Category Archives: Syria

“That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 1)

After 20 years of Media Lens, it seems only natural that we should look back in gratitude at the support we’ve received. In response to one of our early pieces, a kindly columnist at the Observer commented:

‘Dear David,

‘Thank you very much for sending me a copy of your piece, which strikes me as spot on.

‘Yrs,

‘Nick Cohen’

A Guardian columnist responded with even more effusive praise:

‘This article is brilliant and fascinating David, as ever.’ (George Monbiot)

Alas, our ethical integrity declined precipitously after we subjected our interlocutors to criticism, with Cohen addressing us as ‘Dear Serviles’, signing off with ‘Viva Joe Stalin’ (Cohen, email, 15 March 2002). Monbiot went on to write an article titled, ‘Media Cleanse’. He described our organisation as ‘an apologist for genocidaires and ethnic cleansers’ – Guardianspeak for ‘critics who embarrass apologists for Western foreign policy’. Both Cohen and Monbiot have long since blocked us on Twitter.

More seriously, beyond the corporate fringepuddle, we were initially astonished by the level of public support we received. A reader commented early on:

‘Dear MediaLens, I feel like crying with the gratitude I feel to you people for the immense amount of work that must go into writing incredibly detailed, researched synopses like that we have just received from you on Iraq.’

Last month, a reader emailed:

‘My sister and I have followed your work for many years and really I don’t have the words to describe the value of the service you provide to a global community.’

We once asked Harold Pinter what he thought of the media claim that ‘people are completely indifferent to everything that’s going on and couldn’t care less’. In his inimitable style, Pinter replied:

‘That is actually bollocks.’

We sometimes feel genuinely embarrassed by the praise we receive because it has always seemed to us that we are involved in a kind of turkey shoot.

The fact is that, like other corporate employees, on pain of career cancellation, media workers simply cannot expose truths that discomfit their owners, parent companies, editors, advertisers, colleagues, and allied powerful interests. It is child’s play to demonstrate that this is the case.

Even as we were editing this alert, Jack Slater, an ostensibly impartial, objective senior BBC broadcast journalist covering Joe Biden’s first visit to the UK as president, tweeted:

‘Always special to film POTUS [President of the United States].’

Nobody noticed. If Slater tweeted, ‘Always special to film Assad’, or, ‘Always special to film Putin’, he would be guilty of ‘bias’ contravening the BBC charter and out of a job. Likewise, if he tweeted, ‘Always uncomfortable to film the head of US imperial power.’

Because journalists are also not free to discuss what it is they are not free to discuss, we often have the last word (Slater, of course, ignored our tweet, above). This also makes us look great!

The point is that we don’t have direct bosses – owners, managers, editors, parent companies. And we also don’t have indirect bosses – advertisers, wealthy philanthropists, supportive charitable foundations, organisational allegiances, and so on. This is the one advantage of being a tinpot outfit run on a shoestring.

The Chinese mystic Chuang Tzu once said: ‘Easy is right.’ Media criticism is easy if you’re willing to burn your media bridges at both ends. We have found that it often produces a lovely light.

Below, we discuss 20 corporate media horrors from the last 20 years that have remained stuck in our minds and craws, and that are ‘actually bollocks’.

1. The 30mm M230 Chain-Driven Autocannon ‘Stitching The Fabric Of A Nation Together’

It couldn’t have been more perfect. On 17 November 2010, BBC News at Ten presenter George Alagiah spoke from the British base, Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan:

‘I’ve been here a week now and it’s been long enough to see some of the small but real steps of progress. But it’s also clear how much further there is to go. And it’s not just about women’s rights or more clinics and schools. It’s about stitching the fabric of a nation together.’

Future historians will write learned dissertations on how gender rights in our time have been commandeered and weaponised by a fathomless cultural arrogance (the polite term) in the service of imperial violence.

For these fine words were spoken in front of an Apache attack helicopter. The gunship’s 30mm, M230 chain-driven autocannon, fresh from ‘stitching the fabric of a nation together’, was clearly visible. This was the same weapon type seen blowing apart a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in the 2007 WikiLeaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video. And this is the same aircraft type in which (then) Prince Harry had flown as co-pilot and gunner. Now an ardent anti-racism campaigner, when asked if he had killed people as part of the illegal, racist war on brown-skinned Afghans, Harry answered:

‘Yeah, so, lots of people have… If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game, I suppose.’

Talk of a majority white alliance ‘taking out’ brown-skinned people from ‘the game’ (‘The Great Game’?) would perhaps fail Harry’s own refurbished standards of political correctness now.

2. The Independent on Sunday – ‘Travel Neroists’

Like everyone else, the billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporation calling itself the Independent on Sunday now claims to hold a bright candle for the radical climate action required to address the devastation wrought by… (wait for it!)… the billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporate system.

In 2016, environment editor Geoffrey Lean lavished praise on himself and his employer:

‘this has been a newspaper that has long been black and white and green all over, winning many awards’.

As Noam Chomsky said:

‘Heaven must be full to overflowing, if the masters of self-adulation are to be taken at their word.’ 1

In 2007 – fully 20 years after scientists had blown a loud whistle on the looming threat of climate collapse – the February 4 cover story of the Independent on Sunday’s Review supplement was almost beyond belief. The words on the cover:

‘Time is running out… Ski resorts are melting… Paradise islands are vanishing… So what are you waiting for?’

Did they mean: what are we waiting for before taking radical action? No, this, after all, was a corporate newspaper and business is business:

‘30 places you need to visit while you still can – A 64-page Travel Special…’

From the depths of depraved corporate cynicism, Marcus Fairs wrote:

‘I am changing my travel plans this year. Alarmed by global warming, shocked by the imminent mass extinction of species and distraught at the environmental damage wreaked by mass tourism, I have decided to act before it is too late. Yes, carbon-neutral travel can wait. I’m off to see polar bears, tigers and low-lying Pacific atolls while they’re still there… In the spirit of Nero – the Roman emperor who sang to the beauty of the flames while Rome burned to the ground – we are determined to enjoy the final days of our beautiful Earth. We are aware that mass tourism damages the very things we are going to see, but this only increases our urgency. We are aware that we will soon have to act more sustainably, which gives us all the more reason to be irresponsible while we still can.

‘Not for us the angsty despair of the eco-worriers, nor the stay-home moralising of the greenhouse gasbags. For we are the travel Neroists, and we have spotted a window of opportunity.’ 2

Fourteen years later, everything has changed, of course. Well, profit-maximising corporate media now at least pretend they care. In April, Greta Thunberg accurately summed up the reality of these heroic businesses that are ‘black and white and green all over’:

‘The climate crisis doesn’t exist in the public debate today. And since it doesn’t really exist… the general level of awareness is so absurdly low…’

For the corporate system, radical change means finding radical new deceptions to allow them to continue maximising profits at any cost.

3. Simon Kelner – Corbyn’s ‘Threatening’ Pronunciation

By the time Jeremy Corbyn stood for the leadership of the Labour Party in May 2015, he had been a Labour MP for 32 years. As a leading anti-war voice, he had received plenty of attention and abuse from corporate politics and media.

We searched the ProQuest media database for national UK newspaper articles containing mentions of ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ before 1 May 2015. The search found 18 articles, none of which accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. Then, in November 2019, the month before the last general election, we searched for mentions of ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ after 1 May 2015. We got 15,857 hits. The figure currently stands at 21,919.

This represents a truly awesome, in fact, unprecedented, propaganda assault on a democratic politician. In fact, it closely resembles the campaigns used to demonise leaders of Official Enemy states like Iraq, Iran, Libya and Venezuela, conducted by many of the same journalists in the same media organisations. That’s a gentle way of saying the anti-Corbyn propaganda blitz was a serious attack on democracy, a kind of fascism.

As one would expect during a McCarthyite-style frenzy of this kind, in finding a herd to follow many corporate media workers lost their minds.

A small but telling example was provided in the i newspaper by former Independent editor Simon Kelner, who focused on the way Corbyn had ‘mispronounced’ the name of the sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Kelner noted of Corbyn’s contribution to a TV debate: ‘He called him “Ep–Schtine.”’

In attacking Corbyn, along with other journalists like ITV political editor Robert Peston, Kelner did not merely dispense with the usual affectation of journalistic objectivity, he emphasised his subjectivity:

‘My reaction was a visceral one: it’s not something I can explain easily, or even rationally, but a Jewish person does know when there is something that sounds wrong, or perjorative [sic], or even threatening. It was as if he was saying: “Are you aware this man is Jewish?”’

The idea, then, was that Corbyn – who had been subjected to relentless, highly damaging attacks of this kind for several years, and who had done everything he could to distance himself from anti-semitism, taking a very tough line on the suspension of allies like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson from the Labour Party – was emphasising Epstein’s Jewishness in a deliberate – or, worse – unconscious effort to smear Jews.

Of course, only a crazed racist would be unable to resist such a patently self-destructive impulse on national TV. And yet, as discussed, Corbyn managed to prevent journalists and politicians from observing his right arm shooting skywards for 32 years. In November 2019, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons, former Conservative MP, John Bercow, who is Jewish, said in an interview:

‘I myself have never experienced anti-semitism from a member of the Labour Party, point one. And point two, though there is a big issue and it has to be addressed, I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic.

‘I’ve known him for the 22 years I’ve been in Parliament. Even, actually, when I was a right-winger we got on pretty well… I’ve never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism [from him].’

Our search of the ProQuest media database found no mention of Bercow’s comments in any UK national newspaper. Kelner’s comments belong with the most crazed and paranoid effusions of US McCarthyism, where beds were widely believed to be the preferred hiding place for ‘reds’.

4. The BBC’s Missing History Of Iran

The BBC has a long, inglorious history of shortening its historical attention span to suit powerful interests. A key establishment embarrassment was the US-UK’s coup to overthrow the democratically elected Musaddiq government of Iran in 1953.

It truly is embarrassing that the CIA supplied the weapons and money, that the BBC helped green-light the coup, and above all the fact that the goal was oil.

In 1952, the British ambassador commented that ‘Persian [Iranian] public opinion is unanimous in rejecting the [British] offer’ of a deal on oil. But Britain did ‘not consider that a deal on acceptable terms can ever be made with’ Musaddiq. 3

Colonel Wheeler, an adviser at the British embassy, explained that ‘combined Anglo-American action could, of course, have removed [Musaddiq] at any time during the past six months… Given a united Anglo-American front, a change of government could almost certainly be effected without difficulty or disturbance’. (p. 91)

This neatly captures the traditional US-UK ‘respect’ for democracy and human rights (see point 17 in Part 2).

In a memorandum in August 1952 discussing this ‘change of government’, Sam Falle, a UK embassy official in Iran, suggested that:

‘We should leave the name-suggesting to the Americans… It should not be difficult to bring the American’s candidate… to power.’ (p. 92)

The British preference was ‘for a non-communist coup d’etat preferably in the name of the Shah. This would mean an authoritarian regime,’ the embassy in Teheran noted ominously. (p. 91)

According to then CIA agent Richard Cottam, ‘…that mob that came into north Teheran and was decisive in the overthrow was a mercenary mob. It had no ideology. That mob was paid for by American dollars and the amount of money that was used has to have been very large’. (p. 93)

A US general later testified that ‘the guns they had in their hands, the trucks they rode in, the armoured cars that they drove through the streets, and the radio communications that permitted their control, were all furnished through the [US] military defence assistance program’. (p. 93)

Of this period of history, a recent BBC report observed merely:

‘The UK owes the money for failing to deliver tanks Iran bought in the 1970s.’

Between 1971 and 1976, the UK sold the Shah 1,500 state-of-the-art Chieftain main battle tanks and 250 repair vehicles costing £650 million. Thatcher praised the Shah as ‘one of the world’s most far-sighted statesmen, whose experience is unrivaled’. She added:

‘No other world leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. He is leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance.’

Curiously, the BBC made no mention of the fact that the tanks had been sent to prop up a dictator installed by the US-UK alliance to steal Iranian oil.

Amnesty International reported of Iran under the Shah that it had the ‘highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture’ which was ‘beyond belief’. It was a society in which ‘the entire population was subjected to a constant, all-pervasive terror’.4

None of this exists for BBC media workers.

US Iran specialist Eric Hoogland commented of the Shah:

‘The more dictatorial his regime became, the closer the US-Iran relationship became.’

5. Iranian ‘Showdown’ – The Guardian’s Front-Page Farce

In 2007, a front-page Guardian piece by Simon Tisdall claimed that Iran had secret plans to do nothing less than wage war on, and defeat, American forces in Iraq by August of that year.

Iran, it seemed, was ‘forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal’.

The claim was based almost entirely on unsupported assertions made by anonymous US officials. Indeed 22 of the 23 paragraphs in the story relayed official US claims: over 95 per cent of the story. The compilation below indicates the levels of balance and objectivity:

‘US officials say’; ‘a senior US official in Baghdad warned’; ‘The official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘US officials now say’; ‘the senior official in Baghdad said’ ‘he [the senior official in Baghdad] added’; ‘the official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘he [the official] indicated’; ‘he [the official] cited’; ‘a senior administration official in Washington said’; ‘The administration official also claimed; ‘he [the administration official] said’; ‘US officials say’; ‘the senior official in Baghdad said’; ‘he [the senior official in Baghdad] said’; ‘the senior administration official said’; ‘he [the senior administration official] said’; ‘the official claimed’; ‘he [the official] said’; ‘Gen Petraeus’s report to the White House and Congress’; ‘a former Bush administration official said’; ‘A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported’; ‘the adviser admitted’.

No less than 26 references to official pronouncements formed the basis for a Guardian story presented with no scrutiny, no balance, no counter-evidence – nothing. Remove the verbiage described above and a Guardian front page news report becomes a straight Pentagon press release.

6. The Observer’s Missing War On Syria

The Iraq war catastrophe was a genuine wake-up call for Western governments and media. Something had to change. In retrospect, the answer was obvious: if wars destroying whole countries for oil and other resources were damaging the credibility of Western ‘democracies’, why not just pretend that the West isn’t involved? Thus, Western responsibility for the destruction of Libya barely exists for Western media. Thus, also, this Observer editorial on Syrian president Assad:

‘Many other factors have kept his regime in power. One is the refusal of the western powers to forcibly intervene… Fearful of another disaster like Iraq, MPs rejected UK military intervention. Days later, Barack Obama and the US Congress followed suit. The then Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the Commons had spoken “for the people of Britain”. Perhaps.’ (Our emphasis)

In reality, the West, directly and via regional allies, has played a massive role in the violence. The New York Times reported that the US had been embroiled in a dirty war in Syria that constituted ‘one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A’, running to ‘more than $1 billion over the life of the program’. The aim was to support a vast ‘rebel’ army created and armed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government.

In 2013, it was reported that the US had supplied no less than 15,000 high-tech, anti-tank missiles to ‘rebels’ via Saudi Arabia.

In 2014, Joe Biden said of Syria that US allies ‘poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens… thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were… Al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis’.

7. Warmonger David Aaronovitch’s Regretful Musings On The Inherent Tragedy of Life

Responding to the latest ‘conflict’ (some have gone so far as to call it ‘a war’) between souped-up Palestinian fireworks and US-supplied, state-of-the-art, high-tech ordnance, Times columnist and chateau general commanding the corporate media’s 101st Chairborne Division, David Aaronovitch, sighed wistfully on May 12, 2021:

‘It’s not the Hamas leadership or the Netanyahus who are dying. It’s the people who always die.’

If that sounded empathetic and balanced, it was, in fact, a perfect illustration of a point made by Herman and Chomsky 33 years ago on how ‘worthy’ victims – people Western journalists care about – and ‘unworthy victims’ are treated. In their book, Manufacturing Consent, they wrote of one paired example:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’5

It could hardly be more noticeable that when Israel blitzes Gaza every few years, Aaronovitch’s Twitter account does not erupt – he has little to say, finding other things to tweet about. There’s no outrage, no demands for action and ‘intervention’. The same is true of many of the corporate fringepuddle’s habitual warmongers.

By contrast, in Aaronovitch’s support for NATO’s war on Serbia, allegedly in defence of the people of Kosovo, ‘expressions of outrage and demands for justice’ were to the fore. He famously wrote:

‘Is this cause, the cause of the Kosovar Albanians, a cause that is worth suffering for? … Would I fight, or (more realistically) would I countenance the possibility that members of my family might die?’

His answer: ‘I think so.’

But, hold on, ‘It’s the people who always die’, right?

In supporting war on Iraq in January 2003, Aaronovitch wrote of Saddam Hussein:

‘I want him out, for the sake of the region (and therefore, eventually, for our sakes), but most particularly for the sake of the Iraqi people who cannot lift this yoke on their own.’ 6

But isn’t it the people who always die, not the leaders? (Actually, of course, Official Enemies generally do die – they are lynched, buggered with knives, shot in the head, hanged, found dead in jail, buried alive in jail, and so on) So why not let the UN weapons inspectors continue to find nothing?

You can see our book, Propaganda Blitz, (pp. 129-131), for further details of how Aaronovitch generally dispenses with wistful philosophising in supporting wars against Official Enemies.

8. ‘Advertisements For Myself’ – Mehdi Hasan Hawking Left Criticism Of The Left

Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman, The Intercept and al-Jazeera, is a prime example of a self-identified ‘leftist’ who fiercely attacks left positions on key issues. For example, Hasan wrote in the New Statesman in 2011:

‘The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.’

In fact, the ‘threat’ of a massacre in Benghazi was an Iraqi WMD-style propaganda fiction.

Later, Hasan wrote an impassioned open letter addressed to ‘those of you on the anti-war far left who have a soft spot for the dictator in Damascus: Have you lost your minds? Or have you no shame?’

In fact, dissidents who had no ‘soft spot’ for Assad at all, were raising rational questions about more claims that resembled the Iraqi WMD deception.

And again, Hasan commented:

‘I’m no expert on Venezuela but I’m pretty sure you can think Maduro is a horrible/bad/authoritarian president *and* also think it’s bad for the US to back coups or regime change there.’

As media analyst Adam Johnson tweeted:

‘I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.’

How to explain Hasan’s comments? No need to speculate. Hasan explained his approach in a letter to Paul Dacre, the editor of the l:Daily Mail:

‘Dear Mr Dacre,

‘My name is Mehdi Hasan and I’m the New Statesman’s senior political editor. My good friend Peter Oborne suggested I drop you a line as I’m very keen to write for the Daily Mail.’

Hasan continued:

‘Although I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues, I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values.

‘For the record, I am not a Labour tribalist and am often ultra-critical of the left – especially on social and moral issues, where my fellow leftists and liberals have lost touch with their own traditions and with the great British public…’

A key section of the letter read:

‘I could therefore write pieces for the Mail critical of Labour and the left, from “inside” Labour and the left (as the senior political editor at the New Statesman).’

This, again, should be noted by aspiring career journalists – nothing is more welcome in the corporate fringepuddle than an ostensible leftist attacking the left.

9. The BBC’s Bridget Kendall – Limiting The Spectrum

Noam Chomsky is a James Randi-style master at exposing the sleights of hand and (forked) tongue of the propaganda prestidigitators:

‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.’

Cue Bridget Kendall, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, who declared on BBC News at Six in 2006:

‘There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?’7

As Chomsky says, this gives the sense of a free-thinking debate. But an honest, fact-based selection of choices would look rather different:

There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it an illegal war of aggression for Iraqi oil that disastrously miscalculated the impact on the civilian population, or was it an illegal war of aggression for Iraqi oil that relegated calculations on the likely human consequences for the war- and sanctions-wrecked country to the point of invisibility?

Media discussion is forbidden, but the stark fact is that Rumaila oilfield – the largest oilfield in Iraq and the third largest in the world – is currently operated by Britain’s BP. West Qurna I oilfield is operated by the US oil giant ExxonMobil. Does the Iraq war look like any kind of ‘disastrous miscalculation’ to BP and ExxonMobil?8

10. ‘It Was Rubbish’ – Andrew Marr, National Treasure

BBC interviewer and national treasure Andrew Marr once claimed:

‘When I joined the BBC, my Organs of Opinion were formally removed.’9

This is impossible, of course – Organs of Opinion cannot be surgically removed. But consciences can be.

Recall, the state-corporate media system is a demeritocracy – journalists are rewarded for doing a bad job in a good way for powerful interests. Marr is a striking example of that phenomenon. He pretty much guaranteed himself a job for life when he delivered this propaganda speech as ‘analysis’ and ‘news’ outside Downing Street as Baghdad ‘fell’ to US tanks on 9 April 2003:

‘Frankly, the main mood [in Downing Street] is of unbridled relief. I’ve been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons.’ 10

Marr continued:

‘Well, I think this does one thing – it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of… well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him – because they’re only human – for being right when they’ve been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics…

‘He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.’11

This was an outrageous declaration that Blair had been completely vindicated. In reality, nothing that US tanks did in Baghdad changed the fact that this was an outright war of aggression for oil, an example of ‘the supreme war crime’.

Later, we asked Marr for his thoughts on his speech vindicating Blair. He, of course, ignored us. However, he did respond to someone else who asked. Marr said of his April 9 speech:

‘…it was rubbish but it came after weeks when I’d been predicting Baghdad bloodbath – the Iraqi army gave up’.

Ah, so Marr had all along been a fiery contrarian, predicting disaster in Baghdad! He had been too critical of the government, hence his surprised over-reaction! Having watched almost everything Marr said in the months leading up to the war, we can confidently assert: ‘That is actually bollocks.’

  1. Chomsky, ‘Year 501’, Verso, 1993, p. 20.
  2. Marcus Fairs, ‘Travel special: Roman holidays,’ Independent on Sunday, 4 February 2007, our emphasis.
  3. Quoted, Mark Curtis, ‘The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995, p. 89.
  4. Martin Ennals, Secretary General of Amnesty International, cited in an Amnesty publication, Matchbox, Autumn 1976.
  5. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon, 1988, p. 39.
  6. Aaronovitch, ‘Why the Left must tackle the crimes of Saddam: With or without a second UN resolution, I will not oppose action against Iraq,’ Observer, 2 February 2003.
  7. BBC1, 20 March 2006.
  8. For details, see Greg Muttitt, ‘Fuel On The Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq’, Vintage, 2012.
  9. Marr, Daily Telegraph, 10 January 2001.
  10. BBC News At Ten, 9 April 2003.
  11. Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, 9 April 2003.
The post “That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 1) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Leftist Anti-Anti-Imperialism: Supporting Imperialism but with Caveats

Academic Gilbert Achcar, in an article originally in New Politics and  picked up by The Nation, proves by his own example that what he calls “progressive democratic anti-imperialists” are not progressive. Rather, they (1) serve to legitimize reaction and (2) obscure the singular role of US imperialism, while (3) attacking progressive voices. Such anti-anti-imperialism provides left cover for the foreign policy of the US as well as the UK, where Achcar is based.

Legitimizing imperialism

Achcar, by his own admission, supported the US/NATO imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, which quickly and predictably morphed into a full war of Western imperial conquest against one of the then most prosperous African nations. Today Libya is a failed state, where black African slaves are openly traded and military factions contend for state power.

Achcar’s alibi is that he warned “there are not enough safeguards in the wording of the [no-fly] resolution to bar its use for imperialist purposes,” adding that he favored the imperialist action as a measure for the “protection of civilians and not ‘regime change.’” This is an example of leftist anti-anti-imperialism; i.e., supporting imperialism but with caveats.

Achcar wished for a democratic people’s uprising in Libya rather than Western imposed regime-change. So, while he echoed the main imperialist talking points about the “brutal dictator” and his “regime,” he hoped for a nice imperialism which would achieve regime change by “democratic” means. He admits to no responsibility for his propagandizing which – whether it was his intention or not – foreshadowed the ensuing disaster.

Behind Achcar’s leftish rhetoric is a flawed belief that somehow the imperialist actions of the US and its allies may be truly humanitarian. In short, the US purportedly has a “responsibility to protect (R2P).” Achcar championed R2P in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria, where his article lauds how the US bombing “rescued” people on the ground, even though in every instance the outcomes were neither democratic nor humanitarian.

That such noble intentions regarding “responsibility to protect” inexorably devolve is because R2P is nothing more than an ideological defense of the imperial project. The true anti-imperialist stance, contra Achcar, is no intervention – humanitarian or otherwise. The fundamental lesson should be evident that, after the multitude of US-backed post-WWII “military actions,” neither the motivation to participate nor the outcomes were democratic or humanitarian.

How many wars has the US been involved in lately? Timothy McGrath, in an article in The World, documents anywhere from 0 to 134 depending on your definition, since the last officially declared US war was WWII. McGrath concludes that the right answer to how many is “too many,” which is an appropriate anti-imperialist view.

Obscuring the singular role of US imperialism

Achcar says: “To illustrate the complexity of the questions that progressive anti-imperialism faces today – a complexity that is unfathomable to the simplistic logic of” the peace activists he criticizes. “Complexity” is indeed the crux of his argument and what is wrong with it. Achcar’s political universe does not recognize a single, imperialist superpower but a “complexity” of imperialisms. His plea for opposing all imperialisms renders the role of the US imperialism equivalent to all other nations.

But how can this be given the facts? The US has over 800 foreign military bases, not including secret “black” sites, active-duty combat bases, and foreign installations nominally under the name of the host nation but garrisoning US troops. And that does not include what are literally armies of US private military contractors abroad. US military spending eclipses the next ten nations in the world. US arms sales makes it the greatest war profiteering nation. US has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons of mass destruction and a “first strike” nuclear posture. No other nation or combination of nations have such imperial reach.

Achcar’s formulation in effect obscures the hegemonic role of US imperialism. In his view, the US has “kept a low profile in the Syrian war” compared to the “incomparably more important intervention of Russian imperialism.” Not mentioned is that Syria in near Russia’s border, while it is a half a globe away from the US. Moreover, Russia is in Syria at the invitation of a sovereign nation in accordance with international law, whereas the US is committing the supreme crime of waging war.

Although Achcar says all imperialisms should be equally opposed, that has not been his practice. Achar teaches at the London School of Oriental and African Studies where an anti-imperialist student group revealed that he taught a training class to members of a counter-insurgency branch of the UK military. In his defense, Achcar responded: “Should we prefer that the military and security personnel of this country be solely exposed to right-wing education?”

Attacking progressive voices

Achcar’s central thesis is: “Meanwhile, Cold War ‘campism’ was reemerging under a new guise: No longer defined by alignment behind the USSR but by direct or indirect support for any regime or force that is the object of Washington’s hostility.” “Campism,” according to perennial Cold Warrior Achcar, is the political deviation of not being sufficiently hostile to the USSR or Russia or communism.

Achcar laments what he considers errant voices of leftist “fools,” but not the larger issue of the decline of the anti-war movement. In fact, the very elements that he attacks – the US Peace Council, UNAC, and the Stop the War Coalition– are among the leading anti-war organizations in the US (USPC and UNAC) and the UK (StWC).

Achcar’s “plague on all houses” is a recipe for inactivism by the peace movement. If all state actors are imperialist, then there is nothing left to do but empty moralizing. For example, by conflating US imperialism with the Syrian defense, no solution is possible for ending that benighted struggle. The only option left for progressive politics under the Achcar paradigm is to wish for a magical perfect socialism to arise triumphal out of the ashes of the bombs.

Surely the fundamental demand of the genuine peace movement, “out now,” is anathema to Professor Achcar, who espouses the imperialist prerogative of the “right to protect.” Those who promote such non-intervention are attacked as “fools.” Achcar, incidentally, dismisses political understandings to the left of him as “lunatic” and “not intelligent.”

Achcar begins his article with the observation that “the last three decades have witnessed increasing political confusion about the meaning of anti-imperialism” and proceeds to prove that thesis by his apologetics for US imperialism and his disdain for those who object to Washington’s hostility to nations that assert their independent sovereignty.

The article concludes with Achcar elevating to a “guiding principle” the responsibility to support “intervention by an imperialist power [when it] benefits an emancipatory popular movement…[with] the restriction of its involvement to forms that limit its ability to impose its domination.” In other words, he supports imperialism but with caveats.

The post Leftist Anti-Anti-Imperialism: Supporting Imperialism but with Caveats first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ottoman’s Forever Empire and its Multiple Triggers for War

Trading Genocides

On April 24, 2021, US President Joseph Biden declared that the massacre of 1.5 million Turkish Armenians in 1915 constituted genocide. As to whether genocide is the word Americans can consent to use about Native Americans who suffered death, torture, displacement, apartheid and disease at the hands, mainly, of European settlers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is a lot less clear, although some state governors have gone for it. As for slavery, not until July 2008 did the US House of Representatives apologize for American slavery of blacks and the subsequent discriminatory laws and practices that have continued to marginalize and oppress a population that today constitutes over 47 million or 14% of the US population. 9 States have officially apologized for their involvement in the enslavement of Africans.

European and American histories are replete with massacres, genocides, and unjust applications of overwhelmingly disproportionate force against indigenous peoples and others who have stood in the way of the material interests of their invaders and conquerors. The US slow determination to condemn Turkey for crimes not dissimilar to those that it has itself committed, abundantly, and in recent history, serves the cause of an official hypocrisy that has long characterized US foreign policy – bedazzling, confusing or distracting its own domestic citizenry from the ugliness of forever imperialism.

Turkey, none too happy about being charged with genocide was hardly taken by surprise. While Turkey has always defended itself against such charges, several Ottoman officials were indeed tried and hanged for their role in the Armenian atrocities. (Which Americans were hanged for atrocities against the Indigenous peoples?). It was not only Turks who were implicated. Many Kurds, who today represent Turkey’s major internal nemesis (matching its external, Greece), participated. Others condemned the atrocities. Some Kurds who participated later atoned. Both Armenian and Kurdish exiles of the collapse of the Ottoman empire ultimately established themselves in Syria under French administration and where the Allawi Shia minority was later to extend protection to Christians against Sunni extremism and concede a fragile autonomy to the Kurds. Today, the Assad regime and Syrian Kurds face off against Turkish invaders who have afforded protection to as many as five million jihadist and former-ISIS supporters around Afrin and Idlib, while the US uses Kurdish forces (principally the SDF) to exploit Syrian oil and gas on its behalf and has them maintain prisons and camps for ISIS remnants.

Biden’s charge was a politically nuanced expression of growing US dissatisfaction with its NATO partner even if, by the same token, it extended a measure of sympathy to the former Soviet and still pro-Russian nation of Armenia, which had suffered at the hands of Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey, in the 2020 battle for and successful acquisition of disputed territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. Might Armenia, possibly overcome by US moral magnanimity, wrench itself further away from the sphere of Russian influence and look with greater favor upon the USA? Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous oblast in Azerbaijan but sharing religious, cultural, and linguistic features of neighboring Armenia. In 1988 the parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh had voted to unify with Armenia. A UN Security Council resolution in 1993 called on Armenia to withdraw its forces from the Azerbaijani district of Kelbajar. Turkey imposed an economic embargo on Armenia and the border was closed. The eruption of hostilities in 2020 was possibly triggered by Armenia’s decision to restore an old border checkpoint, located 15km from Azerbaijan’s export pipelines or by an Azerbaijani incursion into Armenian territory.

Turkish relations with Turkic Azerbaijan, whose population is around 10 million, and with whom it shares 11 miles of border have always been strong. Turkey has helped Azerbaijan realize its economic potential from the Caspian Sea by purchasing Azerbaijani gas and cooperating with Azerbaijan and Georgia in infrastructural projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Trans-Anatolian pipeline that connects to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) at the Turkish border with Greece at Kipoi.

A Renascent Empire

It is doubtful that Biden’s endorsement of the “G” word will do much to further complicate relations between the USA and Turkey, but it represents a good moment to pause and reassess what those complications are and the directions in which they point for the future of global peace and conflict. For the major questions today are not to do with the question of genocide as such but with whether, having breathed new life into the Ottoman corpse, Turkey rejoins the ranks of forever empires and, if so, the regional and global impacts this will have. The questions invoke more than empirical calculations of national interest since they have as much or more to with religion (especially Sunni Islam), transnational ethnic (Turkic) identity, national regeneration, energy policy under conditions of climate change and, not least, social class and gender inequities.

That Turkey is a renascent empire is clear enough. By 2021, Turkey had engaged in barely contested or recent uncontested military actions in Iraq, Syria and Libya, had played proxies in South Caucasus and Yemen while engaging in disputes with Greece, strongly supporting the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and aspiring eastward along the pan-Turkic horizon towards western China. On February 19, 2021, the nationalistic State-owned Turkish television station TRT1 showed a map of the territories it claimed Turkey would control within the next thirty years. They included many Russian and FSU territories including Rostov, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Samara Oblasts, Chuvashia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Adygea, North Ossetia, and Crimea, including Sevastopol. Turkey was predicted to extend its sphere of influence to include Greece, southern Cyprus, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Gulf countries, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Curiously, the map originated in a book published in 2009 by the founder of Stratfor Center for Research in International Politics.

It might be appropriate to laugh this off as fanciful delusion, as did many Russian commentators, but by 2021 it was at least clear that Turkey had considerably and aggressively expanded its regional and global influence. Turkey had joined the Council of Europe in 1950 and the European Customs Union in 1995 and embarked on negotiations for membership of the EU in 1999. Yet mirroring the pro-Islamist orientations of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has held power continuously since 2003 — and in a corrective to the overly coercive imposition of western legal, cultural, and technological practices by the country’s founder Kemal Ataturk from 1923 (sustained by the military up until its participation in an attempted coup against Erdogan in 2016) – the AKP has exerted a strong eastward pull in recent years. This was partly cause and partly result of the stalling in 2015 of negotiations for entry to the EU, reflecting EU concerns about human rights and the rule of law, particularly in the light of the merger in 2015 of the AKP with the anti-European Nationalist Movement Party. In addition, the escalation of Turkish tensions with fellow NATO member Greece, as Turkey pressed claims to the right to prospective oil and gas deposits in what may be Greek maritime territories, has further impaired its image in Brussels.

A Militaristic Empire of Bases, Interventions, and Soft Power

Turkish forces were mainly instrumental in bringing about the formation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 1974. This gained independence in 1983 but is only recognized by Turkey. Since 2018, Turkey has occupied a significant stretch of Syrian land along Turkey’s border with Syria, enveloping as many as five million people.

Earlier, it had invaded northern Iraq in its perpetual quest to subjugate Kurdish populations. Turkish armed attacks in Iraq started in 2007 with an air attack involving 50 fighter jets. Turkey’s 2008 “Operation Sun” involved 10,000 troops. Turkey would likely be an influential party to the takeover by NATO, involving 5,000 NATO troops, of US training and military operations in Iraq from 2021.

It was engaged in the conflict in southern Yemen through its support for the country’s local branch (the Reform Party) of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is represented in the government of Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed based in the south-eastern port city of Aden, thus helping fill the vacuum created by the downfall of the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime in February 2012 and an Iranian-staged coup by Houthi militia against President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in March 2015. This raised concern in Egypt that Turkey’s efforts to increase its presence near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, through which Gulf oil is transported before reaching the Suez Canal, will threaten the security of Egypt and the Arabian Gulf. Turkey maintains a military base in Djibouti, has tried to gain a foothold both in Somalia and the Sudanese Red Sea island of Suakin.

Altogether, Turkey maintained bases in Qatar, Libya, Somalia, Northern Cyprus, Syria, and Iraq. Turkey had established a strong alliance with the UN-approved Government of National Accord (the GNA) in Tripoli, Libya, by agreeing to establish an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean as a step towards claiming rights to ocean bed resources, and by stationing Turkish forces in January 2020 in defense of Tripoli against the forces of a rival government based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, under former CIA asset Khalifa Belasis Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army. While the UN Secretary General registered the deal on October 1, 2020, the Tobruk government (supported by the EU, Greece, Russia, Egypt, Cyprus, Malta, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Serbia, Syria, Israel, Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Arab League) denounced Turkey’s agreement with the GNA as illegal. Notably, Greece protested that it ignored the presence of Greek islands Crete, Kasos, Karpathos, Kastellorizo and Rhodes, and their respective maritime borders. Turkey’s seismic survey ships and navy vessels regularly clash with Greek vessels near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. In August 2020, Greece and Egypt signed their own maritime deal in response, an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights. Yet Turkey wields considerable influence over the coalition government that was established in March 2021.

Turkey played a significant role in support of Azerbaijan in the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2021. Turkey’s President Erdogan was the guest of honor at the Azerbaijani victory ceremony in Baku in December 2020, and hailed the “one nation, two states” relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In the gathering conflict over water rights between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in spring 2021, it was expected that Turkey (leader of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States which comprises Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan) would side with Kyrgyzstan, which considers itself a Turkic nation. Tajikistan speaks a language that is related to predominantly Iranian languages Farsi and Dari.

Turkish influence is further enhanced by its considerable diaspora, giving Turkey some leverage over the internal politics of advanced nations with large Turkish immigrant populations, including France and Germany. This extends beyond Turkish ethnic communities as such to all Muslim communities, especially Sunni, open to persuasion that the Turkish state speaks on behalf of the Islamic world. Turkish charities have been active among the 5.7 million Muslims in France, for example, where 50% of imams are trained in turkey and serve Turkish interests while benefitting from Qatari funding.

In addition to its international interventions Turkey’s natural assets grant it considerable leverage over global and regional trade, and military uses of the Turkish straits, Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

A Troubling US and European Ally

Turkey has been a principal ally of the USA throughout much of the Syrian conflict, following the uprisings against the Baathist regime of Bashar Assad in 2011. Experts are divided as to the extent to which these were genuine outpourings of Arab-Spring demands for more democracy, on the one hand, or incited, exploited and expropriated by jihadist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood — that thirty years previously had staged a violent campaign against Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father — and for which there was considerable support from Sunni Turkey as well as funding from Qatar. Turkey turned a blind eye to CIA and jihadist trafficking of fighters and materiel across the border with Syria and allowed itself to be used as a base for oppositional groups. (See also here). Despite a souring of US-Turkish relations following the attempted “Gülen” coup in 2016 against Turkish President Erdogan (who claimed that the USA had harbored its alleged progenitor, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen), the USA did little or nothing to contain a Turkish invasion of northern Syria that year, even though its most prominent victims were US allies, the Kurds, thousands of whose families around Afrin were displaced to make room for hundreds of thousands of oppositional Syrians and foreigners. Some of the new arrivals were bussed up from Ghouta under the terms of a deal agreed between Turkey and Russia. Turkey set up its own administration in the area, and incorporated it within Turkish electricity grid, cellphone networks and currency. It trained and incorporated oppositional militia who were integrated into a military police force, while establishing compliant local Syrian councils to run things. 500 Syrian companies were registered for cross-border trade. In 2019 the USA appeared to greenlight a further Turkish invasion by removing (some) US troops from the area, and in 2020 Turkey stood against a Russian and Syrian offensive on Idlib, although sources differ as to whether it was a win or a lose for Turkey. A continued Turkish occupation of northern Syria assists the USA and NATO in a medium-term policy, following a decade of inconclusive war, to impoverish and destabilize what remains of Assad’s Syria, even as some Arab nations, like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, seek a road back to Damascus despite steep US sanctions that stand in their way. Turkish intervention in Syria has come at a high price: 3.7 million Syrian refugees on top of a domestic population of 84 million, and this in time will likely prove a major source of domestic aggravation. Whether Turkey’s Syrian intervention has achieved greater national security against Kurdish PKK insurrectionists or, to the contrary, consolidated Kurdish opposition to Turkey and provoked an assured succession of Kurdish terrorist attacks into the foreseeable future, is moot.

Turkey has proven helpful to the USA as a member of NATO since 1952, its hosting of US military and air bases (notably Incirlik) and nuclear weapons and, more recently, in its military assistance to Azerbaijan against the much weaker Armenian (and Russian) interests in Nagorno-Karabakh (which Russia did little or nothing to defend despite Armenia’s membership of the Russian-led Collective Treaty Security Organization [CTSO], and despite Azerbaijan’s shooting down of a Russian helicopter over Armenian territory).

Turkey provided robust support for the US-backed coup regime of President Zelensky in Ukraine against Russia, including the sale to Ukraine of up to 17 unmanned aerial vehicles in 2019, persistent refusal to recognize Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 (to which Turkey itself may lay historical claim), [There was a referendum where Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia — DV Ed] its assistance to the anti-Russian Tatars of Crimea, its cooperative partnerships with anti-Russian Georgia, and its control over access from the Aegean to the Black Sea (through the Turkish straits which include the Bosporus, sea of Marmara and Dardanelles), which it helps to patrol, and the Sea of Azov. In all these and other ways Turkey has contributed to US and NATO efforts to harass and contain Russia.

Troubled US Patron

The USA is not happy with (and has implemented sanctions in retaliation for) Turkey’s purchase in 2017 of Russia’s S-400 military defense system. The purchase had helped Turkey atone for its shooting down, for little apparent reason, of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M attack aircraft in 2015 that had allegedly strayed into air space above the formerly Syrian province of Hatay – Syrian rebels shot the pilot as he descended by parachute and downed a rescue helicopter – constituting the first NATO downing of a Russian or Soviet warplane since an attack on the Sui-ho Dam during the Korean War in 1953. The USA is also irritated by Turkey’s conciliatory stance towards Nord Stream 2 and its involvement in TurkStream 1 and TurkStream 2, all of which facilitate the delivery of Gazprom oil and gas to Europe and impede US designs on the European market for its liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Turkey’s Bi-Polar Economy

Turkey’s economy has grown considerably in the 21st century, with average GDP growth averaging 5.4% 2003-2013 and, apart from China, Turkey outperformed all its peers in the fourth quarter of 2020. Turkey’s GDP growth of 5.9% was faster than for the G-20 nations in 2020 excepting China’s 6.5% rate. Its relations with China and China’s Belt and Road initiative are robust, even to the point of Turkish disinclination to intervene in the controversies over allegations of China’s treatment of the Turkic Uyghurs, another source of immigration to Turkey.

Yet Turkey’s currency is fragile. The lira collapsed 50% against the US dollar 2017-2020, and inflation hit 15% in 2019 in response to government’s resort to printing money via its ownership of the Central Bank. While net national debt is a healthy 35.2% of GDP, foreign currency reserves are relatively low and inflation is high. The currency crisis reflects domestic political instability, international diplomatic errors, a balance of trade deficit, over-reliance on construction for growth, and over-dependence on foreign currency loans in the private sector. The Covid 19 epidemic badly bruised Turkey’s income from tourism. The crisis intensified in the final quarter of 2020 with the resignation of Turkey’s finance minister (son-in-law to President Erdogan) and ouster of the head of the Central Bank, following a precipitate further collapse of the lira. Erdogan took the opportunity to reassure the investment community of his faith in financial profiteering and in Turkey as a globally attractive source of cheap labor. Foreign investors likely to be of considerable importance in efforts to stabilize the Turkish economy include China, which is expected to participate in the Istanbul Canal project, and Qatar, which promised billions of new investments at the end of 2020.

The Energy Factor

Energy lies close not just to the country’s economy but to the existential center of neo-Ottomanism and its many apparent contradictions between domination, self-sufficiency, and dependency. It has both nurtured and stifled Turkey’s vacillating economy. This dynamic plays out in at least four principal ways:

  1. Control over oil, gas, and other energy flows by tanker through the Turkish (Bosporus) straits and a planned additional waterway, Erdogan’s pet project, the Istanbul Canal. As a hub for the supply of gas from Central Asia, Russia and the Middle East to Europe and other Atlantic markets, Turkey exercises enormous potential leverage over other nations that is immediately susceptible to political manipulation. State-owned corporations are powerful players in Turkish energy politics. They include TPAO for petroleum, domestically producing 7% of Turkish petrol consumption; BOTAS, the state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation; and state-owned Tupras which controls 85% of Turkey’s refinery capacity. Countries that border the Black and Azov Seas are significantly dependent on the Bosporus Straits for passage of imports and exports. Many ports on the Azov ship grain to Turkey, for example. Russia exerts significant control over passage from the Black to the Azov seas via the Kerch strait, half of which it owns. Future monetization of Turkey’s advantage as gatekeeper of the potential Bosporus chokehold will likely be enhanced by construction of the Istanbul Canal which may not be constrained, it is thought, by the Montreux Convention of 1936 that currently regulates conditions of passage through the Straits, and that will permit Turkey to charge additional fees in return for speedier, more expansive permissions and passage. Critics fear the costs (an estimated $15 billion) of such an enormous enterprise and its environmental consequences. Russia fears that that the new canal will facilitate Black Sea access for NATO ships.
  1. Permission for and participation in the construction of regional pipelines (as in the Trans-Anatolian pipeline that delivers Azeri gas from the Caspian to the Trans-Aegean pipeline and on to Europe). Pipeline fees of passage are an important source of revenue. In 2021, Turkey had four long-term pipeline contracts with Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Two major pipelines include the BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan), linking Turkey, George and Azerbaijan, and the Iraqi Pipeline from northern Iraq to Ceyhan (in the southeast corner of Turkey). The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) pipeline runs from Erbil in Iraq to Ceyhan. Ceyhan is an important port for Caspian and Iraqi oil imports. Under the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, the US has sanctioned both TurkStream 1 & 2. But these are of declining significance to Turkey, in any case, given the competition from the Sakarya gas field in the Black Sea, and transit fees for passage through the new Istanbul canal that will likely prove more lucrative than pipeline fees. Another imminent threat to TurkStream 2 is the north-south corridor formed by Greece, Turkey and Ukraine that can be fed by LNG from the Mediterranean with reverse flows back to Ukraine.
  1. The purchase of Liquefied Natural Gas from the USA and other suppliers (Turkey is a primary destination for US LNG) and its rerouting by pipeline, tanker, or truck – a development that reduces the significance of regional pipelines, affords Turkey more flexibility in routing and also the blocking of competitors, and puts the USA in a potentially strong competitive position against Russia’s Nord Stream 1&2 and TurkStream 1&2 for delivery of gas to Europe. LNG gas imports from the USA, Qatar, Algeria, Nigeria were cheaper in 2021 than constructed pipeline gas from Gazprom. Turkey was now Europe’s third largest importer of US LNG behind Spain and France.
  1. The development of new oil and gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. These acquire considerable relevance in the context of Turkey’s near total oil and gas dependency, which has been a major economic stumbling block. Almost all (99%) of Turkey’s natural gas was imported in 2015, of which 56% came from Russia’s Gazprom (other suppliers were Iran and Azerbaijan), although Russia’s share had fallen to 34% by 2019. Turkey spent $41 billion on natural gas imports alone in 2019. 60% of Turkey’s crude oil imports are from Iraq and Iran, and 11% from Russia (2015). This very dependence has served as inspiration to Turkey to establish its own supplies of fossil fuel both in the Eastern Mediterranean, in partnership with Libya (where both the US and Russia have tacitly supported a policy of opposition to new developments lest these compete with their own exports) and in the Black Sea.

In August 2020, President Erdogan announced a major find (320 billion cubic meters but may well prove much more) of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea within the western part of Turkey’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – the Sakarya field, on the perimeter of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s maritime borders. Critics worry about the costs of deep-water drilling and extraction from Sakarya, an ultra-harsh environment. Erdogan has expressed his desire that Turkey should develop Sakarya independently but, if the capability of TPAO falls short, involvement of non-Turkish majors could eat into profits considerably. For the longer term and as the impacts of climate change intensify, Turkey’s energy plans are uncomfortably wedded to planetary-menacing fossil fuel while at home, coal constitutes 40% of Turkey’s domestic energy production in conditions of escalating demand.

Favoring Greece

US unhappiness with Turkey as a partner stands at a crossroads. Turkey remains a strategically useful regional proxy force for the USA, alongside Israel, for the advancement of US interests in Syria. This can last indefinitely, even as Israeli preoccupation with Turkey’s expansion intensifies and as Turkey’s bid for leadership of Sunni Islam proves more compelling. This is particularly true of the Palestinian cause in Israeli-occupied Gaza. Turkish humanitarian organizations were behind the Gaza Freedom Flotilla of six ships in 2010 that sought to bring relief to the Gaza Strip. The ships were forcibly detained by Israeli forces in international waters and 10 Turkish activists were slaughtered. Israel has since paid compensation.

The recent surprising alliance between the USA and Israel may be seen in this light, i.e. as Israel’s targeting of Turkey, not Iran, while Turkish interventions are perceived by the UAE, Egypt, and the Arab League as a threat to Arab security, a perspective that is shared by France and probably other European powers. UAE’s Foreign Affairs minister has even said that the UAE wants Turkey to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, bête noire of Sisi’s post-Morsi Egypt and Syria’s Assad regime, among others. Turkey’s bid for Sunni leadership, therefore, cannot advance far in competition with powerful regional rivals, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt but, in as much as both Saudis and Egypt have recklessly betrayed the Palestinian cause in their attempt to maintain US favor, Turkey has uncovered a strong and unpredictable weapon of soft power. Turkey’s capability as US proxy in the Turkic world will prove increasingly useful as the USA persists in its attempt to destabilize, fragment, contain and threaten the Russian Federation and in its gathering assault on Chinese power. But on the other hand, Turkey’s quest for independent power may lead it towards seemingly unlikely alliances with Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China, possibly in league with Russia and Iran, against the USA and India in Asia. There have been two trilateral summits between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan (2017, 2021). It is envisaged that there may be nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey (Pakistan has nuclear warheads), and Russia is building 4 nuclear energy plants in Turkey. China has supplied missile technology. The further the USA moves away from Turkey, the closer, inevitably, Turkey will draw towards Russia with implications for the way Turkey chooses to nurture its ties to Turkic powers within and close to the borders of the Russian Federation.

In the Western world, on the other hand, the USA has increasingly less cause for sympathy with Turkish ambitions since these irritate both the European Union and NATO. US disillusionment may go so far as a US withdrawal of its military facilities in Turkey (including its air base in Incirlik and NATO’s Land Command in Şirinyer, Izmir) in favor of Greece as its new major Mediterranean center of operations, embracing new or expanded US facilities in Souda (Crete), Volos, Larissa, and Alexandroupolis. By 2025, Souda will become the largest and most important US naval base in the Eastern Mediterranean with 25,000 personnel. While Turkey has been suspended from the purchase of F-35 war planes since its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense in 2019, Greece is now planning expenditure of $3 billion on F-35s. A US-Greek Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in October 2010 provides a framework for this expanding partnership. In line with US favoring of Greece against Turkey, Greece is set to intensify cooperation with Israel, as in pipeline deals to bring Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe. Andrew Lee has called this overall strategy a version of the “Intermarium” – a geopolitical concept originating in the post-World War 1 era that envisages an alliance of countries reaching from the Baltic Sea, over the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea that would serve as an alternative power bloc between Germany and Russia.

Conclusion

In conclusion we can infer the following:

(1) Turkey, released at least in part by Erdogan’s AKP from the foundational Ataturk mission of westernization and secularization, has rediscovered in Islamism an Ottoman legacy that could enable it to re-establish a regional, even a global influence – political, cultural, economic and military – throughout the Muslim and Turkic worlds and the Muslim diasporas of the non-Muslim and non-Turkic worlds.

(2) Combining and deploying the advantages of new sources of energy independence and its traditional chokehold power in the Bosporus (extended now to the Istanbul Canal), Turkey will ascquire a much stronger negotiating position in its relations with Russia, the USA and EU.

(3) Its economic fragilities notwithstanding, Turkey will grow in its attraction to international investors, particularly China, on account of its net international and regional energy networks.

(4) Turkey’s greater activity in the Middle East will be perceived as a growing threat to the established powers of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to Israel and the UAE, while its growing involvement in Yemen may give it a stronger toehold in the politics of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

(5) In Syria, Turkey will for some time exercise a significant constraint on the restitution of Syrian sovereignty and therefore will be regarded with suspicion both by Iran and by Lebanon whose interests are directly impacted by deterioration of the Syrian economy.

(6) Domestically and regionally, Turkey must still worry about Kurdish irredentism which it has done little to soothe and much to anger. To this is added the pressure of a large, new, unsettled immigrant population of Syrian exiles.

(7) Through its recently established links with Libya, and its long-standing influence over Northern Cyprus, Turkey will be a stronger contender for influence in the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa.

(8) Most importantly, Turkey’s relatively recent and aggressive renascence in some of the world’s most strategically and militarily sensitive parts of the world exponentially increases the likelihood of reckless behavior – on the parts of many players – and unforeseen consequences any of which could easily ignite regional tensions, in conflagrations that almost certainly will suck in the world’s major nuclear powers.

The post Ottoman’s Forever Empire and its Multiple Triggers for War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Brief History of Israeli Interventionism in Lebanon

Israel has a long-standing interest in Lebanon. These interests have periodically manifested themselves in bloody attacks against the small Arab state. Two important sources on the Zionist plans for Lebanon are the diary of Moshe Sharett, who was the Prime Minster of Israel in 1954-1955 and who was considered a “soft Zionist”, and Livia Rokach’s “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A study based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary, and other documents”. In the latter we find some very important information, and it is worth quoting at length:

Then he [Ben Gurion] passed on to another issue. This is the time, he said, to push Lebanon, that is, the Maronites in that country, to proclaim a Christian State. I said that this was nonsense. The Maronites are divided. The partisans of Christian separatism are weak and will dare do nothing. A Christian Lebanon would mean their giving up Tyre, Tripoli, and the Beka’a. There is no force that could bring Lebanon back to its pre-World War I dimensions, and all the more so because in that case it would lose its economic raison-d’etre. Ben Gurion reacted furiously. He began to enumerate the historical justification for a restricted Christian Lebanon. If such a development were to take place, the Christian Powers would not dare oppose it. I claimed that there was no factor ready to create such a situation, and that if we were to push and encourage it on our own we would get ourselves into an adventure that will place shame on us. Here came a wave of insults regarding my lack of daring and my narrow-mindedness. We ought to send envoys and spend money. I said there was no money. The answer was that there is no such thing. The money must be found, if not in the Treasury then at the Jewish Agency! For such a project it is worthwhile throwing away one hundred thousand, half a million, a million dollars. When this happens a decisive change will take place in the Middle East, a new era will start. I got tired of struggling against a whirlwind.

The next day Gurion sent Sharett a letter which contained the following argument:

It is clear that Lebanon is the weakest link in the Arab League. The other minorities in the Arab States are all Muslim, except for the Copts. But Egypt is the most compact and solid of the Arab States and the majority there consists of one solid block, of one race, religion and language, and the Christian minority does not seriously affect their political and national unity. Not so the Christians in Lebanon. They are a majority in the historical Lebanon and this majority has a tradition and a culture different from those of the other components of the League. Also within the wider borders (this was the worst mistake made by France when it extended the borders of Lebanon), the Muslims are not free to do as they wish, even if they are a majority there (and I don’t know if they are, indeed, a majority) for fear of the Christians. The creation of a Christian State is therefore a natural act; it has historical roots and it will find support in wide circles in the Christian world, both Catholic and Protestant.

Sharett responded a few weeks later:

As far as I know, in Lebanon today exists no movement aiming at transforming the country into a Christian State governed by the Maronite community…This is not surprising. The transformation of Lebanon into a Christian State as a result of an outside initiative is unfeasible today… I don’t exclude the possibility of accomplishing this goal in the wake of a wave of shocks that will sweep the Middle East… will destroy the present constellations and will form others. But in the present Lebanon, with its present territorial and demographic dimensions and its international relations, no serious initiative of the kind is imaginable.

[I should add that] I would not have objected, and on the contrary I would have certainly been favorable to the idea, of actively aiding any manifestation of agitation in the Maronite community tending to strengthen its isolationist tendencies, even if there were no real chances of achieving the goals; I would have considered positive the very existence of such an agitation and the destabilization it could bring about, the trouble it would have caused the League, the diversion of attention from the Arab-Israeli complications that it would have caused, and the very kindling of a fire made up of impulses toward Christian independence. But what can I do when such an agitation is nonexistent?…In the present condition, I am afraid that any attempt on our part would be considered as lightheartedness and superficiality or worse-as an adventurous speculation upon the well being and existence of others and a readiness to sacrifice their basic good for the benefit of a temporary tactical advantage for Israel…Moreover, if this plan is not kept a secret but becomes known a danger which cannot be underestimated in the Middle Eastern circumstances-the damage which we shall suffer… would not be compensated even by an eventual success of the operation itself.

Civil War

The opportune moment for Israeli machinations arrived when a civil war broke out in Lebanon, involving a sectarian battle between Christians, who had monopolized politico-economic power, and Muslims, who lived in poverty and deprivation. These internal imbalances were exacerbated by the large presence of Palestinian refugees who – fearing a repeat of the September 1970 massacre in Jordan at the hands of Christians – were compelled to ally with the Muslims and their allies, namely Baathists, Communists, Nasserites and others. On April 9, 1976, the Syrian military intervened to fight against the National Movement (NM) and Palestinians. Kamal Jumblatt – the leader of the NM – was too radical for the liking of Damascus. With his anti-Zionist leanings, he could easily provoke Israel into invading Lebanon – increasing the strategic vulnerability of Syria. Thus, Hafez al-Assad proceeded to thwart any possibility of a leftist regime coming to power in Beirut.

Israel interposed itself in this cauldron of conflicts in early 1976 to begin a policy of open borders with some of the small Maronite villages in the far south that wished to have contact with the few Maronites still living along the border in northern Israel. Israel also armed and trained Christian militias who were driving their Muslim (mostly Palestinian) opponents from the towns along a strip between Tyre and Marjayoun. The Syrians, while issuing a statement refusing to bow to Israeli pressure, withdrew their troops from the posts they held furthest south, including those they held near the Greek Orthodox center of Marjayoun. These Israeli initiatives were just one step in a strategy of supporting those dissidents in south Lebanon who would eventually cooperate with the Israelis in the creation of a buffer jurisdiction. Major Sa’ad Haddad (followed by Colonel Antoine Lahoud) established the South Lebanese Army (SLA), allying himself with Israel.

Even before Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in May 1977, the Israelis had begun transporting Maronite militiamen from Junieh harbor to Haifa for training so that they could fight with Haddad’s forces in the southern enclave. After Begin-headed Likud government came to power in 1977, Israel’s troops provided sustained and overt assistance to the SLA, often crossing over into Lebanese territory to conduct their own operations. A massacre of 37 Israelis by a Fatah armed group that crossed into Israel for the purpose set the stage for the first large-scale Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) entry into Lebanon. The Litani Operation of 1978 was launched on March 14 and saw IDF forces advancing across southern Lebanon to the Litani River, occupying this area for a week-long period.

The operation involved 25,000 troops. It was intended to dislodge the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from the border area, destroy the PLO bases in southern Lebanon from where the attacks on northern Israel were emanating, and to extend the area of territory under the control of Haddad’s militia. In the course of the operation, the PLO was pushed back north of the Litani River, and a number of refugees headed for the north. 22,000 shells killed 2000, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced 250,000 to flee their homes. Israeli forces withdrew after the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 425. The resolution called for immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and established a UN military presence there. IDF forces departed southern Lebanon in the following weeks, handing over positions to the SLA of Major Haddad. The entry of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) did not usher in a period of quiet.

Operation Peace for Galilee

Barely ten months later, on June 6, 1982, Israel launched a massive land, sea and air invasion of Lebanon code-named “Operation Peace for Galilee”. It was given covert consent by the US. In a speech given before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on May 28, 1982, then Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. said: “Lebanon today is a focal point of danger…and the stability of the region hangs in the balance…The Arab deterrent force [instituted in 1976 to end Syrian killings of Palestinians and Muslim forces], now consisting entirely of Syrian troops, with its mission to protect the integrity of Lebanon, has not stabilized the situation…The time has come to take concerted action in support of both Lebanon’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and a strong central government capable of promoting a free, open, democratic and traditionally pluralistic society.” With the ostensible goal of destroying Palestinian infrastructure, Israel invaded Lebanon with 60,000 troops, 800 tanks, attack helicopters, bombers and fighter planes, supported by missile boats, and spread pure terror in Muslim-inhabited areas. Over 15,000 Lebanese perished in the invasion, mostly civilians. Israel claimed portions of Lebanese territory and placed militias within Lebanon.

Upon reaching Beirut, the IDF began a nine-week siege, including saturation bombing and intermittent blockades of food, fuel, and water. On June 26, the US vetoed a UNSC resolution for an end to hostilities (saying it was “a transparent attempt to preserve the PLO as a viable political force.”) But sensing the siege’s impact on public opinion, former US President Ronald Reagan had Philip Habib begin talks for a cease-fire. Habib demanded that the PLO leave Lebanon. Even after this was agreed to, the IDF continued bombing, killing 300 on August 12, 1982. Reagan then told Begin to halt the “unfathomable and senseless” raids. Even the Israeli Cabinet was taken aback and stripped Sharon of the right to activate forces without higher approval.

Importantly, Israel used the invasion to place its own stooge Bashir Jumayil – a major leader of pro-Zionist Christian forces – at the presidential palace. Jumayil’s elevation was accomplished in the Fiyadiya barracks, just outside Beirut, where Phalangist militiamen formed an inner cordon, with Israeli soldiers just behind them. It had not been an entirely foregone conclusion; Ariel Sharon and his company had been obliged to exert themselves on his behalf with pressure, threats, cash – and even the helicoptering of one elderly parliamentarian from an isolated village in the Beqa’a before the Syrians could get at him. With its foremost ally elected to the highest office in Lebanon, Israel was basking in the glory of its military muscles. However, this period of grandeur proved to be fleeting. On September 14, 1982, he and 26 others died when a remote-controlled bomb went off in the Phalange party headquarters. This event precipitated an extremely murderous bloodbath of innocent Lebanese civilians.

On September 16, 1982, the day after Israeli forces had taken up positions overlooking the Palestinian camps, Phalangists entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and carried out a revenge massacre. This pogrom was carried out by members of Bashir’s own militia, reportedly led by Elie Hobeika and joined by members of Haddad’s SLA militia. Although the IDF officials seemed to have taken responsibility for security in the area, they did nothing to stop the slaughter. Entire families were indiscriminately slaughtered. People were killed with grenades hung around their necks, others raped and disemboweled. Infants were trampled with spiked shoes. Throughout, high-ranking Israeli officers listened on radios to Phalangists discussing the carnage. After 3 days of butchery, the news began to leak out. Nearly 2,000-3,000 people were killed, mostly women, children, and the elderly.  The massacre created fractures in the intra-Israeli consensus over the war, leading to a rally of 400,000. Sharon’s only punishment, however, was to be shuffled to another cabinet post.

Increasing Resistance

With its main Maronite ally dead, Israel attempted to work with Bashar’s brother Amin Jumayil and to move forward toward a peace agreement under US mediation. Amin proved not strong enough to play the role envisioned for him according to this idea. Instead, Israel became increasingly concerned with protecting the lives of its own soldiers amid angry calls for the withdrawal of IDF forces. In August 1983, the slow process of withdrawal began, with Israel removing its forces unilaterally from the area of the Shuf mountains where it had been seeking to mediate between the Phalange and Druze forces loyal to Walid Jumblatt. Jumblatt at the time was allied to Syria and his forces were the clearest threat to Amin’s attempt to consolidate control over the country. When Souk al-Grarb – a town commanding the road from the mountains to the Presidential Palace, Defense Ministry and East Beirut – was nearly captured by Jumblatt’s militia, Amin appealed to the US for help, which had to withdraw in late 1983 due to growing resistance from Lebanese Muslims.

Meanwhile, an anti-Jumayil, anti-Israel and anti-American alignment was now emerging as the key political force in Lebanon. Among the various elements involved in this alignment, little noticed at first, were pro-Iranian Shia militants who had organized under the auspices of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) in the Biqa. Israel’s withdrawal to the Awali river line removed the IDF from Beirut. But it left Israel entrenched as an occupying force in the Shia-dominated south of Lebanon. The result was that in the next period, Israel found itself the unexpected target of Shia attacks. A number of incidents deriving from Israel’s mistreatment of Shia Muslims contributed to the deterioration of the situation. The Shia violence against the Israeli forces was carried out by two organizations – the Amal militia, which had constituted the main political force among the Lebanese Shia since its establishment in the 1970s, and the smaller, pro-Iranian Hezbollah that would eventually eclipse Amal.

The IDF remained deployed along these lines for the next two years, in the course of which Hezbollah grew in popularity as a force combining opposition to Israeli occupation with a wider Shia Islamist ideology totally opposed to Israel’s existence and to the West. Israel’s peace treaty with Lebanon – signed in May 1983 – was abrogated in 1984. Israeli forces remained deployed along the Awali river line, under increasing attack from Hezbollah and Amal. In June 1985, the IDF again redeployed further south – leaving all of Lebanon save a 12-milewide “security zone” close to the Israeli border, which was maintained in cooperation with the SLA. In 1993, and again in 1996, the IDF undertook major operations beyond the security zone and deeper into southern Lebanon. Both operations – Accountability in 1993 and Grapes of Wrath in 1996 – were undertaken in order to weaken Hezbollah.

The maintenance of the security zone exacted a cost from IDF personnel. Israeli public discontent with the seemingly endless conflict in southern Lebanon began to increase after a helicopter accident claimed the lives of 73 soldiers in the security zone in 1997. An incident on September 5, 1997, in which 12 members of the IDF’s naval commando unit were killed, further helped to erode the Israeli public’s willingness to see the IDF stay in southern Lebanon. Ehud Barak was elected prime minister in 1999 with a clear promise to withdraw Israeli forces to the international border. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the security zone began on May 22, 2000. In its final phase, it turned into a humiliating rush for the border as the SLA collapsed. A considerable amount of military equipment, including armored vehicles, was left behind and fell into Hezbollah hands. Some of this equipment may still be seen in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has converted it into monuments for its victory. At the entrance to Bint Jbayl, for example, an ancient SLA tank may be seen, with a cardboard statue of Ayatollah Khomeini standing on it. By 2000, Hezbollah had claimed its first victory as Israel withdrew from Lebanon, although it insisted on occupying two areas, the Seven Villages and the Shebaa Farms.

Hezbollah’s victory solidified its legitimacy among a sizeable section of the Lebanese populace who had suffered greatly under the Israeli occupation. Prior to the Israeli withdrawal, Lebanese prisoners continued to be detained outside any legal framework in the Khiam detention centre where conditions were cruel, inhuman and degrading, and torture was systematic. After the Israeli withdrawal, the residents of Khiam village stormed the detention centre and released all the remaining 144 detainees. The horrendous treatment of these detainees is evident, for example in the case of Suleiman Ramadan who was arrested in September 1985. One of his legs was amputated as a result of lack of medical care after his arrest. During his interrogation he was beaten and given electric shocks. He was detained without charge or trial until his release in May 2000.

2006 Attack

In 2006, Israel launched another attack on Lebanon; the central goal of the onslaught was to destroy Hezbollah. The campaign aimed at cutting Hezbollah’s road of supplies, destroying much of its military infrastructure (stocks of rockets, rocket launchers, etc.), eliminating a large number of its fighters, and decapitating it by assassinating Hassan Nasrallah and other key party leaders. The Israeli generals opted for an offensive that was intended to be both rapid and powerful. Their idea was to sweep away all that they found in their path, clean up any remaining pockets of resistance and then pull back. To facilitate the ground offensive they subjected Lebanon to an air and sea blockade, while aircraft bombarded bridges and roads to isolate the enemy, sowing death and destruction in the towns and villages of South Lebanon, and devastating the southern suburbs of the Capital.

The aerial campaign massacred hundreds of Lebanese civilians. But it did not seriously reduce the operational capacity of the Hezbollah fighters. Not only did they continue to fire rockets into Israel, but the rocket campaign increased in intensity up to the final day. At the same time, the land incursions of Israeli units met with a resistance of ferocity and efficiency not expected by the Israeli commanders, incurring unusually heavy losses among the Israeli troops. Israel was not able to secure a significant part of Lebanese territory, even within the narrow strip of territory separating the Litani River from the Israeli-Lebanese border. Shaken by their lack of success, the military chiefs and the Israeli government hesitated between prolonging the phase of the aerial campaign and limited incursions, with the risk of further losses for little gain, and the option of staging a large scale ground offensive. A large scale offensive would mean moving into the Beka’a Valley – where the resistance of Hezbollah would be even more stronger than in the frontier zone – and then on to Beirut. The “grand” offensive was finally ordered. It turned out to be a face-saving operation. Its scope and duration were very limited. The attack did not reach any further than various points along the Litani River and its launch coincided with the declaration of a cease-fire within 48 hours. In the final analysis, while the Israeli attack caused heavy destruction – the death of more than 1,100 people, the displacement of over a quarter of the population, and an estimated $2.8 billion in direct costs with more than 60% of the damage affecting the housing sector – it failed to make a political impact upon Lebanon. Hezbollah shattered the invincibility of Israel and put an end to its interventionism in Lebanon.

The post A Brief History of Israeli Interventionism in Lebanon first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Continuing the War in Syria

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing on April 15, 2021, on “10 Years of War: Examining the Ongoing Conflict in Syria.” As is customary of American exceptionalism, the feasibility of regime change in Damascus was not left undiscussed.

Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who is the top Republican on the subcommittee, explicitly called for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. “The Assad regime is illegitimate and should be replaced,” said Wilson. Omar Alshogre, Director for Detainee Affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force, also remained uncompromising in his insistence on the overthrow of the government, saying the 2011 uprising in Syria was inspired by USA’s “democratic” tradition.

Fantasies of Regime Change

Continued talk about regime change in Syria is unmoored from reality. Those begging the US to overthrow the Assad regime with guns and bombs fail to see how the involvement of external powers has led to sheer devastation. Far from being “democratic”, USA has been fuelling a viciously sectarian war in Syria.

While initial periods of the 2011 uprising expressed the discontent of the Syrian people against Assad’s neoliberal authoritarianism, Euro-American interventionism soon gave a sectarian character to the rebellion. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood — a Sunni Islamist organization — played a lead role in the revolt from the very first moment, dominating the Syrian National Council (SNC), formed in early October 2011, which the US and its Western allies immediately apotheo­sized as “the leading interlocutor of the opposition with the international community.” The SNC, pro­claimed the West, would be “a legitimate representative of all Syrians” — a potential government-in-exile.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was the SNC’s military wing. “What we are aiming for is a revolution with a political wing, repre­sented by the SNC, and a military wing, represented by the FSA,” Col. Aref Hammoud, a Turkey-based commander with the FSA, told the Wall Street Journal. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood was funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar — this money being used, as then SNC President Burhan Ghalioun said, “to help equip the Free Syrian Army.”

Molham al-Drobi, a senior council member and a representative of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood on the council, stated that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were funding the council to the tune of $40 million per month. Weren’t all of these states presided over by princes, emirs, and kings, who preferred to govern by decree, eschewing any form of democratic participation? While the Gulf Arab monarchies funded the rebels of Syria to overthrow Assad’s dictatorship, Washington muttered not a word of criticism against them.

Then President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar, Kuwait and UAE are autocracies and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of these states inherit power from their families — just as Bashar has done — and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahhabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we were made to believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

The FSA — touted as “moderate rebels” by the West — was inevitably going to be sectarian insofar it was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood and funded by Sunni monarchies. It had virtually no representation among the roughly 30% of Syria’s population that wasn’t Sunni. Most FSA brigades used religious rhetoric and were named after heroic figures or events in Sunni Islamic history. Many of the par­ticipating groups had strong Islamist agendas, and some groups had similar ideologies as other jihadi groups, following the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam.

Among the FSA’s Islamist members was the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which existed “on the ground” working “under the FSA umbrella.” One of the Brotherhood-affiliated guerilla groups was the Tawheed Division, which led the fight against the Syrian government in Aleppo. One FSA com­mander told recruits: “Those whose intentions are not for God, they had better stay home, whereas if your intention is for God, then you go for jihad and you gain an afterlife and heaven.” This was hardly the exhortation of a secularist.

As western powers provided arms to the supposedly moderate opposition, a striking development occurred. The opposition to Assad became a fragmented movement dominated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al-Qa’ida franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic Front, consisting of six or seven large rebel military formations numbering an estimated 50,000 fighters whose uniting factor was Saudi money and an extreme Sunni ideology similar to Saudi Arabia’s version of Islam. The Saudis saw the Islamic Front as capable of fighting pro-Assad forces as well as ISIS, but Riyadh’s objections to the latter appeared to be based on its independence of Saudi control rather than revulsion at its record of slaughtering Shia, Alawi, Christians, Armenians, Kurds, or any dissenting Sunni.

The “moderate” rebels were completely marginalized. Their plan since 2011 had been to force a full-scale Western military intervention as in Libya in 2011 and, when this did not happen, they lacked an alternative strategy. The US, Britain and France did not have many options left except to try to control the jihadi Frankenstein’s monster that they helped create in Syria. At other times, they repackaged some rebel warlords, thinking they would be considered “moderates” simply because they were backed by the West and its regional allies.

Reviving Jihadis

In February 2021, the US government media organization Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) conducted an interview with Abu Mohammad-al-Jolani, the head of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the latest among the name-changing jihadis the mainstream press still refers to as Syria’s “moderate opposition.” Martin Smith’s exchange with Jolani is a piece of a documentary on Jolani that PBS’ Frontline program plans to air in the future.

The HTS was formed in 2017 out of the remaining jihadi groups that had gathered in Idlib in 2015. The main pillar of the HTS is the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and before that the Jabhat al-Nusra. The other groups that joined the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to create the HTS include the four main omnibus jihadi groups: the Jabhat Ansar al-Din, the Jaysh al-Sunna, the Liwa al-Haq and the Haraka Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These are hardened groups of fighters, many of them coming in and out of each other’s platforms and even fighting each other viciously.

For the past several years, the HTS has tried to rebrand itself as “moderate”. In 2015, after it became the dominant force in Idlib, the outfit took on its new name and withdrew its pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda. It claimed to be a Syrian nationalist force with an Islamic ideology. But this is merely a superficial change. It continues to propagate the view that the Syrian state must be based on Sharia law and the general orientation of the 100,000 to 200,000 “radical” fighters inside Idlib is towards al-Qaeda. This is something that is accepted even by the US government, which has otherwise used these fighters in its geopolitical games against the government in Damascus.

Jolani was once an Islamic State commander who went on to found Jabhat al-Nusra. The State Department declared Jolani a “specially designated global terrorist” in 2013. This designation still stands. Jolani now runs what he calls a “salvation government” in Idlib, the remaining retreat of Islamist extremists in northwestern Syria. He remains an Islamist theocrat determined to impose Sharia law on secular Syria, but he is committed to fighting Assad and so shares “common interests with the United States and the West,” as PBS puts it.

PBS’s attempt to legitimate Jolani was not a one-off. This was made clear on April 7, 2021, with the publication by the New York Times of an article by its Middle East correspondent Ben Hubbard based on an HTS-sponsored visit last month to Idlib. Comparing Jolani’s Islamist front favorably to the Islamic ISIS, Hubbard writes: “H.T.S. is not pushing for the immediate creation of an Islamic state and does not field morality police officers to enforce strict social codes.” He failed to mention the numerous cases of torture, violence, sexual abuse, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and the rest of the inexcusable stuff these groups get up to.

Efforts to portray the Jolani and the HTS as the new representative of “moderate rebels” in Syria are another PR ploy on the part of USA to continue its war in Syria. In an interview on March 8, 2021, James Jeffrey, who served as US ambassador under both Republican and Democrat administrations and most recently as special representative for Syria during the presidency of Donald Trump, has been quoted as saying that HTS has been an “an asset” to America’s strategy in Idlib. To quote Jeffery, “They [HTS] are the least bad option of the various options on Idlib, and Idlib is one of the most important places in Syria, which is one of the most important places right now in the Middle East.” USA will continue to revive jihadis as long as the Assad government remains in power.

The post Continuing the War in Syria first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Denying the Demonic

In March of last year as the coronavirus panic was starting, I wrote a somewhat flippant article saying that the obsession with buying and hoarding toilet paper was the people’s vaccine.  My point was simple: excrement and death have long been associated in cultural history and in the Western imagination with the evil devil, Satan, the Lord of the underworld, the Trickster, the Grand Master who rules the pit of smelly death, the place below where bodies go.

The psychoanalytic literature is full of examples of death anxiety revealed in anal dreams of shit-filled overflowing toilets and people pissing in their pants.  Ernest Becker put it simply in The Denial of Death:

No mistake – the turd is mankind’s real threat because it reminds people of death.

The theological literature is also full of warnings about the devil’s wiles.  So too the Western classics from Aeschylus to Melville. The demonic has an ancient pedigree and has various names. Rational people tend to dismiss all this as superstitious nonsense.  This is hubris.  The Furies always exact their revenge when their existence is denied.  For they are part of ourselves, not alien beings, as the tragedy of human history has shown us time and again.

Since excremental visions and the fear of death haunt humans – the skull at the banquet as William James put it – the perfect symbol of protection is toilet paper that will keep you safe and clean and free of any reminder of the fear of death running through a panicked world.  It’s a magic trick, of course, an unconscious way of thinking you are protecting yourself; a form of self-hypnosis.

One year later, magical thinking has taken a different form and my earlier flippancy has turned darker. You can’t hoard today’s toilet paper but you can get them: RNA inoculations, misnamed vaccines. People are lined up for them now as they are being told incessantly to “get your shot.”  They are worse than toilet paper. At least toilet paper serves a practical function.  Real vaccines, as the word’s etymology – Latin, vaccinus, from cows, the cowpox virus vaccine first used by British physician Edward Jenner in 1800 to prevent smallpox – involve the use of a small amount of a virus.  The RNA inoculations are not vaccines.  To say they are is bullshit and has nothing to do with cows. To call them vaccines is linguistic mind control.

These experimental inoculations do not prevent the vaccinated from getting infected with the “virus” nor do they prevent transmission of the alleged virus. When they were approved recently by the FDA that was made clear.  The FDA issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for these inoculations only under the proviso that they may make an infection less severe.  Yet millions have obediently taken a shot that doesn’t do what they think it does.  What does that tell us?

Hundreds of millions of people have taken an injection that allows a bio-reactive “gene-therapy” molecule to be injected into their bodies because of fear, ignorance, and a refusal to consider that the people who are promoting this are evil and have ulterior motives.  Not that they mean well, but that they are evil and have evil intentions.  Does this sound too extreme?  Radically evil?  Come on!

So what drives the refusal to consider that demonic forces are at work with the corona crisis?

Why do the same people who get vaccinated believe that a PCR test that can’t, according to its inventor Kary Mullis, test for this so-called virus, believe in the fake numbers of positive “cases”?  Do these people even know if the virus has ever been isolated?

Such credulity is an act of faith, not science or confirmed fact.

Is it just the fear of death that drives such thinking?

Or is it something deeper than ignorance and propaganda that drives this incredulous belief?

If you want facts, I will not provide them here. Despite the good intentions of people who still think facts matter, I don’t think most people are persuaded by facts anymore. But such facts are readily available from excellent alternative media publications.  Global Research’s Michel Chossudovsky has released, free of charge, his comprehensive E-Book: The 2020-21 Worldwide Corona Crisis: Destroying Civil Society, Engineered Economic Depression, Global Coup D’Etat, and the “Great Reset.”  It’s a good place to start if facts and analysis are what you are after.  Or go to Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s Childrens Health Defense, Off-Guardian, Dissident Voice, Global Research, among numerous others.

Perhaps you think these sites are right-wing propaganda because many articles they publish can also be read or heard at some conservative media. If so, you need to start thinking rather than reacting. The entire mainstream political/media spectrum is right-wing, if you wish to use useless terms such as Left/Right.  I have spent my entire life being accused of being a left-wing nut, but now I am being told I am a right-wing nut even though my writing appears in many leftist publications. Perhaps my accusers don’t know which way the screw turns or the nut loosens.  Being uptight and frightened doesn’t help.

I am interested in asking why so many people can’t accept that radical evil is real.  Is that a right-wing question?  Of course not.  It’s a human question that has been asked down through the ages.

I do think we are today in the grip of radical evil, demonic forces. The refusal to see and accept this is not new.  As the eminent theologian, David Ray Griffin, has argued, the American Empire, with its quest for world domination and its long and ongoing slaughters at home and abroad, is clearly demonic; it is driven by the forces of death symbolized by Satan.

I have spent many years trying to understand why so many good people have refused to see and accept this and have needed to ply a middle course over many decades. The safe path. Believing in the benevolence of their rulers.  When I say radical evil, I mean it in the deepest spiritual sense.  A religious sense, if you prefer.  But by religious I don’t mean institutional religions since so many of the institutional religions are complicit in the evil.

It has long been easy for Americans to accept the demonic nature of foreign leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.  Easy, also, to accept the government’s attribution of such names as the “new Hitler” to any foreign leader it wishes to kill and overthrow.  But to consider their own political leaders as demonic is near impossible.

So let me begin with a few reminders.

The U.S. destruction of Iraq and the mass killings of Iraqis under George W. Bush beginning in 2003.  Many will say it was illegal, unjust, carried out under false pretenses, etc.  But who will say it was pure evil?

Who will say that Barack Obama’s annihilation of Libya was radical evil?

Who will say the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and so many Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians was radical evil?

Who will say the U.S. war against Syria is demonic evil?

Who will say the killing of millions of Vietnamese was radical evil?

Who will say the insider attacks of September 11, 2001 were demonic evil?

Who will say slavery, the genocide of native people, the secret medical experiments on the vulnerable, the CIA mind control experiments, the coups engineered throughout the world resulting in the mass murder of millions – who will say these are evil in the deepest sense?

Who will say the U.S. security state’s assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Fred Hampton, et al. were radical evil?

Who will say the trillions spent on nuclear weapons and the willingness to use them to annihilate the human race is not the ultimate in radical evil?

This list could extend down the page endlessly.  Only someone devoid of all historical sense could conclude that the U.S. has not been in the grip of demonic forces for a long time.

If you can do addition, you will find the totals staggering.  They are overwhelming in their implications.

But to accept this history as radically evil in intent and not just in its consequences are two different things.  I think so many find it so hard to admit that their leaders have intentionally done and do demonic deeds for two reasons.  First, to do so implicates those who have supported these people or have not opposed them. It means they have accepted such radical evil and bear responsibility.  It elicits feelings of guilt. Secondly, to believe that one’s own leaders are evil is next to impossible for many to accept because it suggests that the rational façade of society is a cover for sinister forces and that they live in a society of lies so vast the best option is to make believe it just isn’t so.  Even when one can accept that evil deeds were committed in the past, even some perhaps intentionally, the tendency is to say “that was then, but things are different now.” Grasping the present when you are in it is not only difficult but often disturbing for it involves us.

So if I am correct and most Americans cannot accept that their leaders have intentionally done radically evil things, then it follows that to even consider questioning the intentions of the authorities regarding the current corona crisis needs to be self-censored.  Additionally, as we all know, the authorities have undertaken a vast censorship operation so people cannot hear dissenting voices of those who have now been officially branded as domestic terrorists. The self-censorship and the official work in tandem.

There is so much information available that shows that the authorities at the World Health Organization, the CDC, The World Economic Forum, Big Pharma, governments throughout the world, etc. have gamed this crisis beforehand, have manipulated the numbers, lied, have conducted a massive fear propaganda campaign via their media mouthpieces, have imposed cruel lockdowns that have further enriched the wealthiest and economically and psychologically devastated vast numbers, etc.  Little research is needed to see this, to understand that Big Pharma is, as Dr. Peter Gøtzsche documented eight years ago in Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, a world-wide criminal enterprise.  It takes but a few minutes to see that the pharmaceutical companies who have been given emergency authorization for these untested experimental non-vaccine “vaccines” have paid out billions of dollars to settle criminal and civil allegations.

It is an open secret that the WHO, the Gates Foundation, the WEF led by Klaus Schwab, and an interlocking international group of conspirators have plans for what they call The Great Reset, a strategy to use  the COVID-19 crisis to push their agenda to create a world of cyborgs living in cyberspace where artificial intelligence replaces people and human biology is wedded to technology under the control of the elites.  They have made it very clear that there are too many people on this planet and billions must die.  Details are readily available of this open conspiracy to create a transhuman world.

Is this not radical evil?  Demonic?

Let me end with an analogy.  There is another organized crime outfit that can only be called demonic – The Central Intelligence Agency.  One of its legendary officers was James Jesus Angleton, chief of Counterintelligence from 1954 until 1975.  He was a close associate of Allen Dulles, the longest serving director of the CIA.  Both men were deeply involved in many evil deeds, including bringing Nazi doctors and scientists into the U.S. to do the CIA’s dirty work, including mind control, bioweapons research, etc.  The stuff they did for Hitler.  As reported by David Talbot in The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, when the staunch Catholic Angleton was on his deathbed, he gave an interviews to visiting journalists, including Joseph Trento.  He confessed:

He had not been serving God, after all, when he followed Allen Dulles.  He had been on a satanic quest….’Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars,’ he told Trento in an emotionless voice.  ‘The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted…. Outside this duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power.  I did things that, looking back on my life, I regret.  But I was part of it and loved being in it.’  He invoked the names of the high eminences who had run the CIA in his day – Dulles, Helms, Wisner.  These men were ‘the grand masters,’ he said.  ‘If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.’  Angleton took another slow sip from his steaming cup.  ‘I guess I will see them there soon.’

Until we recognize the demonic nature of the hell we are now in, we too will be lost.  We are fighting for our lives and the spiritual salvation of the world.  Do not succumb to the siren songs of these fathers of lies.

Resist.

The post Denying the Demonic first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Tightening the Noose around Syria

The US – with the help of Israel – has been repeatedly waging attacks on the high seas against oil tankers bound for Syria. In recent statements to parliament, Syria’s Prime Minister Hussein Arnous revealed that oil tankers loaded with crude allocated for Syria are being attacked or intercepted on the high seas. The goal is to aggravate the hydrocarbon crisis generated by the economic sanctions and the occupation of over 90% of the territory where Syrian oil wells are located, he detailed.

Arnous revealed that seven tankers, some of them coming from Iran, were intercepted in the Red Sea and two others were intentionally attacked.  This information was confirmed by the US press when “The Wall Street Journal” reported that Israel attacked at least a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil since the end of 2019. According to unidentified regional and US officials cited by the newspaper, Tel Aviv used water mines and other weapons to sabotage Iranian or other vessels carrying cargo in the Red Sea and other areas in the region. Those actions did not sink any tankers, but forced at least two of them to return to Iranian ports, and delayed the arrival of others in Syria, leading to oil derivatives crises.

Economic War

The US-Israel offensive campaign on the high seas is a component of a long-drawn-out economic war against Syria. This war started almost 18 years back. On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “develop­ment of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything). This was reinforced with an additional ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States.

On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA Patriot Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria. And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination and refusing to accept as valid the territorial gains which Israel had made through its wars of aggression.

The sanctions devastated Syria. In October 2011, The New York Times reported that the Syrian economy “was buckling under the pressure of sanctions by the West.” By the spring of 2012, sanctions-induced financial hemorrhaging had “forced Syrian officials to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the coun­try.” By 2016, “U.S. and E.U. economic sanctions on Syria” were “causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report.” The report revealed that aid agencies were unable to obtain drugs and equipment for hos­pitals because sanctions prevented foreign firms from con­ducting commerce with Syria.

In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian gov­ernment, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act in 2005. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting” anti-government groups in Syria “as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds.” By 2006, the Bush administration had been quietly nur­turing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian govern­ment in an effort to undermine the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included the Muslim Brotherhood. Front representatives were accorded at least two meetings at the White House in 2006.

Another Muslim Brotherhood front organization that received US funding was the Movement for Justice and Development. Founded by for­mer members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the group openly advocated regime change. Washington gave the Islamists money to set up a satellite TV channel to broadcast anti-government news into Syria. Hence, from 2005, the US government was secretly financing Syrian political opposition groups and related projects to topple the Syrian government.

In 2019, USA introduced the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act – a sanctions regime aimed at punishing those individuals and corporations assisting Syria in its revival of specific economic sectors. These sectors are:  construction, electricity, and oil. Any company that deals with the Syrian government in any reconstruction effort will be sanctioned by the US Treasury Department and prohibited from accessing the US banking system- a virtual economic death sentence.

Since the law came into force on 17 June, 2021, the suffering of Syrians has greatly increased. Those who are close to starvation rose to 12.4 million, or 60% of the population, according to the UN. Already, more than half a million children under the age of five are suffering from stunting as the result of chronic malnutrition. As the Syrian currency collapsed and prices rose by 230% in 2020, Syrian families could no longer afford to buy basic foodstuffs such as bread, rice, lentils, oil and sugar.

Aborting Reconstruction

After former president Donald Trump’s incomplete withdrawal from Syria in October 2019, the American agenda altered from fighting ISIS to “protecting” Syrian oil fields. Syrian oil and gas reserves and the infrastructure needed to exploit them are mostly located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in the Deir Ez-Zur and Hasakeh Governorates, although some oil wells are located elsewhere in the occupied Jazira region.

American corporations and contractors, keen to exploit Syria’s oil wealth, have infiltrated the area in an effort to plunder Syria while undermining government efforts to raise revenue for reconstruction. Only a handful of oil wells and gas fields remain in the hands of the central government. By occupying Syrian territory, US forces and their European allies hope to starve the Syrian government of desperately needed revenue as a means of subverting reconstruction efforts. While pre-war Syria was a modest oil exporter compared to its neighbors, Syrian oil reserves easily met domestic demand while accounting for nearly 20% of the state’s annual budget revenues between 2005 and 2010.

In addition to the illegal occupation of Syria’s sovereign territories, American troops maintain a garrison at the border outpost of Al-Tanf in the Homs Governorate. This isolated piece of land extends beyond the reaches of Al-Tanf into the surrounding desert on the Syrian side of the border, spanning a total area of 55 kilometers. The value of the area lies in its proximity to the main highway linking Damascus to Baghdad. The American presence at Al-Tanf has closed this highway for most trade and traffic between the two countries. Before the outbreak of the war in 2011, Syria’s trade with Iraq alone was valued at $3 billion. The loss of the Al-Walid border crossing located inside the town thus represented a devastating blow to the Syrian efforts at economic reconstruction.

The Syrian government has on several occasions asked the US to withdraw from this area, although these requests have been ignored. In response, Syrian government troops have periodically tried to move into the Al-Tanf occupied zone as a means of persuading the squatters to pack up and leave. In one instance in May 2017, American fighter jets retorted to these maneuvers with a barrage of airstrikes; dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed. The Syrian government condemned the attack, while Russia’s deputy foreign ministry slammed the action as a “completely unacceptable breach of Syrian sovereignty”.

No End in Sight

The US has not only occupied Syrian territories that are rich in oil – thus foreclosing the state from using oil revenues to rebuild its war-torn land – but has also seized regions that grow great fields of wheat, preventing the Assad administration from accessing harvests to feed bread to its population. There seems to be no end in sight to this brutal strangulation of Syria. The involvement of external powers in the country has produced a complex scenario marked by competing and conflicting interests.

The US, reflecting its “revolving door”  approach to al-Qaeda, has been unclear whether it wants the jihadist group to dominate the landscape in Syria but it has also been unwilling to be on the sidelines of the war. Israel wants Assad to be hit hard in order to hurt Iran and Hezbollah, its adversaries. On the other hand, it does not want Assad’s regime to be fatally wounded since this could possibly bring an al-Qaeda group to power in Damascus. Such an outcome is too dangerous. The West and Israel have been content to see Syria bleed and weaken. No outcome is desirable to them.

The post Tightening the Noose around Syria first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Australia Struggles to Find an Independent Voice

Australia has always struggled to present an independent foreign policy to the world. For example, during its early days as a British colony its soldiers fought in the Crimean war in the mid 19th century, although it would be impossible to identify any Australian interest in that conflict. World War One saw a similar eagerness to die on behalf of the British Empire. To this day the most solemn day in the Australian calendar is 25th April, ANZAC Day, when Australian and New Zealand troops were sacrificed by their incompetent British officers to a hopeless campaign in Turkey during World War One.

The same saga was repeated during World War II when Australian troops were rushed to North Africa to fight Rommel’s desert army. They were only withdrawn from that theatre following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when defending home territory from the Japanese superseded defending Britain in its European war.

The fall of Singapore to the Japanese had a profound effect on Australian military thinking. Foremost was the realisation that they could no longer rely on Britain for their safety.  Rather than formulating a plan for having a uniquely Australian tinge to their defence, Australia simply switched its allegiance from the British to the Americans. That allegiance has continued to the present day and is essentially a bipartisan affair, with both the major political parties swearing undying allegiance to the Americans.

What did not change from the days of allegiance to a participation in Britain’s wars, was an affinity simply transferred to the Americans to join their wars, regardless of the merits, military or otherwise, of doing so.

Thus Australia was an eager participant in the first post-World War II exercise in American imperialism when it joined the war in Korea. Australian troops later joined in the invasion of North Korea, contrary to the terms of the United Nations resolution authorising the conflict. After the Chinese joined the war when the western forces reached the North Korea – China border, they were quickly expelled back to the southern portion of the Korean peninsula.

As is well known, the Americans used their aerial domination to bomb the North until the armistice was finally signed in 1953. During that air war every city in the North suffered severe damage. More than 600,000 civilians died, which was greater than the military losses of around 400,000. To this day the war remains technically alive as no peace treaty has been signed. Of the 17,000 Australian troops that served in Korea, there were 340 fatalities and more than 1400 injured, a comparatively small number for a war that lasted three years.

In 1962 Australian troops arrived in South Vietnam and remained there until January 1973 when they were withdrawn by the Whitlam Labor government. It was Australia’s longest war up until that time. The withdrawal of Australian troops by the Whitlam government incensed the Americans, on whose behalf they were there. The withdrawal drew the enmity of the Americans and was a major factor in the American role in the overthrow of the Whitlam government in November 1975. It is a fact barely acknowledged in Australian writing on the demise of the Whitlam government. It did, however, have a profound effect on Australian political and military thinking. Since November 1975 there has been no recognisable Australian difference from United States belligerence throughout the world.

The next miscalculation was Australia joining the United States led war in Afghanistan. That is now Australia’s longest war, rapidly approaching 20 years of involvement with no sign or political talk about withdrawing. It is a war that has largely passed out of mainstream media discussion. This ignorance was briefly disrupted by revelations in late 2020 that Australian troops had been involved in war crimes in Afghanistan, specifically, the killing of innocent Afghanistan civilians.

The brief publicity given to this revelation rapidly passed and Australia’s involvement in its longest war once more faded from public view. The mainstream media remains totally silent on Australia’s involvement on behalf of the Americans in protecting the poppy crop, source of 90% of the world’s heroin supply and a major source of uncountable illicit income for the CIA.

Australia’s next foreign intervention on behalf of the Americans was in the equally illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. They have simply ignored demands by the Iraqi government in 2020 that all uninvited foreign troops should leave. The involvement of Australian troops in that country, and indeed in adjoining Syria where they have been since at least 2015 is simply ignored by the mainstream media.

Australia also plays a role in the United States war machine through the satellite facility at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. That base is one of a number of United States military facilities in the country, another topic that is deemed by the mainstream media as being unfit for public discussion.

Another unsung role of the Australian Navy is to be part of the United States confrontation with China in the South China Sea where they protect so-called freedom of navigation exercises, despite the complete absence of any evidence of Chinese interference with civilian navigation in those waters. Equally unexplained is the Australian Navy’s presence in the narrow Straits of Malacca, a vital Chinese export waterway.

Last year the Trump administration resurrected the “gang of four” that is, India, Japan, the United States and Australia, a blatantly anti-China grouping designed to put pressure on the Chinese government in the Indo Pacific region. The measure is doomed to fail, not least because both India and Japan have more attractive opportunities as part of the burgeoning cooperation in trade among multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific who see better opportunities arising from a friendly relationship with China than the blatantly antagonistic options offered by the Americans.

Australia seems impervious to these signals. It has already suffered major setbacks to its trade with China, not to mention a diplomatic cold shoulder. The political leadership is silent on this development, perhaps unable to grasp the implications of its changing relationship with China. The inability of the Labor Opposition to grasp the implications of the consequences of Australia clinging to the fading American coattails is of profound concern.

All the signs are that the relationship with its largest trading partner, by a big margin, will continue to deteriorate. Australians seem unable or unwilling to grasp the lesson that its economic problems are intimately linked to its subservient role to the United States.

There is every indication that their fortunes in Asia will sink together.

The post Australia Struggles to Find an Independent Voice first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“We did not know… that there is an international law”

In March 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had just imploded under a coalition led by Washington, began its descent into hell. It would remain for a long time under close surveillance and embargo. Meanwhile, between a mirage of “glasnost” and a wave of “perestroika,” Gorbachev’s USSR, floundering in dreams of the West, was soon to sink and fall apart. America already saw itself as “the most powerful Empire the earth has brought forth” and readied itself to make those who did not understand it pay dearly. After pretending to seek a peaceful outcome that would spare Iraq humiliation, Mitterrand’s France joined the anti-Saddam assault, gradually realizing how narrow its room for maneuver was vis-à-vis Baghdad. After a Gaullist backlash under Chirac, it would fire its last rounds in March 2003 with Villepin’s flamboyant but inconsequential speech to the Security Council, abandoning Iraq and continuing its slide towards Atlanticism.

It took thirty years for the mainstream of the nation of reason and human rights to deign to discover the gigantic lie that had obscured the destruction of Iraq and the excruciating torment inflicted on its people. The teary Colin Powell, famous for having sodomized the Security Council with his sinister vial, would wait long years to apologize vaguely on the pretext that he had been misinformed (sic). Some would emulate him later, many never. Faced with the scandal, many are now brandishing an easy excuse: “We did not know”, they say, thus shirking their responsibility. To admit that they knew would be to admit that they were guilty or accomplices. According to the long documentary devoted to Iraq recently on France 2, Chevènement admitted to knowing since August 4, 1990 France had given its consent to Washington to be at his side against Saddam: the diplomatic saga of which the French were proud was therefore only a decoy.

The overwhelming toll of the Iraqi tragedy has been passed over in silence, despite a number of courageous voices and initiatives that have attempted to unmask the American enterprise inspired by Judeo-Protestant Zionism: a dismantled and destroyed state, its army and its policedissolved, one of the most modern countries in the Arab world sent back fifty years by raids and the use of prohibited weapons, humiliated by an iniquitous “food for oil”. Without counting the pillage and torture, the prisons, the looting of the archaeological heritage. At the very least two million dead including 500,000 children, “the price of democracy” according to elder Albright … And the unspeakable George Dubya Bush asking the historical question: Why do they hate us so much?

The same exact scenario is happening again for Syria, which entered into its eleventh year of war in mid-March 2021. Except that the Syrian state, strong in its resilience and its alliances (Russia and Iran), has not been destroyed, even if the country is ravaged, its economy ruined and its people suffocated and starved by the embargo and the sanctions, with the end of its ordeal not in sight. Refusing to recognize its “unthinkable defeat” and “the unthinkable victory of Bashar al-Assad,” America has preferred, as Obama’s adviser Robert Malley blithely predicted in 2016, to move on to a second stage of aggression, the actual military war well and truly lost, giving way to an endless economic war, a “proxy” war with the support of the flag wavers of the western-oriented “international community.

As foreseen, the tenth mid-March “anniversary” of the start of events in Syria unleashed an unprecedented and at first glance incomprehensible hysteria in the dreary bog of the mainstream press, which puts politicians, the media, and those whose job is to think, in the same bed. The stupidity of this fit of furious madness testifies to the moral degeneration of the country of Descartes and of human rights, a kind of Covid of intelligence. These are simply the neoconservative French-style intellectuals who are mobilizing, chanting their string of pious lies and insanities, where pretty words jostle, like democracy, international law, human rights, justice, pluralism, political solution. Furious at their defeat, and having nothing plausible to claim or propose, like the moderate terrorists and the self-styled revolutionaries, they support, they condemn with an air of outraged virtue “the rogue state” in Syria, the “Bashar regime”, the “genocidal” gang, the “massacring tyrant”, perfectly illustrating this “zero degree of political thought” (and intelligence) that is neoconservatism – this Lady Emptyhead with whom they are infatuated. We even see the idea advanced that, in order to permanently defeat the Islamic State in Syria, it is necessary to “stabilize” the rebels, who have destroyed their country and licked themselves of the martyrdom of their compatriots.

What Iraq has undergone for thirty years, Syria is living for the eleventh consecutive year (more than the two world wars combined), a glittering silence and total denial perfecting the ordeal of a martyred people. If it continues to die slowly, it is not to “pay the price of a necessary democratization”, it is neither a “failed spring” nor a civil war, as one strives to say in the countries of the Axis of Good. Among the “experts” who pontificate, I dare to hope that there are no professors of international law, because they would surely know that, like Iraq in its time, Syria was and is still the victim of international aggression.

During the Nuremberg (and Tokyo) trials of 1946, this crime of aggression, based on the free and conscious will to threaten or break the peace, was classified as a “crime against peace” and qualified as an “international crime par excellence”, one of the major violations of international law alongside genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is inscribed by the Nuremberg Tribunal at the top of the list, along with the following formula: “To start a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime,” the only difference from other war crimes being that it contains within itself all the accumulated Evil of all the others. This is “the crime par excellence.”

Codified by the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 95/1946, it belongs to international criminal law and falls under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (with regard to the responsibility and criminalization of States). Assumed by the Treaty of Rome of July 1998, establishing the ICC, it also comes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (for the personal responsibility of state officials).

Will we have to meet in thirty years to “discover” the toll of the wars in Syria, whether military and visible or economic and invisible? When the hour arrives to be held accountable and to render justice, it will in any case be necessary to remind with pure honesty the hundred governments that are participating to this day in this naked aggression, of the gravity of their criminal enterprise. And we will first denounce the three Western countries, permanent members of the Security Council, who claim to uphold International Law and to be its guardians, while they are its top violators.

To enhance his peaceful retirement, Dubya Bush chose, it seems, to paint ridiculous little sheep, without ever being touched by the idea that he should have on his conscience millions of dead, wounded, crippled, handicapped children, not to mention the destruction of several countries. Others, like Blair or Obama, even derive an enviable income from the story of their exploits, by giving handsomely paid lectures, where their ravages and crimes are implicitly considered collateral effects of a pious work: no reference to the dead, to the destruction for which they are responsible, to the fate of ruined or dismembered States …

They are well dressed, well groomed, well fed, covered with diplomas, they pose as “masters of the world”: they speak the law, make the law, decide on the war, write the story of their exploits seen through a warped pair of spectacles. In short, Westerners or devotees of the West – “Occidentalists” – are the elites of the “civilized world”, the essence of the only humanity that matters to their unseeing eyes. They believe themselves to be invulnerable and untouchable. They have no remorse or shame. They are even proud of their actions, of their records, of their support for these terrorists, whether recycled or not, who “get the job done.” Their regrettable sin, which they cannot get rid of since they see it as the new version of the detestable and outmoded “white man’s burden”, is the mania for delivering moral lessons and deciding for others what countries “that do not belong to our world” must do, even if no one has asked them. Obviously, if there was still a hint of wisdom in the West, one would wonder how people whose sense of governance and international law is so erratic at home can decide the fate of their more or less distant neighbors.

All the more reason for political or military leaders, intellectuals and the media, who have decided, organized, supported or justified a crime (or many) of international aggression, to know that they are and will remain, whatever they do or do not do, responsible for the crime of international aggression, or for their support or complicity, and that they will be held to account, without statute of limitations . Justice has many flaws, but it is tenacious.

EnglishTranslation: Paul Larudee

The post “We did not know… that there is an international law” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Two Ambassadors to Syria with Wildly Different Analyses

In the past few months, Grayzone journalist Aaron Mate has interviewed two former ambassadors to Syria: former UK Ambassador Peter Ford and former US Ambassador Robert S. Ford.

The two ambassadors have a common surname but dramatically different perspectives. This article will compare the statements and viewpoints of the two diplomats.

UK Ambassador Peter Ford (PF)

Peter Ford trained as an Arabist and served in the British foreign service in numerous cities including Beirut, Riyadh, and Cairo. He was Ambassador to Bahrain from 1999 to 2003, then Syria from 2003 to 2006.  From 2006 until 2014 he was a senior officer with the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

The interview with UK Amb. Peter Ford (PF) shows why he is exceptional former diplomat. He analyzes and criticizes western aggression against Syria.

PF describes the current situation:

The Syrian government forces control about 70% of the country. There’s that pocket of jihadi fighters controlling Idlib province and a couple of patches of neighboring provinces, and then you’ve got the big—what I call the wild east of Syria—the big triangle of land up all the way along the thousand miles along the Turkish border and then down the Iraqi border, and that is effectively a US protectorate. There are US forces there being helped on the ground by basically Kurdish militia, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces.

PF describes the crushing economic sanctions:

It’s utterly shocking…The policy has been effective in the sense that Syrian people are suffering every day. There are long queues for bread, long queues for gasoline. The policy of sanctions and denial of assistance for reconstruction has been effective, but what kind of policy is it that tries to immiserate a whole country? It’s delusional because it’s not even going to work….

The experience of 10 years of this conflict is that the Syrian government is amazingly resilient. They’ve been on the ropes many times in this conflict and pulled through largely because they have the support of great swaths of the Syrian populace. Assad is not going to buckle under this new increased economic pressure. It is utterly delusional to believe that this cynical, callous policy could work.

PF analyzes the US troops in north eastern Syria.

By their mere presence, they’re preventing the advance of the Syrian government forces. The result is that the Syrian people are denied the great oil and grain wealth of that triangle, the territory. And, so the war over the last year has been more an economic war than a military war…

The troops are there basically as a tripwire, a deterrent, so that if the Syrian government forces advanced, they would trip over a few American soldiers and that would incur the massive intervention of the US Air Force. This is what it comes down to. They don’t even need big numbers of troops to create the tripwire.

Even so, it’s interesting that the architects of this policy in the permanent government of the US found it necessary to deceive the head of the executive, the President, keep him in the dark about the numbers…. So, the deceit that has gone on—on every level—is jaw-dropping to me as a former ambassador and an insider in the British system. I find it absolutely incredible.

PF describes what the war is and is NOT about.

US policy is NOT about installing in Syria a democratic government, because there is no prospect of that while the US is effectively supporting Islamist fanatics, and while it’s supporting elsewhere in the Middle East regimes like the feudal regime of Saudi Arabia. No, it’s not about democracy. It’s about helping Israel on the one hand and scoring points against Russia on the other. And when it comes down to it, that is what this whole war is really about, from the US standpoint.”

PF analyzes accusations Syrian government used chemical weapons.

The world has amnesia over Iraq, the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the Colin Powell dossier proof presented to the UN. It’s like Groundhog Day when you hear the claims made about Assad, the use of chemical weapons.

In the first place, it would make no practical sense for Assad to use chemical weapons; it could only ever have been an own goal. If he wanted to invite heavy Western intervention, he would not have gone about it any other way. You’d have to be incredibly either twisted or delusional to believe that Assad could have been so stupid as to do the one thing—use chemical weapons—which would bring about, or possibly bring about, his obliteration.

I’m quite convinced this is an elaborate hoax. A series of hoaxes. It’s very revealing that not one of the alleged instances of use of chemical weapons was investigated on the ground by any UN or other international investigations, with the sole exception of Douma. And why Douma? Because that was a piece of territory that the government forces managed to recover immediately after the alleged incident, so that the US and its allies were unable to keep away the international investigators…. That ultimately is the purpose of the chemical weapon hoaxes—to justify the occupation of northeast Syria and the continuing cruel economic pressure.

PF comments on the senior staff from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who say they did NOT find evidence of chemical weapons attack and their findings were changed by management.

These gentlemen [from OPCW] drafted a report stating that they found evidence that was consistent with staging of an incident, rather than an authentic incident. And ever since, they have been vilified, condemned, undermined. And the campaign against the truth goes on and on and on….

PF comments on the role of the “White Helmets”.

The White Helmets’ role is absolutely crucial, pivotal to the Western effort to undermine Syria through these accusations of use of chemical weapons. I think, basically, what happened is that Western governments realized that after the Iraq debacle, that if they were going to use claims about WMD, chemical weapons, whatever, again, they were going to have to produce some kind of smoking gun.

And this is the role of the White Helmets. They produced the phony pictures of phony incidents which constitute the smoking gun. And that is absolutely pivotal to the propaganda to justify the bombing and the relentless economic and military pressure on Syria…. Western governments [have] been funding the White Helmets to the tune of about $50 million a year. That’s peanuts compared to what they see as the advantages of bringing Syria to its knees.

PF predicts what may happen ahead.

I think things are likely to get worse, rather than better.

What we’ll probably see is simply a continuation of the status quo. The current policies will simply be extended… to prolong the conflict, to prevent Assad gaining military victory, the continuation of economic warfare to try to bring Assad to his knees and force him to sign a suicide note, which would be acceptance of elections on US terms. I’m sure these policies will be continued.

But there’s a question mark over whether policy might not become even more adventurous and interventionist with a beachhead of a few thousand soldiers already occupying part of Syria. I greatly fear that Biden might be tempted to increase those numbers, put some military pressure on the Syrian government forces, create more no-fly zones. Already, there’s effectively a no-fly zone over that big triangle of territory that’s occupied by the US forces and Kurdish allies. An attempt might be made to create the no-fly zone of Idlib, which would be ironic. It would mean that the US Air Force was the air wing of al-Qaeda…

I’m definitely not optimistic. And I fear things could get even worse.

US Ambassador Robert S. Ford (RSF)

Robert S. Ford was a U.S. diplomat in numerous cities including Algiers and Cairo. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrein from 2001 to 2004, then Political Counselor at the US Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006. As an Arabic speaker, he may have helped Ambassador John Negroponte launch the “El Salvador option” (death squads) in Iraq.  Robert S. Ford was Ambassador to Syria from the end of 2010 until 2014 when the US terminated diplomatic relations with Syria. He has continued as an unofficial advisor on Syria policy.

In contrast with the Peter Ford interview, the interview with US Ambassador Robert S. Ford (RSF) is a case study in public relations. Interviewer Aaron Mate asks important questions but RSF deflects the questions, claims ignorance of new revelations, and repeats standard talking points on Syria.

RSF acknowledges there has been “mission creep” for US troops in Syria.

American troops were sent into Syria originally to fight ISIS.  Now that that job is more-or-less finished, we have a sort of mission creep where now the American forces are there not to defeat ISIS—ISIS is already defeated…   But now, so what are the Americans doing?  Well, now they sort of changed the mission to putting pressure on Damascus, the Assad government, trying to get the Iranians out, trying to limit the Russian influence.

RSF implies the sanctions on Syria are just.

Sanctions is a different question, Aaron.  I think a lot of it is emotional here in the United States.  There’s a desperate desire for justice after all the war crimes committed in Syria.  And I think getting rid of the sanctions is going to be a much harder battle to fight in the Congress.  So, the sanctions have very strong approval in Congress…

RSF maintains the initial protests were “almost entirely peaceful”

In March and April, May into June, the protests were almost entirely peaceful. That’s not to say there was no violence.  In the first protest, for example, in Daraa, in which we’re now coming up on the 10-year anniversary, yeah, the protesters did attack the telephone office [Syriatel] that’s owned by Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf.  They did attack a court building…

[Fact check: RSF neglects to mention seven police were killed in the “almost entirely peaceful” Daraa protest.]

RSF acknowledges US allies were sending weapons early but claims the US began sending weapons in 2013.

Those countries [Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey] did send in weapons before the Americans…

I supported arming factions of the Free Syrian Army as early as the summer of 2012.  And it took the president a year to get to a decision.

[Fact check: US Central Intelligence Agency was sending weapons from Benghazi Libya to Syria in October 2011.]

RSF compares the Free Syrian Army to the anti-Nazi resistance in WW2.

The United States never gave anti-tank weapons to al-Qaeda…. the number might be half a dozen.

I want you to think about this in historical context. Do you think when the Americans airdropped weapons into the French resistance against the Nazis in France, do you think the Nazis never got their hands on any of those air drops?…

The leakage to the al-Qaeda elements, there was a small amount of leakage, but much, much, much more of their weaponry came from the Assad government, either, because the Assad soldiers were corrupt, as we said, we talked at the start about corruption.  They sold them, or in some cases, they surrendered, and with that, huge caches of weaponry made their way into al-Nusra hands.  The amount of material that al-Nusra got from the United States wouldn’t have lasted them for a day of combat.

Fact check:  This claim is preposterous. As reported by Janes Defense, the US supplied nearly one thousand TONS of weapons in December 2015, much of which ended up in Nusra (Al Qaeda) hands. Nusra obtained weapons when they over-ran Syrian military bases, but otherwise they were amply supplied with weapons by the Gulf monarchies, Israel, Turkey, the US and UK.

RSF claims the Syrian government has primary responsibility for the war and are the “bad guys”.  

What I hope your listeners will take away from this is that it is not an equal combat on both sides; is not an equal responsibility on both sides.  One side from the beginning was using torture and shooting at innocent people, thousands of arrests.  And one side was trying peacefully, for a very large part, to bring about change.  And, unfortunately, in this instance, the bad guys won.

Fact check:  The campaign against Syria has been waged by a coalition of western powers, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. About 121 thousand Syrians in the Syrian army and militias have died defending their country.

RSF claims that Syria is responsible for the war refugees and destabilizing its neighbors.

Even had Turkey, Qatar and the United States, Saudi Arabia, stayed out of it, there still would have been huge refugee flows trying to escape from those same brutal Syrian security forces, and they still would have flooded the borders of Lebanon and Jordan and of Turkey, which is itself destabilizing, particularly in Lebanon, but some places like Jordan, Turkey.  Therefore, you can’t just say that all these other countries intervened in sovereign Syrian territory.  The Syrian government itself was taking actions which were destabilizing to its neighbors.

Fact check: Most refugees fled when their neighborhoods were taken over by militants and became battle zones, NOT because they were afraid of Syrian security.

RSF criticizes Turkey but thinks Syrian government bears primary responsibility.

I’m never going to justify the Turks allowing Salafi jihadists to go into Syria.  I think that I’ve already said that that was a bad mistake.  And we criticized them at the time of playing with snakes.  I’m never going to justify it.  But I have to say, Aaron, that in the end, they came in response to what the Assad government was already doing.  And so, the principal responsibility … do the Americans have a share of responsibility?  Of course, we do.  Yeah.  It was our anti-tank missiles blowing up Syrian government tanks, and not just a few; I mean, hundreds of them.

I think we have to go back to where it started in 2011.  And that’s with the Syrian government…

RSF says he is not aware of the huge scandal at the OPCW but believes Syria has used chemical weapons.

I’m not familiar with that controversy within the OPCW….

But I guess I would just say this, Aaron.  There’s plenty of documentation by the UN’s joint investigative group with the OPCW that looked at incidents in Syria chemical weapons use, from 2013 onwards.  They’ve issued several reports…. So, the 2018 incident, I don’t know about that report, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on multiple instances, the same government that bombs hospitals, the same government that bombs bakeries, the same government that kills people in detention routinely.  Look at the photos that were brought up by the military defector.  You know, why would you think they wouldn’t use chemical weapons?  Why would you think they would suddenly have moral scruples against these?   It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

[Fact check: the OPCW scandal has confirmed manipulation of that organization by the US and west. The “military photographer” refers to the ‘Caesar torture photos’ propaganda stunt.]

RSF wants to increase humanitarian aid to Syria refugees.

Something the Americans could do that would be hugely helpful is to increase humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees that number some five million, particularly in Lebanon, where their living circumstances are precarious, very precarious, but also in Jordan and Turkey…  I’d like to spend less on the military operation and much more on humanitarian aid.

And then there is the issue of Northwest Syria, Idlib, where the UN is in charge of an operation getting humanitarian aid to some two million displaced Syrian civilians.

[Fact check and observation:  Idlib province is dominated by Nusra (Al Qaeda). Robert Ford seems to want to perpetuate the AQ stronghold and refugee crisis by supplying aid to Idlib and foreign countries while preventing return of refugees and rebuilding war torn Syria.]

 Conclusion

Both ambassadors speak Arabic and have intimate knowledge of Syria.

Robert S. Ford criticizes some past decisions and tactics, but not the assumptions or right of the US to violate the UN Charter and commit aggression against Syria.

Meanwhile, Peter Ford is doing his best to expose the reality of the situation, contrary to government and media bias and falsehoods. Like Daniel Ellsberg, Scott Ritter and Katharine Gun, he is using his special knowledge to publicly challenge the claims and assumptions of western policy. With Ellsberg it was about Vietnam. With Ritter and Gun, it was about Iraq. With Peter Ford, it is about Syria.

  • The full interview with UK Ambassador Peter Ford is well worth watching or reading.
  • The post Two Ambassadors to Syria with Wildly Different Analyses first appeared on Dissident Voice.