Tag Archives: Iran

Iran and Venezuela Energy Cooperation

PressTV Interview with Peter Koenig

Iran and Venezuela are poised to enter a new era to fight US sanctions. Their cooperation in Hydrocarbons – production as well as trade – may help them gradually detach from western sanctions.

An idea brought forward in this interview is their joint exit from the dollar-dominated trade economy, by selling their petrol and gas in one or more other currencies than the US-dollar or even the Euro. Ideally, they may want to join the Russian move of selling gas for rubles instead of US dollars.

This brilliant Russian initiative, of course, has been a major “explosion” in Europe and elsewhere in the world, but most countries eventually accept this new payment mode – one that is totally delinked from the US dollar and its little brother, the Euro.

It is a move away from the SWIFT transfer system which makes countries vulnerable to sanctions because using SWIFT – the western payment mode – all transfers have to transit via US banks, thus increasing vulnerability to western, mostly US, interference or sanctions.

After all, still today 84% of all energy used in the world stems from hydrocarbons, as compared to some 87% in the year 2000. And this despite much talk of shunning petrol and gas, the Paris Climate Agenda, and especially propagating a Green Agenda – empty words, manipulating people’s minds towards a new form of capitalism.

Another strategy which both countries are actively considering, is increasingly delinking their trading from the west and orienting their economies towards the east; i.e., the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Association of South Asian Nations (ASEAN), uniting 11 Asian countries, plus Russia and China. Earlier this year, Iran has been admitted as a member of the SCO.

These Eastern block economies together make up for about 50% of Mother Earth’s population and at least a third of the world’s GDP. Becoming part of this union is definitely a decisive step away from western domination and sanctions. See full interview (PressTV-PK – video 12 min – 3 May 2022)

ttp://www.urmedium.com/c/presstv/109212

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Tectonic Shifts in the World Economy: A World Systems Perspective

Orientation 

One of the main problems with Western media (other than their non-stop anti-Russian propaganda), is the narrow and parochial manner in which they conceive world events. Like realists and liberals of international relations theory, they analyze world events two countries at a time, for example, the U.S. vs Russia. They appear to have little conception of interdependence, like Russia, China, and Iran as a single block. Or the U.S., England, and Israel as another block. No state can make any moves without considering the causes and consequences of their actions for their interdependent states. Secondly, these talking heads fail miserably in understanding that conflicts between states are inseparable from the evolution of global capitalism which, in many respects, is stronger than any state. Thirdly, their “analysis” fails to consider that the world capitalist system has evolved over the last 500 years, as I will soon present. We will see that what is going on in Ukraine is part of a much larger tectonic struggle between Eastern China, Russia, and Iran to create a multipolar world while being desperately opposed by a declining West, headed by the United States and its minions.

A Brief History of Modern Capitalism

According to world systems theory, the global capitalist system has gone through four phases. In each phase, there was a dominant hegemon. First, there was the merchant capital of Italy that lasted from 1450-1640. This was followed by the great Dutch seafaring age from 1610-1740. Next, there was the British industrial system from 1776 to World War I. Lastly, the Yankee system which lasted from 1870 to 1970. Note that over these 500 years the pace of change quickened. In the Italian phase, the city states of Venice and Genoa rose and fell over 220 years. By the time we get to the United States, the time of rise and decline is 100 years. All this has been laid out by Giovanni Arrighi in The Long 20th century. In Adam Smith in Beijing, Arrighi also lays out the reasons he is convinced that China will be the leading hegemon in the next phase of capitalism.

Five Types of Capitalism   

Historically there have been five types of capitalism. The first is merchant capital in which profits are made by trade, selling cheap and buying dear. This is what Venice and Genoa did, as did Dutch seafarers on a grander scale. Next, is agricultural capitalism, including the slave system of the United States, Britain, and parts of the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. Then, the British invented the industrial capitalism system in which profit was made by investing the infrastructure of society: railroads, factories, and surplus labor from the wage labor system. Lastly, especially in the 20th century, we have two other forms of capitalism. In addition to being an industrial power after World War II, the United States used its industrial power to invest in the military arms industry and relied on finance capital (stocks and bonds).

Destructive Forms of Capitalism

In the later stage of all four systems, making money from commodities or technologies becomes problematic because it becomes unpredictable what people will buy. For example, after the Depression from 1929-1941, the United States got out of the depression by investing in the military. This was so successful that after World War II, capitalists began investing in the military even during peacetime (Melman, After Capitalism). It provided a much more predictable profit as long as countries continued to go to war. This encourages arming your own country or supplying the whole world, which is what the United States does today. There is also finance capital, where banks invest in stocks, bonds and financial instruments rather than infrastructure (as industrial capitalists did). For the past 50 years military and finance capital are primarily where the ruling class in Yankeedom has made its profits.

In the early phases of capitalism, in all four cycles, commodities were produced which required money as mediation, but the purpose was to produce more commodities and technologies. In the decaying part of the cycle, capitalists would rather invest in finance capital than industrial capital because of the quick turn-around in profits. Investing in building bridges, repairing roads, or building schools will surely benefit capitalists in the long run. Smooth supply chains for capitalist profit and a sound education in high school and college would ensure that workers not only know how to do their jobs but that they would be creative-thinkers and innovators. Capitalists these days don’t want to invest in these things, and this is why the infrastructure in Yankeedom is falling apart and the Yankee population cannot compete with students from other countries with better educational systems.

What is World Systems Theory?

World systems theory is a macro-sociological theory of long-term social change which includes economic theory and world history. It is provocative in at least three ways. One, its basic unit of analysis is the entire world-system of capitalism rather than nation-states. Second, it argues that the so-called socialist societies were not really socialist, but rather state-capitalist. Third, global capitalism organizes itself into a transnational division of labor which ignores the boundaries of nation-states. World-systems theory has been used by historians, international relations theorists, and international political economists to explain the rise and fall of nation-states, the increase and decrease in stratification patterns, as well as rise and decline of imperialism. Christopher Chase-Dunn and Terry Boswell have specialized in understanding social movements and the timing and placing of revolutions from a world-systems perspective.

Economic Zones Within the World-system

Overview of the core, periphery                                                 

World-systems are divided into three zones: the core, the semi-peripheral, and the peripheral countries. Economically and politically, core countries dominate other countries without being dominated. Semi-periphery countries are dominated by the core, and, in turn, dominate the periphery. The periphery are dominated by both. Part of the wealth of core countries comes from their exploitation of the peripheral countries’ land and labor through colonization.

Core and periphery

The core countries control most of the wealth in the world capitalist system. Workers are highly specialized, high technology is used. It has an industrial-electronic base. They extract raw materials from the peripheral countries and sell peripheral countries finished products. Core countries have the most highly specialized workers and a relatively small agricultural base, whereas peripheral countries have strong agricultural or horticultural bases and have a semi-skilled urban working class. The peripheral countries have relatively unspecialized labor whose work is labor-intensive with low wages. Much of the work done in peripheral countries is commercial agriculture—the production of coffee, sugar, and cotton.

The core countries are the home of the transnational corporations who control the world. Additionally, the core countries control the major banking institutions that provide international loans, such as the IMF and the World Bank. Finally, the core countries have the most powerful militaries. Paradoxically, when core countries are at their peak, their militaries are not very active. They only become more active as a core country goes into decline, as in the United States. Core countries typically have the most highly trained workers. In their heyday, core countries have strong centralized states that provide for pensions, unemployment, and road construction. In their weak stage, states withdraw these benefits and invest in their military to protect their assets abroad as their own territory falls apart. Core countries have large tax bases and, at their best, support infrastructural development.

The periphery nations own very little of the world’s means of production. In the case of African states or tribes, they have great amounts of natural resources, including diamonds and minerals, but these are extracted by the core countries. Furthermore, core states are usually able to purchase raw materials and cheap labor from non-core states at low prices and yet demand higher prices for their exports to non-core states. Core states have access to cheap skilled professional labor through migration (brain drain) from semi-peripheral states . Peripheral countries don’t have a solid tax base because their states have to contend with rival ethnic and tribal forces who are hardly convinced that taxes are good for them and their sub-national identities.

Peripheral countries often do not have a diversified economic base and are forced by the world market to produce one product. A good example of this is Venezuela and its oil. Peripheral countries have relatively steeper stratification patterns because there are no middle classes for the wealth to spread across. A tiny landed elite at the top sells off most of the land to transnational corporations. The state tends to be both weak and strong. States in the periphery have difficulty forming and sustaining their own national economic policy because foreign corporations want to come and go as they please. On the other hand, if a nationalist or a socialist rise to power, the state will be very strong and dictatorial. This is because they are constantly at war with transnational corporations who seek to overthrow them. Since transnational corporations often do this through oppositional parties, those in power are extremely suspicious of oppositional parties. Hence their label as “authoritarian”. In contemporary world systems, peripheries are found in parts of Latin America and in the most extreme form in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Semi-periphery                                                 

The semi-periphery contains countries that as a result of national liberation movements and class struggles have risen out of the periphery and have some characteristics of the core. They can also be composed of formerly core countries that have declined. For example, Spain and Portugal were once core countries in Early Modern Europe. Semi-peripheral countries often take over industries the core no longer wants such as second-generation computers, appliances, or transportation systems. Semi-peripheral states enter the world systems with some degree of autonomy rather than simply a subordinate country. These industries are not strong enough to compete with core countries in “free trade”. Therefore, they tend to apply protectionist policies towards their industry. They tend to export more to peripheral states and import more from core states in trade. In the 21st century, states like Brazil, Argentina, Russia, India, Israel, China, South Korea and South Africa (BRICS) are usually considered semi peripheral.

As I said above, the world capitalist system has changed four times in the last 500 years and each time not only have the configurations of the core countries changed but so have the semi peripheral countries in the world systems. For at least half of capitalist world systems, there were some countries that were outside the periphery, including the United States. Semi-peripheral countries are not fully industrialized countries, but they have scientists and engineers which can lead to some wealth.

Which countries are in the core periphery and semi periphery countries today?

The core countries in the world today are the United States, Germany, Japan, and the Scandinavian social democratic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Minor core countries are England, France, Italy, and Spain. Eastern European countries are in the semi-periphery. South of the border, there are four semi-periphery countries: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. More powerful up and coming semi-peripheral states include Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, China, and India. Most of Africa is in the periphery of the world systems with the exception of South Africa (semi-periphery).

Where did world systems theory come from?

Immanuel Wallerstein was a sociologist who specialized in African studies, so he had first-hand knowledge of the reality of exploitation by colonists. He was influenced by the work of Ferdinand Braudel who wrote a great three-volume history of capitalism. Wallerstein was also influenced by Marx and Engels, but he thought their history of capitalism was too Eurocentric. He emphasized that the core countries did not just exploit their own workers, but they have made great profits through the systematic exploitation of the peripheral countries for hundreds of years.

Modernization theory

World systems theory was in part a reaction against the anti-communist, modernization theory of international politics that prevailed after World War II into the 1960’s. Please see the table below which compares world systems theory to modernization theory.

Dependency theory of Andre Gunder Frank

Around the same time as world systems theory developed, Andre Gunder Frank developed what came to be called “dependency theory”. This theory also challenged modernization theory’s assumption that countries that were called “traditional societies” were improved by contact with the core countries. He claimed that they were systematically exploited by the core countries, made worse than they were before they had any contact with them. As long ago as 1998, Gunder Frank predicted the rise of China. See his book ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age.

Karl Polyani

Other influences on the world-systems theory come from a scholar of comparative economic systems, Karl Polyani. His major contribution is to show that there was no capitalism in tribal or agricultural civilizations and that the “self-subsisting” economy of capitalism was a relatively recent development. Wallerstein reframed this in world systems terms, with the tribal as “mini-systems”, agricultural civilization as “empires” and the capitalist system as “world economies”. Nikolai Kondratiev introduced patterns he saw in the capitalist world economy that centered around cycles of crisis and wars within very specific time periods.

Interstate System

As I said earlier, in international relations theory, realist and neo-conservative theory and neoliberal theories of the state treat each state as if they were separate units. Applied to today, that would formulate world conflict as a battle between, say, the United States and Russia. Neo-conservative and neoliberal theory treat any alliance between states as secondary epiphenomenon that can be dissolved without too much trouble. Secondly, both these theories operate as if interstate politics are relatively autonomous from economics. To the extent to which these theories mention capitalism, it is the domestic economy of nation-states. Each tries to hide the international nature of capitalism and the extent to which transnational corporations can, and do, override national interests. The ideology of the interstate system is sovereign equality, but this is practically overridden as states are treated as neither sovereign nor equal, especially in Africa.

World systems theory sees states differently. For one thing, nation-states are not like Hobbes atoms which crash against each other in a war of all against all. The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, fresh after the Thirty Years’ War, was an attempt to move beyond dynastic empires to nation-states. In core capitalist countries there were never single nation states. The Treaty created a system of nation-states which had rules of engagement, treaties, do’s and don’ts.

Today, between the core, periphery, and semi-periphery countries lies a system of interconnected state relationships. This interstate system arose either as a concomitant process or as a consequence of the development of the capitalist world-system over the course of the “long” 16th century as states began to recognize each other’s sovereignty.

Between these economic zones there were no enforceable rules about how nation-states should act, outside of not impeding the flow of capital between zones. Political domestic elites, international elites, and corporations competed and cooperated with each other, the results of which no one intended. Unsuccessful attempts have been made by the League of Nations and later the United Nations to create an international state. However, nation-states have been unwilling to give up their weapons. Therefore, the international anarchy of capitalist production is still unchecked. The function of the state is to regulate the flow of capital, labor, and commodities across borders and to enforce the structure of market rates. Not only do strong states impose their will on weak states. Strong states also impose limitations on other strong states, as we are seeing with US sanctions against Russia.

Who Will Be the Next World-Economy Hegemon?

Situation in Ukraine

Everything about Ukraine needs to be understood as the desperate clawing of a Yankee empire terrified of being left behind. The U.S. has so far convinced Europe to stay away from Russia and China, but it has nothing to offer. As Gary Olsen said, the Europeans may slowly make deals with Russia and China because they have some sense of where the future lies. So, Western hydra-headed totalitarian media all speak with the same voice: RUSSIA, RUSSIA, EVIL RUSSIA. EVIL PUTIN. Putin certainly had nerve wanting a national economy with its own economic policy. God forbid! But the time is up for Yankeedom and no terrorist police, no military drones, no Republicrats, and no stock exchange jingling with the trappings of divine honor can stop it.

The weakness of Europe

 So, if Yankeedom is in decline (and even Brzezinski admitted this) who are the new contenders? Up until maybe five years ago, I thought Germany might be, with its industrial base and its strong working class. But in the last five years German standards of living have declined. It seems that the EU is in the midst of cracking up. There is no leadership with the departure of Angela Merkel. Macron is on the way out in France. All the other countries in Europe, including Italy, are under water with debt. England is the puppy dog of the United States and hasn’t been a global power in over 100 years. Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece could be helped enormously by allaying themselves with Russia and China, but at this point most Europeans have been bullied and complicit in myopically siding with a collapsing United States. There is a good chance the US will drag most of Europe down with them.

Collapse of the core zones?

As we have seen, according to world systems theory, the history of capitalism has had three zones: core, periphery, and semi-periphery. The countries that have inhabited the three zones have changed along with the dominant hegemon over the last 500 years, and we are now in unprecedented territory. There is a good chance that the entire batch of formerly core states, the United States, Britain, France, and the west will collapse and that the core capitalist system will be without a hegemon (with the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries). China seems to be about ten years away from assuming that position.

2022-2030 the reign of the semi-periphery?

So, is it fair to say there is a huge tectonic shift where most of the core countries will collapse and the world system will have no core for maybe 20 years? It seems clear that the new hegemon is going to be China. Arrighi and Gunder Frank both thought this. But China is still a semi-periphery country and it might take 10-15 years to enter the core. Meanwhile its allies, Russia and Iran, are also semi-periphery countries. In South America, Argentina had the foresight to sign on the Chinese Belt Road Initiative. Brazil and Chile are still uncommitted to China and occupy a semi-peripheral status. The big country in Asia is India. It is very important to the Yankees not to lose control of India, and they have all the reason in the world to beat war drums in an attempt to demonize China. If a right winger such as Modi can refuse to side against Russia in the current events in Ukraine, will a more moderate or social democratic president of India have the vision to see the future lies in aligning with China? I wouldn’t count on it given the behavior of green-social democrat leadership in Germany.

The only European countries who seem to have made their way through 40 years of Neoliberal austerity, the collapse of Yugoslavia, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of fascist parties in Europe are the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. There is no reason why they could not maintain core status, though China would be the leading power.

The new hegemon China and the world-system in 2030  

I can imagine the world-system in 2030 could consist of China and the Scandinavian countries in the core, with Russia, Iran, and maybe Brazil, Argentina and Chile on the semi-periphery along with possibly India. I don’t know where to place the US and Europe. Since they are drunk with finance capital, it is unfair to put them in the semi-periphery, which is usually involved in productive scientific endeavors. Yet they are more productive than the peripheral countries. Africa could be the last battleground between the decadent Yankee and European imperialists who live on as neo-colonial crypto-imperialists attempting to either sell arms to Africans or directly set up regimes and enslave Africans to work the mines.

If China is able to develop African productive forces with the Belt Road Initiative, it might be an incentive to calm down the ethnic warfare there. It would be a wonderful thing if the African states could finally control the enormous wealth of their country. We cannot expect too much from China. The best they could do would be to invest in cultivating scientists and engineers to build up Africa as a fully industrialized continent. To me, what matters about China is not arguing whether or not it is really socialist, but that it is doing what Marx liked best about capitalism: developing the productive forces.

The prospects for a world state?

We cannot expect the Yankee state to decline peacefully and not start World War III. Is it possible to have a global capitalist realignment without starting World War III? As Chris Chase-Dunn has advocated for decades, we need a world state that has the capability to enforce a ban on interstate warfare. That is not likely now. The only attempts at this: the League of Nations and the United Nations happened after the misery of two world wars. Both attempts at world state have failed because nation-states would not agree to give up their weapons.

What about world ecology?                                                                              

But as world systems theorist Chris Chase Dunn points out, a Chinese-centered world still inherits the increasing ecological destruction that has been an inherent part of the world system since the industrial revolution and now the global pandemic. This includes extreme weather (hot and cold), pollution of land and oceans with plastics and the products of industrialization like carbon, flooding from global warming, and desertification of lands due to droughts and monocropping.

What about Marx’s dream of shrinking the ratio between freedom and necessity in the light of ecological disaster?

For Marx and Engels, the dream of socialism was based on abundance. Unfortunately, because socialism first took place in what Wallerstein would call peripheral or semi-peripheral countries, socialism has come to be associated with poverty. An implication that could be drawn under socialism is that people should expect to be poor and share the poverty equally. That is the opposite of how Marx and Engels saw things. They hoped that socialism would first break out in the west in an industrialized country, with an organized working-class party taking the lead. They hoped that the revolution of overthrowing capitalism would preserve its material abundance, technology, and scientific achievements, not tear them to the ground. They wanted to develop the forces of production that capitalism unleashed while abolishing the political economy of private property over means of production. As socialism developed, the collective creativity of workers would shrink the ratio between necessary work and freedom. What does this mean?

This meant that workers would either:

  1. a) work less and produce the same amount
  2. b) work the same amount but produce more
  3. c) work more and produce much more

In other words, workers would have an increase in the number of choices of what to do with their free time because of an increase in the technology and collective creativity to produce more with less. My question is, given the irreversible ecological situation we are in, is it still realistic to expect socialism will continue to be based on abundance? I can imagine that the way China is going, in that part of the world it may still be possible. I also suspect that in the Scandinavian countries it might be possible. The problem is that global pandemics, extreme weather, flooding, desertification, and pollution cannot easily, if at all, be contained within countries that are capitalist or socialist.

How Reliable is World-systems Theory?

I will limit criticisms of world systems theory to those of a political and economic nature. One common criticism is the struggle to do empirical research with a unit of analysis being the entire world system. This is not to say world systems theorists do not do empirical work, because they do. It is more a matter of how to derive meaningful relationships between variables at such a complex level of abstraction. Statistics for individual nation states are easier to manage, although nation-states are not autonomous actors.

Another criticism is that the successes of existing socialist states are in danger of being given the short shrift. Like many in the West, the first line of criticism by world systems theorists of socialist countries is that they are one-party dictatorships. While this may be true, there is good reason why communist parties in power are nervous about the prospect of oppositional parties being used by foreign capitalists to overthrow them. In addition, socialist countries have better records than capitalist countries on the periphery in the fields of literacy (reading and writing), low-cost housing, healthcare, and free education. Please see Michael Parenti, Black Shirts and Reds for more on this.

The third major criticism comes from orthodox Marxist, Robert Brenner. Brenner claims that the emphasis by world systems theorists on the relationship between economic zones comes at a cost to understanding the class structure within and between nation-states. I think world systems theorists are well aware of class relationships, but they choose to focus on the capitalist relationships between states. Lastly, Theda Skocpol argues that world systems theory understates the power of the state in international affairs. The state is not just the creature of transnational capital. States engage in military competition which long s capitalism. State structures compete with each other.

On a positive note, as I said earlier, Christopher Chase-Dunn has done some creative work with Terry Boswell in tracking the timing and location of rebellions and revolutions in the 500 years of the world systems in Spirals of Capitalism and Socialism. In addition, he wrote a very groundbreaking book with Tom Hall Rise and Demise, which challenges Wallerstein by suggesting that there were precapitalist world systems that go all the way back to hunter-gatherers. Also see my book with him, Social Change: Globalization from the Stone Age to the Present.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Socialism

The post Tectonic Shifts in the World Economy: A World Systems Perspective first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Iran: How to Circumvent Sanctions Now and in the Future

Background

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raeisi says the first priority of his administration during the Persian New Year is boosting employment and creating new jobs.

He made the remarks in his New Year message aired live from the Grand Mosque of the southwestern Iranian port city of Khorramshahr on Sunday evening, March 20.

“My first Nowruz message as the servant of the public is the message of round-the-clock and incessant work to build a powerful and advanced Iran,” he said.

“No nation and no country has achieved anything without intensive work and the maximum use of human and natural resources. The New Year and the new century should be the beginning of a new era of productive, useful, fruitful, and progressive work for all of us,” the president added.

“During the current year, God willing, the issue of employment will be our first and foremost issue,” Iran’s president said, adding that unemployment is the root cause of all economic and social plights. As a result, he noted, supporting domestic production is at the top of his administration’s agenda.

Raeisi noted that during the seven-month lapsed since his administration was inaugurated, it has proven it is determined to do what it says.

“We said that with the help of God and people, we would contain the coronavirus [pandemic], [and] thanks God, it was done,” Iran’s president said.

He added, “We said that the country and the economy would not be left in limbo pending [the conclusion] of the JCPOA [Iran’s deal with world powers]. Everybody saw that while engaging in negotiations [with other parties to the JCPOA] and taking advantage of political and legal means to dealing with the crime of sanctions, we also put our focus on thwarting sanctions.”1

He pointed to the emerging signs of economic growth and stability as well as a significant increase in the volume of foreign trade and non-oil exports under his administration, saying, “We increased trade with our neighbors for the benefit of the people.”

“We said that we will set the production wheel in motion, [and] official statistics, released up to the end of the third quarter even show that economic growth has reached above 5%,” Iran’s chief executive said.

“We said that we will not trade the interests and security of the people with anything, [and] everyone saw that we gave priority to boosting the country’s defense, missile, and space capabilities, because the country’s security is a priority,” he added.

Raeisi also said the balance in the country’s foreign policy has been restored through an active diplomacy pursued under his leadership.

According to the president, the greatest foreign policy achievement of the country in recent years has been the disgraceful failure of the United States’ maximum pressure policy in the face of the Iranian people’s resistance.2

Back in 2018, the administration of the former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-imposed the anti-Iran sanctions that were lifted under the accord while piling on with new ones. He said he was adopting a “maximum pressure” policy to force Tehran to negotiate a new deal.

In spite of his fierce criticisms of the “failed maximum pressure” campaign pursued by his predecessor, Biden has not only kept all the sanctions imposed under Trump but has also added new ones as well.

“We began running the country in the right direction. We do not see the fate of the nation in the hands of foreigners,” Raeisi stressed.

He noted that his administration did away with polarization, which he said undermines the nation’s strength, and instead demonstrated that the power of the [operations in the military] field is in line and parallel to the power of diplomacy.

“We used foreign relations in the service of [the country’s] economy, and that is the meaning of a transform-seeking and justice-oriented administration,” he added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president wished for the new Iranian year to be the end of the coronavirus pandemic around the world and also an end to wars in every corner of the world.

PressTV Interview with Peter Koenig

PressTV:  What would be possible ways to neutralize sanctions, regardless of the result of negotiations in Vienna [IAEA Nuclear Negotiations – ongoing]?

Peter Koenig:  Thank you.  Please let me begin, if I may, with a quote from President Ebrahim Raeisi, after referring to Iran’s spectacular 5% growth, when he said: that we will not trade the interests and security of the people with anything, [and] everyone saw that we gave priority to boosting the country’s defense, missile, and space capabilities, because the country’s security is a priority.”

This is crucial. Iran’s Security must be a priority. This refers not just to military and geopolitical security, but also to economic security.

To neutralize sanctions current and potential future ones, it is important that Iran fully orient herself towards the east, towards China and Russia; in essence, towards the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which Iran is now a full-fledged member, and away from the west.

Remember, I have said this before – the SCO comprises about half of the world population — in other words, a huge market — and controls about 30% or more of the world’s GDP.

There is no need to continue depending on the west, the US and her allies or better, her vassals, the Europeans. They will always do what the Anglo-American empire dictates because they are afraid themselves of sanctions.

The current case – the war between Ukraine and Russia – speaks for itself. The US dictates the sanctions for Russia and the European Union has to follow suit – or else. What is the result?

It’s a kind of economic suicide for the west; more for the Europeans than for the US. But also, the US suffers more from their imposed sanctions than does Russia. Because, Russia has gradually detached herself from the dollar-euro economy, and oriented her trade and geopolitical relations towards the east, China and the SCO.

This is true, despite of the contrary the western Russia phobic media want you to believe.

Of course, unplugging one’s economy from the west, from the dollar-euro hegemony, is a process – it doesn’t happen from one day to the next.

But Iran has already begun. In my opinion, it has to be continued immediately and fervently and carried out persistently. In that sense, in achieving economic independence – Russia may be an example. The current US-EU sanction regime hurt Europa and the US more than they hurt Russia, especially in what energy supply is concerned.

PressTV:  Also, considering the energy crisis in Europe, there may be possibilities for Iran to supply natural gas to Europe.

PK:  Of course, there may be possibilities. But knowing what we know about Europe, the US and sanctions, my recommendation is to abstain from supplying Europe with energy. There will be the day when they are told that now Iran needs to be sanctioned, and all the contracts you, Iran, sign now, would be cancelled, or simply disregarded, invalidated. And, as you know, this is not new for Iran, the cancellation of contracts due to sanctions.

There is no reliance on Europe, nor, of course, as you know, on the US.

A good example is the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is practically finished. Yet, Germany is being told not to buy Russian gas. However, Germany depends to about 50% of Russian hydrocarbons. Now what will happen – of course, they go begging around the world, to fill the gap, possibly at much higher prices than the gas supply from Russia.

The Saudis have already said they would rather sell to China in Yuan. And they have categorically refused President Biden’s request to increase their oil production.

One must add, the Russian gas supply has always been reliable. Whatever the geopolitical differences, so far Russia has always maintained her contractual agreements and obligations.

Under the circumstances, Russia has already successfully diverted the supplies destined for Germany to China.

Another important factor is the currency in which such contracts would be established, either in US dollars or in euros, the little brother of the dollar.

To the extent possible, Iran may want to stay away from these fiat currencies. These are also the currencies with which sanctions are dished out. So, its not a good idea to deal with these currencies. The Chinese Yuan – which will be rolled out still this year as a digital international payment mode, is much-much safer. –

The Yuan is backed by a solid Chinese economy. The US-dollar and the Euro are backed by nothing – literally by nothing – not even by trust.

PressTV:  And finally, the possibilities of developing relations with countries that they themselves are already under US sanctions?

PK:  Like what countries?  If you are thinking of the East bloc, like the members of the SCO, like China and Russia, yes, of course. They soon will have their own international payment system – actually it already functions between some countries; for example, between China and India it’s already established – and that is SANCTION-FREE!!!

So, again, to stay away as much as possible from US sanctions:

  • do not trade in US-dollars or in Euros
  • stay away from dealing with the US and Europe.
  • Also do NOT keep your reserves in western countries – see what happened to Russia?

Half of Russia’s reserves, stored in London and NYC and possibly some other western countries, have been confiscated – in other words: stolen.

Keep you reserves in your own treasury or in an SCO country where they are not accessible to the west – where they are safe from western sanctions.

  1. See:  Washington says its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has been an abject failure.”
  2. See:  Nation’s maximum resistance defeated US maximum pressure, Iranian president says.
The post Iran: How to Circumvent Sanctions Now and in the Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Iran Strike at Global Oil Supply if Russia Invades Ukraine?

Following Russia’s troop build-up along Ukraine’s borders portending imminent invasion, Houthi rebels in Yemen backed by Iran, which is Russia’s most dependable regional ally in the decade-long Syrian conflict, have significantly escalated missile strikes on the oil-rich Gulf States with a nod of approval from the Kremlin in order to take pressure off Russia in the Ukraine stand-off by opening a second front in the veritable Achilles’ heel of the energy-dependent industrialized world.

To buttress the defenses in the Gulf, US F-22 fighter jets arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday, Feb. 12, as part of an American defense response to recent missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the country. The Raptors landed at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, which hosts 2,000 US troops. American soldiers there launched Patriot interceptor missiles and briefly had to take shelter after the missiles exploded in the airspace above the military base last month.

The deployment came after the Houthi rebels launched three attacks targeting Abu Dhabi last month, including one targeting a fuel depot that killed three people and wounded six. The attacks coincided with visits by presidents from South Korea and Israel to the UAE. Though overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, the missile strikes targeting the Emirates has sparked a major US response. The American military has sent the USS Cole on a mission to Abu Dhabi.

To return the favor of opening a second front in the Gulf and acknowledging Russia’s steadfast strategic alliance with Iran in the region, the Kremlin issued rare condemnation of recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria as “crude violation” of Syria’s sovereignty on Thursday, Feb. 10, that up until now were tacitly tolerated by the Russian forces based in Syria’s Tartus naval base and Khmeimim airbase southeast of Latakia, and also pledged last month that the Russian Air Force would conduct joint air patrols alongside the Syrian Air Force that would pre-empt the likelihood of further Israeli airstrikes in the future.

“Israel’s continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “They are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions. Also, such actions pose serious risks to international passenger flights.”

Although Israel claims its air campaign in Syria is meant to target Iran-backed militias, the airstrikes often kill Syrian soldiers. Syrian state media said one soldier was killed and five more were wounded in the latest Israeli attack at Damascus, which occurred Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Russia has held talks with Israel on Syria, and said last month it would begin joint air patrols with Syria. The patrols will include areas near the Golan Heights in southern Syria bordering Israel, a frequent site of the Israeli airstrikes, and Israel is said to be considering discontinuing the strikes altogether or slowing them down significantly.

The Times of Israel noted that this marked a momentous change in policy for Russia: “Following the patrol, Ynet reported that Israeli military officials were holding talks with Russian army officers to calm tensions.”

The report added, “Israeli officials were struggling to understand why Russia, which announced that such joint patrols were expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward, had apparently changed its policy toward Israel.” The report claimed that Israel might limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s “mystifying” change in the Syria policy.

Over the years, Israel has not only provided material support to militant groups battling Damascus – particularly to various factions of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front in Daraa and Quneitra bordering the Israel-occupied Golan Heights – but Israel’s air force has virtually played the role of the air force of the terrorists and mounted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria during the decade-long conflict.

In an interview to New York Times in January 2019, Israel’s former Chief of Staff Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot confessed that the Netanyahu government approved his recommendations in January 2017 to step up airstrikes in Syria. Consequently, more than 200 Israeli airstrikes were launched on the Syrian targets in 2017 and 2018, as revealed by the Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz in September 2018.

In 2018 alone, Israel’s air force dropped 2,000 bombs in Syria. The purported rationale of the Israeli airstrikes in Syria has been to degrade Iran’s guided missile technology provided to Damascus and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, which poses an existential threat to Israel’s regional security.

Nevertheless, Israeli military strategists’ “concerns” aside, it’s worth recalling that a joint American-Israeli program, involving a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes, aimed at taking out the most prominent generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and targeting Iran’s power stations, industrial infrastructure, and missile and nuclear facilities has been going on since early 2020 after the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in an American airstrike at the Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

As the US presidential race heated up in the election year, the pace and sophistication of the subversive attacks in Iran picked up simultaneously. In the summer of 2020, “mysterious explosions” were reported at a missile and explosives storage facility at Parchin military base on June 26, at power stations in the cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz, a “mysterious fire” at Bushehr port on July 15 destroying seven ships, and a massive explosion at the Natanz nuclear site on July 2, 2020 that reportedly set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least two years.

Besides wooing the Zionist lobbies in the run-up to the US presidential election, another purpose of the subversive attacks appeared to be to avenge a string of audacious attacks mounted by the Iran-backed forces against the US strategic interests in the Persian Gulf that brought the US and Iran to the brink of a full-scale war in September 2019.

In addition to planting limpet mines on oil tankers off the coast of UAE in May 2019 and the subsequent downing of the American Global Hawk surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf by Iran, the brazen attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on September 14, 2019, was the third major attack in the Persian Gulf against the assets of Washington and its regional allies.

That the UAE had the forewarning of the imminent attacks was proved by the fact that weeks before the attacks, it recalled forces from Yemen battling the Houthi rebels and redeployed them to defend the UAE’s territorial borders.

The September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility in eastern Saudi Arabia was an apocalypse for the global oil industry because it processed five million barrels crude oil per day, almost half of Saudi Arabia’s total oil production.

The subversive attack sent jitters across the global markets and the oil price surged 15%, the largest spike witnessed in three decades since the First Gulf War after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, though the oil price was eased within weeks after industrialized nations released their strategic oil reserves.

It bears mentioning that alongside deploying several thousand American troops, additional aircraft squadrons and Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Abqaiq attack, several interventionist hawks in Washington invoked the Carter Doctrine of 1980 as a ground for mounting retaliatory strikes against Iran, which states:

“Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Although the Houthi rebels based in Yemen claimed the responsibility for the September 2019 complex attack involving drones and cruise missiles on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Washington dismissed the possibility. Instead, it accused Tehran of mounting the complex attack from Iran’s territory.

Nevertheless, puerile pranks like planting limpet mines on oil tankers and downing a $200-million surveillance aircraft can be overlooked but the major provocation of mounting a drone and missile attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility that crippled its oil-processing functions for weeks was nothing short of showing red rag to the bull.

Unless Iran got the green light to go ahead with the attacks from a major military power that equals Washington’s firepower, such confrontation would have amounted to a suicidal approach.

Considering such a co-ordinated escalation in the Gulf by Iran and Russia, it seems a forgone conclusion that if the Kremlin decided to invade Ukraine, Iran, too, would mobilize its forces in the critically important volatile region to disrupt the global oil supply and put pressure on the energy-dependent industrialized powers to carefully consider their retaliatory measures against the Russia-Iran military alliance.

In fact, this was the precise message conveyed to Washington’s military strategists by the last month’s audacious Houthi attacks on targets in UAE, specifically the one targeting al-Dhafra airbase hosting US forces.

Regardless, the acts of subversion in the Persian Gulf in 2019 culminating in the “sacrilegious assault” on the veritable mecca of the oil production industry in Sept. 2019 should be viewed in the broader backdrop of the New Cold War that has begun following the Ukraine crisis in 2014 after Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula and Washington imposed sanctions on the Kremlin.

In addition, Russia’s membership in the G8 forum was suspended by the Western powers in March 2014 and Russian President Vladimir Putin was snubbed at international summits by the Western leaders, by then-President Obama in particular, an insult that the Russian strongman took rather personally.

The Kremlin’s immediate response to the escalation by Washington was that it jumped into the fray in Syria in September 2015, after a clandestine visit to Moscow by General Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.

When Russia deployed its forces and military hardware to Syria in September 2015, the militant proxies of Washington and its regional clients were on the verge of drawing a wedge between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, which could have led to the imminent downfall of the Bashar al-Assad government.

With the help of the Russian air power, the Syrian government has since reclaimed most of Syria’s territory from the insurgents, excluding Idlib in the northwest occupied by the Turkish-backed militants and Deir al-Zor and the Kurdish-held areas in the east, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on Washington and its regional allies.

Finally, a word about the venerated commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated in an American airstrike on a tip-off from the Israeli intelligence at the Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020. Soleimani was the most trusted aide of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his main liaison for holding consultations with Russia.

Not only did he convince Kremlin with his diplomatic skills to strike at Washington’s vulnerability in the Syrian conflict but he was also the chief architect of the audacious September 2019 attacks at the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Reportedly, Trump initially rejected the Pentagon’s option to assassinate General Soleimani on December 28, 2019, due to apprehensions over full-scale confrontation with Iran, and authorized airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq instead.

But after one of frequent rocket attacks at the US embassy in Baghdad claimed by Iran-backed forces, Trump succumbed to pressure from the American deep state, led by the powerful top brass of the Pentagon, which had a score to settle with General Soleimani for giving the global power a bloody nose in Syria’s war.

The post Will Iran Strike at Global Oil Supply if Russia Invades Ukraine? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Make the Whole World Know that the South Also Exists

Shefa Salem (Libya), Life, 2019.

On 19 January 2022, US President Joe Biden held a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The discussion ranged from Biden’s failure to pass a $1.75 trillion investment bill (the result of the defection of two Democrats) to the increased tensions between the United States and Russia. According to a recent NBC poll, 54% of adults in the United States disapprove of his presidency and 71% feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The political and cultural divisions that widened during the Trump years continue to inflict a heavy toll on US society, including over the government’s ability to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Basic protocols to avoid infections are not universally followed. Misinformation related to COVID-19 has spread as rapidly as the virus in the United States, where large numbers of people believe sensational claims: for example, that pregnant women should not take the vaccine, that the vaccine promotes infertility, and that the government is hiding the data on deaths caused by the vaccines.

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay), Entoldado (La Feria) (‘Canopy [The Fair]’), 1917.

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay), Entoldado (La Feria) (‘Canopy [The Fair]’), 1917.

At the press conference, Biden made a candid remark regarding the Monroe Doctrine (1823), which treats the American hemisphere as the ‘backyard’ of the United States. ‘It’s not America’s backyard’, Biden said. ‘Everything south of the Mexican border is America’s front yard’. The United States continues to think of the entire hemisphere, from Cape Horn to the Rio Grande, not as sovereign territory, but, in one way or the other, as its ‘yard’. It meant little that Biden followed this up by saying, ‘we’re equal people,’ since the metaphor he used – the yard – indicated the proprietary attitude with which the United States operates in the Americas and in the rest of the world. It is this proprietary attitude that inflames conflict not only in the Americas (with epicentres in Cuba and Venezuela), but also in Eurasia.

Talks have been ongoing in Geneva and Vienna to dial down the conflict imposed by the United States and its allies against Iran and Russia. The US’ attempts to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and to dominate eastern Europe have thus far not borne fruit. The talks persist, but both are hindered by the US government’s continued adoption of a narrative about the world that is premised on its hegemony and a rejection of the multipolar dispensation that has begun to appear.

Ramin Haerizadeh (Iran), He Came, He Left, He Left, He Came, 2010.

Ramin Haerizadeh (Iran), He Came, He Left, He Left, He Came, 2010.

Early indications in the eighth round of the JCPOA talks in Vienna, which opened on 27 December 2021, suggested that there would be little forward movement. The United States arrived with the attitude that Iran could not be trusted, when in fact it was the United States that exited the JCPOA in 2018 (after it certified twice in 2017 that Iran had in fact followed the letter of the agreement). This attitude came alongside a false sense of urgency from the Biden administration to rush the process forward.

The US wants Iran to make further concessions, despite the fact that the initial deal had been negotiated over twenty long months and despite the fact that none of the other parties are willing to reopen the agreement to satisfy the United States and its outside partner, Israel. The Russian negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov said that there is no need for ‘artificial deadlines’, an indicator of the growing closeness between Iran and Russia. Ties between the two states have been strengthened by their shared opposition to the failed attempt by the Gulf Arab states, Turkey, and the West to overthrow the Syrian government, particularly since the Russian military intervention into Syria in 2015.

Aneta Kajzer (Germany), I’ve Got No Brain Baby, 2017.

Aneta Kajzer (Germany), I’ve Got No Brain Baby, 2017.

Even more dangerous than the US’ hostile attitude towards Iran is its policy towards Russia and Ukraine, where troops are at the ready and the rhetoric of war has become more strident. The heart of this conflict is around the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) towards the Russian border, in violation of the deal struck between the United States and the Soviet Union that NATO would not go beyond Germany’s eastern border. Ukraine is the epicentre of the conflict, although even here the debate is unclear. Germany and France have said that they would not welcome the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, and since NATO membership requires universal consent, it is impossible for Ukraine to join NATO at present. The nub of the disagreement is over how these various parties understand the situation in Ukraine.

The Russians contend that the US fomented a coup in 2014 and brought right-wing nationalists – including pro-fascist elements – into power, and that these sections are part of a Western ploy to threaten Russia with NATO weapons systems and with NATO country forces inside Ukraine, while the West contends that Russia wishes to annex eastern Ukraine. The Russians have asked NATO to provide a written guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the military alliance as a precondition for further talks; NATO has demurred.

When the German navy chief and vice admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach said in Delhi that Russia’s Vladimir Putin deserves ‘respect’ from Western leaders, he had to resign. It made no difference that Schönbach’s comments were premised on the notion that the West needed Russia to combat China – only disrespect and subordination of Russia are acceptable. That’s the Western view in the Geneva talks, which will continue but are unlikely to bear fruit as long as the United States and its allies believe that other powers should surrender their sovereignty to a US-led world order.

Olga Chernysheva (Russia), Kind People, 2004.

Olga Chernysheva (Russia), Kind People, 2004.

The movement of history suggests that the days of the US-dominated world system are nearing their end. That is why we called our dossier no. 36 (January 2021) Twilight: The Erosion of US Control and the Multipolar Future. In We Will Build the Future: A Plan to Save the Planet (January 2022), produced alongside 26 research institutes from around the world, we laid out the following ten points for a restructured, more democratic world system:

  1. Affirm the importance of the United Nations Charter (1945).
  2. Insist that member states of the United Nations adhere to the Charter, including to its specific requirements around the use of sanctions and force (chapters VI and VII).
  3. Reconsider the monopoly power exercised by the UN Security Council over decisions that impact a large section of the multilateral system; engage the UN General Assembly in a serious dialogue over democracy inside the global order.
  4. Insist that multilateral bodies – such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – formulate polices in accord with the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); forbid any policy that increases poverty, hunger, homelessness, and illiteracy.
  5. Affirm the centrality of the multilateral system over the key areas of security, trade policy, and financial regulations, recognising that regional bodies such as NATO and parochial institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have supplanted the United Nations and its agencies (such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development) in the formulation of these policies.
  6. Formulate policies to strengthen regional mechanisms and deepen the integration of developing countries.
  7. Prevent the use of the security paradigm – notably, counterterrorism and counternarcotics – to address the world’s social challenges.
  8. Cap spending on arms and militarism; ensure that outer space is demilitarised.
  9. Convert the resources spent on arms production to fund socially beneficial production.
  10. Ensure that all rights are available to all peoples, not just those who are citizens of a state; these rights must apply to all hitherto marginalised communities such as women, indigenous peoples, people of colour, migrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, oppressed castes, and the impoverished.

Adherence to these ten points would aid in the resolution of these crises in Iran and Ukraine.

Failure to move forward is a result of Washington’s arrogant attitude towards the world. During Biden’s press conference, he lectured Putin on the dangers of a nuclear war, saying that Putin is ‘not in a very good position to dominate the world’. Only the United States, he implied, is in a good position to do that. Then, Biden said, ‘you have to be concerned when you have, you know, a nuclear power invade… if he invades – [which] hasn’t happened since World War Two’. A nuclear power invading a country hasn’t happened since World War Two? The United States is a nuclear power and has continually invaded countries across the globe, from Vietnam to Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq – an illegal war which Biden voted for. It is this arrogant approach to the world and to the UN Charter that puts our world in peril.

Listening to Biden, I was reminded of Mario Benedetti’s 1985 poem, El sur también existe (‘The South Also Exists’), a favourite of Hugo Chávez. Here are two of its verses:

With its worship of steel
its giant chimneys
its clandestine sages
its siren song
its neon skies
its Christmas sales
its cults of God the Father
and military epaulettes

with its keys to the kingdom
the North is the one who commands

but here underneath the underneath
close to the roots
is where memory
forgets nothing
and there are people living
and dying doing their utmost
and so between them they achieve
what was believed to be impossible

to make the whole world know
that the South also exists.

The post Make the Whole World Know that the South Also Exists first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Imperialists’ and Proxies’ War against Syria

On 30 August 2021, the United States’ 20-year military occupation of Afghanistan came to an end when the removal of American forces was completed. Although the withdrawal was botched, it was the correct move. The withdrawal is ignominious because it turns out that the much ballyhooed US fighting forces were, in the end, defeated by Afghan peasants. Has the US learned anything from its debacle in Afghanistan? One might gain an insight into that question by observing the debacle still ongoing in Syria.

Author A.B. Abrams provides an in-depth analysis on the US-led war in Syria in his excellent book World War in Syria: Global Conflict on Middle Eastern Battlefields (Clarity Press, 2021). WW in Syria documents the lead up to war in Syria, the precursors, the ideologies, the tactics, who the combatants are and who is aligned with who at different stages of the war, the battles fought, the impact of sophisticated weaponry, adherence to international law, the media narratives, and the cost of winning and losing the war in Syria for the warring parties. Unequivocally, every side loses in war. People are killed on all sides, and each death is a loss. But a victor is usually declared, and Syria with its allies has been declared as having won this war, albeit at a great price. However, the finality and clarity of the victory is muddled because Turkey and the US are still occupying and pillaging northern areas of Syria where they provide protection for Islamist remnants (or recklessly guard Islamist prisoners; as I write, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and US are fighting to defeat an Islamic State (IS) assault on a prison in northeastern Syria). In addition, apartheid Israel continues to periodically attack war-ravaged Syria.

Abrams asks why the West and Israel were bent on “regime changein Syria. As Abrams explains, with several examples, nations that do not put themselves in thrall to the US will be targeted for overthrow of their governments. (chapter 1) “Syria was increasingly portrayed as being under some kind of malign communist influence — the only possible explanation in the minds of the U.S. and its allies for any party to reject what the West perceived as its own benevolence.” (p 10)

What is happening in Syria must be understood in a historical perspective. (p 55) Abrams details how imperialist information warfare brought about violent overthrows of socialistic governments in Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya. That tested template has now been applied to Syria. (chapter 2)

Abrams identifies four casus belli for attacking Syria: (1) being outside the Western sphere of influence, (2) to isolate Syria from Hezbollah and Iran, which would appease Israel and the Gulf states, (3) to remove Iran and Russia as suppliers of natural gas to Europe, (4) to isolate Syria geo-politically from China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and (5) a new base for foisting Islamist (“Islamist” is used to refer to a political ideology rather than the faith of Muslims) groups against Western-designated enemies.

So Syria found itself beset by a multitude of aggressive foreign actors: key NATO actors Britain, France, the US, and Turkey. Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, and Israel were staging grounds for attacks. (p 99) The Sunni regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates were also arrayed against Syria. At first, the mass protests — given fuel by Bashar Al Assad’s neoliberalism schemes (p 35) — served as a shield for covertly supported military operations. (p 107)

These state actors supported several Islamist entities. Abrams, who is proficient in Arabic, adroitly elucidates the complex and realigning web of Islamist proxies. Among these groups are Al Qaeda, Fatah Al Asram, Absay Al Ansar, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and IS.

Syria would not be completely alone as fellow Axis of Resistance members Iran and Hezbollah would come to the aid of Syria. Hezbollah directly joined in the spring of 2013 and it played an important role in the pivotal capture of Al Qusayr. (p 132) Thereafter, Iran would step up its involvement in defense of Syria. (p 134)

What will be a surprise to most people is the solidarity shown by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) toward its longtime partner Syria. (Albeit this is no surprise to readers of another of A.B. Abram’s excellent books, Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power. Review.) Gains made by the invading forces would be substantially rolled back with the entry of Russia, an event deplored by some leftists. Among the reasons for a Russian entry was fear of Islamist terrorism approaching its frontier.

With the advancing tide of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies, Westerners reacted by pressing for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria. However, having learned from Western manipulation of such a United Nations Security Council resolution during the war on Libya, in which Russia and China had abstained, Russia and China would veto any such attempt this time.

The enemies of Syria would engage in manufactured gas attacks abetted by disinformation. This pretext led the US and allied attackers to grant themselves the right to bomb Syria. Abrams responds, “It is hard to find a similar sense of self-righteousness and open willingness to commit illegal acts of aggression anywhere else in the world.” Abrams connected this extremism to “the ideology of western supremacism.” (p 174) Syria would relinquish the deterrence of its chemical weapons in a futile effort to forestall any future opposition-contrived chemical attacks attributed to it.

Although Hezbollah, Iran, the DPRK, and Russia were invited by the government of Syria, the western nations (without UN approval) were illegally attacking Syria. Among them were Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands, and Middle Eastern actors which included Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. (p 197) Israel was abetting Al Nusra. (p 199) The Syrian borders with Jordan and Turkey were supply conduits for the Islamists. (p 203)

The US planned to create safe zones in Syria with an eye to dismemberment of Syria. (p 204-207) Russia would up the ante, killing 150 CIA-backed Islamists in airstrikes, which the US criticized. (p 221) In apparent reprisal, an IS terrorist attack would down a civilian airliner over Egypt killing 219 Russian civilians. War is a dirty endeavor. Among their other crimes, Islamists used civilians as shields, poisoned water supplies, and carried out beheadings. American war crimes included using depleted uranium and white phosphorus (p 301).

With the US and Turkey competing to occupy land from the collapsing IS, the SAA was pressured to advance as quickly as possible in its lands.

Aside from internecine fighting among the Islamists, there were puzzling complexities described between different combatants. Turkey and the US were sometimes aligned and sometimes at loggerheads; the same complexities existed between Russia and Turkey (“a highly peculiar situation reflecting [Turkey’s] pursuit of both war and rapprochement separately but simultaneously.” p 348), and between Russia and Israel. Of course, given past and current history, any enemy-of-my-enemy alliance between Israeli Jews and Arabs against a fellow Arab country will certainly cause much head shaking.

Despairingly, the UN was also condemned for bias and being complicit in the western attempt to overthrow the Syrian government. (p 334)

Abrams criticized the American arrogation of the right to attack. He warned, “This had potentially highly destabilizing consequences for the global order, and by discarding the post-Second World War legal prohibition against crimes of aggression the West was returning the world to a chaotic order that resembled that of the colonial era.” (p 383)

In toto, Abrams finds, “Even though Syria prevailed, the West was able to achieve its destruction at very little cost to itself … meaning the final outcome of the war still represents a strengthening of the Western position at Dasmascus’ expense.” (p 384)

Israel’s War

A book review can only cover so much, and there is much ground covered in WW in Syria. Particularly conspicuous is the annex at the end of the book entitled “Israel’s War.” (p 389-413) This annex leads one to ask why there are no annexes on America’s War, Turkey’s War, Qatar’s War, Saudi Arabia’s War, UAE’s War, NATO’s War, or even the terrorists’ War. Why does Israel stand out? Prior to the recent invasion of Syria, it was only Israel that was occupying Syrian territory: the Golan Heights, annexed following the 1967 War, and recognized as a part of Israel by president Donald Trump in 2019 (quite hypocritical given US denunciations of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia). Syria does not recognize Israel, and it has not reached a peace agreement with Israel. Of Syria’s Middle Eastern allies, Iran does not recognize Israel; Lebanon signed a peace treaty with Israel under Israeli and American pressure, but Lebanon never ratified it. Hezbollah regards Israel as an illegitimate entity. Hezbollah is noted for the first “successful armed resistance on a significant scale to the Western-led order after the Cold War’s end” in 2006. (p 39) Thus, Israel views the arc from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon as a security threat. Since Israel is regarded by some foreign policy wonks in the US as its aircraft carrier in the region, that reason among others secures US “aid” and military support. That Syria will not bend its knees to US Empire is also a source of consternation to imperialists. After Egyptian president Anwar Sadat treacherously broke Arab solidarity, (p 21-26) Syria would find itself increasingly isolated. Given the rapacious nature of imperialism, Israel and its lobby have faced no serious opposition from within the imperialist alliance, allowing the Jewish State to pursue its plan for a greater Israel to which Syria, a country that does not threaten any western nation, is an impediment. Israel, writes Abrams, will continually seek to degrade the military capabilities of countries it designates as enemies. (p 406)

Closing

The situation in Syria still simmers. Those who scrupulously read the dispassionate account of WW in Syria will gain a wide-ranging insight into what underlies the simmering. It will also be clear why any attempt by western imperialists and their terrorist or Islamist proxies will not succeed in a coup against the elected Syrian government. Syrians will put up a staunch defense. Hezbollah and Iran will stand in solidarity, as will the DPRK. Having Russia, a first-rate military power, presents a powerful deterrence. In addition, China, no pushover itself, stands steadfast in support of its Russian partner. Thus the western imperialists’/proxies’ main goal has been thwarted; they have been shamelessly reduced to pillagers of oil and wheat and occupiers of small pockets of a sovereign country.

The post The Imperialists’ and Proxies’ War against Syria first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pro-Israel Canadians Pressure Ottawa over Iran

Those Canadians who take their political cues from Israel are obsessively stoking conflict with Iran. In a clear example, former CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Avi Benlolo has published a half dozen National Post columns critical of that country over the past year.

In a recent article headlined “As the Doomsday Clock closes in on midnight, the time for action on Iran is now,” Benlolo demanded more belligerence while in August he argued “that Iran is just two months away from a nuclear breakout” in a story headlined “Joe Biden must not support nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s existence depends on it.” Over the previous year the ardent Zionist also published “Diplomatic rift between Tehran and Ottawa continues to grow” and “U.S. preparing to throw Israel under the bus with Iran nuclear deal.” Benlolo criticized Iran in a series of other columns and released a statement on his site titled, “On One Year Anniversary, Canadians Commemorate Downing of Plane By Iran.”

Israeli officials are pressing US President Joe Biden for more sanctions and violence against Iran. They want to scuttle the Iran nuclear negotiations and any effort to reduce tensions between Washington and Tehran.

While Israeli officials have been claiming Iran is on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons for decades, they’ve sought to block (with US and Canadian support) any effort to develop a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Most countries in the region support a nuclear free zone, which exist elsewhere, but Israel wants to maintain its 90 nuclear weapons.

There is little evidence Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, but even if it did it wouldn’t be an existential threat to Israel despite its claims. It would, however, slightly weaken Israeli hegemony in the region.

But Canadian Zionists believe a European colonial outpost of 9 million should dominate a region of 450 million so they incessantly demonize Iran. It was recently reported — with no mention he’s a long-time B’nai B’rith lawyer — that David Matas was legal counsel to a former member of the Shah’s brutal secret service facing deportation to Iran. Last month Matas co-authored an op-ed on the Iranian military mistakenly downing Ukraine Airlines flight PS752 to argue that Canada should “designate the IRGC [Iran’s military] as a whole, and not just its foreign division, as a terrorist entity.”

Yesterday the CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Michael Levitt article “It’s long past time to hold Iran’s regime to account” was published in the Toronto Star. It argued, “the anniversary of the downing of Flight 752 was a stark reminder of the odious regime leading Iran and its litany of crimes at home and abroad.”

The Israel lobby has been using the two-year-old tragedy – at least partly Washington’s responsibility for assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani days earlier – to attack Iran. Recently the Washington-based Israel lobby group Foundation for Defence of Democracies pressed the US government to take money Iran collects from international airlines for using its airspace to pay $107 million to six Canadians killed on the flight. To weaken Israel’s rival, Irwin Cotler’s Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights has been campaigning for victims of PS752. Raoul Wallenberg Centre lawyer Yonah Diamond is representing families of PS752 victims and in July 2020 the Centre organized a webinar in which Cotler spoke titled “Pursuing Justice and Accountability: Remedies for those murdered in the bombing of flight PS752.”

Married to a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin and with a daughter recently in Israel’s Knesset, Irwin Cotler has criticized Iran incessantly. Canada’s most influential anti-Palestinian activist is chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and set up Iran Accountability Week in Parliament. Cotler also serves as counsel to imprisoned Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and helped get the Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) removed from the US terrorist list. In recent years Cotler, Stephen Harper and other Canadian Zionists have promoted the MEK, which is a cultish group that backed Iraq in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and, according to US government sources, has teamed up with Israel to assassinate Iranian scientists.

On its website B’nai B’rith has an email campaign titled “Three Ways for the Government to Combat Iran.” It calls for Ottawa to: “Apply the Magnitsky Act to members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to sanction its human rights abusers; List the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist entity in Canada; Hold Iran to account for its killing of 57 Canadians on January 2020’s Flight PS572.” In 2020 B’nai Brith sued the federal government for failing to comply with a motion in Parliament to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the official lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations, also promotes an anti-Iran campaign titled “Maintain diplomatic pressure on the Iranian regime.” CIJA’s five demands echo those of B’nai B’rith.

In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018,” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the Trudeau government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran, which they promised to do prior to their election: “Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. [Then foreign affairs minister Stephane] Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as [Chrystia] Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”

Juneau continued, “other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”

Zionists in Canada have sought to lay obstacles to renewing diplomatic relations with Iran. An important obstacle is Ottawa listing Iran as a state sponsor of terror and seizing its diplomatic assets. In 2019 Canada seized and sold $28 million worth of Iranian properties in Ottawa and Toronto to compensate individuals in the US who had family members killed in a 2002 Hamas bombing in Israel and others who were held hostage by Hezbollah in 1986 and 1991. The Supreme Court of Canada and federal government sanctioned the seizure under the Harper Conservatives 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which lifts immunity for countries labeled “state sponsors of terrorism” to allow individuals to claim their non-diplomatic assets. Tehran considers the asset seizure a violation of international law and, as I detailed in “Seizure of Iranian Property to Pay Americans Another Example of Canadian Hypocrisy”, many other victims have far more legitimate claims to seizing diplomatic (US/Israeli) assets. But the asset seizure and state sponsor of terrorism listing are a major hurdle to re-establishing normal relations between Canada and Iran.

Canadian Zionists sometimes claim the notion of a powerful “Israel lobby” is an anti-Semitic “trope” but their success in disrupting promises made in the Liberal Party election campaign proves its influence.

The post Pro-Israel Canadians Pressure Ottawa over Iran first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pro-Israel Canadians Pressure Ottawa over Iran

Those Canadians who take their political cues from Israel are obsessively stoking conflict with Iran. In a clear example, former CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Avi Benlolo has published a half dozen National Post columns critical of that country over the past year.

In a recent article headlined “As the Doomsday Clock closes in on midnight, the time for action on Iran is now,” Benlolo demanded more belligerence while in August he argued “that Iran is just two months away from a nuclear breakout” in a story headlined “Joe Biden must not support nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s existence depends on it.” Over the previous year the ardent Zionist also published “Diplomatic rift between Tehran and Ottawa continues to grow” and “U.S. preparing to throw Israel under the bus with Iran nuclear deal.” Benlolo criticized Iran in a series of other columns and released a statement on his site titled, “On One Year Anniversary, Canadians Commemorate Downing of Plane By Iran.”

Israeli officials are pressing US President Joe Biden for more sanctions and violence against Iran. They want to scuttle the Iran nuclear negotiations and any effort to reduce tensions between Washington and Tehran.

While Israeli officials have been claiming Iran is on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons for decades, they’ve sought to block (with US and Canadian support) any effort to develop a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Most countries in the region support a nuclear free zone, which exist elsewhere, but Israel wants to maintain its 90 nuclear weapons.

There is little evidence Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, but even if it did it wouldn’t be an existential threat to Israel despite its claims. It would, however, slightly weaken Israeli hegemony in the region.

But Canadian Zionists believe a European colonial outpost of 9 million should dominate a region of 450 million so they incessantly demonize Iran. It was recently reported — with no mention he’s a long-time B’nai B’rith lawyer — that David Matas was legal counsel to a former member of the Shah’s brutal secret service facing deportation to Iran. Last month Matas co-authored an op-ed on the Iranian military mistakenly downing Ukraine Airlines flight PS752 to argue that Canada should “designate the IRGC [Iran’s military] as a whole, and not just its foreign division, as a terrorist entity.”

Yesterday the CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Michael Levitt article “It’s long past time to hold Iran’s regime to account” was published in the Toronto Star. It argued, “the anniversary of the downing of Flight 752 was a stark reminder of the odious regime leading Iran and its litany of crimes at home and abroad.”

The Israel lobby has been using the two-year-old tragedy – at least partly Washington’s responsibility for assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani days earlier – to attack Iran. Recently the Washington-based Israel lobby group Foundation for Defence of Democracies pressed the US government to take money Iran collects from international airlines for using its airspace to pay $107 million to six Canadians killed on the flight. To weaken Israel’s rival, Irwin Cotler’s Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights has been campaigning for victims of PS752. Raoul Wallenberg Centre lawyer Yonah Diamond is representing families of PS752 victims and in July 2020 the Centre organized a webinar in which Cotler spoke titled “Pursuing Justice and Accountability: Remedies for those murdered in the bombing of flight PS752.”

Married to a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin and with a daughter recently in Israel’s Knesset, Irwin Cotler has criticized Iran incessantly. Canada’s most influential anti-Palestinian activist is chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and set up Iran Accountability Week in Parliament. Cotler also serves as counsel to imprisoned Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and helped get the Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) removed from the US terrorist list. In recent years Cotler, Stephen Harper and other Canadian Zionists have promoted the MEK, which is a cultish group that backed Iraq in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and, according to US government sources, has teamed up with Israel to assassinate Iranian scientists.

On its website B’nai B’rith has an email campaign titled “Three Ways for the Government to Combat Iran.” It calls for Ottawa to: “Apply the Magnitsky Act to members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to sanction its human rights abusers; List the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist entity in Canada; Hold Iran to account for its killing of 57 Canadians on January 2020’s Flight PS572.” In 2020 B’nai Brith sued the federal government for failing to comply with a motion in Parliament to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the official lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations, also promotes an anti-Iran campaign titled “Maintain diplomatic pressure on the Iranian regime.” CIJA’s five demands echo those of B’nai B’rith.

In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018,” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the Trudeau government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran, which they promised to do prior to their election: “Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. [Then foreign affairs minister Stephane] Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as [Chrystia] Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”

Juneau continued, “other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”

Zionists in Canada have sought to lay obstacles to renewing diplomatic relations with Iran. An important obstacle is Ottawa listing Iran as a state sponsor of terror and seizing its diplomatic assets. In 2019 Canada seized and sold $28 million worth of Iranian properties in Ottawa and Toronto to compensate individuals in the US who had family members killed in a 2002 Hamas bombing in Israel and others who were held hostage by Hezbollah in 1986 and 1991. The Supreme Court of Canada and federal government sanctioned the seizure under the Harper Conservatives 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which lifts immunity for countries labeled “state sponsors of terrorism” to allow individuals to claim their non-diplomatic assets. Tehran considers the asset seizure a violation of international law and, as I detailed in “Seizure of Iranian Property to Pay Americans Another Example of Canadian Hypocrisy”, many other victims have far more legitimate claims to seizing diplomatic (US/Israeli) assets. But the asset seizure and state sponsor of terrorism listing are a major hurdle to re-establishing normal relations between Canada and Iran.

Canadian Zionists sometimes claim the notion of a powerful “Israel lobby” is an anti-Semitic “trope” but their success in disrupting promises made in the Liberal Party election campaign proves its

The post Pro-Israel Canadians Pressure Ottawa over Iran first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Washington’s Focus on “Credibility” is a Recipe for War

The most pressing threat to global security right now isn’t so-called “provocations” by either Russia or China. It is the United States’ misplaced obsession with its own “credibility”.

This rallying cry by Washington officials – echoed by the media and allies in London and elsewhere – is code for allowing the US to act like a global gangster while claiming to be the world’s policeman. US “credibility” was apparently thrown into question last summer – and only when President Joe Biden held firm to a pledge to pull US troops out of Afghanistan.

Prominent critics, including in the Pentagon, objected that any troop withdrawal would both suggest the US was backing off from a commitment to maintain the so-called “international order” and further embolden the West’s “enemies” – from the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) group to Russia and China.

In a postmortem in September, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, echoed a view common in Washington: “I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world, and with adversaries, is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go – and I think that damage is one word that could be used.”

At the same time, a former defence official in the George W Bush administration judged US credibility after the Afghanistan withdrawal at “rock bottom“.

The only way this understanding of US “credibility” makes sense is if one disregards the disastrous previous two decades of Washington’s role in Afghanistan. Those were the years in which the US army propped up a bunch of wildly unpopular kleptocrats in Kabul who ransacked the public coffers as the US launched an arms’ length drone war that ended up killing large numbers of Afghan civilians.

To bolster its apparently diminished “credibility” after the troop withdrawal, the US has imposed crushing sanctions on Afghanistan, deepening its current famine. There have also been reports of CIA efforts to run covert operations against the Taliban by aiding its opponents.

Cold War relic

Washington’s “credibility” was also seemingly in peril when US and Russian officials met in Geneva this week for negotiations in the midst of a diplomatic, and potential military, standoff over Ukraine.

The background are demands from Moscow that Washington stops encircling Russia with military bases and that Nato end its relentless advancement towards Russia’s borders. Nato should be a relic of a Cold War-era that officially ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Moscow dissolved its own version of Nato, the Warsaw Pact, more than three decades ago.

Russia had been given verbal assurances in 1990 by George HW Bush’s administration that Nato would not expand militarily beyond the borders of what was then West Germany. Seven years later, President Bill Clinton signed the Nato-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, which committed Russia and Nato not to treat each other “as adversaries”, while Nato reiterated that there would be no “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” in former Eastern bloc states.

Every subsequent US administration has flagrantly broken both of these pledges, with Nato troops now stationed across eastern Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Moscow feels as menaced by Nato’s aggressive posturing, which serves to revive its Cold War fears, as Washington would if Russia placed military bases in Cuba and Mexico.

No one should forget that the US was prepared to bring the world to the brink of armageddon in a nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union in 1962 to prevent Moscow from stationing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Historic alliance

Despite the current clamour about the need for the US to maintain its “credibility”, Washington was in fact only being asked at the Geneva talks to start honouring, 30 years late, commitments it made long ago and has repeatedly violated.

The latest flashpoint is Ukraine, Russia’s neighbour, which has been roiling since a coup in 2014 overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow. The deeply divided country is split between those who want to prioritise their historic ties with Russia and those who want to be embraced by the European Union.

Moscow – and a proportion of Ukrainians – believe Washington and Europe are exploiting the push for an economic pact to engineer Ukraine’s subordination to Nato security policies, directed against Russia. Such fears are not misplaced. Each of what were formerly Soviet states that became an EU member has also been recruited to Nato. In fact, since 2009 it has been an official requirement, through the Treaty of Lisbon, that EU member states align their security policies with Nato.

Now US “credibility” apparently depends on its determination to bring Nato to Russia’s front door, via Ukraine.

US perfidy

Reporting on a working dinner with Russian diplomats last Sunday, before the Geneva meeting, Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, recast that perfidy as the US stressing its commitment to “the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is being widely made out to be the aggressor after he posted tens of thousands of troops at the border with Ukraine.

One can argue whether those soldiers are massed for an invasion of Ukraine, as is being widely assumed in the western media, or as a show of force against a US-led Nato that believes it can do whatever it pleases in Russia’s backyard. Either way, a miscalculation by either side could prove disastrous.

According to the New York Times, General Milley has warned the Russians that an invasion force would face a prolonged insurgency backed by US weaponry. There are reports that Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have already been delivered to Ukraine.

Similarly, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has threatened“confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine”.

Drumbeat of war

This reckless way of projecting “credibility” – and thereby making confrontations and war more, not less, likely – is currently on show in relation to another nuclear-armed power, China. For many months, the Biden administration has been playing what looks like a game of chicken with Beijing over China’s continuing assertion of a right to use force against Taiwan, a self-governing island off the coast of China that Beijing claims as its territory.

Few countries formally recognise Taiwan as a state, and nothing in relations between Taipei and China is settled. That includes heated disagreements over the division of airspace, with Taiwan – backed by the US – claiming that a whole chunk of southeast mainland China falls within its “defence zone”. That means the scaremongering headlines about record numbers of Chinese warplanes flying over Taiwan need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The same disputes apply to China and Taiwan’s respective claims to territorial waters, with a similar potential for provocation. The pair’s conflicting views of what constitutes their security and sovereignty are a ready hair-trigger for war – and in circumstances where one party possesses a large nuclear arsenal.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has stomped into this long-simmering feud by feeding the media with alarmist headlines and security analysts with talking points about a possible US war with China over Taiwan. Top Pentagon officials have also stoked concerns of an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China.

Diplomatically, President Biden snubbed his nose at Beijing by inviting Taiwan to attend his so-called “democracy summit” last month. The event further inflamed Chinese indignation by showing Taiwan and China in separate colours on a regional map.

The CIA has announced the establishment of a new espionage centre with an exclusive focus on China. According to CIA director William Burns, it is necessary because the US is faced with “an increasingly adversarial Chinese government”. That “adversary”, however, poses no direct threat to US security – unless Washington chooses provocatively to bring Taiwan under its security umbrella.

Washington’s drumbeat has been so constant that a recent poll showed more than half of Americans supported sending US troops to defend Taiwan.

Nuclear hard line

The picture is the same with Iran. US “credibility” is being cited as the reason why Washington needs to take a hard line against Tehran – goaded, as ever, by Israel – on its presumed ambitions to build a nuclear bomb.

Israel, of course, has had its own large arsenal of nuclear weapons for decades – entirely unmonitored and in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Both the US and Israel fear Iran wants to level the nuclear playing field in the Middle East. Israel is determined to make sure that only it has the power to make nuclear-backed threats, either against others in the region or as leverage in Washington to get its way.

President Barack Obama’s administration signed an agreement with Iran in 2015 placing strict limits on Tehran’s development of nuclear technology. In return, Washington lifted some of the most punishing sanctions on the country. Three years later, however, President Donald Trump reneged on the deal.

Now Iran suffers the worst of both worlds. The US has again intensified the sanctions regime while demanding that Tehran renew the deal on worse terms – and with no promise, according to US Secretary of State Blinken, that the next US administration won’t tear up the agreement anyway.

US “credibility” does not depend, it seems, on Washington being required to keep its word.

In the background, as ever, is the threat of joint military reprisals from Israel and the US. In October, Biden reportedly asked his national security adviser to review Pentagon plans for a military strike if this one-sided “diplomatic process” failed. A month later, Israel approved $1.5bn for precisely such an eventuality.

Drunk on power

Washington’s emphasis on its “credibility” is actually a story the US elite tells itself and western publics to obscure the truth. What is really prized is America’s ability to enforce its economic interests and military superiority unchallenged across the globe.

After the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the US overthrow of the elected government of Iran to reinstall its dictator-monarch, there is barely a corner of the planet where the US has not meddled. In Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and its so-called “backyard”, Latin America, US “credibility” has required interventions and war as an alternative to diplomacy.

In October 2019, as Trump suggested that US troops would be pulled out of Syria – where they had no authorisation from the United Nations to be in the first place – Leon Panetta, a former defence secretary and former head of the CIA, observed that the decision had “weakened the US” and “undercut our credibility in the world”.

He added: “There isn’t an ally that we’ve around the world that doesn’t now distrust us and worry about whether or not we will stand by our word.”

But this kind of credibility is built not on principle, on respecting others’ national sovereignty, or on peace-building, but on the gangsterism of a superpower drunk on its own power and its ability to intimidate and crush rivals.

Washington’s “word” is only selectively kept, as its treatment of Russia and Iran highlight. And enforcement of its “credibility” – from breaking commitments to threatening war – has had a predictable effect: they have driven Washington’s “enemies” into an opposition camp out of necessity.

The US has created a more menacing adversary, as Russia and China, two nuclear powers, have found a common purpose in asserting a countervailing pressure on Washington. Since the late summer, the two have held a series of war games and joint military exercises, each of them a first.

The world is entering what looks like a new, even more complex cold war, in which any misunderstanding, mishap or false move could rapidly escalate into nuclear confrontation. If it happens, the pursuit of US “credibility” will have played a central part in the catastrophe.

First published in Middle East Eye

The post Why Washington’s Focus on “Credibility” is a Recipe for War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

United States and Israeli Intransigence vis-à-vis Iran

In 2015, the United States signed what is popularly referred to as the JCPOA (the joint comprehensive plan of action) a deal involving Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) designed to limit the capacity of Iran to develop nuclear weapons. In exchange for their signature, the sanctions that has been applied to Iran were meant to be lifted. That did not happen, and in 2019 the Trump administration cancelled the United States involvement in the agreement.

The new Biden administration, which took office in early 2021 had promised during the election campaign to re-join the JCPOA. This has not happened. In fact, the Americans have issued fresh demands seeking to limit Iran’s development of other missiles that it sees is essential for its defence. The various parties have been meeting in Vienna, but the new Iranian government, notably more hard-line that its predecessor, has been reluctant to amend the terms of the original deal. Frankly, who can blame them.

The purpose of the negotiations is ostensibly to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capacity. Their current level of uranium enrichment puts them within a very small margin of achieving a nuclear capacity. This is a development that has caused considerable concern in the Middle East, not least among members of the Israeli government.

It is one of the great hypocrisies of the present situation that Iran, which is under constant attack by the Israelis, including the murder of nuclear scientists, is expected to remain silent in the face of that constant Israeli attack, and do nothing to protect yourself from the ongoing Israeli onslaught.

The other great unmentionable in this whole scenario is the fact that there is already a nuclear armed state in the Middle East, and that is Israel. It is one of the enduring mysteries of Middle Eastern politics that one is supposed to see a potentially nuclear armed Iran as a threat to peace and stability, yet ignore completely the fact that a nuclear armed Israel is able to blindly continue its murderous policies.

Israel has not signed any nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and officially does not acknowledge the fact that it is a nuclear armed nation. It presumes to itself the right to criticise Iran, indeed take active steps against that country, without ever acknowledging the truth of its own position. The word hypocrisy does not seem strong enough to convey the reality of this situation.

If Iran does not sign a new deal and promise, inter alia, not to develop nuclear weapons, then there are many commentators that see at least one inevitable consequence of that refusal being a United States (and Israeli inspired) attack upon Iran. Such an attack, apart from its obvious Israeli self-interest, would be completely illegal.

Even the concept that the United States and/or Israel would be entitled to take matters into their own hands and attack Iran beggars’ belief. That such an attack would lead to a massive Iranian counter-attack is without question. Even without nuclear weapons, the Iranian Armed Forces are well equipped with the conventional means of inflicting huge damage on United States and Israeli assets throughout the Middle East.

Neither the United States nor Israel is well equipped with assets in the form of friendly states throughout the Middle East. It is difficult to see that any attack on Iran would enhance that circle of friends, and indeed it is likely to have the opposite effect.

Iran on the other hand has powerful friends in the region and beyond. It can count on the support of Lebanon, Iraq and Syria for starters and it is difficult to see even Saudi Arabia willingly joining the Americans/Israelis in an attack on Iran. The Saudis and Iranians have recently been having talks and Saudi Arabia’s association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which Iran recently joined as a full member, has been a factor in that rapprochement.

The other major factor in this equation is the position of both Russia and China. Both countries have recently made significant financial investments in Iran and neither are likely to sit idly by in the face of a United States and/or Israeli attack upon Iran. This is one of the most important factors in the changing balance of power in the Middle East. It is surprising that it has received so little attention from other commentators, yet in my view it is the single most important factor affecting the balance of power in the region.

Of course, such an analysis assumes that people will behave rationally. Such an assumption cannot be made about either the Israelis or the current United States administration. The former has literally gotten away with murder in recent years, and its defiance of international law is unparalleled in the region. One has only to cite the example of the stolen Syrian Golan Heights to make the point.

Numerous United Nations resolutions have been simply ignored as Israel has simply felt that it had United States backing, regardless of how egregious its actions. The former United States president Donald Trump only emphasised the point when he recognised Israeli control of the Golan Heights making it Israeli territory.

It is also a fact that the current United States foreign policy is firmly in the hands of the neo-con element within the Washington power structure. The animosity of this group to Iran (and indeed Russia and China) needs no reiteration. Their failure to recognise the realities of fading United States power could be a mistake that leads us all to a nuclear war. Russia and China’s support for the Iranian government makes that prospect more likely.

One would like to say that the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Iran situation is likely. Unfortunately, that view would betray a failure to understand that the combination of Israeli arrogance and United States unwillingness to accept that the world is changing to its disadvantage is a reality we must all learn to live with. The failure to realise that reality could literally be fatal.

The post United States and Israeli Intransigence vis-à-vis Iran first appeared on Dissident Voice.