Category Archives: Syria

No To NATO: Time To End Aggressive Militarism

“No to NATO” Protest Washington DC, March 30, 2019 (Photo from UNAC)

This week, the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries met in Washington, DC. NATO was greeted with bi-partisan support from Congress and by protesters who held actions and events from Saturday, March 30 through their meeting at the US Department of State on April 4.

US foreign policy is not the fabled “good cop” bringing peace to the world, but rather a policy of domination using military, economic and political power to accomplish aims for US transnational corporations and US empire. From the Iraq, Libyan, Syrian, Afghanistan and Yemeni wars (in particular) people understand the US uses its power in destructive ways that create chaos, suffering, refugees and death throughout the globe. But, few people understand the role of NATO.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, April 4, 2019 (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

The mythical NATO is an organization that keeps the peace in the world, but, in reality, it has always been an aggressive military force to protect western capitalism and provide cover for illegal interventions. When the US is unable to get the United Nations Security Council to approve military action, NATO provides a multi-national approach to wars as occurred in Serbia and Afghanistan among others. When Congress will not grant authority for US military action, as in Syria, NATO participation becomes the legal cover for massive military attacks by the United States.

While NATO provides a veneer of legality, in reality, it does not have any international legal authority to go to war any more than the United States has. Even NATO military attacks require either (1) UN authorization through the Security Council, or (2) a direct military attack and a self-defense response. The NATO wars are illegal under international law, just as unilateral wars by the United States are illegal.

Yves Engler writes that NATO was created not to stem Soviet aggression, which was the public justification, but to prevent the growing political left from succeeding in taking power after World War II. It was also an alliance to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers in the midst of former colonies gaining their independence from western domination.

At the time NATO was founded in 1949, there was little possibility of aggression by the Soviet Union after a war that killed 25 million Soviets. The Soviet Union and Russia were never a threat to the United States as historian Peter Kuznick explains. We discussed the history of NATO and its current role in global militarism with Engler on our podcast, Clearing the FOG, which airs on April 8, 2019.

This dynamic continues today. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has become “imperialism’s global strike force,” according to Danny Haiphong. Any country that dares to assert its sovereignty and use its resources to meet its people’s needs becomes a NATO target.

Yet, there are liberal politicians who continue to fall for the lies about NATO. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the NATO Support Act. All 208 Democrats who voted (26 didn’t), voted for it, including many progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Black Alliance for Peace, (left to right) Paul Pumphrey, Ajamu Baraka, YahNé Ndgo and Asantewaa Mawusi Nkrumah-Ture at No 2 NATO in Washington, D.C.

NATO In Washington, DC

NATO foreign ministers came to Washington, DC this week for a series of events culminating with a meeting in commemoration of its 70th-anniversary on April 4, which was also the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and the anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967 where he connected the triple evils of racism, militarism and the extreme consumerism of capitalism. The primary focus of the week was how NATO can combat Russia.

The protests began on March 30 when hundreds of people met across from the White House to call for an end to NATO as well as opposition to the economic war and threats of military attack against Venezuela. People described the vicious NATO attack on Yugoslavia that included an aerial bombardment from March 24 to June 10, 1999, involving 1,000 aircraft flying 38,000 combat missions, despite the UN Security Council voting against the attack as did the US House of Representatives. The bombing included attacks on civilian infrastructure as well as military targets, destroyed the country, killed thousands and created a mass exodus of 850,000 refugees.

Protesters also described the expansion of NATO from 12 to 29 countries with a particular focus on nations bordering Russia. This occurred despite US promises to the Soviet Union that NATO would not seek to expand after they disintegrated. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO, which should have led to its dissolution but instead has led to its reorganization and expansion. Now, NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

On Wednesday, when seven NATO foreign ministers, a US senator and a member of Congress, among others spoke at the Center for European Policy Analysis’ “NATO at 70” conference, they were confronted by multiple protesters who were able to get into the highly-restricted conference. Dozens more demonstrated outside. Protesters described NATO as a war-making alliance that should be abolished.

During the week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a friendly meeting with President Donald Trump where they talked about expanding NATO and having NATO members spend more money on militarism.  When Stoltenberg spoke before a joint session of Congress, he was given repeated bi-partisan standing ovations. In his speech, he called for more funding and applauded Trump’s efforts to increase funding for NATO.

The next day when NATO foreign ministers met at the State Department, hundreds of protesters were outside showing opposition to NATO. A coalition of peace groups came together for this protest and events throughout the week calling for disbanding NATO. Breaking from the bi-partisan support for NATO, Howie Hawkins, who announced an exploratory committee for Green Party presidential nomination, joined the protests calling for an end to NATO and dramatic cuts to the military budget.

Following the State Department protest, activists marched through DC to the memorial of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of him being killed by the government in 1968. People talked about King’s legacy as an opponent of war being denigrated by the NATO meetings. They also echoed King’s call for a ‘Revolution of Values’ that puts the necessities of the people and the planet before the profits of big business interests that are protected by NATO.

Outside the State Dept (Photo by CODEPINK)

Ending NATO and Moving Beyond Militarism

Our task of educating the public about the real purpose of NATO was highlighted by a conversation we had with a Park Police officer at the King Memorial. We were protesting without a permit and he was telling us we had to leave. We explained that King protested without permits and we were echoing King’s message of nonviolence and an end to war. The officer responded, “you are stretching King’s message by protesting NATO.”

His comment crystallized our task. People do not realize what NATO really is. Our first task is to educate the public about the real role of NATO as a military alliance that has waged war around the world. This includes Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria among others. Once the public understands the true role of NATO, we must make our demands clear — end NATO.

The world needs to move beyond militarism to mature and legal forms of dispute resolution by creating courts that prosecute war crimes and the crimes against humanity of all countries, including members of the UN Security Council, and putting in place agreements that end the threat of nuclear war, the most destructive form of war.

Like Libya and Syria, Venezuela is not “just about oil”.

Yes, the latest research confirms that Venezuela is so rich in natural resources that it could single-handedly satisfy all global demand for oil for over 30 years. And it has much more than oil to offer, in its Orinoco basin and in other areas of the country.

But it is not all ‘about oil’; actually, far from it.

Those who believe that what propels the spread of Western terror all over the world, are just some ‘business interests’ and legendary Western greed, are, from my point of view, missing the point.

I noticed that such individuals and analysts actually believe that ‘capitalism is responsible for everything’, and that it creates the culture of violence of which, both victims and victimizers, already became hostages to.

After working in all corners of the world, I am now more and more convinced that capitalism is actually the result of Western culture, which is predominantly based on expansionism, exceptionalism and aggression. It is also constructed on a deeply rooted desire to control and to dictate. Financial/monetary greed is just a by-product of this culture which has elevated its superiority to something that could be defined as religious, or even religiously fundamentalist.

Or in other words: belief in its own superiority is actually now the main religion in both Europe and North America.

*****

What makes the Libyan, Syrian and Venezuelan scenarios so similar? Why was the West so eager to viciously attack, and then destroy these three, at the first glance, very different countries?

The answer is simple, although it is not often uttered in the West; at least not publicly:

‘All three countries stood at the vanguard of promoting and fighting with determination for such concepts as “pan-Africanism”, “pan-Arabism” and Patria Grande – essentially Latin American independence and unity.’

Gaddafi, Al-Assad and Chavez have been, regionally and internationally, recognized as anti-imperialist fighters, inspiring and giving hope to hundreds of millions of people.

Gaddafi was murdered, Chavez was most likely killed as well, and Al-Assad and his nation have been, literally and for several long years, fighting for their survival.

The current Venezuelan President Maduro, who is determinedly loyal to the Bolivarian revolutionary ideals, has already survived at least one assassination attempt, and, is now facing direct mafia-style threats from the West. At any moment, his country could get attacked, directly or through the Latin American ‘client’ states of the West.

It is because Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been considered, and for centuries treated, as colonies. It is because whenever people stood up, they were almost immediately smashed into pieces by the iron fist of Western imperialism. And those who think that they are in control of the world by some divine design, do not want things to change, ever.

Europe and North America are obsessed with controlling others, and in order to control, they feel that they have to make sure to exterminate all opposition in their colonies and neo-colonies.

It is a truly mental state in which the West has found itself; a state which I, in my earlier works, defined as Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD).

To get the complete picture, one also has to recall Indonesia, which was literally liquidated as an independent and progressive nation, in 1965. Its internationalist president Sukarno (father of the Non-Aligned Movement, and close ally of the Communist Party of Indonesia – PKI) was overthrown by the handpicked (by the West), treasonous, intellectually and morally deranged, General Suharto, opening the door to turbo-capitalism, and to the unbridled plunder of the natural resources of his nation. Once a guiding light for the entire Asian independence struggle, after the US/UK/Australia-orchestrated extreme genocide, Indonesia has been reduced to nothing more than a lobotomized and dirt-poor ‘client’ state of the West.

The West has an incredible capacity to identify true regional independence leaders; to smear them, to make them vulnerable by inventing and then upholding so-called ‘local opposition’, and later, by liquidating them and with them, also their countries and even their entire regions.

Sometimes, the West attacks particular countries, as was the case with Iran (1953), Iraq, or Nicaragua. But more often, it goes directly for the ‘big fish’ – leaders of regional opposition – such as Libya, Indonesia, Syria, and now, Venezuela.

Many defiant individuals have literally been murdered already: Gaddafi, Hussein, Lumumba, and Chavez, to name just a few.

And, of course, whatever it does, the West is trying to destroy the greatest leaders of the anti-Western and anti-imperialist coalition: Russia and China.

*****

It is all far from only being about oil, or about profits.

The West needs to rule. It is obsessed with controlling the world, with feeling superior and exceptional. It is a game, a deadly game. For centuries, the West has been behaving like a fundamentalist religious fanatic, and its people have never even noticed that their world views have actually become synonymous with exceptionalism, and with cultural superiority. That is why the West is so successful in creating and injecting extremist religious movements of all denominations, into virtually all parts of the world: from Oceania to Asia, from Africa to Latin America, and, of course, to China. Western leaders are ‘at home’ with Christian, Muslim or even Buddhist extremists.

*****

But Syria has managed to survive, and up to today it is standing. The only reason why the government forces are not taking the last terrorist bastion, Idlib, yet, is because the civilian population would suffer tremendous losses during the battle.

Venezuela is also refusing to kneel and to surrender. And it is clear that if the West and its allies dared to attack, the resistance, the millions of people, would fight for the villages and countryside, and if needed, would withdraw to the jungle and wage a guerilla liberation war against the occupiers, and against the treasonous elites.

Washington, London, Paris and Madrid are clearly using an extremely outdated strategy: one that worked against Libya, but which failed squarely in Syria.

Recently, in Syria, near the front line of Idlib, two top commanders told me that they are fighting “not only for Syria, but for the entire oppressed world, including Venezuela.” They clearly detected that the West is using precisely the same strategy against Caracas, which it tried to use against Damascus.

Now, Venezuela is also suffering and fighting for the entire oppressed world.

It has ‘no right to fail’, as Syria had no right to surrender.

The destruction of Libya had already brought a tremendously negative impact on Africa. And it has opened the doors to the renewed and unbridled French plunder of the continent. France was promptly joined by the U.K. and the U.S.A.

Syria is the last bastion in the Middle East. It is all there is now, resisting the total control of the Middle East by the West. Syria and Iran. But Iran is not yet a ‘front’, although often it appears that soon it might become one.

Venezuela cannot fall for the same reasons. It is at the northern extreme of South America. Below, there is an entire continent; terrorized by Europe and North America, for decades and centuries: brutalized, plundered, tortured. South America, where tens of millions used to be exterminated like animals, forced to convert to Christianity, robbed of everything and ordered to follow bizarre Western political and economic models.

In Brazil, the progressive socialist government of the PT had been already overthrown.

If Venezuela falls, everything could be lost, for decades, maybe even centuries.

And so, it will fight. Together with those few other countries that are still left standing in this ‘Western Hemisphere’; countries which the dictators in Washington D.C. openly describe as ‘their backyard’.

Caracas stands and fights for the vast slums of Peru, for destitute millions in Paraguay, for Brazilian favelas, for privatized aquifers and the murdered rain forest in Brazil.

As Syria has been fighting for the Palestine, for the destitute minorities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, for Yemen, for Iraq and Afghanistan – two countries robbed of almost everything by NATO.

Russia has already showed what it can do for its Arab brothers, and now is demonstrating its willingness to support another close ally – Venezuela.

China is rapidly joining the coalition of anti-imperialist fighters, and so is South Africa.

*****

No – Venezuela is not only about oil.

It is about the West being able to close access to the Panama Canal by Chinese ships.

It is about the total control of the world: ideological, political, economic and social. About liquidating all opposition in the Western hemisphere.

If Venezuela falls, the West may dare to attack Nicaragua, and then the bastion of socialism and internationalism – Cuba.

That is why it – Venezuela – should never be allowed to fall.

The battle for Venezuela is now already raging, on all fronts, including the ideological one. There, we are not only fighting for Caracas, Maracaibo or for Ciudad Bolivar: we are fighting for the entire oppressed world, as we did and are doing in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Idlib, as we may soon have to do in many other cities, all over the world. For as long as Western imperialism is alive; for as long as it is not going to give up its dreams of controlling and ruining the entire planet, we cannot rest, we cannot let down our guard, we cannot celebrate final victory in any part of the world.

Therefore, this is all far from being ‘just about oil’. It is about the survival of our planet.

* First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Trump’s Stance on the Golan will allow Israel to Operate with Impunity Elsewhere

When President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem last year, effectively sabotaging any hope of establishing a viable Palestinian state, he tore up the international rulebook.

Last week, he trampled all over its remaining tattered pages. He did so, of course, via Twitter.

Referring to a large piece of territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967, Mr Trump wrote: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.”

Israel expelled 130,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights in 1967, under cover of the Six Day War, and then annexed the territory 14 years later – in violation of international law. A small population of Syrian Druze are the only survivors of that ethnic cleansing operation.

Replicating its illegal acts in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel immediately moved Jewish settlers and businesses into the Golan.

Until now, no country had recognised Israel’s act of plunder. In 1981, UN member states, including the US, declared Israeli efforts to change the Golan’s status “null and void”.

But in recent months, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began stepping up efforts to smash that long-standing consensus and win over the world’s only superpower to his side.

He was spurred into action when Bashar Al Assad – aided by Russia – began to decisively reverse the territorial losses the Syrian government had suffered during the nation’s eight-year war.

The fighting dragged in a host of other actors. Israel itself used the Golan as a base from which to launch covert operations to help Mr Assad’s opponents in southern Syria, including Islamic State fighters. Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, meanwhile, tried to limit Israel’s room for manoeuvre on the Syrian leader’s behalf.

Iran’s presence close by was how Mr Netanyahu publicly justified the need for Israel to take permanent possession of the Golan, calling it a vital buffer against Iranian efforts to “use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel”.

Before that, when Mr Assad was losing ground to his enemies, the Israeli leader made a different case. Then, he argued that Syria was breaking apart and its president would never be in a position to reclaim the Golan.

Mr Netanyahu’s current rationalisation is no more persuasive than the earlier one. Russia and the United Nations are already well advanced on re-establishing a demilitarised zone on the Syrian side of the separation-of-forces line. That would ensure Iran could not deploy close to the Golan Heights.

Mr Netanyahu is set to meet Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, when the president’s tweet will reportedly be converted into an executive order.

The timing is significant. This is another crude attempt by Mr Trump to meddle in Israel’s election, due on April 9. It will provide Mr Netanyahu with a massive fillip as he struggles against corruption indictments and a credible threat from a rival party, Blue and White, headed by former army generals.

Mr Netanyahu could barely contain his glee, reportedly calling Mr Trump to tell him: “You made history!”

But, in truth, this was no caprice. Israel and Washington have been heading in this direction for a while.

In Israel, there is cross-party support for keeping the Golan.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a confidant of Mr Netanyahu’s, formally launched a plan last year to quadruple the size of the Golan’s settler population, to 100,000, within a decade.

The US State Department offered its apparent seal of approval last month when it included the Golan Heights for the first time in the “Israel” section of its annual human rights report.

This month, senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham made a very public tour of the Golan in an Israeli military helicopter, alongside Mr Netanyahu and David Friedman, Mr Trump’s ambassador to Israel. Mr Graham said he and fellow senator Ted Cruz would lobby the US president to change the territory’s status.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has made no secret of his disdain for international law. This month, his officials barred entry to the US to staff from the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, who are investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC has made enemies of both Washington and Israel in its initial, and meagre, attempts to hold the two to account.

Whatever Mr Netanyahu’s spin about the need to avert an Iranian threat, Israel has other, more concrete reasons for holding on to the Golan.

The territory is rich in water sources and provides Israel with decisive control over the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake that is crucially important in a region facing ever greater water shortages.

The 1,200 square kilometres of stolen land is being aggressively exploited, from burgeoning vineyards and apple orchards to a tourism industry that, in winter, includes the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hermon.

As noted by Who Profits, an Israeli human rights organisation, in a report this month, Israeli and US companies are also setting up commercial wind farms to sell electricity.

And Israel has been quietly co-operating with US energy giant Genie to explore potentially large oil reserves under the Golan. Mr Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has family investments in Genie. But extracting the oil will be difficult, unless Israel can plausibly argue that it has sovereignty over the territory.

For decades the US had regularly arm-twisted Israel to enter a mix of public and back-channel peace talks with Syria. Just three years ago, Barack Obama supported a UN Security Council rebuke to Mr Netanyahu for stating that Israel would never relinquish the Golan.

Now Mr Trump has given a green light for Israel to hold on to it permanently.

But, whatever he says, the decision will not bring security for Israel, or regional stability. In fact, it makes a nonsense of Mr Trump’s “deal of the century” – a regional peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, according to rumour, may be unveiled soon after the Israeli election.

Instead, US recognition will prove a boon for the Israeli right, which has been clamouring to annex vast areas of the West Bank and thereby drive a final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.

Israel’s right can now plausibly argue: “If Mr Trump has consented to our illegal seizure of the Golan, why not also our theft of the West Bank?”

• First published in The National

Saddamizing al-Assad

Donald Trump’s first action upon assuming the Presidential throne of the United States involved the re-location of a bust of Winston Churchill back into the Oval Office. Originally given to President Bush the Second in July, 2001, Churchill’s bust was removed by Barack Obama (January, 2009) in favor of a bust of Martin Luther King. If the symbolism in all of this changing of the bust business were a pinball machine, then lights and buzzers would be flashing and dinging like crazy!

Churchill, of course, like Dr. King, was well known for his rhetorical flourishes. Given recent events, I offer this extended Churchillian gem, a War Office Minute recorded on May 12, 1919, when Churchill was both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, for your consideration.

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference (Versailles) of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragments of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet have no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Yes, that’s vintage Versailles-era Churchill promoting the “moral effect” of chemical weapons, with an eye to quelling the contentious “tribes” of soon-to-be British Mandate Iraq. Fast forward one century later, and the use of “poisoned gas” is back in the news, in connection with the Syrian conflict. In particular, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who does not possess a Churchill bust as far as we know, once again stands accused of using weaponized gas to attack his own citizens. A chorus of Western leaders chants “Gas! Gas! Gas!” at al-Assad, because Winston Churchill did not get his wish, since gas warfare has been considered illegal for almost a century, despite the former British Prime Minister’s obviously logical argument for it. Might as well ban War altogether! Except that, War is still entirely legal—only certain modes of warfare are not, such as chemical weapons.

In the meantime, Syrian President al-Assad flatly denies these allegations, blaming instead the rebel factions that are trying—at the moment unsuccessfully—to topple his regime. These rebel groups, whom Assad labels “terrorists,” include ISIS and al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliated militia or mercenary formation. In fact, despite President Trump’s inaugural cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, no one knows who perpetrated the sarin gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikoun in April, 2017.

We do know, however, that 30 years ago the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds to death in a town called Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq. That was March 16,1988, part of an anti-Kurdish campaign known as al-Anfal. In the face of universal condemnation, the Reagan Administration stood behind Saddam, shielding his regime from sanctions. There were even some fuzzy reports at the time that pinned the chemical blame on Iran, against whom Saddam had been waging a Kuwaiti, Saudi, and American assisted war since September of 1980. Indeed, those reports were ‘fuzzy’ because Saddam’s forces had been attacking the Iranians with chemical weapons since 1983, a fact entirely known to the Reagan Administration

Interestingly enough, when Saddam went rogue and invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the first Bush Administration absolutely Hitlerized Saddam for his use of “poisoned gas” during the previous decade. Talk about policy pivots! Thus it came to pass that the useful genocidal tool Saddam became the useful genocidal villain Saddam. Ultimately, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons became a major pretext for launching the Second Crusade against Iraq in 2003.

And now, we have “gas” in Syria, which has been floated as a “red line” since the Obama Administration. The United States, it should be noted, has no direct interest, or stake, in Syria. Nevertheless, we have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Syria since August of 2014, despite having no policy to accessorize our bombing campaign in that war-torn, Middle Eastern nation.

So far, Bashar al-Assad has not quite fit the neatly tailored line of villains used to sell undeclared wars to American taxpayers the last 30 years. This line includes: Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and, most recently, Moammar Qaddafi.

As of this reporting, the “Saddamizing” of Syria’s al-Assad remains incomplete; the portrait of Assad as another neo-Hitler, unfinished. Until then, we may not have a Syrian Policy beyond “Bombs Away!”, but at least we can rest assured that Winston Churchill’s bust is back in the Oval Office, symbolizing the continuing spread of a “lively terror” throughout the Middle East.

Addendum:  Nota bene. Currently, yet another American Regime is playing the demonization game, this time with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as the “Devil with the Red Dress on.” It is worth noting, in this connection, that the MLK bust in Obama’s Oval Office did not engender a foreign policy even remotely reflective of Dr. King’s worldview, as Obama Administration regime change operations in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), and the stalled-out Syrian intervention, certainly attest. Indeed, it was Obama’s 2015 characterization of Venezuela as a “national security threat” that set the stage for the Trumpistanis’ would-be Bushwhacking of Venezuelan democracy, just as President Clinton laid the groundwork for the unusually disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 by declaring “regime change” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998 (in other words, Clinton let Al-Qaeda and the Neo-Cons — a very bad jazz band — in.). The American Regime names change, yet they keep playing the same tune, which perhaps only proves the old adage that absolute power is absolutely tone deaf.

However that may be, it should be emphasized that the Regime Changelings’ coup has not succeeded in Venezuela. Maduro, the former bus driver, has refused to be thrown under the bus by the unlawful firm of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Rubio; their hand-picked usurper, Juan Guaido (“I’m a puppy, not a puppet!”), has failed to win Venezuelan hearts and minds. In Venezuela, it could very well be that we are witnessing a decisive break in the Regime Change tide.

Can China and Russia Survive in this Unharmonious World?

Does it pay ‘to be good’? Is it still possible to play by the rules in this mad world, governed by brigands?

What if the rules are defined and ratified by all countries of the world, but a small group of the strongest (militarily) nations totally ignores them, while using its professional propagandists to reinterpret them in the most bizarre ways?

Describing the world, I often feel that I am back in my primary school.

When I was a child, I had the misfortune of growing up in a racist Czechoslovakia. Being born in the Soviet Union, and having an half Russian and half Asian mother, I was brutally beaten up between classes, from the age of seven. I was systematically attacked by a gang of boys, and humiliated and hit for having ‘Asian ears’, for having an ‘Asian mother’, for being Russian. During winters, my shoes were taken out into the bitter cold and pissed into. The urine turned into ice. The only consolation was that ‘at least’ I was Russian and Chinese. If I was a Gypsy (Roma) boy, I would most likely not have made it, at least without losing an eye, or without having my hands broken.

I tried to be polite. I did my best to ‘play by the rules’. I fought back, first only half-heartedly.

Until one day, when a kid who lived next door, fired his air gun and barely missed my eye. Just like that, simply because I was Russian… and Asian, just because he had nothing better to do, at that particular moment. And because he felt so proud to be Czech and European. Also, because I refused to eat their shit, to accept their ‘superiority’, and humiliate myself in front of them. Both mother and I were miserable in Czechoslovakia, both of us dreamt about our Leningrad. But she made a personal mistake and we were stuck in a hostile, provincial and bombastic society which wanted to “go back to Europe”, and once again be part of the bloc of countries, which has been ruling and oppressing the world, for centuries.

The air gun and almost losing my eye turned out to be the last straw. I teamed up with my friend, Karel, whose only ‘guilt’ was that at 10, he weighed almost 100 kilograms. It was not his fault, it was a genetic issue, but the kids also ridiculed him, eventually turning him into a punching bag. He was a gentle, good-natured kid who loved music and science-fiction novels. We were friends. We used to plan our space travels towards the distant galaxies, together. But at that point, we said ‘enough’! We hit back, terribly. After two or three years of suffering, we began fighting the gang, with the same force and brutality that they had applied towards us and, in fact, towards all those around us who were ‘different’, or at least weak and defenseless.

And we won. Not by reason, but by courage and strength. I wish we did not have to fight, but we had no choice. We soon discovered how strong we were. And once we began, the only way to survive was to win the battle. And we did win. The kids, who used to torment us, were actually cowards. Once we won and secured some respect, we also began sheltering and protecting the ‘others’, mainly weak boys and girls from our school, who were also suffering attacks from the gang of those ‘normal’, white, and mainstream Czechs.

*****

There are self-proclaimed rulers of the world: Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. And there are two other groups: the nations which are fully cooperating with the West (such as Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Korea, Colombia or Uganda), and those that are decisively refusing to accept Western dictates, such as Russia, China, DPRK, Syria, Eritrea, Iran, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia.

The first group does almost nothing to change the world. It goes with the flow. It accepts the rule of the bullies. It collaborates, and while it is at it, tries to at least gain some privileges, most of the time unsuccessfully.

The second group is well aware of the dismal state of the world. It maneuvers, resists, and sometimes fights for its survival, or for the survival of others. It tries to stick to its principles, or to what used to be called ‘universal values’.

But can it really survive without confrontation?

The West does not tolerate any dissent. Its culture has been, for centuries, exceedingly aggressive, bellicose, and extremist: “You are with us, that is ‘under us’, or you are against us. If against us, you will be crushed and shackled, robbed, raped, beaten and in the end, forced to do what we order, anyway.”

Russia is perhaps the only nation which has survived, unconquered and for centuries, but at the unimaginable price of tens of millions of its people. It has been invaded, again and again, by the Scandinavians, French, Brits, Germans, and even Czechs. The attacks occurred regularly, justified by bizarre rhetoric: ‘Russia was strong’, or ‘it was weak’. It was attacked ‘because of its Great October Socialist Revolution’, or simply because it was Communist. Any grotesque ‘justification’ was just fine, as far as the West was concerned. Russia had to be invaded, plundered and terribly injured just because it was resisting, because it stood on its feet, and free.

Even the great China could not withstand Western assaults. It was broken, divided, humiliated; its capital city ransacked by the French and Brits.

Nothing and no one could survive the Western assaults: in the end, not even the proud and determined Afghanistan.

*****

A Chinese scholar Li Gang wrote in his “The Way We Think: Chinese View of Life Philosophy”:

“Harmony” is an important category of thought in traditional Chinese culture. Although the concept initially comes from philosophy, it stands for a stable and integrated social life. It directly influences Chinese people’s way of thinking and dealing with the world… In the ancient classic works of China, “harmony” can, in essence, be understood as being harmonious. Ancient people stressed the harmony of the universe and the natural environment, the harmony between humans and nature, and what is more, the harmony between people…  Traditional Chinese people take the principle as a way of life and they try their best to have friendly and harmonious relations. In order to reach “harmony”, people treat each other with sincerity, tolerance and love, and do not interfere in other people’s business. As the saying goes, “Well water does not intrude into river water.

Could anything be further from the philosophy of Western culture, which is based on the constant need to interfere, conquer and control?

Can countries like China, or Iran, or Russia, really survive in a world that is being controlled by aggressive European and North American dogmas?

Or more precisely: could they survive peacefully, without being dragged into bloodstained confrontations?

*****

The onset of the 21st Century is clearly indicating that ‘peaceful resistance’ to brutal Western attacks is counter-productive.

Begging for peace, at forums such as the United Nations, has been leading absolutely nowhere. One country after another has collapsed, and had no chance to be treated justly and to be protected by international law: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya.

The West and its allies like Saudi Arabia or Israel are always above the law. Or more precisely, they are the law. They twist and modify the law however it suits them; their political or business interests.

Harmony?  No, they are absolutely not interested in things like harmony. And even if a huge country like China is, then it is seen as weak, and immediately taken advantage of.

Can the world survive if a group of countries plays totally against all the rules, while most of the planet tries to stick, meticulously, to international laws and regulations?

It can, but it would create a totally twisted, totally perverse world, as ours actually already is. It would be a world of impunity on one end, and of fear, slavery and servility at the other.

And it is not going to be a ‘peaceful world’, anyway, because the oppressor will always want more and more; it will not be satisfied until it is in total, absolute control of the planet.

Accepting tyranny is not an option.

So then, what is? Are we too scared to pronounce it?

If a country is attacked, it should defend itself, and fight

As Russia did on so many occasions. As Syria is doing, at great sacrifice, but proudly. As Venezuela will and should do, if assaulted.

China and Russia are two great cultures, which were to some extent influenced by the West. When I say ‘influenced’, I mean forcefully ‘penetrated’, broken into, brutally violated. During that violent interaction, some positive elements of Western culture assimilated in the brains of its victims: music, food, even city planning. But the overall impact was extremely negative, and both China and Russia suffered, and have been suffering, greatly.

For decades, the West has been unleashing its propaganda and destructive forces, to ‘contain’ and devastate both countries at their core. The Soviet Union was tricked into Afghanistan and into a financially unsustainable arms race, and literally broken into pieces. For several dark years, Russia was facing confusion, intellectual, moral and social chaos, as well as humiliation. China got penetrated with extreme ‘market forces’, its academic institutions were infiltrated by armies of anti-Communist ‘intellectual’ warriors from Europe and North America.

The results were devastating. Both countries – China and Russia – were practically under attack, and forced to fight for their survival.

Both countries managed to identify the treat. They fought back, regrouped, and endured. Their cultures and their identities survived.

China is now a confident and powerful nation, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Present-day Russia under the presidency of Vladimir Putin is one of the mightiest nations on earth, not only militarily, but also morally, intellectually and scientifically.

This is precisely what the West cannot ‘forgive’. With each new brilliant electric vehicle China produces, with each village embracing the so-called “Ecological Civilization”, the West panics, smears China, portrays it as an evil state. The more internationalist Russia becomes, the more it protects nations ruined by the West – be it Syria or Venezuela – more relentless are West’s attacks against its President, and its people.

Both China and Russia are using diplomacy for as long as it is constructive, but this time, when confronted with force, they indicate their willingness to use strength to defend themselves.

They are well aware of the fact that this is the only way to survive.

For China, harmony is essential. Russia also has developed its own concept of global harmony based on internationalist principles. There is hardly any doubt that under the leadership of China and Russia, our world would be able to tackle the most profound problems that it has been facing.

But harmony can only be implemented when there is global concept of goodwill, or at least a decisive dedication to save the world.

If a group of powerful nations is only obsessed with profits, control and plunder, and if it behaves like a thug for several long centuries, one has to act, and to defend the world; if there is no alternative, by force!

Only after victory, can true harmony be aimed at.

At the beginning of this essay, I told a story from my childhood, which I find symbolic.

One can compromise, one can be diplomatic, but never if one’s dignity and freedom was at risk. One can never negotiate indefinitely with those who are starving and enslaving billions of human beings, all over the world.

Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and so many countries are now bleeding. Soon, Iran could be confronted. And Nicaragua. And DPRK. And perhaps China and Russia themselves could face yet another Western invasion.

A ‘harmonious world’ may have to be built later; definitely one day, but a little bit later.

First, we have to make sure that our humanity survives and that Western fascism cannot consume further millions of innocent human lives.

Like me and my big childhood friend Karel at an elementary school in former Czechoslovakia; Russia and China may have to once again stand up and confront ‘unharmonious barbarity’; they may have to fight, in order to prevent an even greater disaster.

They do not want to; they will do everything possible to prevent war. But the war is already raging. Western colonialism is back. The brutal gang of North American and European countries is blocking the road, clenching fists, shooting at everyone who dares to look up, and to meet their gaze: “Would you dare?” their eyes are saying.

“Yes, we would!” is the only correct answer.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Washington is Waging a New Dimension War Against China and will Lose Out Bitterly

Once the all-encompassing chittering and chattering about tariffs on Chinese imports by the western corporate media subsided, Trump, egocentric businessman rather than the President of the Empire, “out of the blue”, one could almost say, under the pretext of ‘unfair’ Chinese trading, launches a new ferocious and as usual totally illegal campaign of aggression against China’s fast-growing economy. It’s an illicit campaign against Chinese competition, against Chinese unstoppable growth. It’s a tacit recognition of China’s emerging supremacy which the United States can only confront with fraud, deceit and illegal activities. And this only as long as Washington controls the western monetary system. This won’t be for much longer.

It’s an aggression against leading Chinese businesses and against China’s embracing a policy of a multi-polar world – through connection of entire continents, countries, cultures, joint research, education and agricultural, as well as industrial development through transport lines, equal trade, respect for each other and recognition of people’s and countries’ comparative advantages by technical knowhow and bestowed by nature. It’s based on fair and equal interchanges. It’s the multi-trillion-yuan Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road, an initiative launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping during an official visit to Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

BRI consists by now of 6 land and sea routes, currently comprising some 152 countries and international organizations in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

This new Chinese economic behemoth is tentatively projected through the 2040’s. The BRI is all-inclusive and, thus, so strong, it was recently incorporated in China’s Constitution. However, it was largely ignored by the west, and especially by the western presstitute media  with the western “Vogel Strauss” politics of halfwits, ignore it and it will go away. Now the west realizes, it won’t go away and it is tough competition for the falsely propagated west’s trade and economic superiority. Too late, my friends. As I often said, by endless greed and thirst for power with impunity, of short-term rent seeking, of relentlessly provoked wars and conflicts, killing layers and layers of human societies throughout the world to bring opponents of this small diabolical elite to their knees, the west is committing slowly but surely suicide. This is nature. Nature will not only survive, but overcome and subordinate this luciferian approach to world domination. The future is in the east. Most definitely. There is no way back.

*****

Among the first steps of the US’s new generation of aggression against China is Washington’s ordering its northern vassal, Canada, to arrest Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Meng Wanzhou, in transit, at Vancouver airport on 1 December 2018.

Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. is a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer, headquartered in Shenzhen. Huawei is the world’s 7th largest telecommunication corporation and was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former military engineer in the People’s Liberation Army, in 1987. Ms. Meng Wanzohou is the founder’s daughter and deputy CEO. Ms. Wanzhou is now accused of breaking the totally illegal sanctions against Iran by doing business with Iran. Washington, unabashedly puts one illegal action of their own – sanctions – over another one – taking hostage a lead person of a strong Chinese competitor, to coerce Huawei to abide by an illegally US-imposed rule – sanctions. It is an unbelievable catch-22 story. But even more unbelievable is that the dictate of the abusive Washington policies is still followed and even worse, that there are hardly any protests.

This is only possible without most of the western world saying “beep”, because they all still recognize for now the US as the self-imposed exceptional nation, the nation that makes and breaks laws as it goes along. But how much longer?

Ms. Wanzhou, still in Canadian custody, at risk of being extradited to US “justice” (sic), may face 30 years in prison, for absolutely no illegal infraction, only by acting against what the US made up as a law – sanctions – that everybody has to adhere to, or else, they will themselves be subject to sanction. Can you see how sick our western system has become?

It is now a war without bombs. It’s become a war of economics, recognizing that a war with bombs and missiles the US could not win any longer – not that they ever did! – since Russia and China have developed technically far superior military equipment. Hence, the United States’ last trump (no pun intended) is working their fraudulent monetary system to the last ditch.

Venezuela, one of the west’s only true and last democracies, has been aggressed for the last 20 years, peaking now, because she refuses to bend to the rules of Washington, abandoning her socialist ideology, handing over her natural resources, the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, to the empire’s usurping corporations, the same that have been usurping and enslaving the Venezuelan people for hundred years before President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999 and started changing the rules for the people, dismissing the usurpers and nationalizing the country’s resources for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.

Today the empire is waging a war on Venezuela, a war without bombs, a financial and economic war, where thanks to the fraudulent monetary system that western societies embrace and have been willy-nilly accepting, and even today they don’t dare to openly object to it, the empire is applying the international illegality of all illegalities, “sanctions”, interference in another country’s internal affairs, blocking trade, monetary transfers, confiscating – i.e. stealing – billions worth of Venezuelan assets abroad.

Washington is coercing and blackmailing so-called US allies into doing the same, committing lowly ‘highway robbery’. By now some US$ 40 to 50 billion equivalent throughout the world were blocked and essentially stolen, including 1.2 billion dollars of gold withheld in the London City of Money. By seizing Venezuela’s foreign assets and boycotting Venezuela’s hydrocarbon sales – Venezuela is in dire straits – but not in despair, not dying from famine as the western media would like you to believe. No, Venezuela manages with calm and pride  and solid solidarity.

A similar situation prevails in Syria, where the Syrian national army with the help of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, has pretty much defeated the terror network of ISIS, Al Nusra et al. In other words, the US, NATO, western and Gulf states, vassal allies which have been – and still are – financing these terror organizations as proxies, have lost their war of bombs, their fight for ‘regime change’ – at least for now. We know, the empire won’t simply let go, only when it reaches its last breath. And that moment will come, sooner or later.

So, the bombs are replaced by economic shackles – blocking Syria from using the international monetary transfer system, from accessing international credit, from importing vital goods, medicine and medical equipment, food, industrial equipment and spare parts – all that a society needs to function, to rebuild their western-demolished infrastructure, all these vital goods and services are being embargoed by the west – while Syria has never done any harm to a western country – all to the contrary. Syria is the bedrock of western history, providing the west with brilliant intellects, scientists, university professors and offering a rich culture – the cradle of western civilization.

Syria is strategically placed – with access to five seas. President Assad’s “Five Seas Vision”, connecting strategically located Syria with the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, “making Syria the unavoidable intersection of the world in Investments, transport and more” – this vision, plus the fact that President Assad is running Syria with a socialist philosophy and is as popular as always (70% – 80% of a highly educated Syrian population support their President), make Syria a perfect target for ‘regime change’.  Again, the continuation of a war without bombs, but killing all the same with a weaponized western economic system.

The most exasperating fact is – again – that the western allies, predominantly Europe, that is, their corrupt leaders (sic), participate in this atrocity in Syria, as well as in Venezuela and throughout many other rebellious, non-submissive nations. This, largely against the will of the people. Though indoctrinated day in and day out by fake news, people start seeing the light.

Frankly, what else would you expect from Europe? Europeans for hundreds of years have been exploiting, raping, abusing Asia, Africa and Latin America, killing hundreds of millions of people, while stealing their resources, which now can be seen transformed into European “culture”, religious monuments, castles of kings and queens and their dictators, who still walk this earth as parasitically as in ancient times.

When the European empires successively collapsed, they simply regrouped and transplanted their reign from the Old Continent across the Atlantic to build a new AngloZionist kingdom, but not before, again, massacring the original inhabitants of that once great land, called America. At that time the noble forefathers of this newly nascent empire felt secure between two shiny seas. But, hélas, times have changed. Attempting to emulate the grandeur of the Roman Empire, at one time calling their plan to Full Spectrum Dominance, “Pax Americana”, the association with “Pax Romana” became evident. Pax Romana were the three to four hundred bloodiest years of the Roman Empire, eventually collapsing under its own weight.

The big danger for the US-driven western criminal monetary and debt-driven pyramid system, is China, because China’s economy is based on hard economic output, construction, manufacturing, intellectual and scientific development, as compared to the US-driven western neoliberal profit-maximizing dogma with inflated services, one that outsources hard production to low-wage countries, foregoes long-term economic gains and institutional memory, for a GDP of hot air, McDonalds-type jobs, consumption of cheap and useless imports; and, of course, a destructive war and killing industry.

That’s why Washington is hastily trying to elevate their lie and deceit campaign onto another level. Kidnapping Huawei’s Ms. Wanzhou, lambasting Europe to ban Huawei’s equipment from their markets, because it contains spyware, is just one example of a ruthless illicit approach to eliminating competition. On the other hand, Washington’s fading empire dares slandering President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative and, in a last desperate effort, blackmailing Europe, as well as African BRI-contenders, with more illegal sanctions – not to sign up to China’s New Silk Road. No matter that most of them have already done so. Italy clearly said they will soon sign an agreement with China to use Italian ports for BRI’s maritime routes. As to banning Huawei from Europe, Germany, for one, has already said they will not ban Huawei. Let’s hope others will follow Germany’s lead.

The Belt and Road Initiative is an unstoppable train that left the station some five years ago and is on a projected route for the next 30-some years initiating peaceful socioeconomic development throughout the world. As a Chinese representative at the recent Cuban Conference for The Equilibrium of the World said:

 We are building bridges to connect people of all continents, while the west is building walls.

Idlib: Reportage from the Last Front in Syria

For a while, all the guns have fallen silent.

I am near Idlib, the last stronghold of the terrorists in Syria. The area where the deadliest anti-government fighters, most of them injected into Syria from Turkey, with Saudi, Qatari and Western ‘help’, are literally holed up, ready for the final showdown.

Just yesterday, mortars were falling on villages near the invisible frontline, separating government troops and the terrorist forces of Al Nusra Front. The day before yesterday, two explosions rocked the earth, only a couple of meters from where we are now standing.

They call it a ceasefire. But it’s not. It is one-sided. To be more precise: the Syrian army is waiting, patiently. Its cannons are pointing towards the positions of the enemy, but the orders from Damascus are clear: do not fire.

The enemy has no scruples. It provokes, endlessly. It fires and bombs, indiscriminately. It kills. Along the frontline, thousands of houses are already ruined. Nothing gets spared: residential districts, sport gymnasiums, even bakeries. There is an established routine: assaults by the terrorists, rescue operations organized by Syrian armed forces (SAA – Syrian Arab Army) and Syrian National Defense Forces, then immediate rebuilding of the damage.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have lost their lives in this war. Millions had to leave their homeland. Millions have been internally displaced. For many, the conflict became a routine. Rescue operations became routine. Rebuilding tasks became routine, too.

Now, it is clear that the final victory is near. Syria survived the worse. It is still bleeding, but most of its territories are beginning to heal. People are slowly returning home, from Lebanon and Turkey, from Germany and elsewhere. They go through rubble – their former homes. They sit down and cry. Then, they get up and start rebuilding. That’s in other parts of the country: Duma, Homs, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zur.

But in the villages and towns north of Hama and towards Idlib, the war is far from being over.

In the town of Squalbiah, Commander Nabel Al-Abdallah of the National Defense Forces (NDF) explained to me:

SAA could easily use force and win militarily; it could take Idlib. But the SAA operates under command of President Assad, who believes in negotiations. If we take the city now, there would be huge casualties.

*****

The situation is not as simple, as we would like it to be. Victory may be near, but the West is not giving up, nor is Turkey. There are still pockets that are held by the US and French troops, and around Idlib (including Manbij), a large area is still controlled by the terrorists, who were transported here from all corners of Syria, under the Russian-sponsored agreement.

And there is more to it: My sources in Syria shared the latest:

Some 4 months ago, the ’new ISIS’ appeared in the south of Idlib, not far from where we are right now. They were injected into Syria by the Turks. They were wearing brand new uniforms, white long dresses. Before, they were recognizable by black or gray outfits – ‘Afghan-style’. They now call themselves ‘Hurras Aldeen’, or ‘The Guardians of Religion’. Why? In order for the United States, and the West in general, to continue to support them. The ISIS are officially on the list of the terrorist organizations’, but this new ‘brand’ is not.

I ask Commander Nabel Al-Abdallah, what the West really wants? He replies, immediately:

The West wants terrorism to spread to Russia and China. Many terrorists work and fight directly for the interests of the United States.

We need to take care of the innocent civilians. But we also have to find the solution, very quickly. If we fail, terrorism will spread all around the world.

We sit in the Commander’s provisory headquarters, having a quick cup of tea, before moving to the frontline.

He wants to say something. He thinks, how. It is not easy. Nothing is easy under the circumstances, but he tries, and what he utters makes sense:

If we don’t have solution, soon, terrorists will damage the world. Our problems are not just the ISIS, but above all, the ideology that they represent. They use Islam, they say that they fight in the name of Islam, but they are backed by the United States. And here, the SAA, our military and our defense forces, are fighting for the world, not just for Syria.

We embrace and I go. His men drive me in a military vehicle to the outskirts of As Suqaylabiyah (also known as Squalbiah). From there, I photograph a hospital and the positions of Al Nusra Front. They are there, right in front of me, just a couple of hundreds of meters.

Territory held by Al Nusrah Front including their military hospital (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

I am told that I am like a sitting duck, exposed. I work fast. Luckily, today the terrorists are not in the mood for shooting.

Before returning to the vehicle, I try to imagine how life must be there, under Al Nusra Front or the ISIS occupation.

From the hill where I stand, the entire area looks green, fertile and immensely beautiful. But I know, I clearly understand that it is hell on earth for those who live in those houses down below; in the villages and towns controlled by some of the most brutal terrorists on earth.

I also know that these terrorist monsters are here on foreign orders, trying to destroy Syria, simply because its government and people have been refusing to succumb to the Western imperialist dictates.

Here, it is not only about theory. The lives of millions have been already destroyed. Here it is all concrete and practical – it is reality.

We can hear explosions in a distance. The war may be over in Damascus, but not here. Not here, yet.

*****

My friend Yamen is from the city of Salamiyah, some 50 kilometers from Hama. Only recently the area around his home town was liberated from the extremist groups.

Twenty kilometers west from Salamiyah lies the predominantly Ismaili village of Al Kafat, which used to be surrounded by both Al-Nusra Front and the ISIS.

Mr. Abdullah, President of local Ismaili Council, recalls the horrors which his fellow citizens had to endure:

In the past, we had two car bomb explosions here. In January 2014, 19 people were killed, 40 houses totally destroyed and 300 damaged. Fighting was only 200 meters away from here. Both Al-Nusra Front and ISIS surrounded the village, and were cooperating. We are very close to one of the main roads, so for the terrorists, it was an extremely important strategic position. This entire area was finally liberated only in January 2018.

Whom do they blame?

Mr. Abdullah does not hesitate:

Saudis, Turks, the USA, Europe, Qatar…

We walk through the village. Some homes are still lying in ruins, but most of them have at least been partially restored. On the walls and above several shops, I can see the portrait of a beautiful young woman, who was killed during one of the terrorist assaults. 65 villagers were slaughtered, in total. Before the war, the population of the village was 3,500, but traumatized and impoverished by war, many decided to leave and now only 2,500 inhabitants live here, cultivating olive trees, herding sheep and cows.

Before my visit here, I was told that education played an extremely important role in defending this place, and in keeping morale high during the darkest days of combat and crises. Mr. Abdullah readily confirmed it:

The human brain has the capacity to solve problems, and to defuse crises. During a war like this, education is extremely important. Or more precisely, it is mainly about learning, not only about education. Al-Nusra and ISIS – they are synonymous with ignorance. If your brain is strong, it easily defeats ignorance. I think we succeeded here. And look now: this poor village has at this moment 103 students attending universities, all over Syria.

As we drive on, east, large portraits of a brother of my friend Yamen decorate many military posts. He was one of the legendary commanders here, but was killed in 2017.

Then I see a castle: monstrous, more than two millennia old, overlooking the city of Salamiyah. There are green fields all around, so much beauty, in all the corners of Syria.

“Come back and visit all these marvels when the war is over,” someone around me jokes.

I don’t see it as a joke.

“I will,” I think. “I definitely will”. But we have to win, and win very soon, as soon as possible! To make sure that nothing else goes up in flames.

*****

I drop my bag in at a local inn in Salamiyah, and ask my comrades to drive me on, further east. I want to see, to feel how life was under ISIS, and how it is now.

There are ruins, all around us. I saw plenty of terrible urban ruins during my previous visit: all around Homs and the outskirts of Damascus.

Here I see rural ruins, in their own way as horrifying as those scarring all the major cities of Syria.

This entire area had recently been a frontline. Or it was screaming in the hands of the terrorist groups, mainly ISIS.

Now it is a minefield. The road is cleared, but not the fields; not the remains of the villages.

I photograph a tank that used to belong to the ISIS; burned and badly damaged. It is an old Soviet tank, which used to belong to the Syrian army. It was captured by the ISIS, and then destroyed by either the SAA or a Russian airplane. Next to the tank – a chicken farm burned to the ground.

The Lieutenant, who is accompanying me, goes on, monotonously, with his grizzly account:

Today, outside Salamiyeh, 8 people were killed by the landmines.

We leave the vehicle, and walk slowly down the road, which is full of craters.

Suddenly, the Lieutenant stops without any warning:

And here, my cousin was killed by another mine.

*****

We reach Hardaneh Village, but almost no one is left here. There are ruins everywhere. Before – 500 people lived here, now only 30. This is where heavy fighting against the ISIS took place. 13 local people were killed, 21 soldiers ‘martyred’. Other civilians were forced to leave.

Mr. Mohammad Ahmad Jobur is the local administrator (el muchtar), 80 years old:

First, we fought ISIS, but they overwhelmed us. Most of us had to leave. Now some of us returned, but only few…Yes, now we have electricity; at least 3 hours a day, and our children can go to school. The old school was destroyed by the ISIS, so kids are now collected and taken to a bigger town for education. Every villager wants to come back, but most of the families have no money to rebuild their houses and farms. The government made a list of the people whose dwellings were destroyed. They will get help, but help will be distributed gradually, stage by stage.

Naturally: almost the entire country lies in ruins.

Are villagers optimistic about the future?

“Yes, very optimistic,” declares the village chief. “If we get help, if we can rebuild, we will all come back.”

But then, they show me the water wells, destroyed by the ISIS.

It is all smiles through tears. So far only 30 have come back. How many will come home this year?

I asked the chief what the main aim of the ISIS was?

No aim, no logic. ISIS was created by the West. They tried to destroy everything, this village, this area, this entire country. They made no sense… they do not think like us… they only brought destruction.

*****

Soha, a village even further east, a place where men, women and children were forced to live under the ISIS.

These women survived life under ISIS (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

I am invited into a traditional house. People sit in a circle. Several younger women are hiding their faces, not wanting to be photographed. I can only guess why. Others don’t care. What happened here; what horrors took place? Nobody will pronounce it all.

This is a traditional village inhabited by a local tribe; very conservative.

Testimonies begin to flow:

First, they banned us from smoking, and shaving. Women had to cover their faces and feet; they had to wear black… Strict rules were imposed… education was banned. The ISIS created terrible prisons… They were often beating us with rubber hoses, in public. Some people were beheaded. Severed heads were exhibited above the main square.

When ISIS arrived, they brought with them their slaves – kidnapped people from Raqqah. Some women got stoned in public, alive. Other women were thrown to their death from the roofs and from other high places. They were amputating hands… Various women were forced to marry ISIS fighters…

An uncomfortable silence followed, before the topic got changed.

They killed 2 men from this village…

Some say more, many more.

Several youngsters joined the ISIS. 3 or 4… ISIS would pay $200 to each new combatant who subscribed. And, of course, they were promising heaven…

ISIS cage for infidels and sinners (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

In one of the villages, I am shown a big rusty cage for ‘infidels’ and “sinners”. People were locked in there like wild animals, and kept exposed, in the open.

I see the destroyed ‘police’ building of the ISIS. At one point I am offered some papers – documents – which are just scattered all over the floor. I don’t want to take any with me, not even as a ‘souvenir’.

Testimonies continue to flow:

They were beheading people for being in possession of mobile phones… Local villagers were disappearing… they were kidnapped…

At some point, I have to halt this flow of testimonies. I can hardly process all that is being said. People are shouting over each other. One day, someone should take it all down, to record it, to file it. I do what I can, but I realize that it is not enough. It is never enough. The scale of the tragedy is too great.

By now it is getting dark… and then it is dark. I have to return to Salamiyeh, to rest a bit; to sleep for a few hours, and then to return to the frontline, where both the Syrian and Russian soldiers are bravely facing the enemy. Where they are doing all that is humanly possible to prevent those gangsters sponsored by the West and their allies, from returning to the already liberated areas of the country.

She saw decapitations by ISIS (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

But before I fall asleep, I recall; I am haunted by the image of a little girl who survived the occupation of her village by the ISIS. She stood resting her back against the wall. She looked at me for a while, then lifted her hands and moved her fingers quickly across her throat.

*****

The next day, the Commander of the National Defense Forces in Muhradah, Simon Al Wakel, drives me all around the city and the outskirts, Kalashnikov resting next to his seat. It is a quick and matter-of-fact ‘tour’:

This is where the mortars landed two days ago, there is a power plant which was liberated from the terrorists, and this is a huge gymnasium attacked by the terrorists simply because they hate that our girls excel in volleyball and basketball.

We talk to locals. Commander Simon gets stopped in the middle of the streets, embraced by total strangers, kissed on both cheeks.

Driving to the front with Commander Simon (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

“I have been targeted more than 60 times,” he tells me. One of his former cars is rotting at a remote parking lot, after it was hit and burned by the terrorists.

He shrugs his shoulders:

Russians and Turks negotiated the ceasefire, but obviously, terrorists do not respect any agreements.

We return to the frontline. I am shown the Syrian cannons pointing towards the positions of Al Nusra Front. The local headquarters of the terrorists is clearly visible, not too far from the magnificent ruins of the Sheizar Citadel.

First, I see the Syrian soldiers, operating slightly outdated Soviet as well as newer Russian equipment: armed vehicles, tanks, “Katyushas”. Then I spot several Russian boys settling down in two houses with a commanding view of the valley and the enemy territory.

Both the Syrian and Russian armies, shoulder to shoulder, are now facing the last enclave of the terrorists.

I wave at the Russians, and they wave back at me.

Everyone seems to be in a good mood. We are winning. We are ‘almost there’.

We all also know that it is still too early to celebrate. Terrorists from all over the world are hoarded in the area in and around the city of Idlib. The US, UK and French “Special Forces” are operating in several parts of the country. The Turkish military keeps holding big chunk of the Syrian land.

The weather is clear. The green fields are fertile and beautiful. The nearby citadel is imposing. Just a little bit more of determination and endurance, and this wonderful country will be fully liberated.

Our artillery facing Al Nusdrah Front (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

We all realize it, but no one is celebrating, yet. Nobody is smiling. The facial expressions of the Syrian and Russian comrades are serious. Men are looking down towards the valley, weapons ready. They are fully concentrated. Anything may happen; anytime.

I know why there are no smiles; we all know: Soon, we may defeat the enemy. Soon, the war may end. But hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have already died.

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

From Late Victorian Holocausts to 21st Century Imperialism: Crocodile Tears for Venezuela

On 26 February, Stephen Hickey, UK political coordinator at the United Nations, delivered a statement at the Security Council briefing on Venezuela that put the blame for the situation in that country on its government. He said that years of misrule and corruption have wrecked the Venezuelan economy and that the actions of the “Maduro regime” have led to economic collapse.

He continued by talking about the recent attempts to bring ‘aid’ into the country:

… use of deadly violence against his (Maduro) own people and other concerning acts of aggression to block the supply of desperately needed humanitarian aid are simply repugnant… the Maduro regime’s oppressive policies affect… innocent civilians, including women and children, who lack access to essential medical and other basic supplies…

He then went on to talk about journalist Jorge Ramos being reportedly detained, later to be released and deported:

As with the lack of freedom given to journalists, other essential freedoms – such as democratic ones – are simply not present in Venezuela… We stand with… Juan Guaidó in pursuit of our shared goal to bring peace and stability to Venezuela.

We can but wonder what Hickey thinks about the illegal and arbitrary detention and needless suffering of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the best part of a decade courtesy of his own government.

Hickey argued that the only way to achieve peace and stability is by democratic transition through free and fair presidential elections, as demanded by ‘interim President Guaidó’ and the National Assembly, in line with the Venezuelan Constitution.

He stated:

Until this is achieved, the current humanitarian crisis caused by the Maduro regime’s corrupt policies will continue… nothing short of free and fair presidential elections will do.

In the meantime, Hickey called for additional sanctions against individual members of the Venezuelan government who he said had benefited from corrupt policies.

He concluded that:

The Venezuelan people deserve a better future. They have suffered enough at the hands of the Maduro regime.

Something for Hickey to consider

Here are a few facts for Stephen Hickey. In 2018, Maduro was re-elected president. A section of the opposition boycotted the election but the boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; 16 parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 68 per cent. Renowned journalist John Pilger says that on election day he spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers who told him the process had been entirely fair. There was no fraud and none of the lurid media claims stood up.

So what of the unelected Juan Guaidó whom Hickey calls the “interim president”?

Pilger notes that the Trump administration has presented Guaidó, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the legitimate President of Venezuela. Guaidó was previously unheard of by 81 percent of the Venezuelan people and has been elected by no one.

And what of the people who are behind him (not ordinary Venezuelan people, but his backers in Washington)? Pilger says:

As his “special envoy to Venezuela” (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.

Talking about the Western media biased reporting on Venezuela, Pilger adds that the country’s democratic record, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen:

The greatest literacy program in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

None of this happened in the warped world of Stephen Hickey either. He paints a wholly distorted picture of the situation in Venezuela, one which lays the blame for economic woes and their consequences at the door of Maduro and his ‘corrupt regime’. But this is a tried and tested strategy: bring a country to its knees and apportion blame on the political leaders of that country.

Countries like Venezuela have, to a large extent, been trapped by their colonial legacy and have very often become single commodity producers – in this case oil – and find it difficult to expand other sectors. In effect, they have found themselves extremely vulnerable. The US can squeeze the price of the commodity upon which such countries rely, while applying sanctions and cutting off financial lifelines. It then becomes that much easier to lay the blame for the consequences on a ‘corrupt regime’.

Prof Michael Hudson has outlined how debt and the US-controlled international monetary system has backed Maduro into a corner. He argues that Venezuela has become an oil monoculture, with revenue having been spent largely on importing food and other necessities, which it could have produced itself. In the case of food at least, many countries in the Global South have been adversely affected by the ‘globalisation of agriculture’ and have had their indigenous sectors undermined as a result of WTO policies and directives, debt and US-supported geopolitical lending strategies.

However, this is all an inconvenient truth for the likes of Hickey and the Western media. Talking about the BBC, John Pilger notes that it is “too difficult” for that media outlet to include any of this in its reporting:

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6 billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including $2 billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

None of this is up for debate by the BBC or Hickey. He sits in the UN talking about, freedom, democracy and the rights and suffering of ordinary people, while failing to acknowledge the US or the UK’s own role in the denial of freedom and the perpetuation of suffering across the world.

From Syria to Iraq, the ‘squeezing out of life’

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009. And writing in The Guardian in 2013, Nafeez Ahmed discussed leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

But this is where Britain and the West’s concerns really lie: facilitating the geopolitical machinations of financial institutions, oil companies, arms manufacturers and profiteers. And it is no different this time around with Venezuela. Ordinary people are mere ‘collateral damage’ left dying in or fleeing war zones that the West and its allies created. The West’s brutal oil and gas wars are twisted as ‘humanitarian’ interventions for public consumption.

In 2014, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told a meeting at St Andrews University in Scotland that Libya is now a disaster and 15,000 people were killed when NATO (British and French jets) bombed Sirte. The made-for-public narrative about that ‘intervention’ began with some tale about Gaddafi killing his own people, which turned out to be false. Now we are hearing similar about Maduro.

As far as Iraq is concerned, Murray said that he knew for certain that key British officials were fully aware that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction. He said that invading Iraq wasn’t a mistake, it was a lie.

Over a million people have been killed via the US-led or US-backed attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. But this is the plan: to turn countries into vassal states of the US, or for those that resist to reconstruct (destroy) them into fractured territories.

Any eulogies to morality and humanitarianism must be seen for what they are: part of the ongoing psychological operations being waged on the public to encourage people to regard what is happening in the world as a disconnected array of events in need of Western intervention. These events are not for one minute to be regarded by the public as the planned brutality of empire and militarism.

Tim Anderson (author of The Dirty War on Syria) argues that where Syria was concerned Western culture in general favoured its worst traditions: “the ‘imperial prerogative’ for intervention… reinforced by a ferocious campaign of war propaganda.” We are now seeing it again, this time with Venezuela.

We might well ask who is Donald Trump, John Bolton or for that matter Stephen Hickey to dictate and engineer what the future of Venezuela should be? But this is what the US with the UK in support has been doing across the globe for decades. Control of oil is key to current events in Venezuela. But there is also the subtext of destroying any tendencies towards socialism across Latin America (and elsewhere) as well as the need of Western capital to expand into or create new markets: Washington’s hand-picked puppet Juan Guaido will facilitate the process and usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism’.

In many respects, the US has learned its imperialist playbook from its former colonial master, the UK. In the book ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’, the author Mike Davis writes that millions in India were dying of starvation when Lord Lytton (head of the British government in India) said, “There is to be no interference of any kind on the part of government with the object of reducing the price of food”. He dismissed any idea of feeding the starving as “humanitarian hysterics”. There was plenty of food, but it was held back to preserve prices and serve the market.

Indian writer and politician Shashi Tharoor, notes a speech to the British House of Commons in 1935 by Winston Churchill who said that the slightest fall from the present standard of life in India means slow starvation and the actual squeezing out of life, not only of millions but of scores of millions of people. And that after almost 200 years of British rule. According to Tharoor, this “squeezing out of life” was realized at the hands of Churchill in the six to seven million Indian deaths in the WW2 Bengali Holocaust.

Despite Hickey’s crocodile tears, hundreds of thousands in various countries are still dying today due to the same imperialist mindset. Humanitarian hysterics are for public consumption as the “squeezing out of life” continues regardless.

Can Maduro Emulate Castro and Assad to Keep NATO’s Imperialist Hands Off Venezuela?

(Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Luther L. Boothe Jr., Task Force Currahee Public Affairs Office)

Imperial logic I: External crises distract from internal ones

Empires with internal problems tend to create external crises to distract the public opinion and unite their political and economical ruling class in a fictitious nationalistic fervor. The current United States policy of overt regime change in Venezuela, backed entirely by its NATO vassals, follows an evergreen imperial playbook of creating new crises to obscure failures and divisions.

In addition to the administration’s overall incompetence, the legal investigations through the Mueller inquiry, and the failure to deliver to its MAGA sycophants their big wall, it has passed unnoticed, and it will never be admitted by US officials or media that the US imperial wars in Afghanistan and Syria are, in fact, lost. Assad will remain in power, and the US administration has publicly admitted that it was negotiating with the Taliban. The temptation for the empire’s ideologues is too strong not to follow the precept: when you have lost a war, you declare victory and you leave. And next time around, you try to pick a weaker target.

Archive of Jakob Reimann

Imperial logic II: A state of war must be permanent

A prime example of this in recent history was the way the events of September 11, 2001 were used internally to justify the emergence of a police state, using far-reaching legislation like the Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Externally, 911 was successfully used by the US to trigger, almost immediately, an invasion of Afghanistan with the entire NATO membership under the hospice of the military alliance’s Article 5, which stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all. This was the very first time, since the creation of NATO in 1949, that Article 5 was put into force.

With the US public opinion still largely revengeful, misinformed by media manipulations, and eager to wage war, two years later, in 2003, it was fairly simple for the Bush administration and its neocons to sell the invasion of Iraq as a war of necessity, and not for what it truly was: a war of choice, for oil and greater control of the Middle East. Cynically, the aftermath of 9/11/2001 gave the empire and its powerful military-industrial complex two wars for the price of one.

Archive of Dawei Ding

Imperial logic III: People are collateral damage of realpolitiks

Great moral principles of altruistic universal humanitarian concerns are almost never at stake in these instances. They are mainly smoke screens to hide the board of a cold, Machiavellian, and complex chess game where innocent bystanders often perish by the millions. They are the acceptable collateral damage of realpolitik’s grand strategists. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the true guiding principle of US imperial realpolitik, and all US foreign policy decisions that derived from it, was to stop the so-called communist domino effect.

Communist domino effect: three simple words for a game that killed millions of innocent people worldwide, first in Korea in the early 1950s, then in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, and later, under the tutelage of some of the very same criminal architects, in Central and South American countries like Chile. Now in their golden years, most of these murderous policymakers, like Henry Kissinger, enjoy an active retirement with honors, respect and, unlike their colleague Robert McNamara, not a hint of remorse.

One of these policymakers, a veteran of US imperialism in Central America and also one of the staunchest advocates of Iraq’s invasion in 2003, has made a come back. He is neocon extraordinaire Elliot Abrams. Abrams has been rewarded for his actions in the Iran-Contra affair, El Salvador, and Nicaragua with a nomination as Special Envoy of the Trump administration for Venezuela. In other words, Abrams is in charge of the US-sponsored coup task force against Venezuela’s legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro.

Archive of Lezumbalaberenjena

Defeating imperial logic: The Cuban and Syrian lessons

There are many others examples in history where in a David versus Goliath fight, the little guy who, on paper, did not stand a chance eventually through sheer determination, organization and vast popular support, won on the battlefield. Vietnam is obviously a special case in this regard, as the Vietcong of Ho Chi Minh managed to defeat, almost back to back, the old colonial masters of the French empire in the 1950s, and, of course. soon thereafter, the US empire.

In the early 1960s, during the Cuban missile crisis, Castro’s days seemed to be numbered. More recently, in Syria, all the lips of the NATO coalition, Israel and Gulf State allies were chanting in unison that as a precondition for resolving the Syrian crisis, “Assad must go!” By 2017, however, some coalition members such as Qatar, France and Germany were not so adamant about the “Assad must go” mantra. Not only did Bashar al-Assad not go, but also, as matter of fact, he is regaining control of his entire country, on his own terms.

AFP PHOTO/www.cubadebate.cu/

Castro outsmarted the empire’s CIA hitmen 600 times

Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, had in Fidel Castro a source of inspiration and the guidance of a father figure. Chavez, like other neo-Marxists, looked up to Fidel for leading a successful revolution, through military action, which had toppled the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. This regime was not only a docile servant of the US government but was also directly associated with the Mafia’s criminal activities in Cuba in the era of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. With Batista’s complicity, American gangsters had turned Cuba into a gambling and prostitution paradise where the US’ unscrupulous rich went to play. Castro shut down the bordello that had become Cuba and proudly rebuilt his island, and he consciously set out to transform Cuba slowly and steadily into a socialist country.

Needless to say, the shutdown of their depraved and lucrative tropical paradise was unacceptable for the US empire’s ruling elites. Against all odds, the Cuban communist leader managed to defy one US administration after another, and without compromise remained at the helm of the Cuban revolution. It was not for a lack of trying either to invade Cuba, as in the Bay of Pigs botched invasion episode, or to cook up countless assassination attempts on Castro’s person. Starting almost immediately after he took power in 1959, Castro was the target of CIA assassination attempts. From the Kennedy era all the way to the Clinton administrations, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 plots to kill him. Some of the attempts involved collaborations of the Mafia with the CIA. Castro once said, “if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal!” It has to be added that, at least so far, Fidel Castro has also won a posthumous gold medal for ensuring the legacy of the Cuban revolution.

Damascus, Syria. 15th March 2012 — Loyalties to President Bashar al-Assad attend the rally at the Umayyad Square and hold the Syrian flag and a picture of Bashar al-Assad.

Assad: military might and striking the right alliances

Almost eight years ago, some people in quiet mansions, regal palaces or discrete offices in Washington, Riyadh, Doha, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv or undisclosed locations came up with what appeared to be an excellent plan. They would hijack some of the genuine energy of the Arab Spring then quickly sponsor it with a huge arsenal, while hiring some supposed good Djihadists soldiers-of-fortune as the main muscle to get rid of the uncooperative Bashar al-Assad. In what I called in May 2013, an “unholy alliance to wreck and exploit,” the Western and Gulf States coalition to topple Assad was born. In the US, the late Senator John McCain was one of the cheerleaders of the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Eight years later, with Syria in ruins, 350,000 people dead, around 4.5 million refugees still scattered principally in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, Assad has prevailed in a bittersweet victory, considering that his country has been wrecked as a battleground for proxy wars. Bashar al-Assad did not win on his own. He managed to retain complete loyalty from the Syrian army during the past eight gruesome years. Assad also could count on the military involvement of dependable allies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran and, of course, a critical impact of Russia once Putin’s administration decided to commit military assets and troops.

Maduro can keep Uncle Sam’s hands off Venezuela

One can only hope that Venezuela’s US-sponsored coup attempt using the subterfuge of a phony revolution does not follow the track of Syria in terms of the mayhem. However, the analogies are numerous between Maduro’s situation today and that of Assad in 2011. First, Maduro has at his disposal a reasonably well-equipped military as well as the Chavista militia. To defeat the unfolding coup attempt, the loyalty of the armed forces has to be ironclad. Second, just as Assad has done, Maduro must work to cultivate, in pragmatic ways, both regional and worldwide alliances.

Cuba will do a lot to help and might turn out to be Maduro’s Hezbollah. But will Mexico, Bolivia, and Uruguay go beyond diplomatic posturing in their solidarity with Maduro against NATO’s imperialism? How involved and how far, either economically or, in a worse-case scenario, militarily are Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran willing to go? In geopolitics, unlike diplomacy, only actions talk. Venezuela has a massive bargaining chip in the form of the mostly untapped biggest oil reserve in the world. This is Maduro’s ultimate ace in this game, and it should be used shrewdly. In realpolitiks, friends might be temporary, and they always want something. This is not an altruistic environment.

Russian Mediation: The Critical Messages of the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Moscow

The Russian-sponsored Palestinian unity talks in Moscow on February 11 were neither a success nor failure. Uniting Palestinian factions was not the main objective of the Moscow conference in the first place.

Instead, the nature of the event, the host country and the clear messages sent to Washington and Tel Aviv were all meant to communicate something else entirely. And they did.

The head of the Fatah delegation to the conference, Azzam al-Ahmed, apologized to his hosts on behalf of Palestinians for failing to achieve political reconciliation.

But that apology could have been prepared in advance. It would not have been rational to expect that a conference organized in such haste, with few preliminary meetings or intense prior consultations, could have achieved the coveted unity.

If one is to also consider the various unity agreements, signed between Fatah and Hamas in the past – but never honored – and bearing in mind the additional punitive measures slapped by the Palestinian Authority against Gaza recently, a unity deal in Russia would be nothing less than a miracle.

So why did the Russians hold the conference in the first place and why did the Palestinians agree to attend, if its failure was a foretold conclusion?

The answer lies elsewhere, specifically in Warsaw, Poland.

Around the same time that Palestinians met in Moscow under the auspices of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, the US was holding its own conference in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw meet was the US’ attempt at drawing a new political paradigm to replace the defunct ‘peace process’, which, itself, was an American political invention.

While the ‘peace process’, thanks to US blind support of Israel, has failed terribly, Warsaw, too, is unlikely to deliver any meaningful or long-term political vision in the Middle East. The conference was the equivalent of a public American declaration that only Israel matters and that Washington’s commitment to Tel Aviv is paramount to all else.

Even the Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, known for its political subservience to Washington, was repulsed by the US’ new, brazen political approach. Time and again, the Donald Trump Administration has made it clear to its former Palestinian ally that Palestinian political aspirations are no longer a subject worthy of even mere consideration by the US. The relocating of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Washington in May last year was one of many such signs.

Abbas, who is now increasing pressure on his Hamas rivals in Gaza, and is plotting against his own Fatah rivals in the West Bank, agreed to allow Fatah participation in the Moscow conference because he, too, has a message for the US, the gist of which is “we too have a new strategy and political alternatives.’

Knowing in advance that Trump’s so-called “deal of the century’ is likely to be consistent with the new, more aggressive US foreign policy approach to the Middle East, Fatah is keen to preclude the announcement of the ‘deal’ by seeking different routes that do not  necessarily go through Washington.

For Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, freeing Fatah from Washington’s grip is something they can also all agree on.

A Hamas official, Hussam Badran, was very clear regarding the consensus of all Palestinian participants in denouncing the “deal of the century (and) all conspiracies to eliminate the Palestinian cause.”

Musa Abu Marzouk, who led the Hamas delegation, declared from Moscow that all Palestinians factions will work together to “confront the deal of the century.”

Fatah’s position was of one and the same.

For Russia, a unified Palestinian call to defeat the latest US political stratagem in the region is consistent with Moscow’s ongoing efforts to undermine Washington’s once uncontested role in the Middle East.

True, the Palestinian factions failed to agree on a final statement written on behalf of all parties, but the disagreements were of little relevance to their political outlook concerned with Washington’s political ploys. The Islamic Jihad refuses to consider a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and, along with Hamas, does not see the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the one and only representative of all Palestinians, as the draft of the final statement proposed.

These positions are hardly new, especially since Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are not yet part of the PLO. Palestinian factions would need more than a two-day conference in Moscow to iron out the numerous details of such complex issues.

Russia, too, had its own messages to send. Aside from a message to the US-led Warsaw conference that Russia is ready to fill the gap left open by the US departure from the ‘peace process’, another Russian-hosted political summit in Sochi carried layers of direct and subtle meanings.

The tripartite Sochi summit brought Russia, Turkey and Iran together to discuss the future of Syria following the US withdrawal.

For Russia to be heavily involved in two major political processes and conflicts concerning the Middle East at the same time is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Russian-Soviet led socialist bloc.

Those in Washington who see Moscow as an adversary must have been particularly unpleased by the new developments. The US-Russian rivalry is definitely at its highest point in many years.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions, save Fatah, would have welcomed Russia’s re-engagement, regardless of any specific political contexts. Hamas has been under massive pressure and near-complete isolation in Gaza for many years, and a political outlet of this nature is, for the Movement, a welcome development.

Hamas is now ready to upgrade its ties with Russia, especially after the Movement’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, received an official invitation to include Russia on his next trip outside of besieged Gaza.

The major change in the political equation, however, is that Fatah has been recently dropped from the US political sponsorship list, and is desperately seeking new political and financial patrons.

Mahmoud Abbas is likely to wait for further indications of the changing American position before completely abandoning his quest of an American sponsored ‘peace’ with Israel.

All three conferences – Warsaw, Moscow and Sochi – should be enough of an indication that the new political paradigm, which has been in the making for years, is unlikely to be reversed, at least, not any time soon.