre was that Erdogan immediately culled from them the intelligentsia of Turkey, without any evidence of their participation, off to prison. Per 1936 Germany, this was step one… and carried out to perfection.

This rouse continued this past week as Erdogan again continued to demand the return of his supposed arch-enemy and past best friend Fethullah Gulen. “If you’re not giving [Gulen] to us, then excuse us, but from now on whenever you ask us for another terrorist, as long as I am in office, you will not get them,” stated the Turkish president. Rather than arrest him, should he be handed over to the Turks it is more likely that the two would, in reality, sit down for a nice chat and a tulip glass of strong, delicious Turkish tea.

Although predominately missing in the Western press, none of this is any secret to the Turks who are also well aware of Erdogan’s propagation of ISIS by being the financial pipeline of Syria’s stolen oil to Turkish ports, his use of Kirkuk air base to bring new ISIS fighters to the Syrian border and shipments of US weapons into Syrian opposition hands… long before the western media finally acknowledged this obvious truth.

Incorrect news reporting would have one believe that the Kurdish vs. Erdogan issue resides exclusively outside the Turkish borders in Northern Syria in proposed Kurdistan and that Gulen is its sponsor while tucked safely away in the US. Missing here is the fact that Gulen is not Kurdish and that of the 80 million Turkish citizens, more than 25 million are Kurdish and all lived in Turkey in harmony for centuries. Most of Turkey still do. But Erdogan demonized the Kurds by falsely blaming them as well as “religious cleric” Gulen in his growing effort to divide the country along religious lines. This is merely convenient propaganda since the Kurds like the rest of Turkey love their country and would prefer continued peace. Many believe that Erdogan’s goal is a civil war; a war that he believes will make him all-powerful as one side of the country fights the other and then reaches out to him for salvation. This appears to be accurate.

President Erdogan’s penchant for creating chaos was clearly shown this week when, as reported by the Libya Herald, Greek authorities confirmed they had boarded and seized a ship carrying potential explosive making materials from Turkey to Misrata, Libya intended for US-backed leader Haftar. The Hellenic Coast Guard Headquarters confirmed this. Further, this is one of the ports previously used to export Syrian oil stolen by ISIS. Further, at this point, nothing moves within Turkey without Erdogan’s approval.

With this, Erdogan is an example of US foreign policy. He does not mind internal chaos, in fact, many Turks believe this to be his actual goal for their country: Civil war. Many Turks report their distaste for their president’s recent theatre appearance in supposedly supporting the Palestinians in lieu of the US President Trump’s decision to rob them of a Jerusalem capital and note the unreported news that in the aftermath of the tragic, peaceful Mavi Marmara attempt to bring needed supplies to Gaza —  during which nine people were slaughtered by Israeli IDF soldiers — that before Israel would agree to pay cash provided as reparations to families of the dead Turks, Erdogan did then agree already to allow Israel to take Jerusalem for their capital. Although unproven, it is fixed in the opposition voices and does share the ring of truth considering that in the wake of the series of US hurricanes this past year, FEMA required aid recipients to sign an oath to Israel… not America.

There is now a caution in the people’s voices when one travels in Turkey; a hush that invades every political discussion or prognostications of what will befall this pluralistic society. The coup and its results are in the minds of all, as is the massive purge of innocent Turks. Here, Erdogan ignores history and human nature, preferring to believe in the current examples being shown by El-Sisi in Egypt, MBS in Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu in Israel, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and worldwide US hegemony: that his new military might makes him right no matter what and that force will override the fundamental desire of the Turks for peace and freedom. This, of course, ignores the historical results and demise of Hitler, Mussolini, and Pol Pot. When one speaks with Turks, there is anger in their eyes despite the hushed tones of hopeful resistance. One Turkish Kurd distilled this reality:

The history of Turkey, back to the time of Ataturk [who gained Turkish independence from the World War One Allied powers] … even before… is that of the knife. When war comes- if it does- Erdogan will meet the Turkish again. Then, he too will meet the blade of the knife!

General Ataturk Leads the Turks to Independence

After a beautiful six mile walk through the streets and along the massive rock lined harbour that passed through this military gauntlet and now finally arriving at Taksim Square, a similar police presence comes into view surrounding the square. A huge white, military vehicle- seemingly an exact copy of the US made MRAP, with machine gun turret, sits parked, a fence ringing it while its black uniformed operators play cards, smoke and drink coffee just behind. They too are not friendly. These, like the many other multi-uniformed police here in Istanbul, are Erdogan’s troops. Like their master, they are not loyal to the Turks….they are loyal to power for power in a failing Turkish economy is job security: theirs.

Taksim Square

The Turkish economy is in dire straits and many Turks believe this is yet another tool that Erdogan intends to use to divide their country via discontent. Istanbul is an amazing city full of examples of splendour, its ancient mosques reaching skyward across the hills that overlook the harbour of commerce that has been here for millennia. This city is worth any traveler’s money, but tourism is a fraction of its former pre-coup days despite the Lira crashing in value. Although this is January and the slowest tourism month of the year, shop owners and cafe operators report that the tourist income in substantially down since the coup. On a normally busy Friday night restaurants are virtually empty, their many tables and chairs sitting vacant. The hawkers for each sing out their friendly solicitations, but there is a tone of desperation and futility as they try to attract travellers.

While a declining economy may be the beginning of Erdogan’s fall from grace, many believe this is part of his ultimate plot. This opinion is not only bolstered by the many Turks, but by the foreign economic western press. A February 6, 2016 article by The Economist stated clearly what many Turks already suspect:

… sustained growth will require a change of attitude, beginning at the top. A sophisticated market economy cannot be run by offering favours for loyalty… Similarly, companies that own media outlets have been cut out of business in other fields if they fail to toe the line. Firms with the right contacts, say critics of the government, have done well, winning not just direct state contracts but privileged access to deals. “They [Erdogan’s Gov’t] used to be giving, sacrificing for the public good,” says an Istanbul news editor. “Now they are taking, using all the redistributive power of the state.

These comments are much more important given the facts that Turkey was debt free in June of 2013 after having completely paid off all IMF loans but that now, since the coup Erdogan has already driven Turkey back into more than a US$500 billion debt or over 50% of GDP…in less than five years!

On the long walk back from Taksim Square and now approaching the famous Blue Mosque and another huge square, the Hippodrome, which sits in front of the mosque with Istanbul University at one end, even on this day something strange is happening. Police presence is suddenly even more dramatic and surrounds a series of all-black US style SUVs and all-black stretch limousines. Anyone attempting to get near is frisked and searched. The cops are very unfriendly. A helicopter circles over head. Once inside this fenced cordon, I ask if anyone speaks English and a nice man offers his help. “It’s the president,” he whispers since there are six police with automatic weapons within earshot. “It’s Erdogan!” 

As we pull back from the metal barricade to chat more, I wonder how many professors here are still missing from their students and classrooms. This stranger tells me that he is Syrian from Palmyra having moved his family to Turkey after his hotel was destroyed due to an American bombing. He would like to leave Turkey, but is jovial, good-natured, despite his loss, offering to show his hospitality at his home later that day. Preparing to depart, with a hearty handshake he concludes our conversation.

“All people should be able to be free,” he says smiling. “They should have chances…to have a future for their families… to have peace… to have…” and he stops searching for the right word.

Happiness?” offered this reporter.

Inshallah [if Allah [God] wills],” he agreed.

Here lies the problem. For in Turkey God has little influence on the values of the new king.

• Photos by Brett Redmayne-Titley